Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Rescued From The Dungeon
“Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live. Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it. Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.” (Jeremiah 38:1-4)
Jeremiah was prophesying that those who yielded to Babylon would live because Judah and Jerusalem were going to be taken captive by the Chaldean army. Those who resisted and refused to yield would be killed or die of famine and disease. Several of the leaders heard Jeremiah preach that and went to Zedekiah, the king, accusing him of supporting the enemy and discouraging the people. They accused him of trying to destroy the people, and begged Zedekiah to put Jeremiah to death. Frequently, what God asks us to do is seen as unpatriotic and contrary to the common good.
“Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.” (Jeremiah 38:5-6)
The leaders attained enough power that even the king did not dare stand strongly against them, He had had Jeremiah moved to a less secure part of the prison to protect his life, but when the leaders demanded that Jeremiah be executed, he said there was nothing he could do to stop them. They lowered him into a dungeon or pit where there was no standing water, but a deep layer of muck or mud that Jeremiah sank in. There was no solid place to sleep or sit so Jeremiah would be in danger of drowning if he fell asleep.
“Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; Ebedmelech went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.” (Jeremiah 38:7-9)
An Ethiopian servant named Ebedmelech heard what Jeremiah’s situation and went to the king, reminding him that Jeremiah was a prophet of God, and that the king himself had guarantted that as long as there was food in the city, Jeremiah would be fed. He pointed out that the by putting jeremiah in the dungeon, they could let him drown in the mud or die of starvation without anyone noticing that he was not being cared for.
“Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so. So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.” (Jeremiah 38:10-13)
Upon learning what the leaders had done, Zedekiah ordered Ebedmelech to go rescue Jeremiah before he died of starvation or drowning. He was to take thirty men to hold back any guards that might interfere. Jeremiah had been there long enough his skin was damaged by the constant immersion in the mud so they had Jeremiah pad the rope they used with old rags to reduce the amount of damage to his skin and pulled him up out of the dungeon. They left him in the minimum security area where the King had originally held him.
“Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me.
Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?
So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.” (Jeremiah 38:14-16)
Zedekiah knew Jeremiah was a prophet of God and didn’t want to kill him. He had Jeremiah brought to him again, asking him to tell exactly what God said was going to happen. Having been in similar situation before than dumped into the dungeon, Jeremiah was not at all sure he could trust the king, or id he might put him back into a place where his death wouldn’t be noticed. Zedekiah swore that no matter what the message might be he would not have him killed or turn him over to the other leaders who wanted to kill him.
“Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house: But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. “ (Jeremiah 38:17-18)
Jeremiah repeated the message that if Zedekiah and the people would surrender to the Babylonians, their lives would be spared, and Jerusalem would not be destroyed. If they continued to fight, the city would be burned and Zedekiah would not be able to escape.
“And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.
But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath showed me: And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back. So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire.” (Jeremiah 38:19-23)
Zedekiah was afraid that the Jews who had already surrendered would turn on him or make fun of him for not surrendering earlier. Jeremiah said that would not happen. He went on to warn him that if he didn’t surrender, his wives would be captured and would blame his friends for leading him into trouble. All his family would be taken into captivity, including him, and it would be his fault the city of Jerusalem was burned.
“Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee: Then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there.” (Jeremiah 38:24-26)
Zedekiah was concerned that the other leaders would hear about their conference and cause trouble. He promised to protect Jeremiah if he made sure they never learned what had been discussed. If they threatened to kill him for not telling them, Jeremiah was to tell them that the conference was because he had just filed an appeal with the king that he he not be returned to solitary confinement.
“Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the matter was not perceived. So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.” (Jeremiah 38:27-28)
When he was questioned, Jeremiah said he had made and appeal to the king and been granted to stay in the minimum security facility. The other leaders believed him and left him in the facility where he was. He was still in prison when Jerusalem was conquered, five years after he was first arrested.