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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 39

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army captured Jerusalem and began its siege in 588 B.C. It took the Babylonians about eighteen months to breach the walls of the city, which they did in 586 B.C. (cf. Jeremiah 52:4-6). [Note: For discussion of the dates, see Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 621. Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1185, argued for the siege lasting just over 30 months. This was the total length of the siege including the period of respite previously mentioned.]

Verses 1-10

The fall of Jerusalem 39:1-10

What Jeremiah had predicted for so long finally became a reality for Judah. There are four chapters in the Bible that record the fall of Jerusalem, reflecting the importance of this event (39; 52; 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36).

Verse 3

All the officials of the Babylonian army entered the city and eventually took their places at a gate in the middle of the city, in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 21:4. This Middle Gate was evidently an opening in a wall that separated two parts of Jerusalem. This is the only reference to this gate in the Bible.

The writer mentioned two, three, or four of the Babylonian officials by name: Nergal-sar-ezer, Samgar-nebu, Sar-sekim the Rab-saris or chief official, and perhaps another Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag or chief magi. Nergal-sar-ezer was probably Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law who ascended the throne of Babylon in 560 B.C. The writer may have described him with two different titles in this verse, or there may have been two men with the same name. Samgar may be the title of Nergal-sar-ezer, and Nebu may describe a geographical district that he ruled. [Note: Keown, p. 229; Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 157.]

"In its context Jeremiah 39:3 is a parenthesis describing one of the things that was done soon after the fall of Jerusalem. Its true context is at Jeremiah 39:13, where it is inserted again in the first account of Jeremiah’s release." [Note: Thompson, p. 645.]

Verse 4

When Zedekiah saw the invaders within the city, he and many of the Judean soldiers tried to escape by night, exiting Jerusalem by a gate in the king’s garden. This was perhaps the Fountain Gate near the Pool of Siloam (cf. Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15; Nehemiah 12:37) or the Horse Gate (cf. Nehemiah 3:28). [Note: Keil, 2:121, argued for the Horse Gate.] They took a passageway between the two walls of the city there (cf. Isaiah 22:11) and headed east toward the Arabah (Jordan Valley). Zedekiah evidently wanted to escape to Ammon, an ally of Judah at this time (cf. Ezekiel 21:18-23).

Verse 5

The Chaldean soldiers spotted Zedekiah fleeing and finally caught up with him in the plains near Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar, who was at Riblah, an ancient city located on a highway between Egypt and Mesopotamia on the Orontes River in central Aramea (cf. 2 Kings 23:33). Riblah stood about 50 miles south of Hamath and 65 miles north of Damascus. There Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on his rebellious vassal. Nebuchadnezzar evidently did not personally participate in the siege of Jerusalem; his headquarters during this campaign was at Riblah.

Verses 6-7

Nebuchadnezzar then slew Zedekiah’s sons as their father watched, as well as the Judean nobles. He also blinded Zedekiah and sent him bound in strong chains to Babylon, where he died (cf. Jeremiah 52:11; Judges 16:21). The last sight Zedekiah saw was the execution of his own children. Truly this last king of David’s line was a pathetic figure. He was similar to King Saul, who also received a warning from a prophet, Samuel, but disregarded it and suffered a terrible fate (1 Samuel 28:15-19; 1 Samuel 31:1-6).

Verse 8

Back in Jerusalem, the Chaldeans burned the royal palace, the other houses in the city, including the temple (Jeremiah 52:13), and broke down the city walls to make it uninhabitable and indefensible. Thus began "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), the period in history during which Israel is under Gentile control, which will continue until Christ’s second coming.

Verses 9-10

Nebuzaradan (lit. the chief butcher, an archaic title), the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s bodyguard, was in charge of deporting the Jerusalemites to Babylon. He deported almost everyone who was left in the city, plus the Judahites who had defected to the Babylonians. The only native inhabitants that he left behind were some of the poorest of the people, to whom he gave vineyards and fields. It was in Babylon’s best interests to maintain the agricultural productivity of Canaan.

Verses 11-12

Nebuchadnezzar ordered Nebuzaradan to take good care of Jeremiah and to do for him whatever he requested.

Verses 11-14

The first account of Jeremiah’s release 39:11-14

The more specific accounts of two men’s deliverance follow in the rest of this chapter. In contrast to Zedekiah’s horrible fate, Jeremiah enjoyed the attentive care of the Babylonians. This contrast reflects on their previous responses to the word of the Lord.

Verses 13-14

Nebuzaradan passed the king’s orders along to the other Babylonian officials in Jerusalem. They released Jeremiah from his confinement in the court of the guardhouse (cf. Jeremiah 38:28) and entrusted him to Gedaliah, another favored Judean, who took him into his home. Jeremiah stayed among the poor people who remained in Jerusalem for some time.

Verses 15-16

Before his release from the stockade, the Lord had told Jeremiah to give a message to Ebed-melech (cf. Jeremiah 38:7-28. Yahweh had said that He was about to fulfill His predictions about the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the Ethiopian would witness these events.

Verses 15-18

The Lord’s blessing of Ebed-melech 39:15-18

The preceding pericope recorded how the Lord preserved his prophet, and this one shows how He preserved the prophet’s rescuer.

Verse 17

The Lord promised to deliver Ebed-melech from the Babylonian soldiers. They would not kill him. He had, after all, delivered Jeremiah from death at the hand of Zedekiah’s officials. This would be his reward for trusting in the Lord. The evidence of his trust was his respect and concern for Jeremiah, who proclaimed the Lord’s words.

"Jeremiah 39 presents a strong contrast between faithfulness and the lack of faith. Jeremiah and Ebed-melech represent those who are faithful to the LORD and to whom the LORD is faithful in return. Zedekiah represents faithlessness. In some respects, Zedekiah’s faithlessness is of the most troublesome sort among people of faith. His faithlessness is not rejection of the LORD but an inability to act in courage when pressures mount. Like the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:15 [which was also blind], Zedekiah was neither hot nor cold, and he paid a terrible price for his indecision." [Note: Keown, p. 231.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 39". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-39.html. 2012.
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