The Chaldean army will return. (1-10) Jeremiah is imprisoned. (11-21)
Verses 1-10 Numbers witness the fatal effects of other men's sins, yet heedlessly step into their places, and follow the same destructive course. When in distress, we ought to desire the prayers of ministers and Christian friends. And it is common for those to desire to be prayed for, who will not be advised; yet sinners are often hardened by a pause in judgments. But if God help us not, no creature can. Whatever instruments God has determined to use, they shall do the work, though they seem unlikely.
Verses 11-21 There are times when it is the wisdom of good men to retire, to enter into their chambers, and to shut the doors, ( Isaiah 26:20 ) . Jeremiah was seized as a deserter, and committed to prison. But it is no new thing for the best friends of the church to be belied, as in the interests of her worst enemies. When thus falsely accused, we may deny the charge, and commit our cause to Him who judges righteously. Jeremiah obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, and would not, to obtain mercy of man, be unfaithful to God or to his prince; he tells the king the whole truth. When Jeremiah delivered God's message, he spake with boldness; but when he made his own request, he spake submissively. A lion in God's cause must be a lamb in his own. And God gave Jeremiah favour in the eyes of the king. The Lord God can make even the cells of a prison become pastures to his people, and will raise up friends to provide for them, so that in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
Jeremiah 37:1-21 . HISTORICAL SECTIONS, THIRTY-SEVENTH THROUGH FORTY-FOURTH CHAPTERS. THE CHALDEANS RAISE THE SIEGE TO GO AND MEET PHARAOH-HOPHRA. ZEDEKIAH SENDS TO JEREMIAH TO PRAY TO GOD IN BEHALF OF THE JEWS: IN VAIN, JEREMIAH TRIES TO ESCAPE TO HIS NATIVE PLACE, BUT IS ARRESTED. ZEDEKIAH ABATES THE RIGOR OF HIS IMPRISONMENT.
1. Coniah--curtailed from Jeconiah by way of reproach.
whom--referring to Zedekiah, not to Coniah ( 2 Kings 24:17 ).
2. Amazing stupidity, that they were not admonished by the punishment of Jeconiah [CALVIN], ( 2 Chronicles 36:12 2 Chronicles 36:14 )!
3. Zedekiah . . . sent--fearing lest, in the event of the Chaldeans overcoming Pharaoh-hophra, they should return to besiege Jerusalem. the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth chapter. The message of the king to Jeremiah here in the thirty-seventh chapter is, however, somewhat earlier than that in the twenty-first chapter; here it is while the issue between the Chaldeans and Pharaoh was undecided; there it is when, after the repulse of Pharaoh, the Chaldeans were again advancing against Jerusalem; hence, while Zephaniah is named in both embassies, Jehucal accompanies him here, Pashur there. But, as Pashur and Jehucal are both mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1 Jeremiah 38:2 , as hearing Jeremiah's reply, which is identical with that in Jeremiah 21:9 , it is probable the two messages followed one another at a short interval; that in this Jeremiah 37:3 , and the answer, Jeremiah 37:7-10 , being the earlier of the two.
Zephaniah--an abettor of rebellion against God ( Jeremiah 29:25 ), though less virulent than many ( Jeremiah 29:29 ), punished accordingly ( Jeremiah 52:24-27 ).
4. Jeremiah . . . not put . . . into prison--He was no longer in the prison court, as he had been ( Jeremiah 32:2 , 33:1 ), which passages refer to the beginning of the siege, not to the time when the Chaldeans renewed the siege, after having withdrawn for a time to meet Pharaoh.
5. After this temporary diversion, caused by Pharaoh in favor of Jerusalem, the Egyptians returned no more to its help ( 2 Kings 24:7 ). Judea had the misfortune to lie between the two great contending powers, Babylon and Egypt, and so was exposed to the alternate inroads of the one or the other. Josiah, taking side with Assyria, fell in battle with Pharaoh-necho at Megiddo ( 2 Kings 23:29 ). Zedekiah, seeking the Egyptian alliance in violation of his oath, was now about to be taken by Nebuchadnezzar ( 2 Chronicles 36:13 , Ezekiel 17:15 Ezekiel 17:17 ).
7. shall return--without accomplishing any deliverance for you.
8. ( Jeremiah 34:22 ).
9. yourselves--Hebrew, "souls."
10. yet . . . they--Even a few wounded men would suffice for your destruction.
11. broken up--"gone up."
12. Benjamin--to his own town, Anathoth.
to separate himself--Margin translates, "to slip away," from a Hebrew root, "to be smooth," so, to slip away as a slippery thing that cannot be held. But it is not likely the prophet of God would flee in a dishonorable way; and "in the midst of the people" rather implies open departure along with others, than clandestine slipping away by mixing with the crowd of departing people. Rather, it means, to separate himself, or to divide his place of residence, so as to live partly here, partly there, without fixed habitation, going to and fro among the people [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. MAURER translates, "to take his portion thence," to realize the produce of his property in Anathoth [HENDERSON], or to take possession of the land which he bought from Hanameel [MAURER].
13. ward--that is, the "guard," or "watch."
Hananiah--whose death Jeremiah predicted ( Jeremiah 28:16 ). The grandson in revenge takes Jeremiah into custody on the charge of deserting ("thou fallest away," Jeremiah 38:19 , 52:15 , 1 Samuel 29:3 ) to the enemy. His prophecies gave color to the charge ( Jeremiah 21:9 , 38:4 ).
15. scribe--one of the court secretaries; often in the East part of the private house of a public officer serves as a prison.
16. dungeon . . . cabins--The prison consisted of a pit (the "dungeon") with vaulted cells round the sides of it. The "cabins," from a root, "to bend one's self."
17. secretly--Zedekiah was ashamed to be seen by his courtiers consulting Jeremiah ( John 12:43 , 5:44 , 19:38 ).
thou shalt be delivered--Had Jeremiah consulted his earthly interests, he would have answered very differently. Contrast Jeremiah 6:14 , Isaiah 30:10 , Ezekiel 13:10 .
18. What--In what respect have I offended?
19. Where are now your prophets--The event has showed them to be liars; and, as surely as the king of Babylon has come already, notwithstanding their prophecy, so surely shall he return.
20. be accepted--rather, "Let my supplication be humbly presented" [HENDERSON].
lest I die there--in the subterranean dungeon ( Jeremiah 37:16 ), from want of proper sustenance ( Jeremiah 37:21 ). The prophet naturally shrank from death, which makes his spiritual firmness the more remarkable; he was ready to die rather than swerve from his duty [CALVIN].
21. court of the prison--( Jeremiah 32:2 , Jeremiah 38:13 Jeremiah 38:28 ).
bakers' street--Persons in the same business in cities in the East commonly reside in the same street.
all the bread . . . spent--Jeremiah had bread supplied to him until he was thrown into the dungeon of Malchiah, at which time the bread in the city was spent. Compare this verse with Jeremiah 38:9 ; that time must have been very shortly before the capture of the city ( Jeremiah 52:6 ). God saith of His children, "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied" ( Psalms 37:19 , Isaiah 33:16 ). Honest reproof ( Jeremiah 37:17 ), in the end often gains more favor than flattery ( Proverbs 28:23 ).