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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—This chapter forms a historical appendix to the Book of Jeremiah. Its AUTHORSHIP is conjectural. They who think Jeremiah penned it urge that the closing words of chap. 51, “Thus far the words of Jeremiah,” really ended the original form of the book. Yet this chapter may have been a separate roll, penned earlier than chap. 51, and now added to the book as supplying additional details to those be gave in chap. 39; or, indeed, be may have written it, copying part of the Book of Kings (2 Kings 24:18; 2 Kings 25:21) as a historical preface to his Book of Lamentations. Others urge that the men of the Great Synagogue took the chapter from Kings and added it here. Others suggest Ezra. Probably some unknown hand appended the account from Kings, adding to that account other items which valuable documents in his possession supplied.
For Chronology of the Chapter and General Notes, vide chaps. 34, 39 in loc.
The DATES given in Jeremiah 52:28-30 differ from those in other Scripture accounts. The first deportation of Jews under Nebuchadnezzar is ascribed to “the seventh year” of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign; but the numeral here must be the seventeenth, the “ten” having dropped out of the text; for the earliest deportation was in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:12), and the captives were far more numerous than those here reckoned. Most probably the deportations mentioned here are all connected with the final war with Zedekiah; and even then the dates are one year too early throughout. See in verses below.
SUBJECT OF THE CHAPTER: CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM
See for homiletic arrangements of events, “The Siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar,” pp. 599, 560, and chap. 39.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON CHAPTER 52
Jeremiah 52:1-11. Theme: THE CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH.
I. The immediate causes of the captivity (Jeremiah 52:1-4).
1. Moral. “He did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
(1.) This is the divine summing up of Lamentations 1:6.
(2.) The history of every nation and of every individual proves that sin against God as surely brings ruin as that any physical cause produces its legitimate effect
(3.) This law in God’s moral universe is an all-sufficient answer to the materialist of any and every age. (a.) A universe without a moral cause could have no moral law. (b.) A class of beings without a moral nature could not be legitimate subjects of such a law. (c.) But the law exists, and mankind are subjects of it; therefore, &c. &c.
2. The political cause (Jeremiah 52:3). “Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”
(1.) The invasion of Nebuchadnezzar was politically just. (a.) Zedekiah accepted the throne of Judah from the hands of Nebuchadnezzar as his vassal. (b.) Every principle of good faith bound Zedekiah to be true to his Babylonian master. (c.) To this course he was advised by Jeremiah the prophet, nay, commanded by God (Jeremiah 27:12-14). (d.) Zedekiah’s rebellion was no less perfidious, in view of his relation to Nebuchadnezzar, than was his disobedience to God.
II. The terrible sufferings which immediately preceded the captivity (Jeremiah 52:5-11).
1. The city was besieged for the space of two years and a half.
(1.) This was a time of terrible suffering (Lamentations 4:4-10). (a.) The children perished with hunger and thirst. (b.) The dunghills were searched for scraps of offal. (c.) Mothers cooked and ate their own children. (d.) The complexion of men grew black with famine. (e.) What a type of the sufferings of all who reject God!
2. At the end of the siege, when the city was taken, the sufferings were still more terrible.
(1.) Zedekiah, who with his wives and sons, and men of war, fled from the captured city, was overtaken in the plain of Jericho, brought before Nebuchadnezzar, who ordered the sons of Zedekiah to be slain before their father’s eyes, and then Zedekiah’s own eyes to be “dug out;” and in this pitiable condition he was taken to Babylon, cast into prison, where in blindness and wretchedness he languished till the day of his death.
(2.) Thousands of the unfortunate people were carried away captive to Babylon, whose sufferings have never been written.
(3.) But over all this must be written for the confusion or conviction of men: “Righteous art Thou, O Jehovah, and upright are Thy judgments!” (Psalms 119:137).
1. Nowhere are found more striking illustrations of the hardness and blindness which impenitence produces than do the kings of Judah and Israel furnish.
2. Nowhere are found more striking illustrations of the mercy and forbearance of Almighty God.
3. Nowhere are found more striking illustrations of the divine truth, “He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).—Rev. D. C. Hughes.
Jeremiah 52:3. Theme: REBELLION AND VENGEANCE. “Through the anger of the Lord it came to pass … that Zedekiah rebelled.”
i. ANGER IN GOD’S HEART against His covenant, yet now apostate, people.
ii. GOD’S ANGER IN ACTION: “Till He had cast them out of His presence.” Comp. 2 Kings 23:26-27.
iii. HUMAN AGENCIES OF PUNISHMENT. “It came to pass that Zedekiah rebelled,” i.e., against Nebuchadnezzar; and that was the moving cause of Jerusalem’s destruction. God exercised no restraint upon Zedekiah to prevent his rebelling and thus involving Judah’s overthrow.
iv. VENGEANCE THE REQUITAL OF A VIOLATED OATH. He “rebelled,” notwithstanding his sacred oath of fealty to Nebuchadnezzar, and notwithstanding all God’s commands. Comp. 2 Chronicles 36:13.
Thus we see why God sometimes places ungodly rulers over a country—to punish it for its sins with degradation and destruction.
Jeremiah 52:6. Theme: FAMINE. “The famine was sore in the city,” &c.
I. Bread is the gift of God.
1. In the first instance it was the product of His creative power, not as now, the result of growth. This is obvious. The first grain of wheat could not have proceeded from another grain: it was a direct creation.
2. Its very growth is the result of His laws. Let them be suspended: no rain, &c., and the sower might sow in vain.
II. Bread, God’s gift, withheld as a punishment of sins.
For judicial reasons, God sometimes breaks the whole staff of bread and sends famine into a city or throughout a land. This either by successive failures in the crops or by permitting an invading army to invest and besiege a city.
The famine in Egypt in Joseph’s time was occasioned by a seven years’ failure in the crops; so the famine in Canaan in Ahab’s reign resulted from a three years and six months’ drought.
The famine in Jerusalem was caused by a state of siege (Jeremiah 52:4-5). So was the scarcity in Paris during the reign of Napoleon III., when William, king of Prussia, besieged the city five months.
Thus He who gives bread can take it away; and He does take it away when a land like Egypt becomes tyrannical and oppressive, and a city like Jerusalem or Paris forgets God, lives in defiance of His authority, and tramples under foot divine and human laws.
III. God visits guilty cities with sore distress.
When cities fall into moral guilt and depravity, their prosperity is desolated, their doom is sealed. With expressions of His anger He visited Jerusalem, with famine first, and then with ruin (Jeremiah 52:7). Equally with proofs of displeasure He visited France: famine in the city, Paris desolated, the Emperor overturned, the valiants of the army slain. Thus events in A.D. 1870–71 reaffirm the meaning of events in Jerusalem’s overthrow nearly six hundred years before Christ.
Superficial observers may see in these events only the hand of man; but what saith God? See Isaiah 60:12; Jeremiah 5:9, whether with war, or pestilence, or famine, God deals with nations and men after their sins.
IV. Famished cities on earth suggest thoughts, as a glad contrast, of the blessed city of God above, the heavenly Jerusalem. Of its inhabitants it is declared, “They shall hunger no more,” &c. Many of its residents did hunger when here on earth, e.g., Paul (2 Corinthians 11:27).
No more assaults of foes, nor penalties of sin, nor sufferings and deprivation, will be known in the Holy City, the Jerusalem above.—Arranged from “Walks with Jeremiah.”
Jeremiah 52:9-11. Nebuchadnezzar “GAVE JUDGMENT” upon Zedekiah. See on chap. Jeremiah 39:14; also Jeremiah 32:4; Jeremiah 34:3.
Jeremiah 52:12. “In the tenth day of the month.” Note in 2 Kings 25:8 it is given as the seventh day. But the different preposition explains the difference of dates. “He came unto Jerusalem” on the seventh, and “into Jerusalem” on the tenth day; or he moved towards Jerusalem on the “seventh,” and entered on the “tenth” day.
Jeremiah 52:17-23. Spoils of the Temple carried away, thus fulfilling the prediction of chap. Jeremiah 27:19-22.
The minute enumeration of these articles and of their construction shows how precious was the remembrance of them to the godly Israelite. This heightened the bitterness of their loss.
Jeremiah 52:24. CAPTURE OF THE PRIESTS.
“As teachers are often to blame for their behaviour that sin gets the upper hand in a community, it is exceedingly just when God brings such for an example into great punitive judgment (1 Samuel 2:27-34).”—Starke.
“The priests are caught and slain—
“1. Because they could not believe the truth for themselves.
“2. Because they led others astray.
“3. Because they appealed to the Temple of the Lord.
“4. Because they persecuted the true prophets.
“5. Because they troubled the whole Church of God.
“But he who troubleth shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be (Galatians 5:10).”—Cramer, quoted in Lange.
Jeremiah 52:27-30. DEPORTATION OF CAPTIVES.
“The present account of the deportation of captives by Nebuchadnezzar himself (not by Nebuzar-adan) is subordinate and supplemental to other narratives of those taken from Jerusalem at other times. Two of the deportations here mentioned are of the Jews; only one was from Jerusalem itself. That this is their true character is evident from the smallness of the number here specified. The total of these three deportations is only 4600, whereas in 2 Kings 24:14-16 they who are carried captive with Jehoiachin by Nebuchadnezzar, in the eighth year of his reign, were 18,000 souls. How many were carried away with Zedekiah by Nebuzar-adan when Jerusalem was burnt we are not told, but probably a still larger number.”—Wordsworth.
“According to this account, Nebuchadnezzar, in his seventeenth (usually called his eighteenth) year, while the siege of Jerusalem was going on, selected 3023 Jews for deportation to Babylon. In the next year, his eighteenth (i.e., nineteenth), upon the capture of Jerusalem, he selected 832 more, the smallness of the number evincing the desperate tenacity with which the Jews had defended themselves during the year and a half of the siege, and the havoc made in them by famine, pestilence, and the sword. We must bear in mind, however, that Nebuchadnezzar had not left more than 6000 or 7000 people in Jerusalem under Zedekiah, and must not exaggerate this fewness. Finally, five years afterwards, Nebuchadnezzar selected 745 more, not “from Jerusalem” (as is said expressly of the 832), but Jews simply, the occasion probably being war with the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites.
“Another point often noticed is the small number generally of the exiles carried away compared with the 42,360 men who returned with Ezra (Ezra 2:64-65), leaving a large Jewish population behind at Babylon. But if these were mere supplementary deportations, they show that a continual drain of people from Judea was going on, and thus help to solve the difficulty.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
Jeremiah 52:31-34. Theme. MERCY TO A CAPTIVE KING.
These verses recount the deliverance of Jehoiachin.
I. It shows us that the Lord can help us—
1. Out of great distress: grievous imprisonment of thirty-seven years.
2. In a glorious manner.
II. It admonishes us—
1. To steadfast patience.
2. To believing hope (Psalms 13:0)—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 52:31-34. Theme: RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVE. “The king of Babylon lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, brought him forth, spake kindly, set his throne,” &c.
The obscure portions of the Word of God are worthy of notice, like the filings of gold which the artist preserves. They often illustrate great principles.
I. The deliverance which the king of Babylon accomplished for Jehoiachin.
1. It is specially noticed, as an act, no doubt, acceptable to God. God is the Father of mercies, and He loves exercises so like His own. Many events are unrecorded, but this has a conspicuous place. It throws a lovely light over the dark events of this chapter.
2. It is every way complete.
Nothing is left undone that could relieve his sad captivity. Released from prison; spoken kindly to; a seat of honour given him among other princes; his prison garments changed; he constantly is a guest at the king’s table; a continual diet is given him; the kindness extends to the very close of life.
3. It is worthy of practical imitation.
“Pure religion and undefiled,” &c. (Isaiah 8:0.) “Inasmuch as ye did it unto me,” &c. “If thine enemy hunger,” &c. “Remember them in bonds.” See Isaiah 58:6-7.
II. The greater deliverance which Christ accomplishes. To rebels, to traitors.
1. He emancipates us from the power of sin.
Conversion is the opening of the prison. “To open their eyes,” &c. “He is made of God to us redemption.”
2. He speaks in accents of kindness and compassion. Margin reads, “Good things with Him.” “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to preach good tidings to the weak,” &c.
3. He clothes us with the robe of mercy.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,” &c. Changed his prison garments (Zechariah 3:3-4).
4. He feeds us with the bread of life.
“Man did eat angels food.” He thus nourishes us freely, daily, constantly, to the very end.
5. He exalts us to the throne of immortality.
On the career of Jechoniah, see Personal Allusions, p. 419, Jeremiah 52:24, Coniah, son of Jehoiachin; also Theme, “Woe to Coniah,” pp. 430, 431.
“No one should despair in misfortune, for the right hand of the Highest can change all (Psalms 57:10), and Christ rules even in the midst of His enemies (Psalms 110:2).—Cramer.
St. Jerome reports, from an ancient tradition of the Jews, that Evil-Merodach, having had the government of the Babylonish empire during the distraction of his father, used his power so ill, that as soon as the old king came to himself he put him in prison for it, where he contracted a peculiar acquaintance with Jehoiachin, his fellow-prisoner; and that this was the cause of the great kindness he expressed towards him. This elevation of the captive king was evidently an act of grace by Evil-Merodach on the occasion of his ascending the throne, 561 B.C.
Lange asks here: “May not the influence of Daniel and other highly esteemed Jews at the Babylonian court have operated in favour of the imprisoned king?”
Wordsworth reflects thus: “The change vouchsafed at Babylon by God’s mercy even to Jehoiachin, after the terrible maledictions denounced against him (Jeremiah 22:24-30), and after a long exile of thirty-seven years, was like a message of mercy and comfort from God Himself, and was a prelude and a pledge of the liberation and exaltation of the Jewish nation when it had been humbled and purified by the discipline of suffering, and of its return to its own land. And it was like a joyful free announcement of that far more glorious future restoration, which the prophets in the Old and the apostles in the New Testament foretell—of Israel to GOD IN CHRIST.”
Jeremiah 52:32. Theme: KIND WORDS. “He spake kindly unto him.”
After thirty-seven years of captivity, during which had passed away the youth and joyousness of King Jehoiachin, his prison doors were opened, his prison garments changed, and his throne exalted among the vanquished kings in Babylon; and yet we can well imagine that better far than the earthly distinction thus awarded him were the sunshine and comfort in his stricken heart when Evil-Merodach, king of Babylon, “spake kindly unto him.”
“A little word in kindness spoken,
A motion, or a tear,
Hath often healed the heart that’s broken,
And made a friend sincere.
“A word—a look—hath crushed to earth
Full many a budding flower,
Which, had a smile but owned its birth,
Would bless life’s darkest hour.
“Then deem it not an idle thing
A pleasant word to speak;
The face you wear, the thought you bring,
A heart may heal or break.”—Whittier.
I. Kindness should be a natural interchange between man and man.
The very word “kindness” comes from the cognate word kinned, i.e., or of the same kin or race, acknowledging or reminding us of the fact that all men are brethren, all of the same blood, and therefore all should act as brethren. All who are of the same kindred should be kind. The same analogy is found in the word humane, from human.
“ ’Tis the first sanction Nature gave to man,
Each other to assist in what they can.”
II. Small ministries of kindness may readily find occasion.
Life affords but few opportunities of doing great services for others, but there is scarcely an hour of the day that does not afford occasion of performing some little, it may be unnoticed, kindness.
“Scorn not the slightest word or deed,
Nor deem it void of power;
There’s fruit in the wind-wafted seed,
Waiting its natal hour.
“A whispered word may touch the heart,
And bring it back to life;
A look of love bid sin depart,
Or still unholy strife.”
III. Kindly words effect more than pompous speech.
Loud talking, blustering pledges, ostentatious promises, are less agreeable to a man than honest though gentle words of affection, and win his heart less.
“Good words do more than hard speeches, as the sunbeams without any noise will make the traveller cast off his cloak, which all the blustering winds could not do, but only make him bind it the closer to him.”—Leighton.
“You can give me kind words if you can do nothing else for me,” said a poor woman to her district visitor, “and they make my heart glad. You cannot think how I look for the day of your coming, that I may tell you all my trials. Ah!” she added, “if only people thought a little about the trials and troubles of the poor, and the comfort and encouragement of a few kind words, they would not let them be so scarce.”
IV. How touching the power of kind words on the suffering!
A compassionate visitor entered a prison hospital, and conversed with one of the most degraded and ignorant of men anywhere to be found. As he spoke kindly to him, the man drew the bed-clothes over his head and sobbed convulsively. As soon as he could speak he said to the visitor, “Sir, you are the first man that ever spoke a kind word to me since I was born, and I can’t stand it.”
“If a soul thou wouldst redeem,
And lead a lost one back to God,
Wouldst thou a guardian angel seem
To one who long in guilt hath trod?
Go kindly to him, take his hand,
With gentlest words, within thine own,
And by his side a brother stand,
Till all the demons thou dethrone.”
Thus closes this plaintive Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, with a gleam of light on the gloom of exile, with a record of “mercy rejoicing against judgment,” of kindness shown to a long-suffering captive, of God’s pity for the degraded and dethroned king. So also may we in life’s deepest and most prolonged sufferings find gracious alleviation; in our dethronisation—which sin has wrought—recover exaltation to spiritual honour and privilege; and in our earthly life of exile from the “land very far off,” enjoy the favour of the glorious King, and be nourished with “a continued diet” of sacred grace “given us of the King, every day a portion until the day of our death.” Amen
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 52". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27