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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 52

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



This chapter is usually styled “Historical Appendix”; but its obvious application to the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies suggests the title we have given it.

Although many writers speak of this chapter’s being a copy of 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30,(F1) this is true only of certain verses in this chapter. The chapter does apparently quote from 2 Kings, “but with a very significant omission (regarding events leading to the assassination of Gedaliah as given in 2 Kings 25:22-26), and a very significant addition in @@vv. 28-30 where is found material given nowhere else in the Bible.”(F2)

The appearance here of unique material, along with some variations from the account in 2 Kings, including a variant spelling of the name of Nebuchadnezzar, led Keil to the conclusion that both of the accounts in 2 Kings and in this last chapter of Jeremiah, “Have a common origin in which the fall of the Kingdom of Judah was more fully described than in the historical books of the canon.”(F3)

To this writer, it appears that the principal reason for including this chapter from a source independent of Jeremiah was for the specific purpose of demonstrating historically the fulfillment of his marvelous prophecies. It has also been suggested that another reason could reside in the note of hope injected into the final verses regarding the restoration of Jehoiachin to his royal status under the house-arrest of Judah’s last king, but as an honored guest at the table of the king of Babylon. The captives might have received that dramatic change in the status of their former king as a good omen related to the end of their captivity and their return to Judah.

There are five things treated in this chapter: (1) Jerusalem falls, and Zedekiah is captured (Jeremiah 52:1-16); (2) the Temple is despoiled (Jeremiah 52:17-23); (3) Zedekiah’s advisors were executed (Jeremiah 52:24-27); (4) the three deportations of the Jews are related (Jeremiah 52:28-30); and (5) the record of Jehoiachin’s kind treatment by the new king of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31-34).

Verses 1-16


“Zedekiah was one and twenty 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. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that Jehoiachim had done. For through the anger of Jehovah did it come to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he cast them out from his presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon came, and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it; and they built forts against it round about. So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 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. 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 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 went toward Arabah. 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. Then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; and he gave judgment upon him. 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. Now in the fifth month, in 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. And he burned the house of Jehovah, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great house, burned he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about. Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the poorest of the people, and the residue of the people that were left in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.”

“Through the anger of Jehovah it came to pass” Some have complained that this makes it appear that the anger of Jehovah caused Judah’s rebellion; whereas, on the other hand, it was the result of it. Such complaints fail to notice the meaning of “through the anger of Jehovah,” which does not mean “because of his anger,” but is a reference to the fact that through (during) the anger of Jehovah, as revealed by the prophet Jeremiah, and in spite of his repeated warnings against it, they went right on stubbornly in their rebellion.

Practically all of this passage, although somewhat abbreviated, is found in Jeremiah 39:1-9. See comments there. The instructions of Nebuchadnezzar for Jeremiah’s safety (Jeremiah 39:11 f) are omitted here.

“In prison till the day of his death” This note regarding Zedekiah’s imprisonment till death is found “nowhere else in the Bible.”(F4)

“The nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar” This same occasion is called “the eighteenth year” of Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 52:29. One mode or reckoning counted the year of accession to the throne, and the other did not. There is no contradiction.(F5)

Verses 17-23


“The pillars of brass that were in the house of Jehovah, and the bases and the brazen sea that were in the house of Jehovah, did the Chaldeans break in pieces, and carried all the brass of them to Babylon. The pots also, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the basins and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered took they away. And the cups, and the firepans, and the basins, and the pots, and the candlesticks, and the spoons, and the bowls - that which was of gold, in gold, and that which was of silver, in silver, - the captain of the guard took away. The two pillars, the one sea, and the twelve brazen bulls that were under the bases, which king Solomon had made for the house of Jehovah - the brass of all these vessels was without weight. And as for the pillars, the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a line of twelve cubits did compass it; and the thickness thereof was four fingers: it was hollow. And a capital of brass was upon it; and the height of one capital was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the capital round about, all of brass: and the second pillar also had like unto these, and pomegranates. And there were ninety and six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates were a hundred upon the network round about.”

“That which was of gold, in gold… of silver, in silver” This means that all the vessels made of silver or gold were melted down and carried away as precious metal.

“The brass… was without weight” It was simply too heavy, and there was too much of it to be weighed. There were no scales in that day adequate for such a task as weighing many tons of brass.

The significance of this paragraph is seen in the light of Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 27:16-22. In that passage, Jeremiah specifically named many of the things mentioned here, stating that they would all indeed be carried to Babylon. Practically everything in this chapter has the utility of listing the events that fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecies to the letter.

“Ornaments of the brazen pillars (Jeremiah 52:23) are listed nowhere else in the Old Testament.”(F6)

Verses 24-27


“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 that was set over the men of war; and seven of them that saw the king’s face, that 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, that 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. 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.”

This paragraph deals with the execution of the priests, that is, the false priests who had pressured Zedekiah into rebellion against Babylon, threatening death to Jeremiah who opposed their views. Those wicked priests dominate this list. The high priest, his deputy, and the three keepers of the threshold in the temple were included.

The other important officers mentioned here were presumed to have been responsible either for urging or approving the king’s rebellious behavior.

“The people of the land” By the fact of their being in the midst of the city, probably in some of those “great houses’ “they burned, suggests that these were the wealthy aristocrats who had sided with the king in his rebellion. If that was not the case, these were executed merely as reprisals against Jerusalem.

“The king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death” This indicates that the men mentioned here were first beaten without mercy, and then executed. Such was Babylonian “justice.”

Verses 28-30


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

Green dated the three deportations mentioned here as having happened in 597 B.C., 587 B.C., and 582 B.C.(F7) Cawley and Millard dated them in “597 B.C., 586 B.C., and in 581 B.C.”(F8)

The astounding thing about these numbers is that some 40,000 or more returned to Judah after the seventy year exile ended; and according to Josephus they left many times that number in Babylon. Were all those Jews, some seventy years later, descended from the relatively small number recorded here? Cawley and Millard, as well as other scholars, suppose that, “Only men who were heads of families”(F9) were counted in this enumeration.

Besides that, many of the Jews scattered throughout Palestine by the military action would have, after the war, found their way to Babylon, where they could again be united with their people. Remember that Jerusalem had been effectively wiped out as a suitable place to live. There can hardly be any doubt that, “The total number of the exiles was far higher”(F10) than the totals given here.

There is also another explanation of the low numbers of exiles mentioned here, an explanation sanctioned both by Keil and by Dummelow. It concerns the term “seventh” year of Nebuchadrezzar. Robinson and Dummelow both believed that this word is “seventeenth,” not “seventh,” requiring the understanding that those deportations on the seventeenth and eighteenth years in succession actually refer to the single deportation dated in 587/586 B.C. For technical reasons for this understanding of “seventh,” see comments of those scholars.(F11) Of course, Hyatt and other liberal scholars would like to keep the number at “seventh” because it poses a “contradiction” with “the ten thousand” deportees mentioned in 2 Kings 24:14.(F12)

It never fails to amaze us that radical critics will receive any kind of an “emendation” that favors their purpose; they nevertheless refuse to receive any “emendation” that would relieve an apparent contradiction. Feinberg commented on this.(F13)

In view of these things, we favor the emendation that would totally relieve all of the apparent contradictions relative to the number of Jewish exiles. The only objection to this change is that it would speak of a deportation a year before Jerusalem fell; but that is very likely to have happened to all of those people who heeded Jeremiah and defected tothe Babylonian forces prior to the fall of the city. In any case, Keil has very ably defended this emendation.(F14) He explained the necessity for changing “seventh” to seventeenth, saying, “It settles all the difficulties and enables us to account for the small number sent to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem.”(F15)

Verses 31-34


“And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the live and twentieth 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; and he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the thrones of the kings that were with him in Babylon, and changed his prison garments. And Jehoiachin did eat bread before him continually all the days of his life: 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.”

“Lifted up the head of Jehoiachin” This strange expression has a double meaning; but here it had the more favorable of the two. It will be remembered that Pharaoh “lifted up the head of the butler” (Genesis 40:13) and also “lifted up the head of the baker” (Genesis 40:19); but it meant that he promoted the butler and hanged the baker! The same words are frequently used with different meanings in the Bible.

There is a glimpse here of the life-style of Babylonian kings. The kings which they had conquered were actually seated on thrones in the Babylonian king’s dining room, no doubt as part of the flattering display of his power; but Jehoiachin did not enjoy that status for 37 years! This passage speaks of his release from prison, of his restoration to royal status, and of his receiving a throne even above those of other monarchs conquered by Babylon. When did all this happen? Dummelow gave this year as 561 B.C.(F16)

This historical appendix cites literally dozens of fulfillments of Jeremiah’s prophecies; but the prophecy that more than all others appealed to the Jewish mind, namely the end of their exile and their restoration to Judah had not taken place yet; but, to the person who added this chapter, it might have seemed to be a good omen heralding the fulfillment of that prophecy also that the new king of Babylon so favorably changed the status of Jehoiachin, the last king of the House of David. This shows that this chapter was added at some considerable time after the prophet Jeremiah must be presumed to have died. It does not mean that any other portion of Jeremiah may be late-dated.

What is the message of this chapter? John Bright in the Anchor Bible stated it this way, “The Divine Word both has been fulfilled - and will be fulfilled!”(F17) Amen!

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 52". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/jeremiah-52.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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