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Ebed Melech departed the palace and went to speak to the king. He said to him, “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.”[a] 10 Then the king gave Ebed Melech the Ethiopian the following order: “Take thirty[b] men with you from here and go pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”

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  1. 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).
  2. 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.