Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? and if I give you counsel, will you not listen to me?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Wilt thou not surely put me to death?—The prophet obviously speaks as if he believed the king to have sanctioned the severe measures that had been taken against him, and having no other “word of the Lord” to speak than that which he had spoken before, fears to provoke his wrath. The latter part of the sentence is better taken with the LXX., Vulg., and Luther, “thou wilt not hearken unto me “; or the form of the question altered so as to imply that answer.Jeremiah 38:15. Then Jeremiah said, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? — “The prophet had so much experience of the unsteadiness of the king’s temper, of his backwardness in following good counsel, and want of courage to stand by those that durst advise him well, that he might, with good reason, resolve not to venture his life to serve a man that was in a manner incapable of being directed. And although God had showed him what would be the effect of his advice, if it were followed, (Jeremiah 38:17,) yet it doth not appear that he had commanded him to make this known to Zedekiah.” — Lowth. And if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me? — Rather, wilt thou hearken unto me? Which is undoubtedly the sense intended, unless we translate the words, as some do, without an interrogation, thou wilt not hearken unto me. So Jeremiah might well conclude from the king’s former behaviour, for he had often been advised by him, but would never take his advice, and the prophet knew the same would be the case still, that the king would be overruled by a corrupt court and his own aversion to change his state as a king to the state of a prisoner.Jeremiah 38:4,5. We must imagine Jeremiah at this time under no Divine command to reveal God’s will in this case unto the king.
Wilt thou not? is here as much as thou wilt not hearken unto me. Zedekiah had often been advised by the prophet, but would never take his advice, and the prophet knew it would be the same case still, that the king would be overruled by a corrupt court, and his own aversion, to change his state, as a king, for the state of a prisoner.
if I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? this he might fear, from past experience of the king's conduct; for, though he might not slay him with his own hands, or give orders to others to do it; yet he might deliver him up to the will and mercy of his princes, as he had done before; not that the prophet was afraid to die, or was deterred through fear of death from delivering the word of the Lord, and doing his work; but he thought it proper to make use of prudent means to preserve his life; besides, he had no express order from the Lord to say anything concerning this matter at this time:
and if give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken to me? or, "thou wilt not hearken to me" (z); so the Targum, Syriac, and Vulgate Latin versions; and therefore it was to no purpose to give him any advice; from all this the king might easily understand the prophet had nothing to say that would be agreeable to him; however, he was very desirous to know what it was, and therefore promises indemnity and security, as follows: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?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. thou wilt not hearken unto me] Cp., as illustrating Zedekiah’s weakness of character, his words in the next v. with those which he had addressed to the princes (Jeremiah 38:5).Verse 15. - Wilt thou not hearken; rather, thou wilt not hearken. Jeremiah 38:22.), the presence of a eunuch at the court, as overseer of the harem, cannot seem strange. The law of Moses, indeed, prohibited castration (Deuteronomy 23:2); but the man was a foreigner, and had been taken by the king into his service as one castrated. עבד מלך is a proper name (otherwise it must have been written המּלך); the name is a genuine Hebrew one, and probably may have been assumed when the man entered the service of Zedekiah. - On hearing of what had occurred, the Ethiopian went to the king, who was sitting in the gate of Benjamin, on the north wall of the city, which was probably the point most threatened by the besiegers, and said to him, Jeremiah 38:9, "My lord, O king, these men have acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the pit; and he is dying of hunger on the spot, for there is no more bread in the city." הרעוּ את־א, lit.,: "they have done wickedly what they have done." ויּמת cannot be translated, "and he died on the spot," for Ebedmelech wishes to save him before he dies of hunger. But neither does it stand for וימת, "so that he must die." The imperfect with Vav consecutive expresses the consequence of a preceding act, and usually stands in the narrative as a historic tense; but it may also declare what necessarily follows or will follow from what precedes; cf. Ewald, 342, a. Thus ויּמת stands here in the sense, "and so he is dying," i.e., "he must die of hunger." תּחתּיו, "on his spot," i.e., on the place where he is; cf. 2 Samuel 2:23. The reason, "for there is no longer any bread (הלחם with the article, the necessary bread) in the city," is not to be taken in the exact sense of the words, but merely expresses the greatest deficiency in provisions. As long as Jeremiah was in the court of the prison, he received, like the officers of the court, at the king's order, his ration of bread every day (Jeremiah 37:21). But after he had been cast into the pit, that royal ordinance no longer applied to him, so that he was given over to the tender mercies of others, from whom, in the prevailing scarcity of bread, he had not much to hope for.
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