Introduction to Incidents During the Reign of Zedekiah
1 Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jeconiah#tn Heb “Coniah.” For explanation of the rendering here see the translator’s note on 22:4. son of Jehoiakim as king. He was elevated to the throne of the land of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.#tn Heb “And Zedekiah son of Josiah whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah ruled as king instead of Coniah son of Jehoiakim.” The sentence has been restructured and simplified to better conform to contemporary English style. 2 Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah.#sn These two verses (37:1-2) are introductory to chs. 37–38 and are intended to characterize Zedekiah and his regime as disobedient just like Jehoiakim and his regime had been (Jer 36:27; cf. 2 Kgs 24:19-20). This characterization is important because Zedekiah is portrayed in the incidents that follow in 37–38 as seeking the Lord’s help or seeking a word from the Lord. However though he did send to inquire of Jeremiah three times, he did not pay attention to the warnings that he received in reply and was ultimately responsible for the fall of Jerusalem (Jer 39). As elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah, Jeconiah’s reign is passed over in silence because it was negligible and because Jeremiah did not wish to legitimize the hopes that many in Israel and Babylon had in his returning from exile and resuming rule over Judah (see further the study notes on 22:24, 30 and 33:30).
The Lord Responds to Zedekiah’s Hope for Help
3 King Zedekiah sent#sn This is the second of two delegations that Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to ask him to pray for a miraculous deliverance. Both of them are against the background of the siege of Jerusalem which was instigated by Zedekiah’s rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar and sending to Egypt for help (cf. Ezek 17:15). The earlier delegation (21:1-2) was sent before Nebuchadnezzar had clamped down on Jerusalem because the Judean forces at that time were still fighting against the Babylonian forces in the open field (see 21:4 and the translator’s note there). Here the siege has been lifted because the Babylonian troops had heard a report that the Egyptian army was on the way into Palestine to give the Judeans the promised aid (vv. 5, 7). The request is briefer here than in 21:2 but the intent is no doubt the same (see also the study note on 21:2). Jehucal#sn Jehucal was one of the officials who later sought to have Jeremiah put to death for what they considered treason (38:1-4). son of Shelemiah and the priest Zephaniah#sn The priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah was a member of the earlier delegation (21:2) and the chief of security in the temple to whom the Babylonian false prophet wrote a letter complaining that Jeremiah should be locked up for his treasonous prophecies (29:25-26). See the study notes on 21:2 and 29:25 for further details. son of Maaseiah to the prophet Jeremiah. He told them to say, “Please pray to the Lord our God on our behalf.” 4 (Now Jeremiah had not yet been put in prison.#sn This statement anticipates v. 15. Verses 3-4 are parenthetical to the narrative thread which is picked up in v. 5. They provide background information necessary for understanding the situation at the time the delegation comes to Jeremiah. So he was still free to come and go among the people as he pleased.#tn The words “as he pleased” are not in the text but are implicit in the idiom both in Hebrew and in English. They have been supplied in the translation for clarity and the sake of English idiom. 5 At that time the Babylonian forces#tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation here for the sake of clarity. had temporarily given up their siege against Jerusalem.#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. They had had it under siege, but withdrew when they heard that the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt.#tn Heb “And the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt and the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard a report about them and they went up from besieging them.” The sentence has been restructured and reworded to give greater emphasis to the most pertinent fact, i.e., that the siege had been temporarily lifted. The word “temporarily” is not in the text but is implicit from the rest of the context. It is supplied in the translation here to better show that the information in vv. 4-5 is all parenthetical, providing a background for the oracle that will follow. For the meaning “given up their siege against” (Heb “had taken themselves away from against”) see BDB 749 s.v. עָלָה Niph.1.c(2); 759 s.v. עַל IV.2.b.sn The Pharaoh referred to here is Pharaoh Hophra who is named in Jer 44:30. He ruled from 589-570 b.c. Shortly after he began to rule, Zedekiah had been enticed by some of the officials in his court to appeal to him for aid. This act of rebellion quickly brought Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath and he invaded Judah, blockading Jerusalem and reducing the fortified cities of Judah one by one. According to Jer 39:1 the siege began in Zedekiah’s ninth year (589/88 b.c.) and lasted until his eleventh year when Jerusalem fell (587/86 b.c.). The army of Pharaoh likely came sometime during 588 b.c.) 6 The Lord gave the prophet Jeremiah a message for them. He told him to tell them,#tn Heb “And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying.” 7 “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘Give a message to the king of Judah who sent you to ask me to help him.#tn Or “to ask me what will happen.” The dominant usage of the verb דָּרַשׁ (darash) is to “inquire” in the sense of gaining information about what will happen (cf., e.g., 1 Kgs 14:5; 2 Kgs 8:8; 22:7-8) but it is also used in the sense of “seeking help” from (cf., e.g., Isa 31:1; 2 Chr 16:12; 20:3). The latter nuance appears appropriate in Jer 20:2 where Zedekiah is hoping for some miraculous intervention. That nuance also appears appropriate here where Zedekiah has sent messengers to ask Jeremiah to intercede on their behalf. However, it is also possible that the intent of both verbs is to find out from God whether the Egyptian mission will succeed and more permanent relief from the siege will be had. Tell him, “The army of Pharaoh that was on its way to help you will go back home to Egypt.#tn Heb “will go back to its land, Egypt.” 8 Then the Babylonian forces#tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation here for the sake of clarity. will return. They will attack the city and will capture it and burn it down. 9 Moreover, I, the Lord, warn you not to deceive yourselves into thinking that the Babylonian forces#tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation here for the sake of clarity. will go away and leave you alone. For they will not go away.#tn Heb “Thus says the Lord, ‘Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from against us” because they will not go away.’” The first person “I, the Lord,” has been used because the whole of vv. 7-8 has been a quote from the Lord and it would be confusing to go back and start a separate quote. The indirect quote has been used instead of the direct quote to avoid the proliferation of quote marks at the end and the possible confusion that creates. 10 For even if you were to defeat all the Babylonian forces#tn Heb “all the army of the Chaldeans.” For the rendering “Babylonian” in place of Chaldean see the study note on 21:4. fighting against you so badly that only wounded men were left lying in their tents, they would get up and burn this city down.”’”#tn The length and complexity of this English sentence violates the more simple style that has been used to conform such sentences to contemporary English style. However, there does not seem to be any alternative that would enable a simpler style and still retain the causal and conditional connections that give this sentence the rhetorical force that it has in the original. The condition is, of course, purely hypothetical and the consequence a poetic exaggeration. The intent is to assure Zedekiah that there is absolutely no hope of the city being spared.
Jeremiah is Charged with Deserting, Arrested, and Imprisoned
11 The following events also occurred#tn The words “The following events also occurred” are not in the text. They are a way to introduce the incidents recorded in 37:11-21 without creating a long complex sentence in English like the Hebrew does. The Hebrew of vv. 11-12a reads “And it was/happened while the army of the Chaldeans had taken themselves up from against Jerusalem, Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to take part…” For the rendering “temporarily withdrawn from Jerusalem” see the translator’s note on v. 5. The words “was coming” are not in the text either but are implicit and have been supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness of English expression. while the Babylonian forces#tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation here for the sake of clarity. had temporarily withdrawn from Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. because the army of Pharaoh was coming. 12 Jeremiah started to leave Jerusalem to go to the territory of Benjamin. He wanted to make sure he got his share of the property that was being divided up among his family there.#tn The meaning of this last sentence is somewhat uncertain. The Hebrew expression here occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible and its meaning is debated. The verb is pointed as a shortened form of the Hiphil infinitive construct of חָלַק (khalaq; see GKC 148 §53.q for explanation of the phenomenon and other examples). There are, however, no other examples of the use of this verb in the Hiphil. BDB 324 s.v. חָלַק Hiph defines it as “receive a portion” and explains it as a denominative from חֵלֶק (kheleq, “portion”) but says that the form is dubious. KBL s.v. חָלַק Hif defines it as “take part in dividing” but that does not fit the prepositional phrase that follows (מִשָּׁם, misham, “from there”) as well as “to receive a portion.” The Greek version did not understand this of dividing property but of conducting business. Later revisions of the Greek and the Latin version, however, did understand it of “taking a share.” The translation of BDB has been expanded to better reflect the probable situation. For the meaning of “his family” for the noun עַם (’am) compare the usage in Job 18:19. For a fuller discussion of the probable situation see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 633-34.sn Though some commentators disagree, this transaction should not be viewed as subsequent to the transaction recorded in Jer 32 and seen as an attempt to take possession of a field that he had already bought. That transaction took place sometime later after he had been confined to the courtyard of the guardhouse (compare 32:2 with 37:21) and involved his buying a near relative’s field. The word used here refers to “getting one’s own share” (compare 1 Sam 30:24; Josh 15:13, and see also Mic 2:4) not taking possession of someone else’s. “There” refers to the territory of Benjamin just mentioned but more specifically to Jeremiah’s hometown, Anathoth (cf. 1:1). 13 But he only got as far as the Benjamin Gate.#sn The Benjamin Gate would have been a gate in the northern wall leading out toward the territory of Benjamin. It is mentioned only here and in Jer 38:7 and Zech 14:10. There an officer in charge of the guards named Irijah,#sn Nothing further is known about Irijah. It is generally agreed that the Hananiah mentioned here is not the same as the false prophet of the same name whom Jeremiah confronted approximately six years earlier (28:1, 5, 10, 15). who was the son of Shelemiah and the grandson of Hananiah, stopped him. He seized Jeremiah and said,#tn Heb “And he was in the gate of Benjamin and there was an officer of the guard whose name [more literally, and his name] was Irijah…and he seized the prophet Jeremiah, saying.” The sentence has been broken down and simplified to better conform with contemporary English style. “You are deserting to the Babylonians!”#tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.sn Irijah’s charge was based on the suspicion that Jeremiah was following his own counsel to the people to surrender to the Babylonians if they wanted to save their lives (Jer 21:9). 14 Jeremiah answered, “That’s a lie! I am not deserting to the Babylonians.”#tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation. But Irijah would not listen to him. Irijah put Jeremiah under arrest and took him to the officials. 15 The officials were very angry#sn The officials mentioned here are not the same as those mentioned in Jer 36:12, most of whom were favorably disposed toward Jeremiah, or at least regarded what he said with enough trepidation to try to protect Jeremiah and preserve the scroll containing his messages (36:16, 19, 24). All those officials had been taken into exile with Jeconiah in 597 b.c. (2 Kgs 24:14). at Jeremiah. They had him flogged and put in prison in the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary, which they had converted into a place for confining prisoners.#tn Heb “for they had made it into the house of confinement.” The causal particle does not fit the English sentence very well and “house of confinement” needs some explanation. Some translate this word “prison” but that creates redundancy with the earlier word translated “prison” (בֵּית הָאֵסוּר, bet ha’esur, “house of the band/binding”] which is more closely related to the concept of prison [cf. אָסִיר, ’asir, “prisoner”]). It is clear from the next verse that Jeremiah was confined in a cell in the dungeon of this place.
16 So#tn The particle כִּי (ki) here is probably temporal, introducing the protasis to the main clause in v. 17 (cf. BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.a). However, that would make the translation too long, so the present translation does what several modern English versions do here, though there are no parallels listed for this nuance in the lexicons. Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house.#tn Heb “Jeremiah came into the house of the pit [= “dungeon,” BDB 92 s.v. בּוֹר 4 and compare usage in Gen 40:15; 41:14] and into the cells [this word occurs only here; it is defined on the basis of the cognate languages (cf. BDB 333 s.v. חָנוּת)].” The sentence has been restructured and some words supplied in the translation to better relate it to the preceding context. He#tn Heb “Jeremiah.” But the proper name is somewhat redundant and unnecessary in a modern translation. was kept there for a long time. 17 Then King Zedekiah had him brought to the palace. There he questioned him privately and asked him,#tn Heb “Then King Zedekiah sent and brought him and the king asked him privately [or more literally, in secret] and said.” “Is there any message from the Lord?” Jeremiah answered, “Yes, there is.” Then he announced,#tn Heb “Then he said.” “You will be handed over to the king of Babylon.”#sn Jeremiah’s answer even under duress was the same that he had given Zedekiah earlier. (See Jer 34:3 and see the study note on 34:1 for the relative timing of these two incidents.) 18 Then Jeremiah asked King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you, or the officials who serve you, or the people of Judah? What have I done to make you people throw me into prison?#tn Heb “What crime have I committed against you, or your servants, or this people that you [masc. pl.] have put me in prison?” Some of the terms have been expanded for clarification and the sentence has been broken in two to better conform with contemporary English style.The masculine plural is used here because Zedekiah is being addressed as representative of the whole group previously named. 19 Where now are the prophets who prophesied to you that#tn Heb “And where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land?’” The indirect quote has been used in the translation because of its simpler, more direct style. the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land? 20 But now please listen, your royal Majesty,#tn Heb “My lord, the king.” and grant my plea for mercy.#tn Heb “let my plea for mercy fall before you.” I.e., let it come before you and be favorably received (= granted; by metonymical extension). Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary. If you do, I will die there.”#tn Or “So that I will not die there,” or “or I will die there”; Heb “and I will not die there.” The particle that introduces this clause (וְלֹא) regularly introduces negative purpose clauses after the volitive sequence (אַל [’al] + jussive here) according to GKC 323 §109.g. However, purpose and result clauses in Hebrew (and Greek) are often indistinguishable. Here the clause is more in the nature of a negative result. 21 Then King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be committed to the courtyard of the guardhouse. He also ordered that a loaf of bread#tn Heb “And/Then King Zedekiah ordered and they committed Jeremiah to [or deposited…in] the courtyard of the guardhouse and they gave to him a loaf of bread.” The translation has been structured the way it has to avoid the ambiguous “they” which is the impersonal subject which is sometimes rendered passive in English (cf. GKC 460 §144.d). This text also has another example of the vav (ו) + infinitive absolute continuing a finite verbal form (וְנָתֹן [vÿnaton] = “and they gave”; cf. GKC 345 §113.y and see Jer 32:44; 36:23). be given to him every day from the baker’s street until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah was kept#tn Heb “Stayed/Remained/ Lived.” in the courtyard of the guardhouse.