Bible Commentary: 2 Kings 25:2-7 and Related

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2 Kings 25:2-7 and Related

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The Fall of Jerusalem and the End of the Judean Monarchy

In the summer of 586 B.C., when Jerusalem's food supply had run out, the Babylonians at last breached the walls of the city (2 Kings 25:2-4 2 Kings 25:2-4 [2] And the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. [3] And 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. [4] And 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.
American King James Version×
; Jeremiah 39:2 Jeremiah 39:2And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.
American King James Version×
; Jeremiah 52:5-7 Jeremiah 52:5-7 [5] So the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. [6] And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. [7] Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.
American King James Version×
). The various rulers of the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar then "sat in the Middle gate" (Jeremiah 39:3 Jeremiah 39:3And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.
American King James Version×
). "The 'Middle Gate' was probably between the upper and lower divisions of the city. The purpose of the officials' session at the Middle Gate was either to plan their military strategy or to establish their quarters there" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-3). The Nelson Study Bible suggests that it was "to assert their authority in the conquered city" (note on verse 3). At the beginning of his ministry, 40 years earlier, Jeremiah had prophesied, "'Out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,' says the Lord; 'They shall come and each one set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem...'" (Jeremiah 1:15 Jeremiah 1:15For, see, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, said the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.
American King James Version×
).

"Jeremiah gives the Babylonian names of the Babylonian high officials ([Jeremiah 39] v. 3): Nergal-Sharezer was Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law and succeeded him under the name Neriglissar [ruling Babylon from 560 to 556 B.C.]. The 'chief officer' [NIV] (rab-saris) was head of the eunuchs who served as chamberlains. 'A high official' [NIV] is literally 'chief magi' (rab-mag)" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-3).

Zedekiah, realizing Jerusalem was lost, sought to escape by night. "The two walls near the king's garden between which Zedekiah and his army slipped out of Jerusalem probably lay at the extreme southeastern corner of the city, giving direct access to the Kidron Valley (cf. Nehemiah 3:15 Nehemiah 3:15But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and to the stairs that go down from the city of David.
American King James Version×
)" (footnote on 2 Kings 25:4 2 Kings 25:4And 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.
American King James Version×
). They made their way "toward the Arabah" (verse 4; Jeremiah 39:4 Jeremiah 39:4And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate between the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.
American King James Version×
; Jeremiah 52:7 Jeremiah 52:7Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.
American King James Version×
, NIV)—“the great Jordan Rift Valley that extends throughout the length of the Holy Land from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqabah" (same footnote). But Babylonian forces caught them in the plains south of Jericho.

They were taken to Nebuchadnezzar in "Riblah on the Orontes River in Syria, which was the field headquarters for Nebuchadnezzar's western campaigns. Jehoahaz had been summoned there earlier by Pharaoh Necho ([2 Kings] 23:33)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 25:6).

Nebuchadnezzar had no pity for those who had rebelled against him. He first killed the king's sons, followed by the nobles. "Only Zedekiah was spared for captivity after he saw with his own eyes the slaughter and then was blinded... By modern standards what Nebuchadnezzar did was unusually harsh, but was in accord with ancient pagan practices and is understandable in view of the trouble that Judah and especially Zedekiah had given Babylon. This kind of punishment, especially the blinding (v. 7), is mentioned in the Hammurabi Code... Thus two prophecies were fulfilled: (1) Zedekiah would see the king of Babylon and would be taken there (cf. 32:3-4), and (2) he would die in Babylon without ever seeing it (cf. Ezekiel 12:13 Ezekiel 12:13My net also will I spread on him, and he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.
American King James Version×
). To add to his torture, Zedekiah had to witness the slaughter of his sons and the nobles... This kind of punishment was very ancient (cf. Judges 16:21 Judges 16:21But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
American King James Version×
). Assyrian sculptures show how kings delighted to put out, often with their own hands, the eyes of captive rulers" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on Jeremiah 39:6-8 Jeremiah 39:6-8 [6] Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. [7] Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon. [8] And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
).

"The last thing Zedekaiah saw was the reward of his sinful folly—the horrible spectacle of his own loved ones being put to death. He would carry this picture with him until his own death in a Babylonian prison (Jeremiah 52:11)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 2 Kings 25:7 2 Kings 25:7And 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.
American King James Version×
).

Besides serving as a lesson to other nations, the killing of the princes and nobility was also to eliminate anyone who, as a possible successor ruler, might serve as a rallying point for the Jewish people. The Judean monarchy had indeed come to a brutal end. Yet, as explained in the comments on our previous reading, the dynasty of David would be transferred elsewhere and go on, just as God had promised.

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