Jeremiah Is Thrown Into a Cistern
1 Some of the royal officials heard what Jeremiah was saying. They were Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah. Jeremiah was telling all the people this message: 2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, hunger, or disease. But everyone who surrenders to the army of Babylon will live and escape with their lives.’ 3 And this is what the LORD says: ‘This city of Jerusalem will surely be given to the army of the king of Babylon. He will capture this city.’ ”
4 Then the royal officials who heard what Jeremiah was telling the people went to King Zedekiah. They said to the king, “Jeremiah should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are still in the city and everyone else by what he is saying. He is not looking for peace; he is just trying to cause trouble.”
5 So King Zedekiah said to the officials, “Jeremiah is in your control. I cannot do anything to stop you.”
6 So the officials took Jeremiah and put him into Malkijah’s cistern. Malkijah was the king’s son. The cistern was in the Temple yard where the king’s guard stayed. They used ropes to lower Jeremiah into the cistern. The cistern didn’t have any water in it, only mud. And Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
7 But a man named Ebed Melech heard that the officials had put Jeremiah into the cistern. Ebed Melech was from Ethiopia, and he was a eunuch in the king’s palace. King Zedekiah was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed Melech left the king’s palace and went to talk to the king at the gate. 8-9 Ebed Melech said, “My lord and king, these officials have done evil. They have treated Jeremiah the prophet badly. They have thrown him into a cistern and left him there to die.”* left him there to die Literally, “he will starve to death because there is no more bread in the city.”
10 Then King Zedekiah gave a command to Ebed Melech, the Ethiopian. This was the command: “Ebed Melech, take three† three This is found in one ancient Hebrew copy. Most Hebrew copies have “30.” men from the palace with you, and go get Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”
11 So Ebed Melech took the men with him. But first he went to a room under the storeroom in the king’s palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from that room. Then he let the rags down with some ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed Melech, the Ethiopian, said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms. When we pull you out, these rags will pad your underarms. Then the ropes will not hurt you.” So Jeremiah did as Ebed Melech said. 13 The men pulled Jeremiah up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah stayed under guard in the Temple yard.
Zedekiah Asks Jeremiah
14 Then King Zedekiah sent someone to get Jeremiah the prophet. He had Jeremiah brought to the third entrance to the Temple of the LORD. Then the king said, “Jeremiah, I am going to ask you something. Don’t hide anything from me, but tell me everything honestly.”
15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, you will probably kill me. And even if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.”
16 But King Zedekiah secretly swore an oath to Jeremiah. Zedekiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, who gives us breath and life, I will not kill you, Jeremiah. And I promise not to give you to the officials who want to kill you.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “The LORD God All-Powerful is the God of Israel. This is what he says, ‘If you surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, your life will be saved, and Jerusalem will not be burned down. And you and your family will live. 18 But if you refuse to surrender, Jerusalem will be given to the Babylonian army. They will burn Jerusalem down, and you will not escape from them.’ ”
19 But King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “But I am afraid of the men of Judah who have already gone over to the side of the Babylonian army. I am afraid that the soldiers will give me to those men, and they will treat me badly and hurt me.”
20 But Jeremiah answered, “The soldiers will not give you to the men of Judah. King Zedekiah, obey the LORD by doing what I tell you. Then things will go well for you, and your life will be saved. 21 But if you refuse to surrender to the army of Babylon, the LORD has shown me what will happen. This is what he has told me: 22 All the women who are left in the house of the king of Judah will be brought out. They will be brought to the important officials of the king of Babylon. Your women will make fun of you with a song. This is what they will say:
‘Your friends were stronger than you,
and they led you the wrong way.
You trusted them,
but now your feet are stuck in the mud,
and your friends have left you.’
23 “All your wives and children will be brought out. They will be given to the Babylonian army. You yourself will not escape from the army of Babylon. You will be captured by the king of Babylon, and Jerusalem will be burned down.”
24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t tell anyone that I have been talking to you. If you do, you might die. 25 If the officials find out that I talked to you, they will come to you and say, ‘Jeremiah, tell us what you said to King Zedekiah and what he said to you. Be honest with us, and tell us everything, or we will kill you.’ 26 If they say this to you, tell them, ‘I was begging the king not to send me back to the cell in the dungeon under Jonathan’s house. If I were to go back there, I would die.’ ”
27 It happened that the royal officials of the king did come to Jeremiah to question him. So Jeremiah told them everything the king had ordered him to say. Then they left Jeremiah alone. No one had heard what Jeremiah and the king had talked about.
28 So Jeremiah stayed under guard in the Temple yard until the day Jerusalem was captured.
*38:8-9 left him there to die Literally, “he will starve to death because there is no more bread in the city.”
†38:10 three This is found in one ancient Hebrew copy. Most Hebrew copies have “30.”