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Jeremiah 21:4

Context
21:4 that the Lord, the God of Israel, says, 1  ‘The forces at your disposal 2  are now outside the walls fighting against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Babylonians 3  who have you under siege. I will gather those forces back inside the city. 4 

Jeremiah 21:9

Context
21:9 Those who stay in this city will die in battle or of starvation or disease. Those who leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians who are besieging it will live. They will escape with their lives. 5 

Jeremiah 32:2

Context

32:2 Now at that time, 6  the armies of the king of Babylon were besieging Jerusalem. 7  The prophet Jeremiah was confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse 8  attached to the royal palace of Judah.

Jeremiah 37:5

Context
37:5 At that time the Babylonian forces 9  had temporarily given up their siege against Jerusalem. 10  They had had it under siege, but withdrew when they heard that the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt. 11 )

Jeremiah 39:1

Context

39:1 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. The siege began in the tenth month of the ninth year that Zedekiah ruled over Judah. 12 

1 tn Heb “Tell Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel.’” Using the indirect quote eliminates one level of embedded quotation and makes it easier for the reader to follow.

2 tn Heb “the weapons which are in your hand.” Weapons stands here by substitution for the soldiers who wield them.

3 sn The Babylonians (Heb “the Chaldeans”). The Chaldeans were a group of people in the country south of Babylon from which Nebuchadnezzar came. The Chaldean dynasty his father established became the name by which the Babylonians are regularly referred to in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s contemporary Ezekiel uses both terms.

4 tn The structure of the Hebrew sentence of this verse is long and complex and has led to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. There are two primary points of confusion: 1) the relation of the phrase “outside the walls,” and 2) the antecedent of “them” in the last clause of the verse that reads in Hebrew: “I will gather them back into the midst of the city.” Most take the phrase “outside the walls” with “the Babylonians….” Some take it with “turn back/bring back” to mean “from outside….” However, the preposition “from” is part of the idiom for “outside….” The phrase goes with “fighting” as J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 215) notes and as NJPS suggests. The antecedent of “them” has sometimes been taken mistakenly to refer to the Babylonians. It refers rather to “the forces at your disposal” which is literally “the weapons which are in your hands.” This latter phrase is a figure involving substitution (called metonymy) as Bright also correctly notes. The whole sentence reads in Hebrew: “I will bring back the weapons of war which are in your hand with which you are fighting Nebuchadrezzar the King of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside your wall and I will gather them into the midst of the city.” The sentence has been restructured to better reflect the proper relationships and to make the sentence conform more to contemporary English style.

5 tn Heb “his life will be to him for spoil.”

sn Spoil was what was carried off by the victor (see, e.g., Judg 5:30). Those who surrendered to the Babylonians would lose their property, their freedom, and their citizenship but would at least escape with their lives. Jeremiah was branded a traitor for this counsel (cf. 38:4) but it was the way of wisdom since the Lord was firmly determined to destroy the city (cf. v. 10).

6 sn Jer 32:2-5 are parenthetical, giving the background for the actual report of what the Lord said in v. 7. The background is significant because it shows that Jeremiah was predicting the fall of the city and the kingdom and was being held prisoner for doing so. Despite this pessimistic outlook, the Lord wanted Jeremiah to demonstrate his assurance of the future restoration (which has been the topic of the two preceding chapters) by buying a field as a symbolic act that the Israelites would again one day regain possession of their houses, fields, and vineyards (vv. 15, 44). (For other symbolic acts with prophetic import see Jer 13, 19.)

7 sn According to Jer 39:1 the siege began in Zedekiah’s ninth year (i.e., in 589/88 b.c.). It had been interrupted while the Babylonian army was occupied with fighting against an Egyptian force that had invaded Judah. During this period of relaxed siege Jeremiah had attempted to go to his home town in Anathoth to settle some property matters, had been accused of treason, and been thrown into a dungeon (37:11-15). After appealing to Zedekiah he had been moved from the dungeon to the courtyard of the guardhouse connected to the palace (37:21) where he remained confined until Jerusalem was captured in 587/86 b.c. (38:28).

map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

8 tn Heb “the courtyard of the guarding” or “place of guarding.” This expression occurs only in the book of Jeremiah (32:2, 8, 12; 33:1; 37:21; 38:6, 12, 28; 39:14, 15) and in Neh 3:25. It is not the same as an enclosed prison which is where Jeremiah was initially confined (37:15-16; literally a “house of imprisoning” [בֵּית הָאֵסוּר, bet haesur] or “house of confining” [בֵּית הַכֶּלֶא, bet hakkele’]). It is said to have been in the palace compound (32:2) near the citadel or upper palace (Neh 3:25). Though it was a place of confinement (32:2; 33:1; 39:15) Jeremiah was able to receive visitors, e.g., his cousin Hanamel (32:8) and the scribe Baruch (32:12), and conduct business there (32:12). According to 32:12 other Judeans were also housed there. A cistern of one of the royal princes, Malkijah, was located in this courtyard, so this is probably not a “prison compound” as NJPS interpret but a courtyard adjacent to a guardhouse or guard post (so G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 151, and compare Neh 12:39 where reference is made to a Gate of the Guard/Guardhouse) used here for housing political prisoners who did not deserve death or solitary confinement as some of the officials though Jeremiah did.

9 tn Heb “the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for the rendering “Babylonian.” The word “forces” is supplied in the translation here for the sake of clarity.

10 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

11 tn Heb “And the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt and the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard a report about them and they went up from besieging them.” The sentence has been restructured and reworded to give greater emphasis to the most pertinent fact, i.e., that the siege had been temporarily lifted. The word “temporarily” is not in the text but is implicit from the rest of the context. It is supplied in the translation here to better show that the information in vv. 4-5 is all parenthetical, providing a background for the oracle that will follow. For the meaning “given up their siege against” (Heb “had taken themselves away from against”) see BDB 749 s.v. עָלָה Niph.1.c(2); 759 s.v. עַל IV.2.b.

sn The Pharaoh referred to here is Pharaoh Hophra who is named in Jer 44:30. He ruled from 589-570 b.c. Shortly after he began to rule, Zedekiah had been enticed by some of the officials in his court to appeal to him for aid. This act of rebellion quickly brought Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath and he invaded Judah, blockading Jerusalem and reducing the fortified cities of Judah one by one. According to Jer 39:1 the siege began in Zedekiah’s ninth year (589/88 b.c.) and lasted until his eleventh year when Jerusalem fell (587/86 b.c.). The army of Pharaoh likely came sometime during 588 b.c.

12 sn 2 Kgs 25:1 and Jer 52:4 give the more precise date of the tenth day of the tenth month of the ninth year which would have been Jan 15, 588 b.c. The reckoning is based on the calendar that begins the year in the spring (Nisan = March/April).



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