The translation is different enough to be refreshing, and the notes--references to Rabbinic discussions mixed in with standard historical-critical commentary by first-rate Jewish scholars--are often interesting and thought-provoking.
On the thought-provoking side, Marvin Sweeney's commentary on Jeremiah points to several apparently unfulfilled prophecies. I did not recall encountering these before, so I decided to check the old NIV Study Bible (notes on Jeremiah by Ronald Youngblood) that I was using the last time I read Jeremiah.
What follows is a comparison of these two Study Bibles, with the HarperCollins Study Bible (notes on Jeremiah by Leo Perdue and Robert Wilson) as a control. The quotations are from the JPS TANAKH translation:
- Jeremiah 34:1-5 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth and all the peoples under his sway, were waging war against Jerusalem and all its towns: 2 Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Go speak to King Zedekiah of Judah, and say to him: "Thus said the LORD: I am going to deliver this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it by fire. 3 And you will not escape from him; you will be captured and handed over to him. And you will see the king of Babylon face to face and speak to him in person; and you will be brought to Babylon. 4 But hear the word of the LORD, O King Zedekiah of Judah! Thus said the LORD concerning you: You will not die by the sword. 5 You will die a peaceful death; and as incense was burned for your ancestors, the earlier kings who preceded you, so they will burn incense for you, and they will lament for you 'Ah, lord!' For I Myself have made the promise -- declares the LORD."
- Jewish Study Bible (JSB) note on 34:5: "The promise of a peaceful death for Zedekiah resembles the oracle of the prophetess Huldah to Zedekiah's father Josiah....Jer. 52.7-11...states that Zedekiah is in a Babylonian prison, having seen his sons slaughtered before his own eyes were put out, thus this is likely an unfulfilled prophecy of Jeremiah. It is quite remarkable that such prophecies were preserved."
- NIV Study Bible (NIVSB): No comment. No reference forward to Jer 52:7-11.
- HarperCollins Study Bible, Revised (HCSB): "Zedekiah was blinded and exiled to Babylon, where he died in prison (39.7; 52.8-11; 2 Kings 25.5-7). In contrast to Jehoiakim (see 22.13-19), Zedekiah will have a funeral and be lamented."
- JSB on 43:13: "Although the Babylonians never conquered Egypt, the Persian king Cambyses, who also ruled Babylonia, conquered Egypt in 525 BCE. This is another case (see 34.5) of a prophecy that is preserved although it was not fulfilled."
- NIVSB on 43:11: "A fragmentary text now owned by the British Museum in London states that Nebuchadnezzar carried out a punitive expedition against Egypt in his 37th year (568-567 B.C.) during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis."
- HCSB on 43:13: "Nebuchadrezzar did invade Egypt in 568/7 BCE and fought Pharaoh Amasis, though the outcome of the battle is not known. However, Babylonia did not conquer Egypt."
- JSB on 50.1-51.58: "Much of these two chs emphasizes that Babylonia will be destroyed through violence. In reality, however, Cyrus bloodlessly took over Babylon in 539 BCE, when the powerful priests of Marduk preferred him to the reigning Babylonian King Nabonidus." On 50:3: "The nation from the north is a common motif in Jeremiah's oracles....Many see this as a reference to Persia, which conquered Babylonian in 539. Persia actually lies to the east of Babylonia."
- NIVSB on 50:3: "In Jeremiah, the foe from the north is almost always Babylon....Here, however, the reference is probably to Persia." On 50:14 "you who draw the bow. Including the Medes."
- HCSB on 50:3: "The imagery of the 'foe from the north'...is transferred to the enemies of Babylonia (the Medes and the Persians)." On 50:11-16: "Babylon surrendered to the armies of Persia, led by Gobryas. It was not taken by force and destroyed."
Passage #1 is easily harmonized if one regards a natural death in prison as "peaceful" and imagines people mourning for Zedekiah. Passage #3 is not especially troubling if one recognizes the metaphorical nature of biblical prophecy. I am still puzzled by #2. If any OT specialists have read this far, I'd be glad for their thoughts.