GOD TURNS THE LIGHTS OUT ON HIS HOLY CITY AND EXILES HIS APOSTATE PEOPLE —
DESTRUCTION, DEPORTATION, DESECRATION, EXECUTION AND EXILE
Judgment Day has finally arrived for the city of David and for its inhabitants. It is not a pretty sight. The reputation of God suffers serious desecration as the pagan forces of Nebuchadnezzar successfully conquer the city, plunder the temple and subjugate the people. King Zedekiah witnesses the slaughter of his sons, has his eyes gouged out and then is completely humiliated and led away captive to Babylon. The defeat is devastating but it is not permanent. God’s covenant promises will still be fulfilled just as His promises of judgment for rebellion and apostasy.
Peter Pett: Kings began with a description of the building of the house of YHWH and of the king’s house (1 Kings 5:1 to 1 Kings 7:12), and of the making of the pillars of bronze and the brazen sea (1 Kings 5:13 onwards), and it now ends with a description of their destruction, along with all the larger houses in Jerusalem. And it all occurred because they had incurred the wrath of YHWH. The continual downward slide to this point, in spite of the constant efforts of the prophets, is one of the themes of the book. . . The walls also of the city were broken down all round the city. Jerusalem was to be left a ruin, almost uninhabited and totally defenseless.
Morgan: Thus the nation called to peculiar position of honor, became a people scattered and peeled, losing all their privileges because of their failure to fulfill responsibility.
August Konkel: The destruction of Jerusalem is thorough. Temple, palaces, and houses are burned, the temple vessels including the enormous bronze Sea and the wheeled bronze stands are broken and taken as booty—all those items described in the account of Solomon’s construction of the temple. The temple is of chief concern, since it served as a symbol of the legitimacy of the monarchy. With the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, the kingdom of Judah ceases to exist.
I. (:1-7) SUBJUGATION OF JERUSALEM AND THE ROYAL FAMILY
A. (:1-2) Siege of Jerusalem
1. (:1) Beginning of the Siege
“Now it came about in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it, and built a siege wall all around it.”
2. (:2) Duration of the Siege
“So the city was under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.”
Wiseman: The one and a half year siege may be due to
(i) Nebuchadnezzar’s absence at Riblah and concern with containing the Phoenician seaports and,
(ii) his watchfulness against Egypt’s potential intervention on behalf of Zedekiah (Jer. 37:5, 11).
The Babylonians relied initially on tight control using ‘watchtowers’ (neb, ‘siege-towers’, reb; Heb. dāyēq) rather than siege works (rsv, niv), allowing those who wished to leave to do so (cf. v. 11, Jer. 38:19; 39:9), but starving out the city (Jer. 38:2–9).
B. (:3-4) Starvation Forcing Desperate Escape
1. (:3) Starvation
“On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.”
2. (:4) Desperate Escape
“Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls beside the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah.”
C. (:5-7) Slaughter and Subjugation
1. (:5-6) Pursuit and Capture of the King (and Scattering of His Army)
“But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king
and overtook him in the plains of Jericho
and all his army was scattered from him.
Then they captured the king
and brought him to the king of Babylon at Riblah,
and he passed sentence on him.”
David Guzik: This was a considerable distance from Jerusalem. Zedekiah probably thought that his strategy was successful, and that he had escaped the judgment that prophets such as Jeremiah had promised. Yet God’s word was demonstrated to be true, and he was captured in the plains of Jericho.
Dilday: It seems ironic that here, at the very spot where Israel first set foot on the Promised Land, the last of the Davidic kings was captured and his monarchy shattered. Here, where Israel experienced her first victory as the walls of Jericho fell before unarmed men who trusted God, was the scene of her last defeat.
MacArthur: Located on the Orontes River about 180 mi. N. of Jerusalem, Riblah was Nebuchadnezzar’s military headquarters for his invasion of Judah. This location was ideally situated as a field headquarters for military forces because ample provisions could be found nearby (cf. 23:33).
2. (:7) Punishment of the King
“And they slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes,
then put out the eyes of Zedekiah
and bound him with bronze fetters
and brought him to Babylon.”
MacArthur: Jeremiah had warned Zedekiah that he would see Nebuchadnezzar (see notes on Jer 32:2-5; 34:3), while Ezekiel had said he would not see Babylon (see note on Eze 12:10-13). Both prophecies were accurately fulfilled.
II. (:8-12) DESTRUCTION AND DEPORTATION
A. (:8-10) Destruction
1. (:8) Destruction Commanded by Nebuzaradan
“Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.”
2. (:9) Destruction Involved Burning All the Significant Houses
“And he burned the house of the LORD, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.”
3. (:10) Destruction Involved Demolishing the Walls Around Jerusalem
“So all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.”
B. (:11-12) Deportation
1. (:11) Most of the People Deported
“Then the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away into exile.”
2. (:12) Some of the Poorest Left Behind to Work the Land
“But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.”
R. D. Patterson: vv. 8-12 – About one month later, Nebuzaradan, the commander of Nebuchadnezzar’s own imperial guard, arrived in Jerusalem to oversee its despoliation and destruction (v. 8). Having set fire to all of Jerusalem’s permanent buildings, including the temple and palace (cf. Jer 52:13), the Chaldeans demolished the city’s walls (vv. 9-10). Then they deported certain valued elements of the citizenry of Jerusalem and the populace of the surrounding countryside, some of whom apparently willingly defected to the invaders (v. 11; cf. Jer 39:9; 52:15). Only the poorest of the people were left. These were to work the nearby fields and vineyards so that a stratum of inhabitants unlikely to cause further insurrection might be left to care for the basic needs of the remaining people of the land (v. 12; cf. Jer 39:10; 52:16).
Dilday: In Hebrew, the first twelve verses of the chapter are one long sentence, each verse beginning with ‘and.’ Clause is heaped upon clause in a kind of cadence, as if each one were another tick of the clock counting down Jerusalem’s final hours.
III. (:13-17) DESECRATION OF YAHWEH’S TEMPLE
A. (:13) Desecration of the Pillars, the Stands and the Bronze Sea
“Now the bronze pillars which were in the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea which were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried the bronze to Babylon.”
Peter Pett: The pillars of bronze and the brazen sea which Solomon had made were broken in pieces and their bronze carried back to Babylon. The last remnants of their former glory were being removed. All that Judah had built up was being broken down. Such was the consequence of their disobedience.
B. (:14-15) Desecration of Temple Vessels and Instruments of Worship
“And they took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the spoons,
and all the bronze vessels which were used in temple service.
The captain of the guard also took away the firepans and the basins, what was fine gold and what was fine silver.”
C. (:16-17) Desecration of the Pillars, the Stands and the Bronze Sea
“The two pillars, the one sea, and the stands which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD– the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight. The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and a bronze capital was on it; the height of the capital was three cubits, with a network and pomegranates on the capital all around, all of bronze. And the second pillar was like these with network.”
Constable: The writer’s emphasis on the desecration of Yahweh’s temple (vv. 13-17) illustrates God’s abandonment of His people (cf. 1 Kings 9:7-9). His special interest in the pillars (v. 17) draws attention to the fact that Israel, which God had established (Jachin), had suffered destruction. Israel’s strength (Boaz) had also departed from her because of her apostasy (cf. Samson). Most scholars believe the Babylonians either destroyed the ark of the covenant, perhaps when they burned the temple, or took it to Babylon from which it never returned to Jerusalem (but cf. 2 Chron. 5:9). A few believe the Jews hid it under the temple esplanade. Another tradition is that Jeremiah took the Tent of Meeting, the ark, and the altar of incense to Mount Nebo, where he hid them in a cave, believing that when the Lord restored the Israelites, He would reveal the hiding place to His people (2 Macc. 2:4-8).
IV. (:18-21a) EXECUTION OF JERUSALEM’S PROMINENT LEADERS
A. (:18-19) Selecting the Prominent Leaders to Execute
1. (:18) Five Chief Priests
“Then the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest
and Zephaniah the second priest,
with the three officers of the temple.”
Peter Pett: The prominent people in Jerusalem were now to be called to account, and the first were the five ‘chief priests’. They would be seen as important supporters of the revolt.
2. (:19) Other Prominent Leaders
“And from the city he took one official who was overseer of the men of war,
and five of the king’s advisers who were found in the city;
and the scribe of the captain of the army, who mustered the people of the land;
and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city.”
B. (:20) Staging the Execution at Riblah at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar
“And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them
and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.”
C. (:21a) Striking Them Down
“Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death
at Riblah in the land of Hamath.”
(:21b) – EPILOGUE – EXILE INTO BABYLONIA
“So Judah was led away into exile from its land.”
MacArthur: Exile was the ultimate curse brought upon Judah because of her disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Lv 26:33; Dt 28:36, 64). The book of Lamentations records the sorrow of Jeremiah over this destruction of Jerusalem.
Whitcomb: In the meantime, the starved survivors in Jerusalem, reduced in some case to cannibalism by the prolonged siege (Lam. 4:8-10; cf. Jer. 37:21; 38:9; 52:6), were brutally mistreated by Babylonian soldiers (Lam. 5:11-13; II Chron. 36:17; Jer. 38:22-23), and then herded together and chained like wild animals for deportation to Babylon (Jer. 39:9; 40:1). The only ones that were not deported were poor country people who were left to care for vineyards and orchards (Jer. 39:10); Gedaliah to serve as the governor of this pitiful remnant; certain guerilla fighters who had been hiding in the hills (Jer. 40:7-8); and a few other Jews who had fled to surrounding countries and were now returning (Jer. 40:11-12).