Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him.XXIV.
(1) In his days.—In his fifth or sixth year. In Jehoiakim’s fourth year Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho at Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2), and was suddenly called home by the news of the death of Nabopolassar his father, whom he succeeded on the throne of Babylon in the same year (Jeremiah 25:1). From Jeremiah 36:9 we learn that towards the end of Jehoiakim’s fifth year the king of Babylon was expected to invade the land. When this took place, Nebuchadnezzar humbled Jehoiakim, who had probably made his submission, by putting him in chains, and carrying off some of the Temple treasures (2Chronicles 36:6-7). Left in the possession of his throne as a vassal of Babylon, Jehoiakim paid tribute three years, and then tried to throw off the yoke.
And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets.(2) And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees.—Jehoiakim’s revolt was no doubt instigated by Egypt. Whilst Nebuchadnezzar himself was engaged elsewhere in his great empire, predatory bands of Chaldeans, and of the neighbouring peoples the hereditary enemies of Judah, who had submitted to Nebuchadnezzar, and were nothing loth to make reprisals for the power which Josiah had, perhaps, exercised over them, ravaged the Judæan territory (comp. Jeremiah 12:8-17, concerning Judah’s “evil neighbours”).
According to the word of the Lord.—Isaiah, Micah, Urijah (Jeremiah 26:20), Huldah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and doubtless others whose names and writings have not been transmitted, had foretold the fate that was now closing in upon Judah.
Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did;(3) Surely at the commandment.—Literally, Only (i.e., upon no other ground than) upon the mouth (i.e., at the command of; 2Kings 23:35) of Jehovah did it happen in Judah. The LXX. and Syriac read wrath instead of mouth, which Ewald prefers (so 2Kings 24:20).
Out of his sight.—From before his face, i.e., as the Targum explains, from the land where he was present in his Temple.
And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.(4) The innocent blood.—Heb., blood of the innocent; an expression like hand of the right, i.e., the right hand; or, day of the sixth, i.e., the sixth day. Thenius thinks the murder of some prominent personage, such as Isaiah, may be intended, and wishes to distinguish between the statement of the first clause of the verse and the second; but 2Kings 21:16, where the two statements are connected more closely, does not favour this view.
Which the Lord would not pardon.—Literally, and Jehovah willed not to pardon. We must not soften the statement of 2Kings 24:3-4, as Bähr does, by asserting the meaning to be that the nation was punished, not for the sins of Manasseh, but for its persistence in the same kind of sins. The sins of Manasseh are regarded as a climax in Judah’s long course of provocation: the cup was full, and judgment ready to fall. It was only suspended for a time, not revoked, in the reign of the good king Josiah. In short, the idea of the writer is that the innocent blood shed by Manasseh cried to heaven for vengeance, and that the ruin of the kingdom was the answer of the All righteous Judge. It is no objection to say, that in that case children suffered for their fathers’ misdeeds; that was precisely the Old Testament doctrine, until Ezekiel proclaimed another (Ezekiel 18:19; comp. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). Looking at the catastrophe from a different standpoint, we may remember that national iniquities must be chastised in the present life, if at all; and that the sufferings of the exile were necessary for the purification of Israel from its inveterate tendency to apostatise from Jehovah.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?(5) Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim . . .—Assuming with Hitzig that the passage Habakkuk 2:9-14 refers to him, we gather that he severely oppressed his people by his exactions of forced labour upon the defences of Jerusalem. Thenius concludes from the words, “that he may set his nest on high,” &c., that Jehoiakim strengthened and enlarged the fortress on Ophel erected by Manasseh. (Comp. also Jeremiah 22:13-17.)
Are they not written . . .—The last reference to this authority. Bähr concludes that the work did not extend beyond the reign of Jehoiakim.
So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.(6) So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers.—The usual notice of the king’s burial is omitted, and the omission is significant, considered in the light of Jeremiah’s prophecy: “Thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; they shall not lament for him . . . He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem”(Jeremiah 22:18-19; comp. Jeremiah 36:30). Jehoiakim appears to have been slain in an encounter with the bauds of freebooters mentioned in 2Kings 24:2, so that his body was left to decay where it fell, all his followers having perished with him. Ewald supposes that he was lured out of Jerusalem to a pretended conference with the Chaldeans, and then treacherously seized, and, as he proved a refractory prisoner, slain, and his body denied the last honours, his family craving its restoration in vain. (The words of the text do not necessarily imply a natural and peaceful death, as Thenius alleges, but simply death without further qualification.)
And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.(7) And the king of Egypt came not again any more . . .—The verse indicates the posture of political affairs at the time when Jehoiachin succeeded his father. Necho had been deprived by Nebuchadnezzar of all his conquests, and so crippled that he durst not venture again beyond his own borders. Thus Judah was left, denuded of all external help, to face the consequences of its revolt from Babylon, which speedily overtook it (2Kings 24:10).
From the river (torrent) of Egypt—i.e., the Wady-el-Arish. The details of this campaign of Nebuchadnezzar are not recorded. It is clear, from the statement before us, that before the battle of Carchemish Necho had made himself master of the whole of Syria and the country east of the Jordan.
Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.THE REIGN OF JEHOIACHIN. BEGINNING OF THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY
(8) Jehoiachin.—“Jah will confirm.” Four or five different forms of this name occur in the documents. Ezekiel 1:2 gives the contraction Joiachin. In Jeremiah we find a popular transposition of the two elements, thus: Jechonjahu (once, viz., Jeremiah 24:1, Heb.), and usually the shorter form, Jechoniah (Jeremiah 27:20; Esther 2:6); which is further abridged into Coniah (Heb., Chonjahu) in Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28. Ewald thinks this last the original name; but Hengstenberg supposes that the prophet altered the name, so as to make of it a “Jah will confirm” without the “will,” in order to foreshadow the fate which awaited this king.
Nehushta.—Referring, perhaps, to her complexion (as we say “bronzed”).
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.(9) And he did that which was evil . . .—Ezekiel 19:5-9 refers to him, according to Keil and Ewald; but Thenius asks how, in his position, and during his brief reign of ninety (?) days, a considerable number of which must probably be allowed for the siege, he could possibly do what is there described. Hitzig refers the passage to Zedekiah; and so Thenius. Josephus calls Jehoiachin “naturally good and just;” probably misunderstanding the words of Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28.
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.(10) At that time.—In the spring of the year (2Chronicles 36:10). Thenius infers from Jeremiah 13:19 (“the cities of the south land are shut up”), that Nebuchadnezzar drew a cordon across that part of the country, to cut off any succours from Egypt.
The servants—i.e., generals. (Comp. 2Kings 19:6.)
And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.(11) Did besiege.—Were besieging. The king arrived after the siege had begun.
Came against.—Came unto.
And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.(12) And Jehoiaehin the king of Judah went out . . .—Despairing of the defence, he threw himself upon the clemency of Nebuchadnezzar. The queen-mother (Jeremiah 22:2) and all his grandees and courtiers accompanied the king, who probably hoped to be allowed to keep his throne as a vassal of Babylon.
Took him—i.e., as a prisoner.
And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said.(13) And he carried out thence . . .—It is apt said, but implied, that Nebuchadnezzar entered the city. He may have done so at the time of his invasion under Jehoiakim (2Kings 24:1). On that occasion he had carried off some of the sacred vessels (2Chronicles 36:7; Daniel 1:2; Daniel 5:2-3; comp. Ezra 1:7 seq.) It is certainly surprising to find that anything was left in the Temple treasury after the repeated spoliations which it had undergone. The fact not only indicates the probable existence of secret (subterranean) store-chambers, but also lends some support to the chronicler’s representations of the great wealth stored up in the sanctuary.
Cut in pieces.—2Kings 16:17; 2Chronicles 28:24. The meaning seems to be that the gold-plating was now stripped off from such “vessels” as the altar of incense, the table of shewbread, and the Ark. (Comp. 2Kings 18:16.)
And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.(14) All Jerusalem.—Limited by what follows, and meaning the most important part of the population.
The princes—i.e., the nobles, e.g., the grandees of the court, some of the priests (Ezekiel 1:1), and the heads of the clans.
The mighty men of valour.—This is probably right. Thenius and Bähr prefer to understand the men of property and the artisans, as in 2Kings 15:20.
All the craftsmen and smiths.—The former were workers in wood, stone, and metal, i.e., carpenters, masons, and smiths. (Comp. Genesis 4:22.) The “smiths” (properly, “they who shut”) answer to what we should call locksmiths. They were makers of bolts and bars for doors and gates (Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2). It is obvious that by deporting “the craftsmen and smiths” the king of Babylon made further outbreaks impossible (comp. 1Samuel 13:19.) Kimchi’s explanation of “smiths” is a curiosity of exegesis. He makes of them “learned persons, who shut other people’s mouths, and propose riddles which nobody else can guess.” Hitzig and Thenius derive the word (masgēr) from mas, “levy,” and gēr, “alien,” so that it would originally mean “statute labourers,” “Canaanites compelled to work for the king;” and afterwards, as here, “manual labourers” in general. But such a compound term in Hebrew would be very surprising.
The poorest sort.—Those who had neither property nor handicraft. (Comp. Jeremiah 39:10.)
And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.(15) And he carried away.—The form of the verb is different from that in 2Kings 24:14. We might render: “Yea, he carried away;” for 2Kings 24:15-16 simply give the particulars of what was stated generally in 2Kings 24:14. In the present verse the “princes” are defined.
He carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother.—Fulfilment of Jeremiah 22:24-27.
The mighty of the land.—So the Targum, “the magnates of the land.” All who could do so, must have taken refuge in Jerusalem at the approach of the Chaldæan army.
And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.(16) And all the men of might.—“The mighty men of valour” of 2Kings 24:14. (The words depend on the verb, “he carried away,” in 2Kings 24:14.) As there were 7,000 of these, and 1,000 “craftsmen and smiths,” and the total number of the exiles was 10,000, there were 2,000 belonging to the aristocratic classes. Jeremiah 52:28 gives a total of 3,023. Thenius explains his discrepancy as resulting from a transcriber’s confusion of a large y, i.e. 10, with g, i.e. 3. Josephus has made his total of 10,832 out of the 832 of the second deportation (Jeremiah 52:29) added to the 10,000 here assigned.
All that were strong and apt for war.—Literally, the whole, warriors and doers of battle. This clause refers to both those which precede, and it states that the 8,000 were all men in their prime, and trained in the use of weapons (Thenius). But may not the term “strong” (gibbôrûm, “heroes,” “warriors”) refer to the 7,000 as actual fighting men; and the phrase “makers of war” denote the craftsmen as employed in forging weapons and constructing defences? (The Syriac reads, and all the men that made war.)
Even them the king of Babylon brought.—Literally, and the King of Babylon brought them.
And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.(17) Mattaniah his father’s brother.—He was the third son of Josiah (comp. Jeremiah 1:3; Jeremiah 37:1), and full brother of Jehoahaz-Shallum (2Kings 23:31). Jehoiachin was childless at the time (comp. 2Kings 24:12; 2Kings 24:15 with 2Kings 25:7 and Jeremiah 22:30). In the exile he had offspring (1Chronicles 3:17-18). (The LXX. reads, his son, υἱὸν, a corruption of θεῖον, uncle).
And changed his name to Zedekiah.—His former name meant “gift of Jah;” his new one, “Jah is righteousness” (or “myrighteousness”). The prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-9), denouncing “the shepherds that destroy and scatter the flock” and promising a future king, whose name shall be “Jehovah is our righteousness” (lahweh çidgēnu), evidently refers to the delusive expectations connected with Zedekiah’s elevation. Nebuchadnezzar’s act of clemency in putting another native prince on the throne may have been the execution of a promise made at the surrender of the city.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.THE REIGN OF ZEDEKIAH, the last KING OF JUDAH (2Kings 24:17 to 2Kings 25:7; comp. 2Chronicles 36:11 seq.; Jeremiah 52).
This section and the parallel in Jeremiah appear to have been derived from the same historical work. The text of Jeremiah is generally, though not always, the best.
(19) And he did that which was evil . . .—The evidence of the prophet Jeremiah should be compared with this statement. (See especially Jeremiah 24:8; Jeremiah 37:1-2; Jeremiah 38:5, and Comp. Note on 2Chronicles 36:13.) The contemporary state of religion is vividly reflected in the pages of Ezekiel (2Kings viii—11); who, moreover, denounces Zedekiah’s breach of faith with the king of Babylon (Ezekiel 17:11-21).
According to all that Jehoiakim . . .—He is not compared with Jehoiachin, who only reigned three months.
For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.(20) For through . . . in Jerusalem.—Literally, for upon the anger of Jehovah it befel Jerusalem. That which fell upon Jerusalem and Judah like a ruinous disaster was the evil doing of Zedekiah, mentioned in 2Kings 24:19. That such a prince as Zedekiah was raised to the throne was itself a token of Divine displeasure, for his character was such as to hasten the final catastrophe.
Until he had cast them out.—See Note on 2Kings 17:23.
That Zedekiah rebelled.—Rather, and Zedelciah rebelled. There should be a full stop after “presence.” Zedekiah expected help from Pharaoh Hophra (Apries), king of Egypt, to whom he sent ambassadors (Ezekiel 17:15; comp. Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 44:30.) Moreover the neighbouring peoples of Edom, Ammon, and Moab, as well as Tyre and Zidon, were eager to throw off the Babylonian yoke, and had proposed a general rising to Zedekiah (Jeremiah 27:3 seq.) The high hopes which were inspired by the negotiations may be inferred from the prophecy of Hananiah (Jeremiah 28). Jeremiah opposed the project of revolt to the utmost of his power; and the event proved that he was right. In the early part of his reign Zedekiah had tried to procure the return of the exiles carried away in the last reign (Jeremiah 29:3); and in his fourth year he visited Babylon himself, perhaps with the same object, and to satisfy Nebuchadnezzar of his fidelity (Jeremiah 51:59). The date of his open revolt cannot be fixed.