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Jeremiah 39:4-13

Context
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. 1  Then they headed for the Jordan Valley. 2  39:5 But the Babylonian 3  army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho 4  and captured him. 5  They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah 6  in the territory of Hamath and Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him there. 39:6 There at Riblah the king of Babylon had Zedekiah’s sons put to death while Zedekiah was forced to watch. The king of Babylon also had all the nobles of Judah put to death. 39:7 Then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out and had him bound in chains 7  to be led off to Babylon. 39:8 The Babylonians 8  burned down the royal palace, the temple of the Lord, and the people’s homes, 9  and they tore down the wall of Jerusalem. 10  39:9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, 11  took captive the rest of the people who were left in the city. He carried them off to Babylon along with the people who had deserted to him. 12  39:10 But he 13  left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing. He gave them fields and vineyards at that time.

39:11 Now King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had issued orders concerning Jeremiah. He had passed them on through Nebuzaradan, the captain of his royal guard, 14  39:12 “Find Jeremiah 15  and look out for him. 16  Do not do anything to harm him, 17  but do with him whatever he tells you.” 39:13 So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, Nebushazban, who was a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer, who was a high official, 18  and all the other officers of the king of Babylon

1 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.

2 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.

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

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

5 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.

6 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.

7 tn Heb “fetters of bronze.” The more generic “chains” is used in the translation because “fetters” is a word unfamiliar to most modern readers.

8 tn Heb “Chaldean.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.

9 tc The reading here is based on an emendation following the parallels in Jer 52:13 and 2 Kgs 25:9. The Hebrew text here does not have “the temple of the Lord” and reads merely “house of the people.” The text here is probably corrupt. It reads וְאֶת־בֵּית הָעָם (vÿet-bet haam, “and the house of the people”), which many explain as a collective use of בַּיִת (bayit). However, no parallels are cited by any of the commentaries, grammars, or lexicons for such a use. It is more likely that the words יְהוָה וְאֶת־בָּתֵּי (yÿhvah vÿet-bate) have fallen out of the text due to similar beginnings. The words וְאֶת־בֵּית יהוה (vÿet-bet yhwh) are found in the parallel texts cited in the marginal note. The Greek version is no help here because vv. 4-13 are omitted, probably due to the similarities in ending of vv. 3, 13 (i.e., homoioteleuton of מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל, melekh bavel).

10 sn According to the parallels in 2 Kgs 25:8-9; Jer 52:12-13 this occurred almost a month after the wall was breached and Zedekiah’s failed escape. It took place under the direction of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the king’s special guard who is mentioned in the next verse.

11 tn For the meaning of this phrase see BDB 371 s.v. טַבָּח 2 and compare the usage in Gen 39:1.

12 tc The translation is based on an emendation of the text which leaves out “the rest of the people who were left” as a double writing of the same phrase at the beginning of the verse. Some commentators emend the phrase “the rest of the people who were left” (הַנִּשְׁאָרִים וְאֶת יֶתֶר הָעָם, hannisharim vÿet yeter haam) to read “the rest of the craftsmen who were left” (וְאֶת יֶתֶר הָאָמוֹן הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, vÿet yeter haamon hannisharim) on the basis of the parallel in Jer 52:15 (which does not have הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, hannisharim). However, it is easier to explain the phrase as a dittography of the phrase at the beginning (which is exactly the same except הָעִיר [hair] follows it). The text is redundant because it refers twice to the same group of people. The Hebrew text reads: “And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to him and the rest of the people Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon.” The text has also been divided up to create two shorter sentences to better conform with contemporary English style.

13 tn Heb “Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard.” However, the subject is clear from the preceding and contemporary English style would normally avoid repeating the proper name and title.

14 tn Heb “And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon commanded concerning Jeremiah by the hand of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying.” Since Nebuchadnezzar is at Riblah (v. 6) and Nebuzaradan and the other officers named in the next verse are at Jerusalem, the vav consecutive imperfect should again be translated as a pluperfect (see 38:2 and the translator’s notes there for explanation). For the meaning of “through” or “through the agency of” for the phrase בְּיַד (bÿyad) see BDB 391 s.v. יָד 5.d. The sentence has been broken up to better conform with contemporary English style.

15 tn Heb “Get [or fetch] him.” The referent is supplied for clarity.

16 tn Or “take care of him”; Heb “set your eyes on him.” For the meaning of this idiom see BDB 963 s.v. שִׂים 2.c and compare 24:6 where the phrase “for good” is added.

17 tn Heb “Don’t do anything evil [= harmful] to him.”

18 tn See the translator’s notes on 39:3, 9 for the names and titles here.



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