In an Underground Dungeon
37 1-2 King Zedekiah son of Josiah, a puppet king set on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the land of Judah, was now king in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. But neither he nor his officials nor the people themselves paid a bit of attention to the Message God gave by Jeremiah the prophet.
3 However, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Pray for us—pray hard!—to the Master, our God.”
4-5 Jeremiah was still moving about freely among the people in those days. This was before he had been put in jail. Pharaoh’s army was marching up from Egypt. The Chaldeans fighting against Jerusalem heard that the Egyptians were coming and pulled back.
6-10 Then Jeremiah the prophet received this Message from God: “I, the God of Israel, want you to give this Message to the king of Judah, who has just sent you to me to find out what he should do. Tell him, ‘Get this: Pharaoh’s army, which is on its way to help you, isn’t going to stick it out. No sooner will they get here than they’ll leave and go home to Egypt. And then the Babylonians will come back and resume their attack, capture this city and burn it to the ground. I, God, am telling you: Don’t kid yourselves, reassuring one another, “The Babylonians will leave in a few days.” I tell you, they aren’t leaving. Why, even if you defeated the entire attacking Chaldean army and all that was left were a few wounded soldiers in their tents, the wounded would still do the job and burn this city to the ground.’”
* * *
11-13 When the Chaldean army pulled back from Jerusalem, Jeremiah left Jerusalem to go over to the territory of Benjamin to take care of some personal business. When he got to the Benjamin Gate, the officer on guard there, Irijah son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, grabbed Jeremiah the prophet, accusing him, “You’re deserting to the Chaldeans!”
14-16 “That’s a lie,” protested Jeremiah. “I wouldn’t think of deserting to the Chaldeans.”
But Irijah wouldn’t listen to him. He arrested him and took him to the police. The police were furious with Jeremiah. They beat him up and threw him into jail in the house of Jonathan the secretary of state. (They were using the house for a prison cell.) So Jeremiah entered an underground cell in a cistern turned into a dungeon. He stayed there a long time.
17 Later King Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him. The king questioned him privately, “Is there a Message from God?”
“There certainly is,” said Jeremiah. “You’re going to be turned over to the king of Babylon.”
18-20 Jeremiah continued speaking to King Zedekiah: “Can you tell me why you threw me into prison? What crime did I commit against you or your officials or this people? And tell me, whatever has become of your prophets who preached all those sermons saying that the king of Babylon would never attack you or this land? Listen to me, please, my master—my king! Please don’t send me back to that dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary. I’ll die there!”
21 So King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be assigned to the courtyard of the palace guards. He was given a loaf of bread from Bakers’ Alley every day until all the bread in the city was gone. And that’s where Jeremiah remained—in the courtyard of the palace guards.
From the Dungeon to the Palace
38 Shaphatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling the people, namely:
2 “This is God’s Message: ‘Whoever stays in this town will die—will be killed or starve to death or get sick and die. But those who go over to the Babylonians will save their necks and live.’
3 “And, God’s sure Word: ‘This city is destined to fall to the army of the king of Babylon. He’s going to take it over.’”
4 These officials told the king, “Please, kill this man. He’s got to go! He’s ruining the resolve of the soldiers who are still left in the city, as well as the people themselves, by spreading these words. This man isn’t looking after the good of this people. He’s trying to ruin us!”
5 King Zedekiah caved in: “If you say so. Go ahead, handle it your way. You’re too much for me.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malkijah the king’s son that was in the courtyard of the palace guard. They lowered him down with ropes. There wasn’t any water in the cistern, only mud. Jeremiah sank into the mud.
7-9 Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, a court official assigned to the royal palace, heard that they had thrown Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was holding court in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melek went immediately from the palace to the king and said, “My master, O king—these men are committing a great crime in what they’re doing, throwing Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern and leaving him there to starve. He’s as good as dead. There isn’t a scrap of bread left in the city.”
10 So the king ordered Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, “Get three men and pull Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11-12 Ebed-melek got three men and went to the palace wardrobe and got some scraps of old clothing, which they tied together and lowered down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-melek the Ethiopian called down to Jeremiah, “Put these scraps of old clothing under your armpits and around the ropes.”
Jeremiah did what he said.
13 And so they pulled Jeremiah up out of the cistern by the ropes. But he was still confined in the courtyard of the palace guard.
14 Later, King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance of the Temple of God. The king said to Jeremiah, “I’m going to ask you something. Don’t hold anything back from me.”
15 Jeremiah said, “If I told you the whole truth, you’d kill me. And no matter what I said, you wouldn’t pay any attention anyway.”
16 Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah right there, but in secret, “As sure as God lives, who gives us life, I won’t kill you, nor will I turn you over to the men who are trying to kill you.”
17-18 So Jeremiah told Zedekiah, “This is the Message from God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘If you will turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, you will live, this city won’t be burned down, and your family will live. But if you don’t turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, this city will go into the hands of the Chaldeans and they’ll burn it down. And don’t for a minute think there’s any escape for you.’”
19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “But I’m afraid of the Judeans who have already deserted to the Chaldeans. If they get hold of me, they’ll rough me up good.”
20-22 Jeremiah assured him, “They won’t get hold of you. Listen, please. Listen to God’s voice. I’m telling you this for your own good so that you’ll live. But if you refuse to turn yourself over, this is what God has shown me will happen: Picture this in your mind—all the women still left in the palace of the king of Judah, led out to the officers of the king of Babylon, and as they’re led out they are saying:
“‘They lied to you and did you in,
those so-called friends of yours;
And now you’re stuck, about knee-deep in mud,
and your “friends,” where are they now?’
23 “They’ll take all your wives and children and give them to the Chaldeans. And you, don’t think you’ll get out of this—the king of Babylon will seize you and then burn this city to the ground.”
24-26 Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t let anyone know of this conversation, if you know what’s good for you. If the government officials get wind that I’ve been talking with you, they may come and say, ‘Tell us what went on between you and the king, what you said and what he said. Hold nothing back and we won’t kill you.’ If this happens, tell them, ‘I presented my case to the king so that he wouldn’t send me back to the dungeon of Jonathan to die there.’”
27 And sure enough, all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him. He responded as the king had instructed. So they quit asking. No one had overheard the conversation.
28 Jeremiah lived in the courtyard of the palace guards until the day that Jerusalem was captured.