Jeremiah Is Held Prisoner in a Dry Well
1One day, Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal,#38.1 Jehucal: The Hebrew text has “Jucal,” another form of the name. and Pashhur#38.1 Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur: Hebrew “Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchiah.” heard me tell the people of Judah 2-3that the Lord had said, “If you stay here in Jerusalem, you will die in battle or from disease or hunger, and the Babylonian army will capture the city anyway. But if you surrender to the Babylonians, they will let you live.”
4So the four of them went to the king and said, “You should put Jeremiah to death, because he is making the soldiers and everyone else lose hope. He isn't trying to help our people; he's trying to harm them.”
5Zedekiah replied, “Do what you want with him. I can't stop you.”
6Then they took me back to the courtyard of the palace guards and let me down with ropes into the well that belonged to Malchiah, the king's son. There was no water in the well, but I sank down in the mud.
7-8Ebedmelech from Ethiopia#38.7,8 Ethiopia: The Hebrew text has “Cush,” a region south of Egypt that included parts of the present countries of Ethiopia and Sudan. was an official at the palace, and he heard what they had done to me. So he went to speak with King Zedekiah, who was holding court at Benjamin Gate. 9Ebedmelech said, “Your Majesty, Jeremiah is a prophet, and those men were wrong to throw him into a well. And when Jerusalem runs out of food, Jeremiah will starve to death down there.”
10Zedekiah answered, “Take 30#38.10 30: Most Hebrew manuscripts; one Hebrew manuscript “three.” of my soldiers and pull Jeremiah out before he dies.”
11Ebedmelech and the soldiers went to the palace and got some rags from the room under the treasury. He used ropes to lower them into the well. 12Then he said, “Put these rags under your arms so the ropes won't hurt you.” After I did, 13the men pulled me out. And from then on, I was kept in the courtyard of the palace guards.
King Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah
14King Zedekiah#38.14 Zedekiah: See the note at 1.3. had me brought to his private entrance#38.14 his private entrance: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. to the temple, and he said, “I'm going to ask you something, and I want to know the truth.”
15“Why?” I replied. “You won't listen, and you might even have me killed!”
16He said, “I swear in the name of the living Lord our Creator that I won't have you killed. No one else can hear what we say, and I won't let anyone kill you.”
17Then I told him that the Lord had said: “Zedekiah, I am the Lord God All-Powerful, the God of Israel. I promise that if you surrender to King Nebuchadnezzar's#38.17 Nebuchadnezzar's: See the note at 21.2. officers, you and your family won't be killed, and Jerusalem won't be burned down. 18But if you don't surrender, I will let the Babylonian army capture Jerusalem and burn it down, and you will be taken prisoner.”
19Zedekiah answered, “I can't surrender to the Babylonians. I'm too afraid of the people of Judah who have already joined them. The Babylonians might hand me over to them, and they would torture me.”
20I said, “If you will just obey the Lord, the Babylonians won't hand you over to those Jews. You will be allowed to live, and all will go well for you. 21But the Lord has shown me that if you refuse to obey, 22then the women of your palace will be taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar's officials. And those women will say to you:
Friends you trusted led you astray.
Now you're trapped in mud,
and those friends you trusted
have all turned away.
23The Babylonian army will take your wives and children captive, you will be taken as a prisoner to the King of Babylonia, and Jerusalem will be burned down.”#38.23 Jerusalem will be burned down: A few Hebrew manuscripts and three ancient translations; most Hebrew manuscripts “you will burn Jerusalem down”; one ancient translation “he will burn Jerusalem down.”
24Zedekiah said, “Jeremiah, if you tell anyone what we have talked about, you might lose your life. 25And I'm sure that if my officials hear about our meeting, they will ask you what we said to each other. They might even threaten to kill you if you don't tell them. 26So if they question you, tell them you were begging me not to send you back to the prison at Jonathan's house, because going back there would kill you.”
27The officials did come and question me about my meeting with the king, and I told them exactly what he had ordered me to say. They never spoke to me about the meeting again, since no one had heard us talking.
Ez 33.21. I was held in the courtyard of the palace guards until the day Jerusalem was captured.