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The Fall of Jerusalem

39

In the ninth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the tenth month, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it; 2in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city. 3When Jerusalem was taken, all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsechim the Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, with all the rest of the officials of the king of Babylon. 4When King Zedekiah of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. 5But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and when they had taken him, they brought him up to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. 6The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes; also the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. 7He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters to take him to Babylon. 8The Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the houses of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard exiled to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained. 10Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

Jeremiah, Set Free, Remembers Ebed-melech

11 King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, 12“Take him, look after him well and do him no harm, but deal with him as he may ask you.” 13So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon sent 14and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan to be brought home. So he stayed with his own people.

15 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was confined in the court of the guard: 16Go and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to fulfill my words against this city for evil and not for good, and they shall be accomplished in your presence on that day. 17But I will save you on that day, says the Lord, and you shall not be handed over to those whom you dread. 18For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have trusted in me, says the Lord.

 


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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).

Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo—proper names formed from those of the idols, Nergal and Nebo (2Ki 17:30; Isa 46:1).

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).

5. Riblah—north of Palestine (see Jer 1:14; Nu 34:11). Hamath is identified by commentators with Antioch, in Syria, on the Orontes, called Epiphania, from Antiochus Epiphanes.

gave judgment upon him—literally, "spake judgments with him," that is, brought him to trial as a common criminal, not as a king. He had violated his oath (Eze 17:13-19; 2Ch 36:13).

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 himHebrew, "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.

18. life … for a prey—(See on Jer 21:9; Jer 38:2; Jer 45:5).

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").




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