The Destruction of Jerusalem and Exile of Judah
52 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he started out as king. He was king in Jerusalem for eleven years. His mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah. Her hometown was Libnah.
2 As far as God was concerned, Zedekiah was just one more evil king, a carbon copy of Jehoiakim.
3-5 The source of all this doom to Jerusalem and Judah was God’s anger. God turned his back on them as an act of judgment.
Zedekiah revolted against the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar set out for Jerusalem with a full army. He set up camp and sealed off the city by building siege mounds around it. He arrived on the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah’s reign. The city was under siege for nineteen months (until the eleventh year of Zedekiah).
6-8 By the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, on the ninth day of the month, the famine was so bad that there wasn’t so much as a crumb of bread for anyone. Then the Babylonians broke through the city walls. Under cover of the night darkness, the entire Judean army fled through an opening in the wall (it was the gate between the two walls above the King’s Garden). They slipped through the lines of the Babylonians who surrounded the city and headed for the Jordan into the Arabah Valley, but the Babylonians were in full pursuit. They caught up with them in the Plains of Jericho. But by then Zedekiah’s army had deserted and was scattered.
9-11 The Babylonians captured Zedekiah and marched him off to the king of Babylon at Riblah in Hamath, who tried and sentenced him on the spot. The king of Babylon then killed Zedekiah’s sons right before his eyes. The summary murder of his sons was the last thing Zedekiah saw, for they then blinded him. The king of Babylon followed that up by killing all the officials of Judah. Securely handcuffed, Zedekiah was hauled off to Babylon. The king of Babylon threw him in prison, where he stayed until the day he died.
12-16 In the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon on the seventh day of the fifth month, Nebuzaradan, the king of Babylon’s chief deputy, arrived in Jerusalem. He burned the Temple of God to the ground, went on to the royal palace, and then finished off the city. He burned the whole place down. He put the Babylonian troops he had with him to work knocking down the city walls. Finally, he rounded up everyone left in the city, including those who had earlier deserted to the king of Babylon, and took them off into exile. He left a few poor dirt farmers behind to tend the vineyards and what was left of the fields.
17-19 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the bronze washstands, and the huge bronze basin (the Sea) that were in the Temple of God, and hauled the bronze off to Babylon. They also took the various bronze-crafted liturgical accessories, as well as the gold and silver censers and sprinkling bowls, used in the services of Temple worship. The king’s deputy didn’t miss a thing. He took every scrap of precious metal he could find.
20-23 The amount of bronze they got from the two pillars, the Sea, the twelve bronze bulls that supported the Sea, and the ten washstands that Solomon had made for the Temple of God was enormous. They couldn’t weigh it all! Each pillar stood twenty-seven feet high with a circumference of eighteen feet. The pillars were hollow, the bronze a little less than an inch thick. Each pillar was topped with an ornate capital of bronze pomegranates and filigree, which added another seven and a half feet to its height. There were ninety-six pomegranates evenly spaced—in all, a hundred pomegranates worked into the filigree.
24-27 The king’s deputy took a number of special prisoners: Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the associate priest, three wardens, the chief remaining army officer, seven of the king’s counselors who happened to be in the city, the chief recruiting officer for the army, and sixty men of standing from among the people who were still there. Nebuzaradan the king’s deputy marched them all off to the king of Babylon at Riblah. And there at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king of Babylon killed the lot of them in cold blood.
Judah went into exile, orphaned from her land.
28 3,023 men of Judah were taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar in the seventh year of his reign.
29 832 from Jerusalem were taken in the eighteenth year of his reign.
30 745 men from Judah were taken off by Nebuzaradan, the king’s chief deputy, in Nebuchadnezzar’s twenty-third year.
The total number of exiles was 4,600.
31-34 When Jehoiachin king of Judah had been in exile for thirty-seven years, Evil-Merodach became king in Babylon and let Jehoiachin out of prison. This release took place on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month. The king treated him most courteously and gave him preferential treatment beyond anything experienced by the political prisoners held in Babylon. Jehoiachin took off his prison garb and from then on ate his meals in company with the king. The king provided everything he needed to live comfortably for the rest of his life.