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1. Ninth year… tenth month… tenth day Compare also the specification of exact dates in 2 Kings 25:3; 2 Kings 25:8. “These dates,” says Bahr, “could be given thus accurately to the month and the day, because the Jews were accustomed during the exile to fast on the anniversary of these days of disaster.” See Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19. On this same day Ezekiel received and uttered his oracle of woe against Jerusalem. Ezekiel 24:1.
He, and all his host Nebuchadnezzar was, doubtless, present more or less during the two years of siege at Jerusalem, to counsel and direct the besieging army, but he seems to have had his own headquarters most of the time at Riblah. 2 Kings 25:6; 2 Kings 25:20. During this same campaign he also fought “against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah.” Jeremiah 34:7.
Built forts against it round about The word rendered forts ( דיק ) Michaelis explains as a wall or line of circumvallation. This is favoured by the Septuagint and the expression round about. But according to Gesenius the word means a watchtower, and is here to be taken collectively in the sense of towers erected by the besiegers to overlook and harass the city.
ZEDEKIAH’S REIGN, 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:7.
In the fifty-second chapter of Jeremiah we have a duplicate history so nearly identical with the close of this book of Kings from this verse, as to show that both narratives proceeded from one original source. Compare also Jeremiah 39:1-24.39.10. Of the authorship precisely the same thing is to be said as of the history of Hezekiah which is given in 2 Kings 18:13 to 2 Kings 20:21, and Isaiah 36-39. See note introductory to 2 Kings 18:13.
2. Unto the eleventh year Strong must that city have been which could, after all its previous misfortunes, endure so long a siege as this. It appears from Jeremiah 37:5-24.37.11, that during this siege the army of Pharaoh-hophra (Jeremiah 44:30) interfered, and for a time obliged the Babylonian forces to retire from Jerusalem.
3. The fourth month The word fourth has here been properly supplied by our translators from the parallel in Jeremiah 52:6. It must have anciently fallen out of this text by the oversight of a copyist.
Famine prevailed And its horrors are evidenced in Ezekiel 5:10, and especially Lamentations 2:11-25.2.12; Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 4:3-25.4.10. Not only in the city was there suffering from hunger, but the people of the land that is, of the surrounding country, which was overrun by the Chaldean army were destitute of bread.
4. The city was broken up Or, broken in. The breach was probably made in the northern wall, for, according to Jeremiah 39:3, “all the princes of the king of Babylon came in and sat in the middle gate” that is, the gate which led from the upper to the lower city. The sight of them in that position took from the king and his chief men all hope of defending the city, and they hastened to effect their escape, having no reason to expect mercy at the hands of their conquerors.
Fled by night Hoping to escape unseen; but too many Chaldean eyes were watching.
The gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden According to Nehemiah 3:15, the king’s garden was by the pool of Siloam, that is, at the mouth of the Tyropoean valley, and the gate between two walls is without doubt the same as “the gate of the fountain.” The two walls are perhaps the same as those mentioned in Isaiah 22:11, and were probably extensions of the city walls in this vicinity to guard the pools or cisterns in a time of danger. As the breach was made in the northern wall of the city, the fugitives would naturally make their escape from the southern or south-eastern gate. The
Chaldees… round about This parenthetical remark is thrown in to show how impossible it was for the fugitives to escape unseen.
Toward the plain The plain of Jericho.
5. All his army were scattered When they discovered that they were pursued, the servants and followers of Zedekiah probably forsook him, and fled in various directions, leaving him quite alone. Josephus says, the king was accompanied in his flight by his wives and children, and these probably clung to him to the last.
6. To Riblah See note on 2 Kings 23:33. “Nebuchadnezzar had commenced the siege of Jerusalem in person, (2 Kings 25:1,) but afterwards, (possibly not till after the Egyptians who came to relieve the besieged city had been repulsed,) he transferred the continuance of the siege, which was a prolonged one, to his generals, and retired to Riblah, to conduct the operations of the whole campaign from thence.” Keil.
Gave judgment upon him Josephus says: “When he was come, Nebuchadnezzar began to call him a wicked wretch, and a covenant breaker, and one that had forgotten his former words, when he promised to keep the country for him.
He also reproached him for his ingratitude, that when he had received the kingdom from him, who had taken it from Jehoiachin and given it to him, he had made use of his power against his benefactor.” It was surely no difficult matter for all who had a voice in this judgment to find the captive king guilty, and worthy of severest punishment.
7. Slew the sons… before his eyes This was not only to intensify Zedekiah’s woes by making his sons’ execution the last sight of his eyes, but also to end his dynasty.
Put out the eyes of Zedekiah This barbarous and cruel punishment was practised by various ancient nations. Thus the Philistines punished Samson when he fell into their power, (Judges 16:21,) and thus the Persians tortured great offenders. It was done by thrusting hot irons or a sharp lance into the eyes. On the monuments of Nineveh is the picture of a king piercing with a lance the eyes of some royal captive.
Fetters of brass Literally, double brass. See note on Judges 16:21.
Carried him to Babylon But being sightless, he did not see Babylon and the land of the Chaldeans, so that Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning him came literally to pass, (Ezekiel 12:13,) as well as that of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 32:4,) that he should “ surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes should behold his eyes.” This latter was fulfilled at Riblah. He died in the land of his captivity, (Ezekiel 12:13,) probably in prison, and not long after his capture and imprisonment. Josephus says he was honoured with a magnificent burial.
DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE AND OF THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH, 2 Kings 25:8-12.25.21.
8. On the seventh day In Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 52:12,) which seems to be the preferable text, the reading is, the tenth day. Some, however, suppose that he came to the city, or commenced the burning of it, on the seventh day, and ended it on the tenth. Josephus states that the later Herodian temple was destroyed by Titus on the same day of the same month. Wars of the Jews, 2Ki 6:4 ; 2 Kings 6:8.
Nebuzaradan According to Rawlinson, the name means “Nebo has given offspring.”
Captain of the guard The word rendered guard, means slayers or executioners, ( שׂבחים ,) and the captain or chief of these is usually understood to be the royal officer who had especially in charge the execution of the death sentence. The margin here reads, chief marshal, and in Jeremiah 52:12, chief of the executioners, or slaughter men, who stood before the king of Babylon. He seems to have been the king’s principal military officer.
9. All the houses of Jerusalem All the principal houses, or, as the next sentence explains, the houses of all the chief citizens. 2 Chronicles 36:19 has, all the palaces. Thus all the architectural glory of the ancient Jerusalem temple, palaces, and noble edifices was reduced to a mass of ruins.
10. Brake down the walls And in that ruined state they remained till the time of Nehemiah. Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 2:17.
11. Rest of the people… in the city Such warriors and leading citizens as had not attempted to escape.
Fugitives… to the king of Babylon Deserters who had gone over to the Chaldeans.
Remnant of the multitude The mass of the less important population in and around Jerusalem.
12. Vinedressers and husbandmen From these poor no trouble was apprehended, and it was deemed wise to leave those who would cultivate the land, in order that the country might not become utterly a desert.
13. Pillars… bases… sea See on 1Ki 7:15 ; 1 Kings 7:23; 1 Kings 7:27.
14, 15. Pots… shovels… snuffers On these various vessels see at 1 Kings 7:40; 1 Kings 7:45; 1 Kings 7:50, and Exodus 27:3. Compare Jeremiah, where the list is fuller. All these treasures and ornaments remained after the several previous spoliations of the temple. See Jeremiah 27:19.
16. The brass… was without weight That is, there was such a vast amount of brass on the pillars, sea, and bases, that it was impossible to weigh it.
17. The height of the one pillar To justify or explain the last remark, the writer here mentions the size and great ornamentation of the pillars.
18. Seraiah The father of Ezra. Ezra 7:1.
The second priest The most distinguished of the priests of the second or common order. 2 Kings 23:4. The three keepers of the door were “probably the three superintendents of the Levites, whose duty it was to keep guard over the temple, and who were, therefore, among the principal officers of the sanctuary.” Keil. Bahr thinks that “one was stationed at each of the main entrances to the temple;” but the temple had but one main entrance.
19. An officer Hebrew, a eunuch, but evidently not one in the strict sense, (see note on 2 Kings 20:18,) for this officer was a military commander.
Five men According to Jeremiah 52:25, seven. Compare note on 2 Kings 25:8. These were in the king’s presence, that is, were among his most intimate counsellors, (comp. Esther 1:13,) but they had not fled with their royal master, but seem to have concealed themselves in the city where they were found.
Principal scribe of the host Rather, scribe of the prince of the host, that is, his clerk, or aid-de-camp. The prince himself, whose office was to muster the army or levy for military service, had probably, as Thenius suggests, fled along with the king.
Threescore… of the land Probably leading men from the land of Judah, who had distinguished themselves during the siege.
21. Slew them at Riblah See on 2 Kings 25:6. All these officers and principal citizens were regarded as implicated with Zedekiah in his rebellion, and guilty of treason, and were, therefore, punished with death.
According to Jeremiah there were three different deportations of Jewish exiles: in Nebuchadnezzar’s seventh year, 3,023; in his eighteenth year, 832; and in his twenty-third year, 745; making in all 4,600. These numbers vary very much from the statements of this book of Kings. According to chap. 2 Kings 24:13, one deportation alone contained 10,000 captives, and occurred in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighth year. 2 Kings 25:12. The difference in the date is but slight, and may be explained by assuming that the different writers began to reckon from different periods of a year; but the numbers in the one or the other passage are undoubtedly corrupt. Most critics incline to think that the numbers in Jeremiah are the more correct. No mention is made in Kings of the third deportation, which occurred, according to Jeremiah, in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, and no mention is made in either book of a small deportation, among whom was Daniel and his three friends, which occurred at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion of Palestine, and with which the Babylonish captivity of Judah seems really to have begun. But no doubt many that were left in the land proved to be persistently rebellious, and provoked the king of Babylon to order their extirpation.
APPOINTMENT AND ASSASSINATION OF GEDALIAH, 2 Kings 25:22-12.25.26.
The events of this section are narrated with ample details in Jeremiah 40-44, and to those chapters the student must go for a fuller history of those who survived the fall of Jerusalem.
23. The captains of the armies The men of war who fled by night with Zedekiah from Jerusalem, (2 Kings 25:4,) but soon after deserted him, and had become scattered “in the fields.” Jeremiah 40:7.
To Mizpah In the land of Benjamin. See on Joshua 18:25, and 1 Samuel 7:5. The city had been strongly fortified by Asa, (1 Kings 15:22,) and Gedaliah occupied it instead of Jerusalem, because the latter city was in too ruinous a condition to be any proper residence for a governor.
24. Sware to them Assured them upon oath that they had no reason to fear further trouble. They seem to have come to him to understand the situation of things, being yet in fear for their own lives.
Fear not to be the servants Rather, be not afraid of the servants of the Chaldees. Ishmael was of the royal seed, and had reason to fear a fate similar to that of other members of the royal house who had fallen into the hands of the Chaldees. Gedaliah, as governor, assures him and the rest that no harm will befall them if they continue peaceably in the land. These servants of the Chaldees are to be understood as Babylonian officials stationed in various parts of the land to co-operate with Gedaliah in preserving order.
25. In the seventh month Only two months after the destruction of Jerusalem. 2 Kings 25:8.
Ishmael… came According to Jeremiah 40:14, he was instigated to this deed by Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, and Johanan had warned Gedaliah of the plot, but the latter would not credit it.
Of the seed royal This explains the deeper cause of his action. He was jealous of Gedailah, and unwilling, as a member of the royal house, to be subject to him.
And the Jews and the Chaldees… at Mizpah He aimed to annihilate this new-made government, and according to Jeremiah was proceeding with many captives to the Ammonites when he was overtaken and put to flight by Johanan, who had gathered some forces and pursued him.
26. Both small and great All classes and all ages.
Captains of the armies Commanders of the military forces that had been subject to Gedaliah. At the head of them was Johanan, who had just taken command, and had led them successfully against Ishmael.
Came to Egypt Against the word of the Lord and the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah. Chap. 42. They thought it best for them now to seek the protection of that power that had interposed to help them during the late siege of Jerusalem, and had obliged the Chaldees for a time to retire from the city. Jeremiah 37:5-24.37.11.
They were afraid of the Chaldees So fearful an impression had the horrors of the late siege and the Chaldean power made upon them, that they could not feel safe anywhere in the dominions of Nebuchadnezzar. They had been made to feel the tremendous power of that “bitter and hasty nation… terrible and dreadful,” of whom Habakkuk had prophesied. Habakkuk 1:5-35.1.11.
RELEASE OF JEHOIACHIN FROM PRISON, 2 Kings 25:27-12.25.30.
27. Seven and thirtieth year So identified was the captivity of Jehoiachin with that of the great mass of the Jewish exiles that its beginning formed a chronological epoch in their history. Compare Ezra 1:2. It was in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighth year that Jehoiachin was made captive, (2 Kings 24:12,) and these thirty-seven years added would bring it to his forty-fifth year; but he had recently died, and a new king was on the throne, so that Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, according to these Scriptures, must have been forty-four years long. According to Ptolemy’s Canon and Josephus, it was forty-three years; but this slight difference is explained by the fact that the Scripture writer reckons his reign from the time he took command of the army of Babylon, a year, or, perhaps, a little more, before his father’s death. See note on 2 Kings 24:1.
Seven and twentieth day According to Jeremiah, five and twentieth.
Evil-merodach was son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar. According to Berosus, “he governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner, and had a plot laid against him by Neriglissar, his sister’s husband, and was slain by him when he had reigned but two years.” JOSEPHUS, Cont. Apion, 1:20. And this is about all that is known of him. The rabbies have a tradition that he contracted a friendship for Jehoiachin in prison, whither he himself had been cast by his father for a public offence.
In the year that he began to reign He “seems to have wished to signalize the beginning of his reign by an act of kindness to the Jews.” Rawlinson suggests “that the marvellous events of his father’s life, which are recorded in the book of Daniel, had made a deep impression upon him, and that he was thence inclined to favour the persons, and perhaps the religion, of the Jews.”
Lift up the head… out of prison An expression that evidently originated in the fact that a prisoner would naturally have his head bowed down under the weight of his sorrow and despondency, and liberation would cause him to lift up his head with gladness and comfort.
28. Spake kindly to him Or, spake with him good things; words of comfort and pledges of honourable treatment.
Set his throne above the throne of the kings Assigned him a more honourable seat in his court, and regarded him with higher esteem, than he did other vassal kings and royal captives who added dignity and splendour to his court. Doubtless there were many such captive kings with him in Babylon.
29. Changed his prison garments By putting them off, and clothing him with apparel worthy of a captive king.
Eat bread continually before him He was treated with all the familiarity and honour of a royal courtier. Compare 2 Samuel 11:7.
All the days of his life How long he lived to enjoy these honours is not said, but he probably died before his benefactor.
30. A continual allowance A daily apportionment for the support of the servants and attendants who ministered to the captive king. All this kind and honourable treatment of the long-imprisoned king of Judah was to the Jewish exiles a consolatory sign that Jehovah would dispose the heart of some king to release them from their exile, and restore them to their fatherland again. And thus this history appropriately closes with a ray of light breaking in upon the future of Judah, and assuring these exiles that Jehovah is “the tower of salvation for his king, and showeth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.” 2 Samuel 22:51.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 25". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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