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Jeremiah’s words are often not “his” words. Early in life, his mouth is touched by God, and from then on the prophet is God’s mouthpiece to the world. Jeremiah thinks with God’s mind and speaks with God’s voice when the world around him is crumbling (1:9–10). In many ways, he sees the world as God sees it and then shares those visions, no matter the cost. His ministry spans five kings of Judah, few of whom bother to listen to him. He survives public ridicule, loneliness, and attempts on his life. He witnesses his beloved Jerusalem fall just as he predicts. But he knows the faithfulness of God. The Eternal has promised to sustain him through a difficult life, and so He does.

52 Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king. His reign in Jerusalem lasted for a total of 11 years. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah (not the prophet of Anathoth). Zedekiah committed evil in the eyes of the Eternal, just as Jehoiakim had done. All that then happened to Jerusalem and Judah took place because of the Eternal’s anger. He finally forced them out of the land and away from His presence. It was then that Zedekiah foolishly rebelled against the king of Babylon.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon brought his entire army to surround Jerusalem. On the 10th day of the 10th month, during the 9th year of Zedekiah’s reign, the mighty army of Babylon was camped outside the city and built siege mounds around it. This siege lasted 18 months, well into the 11th year of Zedekiah’s reign. By the 9th day of the 4th month of that year, the famine had become so severe inside the city that no one had anything to eat. Panic was setting in as people feared starvation. When a section of the city wall was breached, all the warriors of Jerusalem escaped through a gate between the two walls near the king’s garden. Even though the Chaldeans had the city surrounded, these warriors escaped the city under the cover of night and fled east toward the Jordan Valley. But the Chaldean army discovered this and chased after Zedekiah, catching him on the plains of Jericho. All of his soldiers had scattered, and he was alone when they captured him. They took him to the king of Babylon, who had set up his command post at Riblah in the land of Hamath. It was here that the king pronounced judgment on Zedekiah. 10 Zedekiah was forced to watch as his own sons and the nobles of Judah were butchered in front of him in Riblah. 11 This was the very last thing he saw, because after this Nebuchadnezzar blinded Zedekiah’s eyes. He was then placed in bronze shackles and carried off to Babylon, where he remained in prison until his death.

12 About a month later, on the 10th day of the 5th month, Nebuzaradan (the captain of the imperial guard and trusted advisor of the king) arrived in Jerusalem. This was during the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon. 13 He systematically destroyed the important structures of the city. He set fire to the Eternal’s temple, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem. 14 All of the Chaldean troops that had accompanied the captain then tore down all the walls surrounding Jerusalem. The capital was now in ruins. 15-16 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the imperial guard, gathered together those still living in the city, including some of the poor and those artisans who had not been deported earlier. He put them with the deserters who had fled to Nebuchadnezzar and forced them all into exile, far away from their homeland. But he left the remaining poor people behind to care for Judah’s vineyards and fields.

17 Before the Babylonian army burned the temple, they proceeded to take everything of value. They took the bronze pillars at the entrance of the temple and the stands and bronze sea that were inside the Eternal’s temple. After breaking them in pieces, the Chaldeans took the bronze back to Babylon. 18 They also took the pans, the shovels, the snuffers, the bowls, the dishes, and every bronze utensil that was used during the temple rituals. 19 The captain of the guard also took the various sacrificial bowls, firepans, pots, lampstands, dishes, and anything else made of gold or silver. 20 The weight of bronze from the two pillars, the sea, the 12 bronze bulls under the sea, and the stands was so great that it could not be accurately measured. These items were very old, for they had been crafted for the temple of the Eternal in the days of King Solomon. 21 The bronze pillars were 27 feet high and had a circumference of 18 feet; they were hollow, but the bronze walls of the pillars were about 3 inches thick. 22-23 The bronze capital atop each pillar was 7½ feet high and covered with latticework and pomegranates—all made of bronze—circling the entire capital. There were 96 pomegranates on all sides of the capital, 100 total in the latticework around the top.

24 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the imperial guard, took Seraiah (the high priest) and Zephaniah (next in line to be high priest), along with 3 officers in charge of the gates. 25 Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the army and 7 of the king’s advisors. He also took the army commander’s secretary, who was in charge of enlisting people into the army, and 60 other men. 26-27 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the imperial guard, took this entire group to the king of Babylon, whose command post was in Riblah in the land of Hamath. Nebuchadnezzar had them all beaten and killed. This is how Judah was taken from her land and sent into exile.

28 This, then, is the number of people Nebuchadnezzar took captive during 3 deportations: In the 7th year of his reign: 3,023 Judeans; 29 in the 18th year of his reign: 832 citizens of Jerusalem; 30 and in the 23rd year of his reign: 745 people were taken into exile by Nebuzaradan, captain of the imperial guard. In all 4,600 people were taken captive.

Years later, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Evil-merodach (562–560 b.c.), hope emerges. The exiled king Jehoiachin is shown kindness; it seems God has not forgotten them.

31 On the 25th day of the 12th month during the 37th year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, Evil-merodach, king of Babylon, ascended to the throne and showed mercy to Jehoiachin and released him from prison. 32 Babylon’s new king was good to Jehoiachin and gave him a place of honor higher than the other nations’ exiled kings in Babylon. 33 And so it was that Jehoiachin exchanged his prison clothes for new clothes, and for the rest of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table. 34 The king of Babylon even gave him a daily allowance on which he lived until the day of his death.

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