Jeremiah 37:21
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 bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
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(21) Into the court of the prison . . .—This was obviously a concession to Jeremiah’s request, and here he remained (see Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 33:1), with one brief exception (Jeremiah 38:6), till the capture of the city. It was “in the king’s house,” above ground, with free access for light and air, and it was therefore in his power to see that the prophet was treated with respect, and not left to starve.

A piece of bread out of the bakers’ street.—The locality is not mentioned elsewhere, but Jerusalem, like other Eastern cities, seems to have had distinct localities assigned as bazaars to special trades. Thus, one of the broad streets running through the city was known, in New Testament times, as the valley of Tyropceon (= cheesemakers). Merchants and goldsmiths appear in Nehemiah 3:32 as having their separate quarters, and apothecaries in Nehemiah 3:8. The “street of the bakers” was probably connected with “the tower of the furnaces” in Nehemiah 3:11. The order given by the king indicates that the city was already blockaded, and that the supply of provisions was falling short.

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 prison - the watch (marginal reference).

Piece - literally, a circle, i. e., a round cake.

The bakers' street - It is usual in oriental towns for each trade to have a special place set apart for it. Compare Acts 10:6.

21. court of the prison—(Jer 32:2; 38:13, 28).

bakers' street—Persons in the same business in cities in the East commonly reside in the same street.

all the bread … spent—Jeremiah had bread supplied to him until he was thrown into the dungeon of Malchiah, at which time the bread in the city was spent. Compare this verse with Jer 38:9; that time must have been very shortly before the capture of the city (Jer 52:6). God saith of His children, "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied" (Ps 37:19; Isa 33:16). Honest reproof (Jer 37:17), in the end often gains more favor than flattery (Pr 28:23).

Commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison; so as he was a prisoner still, but in a freer air, where he did not suffer those inconveniences which he endured in the hole or dungeon. It is of no great moment to know whether the portion of bread allowed the prophet by the king were a loaf, (as some think,) or a piece of a loaf; it was such a proportion as could be allowed according to the proportion which others had, and the straits which the city was in, and so much as served to keep him alive. Jeremiah remained here till, upon the suggestion of the princes, he was removed to a worse place, as we shall read in the sixth verse of the next chapter; where he staid not long, but was again removed to the court of the prison, as we shall read there, Jeremiah 38:13, where (as it followeth there, Jeremiah 38:28) he continued until the city was taken.

Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison,.... He did not think fit to discharge him entirely, lest it should give offence to the princes, who had committed him; but he ordered him to be put in a court belonging to the prison, where he might breathe in a freer air, and have liberty of walking to and fro, where his friends might be admitted to come and see him:

and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street; it seems there was a street in Jerusalem so called, where the bakers lived; and perhaps the king's bakers; who had orders to deliver to the prophet every day a piece or loaf of bread, as much as was sufficient for a man; or, however, as much as the scarcity of provisions in a siege would allow. Kimchi makes mention of a Midrash, which interprets this of bread made of bran, which was sold without the palace; as if it was coarser bread than what was eaten at court:

until all the bread in the city was spent; that is, as long as there was any. These were the king's orders:

thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison: until the city was taken; unless a small time that he was in the dungeon of Malchiah, out of which he was taken again, and restored to the court of the prison, and there continued; see Jeremiah 38:6.

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 bread out of the baker's street, until all the {i} bread in the city should be consumed. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

(i) That is, so long as there was any bread in the city: thus God provides for his, that he will cause their enemies to preserve them to that end to which he has appointed them.

21. court of the guard] See on Jeremiah 32:2.

a loaf of bread] a flat round cake, not unlike a flat stone in shape and appearance (Matthew 7:9, cp. Jeremiah 4:3), about nine inches in diameter and an inch thick. One of these cakes was considered a charity dole (1 Samuel 2:36, R.V. “loaf”).

the bakers’ street] Hosea 7:4; Hosea 7:6 shews that baking was a trade. We here see that, like other trades in the East, the bakers occupied a definite place in the bazaar.

until all the bread in the city was spent] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 52:6.

Verse 21. - Court of the prison; rather, court of the watch (as Jeremiah 32:2). A piece of bread; literally, a circle (i.e. round cake) of bread. This is mentioned elsewhere in descriptions of poverty (1 Samuel 2:36; Proverbs 6:26); but as the ancient Oriental bread was not our delicate white bread, it was a real "staff of life." The Syrian peasants still eat cakes of coarse meal, of about the thickness of parchment, and equal in size to a large plate (Orelli's 'Travels'). The bakers' street. Probably the several trades were confined to special quarters and streets. In Cairo each trade has still its own bazaar (saddlers, carpets, hardware, goldsmiths, sweetmeats, etc.).

Jeremiah 37:21Examination of the prophet by the king, and alleviation of his confinement. - Jeremiah 37:16. "When Jeremiah had got into the dungeon and into the vaults, and had sat there many days, then Zedekiah the king sent and fetched him, and questioned him in his own house (palace) secretly," etc. Jeremiah 37:16 is by most interpreters joined with the foregoing, but the words כּי בּא do not properly permit of this. For if we take the verse as a further confirmation of ויּקצפוּ השׂרים, "the princes vented their wrath on Jeremiah, beat him," etc., "for Jeremiah came...," then it must be acknowledged that the account would be very long and lumbering. כּי בּא is too widely separated from יקצפוּ. But the passages, 1 Samuel 2:21, where כּי פּקד is supposed to stand for ויּפקד, and Isaiah 39:1, where ויּשׁמע is thought to have arisen out of כּי, 2 Kings 20:12, are not very strong proofs, since there, as here, no error in writing is marked. The Vulgate has itaque ingressus; many therefore would change כּי into כּן; but this also is quite arbitrary. Accordingly, with Rosenmller, we connect Jeremiah 37:16 with the following, and take כּי as a temporal particle; in this, the most we miss is ו copulative, or ויהי. In the preceding sentence the prison of the prophet is somewhat minutely described, in order to prepare us for the request that follows in Jeremiah 37:20. Jeremiah was in a בּית־בּור, "house of a pit," cf. Exodus 12:29, i.e., a subterranean prison, and in החניּות. This word only occurs here; but in the kindred dialects it means vaults, stalls, shops; hence it possibly signifies here subterranean prison-cells, so that אל־החניּות more exactly determines what בּית־הבּור is. This meaning of the word is, at any rate, more certain than that given by Eb. Scheid in Rosenmller, who renders חניות by flexa, curvata; then, supplying ligna, he thinks of the stocks to which the prisoners were fastened. - The king questioned him בּסּתר, "in secret," namely, through fear of his ministers and court-officers, who were prejudiced against the prophet, perhaps also in the hope of receiving in a private interview a message from God of more favourable import. To the question of the king, "Is there any word from Jahveh?" Jeremiah replies in the affirmative; but the word of God is this, "Thou shalt be given into the hand of the king of Babylon," just as Jeremiah had previously announced to him; cf. Jeremiah 32:4; Jeremiah 34:3. - Jeremiah took this opportunity of complaining about his imprisonment, saying, Jeremiah 37:18, "In what have I sinned against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison? Jeremiah 37:19. And where are your prophets, who prophesied to you, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?" Jeremiah appeals to his perfect innocence (Jeremiah 37:18), and to the confirmation of his prediction by its event. The interview with the king took place when the Chaldeans, after driving the Egyptians out of the country, had recommenced the siege of Jerusalem, and, as is evident from Jeremiah 37:21, were pressing the city very hard. The Kethib איו is to be read איּו, formed from איּה with the suffix וׁ; the idea of the suffix has gradually become obscured, so that it stands here before a noun in the plural. The Qeri requires איּה. The question, Where are your prophets? means, Let these prophets come forward and vindicate their lying prophecies. Not what these men had prophesied, but what Jeremiah had declared had come to pass; his imprisonment, accordingly, was unjust. - Besides thus appealing to his innocence, Jeremiah, Jeremiah 37:20, entreats the king, "Let my supplication come before thee, and do not send me back into the house of Jonathan the scribe, that I may not die there." For 'תּפּל־נא ת see on Jeremiah 36:7. The king granted this request. "He commanded, and they put Jeremiah into the court of the watch [of the royal palace, see on Jeremiah 32:2], and gave him a loaf of bread daily out of the bakers' street, till all the bread in the city was consumed;" cf. Jeremiah 52:6. The king did not give him his liberty, because Jeremiah held to his views, that were so distasteful to the king (see on Jeremiah 32:3). "So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard."
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