II Kin. 25:22-26; Jer. 39:11-41:18
Political upheaval begets political turmoil. The Babylonians had destroyed Judah and their capitol, Jerusalem. Many of the Judeans had been killed and many had been taken as captives into Babylon, but Nebuchadnezzar had allowed a remnant to remain and care for the land.
Judah would have no king of their own to lead them, but Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah, a close friend of the prophet Jeremiah as governor over them. His government was set up at Mizpah, a town near the destroyed Jerusalem. The new governor was not of the lineage of David, but he was well known in governmental circles. He began his difficult task of leading a broken nation by urging all to serve the Babylonians and it would be well for them.
Jeremiah had been on good terms with the Babylonian king, but as people were being rounded up to be taken captive to Babylon, he was also taken. Upon the king’s orders he was released and allowed to remain in Judah.
When word reached the Jews who had been residing in other countries that a remnant had been left in Judah with Gedaliah as their governor, they returned to their homeland. There was still much unrest among the people.
Johanan, of the governor’s security forces reported that the Ammonite king had sent Ishmael, an assassin to kill him. Gedaliah did not believe him and ignored the threat upon his life. However, after only two months as governor, Gedaliah and those with him were killed as they hosted a meal with their killers. Among the chain of events that took place, other people were killed and many captives taken to the Ammonites. In the end, Johanan and his forces rescued the captives, but Ishmael and eight of his men escaped. Johanan and those with him turned toward Egypt to find refuge there.
A bleak and unimaginable picture of Zion/Jerusalem was presented. The former things were like gold that had become as clay pottery. Desolation was everywhere. Sometimes, death is a blessing. Mothers were cooking and eating their own children. Dying by the sword would have been better than dying of starvation.
Much of the responsibility for Judah’s suffering rested upon the shoulders of their false prophets and governmental leaders. All who are in positions of leadership have a sacred obligation to execute the duties of their offices in a godly manner for the benefit of their constituents. However, that does not negate one’s individual responsibility to fear God and keep His commandments.
Imagine the heartbreak of seeing one’s inheritance being taken by a stranger. The land of milk and honey that was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and had been given to the Israelites had fallen into the hands of other nations. They were suffering the results of the sins of their fathers. Even though not guilty of his father’s sins, many times one must endure the effects of that sin. With humility and confession, the lamenter turned to God in prayer seeking restoration. “Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored…”
Jerusalem was pictured as a chastised man paying for the evil of his ways. They had been abandoned to their enemies by the Lord. There is no fate worse than being without God.
Even in the bleakness of their circumstances, the writer spoke of hope in God’s mercy for those who would seek Him. Without His mercy, all will be lost; with His mercy all can be saved. One should not complain about receiving deserved punishment, but should use it as a wake-up call to repent and return to God. The writer also called upon the Lord to punish those who had caused such great harm and misery to His people.
It is not certain who wrote these lamentations. However, most scholars attribute that great work to the prophet, Jeremiah who witnessed the horrible destruction of the great city of Jerusalem and of many of its people. The five poems therein describe the many emotions of the writer as well as those of the surviving exiles.
As the first of those poems began, it was quite evident that there was much distress in the land. Jerusalem was personified as a widow who had lost all. She had depended upon her friends and her gods, but they had all forsaken her and there was no one left for comfort. It was pay-back time for her sins. In her distress, she recognized that the Lord’s hand was against her because she had rebelled against Him. The widow/Jerusalem called upon the Lord to do unto her enemies as they had done to her. She was calling for relief, but there was none to come at that time.
Many times, invading armies would, “add insult to injury” by destroying the temples of worship within the land. That was a demonstration of the power of their gods over those of the defeated. It also implied that the gods of the defeated had defected to the victor.
The writer lamented in sorrow over the vast destruction that had been Jerusalem. Everyone did not mourn. Jerusalem’s jealous neighbors were rejoicing at their calamity. God, in His anger against His people had delivered them up in judgment to their enemies. Even though they had disregarded His laws, the greatest loss to the most devout people was the destruction of the temple of God. As a parent grieves when he must punish a child for wrongdoing, God also grieved for His children. His prophets had spoken His words of warning, but the false prophets through false and deceptive visions had stated that all was well.
II Kin. 25:4-21; II Chron. 36:17-21; Jer. 39:1-10; 52:7-30
It happened! AND great was their fall!
Zedekiah and his army had been confined inside the city for about two years with Nebuchadnezzar’s army encamped around on the outside. In time, desperate men do desperate things. As Ezekiel had prophesied, Zedekiah and his men broke through the two walls surrounding the city and fled by night. The Babylonian army captured the king in the plains of Jericho and his army deserted him. However, the king’s sons and princes were also captured and killed in his view. Following that, Zedekiah’s eyes were put out also according to Ezekiel’s prophecy. He was bound with a bronze chain, carried into Babylon and put into prison for the remainder of his life.
The completion of Jerusalem’s destruction was carried out by Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard. He and his men finished breaking down the city’s walls, burned the temple of God, the king’s palace and the other chief houses in the city. All of the items used in the priests’ duties of offering sacrifices to God were carried to Babylon. The elaborate bronze pillars of the temple were broken into pieces, and along with the other pieces of bronze, gold and silver were taken to Babylon.
Of the survivors found were the chief priest and other high government officials. They were taken to the king of Babylon and promptly put to death. The most able bodied men were taken as captives and exiled in Babylon. Some of the poor of the land were left as vinedressers and farmers to serve Nebuchadnezzar in that capacity. The prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other prophets of God were being fulfilled. A total of four thousand six hundred people were exiled to Babylon. That may not include women and children.
Ezek. 29:1-16; 30:1-31:18
The dominant message that God was sending to the various nations through Ezekiel and the other prophets was, “They shall know that I am the Lord God.”
Egypt had been a dominant nation throughout many centuries. They had refused to recognize the true and living God, but had worshipped false gods. They had worshipped the rivers, but God reminded them that He had created the rivers and that they belonged to Him.
The Lord is a jealous God. At that time, Egypt was interfering with His plan to punish Judah. As Jerusalem had been under siege for a period of time, Hophra, the Egyptian Pharaoh attempted to go to Zedekiah’s aid. The Lord, through Ezekiel informed him that he would be to Judah as weak as a reed that would break when leaned upon. Even Egypt would become desolate for a forty-year period. Their people would become captives and would be scattered among many nations during those forty years. Egypt would be delivered to Babylon by the Lord as wages for punishing Judah.
Ezekiel continued to receive descriptions of Egypt’s impending destruction from the Lord. Their destruction would be wide-spread throughout the country just as Judah would be completely wiped out. Pharaoh was described as having a broken arm and his other arm would also be broken. Egypt would not have the strength to fight against the mighty Babylonian army. They would fall and be scattered among other nations. Other neighboring nations would also fall along with Egypt.
The Lord provided Ezekiel an illustration of the strength of Egypt. He began by describing the nation, Assyria as a tall cedar tree in Lebanon. It had been abundantly watered and was the envy of all of the other trees, even those in the garden of Eden. BUT, it was cut down and destroyed. Likewise, Pharaoh was a tree, but did not match the tree of Assyria in strength. As the majestic tree of Assyria could not withstand the hand of God. Egypt would also be cut down and destroyed.
Ezekiel was commanded by God to demonstrate a method of escape as if he were trying to flee the siege. That entailed digging through the wall and carrying one’s most valued and necessary possessions on his shoulders while fleeing. God stated that his prophecy would be a sign to the people. It also prophesied the attempted escape of King Hezekiah who was called a prince. He would be taken to Babylon, but would not see the land because he would be blinded and those around him would die by the sword. The remnant would be convinced of the power and majesty of God. They would declare that fact and their abominations before the Gentiles (Babylonians) wherever they went while in exile.
Along with the shortages of food and water that would occur during the siege, there would still remain false prophets denying that those prophecies would ever come to pass or that they would occur in the distant future. God refuted those false statements by saying, “The days are at hand, and the fulfillment of every vision…” It is easy today for one to ignore warnings of danger or the inevitability of death. We have the attitude that we are still alive and that calamities happen to someone else and not to ourselves.