Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The narrative that follows is of the nature of an historical appendix, and is, to a great extent, identical with 2Kings 24:18 to 2Kings 25:30. For the most part, accordingly, the reader is referred to the Notes on those chapters. Whether the compiler of 2 Kings copied from the editor of Jeremiah, or conversely; whether the prophet was his own editor, or whether that office was undertaken by a contemporary, Baruch or another, or at a much later date; whether it was written at Babylon or Jerusalem, are questions which must remain unsettled. The last fact mentioned in each case, the release of Jehoiachin by Evil-Merodach, indicates a date circ. B.C. 562. It may be noted, as indicating that the copyist, in either case, exercised an independent judgment, that while 2 Kings 25 presents the form Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 52 has Nebuchadrezzar, the latter being the more accurate form.
Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.(6) And in the fourth month.—Omitted in the Hebrew of 2Kings 25:3, but supplied in the English version.
Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.(7) Went forth out of the city.—Omitted in 2Kings 25:4.
They went by the way of the plain.—In 2Kings 25:4 “the king (not in the Hebrew) went (verb in the singular) the way toward the plain.”
Then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; where he gave judgment upon him.(9) To Riblah in the land of Hamath.—The descriptive words are omitted in 2Kings 25:6. (See Note on Jeremiah 39:5.)
And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah.(10) He slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah.—The fact is not stated in 2 Kings 25, but is found in Jeremiah 39:6.
Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.(11) And put him in prison till the day of his death.—This also is an additional detail not mentioned in 2 Kings 25, and its absence is probably due to the fact that that was the earlier narrative of the two. The word for “prison” is a peculiar one, and differs from that in Jeremiah 52:31. Literally it means “house of visitation,” and this may imply either stricter custody, or more severe punishment in addition to imprisonment. The LXX. renders it by “house of the mill,” as though Zedekiah, after he had been blinded, had been made to do slave work like that of Samson. Possibly this was merely an inference from Lamentations 5:13. Such treatment of captive kings was, however, quite in keeping with the character of Assyrian and Chaldæan rulers. Thus Assur-bani-pal boasts that he placed a king of Arabia in chains, and bound him with the dogs, and caused him to be kept in one of the great gates of Nineveh (Records of the Past, i. p. 93). So Darius, in the Behistun inscription, boasts of having taken a rebel king of Sagartia, cut off his nose and ears, and kept him chained at his door (Records of the Past, i. p. 119).
Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem,(12) In the tenth day of the month.—2Kings 25:8 gives the “seventh day.” We have no means of ascertaining which of the two statements is the more accurate. The Jews have always kept the ninth day as a commemorative fast. And this date is given in the Syriac version of 2 Kings.
Which served the king of Babylon.—Better, which stand before the king. The Hebrew word is one used continually of honourable service (Jeremiah 35:19; Numbers 27:2; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 1:30). In 2Kings 25:8 we have the less accurate term of “servant” or “slave,” or “captain of the guard.” (See Note on Jeremiah 39:9.)
And burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:(13) All the houses of the great men.—More accurately, all the great houses.
Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive certain of the poor of the people, and the residue of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude.(15) Certain of the poor of the people.—Omitted in 2Kings 25:11, and probably inserted here by an error of transcription, as the next verse states that the “poor of the land” were left in their own country.
The rest of the multitude.—Better, perhaps, the remnant of the work-people, as in Proverbs 8:30, where many commentators so render the word, “I was with him as a worker” and Song Song of Solomon 7:1. The versions, however, agree in giving “multitude.”
The caldrons also, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the bowls, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.(18-20) The caldrons also, and the shovels . . .—The list in 2Kings 25:14-16 omits the basons, the caldrons, the candlesticks, and the cups; in Jeremiah 52:15 it gives the definite article in the Hebrew “the one sea,” and omits the “twelve brasen bulls. Strictly speaking, the bases (1Kings 7:27) were under the ten lavers which were used for washing the meat for the sacrifices, and the twelve bulls (1Kings 7:25) supported the molten sea, or bigger laver, for the priests’ ablutions; 2Kings 16:17 suggests the thought that the bulk of the bronze had been removed by Ahaz and given to Tiglath Pileser, though possibly not taken away by him.
And concerning the pillars, the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a fillet of twelve cubits did compass it; and the thickness thereof was four fingers: it was hollow.(21-23) And concerning the pillars . . .—In 2Kings 25:16-17 we have a list abbreviated by the omission of some of the measurements and of the number and arrangement of the pomegranates. “Chapiter” is the old English word for the “capital” of a column.
On a side.—The exact meaning of the Hebrew is towards a (=each) wind—i.e., there were twenty-four pomegranates on each side of the square pillars, with one at each corner, making, as in Jeremiah 52:23, one hundred in all.
He took also out of the city an eunuch, which had the charge of the men of war; and seven men of them that were near the king's person, which were found in the city; and the principal scribe of the host, who mustered the people of the land; and threescore men of the people of the land, that were found in the midst of the city.(25) An eunuch, which had the charge of the men of war.—Omit the article before “charge.” The Hebrew term (Pakid) conveys the meaning of “deputy,” a superintendent under a chief commander. The officer in question had probably, together with the persons named in Jeremiah 52:24, been more conspicuous than his fellows in resisting the Chaldæans.
Seven men.—2Kings 25:19 gives “five” as the number. Here also we have to think of the exile as the punishment of prominence in the defence of the city. The chief scribe of the army, the “secretary of war,” would naturally occupy such a position. The description of the men as those “that were near the king’s person” (literally, saw the king’s face) implies a high official rank.
This is the people whom Nebuchadrezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty:(28) This is the people . . .—Here the parallelism with 2 Kings 25, which goes on to give a brief summary of the history of Gedaliah and Ishmael, as narrated in Jeremiah 40-43, ceases, and the writer of the appendix goes on to give particulars as to the various stages of the deportation of the captives. It presents some difficulties in detail. (1) The date given here, the “seventh year” of Nebuchadnezzar, does not agree with 2Kings 24:12, which gives the “eighth year” as the time of the first deportation after the defeat of Jehoiachin. (2) The number of the captives then carried into exile, given in 2Kings 24:14 at 10,000, besides the craftsmen and the smiths, is given here as 3,023. The precision of the number seems to imply reference to a register or record of some kind, and so far bears primâ facie evidence of accuracy. Probably the word “ten” has dropped out before “seven,” and we have here the record of a second deportation in the seventeenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, while the siege of Jerusalem was going on, and made up in part of prisoners taken in skirmishes, and partly of the numerous Jews who “fell away to the Chaldæans” (Jeremiah 37:13).
In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty and two persons:(29) Eight hundred thirty and two persons.—The comparatively small number indicates the ravages of the sword, the pestilence, and the famine to which Jeremiah so often refers. The captives were probably the scanty remnant of the defenders of the city, and the deportation that by Nebuzar-adan narrated in Jeremiah 52:15.
In the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty and five persons: all the persons were four thousand and six hundred.(30) In the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar . . .—There is no record of this final deportation, five years after the capture of the city, in the historical books. It probably followed on the conquest of Egypt predicted in Jeremiah 44:11; Jeremiah 44:28, and included some of those who had emigrated to that country; perhaps also on that of the Moabites and Edomites, among whom many Jews had probably taken refuge. The total number, including the 10,000 who are not mentioned here (see Note on Jeremiah 52:28), mounts up to 14,600. In Ezra 2:64-65 the number of those who returned from Babylon is given at 42,360, besides 7,337 male and female slaves, and this, as many remained behind in Babylon, is more than can be accounted for by the natural increase of population. Assuming the correctness of the numbers, we are led to the conclusion that after the exiles were settled in Babylon, and found themselves in a more favourable position than was at first anticipated (Jeremiah 29:5-6), they were joined by friends and kindred, who hoped to be better off there than in the desolation and disorders of their own country.
And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the five and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison,(31) In the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin . . .—The closing narrative is almost identical with that of 2Kings 25:27, the only differences being (1) that “five and twentieth” stands for “seven and twentieth,” (2) that in Jeremiah 52:34 we have “the king of Babylon” instead of “the king,” and (3) that the pleonastic words “until the day of his death” are inserted before “all the days of his life.” The reader is referred to the notes on that section. The variations between the two chapters, the most important of which have been noticed in the Notes, are not without importance, though insignificant in themselves, as implying that a consistent belief in the substantial truthfulness of the historical records of the Old Testament is independent of mere verbal accordance in matters of minute detail.