Jeremiah 38:17
Then said Jeremiah to Zedekiah, Thus said the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If you will assuredly go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then your soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and you shall live, and your house:
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(17) If thou wilt assuredly go forth.—Literally, If going thou wilt go, the Hebrew idiom of emphasis. The prophet places before the king the alternative of surrender and safety, resistance and destruction, and leaves him to make his choice. The princes of the king of Babylon were those in command of the army by which Jerusalem was invested. The king himself was at Riblah, on the Orontes, in Northern Syria (Jeremiah 39:5).

Jeremiah 38:17-18. Then said Jeremiah, Thus saith the Lord — Here we have the good advice which Jeremiah gave him, with the reasons why the king ought to take it; reasons drawn, not from any prudence or politics of his own, but in the name of the Lord, the God of hosts, and God of Israel. If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes — Those mentioned Jeremiah 39:3, and submit thyself to them; then thy soul shall live — That is, thou shalt live; and this city shall not be burned, &c. — Thou shalt save the city from destruction by fire, and thy wives and children from suffering a violent death. It must be observed that Nebuchadnezzar was not now in person at the siege of Jerusalem, but at Riblah in Syria, Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 39:9. His army was commanded by his generals; and it is to them, here termed princes, that Jeremiah counsels Zedekiah to go forth, and through them to submit himself to the king, by whom he had been established on the throne. But if thou wilt not go forth, &c. — As he had before used exhortations and promises, so here he uses warnings and threatenings to prevail with the king to take that course by which alone he could preserve Jerusalem, and himself, and family from ruin. 38:14-28 Jeremiah was not forward to repeat the warnings, which seemed only to endanger his own life, and to add to the king's guilt, but asked whether he feared to do the will of God. The less men fear God, the more they fear men; often they dare not act according to their own judgments and consciences.That made us this soul - This very unusual addition to the formula of an oath 1 Samuel 20:3 was intended to strengthen it. By acknowledging that his soul was God's workmanship Zedekiah also implied his belief in God's power over it. 17. princes—(Jer 39:3). He does not say "to the king himself," for he was at Riblah, in Hamath (Jer 39:5; 2Ki 25:6). "If thou go forth" (namely, to surrender; 2Ki 24:12; Isa 36:16), God foreknows future conditional contingencies, and ordains not only the end, but also the means to the end. Thy soul shall live; that is, thou shalt live.

And this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house; and thou shalt save the city from being burned with fire, and thy wives and children from death. God did certainly know that Zedekiah would not do this, though it was in his power to do it, yet he doth not judge it vain for him, to exhort him to it, and to annex such a promise; for thereby he was left inexcusable, in his not saving the city and his relations’ lives. Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah,.... Being thus indemnified and secured by the king's word and oath, he proceeds freely to lay before the king the whole matter as from the Lord:

thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; the prophet does not give the following advice in his own name, but in the name of the eternal Jehovah, the Lord of armies above and below, and who had a special regard to the people of Israel, and their welfare; and therefore it became the king to show the more regard unto it:

if thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes; the generals of his army, whose names are mentioned, Jeremiah 39:3; the king not being with his army at this time, but at Riblah, Jeremiah 39:5; the meaning is, if he would open the gates of Jerusalem, and go forth from thence to the Chaldean army, and surrender himself and the city into the hands of the princes in it, and general officers of it:

then thy soul shall live; in thy body, and not be separated from it; or live comfortably, in peace and safety, though not in so much splendour and glory as he had done:

and this city shall not be burned with fire; as had been threatened; and as the Chaldeans would be provoked to do, should it hold out to the last extremity; but should preserve it upon a surrender:

and thou shall live, and thine house; not only himself, but his wives and children, and servants.

Then said Jeremiah to Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth to the king of Babylon's {h} princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thy house:

(h) And yield yourself to them.

17. go forth] surrender thyself.

the king of Babylon’s princes] an intimation that Nebuchadnezzar was not himself at this time in command of the besieging forces. See Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:5.

19–28 a. See introd. summary to the section.Verse 17. - The king of Babylon's princes. Nebuchadnezzar himself was in Riblah (Jeremiah 39:5). Ebedmelech took the men at his hand, went into the king's house under the treasury, and took thence rags of torn and of worn-out garments, and let them down on ropes to Jeremiah into the pit, and said to him, "Put, I pray thee, the rages of the torn and cast-off clothes under thine arm-pits under the ropes." Jeremiah did so, and then they drew him out of the pit by the ropes. תּחת is a room under the treasury. בּלוי, in Jeremiah 38:12 בּלואים, from בּלה, to be worn away (of clothes), are rags. סחבות (from סחב, to drag, drag about, tear to pieces) are torn pieces of clothing. מלחים, worn-out garments, from מלח, in Niphal, Isaiah 51:6, to vanish, dissolve away. The article at הסּחבות is expunged from the Qeri for sake of uniformity, because it is not found with מלחים; but it may as well be allowed to stand as be removed. אצּילות ידים, properly the roots of the hands, are not the knuckles of the hand, but the shoulders of the arms. מתּחת לחבלים, under the ropes; i.e., the rags were to serve as pads to the ropes which were to be placed under the arm-pits, to prevent the ropes from cutting the flesh. When Jeremiah had been drawn out in this way from the deep pit of mire, he remained in the court of the prison.
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