Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 39:1-18. Capture of the city. Jeremiah’s fortunes. Promise to Ebed-melech
(i) The words in brackets are clearly a gloss, introduced from Jeremiah 52:4-7. “And it came to pass … taken” (Jeremiah 38:28 b) connects naturally with Jeremiah 39:3. (ii) Jeremiah 39:4-10 are absent from the LXX, they interrupt the train of thought and look like an abridgement of Jeremiah 52:7-16. On the other hand it was not (as stated in these vv.) when the princes had taken up their position that Zedekiah, according to ch. 52, fled, but at an earlier stage (Jeremiah 39:7). Unless they are an insertion here, it is difficult to understand why no reference is made in them to the princes mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3. (iii) Jeremiah 39:11-13. In these (also absent from LXX) Nebuzaradan is mentioned (Jeremiah 39:11 as well as Jeremiah 39:9), although, according to ch. Jeremiah 52:12, he did not arrive at Jerusalem till a month later. Moreover, he is absent from the list in Jeremiah 39:3. Gi., Du. and Co. agree in rejecting all these vv., Gi. speaking, however, less confidently as to (iii). See further in introd. and other notes on ch. 52.
The ch. may be summarized as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 38:28 b–39:3. After a siege by Nebuchadnezzar which lasted for eighteen months less one day, the wall was breached and the city captured. (ii) Jeremiah 39:4-10. Zedekiah flees by the way of the Arabah, is overtaken, brought to Riblah, and, after his sons and the nobles have been slain, is blinded and carried in fetters to Babylon. Jerusalem is burned and its walls broken down. The remainder of the people are carried captive to Babylon, except the very poor who are given fields and vineyards to cultivate. (iii) Jeremiah 39:11-14. Jeremiah, by Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, is released and given in charge to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, who takes him to his house, permitting him to move about freely. (iv) Jeremiah 39:15-18. While Jeremiah is still in the guard-court, he is charged with a message to Ebed-melech that in the overthrow of the city his life shall be spared, because he has put his trust in the Lord.
Jeremiah 38:28 b. And it came to pass … taken] Owing to a wrong division of chs. in MT. and A.V., these words were mistranslated in the latter (“and he was there when Jerusalem was taken”). In R.V. they are rightly rendered and connected directly in sense with ch. 39.
In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.Jeremiah 39:3. and sat] to carry out the matters arising from the capture.
Nergal-sharezer, etc.] From the Eng. it would appear that there are six princes mentioned by name. In fact however there are but four at the most (and probably only two), viz. (a) Nergal-sharezer, (b) Samgar-nebo, (c) Sarsechim, (d) Nergal-sharezer. But (d) is probably an erroneous repetition of (a). Rab-saris (usually explained chief of the eunuchs or chamberlains but more probably chief of the heads, i.e. principal men) and Rab-mag (probably chief of the soothsayers) are the titles of those whose names they follow. Moreover, the first part of Samgar-nebo is probably a corruption of Sar-mag = Rab-mag, chief of the soothsayers, while the latter portion, inasmuch as it never elsewhere ends a name, is to be transferred to the beginning of the third name. Sarsechim, thus becoming Nebo-sarsechim, is an error for Nebushazban of Jeremiah 39:13. The above modifications of the text thus reduce the list to the more accurate form in which it appears in Jeremiah 39:13, viz. two names and two titles, i.e. Nergal-sharezer the Rab-mag and Nebushazban the Rab-saris. Nergal-sharezer was a son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar, and after the murder of Evil-Merodach (b.c. 560) seized the throne.
And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.
And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.
And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.4. by the gate betwixt, etc.] “on the S. of the city (the ‘king’s garden’ was near the pool of Siloam, Nehemiah 3:15), probably the fountain gate of Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15; Nehemiah 12:37, the ‘two walls’ (cf. Isaiah 22:11) being those below this gate along the W. side of the E. hill of Jerusalem, and the E. side of the W. hill.” Dr. See further in C.B. (Barnes) 2 Kings 25:4.
Arabah] the deep valley of the Jordan. See Deuteronomy 1:1 R.V. mg.
4–10. See introd. note and summary to ch.
But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.5. the plains of Jericho] the W. side of the Arabah.
Riblah] (Ribleh) between the mountain ranges of Lebanon and Hermon. It was a suitable halting-place for Nebuchadnezzar, as being on the high road between Babylon and Palestine and lying “on the banks of a mountain stream in the midst of a vast and fertile plain yielding the most abundant supplies of forage.” Robinson’s Bible Researches, III. 545.
gave judgement upon him] lit. spake judgements with him. See on ch. Jeremiah 1:16.
Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.
Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.7. Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes] See on Jeremiah 34:3 and cp. Jdg 16:21. “Putting out the eyes has been at all times a common Oriental punishment.… The frequency of the punishment in the time of the younger Cyrus is indicated by a passage in Xenophon, where it is said that men deprived of sight for their crimes were a common spectacle along the highways within his government.” Rawlinson’s Herod. vol. IV. p. 16. C.B. (Barnes), on the parallel passage in Kings, quotes Layard for modern instances in Persia.
fetters] The Hebrew word is dual, and the meaning therefore probably two chains. Cp. Acts 12:6.
And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.
Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.9. Nebuzaradan] He did not, however, arrive (Jeremiah 52:12; 2 Kings 25:8) till a month later.
captain of the guard] Heb. chief of the executioners.
that fell away to him] i.e. that went over to the Chaldaeans, and so were under Nebuzaradan from such time as he appeared in command.
But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.10. of the people] Probably we should read, as in Jeremiah 52:15 mg., of the artificers.
gave them … fields] but See on Jeremiah 52:16.
Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,11–14. See introd. summary to the section.
Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.12. If we are to accept this as historical (see introd. note to ch.), Nebuchadnezzar’s action was due to the fact that Jeremiah had consistently throughout counselled submission to him on the part of the Jews. See Jeremiah 40:4.
look well to him] Heb. set thine eyes upon him.
So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes;13. For the names see on Jeremiah 39:3.
Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.14. Gedaliah] See on Jeremiah 26:24.
home] to the house, apparently meaning to the prophet’s own dwelling.
dwelt] i.e. was no longer in confinement.
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,15. came] rather, had come.
15–18. See introd. summary to the section. This section is certainly out of chronological order, as relating to a time before the capture of the city, but there is no sufficient reason for condemning it (with Du. and Co.) as unhistorical.
Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.
But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.17. the men of whom thou art afraid] meaning perhaps the princes, who were hostile to Jeremiah and so would punish Ebed-melech for helping him out of the dungeon, or, as Jeremiah 39:18 suggests, the victorious army, in which case cp. Jeremiah 22:25.
For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.18. thy life shall be for a prey unto thee] See on Jeremiah 21:9.