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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Jeremiah Chapter 52


jer 52:0

Historical Account of the Capture and Destruction of Jerusalem, the Fate of Zedekiah and the People, and the Liberation of Jehoiachin from Imprisonment

By the closing formula, Jer 51:64, the contents of Jer 52 are separated from, and marked as an appendix to, the prophecies of Jeremiah; yet nothing is said regarding the author of this chapter. However, if we keep in mind the nature of its contents, then, from the very fact that it gives an account of the liberation of King Jehoiachin from prison, and of his elevation to royal honours, it necessarily follows that it cannot have been composed by Jeremiah, because the prophet can scarcely have lived till this occurred, which was less than 561 b.c. It must further be considered that the contents of this chapter also agree, almost word for word, with Kg2 24:18 -25, 30; moreover, the introductory notice regarding Zedekiah's ascension of the throne, his age, and the character of his rule, given Jer 52:1-3, was unnecessary for the object of this appendix. The same holds true of the notice regarding the liberation of Jehoiachin from prison, at the close, Jer 52:31-34, which does not seem to stand in any close and intimate connection with the history of the destruction of Jerusalem and the fate of Zedekiah, while both of these events are closely connected with the plan and aim of the Books of Kings, and are written quite in their spirit. On these grounds, most expositors, both ancient and modern, assume that this historical appendix to the prophecies of Jeremiah has been derived from the Second Book of Kings. But weighty reasons oppose this assumption. (1.) The very fact that the name of the king of Babylon is throughout written Nebuchadrezzar makes it unlikely that the narrative was derived from Kg2 24:18., because the name is there constantly written Nebuchadnezzar, - a form which also occurs in Jeremiah, though not often (see pp. 245f., note). (2.) This chapter contains notices which are not found in 2 Kings 24 and 25. Thus, it is stated, in Jer 52:10, the Nebuchadnezzar also caused all the princes of Judah to be executed at Riblah, and King Zedekiah, who had been carried to Babylon, to be put in prison till his death; in Jer 52:19-23 we find a whole series of special remarks as to the vessels of the temple and the ornaments of the brazen pillars, - observations which are not met with either in 2 Kings, or in the description of the building of the temple, 1 Kings 7. We further find, in Jer 52:28-30, a notice regarding three deportations of the people, giving the numbers, not roundly, but precisely, as they are nowhere else given in the historical books of the Old Testament, Were this statement the only additional detail given by this chapter, as compared with 2 Kings, one might perhaps suppose that it was an interpolation from another source, added to the rest of the account that has been derived from 2 Kings 24 and 25; but this opinion, which even in itself is not very probable, is excluded by the other additions found in Jer 52:10 and in 19-23. If the author of this chapter had been able to derive, and had actually derived, these additional particulars from a historical source, treating of the later times of the kingdom of Judah, which has not come down to us, and which contained more than our canonical books of Kings and Chronicles, he would no doubt have also found there the account of the three deportations, and taken it from that source. We must therefore assume that this chapter, and Kg2 24:18 on to Kg2 25:30, have both a common origin, in which the fall of the kingdom of Judah was more fully described than in the historical books of the canon; in this way, the remarkable coincidence, almost word for word, between the narrative portions which are common to the two extracts, is accounted for quite as easily as the differences that have just been mentioned. From a critical examination of the state of both texts now before us, no certain conclusions can be drawn regarding their mutual relation. The differences of this kind arise partly from errors and omissions by later copyists, partly also from the circumstance that the epitomizers have not throughout kept rigorously to the words of their source. Regarding the author of the original written document, we cannot even make any supposition that could pretend to anything like probability. Baruch, as the editor of the collection of Jeremiah's prophecies, may have made the extract from it which we find in this chapter. We have already, in substance, given the exposition while treating of Kg2 24:18., so that we may here content ourselves with briefly putting together the deviations of this text from the other, and explaining its peculiarities.

Jeremiah 52:1

jer 52:1

Fate of King Zedekiah at the taking of Jerusalem; cf. Kg2 24:18; Kg2 25:7, and Jer 39:1-7. The statements regarding Zedekiah's ascension and his government, Jer 52:1-3, agree word for word with Kg2 24:18-20, even to the variation השׁליכו, Jer 52:3, for השׁליכו (Kings). The length of the siege of Jerusalem, Jer 52:4-7, and the flight, capture, and condemnation of King Zedekiah and the princes of Judah, Jer 52:7-11, not only agrees with Kg2 25:1-7, but also with Jer 39:1-7, where it is merely the forcible entrance into the city by the Chaldeans that receives special detail; see on Jer 39:3. The variation ויּחנוּ, Jer 52:4, instead of ויּחן (Kg2 25:1), does not affect the sense. As to the account given of the flight, capture, and condemnation of the king, both Jer 39 and 2 Kings omit the notices given in Jer 52:10, "and also all the princes of Judah he caused to be slain (i.e., executed) at Riblah," and in Jer 52:11, "and he put him in the prison-house till the day of his death." בּית־הפּקדּות has been rendered οἰκία μυλῶνος by the lxx; on this fact Hitzig bases the opinion that the Hebrew words signify "the house of punishment," or "the house of correction," in which Zedekiah was obliged to turn the mill like other culprits, and as Samson was once obliged to do (Jdg 16:21). But this meaning of the words cannot be substantiated. פּקדּה means "oversight, mustering, or visitation (Heimsuchung), or vengeance," e.g., Isa 10:3, but not punishment (Strafe), and the plural, "watches" (Eze 9:1) and "custody," Ezek. 54:11; hence the expression used here signifies "the house of custody," or "the house of the watches." The translation of the lxx can decide nothing against this, because their interpretation is based upon traditions which are themselves unfounded. Regarding this, Ewald well remarks (History of the People of Israel, iii. p. 748 of 2nd ed.): "That Zedekiah must have laboured at the mill, as is mentioned in later chronicles (see Aug. Mai, Scriptorum veterum nova collectio, t. i. P. 2, p. 6; cf. Chr. Sam. Ch. xlv.), is probably a mere inference from Lam 5:13."

Jeremiah 52:12

jer 52:12

The destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, and the carrying away of the people, which are only very summarily stated in Jer 39:8-10, are here related in complete accordance with the account given in Kg2 25:8-17. The deviations for the most part originated through the freedom exercised by the epitomizer in his work, or only when mistakes were made by later copyists. The text before us has some amplifications (especially the notices regarding the ornaments of the brazen pillars, Jer 52:23) which are found nowhere else in the Old Testament. The difference in date between Jer 52:12 ("on the tenth of the month") and the passage in Kings ("on the seventh of the month") has arisen through one number having been mistaken for another in copying; it cannot now be decided which is correct; see on Kg2 25:18. As to Nebuzaradan, see on Jer 39:13. Instead of עמד , is found עבד in Kg2 25:8, which certainly is a simpler reading, but one having less appearance of being the original. The only strange point is the want of the relative אשׁר in plain prose before עמד, which is probably to be pointed עמד. בּירוּשׁלים, instead of ירוּשׁלים (Kings), is a pregnant expression for "he came into Jerusalem." - Jer 52:14. From the expression את־כּל־חומות, as given in Jer 52:14, "all" is omitted in Kings, as being not indispensable for the meaning.

Jeremiah 52:15

jer 52:15

The first words, "And of the poor of the people," are wanting in Kings, and have been brought here, through an error on the part of the copyist, from the beginning of the next verse; for "the poor of the people" are first treated of in Jer 52:16, where it is stated that Nebuzaradan left them in the land, while Jer 52:15 treats of those who were carried away to Babylon. The word האמון, instead of ההמון (Kings), seems to have originated simply through the exchange of א for ה, and to mean, like the other, the multitude of people. Hitzig and Graf are of opinion that אמון here, as in Pro 8:30, means workmaster or artificer, and that האמון denotes the same persons (collectively) who are designated החרשׁ והמּסגּר in Pro 24:1; Pro 29:2, and Kg2 24:14. But this view is opposed by the parallel passage, Jer 39:9, where the whole of this verse occurs, and יתר העם הנּשׁארים stands instead of יתר האמון. "The rest of the people of Jerusalem" are divided, by ואת־ואת, into those who went over to the Chaldeans, and the rest of the people who were taken prisoners by the Chaldeans at the capture of the city. The statement that both of these two classes of the population of Jerusalem were carried away to Babylon is so far limited by the further declaration, in Jer 52:16, that Nebuzaradan did not carry away every one, without exception, but let a portion of the humbler inhabitants of the country, who had no property, remain in the land, as vinedressers and husbandmen, that they might till the land. Instead of מדּלּות הארץ there occurs in Kings מדּלּת, and in Jer 39:10, more distinctly, מן העם הדּלּים, "some of the people, the humbler ones," who had no property of their own. דּלּה, pl. דּלּות, is an abstract noun, "poverty;" the singular is used collectively, hence the plural is here used to supply the deficiency. For יגבים, from יגב, to plough, there is found instead, in Kg2 25:12, Kethib גּבים, from גּוּב, with the same meaning.

Jeremiah 52:17

jer 52:17

The carrying away of the vessels of the temple is more fully stated than in Kg2 25:13-17. The large brazen articles, the two pillars at the porch (cf. Kg1 7:15.), the bases (Kg1 7:27.), and the brazen sea (Kg1 7:23.), which were too vast in their proportions to be easily carried away to Babylon, were broken to pieces by the Chaldeans, who carried off the brass of which they were made. אשׁר לבּית is more correct than אשׁר (Kings), and "all their brass" is more precise than simply "their brass" (Kings). In the enumeration of the smaller brazen vessels used for the temple service, Jer 52:18, there is omitted, in 2 Kings, ואת־המּזרקות, "and the bowls" (used in sacrifice); this omission is perhaps due merely to an error in transcription. The enumeration of the gold and silver vessels in Jer 52:19 has been much more abbreviated in Kg2 25:15, where only "the fire-pans and the bowls" are mentioned, while in the text here, besides these there are named "the basons," then "the pots (Eng. vers. caldrons), and the candlesticks, and the pans (Eng. vers. spoons), and the cups." For particulars regarding these different vessels, see on Kg1 7:40, Kg1 7:45, Kg1 7:50. In Jer 52:20, reference is made to the fact that the mass of metal in the vessels that were carried away was without weight. The same is stated in Kg2 25:16, where, however, there is no mention of the twelve brazen bulls; while in the text of Jeremiah, אשׁר תּחת המּכנות is faulty, and we must read instead, אשׁר תּחתּיו והמּכנות. The assertion of Graf, in his commentary on this verse, and of Thenius on Kg2 25:16, - that the notice regarding the twelve brazen bulls is incorrect, because these were then no longer in Jerusalem (27:19), but had previously been removed by Ahaz from under the brazen sea for Tiglath-pileser, - we have already, under Kg2 16:17, shown to be erroneous. The apposition of כּל־הכּלים to לנחשׁתּם explains the reference of the suffix. In Jer 52:21-23, the narrator, in order to call attention to the amount of art exhibited on the vessels destroyed by the Chaldeans, gives a brief description of the brazen pillars with their capitals. This description is much shortened in Kg2 25:17, and contains notices completing that which is given of these works of art in 1 Kings 7. For details, see the passage referred to.

Jeremiah 52:24

jer 52:24

The account given regarding the arrest of the chief officers of the temple and of the city, and concerning their transportation to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar caused them to be executed, agrees with Kg2 25:18-21, except in some unimportant variations, which, however, do not alter the sense; the explanation has been already given in the commentary on that passage. In 2 Kings, the account of the appointment of Gedaliah as the governor of Judah, together with that of his assassination by Ishmael, which follows the narrative just referred to, is here omitted, because the matter has bee already more fully stated in the passage Jer 40:7 on to Jer 43:7, and had no close connection with the object of the present chapter. Instead of this, there follows here, in Jer 52:28-30 (as a continuation of the remark made, Jer 52:27, "Thus was Judah carried away captive out of his own land"), a calculation of the number of the Jews taken to Babylon at the three deportations: in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, 3023 Jews; in the eighteenth year, 832 souls from Jerusalem; and in the twenty-third year, 745 souls, - in all, 4600 persons. The correctness of these data is vouched for by the exactness of the separate numbers, and the agreement of the sum with the individual items. In other respects, however, they present various difficulties. There is, first, the chronological discrepancy that the second deportation is here placed in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, in contradiction with Jer 52:12, according to which, the deportation after the taking of Jerusalem occurred in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar; and 832 souls could not well be carried out of Jerusalem during the siege. This difference can be settled only by assuming that this list of deportations was derived from another source than the preceding notice regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, in which the years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign were reckoned in some other way than elsewhere in Jeremiah and in the books of Kings, probably from the date of the actual commencement of his reign, which followed a year after he first appeared in Judah, from which his reign is dated elsewhere; see Comm. on Daniel at Dan 1:1. According to this mode of computation, the seventh year would correspond to the eighth of the common reckoning, and be the year in which Jehoiachin was carried away to Babylon, together with a large number of the people. But this does not agree with 3023, which is given as the number of those who were carried away; for, at that time, according to Kg2 24:14, Kg2 24:16, as many as 10,000 Jews, or, according to another view of these verses, even 18,000, were carried away to Babylon. This difference does not permit of being explained in any way. Ewald (History of the People of Israel, iii. p. 738) accordingly assumes that in Jer 52:28, after שׁבע, the word עשׂרה has been omitted, as in Ch2 36:9, where the age of Jehoiachin is given; hence he thinks that, instead of "in the seventh," we must read "in the seventeenth year of Nebuchadnezzar." On such a view, the reference would be to a deportation which took place under Zedekiah, a year before the capture, or during the time of the siege of Jerusalem, and that, too, out of the country districts of Judah in contrast with Jerusalem, Jer 52:29. This supposition is favoured not merely by the small number of those who are said to have been carried away, but also by the context of the narrative, inasmuch as, in what precedes, it is only the capture of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people in Zedekiah's time that is treated of. Ngelsbach has objected to this supposition, that it was not likely the great mass of the people would be carried away during the war, at a time when the approach of the Egyptian army (cf. Jer 37:5) was an object of dread. But the objection does not weaken the supposition, since the former rests on two presuppositions that are quite erroneous: viz., first, that the deportation took place before the defeat of the auxiliary army from Egypt, where as it may have followed that event; and secondly, that the Chaldeans, by keeping the hostile Jews in the country, might have been able to get some assistance against the Egyptian army, whereas, by removing the hostile population of Judah, they would but diminish the number of the enemies with which they had to contend. We therefore regard this conjecture as highly probable, because it is the means of settling all difficulties, and because we can thereby account for the small number of those who were carried away in the deportations during and after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Regarding the third deportation, which was effected by Nebuzaradan (Jer 52:30) in the twenty-third, or, according to another reckoning, in the twenty-fourth year of Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., in the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, we have no other information; for the statement of Josephus, Antt. x. 9. 7, that Nebuchadnezzar made war upon the Ammonites and Moabites in that year, has not been placed beyond a doubt, and is probably a mere inference from this verse, taken in connection with the prophecies in Jer 48 and 49. Yet there is nothing improbable in the statement, viewed by itself. For it must be borne in mind that, after the appointment of Gedaliah as governor, and the departure of the Chaldean hosts, many Jews, who had fled during the war, returned into the country. Hence, in spite of the fact that, after the murder of Gedaliah, a multitude of Jews, fearing the vengeance of the Chaldeans, fled to Egypt, many may have still remained in the country; and many other fugitives may not have returned till afterwards, and given occasion to the Chaldeans for removing other 745 disturbers of the peace to Babylon, four or five years after Jerusalem had been laid in ashes. This deportation may have taken place on the occasion of the subjugation of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Idumeans, or during the war with the Phoenicians, possibly because they had rendered assistance to these nations against the Chaldeans. These verses thus contain nothing to justify the assumption of M. von Niebuhr (Gesch. Assyr. und Babels, S. 58, note) and Ngelsbach, that they are a gloss. The paucity of those who were carried away is not to be attributed to a desire on the part of the writer of this inserted portion to represent the calamity as not so very terrible after all; nor is it due to the substitution of the number of the Levites for that of the entire people, - two wholly arbitrary assumptions: it is completely explained by a consideration of the historical circumstances. The best of the population of Judah had already been carried away, and Zedekiah and his counsellors must have said to themselves, when they rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, that the latter would not spare this time; thus they must have defended themselves to the utmost, as is shown by the very fact that the siege of Jerusalem lasted eighteen months. In this manner, war, pestilence, and famine carried off a great number of the population of Jerusalem; so that, of men who were able-bodied and fit for war, and who could be carried into exile, not more than 4600 fell into the hands of the Chaldeans. During the war, also, many had concealed themselves in inaccessible places, while the lowest of the people were left behind in the country to cultivate the fields. Still more strange might appear the circumstance that the sum-total of those who were carried away to Babylon, viz., 10,000 with Jehoiachin, and 4600 under Zedekiah, - 14, 600 in all, - is evidently disproportionate to the number of those who returned to Jerusalem and Judah under Zerubbabel, which number is given in Ezr 2:64 at 42, 360, exclusive of men and maid servants. For this reason, Graf is of opinion that still later deportations may have taken place, of which no mention is made anywhere. This assumption, however, has little probability. On the other hand, we must consider these points: (1.) In the accounts given of those who were carried away, only full-grown and independent persons of the male sex are reckoned, while, along with fathers, both their wives and their children went into exile. (2.) Even so early as the first capture of Jerusalem in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, a number of prisoners of war, perhaps not inconsiderable, came to Babylon; these might unite with the thousands of their brethren who were carried thither at a later period. (3.) When the exiles had settled down in Babylon, and there found not only a means of livelihood, but even in many instances, as is clear from several intimations, attained to opulence as citizens, many, even of those who had been left in the country, may have gone to Babylon, in the hope of finding there greater prosperity than in Judah, now laid waste and depopulated by war. (4.) From the time when the 10,000 were carried away with Jehoiachin, in the year 599 b.c., till the return under Zerubbabel, 536 b.c., 63 years, i.e., nearly two generations, had passed, during which the exiles might largely increase in numbers. If we take all these elements into consideration, then, in the simple fact that the number of those who returned amounts to nearly three times the numbers of those given as having been carried away under Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, we cannot find such a difficulty as entitles us to doubt the correctness of the numbers handed down to us.

Jeremiah 52:31

jer 52:31

The closing portion of this chapter, viz., the notice regarding the liberation of Jehoiachin from imprisonment, ad his elevation to royal honours by Evil-merodach after Nebuchadnezzar's death, substantially agrees with the account given of that even in Kg2 25:27-30. The difference of date, "on the twenty-fifth of the month" (Jer 52:31), and "on the twenty-seventh of the month" in 2 Kings, has arisen through the entrance of a clerical error into one text or the other. The few remaining variations of the two texts have no influence on the meaning. As to the fact itself, and its importance for the people languishing in exile, we may refer to the explanation given at Kg2 25:27.

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