38:14 Some time later 1 Zedekiah sent and had Jeremiah brought to him at the third entrance 2 of the Lord’s temple. The king said to Jeremiah, “I would like to ask you a question. Do not hide anything from me when you answer.” 3 38:15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I answer you, you will certainly kill me. 4 If I give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 38:16 So King Zedekiah made a secret promise to Jeremiah and sealed it with an oath. He promised, 5 “As surely as the Lord lives who has given us life and breath, 6 I promise you this: I will not kill you or hand you over to those men who want to kill you.” 7
38:17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “The Lord, the God who rules over all, the God of Israel, 8 says, ‘You must surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon. If you do, your life will be spared 9 and this city will not be burned down. Indeed, you and your whole family will be spared.
1 tn The words “Some time later” are not in the text but are a way of translating the conjunction “And” or “Then” that introduces this narrative.
2 sn The precise location of this entrance is unknown since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT. Many commentators equate this with the “king’s outer entry” (mentioned in 2 Kgs 16:18) which appears to have been a private entryway between the temple and the palace.
3 tn The words “when you answer” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection. They are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness of style.
4 tn Or “you will most certainly kill me, won’t you?” Heb “Will you not certainly kill me?” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer. In situations like this BDB s.v. לֹא 4.b(β) says that הֲלֹא (halo’) “has a tendency to become little more than an affirmative particle, declaring with some rhetorical emphasis what is, or might be, well known.” The idea of certainty is emphasized here by the addition of the infinitive absolute before the finite verb (Joüon 2:422 §123.e).
5 tn Heb “So King Zedekiah secretly swore an oath to Jeremiah, saying.”
6 tn Heb “who has made this life/soul/ breath [נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh] for us.” The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ refers to the living, breathing substance of a person which constitutes his very life (cf. BDB 659 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 1; 3).
7 tn Heb “who are seeking your life.”
9 tn Heb “Your life/soul will live.” The quote is a long condition-consequence sentence with compound consequential clauses. It reads, “If you will only go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, your soul [= you yourself; BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 4.a] will live and this city will not be burned with fire and you and your household will live.” The sentence has been broken down and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style. The infinitive absolute in the condition emphasizes the one condition, i.e., going out or surrendering (cf. Joüon 2:423 §123.g, and compare usage in Exod 15:26). For the idiom “go out to” = “surrender to” see the full idiom in 21:9 “go out and fall over to” which is condensed in 38:2 to “go out to.” The expression here is the same as in 38:2.