The words of Jeremiah may have ended with Jeremiah 51, but the book ends with the narrative history of Jeremiah 52. Jeremiah 52 serves to answer the introduction to the book (Jeremiah 1). See the chiasm of the book proposed in an earlier post. It also is mostly quotes from Kings. Remember that Kings is in the same part of the Hebrew Bible — Kings and Isaiah and Jeremiah are all in the Prophets. We saw something similar in Isaiah to what happens now in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 52:1-27 is from 2 Kings 24:18-25:21 and Jeremiah 52:31-34 is from 2 Kings 25:27-30.
The portion that is skipped is the part of the narrative that we have heard in more detail already in Jeremiah. It concerns the governor Gedaliah and his death at the hands of Ishmael of the royal family and the people leaving for Egypt.
The portion that is added says, “This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the 7th year, 3,023 Judeans; in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons, in the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600” (Jer 52:28-30).
Given the significance of numbers to the Babylonians and how that is shown elsewhere in Scripture (for example, in Genesis as well as Numbers)…it does make us wonder if there is some significance to these figures.
Jim Jordan observes that 2×23 (the year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar) x100 = 4600. And suggests that the relationship between the other numbers and the year of the reign are related to astral numbers (synodic periods of planets and such). While this was easy to see with previous texts it is much less clear here.
What is totally unclear is whether only 4600 went into exile or if this is just heads of households. It is probably households when one compares Kings. 2 Kings 24:14, 16 gives a much larger number for the same year than 3,023. It says 18,000 or perhaps 10,800 depending on how one reads the Hebrew. The one says year eight and the other year seven simply because of different ways of counting the years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The smallness of the third wave of deportations is interesting given its huge importance in the story of Israel as marking the exile.