Carried Captive Into Babylon
IN the ninth
year of Zedekiah's reign "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he,
and all his host, against Jerusalem," to besiege the city. 2 Kings
25:1. The outlook for Judah was hopeless. "Behold, I am against
thee," the Lord Himself declared through Ezekiel. "I the Lord
have drawn forth My sword out of his sheath" it shall not return any
more. . . . Every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and
every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water."
"I will pour out Mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee
in the fire of My wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men,
and skillful to destroy." Ezekiel 21:3, 5-7, 31.
endeavored to come to the rescue of the beleaguered city; and the
Chaldeans, in order to keep them back, abandoned for a time their siege of
the Judean capital. Hope sprang up in the heart of Zedekiah, and he sent a
Jeremiah, asking him to pray to God in behalf of the Hebrew nation.
fearful answer was that the Chaldeans would return and destroy the city.
The fiat had gone forth; no longer could the impenitent nation avert the
divine judgments. "Deceive not yourselves," the Lord warned His
people. "The Chaldeans . . . shall not depart. For though ye had
smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there
remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in
his tent, and burn this city with fire." Jeremiah 37:9, 10. The
remnant of Judah were to go into captivity, to learn through adversity the
lessons they had refused to learn under circumstances more favorable. From
this decree of the holy Watcher there could be no appeal.
righteous still in Jerusalem, to whom had been made plain the divine
purpose, were some who determined to place beyond the reach of ruthless
hands the sacred ark containing the tables of stone on which had been
traced the precepts of the Decalogue. This they did. With mourning and
sadness they secreted the ark in a cave, where it was to be hidden from
the people of Israel and Judah because of their sins, and was to be no
more restored to them. That sacred ark is yet hidden. It has never been
disturbed since it was secreted.
years Jeremiah had stood before the people as a faithful witness for God;
and now, as the fated city was about to pass into the hands of the
heathen, he considered his work done and attempted to leave, but was
prevented by a son of one of the false prophets, who reported
was about to join the Babylonians, to whom he had repeatedly urged the men
of Judah to submit. The prophet denied the lying charge, but nevertheless
"the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in
prison." Verse 15.
that had sprung up in the hearts of princes and people when the armies of
Nebuchadnezzar turned south to meet the Egyptians, were soon dashed to the
ground. The word of the Lord had been, "Behold, I am against thee,
Pharaoh king of Egypt." The might of Egypt was but a broken reed.
"All the inhabitants of Egypt," Inspiration had declared,
"shall know that I am the Lord, because they have been a staff of
reed to the house of Israel." "I will strengthen the arms of the
king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall
know that I am the Lord, when I shall put My sword into the hand of the
king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt."
Ezekiel 29:3, 6; 30:25, 26.
princes of Judah were still vainly looking toward Egypt for help, King
Zedekiah with anxious foreboding was thinking of the prophet of God that
had been thrust into prison. After many days the king sent for him and
asked him secretly, "Is there any word from the Lord?" Jeremiah
answered, "There is: for, said He, thou shalt be delivered into the
hand of the king of Babylon.
Jeremiah said unto King Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or
against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in
prison? Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying,
The king of
Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land? Therefore hear
now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be
accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of
Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there." Jeremiah 37:17-20.
Zedekiah commanded that they "commit Jeremiah into the court of the
prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the
bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah
remained in the court of the prison." Verse 21.
dared not openly manifest any faith in Jeremiah. Though his fear drove him
to seek information of him privately, yet he was too weak to brave the
disapprobation of his princes and of the people by submitting to the will
of God as declared by the prophet.
court of the prison Jeremiah continued to advise submission to the
Babylonian rule. To offer resistance would be to invite sure death. The
message of the Lord to Judah was: "He that remaineth in this city
shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that
goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a
prey, and shall live." Plain and positive were the words spoken. In
the name of the Lord the prophet boldly declared, "This city shall
surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall
take it." Jeremiah 38:2, 3.
At last the
princes, enraged over the repeated counsels of Jeremiah, which were
contrary to their set policy of resistance, made a vigorous protest before
the king, urging
prophet was an enemy to the nation, and that his words had weakened the
hands of the people and brought misfortune upon them; therefore he should
be put to death.
king knew that the charges were false; but in order to propitiate those
who occupied high and influential positions in the nation, he feigned to
believe their falsehoods and gave Jeremiah into their hands to do with him
as they pleased. The prophet was cast "into the dungeon of Malchiah
the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let
down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire:
so Jeremiah sunk in the mire." Verse 6. But God raised up friends for
him, who besought the king in his behalf, and had him again removed to the
court of the prison.
Once more the
king sent privately for Jeremiah, and bade him faithfully relate the
purpose of God toward Jerusalem. In response, Jeremiah inquired, "If
I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I
give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?" The king entered
into a secret compact with the prophet. "As the Lord liveth, that
made us this soul," Zedekiah promised, "I will not put thee to
death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy
life." Verses 15, 16.
still opportunity for the king to reveal a willingness to heed the
warnings of Jehovah, and thus to temper with mercy the judgments even now
falling on city and nation. "If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the
king of Babylon's princes," was the message given the king,
"then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with
thou shalt live, and thine house: but if thou wilt not go forth to the
king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of
the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape
out of their hand."
afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans," the king
replied, "lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock
me." But the prophet promised, "They shall not deliver
thee." And he added the earnest entreaty, "Obey, I beseech thee,
the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto
thee, and thy soul shall live." Verses 17-20.
Thus even to
the last hour, God made plain His willingness to show mercy to those who
would choose to submit to His just requirements. Had the king chosen to
obey, the lives of the people might have been spared, and the city saved
from conflagration; but he thought he had gone too far to retrace his
steps. He was afraid of the Jews, afraid of ridicule, afraid for his life.
After years of rebellion against God, Zedekiah thought it too humiliating
to say to his people, I accept the word of the Lord, as spoken through the
prophet Jeremiah; I dare not venture to war against the enemy in the face
of all these warnings.
Jeremiah entreated Zedekiah to save himself and his people. With anguish
of spirit he assured him that unless he should heed the counsel of God, he
could not escape with his life, and all his possessions would fall to the
Babylonians. But the king had started on the wrong course, and he would
not retrace his steps. He decided to
counsel of the false prophets, and of the men whom he really despised, and
who ridiculed his weakness in yielding so readily to their wishes. He
sacrificed the noble freedom of his manhood and became a cringing slave to
public opinion. With no fixed purpose to do evil, he was also without
resolution to stand boldly for the right. Convicted though he was of the
value of the counsel given by Jeremiah, he had not the moral stamina to
obey; and as a consequence he advanced steadily in the wrong direction.
The king was
even too weak to be willing that his courtiers and people should know that
he had held a conference with Jeremiah, so fully had the fear of man taken
possession of his soul. If Zedekiah had stood up bravely and declared that
he believed the words of the prophet, already half fulfilled, what
desolation might have been averted! He should have said, I will obey the
Lord, and save the city from utter ruin. I dare not disregard the commands
of God because of the fear or favor of man. I love the truth, I hate sin,
and I will follow the counsel of the Mighty One of Israel.
people would have respected his courageous spirit, and those who were
wavering between faith and unbelief would have taken a firm stand for the
right. The very fearlessness and justice of this course would have
inspired his subjects with admiration and loyalty. He would have had ample
support, and Judah would have been spared the untold woe of carnage and
famine and fire.
of Zedekiah was a sin for which he paid a fearful penalty. The enemy swept
down like a resistless avalanche and devastated the city. The Hebrew
back in confusion. The nation was conquered. Zedekiah was taken prisoner,
and his sons were slain before his eyes. The king was led away from
Jerusalem a captive, his eyes were put out, and after arriving in Babylon
he perished miserably. The beautiful temple that for more than four
centuries had crowned the summit of Mount Zion was not spared by the Chaldeans. "They burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of
Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all
the goodly vessels thereof." 2 Chronicles 36:19.
At the time
of the final overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, many had escaped
the horrors of the long siege, only to perish by the sword. Of those who
still remained, some, notably the chief of the priests and officers
princes of the realm, were taken to Babylon and there executed as
traitors. Others were carried captive, to live in servitude to
Nebuchadnezzar and to his sons "until the reign of the kingdom of
Persia: to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah."
Verses 20, 21.
himself it is recorded: "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge
concerning Jeremiah to Nebuchadnezzar-adan the captain of the guard,
saying, Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto
him even as he shall say unto thee." Jeremiah 39:11, 12.
prison by the Babylonian officers, the prophet chose to cast in his lot
with the feeble remnant, "certain poor of the land" left by the
Chaldeans to be "vinedressers and husbandmen." Over these the
Babylonians set Gedaliah as governor. Only a few months passed before the
newly appointed governor was treacherously slain. The poor people, after
passing through many trials, were finally persuaded by their leaders to
take refuge in the land of Egypt. Against this move, Jeremiah lifted his
voice in protest. "Go ye not into Egypt," he pleaded. But the
inspired counsel was not heeded, and "all the remnant of Judah, . . .
even men, and women, and children," took flight into Egypt.
"They obeyed not the voice of the Lord: thus came they even to
Tahpanhes." Jeremiah 43:5-7.
prophecies of doom pronounced by Jeremiah upon the remnant that had
rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar by fleeing to Egypt were mingled with
promises of pardon to those who should repent of their folly and stand
ready to return. While the Lord would not spare those who turned
counsel to the seductive influences of Egyptian idolatry, yet He would
show mercy to those who should prove loyal and true. "A small number
that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land
of Judah," He declared; "and all the remnant of Judah, that are
gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall
stand, Mine, or theirs." Jeremiah 44:28.
The sorrow of
the prophet over the utter perversity of those who would have been the
spiritual light of the world, his sorrow over the fate of Zion and of the
people carried captive to Babylon, is revealed in the lamentations he has
left on record as a memorial of the folly of turning from the counsels of
Jehovah to human wisdom. Amid the ruin wrought, Jeremiah could still
declare, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed;"
and his constant prayer was, "Let us search and try our ways, and
turn again to the Lord." Lamentations 3:22, 40. While Judah was still
a kingdom among the nations, he had inquired of his God, "Hast Thou
utterly rejected Judah? hath Thy soul loathed Zion?" and he had made
bold to plead, "Do not abhor us, for Thy name's sake." Jeremiah
14:19, 21. The prophet's absolute faith in God's eternal purpose to bring
order out of confusion, and to demonstrate to the nations of earth and to
the entire universe His attributes of justice and love, now led him to
plead confidently in behalf of those who might turn from evil to
But now Zion
was utterly destroyed; the people of God were in their captivity.
Overwhelmed with grief, the
exclaimed: "How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!
how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and
princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weepeth
sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers
she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously
with her, they are become her enemies.
is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great
servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her
persecutors overtook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn,
because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her
priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. Her
adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath
afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are
gone into captivity before the enemy."
hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger, and
cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered
not His footstool in the day of His anger! The Lord hath swallowed up all
the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: He hath thrown down in His
wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; He hath brought them down
to the ground: He hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. He
hath cut off in His fierce anger all the horn of Israel: He hath drawn
back His right hand from before the enemy, and He burned against Jacob
like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. He hath bent His bow
like an enemy: He stood with His right hand as an adversary, and slew all
pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: He poured
out His fury like fire."
thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee,
O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort
thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who
can heal thee?"
O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. Our
inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans
and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. . . . Our fathers have sinned,
and are not; and we have borne their iniquities. Servants have ruled over
us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand. . . . For this
our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim."
Lord, remainest forever; Thy throne from generation to generation.
Wherefore dost Thou forget us forever, and forsake us so long time? Turn
Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of
old." Lamentations 1:1-5; 2:1-4, 13; 5:1-3, 7, 8, 17, 19-21.