Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying,
Had spoken - Spake; or, was speaking.
Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.
Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it.
Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
For thus ... - Because he makes the men of war dispirited. No doubt this was true. Jeremiah, however, did not speak as a private person, but as the representative of the government; the temporal ruler in a theocracy being responsible directly to God.
Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.
All real power was in their hands, and as they affirmed that Jeremiah's death was a matter of necessity, the king did not dare refuse it to them.
Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.
The dungeon - The cistern. Every house in Jerusalem was supplied with a subterranean cistern, so well constructed that the city never suffered in a siege from want of water. So large were they that when dry they seem to have been used for prisons Zechariah 9:11.
Hammelech - See Jeremiah 36:26 note.
The prison - The guard. They threw Jeremiah into the nearest cistern, intending that he should die of starvation. Some have thought that Psalm 69 was composed by Jeremiah when in this cistern.
Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;
Ebed-melech - i. e., the king's slave. By "Ethiopian" or Cushite is meant the Cushite of Africa, or negro. It seems (compare 2 Kings 23:11) as if such eunuchs (or, chamberlains) took their names from the king, while the royal family and the princes generally bore names compounded with the appellations of the Deity.
Ebedmelech went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying,
My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.
Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die.
Thirty men - So large a number suggests that Zedekiah expected some resistance. (Some read "three" men.)
So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah.
Old cast clouts ... - Rags of torn garments and rags of worn-out garments.
And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so.
So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me.
The third entry - There was probably a passage from the palace to the temple at this entry, and the meeting would take place in some private chamber close by.
Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?
Wilt thou not hearken ...! - Rather, Thou wilt not hearken.
So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.
That made us this soul - This very unusual addition to the formula of an oath 1 Samuel 20:3 was intended to strengthen it. By acknowledging that his soul was God's workmanship Zedekiah also implied his belief in God's power over it.
Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house:
But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand.
And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.
The Jews that are fallen to the Chaldaeans - These deserters probably formed a numerous party, and now would be the more indignant with Zedekiah for having rejected their original advice to submit.
But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.
But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me:
And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back.
All the women that are left - Belonging to the harems of former kings (compare 1 Kings 2:22), attendants, and slaves.
Thy friends ... - This satirical song (compare Obadiah 1:7) should be translated as a distich:
Thy friends have urged thee on and prevailed upon thee:
Thy feet are stuck in the mire; they have turned back.
Thy friends - literally "men of thy peace," thy acquaintance Jeremiah 20:10. They urge Zedekiah on to a hopeless struggle with the Chaldaeans, and when he gets into difficulties leave him in the lurch.
So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire.
So - And. In addition to the ridicule there shall be the miseries of the capture.
Thou shalt cause this city to be burned - literally, as margin. It shall be thy own act as completely as if done with thine own hand.
Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.
But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee:
Then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there.
Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the matter was not perceived.
So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.
And he was there when ... - These words are altered by some to "and it came to pass when" etc., and taken to form the opening of Jeremiah 39.