Jeremiah 37:14
"That is a lie," Jeremiah replied. "I am not deserting to the Chaldeans!" But Irijah would not listen to him; instead, he arrested Jeremiah and took him to the officials.
The Servant of God Accused of TreasonA.F. Muir Jeremiah 37:11-16
Jeremiah PersecutedG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Jeremiah 37:11-21
Characteristics of InjusticeS. Conway Jeremiah 37:14, 15

They may be traced in the incident recorded in these verses. Unjust judges as were these -





LEARN. To be careful what manner of spirit we are of whenever we are called upon to judge one another. Let us be thankful that the Judge before whom we stand, and who surveys all our ways, is that gracious Lord to whom the Father has committed all judgment, and who judges not righteously only, but in all mercy as well. - C.

And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem.
After the captivity and death of Jehoiakim, his brother Zedekiah, another son of Josiah, sat upon the throne. He seems to have been of weak and superstitious rather than of vicious character, though it is said that neither he nor his servants, nor the people of the land, hearkened unto the words of Jeremiah. They Seemed to be infatuated with the idea that Jerusalem had, with the help of their Egyptian allies, strength to resist the assaults and siege of the Chaldeans. False prophets had persuaded the king that he would break the Chaldean yoke, and as this event was more favourable to his own wishes than were the stern words of Jeremiah, they had been accepted as truthful, while the true prophet was discredited. Jeremiah seems to have been at liberty in the meantime. The king had sent a message to him to pray for the deliverance of the city from the besieging Chaldeans. Jeremiah had again told the king plainly that the city was doomed. The Egyptian army had in the meantime come up, and the Chaldeans had withdrawn. Yet the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah to tell the king that this was but a temporary withdrawal of the enemy; that they would return again; and, moreover, that even though the Chaldeans should be reduced to a few wounded men, even they should rise up and burn the city. When God was for Jerusalem, He could make them victorious over their foes, though they were but a handful, and without weapons; but when He was against them, He could make their foes, however small a company of wounded men, to have complete victory over them.

I. JEREMIAH IMPRISONED. The advent of the Egyptian allies had compelled the Chaldeans to raise the siege; and the gates of the city were opened so that the people could go in and out again at will. This opportunity was seized on by Jeremiah to leave the city for the country, which action led to his arrest and imprisonment.

1. Jeremiah goes forth. The question of what was the object for which the prophet left the city, has given rise to much discussion. The reading of the authorised version simply is that "he went" (or purposed) "to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people." This is not very intelligible. It has been supposed that there was a new allotment of land in the tribe of Benjamin, and that Jeremiah had gone up to secure his portion. The simple fact is that, having left the city or been observed in the act of so doing, suspicions as to his purpose were aroused in the mind of the keeper of the gate, and so he was arrested. Jeremiah was perfectly free and within his rights as a citizen to depart from the city if he chose, and to go up into the land of Benjamin, where he belonged; but whether he was wise under the existing circumstances is a question

2. Accused and arrested. As the prophet was departing from the city by the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the guard being there and recognising him, either suspected him of desertion to the enemy, or hating him for his prophecies against Jerusalem, feigned suspicion, charged him with the treason of intending to desert the city and go over to the Chaldeans, and arrested him. The times were critical, and suspicions were rife on every hand. Jeremiah had persistently declared that the city would fall into the hand of the Chaldeans; had advised the king and the people quietly to accept the situation and surrender; had warned them again and again that resistance was not only useless, but would bring worse calamities upon them. All this, of course, irritated the people, and made Jeremiah very unpopular. Though he was free in the city, he was the object of universal execration and hatred. Under these circumstances it would have been wiser for Jeremiah to have remained in the city and taken his part with the inhabitants; certainly it was unwise to lay himself open to a suspicion of desertion by leaving the city at such a time, just after the delivery of his last message to the king. Possibly he did not think that his visit to the country would be misconstrued. Innocent men are not always men of prudence. Jeremiah's visit to the country may have been perfectly justifiable and harmless, yet it had She appearance of evil to those who were of suspicious inclinations. It is not always wise to do the lawful things which lie before us, even though there be no actual harm in the action. The prophet's business to the country seems to have been entirely of a private character. Perhaps he was disgusted with the king and people, and just left the city in that state of mind. In any case he should have taken counsel of God and considered the circumstances before exposing himself to the suspicions and malice of his enemies. In times of excitement and contention between God and an evil-thinking generation, His servants have need to walk with the greatest circumspection. On the other hand, the action of the captain of the guard was most reprehensible, and illustrates the injustice with which unbelieving and wicked men are commonly disposed to treat God's people. He had no real ground for suspecting Jeremiah of treachery and desertion to the enemy. But enemies who wish to find an occasion against God's people can readily do so. Unbelievers are apt to judge the actions of God's people by their own method of procedure. I heard an officer in the English army say last autumn that all missionaries in India were the merest mercenaries; that their only motive in coming out here was salary. I asked him why, and on what ground he made such a charge. His reply was that he could conceive of no other motive, and admitted that nothing would induce him to devote his life to trying to convert heathen but a good round salary. I immediately denounced him as a mere mercenary soldier and not a patriot.

3. Jeremiah's denial. Upon being charged with treasonable intentions m leaving the city, Jeremiah indignantly denied that he had any such purpose. He met the charge with a simple sharp word. "It is false"; or, as the margin has it: "A lie; I fall not away to the Chaldeans." He was both indignant at his arrest, and, perhaps, from the heat of his denial, more so still at the charge of treachery. To defame a man's good name is often more intolerable than the prospect of endurance of any amount of physical suffering. Joseph in Egypt thus suffered, being innocent; Moses suffered in like manner; David seemed to care more that Saul could think him capable of conspiring against his life than for the persecution with which he was pursued, and sought more earnestly to clear his name than to save his life. The first question that arises out of this part of the story is: How should we meet such false charges as this, under which Jeremiah was arrested? That must depend on circumstances. Paul defended himself by an elaborate argument. Jesus adopted more than one method. Oftentimes He refuted the charges which the Jews brought against Him, by showing them how absurd their statements were, as in the case when they charged Him with being the agent of the devil. Again, when He was under the cruel and awful charge of blasphemy, when death was hanging over Him, He met the judge and false witnesses with perfect silence. Silence does not always give consent. There are circumstances when it is better to suffer both in reputation and body rather than attempt a defence. There may be higher interests involved even than the preservation of a good name and life itself. While it is perfectly right to assert innocence if one be innocent, sometimes silence is a more effectual answer than denial. Time often proves the best vindicator. I once heard Mr. Spurgeon say that he never attempted to brush off mud that was thrown at him, for he was sure that to attempt to do so would only result in smearing himself with the filth; but that he always waited till it was dry, and then he could deal with it as dust, and get rid of it without a stain being left behind. It has been truly said that if we only take care of our characters, God will in the end vindicate our reputations (Matthew 5:11, 12). Though Jeremiah indignantly denied the charge, the denial did him no good. It was not the truth which his enemies were seeking, but only an occasion to persecute him. So we are told that the captain "hearkened not to him," but carried him to the princes.

4. He is imprisoned. Irijah took the prophet to the princes. These were not the same who befriended him in the previous reign and took measures to conceal him from the wrath of Jehoiakim, but another cabinet who were in authority under Zedekiah. They were as willing to believe the charge of treason against Jeremiah as was the captain to prefer it. We have, however, learned that to suffer for Christ's sake is a part of the privilege which is accorded to every disciple. There seems to be a double necessity for this. First we must ourselves, even as did Jesus Himself, learn obedience by the things which we suffer, and so to be "perfected through suffering" (Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 2:10; comp. 1 Peter 2:21, 23; 1 Peter 5:10). Besides, it is a matter of clear demonstration that suffering for the truth has always been the most powerful testimony thereto.

II. THE KING AND JEREMIAH. After the prophet had been many days in prison, the weak king sent for him secretly, and brought him out of prison to make inquiry of him. This was a triumph for Jeremiah and a humiliation for the king. In the long-run, the highest and haughtiest enemies of God will have to bow to the lowliest of His friends. There are many instances where men who have scoffed at religion and mocked at His messengers have, in moments of great fear and extremity, sought out the very people whom they have despised and persecuted to beg for intercession with God on their behalf. The city was apparently re-invested by the Chaldeans, and in great straits for food (ver. 21), and the king hoped that at last the prophet would relent and secure some favourable word from the Lord. He seems, like all unbelievers, to have had the curious idea of God, that He might be brought round to favour if only the prophets could be won over first (Numbers 22., 23.).

1. Is there any word from the Lord! This was the king's question put to Jeremiah. The Lord had previously given to the king a very sure word (ver. 10), but he still vainly clung to the hope that the word of God would be altered, though there was not the least evidence that the king or the people had altered their lives. There are many persons in our day expecting that in the end, notwithstanding that the word of God, finally communicated to us in the Bible, is God's last word to this world, the Almighty will change His mind and not punish persistent sinners. Yet there was a word from the Lord. It was very brief, and exactly to the point. "And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said He, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon." Now this was a very brave and courageous action on the part of Jeremiah. If ever a man might have been tempted to temporise and prophesy smooth things, this was the time. There is nothing more sublime in this world than a clear and undisguised declaration of the truth under any and all circumstances.

2. Jeremiah pleads his own cause. Having first delivered the message from the Lord, wholly regardless of what might be the effect upon the mind and disposition of the king, he now ventures to plead for his own release from prison. It is a great testimony to Jeremiah's loyalty to God that he suffered his own private and personal interests to be in the background until he had delivered the Lord's message. He put his plea on two grounds: First, his absolute innocence of any wrong done to either the king or the people. Why had he been cast into prison? The only thing that could be said against him was that he had delivered the Lord's word as he had received it. Could he do less than that? (Acts 4:19.) Would the king have had him speak lies to please the princes and the people, which must ultimately have brought them much damage? Secondly, he appeals to the truth of his predictions, and asks the king to produce the false prophets who had flattered him and the people with pleasant lies (Jeremiah 28:1, &c., 29:27-32). Had their false prophecies done the king any good? Was it not now manifest that they were false friends as well as false prophets? He therefore pleaded with the king not to add to his already heavy account of iniquity by keeping him unjustly in prison.

3. The prophet's sufferings mitigated. The king was evidently moved by the prophet's plea; but he was afraid of his princes, and did not dare to grant the full petition of the prophet, but he so far ordered a mitigation of his imprisonment, that he was taken out of the stocks and the dungeon and simply confined in the gaol court. Jeremiah was, as we have said, a shrinking and retiring man by nature, and keenly sensitive to physical pain. His imprisonment was very severe, though there was worse in store for him (see the next chapter). He felt that to stay in that dungeon and in the "cabins" would end in his death. The king softened his imprisonment and ordered the prophet to be fed with a piece of bread from the baker's street as long as there was bread to be had in the besieged city. In this incident we see how God tempers the severity of suffering even when He does not entirely deliver us from it.

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

Babylonians, Benjamin, Coniah, Hananiah, Irijah, Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim, Jehucal, Jeremiah, Jonathan, Josiah, Maaseiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadrezzar, Pharaoh, Shelemiah, Zedekiah, Zephaniah
Babylon, Benjamin Gate, Egypt, Jerusalem
Arrested, Babylonians, Bringeth, Chaldaeans, Chaldeans, TRUE, Chalde'ans, Deserting, Didn't, Ear, Fall, Falling, Falsehood, Heads, Hearkened, Hold, Instead, Irijah, Iri'jah, Jeremiah, Laid, Layeth, Lie, Listen, Officials, Princes, Prisoner, Rulers, Seized, Yet
1. The Egyptians having raised the siege of the Chaldeans,
3. king Zedekiah sends to Jeremiah to pray for the people.
6. Jeremiah prophesies the Chaldeans' certain return and victory.
11. He is taken for a fugitive, beaten, and put in prison.
16. He assures Zedekiah of the captivity.
18. Entreating for his liberty, he obtains some favor.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Jeremiah 37:11-16

     7775   prophets, lives

'Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king ... whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king'--JER. xxxvii. 1. Zedekiah was a small man on a great stage, a weakling set to face circumstances that would have taxed the strongest. He was a youth at his accession to the throne of a distracted kingdom, and if he had had any political insight he would have seen that his only chance was to adhere firmly to Babylon, and to repress the foolish aristocracy who hankered after alliance with the rival power
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The World's Wages to a Prophet
'And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's arm, 12. Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. 13. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. 14. Then said Jeremiah, It is false;
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The interest of the book of Jeremiah is unique. On the one hand, it is our most reliable and elaborate source for the long period of history which it covers; on the other, it presents us with prophecy in its most intensely human phase, manifesting itself through a strangely attractive personality that was subject to like doubts and passions with ourselves. At his call, in 626 B.C., he was young and inexperienced, i. 6, so that he cannot have been born earlier than 650. The political and religious
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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