Jeremiah 52:1-34

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Zedekiah, the last monarch of the kingdom of Judah, was 21 years of age at the time he began to rule. His original name was Mattaniah, but King Nebuchadnezzar changed it to Zedekiah when he made him vassal king and took his nephew King Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim into exile. (2 Kings 24:17) Zedekiah was the son of King Josiah by his wife “Hamutal [Amitaal, Hamital (LXX)] the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah [Lobena (LXX)].” The city of Libnah has been linked to a site about five miles (c. 8 kilometers) north of Lachish. (52:1; 2 Kings 24:18; see the Notes section.)

Like his brother Jehoiakim, Zedekiah did what was “evil in the eyes of YHWH.” His “evil” actions included disregarding the word of YHWH that was made known to him through the prophet Jeremiah and violating the oath that he had taken in the name of YHWH to be loyal to Nebuchadnezzar as a vassal king. (52:2; see 2 Kings 24:19; 2 Chronicles 36:12, 13; Ezekiel 17:12-15 and the Notes section.)

The people of Jerusalem and in the entire realm of the kingdom of Judah incurred YHWH’s anger on account of their unfaithfulness to him. Therefore, “he cast them out from before his face [or his presence],” letting those who survived the Babylonian military campaign against them be taken into exile. Punitive action came after Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, the “king of Babylon.” Rebellion included violation of the oath he had taken in the name of YHWH to be a loyal vassal king and his refusal to pay the required tribute. (52:3; 2 Kings 24:20)

It was in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month (mid-December to mid-January) that “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon” with his entire military force came against Jerusalem. The warriors encamped against the city and built a “siege wall” all around it (“erected siege-towers against it on every side” [REB], “built ramps up to the city walls” [CEV], “built siege works all around it” [NIV], “threw up earthworks round it” [NJB]). Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, described the siege of Jerusalem as follows: “The king of Babylon … erected towers upon great banks of earth and from them repelled those who stood upon the walls; he also made a great number of such banks round about the whole city, the height of which was equal to those walls.” (Antiquities, X, viii, 1) There is no general agreement about the exact date the siege began. One view that has gained a measure of acceptance is January 588 BCE. (52:4; 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 39:1) Later, an Egyptian military force came to the aid of the kingdom of Judah. When the Babylonians heard about the army of Pharaoh, they lifted the siege against Jerusalem and withdrew from the city to confront the Egyptian warriors. (37:5) The Egyptians were unsuccessful in stopping King Nebuchadnezzar’s troops from continuing their campaign against Jerusalem. The siege of the city resumed and continued until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign. (52:5; 2 Kings 25:2; Jeremiah 39:2)

On the ninth day of the fourth month (mid-June to mid-July), famine inside Jerusalem became severe because the “bread” or food supply “for the people of the land” (or for the general population in Jerusalem) was completely exhausted. (52:6; 2 Kings 25:3)

When Jerusalem was breached, “all the men of war” (the defenders of the city with King Zedekiah) fled, leaving the city by night, by way of the garden of the king, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah (the arid section of the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea). The “garden of the king” probably was located in the southeastern part of Jerusalem, possibly near the Fountain Gate. One of the two walls likely was built during the reign of Hezekiah when the Assyrians threatened to conquer Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 32:2-5) It is uncertain whether the warriors and those with them departed through the Fountain Gate. The “gate between the two walls” could have been another gate, one that provided a secret passage for escape. Although the Chaldeans were all around Jerusalem, the warriors and those with them succeeded in getting out of the city. Regarding this, Josephus (Antiquities, X, viii, 2) wrote that, when Zedekiah became aware that the generals of the enemy had “entered into the temple,” he “took his wives and his children, and his captains and friends, and with them fled out of the city.” (52:7; compare Kings 25:4 and Jeremiah 39:4.)

The Chaldean military pursued those who had fled, overtaking Zedekiah “in the plains of Jericho” (the arid region south of Jericho). “All his army” [the troop with Zedekiah] “was scattered from him.” (“All his servants were scattered from him.” [LXX]) According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, viii, 2), persons who had deserted to the Chaldeans were the ones who informed them about the flight of Zedekiah. (57:8; 2 Kings 25:5; Jeremiah 39:5)

After being captured, Zedekiah was taken to King Nebuchadnezzar at “Riblah in the land of Hamath” (“Deblatha” [LXX], apparently a name resulting from a misreading of daleth [D] for resh [R]). The city lay a considerable distance north of the former territory of the kingdom of Israel and has been identified with ruins near Ribleh on the east bank of the Orontes River. It was at Riblah that King Nebuchadnezzar pronounced judgments against Zedekiah. (57:9; 2 Kings 25:6; Jeremiah 39:5) He killed the sons of King Zedekiah, probably directing that they be slain, before the eyes of the Judean king. These sons would have been young children, for Zedekiah was then only about 32 years old. (2 Kings 24:18) King Nebuchadnezzar also slew (or commanded to be killed) “all the princes [or nobles] of Judah.” (52:10; 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 39:6) After witnessing the gruesome slaughter of his sons, Zedekiah was blinded. Then, subsequent to being bound with copper or bronze fetters or chains, he was taken to Babylon. There he remained in a house of imprisonment “until the day of his death.” According to the Septuagint, he was confined in the “mill house,” suggesting that he was subjected to compulsory labor. (52:11; 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 39:7)

On the “tenth day” of the “fifth month” (mid-July to mid-August) in the “nineteenth year of King Nebuchadrezzar [Nebuchadnezzar], king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard” (more literally, “chief of the slaughterers”) “came into Jerusalem.” As a man who “stood before the face” or person of the King of Babylon, Nebuzaradan was an official in his service. According to 2 Kings 25:8, he came to Jerusalem on the “seventh day of the month.” Possibly Nebuzaradan arrived at Jerusalem on the seventh day and began to oversee operations from a location outside the city and then entered it on the tenth day of the month. In verse 29 of this chapter, the reference is to the “eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar” (Nebuchadnezzar). Therefore, it may be that the “nineteenth year” included the accession year, whereas the “eighteenth year” did not. The Septuagint does not mention the “nineteenth year.” (52:12)

Nebuzaradan oversaw the burning of the “house of YHWH” or the temple, the “house” or palace of the king, and “all the houses of Jerusalem [of the city (LXX)].” None of the “great” or significant houses in the city escaped the flames. (52:13; 2 Kings 25:9; Jeremiah 39:8). The Chaldean warriors who were with Nebuzaradan “the captain of the guard” also broke down the “walls of Jerusalem.” (52:14; 2 Kings 25:10; Jeremiah 39:8)

“Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard” took some of the poor or lowly ones of the people and others of the surviving remnant of the people in Jerusalem as captives to Babylon. The ones who had deserted to the Chaldeans were also taken to Babylon along with master craftsmen. (52:15; compare 2 Kings 25:11 and Jeremiah 39:9 and see the Notes section.) Nebuzaradan, however, did not take the poor who had nothing, leaving them in the land to labor as vinedressers and tillers of the ground. According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, ix, 1), those who cultivated the ground were also to “pay an appointed tribute to the king.” (52:16; 2 Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 39:10)

To facilitate transporting large copper or bronze objects to Babylon, the victorious Chaldeans broke them to pieces. They did so with the “pillars” or columns (the large copper or bronze columns, Jachin and Boaz, at the entrance of the temple [1 Kings 7:15-22]), the “sea” (the large copper or bronze basin that contained water used for cleansing [1 Kings 7:23-26]), the “stands” ([bases (LXX), mechonoth, a transliteration of the Hebrew word in 4 Kings 25:13, LXX], the ten movable copper or bronze stands on each of which a copper or bronze basin was originally positioned [1 Kings 17:27-38] but which basins were removed during the reign of King Ahaz [2 Kings 16:17]). This fulfilled the word of YHWH that Jeremiah made known earlier. (52:17; 2 Kings 25:13; also see Jeremiah 27:19-22 and the Notes section.) The Chaldeans also took the smaller copper or bronze objects that the priests and Levites used when carrying out their sacred duties. These objects included “pots” for cooking meat that had been offered in sacrifice and also for carrying ashes taken away from the altar (Exodus 27:3; 1 Samuel 2:12-14), “shovels” (iamin, a transliteration of the Hebrew word in 4 Kings 25:14 [LXX]) for removing ashes from the altar, “trimmers” (perhaps scissorlike instruments for trimming lampwicks), “bowls” used for splashing blood on the altar (Exodus 24:6; Leviticus 1:5, 11), and “cups” (“censers” in 4 Kings 25:14 [LXX]) that could be used as containers for small amounts of a specific substance (Numbers 4:7; 7:86 [the ones for incense were made of gold, not copper]). The items mentioned in the Septuagint are the “rim,” the “bowls,” and the “meat hooks” or “forks,” but “pots,” iamin, “bowls,” and “censers” in the parallel text of 4 Kings 25:14. Exodus 27:3 in the Septuagint refers to the “rim” of the altar of burnt offering, and possibly this is the meaning here in the Jeremiah passage. (52:18; 2 Kings 25:14)

Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took away gold and silver objects, to be transported to Babylon. These included small bowls (saphphoth, a transliteration of the Hebrew word [LXX]), censers (masmaroth [LXX], possibly a transliteration of the Hebrew word [verse 18] for “trimmers”), bowls (oil flasks or vessels for pouring oil into lamps [LXX]), pots (omitted in LXX), lampstands, cups (censers [LXX]), and libation bowls (cups [LXX]). In the parallel passage of 4 Kings 25:15, the Septuagint only includes “fire pans” or censers and gold and silver bowls. (52:19)

The “two pillars” (Jachin and Boaz), the sea, and the twelve bulls on which the sea had originally rested, and the “stands” were all of copper or bronze and originally were made at the direction of King Solomon for the “house” or temple of YHWH. So great was the amount of copper or bronze from these objects that it could not be weighed. Years earlier, during the reign of Ahaz, the “sea” (the large basin that contained water used for cleansing) had been removed from the supporting twelve bulls and set on a stone pavement. (2 Kings 16:17) Possibly at that time the bulls were stored in a location from which the Chaldeans looted them. (52:20; also see the Notes section and verse 17 regarding the “stands.”)

Each one of the two pillars (Jachin and Boaz) was 18 cubits high (c. 27 feet; c. 8.2 meters). (1 Kings 7:15; 2 Kings 25:17 [3 Kings 7:3; 4 Kings 25:17 (LXX)] With a circumference of about 12 cubits (c. 18 feet; nearly 5.5 meters [14 cubits (3 Kings 7:3, LXX)]), the diameter would have been about six feet (c. 1.8 meters). The pillars were hollow, with a thickness of four “fingers” or about three inches (over 7.5 centimeters). According to the Septuagint, the height was 35 cubits, and this is also the number found in the Hebrew text of 2 Chronicles 3:15. Perhaps the figure of 35 cubits represents the approximate combined height of the pillars. (52:21)

There is a question about the five-cubit (c. 7.5-foot; c. 2.3-meter) height of the copper or bronze capital on the top of each pillar. (1 Kings 7:16; 3 Kings 7:4 [LXX]) According to 2 Kings 25:17, the height was three cubits (c. 4.5 feet [c. 1.4 meters]). One possible explanation for the difference is that the three-cubit height excluded certain decorative elements on the capital. One of the decorative features was a network that included two rows of 100 copper or bronze pomegranates. The lily work itself was four cubits (c. 6 feet; c. 1.8 meters) high. According to the Septuagint, there were eight pomegranates for every cubit (c. 18 inches; c. 45.6 centimeters) over a distance of 12 cubits (c. 18 feet; nearly 5.5 meters) (1 Kings 7:17-20) Apparently the measurement of 12 cubits is approximate, as the four remaining pomegranates are not accounted for. (52:22) It appears that only 96 pomegranates were visible in each row, and four were obscured from sight. (52:23)

Nebuzaradan the “captain of the guard” took from those who had served at the temple the chief priest Seraiah, the “second” or associate priest Zephaniah, and the “three keepers of the threshold” (priests who were responsible for guarding the entrances to the temple and granting or denying access to various parts of the temple precincts). (52:24; see the comments on 21:1 and 37:3 regarding Zephaniah.) Others whom Nebuzaradan took from Jerusalem were a “eunuch” or a high official with oversight of the “men of war” or the military, “seven men” (“five men” [2 Kings 25:19]) from among those “seeing the face of the king” (men who had close personal contact with the monarch), the “scribe of the prince [or commander] of the army who conscripted the people of the land” (the scribe who was in charge of conscripting men from the general population for military service and personally worked for the “prince” or head of the troops), and “sixty men [common men with no official position] of the people of the land who were found in the midst of the city.” (52:25) Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, then brought all of these captives to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon who was then at Riblah (Deblatha [LXX], apparently a name resulting from a misreading of daleth [D] for resh [R]), many miles to the north of the former ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (52:26; 2 Kings 25:20) There at Riblah (Deblatha [LXX]) in the land of Hamath (Hemath [LXX]), the king of Babylon struck and killed everyone of the men. This may mean that he commanded that they be severely beaten and then directed that they be put to death. Jehozadak, the son of the chief priest Seraiah, escaped this fate, and the high-priestly line was preserved. Ezra, a priest and skilled scribe and able teacher, was one of the prominent descendants of Seraiah. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the execution of captives, and the taking of surviving captives to Babylon, it could be said that “Judah was taken into exile from its land.” (52:27; 2 Kings 25:21; 1 Chronicles 6:14, 15; Ezra 3:2; 7:1-6, 10; Nehemiah 12:26; see the Notes section.)

In the seventh year of his reign, Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadnezzar) took “3,023 Judeans” into exile. A cuneiform inscription (British Museum 21946) refers to the military campaign in that year. “The seventh year [of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign]: In the month Kislev [mid-November to mid-December] the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Hattu. He encamped against the city of Judah [Jerusalem] and on the second day of the month Adar [mid-February to mid-March] he captured the city and seized the king [Jehoiachin].” The commonly accepted date for this campaign against Jerusalem is 597 BCE. According to 2 Kings 24:12, it was the “eighth year” and is probably to be understood as including the accession year. Also the account in 2 Kings 24:14-16 contains much larger numbers for those taken into exile (groups of 10,000, 7,000, and 1,000 captives). Possibly the much smaller number in the book of Jeremiah represents the most prominent or high ranking men or only the heads of households. (52:28; see the Notes section.)

In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadnezzar) or his nineteenth year (if his accession year is counted [2 Kings 25:8]), “832 souls” or persons were taken from Jerusalem into exile. The low number of captives (perhaps only the heads of households) suggests that many of the people in Jerusalem were slaughtered or perished from famine and infectious disease during the siege of the city. The generally accepted date is 587/586 BCE. (52:29)

“In the twenty-third year of Nebuchadrezzar” (Nebuchadnezzar), Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard” took 745 Judeans into exile. These Judeans likely were those who had fled to others lands that the Babylonians conquered after the fall of Jerusalem and may only have included heads of households. The Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities, X, ix, 7) does refer to military campaigns against other nations. “In the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the twenty-third of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he made an expedition against Celesyria; and when he had possessed himself of it, he made war against the Ammonites and Moabites; and when he had brought all those nations under subjection, he fell upon Egypt, in order to overthrow it.” According to the commonly accepted chronology, this was in 582 BCE. (52:30)

In what is thought to have been his accession year, Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk, Amil-Marduk, or Awil-Marduk) took favorable action toward Jehoiachin who was then in the thirty-seventh year of his exile in Babylon or what is usually considered to have been the year 561/560 BCE. It was the twenty-seventh day (twenty-fourth day [LXX]) in the twelfth month (mid-February to mid-March). Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint rendering of 2 Kings 25:27 (4 Kings 25:27, LXX) are in agreement that it was the twenty-seventh day. The account in 2 Kings and the Septuagint text of the Jeremiah passage indicate that it was in the year that Evil-Merodach (Oulaimaradach [LXX]) began to reign. He “lifted up the head of Jehoiachin the king of Judah and brought him out of the house of imprisonment.” In this context, the expression “lifted up the head of Jehoiachin” may be understood to mean granted pardon to him, ending the period of his confinement. (52:31)

Evil-Merodach spoke “good things” to Jehoiachin. These “good things” may have been expressions of favor or friendship. According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 2), Evil-Merodach immediately set Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) free and considered him among “his most intimate friends.” He set the “seat” (or “throne”) of Jehoiachin above the “seats” (or “thrones”) of the other foreign kings who were with him in Babylon. Josephus added that Evil-Merodach gave him “many presents and made him honorable above the rest of the kings.” (52:32; 2 Kings 25:28)

Upon being released from confinement, Jehoiachin took off his prison garments and put on clean clothes. Thereafter he “ate bread before the face” of Evil-Merodach “all the days of his life” as a free man. This could mean that he either ate his meals at the table of Evil-Merodach or that he did so in his presence. (52:33; 2 Kings 25:29) “Until the day of his death, all the days of his life,” Jehoiachin received a regular food allowance from the king of Babylon, a daily portion each and every day. (52:34; 2 Kings 25:30)


Much of the text of chapter 52 repeats that of 2 Kings 24:18 through 25:30. Additionally, Jeremiah 39:1-10 contains information that is repeated in Jeremiah chapter 52.

The wording in verses 2 and 3 of the Hebrew text is not included in the Septuagint.

The text of verse 15 is not found in the Septuagint.

In his Antiquities (VIII, iii, 5), the first-century Jewish historian Josephus mentioned that the huge basin was called “sea for its largeness.” The detailed description of the ten movable “stands” and the basins is found in 1 Kings 7:27-38. Regarding these “stands” or “bases,” Josephus (Antiquities, VIII, iii, 6) wrote the following: “There were four small quadrangular pillars, that stood one at each corner. These had the sides of the base fitted to them on each quarter. They were parted into three parts. Every interval had a border fitted to support [the basin], upon which was engraved, in one place a lion, and in another place a bull, and an eagle. The small pillars had the same animals engraved that were engraved on the sides. The whole work was elevated and stood upon four wheels, which were also cast [and] which had naves and felloes, and were a foot and a half in diameter. Anyone who saw the spokes of the wheels, how exactly they were turned, and united to the sides of the bases, and with what harmony they agreed to the felloes, would wonder at them. However, their structure was this: Certain shoulders of hands stretched out, held the corners above, upon which rested a short spiral pillar that lay under the hollow part of the basin [and rested] upon the forepart of the eagle and the lion. … Between these were engravings of palm trees.”

In verse 20, the Septuagint does not include mention of the “stands.” In the parallel passage of 4 Kings 25:16, the Septuagint contains a transliteration of the Hebrew word (mechonoth).

In verse 27, the Septuagint only refers to the king of Babylon as having struck the men who were brought to him. There is no mention of Judah. The parallel passage of 4 Kings 25:21 does contain the missing words.

The text of verses 28 through 30 is not included in the Septuagint.