Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Jeremiah - Chapter 37 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had removed Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim from being the king of Judah and had made Josiah's son Zedekiah king instead.
    2. But Zedekiah, his officials, and everyone else in Judah ignored everything the LORD had told me.
    3. Later, the Babylonian army attacked Jerusalem, but they left after learning that the Egyptian army was headed in this direction. One day, Zedekiah sent Jehucal and the priest Zephaniah to talk with me. At that time, I was free to go wherever I wanted, because I had not yet been put in prison. Jehucal and Zephaniah said, "Jeremiah, please pray to the LORD our God for us."
    4. (SEE 37:3)
    5. (SEE 37:3)
    6. Then the LORD told me to send them back to Zedekiah with this message: Zedekiah, you wanted Jeremiah to ask me, the L(ORD )God of Israel, what is going to happen. So I will tell you. The king of Egypt and his army came to your rescue, but soon they will go back to Egypt.
    7. (SEE 37:6)
    8. Then the Babylonians will return and attack Jerusalem, and this time they will capture the city and set it on fire.
    9. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that the Babylonians will leave as they did before.
    10. Even if you could defeat their entire army, their wounded survivors would still be able to leave their tents and set Jerusalem on fire.
    11. The Babylonian army had left because the Egyptian army was on its way to help us.
    12. So I decided to leave Jerusalem and go to the territory of the Benjamin tribe to claim my share of my family's land.
    13. I was leaving Jerusalem through Benjamin Gate, when I was stopped by Irijah, the officer in charge of the soldiers at the gate. He said, "Jeremiah, you're under arrest for trying to join the Babylonians."
    14. "I'm not trying to join them!" I answered. But Irijah wouldn't listen, and he took me to the king's officials.
    15. They were angry and ordered the soldiers to beat me. Then I was taken to the house that belonged to Jonathan, one of the king's officials. It had been turned into a prison, and I was kept in a basement room. After I had spent a long time there,
    16. (SEE 37:15)
    17. King Zedekiah secretly had me brought to his palace, where he asked, "Is there any message for us from the LORD?" "Yes, there is, Your Majesty," I replied. "The LORD is going to let the king of Babylonia capture you."
    18. Then I continued, "Your Majesty, why have you put me in prison? Have I committed a crime against you or your officials or the nation?
    19. Have you locked up the prophets who lied to you and said that the king of Babylonia would never attack Jerusalem?
    20. Please, don't send me back to that prison at Jonathan's house. If you do, I will die."
    21. King Zedekiah had me taken to the prison cells in the courtyard of the palace guards. He told the soldiers to give me a loaf of bread from one of the bakeries every day until the city ran out of grain.

Jeremiah - Chapter 37

Entered: October 19, 2004
God is emphatic about Judah surrendering to the Babylonians. The point seems to be that exile is what God has determined as their fate, and to surrender would be to acknowledge God's will and to submit themselves to it. This is why for us it is good to accept the bad times as well as the good. It is not for us to determine whether or not God has caused the bad times. That is not important. What we need to do is allow God to teach us in those bad times as He had planned for Judah and Israel.

Entered: December 17, 2010

Chronologically, chapter 37 comes before chapter 32 in which Jeremiah was under house arrest and in which he purchased property from a cousin. In chapter 37, Jerusalem is enjoying a short period of relative peace from the attacks of the Babylonians. Pharoah, with his Egyptian army, had come to Judah's aid and Babylon withdrew from Jerusalem to fight off the Egyptian threat. During this time king Zedekiah of Judah sent messengers to Jeremiah asking him to pray to the Lord on their behalf. 

The king was evidently hoping the Lord would intervene and use the Egyptian army to defeat Babylon and end their threat against Judah. Zedekiah did not ask Jeremiah for a word from the Lord at this time, but the Lord gave a message to Jeremiah for him anyway. The message was to "Watch: Pharaoh's army, which has come out to help you, is going to return to its own land of Egypt. The Chaldeans will then return and fight against this city. They will capture it and burn it down. (37:7-8) The Lord left no doubt that He was behind the attack of the Babylonian army, for He added, "Indeed, if you were to strike down the entire Chaldean army that is fighting with you, and there remained among them only the badly wounded men, each in his tent, they would get up and burn this city down." (37:10) The Babylonians might be defeated, but the Lord would not be defeated in His purpose of judgment against Judah.

Why did Zedekiah ask Jeremiah to pray for them? Though we might hope he was coming to his senses and starting to turn to God, we know this did not happen. We can only guess that the king was covering his bases. He may not have had any more confidence in praying to the Lord than he did in praying to any other god or observing particular rituals that might appease the gods. By this time it should be very clear that God was orchestrating this attack by Babylon and that He was doing it because of Judah's sin of turning from the Lord to other gods. Jeremiah even asked the king, "Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, claiming, 'The king of Babylon will not come against you and this land'?" (37:19) The false prophets had been proven wrong and Jeremiah's prophecies had been fulfilled. The obvious question of why the king and others did not turn back to the Lord brings to mind a response from Paul's message to the church in Rome in Romans 1:21: "For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened."