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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.
In the ninth year ... - As the final catastrophe approaches, the historian becomes more close and exact in his dates, marking not only the year, but the month and the day, on which the siege began, no less than those on which it closed 2 Kings 25:3. From Ezekiel 24:1 we find that on the very day when the host of Nebuchadnezzar made its appearance before Jerusalem the fact was revealed to Ezekiel in Babylonia, and the fate of the city announced to him Ezekiel 24:6-14. The army seems to have at first spread itself over all Judaea. It fought, not only against Jerusalem, but especially against Lachish and Azekah Jeremiah 34:7, two cities of the south 2 Chronicles 11:9, which had probably been strongly garrisoned in order to maintain the communication with Egypt. This division of the Babylonian forces encouraged Hophra to put his troops in motion and advance to the relief of his Jewish allies Jeremiah 37:5. On hearing this, Nebuchadnezzar broke up from before Jerusalem and marched probably to Azekah and Lachish. The Egyptians shrank back, returned into their own country Jeremiah 37:7; Ezekiel 17:17, and took no further part in the war. Nebuchadnezzar then led back his army, and once more invested the city. (It is uncertain whether the date at the beginning of this verse refers to the first or to the second investment.)
Forts - Probably moveable towers, sometimes provided with battering-rams, which the besiegers advanced against the walls, thus bringing their fighting men on a level with their antagonists. Such towers are seen in the Assyrian sculptures.
2And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.
The siege lasted almost exactly a year and a half. Its calamities - famine, pestilence, and intense suffering - are best understood from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, written probably almost immediately after the capture.
3And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.
4And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.
The city was broken up - Rather, "broken into," i. e., A breach was made about midnight in the northern wall Ezekiel 9:2, and an entry effected into the second or lower city (see the 2 Kings 22:14 note), which was protected by the wall of Manasseh 2 Chronicles 33:14.
Precipitate flight followed on the advance of the Babylonians to the "middle gate," or gate of communication between the upper and the lower cities. This position was only a little north of the royal palace, which the king therefore quitted. He escaped by the royal garden at the junction of the Hinnom and Kidron valleys, passing between the two walls which skirted on either side the valley of the Tyropoeon.
Toward the plain - "The Arabah" or the great depression which bounds Palestine Proper on the east (Numbers 21:4 note). The "way toward the Arabah" is here the road leading eastward over Olivet to Bethany and Jericho.
5And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.
Jeremiah Jer 38:23 and Ezekiel EZechariah 12:13 had prophesied this capture; and the latter had also prophesied the dispersion of the troops 2 Kings 25:14.
6So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.
To Riblah - See 2 Kings 23:33 note. A position from where Nebuchadnezzar could most conveniently superintend the operations against Tyre and Jerusalem. In the absence of the monarch, the siege of Jerusalem was conducted by a number of his officers, the chief of whom were Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard, and Nergal-shar-ezer (Neriglissar), the Rab-mag Jeremiah 39:3, Jeremiah 39:13.
7And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.
Before his eyes - This refinement of cruelty seems to have especially shocked the Jews, whose manners were less barbarous than those of most Orientals. It is noted by Jeremiah in two places Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:10.
And put out the eyes of Zedekiah - Blinding has always been among the most common of secondary punishments in the East (compare Judges 16:2 l). The blinding of Zedekiah reconciled in a very remarkable way prophecies, apparently contradictory, which had been made concerning him. Jeremiah had prophesied distinctly that he would be carried to Babylon Jeremiah 32:5; Jeremiah 34:3. Ezekiel had said that he should not "see Babylon" Ezekiel 12:13. His deprivation of sight before he was carried to the conqueror's capital fulfilled the predictions of both prophets.
With fetters of brass - literally, (see Jeremiah 39:7 margin), "with two chains of brass." The Assyrians' captives are usually represented as bound hand and foot - the two hands secured by one chain, the two feet by another. According to Jewish tradition Zedekiah was, like other slaves, forced to work in a mill at Babylon. Jeremiah tells us that he was kept in prison until he died Jeremiah 52:11.
8And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:
The nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar - 586 B.C., if we count from the real date of his accession (604 B.C.); but 587 B.C., if, with the Jews, we regard him as beginning to reign when he was sent by his father to recover Syria and gained the battle of Carchemish (in 605 B.C.).
Captain of the guard - literally, "the chief of the executioners" Genesis 37:36.
9And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire.
He burnt the house of the Lord - Compare the prophecies of Jeremiah Jer 21:10; Jeremiah 34:2; Jeremiah 38:18, Jeremiah 38:23. Psalm 79:1-13 is thought to have been written soon after this destruction of the temple.
10And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.
11Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.
The fugitives ... - It was from a fear of the treatment which he would receive at the hands of these deserters that Zedekiah persisted in defending the city to the last Jeremiah 38:19.
12But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.
There was probably an intention of seating colonists into the country from some other part of the Empire, as the Assyrians had done in Samaria 2 Kings 17:24.
13And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brasen sea that was in the house of the LORD, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon.
The pillars of brass ... - All the more precious treasures had been already removed from the temple 2 Kings 24:13. But there still remained many things, the list of which is given in Jeremiah 52:17-23 much more fully than in this place. Objects in brass, or rather bronze, were frequently carried off by the Assyrians from the conquered nations. Bronze was highly valued, being the chief material both for arms and implements. The breaking up of the pillars, bases, etc., shows that it was for the material, and not for the workmanship, that they were valued. On the various articles consult the marginal references.
14And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.
15And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away.
16The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD; the brass of all these vessels was without weight.
Without weight - The Babylonians did not take the trouble to weigh the brass as they did the gold and silver. In the Assyrian monuments there are representations of the weighing of captured articles in gold and silver in the presence of the royal scribes.
17The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter upon it was brass: and the height of the chapiter three cubits; and the wreathen work, and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of brass: and like unto these had the second pillar with wreathen work.
Compare with this description the accounts in marginal references. The height of the capital ("three cubits") must be corrected, in accordance with those passages, to "five cubits."
18And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door:
It devolved on Nebuzaradan to select for exemplary punishment the persons whom he regarded as most guilty, either in respect of the original rebellion or of the protracted resistance. Instead of taking indiscriminately the first comers, he first selected those who by their offices would be likely to have had most authority - the high priest; the second priest (2 Kings 23:4 note); three of the temple Levites; the commandant of the city; five members of the king's Privy Council (or seven, see 2 Kings 25:19 note); and the secretary (or adjutant) of the captain of the host. To these he added sixty others, who were accounted "princes." Compared with the many occasions on which Assyrian and Persian conquerers put to death hundreds or thousands after taking a revolted town, Nebuzaradan (and Nebuchadnezzar) must be regarded as moderate, or even merciful, in their vengeance. Compare Jeremiah 40:2-5.
The three keepers of the door - Rather, "three keepers." The Hebrew has no article. The temple "door-keepers" in the time of Solomon numbered twenty-four 1 Chronicles 26:17-18, who were probably under six chiefs. After the captivity the chiefs are either six Ezra 2:42; Nehemiah 7:45 or four 1 Chronicles 9:17.
19And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king's presence, which were found in the city, and the principal scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city:
Out of the city - This clause shows that the five persons mentioned in 2 Kings 25:18 were taken out of the temple.
Five men - Or, "seven men," according to Jeremiah 52:25. It is impossible to say which of the two numbers is correct.
Of them that were in the king's presence - See the margin. A mode of speech arising from the custom of Eastern rulers to withdraw themselves as much as possible from the view of their subjects.
20And Nebuzaradan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah:
21And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.
So Judah was carried away - The kingdom of the two tribes was at an end; and the task of the historian might seem to be accomplished. He still, however, desires to notice two things:
(1) the fate of the remnant 2 Kings 25:22-26 left in the land by Nebuzaradan; and
(2) the fate of Johoiachin, who, of all those led into captivity, was the least to blame 2 Kings 25:27-30.
22And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.
We may be allowed to conjecture that Jeremiah, in gratitude for Ahikam's service to himself Jeremiah 26:24, recommended his son Gedaliah to Nebuzaradan, and through him to Nebuchadnezzar, for the office of governor.
23And when all the captains of the armies, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, there came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Careah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.
The captains of the armies - i. e., the officers of the troops who had fled from Jerusalem with Zedekiah 2 Kings 25:4, and had then dispersed and gone into hiding 2 Kings 25:5.
For Mizpah, see Joshua 18:26 note.
The Netophathite - Netophah, the city of Ephai (compare Jeremiah 40:8), appears to have been in the neighborhood of Bethlehem Nehemiah 7:26; Ezra 2:21-22. The name is perhaps continued in the modern Antubeh, about 2 12 miles S. S. E. of Jerusalem.
A Maachathite - Maachah lay in the stony country east of the upper Jordan, bordering upon Bashan Deuteronomy 3:14.
24And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you.
As rebels against the Babylonian king, their lives were forfeit. Gedaliah pledged himself to them by oath, that, if they gave no further cause of complaint, their past offences should be forgiven.
25But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah.
Jeremiah gives this history with much fullness of detail Jeremiah 41-43.
26And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies, arose, and came to Egypt: for they were afraid of the Chaldees.
27And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison;
The captivity of Jehoiachin commenced in the year 597 B.C. - the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar. It terminated 561 B.C. - the first year of Evil-merodach, the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar. He reigned only two years, being murdered by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar, or Nergal-shar-ezer. He is said to have provoked his fate by lawless government and intemperance.
28And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon;
The kings that were with him - Probably captive kings, like Jehoiachin himself. Compare Judges 1:7.
29And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.
Evil-merodach gave him garments befitting his rank. To dress a man suitably to his position was the first thought of an Oriental Genesis 41:42; Esther 8:15; Daniel 5:29; Luke 15:22. So again, Oriental kings regarded it as a part of their greatness to feed daily a vast multitude of persons at their courts (see 1 Kings 4:22-23). Of these, as here, a certain number had the special privilege of sitting actually at the royal board, while the others ate separately, generally at a lower level. See Judges 1:7; 2 Samuel 9:13; 1 Kings 2:7; Psalm 41:9.
30And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.
Allowance - From the treasury, in order to enable him to maintain the state proper to his rank, and in addition to his food at the royal table. Jehoiachin, to the day of his death, lived in peace and comfort at the court of Babylon (compare Jeremiah 52:34).