|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.
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.
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
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.
Copyright 1997, James
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