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37 Zedekiah (son of Josiah) was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He reigned instead of his nephew, Coniah (son of Jehoiakim) who had already been deported to Babylon. Neither young Zedekiah nor his inexperienced advisors nor the people of Judah themselves listened to what the Eternal said through His prophet Jeremiah.

Zedekiah one day sent Jehucal (son of Shelemiah), along with the priest Zephaniah (son of Maaseiah) to ask the prophet Jeremiah, “Please pray to the Eternal our God for us.” Now Jeremiah had not yet been put in prison, so he was free to move about the city. This happened when the Chaldeans pulled back from their siege on Jerusalem because they heard Pharaoh’s army was marching out of Egypt toward them. It was then that the word of the Eternal came to Jeremiah the prophet, who faithfully delivered it to the king’s messengers.

Jeremiah: This is what the Eternal God of Israel has to say: “Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to ask for My help: ‘Look! Pharaoh’s army—which you hoped would help you—will turn back to Egypt to protect its own land. Then the Chaldeans will come back to attack Jerusalem. They will capture this city and burn it to the ground.’” The Eternal says this to you: “Do not fool yourselves into thinking the Chaldeans will leave you alone. They will not! 10 Even if somehow you defeated their entire army, their wounded soldiers lying in tents would come out and burn this city to the ground in a fiery blaze.”

11 Now during this time when the Chaldeans had pulled back from Jerusalem to face Pharaoh’s army, 12 Jeremiah started to leave Jerusalem. He was heading back to the land of Benjamin to settle his affairs regarding a piece of family property there.[a] 13 But as he was leaving through the Benjamin gate on the north side of the city, the captain of the guard, Irijah (son of Shelemiah and grandson of Hananiah), arrested him.

Many years have now passed since Jehoiakim’s arrogant scroll-burning incident, but the prophecies against him and his people are coming to pass: Babylon is now exerting its power in the land, and Jehoiakim’s legacy has indeed crumbled. His own son Jehoiachin (also known as Coniah) has already been sent into exile by the Babylonians in 598 b.c. In his place, Nebuchadnezzar has placed Zedekiah on the throne of Judah. This new king has pledged to remain loyal to Babylon in exchange for the crown. And while he is not as arrogant and openly rebellious as Jehoiakim, in his own weak way, he, too, disobeys God. At times he seems genuinely interested in the words of Jeremiah, but he never shows the courage necessary to obey God during this dramatic time. Throughout his 11 year reign (597-587 b.c.), Zedekiah is unable to stand up to his advisors and at one point agrees to break with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, siding instead with the pharaoh of Egypt. This sets in motion the final retaliation of the Babylonians, including the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

Irijah: You traitor! You are trying to desert to the Chaldeans!

Jeremiah: 14 That’s not true! I’m not deserting to the Chaldeans.

But Irijah would not listen to Jeremiah, so he arrested him and brought him to the city leaders. 15 They were already angry with Jeremiah because of his predictions of destruction and his advice to surrender. So they had Jeremiah beaten and placed him under arrest in the house of Jonathan the secretary (which they had made into a prison). 16 He was placed in a dark, damp cell below ground and left there for a long time.

17 Eventually, King Zedekiah had him secretly brought to the palace so the king could talk with him.

King Zedekiah: Have you received any more messages from the Eternal?

Jeremiah: Yes, but they haven’t changed: you will still be handed over to the king of Babylon. But while I’m here, let me ask you— 18 what crime have I committed against you, your advisors, or this nation that I should be imprisoned? 19 I told you nothing but the truth about Babylon from the beginning, so why am I in this cell? Meanwhile, your so-called prophets keep telling you, “Don’t worry, the king of Babylon will never attack you or this land,” and they go unpunished? 20 Please, I’m asking you, my lord the king, do not send me back to that cell in the house of Jonathan the secretary, or I will die there.

21 Though the news he heard was not encouraging, King Zedekiah granted Jeremiah’s request. He gave the order and had the prophet transferred to the court of the guard. He also gave strict orders that each day Jeremiah be given bread from the city’s bakers until the supplies ran out. That is how Jeremiah ended up a prisoner in the court of the guard.


  1. 37:12 Jeremiah 32:8

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