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Jeremiah Thrown Into a Cistern July 6, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 38:1-13.

Summary: In this passage, several royal officials hear Jeremiah’s declaration that the people of Jerusalem should surrender to the Babylonians, as they will die if they continue to resist them. These officials view Jeremiah as a traitor to Judah, and so they advise King Zedekiah to have him executed.

The king gives them carte blanche in this matter, and so they place Jeremiah in a cistern in the courtyard of the guard, leaving him to die.

Another royal official, Ebed-Melech, learns of Jeremiah’s predicament. He informs the king of Jeremiah’s desperate circumstances.

The king orders him to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern in the courtyard of the guard, and he responds accordingly.

Thoughts: One could argue that Ebed-Melech is the hero of this passage. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 7-9:

But God rescued him in a wonderful way through the help of Ebed-Melech, a Cushite. He was a foreigner, and this is stated so that we might know that none of the king’s counselors resisted this great wickedness. Only a Cushite was found to come to the help of God’s prophet.

I anticipate meeting Ebed-Melech in the next life and learning more about him. How did he come to believe in the God of Israel? When did he come to Jerusalem? What was his role in the administration of Zedekiah? How did God spur him to appeal to the king on Jeremiah’s behalf? Did he take a significant risk by apprising the king of the actions of the other royal officials? Did he – and the thirty men with him – encounter any opposition when they lifted Jeremiah out of the cistern? What happened to him after the fall of Jerusalem?

Here, we see that King Zedekiah initially consents to his officials’ demands, allowing them to place Jeremiah in a cistern – before reversing his decision after meeting with Ebed-Melech. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 10:

The king, full of fear, had recently given over the holy prophet to the cruelty of the princes. Since the king had not dared to stand up to his princes, how was it that he now ventured to extricate Jeremiah from the pit? We see that the king’s mind had been changed. Previously he had been in the grip of fear and did not dare to plead the cause of the holy man…It is clear that divine power had overruled.

One thought is that the king himself was in a desperate situation – given the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem – and he needed a solution to his predicament. Perhaps he initially assumed that Jeremiah could not guarantee the military victory over the Babylonians that he desired – before changing his mind on this point. In any event, Zedekiah appears to be a weak king who is unable to make the best of a bad situation by making difficult decisions. One can only wonder how a more God-fearing king would have acted in this situation.

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