For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 23
From Gospel Translations
1 Samuel 15; Romans 13; Jeremiah 52; Psalm 31
THE HISTORICAL APPENDIX TO the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jer. 52) imposes a “spin” on the book as a whole. Without it, certain points would be left hanging—that is, they would still be there within the body of the book, but they would not be highlighted as powerfully as they are with this appendix to flesh them out.
First, it may be useful to offer notes on several of the historical details of this report. It is rather surprising that no mention is made of Nebuchadnezzar’s instructions for the protection of Jeremiah. But in fact, the interest lies in the large historical movement, not in Jeremiah’s personal circumstances. Some of the details complement the historical account provided by 2 Kings 25. Second Kings, for instance, does not mention Zedekiah’s imprisonment (Jer. 52:11). Seraiah the chief priest (52:24), one of the leaders who were executed, was grandson of Hilkiah, the high priest under Josiah, who traced his descent from Aaron (cf. 1 Chron. 6:13-15). The report of the numbers transported (52:28-30) is much lower than the figures given in 2 Kings 24. Probably the figures in Kings reflect the total, while the figures here refer to adult males or adult males of a certain rank. The variation in dates between 2 Kings 25:8 and Jeremiah 52 reflects, respectively, the Judean and the Babylonian methods of reckoning years of reign. Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Evil-Merodach (52:31—Amel-Marduk in Babylonian sources) reigned only one year (561—560 B.C.). Babylonian records confirm that Jehoiachin was among those who enjoyed this emperor’s largess.
Second, we should isolate the theological effects of reading this chapter at the end of the book. Two elements stand out. (a) The historical details remind the reader that everything predicted by Jeremiah came to pass. Because Jeremiah is not named, the flavor is stronger yet: everything that God said he would do, he did. The sin of the people was persistent, unrepented, corroding, perverse. Far from softening the people, the promise of judgment, which God out of mercy delayed and delayed, merely bred hardness of heart. But the promised judgment finally fell. One is reminded of the reasoning in 2 Peter 3. (b) The closing verses of the chapter (52:31-34) describe how the legitimate Davidic king was finally released from his imprisonment and treated with honor during the closing years of his life. Of course, he never returned to Jerusalem or to any part of the land of Israel. But thoughtful readers cannot help reflecting on the fact that the book does not finally end in judgment. There is still the whisper of hope. God is not yet finished with the Davidic dynasty. The first adumbration of the promises of the prophecy of Jeremiah fall across the horizon.