AUTHOR, PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
Virtually no one disputes that the book of Jeremiah was written by Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah (1:1). The prophet Jeremiah dictated most of his prophecies from Jerusalem to his faithful secretary, Baruch, who wrote them down verbatim (36:4). Jeremiah wrote these words over the course of his prolonged ministry (c. 626-580 B.c.). Chapter 52, an addendum (see 51:64; cf. 2Ki 24:18-25:30, which is nearly iden-tical), was added, possibly by Baruch, sometime after Jehoiachin's release from captivity (c. 560 B.C.).
Reclusive, analytical and self-critical by nature—he has aptly been called the "weeping prophet" —Jeremiah also preached an unpopular message. The people of Judah were in apostasy, God would not protect them and they were obliged to submit to Babylonian demands. Above all, and despite the promise that someday God would give Israel a new covenant (Jer 31), the prophet's overall message was one of doom and gloom: Jerusalem was soon to fall. Because of his negative stance, Jeremiah was widely despised and continuously in danger (11:18-23; 26:8; 38:6). On at least one occasion the text of his message was destroyed by the king (36:20-24). Even Jeremiah's scribe, Baruch, was dismayed about his own future (ch. 45). Jeremiah, an old man, lived to see his words fulfilled and Jerusalem destroyed.
The precise shape of Jeremiah's work is problematic, since two distinctly different versions of his book have survived. One, in the standard Hebrew version known as the Masoretic Text, is the basis for our English translations of the book. The other, found in the Septuagint, appears to represent a variant edition. The Septuagint version is shorter than its counterpart from the Masoretic Text, and its chapters are laid out in a somewhat different order. Many interpreters believe the Septuagint version of Jeremiah to have been based on an alternative Hebrew text. How do scholars account for the two distinct versions of this expanded prophecy, and how can we be certain that what we read is what the prophet intended? The turmoil surrounding Jeremiah's life and that of his book probably accounts for the two different versions. No doubt more than one collection of his messages was in circulation as Jerusalem fell and the Jews were scattered (Jeremiah himself was taken captive to Egypt; ch. 43). Thus, it is not surprising that different "editions" of his work were copied and handed down.
Jeremiah began his ministry during the thirteenth year of King Josiah (640-609 B.c.) and continued preaching through the reigns of Jehoahaz (609), Jehoiakim (609-598), Jehoiachin (598-597) and Zedekiah (597-586), living on into the first years after the fall of Jerusalem. His ministry covered a broad time period—in excess of 40 years—and his book is a compilation of his messages and of accounts of incidents throughout his life.
Jeremiah was written to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem, its capital city.
CULTURAL FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Jeremiah wrote during a period of political and military unrest, during which the entire region, including the small and vulnerable state of Judah, found itself at the mercy of the day's superpowers—Assyria. Egypt and, increasingly, Babylonia—as they vied for domination. Ironically, Jeremiah's ministry began during the time of Josiah's attempt to reform the nation of Judah and purge it of idolatry (2Ki 22-23). Yet the prophet's message, with its focus on judgment, was consistently rejected by the people. Despite Josiah's attempts to turn Judah back to God, the people were obstinate and complacent, fully meriting the sentence that would befall them.
AS YOU READ
Be alert for Jeremiah's frequent self-revelations. What was this ostensibly dour individual all about underneath the rough exterior? Look for passages that reinforce his deep love, not only for the God he extolled but also for his countrymen and women. Marvel as he prayed for his people, despite God's instructions that he not bother to do so (Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).
Pay attention to the role of symbolism and the use of visual aids in this rich book. What personal sacrifices did Jeremiah make in order to follow God's leading (e.g., 16:1-4)?
Look for the ever-present juxtaposition of judgment with the invitation to repentance, which, if sincere, might have been expected to postpone the otherwise inevitable.
Finally, watch for clues about Jeremiah's perception of God, who to him was ultimate and supreme, not only over his own people but over all the nations.
DID YOU KNOW?
Jeremiah's themes include:
1. Repentance. Jeremiah called God's people to repent and return to God in order to avoid divine judgment (e.g., 7:1-15). The people responded negatively (5:20-25; 8:4-7), and, as a consequence, some of the oracles asserted that the coming judgment was certain, with no possibility of repentance (6:16-21).
2. Judgment. Jeremiah announced that Judah's covenant rebellion would bring judgment (11:1-13:27). The prophet pointed out that the people had broken the covenant by their idolatry (2:11; 7:30; 9:13-14; 10:1-16; 16:10-13; 22:9; 29:10; 44:2-3,8,17-19,25), their attempts to save themselves through military alliances (2:36) and their injustice and ethical violations (7:5-11; 9:3-11; 17:19-27; 21:11-22:30). Their sin would not go unpunished (5:20-29).
3. Restoration. Jeremiah's prophetic vision extended beyond judgment to restoration. Jeremiah 30:1-33:26 (called the "book of consolation") describes a new covenant (31:31-33)—infinitely better than those that had preceded it. While these salvation oracles would come to preliminary fulfillment with the defeat of Babylon and the return of the people in 538 B.C., Jesus himself ultimately fulfilled the new covenant (1 Co 11:25; 2C0 3:6; Heb 9:15; 12:24).
III. Promises of Restoration (30-33)
IV. Historical Insertion (34-35)
V. The Sufferings of Jeremiah (36-38)
VI. Fall of Jerusalem and Following Events (39-45)
VII. Judgment Against the Nations (46-51)
VIII. Historical Appendix (52)
JEREMIAH 4 Evidence for habitation of Jerusalem goes back to the Chalcolithic Age: 2 but it appears that the city was first fortified during the Middle Bronze period. First Chronicles 11:4 suggests that the pre-Israelite city was also called Jebus.3 Even so, the name "Jerusalem," or something like it, appears to be very ancient. An eighteenth-century B.C. Egyptian execration text mentions a Rosh-lamem, and this appears to have been Jerusalem. The 12-acre Jebusite city captured by David's men was located south of what would become the temple mount and was bounded on the east by the Kidron Valley and on the west by the Tyropoeon Valley. It was surrounded during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages by walls that were hardly modified until Nehemiah's time. The city was watered by the Gihon spring, located below a protective tower just outside the northeastern walls. En-Rogel, a spring outside the city to the south, also provided water.
Solomon expanded the city to 32 acres. The threshing floor of Araunah, on a second hill just north of David's city, served as a platform for the temple-palace complex built by Solomon and was enclosed within a new wall. The depression between the two hills was filled in between newly constructed retaining walls on the eastern and western sides; this area was perhaps known as the Ophel ("swelling"). Few, if any, traces remain of Solomon's temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians., Zerubbabel's temple, built on the same foundation, was later greatly improved and expanded by Herod,5 then destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.6 The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque presently cover the temple mount.
Over the course of time the city expanded, with new towers, gates and conduits for water added. Uzziah strengthened the walls with towers along the western wall and the temple mount (2Ch 26:15).The Tower of Hananel, at the northwestern corner of the temple mount, also existed during this period. Jotham constructed the upper gate of the temple (2Ki 15:35).
The population increased from an influx of northern refugees after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C., and the city grew to 125 acres. Hezekiah extended the walls to enclose a hill to the west, known as the Mishneh ("second quarter") and constructed a tunnel to ensure water flow from the Gihon spring to the Lower Pool (2Chr 32:30);7 an earlier tunnel directed water to an "Old" or Upper Pool. These improvements helped preserve the city from Sennacherib's siege of 701 B.C.
Manasseh constructed a second wall near the Gihon spring (2Ch 33:14). Sixteen gates are named in descriptions of preexilic and fifth-century B.c. Jerusalem and three others in descriptions of Nehemiah's Jerusalem; others may have existed. Some are named for nearby roads or associated geographic features, while others reflect the activities of citizens (e.g., Fish Gate, Sheep Gate,Water Gate).
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., but the temple and walls were rebuilt during the Persian period following a half century without occupation. However, the newly inhabited area encompassed only the original Davidic and Solomonic quarters. An era of peace under the Ptolemies and then the Romans allowed Judea to prosper. Hasmonean Jerusalem expanded to 165 acres, then to 230 acres under Herod, who constructed a large, fortified palace along the western wall, protected by three towers in the northwestern corner. Another fortress protected the temple complex to the north, but this area and the lower city were the first to fall to the attack of the Romans under Titus in A.D.70.
Jerusalem is sacred to Jews, Christians and Moslems and has been inhabited almost continuously since ancient times.These factors have ensured that much has been preserved —but much also has been lost. As later generations rebuilt over ancient sites, archaeological evidence vanished forever. Members of one religion at times deliberately destroyed what was sacred to another. Also, modern archaeologists have a limited ability to dig in the city for the simple reason that it is currently inhabited. Thus, although Jerusalem is by far the most important city of the Bible, many questions remain unanswered.
JEREMIAH 6 Jerusalem, after a 30-month siege, fell to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar on July 18,586 B.C.1 Contemporary writings of Jeremiah, Ezekiel,the Babylonian Chronicle,the Lachish Letters and Egyptian records all provide details of this period.
The Judeans hoped for the restoration of King Jehoiachin, exiled in Babylon along with 10,000 Judean soldiers and artisans since 597 B.C. Babylonian ration tablets report distributions to Jehoiachin from 595 until 570 B.C.2 A weakened Judah; ruled by Zedekiah, struggled against pressures from two sides:the ambitions of Pharaoh Apries (also known as Hophra) to gain control over the Levant (Syria-Palestine) and Babylonian interest in maintaining control of the same territory.
Zedekiah was summoned to Babylon, perhaps to proclaim his loyalty, but was soon involved in an anti-Babylonian coalition with Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon. When he withheld annual tribute, Nebuchadnezzar responded, laying siege against Jerusalem on January 15, 588 B.C. A year later Zedekiah proclaimed the release of Hebrew slaves in the city, probably to add them to the meager ranks of the city's defenders.The Babylonians laid siege to Lachish and Azekah, prompting an unsuccessful Egyptian intervention at Lachish. Nebuchadnezzar broke off the siege of Jerusalem for a month to deal with the Egyptians, prompting Zedekiah to rescind his order for the release of the Hebrew slaves. Some Judeans used the occasion to flee or to surrender to the Babylonians, following Jeremiah's advice. The siege quickly resumed, and Jerusalem's wall was breached on July 18, 586 B.C. Owing to famine within the city, resistance was feeble. Zedekiah fled but was captured and blinded shortly after having been forced to witness his own sons being put to death. Jerusalem was ransacked,the temple burned and many exiled to Babylon. Others fled to Egypt after assassinating Gedaliah,the Babylonian governor.
JEREMIAH 7 Located in the middle of Israel's hill country, Shiloh was the nation's first holy city. At the conclusion of the conquest, around 1400 B.C.,1 Joshua erected the tabernacle at Shiloh, thereby establishing this location as Israel's religious center (Jos 18:1).Thereafter, yearly pilgrimages were made to Shiloh for worship and sacrifice (Jdg 21:19; 1Sa 1:3,21; 2:19).2 It remained the central shrine of Israel for over 300 years, until the city was destroyed, presumably by the Philistines, in the early eleventh century B.C. Israel remained without a primary religious locus for more than a century after that, until Solomon constructed the temple in Jerusalem around 966-959 B.C. (1 Ki 6:37-38).
In the early eleventh century B.C. the Philistines defeated Israel at Ebenezer and the ark of the covenant was captured (1 Sa 4:1-11).4 Although this is not specifically stated in Scripture, it appears that the Philistines followed up their victory by destroying Shiloh (Ps 78:58-61; Jer 7:12-14; 26:6). One way or another, it is clear that Shiloh ceased to exist at about this time since, after Ebenezer, this city is no longer mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, when the Philistines returned the ark, it was taken to Beth Shemesh rather than to Shiloh.' Following the defeat at Ebenezer, Samuel took up residence at Ramah and ministered in Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah (1Sa 7:16-17).
Shiloh was first inhabited during the Middle Bronze II period.' This pre-Israelite site at that time covered an area of about four acres and was surrounded by a wall of field stones and an earthen glacis. This site was destroyed in the sixteenth century B.C.; large storage containers, bronze weapons and silver jewelry were unearthed there. Remains from the Late Bronze I period suggest that this location was a cultic or ritual center, but since no masonry has been found from the period, it was probably not a regular settlement at that time.
Excavations at Shiloh have revealed a significant building complex from the Iron I period, which takes us through the time of Eli. The Iron I period excavations produced fourteen silos and two Israelite storage buildings with rooms full of large, collared-rim jars (a type of pottery used by the Israelites).This period of habitation was terminated by a fierce conflagration, probably the work of the Philistines in around 1050 B.c.
No evidence of the tabernacle has been discovered, but the situation of the storage buildings suggests that they were part of a larger complex on the summit, constituting a public storage facility, exhibiting sophisticated construction techniques, including stone drum pillars,wooden columns and paved floors. The bedrock was cut to level the floor and hew out a cistern, which was then plastered. Inside, archaeologists uncovered the richest assemblage of pottery ever unearthed from the late twelfth through early eleventh centuries B.C., including over 20 large storage jars.The fire that destroyed this complex resulted in a thick layer of ash containing carbonized roof beams and bricks burned to a reddish-yellow hue.Shiloh ultimately became proverbial for divine judgment on an apostate shrine (Jer 7:12).The discovery of Iron II material verifies that the site was at least sporadically utilized after the destruction—probably by transient peoples, since no permanent settlement evidence from this period exists.
JEREMIAH 9 The typical Israelite town followed the same basic design throughout the Iron Age, (1200-600 B.c.). Examining its layout, a Westerner might feel bewildered by an evidently unorganized array of walls and streets. But this was no labyrinth; the paths and walls first joined together families and only secondarily connected all the family units into a single community.
Each home probably housed a nuclear family but was also part of an extended family compound. This familial structure, a patriarchal social unit based upon patrilineal descent, was based on the concept of a "father's house" (Hebrew bet av).The larger family unit consisted of the paternal head, along with his wife, his sons and their wives, the grandchildren and finally the slaves.2 When David was a youth his grown brothers were still part of the bet av of Jesse in Bethlehem (1Sa 16). Similarly, in Genesis 12:1 God com-manded the already aging Abram to leave his bet ay.
The four-room house was the most common type of Israelite residence. Most were two-story, rectangular structures, but the distinctive feature was the layout of the rooms. The main floor was entered through a door at the center of the (short) front wa II, which led into a long hallway flanked on both sides by other corridor-like rooms. Across the back of the house was the fourth room. Actually, the four rooms could be subdivided into a number of different configurations. Even so, this basic design, along with a modified version called the three-room house, set the standard for Israelite architecture.
Such houses often had internal pillars of stone or wood. Walls were composed of sun-dried mud bricks (with plaster on the outer walls) and were built up on a few courses of foundation stones. Wooden beams served as the base for the second story, as well as the ceiling for the ground Ievel.The roof consisted of compressed, mud-caked twigs placed over wooden beams and topped with plaster, a combination in constant need of maintenance. Windows were probably slits in the walls necessary for ventilation, since chimneys were not used, but still kept small for security purposes. The annexes or subdivisions located by archaeologists within some of these houses may have been "widow's quarters" for grandmothers. Servants shared the family compound.
The function of the four-room house within Israelite culture remains debated, but it was well suited to the agricultural nature of Israelite society., The three parallel rooms may have been inspired by the need to accommodate stalls for domestic animals. In the coldest months livestock would have remained in these stalls, providing some warmth not only for the animals but also for the family upstairs. The cross-room at the back probably functioned as a storage compartment (a house excavated at Shechem included a storage pit in this area).The flat roof served as a kind of summer patio (cf. Ac 10:9), as well as a place to bathe (2Sa 11:2).4
Most towns were surrounded by a wall for security. Many had a double or casemate wall, often with homes integrated into it. Sometimes the backs of houses served as the outer defensive wall of the city, an arrange-ment especially common during the Iron II period. The main gate in the outer wall was not just the place through which people could exit and enter but also the primary meeting place. Inhabitants would continuously see one another going and coming and would meet there after a day in the fields. Traveling merchants encountered the townspeople at the gate, which became the site for the city market. Legal issues were discussed there as well.There are countless references in the Bible to "the gate" as the social, commercial and judicial hub of a city (e.g., Ru 4:1; 2Ki 7:1; Ps 127:5).
The design of Israelite towns and houses in many ways mirrored Israel's social values and customs. These traditional structures endured through many historical changes. Tragically, the remains of these cities often attest to violent destruction and to chaotic upheavals that brought recurrent disruption and turmoil to a settled, agrarian society. Jeremiah 9 anticipates such a scenario.
JEREMIAH 11 Ritual incense in ancient Israel was a mixture of finely pulverized aromatic gum resins and frankincense, which was salted to produce a visible cloud of sweet-smelling smoke (Ex 30:34-35). Acquired from Syria and Arabia via ancient spice trade routes (Jer 6:20), its cost and fragrance rendered it a valuable commodity and an of-fering fitting for the Lord.
Incense was burned as a regular sacrifice at daybreak and again at twilight on a three-foot-long, gold-plated altar standing before the Most Holy Place (Ex 30:7-8). The aromatic cloud was the only physical entity to penetrate the veil that sealed off the divine Presence from the ministering priesthood. Thus it became a sign of earthly acts of devotion ascending to God's dwelling place, likened in Scripture to prayer rising to heaven as a cloud of smoke rises in the sky (Ps 141:2; Rev 5:8; 8:3-4). Incense could also be offered in portable censers, which were like cups attached to the ends of long handles or bowls set upon pedestals. The annual Day of Atonement was one occasion when the high priest would carry a fire pan of burning coals behind the veil. There he would sprinkle the spice mixture upon the coals, producing an effusive incense cloud to conceal the sight of the divine Presence (Lev 16:12-13).
Consecrated for ritual use, incense was "holy to the LORD" (Ex 30:37). It was made according to a specific formula and offered at prescribed times by the appropriate temple personnel.' Those who burned it illicitly or unworthily were struck down by divine wrath (Lev 10:1-2; Nu 16:35; 2Ch 26:19). Idolatrous Israel exhibited her devotion to other gods by offering incense to them in homes, public city streets, sacred gardens and even in the temple itself (Isa 17:8; Jer 32:29; Eze 8:10-11). The kingdom of God, by contrast, will be characterized by a pilgrimage of the nations to adore the Lord in true worship and with offerings of incense (Isa 60:6; Mal 1:11; Mt 2:11).
JEREMIAH 14 Jeremiah 14 reflects the panic and dismay of the people as they sought to preserve life and home in the face of overwhelming military threats. We see evidence of the same conditions reflected in a series of notes written on pieces of clay from this time period.
The site of Arad, an ancient Judean desert fortress, has yielded approximately 200 ostraca (ink-inscribed potsherds) of Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions that constitute the largest collection of written texts recovered from Biblical times. These broken- pottery pieces preserve the history of the citadel and grant a glimpse into the life of its occupants during the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. The majority of the sherds, written in paled-Hebrew, are military communiques dating back to approximately 600 B.c. They are ad-dressed to the commander of the fortress, Eliashiv ben Eshiyahu, with instructions to ration flour, wine and oil to soldiers serving in the Negev, as well as to the "Kittim," an estimated 25 Aegean mercenary soldiers serving in the Judean military. A number of the ostraca contain listings of names, most likely used for recording the distribution of rations. Ostracon #24 speaks of an imminent Edomite invasion. In this letter the commander requested that reinforcement troops be sent from Arad and from the smaller fortress of Qinah to Ramat Negev, a town 6 miles (10 km) away, in order to repulse the Edomite threat.
In the vicinity of the Arad sanctuary, sherds with individual, personal names, possibly used as lots for priestly duties, were uncovered. Among those represented are Pashhur and Meremoth (Ezr 8:33; Jer 20:1), as well as "the sons of Korah" (2Ch 20:19; Ps 84:1), all priestly families mentioned in the Bible. Ostracon #18 contains the earliest extrabiblical mention of the temple as "the house of Yahweh." In addition to their historical value, these ostraca have contributed greatly to the study of Hebrew orthography (conventional or standardized spelling of words) and its development.
JEREMIAH 17 The Hebrew word Asherim (MV "Asherah poles") in Jeremiah 17:2 denotes either the Canaanite goddess named Asherah (the singular form of the word) or some object associated with pagan worship in Israel and Judah. Of the 40 occurrences of the term in the Old Testament, only four of them refer to the proper name given to the goddess; the remaining usages all signify something either constructed of wood or planted. We may assume that a wooden object—perhaps a tree or a pole—was used to symbolize the goddess in Canaanite religion.The passages that speak of Asherim being "made"may refer to wooden figurines of the goddess.
Early Bible translations (the Septuagint and the Vulgate),' as well as an ancient commentary (the Jewish Mishnah),
understood Asherim to refer to a group of trees.The translation "grove" in the KJV preserves the Septuagint and Vulgate understanding. This tradition, while possible in some cases, is probably incorrect, since the KJV of Jeremiah 17:2 speaks of "groves by the green trees.
The Canaanite goddess Asherah is well attested in the texts from the ancient city of Ugarit,3 where she is portrayed as the consort, or partner, of El and the mother of other gods. Jeremiah's condemnation of idolatry in Judah, particularly of the type associated with the Asherim, is illuminated by a cache of inscriptions found at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud, located 31 miles (50 km) south of Kadesh Barnea in the northern Sinai. Especially enlightening are three texts from this site that say, "I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his Asherah," "I bless you by Yahweh of Teman and by his Asherah" and "to Yahweh of Teman and to his Asherah." The Asherah cited at Kuntillet Ajr6c1 may be the same wooden cultic object so frequently mentioned in the Bible. It is more likely, however, that the use of the term here provides firsthand evidence for an idolatrous merging of orthodox Yahwistic faith and is a reference not to an idol but to a goddess, a supposed consort of Yahweh.This is Canaanite paganism—precisely the type of idolatry and syncretism that Jeremiah was attempting to combat.
JEREMIAH 18 Archaeologists have discovered a great deal of evidence related to pottery-making in ancient Israel, including the remains of workshops, potter's wheels, tools, unfired vessels, prepared clay and kilns. la;.. A large production area was excavated at Late Bronze' and Iron Age Megiddo,2 for example. Production typically followed the method described below:
Basic techniques were developed during the Neolithic period. The discovery of pottery-making technology was a major revolu-tion of the ancient world; in fact, researchers differentiate between"pre-pottery"and"pottery" Neolithic phases. Fundamental principles worked out during this time included the selection of appropriate clays, the use of tempering agents and the development of proper firing techniques. There were some significant innovations later on, although many observable differences were simply matters of style.
Early potters understood the importance of turning the clay in order to shape vessels, but an innovation of the Middle Bronze period, the "kick wheel," allowed potters to create delicate pottery. Since the wheel was turned rapidly by foot, it allowed the potter to use both hands for shaping. Potters could "throw" the clay, shaping a single lump on a wheel with the aid of centrifugal force.They also began to use fine clays that were slippery and plastic or pliable. The finer clays required more controlled drying and firing processes, since vessels made of such clay could more easily shrink and crack.
Toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age potters learned to decorate pots with slips and paint. While clay dries, salts suspended in the water form a layer on the surface. Since this "scum" prevents paints from absorbing properly and distorts their colors, a white firing slip was applied.This would adhere to the vessel so that the red or black painted decorations would not be affected by the scum.
The Late Bronze Age saw a decline in pottery-making skills. Late Bronze potters reverted to using less malleable, coarser clays that were easier to work with; they were less prone to cracking, and attaching handles was easier. Use of these coarser clays resulted in heavier, thicker pottery. The use of the high-speed wheel may have died out; slips, if applied at all, were thinner; and pottery was less likely to be painted. During the Iron Age the quality of pottery-making improved markedly. The kick wheel came back into use, and techniques were developed for fast production and for making vessels with thin walls but sturdy bases. Potters used string to separate vessels from the remaining clay on the wheel ("string-cutting"); sometimes they partially dried vessels and then shaved them down prior to firing. This allowed for strong but lightweight pottery. Small vessels, like cups, were typically thrown, but larger items were built up using the coil technique.
When Jeremiah "went down to the potter's house" (Jer 18:3), he descended from Jerusalem to the Hinnom Valley,on the west-ern and southern sides of the city, where the potters' quarter was located (19:2). He dis-covered the potter forming a vessel at a fast kick wheel. When the clay did not form properly, the potter started over, reshaping the lump into another vessel. This provided an object lesson for Jeremiah on the sovereignty of God, who molds and shapes people and events as he wills (18:5-6)
JEREMIAH 21 Desire for justice was a major theme in many ancient writings. The Egyptian tale of the Eloquent Peasant (from the Middle Kingdom) is a prime example. An impoverished man, traveling to Egypt in search of food, was beaten and robbed of his provisions by a landholder named Nemty-nakht. When Nemty-nakht refused to return the poor man's possessions, the peasant ap-pealed to the high steward of the district.The peasant's eloquent remarks concerning justice and equity were subsequently reported to the king, who, hoping to prompt more speeches from the peasant, ordered the high
steward to make no reply to him but to secretly record all of his orations praising justice and admonishing against partiality.Taking the steward's silence as a sign of corruption, the peasant delivered nine beautifully crafted speeches regarding the duties of a righteous judge and the malignancy of corrupt officials. The king was so pleased with the peasant's articulate description of justice that he not only ordered the return of the man's stolen goods but apparently awarded him Nemty-nakht's possessions as well.
The cry for justice was also a common theme among the prophets of Israel. Jeremiah warned the king's house to deliver the poor from the oppressor who was robbing them (Jer 21:11-14). Refusal to execute justice would be met by the wrath of God. But God also promised a remedy for the corrupt rulers of his people: He would raise up a righteous branch from David's line to reign as king and to administer justice.This promised savior would be called "The LORD Our Righteousness" (23:6).Thus, Biblical Israel shared with other ancient cultures a desire for justice but received in response the promise of a unique answer to that desire.
JEREMIAH 22 Ramat Rahel, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, 1 was fortified during the eighth century B.C. and occupied, with some breaks, until the eighth century A.D. An Israelite citadel during the late seventh century B.C., it included a palace and administrative buildings. Archaeologists have discovered small, decorative capitals (the tops of columns that bear their weight) and columns with traces of red paint that formed the banister and railing of a window. Larger capitals were found with recesses at the top for ceiling beams, which were typically made of cedar wood.2 These finds remarkably match the description of Jehoiakim's palace in Jeremiah 22:13-15; indeed, Ramat Rahel may have served as the king's summer palace ((tier 36:22).
In addition, numerous jar handles were discovered there. Of those found, 145 were stamped with the Hebrew word which means either"(belonging) to the king" (indicating that they were a royal stock) or "(certified) by the king" (specifying that they conformed to royal standards of weights and measures). Another handle was found stamped with the Hebrew words for "belonging to Eliakim, steward of Jehoiachin." This Eliakim may have been a subordinate of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, who was exiled to Babylon in 597 B.c.3 Later jar handles, stamped with "Jerusalem," "Judah," "Judah, the Governor," etc., indicate the site's use as an administrative center during the Persian period.
Evidence suggests that Ramat Rahel may be identified with Beth Hakkerem, which means "house of the vineyard" (Ne 3:14; Jer 6:1). Herodian remains include coins dated up to A.D. 69,the year before the destruction of Herod's temple.
JEREMIAH 25 The prophetic expression describing the time of Judah's captivity as "seventy years" (Jer 25:11,12; 29:10) has prompted speculation throughout the history of interpretation. • The numeric systems of the ancient Near East were predom-inantly hexagesimal (based upon ascending groups of six), and the maximum number that could be easily calculated was 60.The number 70 may have been used to symbolically represent a numeric value of staggering proportions or perhaps the number of years representing a generation (Ps 90:10; Isa 23:15). The number 70 may have been used in the same way in Jeremiah 25, as in Isaiah's announcement that -Tyre would be desolate for 70 years (Isa 23:15,17), and a similar usage may be reflected in the Black Stone of Esarhaddon, in which Marduk decreed displeasure against Babylon for 70 years.
King Jehoiakim began to serve the Babylonians by politi-cally consigning Judah as a vassal state in 604 B.C. (2Ki 24:1). Almost 70 years later Babylon was captured by the Persians,3 bringing about the end of Babylonian sovereignty over Judah and initiating the process of exilic return under Cyrus the Great (539/538 B.c.).
The interpretation of Jeremiah's 70 years of captivity as the approximate period between 604-539/538 B.C. is more explicitly stated in later Biblical texts. According to 2 Chronicles 36:20-21, divine judgment was executed against the Judahites by the Babylonian king in that "they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power ...until the sev-enty years were completed." Both the Chronicler (2Ch 36:22) and Ezra (Ezr 1:1) interpreted the edict of Cyrus, which authorized the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (Ezr 1:2-4; 6:1-12), as the fulfillment of the prophetic word of Jeremiah.
A different calculation of the "seventy years of captivity" appears to underlie Zechariah 1:12 and 7:5. There it denotes the interval between the physical destruction of the temple (586 B.c.) and its rededication (515 B.c.).
JEREMIAH 29 The book of Jeremiah has come down to us in two different versions: the Greek version, known as the Septuagint, and the Hebrew version, known as the Masoretic Text. There are significant differences between the two in terms of wording, structure and length.
JEREMIAH 32 Baruch,a well-known figure in the book of Jeremiah, was Jeremiah's secretary, representative and advisor, with an official title of "scribe" (Jer 36:26,32). Evidence suggests that he was a royal scribe from a prominent family involved in this profession., Jeremiah 32 describes how Baruch drew up and filed a deed of purchase for the prophet (vv. 6-15). Jeremiah also dictated his prophecies to Baruch, who wrote them down on leather scrolls with pen and ink (36:4,18). Baruch was forced to hide with Jeremiah because of official oppo-sition to Jeremiah's prophecies (36:26). Curiously, after the fall of Jerusalem,2 when Jeremiah told the Jews left behind in Judah that God forbade them to flee to Egypt, the angry Jews blamed Baruch for that message (42:1--43:7, especially 43:3). Jeremiah 45 gives us a glimpse of the man Baruch. He was distraught over all that had happened and wondered what would become of him, but God responded with both an admoni-tion and a promise.
Two seal impressions of Baruch, both made from the same seal, have been acquired on the antiquities market in Israel. One of them is on display in the Israel Museum. The three-line inscription on each of them reads,"Belonging to Berekyahu,son of Neriyahu, the scribe." Berekyahu is a longer form of Baruch's name; it includes the divine element "Yahu," or Yahweh.The other seal, including a fingerprint (no doubt that of Baruch himself) is held in a private collection.
JEREMIAH 34 Jeremiah 34:18-20 refers to Zedekiah's covenant with God, in which the people passed between the parts of a calf cut in two. A similar ceremony is described in Genesis 15. What was the significance of passing between the pieces of an animal that had been split in half? Ancient texts supply us with several parallels to the Biblical rite:
The Hittite ritual is similar to its Biblical counterpart, but the Assyrian texts may help us to understand its true significance. Essentially, these rites served as self-imprecation oaths, by which people called down curses upon their own heads should they fail to keep their part of the covenant they were solemnly ratifying. The ritual was a way of saying,"May what happened to these animals happen to us if we break this covenant."Zedekiah's covenant symbolized what would befall covenant-breakers. In this case Zedekiah and his people did break the covenant, and the death and destruction the ritual enacted were indeed the outcome.
JEREMIAH 34 In 1935 18 ostraca (broken pieces of pottery used for writing) were discovered in a guard room below the gate tower inside the outer wall at Lachish ("Map 4"),a fortified town protecting the southern Judean hill country, and in 1938 three more were found. While a few of the ostraca are unreadable, and four are administrative lists, the remaining are letters dating to the period from 597 to 587 B.C. They are extremely important, not only for their value in studying the development of Hebrew grammar and syntax, but also for their illumination of the political situation and general turmoil as Judah prepared for the inevitable attack by Nebuchadnezzar.
The most significant of the letters are numbers 3, 4 and 6. Number 3 is from Hoshaiah, a subordinate officer writing to Yaosh, probably the governor or military commander of Lachish. He reported that Coniah, son of Elnathan, had traveled to Egypt to obtain military assistance. Jeremiah 37:6-8 indicates that king Zedekiah had believed that Egyptian forces would come to his aid but that the Lord had declared otherwise:
The pharaoh's army would not stave off the Babylonian onslaught. Some suggest that Elnathan might have been the official of Zedekiah mentioned in 26:22 and 36:12,25. The letter concludes with a warning mes-sage from an unnamed prophet. In letter number 4 the author appears to say that he was watching for the fire signals of Lachish; those of Azekah were not visible. This may indicate that Azekah had already capitulated at the time the ostracon was inscribed. Azekah was the only other fortified city besides Lachish still standing in Judah just prior to Jerusalem's fall. Letter number 6 is con-cerned with the words of certain princes and officials of the sort intended to demoralize troops facing imminent war.A--- prophet is mentioned, but the name is illegible except for the ending "-yahu"(i.e.,"Yahweh"). It may be that the prophet was either Uriah or Jeremiah (both their names end in "-yahu" in Hebrew), although of course we cannot know. Jeremiah had already prophesied that God would hand over Jerusalem to Babylon; many had thus regarded him as a traitor and a bad influence upon the people.
JEREMIAH 35 Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and thus we would expect the current Hebrew version to be the best witness we have to these books in their initial form. However, some scholars believe that the Greek version of the Old Testament,the Septuagint, is a superior witness to what the prophets originally wrote.
The Septuagint is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. However,we should not think of it as a uniform and consistent translation like the NIV. Much to the contrary, the Septuagint was translated by numerous scholars with varying skill levels and philosophies of translation, and it was also revised many times. The first portion to be translated was the Pentateuch in the third century B.C. The rest was completed over the next couple of centuries,and the entire corpus underwent continuous revisions for hundreds of years.A modern copy of the Septuagint is really an amalgam of manuscripts and fragments, and it inevitably includes many revisions slipped in by later scribes (even though modern editors do strive to get back to the earliest version, called the"Old Greek" text). One reality is clear, however: At some points the text of the Septuagint is different from what we see in the standard Hebrew Old Testament, the Masoretic Text:
JEREMIAH 36 During the fourth year of king Jehoiakim (605 B.c.),GOd directed Jeremiah to record on a scroll prophecies against the nations and particularly against Jerusalem and Judah (ter 36:1-3).1 Baruch,Jeremiah's secretary,2 documented the prophecies and later read the scroll in the chamber of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe (vv. 4-10). When Gemariah' son Micaiah notified the king's officials of the scroll, they requested Baruch to read its words to them (vv. 11-19), after which they confiscated the scroll and read it to the king (vv.20-21). As the scroll was being read, each portion already read was cut away and burned, even though Gemariah and others pleaded with the king not to do so (vv. 22-25). The prophecies made the king so angry that he dispatched his son Jerahmeel and several others to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah,"but the LORD had hidden them" (v. 26; cf. v. 19). God then directed Jeremiah to replicate the first scroll, including in the new one additional indictments against Jehoiakim (vv. 27-32).
A clay seal impression of Gemariah was unearthed in excavations in Jerusalem of the 587 B.C. destruction level.3 It reads,"Belonging to Gemariah (son of) Shaphan." Researchers are in possession of a seal and a seal impression of Jerahmeel, both acquired on the antiquities market, which read, "Belonging to Jerahmeel the king's son."
JEREMIAH 38 The semiarid climate of the Mediterranean basin made water acquisition and storage a critical issue.
A well is a deep reservoir fed by percolation from the soil, by a spring or by groundwater.The lower part is usually dug into impermeable rock or built with rock and then coated with a thick layer of lime plaster, which prevents seepage. It is possible either to tap into a natural spring or to dig down to the groundwater level. Archaeologists date the first such use of plaster to around 1200 B.C.
A very ancient well in Jerusalem, known as "Job's well," is nearly 44 yards (40.2 m) deep.Water was taken from it by lowering a drawing vessel attached to a rope. The high concentration of pottery sherds found in Near Eastern wells suggests that clay pots were used for this purpose, although wooden pails found in the Athenian agora (marketplace) seem to have served the same function) Wells were often dug in rural areas in order to provide water for flocks and herds (Ge 26:18; 2Ch 26:9-10). A stone slab or wooden planks covered the mouth of the well when it was not in use to prevent people or animals from falling in and to lower the risk of pollution from surface debris (see Ge 29:10; Ex 21:33-34).
A cistern is a collection chamber that gathers runoff. Cisterns typically have a bottle or bell shape, with a narrow top to prevent evaporation.The entire interior is coated with plaster, so that every drop of water is preserved. Water was drawn from a cistern in the same fashion as from a well. Homes could have private cisterns (see 2Ki 18:31; Pr 5:15); in fact, excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh, a site north of Jerusalem that is usually identified as the Biblical Mizpah, revealed 50 cisterns from the ninth century B.C. Cities had larger, public cisterns. In the temple area of Jerusalem, for example, excavators discovered 37 large cisterns, the largest of which is known as the "Great Sea." About 14 yards (13 m) deep, it can hold over two million gallons (9,917 cu yd) of water! Also in Jerusalem is the Pool of Siloam, constructed by Hezekiah (2Ch 32:30) and embellished by Herod—the Upper Pool of Isaiah 7:3.ln order to ensure a steady and reliable supply of water to this reservoir, Hezekiah undertook the construction of a tunnel aqueduct that travels over 547 yards (500 m) through solid rock from the spring to the cis-tern. Dry cisterns also served as detention cells (Ge 37:22-24; Jer 38:6).
The first aqueducts (artificial water channels similar to pipelines) were simple channels dug into the ground. Eventually the channels were formed by plastering fieldstones together and covering the aqueduct with stone slabs to prevent contamination.Shallow settling basins were dug intermittently, allowing the heavier Seethe Pool of Siloam" on page 1739.
sediment to drop out of the water. Pools and reservoirs were often placed along the aqueduct to control water flow The earliest known substantial aqueduct—from the early eighth century B.C.—is at Urartu in Turkey. The Assyrian king Sennacherib constructed a 34-mile (55-km) aqueduct to Nineveh.'' Excavators have found numerous inscrip-tions along the course of the conduit praising Sennacherib for this impressive deed.
The masters of aqueduct construction, however, were the Romans. To this day the landscape of numerous Mediterranean countries is dotted with the remains of these engineering masterpieces. Ancient Rome was serviced by 11 aqueducts, the largest of which were the Marcia and the Anio Novus. Altogether the 11 aqueducts provided the capital with over 264,019,630,000 gallons (1,310,013,110 cu yd) of water every 24 hours—by far the largest volume of water carried to any ancient city.
The Romans are also famous for their ability to carry water across challenging terrain. Valleys were traversed in one of two ways. If the distance from the proposed water line to the valley floor was less than about 55 yards (50 m), an arched bridge was constructed, containing a channel running along the top. The aqueduct was built so that the water ran downhill on a gentle slope. The tallest aqueduct of this type is the Pont du Gard in southern France. It rises 54 yards (49 m) above the valley and supplied water to Nimes beginning in 19 B.C. Pergamum was the first major city in Asia Minor (western Turkey) to establish an alliance with Rome and to construct Roman style aqueducts. Providing water to the upper city was a constant challenge, but engineers resolved the problem with a complex siphoning system.
JEREMIAH 39 When Zedekiah, king of Judah, rebelled against Babylonian rule in 588 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar responded quickly, capturing Jerusalem the following year) Nebuzaradan, a high-ranking officer in the Babylonian army, was responsible for supervising the burning of the city, tearing down the defenses, deporting 832 captives to Babylon, plundering the temple and rounding up Judean officials to appear before Nebuchadnezzar (2Ki 25:8-21;Jer 39:8-9;52:15-27).2 Nebuchadnezzar left Nebuzaradan with specific instructions to deal kindly with Jeremiah, who had been imprisoned along with those going to Babylon (Jer 39:11-14; 40:1). Nebuzaradan released the prophet and gave him a choice of going to Babylon or remaining in Judah (40:2-4). Jeremiah opted to remain in Judah and joined the newly appointed Judean leader, Gedaliah, at Mizpah (39:14; 40:5-6).3 Five years later Nebuzaradan returned to Jerusalem and deported another 745 persons to Babylon (52:30).
A clay prism listing court officials was found during excavations in Nebuchadnezzar's palace in Babylon. Among the names is that of Nebuzaradan, along with the title "Chancellor."The prism is thought to date to around 570 B.C. and thus to reflect a political appointment for Nebuzaradan following his military career.
JEREMIAH 40 Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah, who came from a family of royal administrators, as governor of Judah in 587 B.C. (2K1 25:22). Gedaliah attempted to rebuild the country following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (kr 40:9-- 12).1 Unfortunately, he became a victim of the political forces of the day when Baalis, king of Ammon, recruited Ishmael to assassinate him (vv. 13-14; 41:1-2). Ishmael, of the line of David (2Ki 25:25), may have had designs upon the leadership of the country, and Baalis may have wanted to set up a puppet king whom he could control. Archaeologists have found a bulla of Gedaliah on the surface at Lachish, 27 miles (44 km) southwest of Jerusalem.The inscription reads"Belonging to Gedaliah Over (seer of) the (royal) house," a title designating the chief steward of the royal palace. Individuals bearing this title took on major state respon-sibilities and were active in political and diplomatic activities. Evidently Gedaliah held this post prior to the fall of Jerusalem.
A seal and a seal impression with the name of Baalis have been discovered as well.
JEREMIAH 43 The island of Elephantine is situated along the southern border of Egypt, near modern-day Aswan. This site functioned as an important military outpost throughout its long history. While its soldiers were usually Egyptian, other ethnic groups, including Jews, were periodically stationed at this garrison. By the time Persian rule com-menced in 525 B.C., not only was there a Jewish community in Elephantine but also an established, thriving temple to Yahweh. We learn from Jeremiah 43 that a portion of the Jews of Judah fled to Egypt before the Babylonian invasion. Some scholars assume that a fragment of this group became the source of the Elephantine Jewish population. Others argue for a much earlier immigration of Jews to the area.
Evidence indicates that the Elephantine temple was a fully functioning sanctuary that performed animal sacrifices. Although this temple existed alongside temples to Egyptian gods for over a century, the priests of Khnum, the ram god, convinced the Egyptian authorities to have the temple destroyed in 410 B.C. (apparently because the Jewish practice of sacrificing sheep was offensive to the worshipers of Khnum). Soon thereafter the Jewish colony ceased to exist.
The knowledge we possess of this small, ancient community comes through a series of papyri found in the region. The majority of these texts are written in Aramaic, the international language of the Persian Empire.' While these documents reveal much concerning the daily life, customs and legal system of these people, most important to us are the archives of letters written between the Jews of Elephantine and the Jews of the region now known as Palestine. In these letters the Elephantine community requested and gained permission and aid to rebuild its temple. It remains unclear, however, whether that goal was ever accomplished.
JEREMIAH 44 Hophra (known to Egyptologists by the Greek form of his name, Apries), the fourth king of the Twenty-sixth (Saite) Dynasty, ruled Egypt from 589 to 570 B.C. His palace has been excavated at Memphis.' When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 588 B.C., Zedekiah requested help from Egypt (Eze 17:15), and Hophra responded by sending troops. This resulted in Nebuchadnezzar lifting the siege of Jerusalem to deal with the Egyptian threat (Jer 37:5,11). The relief was short-lived, however, because Nebuchadnezzar quickly drove off the Egyptians and re-turned to capture Jerusalem (2Ki 25:1-21;Jer 37:6-10; 39:1-10; 52:1-29).
After Gedaliah, the new governor of Judah, was assassinated in 586 B.c.,3 the remaining Judean leadership fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them (41:16-43:7). While in Egypt the prophet declared that God would hand over Hophra to his enemies (44:30). Indeed, Jeremiah's words reflect a disdain for Hophra. In 46:17 he declared, "There they will exclaim, 'Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a loud noise; he has missed his opportunity." (This could also be translated, "There they will call Pharaoh, king of Egypt, 'Noisy has missed his opportunity.") The Hebrew for"he has missed" in this verse sounds like the name Hophra.
Hophra's downfall does suggest a degree of ineptitude. In 570 B.C. he sent a force of Egyptians against a Greek colony in Cyrene in eastern Libya. The Egyptian army was badly defeated, leading to a soldiers' revolt against Hophra's leadership. Hophra sent his general, Amasis, to quell the rebellion, but Amasis joined it instead! Forced by Amasis into exile, Hophra made his way to the Babylonian court of Nebuchadnezzar 11.4 He returned three years later with the Babylonian army in an attempt to regain the throne but was defeated and lost his life in the process. Nevertheless, Amasis buried him with full honors in the royal cemetery at Sais in Egypt's western delta.
JEREMIAH 44 In the Bible the enigmatic title"Queen of Heaven" appears only in Jeremiah 7:18, 44:17-19, 25, but similar titles occur throughout the ancient Near East and apply to several goddesses. Anat is called the "Lady of Heaven,"and the Canaanite Astarte (Ashtoreth in the Bible) and her Mesopotamian counterpart, Ishtar, also bear the title "Queen of Heaven."' These goddesses are connected to the worship of the planet Venus; astral worship was particularly popular during the seventh century B.C. (2Ki 21:3; 23:11).
The exiled Judahites conceived of this queen as a fertility goddess (Jer 44:17-18), in whose image the women made "cakes" (v. 19). This cultic practice may also be indicated by a discovery at Mari of a baking mold in the form of a naked female with hands supporting her breasts—a well-known fertility motif. Moreover, Jeremiah's word for these cakes derives from the Akkadian for a type of bread that was often presented to Ishtar. Jeremiah described how a family would gather wood, make a fire, prepare the bread, pour out libations and burn incense (7:18; 44:18). Religious texts dedicated to Ishtar recount very similar steps. The Judahites were apparently following ritual practices associated with the Mesopotamian Ishtar and the Canaanite Astarte/Ashtoreth (1 Ki 11:5).The Queen of Heaven exemplified the religious syncretism that plagued Israel for centuries and ultimately led to God's judgment upon his people.
Still today, believers in the God of the Bible are wise to beware of a gradual assimilation of unbiblical and even pagan concepts.The notion of a "Queen of Heaven" was just such an assimilation.
JEREMIAH 46 In proclaiming God's condemnation of Egypt, Jeremiah called for heralds to announce a message of judgment in Memphis. This city (from Men-neferu, meaning "the goodness endures") was situated on the Nile at the border between Upper and Lower Egypt. It was founded by Menes, the first king of the united "Two Lands,"' and was sacred to the god Ptah. Its fortunes changed through the centuries, but it remained throughout an important city and religious center:
JEREMIAH 50 The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 480-425 B.c.) produced one of the most famous books of ancient Greece, the History. Its focus is the series of wars between Persia and the Greeks that lasted from approximately 490 to 479 B.C. Herodotus devoted a great deal of attention to the background of the wars and in the process gave a fairly sweeping view of the eastern Mediterranean world during the sixth and fifth ' centuries B.C.
The Greek word historiai (literally "investigations") aptly describes how Herodotus went about collecting and recording information about the customs and histories of the peoples he encountered. He is regarded as the father of Western history writing because he tried to confine himself to human events and to avoid myths.
At times, however, claims from Herodotus are of questionable value. It is incorrect to assert, as some have, that Herodotus simply invented his stories. He did, however, include rumor, legend and gossip in his histories. He did, however, include rumor, legend and gossip in his histories and sometime may have misunderstood his sources.
Herodotus's account of the fall of Babylon (History,1.189- 191 in 539 B.C. relates to the prophetic account in Jeremiah 50-51, as well as to Daniel's indication that Babylon fell overnight during a festival (Da 5:30-31). Herodotus began with a fantastic tale of how Cyrus's horse drowned in the Gyndes River and how he, to punish the river by making it weak and shallow, compelled his army to spend a summer diverting it into 360 channels. Arriving at Babylon, Cyrus faced the prospect of a prolonged siege. Babylon was large enough to store food for many years, so any attempt to starve the city into submission would have been futile.
But, Herodotus noted, the city had one peculiar characteristic: The Euphrates River ran through the middle of Babylon and divided it into two parts. Cyrus decided that the river channels under the walls provided the only chance of gaining entry, but the volume of water and the strength of the current were too great. Yet the Persian king hatched an ingenious plan: He posted soldiers at the points at which the Euphrates entered and left the city and instructed his men to move through the river when it became fortable. Meanwhile, the noncombatants went upstream and diverted much of the river into an artificial marsh. When the water level had dropped sufficiently, the Persian soldiers made their way in and captured the Babylonian capital.
What are we to make of this account? Most historians believe that Herodotus's version of events is at least to some degree confused and misleading. In his actual conquest of Babylonia. Cyrus's forces proceeded down from the north and rapidly overcome resistance. A second front was opened against Babylon by a certain Ugbaru, governor of Gutium. Ugbaru proceeded to capture Babylon for Cyrus with astonishing speed, and Cyrus himself entered the city shortly thereafter.
Several factors may have contributed to the Persian victory. First, Cyrus may have kept the bulk on the Babylonian forces occupied with his army while Ugbaru came in from the rear. Second, the Babylonian regime was unpopular, and the people seem to have welcomed Cyrus as a liberator. Third, Ugbaru appears to have entered Babylon by subterfuge (as is reflected in the version of the story about the diversion of the Euphrates).
It is certain, however, that Babylon fell suddenly. Herodotus is correct in stating that the Euphrates bisected the city, and the Nabonidus Chronicles confirms that it fell without a battle. Thus the account about diverting the Euphrates may be true. Both Daniel 5 and Herodotus indicate that Babylon fell during a rowdy festival. Herodotus stated: "Owing to the sheer size of the city, so say the inhabitants, those in the outlying areas were captured without those in the center knowing about it."
Daniel 5 recounts the story of Belshazzar's feast, and can be regarded as an independent witness. Herodotus, in this account as elsewhere, was colorful and not always fully reliable, but he appears to have preserved something of (and perhaps a good deal of) the true story.
JEREMIAH 51 A seal acquired on the antiquities market reads"Belonging to Seraiah (son of) Neriah."This Seraiah is known from the Biblical text. His lineage is given as "son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah" (Jer 51:59). This is the same lineage as that of Baruch, Jeremiah's secretary (32:12),' indicating that Seraiah was Baruch's brother.
Seraiah was the royal quartermaster during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah from 597 to 586 B.C. (51:59). In Zedekiah's
fourth year (594 B.c.) Seraiah accompanied the king on a mission to Babylon, possibly to reaffirm Judah's loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king.2 The trip would have taken four months each way (Ezr 7:9; 8:31).Just five years later Zedekiah revolted, resulting in the downfall of the kingdom.
God revealed to Jeremiah his coming judgment of Babylon (Jer 50-51), and the prophecy was recorded on a scroll (51:60).
Jeremiah took advantage of Seraiah's journey by requesting that he take the scroll with him and read it aloud in Babylon, after which he was to cast it into the Euphrates River to illustrate Babylon's coming fate (vv. 61-64). Jeremiah's prophecies came to pass 55 years later when Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.
JEREMIAH 52 Jehoiachin ruled Judah for only three months and then, at age eighteen, was taken captive to Babylon in 597 B.C. (2Ki 24:8-15). During excavations in Babylon approximately 300 clay tablets containing administrative records were uncovered in a building adjacent to Nebuchadnezzar's palace.' Four of them were found to be highly significant for Old Testament studies, as they mention Jehoiachin. Dating from 595 to 570 B.C., all four are receipts for rations of oil issued to Jehoiachin and his entourage. Jehoiachin is referred to as"Jehoiachin king of the land of Judah." Three of the tablets list oil for Jehoiachin's five sons (cf. 1Ch 3:17— 18),and oil was also given to five named and eight unnamed Judeans.
Evil-Merodach succeeded Nebuchadnezzar on the throne but ruled for only one year, from 561-560 B.C. He released Jehoiachin from confinement and allowed him to eat at the king's table (Jer 52:31-34). Inscriptions found in Babylon show that Evil-Merodach continued his father's building projects. He was deposed, and perhaps murdered, however, by his brother-in-law Nergal-Sharezer, a former military officer (39:3,13).