Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Historical Account of the Capture and Destruction of Jerusalem, the Fate of Zedekiah and the People, and the Liberation of Jehoiachin from Imprisonment
By the closing formula, Jeremiah 51:64, the contents of Jeremiah 52 are separated from, and marked as an appendix to, the prophecies of Jeremiah; yet nothing is said regarding the author of this chapter. However, if we keep in mind the nature of its contents, then, from the very fact that it gives an account of the liberation of King Jehoiachin from prison, and of his elevation to royal honours, it necessarily follows that it cannot have been composed by Jeremiah, because the prophet can scarcely have lived till this occurred, which was less than 561 b.c. It must further be considered that the contents of this chapter also agree, almost word for word, with 2 Kings 24:18 -25, 30; moreover, the introductory notice regarding Zedekiah's ascension of the throne, his age, and the character of his rule, given Jeremiah 52:1-3, was unnecessary for the object of this appendix. The same holds true of the notice regarding the liberation of Jehoiachin from prison, at the close, Jeremiah 52:31-34, which does not seem to stand in any close and intimate connection with the history of the destruction of Jerusalem and the fate of Zedekiah, while both of these events are closely connected with the plan and aim of the Books of Kings, and are written quite in their spirit. On these grounds, most expositors, both ancient and modern, assume that this historical appendix to the prophecies of Jeremiah has been derived from the Second Book of Kings. But weighty reasons oppose this assumption. (1.) The very fact that the name of the king of Babylon is throughout written Nebuchadrezzar makes it unlikely that the narrative was derived from 2 Kings 24:18., because the name is there constantly written Nebuchadnezzar, - a form which also occurs in Jeremiah, though not often (see pp. 245f., note). (2.) This chapter contains notices which are not found in 2 Kings 24 and 25. Thus, it is stated, in Jeremiah 52:10, the Nebuchadnezzar also caused all the princes of Judah to be executed at Riblah, and King Zedekiah, who had been carried to Babylon, to be put in prison till his death; in Jeremiah 52:19-23 we find a whole series of special remarks as to the vessels of the temple and the ornaments of the brazen pillars, - observations which are not met with either in 2 Kings, or in the description of the building of the temple, 1 Kings 7. We further find, in Jeremiah 52:28-30, a notice regarding three deportations of the people, giving the numbers, not roundly, but precisely, as they are nowhere else given in the historical books of the Old Testament, Were this statement the only additional detail given by this chapter, as compared with 2 Kings, one might perhaps suppose that it was an interpolation from another source, added to the rest of the account that has been derived from 2 Kings 24 and 25; but this opinion, which even in itself is not very probable, is excluded by the other additions found in Jeremiah 52:10 and in 19-23. If the author of this chapter had been able to derive, and had actually derived, these additional particulars from a historical source, treating of the later times of the kingdom of Judah, which has not come down to us, and which contained more than our canonical books of Kings and Chronicles, he would no doubt have also found there the account of the three deportations, and taken it from that source. We must therefore assume that this chapter, and 2 Kings 24:18 on to 2 Kings 25:30, have both a common origin, in which the fall of the kingdom of Judah was more fully described than in the historical books of the canon; in this way, the remarkable coincidence, almost word for word, between the narrative portions which are common to the two extracts, is accounted for quite as easily as the differences that have just been mentioned. From a critical examination of the state of both texts now before us, no certain conclusions can be drawn regarding their mutual relation. The differences of this kind arise partly from errors and omissions by later copyists, partly also from the circumstance that the epitomizers have not throughout kept rigorously to the words of their source. Regarding the author of the original written document, we cannot even make any supposition that could pretend to anything like probability. Baruch, as the editor of the collection of Jeremiah's prophecies, may have made the extract from it which we find in this chapter. We have already, in substance, given the exposition while treating of 2 Kings 24:18., so that we may here content ourselves with briefly putting together the deviations of this text from the other, and explaining its peculiarities.
Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.Fate of King Zedekiah at the taking of Jerusalem; cf. 2 Kings 24:18; 2 Kings 25:7, and Jeremiah 39:1-7. The statements regarding Zedekiah's ascension and his government, Jeremiah 52:1-3, agree word for word with 2 Kings 24:18-20, even to the variation השׁליכו, Jeremiah 52:3, for השׁליכו (Kings). The length of the siege of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 52:4-7, and the flight, capture, and condemnation of King Zedekiah and the princes of Judah, Jeremiah 52:7-11, not only agrees with 2 Kings 25:1-7, but also with Jeremiah 39:1-7, where it is merely the forcible entrance into the city by the Chaldeans that receives special detail; see on Jeremiah 39:3. The variation ויּחנוּ, Jeremiah 52:4, instead of ויּחן (2 Kings 25:1), does not affect the sense. As to the account given of the flight, capture, and condemnation of the king, both Jeremiah 39 and 2 Kings mit the notices given in Jeremiah 52:10, "and also all the princes of Judah he caused to be slain (i.e., executed) at Riblah," and in Jeremiah 52:11, "and he put him in the prison-house till the day of his death." בּית־הפּקדּות has been rendered οἰκία μυλῶνος by the lxx; on this fact Hitzig bases the opinion that the Hebrew words signify "the house of punishment," or "the house of correction," in which Zedekiah was obliged to turn the mill like other culprits, and as Samson was once obliged to do (Judges 16:21). But this meaning of the words cannot be substantiated. פּקדּה means "oversight, mustering, or visitation (Heimsuchung), or vengeance," e.g., Isaiah 10:3, but not punishment (Strafe), and the plural, "watches" (Ezekiel 9:1) and "custody," Ezekiel 54:11; hence the expression used here signifies "the house of custody," or "the house of the watches." The translation of the lxx can decide nothing against this, because their interpretation is based upon traditions which are themselves unfounded. Regarding this, Ewald well remarks (History of the People of Israel, iii. p. 748 of 2nd:ed.): "That Zedekiah must have laboured at the mill, as is mentioned in later chronicles (see Aug. Mai, Scriptorum veterum nova collectio, t. i. P. 2, p. 6; cf. Chr. Sam. Ch. xlv.), is probably a mere inference from Lamentations 5:13."
And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about.
So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.
And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.
Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.
But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him.
Then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; where he gave judgment upon him.
And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah.
Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.
Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem,The destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, and the carrying away of the people, which are only very summarily stated in Jeremiah 39:8-10, are here related in complete accordance with the account given in 2 Kings 25:8-17. The deviations for the most part originated through the freedom exercised by the epitomizer in his work, or only when mistakes were made by later copyists. The text before us has some amplifications (especially the notices regarding the ornaments of the brazen pillars, Jeremiah 52:23) which are found nowhere else in the Old Testament. The difference in date between Jeremiah 52:12 ("on the tenth of the month") and the passage in Kings ("on the seventh of the month") has arisen through one number having been mistaken for another in copying; it cannot now be decided which is correct; see on 2 Kings 25:18. As to Nebuzaradan, see on Jeremiah 39:13. Instead of עמד , is found עבד in 2 Kings 25:8, which certainly is a simpler reading, but one having less appearance of being the original. The only strange point is the want of the relative אשׁר in plain prose before עמד, which is probably to be pointed עמד. בּירוּשׁלים, instead of ירוּשׁלים (Kings), is a pregnant expression for "he came into Jerusalem." - Jeremiah 52:14. From the expression את־כּל־חומות, as given in Jeremiah 52:14, "all" is omitted in Kings, as being not indispensable for the meaning.
And burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:
And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about.
Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive certain of the poor of the people, and the residue of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude.The first words, "And of the poor of the people," are wanting in Kings, and have been brought here, through an error on the part of the copyist, from the beginning of the next verse; for "the poor of the people" are first treated of in Jeremiah 52:16, where it is stated that Nebuzaradan left them in the land, while Jeremiah 52:15 treats of those who were carried away to Babylon. The word האמון, instead of ההמון (Kings), seems to have originated simply through the exchange of א for ה, and to mean, like the other, the multitude of people. Hitzig and Graf are of opinion that אמון here, as in Proverbs 8:30, means workmaster or artificer, and that האמון denotes the same persons (collectively) who are designated החרשׁ והמּסגּר in Proverbs 24:1; Proverbs 29:2, and 2 Kings 24:14. But this view is opposed by the parallel passage, Jeremiah 39:9, where the whole of this verse occurs, and יתר העם הנּשׁארים stands instead of יתר האמון. "The rest of the people of Jerusalem" are divided, by ואת־ואת, into those who went over to the Chaldeans, and the rest of the people who were taken prisoners by the Chaldeans at the capture of the city. The statement that both of these two classes of the population of Jerusalem were carried away to Babylon is so far limited by the further declaration, in Jeremiah 52:16, that Nebuzaradan did not carry away every one, without exception, but let a portion of the humbler inhabitants of the country, who had no property, remain in the land, as vinedressers and husbandmen, that they might till the land. Instead of מדּלּות הארץ there occurs in Kings מדּלּת, and in Jeremiah 39:10, more distinctly, מן העם הדּלּים, "some of the people, the humbler ones," who had no property of their own. דּלּה, pl. דּלּות, is an abstract noun, "poverty;" the singular is used collectively, hence the plural is here used to supply the deficiency. For יגבים, from יגב, to plough, there is found instead, in 2 Kings 25:12, Kethib גּבים, from גּוּב, with the same meaning.
But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left certain of the poor of the land for vinedressers and for husbandmen.
Also the pillars of brass that were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brasen sea that was in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans brake, and carried all the brass of them to Babylon.The carrying away of the vessels of the temple is more fully stated than in 2 Kings 25:13-17. The large brazen articles, the two pillars at the porch (cf. 1 Kings 7:15.), the bases (1 Kings 7:27.), and the brazen sea (1 Kings 7:23.), which were too vast in their proportions to be easily carried away to Babylon, were broken to pieces by the Chaldeans, who carried off the brass of which they were made. אשׁר לבּית is more correct than אשׁר (Kings), and "all their brass" is more precise than simply "their brass" (Kings). In the enumeration of the smaller brazen vessels used for the temple service, Jeremiah 52:18, there is omitted, in 2 Kings, ואת־המּזרקות, "and the bowls" (used in sacrifice); this omission is perhaps due merely to an error in transcription. The enumeration of the gold and silver vessels in Jeremiah 52:19 has been much more abbreviated in 2 Kings 25:15, where only "the fire-pans and the bowls" are mentioned, while in the text here, besides these there are named "the basons," then "the pots (Eng. vers. caldrons), and the candlesticks, and the pans (Eng. vers. spoons), and the cups." For particulars regarding these different vessels, see on 1 Kings 7:40, 1 Kings 7:45, 1 Kings 7:50. In Jeremiah 52:20, reference is made to the fact that the mass of metal in the vessels that were carried away was without weight. The same is stated in 2 Kings 25:16, where, however, there is no mention of the twelve brazen bulls; while in the text of Jeremiah, אשׁר תּחת המּכנות is faulty, and we must read instead, אשׁר תּחתּיו והמּכנות. The assertion of Graf, in his commentary on this verse, and of Thenius on 2 Kings 25:16, - that the notice regarding the twelve brazen bulls is incorrect, because these were then no longer in Jerusalem (27:19), but had previously been removed by Ahaz from under the brazen sea for Tiglath-pileser, - we have already, under 2 Kings 16:17, shown to be erroneous. The apposition of כּל־הכּלים to לנחשׁתּם explains the reference of the suffix. In Jeremiah 52:21-23, the narrator, in order to call attention to the amount of art exhibited on the vessels destroyed by the Chaldeans, gives a brief description of the brazen pillars with their capitals. This description is much shortened in 2 Kings 25:17, and contains notices completing that which is given of these works of art in 1 Kings 7. For details, see the passage referred to.
The caldrons also, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the bowls, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.
And the basons, and the firepans, and the bowls, and the caldrons, and the candlesticks, and the spoons, and the cups; that which was of gold in gold, and that which was of silver in silver, took the captain of the guard away.
The two pillars, one sea, and twelve brasen bulls that were under the bases, which king Solomon had made in the house of the LORD: the brass of all these vessels was without weight.
And concerning the pillars, the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a fillet of twelve cubits did compass it; and the thickness thereof was four fingers: it was hollow.
And a chapiter of brass was upon it; and the height of one chapiter was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the chapiters round about, all of brass. The second pillar also and the pomegranates were like unto these.
And there were ninety and six pomegranates on a side; and all the pomegranates upon the network were an hundred round about.
And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door:The account given regarding the arrest of the chief officers of the temple and of the city, and concerning their transportation to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar caused them to be executed, agrees with 2 Kings 25:18-21, except in some unimportant variations, which, however, do not alter the sense; the explanation has been already given in the commentary on that passage. In 2 Kings, the account of the appointment of Gedaliah as the governor of Judah, together with that of his assassination by Ishmael, which follows the narrative just referred to, is here omitted, because the matter has bee already more fully stated in the passage Jeremiah 40:7 on to Jeremiah 43:7, and had no close connection with the object of the present chapter. Instead of this, there follows here, in Jeremiah 52:28-30 (as a continuation of the remark made, Jeremiah 52:27, "Thus was Judah carried away captive out of his own land"), a calculation of the number of the Jews taken to Babylon at the three deportations: in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, 3023 Jews; in the eighteenth year, 832 souls from Jerusalem; and in the twenty-third year, 745 souls, - in all, 4600 persons. The correctness of these data is vouched for by the exactness of the separate numbers, and the agreement of the sum with the individual items. In other respects, however, they present various difficulties. There is, first, the chronological discrepancy that the second deportation is here placed in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, in contradiction with Jeremiah 52:12, according to which, the deportation after the taking of Jerusalem occurred in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar; and 832 souls could not well be carried out of Jerusalem during the siege. This difference can be settled only by assuming that this list of deportations was derived from another source than the preceding notice regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, in which the years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign were reckoned in some other way than elsewhere in Jeremiah and in the books of Kings, probably from the date of the actual commencement of his reign, which followed a year after he first appeared in Judah, from which his reign is dated elsewhere; see Comm. on Daniel at Daniel 1:1. According to this mode of computation, the seventh year would correspond to the eighth of the common reckoning, and be the year in which Jehoiachin was carried away to Babylon, together with a large number of the people. But this does not agree with 3023, which is given as the number of those who were carried away; for, at that time, according to 2 Kings 24:14, 2 Kings 24:16, as many as 10,000 Jews, or, according to another view of these verses, even 18,000, were carried away to Babylon. This difference does not permit of being explained in any way. Ewald (History of the People of Israel, iii. p. 738) accordingly assumes that in Jeremiah 52:28, after שׁבע, the word עשׂרה has been omitted, as in 2 Chronicles 36:9, where the age of Jehoiachin is given; hence he thinks that, instead of "in the seventh," we must read "in the seventeenth year of Nebuchadnezzar." On such a view, the reference would be to a deportation which took place under Zedekiah, a year before the capture, or during the time of the siege of Jerusalem, and that, too, out of the country districts of Judah in contrast with Jerusalem, Jeremiah 52:29. This supposition is favoured not merely by the small number of those who are said to have been carried away, but also by the context of the narrative, inasmuch as, in what precedes, it is only the capture of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people in Zedekiah's time that is treated of. Ngelsbach has objected to this supposition, that it was not likely the great mass of the people would be carried away during the war, at a time when the approach of the Egyptian army (cf. Jeremiah 37:5) was an object of dread. But the objection does not weaken the supposition, since the former rests on two presuppositions that are quite erroneous: viz., first, that the deportation took place before the defeat of the auxiliary army from Egypt, where as it may have followed that event; and secondly, that the Chaldeans, by keeping the hostile Jews in the country, might have been able to get some assistance against the Egyptian army, whereas, by removing the hostile population of Judah, they would but diminish the number of the enemies with which they had to contend. We therefore regard this conjecture as highly probable, because it is the means of settling all difficulties, and because we can thereby account for the small number of those who were carried away in the deportations during and after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Regarding the third deportation, which was effected by Nebuzaradan (Jeremiah 52:30) in the twenty-third, or, according to another reckoning, in the twenty-fourth year of Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., in the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, we have no other information; for the statement of Josephus, Antt. x. 9. 7, that Nebuchadnezzar made war upon the Ammonites and Moabites in that year, has not been placed beyond a doubt, and is probably a mere inference from this verse, taken in connection with the prophecies in Jeremiah 48 and 49. Yet there is nothing improbable in the statement, viewed by itself. For it must be borne in mind that, after the appointment of Gedaliah as governor, and the departure of the Chaldean hosts, many Jews, who had fled during the war, returned into the country. Hence, in spite of the fact that, after the murder of Gedaliah, a multitude of Jews, fearing the vengeance of the Chaldeans, fled to Egypt, many may have still remained in the country; and many other fugitives may not have returned till afterwards, and given occasion to the Chaldeans for removing other 745 disturbers of the peace to Babylon, four or five years after Jerusalem had been laid in ashes. This deportation may have taken place on the occasion of the subjugation of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Idumeans, or during the war with the Phoenicians, possibly because they had rendered assistance to these nations against the Chaldeans. These verses thus contain nothing to justify the assumption of M. von Niebuhr (Gesch. Assyr. und Babels, S. 58, note) and Ngelsbach, that they are a gloss. The paucity of those who were carried away is not to be attributed to a desire on the part of the writer of this inserted portion to represent the calamity as not so very terrible after all; nor is it due to the substitution of the number of the Levites for that of the entire people, - two wholly arbitrary assumptions: it is completely explained by a consideration of the historical circumstances. The best of the population of Judah had already been carried away, and Zedekiah and his counsellors must have said to themselves, when they rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, that the latter would not spare this time; thus they must have defended themselves to the utmost, as is shown by the very fact that the siege of Jerusalem lasted eighteen months. In this manner, war, pestilence, and famine carried off a great number of the population of Jerusalem; so that, of men who were able-bodied and fit for war, and who could be carried into exile, not more than 4600 fell into the hands of the Chaldeans. During the war, also, many had concealed themselves in inaccessible places, while the lowest of the people were left behind in the country to cultivate the fields. Still more strange might appear the circumstance that the sum-total of those who were carried away to Babylon, viz., 10,000 with Jehoiachin, and 4600 under Zedekiah, - 14, 600 in all, - is evidently disproportionate to the number of those who returned to Jerusalem and Judah under Zerubbabel, which number is given in Ezra 2:64 at 42, 360, exclusive of men and maid servants. For this reason, Graf is of opinion that still later deportations may have taken place, of which no mention is made anywhere. This assumption, however, has little probability. On the other hand, we must consider these points: (1.) In the accounts given of those who were carried away, only full-grown and independent persons of the male sex are reckoned, while, along with fathers, both their wives and their children went into exile. (2.) Even so early as the first capture of Jerusalem in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, a number of prisoners of war, perhaps not inconsiderable, came to Babylon; these might unite with the thousands of their brethren who were carried thither at a later period. (3.) When the exiles had settled down in Babylon, and there found not only a means of livelihood, but even in many instances, as is clear from several intimations, attained to opulence as citizens, many, even of those who had been left in the country, may have gone to Babylon, in the hope of finding there greater prosperity than in Judah, now laid waste and depopulated by war. (4.) From the time when the 10,000 were carried away with Jehoiachin, in the year 599 b.c., till the return under Zerubbabel, 536 b.c., 63 years, i.e., nearly two generations, had passed, during which the exiles might largely increase in numbers. If we take all these elements into consideration, then, in the simple fact that the number of those who returned amounts to nearly three times the numbers of those given as having been carried away under Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, we cannot find such a difficulty as entitles us to doubt the correctness of the numbers handed down to us.
He took also out of the city an eunuch, which had the charge of the men of war; and seven men of them that were near the king's person, which were found in the city; and the principal scribe of the host, who mustered the people of the land; and threescore men of the people of the land, that were found in the midst of the city.
So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah.
And the king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death in Riblah in the land of Hamath. Thus Judah was carried away captive out of his own land.
This is the people whom Nebuchadrezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty:
In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty and two persons:
In the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty and five persons: all the persons were four thousand and six hundred.
And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the five and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison,The closing portion of this chapter, viz., the notice regarding the liberation of Jehoiachin from imprisonment, ad his elevation to royal honours by Evil-merodach after Nebuchadnezzar's death, substantially agrees with the account given of that even in 2 Kings 25:27-30. The difference of date, "on the twenty-fifth of the month" (Jeremiah 52:31), and "on the twenty-seventh of the month" in 2 Kings, has arisen through the entrance of a clerical error into one text or the other. The few remaining variations of the two texts have no influence on the meaning. As to the fact itself, and its importance for the people languishing in exile, we may refer to the explanation given at 2 Kings 25:27.
And spake kindly unto him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon,
And changed his prison garments: and he did continually eat bread before him all the days of his life.
And for his diet, there was a continual diet given him of the king of Babylon, every day a portion until the day of his death, all the days of his life.