Jeremiah thrown into a cistern
Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal[a] son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians[b] will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.” And this is what the Lord says: “This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.”’
Then the officials said to the king, ‘This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.’
‘He is in your hands,’ King Zedekiah answered. ‘The king can do nothing to oppose you.’
So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite,[c] an official[d] in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, ‘My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.’
Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.’
So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, ‘Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.’ Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
Zedekiah questions Jeremiah again
Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. ‘I am going to ask you something,’ the king said to Jeremiah. ‘Do not hide anything from me.’
Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, ‘If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.’
But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.’
Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, ‘This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.”’
King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will ill-treat me.’
‘They will not hand you over,’ Jeremiah replied. ‘Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: all the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:
‘“They misled you and overcame you –
those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
your friends have deserted you.”
‘All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will[e] be burned down.’
Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, “Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,” then tell them, “I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.”’
All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king.
And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.
The fall of Jerusalem
This is how Jerusalem was taken:
- Jeremiah 38:1 Hebrew Jukal, a variant of Jehukal
- Jeremiah 38:2 Or Chaldeans; also in verses 18, 19 and 23
- Jeremiah 38:7 Probably from the upper Nile region
- Jeremiah 38:7 Or a eunuch
- Jeremiah 38:23 Or and you will cause this city to
39 1 in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon. When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed towards the Arabah.[a]
But the Babylonian[b] army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.
The Babylonians[c] set fire to the royal palace and the houses of the people and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard carried into exile to Babylon the people who remained in the city, along with those who had gone over to him, and the rest of the people. But Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, who owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields.
Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: ‘Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.’ So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They handed him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people.
While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfil my words against this city – words concerning disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. But I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.”’
The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, ‘The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.’ However, before Jeremiah turned to go,[a] Nebuzaradan added, ‘Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.’
Then the commander gave him provisions and a present and let him go. So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land.
- Jeremiah 40:5 Or Jeremiah answered