Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.
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:B.—Fall of the Kingdom of Judah; Jehoiachin set at Liberty
2 KINGS 25:8–30. (JEREM. 52:12–34.)
8AND in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan,captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: 9And he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s [omit man’s7] house burnt he with fire. 10And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with8 the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. 11Now 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 Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carry away. 12But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be [read to be] vinedressers and husbandmen.9 13And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon. 14And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered [the service was performed], took they away. 15And the firepans, and the bowls [sprinklers], and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away. 16The 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. 17The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter [capital] 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.
18And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door: 19And 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 [omit principal] scribe of the [captain of the] host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the 20city: And Nebuzar-adan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah: 21And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their 22land. 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. 23And when all the captains of the armies, they and their [the] 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. 24And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be [omit to be] the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you. 25But 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 put him to death], and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah. 26And 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.
27And 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 Evil-merodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; 28And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were 29with him in Babylon; [.] And [he] changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him [in his presence, i.e., at his table] all the days of his life. 30And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE PERIOD FROM THE FALL OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL TO THE FALL OF THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
Although the chronology of this period presents far fewer difficulties than that of the two former ones (pp. 86 and 180), yet a certain transmutation of its data into dates of the Christian era is hardly possible, for this reason, that the number of years stated as the duration of each reign does not always represent so many complete twelvemonths, and, of course, the years intended are not years of the Christian era, so that one year of a reign may fall in two different years “before Christ,” and two years of these reigns may fall in one year B.C. We cannot, therefore, avoid some uncertainties in the transfer from one to the other of these two modes of reckoning, and a difference of a single year cannot demand an explanation, or vitiate the calculation.
(a) Let us start from the fixed date which we have reached above (p. 181), 721 B.C., the year of the fall of Samaria. As this was the sixth year of Hezekiah, who reigned twenty-nine years (2 Kings 18:10), there remain twenty-three years of his reign to be reckoned into this period. This gives us the following results:—
(2 Kings 21:1)
(2 Kings 21:19)
(2 Kings 22:1)
(2 Kings 23:31)
(2 Kings 23:36)
(2 Kings 24:8).
(2 Kings 24:18)
The Book of Chronicles agrees exactly in all these dates. There is no variant in regard to a single one of them; the old versions have them exactly as they are given in the Hebrew text, and Josephus also gives the same. We are, therefore, as sure of these numbers as of any. Some modern scholars have taken scruples at the long reign of fifty-five years which is ascribed to Manasseh, and have shortened it arbitrarily either to thirty-five years (Movers, Von Gumpach), or to forty-five years (Bunsen, Wolff). This change, however, is inadmissible, for it necessitates other changes and throws the whole chronology into confusion. [This change is made in the interest of what is known as the “shorter period” for the space of history which is here included. The grounds for it are found in the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian chronologies. The problem is very complex, and the solution of it is hampered at many points by the uncertainty of many of the data. The majority of scholars have not, therefore, thought it wise to make any changes in the Hebrew chronology, to bring it into accord with that of contemporary nations, until the latter shall be more satisfactorily determined. Those who desire to attempt, even now, to bring about an accord, find it necessary to shorten the time which is required by the sum of the reigns for this period, and they see in the long reign ascribed to Manasseh the point where the error is most likely to lie.—W. G. S.] The time for which the kingdom of Judah outlasted the kingdom of Israel amounts to 133 years. The six months for which Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin reigned are here left out of the account, and with justice, for it can hardly be that the years ascribed to the other reigns were all full twelvemonths. It is immaterial whether each three months’ reign is reckoned into the preceding or the following reign. It is possible that Zedekiah did not ascend the throne until 598, so that he reigned until 587, but in no case can his dethronement be placed later than 587. Instead of the year 588, in which, according to our reckoning, the fall of Jerusalem took place, many have lately adopted 586 as the date of that event. Bunsen, starting from the very uncertain Assyrio-Egyptian chronology, puts the fall of Samaria in 709 instead of in 721. He would be obliged, if he admitted 133 years for the subsequent duration of the kingdom of Judah, to put the fall of Jerusalem in 576, but, as he sees that this is inadmissible, he arbitrarily cuts off ten years from the reign of Manasseh and thus reaches the date 586. Ewald also adopts the date 586, but he reaches it by putting the fall of Samaria in 719 instead of in 721. This obliges him to set the date of accession of each of the following kings two years later than our dates, and thus he arrives at 586 instead of 588. We saw above (p. 181) that the date 719 is incorrect; with the incorrectness of this date, the date 586 falls to the ground. If, as we have seen, the date 721 is certainly established, then 588 is the only date which can be correct for the fall of Jerusalem, for, even if we suppose that all the years of all the reigns were full years, they only amount to 133 years.
(b) Besides the statements as to the duration of these reigns, we have the following chronological data in regard to them: (1) The thirteenth year of Josiah is given as the year in which Jeremiah first appeared as a prophet (Jerem. 1:1). This was the year 628, for Josiah began to reign in 641. Also the eighteenth year of Josiah is mentioned as the year of his reformation and celebration of the passover—that is, 623 (2 Kings 22:3; 23:23). As Josiah was slain in his battle with Necho, the invasion of Asia by the latter took place in Josiah’s thirty-first year, that is, in 610. The invasion of Judah by the Scyths, which is not mentioned at all in the historical books, must have taken place during the reign of Josiah, not before the public appearance of Jeremiah (628), and not after the great reformation (623). Duncker sets it in the fourteenth year of Josiah’s reign, that is, 627. [See the Supp. Note, p. 285.]—(2) King Jehoiakim ascended the throne either at the very end of 610, or perhaps in 609, for Jehoahaz reigned for three months after Josiah’s death. According to Jerem. 46:2, the great battle at Carchemish, in consequence of which Nebuchadnezzar advanced into Palestine, took place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, that is, in 605 or 604 (see notes on 2 Kings 23:36). In this same fourth year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah caused to be written down his prophecies, which were solemnly read in public in the following year, on a great holiday (Jerem. 36:1, 9). Up to this time, therefore, Jehoiakim was not yet subject to Nebuchadnezzar; he cannot have become so until the end of 605 or the beginning of 604. He revolted after three years (2 Kings 24:1), that is, in 602 or 601. Chaldean and other forces harassed him from that time until his death in 599 (2 Kings 24:2 sq.).—(3) As Jehoiachin only reigned three months, it may well be that Zedekiah ascended the throne before the end of the year (599) in which Jehoiakim died. His fourth year, in which, according to Jerem. 51:59, he made a journey to Babylon, was, therefore, 595; certainly it was not 593, as Duncker and Ewald state, for, if he had not become king until the beginning of 598, this journey would fall, at the latest, in 594. In his ninth year, 590, the Chaldeans appeared before Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1). In his tenth year (589), while the city was being besieged, he ordered Jeremiah to be imprisoned (Jerem. 32:1). In his eleventh year (588), Jerusalem was taken, and Zedekiah was blinded and taken away captive to Babylon. In this same year occurred the destruction of the temple and of the city (2 Kings 25:4, 8).
(c) Several synchronisms are given between the reigns of the Jewish kings and that of Nebuchadnezzar. According to Jerem. 25:1, the first year of Nebuchadnezzar was the fourth of Jehoiakim (606), that is (see above), the year of the battle of Carchemish (Jerem. 46:2). This first year of Nebuchadnezzar and fourth of Jehoiakim was also, according to Jerem. 25:1–3, the twenty-third year of Jeremiah’s work as prophet, which began (Jerem. 1:2) in the thirteenth year of Josiah (628). According to 2 Kings 24:12, Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin prisoner in his own eighth year, that is, in 599, in which year, as we have seen above, the three months’ reign of Jehoiachin fell. Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year corresponds, according to Jerem. 32:1, to the tenth year of Zedekiah, that is, since Zedekiah became king in 599, 589, and his nineteenth year, in which he took Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:8; Jerem. 52:2), corresponds to the eleventh year of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:2). This is the year 588. In Jerem. 52:28 sq., the seventh year is given instead of the eighth, and the eighteenth instead of the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, but we shall see below, in the appendix to the Exegetical notes, that this difference, which only amounts at best to one year, is only apparent and not real. It cannot invalidate the calculation. The last chronological statement which occurs in the book is that, in the thirty-seventh year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, Evil-Merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, released Jehoiachin from his prison in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27; Jerem. 52:31). As the exile took place in the year 599 (see above under a), the liberation must have occurred in 562. According to Josephus (Antiq. x. 11, 1) Nebuchadnezzar reigned for forty-three years. We have seen above that he became king in 606; his death, therefore, took place in 562. In this year Evil-Merodach followed him, and, on his accession, he showed grace to Jehoiachin.
Thus the chronological statements in reference to this period which are presented by the Bible stand in the fullest accord with each other, and we have the more reason to hold to them, inasmuch as they are consistent with those of the former period. It is not our duty to inquire whether they agree with the results of the Assyrian and Egyptian investigations. We need only remark that these results are based, partly upon later unbiblical authors, and partly on attempts to decipher old Asiatic inscriptions, which have as yet produced no certain results, so that, as Rösch says: “They are not yet by any means so firmly established that they could force us to surrender the data of the Old Testament.” [See the Appendix on the Chronology.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 25:8. And in the fifth month, on the seventh day. Instead of the seventh day, Jerem. 52:12 gives the tenth day. As the tenth day was the day on which Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, according to that passage, it is impossible to assume, with the Rabbis, that the seventh day was the day that the burning commenced, and the tenth the day on which it ended. Also in 2 Kings 25:17 Jeremiah has five cubits instead of three, and in 2 Kings 25:19 seven men instead of five. The difference in these numbers is to be explained by a mistake in the numeral-letters. In 2 Kings 25:17 the number five is unquestionably correct (cf. 1 Kings 7:16; 2 Chron. 3:15), and in this verse the number ten (י) no doubt is to be preferred to seven (ז). In fact, the text of Jeremiah is in many respects to be preferred. Josephus (Bella Jud. 6, 4, 8) states that Herod’s temple was burned on the tenth of the fifth month, and adds that it was a marvellous coincidence that the first temple was burned on the same day by the Babylonians.—The nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar. See the Chronological section above.—Nebuzar-adan. On the etymology and signification of this name see Gesenius, Thesaurus II., p. 839, and Fürst, H.- W.-B. II., s. 6. [The former interprets it by Mercurii dux dominus, i. e., dux cui Mercurius favet], the latter considers it equivalent to the Hebrew expression which immediately follows: רַב־טַבָּחִים (שַׂר, i.e., literally: The captain of the executioners, the one who commands those who are commissioned to execute the king’s commands, especially his death-sentences, and so, in general, the captain of the [royal] guard (Gen. 37:36). [“It is probably a Hebrew corruption of Nebu-zir-iddin, which means Nebo-has-given-offspring” (Rawlinson). This is the only explanation which has any value, since it alone rests on an etymological study of Chaldee names.—W. G. S.] The supplementary description in Jerem. 52:12: “Who stood before the king of Babylon,” designates him as the first and highest officer who stood nearest to the king. He therefore remained in the camp at Riblah with the king, and only went to Jerusalem for the execution, and not, as Thenius thinks, in order to bring the siege to a conclusion. [It is laying too much stress on the primary signification of the word, which, moreover, is incorrect, to suppose that he did not go up to the city until it had been taken, and that then his business was to “execute” upon it the vengeance or punishment ordained by the king. He went up as the chief officer of the king “to bring the siege to a conclusion,” to take possession of the city in the king’s name, and to carry out the king’s determinations in regard to it.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 25:9. And he burnt the house of the Lord, &c. We see what is meant by בָּל־בָּתֵּי, all the houses, from 2 Chron. 36:19, where we read: בָּל־אַרְמְנוֹתֶיהָ, all the palaces. He left the small houses standing for the poor and humble people who were left behind.—In Jer. 52:14 we find כָּל before חוֹמֹת in 2 Kings 25:10. It has been omitted here by some accident, or because it was regarded as a matter of course; it is by no means “an arbitrary exaggeration” (Thenius). On the other hand we must supply אֶח before רַב on the authority of the passage in Jeremiah. Many old MSS. contain it, and all the versions supply it. Nebuzar-adan directed the work of destruction; the entire army fulfilled his commands.—The exiles were composed, as the repetition of וְאֶת shows, of “remnants” (יֶתֶר) of two classes; first, of those whom famine, pestilence, and sword had yet spared, and those who had deserted to the Chaldeans; and, secondly, of חֶהָמוֹן, or, as we read in Jerem. 52:15 הָאָמוֹן, which Hitzig declares to be the original reading, and to mean master-workman in a collective sense, comprising both the classes which are mentioned in Jerem. 24:1. The parallel passage, however, in Jerem. 39:9 does not admit of this interpretation, for there we read: יֶתֶר הָעָם הַנִּשְאָרִים. הַעָם is not a synonym of הָאָמוֹן (master-workman), but of הָהָמוֹן (multitude). This latter word is used for the mass of the people, and especially for the multitude of persons capable of bearing arms (Isai. 13:4; 33:3; Judges 4:7; Dan. 11:11). We must understand this class of exiles to be the remainder of the able-bodied male population who were capable of bearing arms (Thenius). In א ,האמון is an error for ה. The one class were inhabitants of the city; the other were persons who had belonged to the army without being inhabitants of the city.—דַּלַּת הָאָרֶץ, 2 Kings 25:12, is used as in 2 Kings 24:14. The words do not mean that he left vinedressers and husbandmen, but, as is stated in Jerem. 39:10, that he “left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.” The Chaldee version has it, “that they might cultivate vineyards and fields.” The land was not to remain desert and uncultivated.
2 Kings 25:13. And the pillars of brass, &c. In regard to these pillars, and the bases, and the sea, see notes on 1 Kings 7:15–39. The מִזְרָקֹת (sprinklers), mentioned in Jerem. 52:18, are not named among the utensils enumerated in 2 Kings 25:14 (for description of which see notes on 1 Kings 7:40, 50); they are mentioned in 2 Kings 25:15. In 2 Kings 25:15 we have the utensils of the forecourt, and in 2 Kings 25:15 those of the sanctuary. It is expressly stated in Jerem. 27:19, 21 that there remained after the first spoliation, 2 Kings 24:13, a portion of these utensils which may have been hidden away at that time. The parallel passage, Jerem. 52:19, adds four more to the utensils which are mentioned in 2 Kings 25:15. In general the account here is brief, and all articles not mentioned are summarily disposed of by the words: “such things as were of gold, in gold, and such things as were of silver, in silver,” i.e., “so much as there was to be found of either kind” (Thenius).—לקח is not to be supplied in 2 Kings 25:16 from 2 Kings 25:15, and הָעַמּוּדִים, &c., are not the objects of this verb. The verse means to show that there was such a mass of the brass which was carried away that it could not be weighed. הָעַמּוּדִים is a nominative absolute. As for the pillars, &c., the mass of the brass was so great, &c. אֶחָד with הַיָּם stands in contrast to שְׁנַיִם with הָעַמּוּדִים. There were two of the pillars but only one sea.—In 2 Kings 25:17 the author recurs to the pillars in order to say that they were very valuable, not only on account of the mass of the brass which was on them (2 Kings 25:16), but also on account of the artistic labor which had been spent upon them . שָׁלשׁ, as has been said above, is an error, the consequence of mistaking the numeral character, for the height of the capital of the column, according to the consistent statements in 1 Kings 7:16; 2 Chron. 3:15; and Jerem. 52:22 was five cubits. עַל־הַשְבָכָה, at the end of the verse, is difficult, for the second column was in all respects, and not simply in respect to the “wreathen work,” like to the first. Moreover, the wreathen work was not the most remarkable feature in these columns, so as to deserve to be especially mentioned. Thenius sees in the clause “the residuum of a sentence which is given in full in Jeremiah” [52:23], and which closes with the words עַל־הַשְׂבָכָח סָבִיב. We must admit either that the original account [which was used by the author of “Kings”] was here too much abbreviated by him, or else that the text at this point is defective. The account in Jeremiah is, at this point, fuller and more satisfactory. As this author had already given a full description of these things in 1 Kings 7:15–22, he did not think it necessary to go into detail here.
2 Kings 25:18. And the captain of the guard took Seraiah. The persons who are mentioned here and in 2 Kings 25:19 are not the same ones who are called, in Jerem. 39:6, חֹרִים, and who were put to death with the sons of Zedekiah, for these were first captured by Nebuzar-adan after the taking of the city. Seraiah is not the person of that name who is mentioned in Jerem. 51:59, but the grandfather or great-grandfather of Ezra (see Ezra 7:1; 1 Chron. 5:40). Zephaniah was no doubt the son of the priest Maaseiah, who, although a priest of the second rank (see notes on 2 Kings 23:4), appears to have been a person of importance (Jerem. 21:2; 29:25, 29; 37:3). The three keepers of the door were the chiefs of the body of levites who guarded the temple; one was stationed at each of the three main entrances to the temple (Jerem. 38:14); according to Josephus: τοὺς φυλάσσοντας τὸ ἱερὸν ἡγεμόνας. The chief royal officers were also taken, together with these chief men in the personnel of the temple (2 Kings 25:19). עִיר stands in contrast with the temple; whether it has the narrower meaning of the “City of David” (Thenius), is uncertain. סָרִים cannot mean a eunuch here, any more than in 2 Kings 20:18, and 24:12. The command of soldiers would never be intrusted to such a person. Jerem. 52:25 has הָיָה instead of הוּא, evidently more correctly, for he was so no longer. We cannot tell whether five men of those who belonged to the king’s immediate circle were carried away, as is here stated, or seven, as is stated in Jerem. 52:25. The diverse statements are the result of some error in reading or copying the numerals. Hitzig: “Seven persons are mentioned as having been chosen to be a sacrifice on account of the mystical significance of that number,” but the number five, half of ten, which was the number for a complete whole incorporated of parts, may also have had mystical significance. The reason why just this number, whether five or seven, were taken appears to be given in the relative clause which follows, and that is that there were just so many left in the city. שַׂר הַצָּבָא is a genitive after הַסֹּמֵר [the scribe of the captain of the host], and הַמַּצְבִּא is not to be joined with שַׂר but with הַסֹּפֵר [the scribe who was put on the staff of the commander-in-chief, and whose duty it was to enroll the persons liable to military service, &c.] The article with סֹמֵר (it is wanting in Jerem. 52:25) shows that that is not a proper name in apposition with “Captain of the host,” as the Vulg. and Luther understand it: “Sopher, the commander of the army.” It means the general’s clerk, the officer who had charge of the writing which might be required. “Perhaps the commander himself had fled with the king” (Thenius). [Of course any one who filled this office at a time when writing was a special accomplishment would be a person of far more importance than a military clerk now is. The Babylonian king thought him an officer whom it was worth while to put to death among the high officials of the kingdom.—] The threescore men of the people of the land, who were put to death with the chief officers, were either “the chiefs of the rebellion with their immediate followers” (Von Gerlach), or “Such as had in some way distinguished themselves above others in the defence of the city” (Keil). It is very doubtful whether they were, as Thenius thinks, the handful that were left of the garrison of the city of David, and the opinion of Hitzig and Bertheau that they were the country people who had fled into the citadel is very improbable.
2 Kings 25:21. So Judah was carried out of their land. “Nebuzar-adan took up his march toward Riblah, not only with these who were destined to death, but also with all the people of Judah” (Hitzig). This sentence evidently closes the history, like Jerem. 52:27, and 2 Kings 17:23. At the same time it forms the introduction to what follows. Thus was Judah (that is, the mass and strength of the nation) led away into captivity. As for those who were left behind (the comparatively small, and poor, and weak portion), Nebuchadnezzar set Gedaliah over them.
2 Kings 25:22. And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah. What is here narrated in 2 Kings 25:22 to, 26 is omitted in Jerem. 52. because it is narrated, in that book, in chaps. 40 and 41, and in much fuller detail. The verses before us form only an extract from that account, which is here inserted in its proper historical connection.—Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed governor, was the son of Ahikam, who is mentioned in 2 Kings 22:12 as a man of importance under Josiah, and who, according to Jerem. 26:24, saved the life of the prophet when, during Jehoiakim’s reign, he was in danger of falling a victim of popular rage. Gedaliah, like his father, was a friend of the prophet. He shared the prophet’s judgment in regard to the wise policy to be pursued, and joined with him in advising Zedekiah to surrender to the Babylonians (Jerem. 38:17). Hence Nebuchadnezzar, after he had taken the city, intrusted the prophet, who until then had lain in captivity, to the care and protection of Gedaliah (Jerem. 39:14; 40:6).—The captains of the armies, they and the men, &c. Instead of הָאֲנָשִׁים we find in Jerem. 40:7: אַנְשֵׁיהֶם, their men. These are they “who were scattered when the king was captured, so that Jerem. 40:7 describes them as those ‘which were in the fields’ ” (Thenius). Mizpah was a city in the territory of Benjamin (Josh. 13:26), some hours’ journey north-west of Jerusalem. Here, in this city, which was situated in a high position and strongly fortified (1 Kings 15:22), the governor established himself, as he could not live in the destroyed city of Jerusalem. Ishmael, according to 2 Kings 25:25, was the grandson of Elishama, the סֹפֵר of king Jehoiakim (Jerem. 36:12, 20). For further particulars in regard to Johanan see Jerem. 40:13 sq.; 41:11 sq. Jonathan is mentioned with him, Jerem. 40:8, as another son of Careah. Possibly the similarity of the names caused the latter to be omitted in this place. Seraiah came from Netopha, which appears to have lain between Bethlehem and Anathoth (Ezra 2:22; Nehem. 7:26). Jaazaniah came from Maacha, which is mentioned in 2 Sam. 10:6, 8; 1 Chron. 19:6, and Josh. 12:5, together with Syrian districts, and, in Deut. 3:14, is mentioned as lying on the boundary of the country east of the Jordan. He was, therefore, a naturalized alien.—By the servants of the Chaldees (2 Kings 25:24) we have to understand the officers whom Nebuchadnezzar had left to govern the country, and whom he had perhaps put under Gedaliah’s command. The latter, therefore, makes promises on their behalf, provided that the Jewish captains would acquiesce in the new order of things.
2 Kings 25:25. In the seventh month, that is, only two months after the destruction of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:8). Of the seed royal; this is expressly stated in order to show what incited him to this action. He believed that he, as a descendant of the royal house, had a claim to the position of governor. According to Jerem. 40:14 he was also incited to this action by Baalis, king of the Ammonites, who no doubt would have been very glad to throw off the Chaldean yoke.—The author breaks off abruptly with 2 Kings 25:26, and simply states the result of this act. The people, fearing the return and vengeance of the Chaldeans, fled into Egypt. For further details see Jerem. 40–42.
2 Kings 25:27. In the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity. See the Chronological Remarks above. In Jerem. 52:31 the twenty-fifth day is given instead of the twenty-seventh, in the Hebrew text, and in the Sept. the twenty-fourth, evidently in consequence of a mistake in the numerals. We see from this accuracy in the date what significance was attached to the event. Evilmerodach was the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar. He only reigned two years and was put to death by his brother-in-law, Neriglassar (Berosus, cited in Josephus c. Apion. i. 20). The signification of Evil is uncertain. Merodach, or Berodach, was the name of the Babylonian Mars. We find it in the composition of other proper names also (see notes on 20:12). In the year that he became king. For מָלְכוֹ we find in Jerem. 52:31: מַלְכֻתוֹ, i.e., of his reign, equivalent to: When he came to be king. This is evidently more correct. Sept.: ἐν τῷ ἐνιαυτῷ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ. נָשָׂא אֶת־רֹאשׁ, as in Gen. 40:13, 20, means, To lift up the head (for some one), i.e., inasmuch as captives moved about in despondency, with bowed heads, to lift up their heads is to release them from captivity, despair, and misery (Job 10:15, cf. Judges 8:28). Here again the text before us is abbreviated. It omits וַיֹּצֵא, which is found in Jerem. 52:31, before מִבֵּית. This deliverance from captivity was an act of grace performed by him at his accession, but there seems to have been a special ground for it in the case of Jehoiachin, as he was preferred before the other captive kings. [“The rabbis say that Evilmerodach had formed a friendship with Jehoiachin in prison, into which Nebuchadnezzar had cast the former because he had been guilty of excesses in carrying on the government during an illness of the king, and had expressed pleasure at the same; evidently a fiction based on this passage and Dan. 4.” (Thenius).]—And set his throne above, &c., 2 Kings 25:28. This certainly means that he gave him the preference and the higher rank. Whether he merely held him in higher estimation (Rosenmüller, Keil), or “allowed him actually to occupy a more elevated seat” (Hitzig, Thenius), is not a matter of importance. The kings that were with him in Babylon, are “those who, having been deprived, like Jehoiachin, of their kingdoms, were forced to enhance the triumph and glory of the court at Babylon, cf. Judges 1:7” (Hitzig).
2 Kings 25:29. And changed his prison-garments. Instead of the late Aramaic form שִׁנָּא we find in Jerem. 52:33 שִׁנָּה. The subject is not Evilmerodach (Hitzig), but Jehoiachin, who is the subject of the following verb וְאָכַל. In חַיָּיו the suffix can only refer to Jehoiachin and not to Evilmerodach. It would be a false inference, therefore, that Jehoiachin’s period of grace only lasted through Evilmerodach’s short reign. “Jehoiachin ate in person at the royal table, but he probably also received an allowance for the support of his little court, consisting of his servants and attendants” (Hitzig). Here again this text is abbreviated. In Jeremiah there follow after בְּיוֹמוֹv the words: “until his death.” Here those words are omitted as unnecessary after: all the days of his life. The Sept. also have these words in this place. The fact that they omit them in Jerem. 52:34 does not justify the assumption of Thenius that they were borrowed from 2 Kings 25:29, and are not original in that place. Hitzig very properly declares that they are “evidently genuine,” and adds: “In 2 Kings 25:11 ‘all the days of his life’ might well be omitted. Here, however, where he narrates something joyful, the author looks back once more, after fixing the term or limit, over the entire period of good fortune. Cf. 1 Kings 5:1; 15:5.” He wants to tell once more what good fortune Jehoiachin enjoyed until the end of his life, and how Evilmerodach at least had the intention of providing for him. This good fortune lasted until Jehoiachin’s death, whether he died before or after Evilmerodach.
APPENDIX.—After the words: So Judah was carried away out of their land, there follows, in Jerem. 52:28–30, the following statement, which is omitted in the book of Kings: “This is the people whom Nebuchadrezzar carried away captive; in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty. In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty and two persons. In the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar, Nebuzar-adan, 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.” 2 Kings 25:22–26 is wanting in Jeremiah 52. because its statements had been given in detail in chaps, 40 and 41; the statements above quoted are inserted in Jerem. 52. because they had not been given before, as they are in 2 Kings, in 2 Kings 24:14–16. The numbers given in Jeremiah vary very much from those in Kings. The former, however, are recommended, as Hitzig says, by their detail; they cannot have been invented. They are evidently derived from a different source, and the only question is, what relation does that source bear to the statements in the book of Kings? Of the three separate deportations mentioned, one took place in the seventh, and one in the eighteenth, year of Nebuchadnezzar. These can be no other than the one which took place according to 2 Kings 24:12, in the eighth, and the one which took place according to 2 Kings 25:8 and Jerem. 52:12, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar would be, as is expressly stated in Jerem. 32:1, the tenth of Zedekiah, that is, the year in which Jerusalem was first besieged. There cannot have been any deportation in this year. Again, the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar would not be the year in which Jehoiachin reigned for three months, and in which it is said that he and ten thousand others were led into exile, but the last year of Jehoiakim. In this year there was no deportation. We are therefore compelled to assume, if we will not alter all the other chronological data in the book of Jeremiah itself, that the original document from which Jerem. 52:28–30 is derived, reckons the reign of Nebuchadnezzar from another starting-point from that which is adopted in the book of Kings and elsewhere in Jeremiah. This may well be, inasmuch as the years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign do not coincide exactly with those of the Jewish kings. The difference, however, only amounts to one year. The third deportation in the twenty-third year must, therefore, have taken place in the twenty-fourth year. It is not mentioned in Kings at all, but no doubt took place. In view of the continual disposition to revolt, it is very likely that he carried off more of the people in his twenty-third or twenty-fourth year, especially as he was at that time busy besieging Tyre. He intrusted this duty to the same officer who had had charge of the previous deportation. There is a much more serious difficulty in regard to the number of the exiles. According to Jerem. 52:28 there were only 3,023 in the first deportation; according to 2 Kings 24:14 there were 10,000. Josephus says there were 10,832. Evidently he has joined the 10,000 in Kings, for the first deportation, with the 832 in Jeremiah for the second (Antiq. x. 7, 1). Thenius suggests that the sign for ten (yod) may have resembled the sign for three (gimel) in the original document from which these statements are derived, and so 3,023 took the place of 10,023. This last would then be the accurate number for which 10,000 is the round number. But the sum given at the end, 4,600, supports 3,023 in this place, and this testimony cannot be put aside by the critical decree that: “The summation at the end was interpolated by the redactor.” According to Ewald, “עשׂרה has fallen out after שׁבע in 2 Kings 25:28 just as certainly as it has fallen out after שמונה in the statement of Jehoiachin’s life in 2 Chron. 36:9.” According to this we should have to take it as referring, not to the deportation mentioned in 2 Kings 24:14, but to the later one under Zedekiah. The seventeenth of Nebuchadnezzar was the 9th of Zedekiah, and in that year Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1). He took the city in Zedekiah’s eleventh year (2 Kings 25:2), and before that no deportation can have taken place. The discrepancy between 10,000 and 3,023 can hardly be accounted for otherwise than by the explanation of Estius. In 2 Kings 25:28 the 3,023 are expressly mentioned as “Jews,” that is, persons who belonged to the tribe of Judah. The 10,000 included persons not of that tribe, Benjamites and others who had joined themselves to Judah, since it alone represented the Israelitish nationality, and who made common cause with it against the Chaldeans. There may well have been 7,000 of these, and the entire number in the first captivity, including the 3,023 “Jews,” was thus 10,000. It is evident that the statements in Jerem. 52:28–30 are meant to apply only to the persons of the tribe of Judah (see יְהוּדָה 2 Kings 25:27), and not to all who were carried away captive. This opinion is also favored by the number 4,600 as the sum of the exiles, for this number would be far too small for the sum of all the persons carried into captivity. [There can be no doubt that Jerem. 52:28–30 refers to the Jews who were taken captive. What reason have we for supposing that 2 Kings 24:14 refers to or includes any others than Jews? There is none. It is only an invention for the sake of harmonizing the two passages. Then the probabilities are against it. The persons carried away were chosen on account of their rank, position, and influence. We have an instance in Jaazaniah of Maacha (2 Kings 25:25 see Exeget. notes on that verse) that others than men of Judah held power and rank. Shebna the scribe (Isai. 22:15) is another instance to prove that in the time before the captivity pure Israelitish, much more pure Jewish blood, was not necessary to hold high office in Jerusalem. The persons of the highest rank were the ones taken away—as such—whether Jews or not. Non-Jews were, of course, rare exceptions. Of the common people large numbers were spared. Naturally people of Judah, who were most deeply interested in the fate of Jerusalem, would be taken first, together with such of other tribes or nationalities as were dangerous from their rank and influence and ability. It is, therefore, improbable that many non-Jews of the common people were carried away. It amounts to a certainty that the exiles were not composed of non-Jews in the ratio of 7,000 to 3,000. This explanation must, therefore, be abandoned. It is the only true policy, in this and in similar cases, to take note of the discrepancy as a fact, and to abandon the attempt at forced and strained explanations. Between the two accounts, that in Jeremiah deserves the preference as the more specific, and also as the more moderate statement. The larger number and the round number is suspicious.—W. G. S.] Only 832 were taken away in the second deportation, because there were only so many left of the more influential people. The 745 who were taken away at the third deportation were not inhabitants of Jerusalem but יְהוּדִים (2 Kings 25:30). The smallness of this number is due to the fact that most of the Jews, properly speaking, had been taken away before.
[The numbers certainly are astonishingly small in one point of view, though in another we are not surprised that they are no larger. Taking the number of Israelites who entered Palestine at the lowest estimate, and noticing the numbers which formed the armies, or were engaged in battle at various times, as well as the pictures of society which are given, especially by Isaiah and the other older prophets, we get the impression that there was a very large population in Palestine before the Assyrian Empire began to press upon the North. On the other hand, when we consider the great difficulty of leading a large mass of people, with the aged, the women, and the children, on a long journey through a rough country, we can hardly conceive it possible that the conquerors should have taken away an entire population. The Assyrians, however, blotted out the kingdom of the ten tribes. The whole picture which is presented to us gives the impression that the land was depopulated and left desert. The wild beasts took possession of it. Not enough remained to continue the ancient traditions and worship there. It was found necessary to begin almost de novo in the population and cultivation of the country. So too in Judah. The pictures presented by the prophets and in the Psalms, as well as by the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, are those of a depopulated and desert country. Such numbers were taken away that some had to be left on purpose to cultivate the land. When the exiles came back they had to re-found the nation. Now we hear that there were only 4,600 exiles in all, or, at most, 10,000. This seems reasonable in view of the difficulty of transportation, but it is difficult to see how it accounts for the destruction of the nation. Two suggestions present themselves: in the first place, the last 150 years, with their internal dissensions, their reformations and revolutions, their counter-reformations and counter-revolutions, as well as their foreign wars, may have greatly reduced the population. In the second place, in a nation such as Judah was, the centre of gravity of the nationality was, no doubt, in the upper and better classes. The poor and uneducated and humble were probably very dependent upon the more fortunate classes. One proof of it is the fact that the prophets and psalmists were continually rebuking the arrogance of the latter towards the former. The Babylonian king’s policy of carrying off the “chief men” may, therefore, have been radical and all sufficient for rooting out the nationality.—W. G. S.]
Those who were carried away last were probably those who had formerly been considered harmless, but whom it was found, upon experience, inexpedient to trust. However the numbers may be explained, it is certain from Jerem. 52:28–30 that there were only three deportations, and not six, as Usher and the Calw. Bib. assume, viz., the first in the seventh of Jehoiakim (Dan. 1:1, 3 (?)), the second in the seventh of Nebuchadnezzar, the third under Jehoiachin, the fourth in the eighteenth, the fifth in the nineteenth, and the sixth in the twenty-fourth year of Nebuchadnezzar. Later scholars have reduced these to four: the first under Jehoiakim, the second under Jehoiachin, the third under Zedekiah, and the fourth some years after the destruction of Jerusalem. But this is not correct, for there is no hint of any deportation under Jehoiakim either in Kings or Chronicles or Jeremiah. So much only may be accepted, that Daniel was sent to Babylon as a hostage when Jehoiakim became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1). Perhaps, also, at that time Jehoiakim gave some of the temple utensils to the enemy to pacify him (2 Chron. 36:6, 7).
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. The destruction of Jerusalem did not take place immediately after the fall of the city, but one month later. It is clearly designated in the record as a later and independent event. Nebuzar-adan who “stood before the king of Babylon” (Jerem. 52:12), who, that is, attended his orders, came to Jerusalem, by the express command of the king, not to take the city, which had not yet been captured (as Thenius thinks), but, as 2 Kings 25:9 distinctly shows, in order to destroy the captured city. The destruction of the city was intended and distinctly commanded by Nebuchadnezzar. It was the punishment which the king had decreed and which Nebuzar-adan was to execute. He went methodically to work. First of all he caused the temple to be burned, then the royal palace, then the houses of the great men, then he tore down the walls, and finally he took the inhabitants away. In 2 Kings 25:13–17 the account returns to the temple and enumerates its decorations and furniture, which were destroyed or carried off. The utter destruction of the temple cannot have been insisted on, on account of the value of the objects it contained, for these were not of gold, like the ones which had formerly been carried away (2 Kings 24:13). The only ground for it was that the temple had especial significance, as the dwelling of the one God in the midst of His chosen people. Both politically and religiously it was the centre of the State, the basis and the bond of the national unity. It was the building of chief importance, and was, therefore, to be destroyed first and utterly. The temple worship had become, under the four last kings, a mere external ceremonial. Even the priests made of it a mere hypocritical show, so that Jeremiah cried out: “Trust ye not in lying words, saying. The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these” (Jerem. 7:4). Then he commanded them to repent and amend. They did not, however, and so the externals in which they trusted were taken from them. The destruction of the temple was the seal of God’s truth impressed upon the words of the prophets, in which the people had not believed (Jer. 27:19–22). The two brazen columns are mentioned first and chiefly in the description of the glories of the temple. (They are described with more detail in Jeremiah than in Kings.) The cause of this is, as we saw in the Exeg. note on 1 Kings 7:21 and Hist. § 5 on 1 Kings 7:1–51, that these columns represented the foundation and the strength of the temple, and were, therefore, in a certain measure, representatives of Jehovah. The destruction and removal of these showed, more than any other event, that the house of Jehovah, as the physical centre of the theocracy, had come to an end. The ark of the covenant is not mentioned in either account. It seems to have been removed from the temple before its destruction. It had been removed under Manasseh or Amon, for Josiah commanded the levites to bring it back into the temple (2 Chron. 35:3). We may suppose that it was removed again under one of the following kings, perhaps under Jehoiakim. What became of it we cannot tell. The inference from Jer. 3:16 that it was no longer in existence in the time of Jeremiah (Hitzig) is not justified. Some suppose, as Carpzov does (Apparat. Crit. p. 298), that it was among the articles which Nebuchadnezzar caused to be either destroyed or carried off in the time of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chron. 36:10). The story of the rabbis that Josiah had caused it to be hidden in a subterranean chamber, and that Jeremiah commanded those who fled to Egypt (2 Kings 25:26) to take it with them, and that they hid it in a cleft of the mountain on which Moses had once been (2 Macc. 2:5. Cf. Buxtorf, De arc fœd., cap. 22. Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 203), sounds very wild.
2. The fall of the kingdom of Judah was, according to the distinct statement of the Scriptures, the divine judgment which had long been threatened by the prophets (Isai. 39:6, 7; 2 Kings 21:10–15; Jerem. 19:3–13). It fell when all Jehovah’s attempts to recall the chosen people to their allegiance had failed, and the apostasy from Him and from His law had reached the utmost limit. Sun and Moon, Baal and the Queen of Heaven, Adonis and Astarte, all the host of heaven were worshipped, and children were sacrificed to Moloch in the valley of Hinnom. Idols stood even in the House of Jehovah; idol-altars stood in the streets. On the hills, on the roofs, in the groves, incense was offered to idols. There was no abomination of idolatry which was not practised. All that remained of the Jehovah worship was external ceremonial, and priests and prophets uttered lies (Jerem. 7:17, 18, 30, 31, 32; 8:2; 11:12, 13; 17:2; 19:4, 5, 13; 32:29, 34, 35; Ezek. 8:3, 9, 10, 14; 23:38, 39, &c.). Moral corruption kept pace with this religious apostasy: “Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say: We are delivered to do all these abominations?” [Lit. we are concealed to do, &c., i.e., we have impunity] (Jerem. 7:9, 10). Avarice, love of gain, and cheating (Jerem. 6:13), licentiousness and whoredom (Jerem. 5:8, 9), injustice and violence (Jerem. 6:6), shedding innocent blood (Jerem. 2:34; 7:6), overriding justice and right (Jerem. 7:6), falsehood and hypocrisy (Jerem. 8:9, 10), bigotry and obstinacy (Jerem. 7:24–26), infidelity and perjury (Jerem. 9:2, 3, 7), in short, all sins and vices were prevalent, especially among the rich and great. “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, and that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it” (Jerem. 5:1; cf. 2 Chron. 36:14–16). So the measure had become full. Judah had fallen lower than Israel, therefore the Lord cast it away from before His face as He had cast away Israel (2 Kings 17:20; 24:20). As there the king of Assyria, so here the king of Babylon was the instrument of the divine judgment, “the rod of his anger,” which, after it had served His purpose, He broke and cast into the fire (Jerem. 1:17, 18; cf. Isai. 10:5). This punishment, however, was not the annihilation of the chosen people, but the sole radical cure for it. The Lord keeps His promises even while He chastises and punishes. The only means by which the chosen people could preserve and fulfil its destiny in human history, to bring the knowledge of God and salvation to all nations, was by the downfall of the visible kingdom, the earthly theocracy. The downfall of the visible kingdom was a step in the divine economy of salvation, and it marked progress towards the true kingdom of God. The people needed to be convinced of the nothingness of the visible kingdom, and to have its attention directed to the new, spiritual, true, and eternal kingdom. This was the aim of the divine judgment, to awaken an appreciation of this kingdom and a longing for it, and this aim was reached in the end. The idea of the messianic kingdom which the prophets had brought forward long before the downfall of the visible kingdom, but which had fallen uncomprehended, now took firm root. Hasse well says (Gesch. des A. B. s. 136): “It belonged to the consummation of the history of Israel that Judah also should perish. It had long ago made this necessary by its backsliding after every momentary reformation, and by its obstinate resistance to every call of grace; but the power of the Davidic element to recover from corruption had thus far saved it. This power exhausted its last energies in Josiah, and, after his death, the kingdom sank rapidly into ruins. As the old passed away, the prophets were obliged to turn and give expression to what they perceived as something new and future. A sharp division separated this new from the old. On the one hand, the judgment and penalty were recognized as a penalty of death. On the other hand arose the figure of the new life, and it was transfigured into a lofty ideal.” Lisco (Das A. T. I. s. 538) gives a similar conception: “The breach which was made by the separation of the kingdom was never healed. On the contrary, its evil effects lasted on until the downfall, first of Ephraim and then of Judah. In the measure in which the political confusion and decay increased, and the impending calamity approached, in the same measure the prophetic word grew loud and clear, and, when the blow fell which destroyed the Jewish nation, Jeremiah arose upon the ruins of Jerusalem, Daniel appeared as a prophet to speak in the name of his people before the king of Babylon, and Ezekiel watched over the scattered remnants of the nation who were in exile on the Chaboras. The civil power was dead; the prophetical power survived its death.” The fall of Jerusalem forms the most important crisis in the history of the ancient people of God. It was not an event between two nations; it was an event in the history of the world. Many a great nation fell both before and after, but the fall of none of them had anything like the significance for the history of the world which that of Judah had. It is an event which is as unique in history as the Jewish people was unique among nations, for “Salvation cometh of the Jews” (John 4:22). By its fall Judah became the keeper and bearer of salvation for all the world (cf. Jerem. 30–33).
3. The deportation of conquered peoples from their country was the ordinary policy of the ancient Asiatic conquerors, in order that the nationality might thus be obliterated (see Exeg. on 1 Kings 8:46 sq.). In this case, however, the effect was, on the contrary, in the providence of God, to preserve the conquered people in all their peculiarity of character and calling and destiny. Herein consists the great difference between the downfall of Samaria and that of Judah, as we saw above (2 Kings 17 Hist. § 3); whereas the exile of the people of the ten tribes in Assyria served to annihilate their nationality, and they sank lower and lower until they disappeared from history, the exile of the people of Judah in Babylon served only to strengthen and purify them, so that they far out-lived the world-monarchy which had conquered them. Nothing could show more clearly the indestructibility of the chosen people than this fact, that the event which should have destroyed them only served to purify and strengthen them. The distress of the captivity brought them to their senses, and made them see their own sinfulness. They repented, and turned to Jehovah and to His Law with a sincerity which they had never before felt. The exile awakened in them a deep longing for the promised land, for the city in which Jehovah had placed His name (2 Kings 21:7), for the temple which was the pledge of the selection of Israel to be the chosen people, and the centre of its nationality. This is expressed in Ps. 137 and 126. It was a dispensation of Divine Providence that the king of Babylon did not do as the king of Assyria had done in Samaria—bring heathen colonists to settle in the land of Judah after its population was taken away. If he had done so a mixed population would have grown up there and the land would have become the home of many diverse religions and forms of worship (2 Kings 17:24–33; cf. 2 Kings 17. Hist. §§ 4 and 5). Judah maintained its purity of religion and nationality both in captivity and in the home country. The exiles retained their national constitution (Ezek. 14:1; 20:1; Sus. 5:28). According to the Talmud (Gem. Makkoth i. 1; Sanhedr. i. 12, 21) they were put under a רֹאשׁ הַגְּלוּת [Governor of the captivity, i.e., of the captives] of their own nation. The practice of their religion was also allowed them, but they could not offer sacrifices, because they lacked the one central sanctuary at which alone sacrifice might be offered. This only increased their longing to erect the sanctuary once more, and this longing endured until the time of chastisement was at an end (Jerem. 25:12; 29:10). When they returned their first care was to rebuild the sanctuary (Ez. 1:3; 6:3).
4. The two brief narratives by which the author closes his work are not mere appendages to the history, but the proper epilogue to the words: “So Judah was carried away out of their land.” They are parallel, in a certain manner, to the review which the author gives in 2 Kings 17:7 sq. of the history of Israel. The first of these incidents shows us how deep was the corruption which had pervaded the kingdom, and how hopelessly depraved the monarchical constitution had become. It was not possible any longer to have even a deputy-king under Babylonian sovereignty. Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had left as governor, was put to death after a few months in spite of his oath (2 Kings 25:24), and the murderer, Ishmael, who desired to make himself king, was obliged to flee with his followers into the territory of the Ammonites. Others fled, for fear of the vengeance of the Chaldeans, into Egypt. Every attempt to unite the scattered remnants, and to set up at least the shadow of a monarchy, failed. Judah could not any longer stand any kind of a monarchy. It was incapable of sustaining an independent existence under an independent dynasty. The inauguration of such a government only served to produce greater confusion and disorder. The events which followed the destruction of Jerusalem only showed how necessary the divine chastisement had become. This is what the author desires to show by the first incident which he relates. However, he could not and would not close his work, which was written primarily for those who, like himself, were living in exile, with such a sad and hopeless incident. He therefore adds the story of the deliverance of Jehoiachin from his prison after thirty seven years of captivity. He thereby offers to the people who sat weeping “by the waters of Babylon,” and thinking of Jerusalem, a prospect into a more hopeful future. The release of Jehoiachin “was the first ray of light in the long night of the captivity … and was a guarantee to the people that the Lord would keep His promise, and would not withdraw his grace from the house of David forever” (Keil). It gave the captive people hope that the hour of their deliverance also would come. The author could not have given a more appropriate close to his work, in which he had shown God’s plan of grace and redemption in the history of the chosen people.
5. In conclusion, we must notice the manner in which the latest modern historians conceive of, and represent, the fall of Judah. “There had been,” says Duncker (Gesch. des Alt. I. s. 542), “no increase in power since the time of Hezekiah. There was no better guarantee for the existence of a small State than there had been at that time. If Egypt went on, as it had begun under Psammetichus, making conquests in Asia, and if a new great power arose to inherit and increase the might which Assyria had once possessed, the existence of Judah would once more be threatened as seriously as it was in the time of Hezekiah (s. 552): The effort of the nation to regain its independent existence, the stiffnecked resistance with which the Jews were ready to fight for their fatherland, and to break the yoke of the foreigner, were as well justified as was the abstract religious policy of Jeremiah. Who can blame those who hold the duty of sacrificing one’s life for one’s country, even under the most hopeless circumstances, higher than the counsel to submit at discretion? Who can blame those who regarded Jeremiah’s conduct and policy as ruinous, who demanded that Jeremiah should stand on the side of his own nation against the foreign foe, and who stigmatized his discourses as treason? … (s. 553): He (Jeremiah) is bitter and violent enough to call down bloody destruction upon his [personal] enemies (Jerem. 15:5).… (s. 556): However much Jeremiah’s assertions were calculated to discourage the king and people, they did not have that effect. It was natural that Jeremiah should seem to the people to be a cowardly traitor.… (s. 557): Jeremiah’s persistence in advising submission, under the circumstances, finally so far outraged the chief men that they demanded his life of the king … (s. 544): The prophet went so far in his opposition to Jehoiakim that he finally brought his own life into danger. At the same time he irritated the people against himself by his persistent prophecies of the coming fall of Jerusalem.… He was no less severe against the people for the wickedness of their conduct, and for their practice of some remains of foreign usages which had not been eradicated by the (new) Law-book.” It is hardly necessary to say that this view is diametrically opposed to that of the Bible, and yet the biblical documents are the only authority for the history. In the text the grounds of the national downfall are stated to be the apostasy of the nation in religion, its corruption in morals, and the unfaithfulness, tyranny, and depravity of its king. The downfall is represented as a divine judgment upon the nation in punishment for all this. Duncker, however, ignores this view. In his view all is explained by the physical weakness of the kingdom of Judah in face of the great world-empires, Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. It was all due to external and natural causes, such as have often produced similar catastrophes in human history. It was an undeserved misfortune, in which the king and people appear battling with desperate courage for the highest national interests. They appear great and admirable, while the truly great one, the prophet, who was persecuted while laboring for the true welfare of the people, who held firm and impregnable as a rock in the midst of the storm, is represented as a factious oppositionist, nay, even as a traitor. This is not writing history, but turning it upside down.
[The facts of history are one thing; their philosophy is another. The theocratic philosophy of history is one thing, and the purely human philosophy of it is another. To pass behind history and trace the moral causes which were at work, and observe their effects, is the great task of the historian, but he limits himself to the second causes, and contents himself with seeing God’s plan only in the grand results of centuries, and in the movements of epochs. The attempt to pursue this latter investigation into details never succeeds when men try it. God’s Providence is in every event of history, and in the character of every historical personage, but its presence and its operation there are matters of faith. Try to seize it, to specify it, and to examine it, and you are baffled and disappointed. God is in every blade of grass. His presence there is clear to our reason, our conscience, and our faith. If we hastily infer that, if God is in the blade of grass which we hold in our hands, then we can seize Him and see Him, and if we betake ourselves to the microscope and the dissecting apparatus, we find that we fail. Just so it is here in history. This biblical history is the only one we have in which the history is written from the theocratic standpoint, and in which the presence of God in history is traced step by step and man by man. If we attempt to take up this stand-point and follow it and apply it rigorously we involve ourselves in hopeless contradictions. The standpoint is not rational, it is prophetic; that is, its norm and standard of consistency is that of the divine plan, not of the human reason. The reason, however, is the only instrument at our disposal, and it falls short of its task if it undertakes to adopt the prophetical method. It took a prophet to give us this view of the Jewish history, and it would require a prophet to apply the same method elsewhere, or to follow it here into greater detail. Duncker lays aside the theocratic and prophetical conception, and approaches the facts of the history, as here recorded, in exactly the same spirit, and with exactly the same method, by which he treats the history of Egypt, Assyria, and Greece. His work is a universal history. The history of Israel as an earthly monarchy enters into the scope of his work as regards its earthly and external fortunes. Its theological and religious significance are aside from his plan. He is an historian, not a prophet, and he can only treat history as ordinary historians treat it. His view, therefore, naturally appears low and worldly and commonplace, when quoted in a book of this kind, which is avowedly biblical and theocratic, and only follows and explains the biblical presentation. His undertaking is a legitimate one for an historian. We cannot say that it is wrong for him to treat history as he does, and to include Jewish history in his plan, but he is engaged in a work whose stand-point and aim are so different from that in which we are engaged, that we are not called to consider it here. His readers must add to his representation of the history the explanation and philosophy of it which is furnished by their Bibles. The distinction which is brought out here is one which it is most important to bear in mind in commenting on the historical books.—As for Jeremiah’s attitude at the siege of Jerusalem, the question is the one which always arises in such cases between prudence and valor. The rôle which was filled by Jeremiah, to give wise and prudent counsel to men who are heated with the strongest passions, and to stem alone a tide of feeling which animates a body of men of which he is a member, and with which he is expected to sympathize without reserve or question, is the most thankless one which can possibly devolve upon any man. He cannot succeed in persuading his companions; he can only draw down persecution on himself. His only consolation is his fidelity to his convictions, and our judgment of him, as of any other man who has the courage to undertake the prophet’s task, must be regulated by the issue. He stakes all upon the wisdom of his counsel. If in a calm view of the situation and its results we see that he was wise and right, we must “blame” those who persecuted him and denied the wisdom of his counsel. Humanly speaking, Jeremiah was the only wise counsellor in Jerusalem, for his counsel would have saved the city and the national existence, if not the national independence. If, however, we turn to the theocratic standard, we see how utterly impossible it is for us to apply it. As we have seen above (§ 2), the fall of Jerusalem was no step backwards, but a great one forwards, in the development of the redemptive plan. When a church or a nation reaches the point of saying “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these,” that is, when it puts its trust in externals, in ceremonies, and sacred houses, and sacred things, while the spirit of truth and righteousness is lost, and treats God’s promises as if He had bound His own hands against punishing their sins, their fate is sealed. The downfall of Jerusalem might have been delayed, it could not have been averted, or, if it had been averted, as far as we can judge, all the religious truth of which Israel was the keeper and witness would have been lost. Here, however, is just the difficulty. History only takes one course of two or more which are conceivable. This one only is open to our study and observation, and we are forced to assume that that was God’s plan. The consequences of the other policy, supposing it to have been adopted, are a pure matter of speculation. Now Jeremiah counselled submission. That might have saved the city and the temple and the nationality, but, if we can rely upon our judgment expressed in § 2, it would have sacrificed the kingdom of God. He also preached amendment and righteousness as the only condition of permanent safety, but we cannot see, as far as we judge, that such amendment was possible until after severe chastisement, and it remains for us, what it was for Jeremiah, a subject of faith, that God would have preserved the national independence if the people had repented.—W. G. S.]
Ewald’s presentation of the fall of Jerusalem (Gesch. III. s. 712–717) is very different from Duncker’s superficial and perverted view of it. As he sees in the whole course of the history, from the time of Solomon on, a continual conflict between two “independent authorities,” the monarchy and the prophetical institution, and explains this conflict by the “violence” which was characteristic of either (see Pt. II. pp. 103 and 4), so he finds the causes of the ruin of the kingdom in this conflict. “It remained to be shown, by the fate of Judah also, that violence destroys its own cause, even when that cause seems to be the most permanent and enduring.… The second of these independent powers, the prophetical institution, was now also irrevocably broken.” The reason why the prophetical office no longer possessed its ancient power was that “it had rid itself of the last relics of the violence which marked it even in Isaiah, and had risen to a purely spiritual activity and influence. It was long since violence had been able to accomplish any sound results even in the prophetical office. Thus the highest prophetical activity lost its power when it lost its fierce and violent forms of action, and the second of the two forces on which the nationality rested was radically ruined.… When the two forces which could alone carry and preserve the nation were thus worn out, when the nation could no longer find either the right king or the right prophet, it sank rapidly towards its catastrophe. Then first did the evils which had long threatened it, or which had made themselves temporarily felt, become fatal to it.” In this view also the idea which is made uppermost in the biblical narrative, that the fall was a divine judgment justly and deservedly inflicted as a punishment for persistence in sin, is obscured and neglected, and the fall is represented as a catastrophe which was the legitimate result of a regular development. [There is no real disagreement here. The one is a pragmatic and the other is a philosophical statement of the same idea. The ancient Hebrew writer states it as a balance between so much sin and so much punishment. We cannot expect a critical and philosophical statement from him. In his view God stands over the sinful nation patiently and with long-suffering, and finally His hand falls in punishment. The modern German critic sees, in “persistence in sin,” the adoption of certain depraved doctrines, principles, and modes of thought, which form a creed or sum of convictions tacit or expressed. These produce a reiteration of unchaste, immoral, and irreligious acts—sins. This finally becomes a national habit, a characteristic of the nationality. It rises into a moral cause, and according to the laws of God’s moral government, this cause will in time produce inevitably certain moral and physical results—national decay (which will show itself first in the most vital organs of the State, its throne, its altar, and its pulpit), and finally national ruin. The two forms of statement are identical.—W. G. S.] As for the theory that there were two “independent authorities” in the State, and that the great characteristic of each was violence—employment of force in word or deed—in fulfilling its functions, it has been sufficiently noticed on p. 104. We need only remark here, that if violence was a characteristic of Isaiah, then Jeremiah’s discourses are far more forcible, vigorous, and violent than his, so that Duncker (quoted above) charges him with passion, severity, and sternness. No prophet ever rebuked the sin and apostasy of king and people with more plain and severe
language than Jeremiah. It cannot be said of him that he had thrown off the violent manner of the ancient prophets, and that “one and the same ruin enveloped the last great prophet and the nation, with all of its better interests which still remained at this stormy time.” His forcible words of rebuke and reproof, his endurance, pertinacity, and inflexibility, in the hardest conflicts and sufferings, down to the very end, bear testimony, not to the weakness and decay of the prophetical office, but to the fact that it was as grand, as great, and as vigorous as ever before. The monarchy sank and ceased at the fall of the kingdom, but the prophetical institution, so far from ceasing, arose again to new glory and strength. Those have the less ground for denying this who ascribe the second part of Isaiah to a great unknown prophet, who lived near the end of the captivity.
[The decay of the prophetical office is undeniable, in spite of the fact that one or two last great ones yet appeared. There had been false prophets, in greater or less number, at all times, but see the 23d chap. of Jeremiah, from the 9th verse on, for a sweeping denunciaton of the contemporary prophets. No distinction between false and true is specified. Depraved priests and prophets are together branded with one terrible denunciation. In 23:38–40 the degeneracy of the prophets seems to be given as the cause why Jehovah had abandoned the city. Prophecy ceased at some time—when did it cease? It did not cease abruptly, but shared the fate of all similar institutions among mankind. It degenerated into formalism and superstition (see Jerem. 23:33–37). In its rise and bloom and decay we can trace undeniable steps of change, development, progress, and decline. After the exile we have a few prophets, but not like the ancient ones. The spoken word gave way to the written word; the original oracle gave way to the commentary; the prophet gave way to the scribe. Following the stream upwards we come to the “Great Unknown” (?), and to Jeremiah. We find in Jeremiah descriptions of the contemporary prophets, and we see that the institution was dying, and that the one or two great ones who yet arose were great and grand as exceptions to the prevalent degeneracy. Jeremiah was the last prophet who was a statesman also, as the old prophets had been (Stanley).—W. G. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 25:8–21. God’s Judgment upon Judah. (a) It was well deserved (Rom. 2:5–11); (b) it was terrible (Hebr. 10:30, 31; Deut. 4:24); (c) it was a warning (1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Thess. 1:8–10; Isai. 2:10–17). Comparison of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans with its destruction by the Romans. (a) Wherein they were alike; (b) wherein they differed.—KEIL: The saying that the world’s history is the world’s condemnation, finds its full justification in the history of Judah, and nowhere else.
2 Kings 25:9–17. KYBURZ: No place is so strong, no building so grand, no wall so firm, that sin cannot undermine and overthrow it. Let no man trust in ceremonies, or sacred houses, or sacred traditions, so long as his heart is far from God, and his life is not in accord with his righteous creed. The destruction of the temple was a testimony that God will spare no house in which any other name than His is worshipped, or in which He is worshipped only with the lips while the hearts are far from Him. If the temple of Solomon was not spared, no physical temple can save us.—STARKE: If temples are not used for the true worship of God, He allows them to fall into the hands of unbelievers. Matt. 32:37 (as at the time of the extension of Mohammedanism).—PFAFF. BIB.: The highest pitch of the divine condemnation is reached when God removes the light of His Word from its place, and takes away from us the ordinances of true worship (Rev. 2:4, 5; 1 Pet. 4:17).
2 Kings 25:18–21. God often executes His judgments by means of wicked and godless men. This does not excuse or justify them in their cruelty or wickedness. They are only the rod of his anger, which he breaks after it has unconsciously served His purpose (Isai. 10:5; 14:3–6; Jerem. 50:51)
2 Kings 25:21. PFAFF. BIB.: When the measure of sin is full, and the judgment of God has begun to fall, nothing can any longer arrest its flood.—CRAMER: He who will not serve God in peace and prosperity must learn to do so in misery and adversity.—OSIANDER: Those who will not serve God in their own father land, must serve their enemies in harsh subjection.—The Curse and the Blessing of the Exile, Deut. 30:19. (a) The curse consisted in this, that the Lord removed the people from before His face (chap 23:27; 24:3, 20), that is, He removed them from the land of promise, in which He gave them His gracious blessings, and placed them in a distant country, where nothing was known of the true and living God. This curse, which had long been threatened (Levit. 26:33; Deut. 4:27; 28:26; Dan. 9:11) is a proof of the truth of the words: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked,” &c. (Gal. 6:7). God still does spiritually to individuals and to nations what He did to Judah—He removes them from before His face; He removes from them His word and His means of grace, if they do not repent, and leaves them to live in darkness, without Him. (b) The curse became a blessing for this people. It humiliated itself and repented. It experienced that there was no greater curse than to live far from its gracious God, and it longed for the land of promise. When it had lost its earthly kingdom and its earthly king, it learned to look for the kingdom of heaven and for that One in whom all God’s promises to man are fulfilled. The exile became a blessing for the whole world, for the Jewish nation was thereby made fit to fulfil its destiny in the redemptive plan of God. It was “a great opportunity, by which the name and glory of Jehovah were spread abroad, as a preparation for the preaching of the gospel of Christ” (Starke). We all lay under the curse of the law, but Christ has redeemed us (Gal. 3:13, 14).
2 Kings 25:22 to 26. See Jerem. 42–44. The People who remained in the Country, (a) Their protection by Gedaliah, 2 Kings 25:22, 23, 24. (“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,” Prov. 21:1. Nebuchadnezzar gave them a ruler from among their own countrymen who promised them favor and protection. So the Lord often offers consolation even in deserved misfortune, but men go their own way and plunge themselves into ruin.) (b) Their flight into Egypt (Jerem. 43:7; 42:18, 22. Their bad conscience leads them back to the country from which God had, wonderfully delivered them. STARKE: When the godless attempt to flee from a calamity they plunge themselves into it. Isai. 24:17 sq.)
2 Kings 25:24. OSIANDER: It is great wisdom to bear our burdens with patience; we thus make them lighter. It is folly to resist a greater power, for thus we only make our burdens heavier.
2 Kings 25:25. We see, by the example of Israel, how envy and jealousy, pride in high descent and destiny, and love of power, lead to the most utter ruin (Ps. 5:6; Prov. 27:4). Passion makes men fools. Ishmael could not hope with his small company to resist the Chaldean power.
2 Kings 25:27–30. Jehoiachin’s Deliverance from his Prison, (a) Its significance for the whole captive people (Levit. 26:44); (b) the warning which we may find therein.—An unfortunate state of things often endures for a long time. It seems that it never will end. Happy is he who does not murmur against God, but can say with the Apostle,—Rom. 5:3–5; see also Rev. 2:10,—The time of our deliverance is in the hands of the Lord. It comes when He sees that it is best for us.—WÜRT. SUMM.: We should despair in no trouble or punishment, but cry to God and trust in Him.
2 Kings 25:27. STARKE: Kings win great love by acts of grace and mercy (Acts 25:1–9).—THE SAME: We should be kind to captives, and pray to God for a loving disposition towards our enemies (Matt. 5:44).—Per Aspera ad astra! That is the way in which our Lord walked and in which we all must follow Him (Rom. 8:17; Ps. 126:1–6).—Final Review of the History in the Apostle’s words: “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33 and 36).
2 Kings 25:9. [בֵּית גָּדוֹל. The translators took the stat. const. to mean house of a great (sc. man). It is a case, however, of an adjective bound somewhat more closely to its substantive by the stat. const.=every great house, mansion. Cf. הֵיל כָּבֵד, 2 Kings 18:17. Ew. § 237, 1.
2 Kings 25:10. [“After אשׁר we must supply אֶת from Jerem 52:14.” Ew. Lehrb. s. 737, ut 1.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 25:12. For the chetib וּלְגָבִים the keri presents וּלְיגְֹבִים as in Jerem. 52:16. The signification is the same.—Bähr.