Jeremiah 37:15
Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) The princes . . . put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe.—The house was probably chosen as being under the direct control of one who, as scribe, exercised functions like those of a minister of police. It had not only the subterranean dungeon and pit common to all Eastern prisons, but separate “cabins” or cells (the Hebrew word does not occur elsewhere) for the confinement of individual prisoners (Jeremiah 37:16). Of the severity with which the prophet was treated there, we may judge from his entreaty not to be taken back there after his release (Jeremiah 38:26). We have fairly adequate data for measuring the duration of the “many days” of his imprisonment. It began before the second siege of Jerusalem, which lasted for nearly two years (2Kings 25:1-3), and when the city was taken he was still in the court of the prison. The incidents of Jeremiah 32-34 belong to this period.

Jeremiah 37:15. Wherefore the princes were wroth — These princes seem to have been much more hostile to the prophet than those that were in the time of Jehoiakim, (see Jeremiah 36:19,) for they proceed here merely upon the captain’s information, and, treating him as guilty, without any proof, cruelly cause him to be beaten, though entirely innocent, and put into a most miserable dungeon. In the house of Jonathan the scribe — “There is nothing extraordinary,” says Blaney, “in making the dwelling- house of a great man a prison, according to either the ancient or modern manners of the East: see Genesis 39:20; even in the royal palace itself we find there was a prison, chap. Jeremiah 32:2.” Mr. Harmer (chap. 8. obs. 37) quotes the following passage from a MS. of Sir John Chardin: — “The eastern prisons are not public buildings erected for that purpose; but a part of the house in which their criminal judges dwell. As the governor and provost of a town, or the captain of the watch, imprison such as are accused in their own houses, they set apart a canton of them for that purpose, when they are put into these offices, and choose for the jailer the most proper person they can find of their domestics.” Thus Mr. Harmer thinks that Jonathan’s house became a prison in consequence of his being a royal scribe, or, as we should term him, secretary of state.

37:11-21 There are times when it is the wisdom of good men to retire, to enter into their chambers, and to shut the doors, Isa 26:20. Jeremiah was seized as a deserter, and committed to prison. But it is no new thing for the best friends of the church to be belied, as in the interests of her worst enemies. When thus falsely accused, we may deny the charge, and commit our cause to Him who judges righteously. Jeremiah obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, and would not, to obtain mercy of man, be unfaithful to God or to his prince; he tells the king the whole truth. When Jeremiah delivered God's message, he spake with boldness; but when he made his own request, he spake submissively. A lion in God's cause must be a lamb in his own. And God gave Jeremiah favour in the eyes of the king. The Lord God can make even the cells of a prison become pastures to his people, and will raise up friends to provide for them, so that in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.The house - Probably the official residence of the secretary of state. 15. scribe—one of the court secretaries; often in the East part of the private house of a public officer serves as a prison. These princes seem more fierce against the prophet than those that were in the time of Jehoiakim, for they proceed here upon the captain’s information, cause the prophet to be beaten, and send him to prison, a prison within the compass of the court, bad enough, as appeareth by Jeremiah’s complaint of his condition there to the king, Jeremiah 37:20, and by what followeth in the next verse.

Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah,.... For attempting to depart the city, and go off to the Chaldeans, as Irijah had suggested to them, and to whom they hearkened; and perhaps would not hear what the prophet had to say for himself; and if they did, it had no weight with them:

and smote him; either with their fists, or with rods, or a scourge; perhaps he underwent the punishment of forty stripes save one, according to the law; and they may be said to smite or beat him, because they ordered it to be done:

and put him in prison, in the house of Jonathan the scribe; or secretary of state; such an one as Elishama was in Jehoiakim's time, who had a house or apartment at court as he had, who was now dead or removed, Jeremiah 36:12;

for they had made that the prison; which had not used to be; but by the courtiers, and with the consent of this scribe, secretary, or chancellor, it was made a prison; not for common malefactors, but for state prisoners; and a bad prison it seems it was. Very probably this scribe was a very cruel wicked man, who used those very ill that were his prisoners; and indeed, if he had not been of such a character, he would scarcely have suffered his house to have been made a prison.

Wherefore the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and beat him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the {h} prison.

(h) Because it was a vile and straight prison.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. the princes were wroth with Jeremiah] These were not the princes who had looked upon the prophet with favour in the reign of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:16, Jeremiah 36:19). Those were now no doubt exiles, and these their successors, as thoroughly opposed to the Chaldaean rule, and sympathising with their compatriots of Babylon, had no favour to bestow upon Jeremiah. They would remember how he had likened them to evil figs (ch. 24), and had denounced their conduct towards their slaves (ch. 34).

Jonathan] Shaphan, the scribe of seventeen years before (Jeremiah 36:10), was now probably dead or among the exiles.

Verse 15. - The princes were wroth with Jeremiah. As Graf has pointed out, the princes, who had evinced their respect for Jeremiah on former occasions (ch. 26, 36.) had probably shared the captivity of Jehoiachin; Zedekiah's "princes" would be of a lower origin and type, and ready (like the judges in the French "terror") to accept any charge against an unpopular person without proper examination. The house of Jonathan the scribe. "Scribe," i.e. one of the secretaries of state. The house of Jonathan seems to have been specially adapted for a prison, as the next verse shows. Chardin, the old traveller, remarks, "The Eastern prisons are not public buildings erected for that purpose, but a part of the house in which the criminal judges dwell. As the governor and provost of a town, or the captain of the watch, imprison such as are accused in their own houses, they set apart a canton of them for that purpose when they are put into these offices, and choose for the jailor the most proper person they can find of their domestics" (Chardin). Jeremiah 37:15Jeremiah replied: "A lie [ equals not true; cf. 2 Kings 9:12]; I am not going over to the Chaldeans. But he gave no heed to him; so Jeriah seized Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Jeremiah 37:15. And the princes were angry against Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison, in the house of Jonathan the scribe; for they had made it the prison," - probably because it contained apartments suitable for the purpose. From Jeremiah 37:16 we perceive that they were subterranean prisons and vaults into which the prisoners were thrust; and from v. 28 and Jeremiah 38:26, it is clear that Jeremiah was in a confinement much more severe and dangerous to his life. There he sat many days, i.e., a pretty long time.
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