Jerusalem besieged, Zedekiah taken. (1-7) The temple burnt, The people carried into captivity. (8-21) The rest of the Jews flee into Egypt, Evil-merodach relieves the captivity of Jehoiachin. (22-30)
Verses 1-7 Jerusalem was so fortified, that it could not be taken till famine rendered the besieged unable to resist. In the prophecy and Lamentations of Jeremiah, we find more of this event; here it suffices to say, that the impiety and misery of the besieged were very great. At length the city was taken by storm. The king, his family, and his great men escaped in the night, by secret passages. But those deceive themselves who think to escape God's judgments, as much as those who think to brave them. By what befell Zedekiah, two prophecies, which seemed to contradict each other, were both fulfilled. Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah should be brought to Babylon, ( Jeremiah 32:5 , Jeremiah 34:3 ) ; Ezekiel, that he should not see Babylon, ( Ezekiel 12:13 ) . He was brought thither, but his eyes being put out, he did not see it.
Verses 8-21 The city and temple were burnt, and, it is probable, the ark in it. By this, God showed how little he cares for the outward pomp of his worship, when the life and power of religion are neglected. The walls of Jerusalem were thrown down, and the people carried captive to Babylon. The vessels of the temple were carried away. When the things signified were sinned away, what should the signs stand there for? It was righteous with God to deprive those of the benefit of his worship, who had preferred false worships before it; those that would have many altars, now shall have none. As the Lord spared not the angels that sinned, as he doomed the whole race of fallen men to the grave, and all unbelievers to hell, and as he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, we need not wonder at any miseries he may bring upon guilty nations, churches, or persons.
Verses 22-30 The king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah to be the governor and protector of the Jews left their land. But the things of their peace were so hidden from their eyes, that they knew not when they were well off. Ishmael basely slew him and all his friends, and, against the counsel of Jeremiah, the rest went to Egypt. Thus was a full end made of them by their own folly and disobedience; see Jeremiah chap. 40 to 45. Jehoiachin was released out of prison, where he had been kept 37 years. Let none say that they shall never see good again, because they have long seen little but evil: the most miserable know not what turn Providence may yet give to their affairs, nor what comforts they are reserved for, according to the days wherein they have been afflicted. Even in this world the Saviour brings a release from bondage to the distressed sinner who seeks him, bestowing foretastes of the pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore. Sin alone can hurt us; Jesus alone can do good to sinners.
2 Kings 25:1-3 . JERUSALEM AGAIN BESIEGED.
1. Nebuchadnezzar . . . came . . . against Jerusalem--Incensed by the revolt of Zedekiah, the Assyrian despot determined to put an end to the perfidious and inconstant monarchy of Judea. This chapter narrates his third and last invasion, which he conducted in person at the head of an immense army, levied out of all the tributary nations under his sway. Having overrun the northern parts of the country and taken almost all the fenced cities ( Jeremiah 34:7 ), he marched direct to Jerusalem to invest it. The date of the beginning as well as the end of the siege is here carefully marked (compare Ezekiel 24:1 , Jeremiah 39:1 , 52:4-6 ); from which it appears, that, with a brief interruption caused by Nebuchadnezzar's marching to oppose the Egyptians who were coming to its relief but who retreated without fighting, the siege lasted a year and a half. So long a resistance was owing, not to the superior skill and valor of the Jewish soldiers, but to the strength of the city fortifications, on which the king too confidently relied (compare Jeremiah 21:1-14,37:1-38:28').
pitched against it, and . . . built forts--rather, perhaps, drew lines of circumvallation, with a ditch to prevent any going out of the city. On this rampart were erected his military engines for throwing missiles into the city.
3. on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed--In consequence of the close and protracted blockade, the inhabitants were reduced to dreadful extremities; and under the maddening influence of hunger, the most inhuman atrocities were perpetrated ( Lamentations 2:20 Lamentations 2:22 , Lamentations 4:9 Lamentations 4:10 , Ezekiel 5:10 ). This was a fulfilment of the prophetic denunciations threatened on the apostasy of the chosen people ( Leviticus 26:29 , Deuteronomy 28:53-57 , Jeremiah 15:2 , 27:13 , Ezekiel 4:16 ).
2 Kings 25:4-30 . ZEDEKIAH TAKEN.
4. the city was broken up--that is, a breach was effected, as we are elsewhere informed, in a part of the wall belonging to the lower city ( 2 Chronicles 32:5 , 33:14 ).
the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden--The king's garden was ( Nehemiah 3:15 ) at the pool of Siloam, that is, at the mouth of the Tyropæon. A trace of the outermost of these walls appears to be still extant in the rude pathway which crosses the mouth of the Tyropæon, on a mound hard by the old mulberry tree, which marks the traditional spot of Isaiah's martyrdom [ROBINSON]. It is probable that the besiegers had overlooked this pass.
the king went . . . toward the plain--that is, the Ghor, or valley of Jordan, estimated at five hours' distance from Jerusalem. The plain near Jericho is about eleven or twelve miles broad.
6, 7. they took the king, and brought him . . . to Riblah--Nebuchadnezzar, having gone from the siege to oppose the auxiliary forces of Pharaoh-hophra, left his generals to carry on the blockade, he himself not returning to the scene of action, but taking up his station at Riblah in the land of Hamath ( 2 Kings 23:33 ).
they gave judgment upon him--They, that is, the council ( Jeremiah 39:3 Jeremiah 39:13 , Daniel 6:7 Daniel 6:8 Daniel 6:12 ), regarding him as a seditious and rebellious vassal, condemned him for violating his oath and neglecting the announcement of the divine will as made known to him by Jeremiah (compare Jeremiah 32:5 , 34:2 , 38:17 ). His sons and the nobles who had joined in his flight were slain before his eyes ( Jeremiah 39:6 , 52:10 ). In conformity with Eastern ideas, which consider a blind man incapable of ruling, his eyes were put out, and being put in chains, he was carried to perpetual imprisonment in Babylon ( Jeremiah 52:11 ), which, though he came to it, as Ezekiel had foretold, he did not see ( Jeremiah 32:5 , Ezekiel 12:13 , 17:16 ).
8-18. on the seventh day of the month . . . came Nebuzar-adan--(compare Jeremiah 52:12 ). In attempting to reconcile these two passages, it must be supposed either that, though he had set out on the seventh, he did not arrive in Jerusalem till the tenth, or that he did not put his orders in execution till that day. His office as captain of the guard ( Genesis 37:36 , 39:1 ) called him to execute the awards of justice on criminals; and hence, although not engaged in the siege of Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 39:13 ), Nebuzar-adan was despatched to rase the city, to plunder the temple, to lay both in ruins, demolish the fortifications, and transport the inhabitants to Babylon. The most eminent of these were taken to the king at Riblah ( 2 Kings 25:27 ) and executed, as instigators and abettors of the rebellion, or otherwise obnoxious to the Assyrian government. In their number were Seraiah, the high priest, grandfather of Ezra ( Ezra 7:1 ), his sagan or deputy, a priest of the second order ( Jeremiah 21:2 , Jeremiah 29:25 Jeremiah 29:29 , 37:3 ).
18. the three keepers of the door--not mere porters, but officers of high trust among the Levites ( 2 Kings 22:4 , 1 Chronicles 9:26 ).
19. five men of them that were in the king's presence--that is, who belonged to the royal retinue. It is probable that there were five at first, and that other two were found afterwards ( Jeremiah 52:25 ).
22-26. Nebuchadnezzar . . . Gedaliah . . . ruler--The people permitted to remain were, besides the king's daughters, a few court attendants and others ( Jeremiah 40:7 ) too insignificant to be removed, only the peasantry who could till the land and dress the vineyards. Gedaliah was Jeremiah's friend ( Jeremiah 26:24 ), and having, by the prophet's counsel, probably fled from the city as abandoned of God, he surrendered himself to the conqueror ( Jeremiah 38:2 Jeremiah 38:17 ), and being promoted to the government of Judea, fixed his provincial court at Mizpeh. He was well qualified to surmount the difficulties of ruling at such a crisis. Many of the fugitive Jews, as well as the soldiers of Zedekiah who had accompanied the king in his flight to the plains of Jericho, left their retreats ( Jeremiah 40:11 Jeremiah 40:12 ) and flocked around the governor; who having counselled them to submit, promised them on complying with this condition, security on oath that they would retain their possessions and enjoy the produce of their land ( Jeremiah 40:9 ).
25. Ishmael . . . of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah--He had found refuge with Baalis, king of the Ammonites, and he returned with a bad design, being either instigated by envy of a governor not descended from the house of David, or bribed by Baalis to murder Gedaliah. The generous governor, though apprised of his intentions, refused to credit the report, much less to sanction the proposal made by an attached friend to cut off Ishmael. The consequence was, that he was murdered by this same Ishmael, when entertaining him in his own house ( Jeremiah 41:1 ).
26. and all the people . . . came to Egypt--In spite of Jeremiah's dissuasions ( Jeremiah 43:7 Jeremiah 43:8 ) they settled in various cities of that country ( Jeremiah 44:1 ).
27. seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin--corresponding with the year of Nebuchadnezzar's death, and his son Evil-merodach's ascension to the throne.
Evil-merodach . . . did lift up the head of Jehoiachin . . . and spake kindly--gave him liberty upon parole. This kindly feeling is said to have originated in a familiar acquaintance formed in prison, in which Evil-merodach had lain till his father's death, on account of some malversation while acting as regent during Nebuchadnezzar's seven years' illness ( Daniel 4:32 Daniel 4:33 ). But doubtless the improvement in Zedekiah's condition is to be traced to the overruling providence and grace of Him who still cherished purposes of love to the house of David ( 2 Samuel 7:14 2 Samuel 7:15 ).
29. Jehoiachin . . . did eat . . . continually before him--According to an ancient usage in Eastern courts, had a seat at the royal table on great days, and had a stated provision granted him for the maintenance of his exiled court.