[ABOVE—Jeremiah in stocks, by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons]
The prophet Jeremiah was a political prisoner. He had commited no crime except to speak out against the policies of his nation’s leaders, declaring God’s word. For this he was declared unpatriotic, and faced an imprisonment that could have killed him. Even while in prison, he continued to issue God’s word to the king and other leaders.
Then Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. But while he was in the Benjamin gate, a captain of the prison was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are deserting to the Chaldeans.”
Jeremiah is the story of the prophet who abandons his family and the woman he loves in order to relay God’s message in Jerusalem. Although he is persecuted, imprisoned, and branded as a traitor, he continues fearlessly with his mission, experiencing Jerusalem’s destruction first-hand.
Jeremiah answered, That is a lie. I am not deserting to the Chaldeans.” But he would not listen to him. So Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Because of this the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and struck him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison. After Jeremiah was put into the dungeon, a vaulted cell, he was there many days. Then Zedekiah the king sent, and brought him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
And Jeremiah said, “There is: for, you will be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” Also Jeremiah said to king Zedekiah, “What have I offended against you, or against your servants, or against this people, that you have put me in prison? Where now are your prophets which prophesied to you, saying, “The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?” Therefore hear me now, I beg you, O my lord the king; let my petition, I pray you, be accepted before you; that you do not make me return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.”
Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers” street, until all the bread in the city was gone. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, “Whoever stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by disease; but whoever goes out to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prize, and shall live.” Thus saith the Lord, ‘This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, who will capture it.’ ”
Therefore the princes said unto the king, “We ask you, let this man be put to death: for in this way he weakens the hands of the warriors who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them: for this man is seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”
Then Zedekiah the king said, “Look, he is in your hand: for the king cannot do anything to resist you.”
Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mud, so Jeremiah sank in the mud.
Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon—the king then sitting in the Benjamin gate—Ebedmelech went out from the king’s house, and said to the king, “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 likely to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.”
Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, “Take from here thirty men with you, and pull Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he dies.”
So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there castoff clothes and worn out rags, and let them down by ropes into the dungeon to Jeremiah. And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, “Put now these castoff clothes and worn out rags under your armpits beneath the ropes.” And Jeremiah did so.
So they pulled Jeremiah up with ropes, and took him out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. Then Zedekiah the king sent, and brought Jeremiah the prophet to him into the third entrance that is in the house of the Lord: and the king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me.”
Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, “If I tell you the truth, will you not surely put me to death? and if I give you counsel, will you listen to me?”
So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, “As the Lord lives, who made us this soul, I will not put you to death, neither will I turn you over to these men who seek your life.”
Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If you will assuredly go out to the king of Babylon’s officers, then your soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and you shall live, and your household. But if you won’t surrender to the king of Babylon’s officers, then will this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you won’t escape out of their hand.
And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews that have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest the Babylonians turn me over to them, and they abuse me.”
But Jeremiah said, “They shall not turn you over. I beg you, Obey the Lord’s voice, which I speak unto you: so it shall be well with you, and your soul live. But if you refuse to surrender, this is the word that the Lord has shown me: ‘Look, all the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house will be brought out to the king of Babylon’s officials, and these women shall say, “Your friends have set you on, and have prevailed against you: while your feet are stuck in the mud, they are turned away.” So they shall bring out all your wives and your children to the Chaldeans: and you will not escape out of their hand, but shall be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and you will make it so that this city is burned with fire.’ ”
Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, “Let no man know of these words, and you will not die. But if the princes hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you, and ask you, ‘Tell us now what you have said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said to you,’ Then you must say to them, ‘I presented my petition before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there.’ ”
Then all the officials came to Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them what the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the conversations was not overheard.
So Jeremiah stayed in the court of the prison until the day Jerusalem was captured: and he was there when Jerusalem was captured.