Jeremiah 38:4
Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
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(4) Let this man be put to death.—The hatred of the princes of Judah becomes more bitter than ever, and they seek to overcome the king’s lingering reverence for the prophet. In the reign of Jehoiakim they had said that he was worthy of death (Jeremiah 26:11). Within the last few weeks he had been thrown into a loathsome dungeon, from which the king had but just delivered him. Now they press for a yet severer sentence. The weak king, conscious of his want of power to resist, yields a reluctant consent. The whole history reminds us of Pilate’s conduct in circumstances more or less analogous.

38:1-13 Jeremiah went on in his plain preaching. The princes went on in their malice. It is common for wicked people to look upon God's faithful ministers as enemies, because they show what enemies the wicked are to themselves while impenitent. Jeremiah was put into a dungeon. Many of God's faithful witnesses have been privately made away in prisons. Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian; yet he spoke to the king faithfully, These men have done ill in all they have done to Jeremiah. See how God can raise up friends for his people in distress. Orders were given for the prophet's release, and Ebed-melech saw him drawn up. Let this encourage us to appear boldly for God. Special notice is taken of his tenderness for Jeremiah. What do we behold in the different characters then, but the same we behold in the different characters now, that the Lord's children are conformed to his example, and the children of Satan to their master?For thus ... - Because he makes the men of war dispirited. No doubt this was true. Jeremiah, however, did not speak as a private person, but as the representative of the government; the temporal ruler in a theocracy being responsible directly to God. 4. Had Jeremiah not had a divine commission, he might justly have been accused of treason; but having one, which made the result of the siege certain, he acted humanely as interpreter of God's will under the theocracy, in advising surrender (compare Jer 26:11). The prophet now seemeth under sad circumstances, the princes seek his life, though for delivering no other doctrine than he had been preaching for twenty years; their pretence was, his discouraging and weakening the military part of the city, letting them know that they laboured in vain, for the city was not defensible. This they interpret a seeking not the welfare of the people, but their hurt, though indeed their welfare was that alone which he sought, knowing that there was no other way for any of them to save their lives but by submitting to the Chaldeans; though the great men (being persons God had determined to ruin) would not believe it, and would have the welfare and hurt of the place determined by their opinions.

Therefore the princes said unto the king,.... The four princes mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1, having heard what Jeremiah said to the people, laid the case before the king, and addressed him upon it in the following manner:

we beseech thee, let this man be put to death; or,

"let this man now be put to death,''

as the Targum. They speak very disrespectfully of the prophet, him "this man"; and with great authority to the and not in a submissive supplicating way, as we render it; the king, being in distress, was in their hands; he stood in fear of them, and could do nothing against their will and pleasure; and they urge that he might die instantly; they were for taking away his life at once. The reason they give follows:

for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them; dispirited the soldiers who were set for the defence of the city, such of them as were left, who were not taken off by the sword, famine, or pestilence; since, if what Jeremiah said was true, all attempts to defend it must be in vain; and the people be without any hope of being delivered out of the hands of the enemy:

for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt; than which nothing was more false; for the prophet foreseeing that their lives were in danger, through the sword, famine, or pestilence, by continuing in the city, advised them to go out of it, and surrender to the Chaldeans, whereby they would be preserved.

Therefore the princes said to the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war {c} that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the harm.

(c) Thus we see how the wicked when they cannot abide to hear the truth of God's word, seek to put the ministers to death, as transgressors of policies.

4. the men of war that remain] Cp. Jeremiah 38:22. The expression may indicate that many had gone over to the Chaldaeans, a fact which is also implied in Jeremiah 38:19. Doubtless also a considerable number had gone into exile already, and to them we must add those who had fallen in the siege.

Verse 4. - For thus; literally, for therefore; i.e. because he is left in impunity (camp. the use of the phrase in Jeremiah 29:28). He weakeneth the hands of the men of war; i.e. he dispirits them. It is important to get this "outside view" of the preaching of Jeremiah. There is evidently some excuse for the opponents of Jeremiah. It was a matter of life and death to resist the Chaldeans, and Jeremiah was, according to the politicians, playing into the hands of the enemy (see further in general Introduction). The addition of the words, that remain, shows that the bitter end of the resistance was fast approaching. Jeremiah 38:4Jeremiah is cast into a miry pit, but drawn out again by Ebedmelech the Cushite. Jeremiah 38:1-6. Being confined in the court of the guard attached to the royal palace, Jeremiah had opportunities of conversing with the soldiers stationed there and the people of Judah who came thither (cf. Jeremiah 38:1 with Jeremiah 32:8, Jeremiah 32:12), and of declaring, in opposition to them, his conviction (which he had indeed expressed from the beginning of the siege) that all resistance to the Chaldeans would be fruitless, and only bring destruction (cf. Jeremiah 21:9.). On this account, the princes who were of a hostile disposition towards him were so embittered, that they resolved on his death, and obtain from the king permission to cast him into a deep pit with mire at the bottom. In v. 1 four of these princes are named, two of whom, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, are known, from Jeremiah 37:3 and Jeremiah 21:1, as confidants of the king; the other two, Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, are not mentioned elsewhere. Gedaliah was probably a son of the Pashur who had once put Jeremiah in the stocks (Jeremiah 20:1-2). The words of the prophet, Jeremiah 38:2, Jeremiah 38:3, are substantially the same as he had already uttered at the beginning of the siege, Jeremiah 21:9 (יחיה as in Jeremiah 21:9). Jeremiah 38:4. The princes said to the king, "Let this man, we beseech thee, be put to death for the construction, see on Jeremiah 35:14; for therefore i.e., because no one puts him out of existence - על־כּן as in Jeremiah 29:28 he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking words like these to them; for this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their ill." מרפּא for מרפּא, to cause the hands of any one to be relaxed, i.e., to make him dispirited; cf. Ezra 4:4; Isaiah 35:3. דּרשׁ with ל htiw , as Job 10:6; Deuteronomy 12:30; 1 Chronicles 22:19, etc., elsewhere with the accusatival את; cf. Jeremiah 29:7 et passim. On this point cf. Jeremiah 29:7. The allegation which the princes made against Jeremiah was possibly correct. The constancy with which Jeremiah declared that resistance was useless, since, in accordance with the divine decree, Jerusalem was to be taken and burnt by the Chaldeans, could not but make the soldiers and the people unwilling any longer to sacrifice their lives in defending the city. Nevertheless the complaint was unjust, because Jeremiah was not expressing his own personal opinion, but was declaring the word of the Lord, and that, too, not from any want of patriotism or through personal cowardice, but in the conviction, derived from the divine revelation, that it was only by voluntary submission that the fate of the besieged could be mitigated; hence he acted from a deep feeling of love to the people, and in order to avert complete destruction from them. The courage of the people which he sought to weaken was not a heroic courage founded on genuine trust in God, but carnal obstinacy, which could not but lead to ruin.
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