New English Translation
39 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. The siege began in the tenth month of the ninth year that Zedekiah ruled over Judah.[a] 2 It lasted until the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year.[b] On that day they broke through the city walls. 3 Then Nergal Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo Sarsekim (who was a chief officer), Nergal Sharezer (who was a high official),[c] and all the other officers of the king of Babylon came and set up quarters[d] in the Middle Gate.[e] 4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all his soldiers saw them, they tried to escape. They departed from the city during the night. They took a path through the king’s garden and passed out through the gate between the two walls.[f] Then they headed for the rift valley.[g] 5 But the Babylonian[h] army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho[i] and captured him.[j] They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah[k] in the territory of Hamath and Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him there. 6 There at Riblah the king of Babylon had Zedekiah’s sons put to death while Zedekiah was forced to watch. The king of Babylon also had all the nobles of Judah put to death. 7 Then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out and had him bound in chains[l] to be led off to Babylon. 8 The Babylonians[m] burned down the royal palace, the temple of the Lord, and the people’s homes,[n] and they tore down the wall of Jerusalem.[o] 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard,[p] took captive the rest of the people who were left in the city. He carried them off to Babylon along with the people who had deserted to him.[q] 10 But he[r] left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing. He gave them fields and vineyards at that time.
11 Now King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had issued orders concerning Jeremiah. He had passed them on through Nebuzaradan, the captain of his royal guard,[s] 12 “Find Jeremiah[t] and look out for him.[u] Do not do anything to harm him,[v] but do with him whatever he tells you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan (the captain of the royal guard), Nebushazban (who was a chief officer), Nergal Sharezer (who was a high official),[w] and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and had Jeremiah brought from the courtyard of the guardhouse. They turned him over to Gedaliah,[x] the son of Ahikam and the grandson of Shaphan, to take him home with him.[y] But Jeremiah stayed among the people.[z]
Ebed Melech Is Promised Deliverance because of His Faith
15 [aa] Now the Lord’s message had come to Jeremiah while he was still confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse,[ab] 16 “Go[ac] and tell Ebed Melech the Nubian,[ad] ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, has said, “I will carry out against this city what I promised. It will mean disaster and not good fortune for it.[ae] When that disaster happens, you will be there to see it.[af] 17 But I will rescue you when it happens.[ag] I, the Lord, affirm it![ah] You will not be handed over to those whom you fear.[ai] 18 I will certainly save you. You will not fall victim to violence.[aj] You will escape with your life[ak] because you trust in me. I, the Lord, affirm it!”’”[al]
- Jeremiah 39:1 sn 2 Kgs 25:1 and Jer 52:4 give the more precise date of the tenth day of the tenth month of the ninth year, which would have been Jan 15, 588 b.c. The reckoning is based on the calendar that begins the year in the spring (Nisan = March/April).
- Jeremiah 39:2 sn According to modern reckoning, that would have been July 18, 586 b.c. The siege thus lasted almost a full eighteen months.
- Jeremiah 39:3 tn English versions and commentaries differ on the number of officials named here and the exact spelling of their names. For a good discussion of the options see F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations (NAC), 341, n. 71. Most commentaries follow the general lead of J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243), as the present translation has done here. However, the second name is not emended on the basis of v. 13, as Bright does, nor is the second Nergal Sharezer regarded as the same man as the first and the information on the two combined, as he does. The first Nergal Sharezer is generally identified, on the basis of Babylonian records, as the man who usurped the throne from Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Awel Marduk, or Evil Merodach as he is known in the OT (Jer 52:31; 2 Kgs 25:27). The present translation renders the two technical Babylonian terms “Rab Saris” (only in Jer 39:3, 13; 2 Kgs 18:17) and “Rab Mag” (only in Jer 39:3, 13) as “chief officer” and “high official,” without knowing precisely what offices they held. This has been done to give the modern reader some feeling of their high position without specifying exactly what their precise positions were (i.e., the generic has been used for the [unknown] specific).
- Jeremiah 39:3 tn Heb “sat.” The precise meaning of this phrase is not altogether clear, but J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243) is undoubtedly correct in assuming that it had to do with setting up a provisional military government over the city.
- Jeremiah 39:3 tn The Hebrew style here is typically full or redundant, giving a general subject first and then listing the specifics. The Hebrew text reads: “Then all the officers of the king of Babylon came and sat in the Middle Gate, Nergal Sharezer…and all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon.” In the translation the general subject has been eliminated and the list of the “real” subjects used instead; this eliminates the dashes or commas typical of some modern English versions.sn The location of the Middle Gate is uncertain since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT.
- Jeremiah 39:4 sn The king’s garden is mentioned again in Neh 3:15 in conjunction with the pool of Siloam and the stairs that go down from the City of David. This would have been in the southern part of the city near the Tyropean Valley. The location agrees with the reference to the “two walls,” which were probably the walls on the eastern and western hills.
- Jeremiah 39:4 sn The rift valley (עֲרָבָה, ʿaravah) extends from Galilee along the Jordan River and descends to the Gulf of Aqaba. In this context the men head to the Jordan Valley near Jericho, intending to escape across the river to Moab or Ammon. It appears from 40:14 and 41:15 that the Ammonites were known to harbor fugitives from the Babylonians.
- Jeremiah 39:5 tn Heb “The Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 39:5 tn The plural form of עֲרָבָה (ʿaravah, rift valley) refers to the sloping plains of the rift valley basin north of the Dead Sea, in this case west of the Jordan in the vicinity of the Jericho (HALOT 880 s.v.). See the note at Num 21:1.
- Jeremiah 39:5 sn 2 Kgs 25:5 and Jer 52:8 mention that the soldiers all scattered from him. That is why the text focuses on Zedekiah here.
- Jeremiah 39:5 sn Riblah was a strategic town on the Orontes River in Syria at a crossing of the major roads between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Pharaoh Necho had earlier received Jehoahaz there, putting him in chains (2 Kgs 23:33) prior to taking him captive to Egypt. There Nebuchadnezzar had set up his base camp for conducting his campaigns against the Palestinian states, and now he was sitting in judgment on prisoners brought to him.
- Jeremiah 39:7 tn Heb “fetters of bronze.” The more generic “chains” is used in the translation because “fetters” is a word unfamiliar to most modern readers.
- Jeremiah 39:8 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 39:8 tc The reading here is based on an emendation following the parallels in Jer 52:13 and 2 Kgs 25:9. The Hebrew text here does not have “the temple of the Lord” and reads merely “house of the people.” The text here is probably corrupt. It reads וְאֶת בֵּית הָעָם (veʾet bet haʿam, “and the house of the people”), which many explain as a collective use of בַּיִת (bayit). However, no parallels are cited by any of the commentaries, grammars, or lexicons for such a use. It is more likely that the words יְהוָה וְאֶת־בָּתֵּי (yehvah veʾet bate) have fallen out of the text due to similar beginnings. The words וְאֶת בֵּית יהוה (veʾet bet yhwh) are found in the parallel texts cited above. The Greek version is no help here because vv. 4-13 are omitted, probably due to the similarities in ending of vv. 3 and 13 (i.e., homoioteleuton of מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל, melekh bavel).
- Jeremiah 39:8 sn According to the parallels in 2 Kgs 25:8-9 and Jer 52:12-13, this occurred almost a month after the wall was breached and Zedekiah was caught in flight. The destruction took place under the direction of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the king’s special guard who is mentioned in the next verse.
- Jeremiah 39:9 tn For the meaning of this phrase see BDB 371 s.v. טַבָּח 2 and compare the usage in Gen 39:1.
- Jeremiah 39:9 tc The translation is based on an emendation of the text which leaves out “the rest of the people who were left” as a double writing of the same phrase at the beginning of the verse. Some commentators emend the phrase “the rest of the people who were left” (וְאֵת יֶתֶר הָעָם הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, veʾet yeter haʿam hannishʾarim) to “the rest of the craftsmen who were left” (וְאֵת יֶתֶר הָאָמוֹן הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, veʾet yeter haʾamon hannishʾarim) on the basis of the parallel in Jer 52:15 (which does not have הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, hannishʾarim). However, it is easier to explain the phrase as a dittography of the phrase at the beginning (which is exactly the same except הָעִיר [haʿir] follows it). The text is redundant because it refers twice to the same group of people. The Hebrew text reads, “And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to him and the rest of the people Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon.” The text has also been divided up to create two shorter sentences that better conform with contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 39:10 tn Heb “Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard.” However, the subject is clear from the preceding, and contemporary English style would normally avoid repeating the proper name and title.
- Jeremiah 39:11 tn Heb “And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon commanded concerning Jeremiah by the hand of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying.” Since Nebuchadnezzar is at Riblah (v. 6), and Nebuzaradan and the other officers named in the next verse are at Jerusalem, the vav consecutive imperfect should again be translated as a pluperfect (see 38:2 and the translator’s notes there for explanation). For the meaning of “through” or “through the agency of” for the phrase בְּיַד (beyad), see BDB 391 s.v. יָד 5.d. The sentence has been broken up to better conform with contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 39:12 tn Heb “Get [or fetch] him.” The referent is supplied for clarity.
- Jeremiah 39:12 tn Or “take care of him”; Heb “set your eyes on him.” For the meaning of this idiom see BDB 963 s.v. שִׂים 2.c and compare 24:6, where the phrase “for good” is added.
- Jeremiah 39:12 tn Heb “Don’t do anything evil [= harmful] to him.”
- Jeremiah 39:13 tn See the translator’s notes on 39:3, 9 for the names and titles here.
- Jeremiah 39:14 sn Gedaliah. This is the first reference to this individual, whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed governor over the people who were left to live in Judah (cf. 40:5; 2 Kgs 25:22). His father was the man who spoke up for Jeremiah when he was accused of being a false prophet by some of the priests and prophets (26:24). His grandfather was the royal secretary under Josiah who brought the discovery of the book of the law to Josiah’s attention, read it to him, and was involved in helping Josiah institute his reforms (2 Kgs 22:8-10).
- Jeremiah 39:14 tn Heb “to bring him into the house.” However, it is unclear whether “the house” refers to Jeremiah’s house or to Gedaliah’s. The fact that Nebuzaradan later offers Jeremiah the option of going back to Gedaliah (40:5) suggests it is Gedaliah’s house, where Jeremiah would be looked out for in accord with Nebuchadnezzar’s command (v. 12).
- Jeremiah 39:14 tn Many translate this last clause as a conclusion or summary remark, “So Jeremiah stayed…” However, it is better to translate it as an adversative because it probably refers to the fact that, rather than staying with Gedaliah in the governor’s residence, Jeremiah stayed among the people. That is how he wound up being led off as a prisoner to Ramah. See further the study note on 40:1. According to IBHS 550 §33.2.1d, the vav (ו) consecutive can have either of these values (see examples 11 and 12 for the adversative or contrastive nuance).
- Jeremiah 39:15 sn Jer 39:15-18. This incident is out of chronological order (see Jer 38:7-13). It is placed here either from a desire not to interrupt the sequence of events centering on Jeremiah’s imprisonment and release (38:14-39:14), or to contrast God’s care and concern for the faithful (Ebed-Melech who, though a foreigner, trusted in God) with his harsh treatment of the faithless (Zedekiah who, though informed of God’s will, was too weak-willed to carry it out in the face of opposition by his courtiers).
- Jeremiah 39:15 tn Heb “Now the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he…saying.” The form of this clause is disjunctive, showing that it does not follow the preceding events in either chronological or logical sequence. For a discussion of the form and function of such disjunctive clauses, see IBHS 650-52 §39.2.3. This example most closely fits the description and function of example 12, Ruth 4:18, 21-22 on p. 652.
- Jeremiah 39:16 sn Even though Jeremiah was confined to the courtyard of the guardhouse, he was still free to entertain visitors (32:2, 8). Moreover, Ebed Melech was an official attached to the royal court and would have had access to the courtyard of the guardhouse (38:7, 13). Jeremiah would not have had to leave the courtyard of the guardhouse to “go and tell” him something.
- Jeremiah 39:16 tn Heb “Cushite”; traditional “Ethiopian” invites confusion with modern Ethiopia, whereas this term refers to Nubia, a kingdom up the Nile to the south of Egypt.
- Jeremiah 39:16 tn Heb “Behold, I will bring to pass my words against this city for evil/disaster and not for good/good fortune.” For the form of the verb מֵבִי ([mevi] Kethib, מֵבִיא [meviʾ] Qere), see GKC 206-7 §74.k, where the same form is noted for the Kethib in 2 Sam 5:2; 1 Kgs 21:21; Jer 19:15, all of which occur before a word beginning with א (ʾalef). For the nuance “carry out” (or “bring to pass”), see BDB 99 s.v. בּוֹא Hiph.2.b.
- Jeremiah 39:16 tn Heb “And they [= my words for disaster] will come to pass [= happen] before you on that day [i.e., the day that I bring them to pass/carry them out].”
- Jeremiah 39:17 tn Heb “But I will rescue you on that day” (referring to the same day mentioned in the preceding verse).
- Jeremiah 39:17 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 39:17 sn Some commentators see this as a reference to the princes from whose clutches Ebed-Melech delivered Jeremiah (38:7-13). However, it is clear that in this context it refers to those that he would fear when the Lord brought about the threatened disaster, i.e., the Babylonians who were already attacking the city.
- Jeremiah 39:18 sn Heb “you will not fall by the sword.” In the context this would include death in battle and execution as a prisoner of war.
- Jeremiah 39:18 tn Heb “your life will be to you for spoil.” For the meaning of this idiom see the study note on 21:9 and compare the usage in 21:9; 38:2; 45:4.
- Jeremiah 39:18 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”