Jeremiah back in prison (Jer 38:27-38:28)

“All the officials did come

To Jeremiah.

They questioned him.

He answered them

In the very words

That the king had commanded.

So they stopped

Questioning him.

The conversation

Had not been overheard.

Jeremiah remained

In the court of the guard

Until the day

That Jerusalem was taken.”

Just as King Zedekiah had expected, these royal officials came to Jeremiah in his prison to question him. However, Jeremiah answered them as the king had requested him to do. He told them the conversation with the king was about what prison he should live in. With that, the officials stopped questioning him. They never asked him how he got out of the cistern well. Thus the conversation between the king and Jeremiah was safe, since no one had heard the conversation. Both sides of this discussion had agreed what to say about their secret chat. Nevertheless, Jeremiah remained in the royal prison until Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians.

Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (Jer 38:7-38:9)

“Ebed-melech

The Ethiopian,

A eunuch,

In the king’s house,

Heard

That they had put Jeremiah

Into the cistern.

The king happened

To be sitting

At the Benjamin Gate.

Ebed-melech left

The king’s house.

He spoke to the king.

‘My lord king!

These men have acted

Wickedly in all

That they did

To the prophet Jeremiah.

They have cast him

Into the cistern

To die there of hunger.

There is no bread

Left in the city.’”

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian or Cushite eunuch in King Zedekiah’s house. Eunuchs normally controlled the harem for the king. Thus he was a foreign confidant of the king. When he heard about what happened to Jeremiah, he went to the king who was sitting at the Benjamin Gate on the north side of Jerusalem. He told the king that these officials had acted wickedly by casting the prophet Jeremiah into a well to starve him to death. He was not aware that the king had given his okay to these royal officials. Ebed-melech was afraid that Jeremiah would starve to death, since there was so little bread in the city of Jerusalem.

 

The listeners of Jeremiah (Jer 38:1-38:1)

“Now Shephatiah,

The son of Mattan,

Gedaliah,

The son of Pashhur,

Jucar,

The son of Shelemiah,

With Pashhur,

The son of Malchiah,

Heard the words

That Jeremiah was saying

To all the people.”

People went to hear what Jeremiah had to say even while he was in prison. Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jucar, and Pashhur were royal officials among the visitors who were listening to the words of Jeremiah.   Shephatiah is only mentioned here.   Gedaliah may be the son of Pashhur, who beat up Jeremiah in chapter 20. But he was a priest and not a royal official. Jucar is probably the same Jehucal mentioned in the preceding chapter as a messenger from the king to Jeremiah. Pashhur was the same royal messenger mentioned in chapter 21. Apparently while in the prison at the royal palace, Jeremiah could receive visitors. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 45, not chapter 38 as here.

The reading of the scroll to the king (Jer 36:21-36:23)

“Then King Jehoiakim

Sent Jehudi

To get the scroll.

He took it

From the chamber

Of Elishama the secretary.

Jehudi read it to the king

With all the officials

Who stood beside the king.

The king was sitting

In his winter apartment.

It was the ninth month.

There was a fire burning

In the brazier before him.

As Jehudi read

Three or four columns,

The king would cut them off

With a penknife.

He would then throw them

Into the fire

In the brazier,

Until the entire scroll

Was consumed in the fire

That was in the brazier.”

The king was not satisfied with a mere report about the scroll. He wanted the scroll itself. Thus he sent Jehudi to get the scroll and read it to them. Jehudi went back to the chamber of the secretary, Elishama, where the scroll was. He got it and came back to the king. There he read it to the king and all the royal officials. Since the king was at his winter home, there was a fire in the brazier or the fireplace, a brass coal burning stove. Thus as Jehudi read the scroll, King Jehoiakim would take 3 or 4 columns of it, cut them with a small knife that they used for the trimming of writing reeds. Then he would throw these pieces of the scroll into the fire, until they were all burned up. Thus you get some idea of the king’s opinion about the writings of Jeremiah via Baruch.

The officials go to the king (Jer 36:20-36:20)

“Leaving the scroll

In the chamber

Of Elishama,

The secretary,

The officials went

To the court

Of the king.

They reported

All the words

To the king.”

These royal officials then went to the royal court to tell the king what had happened. They left the scroll in the chamber of Elishama, the secretary, where Baruch had brought the scroll to read it to them. Thus they did not bring the actual scroll to the king, but only a report about the scroll.

Baruch explains his writing (Jer 36:17-36:19)

“Then they asked Baruch.

‘Tell us now!

How did you write

All these words?

Was it at his dictation?’

Baruch answered them.

‘He dictated

All these words to me.

I wrote them

With ink on the scroll.’

Then the officials said

To Baruch.

‘Go!

Hide!

You!

As well as Jeremiah!

Let no one know

Where you are.’”

These royal officials interrogated Baruch. They wanted to know if he wrote this himself or had someone dictated it to him. Baruch answered that Jeremiah had dictated the words to him. He wrote them down on the scroll with ink. Then the officials told Baruch to hide, both he and Jeremiah, so that no one would know where they were. They thought that the king might have an adverse reaction to this news.

Baruch reads the scroll to the royal officials (Jer 36:14-36:16)

“Then all the officials

Sent Jehudi,

The son of Nethaniah,

The son of Shelemiah,

The son of Cushi,

To say to Baruch.

‘Bring the scroll

That you read

In the hearing

Of the people.

Come!’

So Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

Took the scroll

In his hand.

He came to them.

They said to him.

‘Sit down!

Read it to us!’

So Baruch read it to them.

When they heard

All the words,

They turned to one another

In alarm.

They said to Baruch.

‘We certainly must report

All these words

To the king.’”

These royal officials sent a man named Jehudi to get Baruch. Jehudi has three generations of ancestors listed, instead of the usual one or two. Jehudi may mean Jew. Perhaps his great grandfather was an Ethiopian or Cushite, so that his family may have converted to Judaism, giving him this name. Anyway, this man was sent to get Baruch to come before the royal officials with his scroll so that they could hear the exact words of this scroll for themselves. When Baruch came with his scroll, they asked him to sit down like a distinguished teacher. He then read the words of the scroll that he had written under the dictation of Jeremiah. These officials seemed alarmed. They told Baruch that they were going to report the words from the scroll to the king directly. There was nothing secret about this, since Baruch had publically proclaimed these words a little earlier.