Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Zedekiah succeeds Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, in the Jewish throne, and does that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, Jer 37:1, Jer 37:2. The king sends a message to Jeremiah, Jer 37:3-5. God suggests an answer; and foretells the return of the Chaldean army, who should most assuredly take and burn the city, Jer 37:6-10. Jeremiah, in attempting to leave this devoted city, and retire to his possession in the country, is seized as a deserter, and cast into a dungeon, Jer 37:11-15. The king, after a conference with him, abates the rigour of his confinement, Jer 37:16-21.
And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah - Of the siege and taking of Jerusalem referred to here, and the making of Zedekiah king instead of Jeconiah, see Kg2 24:1 (note), etc., and the notes there.
Zedekiah - to the prophet Jeremiah - He was willing to hear a message from the Lord, provided it were according to his own mind. He did not fully trust in his own prophets.
Now Jeremiah came in and went out - After the siege was raised, he had a measure of liberty; he was not closely confined, as he afterwards was. See Jer 37:16.
Then Pharaoh's army - This was Pharaoh-hophra or Apries, who then reigned in Egypt in place of his father Necho. See Eze 29:6, etc. Nebuchadnezzar, hearing that the Egyptian army, on which the Jews so much depended, was on their march to relieve the city, suddenly raised the siege, and went to meet them. In the interim Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord to know whether they might consider themselves in safety.
Pharaoh's army - shall return to Egypt - They were defeated by the Chaldeans; and, not being hearty in the cause, returned immediately to Egypt, leaving Nebuchadnezzar unmolested to recommence the siege.
For though ye had smitten the whole army - Strong words; but they show how fully God was determined to give up this city to fire and sword, and how fully he had instructed his prophet on this point.
Jeremiah went forth - At the time that Nebuchadnezzar had raised the siege, and gone to meet the Egyptian army.
Go into the land of Benjamin - To Anathoth, his native city.
To separate himself thence - "To receive a portion thereof among the people;" - Blayney: who supposes that Jeremiah went to receive a portion of the proceeds of his patrimony at Anathoth, which had, previously to the siege, been in the hands of the Chaldeans. The siege being now raised, he thought of looking thus after his own affairs. The Chaldee is to the same sense. "He went that he might divide the inheritance which he had there among the people." Dahler translates, 'He went to withdraw himself from the siege, as many others of the inhabitants." I believe he went to withdraw himself from a city devoted to destruction, and in which he could no longer do any good.
Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans - Thou art a deserter, and a traitor to thy country. As he had always declared that the Chaldeans should take the city, etc., his enemies took occasion from this to say he was in the interest of the Chaldeans, and that he wished now to go to them, and betray the place.
And smote him - Without any proof of the alleged treachery, without any form of justice.
In prison to the house of Jonathan - In Asiatic countries there is an apartment in the houses of the officers of the law, to confine all the accused that are brought before them. Jonathan was a scribe or secretary, and had a prison of this kind in his house.
Entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins - The dungeon was probably a deep pit; and the cabins or cells, niches in the sides, where different malefactors were confined. See Blayney.
Is there any word from the Lord? - Is there any farther revelation?
There is: - thou shalt be delivered - What bold faithfulness! And to a king, in whose hands his life now lay.
Where are now your prophets - They told you that the Chaldeans should not come; I told you they would. According to my word the Chaldeans are come, and are departed only for a short time.
Cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan - He had been ill used in this man's custody, so as to endanger his life, the place being cold, and probably unhealthy.
Then Zedekiah - the court of the prison - Was contiguous to the king's house, where the prisoners could readily see their friends.
Give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street - From the public stores; which he received till all the provisions were spent.