Jeremiah 39
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.
Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,

1. On 39:11, 12. “Elucet inde veritas illius Salomonis (Prov. 21:1): Cor regis in manu Dei, quo vult illud inclinat.” FÖRSTER.

2. On 39:11–14. “Nebuchadnezzar the king and Ebed-melech the Ethiopian enhanced the guilt of the Jews. For these, although they were heathens, were not shy of the prophet. The Jews, however, who had grown up with the prophetic words, paid no regard to the divine word, but on the contrary subjected the prophet to manifold maltreatment.” THEODORET.

3. On 39:11–14. “Deus ex iisdem hominibus diversa singulis disponit præmia, qui ex iisdem elementis pro meritorum qualitate electis et reprobis diversas impendit remunerationes. Nam aqua maris rubri, quæ cultores Dei illæsos servabat Israelitas, eadem interfecit Ægyptios idololatras. Similiter flamma camini, quæ regis Babylonis juxta fornacem atroces interfecit ministros, eadem laudantes et benedicentes Dominum in medio ignis conservavit pueros, unde vir sapiens in laudibus Dei ait: creatura enim tibi factori deserviens excandescit in tormentum adversus injustos et lenior fit ad benefaciendum pro his, qui in te confidunt (Sap. 16, 24).” RHABANUS MAURUS in GHISLER.

4. On 39:15–18. “Well for him, whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God (Ps. 146:5). Well for the people, whose God is the Lord (Ps. 144:15). For of what avail was it to Zedekiah that he was king? And of what injury was it to Ebed-melech that he was a servant? For the former had to endure all on account of his ungodliness, while the latter on account of his piety suffered no evil.” THEODORET.

5. On 39:15–18. “Ecce principes, qui Jeremiam expetiverunt ad carceris pænam, Chaldaicæ captivitatis perpessi sunt vindictam. Hic autem Eunuchus, qui prophetam liberavit de carcere, Domino remunerante perfecta potitus est libertate.” RHABANUS MAURUS in GHISLER.

6. On 39:15–18. “This pious courtier had interceded for the prophet with the king, but the prophet had again interceded for him with God the Lord. Ebed-melech had drawn him out of the pit, but Jeremiah draws him by his prayer from the jaws of all Chaldean war-vortices. Those who receive a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward (Matt. 10:41). Preachers do their patrons more good than they get from them.” CRAMER.


1. On 39:11–14. Jeremiah’s deliverance an example of how wonderfully the Lord helps His own. 1. While in Jerusalem his fellow believers hate and persecute him, the heathen king in Riblah thinks of him, and commands to liberate him. 2. While the city of Jerusalem with all its population perishes, he is protected and brought into safety.

2. On 39:15–18. What can we learn from the example of the believing Ebed-melech? 1. That faith is not connected with limits of any external communion; 2, that assent and confidence pertain to its nature (Jer 39:18); 3, that there is an internal (Jer 39:16) and external (Jer 39:17) reward of faith.

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,


15Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court 16of the prison [guard], saying, Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts [Jehovah Zebaoth], the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring4 my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be5 accomplished 17in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the 18LORD [Jehovah]: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD [Jehovah].


The Cushite Ebed-melech, to whom the words of our Lord may be applied (Luke 19:40), “if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out,” is here honored by a special consolatory promise. In the nature of the case this falls into the period after the occurrence related in 37:7–13. The expression shut up, etc., is found besides only in 33:1 (comp. 32:2). As we know from other grounds that chh. 32. and 33. pertain to the last stage of the confinement in the court of the guard (38:28, comp. on 37:17), we may place our brief passage in the same period as that great consolatory discourse. This portion might, therefore, be attached to those chapters. It is, however, evident that the contents are too trifling in comparison with the importance of that great theocratic book of consolation, and that the historical connection seems better preserved in this place. After the prophet had related his own experiences till the capture of the city, he appends this brief prophecy uttered shortly before that epoch. In connection with Jer 45 it would have been neither historically nor topically in the right place.

Jer 39:15-18. Now the word . . . saith Jehovah. Two thoughts lie at the foundation of Jer 39:16. 1. The fulfilment of my threatenings against Jerusalem shall take place before thine eyes. Ebed-melech is to see what he before believed. This is, as it were, the immanent reward of faith, its crown and corroboration. 2. Notwithstanding that all Jerusalem with all the people therein perishes the person of Ebed-melech shall remain unimperilled. This is the second physical and palpable reward of faith.—As the import of God’s word cannot be conceived of as indifferent, admitting of fulfilment either in a good or a bad sense, “for evil” must be regarded as dependent on “words.” Comp. 21:10.—In that day, Jer 39:16, refers necessarily to the point of time in “I will bring,” and expresses that the moment of fulfilment will be at the same time the moment of visible perception. There may be a fulfilment which takes place invisibly. Compare what is said under 25:11 of the invisible reality of the beginning of the exile. In the same day Ebed-melech is to experience the power and grace of God in the deliverance of his own person. For he is not to be given into the hand of the men of whom he is afraid (Jer 39:17). It might be asked whether the Chaldeans are meant, or the Jews who were hostile to him on Jeremiah’s account. The expressions used in the following verse thou shalt not fall by the sword, and especially the contrast to the general destruction, involved in thou shalt have thy life for a prey (comp. 21:9; 38:2; 45:5), favor the former. Ebed-melech believed and trusted in the Lord. He held the word of the Lord, which Jeremiah proclaimed, to be true, he dared to oppose Jeremiah’s enemies; he consequently did not set his hope on the means of escape, on which these foolishly trusted, but on the Lord. In the words put thy trust, then, there is a double point of applause and of confidence.


[4]Jer 39:16.—On מֵבִי. Comp. OLSH., S. 69, 392, 581.

[5]Jer 39:16.—הָיָה is evidently used here in a pregnant sense=to be realized, to attain to a real existence. Comp. Isa. 7:7; 14:24.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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