The Unkingly Position of a King
Jeremiah 38:24-28
Then said Zedekiah to Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and you shall not die.…

I. THE PROFESSION OF A KINGLY ATTRIBUTE. The king holds the power of life and death. He can pardon without giving a reason. And Zedekiah maintains the name of this kingly right, even upon the very heels of Jeremiah's awful words. Such is the power of long accepted habit and privilege. Did he really think that if Jeremiah published the conversation he had power to put him to death? Or did he think that such a suggestion would move the prophet in the least? Possibly he did; or more likely he was talking at random; or it may be that in these last decaying days of dignity he asserted, by a kind of instinct, all that was left him to assert. We know well that he had no real power over Jeremiah, for the Lord who had hidden his prophet before could hide him again (Jeremiah 36:26). Pilate followed in the train of Zedekiah when he said to Jesus, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" (John 19:10). This, then, is the first element in the unkingly position, that Zedekiah is professing what he cannot perform.

II. HE IS AFRAID OF THE LEADING MEN IN THE STATE. He will not rise independent of them, neither will he consult them. Instead of fearing Jehovah and trembling at the thought of what he has just heard, his soul is filled with the fear of men who probably derived their places from his own appointment. He shrinks from being forced to tell any of them that he has had to contemplate as a possibility a voluntary surrender to the Chaldeans. Truly it was quite time for a new order of things to rise in Jerusalem, even if it meant the destruction of a city. A true king would not have feared that his interview with a prophet of God should be known anywhere. Kings among men, thee who are kings by nature and by the grandeur of their acts, fear no one but God. They act in the darkness just as if they were in the light; in private relations just as if they were in public. They never need to go begging and entreating people to conceal things.

III. HE IS A SUPPLIANT TO ONE OF HIS SUBJECTS. In the same breath he tells Jeremiah he shall not die and begs Jeremiah to grant him a favour. All at once he sets before this prophet, so straightforward and unreserved, a nice question of casuistry. With the suggestion of burning Jerusalem before him, he is thinking first on the present inconvenience to himself and providing a nice quibble to escape from it. Yet even here is a sign of God's bearing with him to the last. The request he makes, undignified as it is, is nevertheless one within the power of the prophet to grant. If Zedekiah feels it to be consistent with his regal dignity, Jeremiah feels it not inconsistent with his integrity. The impression we get from the whole conversation is that the torches of the Chaldeans did not come at all too soon. - Y.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.

WEB: Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and you shall not die.

The End of Zedekiah's Irresolution
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