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The Book of Jeremiah 37-38

Jeremiah Chapters 37 & 38

I.       Outline

A.     King Zedekiah

1.        Zedekiah asked Jeremiah to pray for the country. (37:1-10)

2.        Zedekiah’s first meeting with Jeremiah. (37:17-21)

3.        Zedekiah’s response towards the accused of the high officials concerning Jeremiah. (38:1-6)

4.        Zedekiah’s second meeting with Jeremiah. (38:14-28)

B.     The suffering of Jeremiah

1.        Arrest and confinement in a dungeon. (37:11-16)

2.        Transfer to the courtyard of the guard. (37:17-21)

3.        Confinement in a cistern. (38:1-6)

4.        Rescue from a cistern. (38:7-13)

II.    King Zedekiah.

A.     Zedekiah asked Jeremiah to pray for the country. (37:1-10)

1.        He was the last king of Judah, who was placed on the throne as a vassal king by Nebuchadnezzar. (2 Kings 24:15-17; 37:1)

2.        The king and the people did not listen to the warning of Jeremiah. (37:2)

3.        He did not want to listen to the prophet, yet he wanted the prophet to pray for them. Zedekiah sent some people to ask about the situation of the battle when Egypt came to attack the Babylon. The following are the messages to Zedekiah:

 a.      The army of Egypt that had marched out to support Judah would go back to its own land. (37:7)

 b.      The army of Babylon would return and attack Jerusalem. They would capture and burn the city down (37:8ff) (cf. 21:10; 32:29; 34:2, 22; 37:10; 38:18, 23).

 c.      Those who hoped for Babylonian’s withdrawal deceived themselves. (37:9)

 d.      Even if only wounded men were in Nebuchadnezzar’s army, God said that they would still burn Jerusalem down (cf. 37:10).

B.     First meeting with Jeremiah. (37:17-21)

1.        At this time, Zedekiah was facing the fact that Babylon returned to Jerusalem and renewed his siege of the city. Zedekiah knew that Jeremiah was a prophet of God, so he arranged a private meeting with Jeremiah. At this time, Jeremiah was under arrest and was put in a prison.

2.        Jeremiah did not change his message from the Lord due to his confinement. (37:17)

3.        By using the chance to see the king, Jeremiah questioned why he was put in prison and asked to be out of the previous prison.

·         Jeremiah stated the fact that those prophets who prophesied Babylon would not return lied. (37:19)

4.        Granting Jeremiah’s request, Zedekiah had him transferred from the previous prison which could be an underground vaulted cistern to the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace (cf. 32:2). Here Zedekiah could better protect Jeremiah from his enemies—though Zedekiah was a weak-willed protector (cf. 38:4-10). Zedekiah also arranged for Jeremiah to be fed bread… each day so he would not starve. This continued until the siege depleted the supply of grain so that all the bread in the city was gone (cf. 52:6).

C.     Zedekiah’s response toward the accusation of high officials concerning Jeremiah. (38:1-6)

1.        Some official accused Jeremiah’s message that damage the hearts of people.

2.        Zedekiah already knew the position of Jeremiah. He personally met him before and yet he allowed the high officials to hurt him.

3.        Zedekiah’s weakness was the evident in his response to these officials. Though earlier he had agreed to protect Jeremiah (37:18-21), and now Zedekiah handed him over to those who sought for his life. Zedekiah’s excuse was that the king could do nothing to oppose them. Zedekiah was a political puppet, and incapable of making strong independent decisions. He was controlled either by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 2 Kings 24:17) or by the city officials who urged him to rebel against Babylon and influenced his decisions (Jer. 27:12-15; 38:5, 19, 24-28).

D.     Second meeting with Jeremiah. (38:14-28)

1.        Jeremiah was brought to the temple of God to meet with the king. The king requested that the prophet did not hide anything from him.

2.        Jeremiah requested two things. (38:15)

 a.      His life shall be spared if he spoke something that the king disliked to hear. Jeremiah was in the mud dungeon and almost died. He learned his lesson of trying to protect his life.

 b.      The king truly listened to him.

3.        Zedekiah promised only not to kill Jeremiah. He did not promise to listen to Jeremiah. Why did he choose not to listen?

And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. (38:19)

4.        Jeremiah’s message to the king is the same as before. (38:17f) (cf. 21:1-10; 37:17; 38:1-3).

 a.      If Zedekiah would surrender to the Babylonians, his life would be spared, the city would not be burned down, and his family would live.

 b.      However, if he would not surrender, the city would be handed over to the armies of Babylon who would burn it down (cf. 21:10; 32:29; 34:2, 22; 37:8, 10; 38:23); and Zedekiah would not escape from their hands.

5.        God promised Zedekiah that if he surrendered to Babylon, God won’t hand him to the Jews that he mistreated before. (38:10). There are the words from God. Yet Zedekiah failed to grab the blessing of the Lord. His worries overpower him to make the wrong decision.

6.        Zedekiah was in a very unstable political situation. It seems that he cannot totally control the high officials. He told Jeremiah not to release their conversation. Otherwise, Jeremiah would die. (38:24ff)

E.     Learning from King Zedekiah.

1.        “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (Jas 1:22)” Zedekiah did not want to listen to the prophet, ye he met with the prophet in secret twice in these two chapters. He simply deceived himself by doing this.

2.        Without the words of God, a person cannot have any principle. “Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps119:105) Zedekiah’s seemed did not know which side to take. If he could have chosen the Lord’s side to stand, he wouldn’t be weaving. Then he won’t suffer the bad consequence.

3.        “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Asking a king to surrender seems like a very difficulty thing. It is against the ego of a human being and a nation. Chinese people say that “good soldier can be killed, but cannot be mocked.” If it is the Lord’s will to have us surrender to hurt our ego, will we do it?

4.        “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (Jn 12:25). Zedekiah knew that Jeremiah was a true prophet. He can tell that whatever prophecy from Jeremiah had been fulfilled as the time went by. He did not have the complete trust in the Lord. He had knowledge yet without faith. His fate is doom.

5.        God was very merciful. After such a long warning to the country and to the king, the king and the country still disobey the Lord’s will. Yet, even at the every last moment, God still give the king and the country a way out. There is God’s mercy even in the time of punishment. It reminds me that God also loves those Egyptians when all the water turned to blood in the river. God allowed them to dig the water bank to get the fresh water. God carries out his judgment and at the same time, God thinks of human’s need.

6.        Did Zedekiah truly know our almighty God? A person can collect all information from the mouth of the prophet, or the bible. If a person doesn’t have faith, seeing all the difficulties in the environment, he cannot stand firm in the way of God. The book of Hebrew told us the reason why God dislike the people in the wilderness was that they cannot use faith to accept the words of God.

7.        Politic shall not be played in our church. We can see, from the words of Zedekiah, that there are different parties fought for different interest.

 a.      38:16: “… Neither will I give thee into the hands of these men that seek thy lives.” Certain parties just want Nehemiah to die.

 b.      The king himself was afraid those Jews that may seek for his life. (38:19)

F.      Learning from Jeremiah.

1.        Jeremiah never changed his message from the Lord no matter it is a good time or bad time.

2.        “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16). Jeremiah learned to protect his life. It must be very painful to thrown into the muddy dungeon.

 a.      He took the opportunity to leave the worst prison and to be transfer to a better one.

 b.      He asked the king to spare his life prior to his message of God’s oracles.

3.        Jer 38:27f. “… for the matter was not made public, so Jeremiah was kept in the palace of the armed watchmen till the day when Jerusalem was taken.”

 a.      Many things can be succeeded in secret, but can be failed in the public.

 b.      If we reveal our success, Satan will know and try to damage our result.

III. Jeremiah in suffering.

A.     Arrest and confinement in a dungeon. (37:11-16)

1.        On the way back to Benjamin, Jeremiah was arrested by son of Shemiah, the same Shemiah that was sent by the king to Jeremiah to pray for the country. (37:3)

2.        The reason of the arrest: Jeremiah surrendered to Babylon. (37:13)

3.        The result of the arrest: Jeremiah was hit and was put in a jail, the house of Jonathan. Jeremiah described it as a dungeon. (37:16) (check the original text.) Jeremiah was locked over here for many days. (37:16)

The many days are from a peaceful time after the Babylon withdrew his armies to the once again returning of his armies.

4.        Learning:

 a.      It seems that Jeremiah was taking care of his own personal business, and then he was arrested. Paul told to Timothy that as a full time worker, we shall not be borrowed by worldly affair.

 b.      It hinted that the son of Shemiah knew the position of Jeremiah. The family of Shemiah was the adversary of Jeremiah.

(a)     Jehucal, the son of Shemiah, was once sent by the king to ask Jeremiah to pray for the king (37:3). He learned the position of Jeremiah very well.

(b)     His brother was an officer in the Gate Benjamin. He captured Jeremiah and treated him as a person who surrendered to the foes. He and other officers hit Jeremiah. Later, they joined him in “the jail of Jonathan”. Where Jeremiah and the king thought that Jeremiah could have die over there (37:20; 38:26). Jehucal, along with other 3 officers, asked the king to put death to Jeremiah for his political position (As matter of fact, Jeremiah only spoke for God.)

(c)     Is it possible that one person in the family can influence the whole family to go against the worker of God?

 c.      If we are Jeremiah who had been in a dungeon for many days, would we be like John the Baptist who started to wonder who the savor is? God did allow his worker to be sent in the prison and encounter difficulties. In the book of Revelation, we can see that the people in the world hated the two witnesses.

B.     Transfer to the courtyard of the guard. (37:17-21)

1.        Jeremiah pointed out the fact that the false prophets wrong the people by saying that the Babylon won’t be back to attack to the holy land. (37:19)

2.        Jeremiah used the chance to talk to the king to request to leave the dungeon or else he may die in the dungeon. (37:20)

3.        Then Jeremiah was transferred to the courtyard of the guard.

 a.      A courtyard of guard is a COURT OF THE PRISON. It is an open court in the Jerusalem palace reserved for the detention of prisoners during the day of Jeremiah (Jer. 32:8, 12; 33:1; 37:21; 38:6, 13, 28; 39:14-15). Translated in the modern versions as “court of the guard.”

 b.      We can see that Jeremiah was treated OK in this place for he received a bread everyday. (Jer 37:31)

4.        Learning:

 a.      We shall grab the good opportunity that was given to us. When it is not time for Jesus to die on the cross, Jesus did not hand himself over to the people.

 b.      We need to know the God’s timing and make the right decision at the right time.

C.     Confinement in a cistern. (38:1-6)

1.        Reason of putting in the confinement in a cistern:

 a.      Jeremiah may have some freedom to declare the message of God. (Ref 32:1f, 6).

 b.      Four high officials heard it and thought that the message would influence the hearts of soldiers and people. They asked the king to put Jeremiah to death. (38:1-4)

2.        Result of the preaching of Jeremiah.

 a.      Instead of putting Jeremiah to death, he was put into Malkijah’s cistern, in the courtyard of the guard.

 b.      Jeremiah was sunk into the mud. It was very dangerous. The water level arise, he would have been drawn. If the mud is getting soft, he would have been sinking continuously. Even if nothing happen, the mud could have routine the skins as time goes by. Besides, there was no food to give those who are in that pit. (Ref 38:9)

3.        Learning:

 a.      The previous prison experience did not make Jeremiah to give up preaching God’s message. He just hoped that more and more people can escape the damage from the war. Jeremiah’s lamentation for the people shows that his heart had great love toward God’s people.

 b.      Another son of Shemiah was one of the four accusers. We can see if a person’s heart is against someone, it may influence the whole family’s members.

D.     Rescue from a cistern. (38:7-13)

1.        The one who try to rescue Jeremiah: Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house (38:7). We can learn some lessons from the story of Ebed-Melech.

 a.      He was a eunuch (38:7). He did not have hope and can feel careless of his own life. The bible describes a eunuch as a dried branch. Yet this Ethiopian had a very good attitude about life. He would do the right thing in the eyes of God.

 b.      He took action immediately after hearing the news of Jeremiah’s capture (38:7). He can tell the news was correct and he did not waist any minutes to rescue Jeremiah.

 c.      He went to king who was at the Benjamin Gate. Who was the officer sitting over there (37:13)? He was an adversary to Jeremiah. Yet Ebed-Melech was not afraid of his own dangerous situation. He could have spoken the words in the public when he mentioned the name of the evil one. (38:9)

 d.      His reason of rescuing Jeremiah was that Jeremiah could have died in the mud of lacking of food. (38:9)

 e.      The king asked him to lead 30 soldiers to save Jeremiah out of the cistern.

 f.       Ebed-Melech was very careful and experienced to use some clothing with rope to take Jeremiah out of the muddy cistern. (38:12f)

2.        The results of rescuing:

 a.      Jeremiah could avoid death.

 b.      Jeremiah was still in the courtyard of the guard. (38:13)

 c.      God blessed Ebed-Melech and told him that his life would be preserved in the future war because he relied on God. (39:17f)

3.        Learning:

 a.      It is God who preserved the life of Jeremiah. Our life is in the hand of God. We may be at the edge of death many times. It is not the will of God, we simply won’t die.

 b.      Sometimes God will arrange those who had godly heart to be beside and help us, so the Lord’s wills will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 c.      Those who do good to us is doing good to God. God will reward those who do good to us. Ex. A preacher said that if we allow others to care for us, it is that we are doing them a favor. What do you think of this saying?

Publisher: True Jesus Church