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Jer 39:1-18. Jerusalem Taken. Zedekiah's Fate. Jeremiah Cared for. Ebed-melech Assured.
This chapter consists of two parts: the first describes the capture of Jerusalem, the removal of the people to Babylon, and the fate of Zedekiah, and that of Jeremiah. The second tells of the assurance of safety to Ebed-melech.
1. ninth year … tenth month—and on the tenth day of it (Jer 52:4; 2Ki 25:1-4). From Jer 39:2, "eleventh year … fourth month … ninth day," we know the siege lasted one and a half years, excepting the suspension of it caused by Pharaoh. Nebuchadnezzar was present in the beginning of the siege, but was at Riblah at its close (Jer 39:3, 6; compare Jer 38:17).
3. sat—expressing military occupation or encampment.
middle gate—the gate from the upper city (comprehending Mount Zion) to the lower city (north of the former and much lower); it was into the latter (the north side) that the Chaldeans forced an entry and took up their position opposite the gate of the "middle" wall, between the lower and upper city. Zedekiah fled in the opposite, that is, the south direction (Jer 39:4).
Rab-saris—meaning "chief of the eunuchs."
Rab-mag—chief of the magi; brought with the expedition in order that its issue might be foreknown through his astrological skill. Mag is a Persian word, meaning "great," "powerful." The magi were a sacerdotal caste among the Medes, and supported the Zoroastrian religion.
4. the king's garden—The "gate" to it from the upper, city above was appropriated to the kings alone; stairs" led down from Mount Zion and the palace to the king's garden below (Ne 3:15).
two walls—Zedekiah might have held the upper city longer, but want of provisions drove him to flee by the double wall south of Zion, towards the plains of Jericho (Jer 39:5), in order to escape beyond Jordan to Arabia-Deserta. He broke an opening in the wall to get out (Eze 12:12).
6. slew … sons … before his eyes—previous to his eyes being "put out" (Jer 39:7); literally, "dug out." The Assyrian sculptures depict the delight with which the kings struck out, often with their own hands, the eyes of captive princes. This passage reconciles Jer 32:4, "his eyes shall behold his eyes"; with Eze 12:13, "he shall not see Babylon, though he shall die there."
slew all … nobles—(Jer 27:20).
8. burned … the houses—(Jer 52:12, 13). Not immediately after the taking of the city, but in the month after, namely, the fifth month (compare Jer 39:2). The delay was probably caused by the princes having to send to Riblah to know the king's pleasure as to the city.
9. remnant—excepting the poorest (Jer 39:10), who caused Nebuchadnezzar no apprehensions.
those … that fell to him—the deserters were distrusted; or they may have been removed at their own request, lest the people should vent their rage on them as traitors, after the departure of the Chaldeans.
rest … that remained—distinct from the previous "remnant"; there he means the remnant of those besieged in the city, whom Nebuchadnezzar spared; here, those scattered through various districts of the country which had not been besieged [Calvin].
10. left … the poor … which had nothing—The poor have least to lose; one of the providential compensations of their lot. They who before had been stripped of their possessions by the wealthier Jews obtain, not only their own, but those of others.
11. Jeremiah's prophecies were known to Nebuchadnezzar through deserters (Jer 39:9; Jer 38:19), also through the Jews carried to Babylon with Jeconiah (compare Jer 40:2). Hence the king's kindness to him.
12. look well to him—Hebrew, "set thine eyes upon him"; provide for his well-being.
13. Nebuzara-dan … sent—He was then at Ramah (Jer 40:1).
14. Gedaliah—son of Ahikam, the former supporter of Jeremiah (Jer 26:24). Gedaliah was the chief of the deserters to the Chaldeans, and was set over the remnant in Judea as one likely to remain faithful to Nebuchadnezzar. His residence was at Mizpah (Jer 40:5).
home—the house of Gedaliah, wherein Jeremiah might remain as in a safe asylum. As in Jer 40:1 Jeremiah is represented as "bound in chains" when he came to Ramah among the captives to be carried to Babylon, this release of Jeremiah is thought by Maurer to be distinct from that in Jer 40:5, 6. But he seems first to have been released from the court of the prison and to have been taken to Ramah, still in chains, and then committed in freedom to Gedaliah.
dwelt among the people—that is, was made free.
15-18. Belonging to the time when the city was not yet taken, and when Jeremiah was still in the court of the prison (Jer 38:13). This passage is inserted here because it was now that Ebed-melech's good act (Jer 38:7-12; Mt 25:43) was to be rewarded in his deliverance.
16. Go—not literally, for he was in confinement, but figuratively.
before thee—in thy sight.
17. the men of whom thou art afraid—(Jer 38:1, 4-6). The courtiers and princes hostile to thee for having delivered Jeremiah shall have a danger coming so home to themselves as to have no power to hurt. Heretofore intrepid, he was now afraid; this prophecy was therefore the more welcome to him.
put … trust in me—(Jer 38:7-9). Trust in God was the root of his fearlessness of the wrath of men, in his humanity to the prophet (1Ch 5:20; Ps 37:40). The "life" he thus risked was to be his reward, being spared beyond all hope, when the lives of his enemies should be forfeited ("for a prey").