Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucala son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchijah heard the words Jeremiah was speaking to all the people:
"This is what the Lord says: 'Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever surrenders to the Chaldeans will live. He will keep his life like the spoils [of war] and will live.'b3
This is what the Lord says: 'This city will most certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon's army, and he will capture it.' "
The officials then said to the king, "This man ought to die, because he is weakening the morale of the warriors who remain in this city and of all the people by speaking to them in this way. This man is not seeking the well-being of this people, but disaster."c5
King Zedekiah said, "Here he is; he's in your hands since the king can't do anything against you."
So they took Jeremiah and dropped him into the cistern of Malchiah the king's son, which was in the guard's courtyard, lowering Jeremiah with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.d7
But Ebed-melech, a Cushite court official employed in the king's palace, heard Jeremiah had been put into the cistern. While the king was sitting at the Benjamin Gate,e8
Ebed-melech went from the king's palace and spoke to the king:
"My lord king, these men have been evil in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have dropped him into the cistern where he will die from hunger, because there is no more bread in the city."
So the king commanded Ebed-melech, the Cushite, "Take from here 30 men under your authority and pull Jeremiah the prophet up from the cistern before he dies."
So Ebed-melech took the men under his authority and went to the king's palace to a place below the storehouse.f From there he took old rags and worn-out clothes and lowered them by ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern.
Ebed-melech the Cushite cried out to Jeremiah, "Place these old rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes." Jeremiah did so,
and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern, but he continued to stay in the guard's courtyard.
King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the Lord's temple. The king said to Jeremiah, "I am going to ask you something; don't hide anything from me."
Jeremiah replied to Zedekiah, "If I tell you, you will kill me, won't you? Besides, if I give you advice, you won't listen to me anyway."
King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah in private, "As the Lord lives, who has given us this life, I will not kill you or hand you over to these men who want to take your life."
Jeremiah therefore said to Zedekiah, "This is what the Lord, the God of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: 'If indeed you surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned down, and you and your household will survive.
But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city will be handed over to the Chaldeans. They will burn it down, and you yourself will not escape from them.' "
But King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "I am worried about the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans. They may hand me over to them to abuse me."g20
"They will not hand you over," Jeremiah replied. "Obey the voice of the Lord in what I am telling you, so it may go well for you and you can live.
But if you refuse to surrender, this is the verdicth that the Lord has shown me:
'All the womeni who remain in the palace of Judah's king will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon and will say: Your trusted friendsj misledk you and overcame you. Your feet sank into the mire, and they deserted you.
All your wives and sons will be brought out to the Chaldeans. You yourself will not escape from them, for you will be seized by the king of Babylon and this city will burn down.' "
Then Zedekiah warned Jeremiah, "Don't let anyone know about these things or you will die.
If the officials hear that I have spoken with you and come and demand of you, 'Tell us what you said to the king; don't hide anything from us and we won't kill you. Also, what did the king say to you?'
then you will tell them, 'I was bringing before the king my petition that he not return me to the house of Jonathan to die there.' "l27
When all the officials came to Jeremiah and questioned him, he reported the exact words to them the king had commanded, and they quit speaking with him because nothing had been heard.
Jeremiah remained in the guard's courtyard until the day Jerusalem was captured, and he was [there] when it happened.m