|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-7 Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, took Jerusalem, and carried whom and what he pleased away. From this first captivity, most think the seventy years are to be dated. It is the interest of princes to employ wise men; and it is their wisdom to find out and train up such. Nebuchadnezzar ordered that these chosen youths should be taught. All their Hebrew names had something of God in them; but to make them forget the God of their fathers, the Guide of their youth, the heathen gave them names that savoured of idolatry. It is painful to reflect how often public education tends to corrupt the principles and morals.
Verse 2. - And the Lord gave Jehoiakim King of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure-house of his god. The Greek versions of this verse agree with each other and with the Msssoretic text, save that the Septuagint has Κυρίου instead of Θεοῦ in the end of the first clause, and omits οἴκου. The Syriac Version omits the statement that it was "part" of the vessels of the house of God that was taken. It is to be observed that our translators have not printed the word "Lord" in capitals, but in ordinary type, to indicate that the word in the original is not the sacred covenant name usually written in English "Jehovah," but Adonai. That the Lord gave Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar does not prove that Jerusalem was captured by him. Far from it, the natural deduction is rather that he did not capture the city, although he captured the king. Thus in 2 Kings 17:4 we are told that Shalmaneser shut up Hoshea "and bound him in prison;" in the following verse we are informed that the King of Assyria "besieged Samaria three years." That is to say, after Shalmaneser had captured Hoshea the king, he had still to besiege the city. A similar event occurred earlier in the history of Judah and Israel. When Joash of Israel defeated Amaziah and took him prisoner, he proceeded then to Jerusalem. The city opened its gates to the conqueror, and he carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and of the king's house, and all the vessels of the house of the Lord, and a large number of hostages, and then returned north. Something like this seems to have occurred now. The king was taken by the Babylonians, and the city submitted and ransomed the king by handing over a portion of the vessels of the house of the Lord. The city, however, was not taken by assault. Miqtzath, "part of," occurs also in Nehemiah 7:70 in this sense: we have it three times later in this chapter- vers. 5, 15, and 18; but in these cases it means "end." A word consonantally the same occurs in the sense before us in Judges 18:2, translated "coasts." Gesenius would write the word miqq tzath, and regard mi as representing the partitive preposition min. He would therefore translate, "He took some from the numbtr of the vessels." Kranichfeld objects to Hitzig's assertion that קאת means "a part," and is followed by Keil and Zockler in regarding it, as a short form of the phrase, "from end to end," equivalent to the whole, thus making miqtzath mean "a portion from the whole." The omission from the Syriac of the words which indicate that the vessels taken were only a portion of those in the house of the Lord, shows how natural it was to imagine that the deportation was total, and therefore we may lay the more emphasis on its presence as proving that the temple was not plundered, but these vessels were the ransom paid for the freedom of the king. Several times had the treasures of the house of God been taken away. In the days of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:26) Shishak, acting probably as the ally of Jeroboam, took away all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and of the king's house, "he even took away all." It may be doubted whether Jerusalem was captured (2 Chronicles 12:7); certainly the name of Jerusalem has not been identified in the list of captured towns on the wall of the temple at Karnak. We have referred to the case of Joash and Amaziah. The succession of the phrases," Jehoiakim King of Judah," and "part of the vessels of the house of God," is remarked by Ewald as being abrupt, and he would insert," together with the noblest of the land." There is, however, no trace of any such omission to be found in the versions. It is possible that this chapter may be the work of the early collector and editor, and that he condensed this portion as well as, not unlikely, translated it from Aramaic into Hebrew. Captives certainly were taken as well as booty, as is implied by the rest of the narrative. Which he carried into the land of Shinar to, the house of his god. There is no word in the Hebrew corresponding to" which." The literal rendering is, "And he carried them," etc. It has been the subject of discussion whether we are to maintain that it is asserted here that Jeboiakim, along with the vessels and unmentioned captives, were carried to Babylon. Professor Bevan admits that it is doubtful. Were we dependent merely on grammar, certainly the probability, though not the certainty, would be that the plural suffix was intended to cover Jehoi-skim, but the conclusion forced on us by logic is different. He "carried them (יְבִיאֵם) to the house of his god." This seems to imply that only the vessels are spoken cf. So strongly is this felt by Hitzig ('Das Buch Daniel,' 5) that he would regard the phrase, "the house of his god," as in apposition to "the land of Shinar,' and refers to two passages in Hosea (Hosea 8:1; Hosea 9:15) in which "house" is, he alleges, used for "land." Irrespective of the fact that these two instances occur in highly wrought poetical passages, and that to argue from the sense of a word in poetry to its sense in plain prose is unsafe, there is no great plausibility in his interpretation of these passages. He regards the last clause as contrasted with the earlier: while the captives were brought "into the land of Shinar," the vessels were brought into "the treasure-house of his god" - an argument in which there is plausibility were there not the extreme awkwardness of using בית, "house," first in the extended sense of "country," and then in the restricted sense of "temple." The last clause is rather to be looked upon as rhetorical climax. The land of Shinar is used for Babylonia four times in the Book of Genesis, twice in the portion set apart as Jehovist by Canon Driver; the remaining instances are in ch. 14, both as the kingdom of Amraphel, which Canon Driver relegates to a special source. In the first instance (Genesis 10:10) it is the laud in which Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh were. In the next instance (ch. 11.) it is the place in which the Tower of Babel is built. The name is applied to Babylonia in Isaiah 11. and Zechariah 5:11. One of the titles which the kings of Babylon assumed regularly was "King of Sumir and Accad." From the connection of Shinar and Accad in Genesis 10:20 we may deduce that "Shinar" is the Hebrew equivalent for "Sumir." It is not further removed from its original than is "Florence" from "Firenze," or "Leghorn" from "Livorno," or, to take a French instance, "Londres" from "London." The ingenious derivation of "Shiner" from שני, "two," and אר, "a river," which, however, implies the identification of ע and א, may have occasioned the modification, the more so as it was descriptive of Babylonia; hence the name "Aram-Naharaim," and its translation "Mesopotamia," applied to the tract between the Euphrates and the Tigris, north of Babylonia. In the Greek versions it becomes Σεναάρ. It is omitted by Paulus Tellensis. The treasure-house of his god. The word rendered "god" here is the plural form, which is usually restricted to the true God, otherwise it is usually translated as "gods" To quote a few from many instances, Jephtha uses the word in the plural form of Chemosh (Judges 11:24), Elijah applies it to Baal (1 Kings 18:27), it is used of Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37) In Ezra 1:7 we have this same word translated plural in regard to the place in which Nebuchadnezzar had deposited the vessels of the house of God. In translating the verse before us, the Peshitta renders path-coroh, "his idol" This suits the translation of the LXX. εἰδωλείῳ. Paulus Tellensis renders it in the plural, "idols." The god in whose treasure-house the vessels of the house of God in Jerusalem were placed would necessarily be Merodach, whom Nebuchadnezzar worshipped, almost to the exclusion of any other. The treasure-house of his god. Temples had not many precious gifts bestowed upon them by their worshippers which were not taken by needy monarchs; nevertheless, the treasures of kingdoms were often deposited in a temple, to be under the protection of its god. The temple of Bel-Merodach in Babylon was a structure of great magnificence. Herodotus (1:181) gives a description, which is in the main confirmed by Strabe (16:5): "In the midst of the sacred area is a strong tower built a stadium in length and breadth; upon this tower is another raised, and another upon it, till there are eight towers. There is a winding ascent made about all the towers. In the middle of the ascent there is a resting-place, where are seats on which those ascending may sit and rest. In the last tower is a spacious shrine, and in it a huge couch beautifully bespread, and by its side is placed a table of gold. No statue has been set up here, nor does any mortal pass the night here." There are still remains of a structure which suits to some extent the description here given, but investigators are divided whether to regard Birs Nimroud or Babil as most properly representing this famous temple of Bel-Merodach. In the "Standard Inscription" Nebuchadnezzar appears to refer to this temple, which he calls E-temen-ana-ki," the house of heaven and earth." He says, among other matters concerning it, that he "stored up inside it silver and gold and precious stones, and placed there the treasure-house of his kingdom." This amply explains why the vessels of the house of God were taken to the temple of Bel-Merodach. The fact is mentioned that the vessels of the house of God were carried to Babylon, and, as a climax, "and he placed them in the treasure-house of his god." We know what befell the statue of Dagon when the ark of God was placed in its presence, and the Jew, remembering this, relates awestruck the fact that these sacred vessels were placed in the temple of Bel. If no such disaster befell Bel-Merodach as befell Dagon, yet still the handwriting on the wall which appeared when these vessels were used to add to the splendour of the royal banquet, and which told the doom of the Chaldean monarchy, may be looked upon as the sequel to this act of what would necessarily appear to a Jew supreme sacrilege.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand,.... And the city of Jerusalem too, or he could not have took the king, and so the Syriac version renders it,
and the Lord delivered it into his hands, and Jehoiakim, &c.: this was from the Lord, because of his sins, and the sins of his ancestors, and of his people; or otherwise the king of Babylon could not have taken the city, nor him, because of the great power of the Jews, as Jacchiades observes:
with part of the vessels of the house of God; not all of them; for some, as Saadliah says, were hid by Josiah and Jeremiah, which is not to be depended on; however, certain it is that all were not carried away, because we read of some of the vessels of the temple being carried away afterwards, in Jeconiah's time, 2 Kings 24:13, and still there were some left, as the pillars, sea, bases, and other vessels, which were to be carried away, and were carried away by the king of Babylon, in Zedekiah's time, Jeremiah 27:19,
which he carried into the land of Shinar, to the house of his god; which Jarchi understands both of the men that were carried captive, and the vessels that were taken out of the temple; but the latter seem only to be intended, since of men Jehoiakim is only spoken of before; and it does not appear he was ever carried into Babylon; but it is certain the vessels of the temple were carried thither; which is meant by the land of Shinar, where Babylon stood, and where the tower of Babel was built, Genesis 10:2, the same, as Grotius thinks, with the Singara of Pliny (s) and Ptolemy (t). So the Targum of Onkelos, on Genesis 10:10, interprets the land of Shinar the land of Babylon; likewise the Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 10:10, and the Targum of Jonathan on Genesis 11:2, Zechariah 5:11, only on Genesis 10:10, he paraphrases it the land of Pontus. So Hestiaeus (u) an ancient Phoenician writer, calls Shinar Sennaar of Babylonia. It seems to have its name from which signifies to "shake out"; because from hence the men of the flood, as Saadiah says, or the builders of Babel, were shook out by the Lord, and were scattered over the face of the earth. And as the tower of Babel itself, very probably, was built for idolatrous worship, for which reason the Lord was so displeased with the builders of it; so in this same place, or near it, now stood an idol's temple, where the king of Babylon, and the inhabitants thereof, worshipped, here called "the house of his gods" (w), as it may be rendered; for the Babylonians worshipped more gods than one; there were Rach, Shach and Nego, from whom Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are supposed to have their names given them by the Chaldeans, Daniel 1:7. Rach is thought to be the sun, whose priests were called Rachiophantae, observers of the sun; Shach, to which Sheshach is referred by some, Jeremiah 51:41, for which a feast was kept once a year for five days, when servants had the rule and government of their masters; and Nego either was worshipped for the sun, or some star, so called from its brightness. Venus was also had in veneration with the Babylonians, whom they called Mylitta; in whose temple many acts of uncleanness and filthiness were committed, as Herodotus (x) relates. And, besides these, there were Merodach, Nebo, and Bel; of which see Isaiah 46:1, the latter seems to have been their chief deity, and who was called Jupiter Belus; and with whom were the goddesses Juno and Rhea. And in the city of Babylon stood the temple of Bel, or Jupiter Belus, which was extant in the times of Herodotus, and of which he gives an account (y), and is this:
"the temple of Jupiter Belus had gates of brass; it was four hundred and forty yards on every side, and was foursquare. In the midst of the temple was a solid tower, two hundred and twenty yards in length and breadth; upon which another temple was placed, and so on to eight. The going up them was without, in a winding about each tower; as you went up, in the middle, there was a room, and seats to rest on. In the last tower was a large temple, in which was a large bed splendidly furnished, and a table of gold set by it; but there was no statue there; nor did any man lie there in the night; only one woman, a native of the place, whom the god chose from among them all, as the Chaldean priests of this deity say.''
Diodorus Siculus says (z) it was of an extraordinary height, where the Chaldeans made observations on the stars, and could take an exact view of the rise and setting of them; it was all made of brick and bitumen, at great cost and expense. Here the vessels of the sanctuary were brought by Nebuchadnezzar, to the praise and glory of his idols, as Jarchi and Jacchiades observe; to whom he imputed the victory he had obtained over the Jews. Even these
he brought into the treasure house of his god; very probably this was the chapel Herodotus (a) speaks of, where was a large golden statue of Jupiter sitting, and a large golden table by it, and a golden throne and steps, reckoned by the Chaldeans at eight hundred talents of gold. And Diodorus Siculus (b) relates that there were three golden statues, of Jupiter, Juno, and Rhea. That of Jupiter was as one standing on his feet, and, as it were, walking, was forty feet in length, and weighed a thousand Babylonian talents (computed three millions and a half of our money). That of Rhea was of the same weight, sitting upon a throne of gold, and two lions standing at her knees; and near to them serpents of a prodigious size, made of silver, which weighed thirty talents. That of Juno was a standing statue, weighing eight hundred talents; in her right hand she held the head of a serpent, and in her left a sceptre set with precious stones; and there was a golden table, common to them all, forty feet long, fifteen broad, and of the weight of fifty talents. Moreover, there were two bowls of thirty talents, and as many censers of three hundred talents, and three cups of gold; that which was dedicated to Jupiter weighed a thousand two hundred Babylonian talents, and the other six hundred. Here all the rich things dedicated to their god were laid up, and here the king of Babylon brought the treasures and rich vessels he took out of the temple of Jerusalem; and to this agrees the testimony of Berosus (c), who says, that with the spoils of war Nebuchadnezzar took from the Jews and neighbouring nations, he adorned the temple of Belus. The riches of this temple, according to historians, are supposed to be above one and twenty millions sterling (d), even of those only which Diodorus Siculus gives an account of, as above.
(s) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 24. (t) Geograph. l. 5. c. 18. (u) Apud Joseph. Antiqu. l. 1. c. 4. sect. 3.((w) "domum deorum suorum", Cocceius, Michaelis. (x) Clio, sive l. 1. c. 199. (y) Ibid. c. 181. (z) Biblioth. 1. 2. p. 98. Ed. Rhodoman. (a) Clio, sive l. 1. c. 183. (b) Biblioth. I. 2. p. 98. (c) Apud Joseph. Antiqu. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 1.((d) Vid. Rollin's Ancient History, vol. 2. p. 70. and Universal History, vol. 4. p. 409.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Shinar—the old name of Babylonia (Ge 11:2; 14:1; Isa 11:11; Zec 5:11). Nebuchadnezzar took only "part of the vessels," as he did not intend wholly to overthrow the state, but to make it tributary, and to leave such vessels as were absolutely needed for the public worship of Jehovah. Subsequently all were taken away and were restored under Cyrus (Ezr 1:7).
his god—Bel. His temple, as was often the case among the heathen, was made "treasure house" of the king.
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