Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah Thrown Into a Cistern

1 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal[a] son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said,
2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians[b] will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’
3 And this is what the LORD says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’ ”
4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
7 But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite,[c] an official[d] in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate,
8 Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him,
9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern.
12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so,
13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah Again

14 Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the LORD. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.”
15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”
16 But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the LORD lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live.
18 But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’ ”
19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”
20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the LORD by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.
21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD has revealed to me:
22 All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you: “ ‘They misled you and overcame you— those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you.’
23 “All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will[e] be burned down.”
24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die.
25 If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’
26 then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’ ”
27 All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king.
28 And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured. This is how Jerusalem was taken:

Jeremiah 38 Commentary

Chapter 38

Jeremiah is cast into a dungeon, from whence he is delivered by an Ethiopian. (1-13) He advises the king to surrender to the Chaldeans. (14-28)

Verses 1-13 Jeremiah went on in his plain preaching. The princes went on in their malice. It is common for wicked people to look upon God's faithful ministers as enemies, because they show what enemies the wicked are to themselves while impenitent. Jeremiah was put into a dungeon. Many of God's faithful witnesses have been privately made away in prisons. Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian; yet he spoke to the king faithfully, These men have done ill in all they have done to Jeremiah. See how God can raise up friends for his people in distress. Orders were given for the prophet's release, and Ebed-melech saw him drawn up. Let this encourage us to appear boldly for God. Special notice is taken of his tenderness for Jeremiah. What do we behold in the different characters then, but the same we behold in the different characters now, that the Lord's children are conformed to his example, and the children of Satan to their master?

Verses 14-28 Jeremiah was not forward to repeat the warnings, which seemed only to endanger his own life, and to add to the king's guilt, but asked whether he feared to do the will of God. The less men fear God, the more they fear men; often they dare not act according to their own judgments and consciences.

Cross References 47

  • 1. S 1 Chronicles 9:12
  • 2. Jeremiah 37:3
  • 3. Jeremiah 34:17
  • 4. ver 17; S Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 39:18; Jeremiah 45:5
  • 5. S Jeremiah 21:4,10; Jeremiah 32:3
  • 6. S Jeremiah 36:12
  • 7. S Jeremiah 11:21; Jeremiah 26:11
  • 8. S 1 Samuel 17:32
  • 9. S Jeremiah 26:14
  • 10. 1 Samuel 15:24
  • 11. S Jeremiah 37:21
  • 12. S Joshua 2:15
  • 13. S Genesis 37:24
  • 14. S Job 30:19; Lamentations 3:53
  • 15. Jeremiah 39:16
  • 16. "fn" Isaiah 56:3-5; Acts 8:27
  • 17. S Job 29:7
  • 18. S Genesis 37:20
  • 19. S Jeremiah 37:21
  • 20. S Joshua 2:15
  • 21. S Jeremiah 37:21
  • 22. S Jeremiah 37:3
  • 23. S 1 Samuel 3:17
  • 24. Jeremiah 37:17
  • 25. Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 57:16
  • 26. ver 4
  • 27. Jeremiah 27:8
  • 28. 2 Kings 24:12; S Jeremiah 21:9
  • 29. ver 3; Jeremiah 34:3
  • 30. S Jeremiah 37:8
  • 31. S Jeremiah 24:8; S Jeremiah 32:4
  • 32. Isaiah 51:12; John 12:42
  • 33. Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 52:15
  • 34. Jeremiah 11:4
  • 35. S Deuteronomy 5:33; Jeremiah 40:9
  • 36. Isaiah 55:3
  • 37. S Jeremiah 6:12
  • 38. S Job 19:14; S Jeremiah 13:21
  • 39. S Job 30:19; Psalms 69:14
  • 40. S 2 Kings 25:6
  • 41. S Jeremiah 32:4; Ezekiel 17:15
  • 42. S Jeremiah 24:8; Jeremiah 41:10
  • 43. Jeremiah 21:10; Jeremiah 37:8
  • 44. Jeremiah 37:17
  • 45. 1 Samuel 16:2
  • 46. S Jeremiah 37:15
  • 47. S Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 39:14

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Hebrew "Jukal," a variant of "Jehukal"
  • [b]. Or "Chaldeans" ; also in verses 18, 19 and 23
  • [c]. Probably from the upper Nile region
  • [d]. Or "a eunuch"
  • [e]. Or "and you will cause this city to"

Chapter Summary


This chapter is taken up in giving an account of Jeremiah's being cast into a dungeon; his deliverance from it; and private conversation with King Zedekiah. The occasion of the prophet's being cast into a dungeon was his discourse to the people, which four of the princes represented to the king as seditious, and moved to have him put to death; and, being delivered into their hands, was put into a miry dungeon, Jer 38:1-6. Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian, hearing of his miserable case, represented it to the king, and interceded for his release; which being granted, with the help of thirty men, and by means of old clouts and rotten rags, let down by cords, drew him up, and placed him in the court of the prison, Jer 38:7-13. King Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah, and has a private conference with him about the state of affairs; when the prophet faithfully told him how things would issue, and gave him his best advice, Jer 38:14-23; upon parting, the king desires the conference might be kept a secret from the princes, which was accordingly done, Jer 38:24-27; and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison till the taking of Jerusalem, Jer 38:28.

Jeremiah 38 Commentaries

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