Jeremiah 37:3
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 to the LORD our God for us.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal . . .—The time and, probably, occasion of the mission is given in Jeremiah 37:5. The Chaldæans had raised the siege of Jerusalem on hearing of the approach of the Egyptian army under Pharaoh-Hophra, the Apries of Herodotus (Herod. ii. 161-169. Ezekiel 17:15, Ezekiel 29:1-16, Ezekiel 30-32.), and the king seems to have thought that an opportunity presented itself for asserting his independence, and wished to gain the sanction and the prayers of the prophet for this policy. Of the two officers who are here named, Jehucal appears as accusing the prophets in Jeremiah 38:1, Zephaniah in Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 29:25. They clearly belonged to the anti-Chaldæan party, and were therefore, for the most part, openly hostile to the prophet. Their application to him was either simply an official act in obedience to the king’s commands, or sprang from the hope, as before in Jeremiah 21:1, that they might, by a show of religious zeal for Jehovah, win him over to their cause. The stress which they lay on his praying to “the Lord our God” indicates the latter alternative as probable.

Jeremiah 37:3-5. Zedekiah sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah — This man came in the place of Pashur, who, together with Zephaniah, brought the former message from Zedekiah; saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us — Wicked men of all ranks are desirous, in their distresses, of the prayers of those whose counsels and admonitions they never regard while they are in prosperity, which is a plain evidence of their acting contrary to the convictions of their own consciences. Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people — That is, he was not yet put in prison as he afterward was: see Jeremiah 37:15; Jeremiah 32:2. Jerusalem also, for the present, was at liberty, for Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt, &c. — “Zedekiah, contrary to the oath that he had given to Nebuchadnezzar, made an alliance with the king of Egypt, and contracted with him for assistance against the king of Babylon; whereupon the king of Egypt sent an army to his relief: see Ezekiel 17:15; which obliged the Chaldeans to raise the siege of Jerusalem, that they might go and fight this army.” — Lowth. During this time, it seems, it was that Zedekiah sent to desire the prophet to pray for 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.This embassy is not to be confounded with that Jeremiah 21:1 which took place when Nebuchadnezzar was just marching upon Jerusalem; this was in the brief interval of hope occasioned by the approach of an Egyptian army to raise the siege. The Jews were elated by this temporary relief, and miserably abused it Jeremiah 34:11. Zedekiah seems to some extent to have shared their hopes, and to have expected that the prophet would intercede for the city as successfully as Isaiah had done Isaiah 37:6. Jehucal was a member of the warlike party Jeremiah 38:1, as also was the deputy high priest Zephaniah, but otherwise he was well affected to Jeremiah. 3. Zedekiah … sent—fearing lest, in the event of the Chaldeans overcoming Pharaoh-hophra, they should return to besiege Jerusalem. See on [951]Jer 21:1; that chapter chronologically comes in between the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth chapter. The message of the king to Jeremiah here in the thirty-seventh chapter is, however, somewhat earlier than that in the twenty-first chapter; here it is while the issue between the Chaldeans and Pharaoh was undecided; there it is when, after the repulse of Pharaoh, the Chaldeans were again advancing against Jerusalem; hence, while Zephaniah is named in both embassies, Jehucal accompanies him here, Pashur there. But, as Pashur and Jehucal are both mentioned in Jer 38:1, 2, as hearing Jeremiah's reply, which is identical with that in Jer 21:9, it is probable the two messages followed one another at a short interval; that in this Jer 37:3, and the answer, Jer 37:7-10, being the earlier of the two.

Zephaniah—an abettor of rebellion against God (Jer 29:25), though less virulent than many (Jer 29:29), punished accordingly (Jer 52:24-27).

This was apparently in the time of the siege; for, Jeremiah 37:5, we read of Pharaoh’s army being come to relieve the besieged, whether it was before the Babylonians were departed, or no, is uncertain; but it is plain, if they were departed, the king was afraid they would come back again. That which is most observable for us from hence is this, that wicked men of all ranks are desirous of the prayers of those ministers in their distresses, whose counsels and admonitions they never regard while they are in a time of prosperity; which is an evidence of their acting contrary to the convictions of their consciences, in obedience to their lusts, in their contempt of their instructions and admonitions. When affliction hath cooled their lusts, then their consciences can be heard in dictating their duty to them. And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest,.... That is, Zephaniah the priest, as the accents shaw; though his father Maaseiah was doubtless a priest too; according to the Syriac version, both Jehucal, called Jucal, Jeremiah 38:1; and Zephaniah, were priests; since it reads in the plural number, "priests": these the king sent as messengers

to the Prophet Jeremiah, saying, pray now unto the Lord our God for us. This message was sent either upon the rumour of the Chaldeans coming against Jerusalem, as some think; or rather when it had departed from the city, and was gone to meet the army of the king of Egypt; so that this petition to the prophet was to pray that the king of Egypt alight get the victory over the Chaldean army, and that that might not return unto them. Thus wicked men will desire the prayers of good men in times of distress, when their words, their cautions, admonitions, exhortations, and prayers too, are despised by them at another time.

And Zedekiah the king {c} sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now to the LORD our God for us.

(c) Because he was afraid of the Chaldeans who came against him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. And Zedekiah the king sent] This mission took place later than that related in ch. Jeremiah 21:1, which was sent when Nebuchadnezzar’s army was approaching Jerusalem. In this case on the contrary the siege had begun and had been raised, and the hopes of the people were excited in consequence.

Jehucal] In ch. Jeremiah 38:4 he (“Jucal”) proposes that Jeremiah should be put to death.

Zephaniah] See chs. Jeremiah 21:1, Jeremiah 29:25.Verse 3. - And Zedekiah the king sent. This was Zedekiah's second embassy to Jeremiah. His request on the former occasion bad been for a prophecy; on the present it was for an "effectual fervent prayer," such as Hezekiah's embassy asked of Isaiah (Isaiah 37:6). But the issue was to be very different from that in the case of Sennacherib's invasion! Jehucal. The same man appears in Jeremiah 38. l, among those who brought about the imprisonment of Jeremiah. Zephaniah. The high priest's deputy, mentioned again in Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 29:25; Jeremiah 52:24. 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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