Scriptures

Jeremiah 52

Introduction

This chapter tells the fall of Judah. We know the events well by now, at least, we should do. So, most of it we know, and the only verses really to note here are verses 31-34, referring to Jehoiachin being released from a Babylonian prison. We will look at that in great detail later. Let’s just took at a few verses in this chapter.

This chapter is often referred to as a Historical Appendix. I guess this is for two reasons.

1. It is a history of Jeremiah’s prophecies that were fulfilled.

2. Chapter 51 ends with the words, ‘The words of Jeremiah end here’, so this is an appendix, a chapter entered into the book by someone other than Jeremiah.

Many scholars believe that this chapter is a copy of 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30. It is pretty close but not word for word. It may be that whoever added this chapter to Jeremiah’s words may have taken it from 2 Kings.

I’m not concerned how this chapter came about. I do, however, believe that it was added by someone who wanted us to know that the marvellous prophecies of Jeremiah came true. Some scholars believe that the section right at the end about King Jehoiachin being released was inserted for the Jews, as a good omen to God’s people that the captivity would end, and they would one day return to Judah.

There are five things that are treated in this last chapter.

1. Jerusalem eventually falls, and Zedekiah is taken prisoner. Jeremiah 52:1-16.

2. The Temple is ransacked and destroyed. Jeremiah 52:17-23.

3. Zedekiah’s officials killed. Jeremiah 52:24-27.

4. Details of the three deportations. Jeremiah 52:28-30.

5. The kind treatment to Jehoiachin. Jeremiah 52:31-34.

‘Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end, he thrust them from his presence. Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.’ Jeremiah 52:1-3

Please read 2 Kings 24:18-20.

Zedekiah lived after the wickedness of Jehoiakim, who was one of the most wicked kings of Judah. The moral leadership of Judah at the end of its existence was so digressed away from the moral standards of God, that the people had no example of morals before them to follow. When the leaders of any nation are morally degraded, the people of the nation follow.

‘So, in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. They left the city at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah.’ Jeremiah 52:4-7

Please read 2 Kings 25:1-5.

The wicked leadership of the kings of Judah led to the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of the people. At the end of a 30-month siege, the city of Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians on July 18, 586 B.C. The biblical records of this event are found in this text, the Kings and Chronicles, and Ezekiel. Secular records of the fall can be found in the Lachish Letters, the Babylonian Chronicle, and inscriptions in Egypt.

‘But the Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death.’ Jeremiah 52:8-11

Please read 2 Kings 6-7.

Zedekiah cowardly fled from the scene, realizing that the prophecy of Jeremiah of his captivity was going to take place. His flight from the people manifested his character and attitude in reference to being a leader for the people.

He was a coward who thought only of himself. When morally degraded leaders assume to be leaders of a country, they often forget that their leadership role includes both moral leadership, as well as leadership in government. The private life of good leaders is never something to themselves. Good leaders lead by the example of their lives.

‘On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building, he burned down. The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile some of the poorest people and those who remained in the city, along with the rest of the craftsmen and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. But Nebuzaradan left behind the rest of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields. Jeremiah 52:12-16

You will notice that almost all of this section, Jeremiah 52:1-16, although not in its entirety, is found in Jeremiah 39:1-9.

Please read 2 Kings 25:8-12.

Since Jerusalem had been taken in earlier captivities, and left standing, we would assume that the original plan of Nebuchadnezzar was not to destroy the city or the temple. But because of the defiance of Zedekiah and those he led, in this final conquest of the city he commissioned Nebuzaradan to level the city as punishment to the Jewish nation.

Such was in fulfilment of prophecy, for God wanted Israel completely humbled. He wanted Israel as an independent nation to end. He wanted the centralization of their faith and government through earthly kings to come to a close.

The same end of Israel would come in about five hundred years from this date. When Jesus came, God again wanted to signal the end of Israel through the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24. When Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, God brought Israel to a final ending, never to restore the nation again as part of His work.

‘The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried all the bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the basins, censers, sprinkling bowls, pots, lampstands, dishes and bowls used for drink offerings—all that were made of pure gold or silver. The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the twelve bronze bulls under it, and the movable stands, which King Solomon had made for the temple of the LORD, was more than could be weighed. Each pillar was eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference; each was four fingers thick, and hollow. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was five cubits high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its pomegranates, was similar. There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; the total number of pomegranates above the surrounding network was a hundred.’ Jeremiah 52:17-23

We are told in verse 20 that the bronze items of the temple were ‘more than could be weighed.’

There was so much of it, that they couldn’t weigh it all. They didn’t have adequate scales in those days. I suppose the significance of this section is seen in Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 27:16-22. This is where Jeremiah says to the priests and all the people, don’t listen to those that say that the temple articles already taken will be returned.

God says, that, in addition to these, the Babylonians will come and take all the others. Jeremiah specifically named some of these items in Jeremiah 27. This chapter just shows the fulfilment of that prophecy.

‘The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and seven royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land, sixty of whom were found in the city. Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed. So, Judah went into captivity, away from her land.’ Jeremiah 52:24-27

This section deals with the execution of the priests and other officials. This would be the false priests who put Zedekiah under pressure, leading to the rebellion against Babylon, and who threatened Jeremiah’s life because they disagreed with his views.

‘This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews; in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem; in his twenty-third year, 745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all.’ Jeremiah 52:28-30

I must admit to being confused by these figures. I have read various commentaries, but can’t come up with an answer. I invite those with greater intelligence than me to come up with a solution. One of the things that confuses me is that 40,000 returned to Judah after the 70 years in captivity.

If only 4,600 people were taken into captivity during the three deportations, and if, as Josephus says, many of them decided to remain in Babylon, how come there were so many descendants from so few Jews in captivity?

One scholar suggests that only the heads of families were counted in this total of 4,600 in verses 28-30. That could possibly be the answer.

I am also concerned, no, perplexed, because 2 Kings 24:14 says, ‘He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans – a total of 10,000.’

Was that 10,000 only the men, or only the heads of families where families were concerned?

Some scholars say that all arguments are settled if we agree that the ‘seventh’ year referred to in verse 28 is an error and should read ‘seventeenth.’

That only confuses me more. It is the number of people I am confused about, not in which years the three deportations took place.

‘In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honour higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.’ Jeremiah 52:31-34

Why does the book of Jeremiah end with this scene of Evil Merodach releasing Jehoiachin to serve him in his court?

Could it be a closing gesture to show that one day freedom would come for the Jews?

If so, then this book ends on a happy note. One of anticipation for the repentance and return to the promised land of God’s people.

We do get an idea here of the life-styles of the kings of Babylon. It seems that they allowed the kings of the countries that they had conquered to be seated on thrones, in the Babylonian king’s dining room.

They were probably much smaller thrones, so that the Babylonian king could show his superiority, although we are told here that Jehoiachin was given a seat of honour higher than the other kings.

But Jehoiachin didn’t enjoy this status until he had been in captivity for 37 years. So, he is released from prison, has had his status of royalty returned, and receives a higher throne than the other captured kings. And this is believed to have occurred in the year 561 B.C.

What I like about this chapter, this ‘historical appendix’, is the amount of fulfilments that we find, of Jeremiah’s many prophecies. But one mighty prophecy that hasn’t been fulfilled yet, is the prophecy that the Jews would return to their homeland after70 years in captivity.

We have to look at the Book of Daniel to see that God was answering Daniel’s prayer, even while Daniel was still praying, that this promise of 70 years would be fulfilled, and we have to read Ezra and Nehemiah to see how the people returned to their homeland, built houses, and repaired the wall to the temple. So, we know that even that prophecy of Jeremiah’s was fulfilled.

We don’t know when this section about Jehoiachin was added, but if he had been in captivity for 37 years before he was honoured in this way, and as the year was 561 B.C., this event would have taken place approximately 25 years after the Fall of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah, if he was still alive in Egypt, would have been another 20 years older!

So, we can assume that Jeremiah has been long-time dead. This also shows that it wasn’t Jeremiah who wrote this chapter and added it to his book.

Closing Remarks

We don’t know for sure where Jeremiah ended his days. The most probable place was Egypt. If that were the case, then how sad. This righteous man, who loved his people and his land so passionately, didn’t finally rest in his own land. Jeremiah was a tremendous prophet. God’s power really shone through this weak man.

In many respects the message spoken today is much the same as his was. The message is one of a bad end for those who deny the Lord, and do not hear His call, and many, like those in the days of Jeremiah, didn’t want to hear the message of hope.

For those that hear Him today, there is the hope of the Messiah who is coming back.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

John 1:1

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