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to death, alleging that he weakened the hands of the soldiers, and destroyed their confidence. The unbelieving monarch weakly replied, behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you. Then took they Jeremiah and cast him into a dungeon of Malchiah, the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison : and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk into the mire. *
And here this holy man of God would most likely have ended his mission, had not his promise-keeping master put it into the heart of Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian eunuch, to petition for his deliverance in bold and animated language; My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah, the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is : for there is no more bread in the city. I
Nor was this act of benevolence to his faithful servant unseen or unnoticed by the eye of omniscience; for Jeremiah was ordered to declare to this humane gentile, Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I
* Jer. xxxviii. 4–6. + The deep and universal depravity of the whole nation may well be imagined, when not a single priest or Levite was to be found to entreat for this persecuted prophet, save an Ethiopian stranger. Nor do we know which most to admire, the courage of this illustrious foreigner, in complaining, in open court, to the king, sitting on his throne, in the midst of the princes who had condemned him, of their barbarous usage of the prophet; or the superintending provi. dence of God, in thus animating the eunuch to make so forcible a remonstrance.
Jer. xxxviii. 9.
will deliver thee in that day, saith Jehovah : and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith Jehovab. *
So powerful was this application, or so versatile was the monarch, that he immediately ordered Ebedmelech to take with bim thirty men, and deliver the prophet; and the extreme misery and wretchedness of his situation may be imagined, by the description of the means to which Ebed. melech was obliged to have recourse, in order to extricate him.t
How powerful and irresistible is the influence which a true believer possesses over even the profligate and abandoned. Thus Zedekiah, who probably hated Jeremiah at heart as much as any of his officers, still could not rest satisfied without frequent communication with him. Seeing no prospect of relief from buman exertions, be sent for him again to meet him privately in the temple; and then adjured the prophet to tell him the truth. Jeremiah having first exacted from the monarch a solemn oath, that he would neither put him to death himself, nor deliver him into the hands of his persecutors, said to him, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Hosts, the God of Israel; if thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live and thine house: but if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire; and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. And Zedekiah, the king, said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and
• Jer. xxxix. 10-18.
+ Jer. xxxviij. 13.
they mock me. But Jeremiah said, they shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of Jehovah, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that Jebovah hath shewed me: and, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house, shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back. So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans : and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Ba lon, and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire. *
Zedekiah observed his oath to Jeremiah, but neither attended to the admonition of Jehovah, nor delivered the prophet out of custody, for he remained in the court of the prison until Jerusalem was taken.t
In the eleventh year of Zedekiab's reign, and about a year after Nebuchadnezzar had returned to the siege; the famine having become sore, and the people being without bread; the city was broken up and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden ; (now the
* Jer. xxxviii. 14-23. + Jer xxxviii. 24-28.
* Or postern door. § “And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth ; and they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes." Ezek. xii. 12. “And when the city was taken about midnight, and the enemies' generals were entered into the temple, and when Zedekiah was sensible of it, he took his wives and his children, and his captains, and his friends, and with them Aled out of the city through the fortifed ditch, and through the desert." Joseph. ii. 65.
Chaldeans were by the city round about :) and they went by the way of the plain. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon, to Riblab, in the land of Hamath ; where he gave judgment upon him. And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah. * Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah ;t and the king of Babylon bound hinı in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death..
* Antioch, in Syria. + “ Probably with the intention of rendering him incapable of reascending the throne.” Burder, O. L. 614. Where see many instances of this horrid cruelty being practised by potentates, and how it was performed. Josephus says Nebuchadnezzar first reproached him personally with ingratitude. Vol. ij. 65.
| Jer. xxxix. 1-7. lii. 5. 11. 2 Kings, xxv. 2–7. My net also will / spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare; and I will bring biin to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall ho not see it, though he shall die there. Ezek. xii. 13. Jeremiah had foretold (xxxii. 4. and xxxiv 3.) that Zedekiah should not escape out of the hand of the king of Babylon, but should surely be taken, and delivered into liis hand; and that his eyes should behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and that he should speak with him mouth to mouth, and that he should go to Babylon; whereas Ezekiel, whose prophecy had been transmitted from Babylon, had so far concurred with Jeremiah, as to declare (xii. 13.) that Zedekiah should be car. ried to Babylon, but should not see it though he should die there. Jo. sephus relates that it was this apparent discrepancy, for such it really was, viz. ; that he should be carried to Babylon, see the king face to face, and eye to eye, and yet not see Babylon itself, which induced the misguided monarch to disbelieve both, and thus rush to his ruin: and it is remarkable how both prophecies were literally fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar did not conduct the siege in person, but remained in the city of Riblah, where Zedekiah was taken to him, and where ho saw him face to face, and eye to eye; and where, also, after reproaching him with bis ingratitude and rebellion, he ordered his eyes
As on the final destruction of the kingdom of Israel, * so now on that of Judah, God condescended to justify his ways to man-for the sacred writer adds, Zedekiah humbled not himself before Jeremiah, the prophet, speaking from the mouth of Jehovah. And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto. Jehovah, God of Israel. Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of Jehovah, which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And Jehovah, the God of their fathers, sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending ; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy:t Therefore, he brought upon them
to be put out: and after that Zedekiah was sent to Babylon, which city, however, he never saw. Joseph. ji. 61–65. Jer. lii. 9–11.
* See post.
† Amongst other express commandments of Jehovah, which the rebellious Jews had repeatedly and successively violated, was that which enjoined the observance of the sabbatical year;
- When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto Jehovah. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years shalt thou prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof. But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord; thou shalt neither sow thy field nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed ; for it is a year of rest unto the land. And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for the stranger that sojourneth with thee; and for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meal." Lev. xxv. 2-8.
The mind of Omniscience, however, was well aware that this com