King Zedekiah - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Zedekiah - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Zedekiah
Previous King: Jehoiachin    


King Zedekiah, the 20th and last sovereign of the separate kingdom of Judah, was placed on the throne by the conquering King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The two previous kings had rebelled against Babylon's rule, and so Nebuchadnezzar extracted from Zedekiah a binding oath to the LORD that he would run his domain in proper submission to Babylon's empire. To show his command over Judah's king, Nebuchadnezzar changed the new king's name from Mattaniah to Zedekiah.

The prophet Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of the LORD, repeatedly rebuked Zedekiah's ongoing preparations for rebellion and breaking free from Babylonian power, reminding him that the LORD had brought the Babylonian invasion because of the sins of the Israelites. Other prophets communicated this same message from the LORD. Zedekiah and his staff responded by jailing Jeremiah for his supposedly treasonous words.1 Powerless and without resources — everything of value, and every educated or capable person, having been taken to Babylon — and facing the world-class Babylonian political and military engine, Zedekiah nonetheless prepared his puny rebellion.

In his ninth year as king, Zedekiah severed relations with Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He personally led his army in a siege against Jerusalem. As the confrontation progressed, Jeremiah repeatedly communicated the LORD's word that resistance would result in disaster, but if Zedekiah would surrender, all lives would be saved.2 Zedekiah listened, but stubbornly maintained his hopeless rebellion.

The siege lasted three summers. At its end, when the food supply was exhausted, the cowardly Zedekiah gathered his army, opened the city gate, and made a night-time escape.

Babylon's army made chase, and soon captured Zedekiah. Tried for treason, his sentence was cruel. Zedekiah's sons and best friends were killed, right before his eyes — and then his eyes were gouged out. He was taken to Babylon to die of old age in prison, thereby unwillingly fulfilling the prophecy3 that he would go to Babylon and die there, but never see it.

Nebuchadnezzar had thus squashed rebellion in Judah three times, and he would allow no more. He directed his army to break down completely the protective wall surrounding Jerusalem. They burned the king's palace, the LORD's temple, and many other important buildings to the ground. Everything of value was taken to Babylon. They deported the city's entire population, plus anyone from the countryside who wanted to surrender. Only some of the poorest and most powerless people were left to work the land, so it wouldn't become overgrown and useless.

The kingdom of Judah was gone, never to return. The people, however, did return — that is, their descendents returned — 70 years later, as the prophet Jeremiah had said would happen.4

Where to read Zedekiah's story: 2 Kings 24:17 - 25:21; 2 Chronicles 36:11-20

Notes:
  1 Jeremiah 32:3
  2 Jeremiah 38:2-3, 17-18
  3 Ezekiel 12:13
  4 Jeremiah 25:11, 29:10

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