Jeremiah Chapter 39

This chapter is the beginning and fulfillment of what Jeremiah had been prophesying for over 20 years to Israel, its people, rulers, and religious sects. There are several components to this chapter:

  1. The capture of Jerusalem (Last of the cities of Israel to fall)
  2. Jeremiah protected by the Babylonians
  3. Removal of Judean people from Israel to Babylon (the first of three transfers)
  4. The fate of King Zedekiah
  5. Assurance of and to Ebed-melech
    1. He was the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah from the cistern back in chapter 38
    2. This may not be his real name as it reads more as a title; Ebed: a servant; Melech: [of the] king.

Zedekiah had originally been put on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar several years earlier when he removed King Jehoiachin after initially conquering Judah/Jerusalem. Zedekiah was a vassal king to Babylon. In short…he owed his allegiance and crown to Nebuchadnezzar. Christians too often seek a truly close relationship with God only in a time of trouble.  When the trouble goes away, the tendency is to think one is not needing God until the next trouble pops up. Zedekiah had decided he could rebel as long as Egypt came alongside with its forces against Neb. Pharaoh Necho brought out his forces as agreed between him and Zedekiah, but then changed his mind and returned to Egypt (Jeremiah 37:5-7).

hands help

We need GOD’s help ALL the time!

This left Zedekiah all alone without help. A very weak kingdom was Judah. When Zedekiah saw Neb’s men sitting at the city gate (39:4) they panicked and fled Jerusalem. If it was only Zedekiah and a few of his court who fled, they may have escaped. But the minimal armed forces of Jerusalem fled with him. A group this size was not easy to stay stealth and the Chaldean army caught them. We read how he (they) escaped by going back to Ezekiel 12:12…they broke a hole in the outer and inner walls of Jerusalem and fled. The double wall design had two purposes; 1) To specifically provide an egress or escape route if the city was invaded and 2) a type of thermo-pane-wall (double) to keep the enemy at bay once they broke through the outer wall.

JIV NOTE: Personally, this incident fascinates. Israel under the auspices of Joshua entered the Promised lands via Jericho. Now over 800 years later, the last of the vestiges of the former Israel as a nation ends “on the plains of Jericho” [verse 5]. Is there poetic justice, irony, or thought knowing this nation of people came full circle beginning at Jericho then ending at the same location?

Just as under Joshua and centuries earlier the Israelites slaughtered the sinful inhabitants of Jericho, (v6) “The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah.” History repeated itself!

There is another even more fascinating insight to this event at Jericho.  We have often wondered about the Magi and the Star of Bethlehem. Who were they? We know they were astronomers, studied the stars and were of the Zoroastrian religion. Here is what secular history along with the bible tells us:magi-

Rab-mag: chief (Rab) of the magi (mag); was brought along with the Babylonian expedition to Jerusalem in order that its issue might be foreknown through his astrological skill. Mag is a Persian word, meaning “great,” “powerful.” The magi were a sacerdotal caste among the Medes, and supported the Zoroastrian religion. The name Rab-mag is of interest…this chief of the magi was brought along to assure victory. When Israel marched on Jericho centuries earlier, Rahab (very similar name and meaning) was saved and through her came Jesus many years after… in order that its issue might be foreknown. Magi visited Jesus when he was yet a baby. Rahab was the mother of Boaz, the great grandfather of King David. Jesus descended from the line of King David.

Jeremiah 39:9-14 tells us that Jeremiah was released from the prisons of Zedekiah and protected by the Babylonian guards; probably because his many years of prophecy had now come to past, there were a significant number of his fellow Judeans that dispised him. Now that what he had prophesied came true, they had even more reason to hate him as their royal courts, leaders, and religious rulers had been openly slaughtered by Nebuchadnezzar. Verse 39 takes us back to the above indented paragraph concerning the discussion of the RAB-MAGI (saris). They came to the rescue of Jeremiah and honored him just like 600 years later the magi from the east came to the babe Jesus and honored him.

The Babylonian armies initially removed 10,000 of the best people of Judah taking them captive to Babylon. This would include Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Book of Daniel). This was only the first of three forced removals of people from Judah/Jerusalem; most likely dates are 605, 597, & 586.


Jeremiah 39:15 takes us a step backward in this historical event recorded in Babylonian records and archaeological discoveries of these records. Jeremiah 39:15-17a… The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard:  “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day, but I (God) will deliver you from danger.

…jumping to verse 18: “I (God) will surely save you (Ebed-Melech), and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.”


miniJimRev Dr. Jstark
October, 2017

Jeremiah – Chapter 38

Here is an overall look at chapter 38 of Jeremiah. More detailed discussion will follow these four briefs.

38:1-13   Jeremiah was cast into a miry dungeon because he advised the people to leave the city and turn themselves over to the Babylonians. Zedekiah openly expressed his weakness: he could not thwart the will of the princes by protecting the prophet. An Ethiopian eunuch succeeded in having him pulled out if the cistern prison with ropes, old clothes and rags thenhe was returned to the court of the prison.

38:14-20  When King Zedekiah sought advice from Jeremiah, promising him immunity, he was told to surrender to the invaders and was assured that the Jews who had defected would not abuse him.

38:21-23   If Zedekiah refused to go over to the invaders, the palace women would taunt him in the presence of their Babylonian captors, reminding him how his close friends had misled him, then had forsaken him. Also the king’s wives, children, and the king himself would be taken captive by the invaders, Jerusalem would be burned, and they personally would never return.

38:24-28   Zedekiah asked Jeremiah not to tell what had been discussed asking him to simply say that he had requested not to go back to the dungeon of Jonathan. The princes did come and ask, and Jeremiah answered as Zedekiah had directed. Obviously there is a question here concerning the ethics of Jeremiah’s reply. Was it the truth, a half-truth or a complete falsehood? What he said was probably true, but he did not feel obligated to tell all that he knew. Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison until the fall of Jerusalem. He was then released by the Babylonians somewhat as an ally.insights

Now for some insights:

Some supposed theologians and commentaries want to us believe that this chapter is discussing the same imprisonment of Jeremiah as in chapter 37. Why s/he would wish to deceive is beyond me when these two trips to prison are individually identified. Jeremiah himself in chapter 37 asked King Zedekiah to not send him back to the dungeons at the House of Jonathan in 37:20. Miry dungeon does not fit the descriptions of the palace prisons. The fact that it was not a prison but an unused and deep well tells us so.choose

Jeremiah actually had three imprisonments. Jeremiah 20 records him being held in stocks after being beaten; Jeremiah 21 tells us of prison in Pashur; Jeremiah 32 finds him in two different prisons but only to go from one to the other with no release time between them.

We might be wise to return to Jeremiah 21:8  “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” Jeremiah’s warning is in a similar fashion found in the New Testament; path of life and one of a second death. Jeremiah is telling the people that there is but two choices in life. To stay put is certain judgement and death. In End Time the people of Israel/Judah will be told to run and to run quickly for the enemy is at the gate. Flee to the mountains of refuge (Matthew 24:16). Verse 2 of Jeremiah 38 also parallels End Time Prophecies for Jerusalem:

Mat 24:16  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Mat 24:17  Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house,

Mat 24:18  and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.

Mat 24:19  And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!

Just as a warning is heeded by some in our times, the officials of the King’s Court worried about the prophecies of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s prophecies were not simple warnings. However, what he was saying had an effect on the soldiers and population of Judah. Their ranks were thinning. We find this in verse 4…”Let this man be put to death for he is weakening the will of the soldiers who still remain in the city and the populace” (Paraphrased: some must have already left). In this case, the royal court and princes were correct. Some were beginning to believe Jeremiah after 20 plus (626 B.C. to 606 B.C.; the first Babylonian attack on Jerusalem) years of prophesying the same things. This is especially so when they saw Babylonian forces at their gates.

Coffman’s Commentary puts it this way. “Let this man be put to death …” (Jeremiah 38:4). From the ordinary viewpoint, this delegation appears to have been justified in their demand for the execution of Jeremiah; because, certainly, they were accurately reporting exactly what Jeremiah had prophesied; and there cannot be any doubt that such prophecies had destroyed the morale of the whole population, including that of the soldiers.

We find here that King Zedekiah is limited in both his powers and respect from and for the princes. Jeremiah 38:5 is similar to the trial of Jesus when Pilot “washed his hands of the deal.” He had the power to thwart the demands of the princes but opted to simply back out. It is no wonder Zedekiah was consider a weak king of Judah. Jeremiah was cast into an old cistern with a bottom of mud. No longer was it a place of water reserves. Verse 6 tells us that he sank deep into the mud.

Now, as it periodically so states in the Bible, we have an Ethiopian to the rescue. His name is Ebed-melech. Jumping ahead to Jeremiah 39:18, we find what God rewards this one man who desired to rescue Jeremiah. He is never mentioned again in scripture.

For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.”

It appears that the only one other than Jeremiah who has a living faith and trust in God is NOT even a Judean (Israeli). JIV: Ethiopians are mentioned here and there in the bible. We could do a study on this and ask ourselves why is this so? However, what 400 years earlier King Solomon began with Ethiopia and the Queen of Sheba gave rise to a God fearing and loving people outside of the descendants of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. Amazing study, but not here. We will revisit this topic once we begin our study of “Noah’s DNA; Which Way Did They Go.”

Ebed-melech is told by this constantly shifting of positions King of Judah to “take 30 men with him and go lift Jeremiah out of the cistern.” Why take 30 men? Simply accepted, one would expect a eunuch of the king to not be able to stand against the princes of the royal court.

We have an interesting detail in Jeremiah’s rescue. Ebed-melech collected some old clothing to take with him to the cistern rescue. WHY? He knew that the tugging and pulling to get Jeremiah out of the suction and grips of the cistern mud would require significant force. Ebed-melech told Jeremiah to use the old cloth and clothing as arm-pit cushions.

Once again in the next few verses we find this wishy-washing king seeking Jeremiah’s counsel. Again we find it is in secret. Zedekiah wants to again know his options. 38:17, 18 gives us Jeremiah’s reply.

Jeremiah 38:17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live.

Jeremiah 38:18  But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.”

Same song; just another verse. Jeremiah has told Zedekiah and the previous three kings the same thing over a twenty, perhaps 40 year period of time. Now comes some true confession. Zedekiah tells Jeremiah that he fears his own people, especially those who have already deserted to the Babylonians. Recall that Jeremiah was accused of desertion too, but now we find out that he was not the only one siding with the Babylonians. Correction! Jeremiah never sided with the Babylonians but he did do as God said to prophecy.

Jeremiah tells Zedekiah to surrender to the enemy and be spared his life and that of his family. Zedekiah believes in a shallow sort of way what Jeremiah tells him. Then he swears Jeremiah to a secret. He tells Jeremiah to not confess to the reason for the meeting between him and Jeremiah. He says to tell inquiring minds that he pleaded with the king to not send him back to the house of Jonathan. In a sense this is true, but this was what Jeremiah requested of the king back in one chapter in 37:20. This was found in the previous chapter; Jeremiah 37:20.

The final verse in chapter 38 tells us that Jeremiah remained in the custody of the king until the Babylonians overthrew the city. The next chapter tells us of what happens after three years of a Jerusalem siege. It becomes a game of flee, flee, flee, but it is too late.

miniJimDr. Jstark

October, 2017