Jeremiah 37-38 Jeremiah In Prison, A Dungeon, And Then Exile.
In this chapter we are approaching the second wave of captivity, in 597 B.C. (II Kgs. 24:17-18). “These chapters (37:1-39:18) recount Jeremiah’s last warnings before the fall of Jerusalem and his imprisonment for his unpopular message.” (NGSB. 1211) Neither Zedekiah “nor his servants nor the people of the land gave heed to the words of the LORD which He spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.” (v. 2). However, before his imprisonment, the king sent two servants to Jeremiah to ask him to pray to the LORD God for the nation (vv. 3-4). The Chaldeans had been besieging Jerusalem, but they fled when Egypt arrived on the scene (v. 5). Zedekiah had placed his confidence in Egypt as an ally, but the LORD, speaking through Jeremiah, told the king that Egypt would eventually flee and the Chaldeans would return to take the city and burn it down (vv. 6-8). They should not take any comfort in what might appear as a weakened foe, because it is the sovereign LORD who would grant them the victory (vv. 9-10).
Jeremiah took the opportunity, while the Chaldeans had temporarily retreated, and before he was imprisoned (v. 11), to leave Jerusalem “to go into the land of Benjamin to claim his property there among the people” (v. 12). As Jeremiah approached the gate of Benjamin, one Irijah, a captain of the guard, seized Jeremiah and accused him of defecting to the Chaldeans (v. 13), which Jeremiah declared was false (v. 14). Nevertheless, he was taken captive to the princes, who were angry with him so that they struck him and threw him in the dungeon of one Jonathan, a scribe, for three days (vv. 15-16). Zedekiah took him out of the dungeon to where he was staying and asked him for any word from the LORD. To which Jeremiah repeated the same message, that the king would “be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon” (v. 17). Furthermore, Jeremiah asked the king why he had been thrown in prison, and where were his other “prophets” now, who told him that the king of Babylon would not come against him (vv. 18-19).
Jeremiah had but one request of the king, which was that he not be returned to the dungeon. So instead the king had him sent to the court of the prison, with instructions that he receive daily bread until the bread in the city was gone (vv. 20-21). Therefore, if the people were to starve to death, then Jeremiah would suffer the same end. Jeremiah’s message remained the same – those who remain in the city would die, but those who went into captivity by the Chaldeans would live (38:2). The king of Babylon would capture the city. This is not what some of the leaders wanted to hear (vv. 1, 4), and Zedekiah the king committed to letting them have their way with Jeremiah (v. 5). They then took Jeremiah and put him a dungeon of one Malchiah, in the court of the prison, and he sank in the mire, with no bread or water (v. 6). However, an Ethiopian officer, one Ebed-Melech spoke to the king concerning this evil, and was granted permission to lift Jeremiah out of the dungeon, which he did with the help of some of his men (vv. 7-13).
Zedekiah agian asked Jeremiah for a word from the LORD, to which Jeremiah complied, but only with a commitment from the king not to kill him or give him to others who would (vv. 14-16). Again the word was the same – if they surrendered to the princes of the king of Babylon they would live, but if they rebelled they would die and the city would be burned (vv. 17-18). Zedekiah feared that if he surrendered that those who went into exile would abuse him, but Jeremiah assured him that the LORD would spare his life (vv. 19-20). The king told Jeremiah not to repeat what he had said to the king, and instead agreed to say to them that he asked the king not to send him to Jonathan’s house to die there (vv. 21-27). “Now Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken. And he was there when Jerusalem was taken.” (v. 28). This would be the final wave to leave Jerusalem in 587-586 B.C. Jeremiah experienced the very thing he had predicted would come to pass, going to Babylon with those who surrendered.