The last king of the Kingdom of Judah (including any part of the former nation of Israel, is identified in the first verse; Zedekiah, the uncle to the disposed King Coniah ; aka Jehoiachin. In this chapter he appears to be more sympathetic to Jeremiah’s pleas and prophecies, but for all the wrong reasons. Sometime we need to consider and be introspective of our own prayers as to the real motives for our requests, petitions, and pleas to God.
Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. He appointed Zedekiah son of Josiah to be the king of Judah in the place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. (ERV)
We can read that Zedekiah’s motives were not to serve God but to serve his own interests. We find this in verse 2 of Jeremiah 37. He requested that Jeremiah “Pray to the Lord our God for us.”
A bit of knowledge goes a long way in helping us determine Zedekiah’s motives per his request of and for Jeremiah to pray for “us.” First, it was not a request of forgiveness. He wanted reprieve, but offered no request for a prayer of confession. This is what we call in modern times, a fox hole prayer request.” Get me out of this mess!
Second: the words of his request seem to be okay; i.e. “the Lord our God” but the word God in this sense is ‘ĕlôhı̂ym. This can mean one of many gods. As Strong’s translation puts it…”the plural of gods in the ordinary sense.” King Zedekiah was leaving open the possibilities of other gods but wanted Jeremiah to claim “our God” as the protector, not the one of sole worship.
Third: Jeremiah 37:5 reads (ESV)… The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt. And when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.
It appears that Zedekiah’s concerns were alleviated due to the armies of Egypt coming out of Egypt and the Babylonians (Chaldeans) changing courses to confront them. The next few verses make it clear that there is more to this than meets the normal read-through of chapter 37. With the withdrawal of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies Zedekiah figured he didn’t really need “the Lord our God” for the problem resolved itself. This again shows the motive behind King Zedekiah’s request that Jeremiah pray for them. He wanted relief from the pending doom but did not include any confession of his or the people’s sins.
Zedekiah had rebelled against being subservient to the Babylonians. That is why Nebuchadnezzar was at the gates of Jerusalem. Recall that previously Zedekiah was put on the throne of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. This was about 10 or 11 years later. So how do we conclude these possible thoughts of Zedekiah? The next two verses tell us. God tells Jeremiah to go to the king and tell him that Pharaoh’s armies were going to retreat and never confront the Babylonians. This is opportunity spent. God had the solution to Judah’s predicaments. It was on its way out of Egypt. BUT!!!! Rather than appreciate what God was preparing to do for Judah by confessing HIM as their real and only God, they only saw that the armies of Babylon had pulled back. No longer was Babylon an immediate threat. In fact, the princes of Judah hoped it was a done deal. They deluded themselves into thinking the Babylonians thought it unwise to attack Jerusalem/Judah.
JIV: If the people and leadership of Judah had accepted that this possible reprieve was God preparing a potential escape; a way out for them if they confess their sins, God would have not turned the armies of Egypt back to their home. It is like getting out of personal trouble only to return to one’s selfish motives.
God tells Jeremiah to inform Zedekiah that the armies of Egypt will retreat and the Babylonians will return to Judah (Jeremiah 37:7-9). “Do not deceive yourselves” (v9). Not only did King Zedekiah now think he didn’t need God to resolve the (albeit temporary) siege by the Babylonians, he figured he didn’t need Jeremiah either. He had him arrested on false charges of desertion. He was accused of deserting to the Chaldeans when he left Jerusalem to return to his homeland in the territory of Benjamin (Jeremiah 37:13). He had purchased land in his home town and was simply returning to it. Find this in our chapter 32 article.
Jeremiah is very blunt. He denied the false charges and told them that God would allow the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem “even if every Babylonian solder was dead or wounded.” This made the royal leaders of Judah really angry. They thought or better stated, the retreat of the Babylonians was permanent and Jeremiah was now a traitor and false prophet. Two very poor assumptions, but they once again it provides us with insight per the motives of Judeans at this time. It isn’t a factual assumption but more of a “this is what we want to believe” position.
King Zedekiah still had a few reservations about Jeremiah’s original prophecies regarding Judah. We find in verse 17 that the king takes Jeremiah aside to inquire if there is additional “…word for them from the Lord.” Jeremiah tells him the same thing; Jerusalem and Judah is doomed. This is a great example of us today. We know what is right and make allowance for it but go right ahead and do what our human nature desires; not what is good for our souls and relationship with God (or Jesus in N.T.). We want to make God in our image instead of the way it was from the creation of Adam and Eve.
Here is what we read in the ESV:
Jeremiah 37:9 ”…Thus says the LORD, Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,” for they will not go away.
Jeremiah 37:10 For even if you should defeat the whole army of Chaldeans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.”
This got Jeremiah put into prison once again but this time it was the palace or court prison under relatively kinder conditions. A few verses earlier (v15) when he was judged by the “princes” of the land he had been put in a dungeon called the house of Jonathan. He remained there several days but Zedekiah’s curiosity and deep-down awareness of the true God got the best of him. He had Jeremiah brought to him for questioning but in secret.
Isn’t this so much like humans through the ages? We know the truth but refuse it and hope for our selfish or personal preferences. Jeremiah remained in the Palace Prison until chapter 38. Soon things go from not-so-good to a tough time for Jeremiah when Zedekiah releases him into the hands of the Judean princes.