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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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. From the king's weakness of character, and his dependence on his evil counsellors, neither could this interview have any result. Partly from want of firmness, but chiefly from fear of the reproaches of his princes, he did not venture to surrender himself and the city to the Chaldeans. Hence he did not wish that his interview with the prophet should be known, partly for the purpose of sparing himself reproaches from the princes, partly also, perhaps, not to expose the prophet to further persecutions on the part of the great men. Accordingly, he dismissed Jeremiah with this instruction: "Let no man know of these words, lest thou die." But if the princes should learn that the king had been speaking with him, and asked him, "Tell us, now, what thou hast said to the king, do not hide it from us, and we will not kill thee; and what did the king say to thee?" then he was to say to them, "I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan, to die there." As to the house of Jonathan, see on Jeremiah 37:15. On מפּיל תּחנּתי cf. Jeremiah 36:7; Jeremiah 37:20.
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