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dissuade from useless courses, although he thereby put his life in the balance, and in addition to inner conflicts exposed himself to endless outward suffering. When attention was called to the demoralizing influence which the words of the imprisoned prophet might exercise from the court of the guard, the princes urged the king to adjudge him worthy of death as a traitor. The weak king did not wish to do this, but had not the courage to defend the man of God, and gave them full authority to do as they pleased, while himself disclaiming all responsibility. Even the princes did not wish apparently to stain themselves with the blood of the hated yet dreaded prophet; they reduced him to impotence all the more cruelly by letting him down into a half-empty, deep cistern, in the mud of which he sank. Thus a lingering death by starvation in a dreadful dungeon seemed to hang over him.
But God touched the heart of a man from whom the great prophet's deliverance was least to be expected. It was a dark foreigner, Ebed-melech by name, a lower official of the royal court, probably of the harem, who, without doubt more deeply affected by the prophet's teaching than the Israelites, believingly took heart (xxxix. 18) to carry tidings to the king, who was then occupied without at the city wall, of what had taken place in his absence, and to make representations about it. He easily succeeded in turning the fickle king round; and with the help of some soldiers, whom the king placed at his disposal, he drew Jeremiah up from his horrible prison, carrying all this out with loving care, as told in ver. 11 f. What reward the active Moor received for this is related in xxxix. 15-18.
This incident is followed by a secret interview which the king arranged with Jeremiah. One sees how in the breast of this unhappy prince a right sense of certainty and confidence in the prophet's words was always struggling with deeplyrooted unbelief and disobedience, without permanently gaining the mastery, and without acquiring decisive influence over his resolution. Jeremiah now reminded the king, before giving him the desired prophetic information, how little right one, who had never followed the divine directions, but had rewarded candour with ill-usage, had to demand further information (ver. 15). On the king's assurance upon oath that he would not deliver him again to his enemies, he repeated what he had often described as the fate of the city, this time with urgent personal advice to the king to surrender himself, because he might still find favour, but in the opposite case would cause the destruction of the city (vv. 18, 23). It was not courage but cowardice which kept the king back from obeying the divine word. He confessed that nothing but fear of the derision of his own subjects who had gone over to the enemy's camp deterred him from following their example. The prophet assured him that he would not be given up to the wrath of those men, among whom many opponents of the king were perhaps found; on the other hand, greater disgrace awaited him if he resisted longer; in that case the women of his own harem would sing satirical songs about him as a fool betrayed by his friends, and he would have the destruction of the city on his conscience. The king gave no reply. He felt without doubt that Jeremiah spoke the truth, but could not bring himself to obey his counsel. He satisfied himself with enjoining on the prophet strict silence respecting the interview with him, that he might be able to keep his oath (ver. 16). If the artful princes inquired, he was to put them off with saying that the prophet's own fate had been talked of, as was the case at a former conference (xxxvii. 20), and to some extent at the present one. Thus the prophet remained, without further molestation, in the guard-court of the royal castle till the capture of the city.
JEREMIAH XXXVIII. 28-XXXIX. 3.
III. JEREMIAH AT THE FALL OF JERUSALEM, CH. XXXIX.
XXXVIII. 286. And it came to pass, as soon as Jerusalem was taken—[xxxix. 1, in the ninth year of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came with his whole army to Jerusalem and besieged it; 2. in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth of the month, the city was broken into.]—3. that all the princes of the king of Babylon came and sat down in the middle gate: Nergal-Sharezer, Samgar-Nebo, Sarsechim the chief of the eunuchs, Nergal-Sharezer the chief of the magi,
Ver. 1 f. Interpolation respecting the siege and its duration, interrupting the narrative. Appendix to xxxviii. 286 follows in ver. 3; cf. on the construction, xxxvii. 11. The interpolation seems taken from lii. 4 ff., or rather from its source. Ver. 2. nyp3n, cf. Niphal, lii. 7, broken into, opened violently by the enemy. Ver. 3. Nebuchadnezzar himself, according to ver. 1 (and lii. 4; 2 Kings xxv. 1), had presumably opened the siege, but left its prosecution to his generals; so that he was not present at the capture, but was at Riblah (ver. 5 f.). His nobles sat to decide on the fate of the city and inhabitants in the gate of the midst., leading probably from the "middle city" (2 Kings xx. 4) to the northern suburb, belonging therefore to the old city-wall, and suitable as a central spot for such an act. The princes here formed themselves into a supreme tribunal. The reference evidently is not to a single sitting, but to a tribunal at work a longer time in the conquered city. Here only four such princes are named, not in ch. lii. and 2 Kings xxv., with genuine Babylonian names, respecting which see Schrader, ii. 109. The first in the inscriptions, Nirgal-sar-usur = Nirgal guard the king; the second, Samgar-nebu, according to Schrader, "Nebu, be gracious," shqfel from magar, to be weighed; the third, Sarsechim, obscure in its second part; the fourth, like the first. Hitzig ingeniously but somewhat arbitrarily reduces these four to three persons, and also makes the Nebushasban of ver. 13 one of the three. What ver. 13 suggests in the way of probable conjecture, see there. Two of those named have official titles: the prince of the eunuchs, who formed a numerous class, with many offices, among the Assyrians and Babylonians; and the chief of the magi, interpreters of stars and dreams, who played so great a part there. and all the other princes of the king of Babylon. [4. Then it came to pass, when Zedekiah, king of Judah, and all the men of war saw them, they fled, and broke out of the city by night by the way of the king's garden by the gate between the walls; and he went forth to the plain. 5. Then the Chaldaean troops pursued them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and took him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to Eiblah in the land of Hamath; and he pronounced judgment on him there. 6. And the king of Babylon slew the children of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. 7. But he put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and had him bound with two iron chains to take him to Babylon. 8. But the house of the king and the house of the common man the Chaldaeans burnt with fire, and the walls of Jerusalem they broke down. 9. But Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards, took the remainder of the people, those left in the city and the deserters who had gone over to him, and the remainder of
What questions are raised by the use of these designations, see Schrader, ii. 110. Probably the Babylonian word imga, lofty, a learned title, is to be distinguished from the Iranian magus (Lenormant, Magie der Chald. p. 554), unless the latter and Magism are to be derived from Babylon. With the combination, cf. Eab-shak, chief of the staff. Ver. 4. The occasion of the king's flight is more naturally told in lii. 7. As what follows is closely allied to the text there, we may suppose that vv. 4-10 spring thence, or rather are borrowed from the same source as ch. lii. The interpolator has understood ver. 3 of breaking into the city instead of the subsequent arranging and deciding, and hence has inserted here the account of the luckless flight of the king and the burning of the city. See on lii. 7 tf. Ver. 11 continues the narrative of Jeremiah's fate, interrupted by the interpolation. Nebuzaradan, properly Nabuzir-iddina = Nebo grant posterity (Schrader, ii. 51), came, according to lii. 12, four weeks after the capture of the city. The present passage does not contradict this, directly we suppose that those princes waited for the final commands of Nebuchadnezzar, which this " chief of the guards " had to bring. Among these commands was an order favourable to Jeremiah, which cannot surprise us when we consider that the deserters, who forsook the city chiefly at Jeremiah's advice, may long before have brought news of the prophet to the commander, who had
the people, the survivors, captive to Babylon. 10. But Nebuzaradan left some of the nation, the poor people, which possessed nothing, that were in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields on that day.] 11. And Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had given command by means of Nebuzaradan, chief of the guard, respecting Jeremiah, saying:
12. Take him and show attention to him, and do him no harm; but do thou deal with him as he shall say to thee.
13. Then Nebuzaradan, chief of the guard, and Nebushasban, chief of the eunuchs, and Nergal-Sharezer, the chief of the magi, and all the nobles of the king of Babylon, sent, 14. and they brought Jeremiah from the guard-court, and delivered him to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him home; and he dwelt among the people.
15. And the word of Yahveh came to Jeremiah, when he was imprisoned in the guard court, saying: 16. Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Cushite, saying: Thus says Yahveh of
had much trouble with Jerusalem, and would be glad to hear the news. Ver. 11. T3, by means of Nebuzaradan this command of the king came to the princes. But since Nebuzaradan is the chief actor, the command is addressed directly to him. Ver. 12. jn, with dagesh conjunct., as Mas. expressly notes, Ges. § 20. 2a. Keri would omit DK, but without reason. The style in this command as to treatment is diffuse, not without purpose. Ver. 13. Nebushasban, preserved in the original tongue: Nabu-si-zib-an-ni, "Nebo delivers me" (Schrader, ii. 115), is here head of the eunuchs; since in ver. 3 another appears with this title, there is perhaps a corruption of the text there, the "UDD there being a no longer recognisable official title distinguishing the first Nergal-Sh. from the second, while J3TC should be read instead of DODiC. Nebuzaradan now standing at the head is natural. Ver. 14. Jeremiah being still found in the guard-court, four weeks after the fall of the city, is not precluded by xxxviii. 28. Gedaliah, the new governor, see xl. 6 ff. rp3n btt—variously explained—applies to a private house in contrast with the prison. The reconciliation of this account with xl. 1 ff. is difficult. The LXX not only omit vv. 4-10 (perhaps as parallel to ch. lii.), but also vv. 11-13. But even then must we suppose, because of ver. 14, that a new imprisonment, arising from a mistake, had occurred after his first release? Ver. 15 ff. Appendix to Jeremiah's abode in the prison-court. Ver. 10. "3D, see on xix. 15. Ver. 17. "vu\ see