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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 39

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Jeremiah 39:0


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Jerusalem CapturedThe Fall of JerusalemJeremiah and the Fall of Jerusalem(Jeremiah 39:1-6)The Fall of JerusalemThe Fall of Jerusalem and What Happened to Jeremiah
Jeremiah 39:1-10Jeremiah 39:1-3Jeremiah 39:1-10Jeremiah 39:1-2Jeremiah 39:1-2
Jeremiah 39:3Jeremiah 39:3
Jeremiah 39:4-10Jeremiah 39:4-10Jeremiah 39:4-10
Jeremiah SparedJeremiah Goes FreeJeremiah's Release
Jeremiah 39:11-14Jeremiah 39:11-14Jeremiah 39:11-14Jeremiah 39:11-14Jeremiah 39:11-12
Jeremiah 39:13
Jeremiah 39:14
Hope For Ebed-melechA Prophecy Assuring the Safety of Ebed-melech
Jeremiah 39:15-18Jeremiah 39:15-18Jeremiah 39:15-18Jeremiah 39:15-18Jeremiah 39:15-18

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 39:1-10 1Now when Jerusalem was captured in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it; 2in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the city wall was breached. 3Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came in and sat down at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sar-ezer, Samgar-nebu, Sar-sekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, and all the rest of the officials of the king of Babylon. 4When Zedekiah the king of Judah and all the men of war saw them, they fled and went out of the city at night by way of the king's garden through the gate between the two walls; and he went out toward the Arabah. 5But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and they seized him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. 6Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes at Riblah; the king of Babylon also slew all the nobles of Judah. 7He then blinded Zedekiah's eyes and bound him in fetters of bronze to bring him to Babylon. 8The Chaldeans also burned with fire the king's palace and the houses of the people, and they broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9As for the rest of the people who were left in the city, the deserters who had gone over to him and the rest of the people who remained, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard carried them into exile in Babylon. 10But some of the poorest people who had nothing, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard left behind in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at that time.

Jeremiah 39:1 “Jerusalem was captured” Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C. (there is a parallel account in Jeremiah 52, cf. 2 Kings 25:1-12).

“in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month. . .laid siege to it” The siege began in 589 B.C. It lasted over a year and a half (cf. Jeremiah 52:4-6; 2 Kings 25:1-3).

Jeremiah 39:3 The names and titles of the Babylon officials mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3 (cf. Jeremiah 39:13) are very confusing.

1. the Septuagint, King James, and American Standard versions list six men

2. Josephus (Antiq.10.7.2) and the Peshitta list five men

3. the Revised Standard Version and Jewish Publication Society of America Bible list four men

4. the New International Version, the New English Bible, and the Revised English Bible list three

5. the New Jerusalem Bible lists two men

“Nergal-sar-ezer” This (BDB 669) is possibly the same as Neri-glissar, who was the successor to Nebuchadnezzar's son, Evil-merodach.

Jeremiah 39:4 “they fled and went out of the city at night” Josephus tells us that it was midnight (Antiq. 10.7.2, cf. Jeremiah 52:7; 2 Kings 25:4).

“by way of the king's garden” From Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15; Nehemiah 12:37 it appears that this is the fountain of the Pool of Siloam.

“Arabah” This refers to the great rift valley that runs from above the Sea of Galilee down into the Sinai. Here it would refer to the forested valley east of Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 39:5).

Jeremiah 39:5 “the Chaldeans pursued” This is predicted in Jeremiah 32:4-5; Jeremiah 38:18, Jeremiah 38:23. Josephus tells us that Jewish deserters informed the Babylonian officials of their flight.

“he passed sentence on him” Josephus tells us that it was for (1) ingratitude and/or (2) treason. His sentence is spelled out in graphic detail in Jeremiah 39:6-7; Jeremiah 52:10-11; and 2 Kings 25:7.

Jeremiah 39:6 “Riblah” this was where Nebuchadnezzar's main expeditionary military camp was located. It is about fifty miles north of Damascus.

Jeremiah 39:8 “the houses of the people” The Masoretic Text is SINGULAR (UBS Text Project gives it a B rating) and, therefore, could mean (1) meeting hall, (2) the Temple, or (3) following the Talmud, the main synagogue.

However, Kimchi, a Jewish exegete of the Middle Ages, translates this phrase, “the peoples' houses” (cf. 2 Kings 25:9). This translation has influenced all English translations.

“broke down the walls of Jerusalem” When limestone is exposed to high heat it loses its strength and cannot be reused for construction. The walls themselves were pulled down (BDB 683, KB 736, Qal PERFECT) the slopes so that it would be very difficult to raise them.

Jerusalem was totally destroyed and left uninhabited and uninhabitable!

Jeremiah 39:9 “Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard” It is uncertain whether this title (BDB 913 II CONSTRUCT 371, literally “the chief slaughterer”) refers to an executioner or the chief cook.

It is uncertain how many groups of people are exiled. There are two other groups.

1. those left in the city

2. those who deserted

There is either a repeated reference to #1 or a third group which the NJB and REB identify as “artisans,” which involves an emendation of the MT, but fits with the parallel of Jeremiah 52:15.

Jeremiah 39:10 One way for the Babylonians to leave a loyal people who paid taxes was to give the land to those who had nothing (i.e., the poor of the countryside). None of them were owners nor producers!

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 39:11-14 11Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, saying, 12”Take him and look after him, and do nothing harmful to him, but rather deal with him just as he tells you.” 13So Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard sent word, along with Nebushazban the Rab-saris, and Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, and all the leading officers of the king of Babylon; 14they even sent and took Jeremiah out of the court of the guardhouse and entrusted him to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him home. So he stayed among the people.

Jeremiah 39:11-14 Jeremiah 40:1-6 seems to be a different account of the same event (similar to chapters 37 and 38). Some have asserted that these are in sequential order and others see two different accounts of the same event. At this point we just do not know. Moderns tend to read ancient literature through the filter of their own culture and era.

Jeremiah 39:12 Nebuchadnezzar must have heard about Jeremiah's prophetic message from

1. Daniel

2. Jewish deserters

3. spies in the city

He gives several orders.

1. take him - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE (meaning “locate him”)

2. look after - BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. do nothing harmful to him - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal JUSSIVE

4. deal with him just as he tells you - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE

Jeremiah 39:14 “Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam” Later Gedaliah became the Babylonian governor of Judah (cf. Jeremiah 40:7). He was not of the lineage of David. His father had been friendly to Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 26:24; 2 Kings 22:12-14).

“take him home” At this point Gedaliah chose the city of Mizpah (cf. Jeremiah 40:8) to be his headquarters. Mizpah means “watchtower” and there were many towns by this name in Palestine.

Verses 15-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 39:15-18 15Now the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was confined in the court of the guardhouse, saying, 16”Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am about to bring My words on this city for disaster and not for prosperity; and they will take place before you on that day. 17But I will deliver you on that day,” declares the LORD, “and you will not be given into the hand of the men whom you dread. 18For I will certainly rescue you, and you will not fall by the sword; but you will have your own life as booty, because you have trusted in Me,” declares the LORD.'“

Jeremiah 39:15-18 YHWH's gracious attitude and actions toward Ebed-melech are because of his kind treatment and intercession on behalf of His prophet, Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 38:7-13).

Jeremiah 39:17 “I will deliver you” This VERB (BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil PERFECT) is a promise that YHWH will deal kindly and with special protection to this foreigner (non-Jew). In Jeremiah 39:18 he is said to have trust (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal PERFECT) in YHWH (cf. Jeremiah 17:7, Jeremiah 17:8).

Jeremiah 39:18 “I will certainly rescue you” This is a literary parallel to Jeremiah 39:17. The VERB (BDB 572, KB 589) is intensified by the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and the IMPERFECT VERB of the same root.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 39". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-39.html. 2021.
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