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IV. CONCLUSION CH. 52
This chapter has many similarities to 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30, with the exception of Jeremiah 25:22-26, the story of Gedaliah’s assassination (cf. chs. 40-41). This chapter forms a fitting conclusion to the book, since it records the fulfillment of many of Jeremiah’s prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction, the Exile, and the hope of restoration. Time proved Jeremiah right and the false prophets wrong. This epilogue vindicates Jeremiah’s ministry.
Two unusual features mark this chapter. First, the material seems to have been borrowed from 2 Kings. A similar phenomenon appears in Isaiah 36-39 that retells the events recorded in 2 Kings 18-20 with little variation. Second, Jeremiah does not appear in this chapter. However, Jeremiah does not appear in several other chapters in this book. The main character in this book is not Jeremiah but God.
Zedekiah (Mattaniah, 2 Kings 24:17) was the last king of the Davidic dynasty to rule over Judah from Jerusalem. He was 21 years old when he began reigning in 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar selected him to rule after Zedekiah’s nephew Jehoiachin proved unfaithful (2 Kings 24:17). Zedekiah ruled as Nebuchadnezzar’s vassal for 11 years, until the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. His mother, the queen mother, was Hamutal, the daughter of a certain Jeremiah of Libnah. "Queen mothers" exercised considerable authority, and enjoyed great prestige in ancient Near Eastern countries, which accounts for Hamutal’s mention here (cf. Jeremiah 13:18).
A. The fall of Jerusalem and the capture of Zedekiah 52:1-16
This is one of four accounts of the fall of Jerusalem in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; Jeremiah 39:1-14). The repetition underlines the importance of the event.
Zedekiah was one of Judah’s evil kings, in Yahweh’s estimation, like Jehoiakim (609-598 B.C.). Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s immediate successor, was also a wicked king, but the writer probably did not mention Jehoiachin because he only ruled for three months (cf. Jeremiah 22:24-30).
The Lord brought hardships on Judah and Jerusalem-during Jehoiakim’s evil reign, because of Judah’s iniquity-until He sent the king out of His presence into Babylon (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:3). To compound Judah’s troubles further, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar sometime before 588 B.C., the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign (2 Kings 24:20). Because God wanted Zedekiah to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah’s rebellion was more significantly against Yahweh.
Consequently, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem with his army in 588 B.C. (Jeremiah 32:24; Jeremiah 39:1; 2 Kings 25:1-7; Ezekiel 24:2). The siege lasted into 586 B.C.
The people in Jerusalem ran out of food on the ninth day of the fourth month of 586 B.C. (Jeremiah 38:9; Jeremiah 39:2; 2 Kings 25:3).
Shortly after that the Chaldeans broke into Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:2). The soldiers tried to flee by night by way of a concealed gate near the king’s garden and headed east for the Arabah (Jeremiah 39:4-7).
However, the Chaldeans caught up with Zedekiah and his soldiers in the plains of Jericho, and the soldiers abandoned their king either deliberately or out of necessity (Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 32:4; Jeremiah 34:21; Jeremiah 37:17; Jeremiah 38:23; Lamentations 4:19-20).
The Chaldeans took Zedekiah captive to Riblah, north of Damascus, where Nebuchadnezzar sentenced him (Jeremiah 39:5-7; 2 Kings 25:5-7).
Nebuchadnezzar executed Zedekiah’s sons as he watched, as well as Zedekiah’s officials who were present (cf. Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 41:1). He then blinded Zedekiah, bound him with bronze shackles, and brought him to Babylon where Zedekiah spent the rest of his life in prison.
In 586 B.C. Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s bodyguard, came to Jerusalem and burned down the temple, the royal palace, and every sizable building. Evidently Nebuzaradan arrived in Jerusalem on the seventh of the month (2 Kings 25:8) and began burning the city on the tenth. The soldiers with Nebuzaradan also broke down the wall of the city to make it indefensible (cf. Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 18:7; Jeremiah 31:28).
"The people of Judah had been guilty of the unthinkable, rebellion against their Babylonian suzerain, and thus suffered the consequences of their foolishness." [Note: Keown, p. 380.]
Nebuzaradan then took some of the poorest Judahites, the rest of the residents of Jerusalem, the deserters who had defected to the Babylonians, and the remaining craftsmen-captive-to Babylon. However, he left some of the poorest Judahites in the land to care for the vineyards and fields.
The Chaldeans broke up and took to Babylon the bronze pillars at the entrance to the temple (1 Kings 7:15-22), the wheeled stands for the priests to wash their tools in (1 Kings 7:27-36), the sea (reservoir) for the water in the courtyard with which the priests washed themselves (1 Kings 7:23-26; 2 Chronicles 4:6), and the utensils used in the temple service (1 Kings 7:40; 1 Kings 7:45). The sea was about 15 feet in diameter, seven and a half feet high, and three inches thick. The wheeled stands and their bowls carried about 104 gallons of water each. Thus the amount of bronze in these items was considerable.
B. The sacking of the temple 52:17-23
This section recounts in more detail the destruction of the temple just described. Before the Babylonians burned the temple, they looted it. This was the second time they had done this, the first being in 597 B.C. (Jeremiah 27:16; 2 Kings 24:13; cf. Jeremiah 27:19-22).
Nebuzaradan also took to Babylon the gold and silver utensils that remained in the temple (1 Kings 7:49-50).
Jeremiah had predicted that the Babylonians would take the remaining furnishings in the temple to Babylon (Jeremiah 27:19-22), but the false prophet Hananiah had promised that the furnishings already taken would be returned (Jeremiah 28:3). Jeremiah was right.
The bronze articles, including the 12 oxen that formed a base for the sea, were so heavy that their weight was beyond calculating. The hollow pillars were 27 feet high, 12 feet in circumference, and about three inches thick. The capitals on top of each pillar were an additional seven and a half feet tall, and each capital had 200 bronze pomegranates (symbols of fertility) carved on it in two rows (1 Kings 7:20; 1 Kings 7:42). Since we do not know exactly what these capitals looked like, it is very difficult to understand how the writers of Jeremiah and Kings counted and explained the number of pomegranates on them.
Nebuzaradan took captive Seraiah, the chief priest, Zephaniah (Jeremiah 29:24-32; Jeremiah 37:3), the priest who was second in authority, and three other temple officials. Seraiah’s grandfather, Hilkiah, had been King Josiah’s chief priest (1 Chronicles 6:13-15). Seraiah’s son was Ezra the reformer (Ezra 7:1). Seraiah’s grandson, Joshua (Jeshua), by another son, Jehozadak, was the chief priest after the Exile when the returned Israelites rebuilt the temple (Ezra 5:2; Haggai 1:1).
"The other priest named here, Zephaniah, seems by his high position to have been the one who had passed on a threat of ’the stocks and collar’ to Jeremiah over this very question of the temple vessels a few years earlier [cf. Jeremiah 29:24-29]. On two subsequent occasions he had been part of a deputation from the king to consult the prophet over the siege of Jerusalem [Jeremiah 21:1-2; Jeremiah 37:3-5]. But Jeremiah’s call to surrender had seemed too radical, and now the city’s leaders had to pay the price that Babylon put on their refusal." [Note: Kidner, p. 160.]
C. The numbers deported to Babylon 52:24-30
The number of exiles who went into captivity was important, because it was on this group that the future of Israel depended. Their deportation also validated many of Jeremiah’s prophecies that predicted the people would go into captivity in Babylon.
Nebuzaradan also took the minister of defense, seven of Zedekiah’s advisors who had not escaped, another high-ranking army officer, and 60 other men in the city who were evidently important political prisoners.
Nebuzaradan took all these prisoners to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, and the king executed them there. This completed the major deportation of the Judahites from their land.
Nebuchadnezzar carried three groups of Judahites into captivity. In 597 B.C. he deported 3,023 Jews. This number may be only the adult males, or only the adult males from Jerusalem, since in 2 Kings 24:14; 2 Kings 24:16, the number taken is 10,000 or 8,000, respectively.
Then in 586 B.C., he took an additional 832 Jews to Babylon. Again, adult males are probably in view.
The third group, of 745 people (presumably adult males), went to Babylon under Nebuzaradan’s authority in 581 B.C. This may have happened as the result of a punitive raid conducted after the assassination of Gedaliah. The total number of exiles counted here was 4,600 persons. This was a very small number of people.
"Perhaps the editor wanted to make the point that Yahweh could build a new future out of a mere handful of people." [Note: Thompson, p. 783.]
The first group of exiles really went to Babylon in 605 B.C. (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:6-7; Daniel 1:1-7). Why did the writer not mention that group? Perhaps he wanted to record only three deportations, and not four, since three signified a complete work of God to the Israelites. [Note: See Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 690, and Dyer, "Jeremiah," pp. 1205-6, for other explanations.]
The total number of Jews who returned to Judah from Babylon at the end of the Exile, in three companies, amounted to about 97,000. About 50,000 returned in 536 B.C., about 5,000 in 458 B.C., and about 42,000 in 444 B.C.
In 562 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar’s son Evilmerodach (Awel-Marduk, lit. man of Marduk; 562-560 B.C.), who succeeded his father on the throne, showed favor to King Jehoiachin. Jehoiachin had been in prison in Babylon since 597 B.C. Evilmerodach favored Jehoiachin by bringing him out of prison. Evilmerodach may have done this in his accession year, since a new king often granted favors when he assumed his throne.
D. The release of Jehoiachin from prison 52:31-34
This section is an almost verbatim repetition of 2 Kings 25:27-30. It closes the book on a note of hope.
Evilmerodach was kind to Jehoiachin, and gave him a special position among the other kings that the Babylonians had imprisoned. Evilmerodach regarded Jehoiachin as Judah’s king. [Note: See Pritchard, ed., p. 308.] Evidently many of the Judean exiles did as well (cf. Jeremiah 22:24-30).
Jehoiachin left prison. He even took his meals with Evilmerodach, and received a daily allowance for the rest of his life, probably to support his family. His personal experience was a foreview of the national experience of the Israelites.
"There is considerable theological significance in these four verses. The fact that Jehoiachin lived on long after the exile and that he was finally released from prison may have seemed like the first signs of the fulfilment [sic] of Jeremiah’s promise of a day of restoration. To the last, the future of Israel is seen as lying with the exiles in Babylon and not with those in Egypt or in their old homeland." [Note: Thompson, p. 784.]
However, Jeremiah had prophesied that none of Jehoiachin’s sons would rule over Judah (Jeremiah 22:24-30). So, while Evilmerodach’s treatment of Jehoiachin was encouraging, the future would require a supernatural act of God to perpetuate the Davidic dynasty and to produce the Messiah.
"In its present context the chapter seems to say: the divine word both has been fulfilled-and will be fulfilled!" [Note: Bright, Jeremiah, p. 370.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 52". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27