Introduction: In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah for the third time and sent a third wave of Jews into Babylonian captivity. Those who remained in Judah later fled to Egypt after certain Jews killed Nebuchadnezzar’s appointed governor. God had freed His people from Egyptian bondage and gave them the Promised Land as their inheritance. Yet, before the Jews took the Promised Land, Moses gave God’s warning that their right to enjoy the Promised Land was conditional upon their obedience: “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:” (Dt. 28:15). This included a warning of exile and great suffering (Dt. 28:64-65). The Jews, however, ignored God’s warnings. Out of mercy and grace, God sent His prophets to repeat these warnings. But the Jews rebelled against God and again ignored His Word. After the Jews ignored all lesser forms of discipline, God fulfilled His promise and sent the Jews into exile. This was one of the darkest points in Jewish history. Sadly, all of their suffering could have been avoided. From the Jews’ mistakes and their exile, God reveals seven lessons on rebelling against Him and His Word. Rebellion against God and His Word leads to: (1) suffering, (2) spiritual blindness, (3) bondage, (4) spiritual poverty, (5) despair, (6) helplessness, and (7) the need for God’s mercy and grace.
First, Zedekiah rebelled against God’s Word and revolted against the Babylonians. This led to Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion, the loss of most of Judah, and mass starvation in Jerusalem. From Zedekiah’s mistakes, God reveals that living in rebellion against Him and His Word leads to suffering. Second, Nebuchadnezzar later captured Zedekiah, killed his sons, and then blinded him. His physical blindness was the outward manifestation of his spiritual blindness. From Zedekiah’s mistakes, God reveals that rebellion against Him and His Word leads to spiritual blindness. Third, the Jews’ rebellion led to their captivity in Babylon. Their physical bondage was the outward manifestation of their spiritual bondage. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that rebellion against Him and His Word leads to spiritual bondage. Fourth, the Babylonians took all of the Jews wealth and left behind only the poor. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that rebellion against Him and His Word leads to spiritual poverty. Fifth, the Jews suffered in captivity and many of their leaders were executed. Many lived in despair. From the Jews’ suffering, God reveals that rebellion against His Word leads to despair. Sixth, the Jews revolted and assassinated Nebuchadnezzar’s governor of Judah. Because the Jews acted against God’s Word, they felt helpless against a Babylonian retaliation. Thus, both the innocent and the guilty were forced to flee to Egypt where they suffered even more. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that rebellion against Him and His Word leads to helplessness. Finally, even though the Jews did not deserve it, God showed mercy and grace by releasing a captured Jewish king from jail and treating him kindly. This was to show that God would honor His covenants with the Jews. From God’s actions, He reveals that rebellion against His Word leads to the need for His mercy and grace. Jesus Christ provides the mercy and grace that everyone needs for their sins.
Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and caused a great famine. As God’s instrument of judgment, Nebuchadnezzar caused a famine in Jerusalem after encircling it. Many died because of King Zedekiah’s foolish revolt: “1 Now in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it and built a siege wall all around it. 2 So the city was under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 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. (2 Kgs. 25:1-3). After Egyptian Pharaoh Apries took the throne, he encouraged Zedekiah to lead a rebellion against the Babylonians. Yet, because God did not sanction this rebellion, it failed (2 Kgs. 24:20). In 588 B.C., during the ninth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he sent his army to punish the Jews. They encircled the city and cut off the city’s supplies. Hezekiah previously built a tunnel that allowed the city to continue to receive water (2 Kgs. 20:20). Yet, without a supply of food for two and a half years, the Babylonians brought about a famine within the city (Jer. 38:2-3). A third of the city died from this famine. The suffering also weakened the will of the people to fight. During Jerusalem’s two-year siege (2 Kgs. 24:2; Jer. 39:1), Nebuchadnezzar also taunted the Jews within the city by taking control over all of Judah (Jer. 21:3-7; 34:7).
Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers lay siege to Jerusalem and cause great suffering1
Nebuchadnezzar was the instrument of God’s judgment. In case any Jews felt that God was remiss in failing to stop Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Jeremiah warned the people in advance that God planned to send Nebuchadnezzar as His instrument of judgment: ‘“behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.”’ (Jer. 25:9) “and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am going to send and get Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and I am going to set his throne right over these stones that I have hidden; and he will spread his canopy over them.”’’ (Jer. 43:10). Yet, the Jews ignored these warnings.
The siege of Jerusalem fulfilled a prophecy. To warn the people and to give them an opportunity to repent, the prophet Jeremiah also warned that the Babylonians would soon lay siege to Jerusalem: “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to turn back the weapons of war which are in your hands, with which you are warring against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the wall; and I will gather them into the center of this city.”’ (Jer. 21:4). Yet, the Jews ignored this warning.
The starvation of Jerusalem fulfilled a prophecy. To also warn the people and to give them an opportunity to repent, the prophet Jeremiah warned that the people would suffer starvation: “He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty.” (Jer. 21:9). “Thus says the LORD, ‘He who stays in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans will live and have his own life as booty and stay alive.’ (Jer. 38:2). The prophet Ezekiel also warned that a third of the people would die through starvation, a third would die in combat, and a third would be sent into exile: “One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.” (Ezek. 5:12). The Jews, however, ignored these warnings.
God judged the Jews because of their pride and refusal to change their sinful ways. Through Jeremiah, God repeatedly warned the proud Jews that God judged them because they would not repent and change their ways: “Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD’S house and said to all the people: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to bring on this city and all its towns the entire calamity that I have declared against it, because they have stiffened their necks so as not to heed My words.’” (Jer.19:14-15).
The famine with parents eating their children fulfilled a prophecy. The famine was so horrific that some parents ate their children. This also fulfilled many prophecies, including some dating back to Moses: “Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you.” (Dt. 28:53). “Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.” (Lev. 26:29). Jeremiah repeated this prophecy: “I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them.” (Jer. 19:9). Ezekiel also repeated it: “Therefore, fathers will eat their sons among you, and sons will eat their fathers; for I will execute judgments on you and scatter all your remnant to every wind.” (Ezek. 5:10). But the Jews ignored God’s Word. The lesson from the Jews’ mistakes is clear. When you rebel against God’s Word, you will bring about suffering in your life. It may take a different form. But it will be real.
Nebuchadnezzar kills Zedekiah’s sons and blinds Zedekiah. Also as part of God’s judgment, Nebuchadnezzar captured Zedekiah, killed his sons and blinded him: “4 Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls beside the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho and all his army was scattered from him. 6 Then they captured the king and brought him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and he passed sentence on him. 7 They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon.” (2 Kgs. 25:4-7). To breach the defenses of the walled city, the Babylonians built a siege wall made of wood towers. In 586 B.C., during the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the Babylonians breached the city’s defenses. During a diversion at night, Zedekiah and his men escaped. They fled 20 miles until they were caught in the Jericho plains. The Babylonians then took Zedekiah captive, killed his sons, and blinded him. By killing the royal heirs, Nebuchadnezzar sought to prevent a rebellion from a future king.
Nebuchadnezzar kills Zedekiah’s sons and blinds Zedekiah2
The Jewish nation failed at the place where it began. The Jewish nation entered the Promised Land on the plains of Jericho. “about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the LORD to the desert plains of Jericho.” (Josh. 4:13). On the same plains of Jericho, the Jewish nation came to an official end: “But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and they seized him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him.” (Jer. 39:5). This demonstrates that God was in control. He gives, and He takes away. Thus, the Jews should never have taken His gifts for granted.
Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Zedekiah fulfilled a prophecy. Zedekiah most likely believed that he had escaped judgment when he reached the plains of Jericho. Yet, he could not escape God’s prophecies of judgment against him. ‘“Then afterwards,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence, the sword and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes and into the hand of those who seek their lives; and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion.”’ (Jer. 21:7). “2 Now at that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the house of the king of Judah, 3 because Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, ‘Why do you prophesy, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it; 4 and Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but he will surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5 and he will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and he will be there until I visit him,’’’ declares the LORD. ‘If you fight against the Chaldeans, you will not succeed’?” (Jer. 32:2-5). “‘You will not escape from his hand, for you will surely be captured and delivered into his hand; and you will see the king of Babylon eye to eye, and he will speak with you face to face, and you will go to Babylon.’” (Jer. 34:3) Yet, Zedekiah ignored these multiple specific warnings.
Nebuchadnezzar’s exile of Zedekiah fulfilled a prophecy. Jeremiah also prophesied that Zedekiah would not succeed in his revolt against the Chaldeans from Babylon. It would instead result in him being taken as a prisoner to Babylon: ‘“and he will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and he will be there until I visit him,’ declares the LORD. ‘If you fight against the Chaldeans, you will not succeed’?” (Jer. 32:5). Zedekiah also ignored this warning.
Nebuchadnezzar’s blinding of Zedekiah also fulfilled a prophecy. The prophet Ezekiel also prophesied that Zedekiah would be carried off to Babylon without ever seeing it: “I will also spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare. And I will bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chaldeans; yet he will not see it, though he will die there.” (Ezek. 12:13). The blinding of Zedekiah fulfilled this prophecy. He would be sent to spend the rest of his life as a prisoner in a foreign land without ever seeing it.
Zedekiah was spiritually blind to God’s Word. Zedekiah died as a blind prisoner in Babylon: “Then he blinded the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon and put him in prison until the day of his death.” (Jer. 52:11). This was a fulfillment of God’s Word. Zedekiah’s physical blindness was the outward manifestation of the spiritual blindness within him. “28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” (Dt. 28:27-29; Ex. 10:21). “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, . . .” (Is. 59:10(a)). “By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night.” (Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15). “They wandered, blind, in the streets; . .” (Lam. 4:14(a). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19).
Zedekiah could have survived and spared his people if he had listened to Jeremiah. God did not want to inflict suffering on either Zedekiah or God’s people. Thus, God had the prophet Jeremiah tell Zedekiah how he could be spared: “17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive. 18 But if you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given over to the hand of the Chaldeans; and they will burn it with fire, and you yourself will not escape from their hand.’’” (Jer. 38:17-18). Yet, Zedekiah refused to obey God’s Word: “19 Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘I dread the Jews who have gone over to the Chaldeans, for they may give me over into their hand and they will abuse me.’ 20 But Jeremiah said, ‘They will not give you over. Please obey the Lord in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live.” (Jer. 38:17-20). Again, Zedekiah refused to obey God’s Word. Even worse, he prohibited Jeremiah from repeating God’s Word: “24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘Let no man know about these words and you will not die.”’ (Jer. 38:24). The lesson here is clear. Rebellion against God and His Word leads to spiritual blindness.
Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem and deported its people. Also as part of God’s judgment upon the people of Judah, He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to burn Jerusalem, including God’s Temple, and deport the Jews to Babylonian captivity: “8 Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire. 10 So all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Then the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the people, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away into exile. 12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.” (2 Kgs. 25:8-12; 2 Chron. 36:17-19; Jer. 39:1-10; 52:1-23). Nebuchadnezzar burned the great buildings of the city, including God’s Temple. They then tore down the city’s walls. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, then carried off the Jews into exile. He left behind only poor, unskilled laborers. They would be unable to launch a new revolt.
God purified His house with fire. God allowed His Temple to be burned with fire (2 Kgs. 24:9). This purified the Temple from the false worship that had gone on within it. It also fulfilled a prophecy that His house would be burned: “7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’” (1 Kgs. 9:7-8). God’s glory inhabited the Temple since Solomon dedicated it. The Temple would now lay in ruins until the exiles returned in Ezra’s day.
The exile of the Jews from Judah also fulfilled a prophecy. The Jews’ exile fulfilled a prophesy that Moses gave to the Jews before they ever entered the Promised Land: “64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.” (Dt. 28:64). “The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (Dt. 4:27-28; 29:28; 32:26). ‘“You, however, I will scatter among the nations . . .” (Lev. 26:33(a)). To warn the people and to give them an another opportunity to repent, the prophet Jeremiah also warned that the Babylonians would soon send the people of Judah into exile: ‘“[Y]ou will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”’ (Jer. 5:19(b)). “And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance that I gave you; and I will make you serve your enemies in the land which you do not know; for you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.” (Jer. 17:4). “ . . . All Judah has been carried into exile, wholly carried into exile.” (Jer. 13:19(b)). “For thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am going to make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and while your eyes look on, they will fall by the sword of their enemies. So I will give over all Judah to the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will carry them away as exiles to Babylon and will slay them with the sword.”’ (Jer. 20:4). “18 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “As My anger and wrath have been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so My wrath will be poured out on you when you enter Egypt. And you will become a curse, an object of horror, an imprecation and a reproach; and you will see this place no more.” (Jer. 42:18). “Israel is a scattered flock, the lions have driven them away. The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has broken his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” (Jer. 50:17). “Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;”’ (Neh. 1:8). “Therefore, son of man, prepare for yourself baggage for exile and go into exile by day in their sight; even go into exile from your place to another place in their sight.” (Ezek. 12:3(a)). “I will scatter you among the nations and I will disperse you through the lands, and I will consume your uncleanness from you.” (Ezek. 22:15). The Jews’ physical bondage was the outward manifestation of their spiritual bondage to sin. When you rebel against God’s Word, you may also be placed into spiritual bondage.
God humbled the wealthy and the powerful. God carried off the rich and powerful. He only spared the poor (2 Kgs. 24:14; Jer. 39:10). He repeatedly promised to save the humble and cast down the proud: “When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence, and the humble person He will save.” (Job 22:29). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12). “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (Jam. 4:6). The Jews’ pride had deceived them: ‘“ . . . The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,’ . . . declares the LORD.” (Jer. 49:16). God again fulfilled His Word.
Nebuchadnezzar plunders Jerusalem. In addition to carrying off God’s people, Nebuchadnezzar looted Jerusalem of its wealth, including the expensive parts of the Temple: “13 Now the bronze pillars which were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea which were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the spoons, and all the bronze vessels which were used in temple service. 15 The captain of the guard also took away the firepans and the basins, what was fine gold and what was fine silver. 16 The two pillars, the one sea, and the stands which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord—the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight. 17 The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and a bronze capital was on it; the height of the capital was three cubits, with a network and pomegranates on the capital all around, all of bronze. And the second pillar was like these with network.” (2 Kgs. 25:13-17). God allowed for everything of wealth that gave the Jews pride to be taken away. The Jews became poor in spirit because what they cared about most was now taken from them.
Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers loot Jerusalem of any remaining items of value3
Nebuchadnezzar’s looting of the wealth of Jerusalem also fulfilled a prophecy. Jeremiah’s warnings to the Jews also included a specific warning that the Babylonians would cart off all of the Jews’ wealth if the Jews did not repent: “‘I will also give over all the wealth of this city, all its produce and all its costly things; even all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give over to the hand of their enemies, and they will plunder them, take them away and bring them to Babylon.”’ (Jer. 20:5). God had also used His prophets to give similar prophesies in the past: : “you shall build a house, but you will not live in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but you will not use its fruit.” 31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your donkey shall be torn away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you will have none to save you. . . . 33 A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, ” (Dt. 28:30(b)-31, 33(a)). “[Y]ou will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up.” (Lev. 26:16(c)). “They will devour your harvest and your food; . . They will devour your flocks and your herds; they will devour your vines and your fig trees; . .” (Jer. 5:17(a)(c); Neh. 9:37; Ezek. 25:4). The looting of Jerusalem and Judah was a fulfillment of these prophesies. Every precious metal or stone that Solomon used for the Temple was now gone (1 Kgs. 7:15-49). This even included the pots and pans from the Temple: “The captain of the guard also took away the bowls, the firepans, the basins, the pots, the lampstands, the pans and the drink offering bowls, what was fine gold and what was fine silver.” (Jer. 52:19). When you rebel against God’s Word, you will also feel empty and poor in spirit.
Nebuchadnezzar beats and kills the Jewish leaders. To prevent the Jews from rising up again, Nebuchadnezzar had his men beat and kill the Jews’ spiritual, military, and civic leaders: “18 Then the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest, with the three officers of the temple. 19 From the city he took one official who was overseer of the men of war, and five of the king’s advisers who were found in the city; and the scribe of the captain of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was led away into exile from its land.” (2 Kgs. 25:18-21). Only the lowly and the humble were allowed to remain. The Jews would not return to retake their lands until 538 B.C. after the Persians defeated Babylon. One commentator observes: “[The Jews] had possessed this land for some 860 years; they took it by faith and obedience but they lost it through idolatry and sin.” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 25).4
The Jews’ slavery while in captivity fulfilled a prophecy. The Jews’ slavery in service to the Babylonians while in captivity fulfilled a prophecy that Moses gave the Jews: “47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things;” (Dt. 28:47(a)). Jeremiah then repeated this prophecy: “And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance that I gave you; and I will make you serve your enemies in the land which you do not know; for you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.” (Jer. 17:4). “But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” (2 Chr. 12:8). “Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold, we are slaves in it.” (Neh. 9:36).
Most of the remaining Jews are sent into exile and suffer greatly5
The Jews’ suffering also fulfilled a prophecy. The suffering that the Jews experienced in captivity also fulfilled a prophecy that Moses had given the Jews: “47 . . . and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.” (Dt. 28:47(b)). Jeremiah then repeated this prophecy: “Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.’” (Jer. 28:13). “The yoke of my transgressions is bound; by His hand they are knit together. They have come upon my neck; He has made my strength fail. The Lord has given me into the hands of those against whom I am not able to stand.” (Lam. 1:14). “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” (Prov. 5:22). David summed up the suffering caused by sin: “The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.” (Ps. 116:3). “For evils beyond number have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; they are more numerous than the hairs of my head, and my heart has failed me.” (Ps. 40:12). Their physical captivity was again the outward manifestation of their spiritual captivity. In captivity, they felt deep despair from God’s punishment.
The Jews’ population collapse fulfilled a prophecy. The collapse of the Jewish population also fulfilled a prophecy that Moses had given the Jews: “62 Then you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 It shall come about that as the Lord delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the Lord will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it.” (Dt. 28:62-63). This was the reverse of God’s prior fertility blessing that allowed the Jews to become a vast multitude of people and a great nation (Dt. 7:12-13).
The Jews’ despair fulfilled a prophecy. The Jews’ feelings of despair while being beaten as slaves and killed also fulfilled a prophecy that Moses gave the Jews: “65 Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. 66 So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see. 68 The Lord will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, ‘You will never see it again!’ And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.” (Dt. 28:65-68). Jeremiah also repeated this prophecy: “And it shall be that when they say to you, ‘where should we go?’ then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘Those destined for death, to death; and those destined for the sword, to the sword; and those destined for famine, to famine; and those destined for captivity, to captivity.’’” (Jer. 15:2). Other prophets also gave this warning: “This you will have from My hand: you will lie down in torment.” (Is. 50:11(b)). “These two things have befallen you; who will mourn for you? The devastation and destruction, famine and sword; how shall I comfort you?” (Is. 51:19). If a nation or an individual rejects God’s efforts to bring them back, He may also allow them to feel the despair and hopelessness until they cry out for His deliverance.
God’s Word is true and is always fulfilled. Throughout the Bible, God reveals that His Word is true and always comes to pass: “Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” (Is. 48:3). “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Is. 42:9). No other holy book can make similar claims of fulfilled prophecy as the Bible does. Nations ignore God’s Word at their own peril. When a nation rejects God’s Word and rebels, He will be forced to discipline it.
The Jews murder Gedaliah and then flee to Egypt in fear. With his God-given control over Judah, Nebuchadnezzar appointed a God-fearing Jew named Gedaliah to govern. The Jews, however, rebelled and murdered Gedaliah: “22 Now as for the people who were left in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, he appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan over them. 23 When all the captains of the forces, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah governor, they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, namely, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men. 24 Gedaliah swore to them and their men and said to them, ‘Do not be afraid of the servants of the Chaldeans; live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will be well with you. 25 But it came about in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck Gedaliah down so that he died along with the Jews and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah. 26 Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces arose and went to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.” (2 Kgs. 25:22-26; Jer. 40:7 – 41:18). The epilogue to the book of Kings reveals that the people left behind in Judah continued to rebel. They did not accept that God sent Nebuchadnezzar to judge them. Thus, they rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar’s appointed governor Gedaliah, a Jew from a well-known family (2 Kgs. 25:22). Gedaliah’s grandfather, Shaphan, was famous within Judah for having implemented Josiah’s religious reforms (2 Kgs. 22:3). Gedaliah’s father Ahikam also supported the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 26:24). Nebuchadnezzar also allowed Jeremiah to give advice to Gedaliah as Nebuchadnezzar’s governor (Jer. 39:11-14; 40:1-6). Yet, to many Jews, Gedaliah was a traitor. Thus, in 586 B.C. and only two months into Gedaliah’s governorship, a group led by Ishmael conspired together to assassinate him. Ishmael’s grandfather served under Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:12; 41:1). Ishmael likely sought to seize power for himself. Because God had not ordained his coup and murder, the conspirators became filled with fear and fled to Egypt (Jer. 40:7 – 43:7). The immigrants from Judah also included people who were not involved in the conspiracy. All feared the Chaldean’s wrath (2 Kgs. 25:25-26). But they all suffered an even worse fate while living in Egypt.
The Jews’ rebellion and murder of Gedaliah was an evil act. Although fighting an evil pagan occupier might have seemed the right thing to do, it was not God’s will. God sent the Jews into exile as part of His plan to discipline and remold His people. In His providence, God also gave Nebuchadnezzar temporary authority to rule over Judah: “Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.” (Jer. 27:6; Hab. 1:5-2:8). Gedaliah was also a God-fearing man who listened to God’s prophet (Jer. 26:24; 39:14). The Jews had no right to rebel against God’s appointed leaders: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Ro. 13:1) “My son, fear the LORD and the king; do not associate with those who are given to change,” (Prov. 24:21). “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Pet. 2:17). By murdering God’s appointed governor, the Jews brought judgment upon themselves: “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Ro. 13:2). Most scholars believe that the Jews who fled to Egypt suffered greatly living there.
The Jews’ weakness and fear fulfilled a prophecy. Moses warned the people that their rebellion against God would cause them to feel weak and powerless against their foreign enemies: “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Lev. 26:36). “26 Your carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.” (Dt. 28:26). The prophet Jeremiah repeated these warnings: “I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hand of those who seek their life; and I will give over their carcasses as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.” (Jer. 19:7; 7:33; Ps. 79:2). “The LORD has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old. . . . He has exalted the might of your adversaries.” (Lam. 2:17). “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. 28:1). When a nation rebels against God and His Word, it will feel helpless against His judgment.
God judges those who reject His mercy and grace. God’s judgment upon the Jews who were spared exile shows that He must ultimately judge those who reject His mercy and grace. Judgment will begin with His people. It will then reach all nonbelievers as well. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17). “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thess. 1:6-8). The prospect of judgment should cause all believers to warn non-believers to repent. This includes both prayer and evangelism. You can pray for non-believers. You can share God’s Word. You can also pay to support and encourage God’s missionaries. You can also live as an example of God’s light. How are you fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Evil-merodach releases Jehoiachin from prison. In order to preserve David’s line for the future Messiah, God influenced the new king Evil-merodach to release King Jehoiachin from prison and to allow him to live: “27 Now it came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he became king, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison; 28 and he spoke kindly to him and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes and had his meals in the king’s presence regularly all the days of his life; 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life.” (2 Kgs. 25:27-30). Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive after he rebelled against Babylonian rule (2 Kgs. 24:10-12) Following Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 561 B.C., his successor Evil-Merodach (562-560 B.C.). sought to gain favor with the Jews by releasing the imprisoned King Jehoiachin and treating him kindly. Jehoiachin had been a prisoner for 36 years at the time he was released. This act preserved the line of David for the Messiah to come. It also foreshadowed the Jews’ future release from captivity (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1-2). Babylonian records further confirm that these events are historically accurate.
King Jehoiachin is released from prison following Nebuchadnezzar’s death6
God was faithful to preserve a remnant of His people. Whenever God allowed calamity to fall upon His people to correct or discipline them, He always promised to preserve a “remnant” that He would use to restore His people “For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”’ (Is. 37:32; Micah 2:12-13; Zeph. 3:8-20). Through Paul, God repeated this promise: “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” (Ro. 11:5). Thus, even when evil abounds, you should never give up hope in Jesus. He will preserve a remnant to keep His promises.
God was faithful to preserve His everlasting covenant leading to Jesus. God promised David an everlasting covenant: “13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Sam. 7:13). In their time of darkness, the prophet Jeremiah encouraged the people that God could not break His promises: “Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers.”’ (Jer. 33:20-21; 2 Chr. 21:7). By preserving Jehoiachin, God showed that He was faithful to keep His covenant. Jesus is the eternal King of Kings who came through David’s line to fulfill God’s “everlasting covenant” (2 Sam. 23:5) “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33). “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:7). “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14). Thus, God is faithful to keep His promises.
God was faithful to heal His people and return them to the Promised Land. God was faithful to send a remnant back to the Promised Land. “For we are slaves; yet in our bondage our God has not forsaken us, but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:9). “He also made them objects of compassion in the presence of all their captors.” (Ps. 106:46). He promises to restore His people if they repent of their sins: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). If our nation will repent and return back to God, God promises to heal it.
You also can trust in His promises to you. The accuracy of God’s promises in the book of Kings show how you can also trust His promises for you as well. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful even when you are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness in your life?
Give thanks for Jesus’ mercy and grace. The Jews’ rebellions and suffering showed their need for God’s mercy and grace. Like the Jews, all have sinned against God (Ro. 3:23). Like the Jews, all are in need of divine mercy and grace that only Jesus can provide.
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