PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT OF THE FALL OF JERUSALEM VINDICATES THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD AND THE ACCURATE PREDICTIONS OF JEREMIAH
This final chapter of the book of Jeremiah is apparently appended by another editor. Jeremiah’s own lament over the sad plight of God’s Holy City will be recorded next in the book of Lamentations. But here we see the unvarnished historical record of what actually happened to the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants as viewed against the backdrop of the unpopular prophecies uttered by God’s faithful mouthpiece. The sovereignty of God and divine accountability will not allow for God’s elect nation to escape her deserved punishment – even at the hands of such a pagan world power as Babylon.
Longman: By placing the description of the fall of Jerusalem after the oracles against the foreign nations and as last in the canonical book, the editor reminds the reader of what is of first order importance in the book. Yes, Babylon and the other foreign nations will get what they deserve, but Judah deserves its punishment as well. The description of the fall of Jerusalem also is a way of showing how Jeremiah’s earlier prophetic words did come to pass. It is Jeremiah not the false prophets who spoke the truth.
Ryken: The scribe who wrote the epilogue to Jeremiah had a historian’s eye for detail. He did not shed any tears for Jerusalem. He simply reported how the city was captured. He did not tell how he felt – he just told what happened. His report was that when Jerusalem fell in the year 586 B.C., it was dethroned (52:1-11), demolished (vv. 12-16), desecrated (vv. 17-23), and depopulated (vv. 24-30).
PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT OF THE FALL OF JERUSALEM VINDICATES THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD AND THE ACCURATE PREDICTIONS OF JEREMIAH
I. (:1-27) ZEDEKIAH’S AND JERUSALEM’S SUBJUGATION TO BABYLON – JEREMIAH’S PROPHECIES WERE FULFILLED
A. (:1-11) Jerusalem Dethroned
1. (:1-3) Rebellion of Evil King Zedekiah
a. (:1) Introduction to Zedekiah
“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.”
This is a different Jeremiah than the author of the book.
Constable: Zedekiah (Mattaniah, 2 Kings 24:17) was the last king of the Davidic dynasty to rule over Judah from Jerusalem. He was 21 years old when he began reigning in 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar selected him to rule after Zedekiah’s nephew Jehoiachin proved unfaithful (2 Kings 24:17). Zedekiah ruled as Nebuchadnezzar’s vassal for 11 years, until the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. His mother, the queen mother, was Hamutal, the daughter of a certain Jeremiah of Libnah. “Queen mothers” exercised considerable authority, and enjoyed great prestige in ancient Near Eastern countries, which accounts for Hamutal’s mention here (cf. Jeremiah 13:18).
b. (:2) Characterization of Zedekiah
“He did evil in the sight of the LORD like all that Jehoiakim had done.”
c. (:3a) Divine Reaction
“For through the anger of the LORD this came about in Jerusalem and Judah until He cast them out from His presence.”
d. (:3b) Political Suicide
“And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”
Constable: The Lord brought hardships on Judah and Jerusalem – during Jehoiakim’s evil reign, because of Judah’s iniquity – until He sent the king out of His presence into Babylon (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:3). To compound Judah’s troubles further, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar sometime before 588 B.C, the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign (2 Kings 24:20). Because God wanted Zedekiah to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah’s rebellion was more significantly against Yahweh.
Longman: The text abruptly and briefly announces that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. This certainly entailed the cessation of tribute payments and perhaps the expulsion of Babylonian agents in Jerusalem, but we are not told this explicitly. Nor are we told why Zedekiah rebelled. Something must have signaled to him that it was possible to succeed in such a rebellion, but we are not told what that was.
2. (:4-5) Reaction From King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
“Now it came about in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it and built a siege wall all around it. So the city was under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.”
MacArthur: This narrative rehearses the account of the fall of Jerusalem. So crucial was this event that the OT records it 4 times (see also 39:1-14; 2Ki 25; 2Ch 36:11-21).
Thompson: Such works included siege walls, encampments, engines of war like battering rams, and mobile towers from which missiles or burning tar could be hurled.
3. (:6-7) Retreat After Defeat
a. (:6) Severe Famine
“On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.”
b. (:7) Stronghold Broken
“Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled and went forth from the city at night by way of the gate between the two walls which was by the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah.”
4. (:8-11) Retribution Against Zedekiah
a. (:8-9) Pursuit and Capture of Zedekiah
“But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him.”
Byron Chesney: Nebuchadnezzar had invaded the king’s palace and taken his sons as prisoners. Zedekiah is only 32 years old at this time so his sons would have been very young, some may have been infants. He had to stand there and watch as Nebuchadnezzar put all of his sons and princes to death. What a horrible thing.
b. (:10-11) Punishment of Zedekiah and the Royal Family
“The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and he also slaughtered all the princes of Judah in Riblah. Then he blinded the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon and put him in prison until the day of his death.”
B. (:12-16) Jerusalem Demolished
1. (:12) Captain of the Babylonian Invading Forces Introduced
“Now on the tenth day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who was in the service of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.”
Byron Chesney: We are told again about Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard for the Chaldean Army. He was Nebuchadnezzar’s chief executioner. I affectionately nick-named him “The Butcher of Babylon.” He, along with his army of soldiers, went on a rampage of mayhem, murder, and madness. They resorted to one of the greatest weapons of all time, Fire. Fire is a destroyer. What it doesn’t burn down it turns black and unusable. That was the whole intention of the Chaldeans, to render Jerusalem unusable.
2. (:13-14) Campaigns of Destruction Against the Temple and the City
a. (:13) Burning Campaign
“He burned the house of the LORD, the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every large house he burned with fire.”
b. (:14) Demolition Campaign
“So all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.”
3. (:15-16) Commandeering of the Refugees
a. (:15) Some Taken Into Exile
“Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away into exile some of the poorest of the people, the rest of the people who were left in the city, the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the artisans.”
b. (:16) Some Left to Work the Land
“But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.”
C. (:17-23) Jerusalem Desecrated
1. (:17-19) Pillaging the Temple
a. (:17) Bronze Pillars
“Now the bronze pillars which belonged to the house of the LORD and the stands and the bronze sea, which were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried all their bronze to Babylon.”
Byron Chesney: You can’t imagine what this must have been like for the Jews to witness. The Temple is the holiest of all places on earth. These pagan Gentiles were defiling the Temple just by being in it. They displayed utter contempt for the Jews by destroying and stealing the things out of the Temple of God.
b. (:18) Bronze Vessels
“They also took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the basins, the pans and all the bronze vessels which were used in temple service.”
Constable: The Chaldeans broke up and took to Babylon the bronze pillars at the entrance to the temple (1 Kings 7:15-22), the wheeled stands for the priests to wash their tools in (1 Kings 7:27-36), the sea (reservoir) for the water in the courtyard with which the priests washed themselves (1 Kings 7:23-26; 2 Chronicles 4:6), and the utensils used in the temple service (1 Kings 7:40; 1 Kings 7:45). The sea was about 15 feet in diameter, seven and a half feet high, and three inches thick. The wheeled stands and their bowls carried about 104 gallons of water each. Thus the amount of bronze in these items was considerable.
c. (:19) Gold and Silver Items
“The captain of the guard also took away the bowls, the firepans, the basins, the pots, the lampstands, the pans and the drink offering bowls, what was fine gold and what was fine silver.”
Constable: Jeremiah had predicted that the Babylonians would take the remaining furnishings in the temple to Babylon (Jeremiah 27:19-22), but the false prophet Hananiah had promised that the furnishings already taken would be returned (Jeremiah 28:3). Jeremiah was right.
2. (:20-23) Pilfering Huge Bronze Items of Special Significance
a. (:20) Pillars and Bronze Bulls
“The two pillars, the one sea, and the twelve bronze bulls that were under the sea, and the stands, which King Solomon had made for the house of the LORD—the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight.”
b. (:21-23) Pomegranates
“As for the pillars, the height of each pillar was eighteen cubits, and it was twelve cubits in circumference and four fingers in thickness, and hollow. Now a capital of bronze was on it; and the height of each capital was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the capital all around, all of bronze. And the second pillar was like these, including pomegranates. There were ninety-six exposed pomegranates; all the pomegranates numbered a hundred on the network all around.”
D. (:24-30) Jerusalem Depopulated
1. (:24-27) Key Officials Exiled and Executed
a. (:24) Priests and Temple Officials Targeted
“Then the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest, with the three officers of the temple.”
b. (:25) Military and Political Officials Targeted
“He also took from the city one official who was overseer of the men of war, and seven of the king’s advisers who were found in the city, and the scribe of the commander of the army who mustered the people of the land, and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the midst of the city.”
c. (:26) Destination = Riblah
“Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.”
d. (:27) Death by Execution
“Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was led away into exile from its land.”
MacArthur: Babylon executed some Judean leaders as an act of power, of resentment over the 18 month resistance (cf. 52:4-6), and of intimidation to prevent future plots.
2. (:28-30) Numbering of the Exiles in 3 Stages of Deportation
“These are the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away into exile:
in the seventh year 3,023 Jews;
in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar 832 persons from Jerusalem;
in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile 745 Jewish people;
there were 4,600 persons in all.”
Parunak: These numbers cannot represent the main body of the people. 2 Kings 24:12ff shows that 10K were taken captive with J’chin alone, and the writer here, quoting adjacent parts of 2 Kings 24, can hardly be ignorant of these numbers. Perhaps the reference is to adult men here, and total population in 2 Kings.
II. (:31-34) JEHOIACHIN’S FAVORABLE TREATMENT IN BABYLON –
HOPE REMAINS FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
Constable: This section is an almost verbatim repetition of 2 Kings 25:27-30. It closes the book on a note of hope.
Thompson: There is considerable theological significance in these four verses. The fact that Jehoiachin lived on long after the exile and that he was finally released from prison may have seemed like the first signs of the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s promise of a day of restoration. To the last, the future of Israel is seen as lying with the exiles in Babylon and not with those in Egypt or in their old homeland.
A. (:31) Prison Release
“Now it came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, showed favor to Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison.”
Kidner: The disproportion between three months and thirty-seven years highlights the injustice of a system that fails to respect the biblical criteria: first the factual, retrospective proviso, “If it is true and certain that such . . . has been done”, and secondly the retributive principle, “if the guilty man deserves . . .”
B. (:32) Power Respected
“Then he spoke kindly to him and set his throne above the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon.”
C. (:33-34) Provision Received
1. (:33) Royal Treatment
“So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and had his meals in the king’s presence regularly all the days of his life.”
Adam Clarke: That is, Jehoiachin changed his own garments, that he might be suited in that respect to the state of his elevation. Kings also, in token of favor, gave caftans or robes to those whom they wish to honor.
2. (:34) Daily Allowance
“For his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king of Babylon, a daily portion all the days of his life until the day of his death.”
Kidner: So the historical appendix to the book is not the anticlimax that it might have seemed to be. Its tragic record shows the sober truth of Jeremiah’s warnings, proving them to be anything but the “jeremiads” of a pessimist. But the closing paragraph, too, bears out his message, which looked beyond captivity to restoration, of which this royal gesture was a divinely prompted foretaste.