John T. Willis

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zedekiah Imprisons Jeremiah--Jeremiah 37

As a reminder, Jeremiah 34-39 contain events and oracles presented back and forth in the reigns of Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) and Zedekiah (598-587 BCE). Jeremiah 34 relates events in the reign of Zedekiah (589-587 BCE), and Jeremiah 35 and 36 relate events in the reign of Jehoiakim (609-605 BCE). Now that we move forward into Jeremiah 37, the composer relates two events in the reign of Zedekiah while the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem in 589-587 BCE. This blog contains brief discussions of these two events in Jeremiah 37.

I. Yahweh through Jeremiah insists that the Babylonians will overthrow the Judeans and Jerusalem in spite of the brief withdrawal of the Babylonians on Jerusalem. Jeremiah 37:1-10.
a. The composer of the Book of Jeremiah reminds his hearers [readers] that Zedekiah succeeded Jehoiachin [Coniah]. Jehoiachin reigned for three months in Jerusalem (598 BCE). Nebuchadrezzar II carried Jehoiachin and 10,000 leading citizens into Babylonian exile, and then made Zedekiah, another son of Josiah, king. In spite of Babylon's overthrow of 10,000 citizens of Jerusalem into Babylonian exile, Zedekiah and the remaining Judeans in and around Jerusalem still did not listen to=obey Yahweh's message through Jeremiah. 37:1-2.
b. The composer explains that Zedekiah sent two men, i. e., Jehucal and the priest Zephaniah to Jeremiah to ask Jeremiah to pray to Yahweh for Yahweh's people. At this point, Jeremiah was living in Jerusalem. The Egyptians moved from the southwest to advance against the Babylonians, and the Babylonians withdrew from Jerusalem. 37:3-5.
c. Yahweh comes to Jeremiah and commands him to tell Jehucal and Zephaniah that the Egyptians are going to go back to Egypt, and the Babylonians will return to Jerusalem, defeat the Judeans, and burn the city of Jerusalem. 37:6-10.

II. Zedekiah puts Jeremiah in prison, first in the cistern house, then in the court of the guard. Jeremiah 37:11-21.
a. When the Babylonian army withdrew from Jerusalem, Jeremiah went to go to Anathoth in the tribal territory of Benjamin to receive his share of the property. [Note: It may well be that this action is connected with the account in Jeremiah 32, when Jeremiah bought a field at Anathoth in the encounter with his cousin Hanamel]. 37:11-12.
b. When Jeremiah got to the Benjamin Gate at Jerusalem, a sentinel [watchman] named Irijah accused Jeremiah of leaving Jerusalem to desert to the Babylonians. Jeremiah responded, saying he had no intention of deserting to the Babylonians. But Irijah did not believe Jeremiah was telling the truth and arrested him. Irijah took Jeremiah to the officials of Jerusalem, and the officials became very angry about Jeremiah. They beat and imprison Jeremiah in the house of the secretary Jonathan, and put Jeremiah in the cistern house in the cells. Jeremiah stayed there many days. 37:13-16.
c. Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah while Jeremiah was in the cistern house. Zedekiah asked Jeremiah: "Is there any word from the Lord?" Jeremiah said: "YES!!!" Yahweh's message is the same: Yahweh will deliver Zedekiah and the Judeans into Babylonian exile. Jeremiah rebukes Zedekiah for putting Jeremiah in prison. Other prophets had assured Zedekiah that the Babylonians will not overthrow Jerusalem. But this has not happened. 37:17-19.
d. Jeremiah implores Zedekiah not to put Jeremiah back in the house of the secretary Jonathan. Zedekiah accepts Jeremiah's plea, and put Jeremiah in the court of the guard, and gives Jeremiah a loaf of bread daily from the bakers' street. Jeremiah remains in the court of the guard many days. 37:20-21.

During the year and a half that the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, all the Judeans were in great distress, including Jeremiah. But Yahweh miraculously sustained Jeremiah during this time. When we are faced with times of distress, let us trust in Yahweh even when the situation is dismal.

Share YOUR understandings and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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