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Slaying of Zedekiah’s Children

Slaying of Zedekiah’s Children


The final king to reign over Judah was Zedekiah, who reigned for 11 years as a vassal king subject to Babylon.2 Like all the kings following Josiah’s reign, he was evil. When a new Egyptian Pharaoh (Hophra) came to the throne in 588 B.C., Zedekiah took the occasion to rebel against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar responded by the siege which led to the final downfall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the city and temple, and the deportation of the majority who were left. The siege began in the 9th year, 10th month, and 10th day of Zedekiah’s reign and lasted 18 months. The wall of Jerusalem being penetrated in the 11th year on the 4th month, on the 9th day of the month.3 Thus was the fall of “The kingdom of Judah, comprised [primarily] of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Following the kingdom division at the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign, these two tribes were all that continued faithful to the family of David, holding Jerusalem as capital. Nineteen kings ruled over Judah until its fall to Babylon in 586 B.C.—a total period of 345 years.”4 In fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecies that Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon but never see it, his sons were killed before him, his eyes were put out, and he was taken to Babylon where he died (Jer. 39:6-7; 52:9-11; 2K. 25:6-7 cf. Eze. 12:13; 17:16). After capturing Jerusalem, the Babylonians burned the leader’s houses and the temple and broke down the city walls.5

It is an immensely significant event whenever the temple is destroyed, because the temple is “God’s house” where the manifestation of his glory resides. It would be impossible to destroy the temple if it were not for the fact that God was “not home.” Because of Israel’s idolatry, Ezekiel records that God’s glory previously vacated the temple.6 To the Gentile enemies of Israel, the destruction of the city and temple would make it appear as if the God of Israel were impotent in the face of the superior gods of the Gentiles, “When they leveled Yahweh’s temple to the ground and burned its ruins, the Babylonian troops served notice to all the world that their gods were mightier than Yahweh, no matter what titles the Hebrews gave him.”7 Thus, one of the Themes of the Book of Daniel is to show that Israel’s God is sovereignly in control over all history, be it Jewish or Gentile. He allowed this shocking event to occur because of the serious and persistent sin of Israel.8 Rather than providing evidence of the failure of Israel’s God, the fall of the southern kingdom testified of His active control of history in bringing out her judgment as stipulated in the covenant made with Israel prior to entering the Promised Land:

God had made a covenant with Israel in Moab (Deu. 28-30) just before she entered the land (Deu. 29:1). In this covenant God set forth the principle by which He would deal with His people. Their obedience to Him would bring blessing (Deu. 28:1-14) but disobedience to Him would bring discipline (Deu. 28:15-68). In this second portion God outlined the disciplines He would use to correct the people when their walk was out of line with His revealed Law. These disciplines would seek to conform them to His demands so they would be eligible for His blessings. The ultimate discipline He would use to correct His people was the invasion of Gentile nations who would subjugate them to their authority and disperse them from their land (Deu. 28:49-68). Moses then stated when Israel would come under God’s discipline, that discipline would not be lifted until the people forsook their sin, turned in faith to God, and obeyed His requirements (Deu. 30:1-10). The Northern Kingdom of Israel had gone into captivity to Assyria in 722 B.C. This was the outworking of the principles of Deuteronomy 28. From time to time (though not consistently) the Southern Kingdom (Judah), in light of the fall of the Northern Kingdom, had heeded the prophets’ admonitions and turned to God. The Southern Kingdom continued for more than a century longer because of her repentance and obedience under her godly kings. That condition, however, did not last. Judah also ignored God’s covenant, neglected the Sabbath Day and the sabbatical year (Jer. 34:12-22), and went into idolatry (Jer. 7:30-31). Therefore, because of the covenant in Deuteronomy 28, judgment had to fall on Judah. God chose Nebuchadnezzar as the instrument to inflict discipline on God’s disobedient people (cf. Jer. 27:6; Hab. 1:6).9


1 God prophesied through Jeremiah and Ezekiel that Zedekiah would see the eyes of the king of Babylon (Jer. 34:3) and be taken to Babylon, but he would not see the city (Eze. 12:13). This puzzling prediction was fulfilled by the blinding of Zedekiah prior to being taken to Babylon (Jer. 39:7). The last thing Zedekiah saw before being blinded was his own sons being put to death (2K. 25:7). Image courtesy of François-Xavier Fabre (1766–1837). Image is in the public domain.

2 Even though Zedekiah reigned as king, it is important to recognize that he was not a qualified descendant in the line of David, since he was not a son of Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah). Thus, the curse placed on Jehoichin’s line (Jer. 22:24-30) precluding any of his physical descendants from reigning as king was not violated in the reign of Zedekiah. This is also seen in the omission of Zedekiah from Matthew’s genealogy (Mat. 1:11). Neither did any of Jehoiachin’s physical descendants occupy the throne or have the title of “king” (Mat. 1:12-15). This curse does not affect the legitimacy of the rule of Jesus, since He was born of the virgin Mary who was a descendant of David through a different lineage (Luke 3:23-38).

3 Concerning the significance of the 9th of Ab: “As to the month and day, the Jewish sources claim a striking identity between the destruction of the Second Temple and of the First Temple. 2 Kings 25:8 states that the First Temple was burned by Nebuzaradan on the seventh day of the fifth month, while Jer. 52:12 gives the tenth day of the fifth month. The rabbis reconciled these data by explaining that the Babylonians entered the temple on the seventh day of Ab (which is the fifth month), ate and did damage to it on that day and the eighth, and on the ninth day toward dusk set fire to it; it then continued to burn through the whole of that day which is presumably extended through the tenth. As to the recurrence of disaster at the identical time, they said, ‘The same thing too happened in the Second Temple.’ For a single day, the ninth of Ab was taken as the exact date: ‘On the ninth of Ab . . . the Temple was destroyed the first and the second time.’ . . . The date of the burning [of the Second Temple] is stated explicitly by Josephus: ‘the tenth of the month Loos the day on which of old it had been burnt by the king of Babylon’ (6.250). In the later correlation of the Macedonian calendar as it was used in Palestine . . . Loos was parallel to Ab, the fifth month. Therefore Josephus’s date of Loos = Ab 10 is identical with Jeremiah’s (52:12) date of the tenth day of the fifth month for the first destruction, and just one day later than the ninth day of Ab taken as the official date by the rabbis. . . . Along with Josephus’s eyewitness account of the destruction of the temple by the Romans, there is also an account by Rabbi Yose ben Halafta in Seder ’Olam Rabbah (30.86-97) . . . the passage reads: Rabbi Yose used to say: “Propitiousness is assigned to a propitious day and calamity to a calamitous day. As it is found said: When the temple was destroyed, the first time, that day was immediately after the Sabbath, it was immediately after the Sabbatical year, it was (during the service of) the priestly division of Jehoiarib, and it was the ninth day of Ab, and so the second time (the temple was destroyed).” . . . it is also of interest to note how the Mishna associates yet other untoward events with the same date of the ninth day of Ab: On the ninth day of Ab it was decreed against our fathers that they should not enter into the land (of Israel), [For this date see Seder ’Olam Rabbah 8.45-47, Milikowsky, Seder ’Olam, 473.] and the temple was destroyed the first and second time (by Nebuchadnezzar and by Titus), and Beth-Tor [or Bethar, modern Bettir southwest of Jerusalem, the scene of Bar Kokhba’s final defeat in A.D. 135] was captured, and the City (Jerusalem) was ploughed up (by Hadrian) [Taanich 4:6; Danby 200].”—Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1964, 1998), 106,110.

4 Leon J. Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 29.

5 “It is also suggested that the rebellion involved some of the Judean deportees in Babylonia since Nebuchadrezzar also put to death by burning Ahab ben Kolaiyah and Zedekiah ben-Maaseyah who had prophesied that the Jewish exile would last only two years in contrast with the seventy predicted by Jeremiah (Jer. 29:21-22).”—Donald J. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1985, 2004), 35.

6 There is an intentional parallel between the departure of God’s glory from the first temple to the Mount of Olives in Ezekiel’s day (Eze. 10:18; 11:22-23) leading to the destruction of the temple by Babylon and Jesus’ departure from the second temple to the Mount of Olives (Mt 23:38; Mt 24:1-3) leading to its destruction by Rome.

7 Gleason Leonard Archer, “Daniel,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 - Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 3.

8 “Indeed, it was essential for him to prove by his miraculous acts that he had allowed his people to go into captivity in 587 B.C., not through weakness, but rather to maintain his integrity as a holy God, who carries out his covenant promises both for good and for ill according to the response of his people.”—Ibid., 4.

9 J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, 1983), Dan. 1:1.

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