37 Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim.2 Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.
3 King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehukal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”
4 Now Jeremiah was free to come and go among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 5 Pharaoh’s army had marched out of Egypt,and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.
6 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: 7 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt. 8 Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’
9 “This is what the Lord says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! 10 Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”
(Jeremiah 37:1-10 NIV)
Chapter 37 begins a new section that some scholars call the “passion narratives”. Chapters 37 – 45 deal with the timeframe immediately before and after the fall of Jerusalem. Like recent chapters, this section is grouped together thematically, not chronologically. While chapters 30 – 33 were a beautiful picture of God’s redemption and restoration of both Judah and Israel as a reunited kingdom, this section is the darkness, suffering, and exile that Judah and Jerusalem must go through before redemption.
Chapter 37 begins by setting the timeframe for the events described. We have fast-forwarded from Jehoiakim’s reign, past Jehoiachin’s reign, and now are at Zedekiah’s reign as the last King of Judah.
Verse 2 is very telling of the spiritual climate in Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah was still actively speaking the word of the Lord, but no one was listening – not the king, not his advisors, not the citizens of the land.
Even though the king was not paying attention to the words of the Lord through Jeremiah, he still sent a small delegation to ask Jeremiah to pray for the nation and the city. The king’s request was not for repentance and restoration to the Lord, but for peace and for saving their skin from the Babylonians.
Verse 4 zooms in a bit on the timeline. Jeremiah records that he is still free to come and go as he pleases. This event is before his arrest and imprisonment as recorded in Chapter 32 when Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, demanding that Jeremiah purchase a field from him.
Verse 5 further narrows the timeframe by mentioning that this event happened when the Babylonian army temporarily stopped it siege on Jerusalem to fight the Egyptians. Pharoah had sent his army out to offer aid to Judah (and as a show of force to the Babylonians to not mess with Egypt).
Verses 6 – 9 is the Lord’s answer to King Zedekiah. If Zedekiah was hoping that the Babylonians had gotten sidetracked with the Egyptians, or that the Egyptians would be victorious in defeating the Babylonians, then he was deceiving himself. The Babylonians would eventually return, capture Jerusalem, and burn the city to the ground
In verse 10, the Lord puts a note of certainty and finality to the message: these events will take place – the opportunity for deliverance has passed.
While this section we entered today is not a pleasant or happy time, may we be encouraged by Jeremiah’s steadfast dependence on the Lord, even when it means he will suffer persecution for his stand with the Lord.
May we also learn a lesson from this text regarding obedience to the Lord. May we choose to listen to the Lord, and to obey what He says through His Word and the prompting of His Holy Spirit.