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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Jeremiah 38

 

 

Verses 1-28

2. Jeremiah in the Pit (third stage of his imprisonment), his Conference with the King and Confinement in the court of the guard (fourth stage of prisonment)

Chap38

1Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah 2had spoken unto all the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah]: He that remaineth in this city[FN1] shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his 3 life for a prey, and shall live. Thus saith the Lord, This city shall surely [or must] be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it 4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death;[FN2] for thus[FN3] he weakeneth[FN4] the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words[FN5] unto them: for this 5 man seeketh not the welfare [lit. peace][FN6] of this people, but the hurt. Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that Song of Solomon 6 do any thing [the king can do nothing][FN7] against you. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon [pit, or cistern][FN8] of Malchiah the son of Hammelech [the king] that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the 7 mire. Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which [who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the 8 king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; Ebed-melech went forth out of the 9 king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon: and he is like to [or must; lit.: is dead] die for hunger in the 10 place where he Isaiah 9 : for there is no more bread in the city. Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty[FN10] men with 11 thee,[FN11] and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. So Ebed-melech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts,[FN12] and old rotten rags [rags of tattered and worn out clothes], and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah 12And Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes[FN13] under the cords. And Jeremiah did Song of Solomon 13So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and 14 Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison [guard]. Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third [or principal] entry[FN14] that is in [to] the house of the Lord [Jehovah]: and the king said unto Jeremiah, 15 I will ask thee a thing;[FN15] hide nothing[FN16] from me. Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I:16 give thee counsel wilt thou not hearken unto me? So Zedekiah the king swore secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the Lord [Jehovah] liveth, that[FN17] made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.

17Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; 18and thou shalt live, and thine house: but if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, 19and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid[FN18] of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.[FN19].

20But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice 21 of the Lord [Jehovah], which[FN20] I speak unto thee: so it shall be[FN21] well unto thee, and thy soul shall live 21 But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the 22 Lord [Jehovah] hath showed me: And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, and those women [they] shall say, Thy friends [men of thy place][FN22] have set thee on [over-persuaded] and have prevailed against thee:[FN23] thy feet are sunk in the 23 mire,[FN24] and they are turned away back. So they[FN25] shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire.

24Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know[FN26] of these words, and thou 25 shalt not die. But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king 26 said unto thee: then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there.[FN27]

27Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking[FN28] 28with him [lit.: were silent from him]; for the matter was not perceived. So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison [guard] until the day that Jerusalem was taken.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The chapter consists of two parts. In the first part ( Jeremiah 38:1-13) it is narrated how the princes prevailed on Zedekiah to give up Jeremiah to them, on account of his continual exhortations to surrender, that they might render him harmless ( Jeremiah 38:1-5). They then lower him down into a pit of mud, from which however the king has him drawn up, on the petition of the Cushite Ebed-melech ( Jeremiah 38:6-13). In the second part (14–28) it is recorded how the king has the prophet brought from the court of the guard, to which he had returned from the pit, for a secret conference ( Jeremiah 38:14-15). The king desires that Jeremiah disclose the future to him without reserve, and promises him with an oath that his life shall be spared and protected. Jeremiah has, however, nothing else to say to the king, but that surrender is the only way of escape ( Jeremiah 38:16-23). Then the king forbids the prophet to communicate the purport of this conference. In accordance with the king’s command, Jeremiah tells the princes, who really come to inquire from him about the conversation, that he only petitioned the king that he might not be taken back to the house of Jonathan, the secretary. The princes have to depart with this answer. Jeremiah, however, remains in the court of the guard till the capture of the city ( Jeremiah 38:24-28).

Jeremiah 38:1-6. Then Shephatiah … in the mire. Jeremiah, brought back into the court of the guard, has further opportunity of intercourse with the people, and uses it again and again to counsel voluntary surrender as the only means of escape.—Of the four princes, who hear the prophet’s discourse, Shephatiah, son of Mattan, and Gedaliah, son of Pashur, are not further mentioned; Jucal, son of Shelemiah, is evidently identical with Jehucal, son of Shelemiah, Jeremiah 37:3. Pashur son of Malchiah, has been mentioned in Jeremiah 21:1. Pashur was of sacerdotal (comp. rems. on Jeremiah 21:1), Jucal of Levitic descent (comp. 1 Chronicles 26:1-2; 1 Chronicles 26:9; 1 Chronicles 26:14). These “princes” were thus neither “raised from a lower rank,” as Graf supposes (on Jeremiah 37:15), nor do their former relations to the prophet lead us to conclude that they were inimically disposed towards him. We do not send, to present petitions, as is the case in Jeremiah 21:1-2; Jeremiah 37:3, personas ingratas. The intended departure of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 37:12) seems thus to have awakened suspicion against him.—On Jeremiah 38:3 comp. Jeremiah 21:10.—Seeketh not the welfare. On the subject-matter comp. Jeremiah 29:7; Deuteronomy 23:7; Ezra 9:12.—The charge against the prophet is unjust. He has the true welfare of the people in view, viz. that which is in accordance with the divine will, and the confidence which he seeks to break, is not a fully satisfied heroic courage, founded on genuine trust in God, but carnal obstinacy, which must lead to destruction. It is inconceivable how any one can fail to see this and take the part of the prophet’s opponents. Comp. Duncker, I. S. 831. The king, fearing on the one hand the higher power supporting the prophet, and on the other not having the courage openly to oppose the princes standing in corpore before him, delivers the prophet into their hands. That he expected the prophet would be merely taken back to the house of Jonathan (Graf) I do not believe. The princes had decisively demanded Jeremiah’s death ( Jeremiah 38:4). Their not having him executed at once, but thrown into a pit, where his escape would appear possible only by a miracle, may have been due either to their wickedness or to a certain fear of shedding the blood of the prophet. Comp. Genesis 37:22-24.

Jeremiah is now thrown into a cistern, which bears the name of an otherwise unknown prince, Malkiah (comp. rems. on Jeremiah 36:26), probably because he had it dug. The pit may have been often used as the severest imprisonment. The princes in letting down Jeremiah into it may have intended either his most painful death, or an evasion on their part, that they had not shed his blood, but only thrown him into a prison appropriate to such traitors. If he perished there the guilt would not be theirs. In the central point of the theocracy, opposed to prophets and priests who are filled with diabolical hatred and a weak king led by them, this solitary “servant of Jehovah” is at the lowest stage of humiliation and of suffering. All the hatred of Jerusalem, “that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee” ( Matthew 23:37), culminates at this time in this behaviour to wards Jeremiah, by which the measure of guilt was fulfilled and the sentence of destruction was pronounced over the unhappy city. The fulfilling and completing antitype of this historical event is certainly not what happened to John the Baptist (as Hengstenberg supposes, Christol., II. S. 400 [Eng. Tr, II, 403]), but what our Lord Himself suffered, who was also the object of the most intense hatred on the part of carnal Israel, as being the prophet of its final overthrow ( Matthew 23, 24).—Comp. Psalm 69.

Jeremiah 38:7-13. Now when Ebed-melech … court of the guard. The expression “one of the eunuchs” (comp. Jeremiah 52:25) seems to intimate that a real eunuch is here meant. As the Mosaic law forbade such mutilation (comp. Deuteronomy 23:1) and, on the other hand, it is not improbable that eunuchs were then employed in the service of the harem ( 2 Kings 24:15), it is not very strange to find a foreign eunuch in the service of a Jewish king, with whom, as we infer from Jeremiah 38:22-23, the harem occupied an important position. That Ethiopians were preferred for such service seems to be indicated by some traces (comp. Daniel 11:43; Terent. Eun., I:2, 85), as at the present day most of these people come from upper Egypt. (Comp. Winer, R-W-B. s. v, Verschnittene. [Smith’sDict., I:590]). Ebed-melech [servant of the king] (N. B. not הַמֶלֶך) is the proper name of the Prayer of Manasseh, chosen with reference to his function. This name is so purely Hebrew and in accordance with the man’s position at the Jewish court, that it is not to be conceived how Euerst could come to suppose that it is a Hebraized from an Ethiopic name. Comp. H-W-B, S. 583.—This Ebed-melech is moreover a proof that the called are not always the chosen, that on the contrary the last are often the first. A stranger, a heathen, a Moor feels compassion for the prophet and horror at the crime committed on him, while in Israel not a hand or tongue is moved in his favor. Comp. Luke 4:25; Luke 19:40; Matthew 8:10.—Who was in the king’s house. A relative sentence which expresses that Ebed-melech received the news, while he was present in the palace, but the king was absent, sitting in the gate of Benjamin. Comp. Jeremiah 37:13.—Have done evil, Jeremiah 38:9. Comp. Jeremiah 44:5; Micah 3:4; 2 Kings 21:11.—וימת תחתיו. This may certainly mean grammatically, “and he had died,” etc. But Ebed-melech does not wish to blame them, that instead of death by famine, which he would have suffered without this, they had inflicted on him another death, but that they had placed him in a position in which he must die at any rate, but I must inevitably before all succumb to the famine. As is well known the Imperfect with Vau consecutive may represent any action which is not really past, but only represented as such, while in reality it is present or future, or even merely the wish, command, or assumed possibility of it. So here, that is related as an accomplished fact which is merely undoubtedly to be expected. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 88, 5; Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 9:2; Jeremiah 20:17.—Ebed-melech pre-supposes two things, (1) That the detention in the pit is not in itself absolutely fatal; (2) but that Jeremiah must at all events die of hunger in the pit. The latter pre-supposition is evidently founded on this fact, that in the general scarcity of means of subsistence one who was thrown into a pit might least of all expect to be provided for.

Jeremiah 38:14-16. Then Zedekiah … seek thy life. How long after the liberation from the pit the following conference took place, is not stated. Hitzig supposes that Zedekiah sent for the prophet very soon after his liberation, perhaps on the same day, since otherwise the evasion in Jeremiah 38:26 would have lost all probability, for “days or weeks later, being let alone in the meantime, Jeremiah must have been set at rest with respect to the king’s designs.” But with a king of so weak and vacillating character Jeremiah could not, even after weeks, be safe from cruel measures towards his person. All that can be said Isaiah, that immediately after showing a favor a contrary treatment was less to be feared than some time afterwards. Nothing more exact can be determined. At all events, in the interval between the deliverance from the pit and the conference no remarkable event occurred.—Third entry. What entrance to the temple this was is unknown. At any rate, it must have afforded a suitable place for a secret conference.—Hitzig, by the use of 2 Kings 16:18; 2 Kings 23:11; 1 Chronicles 26:18, has attempted a clever combination, which Isaiah, however, based on too insecure premises to be satisfactory. [The outer entrance (“the king’s entry without,” 1 Kings 16:18) leading from the citadel and after the time of Ahaz from the temple into the προάστειον, where there was the cell of a royal eunuch, 2 Kings 23:11.—S. R. A.]—From the prophet’s answer we see that he neither trusted the king with respect to his own person, in spite of the favors he had received from him, nor with respect to the subject in hand did he expect any receptivity to the divine communications. Proudly and boldly he at first declines to answer the question. But the king swears to him that he will neither put him to death himself nor surrender him to his enemies.—Zedekiah swears by the God of life that he will preserve the prophet’s life. Comp. Jeremiah 16:14-15.

Jeremiah 38:17-23. Then said Jeremiah … to be burned with fire. Jeremiah again offers the king the alternative which had been so frequently presented before, either voluntary surrender to the Chaldean generals (שָׂרִים, comp. Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13, Nebuchadnezzar himself was in Riblah, Jeremiah 39:5) and at least the safety of his life and preservation of the city, or continued resistance and destruction of the city and the endangering of his own person. Observe the negative expression, “thou shalt not escape,” in Jeremiah 38:18. Comp. Jeremiah 32:4-5; Jeremiah 34:2-5. Zedekiah, however, cannot make up his mind to follow the advice of the prophet. He alleges that he fears ill-treatment from the Jews who had already gone over to the Chaldeans. It can scarcely be supposed that this fear was seriously intended, though those transfugæ might represent a party, which was discontented with the government of Zedekiah and ascribed all the calamities of the State to him. For even the quieting assurance of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 38:20, makes no impression, which would have been the case if the king had had no other reason. There was really no reason to distrust the prophet’s assurance.—In case Zedekiah, from fear of the insults of his fugitive subjects, refuses to follow the admonition of the prophet, the prospect of insult to his wives is set before him.—This is the word that Jehovah hath showed me. This does not logically follow as apodosis to the protasis if thou refuse, etc. A middle clause is wanting expressing the thought, thus shalt thou know, or I have to announce to thee as follows. Further, וְהִנֵּה is the standing formula with which the subject of the vision is introduced, Jeremiah 24:1; Amos 7:1; Amos 7:4-7; Amos 8:1. Accordingly Jeremiah 38:21 b seems to be contracted from “hear now the word which I speak in thine ears, which Jehovah,” etc. ( Jeremiah 28:7). It is not, however, denied that the expression in itself is admissible as it stands. Comp. Ezekiel 11:25.—The prophet’s setting before the king the prospect of the deportation of all his remaining wives, seems to intimate that these were a specially esteemed part of his household, in other words, that he had a large and to him very dear harem. The expression “the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house,” in distinction from “thy wives” in Jeremiah 38:23, indicates that there were still wives of former kings as fixtures in the royal household (comp. 2 Samuel 12:8; Michaelis, Mos. Recht., I. S. 207; Saalschuetz, Mos. Recht, S. 85), and that even the deportation under Jehoiachin ( 2 Kings 24:15), had by no means exhausted the supply of these fixtures. I do not think that by the “women that are left,” are to be understood the maidens, as distinguished from the wives, as Graf supposes. For their being taken forth to the princes, points to higher rank and estimation. A satirical speech is placed in the mouths of these women, the first part of which is found verbatim (with the exception of הִשִּׁיאוּך instead of הִסִּיתוּךָ) in the prophecy of Obadiah ( Jeremiah 38:7). On the indications that, Jeremiah borrowed from Obadiah, and not the reverse, comp. Caspari, Obadja, S. 8, and the article Obadja in Herzog, R-Enc.Turned away back. Comp. Jeremiah 46:5; Isaiah 42:17; Psalm 35:4; Psalm 40:15; Psalm 129:5. As in the first clause, so also in the second two verbs are employed to express the thought, of which the second expresses the result of the first. The warrior sinking in the mire must fall back. The words are characteristic of Zedekiah. They represent him distinctly as a weak Prayer of Manasseh, dependent on the influence of others. No wonder then that instead of a victor’s pæan, with which the women usually receive a conqueror ( 1 Samuel 18:7), a song of mockery awaits him. Observe also, that this satirical song is not put into the mouths of Zedekiah’s own wives, for these (in Jeremiah 38:23) are evidently distinguished from the other occupants of the royal harem.—Taken by the hand. As תָּפַשׂ signifies only “to seize,” the words can mean only: thou wilt be taken by the hand, or into the hand of the king, etc. The former would be a mode of expression foreign to the style of the prophet (comp. Jeremiah 20:4; Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 29:21; Jeremiah 32:3-4; Jeremiah 34:3, etc. The second construction (Constr. prægnans. Comp. Naegelsb.Gr., § 112, 7) is frequent in Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 14:2; Jeremiah 25:34; Jeremiah 32:20; comp. also infra, Jeremiah 38:24; Jeremiah 38:27. The sentence is to be regarded as the contraction of two thoughts into one, according to the example of Jeremiah 34:3.—The following sentence is also strange. For Jeremiah to say to Zedekiah, Thou wilt burn the city, although correct in a certain sense, is contrary to his usual mode of expressing himself. The LXX, Syr, Chald, read תִּשָּׂרֵף. The punctuation תִּשְרֹף may be occasioned by את. The latter Isaiah, however, not seldom used to emphasize an antithetical new conception, for which we should say: but as to, etc. Comp. Ewald, § 277, d, and especially the passages Ezekiel 17:21; Ezekiel 44:3; Jeremiah 36:22; 2 Kings 6:5. So Ewald, Hitzig, Graf, Meier and others.

Jeremiah 38:24-28. Then said Zedekiah … was taken. The king feared that if the import of his conversation with Jeremiah were known, he would be regarded as vacillating and be suspected of inclining to the view of the prophet. Though he knew that the fact of the conversation could not remain concealed, he wished, however, that it might be represented as occasioned by Jeremiah himself, and as relating purely to his personal interests.—And thou shalt not die, may be regarded as a threat on the part of the king, but at the same time also as a reference to the danger threatening from the princes. For the king would say: I will have you put to death if you betray me, and the princes will kill you if they learn that you have summoned me again to surrender. In the supposed inquiry of the princes, Jeremiah 38:25, the words hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death, are a parenthesis, the latter expressing the threat, which Zedekiah presupposes in case the prophet should refuse to make a satisfactory statement.—I presented, etc. Comp. rems. on Jeremiah 36:7. The pit is not mentioned here. Zedekiah seems thus to presuppose that Jeremiah need’ not fear a taking back to the pit, from which he had been liberated at the king’s command, but that a return to the prison of Jonathan ( Jeremiah 37:15), to avert which he had already offered a petition, might be regarded as possible. The latter seems to have been an ordinary place of confinement, while the pit was only an extraordinary one.—The princes really come to Jeremiah. The fact of the conference thus did not remain concealed, but concerning the import of it, nothing had become known (the matter was not perceived). They must have regarded the declaration of Jeremiah made in accordance with the king’s command as probable, for they do not urge the prophet further, but withdraw in silence. After this Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard till the capture of the city. On that which further occurred between Jeremiah and Zedekiah during this last stage of his confinement comp rems on Jeremiah 32:2-5; Jeremiah 34:1-5.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Jeremiah 38:2.—The same words as in Jeremiah 21:9. Only here וְנָפַל and הַצָּרִים עֲלֵיכֶם are wanting, and instead we have at the close a repeated וָחָי. The Chethibh יִחְיֶה is here as in Jeremiah 21:9 the more correct reading, agreeing better with the order of the sentence (ימוּת). וָחָי in sense superfluous, but in accordance with the verbose style of the prophet, is construed like Deuteronomy 4:42 coll. Jeremiah 19:4; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 20:11; Naegelsb. Gr., § 84, i. On the form comp. Olsh, S. 480, 482, 460.

FN#2 - Jeremiah 38:4.—יומת־נא את האישו ׳/he>. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. § 100, 2.

FN#3 - Jeremiah 38:4.—On כִּי עַל־כֵּן Comp. rems. on Jeremiah 29:28.

FN#4 - Jeremiah 38:4.—מְרַכֵא for מְרַכּה Comp. Olsh, § 243, a; Naegelsb. Gr., § 39 Anm.

FN#5 - Jeremiah 38:4.—לדבר. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 95, e.

FN#6 - Jeremiah 38:4.—The construction with לְ, as in Job 10:6; Deuteronomy 12:30; 1 Chronicles 22:19; 2 Chronicles 15:13; 2 Chronicles 17:4, etc.

FN#7 - Jeremiah 38:5.—Since אֶתְכֵם can be only the nota Acc. with suffix (not on account of the meaning, but the form), יוּכַל’ must be taken in the meaning “overpower” (comp. Psalm 13:5), אִין as purely adverbial with emphatic significance (comp. Job 35:15; 1 Samuel 21:9; Naegelsb. Gr., § 106, 3), דָּבָּר as accusative of more exact definition: the king can not go beyond you in any matter.

FN#8 - Jeremiah 38:6.—On the article’s position in הַבּוֹר מ׳ comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 71, 5 Anm. 1, b.

FN#9 - Jeremiah 38:9.—תחתיו. The preposition is to be taken in its original meaning as a substantive, and as accusative of place: in its underspace, i. e. as we say, on the spot. Comp. 2 Samuel 2:23; Exodus 10:23; Exodus 16:29; Judges 7:21; 1 Samuel 14:9; 2 Samuel 7:10; 1 Chronicles 17:9.

FN#10 - Jeremiah 38:10.—Hitzig (and alter him Ewald, Graf, Meier) would read שְׁלשָׁה; because thirty men is too many and אֲנָשֵׁים is contrary to the syntax, and also in 2 Samuel 23:13 the same correction is made by the Keri. This alteration does not appear to me to be necessary. Zedekiah might not have ordered the larger number for the sake of the drawing up (for which four men would suffice, as Hitzig reckons), but for greater security and to hinder any resistance. The syntax is not opposed to this. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 76, 4; Gesen. § 120, 2; 2 Samuel 3:20; 2 Kings 2:16 coll17.—In 2 Samuel23the text is corrupt in many places.

FN#11 - Jeremiah 38:10.—בידך. Comp. Genesis 30:35; Genesis 32:17; Numbers 31:49; Judges 9:29.

FN#12 - Jeremiah 38:11.—בְּלוֹיִם from בְּלוֹ, vetustate tritum (comp. Joshua 9:4-5), occurs here only. Comp. Olsh, § 173, 9. So also מְהָבוֹת from סָחַב, to rend, to tear ( Jeremiah 15:3; Jeremiah 22:19; Jeremiah 49:20). They are shreds, tatters, rags. The article, which the Keri exscinds, is abnormal and probably occasioned by הַמְּחָנוֹת, Jeremiah 38:12. מְלָחִים also is not found elsewhere. The root מָלַח is found only in Isaiah 51:6, in the meaning of diffluere, unless we assume another מָלַח, synonymous with מָרַח ( Isaiah 38:21; Leviticus 21:20), to rub, rub away, and מָרַק, to rub, polish ( Jeremiah 46:4; Leviticus 6:21; 2 Chronicles 4:16).

FN#13 - Jeremiah 38:12.—From the connection this must be the mean

FN#14 - Jeremiah 38:14.—On the construction comp, Naegelsb. Gr., § 73, 2Anm. [The LXX render: εἰς οἰκίαν ̓Ασελεισήλ, regarding it as a proper name, but this is no authority for a punctuation מְבוֹא הֵשָּׁלִישִׁי, entry of the τριστάται—Hitzig

FN#15 - Jeremiah 38:14.—The sense is the same as in the former question, Jeremiah 37:17. The Part. שֹׁאֵל is to be taken as future: quæsiturus sum. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr, § 97, 1 a.

FN#16 - Jeremiah 38:14.—The second ףָבָר (observe that מְּכַחֵד does not stand simply with a suffix) belongs to the negation, in the sense of ne quid. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 82, 2.

FN#17 - Jeremiah 38:10.—את אשׁר. If the Chethibh is correct, which is favored by the greater difficulty of the reading, these words simply=eum qui. The relative frequently includes the idea of the demonstrative pronoun (comp. Jeremiah 6:18; Naegelsb. Gr., § 80, 5). Since now הַי יְהוָֹה is in the accusative, the pronoun relating to it must also be in the accusative; since, however, אֲשֶׁר must at the same time be the nominative to עָשָׂה, it evidently involves the double conception of eum qui, which is only rendered possible by the אֶת. In Latin it would be impossible to say quem in such a case.

FN#18 - Jeremiah 38:19.—דאג. Comp. Jeremiah 17:8; Jeremiah 42:16.

FN#19 - Jeremiah 38:19.—והתעללו בי. Comp. Numbers 22:29; Judges 19:25; 1 Samuel 31:4 coll. Lamentations 1:22; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 3:51. In the Hithp. the meanings of “to gratify, indulge one’s self” and “to mock” appear to be united, the LXX. usually rendering the word by ἐμπαίζω, in this place, however, by καταμωκάομαι.

FN#20 - Jeremiah 38:20.—לְ .לאשׁר=in respect to. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr, S. 227; Genesis 17:20; Genesis 27:8.

FN#21 - Jeremiah 38:20.—וְיִיטַּב וּתְחִי are Jussives with the signification of intended effect. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 89, 3, b, 2.

FN#22 - Jeremiah 38:22.—Comp. Jeremiah 20:10; Psalm 41:10.

FN#23 - Jeremiah 38:22—Comp. Jeremiah 43:3; Isaiah 36:18. The two verbs together express the idea of successful seduction.

FN#24 - Jeremiah 38:22.—בֹּץ ἄπ. λεγ. Comp. בִּצָּה Job 8:11; Job 40:21.—The form רַגְלֶךָ is indeed irregular, but not without analogy. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 44, 4 Anm.

FN#25 - Jeremiah 38:23.—On the absence of a subject comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 97, 2, b.

FN#26 - Jeremiah 38:24.—Comp. Genesis 19:33; Genesis 19:35; 1 Samuel 22:15; Job 35:15. This also seems to be a pregnant construction, the prefix בְּ accordingly being dependent on the idea of penetrating latent in יָדַע. That it would be regarded as partitive I cannot believe. We should then expect מּן.

FN#27 - Jeremiah 38:27.—This inf. (למות) depends on לְבִלְתִּי .הֲשִׁיבֵנִי, and לְ designates here not the subjective purpose, but the objective result. Comp. Genesis 19:21; Numbers 11:11.

FN#28 - Jeremiah 38:27.—On the construction comp. rems. on Jeremiah 38:23.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Jeremiah 37:2-3. The Lord’s words Zedekiah did not care to hear, but the help of the Lord he would have liked to have. This seeking for help then did not proceed from a truly believing heart. It was merely an experiment, as in time of need one tries everything. Hence Zedekiah did not venture to come to the Lord himself, but Jeremiah was to intercede for him. “It Isaiah, however, in vain for intercession to be made for him, and he himself does not help to pray. Take the example of Pharaoh, Exodus 8:29; Exodus 9:28; Exodus 10:17.” Cramer.

2. On Jeremiah 37:5-10. Nothing is more bitter than in time of greatest need to see apparent help again disappear. Raised from the depths, one is then cast back into a still profounder deep. The Jews had invoked the aid of the Egyptians on their own responsibility. It was a triumph of worldly policy. The Lord disappoints their calculations. He is not to be so easily put out. The Chaldeans withdraw, but only to defeat the Egyptians, and then return. And Jeremiah must be the prophet of this disappointed hope. A few mortally wounded men, he must proclaim, would suffice to execute the Lord’s decree on Jerusalem. Comp. 2 Samuel 5:6.

3. On Jeremiah 37:10. This passage is also adduced as an instance, of the Song of Solomon -called scientia media or de future conditionato (Vide Budde, Inst Dogm, pag. 228), together with 1 Samuel 23:11-12; Jeremiah 38:17; Ezekiel 3:6; Matthew 11:21-22; Matthew 24:22; Acts 27:31. Starke.

4. On Jeremiah 37:11-12. If Jeremiah really wished to leave Jerusalem, because in the city he no longer hoped to secure safety or any success to his ministry (comp. Starke: “It appears that the prophet would betake himself to the country-people, because he hoped from them better results in penitence and the averting of the divine judgments, since hitherto he had been mostly hindered in his office by the priests and the court”), he was in error and took an arbitrary step. For in the first place the servant of God, who is at his post, is under divine protection, and in the second, he had to proclaim the will of God again and again to the stubborn people. There was then still the possibility of their obedient submission to the divine will. Jeremiah did afterwards repeatedly show that deliverance was still possible on the condition of submission ( Jeremiah 38:2-3; Jeremiah 38:17), and also, as he had to proclaim ruin unconditionally ( Jeremiah 32:3-5; Jeremiah 34:2-5), this testimony was necessary, partly as a proof of the inviolability of the divine counsel, partly to cut off all excuse for the Jews afterwards, partly as a foil to the glorious Messianic prophecies (chh32. and33.) which pertain to this last stage before the destruction of the city. If then Jeremiah really had the purpose at that lime to leave the city, it was an arbitrary step, which was not to succeed, and for which his arrest and what followed was a just punishment. In this sense Diedrich also says (S. 120), “The saints also err, and God deals with them punctiliously, so they also must be docile under the divine chastisements.”

5. On Jeremiah 37:15. “Jeremiah’s prophecies applied to the whole situation (political), and he thus could not avoid the appearance, which his disposition to recommend to the king the surrender of the city occasioned. God be praised! our Lord’s kingdom is not of this world. His servants may renounce the matters, which pertain thereto, with full freedom, and this the more because the Lord raises the instruments who are to labor for the amelioration of the State and the circumstances of mankind also from this kingdom, but gives the prophets of the New Testament a complete dispensation therefrom; of which we have a living example in Jesus and all His Apostles, who did not meddle by a word in any of the civil matters of the authorities, under whom they taught. Justice and chastity were Paul’s themes with the procurator Felix, which were matters of the interior, and that is enough.” Zinzendorf.

6. On Jeremiah 37:17. The king was commanded to put the book of the law before him, and always have it with him, Deuteronomy 17:19. As now he did not do this, he must be in awe even of his own servants: sometimes he must look at his counsellors through his fingers and let them do as they will, and though he might have been a master, he must be a servant. For God poureth contempt upon princes and looseth the covenant of the mighty ( Job 12:21).” Cramer.

7. On Jeremiah 37:18-20. In the consciousness of his official dignity the prophet proudly appears before the king, saying, Although it has come out clearly that I was right and your prophets wrong, you have done me injustice. Nevertheless he applies with humble and earnest petition to the king in behalf of his person, that he may not betaken back again to the dreadful prison. “After Jeremiah’s example, one may well petition tyrannical magistrates for a mitigation of persecution, but not speak to please them for the sake of the mitigation.” Cramer.

8. On Jeremiah 38:1-4. Jeremiah is like a running spring, which has an abundance of water. The mouth of the tube may be stopped. But no sooner is a slight temporary opening afforded, than the water breaks forth with full power. Although he knew what was before him, he was not silent. For he could not be silent ( Jeremiah 20:9). Even if they had beaten him to death on the spot with clubs, yet dying he would have cried: he that goeth forth shall live. Jeremiah was, however, no arch traitor, but the truest patriot in all Israel. Is not this proved by the courage, with which he inflexibly repeated his apparently so unpatriotic counsel? Certainly his opponents regard him as the most dangerous man among the people, just as Ahab accused. Elijah of troubling Israel ( 1 Kings 18:18), Amaziah Amos ( Jeremiah 7:10), the Jews Paul ( Acts 16:20).

9. On Jeremiah 38:5. Legal right to carry out their will, in opposition to that of the king, the princes had none. Zedekiah’s speech, therefore, displays only his individual weakness. He also shows by it how little he was subject to God. For had he been faithful to God, he would have found means to compel the obedience of his princes. He who has the right, has also the Lord on his side. If this was manifest in the case of the poor priest Jeremiah, how much more so in that of the king. But this king was no Jeremiah.

10. On Jeremiah 38:6. No prophet was ever maltreated so pitiably as Jeremiah. He represents the culminating point in the humiliation of the servant of Jehovah, but also the extreme point in the alienation from God of the theocracy, which was immediately followed as a merited punishment by the deepest outward decline. Therefore in Jeremiah also must “Christ’s resurrection become visible (Diedrich).”

11. On Jeremiah 38:7-13. A Moor, a heathen, must have compassion and raise his voice against. the enormity. while all Israel was silent. Thus is completed the testimony to Israel’s decline, and the guilt appears to be a common one.

12. On Jeremiah 38:14-15. This seems to be the manner of princes. They say: I wish to hear the truth, the truth only, the whole truth. And when one tells them the truth, he draws upon himself their highest displeasure. For these lords, accustomed to a Homeric life of the gods (θεοὶ ῥεῖα ζοῶντες), do not like to be disturbed in this their bliss. Nothing, however, affects them more rudely than the truth. Zedekiah even does not seem to have been in earnest with his “pray, hide nothing from me,” for otherwise he would at least have done what he could to follow the prophet’s counsel.

13. On Jeremiah 38:19-23. Zedekiah gives as a pretext his dread of mocking and maltreatment from the fugitive Jews. For these, the malcontents, who attributed all the blame to his government and had therefore fled, might possibly have him delivered over to them, and then take their revenge on him. Jeremiah assures him that he has no insult to fear from them. But he will be exposed to the most sensible insults from a quarter where he would least expect it, viz., from the women of his own harem. To be received by his own wives with insulting Song of Solomon, instead of songs of victory—what greater disgrace could be conceived for a man and a prince? Incidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdim.

14. On Jeremiah 38:24-27. Did Jeremiah participate in a prevarication, or not? The opinions on this point are divided. Förster says: Non quidem disertis verbis mentitus est Jeremias; interim tamen hoc ejus factum speciem quondam mendacii habet, vel carte est dissimulatio, quæ non omni ex parte excusanda. Others on the other hand call attention to two points: 1. Although in Jeremiah 38:15-17, no such request is mentioned as, according to Jeremiah 38:26, Jeremiah is said to have made, it is yet implied, both in the words of the prophet in Jeremiah 38:15, and in the answer of the king, Jeremiah 38:16. It follows from what is said by both of them, that Jeremiah wished that he might neither be put to death nor brought into such a condition as would inevitably involve his death. Consequently, he at any rate, cherished the same wish, which he expressed to the king in Jeremiah 38:20. 2. If then the declaration of Jeremiah 38:26 does not contain the whole truth, it contains no untruth. The princes, however, had no right to demand the whole truth from Jeremiah. For they were simply murderers. No one, however, is bound to a murderer to expose himself to his knife, by the confession of the truth. This latter view may well be the correct one. [Comp. Wordsworth and Stanley, Jewish Church, p524.—S. R. A.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. On Jeremiah 37:3. To supplicate the Lord or to intercede with the Lord is indeed right, but it is useless and wrong to desire the help, but not the Lord Himself. [Sinners contradict their prayers, and thus render them unsuccessful, by their lives. Lathrop.—S. R. A.]

2. On Jeremiah 37:5-10. Instructive example of the difference between man’s help and God’s help. Man’s help self-sought, self-made, shows at first indeed a joyous hopeful countenance, but it is hollow and vacuous, and confidence therein is self-deception. In due course it shows itself perfectly powerless, indeed it turns to the contrary, to destruction. God’s help on the other hand is announced at first under gloomy aspects and hard conditions (surrender to the Chaldeans), but these hard conditions are wholesome chastisement, from which proceed life and salvation.

3. On Jeremiah 37:11-13. “It is the manner of God’s enemies, that they shamefully misinterpret the acts of His servants, when these indeed justify themselves, but when they find no hearing they suffer and are silent; only from the confession of the truth they will not forbear.” The Major Prophets, by Heim and Hoffmann.

4. On Jeremiah 38:4. “Worldly people are still disposed to reproach the preachers of the Gospel with the injury which they inflict on the commonwealth, because they seek to hinder the God-forgotten course of the commonwealth, as the worldly people wish it to be. One must not be put out by this, but go on.” Heim and Hoffmann.

5. On Jeremiah 38:4-13. As at the time of Christ the external theocracy was approaching its final overthrow, so at the time of Jeremiah it was its precursory overthrow. Christ was the prophet of the former, Jeremiah of the latter. As Christ was accused of being an arch-traitor and corrupter of the people ( John 11:48; John 11:50), so also Jeremiah. The true ground here, as there, was diabolical hatred to the divine truth and carnal dependence on outward supports and their own excellence. The princes, who threw Jeremiah into the pit, correspond to the rulers of the people at the time of Christ, the weak Zedekiah to the weak Pontius Pilate, Ebed-melech to those believers from the heathen (the ruler of Capernaum, the Canaanitish woman, the Samaritans) who put Israel to shame by their faith. And as Jeremiah is delivered from the pit, so Christ after three days rises from the grave.

6. On Jeremiah 38:19-23. Our ways and God’s ways 1. Our ways: (a) preserve us not from that which we feared ( Jeremiah 38:22): (b) they lead to destruction ( Jeremiah 38:23). God’s ways: (a) preserve us from that which we feared ( Jeremiah 38:19-20): (b) they lead to safety and life ( Jeremiah 38:20)


Verse 28

B. THE EVENTS SUBSEQUENT TO THE CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM (CHS39–44)

1. Jeremiah liberated from the court of the guard and given in charge to Gedaliah

Jeremiah 38:28 to Jeremiah 39:14

28b. And he was there[FN1] [And it came to pass] when Jerusalem was taken, XXXIX: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 2 it. And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day 3 of the month, the city was broken up. And [that] all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergal sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsechim, Rab-saris, [or the chief of the eunuchs] Nergal sharezer, Rab-mag [or the chief of the Magi], with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.

4And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men-of-war [or and all the men-of-war saw them], then they fled and went out of the city by night, by the way of [to] the king’s garden, by the gate betwixt the 5 two walls: and he went out the way of the plain. But the Chaldeans’ army pursued [hastened] after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him [and took him] they [and] brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave6[held][FN2] judgment upon him. 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 7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with chains [a double chain], 8to carry [take] him to Babylon. And the Chaldeans burned the king’s house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.

9Then Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard [halberdiers, lit.: executioners carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him [the deserters, who had gone over to 10 him], with the rest of the people that remained. But Nebuzar adan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah,11and gave them vineyards and fields[FN3] at the same time. Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain 12 of the guard, saying, Take him, and look well to him, [set thine eyes upon him] 13and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee. So Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rab-saris [chief of the eunuchs] and Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag [chief of the Magi], and all the king 14 of Babylon’s princes: Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison [guard], and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home [into the house]: so he dwelt among the people.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The text of this chapter is interwoven with portions from chap52 ( 2 Kings 25). Immediately after the opening words an abridged account is interpolated from Jeremiah 52:4-7 ( 2 Kings 25:1-4), of the capture of the city mentioned in these words ( Jeremiah 39:1-2). Then after Jeremiah 39:3, Jeremiah 39:4-10 a similarly abridged account of the flight, capture and punishment of the king, and of the burning of the city and deportation of the people is added from Jeremiah 52:7-16 ( 2 Kings 25:4-12). What further follows ( Jeremiah 39:11-14) is not derived from elsewhere, but with Jeremiah 38:28 b, and Jeremiah 39:3, forms the only independent portion of this section, Jeremiah 39:1-14. The question, whether the statements in vers11–13, agree with Jeremiah 39:3, will be treated in the Exeg. Rems. Here it may simply be observed that after the excision thus made the original constituents of the section are occupied purely with the person of the prophet, informing us that by order of Nebuchadnezzar, the captain of dragoons Nebuzar-adan has the prophet brought out of the court of the guard and given in charge to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, after which Jeremiah remained “among the people.”

Jeremiah 38:28Jeremiah 39:2. And it came to pass . . . broken up. As the verses1, 2cannot in any way be grammatically connected with the preceding and following context, they may be regarded as a parenthesis. The mention of the capture of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 38:28 b occasioned the insertion of this chronological notice relating thereto. It is evident that this insertion was not made by the prophet himself, but proceeded from a later source. Even Keil acknowledges that the account of the destruction of Jerusalem, which is contained in two recensions, Jeremiah 52and 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:4, cannot have proceeded from the hand of the prophet (comp. Commentar zu den BB. d. Könige, 1865, S. 10, 11with which, however, what is said in S. 378 Anm., does not quite agree). Since now vers Jeremiah 39:1-2 are taken from that account of the destruction of Jerusalem which we find in Jeremiah 52,2Kings25, and this account (comp. the narrative of Jehoiachin’s end, Jeremiah 52:31-34), must necessarily be of later date than Jeremiah, the extract from that account cannot have been made by Jeremiah. These verses are, therefore, to be regarded as a gloss, which probably came into the text, not by the will of the author, but by the fault of the transcriber. Once having entered the text, they pressed back also those words at the close of the previous chapter, since the parenthesis was doubtless then found to be too long and disjointed, and the connection of the words with Jeremiah 39:3 impracticable. What means the oldest commentators took to fit the words to the previous context, we have already seen.

Jeremiah 39:3. That all the princes . . king of Babylon. These words attach themselves as we have shown to Jeremiah 38:28 b. How long after the capture of the city this event took place, the words themselves do not inform us. For the connection of the sentence, Jeremiah 38:28 b, may designate both an immediate chronological sequence, or a longer interval. Let us first regard more particularly the place and object of the assembly, and the persons assembled. The place is called the gate of the middle. As is well known, David had first conquered and fortified ( 2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 5:9) Mount Zion, the city of David, which Josephus (Antiq. V, 2, 2) calls the καθύπερθεν πόλις in distinction from the κάτω πόλις. The expression seems to denote one of the gates in the wall separating this upper and lower city. It does not occur elsewhere. Perhaps, however, עִיר הַתִּיכֹנָה (Keriחָצֵר הַתִּיכֹנָה) 2 Kings 20:4 is connected with it. Arnold (Herz.: R-Enc. XVIII, S. 629) [Smith, Dict., I:1027] supposes that the middle gate is to be sought in the middle of the north wall of Mt. Zion. If the gate of the middle is then to be sought, not in the outer city-wall, but in the interior of the city, perhaps as the main entrance to the upper city, it appears to be a central point quite favorable for the commander’s purpose. At the same time the sitting of the commander in this gate, as the central point of the city-life (comp. on the significance of the gate in this regard, Herzog’sR-Enc. XIV, S. 721) may have been the signal of the formal and solemn taking possession. In taking their places where the rulers and elders of Jerusalem were accustomed to discharge their office, the Chaldean princes gave it to be understood that they were now masters of the city. That they had “taken up their quarters” in the gate, as Graf supposes, I do not think. For a gate is no place for living in, least of all for princes. As we perceive from 2 Kings 25:1 ( Jeremiah 52:4), Nebuchadnezzar himself began the siege, but left its continuation to his generals, he himself being at the time of the capture in Riblah ( 2 Kings 25:6; Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 39:5). These generals are now enumerated. Hitzig has made the ingenious conjecture, that the four names which we here read, are to be reduced to three, of which each is followed by an official title. Thus Nergal-sharezer bears the title Samgar, which in the Persian signifies “he who has the cup,” so that it is equivalent to Rabshakeh ( Isaiah 36:2) the cup-bearer. Nebo, which in compound names never occurs in the last place (which is certainly correct), is to be connected with the following name. Sar-sechim is identical with Rab-saris (for סָכִי from סָכָה, or שָׂכָהsecare, from which שָׂכִּיןknife, is equivalent to eunuch). This idle, sportive accumulation of designations of a man has now after Nebo supplanted the second half of the real name, Shasban ( Jeremiah 39:13). We thus obtain three names, each with a title: 1. Nergal-sharezer, cup-bearer; 2. Nebushasban, chief-eunuch; 3. Nergal-sharezer, chief-magian. This conjecture, on which Graf has bestowed his approbation, is very plausible, especially as Rabsaris is certainly called Nebushasban in Jeremiah 39:13, and we cannot conceive why the chief-eunuch, of which there cannot well have been more than one, bears a different name in Jeremiah 39:3, from that in Jeremiah 39:13. According to Hitzig the last two names in Jeremiah 39:13 agree with the corresponding ones in Jeremiah 39:3, the only difference being in the first name, which is however fully explained by the circumstance, that during the interval which had elapsed between Jeremiah 39:3 and Jeremiah 39:15, Nebuzar-adan, who was highest in rank of all the princes, had arrived, and is therefore named first in the latter passage instead of the Nergal-sharezer of Jeremiah 39:3. The sense and connection are thus in favor of Hitzig’s conjecture, but it still lacks a secure etymological basis. That Samgar means cupbearer, and Sar-sechim is equivalent to Rab-saris, is not yet sufficiently proved. On the name Nergal-sharezer comp. Niebuhr, Ass. u. Bab, S. 37, 42, 43, Anm. [On the identification of Nergal-sharezer with Neriglissat, Song of Solomon -in-law of Nebuchadnezzar, see Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies, III:232, 528, and Smith’sBible Dictionary, s. v.—S. R. A.] On Nebo also, Ib. S. 30, 34.

Jeremiah 39:4-10. And it came to pass . . at the same time. This passage Isaiah, as already remarked, taken with abbreviations from Jeremiah 52:7-16 ( 2 Kings 25:4-12). The object is evidently to give, in a compressed picture of the general distress, a background to the original representation, relating merely to the fate of the prophet. That this was necessary, together with Jeremiah 52, must be doubted. For what author will unnecessarily write the same thing twice over? Or would not the author of Jeremiah 39 expect that the reader could himself derive the necessary elucidation of this narrative from ch52? Jeremiah 39:4-10 is however taken from Jeremiah 52, not from 2 Kings25. For if we compare Jeremiah 39:4 with Jeremiah 52:7; Jeremiah 39:5 with Jeremiah 52:8-9; Jeremiah 39:6 with Jeremiah 52:10 (N. B.: the slaughter of the princes is not mentioned in 2 Kings25) and Jeremiah 39:7 with Jeremiah 52:11, we shall find that the present, passage contains all which distinguishes the narrative of Jeremiah 52. from that in 2 Kings25, while in no point does it agree with 2 Kings25 in opposition to Jeremiah 52. In the verses Jeremiah 39:8-10 the narrative in relation both to Jeremiah 52,2Kings25 is so much abbreviated, that any special relationship with one of the two passages is not perceptible. They differ in this section however only in single words, which have no bearing on the essential import, so that we may say that the present text is related to Jeremiah 52, as well as to 2 Kings25, as extract and elucidation. On this more below. If, now, Jeremiah 39:4-10 is indisputably of later date than Jeremiah 52, so as to presuppose this chapter, we cannot avoid regarding the text as originally a marginal gloss, which was gradually by the fault of the transcriber incorporated into the text. As regards particular points, the words “And it came to pass that when Zedekiah,” Jeremiah 39:4, may be recognized as a skillfully added connecting gloss, for1, the original text contains nothing of this; but lets the flight follow immediately on the breaking in of the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 52:7; 2 Kings 25:4; 2 Kings 2, it is also in itself improbable, that Zedekiah deferred his flight till the Chaldean princes had taken their post in the middle gate. The flight was effectuated in a direction opposite to that in which the enemies from the North approached, viz., by the exit to the South “on the way to the garden of the king through the gate between the double wall.” This garden of the king is mentioned only in Nehemiah 3:15, where it borders on the pool of Siloah. Comp. Arnold in Herzog, R-Enc., XVIII, S. 630 u. 635; Leyreb in the same, XIV. S. 371. [Smith,Dict., I, 653]. According to Arnold this garden of the king is probably identical with the garden of Uzza ( 2 Kings 21:18; 2 Kings 21:26). The gate between the double walls also is mentioned only here and in the parallel passages. It is to be sought for in the exit of the Tyropæon, and is probably identical with the gate of the fountain ( Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15; Nehemiah 12:37). Comp. Arnold, S. 629 et pass.; Thenius, BB. d. Könige, S. 456; Robinson, Pal. II, S. 142.—The double-wall mentioned besides here (and parallel passages) only in Isaiah 22:11, appears to have been a double connection between Zion and Ophel. But concerning this there are various views. Comp. Thenius, The graves of the kings of Judah in Illgru’sZeitschr. f. hist. Theol., 1844, I. S. 18 sqq.; Herzog, R-Enc, V. S. 157; XIV. S. 374; XVIII. S. 633; Keil.BB. d. Kön, S. 381.

From this southern exit Zedekiah turned eastward to the עֲרָבָה. This is the general term for the plain or vale of the Jordan, both on its eastern (comp. Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49; Joshua 12:1) and its western shore (comp. Joshua 8:14; Joshua 11:2; Joshua 11:16; 2 Samuel 2:29). Yet it seems as though Arabah is not only to be taken in a narrower and wider sense, (in the wider it comprises the entire depression of the lake Gennesaret to the Elamitic gulf, of which the southern half, from the southern end of the Dead Sea, is still called Wady el Araba) but to be generally of a fluctuating character. For in Deuteronomy 11:30 for instance the region of Sichem, where Mts. Ebal and Gerizim are situated, is reckoned to the Arabah. Zedekiah is overtaken in the עַרְבוֹת יְרֵחוֹ. This is a part of the Arabah, the enlargement of the Jordan-valley, three leagues wide, near Jericho, watered by the brook of Elisha.

The captured king is taken to Riblah, the northern boundary city of Palestine, at the source of the Orontes, ( Numbers 34:11) the point of juncture for the roads eastward to the Euphrates, southward to Damascus and the Jordan, and westward to Phœnicia, which had previously been the head-quarters of Pharaoh Necho ( 2 Kings 23:33). Here Nebuchadnezzar held judgment over him. Nebuchadnezzar had made him king ( 2 Kings 24:17), Zedekiah was therefore a rebel against him ( Jeremiah 52:3; 2 Kings 24:20).

The punishment which Zedekiah had to suffer for his revolt was a cruel one: his children were slain before his eyes, likewise all the great men of Judah (הֹרֵי for שָׂרֵי Jeremiah 52:10 probably as a reminiscence from Jeremiah 27:30); he himself was blinded and carried in chains to Babylon. From to carry, Jeremiah 39:7, onwards, the abridgement is great and in so far unfortunate that one main point is Omitted, viz., the circumstance that Nebuchadnezzar on the news of the capture of Jerusalem sent the captain of his body-guard, Nebuzaradan, to Jerusalem, who arrived there four weeks after the capture. The mention of this circumstance was important, because without it the appearance of Nebuzar-adan, from Jeremiah 39:9 onwards, is wholly unaccounted for. One consequence of this omission is also that in Jeremiah 39:8 it is not Nebuzar-adan who burns the city, but the Chaldeans. Why the temple is not mentioned among the objects burned is not clear. In Jeremiah 39:4 the obscure and superfluous words “the poor of the people,” found in Jeremiah 52:15, are omitted, and instead of “that fell to the king of Babylon,” we have simply “that fell to him,” עָלָיו ( 2 Kings 25:11, עַל מֶלֶךְ ב׳, almost the only point in which Jeremiah 39 approaches more nearly to 2 Kings25 than Jeremiah 52). Since the king of Babylon has not been named just before (comp Jeremiah 39:6 fin.) “to him” can refer only to the Nebuzar adan mentioned in the following verse; a reference which cannot be historically justified, since by the deserters mentioned are to be understood such only as went over before the conquest. After the deserters our text mentions besides “the remnant of the people.” In antithesis to the “remnant of the people that remained in the city” can be understood only the inhabitants remaining in the country. In the place of the second הָעָם we find in 2 Kings 25:11הֶהָמֹן, in Jeremiah 52:15הָאָמֹן. The former denotes “tumult, multitude of people” (comp. Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 17:12) and our text takes the latter doubtless in the same sense. Whether correctly is another question. Comp. rems. on Jeremiah 52:15. Nebuzar-adan, the “captain of the guard,” is here named for the first time. Sent by the king to Jerusalem on receipt of the news that Jerusalem is taken (comp. Jeremiah 52:12; 2 Kings 25:8), he immediately assumes the chief command, as is evident from this passage, and the following ( Jeremiah 39:10-12; Jeremiah 40:1-6). The nature of his office, as well as the expression “who stood before the king” in Jeremiah 52:12, indicate that he took precedence of all other princes.—The tenth verse, in this differing from the rest, contains an extension of the original text, the expression “the poor” being explained by the addition “which had nothing,” wanting in Jeremiah 52,2Kings25. The author evidently held it to be desirable (though unnecessary), to call attention to the fact that דַּל is not here to be taken in the sense of “afflictus, miser.” The brief phrase “for vine-dressers and for husbandmen” in Jeremiah 52:16; 2 Kings 25:12 (Keri) he extends into a sentence.—The words “at the same time” (in the same day) are to mark the difference in time between what was last narrated and what follows. It might otherwise have seemed as if the events narrated in Jeremiah 39:11 occurred contemporaneously with those in Jeremiah 39:9-10.

Jeremiah 39:11-14. Now Nebuchadnezzar . . . among the people. Struensee, Movers, Graf, Meier, dispute the genuineness of Jeremiah 39:11-13, Hitzig only of Jeremiah 39:13. The objections to the authenticity appear to be the following: 1. The commission given to Nebuzar-adan Isaiah, according to Jeremiah 40:1, not executed. Only in Rama ( Jeremiah 40:1) does Nebuzar-adan (comp. Jeremiah 40:4) what according to Jeremiah 39:11-12 he was commanded to do2. If Nebuzar-adan, who according to Jeremiah 52:12 came to Jerusalem four weeks after its capture, first ordered the liberation of Jeremiah from the court of the guard, Jeremiah had remained there four weeks after the capture, which is in contradiction to Jeremiah 38:283. The three vers. are wanting in the LXX:4. As to Jeremiah 39:13 in particular, it is a mere connecting clause, rendered necessary by the insertion of Jeremiah 39:11-12. For Jeremiah 39:14 could not be connected directly with Jeremiah 39:12; for the subject of “sent” would then be obscure. By the mention of Nebuzar-adan the connection with Jeremiah 39:12 and the previous context, and by the mention of the other princes the connection with Jeremiah 39:13 is established. I do not think that these arguments are conclusive. As to the first point, Nebuzar-adan certainly made the necessary arrangements for the execution of his commission. He liberated the prophet from the court of the guard, and entrusted him to Gedaliah for his further maintenance. But he seems not to have been in a condition to keep the prophet specially in view, so that he might be preserved from any personal malignity. In the confusion which was necessarily connected with the destruction of the city, the prophet, who voluntarily or involuntarily had been included in the multitude of the people, was treated like the rest. He was bound like the others. It was only in Ramah, where probably the first halt was made, and the arrangement of the caravan was definitely adjusted, that the captain of the halberdiers remembered his commission with respect to the prophet. There he liberated him from the chains, which he had borne “among all that were carried away captive” ( Jeremiah 40:1) and committed him the second time to Gedaliah ( Jeremiah 40:6). With regard to the second point it should first of all be remarked that “day,” Jeremiah 38:28, must not necessarily be understood in the most restricted sense. This word, as is well known, frequently designates the period of an historical event in general, without any thought of a day of twenty-four hours. Comp. Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 11:7; Judges 18:30, etc. If now we consider that the princes who, according to Jeremiah 39:3, sat down in the middle gate, thus took possession of Jerusalem in the name of the Chaldean king, but could not undertake further measures with respect to the fate of the city till they had heard from him, it cannot truly be surprising that for four weeks, till the arrival of Nebuzar-adan ( Jeremiah 52:12) things remained essentially as before, and that thus Jeremiah could not be removed from the court of the guard. The absence of the Jeremiah 39:11-13 in the LXX. (which moreover omits the whole section4–13, while it has Jeremiah 39:1-2) is of no significance, the reasons for it being apparent. The translator wished by the omission of Jeremiah 39:11-12 to avoid an apparent contradiction, by the omission of Jeremiah 39:13 a repetition. As to the fourth argument it falls to pieces of itself, in so far that Jeremiah 39:13 seems necessary in any case, whether we regard Jeremiah 39:11-12 as genuine or not. The names of the princes might indeed be named together after וַיִּשְׁלְחוּ. But we see that the author’s thoughts (after Jeremiah 39:11-12) were so much occupied with Nebuzar-adan that he names him first and as the chief personage (hence וַיִּשְׁלַח Jeremiah 39:13), adding the rest only by way of supplement. When now after the long series of names and titles he repeated the principal verb once more, and in the plural, this is evidently done purely in the interest of perspicuity. We cannot then regard the arguments against the genuineness of Jeremiah 39:11-13 as valid. On the other hand the following positively favor the genuineness: 1. In point of idiom there is nothing which is foreign to the prophet’s usage. It is worth notice that in Jeremiah 39:11 the name of the Chaldean king is Nebuchadrezzar (as Jeremiah is always accustomed to write it) while in Jeremiah 39:5 we read Nebuchadnezzar. The expression בְּיַד is one current in Jeremiah. It is found thirty-eight times, more frequently than in any of the other prophets. The expression שִׂים עֵינֶיךָ is found besides here and Jeremiah 40:4 only in Genesis 44:21. The phrase “do him no harm” (on the Dag. f. in רָּע comp. Olsh. § 83, f.) is not indeed specifically Jeremian, but by no means as Graf asserts, an unnecessary explanatory addition. Could it have been unnecessary to enjoin on Nebuzar-adan that no harm should be done to Jeremiah? Was this beyond the reach of possibility? The actual fate of the prophet gives the answer to this question. Or could the רָּע be omitted? Then we should have an ambiguous expression. For, strictly taken, the sentence without רָע would make it Nebuzar-adan’s duty to behave indifferently towards Jeremiah 2. It is in favor of the authenticity that the passage ( Jeremiah 39:11-13) is shown to be neither a foreign property, borrowed from elsewhere (like Jeremiah 39:1-2; Jeremiah 4-10), nor an interruption of the connection, but on the contrary as necessary to furnish a perfectly clear picture of the occurrences. That the passage is not borrowed is acknowledged by all. That the course of Nebuzar-adan, as it is related in Jeremiah 40:1-6 presupposes a commission of Nebuchadnezzar is involved in the nature of the case. For how could Nebuzar-adan dare to distinguish a single person with such favors if he had not been sure of the approval of his master? And is it then improbable that this approval was assured to him by a positive commission? Must an interpolator have invented this commission when Nebuchadnezzar may have heard a thousand times from the mouth of deserters that there was a prophet in Jerusalem who incessantly and with constant danger to his life had designated Nebuchadnezzar as an instrument in the hand of the Lord and submission to him as the only way of escape? And if Nebuchadnezzar had heard this, is there any reason for regarding the commission as the idle, unhistorical conjecture of a later editor? I believe that the narrative in Jeremiah 39:11-14, in most intimate connection with Jeremiah 39:3, presents us with the events in a perfectly natural manner, both as to form and contents. It is not at all necessary to take וַיְצַו, Jeremiah 39:11, as pluperfect. For this command was actually given after the event related in Jeremiah 39:3, which we have regarded above as the act of solemn taking possession. After Nebuchadnezzar had received the news of the capture of Jerusalem he sent Nebuzar-adan with his further orders. Among these was one respecting the person of the prophet. This alone is here mentioned, as the subject of the verses Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:11-14, is simply the personal experiences of Jeremiah. In the execution of this commission, the princes, at whose head no longer stood Nergalsharezer but Nebuzar-adan, had the prophet taken out of the court of the guard. This could not be done before, because till the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar all had to remain in general the same as it had been at the capture of the city. Jeremiah was now given in charge to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. This Ahikam, of a noble family (comp. 2 Kings 22:12; 2 Kings 22:14), had already favored the prophet ( Jeremiah 26:24). Gedaliah evidently belonged to that small party, who having taken Jeremiah’s prophecies as the rule of their political course, had gone over to the Chaldeans ( Jeremiah 38:19). Gedaliah was to bring the prophet from the court of the guard אֶל־הַבַּיִת. By this some have understood the temple (Hitzig), others the king’s house (Graf, et al.). But according to Jeremiah 52:13 ( 2 Kings 25:9), both these were burned down by Nebuzar-adan, together with the other houses of Jerusalem, directly on his arrival. And assuredly those large public buildings were not the last to which the Chaldeans applied the destroying hand. It is credible that some private dwellings might be preserved to the last, to afford shelter to some privileged persons. “Into the house” may thus designate the genus, private dwelling in general, in contrast to “quarters at the public expense,” such as the court afforded, it thus remaining undecided whether the private dwelling in which Jeremiah was taken were Gedaliah’s own house, or some other. In this private dwelling Jeremiah was not placed under confinement. He could freely go in and out. And so he had intercourse with the people, doubtless warning and comforting them with his prophetic words, and was thus in the vast confusion of the destruction, plundering and deportation, treated by the soldiers who had charge of the details like the mass of the populace, i.e., bound in chains, and placed in the trains of captives. Nebuchadnezzar’s order thus remained unobeyed, without any fault of Nebuzar-adan and Gedaliah, till they reached the station of Ramah.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Jeremiah 39:11-12. “Elucet inde veritas illius Salomonis ( Proverbs 21:1): Cor regis in manu Dei, quo vult illud inclinat.” Förster.

2. On Jeremiah 39:11-14. “Nebuchadnezzar the king and Ebed-melech the Ethiopian enhanced the guilt of the Jews. For these, although they were heathens, were not shy of the prophet. The Jews, however, who had grown up with the prophetic words, paid no regard to the divine word, but on the contrary subjected the prophet to manifold maltreatment.” Theodoret.

3. On Jeremiah 39:11-14. “Deus ex iisdem hominibus diversa singulis disponit præmia, qui ex iisdem elementis pro meritorum qualitate electis et reprobis diversas impendit remunerationes. Nam aqua maris rubri, quæ cultores Dei illæsos servabat Israelitas, eadem interfecit Ægyptios idololatras. Similiter flamma camini, quæ regis Babylonis juxta fornacem atroces interfecit ministros, eadem laudantes et benedicentes Dominum in medio ignis conservavit pueros, unde vir sapiens in laudibus Dei ait: creatura enim tibi factori deserviens excandescit in tormentum adversus injustos et lenior fit ad benefaciendum pro his, qui in te confidunt (Sap. 16, 24).” Rhabanus Maurus in Ghisler.

4. On Jeremiah 39:15-18. “Well for him, whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God ( Psalm 146:5). Well for the people, whose God is the Lord ( Psalm 144:15). For of what avail was it to Zedekiah that he was king? And of what injury was it to Ebed-melech that he was a servant? For the former had to endure all on account of his ungodliness, while the latter on account of his piety suffered no evil.” Theodoret.

5. On Jeremiah 39:15-18. “Ecce principes, qui Jeremiam expetiverunt ad carceris pæ Nahum, Chaldaicæ captivitatis perpessi sunt vindictam. Hic autem Eunuchus, qui prophetam liberavit de carcere, Domino remunerante perfecta potitus est libertate.” Rhabanus Maurus in Ghisler.

6. On Jeremiah 39:15-18. “This pious courtier had interceded for the prophet with the king, but the prophet had again interceded for him with God the Lord. Ebed-melech had drawn him out of the pit, but Jeremiah draws him by his prayer from the jaws of all Chaldean war-vortices. Those who receive a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward ( Matthew 10:41). Preachers do their patrons more good than they get from them.” Cramer.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. On Jeremiah 39:11-14. Jeremiah’s deliverance an example of how wonderfully the Lord helps His own. 1. While in Jerusalem his fellow believers hate and persecute him, the heathen king in Riblah thinks of him, and commands to liberate him2. While the city of Jerusalem with all its population perishes, he is protected and brought into safety.

2. On Jeremiah 39:15-18. What can we learn from the example of the believing Ebed-melech? 1. That faith is not connected with limits of any external communion; 2, that assent and confidence pertain to its nature ( Jeremiah 39:18); 3, that there is an internal ( Jeremiah 39:16) and external ( Jeremiah 39:17) reward of faith.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Jeremiah 38:28 b.—These words cannot either logically or grammatically be connected with the previous context. The Vulg. and Chald. translate ungrammatically: et factum Esther, ut caperetur Hierosolyma. The Syr. omits the words altogether. The LXX. translate merely וְהָיָה, connecting it immediately with Jeremiah 39:1. On the other hand, an entirely appropriate sense and connection is furnished, if the words are connected with Jeremiah 39:3. On וְהָיָה, comp rems. on Jeremiah 37:11. The Masoretes, moreover, objected to the present division of the text, as may be seen from their פִסְקָא בְּאֶמְצַע פְסוּקָא (lacuna in medio versu). Comp. Gesen.: Lehrgeb, S. 124; Hupfeld, Stud. u. Krit., 1837, S. 835. Similar cases are found in Genesis 35:22; Numbers 25:19; Joshua 4:1; Ezekiel 3:16, etc. Comp. Fuerst, Propylæa Masoræ, § 29 in the Concordance, p1369.—In Jeremiah 39:1 בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחדֶֹשׁ wanting in our text, possibly through the oversight of the transcriber; הוּא is likewise wanting before וְכָל־חֵילוֹ; וַיָּצֻרוּ עָלֶיהָ is contracted from the longer sentence “and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about, so the city was besieged.” Finally הָבְקְעָה הָעְיר is contracted from “the famine prevailed (was sore) in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land, and the city was broken up.” It is evident that the author of this text was concerned only to present the main thoughts.

FN#2 - Jeremiah 39:5.—The expression דַּבֵּר מִשְׁפָטִים אֵת פ׳ for “to hold judgment,” occurs only in Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:12; Jeremiah 12:1. The present account also has the form hero only, while in 2 Kings 25:6 we find מִשְׁכָּט. Moreover the expression is not found elsewhere with the following אֵת and with the meaning “litigare, hold judgment,” but it signifies elsewhere ( Psalm 37:30; Isaiah 32:7) simply “to speak justice.”—This is a point which would favor the Jeremian origin of Jeremiah 52 (comp. Haevernick, Einl., II:3, S. 233), if this grammatical agreement might not be due to other causes.

FN#3 - Jeremiah 39:10.—יְגֵבִים is ἅπ. λεγ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/jeremiah-38.html. 1857-84.

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