Old Testament Commentary - Jeremiah 37

by Don R. Hender

Special Note
The proper chronological order of chapter 37 of Jeremiah comes just after chapter 34 but before chapters 32 and 33 which place Zedekiah in the Prison of the King's court as placed there by the king at the end of this chapter. It is further termed that Chapter 38 come just after chapters 32 and 33 after Jeremiah is communicating to the people out of the court prison. Thus the proper order of these chapters is, 34, 37, 32, 33, 38. The intervening chapters 35 and 36 are obviously out of chronological sequence as they date back to the reign of Jehoiakim, over 10 years prior to the events in these surrounding chapters.

Often a Prophet of God will have a scribe write the accounts and messages of the Prophet. This was the case with Jeremiah. One such noted scribe of Jeremiah was Baruch. Between Baruch, perhaps other such scribes, rewrites, perhaps Jeremiah himself writing and even the transcribing Jewish compilers of the Old Testament records; there seems to be some irregularities in Jeremiah's writings. Some, rather than considering the differing styles of scribes, circumstance and changes over time in one's life, rewrites due to manuscript destructions and so forth, have thought themselves able to detect that Jeremiah was not just the work of Jeremiah. Over the long life of Isaiah the 'scholars' tend to conclude the same thing. But over time and with the changing of scribes to a prophet and rewrites and even later compilations and editings, certainly a variety of 'styles' could understandably emerge. Isaiah was the associated work and prophecies of Isaiah though time and scribal changes may account for a stlye variation over the space of one's life. The same is true of Jeremiah. Though in Jeremiah's case, the careless work of compilation has left a number of Jeremiah's chapters out of proper chronological sequence and other such chapters being but the teaching of Jeremiah not attibuted to a particular time though perhaps taught and taught again throughout Jeremiah's career as Prophet. Many a 'prophet' is often confined to giving the same message again and again, especially in the times when only a few are presence to hear the message at a particular time and the message is needfully repeated and repeated again to varying audiences.

Scriptural Text [& Editorial]
Commentary & Explanation
Footnotes ~ References ~ JST
Jeremiah prophesies that Egypt shall not save Judah from Babylon—He is cast into a dungeon—Zedekiah transfers him to the court of the prison. The Lord has Jeremiah prophesy that Egypt will not deliver Judah from Babylon—The members of the Sarim [the religious princes of the 'Sanhedrin' or 'Seventy' of that day] cast Jeremiah into Jonathan's dungeon prison of the Sarim—Later when Zedekiah finds out and has need of Jeremiah's council he withdraws Jeremiah from the Sarim's prison and then places him in the prison of the king's court.
  1 And aking bZedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of cConiah the son of dJehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.
  2 But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

  3 And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.
  4 Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prisona.
  5 Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.

Story Line 
After Jeremiah delivered the seething condemnation of Zedekiah, the Sarim and the Jews in general according to the commandment of God in chapter 34, Jeremiah had withdrawn. And while the Chaldeans now also appeared to have withdrawn, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal and Maaseiah the priest to inquire of the prophet concerning the new status of matters. More likely the influenced design of the Sarim to intice Jeremiah back into court to accuse him and lay their hands upon him, Jeremiah does not respond by returning to court to deliver his response. Rather, having completed the Lord's commandment, Jeremiah simply comfirms the message of destruction by the Chaldeans reqardless of their temporary withdrawal. And he delivers his reply by the same two messengers. This likely infuriates the Sarim who do now in earnest seek out Jeremiah wherever in order to imprison him and rid themselves of this prophet pest.
 4a Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison. Though Jeremiah had been 'punished' and made a public spectacle by being place in the 'stocks' for a day or two, all during the reign of King Zedekiah, Jeremiah had enjoyed his freedom. He had not been put into prison until the time of the seige of the Chaldeans and the coming forth of the Egyptians to the aid of Jerusalem about the end of the 7th or beginning of the 8th year of the reign of King Zedekiah as recorded here in Jeremiah chapter 37. This is significant in terms of building a correct Book of Mormon time table. Nephi references the imprisonment of Jeremiah on the return journey with the family of Ishmael to the camp of Lehi. This means that Lehi had spent some 7 to 8 years in the valley of Lemuel.
  6 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
  7 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh's aarmy, which is come forth to help you, shall return to bEgypt into their own land.
  8 And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and aburn it with fire.
  9 Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.
  10 For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.
  11 ¶ And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's armya,
  12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.

Jeremiah Was Finished 
Jeremiah had completed all that God had commanded him to do. He was finished, Jerusalem was going to be destoryed, and Jeremiah was going to go home to the land of Benjamin, being a Benjamite. There was no longer any reason for him to remain in Jerusalem just to be beseiged and perhaps killed by the Chaldeans. He was not defecting. He was an old man, not a military man. And his job as God's prophet of warning to the Jews was complete. He had been God's prophet since the days of King Josiah and now five kings later his call of duty was ended. He was no more defecting than Lehi had been when Lehi left Jerusalem due to the threat upon his life stemming from the same 'Sarim' sources which now were plotting to rid themselves of Jeremiah.
 11a the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army This is a rather poor translation, perhaps given from a Jewish perspective. This 'fear' was not a 'turn and run' type of fear. Certainly the Sarim would like to think that. But rather this was a matter of 'strategic concern'. Rather than being caught between the Jews of Jerusalem and the Egyptians, the Chaldean armies strategically withdrew to meet the Egyptians one on one in the desert. Once the Egyptians were defeated, contending with only one enemy at a time, the Chaldeans would most assuredly return to complete the task of the seige of Jerusalem, which they did.
  13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou afallest away to the Chaldeans.
  14 Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.
  15 Wherefore the princes were wroth with aJeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the bprison.
  16 ¶ When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the acabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;
  17 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.
  18 Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison?
  19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?
  20 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.
  21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of abread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.a
 21a Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. Since the chapters of the book of Jeremiah are not kept in chronological order, the chapters which given account of Jeremiah's time in the king's court of the prison is to be read in Jeremiah 32 and 33. It will be after those events in the king's court prison that Jeremiah is brought before the king by the princely rulers of the Jews as set out in Chapter 38.