Jeremiah 38

Officers put Jeremiah into a deep hole

1 Some of Jerusalem's officers heard the things that Jeremiah had been telling the people. They were Mattan's son Shephatiah, Pashhur's son Gedaliah, Shelemiah's son Jehucal and Malkijah's son Pashhur. 2 They had heard him say this: ‘The Lord says, “Any people who stay in this city will die. War or famine or disease will kill them. But those people who leave the city will not die. If they put themselves under the power of Babylon's soldiers, they will live.”  3 The Lord also says, “I will put this city under the power of the King of Babylon's army. They will take it for themselves.” ’

4 When the officers heard that, they said to the king, ‘You must punish this man with death. He is making our soldiers who remain in the city afraid. The things that he says are making all the people in the city very afraid. He does not want to help our people. He wants to destroy them.’

5 King Zedekiah said to them, ‘You can do to Jeremiah whatever you want to do. I cannot stop you.’

6 So the officers took hold of Jeremiah. They put him in a deep hole in the palace yard where the guards were. Prince Malkijah had made the hole to store water. There was no water in the hole, but only mud. They tied ropes around Jeremiah and they slowly dropped him into the hole. Jeremiah fell deep into the mud.

A foreign man rescues Jeremiah from the hole

7 There was an officer who served the king in his palace. His name was Ebed-Melech. He came from the country of Ethiopia. He heard the news that some officers had put Jeremiah into the deep hole in the palace yard. At that time the king was sitting as judge at the Benjamin Gate of the city. 8 So Ebed-Melech quickly left the palace. He went to speak to the king. He said to him, 9 ‘My master, the king, those men have done very wicked things to the prophet Jeremiah. They have put him in a deep hole. He will soon die there because there is no food in the city.’

10 Then the king gave this command to Ebed-Melech. He said, ‘Take 30 men with you from here. Go and lift Jeremiah out of the deep hole before he dies.’

11 So Ebed-Melech took the men with him. He went to a room in the palace where they stored valuable things. He took some old clothes and pieces of cloth from there. He tied them to the end of some ropes. Then he let them drop down into the deep hole where Jeremiah was. 12 He said to Jeremiah, ‘Put these old cloths and clothes under your arms. Then tie the ropes over them so that they do not hurt you.’ Jeremiah did as Ebed-Melech told him. 13 Then they pulled Jeremiah up out of the deep hole. But Jeremiah still had to stay in the palace yard with the guards.

King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah more questions

14 One day, King Zedekiah sent some men to bring Jeremiah to meet with him. They met at the third gate of the Lord's temple. The king said to Jeremiah, ‘I would like to ask you a question. Do not hide anything from me.’ 15 Jeremiah said to the king, ‘If I give you a true answer, you will surely kill me. If I give you advice, you will not agree.’

16 But King Zedekiah made a serious promise to Jeremiah. Nobody else knew about it. He said, ‘I promise you that this is true, as surely as the Lord lives. I promise that I will not kill you. And I will not give you to the men who want to kill you.’

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, ‘The Lord Almighty, Israel's God, says, “You must put yourself under the power of the king of Babylon's officers. If you do that, you will not die. Your enemies will not burn down this city. You and your family will continue to live. 18 But if you do not agree to be under their power, they will take this city for themselves. They will burn it down. You yourself will become their prisoner.” ’

19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘I am afraid to do that. Some of Judah's people have gone out of the city to help Babylon's army. Babylon's officers might give me to them and they will be very cruel to me.’

20 Jeremiah answered the king, ‘They will not give you to those people of Judah. Obey the Lord and do as I tell you. Then you will continue to enjoy your life. 21 But if you refuse to put yourself under the power of the enemy, a terrible thing will happen to you. The Lord has shown me this in a vision. 22 The enemy's soldiers will bring out all the women in the palace of Judah's king. They will give those women to the king of Babylon's officers. The women will say to you,

“Your friends that you trusted to help you have deceived you.

They have won against you.

Your feet are now deep in the mud and you cannot move.

So your friends have gone away and left you.”

23 Babylon's soldiers will take all your wives and your children for themselves. You yourself will not escape from them. The king of Babylon will take hold of you as his prisoner. His soldiers will burn down this city.’

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘Do not tell anyone what we have talked about. If you do tell anyone, you will surely die. 25 My officers may know that we have talked together. They may come to you and ask you, “Tell us what you talked about with the king. Tell us everything that you said. If not, we will kill you.” 26 If that happens, tell them, “I was asking the king to help me. I did not want him to send me back to be a prisoner in Jonathan's house. I did not want to die there.” ’

27 All the officers did come to Jeremiah to ask him about his meeting with the king. Jeremiah said to them everything that the king had told him to say. Nobody had heard what Jeremiah and the king had really talked about. So the officers stopped asking Jeremiah any more questions.

28 After that, Jeremiah stayed in the palace yard as a prisoner. He stayed there until the day when Babylon's army took Jerusalem for themselves.