Jeremiah Thrown into the Cistern
38 Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, and Jucal (also called Jehucal) the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchijah heard the words that Jeremiah was speaking to all the people, saying, 2 “So says the Lord, ‘He who remains in this city will die by the sword, by famine, and by virulent disease (pestilence), but he who goes out to the Chaldeans [of Babylon] will live and have his [own] life as a reward and stay alive.’(A) 3 Thus says the Lord, ‘This city will certainly be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and he will take it.’” 4 Therefore the princes (court officials) said to the king, “Please [we implore you] let this man [Jeremiah] be put to death; for [speaking] in this way he discourages and weakens [the will of] the soldiers who remain in this city and he discourages and weakens [the will of] all the people by speaking such words to them; for this man is not seeking the well-being of these people, but rather their harm.” 5 Then King Zedekiah [fearing the princes] said, “Listen, he is in your hand; for the king is in no position to do anything against you.” 6 So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the [a]cistern of Malchijah the king’s son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down [into the cistern] with ropes. Now there was no water in the cistern but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud. 7 Now Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (Cushite), one of the eunuchs who was in the king’s palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the cistern, and while the king was sitting in the Gate of Benjamin, 8 Ebed-melech went out of the king’s palace and spoke to the king, saying, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet whom they have thrown into the cistern; and he will die [of hunger] where he is because of the famine, for there is no more bread in the city.” 10 Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went into the palace of the king to a place under the storeroom and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes and let them down by ropes into the cistern to Jeremiah. 12 Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Now put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your armpits, then place the ropes under the padding”; and Jeremiah did so. 13 So they pulled Jeremiah up with the ropes and took him up out of the cistern; and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guardhouse.
14 Then King Zedekiah sent and had Jeremiah the prophet brought to him at the third entrance that is in the house of the Lord. And the king said to Jeremiah, “I am going to ask you something; hide nothing from me.” 15 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, will you not certainly put me to death? Even if I do give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 16 But King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, “As the Lord lives, who made our lives, be assured that I will not put you to death or put you into the hand of these men who are seeking your life.”
Interview with Zedekiah
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will go out and surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live and this city will not be burned with fire; and you and your household will live. 18 But if you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans [of Babylon] and they will set it on fire; and you yourself will not escape from their hand.’” 19 Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews [my former subjects] who have deserted to join the Chaldeans, for the enemy may put me into their hand and they will mock me and abuse me.” 20 But Jeremiah said, “They will not hand you over [to them]. Please obey [the voice of] the Lord [who speaks to you through me] in what I am saying to you. Then it will go well with you and you will live. 21 But if you keep refusing to go out and surrender to them, this is the word [and the vision] which the Lord has shown me: 22 ‘Then behold, all the women who are left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officers of the king of Babylon and those women will say [to you, King Zedekiah],
“Your close friends
Have prevailed against your better judgment and have overpowered and deceived you;
While your feet were sunk in the mire [of trouble],
They turned back.”
23 Also, all your wives and your children will be brought out to the Chaldeans; and you yourself will not escape from their hand, but you will be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city [Jerusalem] will be burned down with fire.’”
24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Let no man know about this conversation and you will not die. 25 But if the princes (court officials) hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us now what you said to the king and what he said to you; do not hide it from us and we will not execute you,’ 26 then you are to say to them, ‘I was presenting my [humble] petition and plea to the king so that he would not send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’” 27 Then all the princes (court officials) came to Jeremiah and asked him [just what King Zedekiah had anticipated they would ask], and he reported to them in accordance with all that the king had commanded. So they stopped questioning him, since the conversation [with the king] had not been overheard. 28 So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guardhouse until the day that Jerusalem was captured [by the Chaldeans of Babylon].
- Jeremiah 38:6 An underground tank or reservoir for storing water.