II Kings 25

 

 

LAST SIEGE AND CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM (vs. 1-10)

 

The open rebellion of Zedekiah was followed almost immediately by the

advance into Judaea of a Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar in

person, and the strict investment of the capitol. We learn the circumstances

of the siege from Jeremiah, in the prophecy which bears his name, and in

the Book of Lamentations. It lasted one year and seven months, and was

accompanied by a blockade so strict that the defenders were reduced to the

last extremity, and, as in Samaria under Jehoram (ch.6:29), and

again in Jerusalem during the siege by Titus (Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ 6:3. §

4), mothers ate their children (see Lamentations 2:20; 4:10). When

resistance was no longer possible, Zedekiah, with his men-at-arms,

attempted to escape by night, and fled eastward, but were overtaken and

captured in the plain of Jericho (Jeremiah 39:4-5). Meanwhile the city

fell into the enemy’s hands, and was treated with all the rigors of war. The

temple, the royal palace, and the great houses of the rich men were first

plundered and then delivered to the flames (v. 9). The walls of the city

were broken down (v. 10), and the gates laid even with the ground

(Lamentations 2:9). A great massacre of the population took place in

the streets (Ibid. vs. 3-4).

 

 

1  “And it cams to pass in the ninth year of his — i.e. Zedekiah’s

reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month,” - Extreme

exactness with respect to a date indicates the extreme importance of the

event dated. In the whole range of the history contained in the two Books

of the Kings, there is no instance of the year, month, and day being all

given excepting in the present chapter, where we find this extreme

exactness three times (vs. 1, 4, and 8). The date in v. 1 is confirmed by

Jeremiah 52:10 and Ezekiel 24:1 -  “that Nebuchadnezzar King of

Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem,” - According to

the description of the eye-witness, Jeremiah, the army was one of unusual

magnitude. Nebuchadnezzar brought against Jerusalem at this time “all his

army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the

people” (Jeremiah 34:1). The march of the army was not direct upon

Jerusalem; it at first spread itself over Judea, wasting the country and

capturing the smaller fortified towns (.Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:7. §3) —

among them Lachish, so famous in the war against Sennacherib (ch. 18:14,17;

19:8), and Azekah (Jeremiah 34:7). The capture of these two places was

important as intercepting Zedekiah’s line of communication with Egypt.

Having made himself master of them, Nebuchadnezzar proceeded to

invest the capitol – “and pitched against iti.e., encamped, and

commenced a regular siege — and they built forts against it round

about.”  It has been argued that qyed; does not mean a “fort” or “tower,”

but a “line of circumvallation.”  Jerusalem, however, can scarcely be

surrounded by lines of circumvallation, which, moreover, were not

employed in their sieges by the Orientals.  Dayek (qyed;) seems to be properly

a “watchtower,” from qWd, speculari, whence it passed into the meaning of a

“tower” generally.  The towers used in sieges by the  Assyrians and Babylonians

were movable ones, made of planks, which were pushed up to the walls, so that

the assailants might attack their adversaries, on a level, with greater advantage. 

Sometimes they contained battering rams (see Layard, ‘Monuments of Nineveh,’

first series, pl. 19;  and compare Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 4:2; 17:17; 26:8; Josephus,

Ant. Jud.,’ 10:8. § 1).

 

2   “And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.”

The writer omits all the details of the siege, and hastens to the final catastrophe.

From Jeremiah and Ezekiel we learn that, after the siege had continued a certain

time, the Egyptian monarch, Hophra or Apries, made an effort to carry out the

terms of his agreement with Zedekiah, and marched an army into Southern

Judaea, with the view of raising the siege (Jeremiah 37:5; Ezekiel 17:17).

Nebuchadnezzar hastened to meet him. With the whole or the greater part of his

host he marched southward and offered battle to the Egyptians. Whether an

engagement took place or not is uncertain. Josephus affirms it, and says that

Apries was “defeated and driven out of Syria” (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:7. § 3). The

silence of Jeremiah is thought to throw doubt on his assertion. At any rate, the

Egyptians retired (Jeremiah 37:7) and took no further part in the struggle. The

Babylonians returned, and the siege recommenced. A complete blockade

was established, and the defenders of the city soon began to suffer from

famine (Ibid. ch. 21:7, 9; Lamentations 2:12, 20). Ere long, as so often happens

in sieges, famine was followed by pestilence (Jeremiah 21:6-7; Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’

l.s.c.), and after a time the place was reduced to the last extremity (Lamentations

4:3-9). Bread was no longer to be had, and mothers devoured their children

(Ibid. v.10). At length a breach was effected in the defenses; the enemy poured

in; and the city fell (see the comment on v. 4).

 

3  “And on the ninth day of the fourth month” -  The text of Kings

is here incomplete, and has to be restored from Jeremiah 52:6. Our

translators have supplied the missing words – “the famine prevailed in the

city,” -  (see the comment on v. 2). As I have elsewhere observed, “The

intensity of the suffering endured may be gathered from Lamentations,

Ezekiel, and Josephus. The complexions of the men grew black with

famine (Lamentations 4:8; 5:10); their skin was shrunk and parched

(Ibid. 4:8); the rich and noble women searched the dunghills for scraps of offal

(Ibid. v. 5); the children perished for want, or were even devoured by their parents

(Ibid. chps. 2:20; 4:3-4,10; Ezekiel 5:10); water was scarce, as well as food, and

was sold at a price (Lamentations 5:4); third part of the inhabitants died of the

famine, and the plague which grew out of it (Ezekiel 5:12) “and there was no bread

for the people of the land.” Bread commonly fails comparatively early in a

siege. It was some time before the fall of the city that Ebed-Melech expressed his fear

that Jeremiah would starve, since there was no more bread in the place (Jeremiah 38:9).

 

4  “And the city was broken up,” -  rather, broken into; i.e. a breach

was made in the walls. Probably the breach was on the north side of the

city, where the ground is nearly level (see Ezekiel 9:2). According to

Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:8. § 2), the enemy entered through the breach

about midnight – “and all the men of war i.e., all the soldiers who

formed the garrison — fled by night by the way of the gate between two

walls,” -  rather, between the two walls, as in Jeremiah 52:7. As the enemy

broke in on the north, the king and garrison quitted the city on the south by

a gate which opened into the Tyropoeon valley, between the two walls that

guarded the town on either side of it – “which is by the king’s garden: -  The

royal gardens were situated near the Pool of Siloam, at the mouth of the

Tyrepoeon, and near the junction of the Hinnom with the Kidron valley

(see Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 7:11) – (“now the Chaldees were against the

city round about:) The town, i.e., was guarded on all sides by Chaldean

troops, so that Zedekiah and his soldiers must either have attacked the line

of guard, and broken through it, or have slipped between two of the

blockading posts under cover of the darkness. As no collision is mentioned,

either here or in Jeremiah, the latter seems the more probable supposition -

“and the king went the way toward the plain.” -  literally, and he went.

The writer supposes that his readers will understand that the king left the

city with his troops; and so regards “he went” as sufficiently intelligible.

Jeremiah 52:7 has “they went. By “the plain” (literally, “the Arabsh”)

the valley of the Jordan is intended, and by “the way” to it the ordinary

road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

 

5  And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king,” - When

the escape of Zedekiah and the soldiers of the garrison was discovered, hot

pursuit was made, since the honor of the great king required that his

enemies should be brought captive to his presence. The commanders at

Jerusalem would feel this the more sensibly, since Nebuchadnezzar had for

some time retired from the siege, and left its conduct to them, while he

himself exercised a general superintendence over military affairs from

Riblah (see v. 6). They were liable to be held responsible for the escape.

“and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. The “plains of Jericho

(wOjrey] twObr][") is the fertile tract on the right bank of the Jordan near its

embouchure, which was excellently watered, and cultivated in gardens,

orchards, and palm-groves. It is probable, though not certain, that

Zedekiah intended to cross the Jordan, and seek a refuge in Moab“and all

his army were scattered from him.” (compare Ezekiel 12:14). This seems

to be mentioned in order to account for there being no engagement.

Perhaps, thinking themselves in security, and imagining that they were not

followed, the troops had dispersed themselves among the farmhouses and

homesteads, to obtain a much-needed refreshment.

 

6  “So they took the king [Zedekiah], and brought him up to the

king of Babylon” -  The presentation of rebel kings, when captured, to their

suzerain, seated on his throne, is one of the most common subjects of

Assyrian and Babylonian sculptures (see ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 1. p.

292; vol. 3. p. 7; Layard, ‘Monuments of Nineveh,’ second series, pls. 23,

36). The Egyptian and Persian artists also represent it – “to Riblah;” -  (For

the situation of Riblah, see the comment on ch. 23:33.) As Nebuchadnezzar was

engaged at one and the same time in directing the sieges both of Tyre and of

Jerusalem, it was a most convenient position for him to occupy – “and they gave

judgment upon him.”  As a rebel, who had broken his covenant and his oath

(Ezekiel 17:16, 18), Zedekiah was brought to trial before Nebuchadnezzar and his

great lords. The facts could not be denied, and sentence was therefore passed upon

him, nominally by the court, practically by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:9). By an

unusual act of clemency, his life was spared; but the judgment was still sufficiently

severe (see the next verse).

 

7  “And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes,” - As Zedekiah was no

more than thirty-two years of age (ch. 24:18), his sons must have been minors, who

could not justly be held responsible for their father’s doings. It was usual, however,

in the East, and even among the Jews, to punish children for the sins of their

fathers (see Joshua 7:24-25; ch. 9:26; 14:6; Daniel 6:24) - “and put out the eyes

of Zedekiah<” -  This, too, was a common Oriental practice. The Philistines blinded

Samson (Judges 16:21). Sargon, in one of his sculptures, seems to be blinding a

prisoner with a spear (Botta, ‘Monumens de Ninive,’ pl. 18). The ancient Persians

often blinded criminals (Xen., ‘Anab.,’ 1:9. § 13; Ammian. Mare., 27:12; Procop., ‘De

Bell. Pers.,’ 1:11. p. 80). In modern Persia, it was, until very lately, usual for a king, on

his accession, to blind all his brothers, in order that they might be disqualified from

reigning. The operation was commonly performed in Persia by means of a red-hot

iron rod (see Herodotus, 7:18).  Zedekiah’s loss of eyesight reconciled the two

apparently conflicting prophecies — that he would be carried captive to Babylon

(Jeremiah 22:5), and that he would never see it (Ezekiel 12:13) — in a

remarkable manner – “and bound him with fetters of brass,” -  literally, with

a pair of brazen fetters. Assyrian fetters consisted of two thick rings of

iron, joined together by a single long link; Babylonian were probably similar. Captives

of importance are usually represented as fettered in the sculptures – “and carried him

to Babylon.”  Jeremiah 52:11 adds that Nebuchadnezzar “put him in prison till the

day of his death:” and so Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:8. § 7). The latter writer further

tells us that, at his death, the Babylonian monarch gave him a royal funeral (compare

Jeremiah, 34:5).

 

8  “And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month,” -  Jeremiah 52:12

says that it was on the tenth day of the month; and so Josephus (‘Bell Jud.; 6:4. § 8).

The mistake probably arose from a copyist mistaking y (ten) for z (seven).

According to Josephus, it was on the same day of the same month that the final

destruction of the temple by the soldiers of Titus was accomplished – “which is the

nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” -

Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne in B.C. 605, which was the fourth

year of Jehoiakim, who began to reign in B.C. 608. The seven remaining

years of Jehoiakim, added to the eleven of Zedekiah, and the three months

of Jehoiachin, produce the result of the text — that the last year of

Zedekiah was the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar – “came Nebuzaradan” -

Nebuchadnezzar had apparently hesitated as to how he should treat

Jerusalem, since nearly a month elapsed between the capture of the city and

the commencement of the work of destruction. He was probably led to

destroy the city by the length of the resistance, and the natural strength of

the position. The name, Nebuzar-adan, is probably a Hebraized form of the

Babylonian Nebu-sar-iddina. “Nebo has given (us) a king.” – “captain of the

guard,” -  literally chief of the executioners; but as the King’s guard were

employed to execute his commissions, and especially his death-sentences,

the paraphrase is quite allowable – “a servant of the King of Babylon,

i.e. a subject — unto Jerusalem.” He came doubtless with instructions,

which he proceeded to carry out.

 

9  “And he burnt the house of the Lord,” -  After it had stood,

according to Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:8. § 5), four hundred and seventy

years six months and ten days. This calculation, however, seems to exceed

the truth. Neither the Assyrians nor the Babylonians had any regard for the

gods of other nations. They everywhere burnt the temples, plundered the

shrines, and carried off the images as trophies of victory. In the temple of

Jerusalem they would find no images except those of the two cherubim

(I Kings 6:23-28), which they probably took away with them – “and the

king’s house,” -  (Ibid. 7:1, 8-12; II Kings 11:16). The royal palace was,

perhaps, almost as magnificent as the temple; and its destruction was almost as

great a loss to art. It doubtless contained Solomon’s throne of ivory (I Kings

10:18), to which there was an ascent by six steps, with two sculptured lions on

each step – “and all the houses of Jerusalem,” -  This statement is qualified

by the words of the following clause, which show that only the houses of the

princes and great men were purposely set on fire. Many of the remaining

habitations may have perished in the conflagration, but some probably escaped,

and were inhabited by “the poor of the land.” – “and every great man’s house

burnt he with fire.” -  (compare II Chronicles 36:19, where the Chaldeans are

said to have burnt “all the palaces”).

 

10 “And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard,

brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.”  A complete demolition is not

intended. When the exiles returned, and even in the time of Nehemiah 2:13, 15, much

of the wall was still standing, and the circuit was easily traced. Probably the Babylonians

did not do more than break one or two large breaches in the wall, as Joash had done

(ch.14:13) when he took Jerusalem in the reign of Amaziah.

 

 

Fate of the Inhabitants of Judah

                                                            and of

      the Contents of the Temple (vs. 11-21)  

 

Having burnt the temple, the royal palace, and the grand residences of the principal

citizens, Nebuzaradan proceeded to divide the inhabitants of the city and country into

two bodies — those whom he would leave in the land, and those whom he would

carry off. The line of demarcation was, in a general way, a social one. The rich and

well-to-do he would take with him; the poor and insignificant he would leave behind

(vs. 11-12). Among the former were included the high priest, the “second priest,”

three of the temple Levites, the commandant of the city, a certain number of the royal

councilors, the “principal scribe of the host,” and sixty of the “princes” (vs. 18-19).

The latter were chiefly persons of the agricultural class, who were left to be

“vinedressers and husbandmen”-  (v. 12) - From the temple, which had been

already plundered twice (II Chronicles 36:7, 10), he carried off such vessels in gold

and silver and bronze as were still remaining there, together with the bronze of the two

pillars Jachin and Boaz, of the great laver, or “molten sea,” and of the stands for the

smaller layers, all of which he broke up (v. 13). Having reached Riblah, where

Nebuchadnezzar still was, he delivered up to him both the booty and the prisoners.

Rather more than seventy of the latter Nebuchadnezzar punished with death (v. 21).

The rest were taken to Babylon.

 

11  “Now the rest of the people that were left in the city” i.e.,

that remained behind when the king and the garrison fled — “and the

fugitives that fell away to the King of Babylon, with the remnant of

the multitude,” - The writer means to divide “the rest of the people” into two

classes:

 

  • those who during the siege, or before it, had deserted to the Babylonians, as

      no doubt many did, and as Jeremiah was accused of doing (Jeremiah 37:13);

 

  • those who were found inside the city when it was taken.

 

“did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.”

 

12  But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land” -  It was

inconvenient to deport persons who had little or nothing. In the Assyrian sculptures

we see the captives, who are carried off, generally accompanied by their own

baggage-animals, and taking with them a certain amount of their own household

stuff. Pauper immigrants would not have been of  any advantage to a country – “to be

vinedressers and husbandmen.” Jeremiah adds that Nebuzar-adan “gave” these

persons “vineyards and fields at the same time” (Jeremiah 39:10). The Babylonians

did not wish Judaea to lie waste, since it could then have paid no tribute. On the

contrary, they designed its continued cultivation; and Gedaliah, the governor of  their

appointment, made great efforts to have cultivation resumed and extended  (Ibid. ch.

40:10, 12).

 

13 “And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord,” -

The two columns, Jachin and Boaz, cast by Hiram under the directions of

Solomon (I Kings 7:15-22), are intended. They were works of art of an

elaborate character, but being too bulky to be carried off entire, they were

“broken in pieces.”“and the bases,” -  “The bases” were the stands for

the lavers, also made by Hiram for Solomon (1 Kings 7:27-37), and very

elaborate, having “borders” ornamented with lions, oxen, and cherubim -

“and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord,” - This was the

great laver, fifteen feet in diameter, emplaced originally on the backs of

twelve oxen, three facing each way (I Kings 7:23-26), which King

Ahaz had taken down from off the oxen (ch.16:17) and “put upon

a pavement of stones,” but which Hezekiah had probably restored. The

oxen are mentioned by Jeremiah 52:20 among the objects which

Nebuzar-adan carried off – “did the Chaldees break in pieces,” — thus

destroying the workmanship, in which their value mainly consisted — “and

carried the brass of them to Babylon.”  Brass, or rather bronze, was used

by the Babylonians for vessels, arms, armor, and implements generally.

 

14  “And the pots,” -  The word used, twOrysi, is translated by, “caldrons” in

Jeremiah 52:18, and “ash-pans” in Exodus 27:3. The latter is probably right –

“and the shovels — appurtenances of the altar of burnt sacrifice — and the

snuffers — rather, the knives and the spoons — or, incense-cups —

and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered,” -  It appears that

after the two previous spoliations of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, in B.C. 605

and in B.C. 597, wherein so many of the more costly vessels had been carried off

(ch. 24:13; Daniel 1:2); the ministrations had to be performed mainly with vessels of

bronze – “took they away.”  Soldiers are often represented in the Assyrian

sculptures as carrying off vessels from temples, apparently on their own

account (see ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 1. p. 475, 2nd edit.).

 

15  “And the firepans, and the bowls,” -  rather, the snuff-dishes, (Exodus 25:38;

I Kings 7:50) and the bowls, or basins (Exodus 12:22; I Kings 7:50; II Chronicles

4:8). Of these Solomon made one hundred, all in gold – “and such things as were

of gold, in gold,” -  The “and” supplied by our translators would be better omitted.

The writer means that of the articles enumerated some were in gold and some in

silver, though probably the greater part were in bronze – “and of silver, in

silver, the captain of the guard took away (compare Jeremiah 52:19).

 

16  “The two pillars (see the comment on v. 13), one sea - rather, the one sea –

and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord; the brass

of all these vessels was without weight.”  - i.e. the quantity of the brass was so

large that it was not thought to be worth while to weigh it. When gold and silver

vessels were carried off, their weight was carefully taken by the royal scribes or

secretaries (‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 1. p. 476), who placed it on record as a

check upon embezzlement or peculation.

 

17  “The height of the one pillar wee eighteen cubits,” -  (compare I Kings 7:15

and Jeremiah 52:21, in which latter place an even more elaborate account of the

pillars is given), and the chapiter upon it was brass; rather, and there was a

 chapiter (or capital) upon it of brass — “and the height of the chapiter three

cubits;” -  The measure given, both in I Kings 7:16 and Jeremiah 52:22, is “five

cubits,” which is generally regarded as correct; but the proportion of 3 to18, or

one-sixth, is far more suitable for a capital than that of 5 to18, or between a third

and a fourth – “and the wreathen work — rather, and there was wreathen

work, or network — and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all

of brass (compare I Kings 7:18-19): and like unto these had the second

pillar with wreathen work.”  The ornamentation of the second pillar was

the same as that of the first (see Jeremiah 52:22).

 

18  “And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest,” -

The “chief priest” is a new expression; but it can only mean the “high

priest.” Seraiah seems to have been the grandson of Hilkiah (I Chronicles 6:13-14),

and an ancestor (grandfather or great-grandfather) of Ezra (Ezra 7:1). He had

stayed at his post till the city was taken, and was now seized by Nebuzar-adan

as one of the most important personages whom he found in the city – “and

Zephaniah the second priest,” - Jeremiah, calls him hn,v]Mih" ˆheK - i.e. distinctly

the second priest.- (Jeremiah 52:24), It is conjectured that he was the high priest’s

substitute, empowered to act for him on occasions. Possibly he was the Zephaniah,

son of Maaseiah, of  whom we hear a good deal in Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 21:1;

29:25-29; 37:3) – “and the three keepers of the door:” -  rather, and three

keepers of the threshold. There were twenty-five “gatekeepers” of the temple

(I Chronicles 26:17-18), all of them Levites. On what principle Nebuzar-adan

selected three out of the twenty-four is uncertain.

 

19  “And out of the city he took an officer — literally, a eunuch — that was set

over the man of war,”  — eunuchs were often employed in the East as commanders

of soldiers. Bagoas, general of the Persian monarch, Ochus, is a noted example —

“and five men of them that were in the king’s presence,” — literally, of them

 that saw the kings face; i.e. that were habitually about the court; Jeremiah 52:25

says “seven men” instead of five — “which were found in the city,”  — the

majority of the courtiers had, no doubt, dispersed, and were not to be found when

Nebuzar-adan searched for them — “and the principal scribe of the host,” –

rather, as in the margin, the scribe of the captain of the host -  “Scribes” or

“secretaries” always accompanied the march of Assyrian armies, to count

and record the number of the slain, to catalogue the spoil, perhaps to write

dispatches and the like. We may gather that Jewish commandants were

similarly attended – “which mustered the people of the land,” i.e.,

enrolled them, or entered them upon the army list, another of the “scribe’s”

duties — “and threescore men of the people of the land that were found

in the city: -  Probably notables of one kind or another, persons regarded as

especially responsible for the revolt.

 

20  “And Nebuzar-adan captain of the guard took those, and brought them

to the king of Babylon to Riblah(see the comment on v. 6). Two batches of

prisoners seem to have been brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah — first,

the most important of all the captives, Zedekiah and his sons (vs. 6-7); then, a

month later, Seraiah the high priest, and the other persons enumerated in vs

18-19. The remaining prisoners were no doubt brought also by Nebuzar-adan

to Ribiah, but were not conducted into the presence of the king.

 

21  “And the King of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the

land of Hamath.”  Severities of this kind characterized all ancient warfare. The

Assyrian sculptures show us prisoners of war impaled on crosses, beheaded,

beaten on the head with maces, and sometimes extended on the ground and

flayed. The inscriptions speak of hundreds as thus executed, and mention

others as burnt in furnaces, or thrown to wild beasts, or cruelly mutilated.

Herodotus says (3. 159) that Darius Hystaspis crucified three thousand

prisoners round about Babylon after one of its revolts. That monarch himself,

in the Behistun inscription, speaks of many cases where, after capturing rebel

chiefs in the field or behind walls, he executed them and their principal

adherents (see Colossians 2. Par. 13; Colossians 3. Par. 8, 11).  If

Nebuchadnezzar contented himself with the execution of between seventy

and eighty of the rebel inhabitants of Jerusalem, he cannot be charged with

cruelty, or extreme severity, according to the notions of the time. “So Judah was

carried away out of their land.”  Jeremiah adds an estimate of the number

carried off. These were, he says (Jeremiah 52:28-30), in the captivity of the

seventh (query, seventeenth?) year, 3023; in the captivity of the eighteenth year,

832; and in that of the twenty-third, five years later, 745, making a total of 4600.

If we suppose these persons to be men, and multiply by four for the women

and children, the entire number will still be no more than 18,400.

 

 

 

 

   History of the Remnant Left in the Land by Nebuzar-adan (vs. 22-26)

 

Nebuchadnezzar, when he carried off Zedekiah to Babylon, appointed, as governor

of Judaea, a certain Gedaliah, a Jew of good position, but not of the royal family.

Gedaliah made Mizpah, near Jerusalem, his residence; and here he was shortly joined

by a number of Jews of importance, who had escaped from Jerusalem and hidden

themselves until the Babylonians were gone. Of these the most eminent were

Johanan the son of Karcah, and Ishmael, a member of the royal house of David.

Gedaliah urged the refugees to be good subjects of the King of Babylon, and to

settle themselves to agricultural pursuits. His advice was accepted and at first

followed; but presently a warning was given to Gedaliah by Johanan that Ishmael

designed his destruction; and soon afterwards, as Gedaliah took no precautions,

the murder was actually carried out. Other atrocities followed; but after a time

Johanan and the other leading refugees took up arms, forced Ishmael to fly to

the Ammonites, and then, fearing that Nebuchadnezzar would hold them

responsible for Ishmael’s act, against Jeremiah’s remonstrances, fled, with the

great mass of the Jews that had been left in the land, from Judaea into Egypt.

Here our writer leaves them (v. 26), without touching on the calamities which

befell them there, according to the prophetic announcements of  Jeremiah 44:2-28.

 

22  “And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah,” - These

consisted of Gedaliah and his court, which included Jeremiah, Baruch, and some

princesses of the royal house (Jeremiah 43:6); the poor of the land, whom

Nebuzar-adan had intentionally left behind; and a considerable number of Jewish

refugees of a better class, who came in from the neighboring nations, and from

places in Judaea where they had been hiding themselves (Ibid. 40:7-12). For about

two months all went well with this “remnant,” who applied themselves to

agricultural pursuits, in which they prospered greatly – “whom Nebuchadnezzar

king of Babylon had left (see v. 12), even over them he made Gedaliah the

son of Ahikam,” -  Ahikam had protected Jeremiah in his earlier days (Jeremiah

26:24); Gedaliah protected him in the latter part of the siege (Ibid. 39:14).

Nebuchadnezzar’s choice of Gedaliah for governor was probably made from some

knowledge of his having sided with Jeremiah, whose persistent endeavors to make

the Jews submit to the Babylonian yoke seem to have been well known, not only

to the Jews, but to the Babylonians; most likely by reason of the letter he sent to his

countrymen already in captivity (Jeremiah 29.) – “the son of Shaphan, ruler.”

Probably not Shaphan the scribe” (ch. 22:3, 12), but an unknown person of the

same name.

 

23  “And when all the captains of the armies,” -  rather, the

captains of the forces (Revised Version); i.e. the officers in command of

the troops which had defended Jerusalem, and, having escaped from the

city, were dispersed and scattered in various directions, partly in Judaea,

partly in foreign countries – “they and their men,”  — apparently, each of

them had kept with him a certain number of the men under his command

— “heard that the King of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor,” –

The news was gratifying to them. It was something to have a Jewish ruler set

over them, and not a Babylonian; it was, perhaps, even more to have a man

noted for his justice and moderation (Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:9. § 12),

who had no selfish aims, but desired simply the prosperity and good

government of the country – “there same to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even

Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Careah

Jeremiah 40:8 has “Johanan and Jonathan, the sons of Kareah” — and

Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite,” -  In Jeremiah (Ibid.)

we read, “And Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the

Netephathite,” by which it would seem that some words have fallen out

here. By Netophathite is to be understood “native of Netophah,” now

Antubah, near Bethlehem (see Ezra 2:22; Nehemiah 7:26) – “and Jaazaniah the

son of a Maschathite,” -  Called Jezaniah by Jeremiah, and said

by him (Jeremiah 42:1) to have been the son of a certain Hoshaiah.  Hoshaiah was

a native of the Syrian kingdom, or district, known as Maschah, or Maachathi

(Deuteronomy 3:14; I Chronicles 19:6-7), which adjoined Bashan towards the

north – “they and their men.” The persons mentioned, that is, with the soldiers

under them, came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and placed themselves under him as

his subjects.

 

24  “And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men,” -  As rebels,

their lives were forfeit; but Gedaliah granted them an amnesty, and for their

greater assurance swore to them that, so long as they remained peaceful

subjects of the King of Babylon, they should suffer no harm. Jeremiah adds

(Jeremiah 40:10) that he urged them to apply themselves diligently to

agricultural pursuits – “and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of

the Chaldees: dwell in the land, sad serve the king of Babylon; and it

shall be well with you.”

 

25  “But it came to pass in the seventh month,”: - two months only after

Gedaliah received his appointment as governor, which was in the fifth month —

that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah; the son of Elishama,” — “Nethaniah” is

otherwise unknown; “Elishama” may be the “scribe” or secretary of Jehoiakim

mentioned in Jeremiah 36:12, 20 — “of the seed royal.” So Josephus (‘Ant.

Jud.,’ 10:9. § 2) and Jeremiah 41:1.  Josephus adds that he was a wicked and

most crafty man, who, during the siege of Jerusalem, had made his escape from

the place, and fled for shelter to Baalim (Baalis, Jeremiah 40:14), King of

Ammon, with whom he remained till the siege was over “came, and ten men

with him — as his retinue — and smote Gedaliah, that he died,” - Gedaliah

had been warned by Johanan and the other captains (Jeremiah 40:13-15) of

Ishmael’s probable intentions, but had treated the accusation as a calumny, and

refused to believe that his life was in any danger. When Ishmael and his ten

companions arrived, he still suspected nothing, but received them hospitably

(Ibid. ch. 41:1), entertained them at a grand banquet, according to Josephus

(‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:9. § 4), and being overtaken with drunkenness, was attacked

and killed without difficulty – “and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with

him at Mizpah (compare Jeremiah 41:3, “Ishmael also slew all the Jews that

were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were

found them, and the men of war”). It is evident from this that Gedaliah had a

Chaldean guard.

 

26  “And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies,”

(see above, v. 23). The leader of the movement was Johanan, the son of Careah.

Having first attacked Ishmael, and forced him to fly to the Ammonites (Jeremiah

41:15), he almost immediately afterwards conceived a fear of Nebuchadnezzar, who

would, he thought, resent the murder of Gedaliah, and even avenge it upon these who

had done all they could to prevent it. He therefore gathered together the people, and

made a preliminary retreat to Chimham, near Bethlehem (Ibid. v.17), on the  road to

Egypt, whence he subsequently, against the earnest remonstrances and  prophetic

warnings of  Jeremiah (Ibid. ch. 42:9-22, carried them on into Egypt itself  (Ibid.

ch. 43:1-7). The first settlemerit was made at Tahpanhes, or Daphnae -  “arose,

and came into Egypt: for they were afraid of the Chaldees.” -  (Ibid. 41:18;

43:3). There does not appear to have been any real reason for this fear.

Nebuchadnezzar might have been trusted to distinguish between the act of an

individual and conspiracy on the part of the nation.

 

 

Fate of Jehoiachin (vs. 27-30)

 

The writer of Kings, whose general narrative, since the time of Hezekiah, has been

gloomy and dispiriting, seems to have desired to terminate his history in a more

cheerful strain. He therefore mentions, as his last incident, the fate of Jehoiachin,

who, after thirty-six years of a cruel and seemingly hopeless imprisonment,

experienced a happy change of circumstances. The king who succeeded

Nebuchadnezzar, his son, Evil-Merodach, in the first year of his sovereignty

had compassion upon the miserable captive, and releasing him from prison,

changed his garments (v. 29), and gave him a place at his table, among other

dethroned monarchs, even exalting him above the rest (v. 28), and making

him an allowance for his support (v. 30). This alleviation of their king’s

condition could not but be felt by the captive Jews as a happy omen —

a portent of the time when their lot too would be alleviated, and the

Almighty Disposer of events, having punished them sufficiently for their sins,

would relent at last, and put an end to their banishment, and give them rest

and peace in their native country.

 

27  “And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the

captivity of Jehoiachin King of Judah,” -  According to Berosus and the

Canon of Ptolemy, Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-four years. He carried

off Jehoiachin to Babylon in his eighth year (ch. 24:12), and thus

the year of his death would exactly coincide with the thirty-seventh year of

the captivity of the Jewish prince – “in the twelfth month, on the seven

and twentieth day of the month,” -  The five and twentieth day, according

to Jeremiah 52:31, (On the rarity of such exact dates in the historical

Scriptures, see the comment on v. 1.) – “that Evil-Merodach king of

Babylon,” -  The native name, which is thus expressed, seems to have been

Avil-Marduk.” The meaning of avil is uncertain; but the name probably

placed the prince under the protection of Merodach, who was

Nebuchadnezzar’s favorite god. Avil-Marduk ascended the Babylonian

throne in B.C. 561, and reigned two years only, when he was murdered by

Neriglissar, or Nergal-sar-uzur, his brother-in-law – “in the year that he

began to reign — the year B.C. 561 — did lift up the head of

Jehoiachin King of Judah out of prison.” -  (For the phrase used, see

Genesis 40:13, 19-20.) The act was probably part of a larger measure

of pardon and amnesty, intended to inaugurate favorably the new reign.

 

 

 

28  And he spake kindly to him,” -  literally, he spake good things

with him; but the meaning is well expressed by our rendering. Evil-

Merodach compassionated the sufferings of the unfortunate monarch, who

had grown old in prison, and strove by kind speech to make up to him for

them in a certain measure -  ‘and set his throne above the throne of the

kings that were with him in Babylon;” -  Evil-Merodach had at his court

other captured kings besides Jehoiachin, whose presence was considered to

enhance his dignity and grandeur (compare Judges 1:7). An honorable position

and probably a seat of honor was assigned to each; but the highest position

among them was now conferred on Jehoiachin.

 

29  “And changed his prison garments:” - Evil Merodach supplied suitable

garments to the released monarch instead of his “prison garments,” and Jehoiachin

arrayed himself in the comely apparel before taking his seat among his equals.

Dresses of honor are among the most common gifts which an Oriental monarch

makes to his subjects (see Genesis 41:42; Esther 6:8, 11; 8:15; Daniel 5:29) –

“and he i.e. Jehoiachindid eat bread continually before him” - Besides

giving occasional great feasts (see Esther 1:3-9), Oriental monarchs usually entertain

at their table daily a large number of guests, some of whom are specially invited,

while others have the privilege of daily attendance (see ‘ Ancient Monarchies,’

vol. 3. pp. 214, 215). It was to this latter class that Jehoiachin was admitted.

Compare II Samuel 9:7-13, which shows that the custom was one not

unknown at the Jewish court – “all the days of his.” Jehoiachin enjoyed this

privilege till his death. Whether this fell in the lifetime of Evil-Merodach or not,

is scarcely in the writer’s thoughts. He merely means to tell us that the

comparative comfort and dignity which Jehoiachin enjoyed after the accession

of Evil-Merodach to the throne was not subsequently clouded over or disturbed.

He continued a privileged person at the Babylonian court so long as he lived.

 

30  “And his allowance was a continual allowance” - The word translated by

“allowance”tj"rua} — does not point necessarily to food. It is a “portion’

of any kind, possibly, even money -  “given him of the king i.e., out of the

privy purse, by the king’s command — a daily rate for every day — or, a

certain amount day by day — all the days of his life.” - (see the comment on

the preceding verse). Both the privileges accorded to Jehoiachin, his

sustenance at the king’s table, and his allowance, whether in money or in

kind, continued to the day of his death. Neither of them was ever revoked

or forfeited. Thus this last representative of the Davidic monarchy, after

thirty-six years of chastisement, experienced a happy change of

circumstances, and died in peace and comfort. This event was intended as a

comforting sign to the whole of the captive people, that the Lord would one

day put an end to their banishment, if they would acknowledge that it was a

well-merited punishment for their sins that they had been driven away from

before His face, and would turn again to the Lord their God with all

their heart.

 

 

                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

                           The Fall of Judah and Jerusalem

                                                a

                 Warning for All Time to All Nations (vs. 1-10)

 

Jerusalem had defied Zerah with his host of a million men (II Chronicles14:9-15),

and had triumphed over Sennacherib at the head of all the armed force of Assyria

(ch.19:35-36): why did she succumb to Nebuchadnezzar? It is quite certain that

Babylon was not a stronger power than either Egypt or Assyria when in their prime.

There is no reason to believe that Nebuchadnezzar was a better general than

Sennacherib, or even than Zerah. The ground of the difference in the result of

Judah’s struggle with Babylon, and her earlier struggles with Egypt and Assyria, is

certainly not to be sought in the greater strength of her assailant, but in her

own increased weakness. What, then, were the causes of this weakness?

 

  • IT WAS NOT THE RESULT OF ANY DECLINE IN MILITARY

            STRENGTH, AS ORDINARILY ESTIMATED. The population of

            Judaea may have diminished, but under Josiah her dominion had

            increased, and it is probable that she could still put into the field as

            many men as at any former period. Even if there were a diminution

            in the number of her troops, the fact would not have been one of much

            importance, since her military successes had never been dependent upon

                the numerical proportion between her own forces and those of her

            adversaries, but had been most signal and striking where the disproportion

            had been the greatest (see Numbers 31:3-47; Judges 7:7-22; 8:4-12;

            15:15; I Samuel 14:11-16; II Chronicles 14:8-12; 20:15-24).

 

  • IT WAS NOT PRODUCED BY INTERNAL QUARREL OR

            DISSENSION

 

  • IT WAS NOT FROM ANY TREACHERY OR DESERTION ON

            THE PART OF ALLIES. Allies had never done Judaea much good; and

            dependence on them was regarded as an indication of want of faith in

            Jehovah.

 

Judaea’s weakness lay in this — that she had offended God. From the time of

Moses (1491 B. C.) to that of Zedekiah (588 B. C., it was not her own inherent

strength, or vigor, or energy, that had protected and sustained her, but the

supporting hand of the Almighty  God  who had ever“gone forth with her

 armies (Psalm 60:10). God had given her “help

from trouble.” Through God she had “done valiantly.” He it was who had

trodden down her enemies” (Ibid. vs.11-12). Many of their deliverances had

been through actual miracle; others were the result of a divinely infused courage

pervading their own ranks, or a panic falling upon their adversaries. It was only as

God’s “peculiar people,” enjoying His covenanted protection, that they could

possibly hold their place among the nations of the earth, so soon as great empires

were formed and mighty monarchs devised schemes of extensive conquests. God’s

arm had saved them, from Egypt and from Assyria; He could as easily have saved

them from Babylon. It is nothing with God to help, whether with many, or with

them that have no power” (II Chronicles 14:11). He could have bridled

Nebuchadnezzar as easily as Zerah or Sennacherib, and have saved the

Jews under Zedekiah as readily as under Asa or Hezekiah. But Judah’s sins

came between Him and them. (Isaiah 59:1-2) - The persistent transgressions

of the people from the time of Manasseh, their idolatries, immoralities, cruelties, and

wickedness of all kinds, shortened God’s arm, that he could not interpose

to save them. As the author of Chronicles puts it, “there was no remedy”

(II Chronicles 36:16). “They had transgressed very much after all the

abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he

had hallowed in Jerusalem... they had mocked the messengers of God, and

despised his words, and misused his prophets” (Ibid. vs.14-16); and so “filled up

the measure of their iniquities.” Under such circumstances, God could not spare

even His own children (Isaiah 1:4; 63:16) — His own people. Can, then, any sinful

nation hope to escape?  Ought not each to feel the fate of Judah a warning to itself?

a warning to repent of its evil ways, and turn from them, and walk in the paths of

righteousness, according to the exhortation of Isaiah? “Wash you, make

you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to

do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the

fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,

saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as

snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be

willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and

rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath

spoken it” (Isaiah 1:16-20).

 

 

                        The Loving-Kindness of the Lord (vs. 27-30)

 

God, “in His wrath, thinketh upon mercy.” The captive king, and the

captive nation, each of them suffered a long and severe punishment. Each

of them must have been inclined to sink into a state of hopelessness and

apathy. Each may have thought that God had forgotten them altogether, or

at any rate had forgotten, and would forget, to be gracious. Thirty-six

yearshow long a space is this in the life of a man! Jehoiachin had grown

from youth to a man of full age, and from a man of full age almost into an

old man, for he was in his fifty-fifth year, and Jewish monarchs rarely

reached the age of sixty. Yet he had not really been forgotten. God had had

his eye upon him all the while, and had kept in reserve for him a happy

change of circumstances. The Disposer of events brought Evil-Merodach

to the throne, and put it into the heart of that monarch to have compassion

upon the aged captive. Jehoiachin passed from a dungeon to a chair of

state (v. 28), from prison food and prison dress to royal banquets and

apparel fitting his rank, from the extreme of misery to happiness, dignity,

and honor. This was the doing of the Almighty Father, using men as His

instruments; and it was a strong evidence of His loving-kindness. Would

not the nation likewise experience His mercy? The penal sentence passed

upon it was well deserved, and might, in strict justice, have been final. But

would God exact the uttermost farthing? No. By the release and

restoration to honor of Jehoiachin, He sufficiently indicated to His people

that for them too there was a place of repentance, a day of grace, a

restoration to His favor. A ray of light thus broke in upon the long darkness

of the Captivity. God’s gracious intent was indicated. The nation felt a stir

of hope, and woke up to the expectation of a new life; Isaiah’s later

prophecies (Isaiah chps. 40-66), which had seemed a dead letter, became

living words, speaking to the heart of the people; and the later years of the

Captivity were cheered by the prospect — ever becoming brighter and

clearerof a reinstatement in God’s favor, a return to the Holy Land,

and a restoration of the sanctuary (Daniel 9:2-19).

 

 

 

 

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