The Last King of Judah
the beginning of his reign was trusted fully by the king of Babylon and
had as a tried counselor the prophet Jeremiah. By pursuing an honorable
course toward the Babylonians and by paying heed to the messages from the
Lord through Jeremiah, he could have kept the respect of many in high
authority and have had opportunity to communicate to them a knowledge of
the true God. Thus the captive exiles already in Babylon would have been
placed on vantage ground and granted many liberties; the name of God would
have been honored far and wide; and those that remained in the land of
Judah would have been spared the terrible calamities that finally came
Jeremiah, Zedekiah and all Judah, including those taken to Babylon, were
counseled to submit quietly to the temporary rule of their conquerors. It
was especially important that those in captivity should seek the peace of
the land into which they had been carried. This, however,
to the inclinations of the human heart; and Satan, taking advantage of the
circumstances, caused false prophets to arise among the people, both in
Jerusalem and in Babylon, who declared that the yoke of bondage would soon
be broken and the former prestige of the nation restored.
of such flattering prophecies would have led to fatal moves on the part of
the king and the exiles, and would have frustrated the merciful designs of
God in their behalf. Lest an insurrection be incited and great suffering
ensue, the Lord commanded Jeremiah to meet the crisis without delay, by
warning the king of Judah of the sure consequence of rebellion. The
captives also were admonished, by written communications, not to be
deluded into believing their deliverance near. "Let not your prophets
and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you," he
urged. Jeremiah 29:8. In this connection mention was made of the Lord's
purpose to restore Israel at the close of the seventy years of captivity
foretold by His messengers.
tender compassion did God inform His captive people of His plans for
Israel! He knew that should they be persuaded by false prophets to look
for a speedy deliverance, their position in Babylon would be made very
difficult. Any demonstration or insurrection on their part would awaken
the vigilance and severity of the Chaldean authorities and would lead to a
further restriction of their liberties. Suffering and disaster would
result. He desired them to submit quietly to their fate and make their
servitude as pleasant as possible; and his counsel to them was:
"Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens,
and eat the
fruit of them; . . . and seek the peace of the city whither I have caused
you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the
peace thereof shall ye have peace." Verses 5-7.
false teachers in Babylon were two men who claimed to be holy, but whose
lives were corrupt. Jeremiah had condemned the evil course of these men
and had warned them of their danger. Angered by reproof, they sought to
oppose the work of the true prophet by stirring up the people to discredit
his words and to act contrary to the counsel of God in the matter of
subjecting themselves to the king of Babylon. The Lord testified through
Jeremiah that these false prophets should be delivered into the hands of
Nebuchadnezzar and slain before his eyes. Not long afterward, this
prediction was literally fulfilled.
To the end of
time, men will arise to create confusion and rebellion among those who
claim to be representatives of the true God. Those who prophesy lies will
encourage men to look upon sin as a light thing. When the terrible results
of their evil deeds are made manifest, they will seek, if possible, to
make the one who has faithfully warned them, responsible for their
difficulties, even as the Jews charged Jeremiah with their evil fortunes.
But as surely as the words of Jehovah through His prophet were vindicated
anciently, so surely will the certainty of His messages be established
first, Jeremiah had followed a consistent course in counseling submission
to the Babylonians. This counsel was given not only to Judah, but to many
of the surrounding
the earlier portion of Zedekiah's reign, ambassadors from the rulers of
Edom, Moab, Tyre, and other nations visited the king of Judah to learn
whether in his judgment the time was opportune for a united revolt and
whether he would join them in battling against the king of Babylon. While
these ambassadors were awaiting a response, the word of the Lord came to
Jeremiah, saying, "Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy
neck, and send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to
the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of
Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah
king of Judah." Jeremiah 27:2,3.
commanded to instruct the ambassadors to inform their rulers that God had
given them all into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and
that they were to "serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until
the very time of his land come." Verse 7.
ambassadors were further instructed to declare to their rulers that if
they refused to serve the Babylonian king they should be punished
"with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence"
till they were consumed. Especially were they to turn from the teaching of
false prophets who might counsel otherwise. "Hearken not ye to your
prophets," the Lord declared, "nor to your diviners, nor to your
dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto
you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a
lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should
out, and ye should perish. But the nations that bring their neck under the
yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still
in their own land, saith the Lord; and they shall till it, and dwell
therein." Verses 8-11. The lightest punishment that a merciful God
could inflict upon so rebellious a people was submission to the rule of
Babylon, but if they warred against this decree of servitude they were to
feel the full vigor of His chastisement.
of the assembled council of nations knew no bounds when Jeremiah, carrying
the yoke of subjection about his neck, made known to them the will of God.
determined opposition Jeremiah stood firmly for the policy of submission.
Prominent among those who presumed to gainsay the counsel of the Lord was
one of the
false prophets against whom the people had been warned. Thinking to gain
the favor of the king and of the royal court, he lifted his voice in
protest, declaring that God had given him words of encouragement for the
Jews. Said he: "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,
saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full
years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the Lord's
house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and
carried them to Babylon: and I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the
son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went
into Babylon, saith the Lord: for I will break the yoke of the king of
Babylon." Jeremiah 28:2-4.
the presence of the priests and people, earnestly entreated them to submit
to the king of Babylon for the time the Lord had specified. He cited the
men of Judah to the prophecies of Hosea, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and others
whose messages of reproof and warning had been similar to his own. He
referred them to events which had taken place in fulfillment of prophecies
of retribution for unrepented sin. In the past the judgments of God had
been visited upon the impenitent in exact fulfillment of His purpose as
revealed through His messengers.
prophet which prophesieth of peace," Jeremiah proposed in conclusion,
"when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the
prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him." Verse 9. If
Israel chose to run the risk, future developments would effectually decide
which was the true prophet.
The words of
Jeremiah counseling submission aroused Hananiah to a daring challenge of
the reliability of the message delivered. Taking the symbolic yoke from
Jeremiah's neck, Hananiah broke it, saying, "Thus saith the Lord;
Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the
neck of all nations within the space of two full years.
prophet Jeremiah went his way." Verse 11. Apparently he could do
nothing more than to retire from the scene of conflict. But Jeremiah was
given another message. "Go and tell Hananiah," he was bidden,
"Thus saith the Lord; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou
shalt make for them yokes of iron. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the
God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these
nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they
shall serve him. . . .
said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah;
The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a
lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the
face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught
rebellion against the Lord. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in
the seventh month." Verses 13-17.
prophet had strengthened the unbelief of the people in Jeremiah and his
message. He had wickedly declared himself the Lord's messenger, and he
suffered death in consequence. In the fifth month Jeremiah prophesied the
death of Hananiah, and in the seventh month his words were proved true by
caused by the representations of the false prophets brought Zedekiah under
suspicion of treason, and only by quick and decisive action on his part
was he permitted to continue reigning as a vassal. Opportunity for such
action was taken advantage of shortly after the return of the ambassadors
from Jerusalem to the surrounding nations, when the king of Judah
accompanied Seraiah, "a quiet prince," on an important mission
to Babylon. Jeremiah 51:59. During this visit to the Chaldean court,
Zedekiah renewed his oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel and others of the Hebrew captives, the Babylonian monarch had been
made acquainted with the power and supreme authority of the true God; and
when Zedekiah once more solemnly promised to remain loyal, Nebuchadnezzar
required him to swear to this promise in the name of the Lord God of
Israel. Had Zedekiah respected this renewal of his covenant oath, his
loyalty would have had a profound influence on the minds of many who were
watching the conduct of those who claimed to reverence the name and to
cherish the honor of the God of the Hebrews.
king lost sight of his high privilege of bringing honor to the name of the
living God. Of Zedekiah it is recorded: "He did that which was evil
in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah
the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled
against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he
stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God
of Israel." 2 Chronicles 36:12, 13.
Jeremiah continued to bear his testimony in the land of Judah, the prophet
Ezekiel was raised up from among the captives in Babylon, to warn and to
comfort the exiles, and also to confirm the word of the Lord that was
being spoken through Jeremiah. During the years that remained of
Zedekiah's reign, Ezekiel made very plain the folly of trusting to the
false predictions of those who were causing the captives to hope for an
early return to Jerusalem. He was also instructed to foretell, by means of
a variety of symbols and solemn messages, the siege and utter destruction
In the sixth
year of the reign of Zedekiah, the Lord revealed to Ezekiel in vision some
of the abominations that were being practiced in Jerusalem, and within the
gate of the Lord's house, and even in the inner court. The chambers of
images, and the pictured idols, "every form of creeping things, and
abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel"--all
these in rapid succession passed before the astonished gaze of the
prophet. Ezekiel 8:10.
should have been spiritual leaders among the people, "the ancients of
the house of Israel," to the number of seventy, were seen offering
incense before the idolatrous representations that had been introduced
into hidden chambers within the sacred precincts of the temple court.
"The Lord seeth us not," the men of Judah flattered themselves
as they engaged in their heathenish practices; "the Lord hath
forsaken the earth," they blasphemously declared. Verses 11, 12.
still "greater abominations" for the prophet to behold. At a
gate leading from the outer to the inner
court he was
shown "women weeping for Tammuz," and within "the inner
court of the Lord's house, . . . at the door of the temple of the Lord,
between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with
their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the
east; and they worshiped the sun toward the east." Verses 13-16.
And now the
glorious Being who accompanied Ezekiel throughout this astonishing vision
of wickedness in high places in the land of Judah, inquired of the
prophet: "Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to
the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit
here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to
provoke Me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore
will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have
pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not
hear them." Verses 17, 18.
Jeremiah the Lord had declared of the wicked men who presumptuously dared
to stand before the people in His name: "Both prophet and priest are
profane; yea, in My house have I found their wickedness." Jeremiah
23:11. In the terrible arraignment of Judah as recorded in the closing
narrative of the chronicler of Zedekiah's reign, this charge of violating
the sanctity of the temple was repeated. "Moreover," the sacred
writer declared, "all the chief of the priests, and the people,
transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and
polluted the house of the Lord which He had hallowed in Jerusalem." 2
The day of
doom for the kingdom of Judah was fast approaching. No longer could the
Lord set before them the hope of averting the severest of His judgments.
"Should ye be utterly unpunished?" He inquired. "Ye shall
not be unpunished." Jeremiah 25:29.
words were received with mocking derision. "The days are prolonged,
and every vision faileth," declared the impenitent. But through
Ezekiel this denial of the sure word of prophecy was sternly rebuked.
"Tell them," the Lord declared, "I will make this proverb
to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say
unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there
shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the
house of Israel. For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I
shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your
days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith
the Lord God.
testifies Ezekiel, "the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of
man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is
for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.
Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; There shall none of My
words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be
done, saith the Lord God." Ezekiel 12:22-28.
among those who were rapidly leading the nation to ruin was Zedekiah their
king. Forsaking utterly the counsels of the Lord as given through the
prophets, forgetting the debt of gratitude he owed Nebuchadnezzar,
solemn oath of allegiance taken in the name of the Lord God of Israel,
Judah's king rebelled against the prophets, against his benefactor, and
against his God. In the vanity of his own wisdom he turned for help to the
ancient enemy of Israel's prosperity, "sending his ambassadors into
Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people."
he prosper?" the Lord inquired concerning the one who had thus basely
betrayed every sacred trust; "shall he escape that doeth such things?
or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered? As I live, saith the
Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king,
whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the
midst of Babylon he shall die. Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army
and great company make for him in the war: . . . seeing he despised the
oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath
done all these things, he shall not escape." Ezekiel 17:15-18.
"profane wicked prince" had come the day of final reckoning.
"Remove the diadem," the Lord decreed, "and take off the
crown." Not until Christ Himself should set up His kingdom was Judah
again to be permitted to have a king. "I will overturn, overturn,
overturn, it," was the divine edict concerning the throne of the
house of David; "and it shall be no more, until He come whose right
it is; and I will give it Him." Ezekiel 21:25-27.