Jeremiah 37:1-21 (44:1-21, LXX)

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“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon made Zedekiah the son of Josiah king in the land of Judah instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim [the brother of Zedekiah].” “Coniah” is the abbreviated form of “Jeconiah,” another name for Jehoiachin, the nephew of Zedekiah, who was taken into Babylonian exile. At the time Nebuchadnezzar made 21-year-old Zedekiah king, he had him take an oath in God’s name to obligate himself solemnly to be a loyal vassal king. (37:1 [44:1, LXX]; 2 Chronicles 36:11, 13; Ezekiel 17:12-14)

Neither Zedekiah nor his “servants” or his officials “listened to the words of YHWH that he spoke by the hand of [or through the agency of] Jeremiah the prophet.” Also the “people of the land,” or those then living in the territory of the kingdom of Judah, paid no attention to the messages of YHWH that “Jeremiah the prophet” proclaimed. (37:2 [44:2, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

In view of the threat from the Babylonian forces that the kingdom of Judah had faced, “King Zedekiah sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to Jeremiah the prophet,” with the request, “Pray for us to YHWH our God.” Jehucal (Jucal, a shortened form of Jehucal) later was one of the princes or high officials who wanted Jeremiah to be killed and was a participant in lowering him into a miry cistern, to die there. (38:1-6, 19) Zephaniah the priest, however, does not appear to have been unfavorably inclined toward Jeremiah. When, for example, he received a letter from Shemaiah of Nehelam, a false prophet in Babylon, urging him to rebuke and punish Jeremiah for his prophesying (29:24-29), Zephaniah disregarded the words of Shemaiah and instead read the letter to Jeremiah. (37:3 [44:3, LXX])

At the time he was asked to pray to YHWH, Jeremiah still enjoyed freedom of movement among the people, for he had not yet been imprisoned. (37:4 [44:4, LXX]) To render aid to the kingdom of Judah, the “army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt.” This Pharaoh is generally considered to have been Hophra. (44:30 [Ouaphre (51:30, LXX); Apries (Herodotus)] When the Chaldeans heard about the army of Pharaoh, they lifted the siege against Jerusalem and withdrew from the city to confront the Egyptian warriors. (37:5 [44:5, LXX]) Then the “word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the prophet,” revealing to him what would happen to Jerusalem. (37:6 [44:6, LXX]; see the Notes section.) “YHWH, the God of Israel,” declared, “Thus you shall say to the king of Judah [Zedekiah] who sent you [the delegation] to me [YHWH] to inquire of me [through Jeremiah (sent to you to inquire of me [LXX])], Look, the army of Pharaoh that came to you for assistance [to you] is returning to its own land, Mizraim [Egypt].” This indicated that the Egyptian warriors would be unsuccessful in dealing with the threat of the Chaldean invaders. (37:7 [44:7, LXX])

The Chaldeans would “come back and fight” against Jerusalem. They would succeed in capturing the city and burning it. (37:8 [44:8, LXX]) YHWH’s message through Jeremiah was that Zedekiah and his subjects should not deceive themselves, believing that the Chaldeans would go away. They would not go away. (37:9 [44:9, LXX] Even if the Judean defenders were to defeat the entire army of the Chaldeans who were fighting against them and there remained of their number only pierced or wounded men (“each in his place” [LXX]), every one of these wounded men would rise up in his tent and then burn Jerusalem. (37:10 [44:10, LXX])

After the “army of the Chaldeans had withdrawn from Jerusalem” on account of (literally, “from before the face of”) the “army of Pharaoh” (37:11 [44:11, LXX]), “Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin [the tribal territory of the Benjamites to the north of Jerusalem, where Jeremiah’s hometown Anathoth was located], to receive a portion there among the people [inhabitants of Anathoth].” The nature of this portion is not specified, but a number of modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the Hebrew text. “Jeremiah started to leave the city on his way to the territory of Benjamin, to claim his share of the property among his relatives there.” (NLT) “So I [Jeremiah] started to leave Jerusalem and go to the territory of Benjamin to take possession of my share of the family property.” (TEV) “Jeremiah was on his way out from Jerusalem to go into Benjamite territory to take possession of his holding among the people there.” (REB) “So I [Jeremiah] decided to leave Jerusalem and go to the territory of the Benjamin tribe to claim my share of my family’s land.” (CEV) “Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem for the territory of Benjamin to see about a piece of his property among the people there.” (NJB) According to the Septuagint, he left Jerusalem to do purchasing. (37:12 [44:12, LXX])

At the Gate of Benjamin, “Irijah the son of Shelemiah the son of Hananiah apprehended Jeremiah the prophet,” maintaining that he was traitorously deserting to the Chaldeans. Irijah may have been from a prominent family, for both the name of his father and his grandfather were used to identify him. A literal rendering of his official position could be, “master of oversight.” This may indicate that Irijah had oversight of all the guards or sentries stationed at the gates of Jerusalem. The Septuagint refers to him as a man with whom Jeremiah used to lodge. (37:13 [44:13, LXX]; see the Notes section.) Although Jeremiah insisted that Irijah’s claim about him was a lie and that he was not deserting to the Chaldeans, Irijah refused to listen but seized him and “brought him to the princes” (royal officials [rulers (LXX)]) (37:14 [44:14, LXX])

Apparently the princes (rulers [LXX]) believed Irijah’s false accusation, and they became furious at Jeremiah, subjected him to a severe beating, and confined him in the “house of Jonathan the scribe,” for this house had been converted into a prison. The murderous hostility of the princes suggests that the princes who had been supportive of Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim were no longer in the kingdom of Judah but had been taken into exile with King Jehoiachin. (37:15 [44:15, LXX]; see Jeremiah 26:10-19 and 2 Kings 24:12-17.)

Jeremiah was confined in the “house of the cistern,” possibly a dry cistern or large pit in the courtyard of Jonathan’s house. The “cells” (chereth [LXX], a word of uncertain meaning; possibly a transliteration of a Hebrew term) into which Jeremiah came and into one of which he was confined must have been very cramped quarters inside the pit. He remained “many days” or a comparatively long time in this dark place of imprisonment. (37:16 [44:16, LXX])

After Jeremiah had been confined for a long time, King Zedekiah sent for him (probably because the Babylonian troops had resumed the siege of Jerusalem), received him, and questioned him secretly in his house or palace. The monarch wanted to know whether Jeremiah had any “word from YHWH.” Jeremiah said that he did and informed Zedekiah that he would be “delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” (37:17 [44:17, LXX]) The prophet used this opportunity to ask Zedekiah what wrong he had done to him, to his servants, and to the people generally to warrant imprisonment. (37:18 [44:18, LXX]) Jeremiah continued, “And where [are] your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, The king of Babylon will not come against you [plural you] and against this land?” Those prophets had proved to be proclaimers of falsehood and men who had no commission from YHWH. (37:19 [44:19, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

In view of the extreme conditions of his confinement, Jeremiah petitioned Zedekiah not to send him back “to the house of Jonathan the scribe,” for he feared that he would die there. (37:20 [44:20, LXX]) Zedekiah then orderd that Jeremiah be confined in the “court of the guard” and be provided with a daily portion of fresh bread from the “street of the bakers” (the street in Jerusalem where the bakers made bread for the city residents). The arrangement for Jeremiah to receive his portion of bread ended when the food supply ran out on account of the siege of Jerusalem, and the prophet remained in confinement “in the court of the guard” or the prison in the palace complex. (37:21 [44:21, LXX])


In verse 2 of chapter 44, the Septuagint does not refer to Jeremiah as “the prophet.” This is also the case in verses 6 and 13.

In verse 7 of chapter 44, the Septuagint does not include the expression “God of Israel.” It only uses the title “Lord” without the definite article.