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Jeremiah 39:2-5

Context
39:2 It lasted until the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year. 1  On that day they broke through the city walls. 39:3 Then Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim, who was a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer, who was a high official, 2  and all the other officers of the king of Babylon came and set up quarters 3  in the Middle Gate. 4  39:4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all his soldiers saw them, they tried to escape. They departed from the city during the night. They took a path through the king’s garden and passed out through the gate between the two walls. 5  Then they headed for the Jordan Valley. 6  39:5 But the Babylonian 7  army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho 8  and captured him. 9  They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah 10  in the territory of Hamath and Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him there.

1 sn According to modern reckoning that would have been July 18, 586 b.c. The siege thus lasted almost a full eighteen months.

2 tn English versions and commentaries differ on the number of officials named here and the exact spelling of their names. For a good discussion of the options see F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations (NAC), 341, n. 71. Most commentaries follow the general lead of J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243) as the present translation has done here. However, the second name is not emended on the basis of v. 13 as Bright does, nor is the second Nergal-Sharezer regarded as the same man as the first and the information on the two combined as he does. The first Nergal-Sharezer is generally identified on the basis of Babylonian records as the man who usurped the throne from Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Awel-Marduk or Evil-Merodach as he is known in the OT (Jer 52:31; 2 Kgs 25:27). The present translation renders the two technical Babylonian terms “Rab-Saris” (only in Jer 39:3, 13; 2 Kgs 18:17) and “Rab-Mag” (only in Jer 39:3, 13) as “chief officer” and “high official” without knowing precisely what offices they held. This has been done to give the modern reader some feeling of their high position without specifying exactly what their precise positions were (i.e., the generic has been used for the [unknown] specific).

3 tn Heb “sat.” The precise meaning of this phrase is not altogether clear, but J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243) is undoubtedly correct in assuming that it had to do with setting up a provisional military government over the city.

4 tn The Hebrew style here is typically full or redundant, giving a general subject first and then listing the specifics. The Hebrew text reads: “Then all the officers of the king of Babylon came and sat in the Middle Gate, Nergal-Sharezer…and all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon.” In the translation the general subject has been eliminated and the list of the “real” subjects used instead; this eliminates the dashes or commas typical of some modern English versions.

sn The identification of the location of the Middle Gate is uncertain since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT.

5 sn The king’s garden is mentioned again in Neh 3:15 in conjunction with the pool of Siloam and the stairs that go down from the city of David. This would have been in the southern part of the city near the Tyropean Valley which agrees with the reference to the “two walls” which were probably the walls on the eastern and western hills.

6 sn Heb “toward the Arabah.” The Arabah was the rift valley north and south of the Dead Sea. Here the intention was undoubtedly to escape across the Jordan to Moab or Ammon. It appears from 40:14; 41:15 that the Ammonites were known to harbor fugitives from the Babylonians.

7 tn Heb “The Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.

8 map For location see Map5 B2; Map6 E1; Map7 E1; Map8 E3; Map10 A2; Map11 A1.

9 sn 2 Kgs 25:5 and Jer 52:8 mention that the soldiers all scattered from him. That is why the text focuses on Zedekiah here.

10 sn Riblah was a strategic town on the Orontes River in Syria. It was at a crossing of the major roads between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Pharaoh Necho had earlier received Jehoahaz there and put him in chains (2 Kgs 23:33) prior to taking him captive to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar had set up his base camp for conducting his campaigns against the Palestinian states there and was now sitting in judgment on prisoners brought to him.



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