At the beginning of King Zedekiah’s reign, he submitted to Babylon. But as he did not humble himself before God, it was only a matter of time before that rebellion broke out before his earthly overlord, Nebuchadnezzar, also. In order to shake off the yoke of the Babylonians, he sought an alliance with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, for the fourth time, besieged Jerusalem, and at the end of two and a half years, it fell to the Babylonians (588 bc).
Nebuchadnezzar had by this time had enough of the rebellions of Josiah’s sons. He slew Zedekiah’s children before his eyes, then blinded him — so that his last sight on earth was the death of his children — and took him captive to Babylon, where he died in prison.
Fire raged through the city, and nearly everything was burned to the ground, including the beautiful Temple that Solomon had built. Furthermore, the city walls were all torn down. Jerusalem, that once proud and prosperous city, was left a desolate ruin.
Now the Babylonians would have liked to carry off all the population of Jerusalem captive to Babylon, but the Jews, as they were now called (meaning, of Judah), had suffered so much during the long siege, that only eight hundred and thirty- two persons were strong enough to stand the long journey. The rest were left in Judea and Samaria, to farm the land and take care of the vineyards. The country was under a Babylonian governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, who was advised by Jeremiah. The prophet told the people to be patient and to submit, and at first they were so weak and so tired of war, that they were only too ready to obey.
But as soon they recovered their strength, they again revolted from Babylonian rule, choosing a prince of Jewish blood to be their leader. After murdering the governor whom Nebuchadnezzar had given them, the Jews suddenly began fearing the wrath of the Babylonians. Hoping to escape it, they fled to Egypt, forcibly taking Jeremiah with them. The prophet, however, warned them that Egypt would soon also fall into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands.
The prophecy came true before long, for he made another campaign to subdue his rebellious western provinces. Nebuchadnezzar first became master of Tyre, after a siege of more than thirteen years, and from there went on to conquer Egypt also (571 bc). When the Babylonians went home, they took with them long caravans of captives, including the Jews who had taken refuge in Egypt, and left all of Judah a desert. These new arrivals joined with their brethren already captive in Babylon: the noble Judean youths who were the first to arrive, among whom was Daniel; the ten thousand priests and craftsmen who were the second to arrive, among whom was Ezekiel and Mordecai; and the eight hundred and thirty- two who survived the destruction of Jerusalem.
Thus none escaped the Babylonian captivity prophesied by Jeremiah, even though some of them fled the country in order to escape it. However, God did not leave His people completely without hope, for throughout Israel’s history, even though He has chastened Israel for her sins, He has never punished them so that they ceased to be a people. He has always preserved His remnant, and Chronicles ends with the hope of restoration for the Jews. 🙂