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Jeremiah 39:1-14

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. 1  39:2 It lasted until the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year. 2  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, 3  and all the other officers of the king of Babylon came and set up quarters 4  in the Middle Gate. 5  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. 6  Then they headed for the Jordan Valley. 7  39:5 But the Babylonian 8  army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho 9  and captured him. 10  They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah 11  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 12  to be led off to Babylon. 39:8 The Babylonians 13  burned down the royal palace, the temple of the Lord, and the people’s homes, 14  and they tore down the wall of Jerusalem. 15  39:9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, 16  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. 17  39:10 But he 18  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, 19  39:12 “Find Jeremiah 20  and look out for him. 21  Do not do anything to harm him, 22  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, 23  and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 39:14 sent and had Jeremiah brought from the courtyard of the guardhouse. They turned him over to Gedaliah, 24  the son of Ahikam and the grandson of Shaphan, to take him home with him. 25  But Jeremiah stayed among the people. 26 

Jeremiah 52:3-30

Context

52:3 What follows is a record of what happened to Jerusalem and Judah because of the Lord’s anger when he drove them out of his sight. 27  Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 52:4 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came against Jerusalem with his whole army and set up camp outside it. 28  They built siege ramps all around it. He arrived on the tenth day of the tenth month in the ninth year that Zedekiah ruled over Judah. 29  52:5 The city remained under siege until Zedekiah’s eleventh year. 52:6 By the ninth day of the fourth month 30  the famine in the city was so severe the residents 31  had no food. 52:7 They broke through the city walls, and all the soldiers tried to escape. They left the city during the night. They went through the gate between the two walls that is near the king’s garden. 32  (The Babylonians had the city surrounded.) Then they headed for the Jordan Valley. 33  52:8 But the Babylonian army chased after the king. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, 34  and his entire army deserted him. 52:9 They captured him and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah 35  in the territory of Hamath and he passed sentence on him there. 52:10 The king of Babylon had Zedekiah’s sons put to death while Zedekiah was forced to watch. He also had all the nobles of Judah put to death there at Riblah. 52:11 He had Zedekiah’s eyes put out and had him bound in chains. 36  Then the king of Babylon had him led off to Babylon and he was imprisoned there until the day he died.

52:12 On the tenth 37  day of the fifth month, 38  in the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard 39  who served 40  the king of Babylon, arrived in Jerusalem. 52:13 He burned down the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all the houses in Jerusalem, including every large house. 52:14 The whole Babylonian army that came with the captain of the royal guard tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem. 52:15 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, took into exile some of the poor, 41  the rest of the people who remained in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the rest of the craftsmen. 52:16 But he 42  left behind some of the poor 43  and gave them fields and vineyards.

52:17 The Babylonians broke the two bronze pillars in the temple of the Lord, as well as the movable stands and the large bronze basin called the “The Sea.” 44  They took all the bronze to Babylon. 52:18 They also took the pots, shovels, 45  trimming shears, 46  basins, pans, and all the bronze utensils used by the priests. 47  52:19 The captain of the royal guard took the gold and silver bowls, censers, 48  basins, pots, lampstands, pans, and vessels. 49  52:20 The bronze of the items that King Solomon made for the Lord’s temple (including the two pillars, the large bronze basin called “The Sea,” the twelve bronze bulls under “The Sea,” and the movable stands 50 ) was too heavy to be weighed. 52:21 Each of the pillars was about 27 feet 51  high, about 18 feet 52  in circumference, three inches 53  thick, and hollow. 52:22 The bronze top of one pillar was about seven and one-half feet 54  high and had bronze latticework and pomegranate-shaped ornaments all around it. The second pillar with its pomegranate-shaped ornaments was like it. 52:23 There were ninety-six pomegranate-shaped ornaments on the sides; in all there were one hundred pomegranate-shaped ornaments over the latticework that went around it.

52:24 The captain of the royal guard took Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest who was second in rank, and the three doorkeepers. 55  52:25 From the city he took an official who was in charge of the soldiers, seven of the king’s advisers who were discovered in the city, an official army secretary who drafted citizens 56  for military service, and sixty citizens who were discovered in the middle of the city. 52:26 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 52:27 The king of Babylon ordered them to be executed 57  at Riblah in the territory of Hamath.

So Judah was taken into exile away from its land. 52:28 Here is the official record of the number of people 58  Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: In the seventh year, 59  3,023 Jews; 52:29 in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year, 60  832 people from Jerusalem; 52:30 in Nebuchadnezzar’s twenty-third year, 61  Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, carried into exile 745 Judeans. In all 4,600 people went into exile.

1 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).

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

3 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).

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

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

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

10 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.

11 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.

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

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

14 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).

15 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.

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

17 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.

18 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.

19 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.

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

21 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.

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

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

24 sn Gedaliah. This is the first reference to this individual whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed governor over the people who were left to live in Judah (cf. 40:5; 2 Kgs 25:22). His father was the man who spoke up for Jeremiah when he was accused of being a false prophet by some of the priests and prophets (26:24). His grandfather was the royal secretary under Josiah who brought the discovery of the book of the law to Josiah’s attention, read it to him, and was involved in helping Josiah institute his reforms (2 Kgs 22:8-10).

25 tn The meaning of the last phrase is uncertain. An alternate translation is “to take him home with him.” The text reads literally “to bring him into the house.” However, it is unclear whether “the house” refers to Jeremiah’s house or to Gedaliah’s. The fact that Nebuzaradan later offers Jeremiah the option of going back to Gedaliah (40:5) suggests that the house is here Gedaliah’s where Jeremiah would be looked out for in accord with Nebuchadnezzar’s command (v. 12).

26 tn Many translate this last clause as a conclusion or summary remark, “So Jeremiah stayed…” However, it is better to translate it as an adversative because it probably refers to the fact that rather than staying with Gedaliah in the governor’s residence Jeremiah stayed among the people. That is how he wound up being led off as a prisoner to Ramah. See further the study note on 40:1. According to IBHS 550 §33.2.1d the vav (ו) consecutive can have either of these values (see examples 11 and 12 for the adversative or contrastive nuance).

27 tn Heb “Surely (or “for”) because of the anger of the Lord this happened in Jerusalem and Judah until he drove them out from upon his face.” For the phrase “drive out of his sight,” see 7:15.

28 tn Or “against.”

29 sn This would have been January 15, 588 b.c. The reckoning is based on the calendar that begins the year in the spring (Nisan = March/April).

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

31 tn Heb “the people of the land.”

32 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.

33 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.

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

35 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.

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

37 tn The parallel account in 2 Kgs 25:8 has “seventh.”

38 sn The tenth day of the month would have been August 17, 586 b.c. in modern reckoning.

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

40 tn Heb “stood before.”

41 tn Heb “poor of the people.”

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

43 tn Heb “poor of the land.”

44 sn For discussion of the items listed here, see the study notes at Jer 27:19.

45 sn These shovels were used to clean the altar.

46 sn These trimming shears were used to trim the wicks of the lamps.

47 tn Heb “with which they served (or “fulfilled their duty”).”

48 sn The censers held the embers used for the incense offerings.

49 sn These vessels were used for drink offerings.

50 tc The translation follows the LXX (Greek version), which reflects the description in 1 Kgs 7:25-26. The Hebrew text reads, “the twelve bronze bulls under the movable stands.” הַיָּם (hayyam, “The Sea”) has been accidentally omitted by homoioarcton; note that the following form, הַמְּכֹנוֹת (hammÿkhonot, “the movable stands”), also begins with the article.

51 tn Heb “eighteen cubits.” A “cubit” was a unit of measure, approximately equivalent to a foot and a half.

52 tn Heb “twelve cubits.” A “cubit” was a unit of measure, approximately equivalent to a foot and a half.

53 tn Heb “four fingers.”

54 tn Heb “five cubits.” A “cubit” was a unit of measure, approximately equivalent to a foot and a half.

55 sn See the note at Jer 35:4.

56 tn Heb “men, from the people of the land” (also later in this verse).

57 tn Heb “struck them down and killed them.”

58 tn Heb “these are the people.”

59 sn This would be 597 b.c.

60 sn This would be 586 b.c.

61 sn This would be 581 b.c.



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