(1) In his days.—In his fifth or sixth year. In Jehoiakim’s fourth year Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho at Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2), and was suddenly called home by the news of the death of Nabopolassar his father, whom he succeeded on the throne of Babylon in the same year (Jeremiah 25:1). From Jeremiah 36:9 we learn that towards the end of Jehoiakim’s fifth year the king of Babylon was expected to invade the land. When this took place, Nebuchadnezzar humbled Jehoiakim, who had probably made his submission, by putting him in chains, and carrying off some of the Temple treasures (2 Chronicles 36:6-7). Left in the possession of his throne as a vassal of Babylon, Jehoiakim paid tribute three years, and then tried to throw off the yoke.
According to the word of the Lord.—Isaiah, Micah, Urijah (Jeremiah 26:20), Huldah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and doubtless others whose names and writings have not been transmitted, had foretold the fate that was now closing in upon Judah.
Out of his sight.—From before his face, i.e., as the Targum explains, from the land where he was present in his Temple.
For the sins of Manasseh.—Comp. 2 Kings 21:11 seq., 2 Kings 23:26 seq.; Jeremiah 15:4.
Which the Lord would not pardon.—Literally, and Jehovah willed not to pardon. We must not soften the statement of 2 Kings 24:3-4, as Bähr does, by asserting the meaning to be that the nation was punished, not for the sins of Manasseh, but for its persistence in the same kind of sins. The sins of Manasseh are regarded as a climax in Judah’s long course of provocation: the cup was full, and judgment ready to fall. It was only suspended for a time, not revoked, in the reign of the good king Josiah. In short, the idea of the writer is that the innocent blood shed by Manasseh cried to heaven for vengeance, and that the ruin of the kingdom was the answer of the All righteous Judge. It is no objection to say, that in that case children suffered for their fathers’ misdeeds; that was precisely the Old Testament doctrine, until Ezekiel proclaimed another (Ezekiel 18:19; comp. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). Looking at the catastrophe from a different standpoint, we may remember that national iniquities must be chastised in the present life, if at all; and that the sufferings of the exile were necessary for the purification of Israel from its inveterate tendency to apostatise from Jehovah.
Are they not written . . .—The last reference to this authority. Bähr concludes that the work did not extend beyond the reign of Jehoiakim.
From the river (torrent) of Egypt—i.e., the Wady-el-Arish. The details of this campaign of Nebuchadnezzar are not recorded. It is clear, from the statement before us, that before the battle of Carchemish Necho had made himself master of the whole of Syria and the country east of the Jordan.
(2 Kings 24:8-16).
(8) Jehoiachin.—“Jah will confirm.” Four or five different forms of this name occur in the documents. Ezekiel 1:2 gives the contraction Joiachin. In Jeremiah we find a popular transposition of the two elements, thus: Jechonjahu (once, viz., Jeremiah 24:1, Heb.), and usually the shorter form, Jechoniah (Jeremiah 27:20; Esther 2:6); which is further abridged into Coniah (Heb., Chonjahu) in Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28. Ewald thinks this last the original name; but Hengstenberg supposes that the prophet altered the name, so as to make of it a “Jah will confirm” without the “will,” in order to foreshadow the fate which awaited this king.
Nehushta.—Referring, perhaps, to her complexion (as we say “bronzed”).
Elnathan.—See Jeremiah 26:22; Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:25; one of Jehoiakim’s “princes.”
The servants—i.e., generals. (Comp. 2 Kings 19:6.)
Was besieged.—See margin; and 2 Kings 25:2; Jeremiah 52:5.
Came against.—Came unto.
Took him—i.e., as a prisoner.
In the eighth year of his (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar’s) reign.—This exactly tallies with the data of Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 46:2.
Cut in pieces.—2 Kings 16:17; 2 Chronicles 28:24. The meaning seems to be that the gold-plating was now stripped off from such “vessels” as the altar of incense, the table of shewbread, and the Ark. (Comp. 2 Kings 18:16.)
As the Lord had said—e.g., to Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:17; comp. Jeremiah 15:13; Jeremiah 17:3).
The princes—i.e., the nobles, e.g., the grandees of the court, some of the priests (Ezekiel 1:1), and the heads of the clans.
The mighty men of valour.—This is probably right. Thenius and Bähr prefer to understand the men of property and the artisans, as in 2 Kings 15:20.
All the craftsmen and smiths.—The former were workers in wood, stone, and metal, i.e., carpenters, masons, and smiths. (Comp. Genesis 4:22.) The “smiths” (properly, “they who shut”) answer to what we should call locksmiths. They were makers of bolts and bars for doors and gates (Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2). It is obvious that by deporting “the craftsmen and smiths” the king of Babylon made further outbreaks impossible (comp. 1 Samuel 13:19.) Kimchi’s explanation of “smiths” is a curiosity of exegesis. He makes of them “learned persons, who shut other people’s mouths, and propose riddles which nobody else can guess.” Hitzig and Thenius derive the word (masgēr) from mas, “levy,” and gēr, “alien,” so that it would originally mean “statute labourers,” “Canaanites compelled to work for the king;” and afterwards, as here, “manual labourers” in general. But such a compound term in Hebrew would be very surprising.
The poorest sort.—Those who had neither property nor handicraft. (Comp. Jeremiah 39:10.)
He carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother.—Fulfilment of Jeremiah 22:24-27.
The mighty of the land.—So the Targum, “the magnates of the land.” All who could do so, must have taken refuge in Jerusalem at the approach of the Chaldæan army.
All that were strong and apt for war.—Literally, the whole, warriors and doers of battle. This clause refers to both those which precede, and it states that the 8,000 were all men in their prime, and trained in the use of weapons (Thenius). But may not the term “strong” (gibbôrûm, “heroes,” “warriors”) refer to the 7,000 as actual fighting men; and the phrase “makers of war” denote the craftsmen as employed in forging weapons and constructing defences? (The Syriac reads, and all the men that made war.)
Even them the king of Babylon brought.—Literally, and the King of Babylon brought them.
And changed his name to Zedekiah.—His former name meant “gift of Jah;” his new one, “Jah is righteousness” (or “myrighteousness”). The prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-9), denouncing “the shepherds that destroy and scatter the flock” and promising a future king, whose name shall be “Jehovah is our righteousness” (lahweh çidgēnu), evidently refers to the delusive expectations connected with Zedekiah’s elevation. Nebuchadnezzar’s act of clemency in putting another native prince on the throne may have been the execution of a promise made at the surrender of the city.
This section and the parallel in Jeremiah appear to have been derived from the same historical work. The text of Jeremiah is generally, though not always, the best.
(19) And he did that which was evil . . .—The evidence of the prophet Jeremiah should be compared with this statement. (See especially Jeremiah 24:8; Jeremiah 37:1-2; Jeremiah 38:5, and Comp. Note on 2 Chronicles 36:13.) The contemporary state of religion is vividly reflected in the pages of Ezekiel (2 Kings viii—11); who, moreover, denounces Zedekiah’s breach of faith with the king of Babylon (Ezekiel 17:11-21).
According to all that Jehoiakim . . .—He is not compared with Jehoiachin, who only reigned three months.
Until he had cast them out.—See Note on 2 Kings 17:23.
That Zedekiah rebelled.—Rather, and Zedelciah rebelled. There should be a full stop after “presence.” Zedekiah expected help from Pharaoh Hophra (Apries), king of Egypt, to whom he sent ambassadors (Ezekiel 17:15; comp. Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 44:30.) Moreover the neighbouring peoples of Edom, Ammon, and Moab, as well as Tyre and Zidon, were eager to throw off the Babylonian yoke, and had proposed a general rising to Zedekiah (Jeremiah 27:3 seq.) The high hopes which were inspired by the negotiations may be inferred from the prophecy of Hananiah (Jeremiah 28). Jeremiah opposed the project of revolt to the utmost of his power; and the event proved that he was right. In the early part of his reign Zedekiah had tried to procure the return of the exiles carried away in the last reign (Jeremiah 29:3); and in his fourth year he visited Babylon himself, perhaps with the same object, and to satisfy Nebuchadnezzar of his fidelity (Jeremiah 51:59). The date of his open revolt cannot be fixed.