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A HISTORICAL RECORD OF JEREMIAH'S PROPHECIES FULFILLED
This chapter is usually styled "Historical Appendix"; but its obvious application to the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecies suggests the title we have given it.
Although many writers speak of this chapter's being a copy of 2 Kings 24:18--25:30,F1 this is true only of certain verses in this chapter. The chapter does apparently quote from 2 Kings, "but with a very significant omission (regarding events leading to the assassination of Gedaliah as given in 2 Kings 25:22-26), and a very significant addition in @@vv. 28-30 where is found material given nowhere else in the Bible."F2
The appearance here of unique material, along with some variations from the account in 2 Kings, including a variant spelling of the name of Nebuchadnezzar, led Keil to the conclusion that both of the accounts in 2 Kings and in this last chapter of Jeremiah, "Have a common origin in which the fall of the Kingdom of Judah was more fully described than in the historical books of the canon."F3
To this writer, it appears that the principal reason for including this chapter from a source independent of Jeremiah was for the specific purpose of demonstrating historically the fulfillment of his marvelous prophecies. It has also been suggested that another reason could reside in the note of hope injected into the final verses regarding the restoration of Jehoiachin to his royal status under the house-arrest of Judah's last king, but as an honored guest at the table of the king of Babylon. The captives might have received that dramatic change in the status of their former king as a good omen related to the end of their captivity and their return to Judah.
There are five things treated in this chapter: (1) Jerusalem falls, and Zedekiah is captured (Jeremiah 52:1-16); (2) the Temple is despoiled (Jeremiah 52:17-23); (3) Zedekiah's advisors were executed (Jeremiah 52:24-27); (4) the three deportations of the Jews are related (Jeremiah 52:28-30); and (5) the record of Jehoiachin's kind treatment by the new king of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31-34).
THE FALL OF JERUSALEM AND THE CAPTURE OF IT AND ZEDEKIAH
Through the anger of Jehovah it came to pass
(Jeremiah 52:3). Some have complained that this makes it appear that the anger of Jehovah caused Judah's rebellion; whereas, on the other hand, it was the result of it. Such complaints fail to notice the meaning of through the anger of Jehovah, which does not mean because of his anger, but is a reference to the fact that through (during) the anger of Jehovah, as revealed by the prophet Jeremiah, and in spite of his repeated warnings against it, they went right on stubbornly in their rebellion.
Practically all of this passage, although somewhat abbreviated, is found in Jer. 39:1-9. See comments there. The instructions of Nebuchadnezzar for Jeremiah's safety (Jer. 39:11f) are omitted here.
In prison till the day of his death
(Jer. 52:11b). This note regarding Zedekiah's imprisonment till death is found nowhere else in the Bible.F4
The nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar
(Jeremiah 52:12). This same occasion is called the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar in Jer. 52:29. One mode or reckoning counted the year of accession to the throne, and the other did not. There is no contradiction.F5
THE TEMPLE WAS LOOTED AND TOTALLY DESTROYED
That which was of gold, in gold. of silver, in silver
(Jeremiah 52:19). This means that all the vessels made of silver or gold were melted down and carried away as precious metal.
The brass. was without weight ..
(Jeremiah 52:20). It was simply too heavy, and there was too much of it to be weighed. There were no scales in that day adequate for such a task as weighing many tons of brass.
The significance of this paragraph is seen in the light of Jeremiah's words in Jer. 27:16-22. In that passage, Jeremiah specifically named many of the things mentioned here, stating that they would all indeed be carried to Babylon. Practically everything in this chapter has the utility of listing the events that fulfilled Jeremiah's prophecies to the letter.
"Ornaments of the brazen pillars (Jeremiah 52:23) are listed nowhere else in the Old Testament."F6
ZEDEKIAH'S ADVISORS EXECUTED
This paragraph deals with the execution of the priests, that is, the false priests who had pressured Zedekiah into rebellion against Babylon, threatening death to Jeremiah who opposed their views. Those wicked priests dominate this list. The high priest, his deputy, and the three keepers of the threshold in the temple were included.
The other important officers mentioned here were presumed to have been responsible either for urging or approving the king's rebellious behavior.
The people of the land
(Jeremiah 52:25). By the fact of their being in the midst of the city, probably in some of those great houses' they burned, suggests that these were the wealthy aristocrats who had sided with the king in his rebellion. If that was not the case, these were executed merely as reprisals against Jerusalem.
The king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death
(Jeremiah 52:27). This indicates that the men mentioned here were first beaten without mercy, and then executed. Such was Babylonian justice.
THREE DEPORTATIONS OF JEWS TO BABYLON
Green dated the three deportations mentioned here as having happened in 597 B.C., 587 B.C., and 582 B.C.F7 Cawley and Millard dated them in "597 B.C., 586 B.C., and in 581 B.C."F8
The astounding thing about these numbers is that some 40,000 or more returned to Judah after the seventy year exile ended; and according to Josephus they left many times that number in Babylon. Were all those Jews, some seventy years later, descended from the relatively small number recorded here? Cawley and Millard, as well as other scholars, suppose that, "Only men who were heads of families"F9 were counted in this enumeration.
Besides that, many of the Jews scattered throughout Palestine by the military action would have, after the war, found their way to Babylon, where they could again be united with their people. Remember that Jerusalem had been effectively wiped out as a suitable place to live. There can hardly be any doubt that, "The total number of the exiles was far higher"F10 than the totals given here.
There is also another explanation of the low numbers of exiles mentioned here, an explanation sanctioned both by Keil and by Dummelow. It concerns the term "seventh" year of Nebuchadrezzar. Robinson and Dummelow both believed that this word is "seventeenth," not "seventh," requiring the understanding that those deportations on the seventeenth and eighteenth years in succession actually refer to the single deportation dated in 587/586 B.C. For technical reasons for this understanding of "seventh," see comments of those scholars.F11 Of course, Hyatt and other liberal scholars would like to keep the number at "seventh" because it poses a "contradiction" with "the ten thousand" deportees mentioned in 2 Kings 24:14.F12
It never fails to amaze us that radical critics will receive any kind of an "emendation" that favors their purpose; they nevertheless refuse to receive any "emendation" that would relieve an apparent contradiction. Feinberg commented on this.F13
In view of these things, we favor the emendation that would totally relieve all of the apparent contradictions relative to the number of Jewish exiles. The only objection to this change is that it would speak of a deportation a year before Jerusalem fell; but that is very likely to have happened to all of those people who heeded Jeremiah and defected tothe Babylonian forces prior to the fall of the city. In any case, Keil has very ably defended this emendation.F14 He explained the necessity for changing "seventh" to seventeenth, saying, "It settles all the difficulties and enables us to account for the small number sent to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem."F15
JEHOIACHIN WAS TREATED KINDLY
Lifted up the head of Jehoiachin
(Jeremiah 52:31). This strange expression has a double meaning; but here it had the more favorable of the two. It will be remembered that Pharaoh lifted up the head of the butler (Genesis 40:13) and also lifted up the head of the baker (Genesis 40:19); but it meant that he promoted the butler and hanged the baker! The same words are frequently used with different meanings in the Bible.
There is a glimpse here of the life-style of Babylonian kings. The kings which they had conquered were actually seated on thrones in the Babylonian king's dining room, no doubt as part of the flattering display of his power; but Jehoiachin did not enjoy that status for 37 years! This passage speaks of his release from prison, of his restoration to royal status, and of his receiving a throne even above those of other monarchs conquered by Babylon. When did all this happen? Dummelow gave this year as 561 B.C.F16
This historical appendix cites literally dozens of fulfillments of Jeremiah's prophecies; but the prophecy that more than all others appealed to the Jewish mind, namely the end of their exile and their restoration to Judah had not taken place yet; but, to the person who added this chapter, it might have seemed to be a good omen heralding the fulfillment of that prophecy also that the new king of Babylon so favorably changed the status of Jehoiachin, the last king of the House of David. This shows that this chapter was added at some considerable time after the prophet Jeremiah must be presumed to have died. It does not mean that any other portion of Jeremiah may be late-dated.
What is the message of this chapter? John Bright in the Anchor Bible stated it this way, "The Divine Word both has been fulfilled -- and will be fulfilled!"F17 Amen!
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.