The Destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah

Jeremiah's Prophecies


A Close Look at the Words of Jeremiah the Prophet


Jeremiah 39:1-10

1 - In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.

2 - [And] in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth [day] of the month, the city was broken up.

3 - And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, [even] Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.

4 - And it came to pass, [that] when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.

5 - But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.

6 - Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.

7 - Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.

8 - And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.

9 - Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.

10 - But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.



The Horrible Siege of Jerusalem

The first destruction of Jerusalem and the terrible siege by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar was one of the most horrific events in human history. When Jerusalem was destroyed a second time by the Romans in 70 A.D. under Titus the Roman general there was a similar destruction of the Temple and city, but far from equal in comparison to the horror in Jerusalem's first destruction under Nebuchadnezzar. The first destruction by the Babylonians began with a dreadful siege that lasted 18 months which was much longer than under the Romans. The Jews inside the walls were desperate to resist and hold out, they would rather starve than surrender. It is almost impossible to imagine the horror that happened during the Babylonian siege. The young maidens of the city were crawling over mounds of dung and refuse to find the tiniest piece of food, even if it meant eating birds dung, which was actually being gathered and sold for astronomically high prices. The Nazarites with their shining white garments were straggling around in filth, and the intelligent, religious, or educated had barely any meat on their bones. The hunger was so fierce that the prophet records that loving mothers were boiling their own children for meat. The scene staggers any imagination, and it would be important for any student of the Scriptures  to study the history around these events as closely as possible.


The kingdom of Judah that was made famous with King David was now under the yoke of the Babylonians, and Zedekiah, the king of Judah was a vassal for Nebuchadnezzar. He was constantly being advised by the false prophets and therefore he chose to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar and sought to align with the king of Egypt for help to remove Judah from this foreign Babylonian yoke. When Nebuchadnezzar heard about Zedekiah's alliance with Egypt he sent his army in order to force Zedekiah into submission. The Egyptian army came to Zedekiah's aid but only momentarily, and later the Egyptian army was defeated.


King Nebuchadnezzar finally came and destroyed Jerusalem after the 18 month siege. The prophet Jeremiah continually warned King Zedekiah about the foolishness of rebelling against Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah also told Zedekiah that the Lord had destined Judah for captivity. The Lord would've spared Judah if the king and the people would obey His voice, repent of their sins, and seek the Lord. But they would not turn to the Lord, the king trusted in the false prophets, and in the help of the king of Egypt which was folly. In essence the king of Judah, and all the people not only rebuild against the king of Babylon, but they defied Almighty God who sent his prophet to warn them of this impending doom.


The Destruction of Jerusalem


Jeremiah does not reveal the Babylonian siege in detail, he simply records the event and reveals God's faithfulness to His Word. After an 18 month siege the Babylonian armies broke through the walls of Jerusalem and took the city. The Babylonian commanders set up their headquarters at the middle gate, which was probably which was near the citadel. the presence of these commanders at this place revealed to anyone that the city was completely in Babylonian possession. (See also second Kings 25 and compare with Jeremiah 52). The Book of Lamentations which was written by Jeremiah reveals in the fourth chapter the heartbroken prophet as he laments over the destruction of Jerusalem, and over the horrors that came upon God's people. Ezekiel chapters 4, 5, 7, and 11 reveal glimpses of Jerusalem's destruction as well.


The city of Jerusalem was finally subdued, the king of Judah fled, was captured, and sentenced to banishment, after his sons were put to death in his very presence, and then his eyeballs were plucked. He was thrown into prison by the Babylonian commander Nebuzaradan. The city of Jerusalem was set ablaze by the Babylonian soldiers, the Temple of Solomon, the Palace of the King, the houses of the chief princes and principal men, the walls were broken into pieces and the whole entire city of Jerusalem was laid waste, and her appearance was as a desolate mound. (Also see Jeremiah 52:13, 14).


8 - And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.


The Lamentations of Jeremiah


Jerusalem laid in utter desolation and the prophet Jeremiah stood over the city and lamented:


Lamentations 1:1 - How doth the city sit solitary, [that was] full of people! [how] is she become as a widow! she [that was] great among the nations, [and] princess among the provinces, [how] is she become tributary! 2 - She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears [are] on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort [her]: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.


Lamentations 1:6 - And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts [that] find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.


Lamentations 4:1 - How is the gold become dim! [how] is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. 2 - The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!


God's Continual Warnings


The Lord was certainly true to His Word that he spoke through Moses that if Israel would seek God they would receive the blessings of God, but if they forsook Him than He would forsake them. God gave them the wonderful land, He warned them of the penalty of transgression and idolatry, He warned them that He would punish them and scatter them among the nations (Deuteronomy 4:25-28; Deuteronomy 28:62-67). God warned them over and over and over again repeatedly held them by the hand for over 1000 years, He sent prophets to admonish and to warn them. If only they would seek after him and turn from their wickedness was God's plea, He would gladly forgive them and save them from all the turmoil and the misery that rebellion brings. God's Word was despised, Gods Word was neglected, God's prophets were stoned to death, put in prison, sawn in two, and ridiculed and blamed for all the calamities that were brought upon the people of God. What is truly amazing is that a century and a half prior to the destruction of Jerusalem was the barbaric slaughtering of Judah's sister kingdom, the northern kingdom of Israel by the brutal Assyrians. The northern 10 tribes were carried away and scattered and became referred to as the 10 lost tribes. Even after all of this Judah did not repent. This example of God's faithfulness to his warnings was actually the last warning to the southern kingdom of Judah, and her own fate was sitting right over her head was over a century and a half to repent.


The Day of Judgement


No Jerusalem would not hear, Judah's kings would not repent, Judah's religious rulers would not forsake their wicked ways, Judah's people who were all descendents of Abraham and they refused to trust the Lord. Finally the day of judgment had arrived, Gods cup was full and brought up to their guilty mouths and they were made to drink of the bitterness of the wrath of God. All the craftiness and the ingenuity of Jerusalem's attempts to avert disaster, the feeling of being impregnable, nothing could turn back God's hand, it was too late for prayer. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was raised up to be a mighty instrument of God's judgment and not even the mighty kingdom of Egypt could stop them.


Zedekiah Flees Jerusalem and is Captured


When king Zedekiah  saw that the Babylonians were in control of Jerusalem he grabbed some of his soldiers and his household and secretly left the city by night. He took a secret passage through his garden and inside a double wall where they could not be seen, and made it all the way to the plain of the Jordan River (see Jeremiah 52:7; 2 Kings 25:4).


4 - And it came to pass, [that] when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.


His secret escape was futile because the Babylonians were searching for him and saw that he was missing and hunted him down. They were all captured by the Babylonians. This could've all been avoided if the King had listened to the words of Jeremiah:


"If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house" (see below)


Jeremiah 38:17 - Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house: 18 - But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. 19 - And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. 20 - But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver [thee]. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.


It is no doubt a difficult thing to trust in the Lord when there is such a strong enemy and Zedekiah was not able to trust in the Word of the Lord. He was weak and afraid and ran from inevitable judgment. his sons were slain before his very eyes as well as those who were with him. Finally King Zedekiah was blinded and that will be the last thing he ever saw, he was bound in fetters and led away to Babylon and cast into prison, in the land of the Chaldeans, and he died there. This was all predicted beforehand in amazing detail by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 12:1-13). Ezekiel concludes by uttering this prophecy about the king:


Ezekiel 12:13 - My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon [to] the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.


The Poorest of the Land


After the devastation that was brought about by the Babylonians there were only the poorest of the land that were left there. The Babylonian general allow these poor people to remain behind and to possess the nearby vineyards and fields. The strong and powerful were destroyed, the educated and the gifted were destroyed, the religious leaders were carried away and only the poorest of the land remained.



(See the Timeline)





The Events Surrounding the Destruction of Jerusalem



The Fall of Judah

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The Story of the Bible

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