Jeremiah – Chapter 38

The Bible – Old Testament


Chapter 38


1 Shephatiah, son of Mattan, Gedaliah, son of Pashhur, Jucal, son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur, son of Malchiah, heard Jeremiah speaking these words to all the people:


Thus says the LORD: He who remains in this city shall die by sword, or famine, or pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be spared him as booty, and he shall live.


Thus says the LORD: This city shall certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon; he shall capture it.


2 «This man ought to be put to death,» the princes said to the king; «he demoralizes the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.»


King Zedekiah answered: «He is in your power»; for the king could do nothing with them.


And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.


3 Now Ebed-melech, a Cushite, a courtier in the king’s palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. The king happened just then to be at the Gate of Benjamin,


and Ebed-melech went there from the palace and said to him,


«My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.»


Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.


Ebed-melech took the men along with him, and went first to the linen closet in the palace, from which he took some old, tattered rags; these he sent down to Jeremiah in the cistern, with ropes.


Then he said to Jeremiah, «Put the old, tattered rags between your armpits and the ropes.» Jeremiah did so,


and they drew him up with the ropes out of the cistern. But Jeremiah remained in the quarters of the guard.


Once King Zedekiah summoned the prophet Jeremiah to come to him at the third entrance to the house of the LORD. «I have a question to ask you,» the king said to Jeremiah; «hide nothing from me.» Jeremiah answered Zedekiah:


If I tell you anything, you will have me killed, will you not? If I counsel you, you will not listen to me!


But King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah secretly: «As the LORD lives who gave us the breath of life, I will not kill you; nor will I hand you over to these men who seek your life.»


Thereupon Jeremiah said to Zedekiah: Thus says the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you surrender to the princes of Babylon’s king, you shall save your life; this city shall not be destroyed with fire, and you and your family shall live.


But if you do not surrender to the princes of Babylon’s king, this city shall fall into the hands of the Chaldeans, who shall destroy it with fire, and you shall not escape their hands.


King Zedekiah, however, said to Jeremiah, «I am afraid of the men of Judah who have deserted to the Chaldeans; I may be handed over to them, and they will mistreat me.»


You will not be handed over, Jeremiah answered. Please obey the voice of the LORD and do as I tell you; then it shall go well with you, and your life will be spared.


But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD shows me:


All the women left in the house of Judah’s king shall be brought out to the princes of Babylon’s king, and they shall taunt you thus: «They betrayed you, outdid you, your good friends! Now that your feet are stuck in the mud, they slink away.»


All your wives and sons shall be led forth to the Chaldeans, and you shall not escape their hands; you shall be handed over to the king of Babylon, and this city shall be destroyed with fire.


Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, «Let no one know about this conversation, or you shall die.


If the princes hear I spoke to you, if they come and ask you, ‘Tell us what you said to the king; do not hide it from us, or we will kill you,’ or, ‘What did the king say to you?’


give them this answer: ‘I petitioned the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.'»


When all the princes came to Jeremiah, they questioned him, and he answered them in the very words the king had commanded. They said no more to him, for nothing had been heard of the earlier conversation.


Thus Jeremiah stayed in the quarters of the guard till the day Jerusalem was taken.When Jerusalem was taken. . . .

1 [1] Jeremiah enjoyed sufficient liberty in the quarters of the guard (⇒ Jeremiah 37:21) to speak to the people; cf ⇒ Jeremiah 32:6-9. Gedaliah, son of Pashhur: the latter is possibly the Pashhur of ⇒ Jeremiah 20:1. Pashhur, son of Malchiah: mentioned in ⇒ Jeremiah 21:1.
2 [4] He demoralizes the soldiers: literally, «he weakens their hands.» One of the Lachish ostraca (see note on ⇒ Jeremiah 34:7) uses the same expression of the princes in Jerusalem.
3 [7] A Cushite: an Ethiopian. Ebed-melech evidently held a position of some authority at court.