The Word Made Fresh
1Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, made Josiah’s son Zedekiah king of Judah, who then ruled in place of Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin. 2But he and his servants and the people of the land did not listen to the words of the LORD spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. 3Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet to say to him, “Please pray to the LORD our God for us.”
4At that time Jeremiah had not yet been imprisoned and was still moving about among the people. 5The army of Pharaoh, however, had come out of Egypt and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard about it, they withdrew.
6Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 7thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: “Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of me. Pharaoh’s army, which has mobilized to assist you, will return to Egypt. 8The Babylonians will return to the siege against this city. They will capture it and burn it down. 9This is what the LORD says: Don’t fool yourselves into believing that the Babylonians will leave you alone. They’re not going away. 10Even if you defeated their whole army that is coming against you until all they have left are wounded soldiers in their tents, they will rise up and burn this city down.”
11When the Babylonian army had withdrawn from Jerusalem because of the approach of the army of Pharaoh, 12Jeremiah tried to leave Jerusalem to go to the territory of Benjamin to receive the property that belonged to him from the people there. 13But when he reached the Benjamin gate a guard, Irijah son of Shelemiah son of Hananiah arrested him, accusing him of deserting to the Babylonians. 14Jeremiah said, “That’s a lie! I am not deserting to the enemy!” But Irijah wouldn’t listen. He arrested Jeremiah and brought him before the city officials. 15They were enraged at him. They beat him and locked him up in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which had been turned into a prison. Jeremiah was jailed there and remained many days.
17Then King Zedekiah summoned him, and he was brought to the king. The king questioned him privately in his house. “Is there any word from the LORD?” he asked.
“Yes, there is,” Jeremiah answered, “You will be handed over to the king of Babylon.” 18Then he said, “What have I done to you or your officers or the people of this place that made you put me in prison? 19Where are the prophets who told you that the king of Babylon would not come against you and against this land? 20Please listen to me, my lord the king. Listen to my plea and be good enough not to send me back to prison in secretary Jonathan’s house to die there.”
21Then King Zedekiah issued the orders and they took Jeremiah to the court of the guard. A loaf of bread was given him daily from the street of bakers. This was done until all the bread was gone, and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.
1-2: Josiah had at least three sons; Jehoahaz, Eliakim (also called Jehoiakim) and Mattaniah (also called Zedekiah). Josiah was succeeded by Jehoahaz, who only reigned 3 months before being deposed by Pharaoh Neco, who placed Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim. He is the one we read about in the last two chapters. Jehoiakim ruled for 11 years. He was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin (aka Jeconiah, aka Coniah), who only ruled for 3 months before being taken captive to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar placed his uncle Mattaniah, third son of Josiah, on the throne, changing his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah ruled from 597 to 586 B.C. That’s where we are as chapter 37 begins.
3-5: Jerusalem has been under siege by Nebuchadnezzar, but now enjoys a brief respite as the Babylonians withdraw in the face of an approaching Egyptian army. King Zedekiah sends word to Jeremiah to ask for prayers, but don’t be fooled; King Zedekiah is not a good man.
6-10: In the course of praying for Zedekiah, Jeremiah receives a word from God that the Egyptians will go home, and the Babylonians will return and burn Jerusalem.
11-16: With the momentary lifting of the siege Jeremiah decides to go to Anathoth and take a look at the field he bought from his cousin Hanamel. He is arrested by a guard at the city gate and turned over to the officials who accuse him of trying to desert to the Babylonians. They beat him and confine him in a makeshift prison, the home of one Jonathan, a royal secretary.
17-21: After many days King Zedekiah summons Jeremiah. Although he is not a faithful worshiper of the LORD, he does believe Jeremiah has a connection, and anxiously asks if there is a word. Jeremiah tells him the Babylonians are coming back and he will be captured. Then he implores Zedekiah not to send him back to the same prison. Zedekiah agrees and has him confined in more amenable arrangements, so the man does seem to have a heart.
We Americans have been blessed that no foreign power in the last 200 years has invaded our land and laid siege to our capital. If this should ever happen, I hope and pray that we will as a people turn to God in penitence and faith.