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.
Verse 1. - And it cams to pass in the ninth year of his - i.e. Zedekiah's - reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month. Extreme exactness with respect to a date indicates the extreme importance of the event dated. In the whole range of the history contained in the two Books of the Kings, there is no instance of the year, month, and day being all given excepting in the present chapter, where we find this extreme exactness three times (vers. 1, 4, and 8). The date in ver. 1 is confirmed by Jeremiah 52:10 and Ezekiel 24:1. That Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem. 'According to the description of the eye-witness, Jeremiah, the army was one of unusual magnitude. Nebuchadnezzar brought against Jerusalem at this time "all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people" (Jeremiah 34:1). The march of the army was not direct upon Jerusalem; it at first spread itself over Judea, wasting the country and capturing the smaller fortified towns (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 10:7. §3) - among them Lachish, so famous in the war against Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17; 2 Kings 19:8), and Azekah (Jeremiah 34:7). The capture of these two places was important as intercepting Zedekiah's line of communication with Egypt. Having made himself master of them, Nebuchadnezzar proceeded to invest the capital. And pitched against it - i.e., encamped, and commenced a regular siege - and they built forts against it round about. It has been argued that דָיֵק does not mean a "fort" or "tower," but a "line of circumvallation" (Michaelis, Hitzig, Thenius, Bahr). Jerusalem, however, can scarcely be surrounded by lines of circumvallation, which, moreover, were not employed in their sieges by the Orientals. Dayek (דָיֵק) seems to be properly a "watchtower," from דוּק, speculari, whence it passed into the meaning of a "tower" generally. The towers used in sieges by the Assyrians and Babylonians were movable ones, made of planks, which were pushed up to the walls, so that the assailants might attack their adversaries, on a level, with greater advantage. Sometimes they contained battering rams (see Layard, 'Monuments of Nineveh,' first series, pl. 19; and setup. Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 26:8; Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 10:8. § 1).
And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.
Verse 2. - And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. The writer omits all the details of the siege, and hastens to the final catastrophe. From Jeremiah and Ezekiel we learn that, after the siege had continued a certain time, the Egyptian monarch, Hophra or Apries, made an effort to carry out the terms of his agreement with Zedekiah, and marched an army into Southern Judaea, with the view of raising the siege (Jeremiah 37:5; Ezekiel 17:17). Nebuchadnezzar hastened to meet him. With the whole or the greater part of his host he marched southward and offered battle to the Egyptians. Whether an engagement took place or not is uncertain. Josephus affirms it, and says that Apries was "defeated and driven out of Syria" ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:7. § 3). The silence of Jeremiah is thought to throw doubt on his assertion. At any rate, the Egyptians retired (Jeremiah 37:7) and took no further part in the struggle. The Babylonians returned, and the siege recommenced. A complete blockade was established, and the defenders of the city soon began to suffer from famine (Jeremiah 21:7, 9; Lamentations 2:12, 20). Ere long, as so often happens in sieges, famine was followed by pestilence (Jeremiah 21:6, 7; Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' l.s.c.), and after a time the place was reduced to the last extremity (Lamentations 4:3-9). Bread was no longer to be had, and mothers devoured their children (Lamentations 4:10). At length a breach was effected in the defenses; the enemy poured in; and the city fell (see the comment on ver. 4).
And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.
Verse 3. - And on the ninth day of the fourth month. The text of Kings is here incomplete, and has to be restored from Jeremiah 52:6. Our translators have supplied the missing words. The famine prevailed in the city (see the comment on ver. 2). As I have elsewhere observed, "The intensity of the suffering endured may be gathered from Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Josephus. The complexions of the men grew black with famine (Lamentations 4:8; Lamentations 5:10); their skin was shrunk and parched (Lamentations 4:8); the rich and noble women searched the dunghills for setups of offal (Lamentations 4:5); the children perished for want, or were even devoured by their parents (Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:3, 4, 10; Ezekiel 5:10); water was scarce, as well as food, and was sold at a price (Lamentations 5:4); third part of the inhabitants died of the famine, and the plague which grew out of it (Ezekiel 5:12)" (see the 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. it. p. 147). And there was no bread for the people of the land. Bread commonly fails comparatively early in a siege. It was some time before the fall of the city that Ebed-Meleeh expressed his fear that Jeremiah would starve, since there was no more bread in the place (see Jeremiah 38:9).
And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.
Verse 4. - And the city was broken up; rather, brown into; i.e. a breach was made in the walls. Probably the breach was on the north side of the city, where the ground is nearly level (see Ezekiel 9:2). According to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:8. § 2), the enemy entered through the breach about midnight. And all the men of war - i.e., all the soldiers who formed the garrison - fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls; rather, between the two walls, as in Jeremiah 52:7. As the enemy broke in on the north, the king and garrison quitted the city on the south by a gate which opened into the Tyropoeon valley, between the two walls that guarded the town on either side of it. Which is by the king's garden. The royal gardens were situated near the Pool of Siloam, at the mouth of the Tyrepoeon, and near the junction of the Hinnom with the Kidron valley (see Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 7:11). (Now the Chaldees were against the city round about.) The town, i.e., was guarded on all sides by Chaldean troops, so that Zedekiah and his soldiers must either have attacked the line of guard, and broken through it, or have slipped between two of the blockading pests under cover of the darkness. As no collision is mentioned, either here or in Jeremiah, the latter seems the more probable supposition. And the king went the way toward the plain; literally, and he 'went. The writer supposes that his readers will understand that the king left the city with his troops; and so regards "he went" as sufficiently intelligible. Jeremiah 52:7 has "they went. By "the plain" (literally, "the Arabsh") the valley of the Jordan is intended, and by "the way" to it the ordinary road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.
Verse 5. - And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king. When the escape of Zedekiah and the soldiers of the garrison was discovered, hot pursuit was made, since the honor of the great king required that his enemies should be brought captive to his presence. The commanders at Jerusalem would fuel this the more sensibly, since Nebuchadnezzar had for some time retired from the siege, and left its conduct to them, while he himself exercised a general superintendence over military affairs from Riblah (see ver. 6). They were liable to be held responsible for the escape. And overtook him in the plains of Jericho. The "plains of Jericho" (עַרְבות יְרֵחו) is the fertile tract on the right bank of the Jordan near its embouchure, which was excellently watered, and cultivated in gardens, orchards, and palm-groves. It is probable, though not certain, that Zedekiah intended to cross the Jordan, and seek a refuge in Moab. And all his army were scattered from him (comp. Ezekiel 12:14). This seems to be mentioned in order to account for there being no engagement. Perhaps, thinking themselves in security, and imagining that they were not followed, the troops had dispersed themselves among the farmhouses and homesteads, to obtain a much-needed refreshment.
So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.
Verse 6. - So they took the king [Zedekiah], and brought him up to the King of Babylon. The presentation of rebel kings, when captured, to their suzerain, seated on his throne, is one of the most common subjects of Assyrian and Babylonian sculptures (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 292; vol. 3. p. 7; Layard, 'Monuments of Nineveh,' second series, pls. 23, 36, etc.). The Egyptian and Persian artists also represent it. To Riblah. (For the situation of Riblah, see the comment on 2 Kings 23:33.) As Nebuchadnezzar was engaged at one and the same time in directing the sieges both of Tyro and of Jerusalem, it was a most convenient position for him to occupy. And they gave judgment upon him. As a rebel, who had broken his covenant and his oath (Ezekiel 17:16, 18), Zedekiah was brought to trial before Nebuchadnezzar and his great lords. The facts could not be denied, and sentence was therefore passed upon him, nominally by the court, practically by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:9). By an unusual act of clemency, his life was spared; but the judgment was still sufficiently severe (see the next verse).
And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.
Verse 7. - And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes (comp. Herod., 3:14, and 2 Macc. 7, for similar aggravations of condemned persons' sufferings). As Zedekiah was no more than thirty-two years of age (2 Kings 24:18), his sons must have been minors, who could not justly be held responsible for their father's doings. It was usual, however, in the East, and even among the Jews, to punish children for the sins of their fathers (see Joshua 7:24, 25; 2 Kings 9:26; 2 Kings 14:6; Daniel 6:24). And put out the eyes of Zedekiah. This, too, was a common Oriental practice. The Philistines blinded Samson (Judges 16:21). Sargon, in one of his sculptures, seems to be blinding a prisoner with a spear (Botta, 'Monumens de Ninive,' pl. 18). The ancient Persians often blinded criminals (Xen., 'Anab.,' 1:9. § 13; Ammian. Mare., 27:12; Procop., 'De Bell. Pers.,' 1:11. p. 80). In modern Persia, it was, until very lately, usual for a king, on his accession, to blind all his brothers, in order that they might be disqualified from reigning. The operation was commonly performed in Persia by means of a red-hot iron rod (see Herod., 7:18). Zedekiah's loss of eyesight reconciled the two apparently conflicting prophecies - that he would be carried captive to Babylon (Jeremiah 22:5, etc.), and that he would never see it (Ezekiel 12:13) - in a remarkable manner. And bound him with fetters of brass; literally, with a pair of brazen fetters. Assyrian fetters consisted of two thick rings of iron, joined together by a single long link (Botta, l.s.c.); Babylonian were probably similar. Captives of importance are usually represented as fettered in the sculptures. And carried him to Babylon. Jeremiah adds (Jeremiah 52:11) that Nebuchadnezzar "put him in prison till the day of his death:" and so Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:8. § 7). The latter writer further tells us that, at his death, the Babylonian monarch gave him a royal funeral (comp. Jeremiah 34:5).
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:
Verse 8. - And in the fifth month, on the seventh clay of the month. Jeremiah says (Jeremiah 52:12) that it was on the tenth day of the month; and so Josephus (Bell Jud. Jud. 6:4. § 8). The mistake probably arose from a copyist mistaking י (ten) for ז (seven). According to Josephus, it was on the same day of the same month that the final destruction of the temple by the soldiers of Titus was accomplished. Which is the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne in B.C. 605, which was the fourth year of Jehoiakim, who began to reign in B.C. 608. The seven remaining years of Jehoiakim, added to the eleven of Zedekiah, and the three months of Jehoiachin, produce the result of the text - that the last year of Zedekiah was the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar. Came Nebuzaradan. Nebuchadnezzar had apparently hesitated as to how he should treat Jerusalem, since nearly a month elapsed between the capture of the city and the commencement of the work of destruction. He was probably led to destroy the city by the length of the resistance, and the natural strength of the position. The name, Nebuzar-adan, is probably a Hebraized form of the Babylonian Nebu-sar-iddina. "Nebo has given (us) a king." Captain of the guard; literally chief of the executioners; but as the King's guard were employed to execute his commissions, and especially his death-sentences, the paraphrase is quite allowable. A servant of the King of Babylon - i.e. a subject - unto Jerusalem. He came doubtless with instructions, which he proceeded to carry out.
And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire.
Verse 9. - And he burnt the house of the Lord. After it had stood, according to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:8. § 5), four hundred and seventy years six months and ten days. This calculation, however, seems to exceed the truth. Neither the Assyrians nor the Babylonians had any regard for the gods of other nations. They everywhere burnt the temples, plundered the shrines, and carried off the images as trophies of victory. In the temple of Jerusalem they would find no images except those of the two cherubim (1 Kings 6:23-28), which they probably took away with them. And the king's house (see 1 Kings 7:1, 8-12; 2 Kings 11:16). The royal palace was, perhaps, almost as magnificent as the temple; and its destruction was almost as great a loss to art. It doubtless contained Solomon's throne of ivory (1 Kings 10:18), to which there was an ascent by six steps, with two sculptured lions on each step. And all the houses of Jerusalem. This statement is qualified by the words of the following clause, which show that only the houses of the princes and great men were purposely set on fire. Many of the remaining habitations may have perished in the conflagration, but some probably escaped, and were inhabited by "the poor of the land." And every great man's house burnt he with fire (comp. 2 Chronicles 36:19, where the Chaldeans are said to have burnt "all the palaces").
And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.
Verse 10. - And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. A complete demolition is not intended. When the exiles returned, and even in the time of Nehemiah 2:13, 15, much of the wall was still standing, and the circuit was easily traced. Probably the Babylonians did not do more than break one or two large breaches in the wall, as Joash had done (2 Kings 14:13) when he took Jerusalem in the reign of Amaziah.
Now 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 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.
Verses 11-21. - Fate of the inhabitants of Judah, and of the contents of the temple. Having burnt the temple, the royal palace, and the grand residences of the principal citizens, Nebuzar-adan proceeded to divide the inhabitants of the city and country into two bodies - those whom he would leave in the land, and those whom he would carry off. The line of demarcation was, in a general way, a social one. The rich and well-to-do he would take with him; the poor and insignificant he would leave behind (vers. 11, 12). Among the former were included the high priest, the "second priest," three of the temple Levites, the commandant of the city, a certain number of the royal councilors, the "principal scribe of the host," and sixty of the "princes" (vers. 18, 19). The latter were chiefly persons of the agricultural class, who were left to be "vinedressers and husbandmen." From the temple, which had been already plundered twice (2 Chronicles 36:7, 10), he carried off such vessels in gold and silver and bronze as were still remaining there, together with the bronze of the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, of the great laver, or "molten sea," and of the stands for the smaller layers, all of which he broke up (ver. 13). Having reached Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar still was, he delivered up to him both the booty and the prisoners. Rather more than seventy of the latter Nebuchadnezzar punished with death (ver. 21). The rest were taken to Babylon. Verse 11. - Now the rest of the people that were left in the city - i.e., that remained behind when the king and the garrison fled - and the fugitives that fen away to the King of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude; rather, both the fugitives that had fallen away to the King of Babylon, and the remnant of the multitude, The writer means to divide "the rest of the people" into two classes:
(1) those who during the siege, or before it, had deserted to the Babylonians, as no doubt many did, and as Jeremiah was accused of doing (Jeremiah 37:13);
(2) those who were found inside the city when it was taken. Did Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carry away.
But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.
Verse 12. - But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land. It was inconvenient to deport persons who had little or nothing. In the Assyrian sculptures we see the captives, who are carried off, generally accompanied by their own baggage-animals, and taking with them a certain amount of their own household stuff. Pauper immigrants would not have been of any advantage to a country. To be vinedressers and husbandmen. Jeremiah adds that Nebuzar-adan "gave" these persons "vineyards and fields at the same time" (Jeremiah 39:10). The Babylonians did not wish Judaea to lie waste, since it could then have paid no tribute. On the contrary, they designed its continued cultivation; and Gedaliah, the governor of their appointment, made great efforts to have cultivation resumed and extended (see Jeremiah 40:10, 12).
And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brasen sea that was in the house of the LORD, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon.
Verse 13. - And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord. The two columns, Jachin and Boaz, cast by Hiram under the directions of Solomon (1 Kings 7:15-22), are intended. They were works of art of an elaborate character, but being too bulky to be carried off entire, they were "broken in pieces." And the bases. "The bases" were the stands for the layers, also made by Hiram for Solomon (1 Kings 7:27-37), and very elaborate, having "borders" ornamented with lions, oxen, and cherubim. And the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord. This was the great laver, fifteen feet in diameter, emplaced originally on the backs of twelve oxen, three facing each way (1 Kings 7:23-26), which King Ahaz had taken down from off the oxen (2 Kings 16:17) and "put upon a pavement of stones," but which Hezekiah had probably restored. The oxen are mentioned by Jeremiah 52:20 among the objects which Nebuzar-adan carried off. Did the Chaldees break in pieces - thus destroying the workmanship, in which their value mainly consisted - and carried the brass of them to Babylon. Brass, or rather bronze, was used by the Babylonians for vessels, arms, armor, and implements generally.
And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.
Verse 14. - And the pots. The word used, סִירות, is translated by, "caldrons" in Jeremiah 52:18, and "ash-pans" in Exodus 27:3. The latter is probably right. And the shovels - appurtenances of the altar of burnt sacrifice - and the snuffers - rather, the knives - and the spoons - or, incense-cups - and all the vessels of brain wherewith they ministered. It appears that after the two previous spoliations of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, in B.C. 605 and in B.C. 597, wherein so many of the more costly vessels had been carried off (Daniel 1:2; 2 Kings 24:13); the ministrations had to be performed mainly with vessels of bronze. Took they away. Soldiers are often represented in the Assyrian sculptures as carrying off vessels from temples, apparently on their own account (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 475, 2nd edit.).
And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away.
Verse 15. - And the firepans, and the bowls; rather, the snuff-dishes, (Exodus 25:38; 1 Kings 7:50) and the bowls, or basins (Exodus 12:22; 1 Kings 7:50; 2 Chronicles 4:8). Of these Solomon made one hundred, all in gold. And such things as were of gold, in gold. The "and" supplied by our translators would be better omitted. The writer means that of the articles enumerated some were in gold and some in silver, though probably the greater pert were in bronze. And of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away (comp. Jeremiah 52:19).
The 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.
Verse 16. - The two pillars (see the comment on ver. 13), one sea - rather, the one sea - and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord; the brass of all these vessels was without weight; i.e. the quantity of the brass was so large that it was not thought to be worth while to weigh it. When gold and silver vessels were carried off, their weight was carefully taken by the royal scribes or secretaries ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 476), who placed it on record as a check upon embezzlement or peculation.
The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter 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.
Verse 17. - The height of the one pillar wee eighteen cubits (comp. 1 Kings 7:15 and Jeremiah 52:21, in which latter place an even more elaborate account of the pillars is given), and the chapiter upon it was brass; rather, and there was a chapiter (or capital) upon it of brass - and the height of the chapiter three cubits. The measure given, both in 1 Kings 7:16 and Jeremiah 52:22, is "five cubits," which is generally regarded as correct; but the proportion of 3 to 18, or one-sixth, is far more suitable for a capital than that of 5 to 18, or between a third and a fourth. And the wreathen work - rather, and there was wreathen work, or network - and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of brass (comp. 1 Kings 7:18, 19): and like unto these had the second pillar with wreathen work. The ornamentation of the second pillar was the same as that of the first (see Jeremiah 52:22).
And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door:
Verse 18. - And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest. The "chief priest" is a new expression; but it can only mean the "high priest." Seraiah seems to have been the grandson of Hilkiah (1 Chronicles 6:18, 14), and an ancestor (grandfather or great-grandfather) of Ezra (Ezra 7:1). He had stayed at his post till the city was taken, and was now seized by Nebuzar-adan as one of the most important personages whom he found in the city. And Zephaniah the second priest. Keil and Bahr translate "a priest of the second order;' i.e. a mere Ordinary priest; but something more than this must be intended by Jeremiah, who calls him (Jeremiah 52:34), כֹּהֵן הַמִּשְׁנֶה i.e. distinctly "the second priest." It is conjectured that he was the high priest's substitute, empowered to act for him on occasions. Possibly he was the Zephaniah, son of Maaseiah, of whom we hear a good deal in Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 29:25-29: 37:3). And the three keepers of the door; rather, and three keepers of the threshold. There were twenty-five "gatekeepers" of the temple (1 Chronicles 26:17, 18), all of them Levites. On what principle Nebuzar-adan selected three out of the twenty-four is uncertain, since we have no evidence that the temple had. as Bahr says it had, "three main entrances." Jeremiah 38:14 certainly does not prove this.
And 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 scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city:
Verse 19. - And out of the city he took an officer - literally, a eunuch - that was set over the man of war - eunuchs were often employed in the East as commanders of soldiers. Bagoas, general of the Persian monarch, Ochus, is a noted example - and five men of them that were in the king's presence - literally, of them that saw the king's face; i.e. that were habitually about the court; Jeremiah says (Jeremiah 50:25) "seven men" instead of five - which were found in the city - the majority of the courtiers had, no doubt, dispersed, and were not to be found when Nebuzar-adan searched for them - and the principal scribe of the host; rather, as in the margin, the scribe of the captain of the host (τὸν γραμματέα τοῦ ἄρχοντος τῆς δυνάμεως, LXX.). "Scribes" or "secretaries" always accompanied the march of Assyrian armies, to count and record the number of the slain, to catalogue the spoil, perhaps to write dispatches and the like. We may gather that Jewish commandants were similarly attended. Which mustered the people of the land - i.e., enrolled them, or entered them upon the army list, another of the "scribe's" duties - and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city. Probably notables of one kind or another, persons regarded as especially responsible for the revolt.
And Nebuzaradan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah:
Verse 20. - And Nebuzar-adan captain of the guard took those, and brought them to the King of Babylon to Riblah (see the comment on ver. 6). Two batches of prisoners seem to have been brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah - first, the most important of all the captives, Zedekiah and his sons (vers. 6, 7); then, a month later, Seraiah the high priest, and the other persons enumerated in vers. 18 and 19. The remaining prisoners were no doubt brought also by Nebuzar-adan to Ribiah, but were not conducted into the presence of the king.
And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.
Verse 21. - And the King of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. Severities of this kind characterized all ancient warfare. The Assyrian sculptures show us prisoners of war impaled on crosses, beheaded, beaten on the head with maces, and sometimes extended on the ground and flayed. The inscriptions speak of hundreds as thus executed, and mention others as burnt in furnaces, or thrown to wild beasts, or cruelly mutilated. Herodotus says (3. 159) that Darius Hystaspis crucified three thousand prisoners round about Babylon after one of its revolts. That monarch himself, in the Behistun inscription, speaks of many cases where, after capturing rebel chiefs in the field or behind walls, he executed them and their principal adherents (see Colossians 2. Par. 13; Colossians 3. Par. 8, 11). If Nebuchadnezzar contented himself with the execution of between seventy and eighty of the rebel inhabitants of Jerusa-lee, he cannot be charged with cruelty, or extreme severity, according to the notions of the time. So Judah was carried away out of their land. Jeremiah adds an estimate of the number carried off. These were, he says (Jeremiah 52:28-30), in the captivity of the seventh (query, seventeenth?) year, 3023; in the captivity of the eighteenth year, 832; and in that of the twenty-third, five years later, 745, making a total of 4600. If we suppose these persons to be men, and multiply by four for the women and children, the entire number will still be no more than 18,400.
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.
Verses 22-26. - History of the remnant left in the land by Nebuzar-adan. Nebuchadnezzar, when he carried off Zedekiah to Babylon, appointed, as governor of Judaea, a certain Gedaliah, a Jew of good position, but not of the royal family. Gedaliah made Mizpah, near Jerusalem, his residence; and here he was shortly joined by a number of Jews of importance, who had escaped from Jerusalem and hidden themselves until the Babylonians were gone. Of these the most eminent were Johanan the son of Karcah, and Ishmael, a member of the royal house of David. Gedaliah urged the refugees to be good subjects of the King of Babylon, and to settle themselves to agricultural pursuits. His advice was accepted and at first followed; but presently a warning was given to Gedaliah by Johanan that Ishmael designed his destruction; and soon afterwards, as Gedaliah took no precautions, the murder was actually carried out. Other atrocities followed; but after a time Johanan and the other leading refugees took up arms, forced Ishmael to fly to the Ammonites, and then, fearing that Nebuchadnezzar would hold them responsible for Ishmael's act, against Jeremiah's remonstrances, fled, with the great mass of the Jews that had been left in the land, from Judaea into Egypt. Here our writer leaves them (ver. 26), without touching on the calamities which befell them there, according to the prophetic announcements of Jeremiah 44:2-28. Verse 22. - And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah. These con-stated of Gedaliah and his court, which included Jeremiah, Baruch, and some princesses of the royal house (Jeremiah 43:6); the poor of the land, whom Nebuzar-adan had intentionally left behind; and a considerable number of Jewish refugees of a better class, who came in from the neighboring nations, and from places in Judaea where they had been hiding themselves (Jeremiah 40:7-12). For about two months all went well with this "remnant," who applied themselves to agricultural pursuits, in which they prospered greatly. Whom Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon had left (see ver. 12), even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah in his earlier days (Jeremiah 26:24); Gedaliah protected him in the latter part of the siege (Jeremiah 39:14). Nebuchadnezzar's choice of Gedaliah for governor was probably made from some knowledge of his having sided with Jeremiah, whose persistent endeavors to make the Jews submit to the Babylonian yoke seem to have been well known, not only to the Jews, but to the Babylonians; most likely by reason of the letter he sent to his countrymen already in captivity (Jeremiah 29.). The son of Shaphan, ruler. Probably not "Shaphan the scribe" (2 Kings 22:3, 12), but an unknown person of the same name.
And when all the captains of the armies, they and their 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.
Verse 23. - And when all the captains of the armies; rather, the captains of the forces (Revised Version); i.e. the officers in command of the troops which had defended Jerusalem, and, having escaped from the city, were dispersed and scattered in various directions, partly in Judaea, partly in foreign countries. They and their men - apparently, each of them had kept with him a certain number of the men under his command - heard that the King of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor. The news was gratifying to them. It was something to have a Jewish ruler set over them, and not a Babylonian; it was, perhaps, even more to have a man noted for his justice and moderation (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 10:9. § 12), who had no selfish aims, but desired simply the prosperity and good government of the country. There same to Gedaliah to Mispah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Jo-hanan the son of Careah - Jeremiah 40:8 has "Johanan and Jonathan, the sons of Kareah" - and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite. In Jeremiah 40:8 we read, "And Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netephathite," by which it would seem that some words have fallen out here. By "Netophathite" is to be understood "native of Netophah," now Antubah, near Bethlehem (see Ezra 2:22; Nehemiah 7:26). And Jaazaniah the son of a Maschathite. Called Jezaniak by Jeremiah, and said by him (Jeremiah 42:1) to have been the son of a certain Heshaiah. Hoshaiah was a native of the Syrian kingdom, or district, known as Maschah, or Maachathi (Deuteronomy 3:14; 1 Chronicles 19:6, 7), which adjoined Bashan towards the north. They and their men. The persons mentioned, that is, with the soldiers under them, came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and placed themselves under him as his subjects.
And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you.
Verse 24. - And Gedaliah aware to them, and to their men. As rebels, their lives were forfeit; but Gedaliah granted them an amnesty, and for their greater assurance swore to them that, so long as they remained peaceful subjects of the King of Babylon, they should suffer no harm. Jeremiah adds (Jeremiah 40:10) that he urged them to apply themselves diligently to agricultural pursuits. And said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, sad serve the King of Babylon; and it shall be well with you; rather, and said unto them, Fear not because of the servants of the Chaldeans, etc. "Do not be afraid," i.e., "of the Chaldean officials and guards (Jeremiah 42:3) that are about my court. Be assured that they shall do you no hurt."
But 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 the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah.
Verse 25. - And it mane to pass in the seventh month - two months only after Gedaliah received his appointment as governor, which was in the fifth month - that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah; the son of Elishama - "Nethaniah" is otherwise unknown; "Elishama" may be the "scribe" or secretary of Jehoiakim mentioned in Jeremiah 36:12, 20 - of the seed royal. So Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:9. § 2) and Jeremiah 41:1. Josephus adds that he was a wicked and most crafty man, who, during the siege of Jerusalem, had made his escape from the place, and fled for shelter to Baalim (Baalis, Jeremiah 40:14), King of Ammon, with whom he remained till the siege was over. Came, and ten men with him - as his retinue - and smote Gedaliah, that he died. Gedaliah had been warned by Johanan and the other captains (Jeremiah 40:13-15) of Ishmael's probable intentions, but had treated the accusation as a calumny, and refused to believe that his life was in any danger. When Ishmael and his ten companions arrived, he still suspected nothing, but received them hospitably (Jeremiah 41:1), entertained them at a grand banquet, according to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:9. § 4), and being overtaken with drunkenness, was attacked and killed without difficulty. And the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah (comp. Jeremiah 41:3, "Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found them, and the men of war"). It is evident from this that Gedaliah had a Chaldean guard.
And 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.
Verse 26. - And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies (see above, ver. 23). The leader of the movement was Johanan, the son of Careah. Having first attacked Ishmael, and forced him to fly to the Ammonites (Jeremiah 41:15), he almost immediately afterwards conceived a fear of Nebuchadnezzar, who would, he thought, resent the murder of Gedaliah, and even avenge it upon these who had done all they could to prevent it. He therefore gathered together the people, and made a preliminary retreat to Chimham, near Bethlehem (Jeremiah 41:17), on the road to Egypt, whence he subsequently, against the earnest remonstrances and prophetic warnings of Jeremiah 42:9-22, carried them on into Egypt itself (Jeremiah 43:1-7). The first settle-merit was made at Tahpanhes, or Daphnae. Arose, and came into Egypt: for they were afraid of the Chaldees (see Jeremiah 41:18; Jeremiah 43:3). There does not appear to have been any real reason for this fear. Nebuchadnezzar might have been trusted to distinguish between the act of an individual and conspiracy on the part of the nation.
And 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 Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison;
Verses 27-30. - Fate of Jehoiachin. The writer of Kings, whose general narrative, since the time of Hezekiah, has been gloomy and dispiriting, seems to have desired to terminate his history in a more cheerful strain. He therefore mentions, as his last incident, the fate of Jehoiachin, who, after thirty-six years of a cruel and seemingly hopeless imprisonment, experienced a happy change of circumstances. The king who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar, his son, Evil-Merodach, in the first year of his sovereignty had compassion upon the miserable captive, and releasing him from prison, changed his garments (ver. 29), and gave him a place at his table, among other dethroned monarchs, even exalting him above the rest (ver. 28), and making him an allowance for his support (ver. 30). This alleviation of their king's condition could not but be felt by the captive Jews as a happy omen - a portent of the time when their lot too would be alleviated, and the Almighty Disposer of events, having punished them sufficiently for their sins, would relent at last, and put an end to their banishment, and give them rest and peace in their native country. Verse 27. - And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin King of Judah. According to Berosus and the Canon of Ptolemy, Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-four years. He carried off Jehoiachin to Babylon in his eighth year (2 Kings 24:12), and thus the year of his death would exactly coincide with the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of the Jewish prince. In the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month. The five and twentieth day, according to Jeremiah 52:31, (On the rarity of such exact dates in the historical Scriptures, see the comment on ver. 1.) That Evil-Merodach King of Babylon. The native name, which is thus expressed, seems to have been "Avil-Marduk." The meaning of avil is uncertain; but the name probably placed the prince under the protection of Merodach, who was Nebuchadnezzar's favorite god. Avil-Marduk ascended the Babylonian throne in B.C. 561, and reigned two years only, when he was murdered by Neriglissar, or Nergal-sar-uzur, his brother-in-law. In the year that he began to reign - the year B.C. 561 - did lift up the head of Jehoiachin King of Judah out of prison. (For the phrase used, see Genesis 40:13, 19, 20.) The act was probably part of a larger measure of pardon and amnesty, intended to inaugurate favorably the new reign.
And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon;
Verse 28. - And he spake kindly to him; literally, he spake good things with him; but the meaning is well expressed by our rendering. Evil-Merodach compassionated the sufferings of the unfortunate monarch, who had grown old in prison, and strove by kind speech to make up to him for them in a certain measure. And set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon. Evil-Merodach had at his court other captured kings besides Jehoiachin, whose presence was considered to enhance his dignity and grandeur (comp. Judges 1:7). An honorable position and probably a seat of honor was assigned to each; but the highest position among them was now conferred on Jehoiachin. Whether he had actually a more elevated seat, is (as Bahr observes) a mattes of no importance.
And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.
Verse 29. - And changed his prison garments. The subject to "changed" may be either "Jehoiachin" or" Evil-Merodach." Our translators preferred the latter, our Revisers the former. In either case the general meaning is the same. Evil Merodach supplied suitable garments to the released monarch instead of his "prison garments," and Jehoiachin arrayed himself in the comely apparel before taking his seat among his equals. Dresses of honor are among the most common gifts which an Oriental monarch makes to his subjects (see Genesis 41:42; Esther 6:8, 11; Esther 8:15; Daniel 5:29; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 5:1. § 1). And he - i.e. Jehoiachin - did eat bread continually before him. Besides giving occasional great feasts (see Esther 1:3-9), Oriental monarchs usually entertain at their table daily a large number of guests, some of whom are specially invited, while others have the privilege of daily attendance (see ' Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. pp. 214, 215). It was to this latter class that Jehoiachin was admitted. Comp. 2 Samuel 9:7-13, which shows that the custom was one not unknown at the Jewish court. All the days of his - i.e. Jehoiachin's - life. Jehoisohin enjoyed this privilege till his death. Whether this fell in the lifetime of Evil-Merodach or not, is scarcely in the writer's thoughts. He merely means to tell us that the comparative comfort and dignity which Jehoiachin enjoyed after the accession of Evil-Merodach to the throne was not subsequently clouded over or disturbed. He continued a privileged person at the Baby-Ionian court so long as he lived.
And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.
Verse 30. - And his allowance was a continual allowance. Keil supposes that this "allowance" was a daily "ration of food," intended for the maintenance of a certain number of servants or retainers. But it is quite as likely to have been a money payment. The word translated by "allowance" - אֲרֻחַת - does not point necessarily to food. It is a "portion' of any kind. Given him of the king - i.e., out of the privy purse, by the king's command - a daily rate for every day - or, a certain amount day by day - all the days of his life (see the comment on the preceding verse). Beth the privileges accorded to Jehoiachin, his sustenance at the king's table, and his allowance, whether in money or in kind, continued to the day of his death. Neither of them was ever revoked or forfeited. Thus this last representative of the Davidic monarchy, after thirty-six years of chastisement, experienced a happy change of circumstances, and died in peace and comfort. Probably, as Keil says, "this event was intended as a comforting sign to the whole of the captive people, that the Lord would one day put an end to their banishment, if they would acknowledge that it was a well-merited punishment for their sins that they had been driven away from before his face, and would turn again to the Lord their God with all their heart."