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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 39

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.

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, the assurance of safety to Ebed-melech.

Ninth year ... tenth month - and on the tenth day of it (Jeremiah 52:4; 2 Kings 25:1-4. From Jeremiah 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 (Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:6: cf. Jeremiah 38:17, note).

Verse 2

And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.

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) 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, i:e., the south direction (Jeremiah 39:4).

Nergalsharezer, Samgar-nebo - proper names formed from those of the idols Nergal and Nebo (2 Kings 17:30; Isaiah 46:1). Nergal is identical with Nimrod, who was deified (Rawlinson).

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.

Verse 4

And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.

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 (Nehemiah 3:15).

By the gate between the 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, toward the plains of Jericho (Jeremiah 39:5), in order to escape beyond Jordan to Arabia Deserta. He broke an opening in the wall to get out (Ezekiel 12:12).

Verse 5

But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.

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

Gave judgment upon him - literally, spake judgments with him - i:e., brought him to trial as a common criminal, not as a king. He had violated his oath (Ezekiel 17:13-19; 2 Chronicles 36:13).

Verse 6

Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.

Slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes - previous to his eyes being "put out" (Jeremiah 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 Jeremiah 32:4 - "his eyes shall behold his eyes" - with Ezekiel 12:13, "he shall not see Babylon, though he shall die there."

Slew all the nobles - (Jeremiah 27:20).

Verse 7

Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.

The Chaldeans burned ... the houses - a just retribution for the prominent part they took against the prophet of God (Jeremiah 38:4-6); as also for their instigating Zedekiah who was as their tool, in his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, in violation of his oath. Not immediately after the taking of the city, but in the month after-namely, the fifth month (cf. Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:12-13). The delay was probably caused by the princes having to send to Riblah to know the king's pleasure as to the city.

Verse 9

Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.

Nebuzaradan ... carried away captive ... the remnant - excepting the poorest (Jeremiah 39:10), who caused Nebuchadnezzar no apprehensions; including, doubtless, the bondmen whom their Jewish brethren had enslaved once and again in violation of God's command (Jeremiah 34:8-20).

And 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. With the rest of the people 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, who had not been besieged (Calvin).

Verse 10

But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

But Nebuzar-adan ... 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.

Verse 11

Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,

Nebuchadrezzar ... gave charge concerning Jeremiah. Jeremiah's prophecies were known to Nebuchadnezzar through deserters (Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 38:19); also through the Jews carried to Babylon with Jeconiah (cf. Jeremiah 40:2). Hence, the king's kindness to him.

Verse 12

Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.

Look well to him - Hebrew, set thine eyes upon him; provide for his well-being.

Verse 13

So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes;

Nebuzar-adan ... sent. He was then at Ramah (Jeremiah 40:1).

Verse 14

Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.

Gedaliah - son of Ahikam, the former supporter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 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 (Jeremiah 40:5-6).

Home - the house of Gedaliah, wherein Jeremiah might remain as in a safe asylum. As in Jeremiah 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 Jeremiah 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.

So he dwelt among the people - i:e., was made free.

Verses 15-18

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,

Belonging to the time when the city was not yet taken, and when Jeremiah was still in the court of the prison (Jeremiah 38:13). This passage is inserted here because it was now that Ebedmelech's good act, in interfering in behalf of Jeremiah when cast into the miry dungeon (Jeremiah 38:7-12; Matthew 25:36, end), was to be rewarded in his deliverance

Verse 16. Go - not literally, for he was in confinement, but figuratively.

They shall be accomplished in that day before thee - in thy sight.

Verse 17. Thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid - (Jeremiah 38:1; Jeremiah 38:4-6). 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 thee. Heretofore intrepid, he was now afraid; this prophecy was therefore the more welcome to him.

Verse 18 Life for a prey - (notes Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 45:5) Verse 18. Life ... for a prey - (notes, Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 45:5).

Because thou hast put thy trust in me - (Jeremiah 38:7-9). Trust in God was the root of his fearlessness of the wrath of men in his humanity to the prophet. So the Hagarites were saved when "they cried to God in the battle, because they put their trust in Him" (1 Chronicles 5:20; Psalms 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").


(1) Though threatened judgments be long delayed they descend at last; and no strength of walls, no multitude of defenders, can keep out the enemy whom God appoints as His instrument of executing vengeance on a guilty city and its inhabitants. These who will not believe the words of prophecy which denounce judgments for sin, shall be forced to believe the reality of the vengeance, the weight of which they shall be made to feel (Jeremiah 39:2-8). The curse of Zedekiah's violated oath now overtook him. Life was to be henceforth a burden to him, bereft of sight, a captive, and an exile until his death.

(2) How liable to vicissitudes are earthly goods! After the judgment upon Jerusalem the relative positions of rich and poor were reversed; those that once were wealthy were now penniless captives; whereas those who had been among the poorest, and those who had been robbed of their all, and many of them even of their liberty, by their more powerful brethren, were now given not only their own property, but also that of their former oppressors (Jeremiah 39:10). It is a merciful compensation of the hardships of the poor that, in times of trial, to which all are liable in this changeful scene, the poor are never such losers as the wealthy, and are sometimes actually gainers. Let us all see that, like Lazarus, we may be seeking our good things above, and not here, lest it be said to any of us, as it was to Dives, "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented" (Luke 16:25).

(3) Amidst judgments on the ungodly city and its guilty king the Lord remembered his covenant of mercy to His servants. Jeremiah who had so fearlessly spoken God's word amidst slanders, bitter opposition, conspiracies, and imprisonments, is now honoured, preserved in safety, given his liberty, and a reward (Jeremiah 39:11-12; Jeremiah 40:5, end). Ebed-melech also, his friend in the time of danger and distress, is not forgotten by God. The enemies whose hatred he had provoked by his intrepid and humane interposition in behalf of Jeremiah are now put beyond the power of hurting him; and him own life, which he had risked for the prophet's sake, is now given him as his reward. When all the other officers of the king (Jeremiah 39:6, end) were slain he was preserved, "because he had put his trust in the Lord" (Jeremiah 39:18). Trust in God generates fearlessness of man, and brings with it safety in all times and circumstances. They who have visited Christ in prison, in the person of His imprisoned servants, shall be owned as Christ's in the day when the King of kings shall sit on a judgment seat infinitely above that of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:5), and shall have eternal life as their portion in the kingdom prepared for the blessed from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:36 end).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 39". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-39.html. 1871-8.
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