Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter, Jeremiah had dealings with the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, shortly before the 11th year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar came back to Jerusalem, burned the city and the Temple, took people captive, including Zedekiah (see Chapter 52).
Jehucal (his shortened name, Jucal) (v. 1) and others, Shephatiah, Gedaliah, and Pashhur heard what Jeremiah was saying that if they go over to the Babylonians they will live, but if not, they will die by the sword (v. 2). If they resist, the city will surely be given over to Babylon. This was the message from the Lord (v. 3). However, these officials including Jehucal, who earlier had asked Jeremiah to pray for the king, were skeptical at the Word of God. They asked the king to put the man of God to death (v. 4). He was seen as a public enemy number one. Zedekiah took the Pontius Pilate approach and let them decide Jeremiah’s destiny, contrary to his promise to Jeremiah (v. 5). So they cast Jeremiah in the empty pit in the prison yard. The pit had lots of mud at the bottom and Jeremiah sank into it (v. 6).
It was here that Lamentations 3 was born “He has walled me in so that I cannot go out” (Lamentations 3:7). However, a man of sympathy for the sufferings of others, a black man, an Ethiopian, who was a eunuch in the palace working for Zedekiah, heard that they put Jeremiah in that pit (v. 7). Ebed-melech was touched in his heart and rushed over to the very gate where Jeremiah had problems with the secret police the first time, the Gate of Benjamin (v. 7), and went in to see the king (v. 8). He told the king that the men had wicked intentions and if something is not done, Jeremiah would die for he had no bread and water (v. 9). The king was convinced and he put him in charge of 30 men to go and take Jeremiah out of the pit (v. 10). Ebed-melech went to the storeroom and got old clothes to use as ropes to lift Jeremiah comfortably from the pit (vs.11, 12). So Jeremiah was lifted out of the pit and he stayed in the court of the guardhouse (v.13).
Then King Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to the third entrance of the house of the Lord. The king met him there and asked again what was going to happen (v. 14). Jeremiah was frank with the king, but he knew that if he told him the truth he would kill him, and if he advised him how to solve the problems he was facing, he would not listen (v. 15).
Secretly the king swore to Jeremiah that he would not kill him. Also he would not give him back into the hands of the men who wanted to do so (v. 16). Jeremiah repeated the same message as before that if Zedekiah would turn himself over to the Babylonians he would live and the city would not be burnt (v. 18). Zedekiah said that he was afraid that the Hebrews who went over to the Babylonians would kill him, but Jeremiah assured him that they would not do anything to harm him (v. 19-20).
If he turned surrendered to the Babylonians all would be well, but if not, his wives and sons would be given to Babylonian princes and the city would be burned with fire (v. 21-23). Instead of following Jeremiah’s instruction from the Lord, Zedekiah asked him to “let no man know about these words” (v. 24). In fact, Zedekiah threatened him with death should he open his mouth and tell anyone about this, but if he kept this message to himself, “you will not die.”
The king provided Jeremiah a way to stay out of the hands of the officials who wanted to kill him. Since the visit with the king was in private, Jeremiah was to tell them that he petitioned the king that he not be placed in the prison cell again (v. 25-26). So when the officials came and questioned Jeremiah about the conversation he had with the king, he told them only about the petition (v. 27). So Jeremiah was able to stay in the court of the guardhouse until the day that Jerusalem was captured (v. 28).
Grant that when Your Word is making an impact on us, that we will act according to its requirements for us and not try to sidestep, amend, avoid, and deny its contemporary role for our lives, the way Zedekiah did. Amen.”
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National UniversitySangju, South Korea