New English Translation
3 Then Nergal Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo Sarsekim (who was a chief officer), Nergal Sharezer (who was a high official),[a] and all the other officers of the king of Babylon came and set up quarters[b] in the Middle Gate.[c] 4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all his soldiers saw them, they tried to escape. They departed from the city during the night. They took a path through the king’s garden and passed out through the gate between the two walls.[d] Then they headed for the rift valley.[e] 5 But the Babylonian[f] army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho[g] and captured him.[h] They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah[i] in the territory of Hamath and Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him there.Read full chapter
- Jeremiah 39:3 tn English versions and commentaries differ on the number of officials named here and the exact spelling of their names. For a good discussion of the options see F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations (NAC), 341, n. 71. Most commentaries follow the general lead of J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243), as the present translation has done here. However, the second name is not emended on the basis of v. 13, as Bright does, nor is the second Nergal Sharezer regarded as the same man as the first and the information on the two combined, as he does. The first Nergal Sharezer is generally identified, on the basis of Babylonian records, as the man who usurped the throne from Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Awel Marduk, or Evil Merodach as he is known in the OT (Jer 52:31; 2 Kgs 25:27). The present translation renders the two technical Babylonian terms “Rab Saris” (only in Jer 39:3, 13; 2 Kgs 18:17) and “Rab Mag” (only in Jer 39:3, 13) as “chief officer” and “high official,” without knowing precisely what offices they held. This has been done to give the modern reader some feeling of their high position without specifying exactly what their precise positions were (i.e., the generic has been used for the [unknown] specific).
- Jeremiah 39:3 tn Heb “sat.” The precise meaning of this phrase is not altogether clear, but J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243) is undoubtedly correct in assuming that it had to do with setting up a provisional military government over the city.
- Jeremiah 39:3 tn The Hebrew style here is typically full or redundant, giving a general subject first and then listing the specifics. The Hebrew text reads: “Then all the officers of the king of Babylon came and sat in the Middle Gate, Nergal Sharezer…and all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon.” In the translation the general subject has been eliminated and the list of the “real” subjects used instead; this eliminates the dashes or commas typical of some modern English versions.sn The location of the Middle Gate is uncertain since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT.
- Jeremiah 39:4 sn The king’s garden is mentioned again in Neh 3:15 in conjunction with the pool of Siloam and the stairs that go down from the City of David. This would have been in the southern part of the city near the Tyropean Valley. The location agrees with the reference to the “two walls,” which were probably the walls on the eastern and western hills.
- Jeremiah 39:4 sn The rift valley (עֲרָבָה, ʿaravah) extends from Galilee along the Jordan River and descends to the Gulf of Aqaba. In this context the men head to the Jordan Valley near Jericho, intending to escape across the river to Moab or Ammon. It appears from 40:14 and 41:15 that the Ammonites were known to harbor fugitives from the Babylonians.
- Jeremiah 39:5 tn Heb “The Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 39:5 tn The plural form of עֲרָבָה (ʿaravah, rift valley) refers to the sloping plains of the rift valley basin north of the Dead Sea, in this case west of the Jordan in the vicinity of the Jericho (HALOT 880 s.v.). See the note at Num 21:1.
- Jeremiah 39:5 sn 2 Kgs 25:5 and Jer 52:8 mention that the soldiers all scattered from him. That is why the text focuses on Zedekiah here.
- Jeremiah 39:5 sn Riblah was a strategic town on the Orontes River in Syria at a crossing of the major roads between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Pharaoh Necho had earlier received Jehoahaz there, putting him in chains (2 Kgs 23:33) prior to taking him captive to Egypt. There Nebuchadnezzar had set up his base camp for conducting his campaigns against the Palestinian states, and now he was sitting in judgment on prisoners brought to him.