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Bible Commentaries

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

Jeremiah 39

Verses 1-14

B. THE EVENTS SUBSEQUENT TO THE CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM (CHS. 39–44)

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 there1 [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 2it. And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day 3of 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 5two 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 gave 6[held]2 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. 7Moreover 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 10him], 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 fields3 at the same time. Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain 12of 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 14of 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 chap. 52 (2 Kings 25:0). 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 vers 11–13, 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 verses 1, 2 cannot 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 52:0 and 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, 11 with 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 52:0 and 2 Kings 25:0, 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, son-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 is, 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 52:0, must be doubted. For what author will unnecessarily write the same thing twice over? Or would not the author of Jeremiah 39:0 expect that the reader could himself derive the necessary elucidation of this narrative from ch 52? Jeremiah 39:4-10 is however taken from Jeremiah 52:0, not from 2 Kings 25:0. 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 Kings 25:0) and Jeremiah 39:7 with Jeremiah 52:11, we shall find that the present, passage contains all which distinguishes the narrative of Jeremiah 52:0. from that in 2 Kings 25:0, while in no point does it agree with 2 Kings 25:0 in opposition to Jeremiah 52:0. In the verses Jeremiah 39:8-10 the narrative in relation both to Jeremiah 52:0 and 2 Kings 25:0 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 52:0, as well as to 2 Kings 25:0, as extract and elucidation. On this more below. If, now, Jeremiah 39:4-10 is indisputably of later date than Jeremiah 52:0, 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, for 1, 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 2:0, 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 Jer 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 39:0 approaches more nearly to 2 Kings 25:0 than Jeremiah 52:0). 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 52:0 and 2 Kings 25:0. 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 is, 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 do. 2. 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 38:28. Jeremiah 38:3. 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 section 4–13, 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 2:0. 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 (Psalms 146:5). Well for the people, whose God is the Lord (Psalms 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 pænam, 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 him. 2. 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:

Jeremiah 38:28; 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 est, 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; Num. 25:19; Joshua 4:1; Ezekiel 3:16, etc. Comp. Fuerst, Propylæa Masoræ, § 29 in the Concordance, p. 1369.—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.

Jeremiah 39:5; 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 (Psalms 37:30; Isaiah 32:7) simply “to speak justice.”—This is a point which would favor the Jeremian origin of Jeremiah 52:0 (comp. Haevernick, Einl., II. 3, S. 233), if this grammatical agreement might not be due to other causes.

Jeremiah 39:10; Jeremiah 39:10.—יְגֵבִים is ἅπ. λεγ.

Verses 15-18

2. APPENDIX TO Jeremiah 39:1-14.—THE PROMISE MADE TO THE CUSHITE EBED -MELECH

Jeremiah 39:15-18

15Now the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court 16of the prison [guard], saying, Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts [Jehovah Zebaoth], the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring4 my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be5 accomplished 17in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the 18Lord [Jehovah]: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord [Jehovah].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The Cushite Ebed-melech, to whom the words of our Lord may be applied (Luke 19:40), “if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out,” is here honored by a special consolatory promise. In the nature of the case this falls into the period after the occurrence related in Jeremiah 37:7-13. The expression shut up, etc., is found besides only in Jeremiah 33:1 (comp. Jeremiah 32:2). As we know from other grounds that chh. 32. and 33. pertain to the last stage of the confinement in the court of the guard (Jeremiah 38:28, comp. on Jeremiah 37:17), we may place our brief passage in the same period as that great consolatory discourse. This portion might, therefore, be attached to those chapters. It is, however, evident that the contents are too trifling in comparison with the importance of that great theocratic book of consolation, and that the historical connection seems better preserved in this place. After the prophet had related his own experiences till the capture of the city, he appends this brief prophecy uttered shortly before that epoch. In connection with Jeremiah 45:0 it would have been neither historically nor topically in the right place.

Jeremiah 39:15-18. Now the word . . . saith Jehovah. Two thoughts lie at the foundation of Jeremiah 39:16. Jeremiah 39:1. The fulfilment of my threatenings against Jerusalem shall take place before thine eyes. Ebed-melech is to see what he before believed. This is, as it were, the immanent reward of faith, its crown and corroboration. 2. Notwithstanding that all Jerusalem with all the people therein perishes the person of Ebed-melech shall remain unimperilled. This is the second physical and palpable reward of faith.—As the import of God’s word cannot be conceived of as indifferent, admitting of fulfilment either in a good or a bad sense, “for evil” must be regarded as dependent on “words.” Comp. Jeremiah 21:10.—In that day, Jeremiah 39:16, refers necessarily to the point of time in “I will bring,” and expresses that the moment of fulfilment will be at the same time the moment of visible perception. There may be a fulfilment which takes place invisibly. Compare what is said under Jeremiah 25:11 of the invisible reality of the beginning of the exile. In the same day Ebed-melech is to experience the power and grace of God in the deliverance of his own person. For he is not to be given into the hand of the men of whom he is afraid (Jeremiah 39:17). It might be asked whether the Chaldeans are meant, or the Jews who were hostile to him on Jeremiah’s account. The expressions used in the following verse thou shalt not fall by the sword, and especially the contrast to the general destruction, involved in thou shalt have thy life for a prey (comp. Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 45:5), favor the former. Ebed-melech believed and trusted in the Lord. He held the word of the Lord, which Jeremiah proclaimed, to be true, he dared to oppose Jeremiah’s enemies; he consequently did not set his hope on the means of escape, on which these foolishly trusted, but on the Lord. In the words put thy trust, then, there is a double point of applause and of confidence.

Footnotes:

Jeremiah 39:16; Jeremiah 39:16.—On מֵבִי. Comp. Olsh., S. 69, 392, 581.

Jeremiah 39:16; Jeremiah 39:16.—הָיָה is evidently used here in a pregnant sense=to be realized, to attain to a real existence. Comp. Isaiah 7:7; Isaiah 14:24.

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 (Psalms 146:5). Well for the people, whose God is the Lord (Psalms 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 pænam, 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 him. 2. 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.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 39". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/jeremiah-39.html. 1857-84.