BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY
 
Vol. IX, No. 1 James B. Jordan, 1997 January, 1997

 

COUNTDOWN TO EXILE, V: THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

by James B. Jordan

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN ITS WORLD-WIDE SETTING


We have arrived at the actual destruction of Jerusalem. We can be sure that during these years, Jeremiah was also actively prophesying against the sins of Israel, but none of his prophecies are dated during this time. There are, of course, many undated prophecies in Jeremiah. Once we arrive at Nebuchadnezzar's investiture of Jerusalem, however, we return to Jeremiah for many details.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel was silent to the exiles. During the three years of the siege, he wrote letters of denunciation to the nations around Israel, adding his witness to what Jeremiah had already told them. Ezekiel 25-28 denounce Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, and at great length, Tyre. The reason Tyre comes in for comment is that Hiram of Tyre had joined with David and Solomon in building the Temple. Just as Israel had apostatized, so had Tyre. The  king of Tyre  in Ezekiel 28 is the apostate high priest of Israel, who had been made Tyre's religious ruler by Hiram. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple carried with it not only the destruction of Israel, but also of her gentile ally, Tyre.

The prophecy against Tyre comes right at the end of the siege of Jerusalem, and is carefully dated in the 11th year, on the 1st day of the (1st) month. On the 9th day of the 4th month, Jerusalem fell.

A little over a year before his prophecy against Tyre, Ezekiel had predicted destruction for Egypt (day 12, month 10, year 10). The reason for this is that Pharaoh had set forth to rescue Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar, and the Babylonian king had been forced to depart and deal with Egypt (Jeremiah 37). All of Ezekiel's words from God against Egypt are collected in Ezekiel 29-32, because the destruction of Egypt is the precursor to Ezekiel's visions of a new exodus:

     29:1-16     Year 10, month 10, day 12
     29:17-21    Year 27, month 1,  day 1
     30:1-19     Year 27, month 1,  day 1
     30:20-26    Year 11, month 1,  day 7
     31:1-18     Year 11, month 3,  day 1
     32:1-16     Year 12, month 12, day 1
     32:17-32    Year 12, month 12, day 15

The first prophecy (29:1-16) says that Pharaoh will not succeed in fighting Nebuchadnezzar, and that eventually Babylon will destroy Egypt and leave her desolate for 40 years. The following prophecies (29:17-21; 30:1-19), uttered a little over 16 years later, state that Nebuchadnezzar has finished his 13-year siege of Tyre, and is now coming to fulfill the first prophecy (see Ezekiel 26 for the prediction of the siege of Tyre).

In the fourth prophecy (30:20-26), God tells Ezekiel that He has vanquished Pharaoh through Nebuchadnezzar in October of 587 BC. By implication, Nebuchadnezzar is now able to return to Jerusalem and finish the job.

The fifth prophecy comes right before the destruction of Jerusalem (31:1-18), in the third month of the lunar year (June, 586 BC). It predicts that Nebuchadnezzar will destroy Egypt as he destroyed Assyria.

The last two prophecies (32:1-32) fall in March of 585 BC, about 8 months after the fall of Jerusalem. They are lamentations for the destruction of Pharaoh and Egypt.

As we shall see, these oracles against Egypt dovetail with events in Jeremiah. Many Jews fled to Egypt to avoid Nebuchadnezzar. God is telling them that judgment will come upon them in Egypt, and Egypt will be wasted thoroughly. It would be far better to go to Babylon. Moreover, since the destruction of Egypt was   postponed for 16 years while Nebuchadnezzar dealt with Tyre and other problems, the Jews in Egypt were allowed a time of false hopes, and possibly of conversion, since Jeremiah was among them.

The rest of Ezekiel comes after the destruction of Jerusalem, and we shall come to it in due course. Now we must return to Jeremiah, and clock the destruction of Jerusalem from his point of view. Then we shall dovetail Ezekiel and Jeremiah together in a chronological chart in order to form a coherent picture of the events of these three years.

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM: AN INSIDE VIEW

Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem on the 10th day of the 10th month (roughly January) of 588 BC, which was in the 9th year of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah.

Around this time, Yahweh sent word through Jeremiah to Zedekiah, telling him that the city would certainly fall, but that he himself would be spared (Jer. 34:1-7). We read in verse 7 that not all the cities of Judah had yet fallen, so perhaps the actual siege had not yet begun.

After the siege began, and it was obvious that they would not be able to resist Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah and the wealthy people of Jerusalem made a covenant with Yahweh. They offered sacrifices, and set free their Jewish slaves (Jer. 34:8-22). This was done in accordance with the law of Exodus 21, which required that at the beginning of the sabbath year, all charity-loans were to be cancelled and all debt-slaves were to be freed. Since the proclamation of such liberty was made on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 25), the 10th day of the 7th month, it is likely that this is the day the leaders of Jerusalem freed their slaves. By doing this, of course, they hoped to appease God's wrath. We notice again that the sin in focus is primarily a social sin.

We can infer what happened next. God saw fit to honor the action of the people, and Pharaoh set out for Jerusalem to defend it against Nebuchadnezzar. Evidently he set forth on the 12th day of the 10th month,  January of 587 BC, in the 10th year of Zedekiah and Jehoiachin. We infer this from Ezekiel 29:1-16, because on that date God told Ezekiel that Pharaoh would not succeed.

Why did God not let Pharaoh succeed? The evidence shows that the Israelites shifted their hope from Yahweh to Pharaoh (Ezk. 29:6). Nebuchadnezzar lifted the siege of Jerusalem and went off to deal with Pharaoh (Jer. 37:5). Shortly thereafter, the leaders of Jerusalem took the poor people back into slavery (Jer. 34:11). Infuriated, God determined to cause Pharaoh to fail, and bring Nebuchadnezzar back to destroy Jerusalem.

In the days that followed, Zedekiah sent word to Jeremiah to ask if Yahweh was pleased with the people, and if perhaps the city would now be spared. Jeremiah assured the king that God was most displeased, and that the Babylonians would soon return and destroy the city (Jer. 37:1-10).

During the time that Nebuchadnezzar was away, Jeremiah's uncle Hanamel (Hanam-El,  Gift of God ), apparently experiencing a cash crunch, decided to lease his family land. His nearest relative was Jeremiah, and so Hanamel came to Jerusalem and asked Jeremiah to  redeem his land, and thereby keep it in the family. Jeremiah did so (Jer. 32:6-44).

Then Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to visit this property, but as he left the city he was arrested. He was accused of being a traitor because he had predicted that the Babylonians would return and destroy the city. He was accused of trying to desert the city and go over to the Babylonians (Jer. 37:11-16; 32:1-5). The city's officials had Jeremiah beaten and then imprisoned him in a cistern in the house of Jonathan the scribe.

Cisterns were used to collect rainwater. Large ones were built in pear-shapes, as vaulted cells, with small openings at the top. Jeremiah was lowered into such a cistern. This was a dangerous place to be confined because of the wet and cold, and because of the possibility of drowning.

After Jeremiah had been in the cistern for some time, King Zedekiah secretly removed him and interviewed him again. We see from this that (a) Zedekiah feared the people of the land,  and (b) Zedekiah still had some regard for Jeremiah's words. Jeremiah assured Zedekiah that the city would fall and that the king would be taken captive. Then he implored the king to deliver him from the cistern, and Zedekiah transferred him to the court of the guard-house and provided him with a daily stipend of bread (Jer. 37:17-21).

Over the next several months, Jeremiah preached and conferred with the faithful in the city (Jer. 38:1-3). His basic message is found in Jeremiah 32-33. He told the people that his purchase of Hanamel's property was a sign from God that the land would someday be returned to the faithful, and that they should put their trust in God.

After a few months, probably in the late summer of 587 BC, the Babylonians returned to surround Jerusalem again. Jeremiah encouraged the people to leave the city and go over to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel (Jer. 38:1-3). After a while the bread ran out in the city, and the people began taking Jeremiah's advice. The leaders of the city became concerned and complained to the king. Zedekiah, cowed, told them that they could do as they wished with Jeremiah. They then put him into another cistern, this time in one maintained by the king's son, Malchijah (Malki-Yah, Yah is King ). There was no water in this cistern,
only mud, and Jeremiah sank down in the mud (Jer. 38:4-6).

A God-fearing gentile, Ebed-Melech ( King's Servant ), an Ethiopian, heard about this, and complained to King Zedekiah that Jeremiah would starve if not rescued. Encouraged by this, Zedekiah authorized Ebed-Melech to deliver Jeremiah, who was then returned to the guardhouse (Jer. 38:7-13).

One last time, King Zedekiah summoned Jeremiah and asked his advice. Jeremiah told him to surrender immediately. Zedekiah, however, was afraid of the Jews, and did not do so (Jer. 38:14-28).

On the 9th day of the 4th month, 586 BC, the food completely gave out in the city, and the wall fell (Jer. 39:2; 52:6-7). As soon as the Babylonians got into the city, they sought for Jeremiah and set him free. Of course, Nebuchadnezzar knew of Jeremiah from Daniel, and also from the many Jews who had gone over to him as a result of Jeremiah s preaching.

THE AFTERMATH

Nebuchadnezzar captured King Zedekiah. He slew his evil sons before his eyes, and then took him off to Babylon in chains (Jer. 39:4-7). About a month later, the 7th-10th of the 5th month, Nebuzaradan arrived at Jerusalem to burn the Temple and the city. Nebuzaradan took the poor slaves of the city and gave them land in Israel to farm, thus granting the release their Jewish masters had denied them (Jer. 39:10).

A new capital for Israel was set up a Mizpah, and Gedaliah (G dal-Yah,  Yah is Great ) was made Governor of Judah (2 Ki. 25:22-24). Meanwhile, Jeremiah had mistakenly been rounded up to be deported to Babylon with the rest of the captives (Jer. 40:1; the Book of Lamentations). The God-fearing gentile Nebuzaradan found him and set him free. Nebuzaradan told him that he would be welcome to join Ezekiel and Daniel in Babylon, or he could go serve Gedaliah at Mizpah. Jeremiah chose the latter, and Nebuzaradan provided him rations and honored him with a gift (Jer. 40:1-6).

Jeremiah 40:7-16 describes the brief rule of Gedaliah. Evidently he was a faithful man, and obeyed Jeremiah's call to serve Nebuchadnezzar. He told the people to gather in the harvest and prepare for the Feast of Tabernacles. It seemed as if Judah was experiencing a rebirth. Sadly, Gedaliah was politically naive, and refused to listen to his councilors, who warned him that an insurrection was coming.

In the 7th month, which is the beginning of the 12th year of exiled King Jehoiachin, Ishmael ( God Hears ) the son of Nethaniah (N than-Yah,   God Gives ) slew Gedaliah. Ishmael was in the pay of the King of Ammon, who evidently did not want to see any renewal of the Jewish nation on his border. Shortly thereafter, Johanan (Yoh-Hanan, John,  Yah Is Gracious ) the son of Kareah ( Bald ) defeated Ishmael in battle, and drove him back to Ammon (Jer. 41:1-15).

Ishmael had killed not only faithful Jews, but also Babylonian officials. Johanan feared that the Babylonians would come and exact reprisals from him, so he began to move toward Egypt with many people, including Jeremiah. He consulted Jeremiah, who told him to trust the Babylonians, but rejected his advice. He then proceeded to Egypt, dragging Jeremiah along (Jer. 41:16 44:30). Once again, the people trusted Egypt instead of the Lord, and wound up in exile, only in Egypt instead of Babylon.

CONCLUSION

If there is any lesson to be learned from this sorry history it is this: Trust God, not national power. American Christians are too often overly concerned with saving America.  Perhaps God does not intend to save America. But God will save His people. He always has, and He always will.

 

CHRONOLOGY OF THE INVESTITURE AND FALL OF JERUSALEM


Year    Regnal Years               Months  Events                 
     
                                                   
        [Neb 17(J);Jeho & Zed 9]
588 BC                             10      10th SIEGE BEGINS.
                                           Jerusalem              
                                           invested; Ezekiel  
                                           24:1;Jeremiah 52:4 
                                           2 Kings 25:1.      
                                   11
                                   12
        Nebuchadnezzar 17(Babylon)  1
                                    2
                                    3
                                    4
                                    5
                                    6
        Neb 18(J); Jeho & Zed 10    7      [10th; probably]   
                                           Zedekiah persuades
                                           wealthy              
                                           Jerusalemites to
                                           free their Israelite
                                           slaves, as if a      
                                           sabbath year, hoping
                                           to appease God's
                                           wrath; Jeremiah
                                           34:8-10.   
                                           God gives a word of
                                           peace of Zedekiah;
                                           Jeremiah 34:1-7.
                                    8                             
                                    9
      
587 BC                             10      12th RESPITE BEGINS.
                                           Pharaoh sets forth
                                           to defend Jerusalem,
                                           and Nebuchadnezzar
                                           has to withdraw;
                                           Jeremiah 37:5.  
                                           Ezekiel predicts
                                           Pharaoh's destruction;
                                           Ezekiel 29:1-16. This
                                           passage indicates the
                                           time Pharaoh set out.
                                   11      [probably] With false  
                                           confidence, the rich
                                           in Jerusalem take the
                                           poor into slavery 
                                           again; Jeremiah
                                           34:11-22. Zedekiah
                                           inquires of Jeremiah
                                           concerning the fate of
                                           Jerusalem; Jeremiah
                                           37:1-10.
                                   12      [probably] Jeremiah
                                           redeems field from
                                           Hanamel, as a sign 
                                           that Israel will once
                                           again occupy the land;
                                           Jeremiah 32:6-44.
                                           Jeremiah attempts to
                                           leave Jerusalem to
                                           inspect the property,
                                           and is arrested,
                                           accused of trying to
                                           go over to
                                           Nebuchadnezzar,
                                           beaten, and put into a
                                           cistern for many days;
                                           Jeremiah 37:11-16.
        Nebuchadnezzar 18(B)     1
                                 2
                                 3         [approximately]
                                           Zedekiah interviews
                                           Jeremiah, and is told
                                           that Nebuchadnezzar
                                           will return. Zedekiah
                                           transfers Jeremiah
                                           from the foul cistern,
                                           wherein he would
                                           surely have died, to
                                           the palace guardhouse;
                                           Jeremiah 37:17-21.
                                 4         Jeremiah preaches to
                                           those who come to
                                           visit him; Jeremiah
                                           38:1-3; Jeremiah 32 &
                                           33.
                                 6         [approximately] SIEGE
                                           RESUMES. Having
                                           defeated Pharaoh,
                                           Nebuchadnezzar 
                                           returns.
       Neb 19(J); Jeho & Zed 11  7   
                                 8
                                 9
586 BC                           10
                                 11        [approximately] Food
                                           starts to disappear in
                                           the city. Jeremiah is
                                           accused of treason and
                                           of discouraging the
                                           people, is thrown into
                                           a cistern, is rescued
                                           by Ebed-melech the
                                           Ethiopian, and is
                                           restored to the palace
                                           guardhouse; Jeremiah
                                           38:1-13; 39:15-18.
                                 12        [approximately]
                                           Zedekiah asks
                                           Jeremiah's advice a
                                           last time; Jeremiah
                                           38:14-28
      Nebuchadnezzar 19(B)      1          1st God condemns Tyre
                                           and her King (the
                                           Jerusalem High
                                           Priest); Ezekiel
                                           26-28. 7th God tells
                                           Ezekiel that He has
                                           broken the arm of
                                           Pharaoh, leaving
                                           Jerusalem for
                                           Nebuchadnezzar;30:20-
                                           26.
                                 2
                                 3         1st God sends a
                                           warning to Pharaoh;
                                           Ezekiel 31.
                                 4         9th SIEGE ENDS. Food
                                           completely gives out.
                                           Wall of Jerusalem
                                           falls; Jeremiah 39:2;
                                           52:6-7. Jeremiah is
                                           rescued by the
                                           Babylonians; Jeremiah
                                           39:11-14.
                                 5         7-10th Nebuzaradan
                                           arrives to burn
                                           Temple and city;
                                           2 Kings 25:8; Jeremiah
                                           52:12-13. Gedaliah
                                           made Governor of
                                           Judah, at Mizpah;
                                           2 Kings 25:22-24.
                                           Jeremiah is mistakenly
                                           rounded up to be
                                           deported to Babylon,
                                           but is rescued again,
                                           and goes to be with
                                           Gedaliah;Jeremiah
                                           40:1-6.
                                 6
      Neb 20(J); Jehoiachin 12   7         Evidently around the
                                           time of the Feast of
                                           Tabernacles (Jer.
                                           41:4-5), Ishmael kills
                                           Gedaliah,
                                           Nebuchadnezzar's
                                           appointed Governor, as
                                           well as some
                                           Babylonian officers;
                                           2 Kings 25:25-26;
                                           Jeremiah 40:13 41:10.
                                           Johanan defeats
                                           Ishmael, and then,
                                           fearing Babylonian
                                           reprisals for
                                           Ishmael's murders,
                                           moves toward Egypt
                                           with many people;
                                           Jeremiah 41:11-18.
                                 8         Johanan consults
                                           Jeremiah, and rejects
                                           his advice; then
                                           proceeds to Egypt,
                                           dragging Jeremiah
                                           along; Jeremiah 42-44.
                                 9
      
585 BC                           10        5th Word reaches
                                           exiles of the fall of
                                           Jerusalem; Ezekiel
                                           33:21.
                                 11
                                 12        1st God composes a
                                           lamentation for
                                           Pharaoh; Ezekiel 32.

END


Copyright 1997, James B. Jordan
in association with:

Institute for Christian Economics

P.O. Box 8000, Tyler, TX 75711

Donations are fully tax deductible; checks should be made out to Institute for Christian Economics.

Released for informational purposes to allow individual file transfer, Usenet, and non-commercial mail-list posting only. All other copyright privileges reserved.