Verses 1–10

Here is, 1. Jeremiah’s preaching slighted, Jer. 37:1, 2. Zedekiah succeeded Coniah, or Jeconiah, and, though he saw in his predecessor the fatal consequences of contemning the word of God, yet he did not take warning, nor give any more regard to it than others had done before him. Neither he, nor his courtiers, nor the people of the land, hearkened unto the words of the Lord, though they already began to be fulfilled. Note, Those have hearts wretchedly hard indeed that see God’s judgments on others, and feel them on themselves, and yet will not be humbled and brought to heed what he says. These had proof sufficient that it was the Lord who spoke by Jeremiah the prophet, and yet they would not hearken to him. 2. Jeremiah’s prayers desired. Zedekiah sent messengers to him, saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us. He did so before (Jer. 21:1, 2), and one of the messengers, Zephaniah, is the same there and here. Zedekiah is to be commended for his, and it shows that he had some good in him, some sense of his need of God’s favour and of his own unworthiness to ask it for himself, and some value for good people and good ministers, who had an interest in Heaven. Note, When we are in distress we ought to desire the prayers of our ministers and Christian friends, for thereby we put an honour upon prayer, and an esteem upon our brethren. Kings themselves should look upon their praying people as the strength of the nation, Zech. 12:5, 10. And yet this does but help to condemn Zedekiah out of his own mouth. If indeed he looked upon Jeremiah as a prophet, whose prayers might avail much both for him and his people, why did he not then believe him, and hearken to the words of the Lord which he spoke by him? He desired his good prayers, but would not take his good counsel, nor be ruled by him, though he spoke in God’s name, and it appears by this that Zedekiah knew he did. Note, It is common for those to desire to be prayed for who will not be advised; but herein they put a cheat upon themselves, for how can we expect that God should hear others speaking to him for us if we will not hear them speaking to us from him and for him? Many who despise prayer when they are in prosperity will be glad of it when they are in adversity. Now give us of your oil. When Zedekiah sent to the prophet to pray for him, he had better have sent for the prophet to pray with him; but he thought that below him: and how can those expect the comforts of religion who will not stoop to the services of it? 3. Jerusalem flattered by the retreat of the Chaldean army from it. Jeremiah was now at liberty (Jer. 37:4); he went in and out among the people, might freely speak to them and be spoken to by them. Jerusalem also, for the present, was at liberty, Jer. 37:5 Zedekiah, though a tributary to the king of Babylon, had entered into a private league with Pharaoh king of Egypt (Ezek. 17:15), pursuant to which, when the king of Babylon came to chastise him for his treachery, the king of Egypt, though he came no more in person after that great defeat which Nebuchadnezzar gave him in the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kgs. 24:7), yet sent some forces to relieve Jerusalem when it was besieged, upon notice of the approach of which the Chaldeans raised the siege, probably not for fear of them but in policy, to fight them at a distance, before any of the Jewish forces could join them. From this they encouraged themselves to hope that Jerusalem was delivered for good and all out of the hands of its enemies and that the storm was quite blown over. Note, Sinners are commonly hardened in their security by the intermissions of judgments and the slow proceedings of them; and those who will not be awakened by the word of God may justly be lulled asleep by the providence of God. 4. Jerusalem threatened with the return of the Chaldean army and with ruin by it. Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to desire him to pray for them, that the Chaldean army might not return; but Jeremiah sends him word back that the decree had gone forth, and that it was but a folly for them to expect peace, for God had begun a controversy with them, which he would make an end of: Thus saith the Lord, Deceive not yourselves, Jer. 37:9. Note, Satan himself, though he is the great deceiver, could not deceive us if we did not deceive ourselves; and thus sinners are their own destroyers by being their own deceivers, of which this is an aggravation that they are so frequently warned of it and cautioned not to deceive themselves, and they have the word of God, the great design of which is to undeceive them. Jeremiah uses no dark metaphors, but tells them plainly, (1.) That the Egyptians shall retreat, and either give back or be forced back, into their own land (Ezek. 17:17), which was said of old (Isa. 30:7), and is here said again, Jer. 37:7. The Egyptians shall help in vain; they shall not dare to face the Chaldean army, but shall retire with precipitation. Note, If God help us not, no creature can. As no power can prevail against God, so none can avail without God nor countervail his departures from us. (2.) That the Chaldeans shall return, and shall renew the siege and prosecute it with more vigour than ever: They shall not depart for good and all (Jer. 37:9); they shall come again (Jer. 37:8); they shall fight against the city. Note, God has the sovereign command of all the hosts of men, even of those that know him not, that own him not, and they are all made to serve his purposes. He directs their marches, their counter-marches, their retreats, their returns, as it pleases him; and furious armies, like stormy winds, in all their motions are fulfilling his word. (3.) That Jerusalem shall certainly be delivered into the hand of the Chaldeans: They shall take it, and burn it with fire, Jer. 37:8. The sentence passed upon it shall be executed, and they shall be the executioners. “O but” (say they) “the Chaldeans have withdrawn; they have quitted the enterprise as impracticable.” “And though they have,” says the prophet, “nay, though you had smitten their army, so that many were slain and all the rest wounded, yet those wounded men should rise up and burn this city,” Jer. 37:10. This is designed to denote that the doom passed upon Jerusalem is irrevocable, and its destruction inevitable; it must be laid in ruins, and these Chaldeans are the men that must destroy it, and it is now in vain to think of evading the stroke or contending with it. Note, Whatever instruments God has determined to make use of in any service for him, whether or mercy or judgment, they shall accomplish that for which they are designed, whatever incapacity or disability they may lie under or be reduced to. Those by whom God has resolved to save or to destroy, saviours they shall be and destroyers they shall be, yea, though there were all wounded; for as when God has work to do he will not want instruments to do it with, though they may seem far to seek, so when he has chosen his instruments they shall do the work, though they may seem very unlikely to accomplish it.