God was preparing to judge Jerusalem for their sins. But Jeremiah had heard from God: Jerusalem was to surrender to the enemy. The local politicians wanted to kill Jeremiah, calling him a traitor. They made some bad assumptions as a result of not listening and heeding the man of God (v. 4). This parallels the way the religious rulers responded to Jesus with their false assumptions, envy, hatred and vacillation. Paul faced similar attitudes when he stood before Agrippa, Felix and Festus.
The truth is that rulers and politicians often have a hard time relating to Jesus and His followers. We see this exemplified in verse five when King Zedekiah did not know how to react or respond to Jeremiah’s situation. But every time rulers came against Jeremiah, it only proved the truth of his accusations about their hardheartedness. They did not realize it, but Jeremiah was the best friend that Jerusalem had at the time, for he reflected the mind of God in their situation.
Standing up for God’s truth can cost you. It took courage for Jeremiah to face the opposition of God’s enemies—and there was a price to pay. Jeremiah was accused of treason and was incarcerated more than once (Jeremiah 37-38). The prophet seemingly is in and out of jail because the king didn’t know how to respond to him politically. Fear of ridicule caused the king to vacillate (vv. 19-23). Zedekiah urges Jeremiah not to hide the truth from him, but when he heard it, he chose to ignore it (38:14-23). Jeremiah continued to urge the king to listen to the Word of the Lord (38:20). He inquired of Jeremiah several times, but would not heed his advice.
Zedekiah knew what Jeremiah was telling him was solid advice, but he chose not to obey it. Being too cowardly to execute Jeremiah publicly, the religious and secular rulers cast him into a pit. Their motive was probably to starve Jeremiah to death, for he suffers in the worst possible conditions. It was cold, dark and muddy—but God was with him there just as He was with His three Hebrew children in the furnace and with Daniel in the lion’s den.
It was not a fellow Jew who came to Jeremiah’s aid. God sent a fearless and compassionate black man to rescue Jeremiah. He was a brave Gentile, like Rahab, Esther and the Good Samaritan. He sent a man who had nothing to gain—and everything to lose—in attempting to help Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s rescuer, Ebed-Melech, easily convinces Zedekiah the king to release Jeremiah. Notice Ebed-Melech’s consideration and love: he puts some soft cloth under his armpits so ropes don’t hurt Jeremiah as he is lifted out of the pit. Compare his thoughtfulness to the king’s callousness.
This man took pity on Jeremiah while the king had none. Ultimately, God sent thirty men to get Jeremiah out of the pit (v. 10). Jeremiah’s enemies would have had him rot there, but in the end, Zedekiah dies in jail, not Jeremiah (52:11).
In Jeremiah’s account of the siege of Jerusalem (39:1-8) we are given just enough details to show how the prophecies are exactly and perfectly fulfilled. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are out of food and wearied from the 18-month siege (v. 9). After a year and a half, the walls of Jerusalem are finally breached in July of 587 BC. Zedekiah and his family snatch up a few possessions and rush off into the night, only to be overtaken and captured. The temple is demolished. Finally, in the eleventh year of Zedikah’s reign, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The fall of Jerusalem is such a dynamic, judgmental and pivotal event, the Bible records it not only here but three other places (Jeremiah 52; II Kings 25 and II Chronicles 36).
If you preach an unpopular message, you may find yourself in the pit. If you stand up for the Word of God, you may find yourself at the bottom of the dungeon. At this point in his life, Jeremiah had preached for more than forty years. He stood alone and maintained his integrity and defended the integrity of God. What are you willing to endure for His sake?