Chapter thirty-eight demonstrates the increasing animosity the Jewish officials had toward Jeremiah, especially as the time came closer to when Nebuchadnezzar overtook Jerusalem. Although Zedekiah had Jeremiah confined to the Temple courtyard, others still insisted that he be executed because of his messages of impending disaster, so they approached the king with their desire (Jeremiah 38:1-6). Zedekiah was a weak-willed man, who seemed to cave into whoever was in front of him. Although he had already spared Jeremiah’s life, he quickly told the officials they could do whatever they wanted, so they put Jeremiah into a cistern. It was empty, but the bottom had a muddy sludge that Jeremiah sunk into.1
An Ethiopian named Ebed Melech (Hebrew for “servant of the king”) discovered what they had done and asked Zedekiah if he could release Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:7-13). The king gave him 30 men to rescue Jeremiah, which he did by making a rope of old rags and pulling Jeremiah out. Still, the king confined Jeremiah to the courtyard in the Temple.
Although Zedekiah did not believe or heed Jeremiah’s warning messages, he still somehow respected Jeremiah enough to meet with him in secret in order to get a message from God (showing his cowardice and fear of other people, much like King Saul; Jeremiah 38:14-28). The only message that Jeremiah would give him was the same one that he had always preached: fight and die or surrender and live. Zedekiah was rightly worried that, if he surrendered, his fellow Jewish captives would kill him. Jeremiah promised that would not be the case because God would protect him, and Zedekiah seemed satisfied with that. In an interesting point of detail, Zedekiah told Jeremiah to keep the content of this meeting a secret, especially if asked about it by the officials, and Jeremiah complied.
- This chapter offers a few similarities to the attacks other godly men faced, e.g., Daniel (officials convincing the king) and Joseph (left for dead in a cistern). ↩