With the army of the Chaldeans (Babylon) encamped outside the walls of the city, the people within faced a time of suffering that was horrible to behold. Famine and disease afflicted the nation (38:1), yet the king and his counsel refused to heed Jeremiah’s warning that all would perish if the city did not surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah 38 – Singing the Prison Blues
Four men of the king’s counsel were named in Jeremiah 38:1, who had set themselves against Jeremiah and charged him with treason. Before he was imprisoned, the prophet foretold only those who went “forth to the Chaldeans [would] live” (38:2), for Jerusalem would fall “into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army” (38:3).
Wicked Counsel (38:4-6)
Obstinate and foolish, the king’s officials (“princes”) disparaged Jeremiah to the king, and accused the prophet of discouraging the people, and weakening their resolve to defend the city (36:4). Zedekiah, true to his wicked character, betrayed God’s prophet into the hands of his enemies (36:5). Those men then “cast Jeremiah into the dungeon [where] there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (36:6).
Ebedmelech: A Man of Courage and Conviction (38:7-13)
Providentially, there was a man named Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian, who realized the injustices suffered by Jeremiah, and interceded for God’s prophet. Ebedmelech petitioned the king to save the old prophet from the dungeon (38:8), knowing he was “like to die for hunger in the place” (38:9). Zedekiah honored Ebedmelech’s request, and commanded 30 men to deliver Jeremiah from the prison, to “the court of the prison” (38:10-13).
Zedekiah’s Secret Consultation with Jeremiah (38:14-24)
Soon after, Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah, and in secret, enquired of the prophet, “I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me” (38:14). The king wanted to know what would become of him and the nation, but Jeremiah did not trust the king, and feared he would both reject his words and kill him (38:15). The king answered Jeremiah’s fears, and assured the prophet he would not be harmed (38:16).
Tragically, nothing had changed in what God had purposed and foretold through his prophet, and Jeremiah counseled the king he must surrender the city, or death and destruction would befall the king’s family and his city (38:20). Refusing to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, would surely bring mocking from the women of the king’s household for heeding the counsel of his “friends” (38:21-22). Finally, the king’s harem and his children would become slaves in Babylon, and the city would be burned to the ground (38:23).
Zedekiah Rejected the Prophet’s Counsel (38:24-28)
Fearing the wrath of men, rather than the judgment of God (38:19), Zedekiah demanded Jeremiah would tell no one of his conversation with the king (38:24-25). Should some ask what he said to the king, Jeremiah was to answer he had requested the king not return him to the dungeon (38:26).
Closing thoughts – Those men who hated Jeremiah came demanding what he had spoken to the king, and Jeremiah answered as the king instructed (26:27). “So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken” (38:28).
Jeremiah 39 – The Final Phase: The Fall of Jerusalem
The Babylonian siege lasted 18 months, and the sorrows and afflictions that arose within the city in that time were overwhelming and recorded in the Book of Lamentations (Lamentations 4:4-5, 9-11, 18). Zedekiah, having failed to heed Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, was forced to flee the city (39:4), but the Chaldean army pursued him (39:5).
Nebuchadnezzar commanded king Zedekiah and his entourage to appear before him, where he sat in judgment (39:5). As the king of Judah looked on, his sons were slain “before his eyes” as were also “all the nobles of Judah” (39:6) Lastly, Zedekiah’s eyes were put out, and he was bound in chains, and carried away to Babylon (39:7).
The city of Jerusalem was burned, its buildings destroyed, the remnant of those who survived the siege were led away to Babylon, leaving only the poorest of the people to occupy the land (39:8-10).
In an ironic, but providential twist of fate, Nebuchadnezzar released Jeremiah from prison and directed his servants care for his needs, releasing the prophet to go home (39:11-14; 40:1-6).
Closing thoughts – History is truly “His [God’s] Story,” and a testimony of the providential working of God Who is Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all things. The LORD is El Shaddai, Almighty God and able to direct the evil purposes of men to the ends that are good for His people and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).
Whatever circumstances you face, or whoever your enemy might be, they are not greater, nor are they beyond the sovereignty of El Shaddai – Almighty God!
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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