Jeremiah 52 Commentary


This appendix is similar to 2 Kings 24:18-25:30. The probable reason for its inclusion is to show how Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning Jerusalem’s last days were fulfilled.

Judah’s king during its last tragic years was Zedekiah. He was a weak king, whose reign was characterized throughout by religious failure and political indecision. Finally, after years of uncertain plotting, he decided to rebel openly against his overlord Babylon (52:1-3). Nebuchadnezzar could be patient with Zedekiah no longer and decided to crush Jerusalem once and for all. Soon his armies besieged the rebellious city (4-5).

Zedekiah had plotted his rebellion in cooperation with Egypt, and when Egypt eventually came to Jerusalem’s aid, Babylon temporarily lifted the siege. However, as Jeremiah had warned, the Babylonians soon forced the Egyptians to retreat. They then resumed their siege, with a determination to maintain it till the city fell (see 37:1-21).

The longer the siege lasted, the more desperate the situation in Jerusalem became. Throughout the city people were dying of disease and starvation (6; see Lam 2:10-12,19-21; 4:4-5,7-9). After eighteen months of siege, the Babylonians broke through the city walls. With Jerusalem now doomed, Zedekiah and some of his men tried to escape, but were captured by enemy soldiers. Zedekiah was blinded, chained and taken off to prison in Babylon (7-11; see 39:1-7).

Babylonian soldiers then overran Jerusalem. They destroyed most of the city, including the temple, the palace and much of the city walls (12-14). They took most of the people into captivity, leaving behind only those that were of no use to them (15-16). They also stripped the temple of its valuable metals, taking its furnishings, decorations, vessels and utensils to Babylon. Things too large to carry whole were broken up so that they could be carried more easily (17-23). The leaders of the rebellion – the chief priests, top army officers and leading palace officials – were executed (24-27).

The writer concludes by recording the numbers of people taken into captivity at the times of the separate invasions. The smallness of his numbers, compared with those given in the book of 2 Kings, indicates that Jeremiah may have counted only the heads of the families. Some were taken captive in 597 BC, after Jehoiachin’s surrender (28; see 2 Kings 24:14-16); others in 587 BC, the year of the events recorded in this chapter (29); others later again, in 582 BC, after Ishmael’s assassination of Gedaliah (30; see Chapters 40-42).

In 561 BC, however, the new Babylonian king released the former Judean king Jehoiachin from prison and promoted him to a place of honour in the Babylonian palace. To the captive Jews this was a sign that God had not forgotten them and that he was still in control of their affairs. It gave them hope that they would yet be released and return to their homeland (31-34; cf. 2 Kings 24:8-15; 25:27-30).

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