Passage: Jeremiah 37, 38, 39 (RSV)

Jeremiah 37

1Zedeki'ah the son of Josi'ah, whom Nebuchadrez'zar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, reigned instead of Coni'ah the son of Jehoi'akim.
2But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD which he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet.
3King Zedeki'ah sent Jehu'cal the son of Shelemi'ah, and Zephani'ah the priest, the son of Ma-asei'ah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "Pray for us to the LORD our God."
4Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison.
5The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt; and when the Chalde'ans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.
6Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet:
7"Thus says the LORD, God of Israel: Thus shall you say to the king of Judah who sent you to me to inquire of me, `Behold, Pharaoh's army which came to help you is about to return to Egypt, to its own land.
8And the Chalde'ans shall come back and fight against this city; they shall take it and burn it with fire.
9Thus says the LORD, Do not deceive yourselves, saying, "The Chalde'ans will surely stay away from us," for they will not stay away.
10For even if you should defeat the whole army of Chalde'ans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.'"
11Now when the Chalde'an army had withdrawn from Jerusalem at the approach of Pharaoh's army,
12Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive his portion there among the people.
13When he was at the Benjamin Gate, a sentry there named Iri'jah the son of Shelemi'ah, son of Hanani'ah, seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "You are deserting to the Chalde'ans."
14And Jeremiah said, "It is false; I am not deserting to the Chalde'ans." But Iri'jah would not listen to him, and seized Jeremiah and brought him to the princes.
15And the princes were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison.
16When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells, and remained there many days,
17King Zedeki'ah sent for him, and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house, and said, "Is there any word from the LORD?" Jeremiah said, "There is." Then he said, "You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon."
18Jeremiah also said to King Zedeki'ah, "What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison?
19Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, `The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land'?
20Now hear, I pray you, O my lord the king: let my humble plea come before you, and do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the secretary, lest I die there."
21So King Zedeki'ah gave orders, and they committed Jeremiah to the court of the guard; and a loaf of bread was given him daily from the bakers' street, until all the bread of the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

Jeremiah 38

1Now Shephati'ah the son of Mattan, Gedali'ah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemi'ah, and Pashhur the son of Malchi'ah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people,
2"Thus says the LORD, He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chalde'ans shall live; he shall have his life as a prize of war, and live.
3Thus says the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken."
4Then the princes said to the king, "Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm."
5King Zedeki'ah said, "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you."
6So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchi'ah, the king's son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mire, and Jeremiah sank in the mire.
7When E'bed-mel'ech the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern -- the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate --
8E'bed-mel'ech went from the king's house and said to the king,
9"My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern; and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city."
10Then the king commanded E'bed-mel'ech, the Ethiopian, "Take three men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies."
11So E'bed-mel'ech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe of the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes.
12Then E'bed-mel'ech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, "Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes." Jeremiah did so.
13Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.
14King Zedeki'ah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the LORD. The king said to Jeremiah, "I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me."
15Jeremiah said to Zedeki'ah, "If I tell you, will you not be sure to put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me."
16Then King Zedeki'ah swore secretly to Jeremiah, "As the LORD lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life."
17Then Jeremiah said to Zedeki'ah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live.
18But if you do not surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chalde'ans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand."
19King Zedeki'ah said to Jeremiah, "I am afraid of the Jews who have deserted to the Chalde'ans, lest I be handed over to them and they abuse me."
20Jeremiah said, "You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the LORD in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared.
21But if you refuse to surrender, this is the vision which the LORD has shown to me:
22Behold, all the women left in the house of the king of Judah were being led out to the princes of the king of Babylon and were saying, `Your trusted friends have deceived you and prevailed against you; now that your feet are sunk in the mire, they turn away from you.'
23All your wives and your sons shall be led out to the Chalde'ans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon; and this city shall be burned with fire."
24Then Zedeki'ah said to Jeremiah, "Let no one know of these words and you shall not die.
25If the princes hear that I have spoken with you and come to you and say to you, `Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; hide nothing from us and we will not put you to death,'
26then you shall say to them, `I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there.'"
27Then all the princes came to Jeremiah and asked him, and he answered them as the king had instructed him. So they left off speaking with him, for the conversation had not been overheard.
28And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.

Jeremiah 39

1In the ninth year of Zedeki'ah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadrez'zar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it;
2in the eleventh year of Zedeki'ah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city.
3When Jerusalem was taken, all the princes of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Ner'gal-share'zer, Sam'gar-ne'bo, Sar'sechim the Rab'saris, Ner'gal-share'zer the Rabmag, with all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon.
4When Zedeki'ah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king's garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah.
5But the army of the Chalde'ans pursued them, and overtook Zedeki'ah in the plains of Jericho; and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadrez'zar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence upon him.
6The king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedeki'ah at Riblah before his eyes; and the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.
7He put out the eyes of Zedeki'ah, and bound him in fetters to take him to Babylon.
8The Chalde'ans burned the king's house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.
9Then Nebu'zarad'an, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained.
10Nebu'zarad'an, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.
11Nebuchadrez'zar king of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebu'zarad'an, the captain of the guard, saying,
12"Take him, look after him well and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you."
13So Nebu'zarad'an the captain of the guard, Nebushaz'ban the Rab'saris, Ner'gal-share'zer the Rabmag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon
14sent and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedali'ah the son of Ahi'kam, son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he dwelt among the people.
15The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard:
16"Go, and say to E'bed-mel'ech the Ethiopian, `Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfil my words against this city for evil and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day.
17But I will deliver you on that day, says the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.
18For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, says the LORD.'"

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