II Kin. 24:20-25:3; II Chron. 36:13-16; Jer. 52:3-6; 10:17-25; 21:1-22:9
In view of all of the destruction that had been prophesied by God’s prophets, Zedekiah continued to be defiant. He had been urged to surrender to Babylon in order to prevent the mass destruction of Jerusalem, but he refused. Instead of surrendering, Judah’s king rebelled against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and his army besieged the city and deprived them of the necessities of life.
Jeremiah had advised the people to gather their possessions in preparation for the exile that was before them, but they were not prepared. He had heard the words directly from the Lord and was distressed for the people and also for himself personally. They would cry out, but no one would help them. Even though his words were rejected, Jeremiah knew that, “The way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
Man has the tendency to rely upon self until calamity strikes him. Zedekiah realized that he needed help against Babylon and sent two of his men to Jeremiah to ask the Lord to take Nebuchadnezzar away from him. God refused. Even though Babylon and her gods would be the weapons of destruction, it was God who would allow it for His punishment of a rebellious people. However, there was still a way of escape. Those who remained in the city would die, but those who would surrender to Babylon would save their lives.
Jeremiah reviewed the reasons why God had turned His back upon His people. In summary, he stated, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”
Ezekiel was a young priest who had been exiled into Babylon possibly at the same time as Daniel or a few years later. He was probably thirty years old, the age that young priests became active in their priestly duties. However, that would not happen for Ezekiel.
In a foreign land away from the house of God, instead of assuming priestly duties, Ezekiel saw a vision. He described the vision as the likeness of four creatures with awesome characteristics surrounded by a wheel beside each one. From the brightness of that vision, he fell on his face and, “heard a voice of One speaking.”
The voice of the Spirit spoke to Ezekiel and commissioned him to go to the children of Israel. Judah was referred to as Israel because they were the remainder of the original nation of Israel. He reminded the new prophet that they were a rebellious people and whether they would hear him or not, God’s word would be proclaimed. Ezekiel was assured that even in a hostile place, he would be kept safe. God’s words of lamentations and woes were then spread before the prophet in the form of a book.
Ezekiel was ordered to eat the scroll that he had been given. Following that, he was given directions for his ministry. He was informed that the people would not listen to him because they had not listened to God before him. The final charge of Ezekiel’s commission was to speak God’s warning. If he failed to obey and warn the people, they would die in their sins and he would be held accountable. However, if he did warn them and they failed to obey, they would die in their sins, but he would be free of their blood. That same accountability rests upon us to also warn the righteous to remain faithful to God.
The destruction of Babylon was a sure punishment for the evil that they had committed. Jeremiah continued to describe the events that would take place against them. They would be separated as chaff is separated from grain at harvest. Even Babylon could have been saved from destruction if they would have accepted God’s healing. They did not.
Bel Marduk was the god considered by the Babylonians as their chief god and creator of the earth. They conducted a festival at the beginning of each year to assure that the world would continue to stand. Jeremiah pointed out the futility of worshipping a molded image carved out by a metalsmith. The Lord of hosts was the One who had made the earth by His power. All of the realms of nature obey His commands.
The invaders from the north would swarm against Babylon like locusts. All would fall and be broken to pieces as if by one wielding a battle-ax. Horses, chariots, riders, old men and women, young men and maidens, shepherds and farmers with their flocks and beasts of burden would all be broken along with their governors and rulers.
Jeremiah’s message contained encouragement for God’s people who would be in exile in Babylon. Even in their exile, they would be remembered by Him. They were the avenue in which He had planned to bring His Son, in time, to reign as King.
Zedekiah had come to Babylon during the fourth year of his reign. Seraiah, his quartermaster had accompanied him on that trip. Jeremiah wrote the words that had been spoken against Babylon and instructed Seraiah to read them. Following the reading, he was to tie a stone on the book and toss it into the Euphrates River as a symbolism that, “Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.”
As had been stated earlier, God used evil nations to punish other evil nations. Israel had been overcome by the evil Assyrians. The Lord had pronounced destruction and captivity upon Judah at the hand of wicked Babylon. Jeremiah was sent to proclaim the ultimate fall of the Babylonians. That destruction would take place many years in the future just as Assyria had fallen. A nation from the north would invade their land. History relates that the nation was Persia.
Jeremiah described the humiliation that would come upon Babylon. Their gods would be shamed and their images would be broken to pieces. The people would fall by arrows and swords. In the end, their dwelling place would be made desolate.
Included with the prophesies spoken against Babylon were words of hope for their captives. Judah and the remnant of Israel who had dwelt with them after Samaria had fallen would begin to seek the Lord and the way back to Zion. “Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord…” God would use the fall of Babylon as a means of freeing a penitent Judah.
False prophets have predicted that Jesus would come and the world would end at a certain date. Those prophesies have confused and excited untold masses of people and caused them in many cases to even sell their possessions in preparation for that day. Needless to say, that did not and has not happened yet. That day is coming, BUT no one knows when, according to the teaching of the One who is coming (Mt. 24:36-44).
Hananiah was one who falsely prophesied that within two years, instead of seventy, Babylon would fall and that all of the vessels and captives that had been previously taken would be brought back to Jerusalem. In Jeremiah’s mind, he wished that those words would have been true. They were not! Hananiah took the symbolic yoke that Jeremiah had been wearing and broke it. He stated that the Lord would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar from the neck of all nations within two years. The Lord’s response to Hananiah was that he had broken a yoke of wood, but He would place a yoke of iron on the neck of those nations and that they would serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Furthermore, Hananiah would be cast from the earth. About two months later, the false prophet, Hananiah was dead.
Much of God’s word is written in symbolic language. The wine cup that Jeremiah was to take was symbolic of the massive destruction that would soon come upon Judah and the nations around her. Jeremiah was to take the wine cup to all of the kings affected by God’s wrath and explain that their punishment would cause them to stagger like drunken men. No one would escape, including the shepherds of the flocks. God in His fury was described as the roar and destruction of a lion attacking the inhabitants.
The Moabites were descendants of Moab, son of Abraham’s nephew, Lot through an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter after the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their country was located southeast of the Dead Sea. During the centuries that had ensued until Jeremiah’s prophecies, they had been enemies and also friends with the Israelites and Judeans. However, they like the other nations around them were a prideful and haughty people who did not follow God. The Lord speaking through the prophet declared their horrific downfall at the hands of the Babylonians. Moab would return in the future as God stated, “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab In the latter days.”
Jeremiah had words of prophecy from the Lord against Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor and Elam, other people around Judah. Like the Moabites, the Ammonites descended from Lot’s son, Ben-Ammi through incest with his younger daughter. All of those nations and regions would suffer destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. Damascus was the capital of Syria and as such would bear most of the wrath of God against their nation. Kedar, Hazor and Elam were regions that would also suffer punishment from God through Babylon. In the end, God, through His mercy would allow those people to return to their homeland.