21:1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah 1 when King Zedekiah 2 sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. 3 Zedekiah sent them to Jeremiah to ask, 4 21:2 “Please ask the Lord to come and help us, 5 because King Nebuchadnezzar 6 of Babylon is attacking us. Maybe the Lord will perform one of his miracles as in times past and make him stop attacking us and leave.” 7 21:3 Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah 21:4 that the Lord, the God of Israel, says, 8 ‘The forces at your disposal 9 are now outside the walls fighting against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Babylonians 10 who have you under siege. I will gather those forces back inside the city. 11 21:5 In anger, in fury, and in wrath I myself will fight against you with my mighty power and great strength! 12 21:6 I will kill everything living in Jerusalem, 13 people and animals alike! They will die from terrible diseases. 21:7 Then 14 I, the Lord, promise that 15 I will hand over King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, and any of the people who survive the war, starvation, and disease. I will hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will slaughter them with the sword. He will not show them any mercy, compassion, or pity.’
21:8 “But 16 tell the people of Jerusalem 17 that the Lord says, ‘I will give you a choice between two courses of action. One will result in life; the other will result in death. 18 21:9 Those who stay in this city will die in battle or of starvation or disease. Those who leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians who are besieging it will live. They will escape with their lives. 19 21:10 For I, the Lord, say that 20 I am determined not to deliver this city but to bring disaster on it. 21 It will be handed over to the king of Babylon and he will destroy it with fire.’” 22
“Listen to what the Lord says,
The Lord says:
Deliver those who have been robbed from those 28 who oppress them.
Otherwise, my wrath will blaze out against you.
It will burn like a fire that cannot be put out
because of the evil that you have done. 29
‘You boast, “No one can swoop down on us.
No one can penetrate into our places of refuge.” 33
21:14 But I will punish you as your deeds deserve,’
says the Lord. 34
‘I will set fire to your palace;
it will burn up everything around it.’” 35
[21:1] 2 sn Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. He ruled from 597
[21:1] 3 sn The Pashhur son of Malkijah referred to here is not the same as the Pashhur referred to in 20:1-6 who was the son of Immer. This Pashhur is referred to later in 38:1. The Zephaniah referred to here was the chief of security referred to later in Jer 29:25-26. He appears to have been favorably disposed toward Jeremiah.
[21:2] 5 tn The verb used here is often used of seeking information through a prophet (e.g., 2 Kgs 1:16; 8:8) and hence many translate “inquire of the
[21:2] 6 tn The dominant spelling of this name is actually Nebuchadrezzar which is closer to his Babylonian name Nebu kudduri uzzur. An alternate spelling which is found 6 times in the book of Jeremiah and 17 times elsewhere is Nebuchadnezzar which is the form of the name that is usually used in English versions.
[21:2] sn Nebuchadnezzar was the second and greatest king of Babylon. He is known in the Bible both for his two conquests of Jerusalem in 597
[21:2] sn The miracles that they may have had in mind would have included the Exodus, the conquest of Jericho, the deliverance of Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20:1-30), etc., but predominant in their minds was probably the deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib in the times of Hezekiah (Isa 37:33-38).
[21:4] 10 sn The Babylonians (Heb “the Chaldeans”). The Chaldeans were a group of people in the country south of Babylon from which Nebuchadnezzar came. The Chaldean dynasty his father established became the name by which the Babylonians are regularly referred to in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s contemporary Ezekiel uses both terms.
[21:4] 11 tn The structure of the Hebrew sentence of this verse is long and complex and has led to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. There are two primary points of confusion: 1) the relation of the phrase “outside the walls,” and 2) the antecedent of “them” in the last clause of the verse that reads in Hebrew: “I will gather them back into the midst of the city.” Most take the phrase “outside the walls” with “the Babylonians….” Some take it with “turn back/bring back” to mean “from outside….” However, the preposition “from” is part of the idiom for “outside….” The phrase goes with “fighting” as J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 215) notes and as NJPS suggests. The antecedent of “them” has sometimes been taken mistakenly to refer to the Babylonians. It refers rather to “the forces at your disposal” which is literally “the weapons which are in your hands.” This latter phrase is a figure involving substitution (called metonymy) as Bright also correctly notes. The whole sentence reads in Hebrew: “I will bring back the weapons of war which are in your hand with which you are fighting Nebuchadrezzar the King of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside your wall and I will gather them into the midst of the city.” The sentence has been restructured to better reflect the proper relationships and to make the sentence conform more to contemporary English style.
[21:5] sn The phrases in this order are unique but a very similar phrase “by strong hand and outstretched arm” are found several times with reference to God’s mighty power unleashed against Egypt at the exodus (cf., Deut 4:34; 5:15; 26:8; Jer 32:21; Ps 136:12). Instead of being directed at Israel’s enemies it will now be directed against her.
[21:9] sn Spoil was what was carried off by the victor (see, e.g., Judg 5:30). Those who surrendered to the Babylonians would lose their property, their freedom, and their citizenship but would at least escape with their lives. Jeremiah was branded a traitor for this counsel (cf. 38:4) but it was the way of wisdom since the
[21:10] 21 tn Heb “I have set my face against this city for evil [i.e., disaster] and not for good [i.e., well-being].” For the use of the idiom “set one’s face against/toward” see, e.g., usage in 1 Kgs 2:15; 2 Kgs 2:17; Jer 42:15, 17 and note the interesting interplay of usage in Jer 44:11-12.
[21:11] 23 tn The words “The
[21:12] 27 sn The kings of Israel and Judah were responsible for justice. See Pss 122:5. The king himself was the final court of appeals judging from the incident of David with the wise woman of Tekoa (2 Sam 14), Solomon and the two prostitutes (1 Kgs 3:16-28), and Absalom’s attempts to win the hearts of the people of Israel by interfering with due process (2 Sam 15:2-4). How the system was designed to operate may be seen from 2 Chr 19:4-11.
[21:13] 30 tn Or “Listen, Jerusalem, you…”; Heb text of v. 21a-b reads, “Behold I am against you [fem. sg.], O inhabitant [fem. sg.] of the valley [and of] the rock of the plain, oracle of the
[21:13] sn What is being expressed here is the belief in the inviolability of Zion/Jerusalem carried to its extreme. Signal deliverances of Jerusalem such as those experienced under Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20) and Hezekiah (Isa 37:36-37) in the context of promises to protect it (Isa 31:4-5; 37:33-35; 38:6) led to a belief that Zion was unconquerable. This belief found expression in several of Israel’s psalms (Pss 46, 48, 76) and led to the mistaken assumption that God would protect it regardless of how the people treated God or one another. Micah and Jeremiah both deny that (cf. Mic 3:8-12; Jer 21:13-14).
[21:14] 35 tn Heb “I will set fire in its forest and it will devour its surroundings.” The pronouns are actually third feminine singular going back to the participle “you who sit enthroned above the valley.” However, this is another example of those rapid shifts in pronouns typical of the biblical Hebrew style which are uncommon in English. They have regularly been leveled to the same person throughout in the translation to avoid possible confusion for the English reader.