Jeremiah in the Miry Cistern. 1Shephatiah, son of Mattan, Gedaliah, son of Pashhur, Jucal, son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur, son of Malchiah, heard Jeremiah speaking these words to all the people:* 2Thus says the LORD: He who remains in this city shall die by sword, or famine, or pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be spared him as booty, and he shall live. q Jer 21, 9f; 39, 18; 45, 5 . 3Thus says the LORD: This city shall certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon; he shall capture it.
4“This man ought to be put to death,” the princes said to the king; “he demoralizes the soldiers* who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.” r Jer 26, 11 . 5King Zedekiah answered: “He is in your power”; for the king could do nothing with them. 6And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. s Jer 37, 14f .
7Now Ebed-melech, a Cushite,* a courtier in the king's palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. The king happened just then to be at the Gate of Benjamin, 8and Ebed-melech went there from the palace and said to him, 9“My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” t Jer 52, 6 . 10Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die. 11Ebed-melech took the men along with him, and went first to the linen closet in the palace, from which he took some old, tattered rags; these he sent down to Jeremiah in the cistern, with ropes. 12Then he said to Jeremiah, “Put the old, tattered rags between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13and they drew him up with the ropes out of the cistern. But Jeremiah remained in the quarters of the guard.
14Once King Zedekiah summoned the prophet Jeremiah to come to him at the third entrance to the house of the LORD. “I have a question to ask you,” the king said to Jeremiah; “hide nothing from me.” u Jer 37, 16 . Jeremiah answered Zedekiah: 15If I tell you anything, you will have me killed, will you not? If I counsel you, you will not listen to me! v Lk 22, 67f . 16But King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah secretly: “As the LORD lives who gave us the breath of life, I will not kill you; nor will I hand you over to these men who seek your life.”
17Thereupon Jeremiah said to Zedekiah: Thus says the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you surrender to the princes of Babylon's king, you shall save your life; this city shall not be destroyed with fire, and you and your family shall live. w Jer 27, 12f; 2 Kgs 24, 12 . 18But if you do not surrender to the princes of Babylon's king, this city shall fall into the hands of the Chaldeans, who shall destroy it with fire, and you shall not escape their hands. x Jer 32, 4 .
19King Zedekiah, however, said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the men of Judah who have deserted to the Chaldeans; I may be handed over to them, and they will mistreat me.” y 1 Sm 31, 4 . 20You will not be handed over, Jeremiah answered. Please obey the voice of the LORD and do as I tell you; then it shall go well with you, and your life will be spared. z 2 Chr 20, 20 . 21But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD shows me: 22All the women left in the house of Judah's king shall be brought out to the princes of Babylon's king, and they shall taunt you thus:
They betrayed you, outdid you, your good friends! Now that your feet are stuck in the mud, they slink away.” a Jb 6, 15; 19, 13f. 19 .
23All your wives and sons shall be led forth to the Chaldeans, and you shall not escape their hands; you shall be handed over to the king of Babylon, and this city shall be destroyed with fire. b Jer 41, 10 .
24Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Let no one know about this conversation, or you shall die. 25If the princes hear I spoke to you, if they come and ask you, ‘Tell us what you said to the king; do not hide it from us, or we will kill you,’ or, ‘What did the king say to you?’ 26give them this answer: ‘I petitioned the king not to send me back to Jonathan's house to die there.’ ” 27When all the princes came to Jeremiah, they questioned him, and he answered them in the very words the king had commanded. They said no more to him, for nothing had been heard of the earlier conversation. 28Thus Jeremiah stayed in the quarters of the guard till the day Jerusalem was taken. c Jer 39, 14 .