Jeremiah 37:1
And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.
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(1) And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah . . .—The eight chapters that follow form a continuous narrative of the later work and fortunes of the prophet. They open with recording the accession of Zedekiah, following on the deposition of Coniah or Jeconiah. Here, as in Jeremiah 22:24, we have the shortened form of the name of the latter. The relative pronoun “whom Nebuchadrezzar . . . made king” refers to Zedekiah.



Jeremiah 37:1

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 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, 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. His career teaches us lessons which I may now seek to bring out.

I. 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.

II. A man may have a good deal of religion and yet not enough to mould his life.

Zedekiah listened to the prophet by fits and starts. He was eager to have the benefit of the prophet’s prayers. He liberated the slaves in Jerusalem. He came secretly to Jeremiah more than once to know if there were any message from God for him. Yet he had not faith enough nor submission enough to let the known will of God rule his conduct, whatever the nobles might say.

Are there not many of us who have a belief in God and a general acquiescence in Christ’s precepts, who order our lives now and then by these, and yet have not come up to the point of full and final surrender? Alas, alas, for the multitudes who are ‘not far from the kingdom,’ but who never come near enough to be actually in it! To be not far from is to be out of, and to be out of is to be, like Zedekiah, blinded and captived and dead in prison at last.

III. God’s love is wonderfully patient.

Jeremiah was to Zedekiah the incarnation of God’s unwearied pleadings. During his whole reign, the prophet’s voice sounded in his ears, through all the clamours and cries of factions, and mingled at last with the shouts of the besiegers and the groans of the wounded, like the sustained note of some great organ, persisting through a babel of discordant noises. It was met with indifference, and it sounded on. It provoked angry antagonism and still it spoke. Violence was used to stifle it in vain. And it was not only Jeremiah’s courageous pertinacity that spoke through that persistent voice, but God’s unwearied love, which being rejected is not driven away, being neglected becomes more beseeching, ‘is not easily provoked ‘to cease its efforts, but ‘beareth all’ despite, and hopeth for softened hearts till the last moment before doom falls.

That patient love pleads with each of us as persistently as Jeremiah did with Zedekiah.

IV. The long-delayed judgment falls at last.

With infinite reluctance the divine love had to do what God Himself has called ‘His strange work.’ Divine Justice travels slowly, but arrives at last. Her foot is ‘leaden’ both in regard to its tardiness and its weight. There is no ground in the long postponement of retribution for the fond dream that it will never come, though men lull themselves to sleep with that lie. ‘Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is thoroughly set in them to do evil.’ But the sentence will be executed. The pleading love, which has for many returning autumns spared the barren tree and sought to make it fit to bear fruit, does not prevent the owner saying at last to his servant with the axe in his hand, ‘Now! thou shalt cut it down.’Jeremiah 37:1-2. Zedekiah, whom Nebuchadrezzar made king — See 2 Kings 24:17; 2 Chronicles 36:10, where is related the history of Zedekiah’s succession. He was but a tributary king, having taken an oath of homage to the king of Babylon. He was a feeble and irresolute prince, and although not so bad as many of his predecessors, yet he had but little true piety or virtue. Neither he nor his servants, &c., did hearken unto the words of the Lord — Though they saw in his predecessor the fatal consequences of contemning the word of God, and though it had already begun to be fulfilled, yet they did not take warning, nor give any more heed to it than others had done before them.37:1-10 Numbers witness the fatal effects of other men's sins, yet heedlessly step into their places, and follow the same destructive course. When in distress, we ought to desire the prayers of ministers and Christian friends. And it is common for those to desire to be prayed for, who will not be advised; yet sinners are often hardened by a pause in judgments. But if God help us not, no creature can. Whatever instruments God has determined to use, they shall do the work, though they seem unlikely.It is evident that Zedekiah was well affected toward Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 37-38, dealing with events during the siege of Jerusalem, we have an account of his relations with Jeremiah and of the prophet's personal history up to the capture of the city. CHAPTER 37

Jer 37:1-21. Historical Sections, Thirty-seventh through Forty-fourth Chapters. The Chaldeans Raise the Siege to Go and Meet Pharaoh-hophra. Zedekiah Sends to Jeremiah to Pray to God in Behalf of the Jews: in Vain, Jeremiah Tries to Escape to His Native Place, but Is Arrested. Zedekiah Abates the Rigor of His Imprisonment.

1. Coniah—curtailed from Jeconiah by way of reproach.

whom—referring to Zedekiah, not to Coniah (2Ki 24:17).The Egyptians raise the siege of the Chaldeans; and king Zedekiah sendeth to Jeremiah, to pray and inquire of the Lord for them, Jeremiah 37:1-5. He prophesieth the Chaldeans’ return and victory, Jeremiah 37:6-10. He is apprehended for a fugitive, beaten, and put into prison, Jeremiah 37:11-15. He assureth Zedekiah of the captivity; and, entreating for liberty, obtaineth some favour, Jeremiah 37:16-21.

The history of this succession we have 2 Kings 24:17 2 Chronicles 36:10. Zedekiah’s name was Mattaniah, the king of Babylon changed his name to Zedekiah. He reigned instead of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, who reigned but three months, 2 Kings 24:8; his name was Jeconiah, 1 Chronicles 3:16, and, in a way of derision or contempt, is here called

Coniah. The king of Babylon made this Zedekiah king, who is here called the son of Josiah, and, 2 Kings 24:17, Jehoiachin’s father’s brother, to distinguish him from another Zedekiah, son of Jehoiakim, as appears from 1 Chronicles 3:16.

And King Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned,.... The brother of Jehoiakim, whose untimely death, and want of burial, are prophesied of in the preceding chapter. The name of Zedekiah was Mattaniah before he was king; his name was changed by the king of Babylon, who made him king, 2 Kings 24:17;

instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim: the same with Jehoiakim, or jeconiah, called Coniah by way of contempt; he reigned but three months, and so was not reckoned as a king, not being confirmed by the king of Babylon, but was carried captive by him, and his uncle placed in his stead:

whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah; to whom he became tributary, and swore homage and fealty, 2 Chronicles 36:13.

And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of {a} Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon {b} made king in the land of Judah.

(a) Who was called Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah.

(b) And called him Zedekiah, while before his name was Mattaniah, 2Ki 24:17.

1. And Zedekiah … reigned as king] This and Jeremiah 37:2 are apparently an editorial note to indicate to the reader that the narrative now no longer relates, as did the last two chs., to the reign of Jehoiakim. The rest of the ch. we may consider to be taken substantially from Baruch’s memoirs.

Coniah] See on Jeremiah 22:24.Verse 1. - Coniah; i.e. Jehoiachin (see on Jeremiah 22:24). Whom Nebuchadrezzar... made king. Zedekiah, not Jehoiachin, is referred to (see 2 Kings 24:17). Not content with destroying the book, Jehoiakim also wished to get Baruch and Jeremiah out of the way; for he ordered the king's son Jerahmel and two other men to go for Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet; "but the Lord hid them," i.e., graciously kept them out of the sight of the spies. בּן־המּלך is not the son of Jehoiakim, - if so, we would find simply את־בּנו; but a royal prince is meant, cf. Jeremiah 38:6; 1 Kings 22:26; 2 Kings 11:1-2; Zephaniah 1:8.
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