Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.2 Kings 25:1. in the ninth year of his reign] i.e. Of Zedekiah’s reign. How long before this, the neglect to pay the tribute, which was the usual indication of disaffection, had gone on we are not told. The Babylonian power might overlook the first omission, but perhaps not the second. So we may date the determination to revolt from about the seventh year of Zedekiah’s reign. Thus time would be given for such preparations as in the weak condition of the land he could make.
and pitched [R.V. encamped] against it] The verb is one of constant occurrence in the descriptions of the marches of the Israelites from Egypt. There ‘to pitch’ is a very suitable word, but the Babylonian armies did not intend to move till the city of Jerusalem was taken. So ‘encamp’, the general term for such a military ‘pitching’ of tents, seems preferable.
built forts] To the precise character of these erections the word gives no clue by its derivation. It is always used for works built against a city by the attacking party. Hence we must suppose some line of enclosure to be intended, or erections from which the besiegers could with greater effect discharge missiles over the walls.
And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.2. unto the eleventh year] The natural strength of the position of Jerusalem must have been very considerable, for such a rabble as remained to be able to hold out nearly two years against the forces of Babylon. We know however (Jeremiah 34:7) that Nebuchadnezzar’s troops were engaged at the same time in attacking Lachish and Azekah. So that a part only of his soldiers were employed against Jerusalem. We find too (Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:11) that, on the report that the army of Pharaoh was coming forth out of Egypt, the siege of Jerusalem was so far relaxed that Jeremiah undertook to leave the city and depart into the land of Benjamin but was stopped at the gate by Irijah.
And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.3. And on the ninth day of the fourth month] The words in italic omitted here by the scribe, can be filled up from Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:6.
the famine prevailed] R.V. was sore. The verb is that which is found used of famine in Genesis 41:56-57, though we have a different word for a sore famine in Genesis 43:1. The rendering of R.V. is from A.V. in Jeremiah 39:6.
And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.4. And the city was broken up] R.V. Then a breach was made in the city. The old phrase ‘broken up’ was the same in sense as ‘broken through’. See 2 Chronicles 24:7; Jeremiah 39:7; Micah 2:13; Matthew 24:43; Mark 2:4.
We have a more full account of the events here alluded to in Jeremiah 39:2-7. There we learn that when the breach had been made the princes of the king of Babylon came in and sat in the middle gate, and when Zedekiah saw them he and his men of war fled.
the men of war fled by night] The verb is supplied, but appears in the text of Jeremiah 39:4; Jeremiah 52:7. The scribe in this passage has been much at fault.
by the way of the gate between two [R.V. the two] walls] This was a definite locality. The A.V. translates as R.V. in Jeremiah 39 From its proximity to the king’s garden, this gate must be the same which is called in Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15, ‘the gate of the fountain’. It was close to the pool of Siloam, and so the way through it would lead down to the Kidron valley.
which is [R.V. was] by the king’s garden] The past tense suits the narrative and its date better. Whether the king’s garden was outside or within the walls does not appear.
and the king went the way [R.V. by the way] toward the plain] R.V. of the Arabah. See note on 2 Kings 14:25. The whole valley from the sea of Galilee southward to the desert was called by this name. On the character of this flight compare the words of Ezekiel 12:12.
And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.5. And [R.V. But] the army of the Chaldees] R.V. Chaldeans. This change in the name of the people of Babylon is made in every place through the chapter. As the troops were all round the city there was very little chance for the king to get away. In his flight he was making for the Jordan, thinking pursuit to be more difficult in the mountainous region on the east of the river. But he was overtaken in the plains of Jericho, before the river was reached.
So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.6. So [R.V. Then] they took the king, and brought him up to [R.V. unto] the king of Babylon] Nebuchadnezzar was stationed at some distance, and was awaiting the issue of the campaign. The verb rendered ‘take’ implies seizure as a prisoner. It is used before (2 Kings 10:14) ‘Take them alive’.
to Riblah] See on 2 Kings 23:33.
and they gave judgement upon him] Jeremiah 39:5 says, ‘He gave judgement upon him’. No doubt the proceeding was of this kind. The king appointed a committee to try Zedekiah, and when they had given their sentence, Nebuchadnezzar commanded it to be carried into effect.
And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.7. slew the sons of Zedekiah] This was done to prevent the rise of a new revolt under a successor. To do it in the sight of the father was to break down all his hope of any rightful successor taking his throne. The narrative in Jeremiah adds that Nebuchadnezzar ‘slew all the nobles of Judah’. Not only was the royal family destroyed, but the men of power and influence were all extinguished.
put out the eyes of Zedekiah] This punishment the Philistines inflicted on Samson (Jdg 16:21) before they put him in the prison-house. The LXX. had this instance so much in mind that they say Zedekiah was put εἰς οἰκίαν μύλωνος. The deprivation of the eyes was not uncommon in the East as a punishment (cf. Herod. 2 Kings 7:18).
It is very striking to put side by side the two prophecies concerning Zedekiah uttered the one by Jeremiah, the other by Ezekiel. The former said (Ezekiel 34:3) ‘Thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 32:4); the latter (2 Kings 12:13) says of this king ‘I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldæans, yet shall he not see it though he shall die there’.
and bound him with fetters of brass] R.V. in fetters. There is no need to express the metal of which the fetters were made. In English on the contrary we speak of ‘putting a man in irons’ and omit ‘fetters’. The Hebrew word is dual, and properly signifies ‘double fetters’. His legs as well as his hands were shackled.
and carried him to Babylon] The narrative in Jeremiah adds ‘and put him in prison till the day of his death’.
And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:8–21. Burning of Jerusalem, the temple, and all the chief buildings. More captives taken. The brass work of the temple carried off. Captives slain at Riblah (2 Chronicles 36:17-23; Jeremiah 52:12-29)
8. on the seventh day] Jeremiah says the tenth day. The slight differences in numbers are easily accounted for when we remember that the Hebrews marked their numbers by letters, and that there is great similarity between many of the letters of their alphabet.
Nebuzar-adan, captain [R.V. the captain] of the guard] The title ‘captain of the guard’, literally ‘chief of the slaughterers’, is found in Genesis 37:36 and frequently afterwards in that book. Then only in 2 Kings 25 and in Jeremiah 39 and following chapters, all relating to the Babylonian captivity. Probably this officer was at first the executioner, and the name was retained after the duties had been delegated. We find in 1 Kings 2:25; 1 Kings 2:35; 1 Kings 2:46, Benaiah the captain of Solomon’s host acting as the executioner of Adonijah, Joab and Shimei.
This officer Nebuzar-adan was sent by Nebuchadnezzar to take charge of all that was done after Jerusalem had been actually taken. His behaviour to Jeremiah was of the most generous character, and appears to have been guided by the directions of the king of Babylon. (Cf. Jeremiah 40:4 with Jeremiah 39:11-12.) We hear of another visit of Nebuzar-adan to Jerusalem in the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:30), when he carried off 745 additional captives with him to Babylon.
And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire.9. every great man’s house burnt he with fire] R.V. omits ‘man’s’. The expression in 2 Chronicles is ‘he burnt all the palaces thereof with fire’.
And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.
Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.11. Now the rest [R.V. And the residue] of the people] The change is in accordance with Jeremiah 52:15 where the same people are spoken of.
and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon] R.V. and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon. This alteration is also from A.V. in the parallel passage just referred to, where the Hebrew is the same as here.
with the remnant [R.V. residue] of the multitude] Also R.V. adds captive after ‘carry away’ at the close of the verse. Thus the two parallel and nearly identical passages are brought as closely into agreement in the English as they are in the original.
Nebuzar-adan took the residue of the better sort, both those who still were faithful to their country and those who had gone over to the Babylonian side, and the residue of the common folks, who were likely to prove useful in some settlement or other, and carried both these classes with him.
But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.12. left of the poor [R.V. poorest] of the land] The word was so rendered above in 2 Kings 24:14. Now that the great houses and their inhabitants were gone and the craftsmen also, the life became no better than that of the nomads, and the people left behind could only turn to keeping the land in cultivation. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:10) calls them ‘the poor of the people, which had nothing’.
And 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, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon.13. and the pillars of brass] These were the pillars, Jachin and Boaz, the two masterpieces of Hiram mentioned in 1 Kings 7:15. Their position was not within the house, but in the porch (see 1 Kings 7:21 and all the notes there).
and the bases] See 1 Kings 7:27. These were richly wrought stands to support the lavers used in the sacrificial services.
and the brasen sea that was [R.V. were] in the house of the Lord] On the brasen sea, see 1 Kings 7:23. Both the bases and the sea were within the inner court.
And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.
And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away.15. and the bowls] R.V. basons. All these vessels are enumerated among the things provided for the temple services in the account of Solomon’s temple referred to above.
and such things as were of gold in gold, and of silver in silver] R.V. that which was of gold, in gold, and that which was of silver, in silver. The R.V. has here conformed to the A.V. in Jeremiah 52:19, where the original is the same.
The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD; the brass of all these vessels was without weight.16. the brass … was without weight] This is said before in the account of their casting, 1 Kings 7:47.
The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter upon it was brass: and the height of the chapiter three cubits; and the wreathen work, and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of brass: and like unto these had the second pillar with wreathen work.17. and the chapiter upon it was brass] R.V. and a chapiter of brass was upon it. The sentence is not meant to state of what material the chapiter was, but that it was there on the top of the pillar.
wreathen work] R.V. network. Twice over the change is needed in this verse, to correspond with the rendering of A.V. in 1 Kings 7:18; 1 Kings 7:20; 1 Kings 7:41-42.
And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door:18. Seraiah, the chief priest] Probably the son of Azariah and grandson of Hilkiah (1 Chronicles 6:14). His name is not found except in the parallel narratives.
Zephaniah the second priest] This was the son of Maaseiah (Jeremiah 21:1). He was the successor in office of Jehoiada (Jeremiah 29:25-26). The particulars known of his history are that he was asked by Shemaiah the Nehelamite (Jeremiah 29:29) to punish Jeremiah as if he were a false prophet. Zephaniah was also sent on two occasions to Jeremiah, once to ask the result of the siege, and secondly, to beg the prophet to intercede for the people (Jeremiah 27:3).
On ‘second priest’ see note on 2 Kings 23:4 above.
the three keepers of the door] These were the three Levites stationed one at each chief entrance to the temple.
And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king's presence, which were found in the city, and the principal scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city:19. five men of them that were in the king’s presence] R.V. that saw the king’s face. For the expression, cf. Esther 1:14. The officer over the men of war, and the five persons admitted to closest intimacy with the king, together with the scribe, represented the remaining conspicuous persons in the city: Seraiah and the others were prominent among the servants of the temple.
principal scribe of the host] R.V. the scribe, the captain of the host. This was the chief military secretary, Secretary at War. Some would render ‘the scribe of the captain of the host,’ and suggest that his superior officer had been already taken away, or had fled.
threescore men of the people of the land] These, though undefined, had made themselves obnoxious in some way or other; else they would not have been taken and put to death among the distinguished people named before them.
And Nebuzaradan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah:
And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.21. and slew them [R.V. put them to death] at Riblah] The word is not the same as in verse 7, and the R.V. follows A.V. of Jeremiah 52:27.
So Judah was carried away out of their [R.V. his] land] The A.V. has ‘his own’ in Jeremiah 52. Jeremiah gives the totals of this captivity thus. In the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar 3023, in the eighteenth year 832, and in the three-and-twentieth year 745, making a total of 4600. Jeremiah 52:28-30.
And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.22–26. Gedaliah is made governor of the people remaining in Jerusalem. He is slain, and the people flee to Egypt (Not in Chronicles. Cf. Jeremiah, chaps. 40. and 41)
22. And as for the people that remained] R.V. were left. The change is in accordance with A.V. in verse 11 above.
made Gedaliah … ruler] R.V. governor. This man was of a conspicuous family, and is described by Josephus (Ant. x. 9. 1–3) as a man gentle and just. His father Ahikam had influence enough in the evil days of Jehoiakim to be able to protect and save the life of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). His grandfather Shaphan was one of the great personages in the court of Josiah. Beyond what is related in these verses, little is known of Gedaliah, though the history of his brief rule is somewhat expanded by Jeremiah in the two chapters 40. and 41.
The change of rendering is in conformity with A.V. in Jeremiah 40:7, and with the verse 23 next following.
And when all the captains of the armies, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, there came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Careah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.23. And [R.V. Now] when all the captains … heard] The governorship of Gedaliah appears to have found much favour. We are told (Jeremiah 41) that when Jeremiah was set at liberty by Nebuzar-adan at Ramah he at once made his way to Gedaliah; beside that the captains of the forces gathered to him, and so did the Jews that had escaped into the countries round about, Moab, Ammon and Edom; and it is said ‘they gathered wine and summer fruits very much’. Meantime Gedaliah was warned that Baalis the king of the Ammonites had sent Ishmael to slay him, but he refused to credit the report, and when one of his friends voluntered to slay Ishmael, Gedaliah would not permit it.
captains of the armies] R.V. forces. Thus translated in Jeremiah 40:7.
to Mizpah] See on 1 Kings 15:22. Jerusalem was now in ruins. Mizpah was a strong place about six miles north of the Holy City.
Ishmael the son of Nethaniah] Jeremiah 41:1 (see also below verse 25) adds that Nethaniah was the son of Elishama of the seed royal. How he was connected with the royal blood we cannot discover. He had been in the country of the Ammonites during the destruction of Jerusalem, and when Gedaliah was set up as governor in Mizpah he came into Judah, apparently at the instigation of Baalis, king of Ammon, with the purpose of slaying Gedaliah and occupying his place. At first he acted as if friendly to Gedaliah, but after a short time, at a banquet where he and ten friends were entertained by Gedaliah, the murder of the governor was perpetrated, and at the same time all the Jews in the house with Gedaliah were likewise slain. All this was done with such precaution and secrecy that for two days nobody outside the governor’s palace knew what had been done. After that time Ishmael, observing a party of fourscore pilgrims coming towards Mizpah, went to meet them, and bringing them into the courtyard of the house as if to see Gedaliah, had all but ten of them killed and cast into the well in the court. He now resolved on flight and taking away with him the daughters of Zedekiah, who had been put under Gedaliah’s charge, he turned his steps to the land of Ammon. But Johanan and the other captains, who had by this time discovered the atrocious murders, pursued Ishmael, yet though they came up with him and his party ‘by the great waters that were in Gibeon’, and though Ishmael’s followers were at once ready to desert him, the villain, and eight more with him, escaped into the country of the Ammonites.
Johanan the son of Careah] R.V. Kareah. This is the spelling of A.V. in Jeremiah 40:8; Jeremiah 41:11, &c. It was Johanan who warned Gedaliah of the plot against him. He is mentioned (Jeremiah 43:2-4) as one of those who were prominent in the proceedings when Jeremiah was carried off into Egypt. He is there classed among ‘all the proud men’. A brother of his, Jonathan, is mentioned in Jeremiah 40:8.
Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth] He is called here the Netophathite, but in the enumeration of Jeremiah that description is omitted, and some other persons are described as ‘the sons of Ephai, the Netophathite’.
Jaazaniah the son of a [R.V. the] Maachathite] The name is spelt Jezaniah in Jeremiah’s narrative.
And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you.24. Gedaliah sware to them] He gave them a most solemn promise that they should enjoy the security which he expected under the rule of the Chaldæans.
Fear not to be [R.V. because of] the servants of the Chaldees] R.V. Chaldæans. The alarm of the returning fugitives would be lest another Chaldæan force should come and do to Mizpah as they had done to Jerusalem.
But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah.25. in the seventh month] Jerusalem was overthrown in the fifth month (see above verse 8), so that but two months had elapsed, and Gedaliah’s influence had begun, even in that brief period, to inspire much confidence.
that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldees [R.V. Chaldæans] that were with him] See above on verse 23.
And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies, arose, and came to Egypt: for they were afraid of the Chaldees.26. all the people … and the captains of the armies [R.V. forces] arose and came to Egypt] Feeling now sure that there would be reason to fear because of the servants of the Chaldæans. They were in a panic, and fled away in spite of the exhortations of Jeremiah, and they carried Jeremiah with them into Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-7). On their arrival at Tahpanhes and on the prophetic action of Jeremiah there, read Jeremiah 43:8-13. Other Jewish settlements in Egypt mentioned by the prophet (Jeremiah 44:1) are Migdol, Noph and the country of Pathros.
And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison;27–30. Jehoiachin king of Judah kindly treated by Evil-merodach king of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31-34)
27. the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin] Thus twenty-six years had elapsed since Jerusalem was overthrown.
on the seven and twentieth day of the month] In Jeremiah it is put down as the five-and-twentieth. That the year, month and day are so carefully noted (for the variation is easily understood) shews that the captive Jews regarded the act of Evil-merodach as a gleam of hope for all the nation.
Evil-merodach king of Babylon] He was the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar. Coming to the throne b.c. 561, he ruled for two years till b.c. 559, and then was murdered by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar, who thus made himself king of Babylon.
did lift up the head of Jehoiachin] For the expression, signifying ‘to shew favour to’, compare Genesis 40:13; Genesis 40:20, where Pharaoh in a similar manner is said to have ‘lifted up the head’ of his chief butler, when he released him from prison and restored him to his post.
And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon;28. and set his throne above the throne, &c.] i.e. He gave him precedence, perhaps by causing him to sit at the table in a place nearer to himself, and also by manifesting special regard for him. That other kings were in the same condition as Jehoiachin, and had been brought to Babylon because they were troublesome in their own countries, we can see from this verse. Some however were imprisoned, as Jehoiachin had been, while others were at liberty but confined to Babylon and the court.
And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.29. And changed [R.V. he changed] his prison garments] For the subject is Jehoiachin, not Evil-merodach. So R.V. omits ‘he’ in the next clause.
did eat bread continually before him] R.V. before him continually. i.e. He himself was a constant guest at the royal table.
And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.30. And his [R.V. for his] allowance] i.e. He was assigned a regular amount in money or in kind for the keeping of such attendants as a captive king might be supposed to require.
a daily rate for every day] R.V. every day a portion. This is the A.V. rendering in Jeremiah 52:34, where the history says ‘until the day of his death all the days of his life’, an emphatic mode of expressing that the king’s mind did not change, nor was the arrangement altered by Evil-merodach’s successor.