Verses 1–11

This narrative begins no higher than the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, though there were two captivities before, one in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the other in the first of Jeconiah; but probably it was drawn up by some of those that were carried away with Zedekiah, as a reproach to themselves for imagining that they should not go into captivity after their brethren, with which hopes they had long flattered themselves. We have here, 1. God’s just displeasure against Judah and Jerusalem for their sin, Jer. 52:3. His anger was against them to such a degree that he determined to cast them out from his presence, his favourable gracious presence, as a father, when he is extremely angry with an undutiful son, bids him get out of his presence, he expelled them from that good land that had such tokens of his presence in providential bounty and that holy city and temple that had such tokens of his presence in covenant-grace and love. Note, Those that are banished from God’s ordinances have reason to complain that they are in some degree cast out of his presence; yet none are cast out from God’s gracious presence but those that by sin have first thrown themselves out of it. This fruit of sin we should therefore deprecate above any thing, as David (Ps. 51:11), Cast me not away from thy presence. 2. Zedekiah’s bad conduct and management, to which God left him, in displeasure against the people, and for which God punished him, in displeasure against him. Zedekiah had arrived at years of discretion when he came to the throne; he was twenty-one years old (Jer. 52:1); he was none of the worst of the kings (we never read of his idolatries), yet his character is that he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, for he did not do the good he should have done. But that evil deed of his which did in a special manner hasten this destruction was his rebelling against the king of Babylon, which was both his sin and his folly, and brought ruin upon his people, not only meritoriously, but efficiently. God was greatly displeased with him for his perfidious dealing with the king of Babylon (as we find, Ezek. 17:15); and, because he was angry at Judah and Jerusalem, he put him into the hand of his own counsels, to do that foolish thing which proved fatal to him and his kingdom. 3. The possession which the Chaldeans at length gained of Jerusalem, after eighteen months’ siege. They sat down before it, and blocked it up, in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, in the tenth month (Jer. 52:4), and made themselves masters of it in the eleventh year in the fourth month, Jer. 52:6. In remembrance of these two steps towards their ruin, while they were in captivity, they kept a fast in the fourth month, and a fast in the tenth (Zech. 8:19): that in the fifth month was in remembrance of the burning of the temple, and that in the seventh of the murder of Gedaliah. We may easily imagine, or rather cannot imagine, what a sad time it was with Jerusalem, during this year and half that it was besieged, when all provisions were cut off from coming to them and they were ever and anon alarmed by the attacks of the enemy, and, being obstinately resolved to hold out to the last extremity, nothing remained but a certain fearful looking for of judgment. That which disabled them to hold out, and yet could not prevail with them to capitulate, was the famine in the city (Jer. 52:6); there was no bread for the people of the land, so that the soldiers could not make good their posts, but were rendered wholly unserviceable; and then no wonder that the city was broken up, Jer. 52:7. Walls, in such a case, will not hold out long without men, any more than men without walls; nor will both together stand people in any stead without God and his protection. 4. The inglorious retreat of the king and his mighty men. They got out of the city by night (Jer. 52:7) and made the best of their way, I know not whither, nor perhaps they themselves; but the king was overtaken by the pursuers in the plains of Jericho, his guards were dispersed, and all his army was scattered from him, Jer. 52:8. His fright was not causeless, for there is no escaping the judgments of God; they will come upon the sinner, and will overtake him, let him flee where he will (Deut. 28:15), and these judgments particularly that are here executed were there threatened, Deut. 28:52, 53 5. The sad doom passed upon Zedekiah by the king of Babylon, and immediately put in execution. He treated him as a rebel, gave judgment upon him, Jer. 52:9. One cannot think of it without the utmost vexation and regret that a king, a king of Judah, a king of the house of David, should be arraigned as a criminal at the bar of this heathen king. But he humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet; therefore God thus humbled him. Pursuant to the sentence passed upon him by the haughty conqueror, his sons were slain before his eyes, and all the princes of Judah (Jer. 52:10); then his eyes were put out, and he was bound in chains, carried in triumph to Babylon; perhaps they made sport with him, as they did with Samson when his eyes were put out; however, he was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, wearing out the remainder of his life (I cannot say his days, for he saw day no more) in darkness and misery. He was kept in prison till the day of his death, but had some honour done him at his funeral, Jer. 34:5. Jeremiah had often told him what it would come to, but he would not take warning when he might have prevented it.