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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 52

 

 

Verses 1-3

A Brief Summary Of Zedekiah’s Reign (Jeremiah 52:1-3).

This parallels 2 Kings 24:18-20, and briefly summarises Zedekiah’s reign as ‘evil in the sight of YHWH’ because of his maintenance of idolatry and gross breach of the covenant with YHWH as contained in the books of Moses.

Jeremiah 52:1

‘Zedekiah was twenty one years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.’

Zedekiah was twenty one years old when he began to reign (in 597 BC) and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem ‘the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there’ for David’s sake (1 Kings 14:21). It was to be the last eleven years of Jerusalem’s existence. The name of the queen mother was Hamutal. Her father was Jeremiah ( a different Jeremiah) of Libnah, a large city in the foothills (the Shephelah). Zedekiah was thus the full brother of Jehoahaz (Jeremiah 23:31), and the half-brother of Jehoiakim.

Jeremiah 52:2

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, in accordance with all that Jehoiakim had done.’

Zedekiah continued to walk in the same way as Jehoiakim had done, permitting the continuation of the worship of Baal and Asherah, as well as necessarily having to perpetuate the worship of the gods of Babylon. He also allowed gross breaches of the covenant. (Neither Jehoahaz nor Jehoiachin had reigned long enough to be seen as a pattern). All Josiah’s efforts had, in the long term, seemingly been in vain, and the Temple was being defiled. Zedekiah chose to ape Jehoiakim rather than his own godly father. YHWH had given Judah its last chance and it had rejected it.

‘He did what was evil in the sight of YHWH.’ This is a constant refrain in the book of Kings indicating the promulgation of idolatry and of false gods, and gross disobedience to the covenant.

Jeremiah 52:3

‘For through the anger of YHWH did it come about in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.’

The fact of YHWH’s anger against Judah and Jerusalem, and their removal from His sight is an important theme in 2 Kings (2 Kings 21:12-14; 2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 23:26; 2 Kings 24:2-3), and also in Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 4:8; Jeremiah 4:26; Jeremiah 7:18-20; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 11:17; and often). It had been His continual purpose from the time of Manasseh. The warnings of Leviticus 18:25; Leviticus 18:28; Leviticus 26:28-35; Deuteronomy 29:28 were being fulfilled. And it was being brought about by YHWH Himself. But it should be noted that humanly speaking it was brought on them by the actions of the king and his advisers. It was Zedekiah who, against all YHWH’s advice through Jeremiah, rebelled against the king of Babylon.

This rebellion appears to have been inspired as a result of news being received of an internal rebellion in Babylon in which many Jews were involved (there was constant contact with Babylon), and was no doubt partly stirred up by the continuing urgings of Egypt, who would indeed at one stage send an army to temporarily relieve Jerusalem (Jeremiah 37:5). Tyre and Sidon, Edom, Moab and Ammon all appear to have been involved (Jeremiah 27:1-11).


Verses 1-34

An Account Of The Taking And Destruction Of Jerusalem Which Is Then Followed By The Part Restoration Of The Davidic King (Jeremiah 52:1-34).

In this narrative, which on the whole is a repetition of 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30, there appear to be certain emphases:

· King Zedekiah, and the people with him, ‘did what was evil in the sight of YHWH’. This phrase always indicates participation in idolatry and gross disobedience to the covenant. It explains all that follows (Jeremiah 52:2).

· YHWH was angry and was determined to cast them out of His presence (Jeremiah 52:3).

· King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon arrived with his army, besieged Jerusalem, bringing the people to starvation level, and thereby took it (Jeremiah 52:4-6).

· King Zedekiah was taken, and was blinded, having witnessed the execution of his sons, along with other dignitaries, after which he was taken to Babylon and was kept in prison until he died (Jeremiah 52:9-11).

· YHWH’s House was burned down, along with the palace and all the great houses of Jerusalem, and the walls of Jerusalem were broken down (Jeremiah 52:13-14).

· The cream of the people were carried off to Babylon, whilst the poorest of the land (who would have been much more numerous) were left to tend the land (Jeremiah 52:15-16).

· All that was valuable in the house of YHWH was carried off to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:17-23).

· A number of dignitaries were executed, and the cream of the people were then carried off to Babylon. This latter fact is emphasised by an enumeration of people taken to exile in Babylon in three main exiles, something not included in the account in 2 Kings (24-30).

· Jehoiachin, the true Davidic king of Judah, is released from prison and raised to a position of honour in Babylon (31-34).

It will be seen that in a number of ways this narrative emphasises the fulfilment of the prophecies of Jeremiah, and explains why it was all necessary. The House of YHWH had been dishonoured and tainted by idolatrous worship and therefore had to be destroyed (Jeremiah 7:2-15; Jeremiah 26:6), and then time had to be allowed while it lay in ruins for the taint of dishonour to evaporate (time is required for ‘sanctifying’. Compare how when a man washed himself he was not clean ‘until the evening’ e.g. Leviticus 15:16-22; Numbers 19:8). King Zedekiah and his associates had to be punished for the evil that they had done. The cream of the people had to share in that punishment as they had shared in the dishonour. They too were to be removed from the land so that it could be purified. But through it all YHWH would not forget His people or the Davidic house, something indicated by the restoration of Jehoiachin, giving hope for the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning the Davidic house (Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Jeremiah 33:15-21; etc.).

We have, of course, no way of knowing when this narrative was added to Jeremiah’s prophecies but it would appear that it was done in order to stress, at least in part, their historical fulfilment. Nor do we know what its source (and the source of the passage in 2 Kings) was. Only that it was ‘prophetic’. The restoration of Jehoiachin indicates a date after that event, which took place in around 562 BC. It is possible that it was Jeremiah himself who added it in his old age, especially if, as Jewish tradition suggests, he authored the book of Kings. Others suggest Baruch under Jeremiah’s guidance.


Verses 4-11

In Accord With The Prophecies Of Jeremiah Nebuchadrezzar Besieges Jerusalem, Takes Zedekiah Prisoner And Exacts Vengeance On His Sons And On The Nobles Of Judah (Jeremiah 52:4-11).

Jeremiah 52:4

‘And it came about in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it, and they built forts against it round about.

In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon, came with all his army and encamped against Jerusalem, setting up siege forts around it. This would have resulted in the devastation of much of the land of Judah prior to, and during, the siege. Nebuchadnezzar had once and for all lost patience with Jerusalem and Judah (and as the Book of Daniel makes clear he suffered from a mental illness, and was probably a manic depressive).

Note the contrast with 2 Kings where Nebuchadrezzar’s name was given as Nebuchadnezzar, a name also used elsewhere in Jeremiah. In Babylon he was called ‘Nabu-kudurri-usur’ (‘Nabu has protected the succession rights’), but in the Greek he is called ‘Nabochodonosor’. So both forms are possible. The alteration here does, however, indicate that the passages were not cited without thought.

Jeremiah 52:5

‘So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.’

The siege continued over a period of nineteen months, although at one stage temporarily suspended as a result of the arrival of an Egyptian army (Jeremiah 37:5). It was clear to all that the city was doomed. It would have been crowded with refugees fleeing before the advancing troops so that food supplies would quickly diminish, even though partly supplemented at the time of Egypt’s intervention.

Jeremiah 52:6

‘In the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.’

By July 587 BC, as a direct result of the siege, starvation had become a problem in the city, for there was no food for ‘the people of the land’ who were now sheltering in Jerusalem. The city had been cut off from outside help for many months. For a vivid picture of the situation see Lamentations 2:12; Lamentations 4:4-5; Lamentations 4:9-10. Compare also 2 Kings 6:25-30.

Jeremiah 52:7

‘Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden; (now the Chaldeans were against the city round about) and they made their way toward the Arabah.

A breach was made in the wall. We may see this as having been made by the enemy on the grounds that the desperate attempt to escape was made by night, utilising a small postern gate (the main gates would be closely guarded) which would have been identifiable at the time. Had the breach been made by the people of Jerusalem the use of the gate would not have been necessary, unless the breach was intended as a diversion in order to let the king escape. And ‘all the men of war’ (possibly the king’s bodyguard), fled from Jerusalem, along with the king, who was making for the Jordan Rift Valley, the Arabah, possibly hoping to find refuge in Moab. They may have fought their way through the surrounding Chaldeans, having taken them by surprise, or they may have made use of their knowledge of the terrain in order to avoid them.

Jeremiah 52:8

‘But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him.’

However, the movement of such a large number of men could hardly fail to be detected, and the escape may well therefore have involved some fighting, so that when the Chaldeans realised that there had been an escape they pursued after the king. The king’s troops scattered to find refuge where they could. This may have been before the arrival of the Chaldeans in the hope was that this would aid the king’s escape in that the Chaldeans would not know who to follow (but if so it failed), or it may have been as a result of the subsequent attack of the Chaldeans. In consequence he was captured in ‘the plains of Jericho’, in the Jordan Rift Valley (the Arabah).

Jeremiah 52:9

‘Then they took the king, and carried him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; and he gave judgment on him.’

Zedekiah was then taken to Riblah in the region of Hamath on the Orontes where Nebuchadrezzar was stationed, and there given a form of trial. But the result could hardly have been in doubt from Nebuchadrezzar’s viewpoint. He had broken his oath of allegiance and was worthy of death.

Jeremiah 52:10-11

‘And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. He slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah. And he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.’ ’

Nebuchadrezzar’s penalty was severe. All his sons were slain before his eyes and he was then blinded, leaving the last sight that he had experienced before becoming blind as that of his sons being killed. Then he was bound in fetters and carried off to Babylon to spend the remainder of his life in prison. He was probably spared, not as an act of mercy, but in order that he might serve as an example of Nebuchadrezzar’s superiority. His rebellion, into which humanly speaking he had been forced by the anti-Assyrian party in Jerusalem, had cost him dear. From the divine point of view his evil behaviour had brought its own reward. But the adviser’s did not get away scot free. A number of them were also executed.

The word for ‘prison’ means ‘house of punishment’ or ‘house of visitation’ and may indicate a more severe regime than usual. LXX translates as though it referred to him grinding at the mill.

Note that ‘The king of Babylon’ is ‘they’ in 2 Kings, the responsibility is being personalised, and that ‘he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah’ is an addition compared with the narrative in 2 Kings, stressing that the king’s advisers also received punishment for the advice that they had given as Jeremiah had warned.

Nebuchadrezzar was not alone in such cruelty. Assur-bani-pal of Assyria boasted of how he put a king of Arabia in chains and bound him with the dogs, and caused him to be kept in one of the great gates of Nineveh, whilst Darius of Persia would later take a rebel king of Sagartia and cut off his nose and ears, and keep him chained to a door. Compare also Judges 1:6-7.


Verses 12-23

The Destruction Of Jerusalem And Of The Temple Followed By The Taking Of Exiles And The Treasures Of The Temple To Babylon (Jeremiah 52:12-23).

Having taken Jerusalem Nebuzaradan, the commander of the king’s bodyguard, burned down the Temple and the royal palace, together with the leading residences of Jerusalem, completely dismantled the defensive walls of Jerusalem (the efficiency with which he did this has been testified to archaeologically), and carried away the cream of the population into exile (which only numbered eight hundred and thirty two, together no doubt with their wives and families) leaving the poorer people to look after the land. He also took the treasures of the Temple as spoils to Babylon.

Jeremiah 52:12

‘Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, who stood before the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem,’

One month later Nebuzaradan the captain of Nebuchadrezzar’s guard (he ‘stood before the king of Babylon’) arrived in Jerusalem, no doubt with strict instructions as to what he was to do. The city had rebelled once too often, and both YHWH and Nebuchadrezzar were sick of it. Nebuzaradan was going to teach them a severe lesson.

2 Kings 25:8 says that it was on the seventh day of the month. This may in fact have been the day on which he started his journey, with Jeremiah giving the arrival date. Or it may be that he arrived at the Babylonian camp outside Jerusalem on the seventh day and had discussions there with the Babylonian commanders in order to plan what he was going to do, prior to actually commencing his activity on the 10th. Jeremiah 52:29 says that it was in the eighteenth year demonstrating that the year of accession was there ignored in the calculation.

Jeremiah 52:13-14

‘And he burned the house of YHWH, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great house, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls of Jerusalem round about.’

The book of Kings began by describing the building of the house of YHWH and the king’s house, in all their splendour (1 Kings 5:1 to 1 Kings 7:12). Now those same houses were to be burned with fire, along with all the other large houses in Jerusalem (no one would bother about the hovels). The walls also of the city were broken down all round the city, something testified to archaeologically. Jerusalem was to be left a ruin, almost uninhabited apart from the poor and the totally defenceless. This was demonstrating that Judah was no longer to be allowed to continue as a semi-independent state.

Jeremiah 52:15-16

‘Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the poorest of the people, and the residue of the people who were left in the city, and those who fell away, who fell to the king of Babylon, and the residue of the multitude. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.’

The whole of what remained of the repopulated Jerusalem (it had had to be repopulated following what happened in 597 BC) were transported to Riblah, even those who had surrendered to the Babylonians during the siege (those who ‘fell away to the king of Babylon’). ‘The residue of the multitude’ probably refers to those who had taken refuge in the city before the siege began. All were carried away captive because of their connection with Jerusalem.

The land was not, however, to be left totally deserted and of those transported to Riblah were the common and unimportant folk (and there would be many of them) who were left in the land in order to maintain its agriculture and pay tribute to Babylon. Thus while Jerusalem itself was now almost deserted and in ruins, the land around remained populated and was tended, although hardly initially being in good condition. Those who were left of Judah still survived in the land, and they would no doubt be supplemented by those who came out of hiding in the mountains once the Babylonian forces had withdrawn. Thus it is wrong to think of Judah as totally deserted. Babylon’s purpose had been to draw Judah’s teeth, not to commit genocide. Furthermore as far as we know Lachish, and possibly other cities, had not been taken, and if so their inhabitants may have been treated more leniently. Gedaliah the new governor would come from Lachish.

A Description Of The Treasures Of YHWH’s House Which Were Taken Away.

We are now given a description of the Temple treasures which were removed to Babylon. These included the two huge free-standing pillars which Solomon had erected in front of the Sanctuary, and the great brazen ‘sea’, erected on twelve brazen bulls, which had contained water for the cleansing of the priests. Also included were the pots and vessels used in worship, many of which would be stored up in Babylon and made available to them on the decree of Cyrus when the exiles began to return.

Jeremiah 52:17

‘And the pillars of bronze which were in the house of YHWH, and the bases and the brazen sea which were in the house of YHWH, did the Chaldeans break in pieces, and carried all the bronze from them to Babylon.’

Reference back to the first part of Kings continues (see 1 Kings 7:13 onwards). The two pillars of bronze and the brazen sea which Solomon had made were broken in pieces and their bronze carried back to Babylon. Previously these had been allowed to remain. Now the last remnants of their former glory were being removed. All that Judah had built up was being broken down. Such was the consequence of their disobedience.

Jeremiah 52:18-19

‘The pots also, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the basins, and the spoons, and all the vessels of bronze with which they ministered, they took away, and the cups, and the firepans, and the basins, and the pots, and the lampstands, and the spoons, and the bowls — what was of gold, in gold, and what was of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away.’

The description here expands slightly on 2 Kings, but the gist of it is the same. All the means of worship were ‘taken away’ for the sake of their valuable metallic content. Many of these had been replacements for those initially taken by the Babylonians in 597 BC (Jeremiah 27:16; 2 Kings 24:13). Some of the bronze ones were possibly taken away as spoils by the soldiers, although the large part would go to the treasury in Babylon, but in contrast the gold and silver was especially watched, and was taken away by the ‘captain of the guard’, the commander of the king’s bodyguard, no doubt again for the king’s treasury. Theoretically at least all worship in Jerusalem had ceased. It is interesting that the silver and gold items that remained were especially taken charge of by Nebuzaradan himself, no doubt in the king’s name.

Jeremiah 52:20

‘The two pillars, the one sea, and the twelve brazen bulls which were under the bases, which king Solomon had made for the house of YHWH — the bronze of all these vessels was without weight.’

The two huge bronze pillars, and the moulten ‘sea’ with its twelve brazen bulls providing support for the bases, could not be weighed, either because they were too heavy, or because they were too cumbersome. They had lasted throughout all Judah’s tribulations without being called on for tribute purposes, but now even this reminder of Solomon’s glory would be no more. Judah was being stripped bare and left with nothing. All that God had given had been taken away.

Jeremiah 52:21-23

‘And as for the pillars, the height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a line of twelve cubits encompassed it; and its thickness was four fingers. It was hollow. And on it was a capital of bronze; and the height of the one capital was five cubits, with network and pomegranates n the capital round about, all of bronze: and the second pillar also had similar to these, and pomegranates. And there were ninety and six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates were a hundred on the network round about.’

We have here a detailed description of the two huge pillars of Solomon. More detail is given here than in 2 Kings. “ Kings, however, tells us that ‘the height of the capital was three cubits’ compared with five here and in 1 Kings 7:16. The loss of two cubits was possibly due to the necessity for earlier repair work on one of the pillars. Pomegranates were holy symbols prominent in the Sanctuary, and were symbols of fruitfulness and of YHWH’s provision.


Verses 24-30

The Execution Of Judah’s Religious And Political Leaders And The Exile Of Its Leading Citizens (Jeremiah 52:24-30).

Nebuzaradan now selected out what remained of the leading citizens in Jerusalem for execution as having main responsibility for the rebellion, taking them to Riblah so that they could be ‘tried’ before Nebuchadrezzar. Along with them he took large numbers of other captives, some to be taken into exile, and others who were of the poorer classes (the predominant class) to be left behind to farm the land.

Jeremiah 52:24-26

‘And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the threshold, and out of the city he took an officer who was set over the men of war; and seven men of those who saw the king’s face, who were found in the city; and the scribe of the captain of the host, who mustered the people of the land; and threescore men of the people of the land, who were found in the midst of the city. And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah.’

Nebuzaradan now selected out the leaders of Judah for execution. He seized the chief priest, second priest and keepers of the threshold (in charge of the gates overall, not gate-keepers) who were the leading Temple authorities (included among the ‘chief priests’ mentioned in the New Testament). He also seized either the General in charge of the defence of Jerusalem, or one of his aides if the General had escaped or been killed, and seven of the king’s close advisers (those who were caught in Jerusalem), along with the scribe of the commander of the Judean forces who was responsible for mustering the militia. He also seized sixty prominent citizens. These were all taken to be brought before Nebuchadrezzar at Riblah, being seen as bearing responsibility for the rebellion. Nebuchadrezzar no doubt had his sources of information.

‘Seven men of those who saw the king’s face.’ 2 Kings 25:19 gives the number as five. This could be because only five of the seven were extremely important men whilst the other two, who were not so important, were not considered worthy of being mentioned by the writer in 2 Kings, or it may indicate the deliberate use of ‘seven’ as a symbolic number indicating the divine choice of the group as selected by YHWH for judgment. When used in this way ‘seven’ could indicate any number from five to nine.

Jeremiah 52:27

‘And the king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away captive out of his land.’

The leaders in question were no doubt given a summary trial, and they were then executed. This would be because of their part in the rebellion, and as a warning to others. The remainder of those who were taken to Riblah, who were not set free as being the ‘poorest of the land’ were carried off to Babylon (see Jeremiah 52:15-16). As we see below they numbered eight hundred and thirty two persons. This probably signifies the family heads, and along with them may well have gone their wives, servants and children. We must also remember that many had died in the siege, or while seeking to escape, and that many others would have escaped in the breakout from Jerusalem. These were the prominent citizens who remained.

Jeremiah 52:28-30

‘This is the people whom Nebuchadrezzar carried away captive, in the seventh year three thousand and twenty three Jews; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred and thirty two persons; in the twenty third year of Nebuchadrezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred and forty five persons: all the persons were four thousand and six hundred.’

We are now provided with information not supplied in 2 Kings about the number of people carried off to exile on three separate occasions. The first were those taken in 597 BC on the occasion of the quelling of Jehoiachim’s rebellion when Jehoiachin his son was included among the exiles. They numbered three thousand and twenty three. These would be the heads of families and as the aim was to settle them in Babylonia, as illustrated in Ezekiel’s prophecy, they would take with them their wives, children and possibly household servants if they were still alive. This would help to explain the round number of ten thousand referred to in 2 Kings 24

The exile of these prominent people in 597 BC (together with those taken in 605 BC when Daniel was taken) would leave Judah bereft of its finest and most experienced leaders, so that Zedekiah would be left with second string material from whom to form his advisory council.

The second group mentioned are the exiles resulting from the destruction of Jerusalem. These numbered eight hundred and thirty two heads of families. They too would be transported with their wives and children as Nebuchadrezzar’s aim was that, apart from those who would be imprisoned, they establish a settlement in Babylonia.

The third group represent exiles resulting from a subsequent invasion by Nebuchadrezzar in 582 BC. This may have been caused by the assassination of Gedaliah and the flight to Egypt of a large number of Judeans, or simply have been the result of simmering rebellion.


Verses 31-34

The Restoration Of Jehoiachin To A Position Of Honour (Jeremiah 52:31-34).

When Nebuchadrezzar crushed the rebellion of Jehoiakim in 597 BC, with Jehoiachin coming to the throne as the Davidic king while the final days of the siege were in progress, he took the 18 year old Jehoiachin back to Babylon where he was imprisoned, replacing him on the throne with his father’s half-brother Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:8-17). Now Nebuchadrezzar’s son Evil Merodach (Amel-Marduk) would release Jehoiachin from prison in 562 BC, the year of his accession, and raise him to a position of honour in Babylon. To ‘eat bread before the king’ was a sign of high favour. Such magnanimity was often shown at the commencement of a new reign. This incident almost certainly ends the prophecy of Jeremiah in order to emphasise the fact that the promises of a restored Davidic monarchy as prophesied by Jeremiah were not just a dream.

Jeremiah 52:31

‘And it came about in the thirty seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty fifth day of the month, that Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison,’

When he was released Jehoiachin had been in prison for thirty seven years, although his prison conditions were probably not onerous as he had not really rebelled against the Babylonians. That had been his father’s doing. He would, of course, still be a hostage and a reminder of Babylon’s conquests. Interestingly records have been discovered which reveal something about the daily rations appointed for him, for his sons born to him in Babylon (confirming the mild nature of his imprisonment) and for his servants.

Evil Merodach (Awel or Amel-Marduk) was not a good king. He lived a life of extravagance and debauchery and was assassinated by his brother Neriglissar, who took the throne in 560 BC. But ‘in the year of his reign’ (i.e. his accession year) he ‘lifted up the head of Jehoiachin’, that is, showed him favour by releasing him from prison and making decent provision for him.

Jeremiah 52:32

‘And he spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon, and changed his prison clothes. And Jehoiachin ate bread before him continually all the days of his life,’

Jehoiachin received the king’s mercy and was given a position of prominence among the hostage kings of other countries, having his prison clothes replaced with clothing worthy of a king. To ‘eat bread before the king’ was to be in a position of great favour, and fortunately for Jehoiachin this practise was clearly continued by Neriglissar. This would certainly have been looked on by the Jewish exiles as very propitious.

Jeremiah 52:34

‘And for his allowance, there was a continual allowance given him by the king of Babylon, every day a portion until the day of his death, all the days of his life.’ .

Evil-Merodach allocated to Jehoiachin a portion of food for him and his attendants which he received daily until the day of his death. This restoration of Jehoiachin was a sign that things were looking up, and suggested that YHWH was once again acting on behalf of His people. It was a glimmer of light in the darkness.

Remarkably a number of records which are dated prior to Jehoiachin’s release from prison, have been discovered. These were found in a barrel-vaulted underground chamber near the Ishtar Gate, which was connected with the royal palace by a stairway. These referred to rations which were distributed to various persons out of the royal stores. They do suggest that Jehoiachin’s prison conditions were reasonable. possibly almost similar to a house arrest. An extract from the particular section read as follows:

‘To Ya’ukinu, king (of the land of Yaudu), ------ half a PI (a PI equals about six and a half gallons) for Ya’ukinu, king of the land of Ya-(hudu), two and a half sila (a sila was around one and a half pints) for the five sons of the king of the land of Yahudu, four sila for eight men, Judeans (each) half (a sila).’

Thus the prophecy of Jeremiah ends on an historical note of hope indicating that just as his prophecies of doom had been fulfilled, so now there was hope for the fulfilment of his prophecies of future hope concerning the Davidic house. Babylon had now received its just reward for its guilt, and the house of David was in the ascendant. This theme is taken up in Revelation where all that Babylon represented is brought into judgment, and the greater David reigns in triumph.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 52:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/jeremiah-52.html. 2013.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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