Zedekiah

2 Kings 24:17‑25:21; 2 Chronicles 36:11‑21  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Righteousness of Jehovah
2 Kings 24:17-25:2117And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 1And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. 5And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. 6So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. 7And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon. 8And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: 9And he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. 10And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. 11Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carry away. 12But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen. 13And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon. 14And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away. 15And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away. 16The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord; the brass of all these vessels was without weight. 17The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter upon it was brass: and the height of the chapiter three cubits; and the wreathen work, and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of brass: and like unto these had the second pillar with wreathen work. 18And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door: 19And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king's presence, which were found in the city, and the principal scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city: 20And Nebuzar-adan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah: 21And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land. (2 Kings 24:17‑25:21); 2 Chron. 36:11-2111Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12And 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. 13And 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. 14Moreover 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. 15And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy. 17Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 18And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 19And 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. 20And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: 21To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years. (2 Chronicles 36:11‑21)
Contemporary Prophets: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah
“And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his [Jehoiachin’s] stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (2 Kings 24:17-1817And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. (2 Kings 24:17‑18)).
Zedekiah was Josiah’s youngest son, and full brother of Jehoahaz. He was, at his father’s death, only ten years old.
Nebuchadnezzar changed his name (as a token of his vassalage) but did not give him the name of some heathen deity, as in the case of Daniel and the three Hebrew children. He “had made him swear by God,” and his new name—Zedekiah meaning “Righteousness of Jehovah”—may have been given him to remind him of his oath (2 Chron. 36:1313And 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 36:13)). Or the name may have had some connection, even in the heathen king’s mind, with Jehovah’s righteousness in taking from this wicked people (called by His name) their political independence, and subjecting them to his dominion.
“Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 24:2020For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. (2 Kings 24:20)). He had no real faith in Jehovah, Israel’s covenant-keeping God, and therefore did not hesitate to break his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar. But how dearly he paid for this violation of his oath! “And it came to pass, in the ninth year of his reign...that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem... and the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah” (2 Kings 25:1-21And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. (2 Kings 25:1‑2)).
The occasion of this rebellion was Zedekiah’s hope of assistance from the king of Egypt (see Ezek. 17:11-2111Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 12Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon; 13And hath taken of the king's seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land: 14That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand. 15But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered? 16As 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. 17Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons: 18Seeing 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. 19Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head. 20And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me. 21And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the Lord have spoken it. (Ezekiel 17:11‑21)). He also vainly attempted to form an alliance with the surrounding nations, for the purpose of ridding himself, and them, of the yoke of the Babylonian king (see Jer. 27:1-111In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2Thus saith the Lord to me; Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck, 3And 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; 4And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters; 5I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. 6And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. 7And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. 8And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. 9Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, 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: 10For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish. 11But 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. (Jeremiah 27:1‑11). Various ancient manuscripts have the name Zedekiah for Jehoiakim in 27:1. Compare with verses 3 and 12 and 28:1). Pharaoh-hophra attempted to relieve Zedekiah during the siege, but was driven back into Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar’s army, who then returned and reoccupied Jerusalem (see Jer. 37:5-105Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem. 6Then came the word of the Lord unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying, 7Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. 8And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. 9Thus saith the Lord; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. 10For 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 37:5‑10)). It was a terrible siege, lasting eighteen months; famine and pestilence prevailed. Mothers boiled and ate their own children (Lam. 4:1010The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. (Lamentations 4:10)). According to Josephus, at midnight the Chaldees gained entrance into the city, and the fugitive king was captured. He and his sons were brought to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, “on the high road between Palestine and Babylon, where the Babylonian kings remained in directing the operations of their armies in Palestine and Phenicia” (Fausset).
Here his terrible punishment was meted out to him for his deceit in violating his solemn compact with his master. After seeing his own children slain before him, his own eyes were dug out of their sockets, and he was bound “with double chains of bronze” (2 Kings 25:77And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:7), literal translation), and led off to Babylon. So the two seemingly contradictory prophecies of Jeremiah (32:4) and Ezekiel (12:13) were literally fulfilled. At Babylon he was cast into prison “till the day of his death” (Jer. 52:1111Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death. (Jeremiah 52:11)). “Until I visit him” (Jer. 32:55And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the Lord: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper. (Jeremiah 32:5)) might imply that he was finally set at liberty, but “till the day of his death” precludes any such interpretation. It is more agreeable to take the expression to mean that God in mercy would visit him with repentance and a true knowledge of Himself as He did to Manasseh before him. How often God has used the stern hand of his government to break down the pride and rebellion of the heart, and through such “visitation” bring to the penitent soul the truest of all liberty—deliverance from the bondage of sin. So would his soul be set free, though his body remain in bondage. Adapting Richard Lovelace’s poem, we could say:
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage,
If I have freedom in [God’s] love,
And in my soul am free.
Josephus said Nebuchadnezzar “kept Zedekiah in prison until he died; and then buried him magnificently.” This agrees with Jer. 34:55But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odors for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 34:5); “Thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee.”
Zedekiah has been justly characterized as weak, vacillating, and treacherous. His weakness and subserviency to his princes mark him as a man wholly unfit to wear a crown, or sit on a throne: “Behold he [Jeremiah] is in your hand,” he said to them, “for the king is not he that can do anything against you” (Jer. 38:55Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you. (Jeremiah 38:5)). He was hypocritical also. He feigned a desire for the prophet’s prayers, saying, “Pray now unto the LORD our God for us” (Jer. 37:33And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us. (Jeremiah 37:3)). He pretended too, at times, to have confidence in the prophecies of Jeremiah (“Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us,” Jer. 21:22Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us. (Jeremiah 21:2)), which when delivered, he refused to heed or believe. “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” (2 Chron. 36:1212And 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. (2 Chronicles 36:12)). He was not so openly wicked as his three predecessors perhaps, and not willingly given to persecution. This is probably why Josephus, judging after the standards of men, wrote of “his gentle and righteous disposition.” But the Lord sees not as man sees, neither are His thoughts man’s thoughts. He said, “He stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel?” So God took him away in His anger.
The temple was burned to the ground, and only a miserable remnant of the nation was left in the land: “The captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers, and husbandmen” (2 Kings 25:1212But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen. (2 Kings 25:12)). Rebellion arose even among these, and for fear of the Chaldees they fled to the land of Egypt, only to miserably perish there, as Jeremiah had faithfully and tearfully warned them.
For seventy years the land lay desolate, after which a remnant was permitted to return. Six hundred years later wise men came from that very land of the East, inquiring where they might find Him that was “born King of the Jews.”
Until that day the godly remnant of His heritage could only pray, in the words of David—the type of that coming King —“Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just” (Psa. 7:99Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. (Psalm 7:9)). “Even so, come, LORD JESUS”!