So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his entire army. They encamped outside the city and built a siege wall all around it.
I. THE WICKEDNESS OF ITS RULERS. One after the other, the kings of Judah had done evil in the sight of the Lord.
1. They disobeyed God's commands. They imitated the idolatry and the vices of the heathen.
2. They ill-treated God's prophets. When men begin to despise and ill-treat God's messengers, those who are trying to lead them to what is fight, they are blind to their own true interests. The treatment which the Prophet Jeremiah in particular received showed how low in degradation the kingdom of Judah had sunk. After the prophet's fearless denunciations of national sin (Jeremiah 13-19.), Pashur, who was chief governor of the temple, smote Jeremiah, and put him in the stocks, or pillory, that was in the high gate of Benjamin, near the temple, where all men might see him and mock at his disgrace. We have seen how Jehoiakim cut the roll of Jeremiah's prophecies with his penknife, and burned its leaves. Jeremiah's last years at Jerusalem were years of increased suffering and persecution. Zedekiah actually put him in prison. The princes cast him to perish in a hideous pit in the prison-house, where he sank in the mire, but at the intercession of an Ethiopian officer, Ebed-Melech, the king rescued him. Wickedness in high places soon proves to be a nation's ruin.
II. THE CORRUPTION OF ITS PEOPLE. Unhappily, the people were just as corrupt and as godless as their rulers. A nation is responsible for its national sins. The sins of Judah cried aloud to Heaven for vengeance. And in the days of the Captivity they were taught to feel that there is a God that reigneth in the earth. We learn from the fate of Judah and Jerusalem:
1. The danger of forsaking God. They forsook God in the day of their prosperity. And when the hour of their need came, the gods whom they served were not able to deliver them.
2. The danger of disregarding God's Word. How often, in these later years of Judah's history, was the Law of God utterly neglected and forgotten: No life can be truly happy which is not based on the Word of God. No home can be truly happy where the Bible is not read. No nation can expect prosperity which disregards the Word of God.
3. The danger of despising God's warnings. Every message God sends us is for our good. If it is worth his while to speak to us, it is worth our while to listen. Neglected warnings - what guilt they revolve! what danger they threaten. Because I have called, and. ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded... I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." - C.H.I.
And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign.2 Kings 24:19). At length he revolted against the King of Babylon, and this revolt was the beginning of the end, which was the captivity of Judah. It was in the year 589 B.C., in the month of January, that the siege of Jerusalem commenced, and it lasted one year five months and twenty-seven days. During this time the besieging army, or a part of it, marched to meet the Egyptians, who were coming to the help of the Jews, and with the retreat of the Egyptians the siege was continued even more rigorously. As the Jews were accustomed to observe the anniversary of national disasters with lastings, the dates of such disasters were preserved accurately. (See Zechariah 7:3-5; Zechariah 8:19.) By turning to Jeremiah 34:7 we learn that the army of Nebuchadnezzar also besieged the cities of Lachish and Azekah, which were the only strongholds remaining to the Jews, so that with their capture the victory was complete and the humiliation of God's people perfected (vers. 1-3). It is interesting to study the life of Jeremiah in connection with the events of this lesson (Jeremiah chaps, 37., 38.), for it was he who prevented for some time the revolt of the king against the yoke of Babylon by counselling submission and patience, and after the siege he urged Zedekiah to surrender to the enemy, assuring him, by the word of the Lord, that there was nothing to be gained by resistance, and that the end would be the burning of the city and the king's capture and death. And now commenced the afflictions of Zedekiah — afflictions which were the fulfilment of Divine prophecy, in which fulfilment the King of Babylon was unconsciously the instrument in God's hand in the punishment of this wicked monarch of Judah. And notice how terrible the punishment was. In the first place, his sons were put to death before his eyes, the purpose being to put an end to the dynasty. Then we learn from Jeremiah 12:10 that his daughters were carried into captivity. In addition to this, Zedekiah himself was bound in chains, "fetters of brass," and double fetters too, so that he was bound hand and foot, making escape impossible. His trial took place in the royal camp at Riblah, but we may suppose that it was a mere form, since the guilt of Zedekiah in breaking his oath of allegiance to the King of Babylon was known to all. Now let us consider what sins Zedekiah had committed, which brought down upon him and his family and the people of God this terrible punishment.
1. We know from 2 Kings 24:19 that he did not seek the glory of God in his reign. "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all which Jehoiakim had done." By studying the history of the reign of his brother Jehoiakim we know that this "evil" consisted in the fact that he did not oppose and overthrow idolatry in the kingdom. We have no evidence that Zedekiah was himself an idolater, but we are responsible to God not only for what we say and do, but for our influence over others.
2. Another sin of Zedekiah's was his revolt from the King of Babylon, and we learn from the punishment visited upon Judah's king the sacredness of an oath in God's sight.
3. Zedekiah broke a solemn covenant which he had made with the people, that all Jews held in bondage should be set free. In accordance with the king's command, this degree of emancipation was carried out, and no Jew throughout Judah was a slave. But when it was known that the Egyptian army was coming to help them, then Zedekiah thought that he would not need the assistance of these freedmen in the battle with the enemy, and so the order of emancipation was revoked, and slavery was re-established in the land (Jeremiah 34:16, 17).
4. Zedekiah's treatment of the prophet was another cause which led to his overthrow. Although in the beginning of the national peril he had sent to Jeremiah with the urgent message, "Pray now unto the Lord our God for us," yet we read (Jeremiah 37:2), "Neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah." And not only did he refuse to follow the prophet's advice, but he yielded to the enemies of this fearless man of God, and suffered them to imprison and maltreat him. There are some very solemn lessons which we learn from the sad life and tragic end of this last king of Judah.They are —
1. The first and indispensable requisite to success is for one to gain the victory over his own lower nature. So long as we are slaves to sin, we cannot be great in any path of life, but he who keeps self under, who has conquered passions and appetites for the sake of God and His cause, is sure to live a royal life, though he may never sit on a throne.
2. The fact that any one is our enemy does not relieve us from the obligation to keep faith with him (Joshua 9:19). Perjury is always a terrible sin.
3. If our trust is in God, we need never fear what our enemies may do, for with God on our side all must be well. Zedekiah feared his nobles because he had no faith in God.
4. The Christian is the only one who can be absolutely fearless of the future, for around him are the everlasting arms. Zedekiah put his trust in the fortifications around Jerusalem; if he had trusted in Jehovah and believed the words of Jeremiah, his life would have been safe and his kingdom would have been preserved. David sang: "In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God."
5. We never gain by doing wrong. When we do evil that good may come, we are always disappointed.
6. God is not mocked. If He determines to punish, no walls or weapons can defeat His purpose. When He says to us that all other paths but the one which he has marked out lead to destruction, we may be sure that our disobedience will in the end prove His words to be true (Jeremiah 2:17; Hosea 13:9).
(A. E. Kitteridge, D. D.)
Monday Club Sermons.The destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and the removal of the Jews into the Babylonish captivity, were a Divine judgment. Nebuchadnezzar was an unconscious agent of God in destroying, as Cyrus was in rebuilding and restoring. This judgment was not final Terrible as it was, it was a chastisement rather than a punishment. As such it illustrates some features of the Divine method in disciplinary judgment.
I. IT IS A DIVINE METHOD TO DELAY JUDGMENT, not only final, but also partial judgment. The instructions of Moses had been clear. His warnings had been full and explicit. He had gathered in the Book of Deuteronomy a complete presentation of the conditions upon which his people would alone be blessed; failing to comply with which they would be afflicted and cursed. When the people began to transgress, God began to afflict them; first, however, reviewing the warning of Moses by His prophetic messengers. He was prompt to chide them. As a father He chastised them.
II. THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS ARE CERTAIN. We do not know the time of them, but God does. It is delayed, but it is not indefinite. It is fixed. There are many hints in the Scripture at the exact timing of events in God's government. The Saviour began early to speak of His hour. At times He said it was not yet come. The night was coming, but it had not come. Then the fateful announcement fell from His lips in a prayer: "Father, the hour is come!" One chapter in Ezekiel, pointing to the culmination of judgment upon Judah, has for its awful refrain, It is come. The notes of time in the history grow definite. Nebuchadnezzar came in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month. In the eleventh year, the fourth month, the ninth day, the supply of food gave out, and famine prevailed. In the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, in the fifth month, in the seventh day of the month, the city was destroyed. The very hour when the Chaldeans broke into the city is recorded. So certain are the delayed judgments of God, if men do not repent. They impend. They are withheld. They may be withdrawn. God would withdraw them. It grieves Him to inflict them. But when a certain definite hour is reached, and His people is still incorrigible, they must fall. A thousand years may pass. Men may grow bold, and say, "Since the fathers fell asleep, all things remain as they were from the beginning." But not when the hour strikes. Then, punctually, the fire falls upon the cities of the plain, and the floods of the deluge are poured out, and Shiloh falls, and Samaria falls, and Jerusalem falls. Here is a lesson for all nations, all families, all individuals, under the Divine government. To remain unsubmissive under the government of God is to expose ourselves to His judgments. These may be delayed. Not so, they will be delayed. But their time is not indefinite: it is fixed. When the hour is reached the blow will fall. It may be a trial; it may be an affliction! it may be a tragedy. It may be all these three, for disciplinary judgments are cumulative.
III. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD ARE THOROUGH. It is true of those that are final, it is true also of those that are partial. When Nebuchadnezzar came, he had a force equal to his needs. He came in person with "all his host." Jeremiah says more explicitly, "All his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people." This immense host was the Lord's messenger. "It seemed," says Stanley, "to those who witnessed it, like the rising of a mighty eagle, spreading out its vast wings, feathering with the innumerable colours of the variegated masses which composed the Chaldean host, sweeping over the different countries, and striking fear in his rapid flight." If this array had not been sufficient for the conquest, God would have brought new levies; for the day was come. The siege was thorough. The city was surrounded. It was assailed from huge mounds and towers built up for the purpose. For a year and a half it held out. Then its store of provisions failed. Fathers devoured the flesh of their own sons and daughters. The hands even of pitiful mothers have sodden their own children, the mere infants just born. When the city still stubbornly held out, the siege was pressed more fiercely. At last the wall was pierced. At midnight the breach was made. The Chaldeans swarmed in. The destruction was complete. The, ark now disappeared, to be seen no more. Tradition says that Jeremiah buried it. Probably the fire destroyed it. It could not have been taken to Babylon with the spoil of the temple, the pillars of Solomon, and the molten sea, whose loss Jeremiah so bitterly bewailed; for otherwise it would have been returned with the other temple furniture by Cyrus. It was not needed longer. Religion had not disappeared from the nation. It is of much consequence to observe, in the light of this history, that a certain proportion of religious life is necessary to save a nation or an individual. There were individuals like Jeremiah and Baruch and their friends. There were youths like Daniel and his companions. There were others, perhaps even numerous, who cherished the law so recently discovered by Josiah, and whose recovery was so joyfully regarded as an event of national importance. But it was not enough to save the nation that there were good men and women in it, or that it had the Bible.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF A DISCIPLINARY JUDGMENT IS KEPT EVER IN VIEW. Though the judgment of Judah was terribly thorough it was not final. Its aim was to save the nation, if possible, and as many of its individual citizens as possible. A considerable remnant of the poorer classes was left on the land to keep it in tillage. Those taken into captivity were told that it should only be of limited duration. After seventy years they should return. They were permitted to have prophets and religious teachers with them in Babylon and in Judah.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
1. Bad economic conditions. Judah fell into the hands of the Babylonians because her kings had wasted bet resources. David gave a united nation to Solomon, who in turn passed it, still entire, to Rehoboam. Under this its fourth king the nation was broken into two hostile kingdoms. The narrative gives the cause explicitly, — unendurable taxation. The glory of Solomon, his navy and palaces and harem and chariots, had been purchased at the price of great suffering on the part of the people. Had Rehoboam followed the advice of his older counsellors and lightened taxation, Jeroboam would never have become his rival, and the confederation of the twelve tribes, none too strong at best, would not have wasted its strength in civil war.
2. Moral degeneracy. But back of the bad financial policy of the nation lay its moral weakness. For a nation whose God was Jehovah, the Jews were wonderfully prone to idolatry. If we except a few years of David's reign, there was not a moment, from the Call to the Return, when Israel was not itching to run after strange gods. Solomon was a typical eclectic in religion, permitting heathen divinities to be worshipped by the side of his great temple. The reforms of such kings as Hezekiah and Josiah were short-lived, and served but to set in strange contrast the popular worship in the high places and the groves.
3. Disregard of religious teachers. Nothing is more dramatic than the struggle between the prophets and the kings of Israel. Samuel with the gigantic Saul cowering at his feet; Elijah defying Ahab, slaying the prophets of Baal, and running from Jezebel; Elisha travelling up and down a half-converted land; Isaiah outspoken and dying a martyr's death; Jeremiah deep in the filth of his prison, — are but leaders in the noble army of prophets whom God sent to guide Israel through the paths of national success, in the face of the bitterest opposition. Each of them was faithful and spoke his message; but his words passed unheeded, or only excited anger and persecution. Neither people nor king cared to follow the stern words of their religious teachers. except as they were threatened by some overwhelming disaster. Then. perhaps, for a few days or months, the worship of Jehovah was reinstated in its proper place, and the prophetical office was again honoured. Judah is the type of the world. Had its king listened to God's servants, the nation would have weathered its financial distress and been cured of its wickedness. In their words lay the only hope; and Judah laughed at them and stoned them. Jerusalem, the Zion of David, became the execution city of the prophets. Judah fell, just as any nation will fall that fails to apply religion to national problems. The one great lesson of the captivity of Judah is this: the fearless application of Christianity to living questions is the duty of both clergy and laymen, and the hope of the state.
PeopleAhikam, Babylonians, Careah, Elishama, Evilmerodach, Gedaliah, Ishmael, Jaazaniah, Jehoiachin, Johanan, Kareah, Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan, Nethaniah, Seraiah, Shaphan, Solomon, Tanhumeth, Zedekiah, Zephaniah
PlacesArabah, Babylon, Egypt, Hamath, Jericho, Jerusalem, Mizpah, Riblah
TopicsArmy, Babylon, Buildeth, Building, Built, Camped, Earthworks, Encamped, Encampeth, Force, Fortification, Forts, Host, Jerusalem, Laid, Marched, Month, Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnez'zar, Ninth, Outside, Pass, Pitched, Position, Reign, Round, Rule, Sides, Siege, Siegeworks, Tenth, Town, Turrets, Wall, Works, Zedekiah's
Outline1. Jerusalem is besieged.
4. Zedekiah taken, his sons slain, his eyes put out.
8. Nebuzaradan defaces the city, exiles the remnant, except a few poor laborers;
13. and carries away the treasures.
18. The nobles are slain at Riblah.
22. Gedaliah, who was over those who remained, being slain, the rest flee into Egypt.
27. Evil-Merodach advances Jehoiachin in his court.
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Kings 25:1
'1. And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3. And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4. And the city was broken up, and all the …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Last Agony
The Country of Jericho, and the Situation of the City.
How those who Use Food Intemperately and those who Use it Sparingly are to be Admonished.
The Historical Books.
The Iranian Conquest
Formation and History of the Hebrew Canon.
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