Matthew Poole's Commentary
In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.Jerusalem is taken: Zedekiah’s sons are slain; his eyes put out; he is sent to Babylon: all the nobles of Judah are slain: the city is burnt, and the chief of the people carried captive, Jeremiah 39:1-10. Nebuchadrezzar’s charge concerning Jeremiah, Jeremiah 39:11-14. God’s promise to Ebed-melech, Jeremiah 39:15-18.
This exactly agreeth with the historical part of Scripture, 2 Kings 25:1, and with the repetition of it, Jeremiah 52:4. This month was called Tebeth, Esther 2:16, and answers to part of our December and January. Princes are said to do that which is done by their officers by their order, yet some think Nebuchadnezzar came first in person, though he quickly left his army, and was not there at the taking of the city.
And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.The siege lasted a year and half, for it was the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year before it was taken: it is said here to be broken up, because their way of taking fortified places then was by beating down the walls of the besieged with iron rams and engines, as we now do with great guns. This kingdom had now held three hundred and eighty years, from Rehoboam their first king, in which they had had twenty kings (besides Athaliah). The ten tribes had been now in captivity one hundred and thirty years, so as the kingdom of Israel stood but two hundred and fifty years after the division, in which time they had had eighteen princes, but of several families; all the kings of Judah were of the house of David, lineally descended from him.
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.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 it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.It should seem that the city was taken by a surprise; the Chaldeans battering the walls incessantly with their rams and engines of war, on a sudden made such a breach as gave them a liberty to enter in. The king either heard of it, or possibly might be in some place where he might see it; then he begins to think of escaping, but for greater privacy stayeth till he had the covert of the night, and then goeth out towards the plains of Jericho, for there the Chaldeans overtook him, as we read in the next verse. He is said here to have gone by
the way of the king’s garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls. It is very hard for us at this distance of time to pretend to any certainty in determining the way by which he made his escape. They seem to judge most probably that think that the king had prepared for himself a private passage out of his garden betwixt two walls, leading to the wall of the city, which they had before so weakened, as on a sudden they might dig it through. Possibly these particulars are the rather set down, to show us how God verified what he had revealed in this matter to the prophet Ezekiel 12; where God set the prophet, Ezekiel 12:3, to prepare stuff for removing, and to remove by day in the sight of the people from his own place to another place; and, Ezekiel 12:4, to go out at even in their sight, as they that go out into captivity: Ezekiel 12:5, to dig through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby: Ezekiel 12:6, in their sight to bear it on his shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight; to cover his face, so as not to see the ground: and he told him, that in all this he was to be a sign; and, Ezekiel 12:10, tells him, this burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem (who was that Zedekiah). Ezekiel 12:12, And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to go out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes.
But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.Thus God by his providence fulfilled his threatening by his prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 17:12. Riblah was upon the borders of Canaan, as appeareth from Numbers 34:11; it was in the land of Hamath, of which we read 2 Kings 17:24, being one of those provinces in the dominion of the king of Assyria, from whence he brought men to place them in the land of Israel after that he had conquered the ten tribes. It is not usual for princes upon conquests to sit in judgment upon princes conquered, but the reason of it in this case was because Zedekiah was a tributary to the king of Babylon, and so subject to his power, having made a covenant with him, and secured his allegiance by his oath to him, and then rebelled against him, as we read, Ezekiel 17:13-18.
Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.Thus the stubbornness of this prince and his nobles proved the ruin of his family, and of themselves, and of the whole people. The nobles were great authors of this mischief, and brought Zedekiah into that obstinacy which he showed to the prophet’s admonitions and exhortations, upon them, therefore, a more exemplary punishment is taken. The Hebrew calls the nobles white men, either from their white garments, or from that candour of spirit which should be found in persons of their quality.
Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.Thus the two prophecies were fulfilled; that of this prophet, Jeremiah 34:4, that Zedekiah should not die by the sword; and that of Ezekiel, that he should not see Babylon, though he should die there, Ezekiel 12:13. Riblah was at a great distance from Babylon, where the king was at this time, probably to be nearer his army while the siege lasted at Jerusalem, and to give orders about it, and to divert himself, the place being a pleasant place, and the king not willing to trouble himself about the siege to go thither in person; but the siege being over, he now removeth to Babylon, and carrieth Zedekiah and the rest of the prisoners along with him.
And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.Still it is observable how punctual the Holy Ghost is in recording the fulfillings of the words of the Lord. This prophet had at least four times foretold that this would be one consequent of the king’s and nobles’ stubbornness, in not submitting to the king of Babylon. See Jeremiah 37:8 38:18,23.
Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.This Nebuzar-adan was in that place which we call the provost-marshal, with them it was called
the captain of the guard; and here are two sorts of prisoners reckoned up whom he carried away:
1. Such as, after the armies were come into Judea, had yielded themselves.
2. Such as, when they took the city, remained in it, not being before consumed by the sword, famine, and pestilence; and so were taken upon the storming or surprisal of the city. Both sorts were carried away prisoners, although it is probable that the conqueror treated the former much more gently than he treated the latter, as is usual in those cases.
But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard 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.This is usual with conquerors, for whose profit it is not that the countries conquered by them should lie waste, like wildernesses, but be peopled, and manured, that they may render some tribute to them: withal the justice of God is often seen in this, thus restoring to them ofttimes with advantage, by the hands of enemies that prove conquerors, those estates which in corrupt times their proper magistrates by violence and oppression took from them, or at least more than compensating their losses by acts of violence and injustice.
Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.It is more than probable that Nebuchadrezzar had been informed by some of the chief commanders of his army, who had it from some of the Jews that had escaped out of the city to the Chaldean army, that Jeremiah had constantly told the king and the nobles that the Chaldeans should take the city, and as steadily persuaded both the king, and princes, and people to surrender it to them, and prevent the effusion of blood; and that he was imprisoned for this, and had been a great sufferer that way; and that this made, this heathen prince so kind to the prophet as to give this order. In the mean time the hand of God is to be taken notice of, who undoubtedly put this into the heart of this pagan prince; and we may learn that none shall lose any thing at last by being faithful to the commands of God, though they may be for the present losers. What we translate,
look well to him, is in the Hebrew, set thine eyes upon him; and expounded by the following words, commanding him to
do him no harm, and to give or grant to him whatever he desired.
So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes;No text from Poole on this verse.
Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.The king of Babylon’s officers were very religious to their prince’s order, and take the prophet out of prison. For the latter part of the 14th verse, it seems but an anticipation of what we shall find related more fully and particularly Jeremiah 40.; or else so ought to be translated yet, as appeareth from the first verse of the next chapter, from whence it is plain that the prophet was also bound in chains amongst them that were carried away captive, and not discharged until he came at Ramah, which probably might be in that hurry of affairs; though the princes at first freed him from prison, the under officers not so diligently observing their special charge relating to Jeremiah, the neglect of which the captain of the guard observing when he came as far as Ramah, himself took care in it, as we shall find, Jeremiah 40; after which, upon his choice, he was committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor over the country.
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,These words let us know that these four verses (which contain mostly a promise to Ebed-melech for his kindness to Jeremiah while he was in the dungeon of Malchiah, of which we read Jeremiah 38:6-11 mention a matter that happened before the things mentioned in the foregoing verses.
Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.Ebed-melech is here again called the
Ethiopian, to the reproach of the Jews, that a stranger should show more kindness to a prophet of the Lord than any of that nation to whom he was specially sent; which was a type of the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews. God assures Ebed-melech the city should be taken and burnt, and the people carried into captivity.
But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.But promiseth Ebed-melech he should be delivered in that evil day; and, whether he feared the Chaldeans, that he should lose his life by them when they should break up the city, or the princes, whom he had angered by complaining to the king of their hard usage of the prophet, he should come into none of their power.
For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.For God would deliver him, so as he should not die by the sword; but how little else soever he saved, he should save his life, because he had put his trust in God, not fearing the wrath of men in the doing of what was his duty. We read no more in holy writ of this man, and so cannot tell how otherwise God dealt with him; only may be assured that he was not slain by the Chaldeans. And from this we may observe,
1. How kind God hath always declared himself to those who have showed the least kindness to those that have been his true and faithful ministers.
2. That the root of such good works as God rewardeth must be faith, a trusting in the Lord.
3. That those who do good works out of a principle of faith may yet be encumbered with slavish fears.