Jeremiah 37-38
(Final Days of Jerusalem)
August 15th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.

- Jeremiah 38:28 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

Chapter 37 begins a new section of eight chapters that document the final days of Jerusalem before the fall of the city. These first two chapters describe the tensions between Jeremiah and King Zedekiah's administration. One of the results of this tension was a decision by the officials to imprison Jeremiah on at least one occasion for alleged seditious acts.

The setting for chapter 37 is a time when the former King Jehoiachin was in exile. The Babylonians had replaced him with Zedekiah who eventually rebelled against his sponsors and as a result was under siege from the Chaldeans, acting on behalf of the Babylonians. The Egyptians advanced towards Jerusalem to attempt to help their ally, causing the Chaldeans to temporarily withdraw. At this point, Jeremiah warned that the Egyptians will retreat and the enemy will return to destroy the city.

When Jeremiah tried to leave the city to check on his newly acquired property he was arrested and accused of being a traitor. The officials imprisoned Jeremiah for a long time, but one day Zedekiah called for him to hear the word of the LORD. Jeremiah pointed out that the lies of the false prophets had been revealed, as they had claimed that Babylon would never attack. The truth, as explained by Jeremiah is that Jerusalem would soon be handed over to the Babylonians.

Jeremiah then pleaded for mercy and a reprieve from his current sentence as he said he would die under the conditions put upon him. Zedekiah put him in a slightly better location in the courtyard of the guards, where he would receive a daily ration of bread.

Jeremiah’s run-ins with the officials are re-told in chapter 38, or perhaps it was a separate but similar event. In this case the officials accused Jeremiah of discouraging the soldiers by saying “ ‘whomever stays in the city will die by the sword, famine, or plague’ (Jer 38:1 - NIV).”

Zedekiah allowed the officials to choose the sentence for Jeremiah, so they put him in an old well, where he sank into the mud. Then someone spoke to the king on Jeremiah’s behalf. The king ordered the rescue of Jeremiah, which required many men and a long string of rags and ropes. He then had Jeremiah brought to him for a discussion. The king asked Jeremiah for the truth, but Jeremiah replied that the king couldn’t handle the truth:

The king agreed to spare his life, so Jeremiah told him that if he surrendered he will live, if not, he will die. Both agreed to keep the discussion confidential for their mutual protection. Jeremiah fulfilled that vow even when the officials pressed him.

Reflection and Application

The temporary withdrawal of the Babylonians was as deceiving as the calm before a storm. The officials felt self-vindicated that their alliance with the Egyptians was more valuable than loyalty to the LORD and were more emboldened to persecute the traitor Jeremiah. In our days, we too may be deceived by a false calm before the storm. Anyone who has survived a hurricane knows that all is calm inside the eye, but the stronger winds are about to follow. Trust in the LORD even when it appears that the wrong side is winning.

The discussions between Jeremiah and Zedekiah are reminiscent of the ones between the imprisoned Joseph and the Pharaoh recorded in Genesis 41. These leaders had armies of people at their command, but who did they call when they were troubled by events beyond their comprehension? They each called for a man in prison who had been given special gifts from God. One would interpret dreams, the other prophesized future events. Gifts from God are often found in the most unlikely places: A prison in Egypt, the bottom of a well in Jerusalem, and a lowly manger in Bethlehem. We might want to be careful to not overlook some of the humble people through whom God performs his miracles.

The last encounter between Jeremiah and Zedekiah might bring to mind a scene in the movie titled “A Few Good Men,” in which the actor Jack Nicholson plays a US Marine Officer on trial. When pressed for his testimony, the defiant character played by Nicholson erupts in a legendary monologue that begins with the phrase, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s face fills the screen, causing the audience to break out in goose bumps and chills as his character explains the hard truths related to the defense of a nation and why no one really wants to know these truths.

While Nicholson’s character was flawed, it is Zedekiah who was flawed in this case, as he did not want to hear the truth and act on it. The result led to suffering by his family, officials, and himself. What is the truth that we refuse to accept? God is our savior and the king of all kings. Our world is temporary, God is eternal. These are hard truths to accept when we can see a world that seems permanent, but don’t see anything that seems to resemble God. Yet, if we remember from Genesis that God created us in his own image, then we can see God in ourselves and in each other. We might need to pray each day that God helps us to seek and know the truth and share it with others.

Jeremiah was loyal to God and to men. He could have turned against God after going through the embarrassment of arrest and imprisonment. He could have asked himself what was the benefit of serving a God that allowed these things to happen. But he did not. He remained true.

Likewise, Jeremiah could have blurted out the truth about his clandestine meeting with Zedekiah, which would probably have led to a revolt and an early death of the king. But he did not. We can look to Jeremiah as a good example of someone who has integrity, even when it hurts, even when there is an opportunity to seek revenge.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions

  1. What experiences have you had drawing water from a well?
  2. What truths do we find hard to accept in our culture?
  3. What are the truths that God wants us to share today?

Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, help us to handle the truth regarding your plans for love and redemption

Suggested Prayer Concerns
Marines protecting their country from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli and other locations

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 39-41 (The Walls Came Tumbling Down)

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