Who was King Zedekiah in the Old Testament?

The story of Zedekiah is recorded in the books of 2 Kings 24–25, 2 Chronicles 36, and Jeremiah. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah when Babylon took over Jerusalem in 586 BC. The name Zedekiah means “Jehovah is righteousness.” He was the son of King Josiah, full brother of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31), and a half-brother of Jehoiakim (v. 36). Zedekiah’s original name was Mattaniah.

History leading to his rule

After the death of King Josiah, his son Jehoahaz ruled for 3 months and “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” At the time, Egypt had control over the land and Pharaoh Necho exiled Jehoazhaz to Egypt (2 Kings 23:31–33) and appointed his brother Jehoiakim as king instead, and he ruled for 11 years. Then, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded Israel and appointed Jehoiakim as a vassal king to Babylon. But Jehoiakim rebelled against God and Nebuchadnezzar. And upon his death, his son Jehoiachin succeeded him (2 Kings 24:1–7).

Jehoiachin continued in his father’s evil ways. He reigned 3 months until Nebuchadnezzar removed him from the throne and appointed Mattaniah, son of Josiah, as a vassal king in his place. And Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:8–17) who was only 21 years old.

During his rule

In the beginning of Zedekiah’s rule, there was an overall anticipation given by false prophets that there would be an early return of the exiles from Babylon and an end to the Babylonian oppression. But the prophet Jeremiah constantly tried to correct this idea, and counseled submission rather than revolt. The Jews were supposed to settle in and seek the prosperity of Babylon. And he prophesied that the Hebrews will be there for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10). But after that period, God would restore them back to their land (ch. 29–31). And 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 and to go back and carry with them all the temple treasures (Ezra 1).

His death

King Zedekiah rejected Jeremiah’s prophecy and limited the prophet’s activity to the courtyard of the guard in the palace. But Jeremiah predicted that Zedekiah would die in Babylon and the city of Jerusalem would be taken over (ch. 32:2). And his prophecy came to pass in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign. Babylon took over the land, king Zedekiah was blinded, taken to Babylon, and his sons were killed (Jeremiah 52; 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36). Also, Jerusalem and the temple were burned and the temple treasures were carried away to Babylon.

What we can learn from his life

The life of King Zedekiah is a reminder of the consequences of forsaking the true God and reaping the deadly consequences. The Lord was ready to manifest Himself in such wonderful ways to the king and his nation.  And he had the chance to lead his people away from idolatry and experience freedom, prosperity, peace, and victory over their enemies (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Unfortunately, he rejected God.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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