King Zedekiah of Judah ruled from 597 to 586 B.C. Earlier he was called Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:17). After deporting Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar set this 21-year-old son of Josiah as a puppet king over Judah. Zedekiah faced a hard mission. The upper classes of Judah had been taken captive to Babylon and the remaining people were difficult to rule. Jeremiah compared them to bad figs unfit for food (Jer. 24:8–10). In addition, representatives from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon were in Jerusalem (Jer. 27:3) to convince Zedekiah to join them in rebellion against Babylon.
In the beginning of Zedekiah’s rule, the false prophets also gave the people a wrong anticipation that there would be an early return of the exiles from Babylon. However, the prophet Jeremiah constantly tried to correct this idea. He counseled submission rather than revolt. Jeremiah warned Judah and the other neighboring nations to give in to the Babylonian king (Jer. 27; 28:14). He warned that the failure of Judah to yield would bring a disastrous outcome to Jerusalem.
The Jews were supposed to settle in and seek the prosperity of Babylon. Jeremiah prophesied that they would be there for 70 years (Jer. 29:10). Yet, after this period of time, God would restore them back to their land (Jer. 29–31). This prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord moved upon the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to decree and allow anyone of the Jews who wished to return to Jerusalem to go back and carry with them all the temple treasures (Ezra 1).
King Zedekiah rejected Jeremiah’s prophecy and limited the prophet’s activity to the courtyard of the guard in the palace. And Jeremiah predicted that Zedekiah would die in Babylon and the city of Jerusalem would be taken over (Jer. 32:2).
Therefore, Zedekiah revolted and Jeremiah’s prophecy came to pass in the eleventh year of his reign. Nebuchadnezzar acted speedily and dreadfully to crush the revolt. His invasion filled Zedekiah and all Jerusalem with worry and horror (Jer. 21:1–10). In a desperate attempt to gain the favor of God, the king and people made a covenant with Him promising to liberate all Hebrew slaves in Jerusalem (Jer. 34:8–10). But when Nebuchadnezzar momentarily lifted the blockade because of the threat of Pharaoh’s army (Jer. 37:5), the people forgot their covenant. And they re-enslaved the liberated people (Jer. 34:11–22). Sadly, Jeremiah was captured and imprisoned as a traitor (Jer. 37:11–15).
The destruction of Jerusalem
Soon, however, the Babylonian siege was continued. The Jews wrestled greatly to save the city and themselves from the destiny that threatened them. And the city held out for 30 months, but in July, 586 B.C., the Babylonians were able to make a breach in the walls. Zedekiah escaped with a small bodyguard. However, the Babylonians captured him near Jericho (Jer. 39:2–5) and burned Jerusalem (Jer. 39:8). They took almost all of the remaining Jews to captivity (Jer. 39:9, 10). Had the Jews in that time heeded the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, they would not have faced their dreadful end.
In His service,