Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XXV.
In the ninth year . . . tenth day.—Comp. the similarly exact dates in 2Kings 25:3; 2Kings 25:8. Ezekiel 24:1-2, agrees with the present. The days were observed as fasts during the exile (Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19).
Came . . . against Jerusalem.—After taking the other strong places of Judah, as Sennacherib had done (Jeremiah 34:7; comp. 2Kings 18:13; 2Kings 19:8), Zedekiah must have prepared for the siege, as it lasted a year and a half.
Forts.—The Hebrew word (dāyēq) occurs in Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 21:27; Ezekiel 26:8. Its meaning is some kind of siege work, as appears from the context in each case; but what precisely is not clear. The LXX. here has “wall” (τεῖχος); Syriac, “palisade” (qalqûmê, i.e., χαράκωμα).
And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.(2) Unto the eleventh year.—The siege lasted altogether one year, five months, and twenty-seven days (2Kings 25:1 compared with 2Kings 25:8). The Chaldæans raised the siege for a time, and marched against Pharaoh-Hophra, who was coming to the help of the Jews (Jeremiah 37:5 seq.; comp. Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 30:20 seq.)
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 text is supplemented from Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:6. The Syriac, however, has, “And in the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, in the fifth month, on the ninth day of the month, the famine prevailed,” &c.; which may be original. (Comp. 2Kings 25:1.)
The famine prevailed.—Not that the scarcity was first felt on that day, but that it then had reached a climax, so that defence was no longer possible. The horrors of the siege are referred to in Lamentations 2:11 seq., Lamentations 2:19 seq., Lamentations 4:3-10; Ezekiel 5:10; Baruch 2:3. As in the famine of Samaria and the last siege of Jerusalem, parents ate their own offspring. (Comp. the prophetic threats of Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53 seq.; Jeremiah 15:2 seq., Jeremiah 27:13; Ezekiel 4:16 seq.)
The people of the land.—The population of the city, especially the families which had crowded into it from the country. Thenius, as usual, insists that the militia are meant. But these are the “men of war” (2Kings 25:4).
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) Broken up.—Comp. 2Chronicles 32:1. A breach was made in the wall with battering-rams, such as are depicted in the Assyrian sculptures. The Chaldæans forced their entry on the north side of the city, i.e., they took the Lower City (2Kings 22:14). This is clear from Jeremiah 39:3, where it is said that, after effecting an entrance, their generals proceeded to assault “the middle gate,” i.e., the gate in the north wall of Zion, which separated the upper from the lower city. (See also 2Kings 14:13.)
All the men of war fled.—The Hebrew here is defective, for it wants a verb, and mention of the king is implied by what follows. (See Jeremiah 39:4; Jeremiah 52:7.) A comparison of these parallels suggests the reading: “And Zedekiah king of Judah and all the men of war fled, and went out of the city by night,” &c.
By the way of the gate between (the) two walls which is (was) by the king’s garden.—This gate lay at the south end of the Tyropœon, i.e., the glen between Ophel and Zion; and is the same as “the Gate of the Fountain” (Nehemiah 3:15). The two walls were necessary for the protection of the Pool of Siloam and the water supply; besides which the point was naturally weak for purposes of defence. Whether “the king’s garden” was within or without the double wall is not clear, probably the latter, as Thenius supposes.
Now the Chaldees . . . round about.—An indication that even by this route the king and his warriors had to break through the enemy’s lines, as the city was completely invested. (Corap. Ezekiel 12:12.)
And the king went.— Some MSS. and the Syriac, and they went. (So Jeremiah 52:7; a correction, after the mention of the king had fallen out of the text.)
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) In the plains of Jericho.—In the neighbour. hood of Jericho, the Arabah expands to the breadth of eleven or twelve miles. The part west of Jordan was called the “plains” (Arbôth plural of Arabah) of Jericho; and that which lay east of the river was known as the plains of Moab (Joshua 4:13; Numbers 22:1). The depression between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Akaba still bears the old name of the Arabah; between the Dead Sea and the Lake of Tiberias it is called the Ghor.
So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.(6) To the king of Babylon, to Riblah.—2Kings 23:33. Nebuchadnezzar was not present at the storm of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:3). He awaited the result in his headquarters.
And they gave judgment upon him.—Or, brought him to trial. (Comp. Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:12.) Nebuchadnezzar with the grandees of his court, perhaps including some dependent princes of the country, held a solemn trial of Zedekiah, as a rebel against his liege lord, in which, no doubt, his breach of oath was made prominent (2Chronicles 36:13; Ezekiel 17:15; Ezekiel 17:18). The verb is singular in Jeremiah, and the versions. (See next Note.)
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) And they slew . . .—The verbs are all singular in Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:10-11; so that the acts in question are attributed directly to Nebuchadnezzar, to whose orders they were due. (So the versions, except that the Targum has “they slew.”) The blinding of Zedekiah need not have been done by the conqueror himself, although in the Assyrian sculptures kings are actually represented as blinding and otherwise torturing their captives. It is no argument against the singular, “he carried him to Babylon,” to say with Thenius that Zedekiah was sent to Babylon at once, while Nebuchadnezzar remained at Riblah. “Qui facit per alium, facit per se.”
The sons.—Who fled with him (Comp. Jeremiah 41:10). In Jeremiah it is added that all the nobles or princes. of Judah were slain also.
Put out the eyes.—A Babylonian punishment (Herod, vii. 18). This was the meaning of Ezekiel’s prediction; “I will bring him to Babylon . . . yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there” (Ezekiel 12:13).
With fetters of brass.—Literally, with the double brass (2Chronicles 33:12); i.e., with manacles and fetters, as represented on the Assyrian monuments.
Carried him to Babylon.—Jeremiah 52:11; “and put him in prison till the day of his death.” So the Arabic of Kings.
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) On the seventh day . . .—An error for the tenth day (Jeremiah 52:12), one numeral letter having been mistaken for another. The Syriac and Arabic read ninth (perhaps, because, as Thenius suggests, the memorial fasts began on the evening of the ninth day).
According to Josephus the second Temple also was burnt on the tenth of the fifth month (Bell. Jud. vi. 4.8).
The nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar.—This agrees with Jeremiah 32:1, according to which the tenth of Zedekiah was the eighteenth of Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuzaradan.—A Hebrew transcript of the Babylonian name Nabû-zir-iddina, “Nebo gave seed.”
Captain of the guard.—Strictly, chief of executioners. (See Genesis 37:36.) This means commander of the Royal Bodyguard, the “Praetorians” of the time; a corps of picked warriors, answering to the “Cherethites and Pelethites,” and the “Carians and Runners” among the Hebrews (2Kings 11:4). Nebuzaradan is not mentioned among the other generals in Jeremiah 39:3. On this ground, and because his coming is expressly-mentioned here, and because a month elapsed between the taking of the city (2Kings 25:4) and its destruction (2Kings 25:9-10), Thenius infers that the city of David and the Temple did not at once fall into the hands of the Chaldeans; but were so well defended under the lead of some soldier like Ishmael (2Kings 25:23), that Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to despatch a specially distinguished commander to bring the matter to a conclusion. 2Kings 25:18-21 certainly appear to favour this view.
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) He burnt the house . . . king’s house.—Which were in the upper city. (There should be a semicolon after “king’s house.”)
And every great man’s house.—Omit man’s. The phrase limits the preceding one, “all the houses of Jerusalem,” that is to say, “every great house” (2Chronicles 36:19, “all her palaces”). The common houses were spared for the poor who were left (2Kings 25:12).
And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.(10) With the captain.—The preposition, though wanting in the common Hebrew text, is found in many MSS. and the old versions, as well as Jeremiah 52
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) The fugitives that fell away—i.e., the deserters. (See Jeremiah 27:12; Jeremiah 37:13 sea., Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 38:4; Jeremiah 38:17; Jeremiah 38:19.)
The multitude.—Probably the rank and file of the fighting-men (Judges 4:7). The word is hāmôn, strictly a shouting throng. (The Syriac has “the rest of the army.”) Jeremiah 52:15, spells the word with the light breathing (‘āniôn—either a dialectic use, or a mistake, not a distinct word).
But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.(12) Of the poor of the land.—2Kings 24:14 (Comp. Jeremiah 39:10.)
Husbandmen.—Or, plowmen. The word (Hebrew text, gābîm) occurs here only. Jeremiah 52:16 has a cognate form (yôg’bîm) also unique.
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.—From this point Jeremiah 39 ceases to be parallel with the present narrative. (See the Notes on 1Kings 7:15 seq., for the objects enumerated in this and the following verses.) Instead of “brass” we should probably understand copper throughout.
And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.(14) The snuffers.—Jeremiah 52:18 adds: and the sprinkling-bowls. The account there is in general more detailed than the present. (See 1Kings 7:40; 1Kings 7:50.)
Ministered.—Used to minister. Things belonging to the service of the brazen altar are enumerated in this verse.
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) Firepans.—See 1Kings 7:50. Besides “firepans” and “bowls” five other sorts of vessel are given in Jeremiah 52:19.
Such things as were . . . silver.—A general expression intended to include all other objects of the same material as the two kinds mentioned. The verse treats of the utensils of the holy place. Many such had doubtless been carefully concealed by the priests on the occasion of the first plundering of the Temple (2Kings 24:13). (Comp. Jeremiah 27:19 seq.)
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 two pillars, (the) one sea . . .—A nominative absolute.
All these vessels . . .—Those just mentioned, the two pillars, &c.
Without weight.—A natural hyperbole closely resembling one which we often meet with in Assyrian accounts of the plunder carried off from conquered towns: “spoils without number 1 carried off.”
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) Three cubits.—An error of transcription for five. Five cubits was the height of the capital according to 1Kings 7:16; Jeremiah 52:22; 2Chronicles 3:15.
The wreathen work.—Lattice-work (1Kings 7:17).
With wreathen work.—Upon the lattice-work. Thenius says this is the residuum of a sentence preserved in Jeremiah—namely, “And the pomegranates were ninety and six towards the outside; all the pomegranates were a hundred upon the lattice-work round about” (Jeremiah 52:23). Our text is, at any rate, much abridged.
And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door:(18, 19) List of the chief personages taken by Nebu-zaradan in the Temple and the city of David. This notice may be regarded as an indirect proof that the upper city was not captured before.
Zephaniah the second priest.—See 2Kings 23:4, Note; and Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 29:25; Jeremiah 29:29; Jeremiah 37:3. From the last three passages it is clear that Zephaniah was a priest of high rank, being probably the high priest’s deputy.
The three keepers of the door (threshold).—The chief warders of the principal entrances to the Temple. (See Jeremiah 38:13.) All the chief officials of the Temple were apparently taken away together.
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) The city.—Thenius is probably right in explaining the city of David.
An officer that was set over the men of war—i.e., a royal officer commanding the garrison of the city of David. He was probably not an eunuch (2Kings 20:18; 2Kings 24:12), though in the Byzantine empire, at all events, eunuchs were sometimes great soldiers—e.g., the heroic Narses.
And five men of them . . .—See margin. The phrase is explained by the seclusion affected by Oriental sovereigns. The LXX., Syriac, and Vulg., read five; the Targum, fifty. Jeremiah 52 and the Arabic read seven. The numeral letter denoting 5 had probably become partially obliterated in the MS. used by the writer of Jeremiah 52. The persons in question were royal counsellors. They may have dissuaded the king from flight, and so held out to the last (Thenius).
The principal scribe of the host.—See margin. This scribe was an officer on the staff of the commander-in-chief, who had himself either fallen fighting or accompanied the king in his flight.
Which mustered the people of the land—i.e., enrolled the names of such persons as were bound to serve in the army.
Threescore men of the people of the land . . .—i.e., apparently the remains of the garrison of the citadel. Keil thinks such as had distinguished themselves above others in the defence, or had been ringleaders in the rebellion.
That were found . . .—This expression seems to imply that they were the few survivors of a much larger force.
In the city.—Jeremiah 52 in the midst of the city, an expression which seems to point to the city of David, which was the strategical centre of Jerusalem.
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) The king of Babylon smote them . . .—He was too irritated by the obstinacy of their defence to admire their bravery.
So Judah was carried away . . .—This sentence evidently concludes the whole account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people (comp. 2Kings 17:23; Jeremiah 52:27); and not merely that of the proceedings of Nebuzaradan. The prophecy of Obadiah refers to the heartless behaviour of the Edomites on occasion of the ruin of Judah. (Comp. Psalms 137; Lamentations 4:21-22.)
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) An extract from Jeremiah 40-63, relating to the people left in the land.
(22) Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.—Ahikam was one of Josiah’s princes (2Kings 22:12). In the reign of Jehoiakim he saved the prophet Jeremiah from the popular fury (Jeremiah 26:24). Nebuzaradan committed the prophet to the care of Gedaliah, who probably, like his father, sympathised with Jeremiah’s views (Jeremiah 39:13-14). After hesitating whether to accompany Nebuzaradan to Babylon or not, the prophet finally decided upon repairing to Gedaliah at Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:1-6). Gedaliah’s magnanimous behaviour in regard to Ishmael (Jeremiah 40:16 seq.) shows that he was not a traitor and deserter as some have misnamed him. Rather he was a disciple of Jeremiah, and did his utmost to induce the remnant over which he was appointed governor to submit with patience to their divinely-ordered lot, as the prophet urged them to do.
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) The captains of the armies.—Rather, the army captains; or, the captains of the forces. They and their men had fled with the king, and dispersed themselves over the country (Jeremiah 40:7). Now they came out of hiding.
Their men.—The Hebrew text has the men, but all the versions, and Jeremiah 40:7, read rightly, their men.
Mizpah.—See 1Kings 15:22. It was well suited to be the governor’s residence, as it lay high, and was a naturally strong position. Moreover, it was the seat of an ancient sanctuary (Judges 20:1), which might serve in some sort as a substitute for the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 41:5).
Johanan the son of Careah.—Jeremiah 40:8, “and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Careah.”
The Netophathite.—The words, “and the sons of Ophai,” have fallen out before this epithet (Jeremiah 40:8), and probably the names of these sons of Ophai in both passages. Netophah is mentioned in Ezra 2:22; Nehemiah 7:26. It may be Beit Nettif south-west of Jerusalem.
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) fear not to be the servants.—Rather, Be not afraid of the servants. By “the servants of the Chaldees” Gedaliah probably means those who recognised the Chaldeans as their masters—that is to say, himself and those who adhere to him. He promises immunity for the past if only the captains and their men will settle down quietly as subjects of the conqueror.
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.—Only two months after the fall of Jerusalem (2Kings 25:8).
Smote Gedaliah.—At a friendly meal in the governor’s own house (Jeremiah 41:1-2). Perhaps, as Josephus says, when he and his followers were overcome with wine.
Of the seed royal.—Perhaps this reveals Ishmael’s motive. He thought his claim to the government of the community was greater than Gedaliah’s. Baalis king of the Ammonites had incited him to the crime (Jeremiah 40:14).
The Chaldees that were with him.—They were soldiers left to support his authority (Jeremiah 41:3).
That he died.—The Jews afterwards observed the day of Gedaliah’s death as a day of mourning.
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) Arose and came to Egypt.—They took Jeremiah with them (Jeremiah 43:6). This verse only gives the end of the story as it is told in Jeremiah.
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) The captivity of Jehoiachin ameliorated by the new king of Babylon. (See Jeremiah 52:31-34.)
Evil-merodach.—In Babylonian Amil-marduk, “man of Merodach.” (Comp. the Hebrew Eshbaal, “man of Baal.”) There are in the British Museum some contract tablets dated from his regnal years (562, 561, 560, B.C. ). He came to the throne 562 B.C. , upon the death of Nebuchadnezzar, who had reigned forty-three years. According to the canon of Ptolemy, Evil-merodach reigned two years. He was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar—i.e., Nergal-sharezer.
Did lift up the head of Jehoiachin . . . out of prison—i.e., brought him out of prison (Genesis 40:13; Genesis 40:20). The LXX., Syriac, and Arabic add, “and brought him forth” before the words “out of prison.” So Jeremiah 52:31.
And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon;(28) Set his throne above the throne of the kings . . .—Gave him precedence of the other captive kings who were kept at the Babylonian court by way of enhancing its glory (comp. Judges 1:7), and probably marked this precedence by allowing him a higher chair of state in the royal hall. So Cyrus kept Croesus king of Lydia at his court (Herod, i. 88). We may remember also the chivalrous behaviour of our own Black Prince towards his royal captive John of France.
And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.(29) And changed.—Rather, and he (i.e., Jehoiachin) changed his prison garments—that is to say, he discarded them for others more suitable to his new condition. Joseph did the same when taken from prison to the Egyptian court (Genesis 41:14).
He did eat bread continually before him . . .—Jehoiachin became a perpetual guest at the royal table. (Comp. 2Samuel 9:10-13.)
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) His allowance.—For the maintenance of his little court. Literally, And (as for) his allowance a continual allowance was given him from the king, a day’s portion in its day.
All the days of his (Jehoiachin’s) life.—He may have died before Evil-merodach was murdered. There would be nothing strange in this, considering his age and his thirty-seven years of imprisonment.
The writer evidently dwells with pleasure on this faint gleam of light amid the darkness of the exile. It was a kind of foreshadowing of the pity which afterwards was to be extended to the captive people, when the divine purpose had been achieved, and the exile had done its work of chastisement and purification. (Comp, Psalm 106:46; Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 2:2.)