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Jeremiah 37:12-18

Context
37:12 Jeremiah started to leave Jerusalem to go to the territory of Benjamin. He wanted to make sure he got his share of the property that was being divided up among his family there. 1  37:13 But he only got as far as the Benjamin Gate. 2  There an officer in charge of the guards named Irijah, 3  who was the son of Shelemiah and the grandson of Hananiah, stopped him. He seized Jeremiah and said, 4  “You are deserting to the Babylonians!” 5  37:14 Jeremiah answered, “That’s a lie! I am not deserting to the Babylonians.” 6  But Irijah would not listen to him. Irijah put Jeremiah under arrest and took him to the officials. 37:15 The officials were very angry 7  at Jeremiah. They had him flogged and put in prison in the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary, which they had converted into a place for confining prisoners. 8 

37:16 So 9  Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house. 10  He 11  was kept there for a long time. 37:17 Then King Zedekiah had him brought to the palace. There he questioned him privately and asked him, 12  “Is there any message from the Lord?” Jeremiah answered, “Yes, there is.” Then he announced, 13  “You will be handed over to the king of Babylon.” 14  37:18 Then Jeremiah asked King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you, or the officials who serve you, or the people of Judah? What have I done to make you people throw me into prison? 15 

1 tn The meaning of this last sentence is somewhat uncertain. The Hebrew expression here occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible and its meaning is debated. The verb is pointed as a shortened form of the Hiphil infinitive construct of חָלַק (khalaq; see GKC 148 §53.q for explanation of the phenomenon and other examples). There are, however, no other examples of the use of this verb in the Hiphil. BDB 324 s.v. חָלַק Hiph defines it as “receive a portion” and explains it as a denominative from חֵלֶק (kheleq, “portion”) but says that the form is dubious. KBL s.v. חָלַק Hif defines it as “take part in dividing” but that does not fit the prepositional phrase that follows (מִשָּׁם, misham, “from there”) as well as “to receive a portion.” The Greek version did not understand this of dividing property but of conducting business. Later revisions of the Greek and the Latin version, however, did understand it of “taking a share.” The translation of BDB has been expanded to better reflect the probable situation. For the meaning of “his family” for the noun עַם (’am) compare the usage in Job 18:19. For a fuller discussion of the probable situation see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 633-34.

sn Though some commentators disagree, this transaction should not be viewed as subsequent to the transaction recorded in Jer 32 and seen as an attempt to take possession of a field that he had already bought. That transaction took place sometime later after he had been confined to the courtyard of the guardhouse (compare 32:2 with 37:21) and involved his buying a near relative’s field. The word used here refers to “getting one’s own share” (compare 1 Sam 30:24; Josh 15:13, and see also Mic 2:4) not taking possession of someone else’s. “There” refers to the territory of Benjamin just mentioned but more specifically to Jeremiah’s hometown, Anathoth (cf. 1:1).

2 sn The Benjamin Gate would have been a gate in the northern wall leading out toward the territory of Benjamin. It is mentioned only here and in Jer 38:7 and Zech 14:10.

3 sn Nothing further is known about Irijah. It is generally agreed that the Hananiah mentioned here is not the same as the false prophet of the same name whom Jeremiah confronted approximately six years earlier (28:1, 5, 10, 15).

4 tn Heb “And he was in the gate of Benjamin and there was an officer of the guard whose name [more literally, and his name] was Irijah…and he seized the prophet Jeremiah, saying.” The sentence has been broken down and simplified to better conform with contemporary English style.

5 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.

sn Irijah’s charge was based on the suspicion that Jeremiah was following his own counsel to the people to surrender to the Babylonians if they wanted to save their lives (Jer 21:9).

6 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.

7 sn The officials mentioned here are not the same as those mentioned in Jer 36:12, most of whom were favorably disposed toward Jeremiah, or at least regarded what he said with enough trepidation to try to protect Jeremiah and preserve the scroll containing his messages (36:16, 19, 24). All those officials had been taken into exile with Jeconiah in 597 b.c. (2 Kgs 24:14).

8 tn Heb “for they had made it into the house of confinement.” The causal particle does not fit the English sentence very well and “house of confinement” needs some explanation. Some translate this word “prison” but that creates redundancy with the earlier word translated “prison” (בֵּית הָאֵסוּר, bet haesur, “house of the band/binding”] which is more closely related to the concept of prison [cf. אָסִיר, ’asir, “prisoner”]). It is clear from the next verse that Jeremiah was confined in a cell in the dungeon of this place.

9 tn The particle כִּי (ki) here is probably temporal, introducing the protasis to the main clause in v. 17 (cf. BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.a). However, that would make the translation too long, so the present translation does what several modern English versions do here, though there are no parallels listed for this nuance in the lexicons.

10 tn Heb “Jeremiah came into the house of the pit [= “dungeon,” BDB 92 s.v. בּוֹר 4 and compare usage in Gen 40:15; 41:14] and into the cells [this word occurs only here; it is defined on the basis of the cognate languages (cf. BDB 333 s.v. חָנוּת)].” The sentence has been restructured and some words supplied in the translation to better relate it to the preceding context.

11 tn Heb “Jeremiah.” But the proper name is somewhat redundant and unnecessary in a modern translation.

12 tn Heb “Then King Zedekiah sent and brought him and the king asked him privately [or more literally, in secret] and said.”

13 tn Heb “Then he said.”

14 sn Jeremiah’s answer even under duress was the same that he had given Zedekiah earlier. (See Jer 34:3 and see the study note on 34:1 for the relative timing of these two incidents.)

15 tn Heb “What crime have I committed against you, or your servants, or this people that you [masc. pl.] have put me in prison?” Some of the terms have been expanded for clarification and the sentence has been broken in two to better conform with contemporary English style.
The masculine plural is used here because Zedekiah is being addressed as representative of the whole group previously named.



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