Jeremiah 39:3
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.
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(3) In the middle gate.—The term indicates a position in the line of walls between the citadel of Zion—the “upper city” of Josephus (Ant. v. 20. 2), which as yet was not surrendered (Jeremiah 39:4)—and the lower city, in the walls of which a breach had been effected. Here an open space, originally used as a forum, or place of judgment, now gave the Chaldæan generals a central encampment, from which they could command both quarters of the city, and by taking their place in the heart of its life, formally assert their mastery. Each of the names that follow has a meaning and history of its own.

Nergal-sharezer.—The first half of the name appears in 2Kings 17:30 as that of a Cuthite, or Assyrian deity, and means the “great hero.” It occurs frequently in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser and Assur-banipal (e.g., Records of the Past, i. 77, 103). The whole name appears in Assyrian monuments as Nergal-shar-uzur. Two of the generals mentioned here bore the same name, and each apparently was distinguished by a special title.

Samgar–nebo.—Here the second half is the name of a Babylonian deity (Isaiah 46:1; Jeremiah 48:1), possibly connected with the Hebrew Nabi (= prophet), and so answering to the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek Hermes. The great temple at Borsippa, known as Birs Nimroud, was dedicated to him (Records of the Past, vii. 77). The first half has been explained by some scholars as meaning “warrior,” by others as “cupbearer,” and so equivalent to Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:2), and as such is attached to the foregoing name of Nergal-sharezer. As a rule, the name of Nebo appears always in the beginning of compound words, as in Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzar-adan, &c.; and probably we should connect it here with the name that follows.

Sarsechim, Rab-saris.—Probably, as indicated in the previous Note, the name should stand as Nebo-sarsechim. The two names go together, the first as a proper name, the second as a title, meaning “the chief eunuch.” In Jeremiah 39:13, Nebushasban appears as bearing the same title. In 2Kings 18:17 it appears simply as a title, as in Rabshakeh we have “the chief cupbearer.”

Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag.—Here also the second name is the title of office, meaning probably “chief of the Magi,” or “chief of the priests.” The man thus named, who appears on the Assyrian monuments as Nergal-shar-uzur Rubu-emga, played a prominent part afterwards as murdering Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, whose sister he had married. He reigned for three or four years, and appears in Berosus (Joseph. 100 Apion, i. 20) under the name of Neriglissar. The older name is found on the bricks of a palace at Babylon, on the right bank of the Euphrates (Smith’s Dict. of Bible. Art. Nergal-sharezer).

39:1-10 Jerusalem was so strong, that the inhabitants believed the enemy could never enter it. But sin provoked God to withdraw his protection, and then it was as weak as other cities. Zedekiah had his eyes put out; so he was condemned to darkness who had shut his eyes against the clear light of God's word. Those who will not believe God's words, will be convinced by the event. Observe the wonderful changes of Providence, how uncertain are earthly possessions; and see the just dealings of Providence: but whether the Lord makes men poor or rich, nothing will profit them while they cleave to their sins.These princes were four:

(1) Nergal, Sharezer, i. e., Nirgal-sar-usur (May Nergal protect the king);

(2) Samgar-Nebo (Be gracious, O Nebo);

(3) Sarsechim. No explanation is given at present of this name. He was Rab-saris, i. e., chief of the eunuchs (2 Kings 18:17 note).

(4) another Nergal-sharezer, who was Rab-mag, i. e., chief of the Magians. He is known in history as Neriglissar, the son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar, and probably his vicegerent during his seven years of madness. Two years after his death Neriglissar murdered Evil-Merodach, Nebuchadnezzars son, and seized the crown, but after a reign of four years was slain in battle against Cyrus, when disputing with him the crown of Media. See Daniel 5:1 note.

The middle gate - Probably that which separated the city of Zion from the lower town.

3. sat—expressing military occupation or encampment.

middle gate—the gate from the upper city (comprehending Mount Zion) to the lower city (north of the former and much lower); it was into the latter (the north side) that the Chaldeans forced an entry and took up their position opposite the gate of the "middle" wall, between the lower and upper city. Zedekiah fled in the opposite, that is, the south direction (Jer 39:4).

Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo—proper names formed from those of the idols, Nergal and Nebo (2Ki 17:30; Isa 46:1).

Rab-saris—meaning "chief of the eunuchs."

Rab-mag—chief of the magi; brought with the expedition in order that its issue might be foreknown through his astrological skill. Mag is a Persian word, meaning "great," "powerful." The magi were a sacerdotal caste among the Medes, and supported the Zoroastrian religion.

All the great men of Babylon that were employed in the conduct of the Babylonian army (the city being taken by storm or surprise) entered into it, but rested at the middle gate. The city, they say, was encompassed with two walls, before they came to the wall of the temple; the gate in the inner wall is supposed to have been that which is called the middle gate: they would not at first adventure in further; the city being large and well fortified, there might have been some traps laid for them; they would therefore have their soldiers first clear the streets, and search all places, that they might enter further into the city without hazarding their persons. Some interpreters have examined the signification of the names of these princes, but I know of no use it can be to us, whether they were the names of the persons, or significative of the offices they bare.

And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in,.... Into the city: a breach being made in the walls to take possession of it:

and sat in the middle gate; according to Jarchi, this was a gate of the temple; the gate Nicanor, the eastern gate, which was between the gate of the court of the women and the gate of the temple; who observes, that their Rabbins say, the middle gate was the gate in which the wise men made their decrees and constitutions: so that, in "the place of judgment, wickedness was there"; as in Ecclesiastes 3:16; and Josephus (g) says, that the city was taken in the middle of the night, when the enemies' generals went into the temple; but rather, according to Kimchi, it was one of the gates of the city of Jerusalem; according to Abarbinel, Jerusalem had three walls, and this was the gate of the middle wall; but others take it to be the gate in the middle wall, between the upper and lower city; perhaps it is the same called the second gate, Zephaniah 1:10; and might be the chief and principal gate where these princes placed their seats in triumph as victors, and so fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:15; though they might have another reason for it, their own safety; here they sat till the city was well searched and cleared, lest there should be any ambush laid for them, and cut them off as they entered. The names of some of them were as follow:

even Nergalsharezer: according to Kimchi, these are two names of two distinct persons; but generally thought to be one name of the same person; so Josephus, who calls him Nergelearus. The first part of the name "Nergal" was the name of an idol with the Cushites, 2 Kings 17:30; and it was usual with the Heathens to give the names of their idols to their kings, princes, and great men. The other part, "Sharezer", is a name of one of Sennacherib's sons; and seems to be an Assyrian name, Isaiah 37:38. The next is called

Samgarnebo; though, according to Hillerus (h), this is a surname of the former, to distinguish him from another Nergalsharezer after mentioned, taken from his office: this name signifying the "strict keeper of Nebo", the temple of the idol Nebo; see Isaiah 46:1. The next is

Sarsechim Rabsaris; for these are not two names of different persons, but of the same person. The first is his proper name, which signifies the "prince of the Scythians"; the other his name of office, and signifies the "chief eunuch", or the "chief of the eunuchs". The last name is

Nergalsharezer Rabmag; these names belong to the same person, who is called from his office "Rabmag", the "chief magician", or the "chief of the magicians", to distinguish him from the other Nergalsharezer before mentioned: these,

with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon, entered the city and took it.

(g) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 8. sect. 2.((h) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 608.

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.
Verse 3. - And all the princes, etc.; rather, That all the princes, etc. (see on Jeremiah 38:28). The fact mentioned in this verse is not recorded in 2 Kings 25; ch. 52; and its preciseness is a considerable pledge of its accuracy. The princes are four in number, and two of them have official titles attached. Nergal-sharezer is the Hebraized form of Nirgal-sarra-ucur, i.e. "Nirgal (or Nergal), protect (or perhaps, has created) the king" - the name, as often, is a prayer. Samgar-nebo is probably a modification of Sumgir-nabu, "Be gracious, Nebo;" but it has not yet been found in the inscriptions. Sarsechim has the appearance of being corrupt; the first part, however, may, perhaps, be the Babylonian for "king" ("prince" in Hebrew). Rab-saris has a meaning in Hebrew - "chief of the eunuchs;" but the analogies of "Rab-mag" and "Rab-shakeh" suggest that it is merely the Hebraized form of some Assyrian title. In any case, it would be better to render "the Rab-saris," and to attach it closely to the preceding name, Sarsechim being himself the official called Rab-saris (see, however, ver. 13). Rab-mag. This was "one of the highest titles in the state" (G. Smith). The etymology of the latter half of the phrase is uncertain; for the connection of "mag" with "Magi" is a mistake which has been exposed by Dr. Schrader, in his work, 'Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament' (of which a translation is announced). The native form of the name may be rubu emga (Schrader) or rubu makhe (Friedr. Delitzsch), and the whole title will mean "high priest" or "chief of the sorcerers" (comp. Delitzsch, "The Hebrew Language viewed in the Light of Assyrian Research," Lond., 1883, p. 14). "The Rab-mag" would be more accurate, and the title ought to be attached to the preceding name, Nergal-sharezer. As a matter of fact, a Nirgal-sarra-ucur, who held the office of rubu emga, is mentioned in the cuneiform inscriptions, and we may plausibly conjecture that he is the person here mentioned among the "princes." He was afterwards raised to the throne by the conspirators who murdered Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar (he is better known as Neriglissar). It is singular that two Nergal-sharezers should be here mentioned; possibly the first mention is due to a mistake. The names are hardly recognizable in the Septuagint. The "princes" took up their station in the middle gate. The "breach" spoken of in ver. 2 enabled the Babylonians to occupy the whole of the lower city to the northeast of Zion. The "middle gate" probably separated these two parts of Jerusalem, and those who were posted there commanded the temple and the citadel. Jeremiah 39:3"And it came to pass, when Jerusalem had been taken (in the ninth year of Zedekiah the king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadrezzar and all his army had come against Jerusalem and besieged it; in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth of the month, was the city broken into), then came all the princes of the king of Babylon and sat down at the middle gate, - Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsechim, chief chamberlain, Nergal-sharezer, chief magician, and all the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon." These three verses, to which the last clause of Jeremiah 38:28 belongs, form one period, broken up by a pretty long piece inserted in it, on the beginning and duration of the siege of Jerusalem; so that, after the introductory clause והיה כּאשׁר( equals ויהי as in Jeremiah 37:11), Jeremiah 38:28, the conclusion does not come till the word ויּבאוּ, Jeremiah 39:3. In the parenthesis, the length of the siege, as stated, substantially agrees with Jeremiah 52:4-7 and 2 Kings 25:1-4, only that in these passages the time when the siege began is further determined by the mention of the day of the month, לחדשׁ be בּעשׂור, which words are omitted here. The siege, then, lasted eighteen months, all but one day. After the besiegers had penetrated into the city through the breaches made in the wall, the princes, i.e., the chief generals, took up their position at "the gate of the midst." ישׁבוּ, "they sat down," i.e., took up a position, fixed their quarters. "The gate of the midst," which is mentioned only in this passage, is supposed, and perhaps rightly, to have been a gate in the wall which divided the city of Zion from the lower city; from this point, the two portions of the city, the upper and the lower city, could most easily be commanded.

With regard to the names of the Babylonian princes, it is remarkable (1) that the name Nergal-sharezer occurs twice, the first time without any designation, the second time with the official title of chief magician; (2) that the name Samgar-nebo has the name of God (Nebo or Nebu) in the second half, whereas in all other compounds of this kind that are known to us, Nebu forms the first portion of the name, as in Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan, Nebushasban (Jeremiah 39:13), Naboned, Nabonassar, Nabopolassar, etc.; (3) from this name, too, is omitted the title of office, while we find one with the following name. Moreover (4) in Jeremiah 39:13, where the Babylonian grandees are again spoken of, instead of the four names, only three are given, but every one of them with a title of office; and only the third of these, Nergal-sharezer, the chief magician, is identical with the one who is named last in Jeremiah 39:3; while Nebushasban is mentioned instead of the Sarsechim of Jeremiah 39:3 as רב־סריס, chief of the eunuchs (high chamberlain); and in place of Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, we find Nebuzaradan as the commander of the body-guards (רב טבּחים). On these four grounds, Hitzig infers that Jeremiah 39:3, in the passage before us, has been corrupted, and that it contained originally only the names of three persons, with their official titles. Moreover, he supposes that סמגּר is formed from the Persian jâm and the derivation-syllable kr, Pers. war, and means "he who has or holds the cup," the cup-bearer; thus corresponding to רב שׁקה ot gnidnop, Rab-shakeh, "chief cup-bearer," 2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 36:2. He also considers שׂרסכים a Hebraizing form of רב סריס; סכה or שׂכה, "to cut," by transposition from חצה, Arab. chtṣy, from which comes chatṣiyun, "a eunuch," equals סכי, plur. סכים; hence שׂרסכים equals רב סריס, of which the former has been a marginal gloss, afterwards received into the text. This complicated combination, however, by which Hitzig certainly makes out two official titles, though he retains no more than the divine name Nebu as that of Rabsaris, is founded upon two very hazardous conjectures. Nor do these conjectures gain much support from the renewal of the attempt, made about fifty years since by the late P. von Bohlen, to explain from the Neo-Persian the names of persons and titles occurring in the Assyrian and Old-Babylonian languages, an attempt which has long since been looked upon as scientifically unwarranted. Strange as it may seem that the two persons first named are not further specified by the addition of an official title, yet the supposition that the persons named in Isaiah 36:3 are identical with those mentioned in Isaiah 36:13 is erroneous, since it stands in contradiction with Jeremiah 52:12, which even Hitzig recognises as historically reliable. According to Jeremiah 52:12, Nebuzaradan, who is the first mentioned in Jeremiah 39:13, was not present at the taking of Jerusalem, and did not reach the city till four weeks afterwards; he was ordered by Nebuchadnezzar to superintend arrangements for the destruction of Jerusalem, and also to make arrangements for the transportation of the captives to Babylon, and for the administration of the country now being laid waste. But in Jeremiah 39:3 are named the generals who, when the city had bee taken by storm, took up their position within it. - Nor do the other difficulties, mentioned above, compel us to make such harsh conjectures. If Nergal-sharezer be the name of a person, compounded of two words, the divine name, Nergal (2 Kings 17:30), and Sharezer, probably dominator tuebitur (see Delitzsch on Isaiah 37:38), then Samgar-Nebu-Sarsechim may possibly be a proper name compounded of three words. So long as we are unable with certainty to explain the words סמגּר and שׂרסכים out of the Assyrian, we can form no decisive judgment regarding them. But not even does the hypothesis of Hitzig account for the occurrence twice over of the name Nergal-sharezer. The Nergal-sharezer mentioned in the first passage was, no doubt, the commander-in-chief of the besieging army; but it could hardly be maintained, with anything like convincing power, that this officer could not bear the same name as that of the chief magician. And if it be conceded that there are really errors in the strange words סמגּר־נבוּ and שׂרסכים, we are as yet without the necessary means of correcting them, and obtaining the proper text.

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