(1) In the ninth year of Zedekiah . . .—The great crisis came at last, as Jeremiah had long ago predicted. A fuller narrative of the siege and capture is given in Jeremiah 52. The two verses which open the chapter seem to have been inserted here by the editor of the prophecies in their present form, as explaining the fact with which Jeremiah 38 had closed. The siege had lasted eighteen months, beginning in B.C. 590 and ending B.C. 588. It came to an end, as we learn from Jeremiah 52:6, through the pressure of the famine, of which we have seen traces in Jeremiah 37:21.
Nergal-sharezer.—The first half of the name appears in 2 Kings 17:30 as that of a Cuthite, or Assyrian deity, and means the “great hero.” It occurs frequently in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser and Assur-banipal (e.g., Records of the Past, i. 77, 103). The whole name appears in Assyrian monuments as Nergal-shar-uzur. Two of the generals mentioned here bore the same name, and each apparently was distinguished by a special title.
Samgar–nebo.—Here the second half is the name of a Babylonian deity (Isaiah 46:1; Jeremiah 48:1), possibly connected with the Hebrew Nabi (= prophet), and so answering to the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek Hermes. The great temple at Borsippa, known as Birs Nimroud, was dedicated to him (Records of the Past, vii. 77). The first half has been explained by some scholars as meaning “warrior,” by others as “cupbearer,” and so equivalent to Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:2), and as such is attached to the foregoing name of Nergal-sharezer. As a rule, the name of Nebo appears always in the beginning of compound words, as in Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzar-adan, &c.; and probably we should connect it here with the name that follows.
Sarsechim, Rab-saris.—Probably, as indicated in the previous Note, the name should stand as Nebo-sarsechim. The two names go together, the first as a proper name, the second as a title, meaning “the chief eunuch.” In Jeremiah 39:13, Nebushasban appears as bearing the same title. In 2 Kings 18:17 it appears simply as a title, as in Rabshakeh we have “the chief cupbearer.”
Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag.—Here also the second name is the title of office, meaning probably “chief of the Magi,” or “chief of the priests.” The man thus named, who appears on the Assyrian monuments as Nergal-shar-uzur Rubu-emga, played a prominent part afterwards as murdering Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, whose sister he had married. He reigned for three or four years, and appears in Berosus (Joseph. 100 Apion, i. 20) under the name of Neriglissar. The older name is found on the bricks of a palace at Babylon, on the right bank of the Euphrates (Smith’s Dict. of Bible. Art. Nergal-sharezer).
Riblah in the land of Hamath.—The city of Hamath stood on the Orontes, about half-way from its source, near Baalbek, to the bend which it makes at Jisr-hadid, and commanded the whole valley of the river to the defile of Daphne, below Antioch. It was a well-known city at the time of the Exodus (Numbers 13:21; Numbers 34:8), and in that of David was the capital of a kingdom, which became tributary to him and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:10; 1 Kings 4:21-24). Riblah (still retaining its name, Ribleh), also on the Orontes, and near its source, was a centre from which the great lines of traffic led by the Euphrates to Nineveh, by Palmyra to Babylon, by Lebanon and the coast to Palestine and Egypt, and through the Jordan valley to the Holy Land. It was, therefore, a natural post of observation for the Chaldæan king while his generals were carrying on the sieges of Tyre and Jerusalem. So when Pharaoh-necho was for a time, before the battle of Carchemish, master of the Assyrian territory, it was to Riblah that he summoned Jehoahaz, and there imprisoned him (2 Kings 23:33). In this instance Zedekiah was brought before Nebuchadnezzar as a vassal prince who, having received his authority from the Chaldæan king (2 Kings 24:17), had rebelled, and met with scant mercy.
Bound him with chains.—Literally, as in the margin, with two brazen chains.
Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan.—The reason of the choice lies almost on the surface. Gedaliah was the representative of a house which for three generations had been true to the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Shaphan had been the king’s scribe in the early years of Josiah, and had taken an active part in the restoration of the Temple (2 Kings 22:3-7). He was the first to read the newly-found lost copy of the Law, which we identify with the Book of Deuteronomy (2 Kings 22:8-14), and his son Ahikam acted with him. The latter protected Jeremiah in the reign of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:24). His brother Gemariah gave the prophet the use of his chamber in the Temple (Jeremiah 36:10), and tried to turn aside the king’s wrath (Jeremiah 36:25). And now the son of Ahikam appears as the prophet’s friend and protector.
Jeremiah 39:17But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.
Jeremiah 39:18For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.