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Jeremiah left to die (ch38)

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posted on Mar, 10 2023 @ 05:26 PM
At the end of ch37, Jeremiah obtained a transfer from his imprisonment in the house of Jonathan the secretary, returning to the court of the (royal) guard. As we know from his previous stay (ch32), this was a comparatively “open” prison, where he could receive visitors and even address groups of people.

So at the beginning of ch38 he is going too far again. “Thus says the Lord; He who stays in this city shall die by sword and famine and pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live”. To the princes, the leaders of authority in a city under siege, this is incitement to treason.

A word on the status of the princes. As found in the narratives of Jeremiah, they seem to have been the equivalent of what British slang calls the “mandarins”. That is, they are the senior civil servants. The establishment in Judah seems to have been informally hereditary, in that power and influence and therefore the chief offices of state tended to fall to a number of leading families.

A word on the political character of the princes. In the early days of king Jehoiakim, the previous king, (ch26, ch36), they were normally friendly and ready to hear the message of Jeremiah. These may have been the princes originally appointed in the previous reign of Josiah, the reformer. But Zedekiah is obliged to work with princes who are hostile to Jeremiah and any talk of compromise with Babylon, and this may have been because Jehoiakim conducted a purge in his later years.

A word on the names of the princes. We have already met Pashhur the son of Malchiah, when the king sent him to make enquiry of the Lord (ch21 v1). But Pashhur is not an unusual name (see ch20v1), so there is no way to tell if the son of Malchiah was also the father of Gedaliah.

So these men went to the king and demanded that Jeremiah be put to death. It was certainly a demand rather than a plea, because as Zedekiah rightly said “The king can do nothing against you”. In the political circumstances of the time, he had little active power.

They did not kill him directly. Somewhere in the middle of the court of the guard there was a cistern, called “the cistern of Malchiah the king’s son”, which probably means that is was built under the direction of a king’s son from an earlier generation. It should have contained water, because that’s what cisterns are for, but most of it must have been used up in the siege. Did anyone even have time to refill it when the Chaldeans disappeared briefly? As a result, there was nothing there but mire. They did not throw Jeremiah in, but let him down by ropes, but there is no doubt that he was intended to die there. However, the day would be saved by an Ethiopian eunuch in the royal service, a man who is almost anonymous because his name Ebed-melech means “servant of the king”. He may have been a slave renamed by his new masters.

Ebed-melech took the initiative and appealed to the king as the source of justice. Ever since ancient times, in the absence of market-places, the town gate had been the place where the elders met and men did business (Genesis ch23, Ruth ch4). By extension, the kings in Jerusalem had the (daily?) custom of giving justice to their people at the gate of the city. This was the duty which David was neglecting before Absolom’s rebellion (1 Samuel ch15). Evidently the main gate of Jerusalem was the north gate, also known as the Benjamin gate. That was where Ebed-melech found Zedekiah sitting and where he made his appeal on Jeremiah’s behalf. Zedekiah learned then, probably for the first time, the exact method which the princes had chosen. So he instructed Ebed-melech to have Jeremiah drawn out, and even sent three men to assist him. They found means to draw Jeremiah out as gently as possible, and once he reached the level of the main floor he was already back in the court of the guard.

Jeremiah was kept in that location until the end of the siege, when he was released by the Babylonians. By way of thanks, a word of the Lord is addressed to Ebed-melech (ch39 vv15-18) promising him that his life would be saved when the Babylonians captured the city.

posted on Mar, 11 2023 @ 12:56 AM
P.S. I've just noticed (because I've begun work on the eventual Index thread) that I have accidentally forgotten to post a thread on the second half of ch9. It was written, but went unnoticed in the partly alphabetical sequence of the files. Since I don't want to interrupt the flow of the dramatic final narratives, I'll go back and slip it in before the "prophecies against the nations".

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