The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Jeremiah 37

Jer 37:1

Jer 37: "The gathering crisis faces Judah as the Babylonian invasion threatens to come closer. [1] The irresolute rule of Zedekiah: vv 1,2. [2] A deputation visits Jeremiah: vv 3,4. On the earlier attack of Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah had sought advice of Jeremiah; now with danger more imminent, he pleads for the prayers of the prophet, as Hezekiah did of Isaiah (Isa 37:2). This was probably followed by the covenant referred to in Jer 34, which was promptly forgotten as soon as the danger had passed. [3] Egypt advances, and the Chaldeans retreat: v 5. The news that Egypt was advancing caused Nebuchadnezzar to raise the siege and move quickly south against Egypt. [4] Zedekiah is warned that the city would fall: vv 6-10. [5] Jeremiah flees the city: vv 11-15. He acts as Christ exhorted his followers to do (Mat. 24:14,15). [6] The king seeks an audience with the prophet: vv 16,17. [7] Jeremiah seeks the king's aid: vv 18-21. The order was later reversed at the instigation of the prophet: Jer 38:9" (GEM).

ZEDEKIAH SON OF JOSIAH WAS MADE KING OF JUDAH BY NEBUCHADNEZZAR: "Zedekiah was a small man on a great stage, a weakling set to face circumstances that would have taxed the strongest. He was a youth at his accession to the throne of a distracted kingdom, and if he had had any political insight he would have seen that his only chance was to adhere firmly to Babylon, and to repress the foolish aristocracy who hankered after alliance with the rival power of Egypt. He was mad enough to form an alliance with the latter, which was constructive rebellion against the former, and was strongly reprobated by Jeremiah. Swift vengeance followed; the country was ravaged; Zedekiah in his fright implored Jeremiah's prayers and made faint efforts to follow his counsels. The pressure of invasion was lifted, and immediately he forgot his terrors and forsook the prophet. The Babylonian army was back next year, and the final investment [encirclement, siege] of Jerusalem began. The siege lasted sixteen months, and during it, Zedekiah miserably vacillated between listening to the prophet's counsels of surrender and the truculent nobles' advice to resist to the last gasp.

"The miseries of the siege live for ever in the Book of Lamentations. Mothers boiled their children, nobles hunted on dunghills for food. Their delicate complexions were burned black, and famine turned them into living skeletons. Then, on a long summer day in July came the end. The king tried to skulk out by a covered way between the walls, his few attendants deserted him in his flight, he was caught at last down by the fords of the Jordan [Jer 39:4,5; 52:8], carried prisoner to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah away up in the north beyond Baalbec, and there saw his sons slain before his eyes, and, as soon as he had seen that last sight, was blinded, fettered, and carried off to Babylon, where he died [2Ki 25:7; Jer 34:3; 52:9,10]...

"A weak character is sure to become a wicked one. Moral weakness and inability to resist strong pressure was the keynote of Zedekiah's character. There were good things in him; he had kindly impulses, as was shown in his emancipation of the slaves at a crisis of Jerusalem's fate. Left to himself, he would at least have treated Jeremiah kindly, and did rescue him from lingering death in the foul dungeon to which the ruffian nobility had consigned him, and he provided for his being at least saved from dying of starvation during the siege.

"He listened to him secretly, and would have accepted his counsel if he had dared. But he yielded to the stronger wills of the nobles, though he sometimes bitterly resented their domination, and complained that 'the king is not he that can do anything against you.'

"Like most weak men, he found that temptations to do wrong abounded more than visible inducements to do right, and he was afraid to do right, and fancied that he was compelled by the force of circumstances to do wrong. So he drifted and drifted, and at last was smashed to fragments on the rocks, as all men are who do not keep a strong hand on the helm and a steady eye on the compass. The winds are good servants but bad masters. If we do not coerce circumstances to carry us on the course which conscience has pricked out on the chart, they will wreck us" (MacL).

Jer 37:5

THEY WITHDREW FROM JERUSALEM: Thus inspiring high (but false) hopes.

Jer 37:12

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel-- let the reader understand -- then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Mat 24:15,16).

Jer 37:13

HANANIAH: The false prophet whose death Jeremiah prophesied (Jer 28:1). This explains his motive.

Jer 37:15

WHICH THEY HAD MADE INTO A PRISON: There had previously been no need for a prison!

Jer 37:17

YOU WILL BE HANDED OVER TO THE KING OF BABYLON: Egypt could not deliver Jerusalem (Eze 17).

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