Jeremiah 38:4
Therefore the princes said to the king, We beseech you, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakens 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: for this man seeks 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. Examination 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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