Introduction to the Babylonian Captivity
The Fall of Jerusalem
Last week we examined Malachi and the reproof the LORD had instructed him to give to the Israelites after they had returned from their captivity in Babylon. They had absorbed pagan ways and needed to repent, turning away from their sinful ways of living.
Now, we’re turning this upside down to examine how they ended up in captivity in the first place.
Zedekiah King of Judah
“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done [ a description of each king at this point of decadence in Israel’s history, each one worse than the prior king]. 3 For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.
Jehoiakim rebelled against the king of Babylon in 597 B.C., and Zedekiah rebelled in 586 B.C.
“And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 4 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 5 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 6 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. 7 Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. 8 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him.
“9 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. 10 The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. 11 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death” (Jeremiah 52:1-11 ESV). There are two accounts of this event.
This was probably the most horrific way that Zedekiah’s kingship could have ended. The last thing he would ever see was the death of his associates and the death of all of his sons.We're working our way through the history of Israel during the captivity in Babylon, what happened before, and what comes after when Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah are appointed by God. Join us! #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
2 Kings 25:
1 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 2 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, two years spent under the siege.
3 By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. 4 Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah,5 but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, 6 and he was captured.
He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. 7 They killed every one of the sons of Zedekiah before his very eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.
[The demise of every one of his sons was the last thing Zedekiah saw. It’s hard to imagine a worse outcome than this for King Zedekiah. Then the long march to captivity in Babylon.]
“8 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.
“13 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the Lord and they carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. 15 The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls—all that were made of pure gold or silver.
“16 The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the Lord, was more than could be weighed. 17 Each pillar was eighteen cubits high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was three cubits high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar.
“18 The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still in the city, the commander took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.
“So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. (2 Kings 25 ESV).
There’s no better way to tell this than to quote directly from 2 Kings 24-25. Years of feckless kings who weren’t wise enough to seek the LORD nor to obey the rules established by the stronger power who had taken earlier kings such as Jehoiachin, and the best youth of Israel such as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. And now, one more time a king had rebelled. This was the final straw for Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Persians. It was time to take Israel into captivity in their entirety. They remained in captivity for approximately 60 years, more than one entire generation, which was usually measured as forty years.
All of these actions shape Israel, eventually aligning with the way the region was ruled and arranged to be prepared for the arrival of Messiah.
This map, though it is a map of the region after the captivity, is shared here to orient the reader to the locations of Persia, Babylonia, Beyond the River, and Jerusalem. Journeys typically avoided crossing the Arabian Desert. Instead, travelers went around the desert, travelling alongside the Tigris River, and then heading south on the major highway stretching from Aleppo toward Jerusalem and beyond.
More history next week.
a., b., c., d. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+25&version=NIV#fen-NIV-10226a
e., f. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+25&version=NIV#fen-NIV-10226a