New English Translation
Introduction to Incidents During the Reign of Zedekiah
37 Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jeconiah[a] son of Jehoiakim as king. He was elevated to the throne of the land of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.[b] 2 Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah.[c]
The Lord Responds to Zedekiah’s Hope for Help
3 King Zedekiah sent[d] Jehucal[e] son of Shelemiah and the priest Zephaniah[f] son of Maaseiah to the prophet Jeremiah to say, “Please pray to the Lord our God on our behalf.” 4 (Now Jeremiah had not yet been put in prison.[g] So he was still free to come and go among the people as he pleased.[h] 5 At that time the Babylonian forces[i] had temporarily given up their siege against Jerusalem. They had had it under siege, but withdrew when they heard that the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt.[j]) 6 The Lord’s message came to the prophet Jeremiah, 7 “This is what the Lord God of Israel has said, ‘This is what you must say to the king of Judah who sent you to seek my help.[k] “Beware,[l] Pharaoh’s army that was on its way to help you is about to go back home to Egypt.[m] 8 Then the Babylonian forces[n] will return. They will attack the city and will capture it and burn it down. 9 Moreover, I, the Lord, warn you not to deceive yourselves into thinking that the Babylonian forces[o] will go away and leave you alone. For they will not go away.[p] 10 For even if you were to defeat all the Babylonian forces[q] fighting against you so badly that only wounded men were left lying in their tents, they would get up and burn this city down.”’”[r]
Jeremiah is Charged with Deserting, Arrested, and Imprisoned
11 The following events also occurred[s] while the Babylonian forces[t] had temporarily withdrawn from Jerusalem because the army of Pharaoh was coming. 12 Jeremiah started to leave Jerusalem to go to the territory of Benjamin. He wanted to make sure he got his share of the property that was being divided up among his family there.[u] 13 But he only got as far as the Benjamin Gate.[v] There an officer in charge of the guards named Irijah,[w] who was the son of Shelemiah and the grandson of Hananiah, stopped him. He seized Jeremiah and said,[x] “You are deserting to the Babylonians!”[y] 14 Jeremiah answered, “That’s a lie! I am not deserting to the Babylonians.”[z] But Irijah would not listen to him. Irijah put Jeremiah under arrest and took him to the officials. 15 The officials were very angry[aa] with Jeremiah. They had him flogged and put in prison in the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary, which they had converted into a place for confining prisoners.[ab]
16 So[ac] Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house.[ad] He[ae] was kept there for a long time. 17 Then King Zedekiah had him brought to the palace. There he questioned him privately and asked him,[af] “Is there any message from the Lord?” Jeremiah answered, “Yes, there is.” Then he announced,[ag] “You will be handed over to the king of Babylon.”[ah] 18 Then Jeremiah asked King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you, or the officials who serve you, or the people of Judah? What have I done to make you people throw me into prison?[ai] 19 Where now are the prophets who prophesied to you that[aj] the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land? 20 But now please listen, your royal Majesty,[ak] and grant my plea for mercy.[al] Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary. If you do, I will die there.”[am] 21 Then King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be committed to the courtyard of the guardhouse. He also ordered that a loaf of bread[an] be given to him every day from the bakers’ street until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah was kept[ao] in the courtyard of the guardhouse.
Jeremiah Is Charged with Treason and Put in a Cistern to Die
38 Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal[ap] son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur[aq] son of Malkijah had heard[ar] the things that Jeremiah had been telling the people. They had heard him say, 2 “The Lord says, ‘Those who stay in this city will die in battle or of starvation or disease.[as] Those who leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians[at] will live. They will escape with their lives.’”[au] 3 They had also heard him say,[av] “The Lord says, ‘This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon. They will capture it.’”[aw] 4 So these officials said to the king, “This man must be put to death. For he is demoralizing[ax] the soldiers who are left in the city as well as all the other people there by these things he is saying.[ay] This[az] man is not seeking to help these people but is trying to harm them.”[ba] 5 King Zedekiah said to them, “Very well, you can do what you want with him.[bb] For I cannot do anything to stop you.”[bc] 6 So the officials[bd] took Jeremiah and put him in the cistern[be] of Malkijah, one of the royal princes,[bf] that was in the courtyard of the guardhouse. There was no water in the cistern, only mud. So when they lowered Jeremiah into the cistern with ropes he sank in the mud.[bg]
An Ethiopian Official Rescues Jeremiah from the Cistern
7 An Ethiopian, Ebed Melech,[bh] a court official in the royal palace, heard that Jeremiah had been put[bi] in the cistern. While the king was holding court[bj] at the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed Melech departed the palace and went to speak to the king. He said to him, 9 “Your royal Majesty, those men have been very wicked in all that they have done to the prophet Jeremiah. They have thrown him into a cistern and he is sure to die of starvation there because there is no food left in the city.”[bk] 10 Then the king gave Ebed Melech the Ethiopian the following order: “Take thirty[bl] men with you from here and go pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed Melech took the men with him and went to a room under the treasure room in the palace.[bm] He got some worn-out clothes and old rags[bn] from there and let them down by ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed Melech[bo] called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags and worn-out clothes under your armpits to pad the ropes.”[bp] Jeremiah did as Ebed Melech instructed.[bq] 13 So they pulled Jeremiah up from the cistern with ropes. Jeremiah, however, still remained confined[br] to the courtyard of the guardhouse.
Jeremiah Responds to Zedekiah’s Request for Secret Advice
14 Some time later[bs] Zedekiah sent and had Jeremiah brought to him at the third entrance[bt] of the Lord’s temple. The king said to Jeremiah, “I would like to ask you a question. Do not hide anything from me when you answer.”[bu] 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I answer you, you will certainly kill me.[bv] If I give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 16 So King Zedekiah made a secret promise to Jeremiah and sealed it with an oath. He promised,[bw] “As surely as the Lord lives who has given us life and breath,[bx] I promise you this: I will not kill you or hand you over to those men who want to kill you.”[by]
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “The Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,[bz] says, ‘You must surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon. If you do, your life will be spared[ca] and this city will not be burned down. Indeed, you and your whole family will be spared. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be handed over to the Babylonians[cb] and they will burn it down. You yourself will not escape from them.’”[cc] 19 Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Babylonians.[cd] The Babylonians might hand me over to them and they will torture me.”[ce] 20 Then Jeremiah answered, “You will not be handed over to them. Please obey the Lord by doing what I have been telling you.[cf] Then all will go well with you and your life will be spared.[cg] 21 But if you refuse to surrender, the Lord has shown me a vision of what will happen. Here is what I saw: 22 All the women who are left in the royal palace of Judah will be led out to the officers of the king of Babylon. They will taunt you saying:[ch]
“‘Your trusted friends misled you;
they have gotten the best of you.
Now that your feet are stuck in the mud,
they have turned their backs on you.’[ci]
23 “All your wives and your children will be turned over to the Babylonians.[cj] You yourself will not escape from them but will be captured by the[ck] king of Babylon. This city will be burned down.”[cl]
24 Then Zedekiah told Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about the conversation we have had.[cm] If you do, you will die.[cn] 25 The officials may hear that I have talked with you. They may come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you.[co] Do not hide anything from us. If you do, we will kill you.’[cp] 26 If they do this, tell[cq] them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to die in the dungeon of Jonathan’s house.’”[cr] 27 All the officials did indeed come and question Jeremiah.[cs] He told them exactly what the king had instructed him to say.[ct] They stopped questioning him any further because no one had actually heard their conversation.[cu] 28 So Jeremiah remained confined[cv] in the courtyard of the guardhouse until the day Jerusalem was captured.
The Fall of Jerusalem and Its Aftermath
The following events occurred when Jerusalem was captured.[cw]
- Jeremiah 37:1 tn Heb “Coniah.” For explanation of the rendering here see the translator’s note on 22:24.
- Jeremiah 37:1 tn Heb “And Zedekiah son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, ruled as king instead of Coniah son of Jehoiakim.” The sentence has been restructured and simplified to better conform to contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 37:2 sn These two verses (37:1-2) are introductory to chs. 37-38 and aim to characterize Zedekiah and his regime as disobedient, just as Jehoiakim and his regime had been (Jer 36:27; cf. 2 Kgs 24:19-20). This characterization is important because Zedekiah is portrayed in the incidents that follow in 37-38 as seeking the Lord’s help or seeking a word from the Lord. However, though he did send to inquire of Jeremiah three times, he did not pay attention to the warnings he received in reply and so was ultimately responsible for the fall of Jerusalem (Jer 39). As elsewhere in this book, Jeconiah’s reign is passed over in silence because it was negligible, and Jeremiah did not wish to legitimize the hopes of many in Israel and Babylon that Jeconiah would return from exile and resume rule over Judah (see further the study notes on 22:24, 30 and 36:30).
- Jeremiah 37:3 sn This is the second of two delegations that Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to ask him to pray for a miraculous deliverance. Both of them occurred against the background of the siege of Jerusalem instigated by Zedekiah’s rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar and sending to Egypt for help (cf. Ezek 17:15). The earlier delegation (21:1-2) was sent before Nebuchadnezzar had clamped down on Jerusalem, for the Judean forces at that time were still fighting against the Babylonian forces in the open field (see 21:4 and the translator’s note there). Here the siege has been lifted because the Babylonian troops have heard a report that the Egyptian army is on its way into Palestine to give Judeans the promised aid (vv. 5, 7). The request is briefer here than in 21:2, but the intent is no doubt the same (see also the study note on 21:2).
- Jeremiah 37:3 sn Jehucal was one of the officials who later sought to have Jeremiah put to death for what they considered treason (38:1-4).
- Jeremiah 37:3 sn The priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, a member of the earlier delegation (21:2), was the chief of security in the temple to whom the Babylonian false prophet wrote a letter complaining that Jeremiah should be locked up for his treasonous prophecies (29:25-26). See the study notes on 21:2 and 29:25 for further details.
- Jeremiah 37:4 sn This statement anticipates v. 15. Verses 3-4 are parenthetical to the narrative thread, which is picked up in v. 5. They provide background information necessary for understanding the situation at the time the delegation comes to Jeremiah.
- Jeremiah 37:4 tn The words “as he pleased” are not in the text but are implicit in the idiom, both in Hebrew and in English. They have been supplied in the translation for clarity and the sake of English idiom.
- Jeremiah 37:5 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 37:5 tn Heb “And the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt, and the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard a report about them, and they went up from besieging them.” The sentence has been restructured and reworded to give greater emphasis to the most pertinent fact, i.e., that the siege had been temporarily lifted. The word “temporarily” is not in the text but is implicit from the rest of the context. It is supplied in the translation here to better show that the information in vv. 4-5 is all parenthetical, providing a background for the oracle that will follow. For the meaning “given up their siege against” (Heb “had taken themselves away from against”) see BDB 749 s.v. עָלָה Niph.1.c(2); 759 s.v. עַל IV.2.b.sn The Pharaoh referred to here is Pharaoh Hophra, who is named in Jer 44:30. He ruled from 589-570 b.c. Shortly after he began to rule, Zedekiah was enticed by some of the officials in his court to appeal to him for aid. This act of rebellion quickly brought Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath, and he invaded Judah, blockading Jerusalem and reducing the fortified cities of Judah one by one. According to Jer 39:1, the siege began in Zedekiah’s ninth year (589/88 b.c.) and lasted until his eleventh year, when Jerusalem fell (587/86 b.c.). The army of Pharaoh likely came sometime during 588 b.c.
- Jeremiah 37:7 tn Heb “to seek me.” The verb דָּרַשׁ (darash) could imply “inquiring” to gain information about what will happen, including a prophetic oracle (cf. 1 Kgs 14:5; 2 Kgs 8:8), but could also denote “seeking help” from someone (cf. Isa 31:1; 2 Chr 16:12; 20:3), perhaps via prayer (see v. 3). Both may be involved here, as a praying prophet might receive a message from the Lord.
- Jeremiah 37:7 tn Heb “Take note.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) here calls attention to a warning and syntactically sets up the following participle to indicate the near future (“is about to”).
- Jeremiah 37:7 tn Heb “will go back to its land, Egypt.”
- Jeremiah 37:8 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 37:9 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 37:9 tn Heb “Thus says the Lord, ‘Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from against us,” because they will not go away.’” The first person, “I, the Lord,” has been used because the whole of vv. 7-8 has been a quote from the Lord, and it would be confusing to go back and start a separate quote. The use of indirect rather than direct quotation avoids proliferation of quote marks at the end and the possible confusion that creates.
- Jeremiah 37:10 tn Heb “all the army of the Chaldeans.” For the rendering “Babylonian” in place of Chaldean, see the study note on 21:4.
- Jeremiah 37:10 tn The condition here is, of course, purely hypothetical, and the consequence is a poetic exaggeration. The intent is to assure Zedekiah that there is absolutely no hope of the city being spared.
- Jeremiah 37:11 tn The words “The following events also occurred” are not in the text. They are a way to introduce the incidents recorded in 37:11-21 without creating a long, complex sentence in English as the Hebrew does. The Hebrew of vv. 11-12a reads, “And it was/happened while the army of the Chaldeans had taken themselves up from against Jerusalem because of Pharoah's army, Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to take part…” For the rendering “temporarily withdrawn from Jerusalem,” see the translator’s note on v. 5. The words “was coming” are not in the text either but are implicit and have been supplied in the translation for clarity and smooth English.
- Jeremiah 37:11 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 37:12 tn The meaning of this last sentence is somewhat uncertain. The Hebrew expression here occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible, and its meaning is debated. The verb is pointed as a shortened form of the Hiphil infinitive construct of חָלַק (khalaq; see GKC 148 §53.q for explanation of the phenomenon and other examples). There are, however, no other examples of the use of this verb in the Hiphil. BDB 324 s.v. חָלַק Hiph defines it as “receive a portion,” explains it as a denominative from חֵלֶק (kheleq, “portion”), but says that the form is dubious. KBL s.v. חָלַק Hif defines it as “take part in dividing,” but that does not fit the prepositional phrase that follows (מִשָּׁם, misham, “from there”) as well as “to receive a portion.” The Greek version did not understand this of dividing property but of conducting business. Later revisions of the Greek and the Latin version, however, did understand it of “taking a share.” The translation of BDB has been expanded to better reflect the probable situation. For the noun עַם (ʿam) with the meaning of “family,” compare the usage in Job 18:19. For a fuller discussion of the probable situation, see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 633-34.sn Though some commentators disagree, this transaction should not be viewed as subsequent to the transaction recorded in Jer 32 and seen as an attempt to take possession of a field that he had already bought. The transaction in Jer 32 took place sometime later after he had been confined to the courtyard of the guardhouse (compare 32:2 with 37:21) and involved his buying a near relative’s field. The word used here refers to “getting one’s own share” (compare 1 Sam 30:24 and Josh 15:13; see also Mic 2:4), not taking possession of someone else’s. “There” refers to the territory of Benjamin just mentioned, but more specifically to Jeremiah’s hometown, Anathoth (cf. 1:1).
- Jeremiah 37:13 sn The Benjamin Gate would have been a gate in the northern wall leading out toward the territory of Benjamin. It is mentioned only here, in Jer 38:7, and in Zech 14:10.
- Jeremiah 37:13 sn Nothing further is known about Irijah. It is generally agreed that the Hananiah mentioned here is not the same as the false prophet of the same name whom Jeremiah confronted approximately six years earlier (28:1, 5, 10, 15).
- Jeremiah 37:13 tn Heb “And he was in the gate of Benjamin, and there was an officer of the guard whose name [more literally, and his name] was Irijah…and he seized the prophet Jeremiah, saying.” The sentence has been broken down and simplified to better conform with contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 37:13 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.sn Irijah’s charge was based on the suspicion that Jeremiah was following his own counsel to the people to surrender to the Babylonians if they wanted to save their lives (Jer 21:9).
- Jeremiah 37:14 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 37:15 sn The officials mentioned here are not the same as those mentioned in Jer 36:12, most of whom were favorably disposed toward Jeremiah, or at least regarded what he said with enough trepidation to try to protect him and preserve the scroll containing his messages (36:16, 19, 24). All those officials had been taken into exile with Jeconiah in 597 b.c. (2 Kgs 24:14).
- Jeremiah 37:15 tn Heb “for they had made it into the house of confinement.” The causal particle does not fit the English sentence very well, and “house of confinement” needs some explanation. Some translate this word “prison,” but that creates redundancy with the earlier word translated “prison” (בֵּית הָאֵסוּר, bet haʾesur, “house of the band/binding”), which is more closely related to the concept of prison (cf. אָסִיר, ʾasir, “prisoner”). It is clear from the next verse that Jeremiah was confined in a cell in the dungeon of this place.
- Jeremiah 37:16 tn The particle כִּי (ki) here is probably temporal, introducing the protasis to the main clause in v. 17 (cf. BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.a). However, that would make the translation too long. The present translation, “So,” does what several modern English versions do here, though there are no parallels listed for this nuance in the lexicons.
- Jeremiah 37:16 tn Heb “Jeremiah came into the house of the pit [= “dungeon,” BDB 92 s.v. בּוֹר 4 and compare usage in Gen 40:15 and 41:14] and into the cells [this word occurs only here; it is defined on the basis of the cognate languages (cf. BDB 333 s.v. חָנוּת)].” The sentence has been restructured and some words supplied in the translation to better relate it to the preceding context.
- Jeremiah 37:16 tn Heb “Jeremiah.” But the proper name is somewhat redundant and unnecessary in a modern translation.
- Jeremiah 37:17 tn Heb “Then King Zedekiah sent and brought him, and the king asked him privately [or more literally, in secret] and said.”
- Jeremiah 37:17 tn Heb “Then he said.”
- Jeremiah 37:17 sn Jeremiah’s answer, even under duress, was the same that he had given Zedekiah earlier. (See Jer 34:3 and see the study note on 34:1 for the relative timing of these two incidents.)
- Jeremiah 37:18 tn Heb “What crime have I committed against you, or your servants, or this people that you [masc. pl.] have put me in prison?” Some of the terms have been expanded for clarification, and the sentence has been broken in two to better conform with contemporary English style. The masculine plural is used here because Zedekiah is being addressed as representative of the whole group previously named.
- Jeremiah 37:19 tn Heb “And where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land?’” The indirect quote has been used in the translation because of its simpler, more direct style.
- Jeremiah 37:20 tn Heb “My lord, the king.”
- Jeremiah 37:20 tn Heb “let my plea for mercy fall before you.” That is, let it come before you and be favorably received (= granted; by metonymical extension).
- Jeremiah 37:20 tn Or “So that I will not die there,” or “or I will die there”; Heb “and I will not die there.” The particle that introduces this clause (וְלֹא) regularly introduces negative purpose clauses after the volitive sequence (אַל [ʾal] + jussive here) according to GKC 323 §109.g. However, purpose and result clauses in Hebrew (and Greek) are often indistinguishable. Here the clause is more in the nature of a negative result.
- Jeremiah 37:21 tn Heb “And/Then King Zedekiah ordered, and they committed Jeremiah to [or deposited…in] the courtyard of the guardhouse and they gave to him a loaf of bread.” The translation has been structured the way it has to avoid the ambiguous “they,” which is the impersonal subject, which is sometimes rendered as passive in English (cf. GKC 460 §144.d). This text also has another example of the vav (ו) + infinitive absolute continuing a finite verbal form (וְנָתֹן [venaton] = “and they gave”; cf. GKC 345 §113.y and see Jer 32:44 and 36:23).
- Jeremiah 37:21 tn Heb “stayed,” “remained,” “lived.”
- Jeremiah 38:1 tn The name is spelled “Jucal” in the Hebrew text here rather than “Jehucal” as in Jer 37:3. The translation uses the same spelling throughout so that the English reader can identify these as the same individual.sn Jehucal was a member of the delegation sent to Jeremiah by Zedekiah in Jer 37:3.
- Jeremiah 38:1 sn Pashhur was a member of the delegation sent to Jeremiah in 21:2. For the relative sequence of these two delegations, see the study note on 21:1.
- Jeremiah 38:1 tn J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 226, 30) is probably correct in translating the verbs here as pluperfects and explaining that these words are prophecies Jeremiah uttered before his arrest, not prophecies of his delivered to the people by intermediaries he sent while confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse. For the use of the vav consecutive + imperfect to denote the pluperfect, see the discussion and examples in IBHS 552-53 §33.2.3a and see the usage in Exod 4:19. The words that are cited in v. 2 are those recorded in 21:9 on the occasion of the first delegation, and those in v. 3 are those recorded in 21:10; 34:2; 37:8; 32:28, all except the last delivered before Jeremiah was confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse.
- Jeremiah 38:2 tn Heb “by sword, by starvation, or by disease.”
- Jeremiah 38:2 tn Heb “those who go out to the Chaldeans.” For the rendering “Babylonians” for “Chaldeans,” see the study note on 21:4.
- Jeremiah 38:2 tn Heb “his life will be to him for spoil, and he will live.” For the meaning of this idiom see the study note on 21:9. The words “and he will live” have been left out of the translation because they are redundant after “will live” and “they will escape with their lives.”sn See Jer 21:9 for this prophecy.
- Jeremiah 38:3 tn The words “They had also heard him say” are not in the Hebrew text but are in the translation for clarity, to eliminate any confusion possible if no introduction preceded a literal translation: “Thus says the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 38:3 sn See Jer 21:10; 32:28; 34:2; 37:8 for this same prophecy. Jeremiah had repeatedly said this or words to the same effect.
- Jeremiah 38:4 tn Heb “weakening the hands of.” For this idiom see BDB 951 s.v. רָפָה Pi. and compare the usage in Isa 13:7 and Ezek 21:7 (21:12 HT).
- Jeremiah 38:4 tn Heb “by saying these things.”
- Jeremiah 38:4 tn The Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) has not been rendered here because it is introducing a causal clause parallel to the preceding one. The rendering “For” might be misunderstood as a grounds for the preceding statement. To render “And” or “Moreover” sounds a little odd here. If the particle must be represented, “Moreover” is perhaps the best translation.
- Jeremiah 38:4 tn Or “is not looking out for these people’s best interests but is really trying to do them harm”; Heb “is not seeking the welfare [or “well-being”; Hebrew shalom] of this people but [their] harm [more literally, evil].”
- Jeremiah 38:5 tn Heb “Behold, he is in your hands [= power/control].”
- Jeremiah 38:5 tn Heb “For the king cannot do a thing with/against you.” The personal pronoun “I” is substituted in the English translation due to differences in style. Hebrew style often uses the third person or the title in speaking of oneself, but English rarely, if ever, does. Compare the common paraphrasis of “your servant” for “I” in Hebrew (cf. BDB 714 s.v. עֶבֶד 6 and see 1 Sam 20:7, 8). Also, see Pss 61:6-7 (61:7 HT) and 63:11 (63:12 HT), where the king is praying for himself as “the king.” For the meaning of יָכֹל (yakhol) as “to be able to do anything,” see BDB 407 s.v. יָכֹל 1.g.
- Jeremiah 38:6 tn Heb “they.”
- Jeremiah 38:6 sn A cistern was a pear-shaped pit with a narrow opening. Cisterns were cut or dug in the limestone rock and lined with plaster to prevent seepage. They were used to collect and store rainwater or water carried up from a spring.
- Jeremiah 38:6 tn Heb “the son of the king.” See the translator’s note on Jer 36:26 for the rendering here.
- Jeremiah 38:6 tn Heb “And they let Jeremiah down with ropes, and in the cistern there was no water, only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.” The clauses have been reordered and restructured to create a more natural and smoother order in English.
- Jeremiah 38:7 sn This individual, Ebed Melech, is mentioned only here. Later he will be promised deliverance from destruction when the city falls because he had shown trust in God (see Jer 39:16-18).
- Jeremiah 38:7 tn Heb “Ebed Melech, the Cushite, a man, an eunuch/official, and he was [= who was; a circumstantial clause] in the house of the king, heard that they had put Jeremiah…” The passive construction “Jeremiah had been put” was chosen to avoid the indefinite subject “they” or the addition of “the officials.” For the translation of סָרִיס (saris) as “official” here rather than “eunuch,” see the translator’s note on 29:2 and see also the usage in 34:19. For the translation of “Cushite” as Ethiopian, see the study note on 13:23.
- Jeremiah 38:7 tn Heb “And the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate.” This clause is circumstantial to the following clause, thus signifying, “while the king was…” Most commentators agree that the reference to sitting in the gate here likely refers to the same kind of judicial context that has been posited for 26:10 (see the translator’s note there for further references). Hence the translation renders “sitting” with the more technical “holding court” to better reflect the probable situation.
- Jeremiah 38:9 tn Heb “Those men have made evil all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah in that they have thrown him into the cistern, and he will die of starvation in the place where he is because there is no more food in the city.” The particle אֵת (ʾet) before “they have thrown” (אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִשְׁלִיכוּ, ʾet ʾasher hishlikhu) is explanatory or further definition of “all they have done to” (i.e., the particle is repeated for apposition). The verb form “and he is sure to die” is an unusual use of the vav (ו) consecutive + imperfect that the grammars see as giving a logical consequence without a past nuance (cf. GKC 328 §111.l and IBHS 557-58 §33.3.1f).sn “Because there isn’t any food left in the city” is rhetorical exaggeration; the food did not run out until just before the city fell. Perhaps the intent is to refer to the fact that there was no food in the city for people so confined (i.e., in solitary confinement).
- Jeremiah 38:10 tc Some modern English versions (e.g., NRSV, REB, TEV) and commentaries read “three” on the basis that thirty men would not be necessary for the task (cf. J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 231). But cisterns could be 15 to 20 feet deep. Though the difference in “three” and “thirty” involves minimal emendation (שְׁלֹשָׁה [sheloshah] for שְׁלֹשִׁים [sheloshim]), there is no textual or versional evidence for it except one Hebrew ms. The number could also have been large to prevent officials from hindering Ebed Melech in accomplishing the task.
- Jeremiah 38:11 tn Heb “went into the palace to under the treasury.” Several of the commentaries (e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 227; J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 639, n. 6) emend the prepositional phrase “to under” (אֶל תַּחַת, ʾel takhat) to the noun “wardrobe” plus the preposition “to” (אֶל מֶלְתַחַת, ʾel meltakhat). This is a plausible emendation, which would suggest an historical loss of מֶל (mel) due to its similarity with the אֶל (ʾel) that precedes it. However, no textual or versional evidence supports such a reading, and the compound preposition is not in itself objectionable (cf. BDB 1066 s.v. תַּחַת III.1.a). The Greek version reads “the part underground” (representing a Hebrew Vorlage of אֶל תַּחַת הָאָרֶץ, ʾel takhat haʾarets) in place of אֶל תַּחַת הָאוֹצָר (ʾel takhat haʾotsar). The translation follows the Hebrew text but adds the word “room” for the sake of English style.
- Jeremiah 38:11 tn Heb “worn-out clothes and worn-out rags.”
- Jeremiah 38:12 tn Heb “Ebed Melech the Ethiopian.” The words “the Ethiopian” seem unnecessary and are not repeated in the translation because he has already been identified as such in vv. 7, 10.
- Jeremiah 38:12 tn Heb “under the joints of your arms under the ropes.” The two uses of “under” have different orientations and are best reflected by “between your armpits and the ropes” or “under your armpits to pad the ropes.”
- Jeremiah 38:12 tn Or “Jeremiah did so.” The alternate translation is what the text reads literally.
- Jeremiah 38:13 tn Heb “Jeremiah remained/stayed in the courtyard of the guardhouse.” The translation is meant to better reflect the situation; i.e., Jeremiah was released from the cistern but still had to stay in the courtyard of the guardhouse.
- Jeremiah 38:14 tn The words “Some time later” are not in the text but are a way of translating the conjunction “And” or “Then” that introduces this narrative.
- Jeremiah 38:14 sn The precise location of this entrance is unknown since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT. Many commentators equate this with the “king’s outer entry” (mentioned in 2 Kgs 16:18), which appears to have been a private entryway between the temple and the palace.
- Jeremiah 38:14 tn The words “when you answer” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection. They are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness of style.
- Jeremiah 38:15 tn Or “you will most certainly kill me, won’t you?” Heb “Will you not certainly kill me?” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer. In situations like this BDB s.v. לֹא 4.b(β) says that הֲלֹא (haloʾ) “has a tendency to become little more than an affirmative particle, declaring with some rhetorical emphasis what is, or might be, well known.” The idea of certainty is emphasized here by the addition of the infinitive absolute before the finite verb (Joüon 2:422 §123.e).
- Jeremiah 38:16 tn Heb “So King Zedekiah secretly swore an oath to Jeremiah, saying.”
- Jeremiah 38:16 tn Heb “who has made this life/soul/ breath [נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh] for us.” The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ refers to the living, breathing substance of a person that constitutes his very life (cf. BDB 659 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 1; 3).
- Jeremiah 38:16 tn Heb “who are seeking your life.”
- Jeremiah 38:17 tn Heb “Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel.” Cf. 7:3 and 35:17 and see the study note on 2:19.
- Jeremiah 38:17 tn Heb “Your life/soul will live.” The quote is a long condition-consequence sentence with compound consequential clauses. It reads, “If you will only go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, your soul [= you yourself; BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 4.a] will live, and this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will live.” The sentence has been broken down and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style. The infinitive absolute in the condition emphasizes the one condition, i.e., going out or surrendering (cf. Joüon 2:423 §123.g, and compare usage in Exod 15:26). For the idiom “go out to” = “surrender to,” see the full idiom in 21:9, “go out and fall over to,” which is condensed in 38:2 to “go out to.” The expression here is the same as in 38:2.
- Jeremiah 38:18 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 38:18 tn Heb “will not escape from their hand.”sn Zedekiah held out this hope of escape until the end. He tried to escape but was unsuccessful (cf. 39:4-5).
- Jeremiah 38:19 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 38:19 tn Or “and they will badly abuse me.” For the usage of this verb in the situation presupposed, see Judg 19:25 and 1 Sam 31:4.
- Jeremiah 38:20 tn Heb “Please listen to the voice of the Lord with regard to what I have been telling you.” For the idiom “listen to the voice” = “obey,” see BDB 1034 s.v. שָׁמַע 1.m. Obedience here is expressed by following the advice in the qualifying clause, i.e., “what I have been telling you.”
- Jeremiah 38:20 tn Heb “your life [or you yourself] will live.” Cf. v. 17 and the translator’s note there for the idiom.
- Jeremiah 38:22 tn Heb “And they will say.” The words “taunt you” are supplied in the translation to give the flavor of the words that follow.
- Jeremiah 38:22 tn Heb “The men of your friendship incited you and prevailed over you. Your feet are sunk in the mud. They turned backward.” The term “men of your friendship” (cf. BDB 1023 s.v. שָׁלוֹם 5.a) is used to refer to Jeremiah’s “so-called friends” in 20:10, to the trusted friend who deserted the psalmist in Ps 41:10, and to the allies of Edom in Obad 7. According to most commentators it refers here to the false prophets and counselors who urged the king to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. The verb translated “misled” is a verb that often refers to inciting or instigating someone to do something, frequently with negative connotations (so BDB 694 s.v. סוּת Hiph.2). It is generally translated “deceive” or “mislead” in 2 Kgs 18:32 and 2 Chr 32:11, 15. Here it refers to the fact that his pro-Egyptian counselors induced him to rebel. They proved too powerful for him and prevailed on him (יָכֹל לְ, yakhol le; see BDB 408 s.v. יָכֹל 2.b) to follow a policy that would prove detrimental to him, his family, and the city. The phrase “your feet are sunk in the mud” is figurative for being entangled in great difficulties (so BDB 371 s.v. טָבַע Hoph and compare the usage in the highly figurative description of trouble in Ps 69:2 [69:3 HT]).sn The taunt song here refers to the fact that Zedekiah had been incited into rebellion by pro-Egyptian nobles in his court. They prevailed on him to seek aid from the new Egyptian Pharaoh in 589 b.c. while withholding tribute from Nebuchadnezzar. This led to the downfall of the city, which is depicted in Jeremiah’s vision from the standpoint of its effects on the king himself and his family.
- Jeremiah 38:23 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 38:23 tn Heb “you yourself will not escape from their hand but will be seized by [caught in] the hand of the king of Babylon.” Neither use of “hand” is natural to the English idiom.
- Jeremiah 38:23 tc This translation follows the reading of the Greek version and a few Hebrew mss. The majority of the Hebrew mss read, “and you will burn down this city.” This reading is accepted by the majority of modern commentaries and English versions. Few of the commentaries, however, bother to explain the fact that the particle אֶת (ʾet), which normally marks the accusative object, is functioning here as the subject. For this point of grammar see BDB 85 s.v. I אֵת 1.b. Or this may be another case where אֵת introduces a new subject (see BDB 85 s.v. אֵת 3.α and see usage in 27:8; 36:22).
- Jeremiah 38:24 tn Heb “about these words.”
- Jeremiah 38:24 tn Or “so that you will not die.” Or “or you will die.” See the similar construction in 37:20 and the translator’s note there.sn This is probably not a threat that the king himself will kill Jeremiah, but a premonition that if the pro-Egyptian party that was seeking to kill Jeremiah found out about the conversation, they would go ahead and kill Jeremiah (cf. 38:2-4).
- Jeremiah 38:25 tn The phrase “and what the king said to you” is actually at the end of the verse, but most commentators see it as also under the governance of “tell us,” and many commentaries and English versions move the clause forward for the sake of English style as has been done here.
- Jeremiah 38:25 tn Or “lest we kill you”; Heb “and we will not kill you,” which, as stated in the translator’s note on 37:20, introduces a negative purpose (or result) clause. See 37:20 and 38:24 for parallel usage.
- Jeremiah 38:26 tn Verses 25-26 form a long compound-complex conditional sentence. The condition is found in v. 25 and contains a long quote. The consequence is found in v. 26 and contains another long quote. The Hebrew sentence literally reads: “And if the officials hear that I have talked with you and they come to you and say to you, ‘Please tell us what you said to the king—do not hide from us, and we will not kill you [so that we will not kill you]—and [tell us] what the king said to you,’ then tell them.” The sentence has been broken up to better conform with contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 38:26 tn Heb “I was causing to fall [= presenting] my petition before the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.” The phrase “dungeon of” is supplied in the translation to help the reader connect this petition with Jeremiah’s earlier place of imprisonment, where the officials had put him with every intention of letting him die there (37:15-16, 20).sn See Jer 37:15-16, 20.
- Jeremiah 38:27 tn Heb “All the officials came to Jeremiah and questioned him.”
- Jeremiah 38:27 tn Heb “And he reported to them according to all these words that the king had commanded.”
- Jeremiah 38:27 tn Heb “And they were silent from him because the word/matter [i.e., the conversation between Jeremiah and the king] had not been heard.” According to BDB 578 s.v. מִן 1.a the preposition “from” is significant in this construction, implying a verb of motion. That is, “they were [fell] silent [and turned away] from him.”
- Jeremiah 38:28 tn Heb “And Jeremiah stayed/remained in the courtyard of the guardhouse…” The translation once again intends to reflect the situation. Jeremiah had a secret meeting with the king at the third entrance to the temple (v. 14). After the conversation with the king, he was returned to the courtyard of the guardhouse (cf. v. 13), where the officials came to question him (v. 27). He was not sent back to the dungeon in Jonathan’s house, as he feared, but was left confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse.
- Jeremiah 38:28 tc The precise meaning of this line and its relation to the context are somewhat uncertain. This line is missing from the Greek and Syriac versions and from a few Hebrew mss. Some English versions and commentaries omit it as a double writing of the final words of the preceding line (see, e.g., REB; W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:268). Others see it as misplaced from the beginning of 39:3 (see, e.g., NRSV, TEV, J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 245). The clause probably does belong syntactically with 39:3 (i.e., כַּאֲשֶׁר [kaʾasher] introduces a temporal clause that is resumed by the vav consecutive on וַיָּבֹאוּ (vayyavoʾu; see BDB 455 s.v. כַּאֲשֶׁר 3), but it should not be moved there because there is no textual evidence for doing so. The intervening verses are to be interpreted as parenthetical, giving the background for the events that follow (see, e.g., the translation in D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 4:280). The chapter is not so much concerned with describing how Jerusalem fell as it is with contrasting the fate of Zedekiah, who disregarded the word of the Lord, with the fates of Jeremiah and his benefactor Ebed Melech. Without actually moving the line before 39:3a, the best way to treat it is as a heading, as has been done here.