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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–23
Verses 12–23

We have here an account of the woeful havoc that was made by the Chaldean army, a month after the city was taken, under the command of Nebuzaradan, who was captain of the guard, or general of the army, in this action. In the margin he is called the chief of the slaughter-men, or executioners; for soldiers are but slaughter-men, and God employs them as executioners of his sentence against a sinful people. Nebuzaradan was chief of those soldiers, but, in the execution he did, we have reason to fear he had no eye to God, but he served the king of Babylon and his own designs, now that he came into Jerusalem, into the very bowels of it, as captain of the slaughter-men there. And, 1. He laid the temple in ashes, having first plundered it of every thing that was valuable: He burnt the house of the Lord, that holy and beautiful house, where their fathers praised him, Isa. 64:11. 2. He burnt the royal palace, probably that which Solomon built after he had built the temple, which was, ever since, the king’s house. 3. He burnt all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great men, or those particularly; if any escaped, it was only some sorry cottages for the poor of the land. 4. He broke down all the walls of Jerusalem, to be revenged upon them for standing in the way of his army so long. Thus, of a defenced city, it was made a ruin, Isa. 25:2. 5. He carried away many into captivity (Jer. 52:15); he took away certain of the poor of the people, that is, of the people in the city, for the poor of the land (the poor of the country) he left for vine-dressers and husbandmen. He also carried off the residue of the people that remained in the city, that had escaped the sword and famine, and the deserters, such as he thought fit, or rather such as God thought fit; for he had already determined some for the pestilence, some for the sword, some for famine, and some for captivity, Jer. 15:2. But, 6. Nothing is more particularly and largely related here than the carrying away of the appurtenances of the temple. All that were of great value were carried away before, the vessels of silver and gold, yet some of that sort remained, which were now carried away, Jer. 52:19. But most of the temple-prey that was now seized was of brass, which, being of less value, was carried off last. When the gold was gone, the brass soon went after it, because the people repented not, according to Jeremiah’s prediction, Jer. 27:19 When the walls of the city were demolished, the pillars of the temple were pulled down too, and both in token that God, who was the strength and stay both of their civil and their ecclesiastical government, had departed from them. No walls can protect those, nor pillars sustain those, from whom God withdraws. These pillars of the temple were not for support (for there was nothing built upon them), but for ornament and significancy. They were called Jachin—He will establish; and Boaz—In him is strength; so that the breaking of these signified that God would no longer establish his house nor be the strength of it. These pillars are here very particularly described (Jer. 52:21-23; 1 Kgs. 7:15), that the extraordinary beauty and stateliness of them may affect us the more with the demolishing of them. All the vessels that belonged to the brazen altar were carried away; for the iniquity of Jerusalem, like that of Eli’s house, was not to be purged by sacrifice or offering, 1 Sam. 3:14. It is said (Jer. 52:20), The brass of all these vessels was without weight; so it was in the making of them (1 Kgs. 7:47), the weight of the brass was not then found out (2 Chron. 4:18), and so it was in the destroying of them. Those that made great spoil of them did not stand to weigh them, as purchasers do, for, whatever they weighted, it was all their own.