Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem

By Mark Morgan | Jeremiah

Sep 23
Sieges: Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem (FreeBibleImages.org / Sweet Publishing http://freebibleimages.org/illustrations/jeremiah-cistern/ Slide 6)

The end of the siege

Putting the events of the final siege in chronological order can be done with reasonable confidence. The list of events in descriptive point form follows in chronological order. For some of these, we know exact dates, but for most we do not, we only know the order:

  • While Jeremiah was in the house of Jonathan for “many days” (a house that had been turned into a prison), Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah to ask if there was any message from God. Jeremiah told him he would be handed over to the king of Babylon.[1] Jeremiah asked that he not be sent back to the same prison lest he die. Zedekiah sent him to the court of the guard instead[2] but would not free him because of what he prophesied.[3] Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guard until the city ran out of bread.[4]
  • Still in the 10th year of Zedekiah, God told Jeremiah that Hanamel his uncle’s son would come to him offering some land for sale. It happened and Jeremiah bought the land as God had told him to.[5]
  • Zedekiah sent Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, asking Jeremiah to inquire of God, hoping that maybe God would cause Nebuchadnezzar to withdraw. Jeremiah gave God’s answer that fighting the Babylonians would not work and that God himself would be fighting against Zedekiah. People would die by sword, famine and pestilence.[6]
  • Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jehucal the son of Shelemiah[7] and Pashhur the son of Malchiah[8] heard the message[9] that those who remained in the city would die by the sword[10] and asked Zedekiah to kill Jeremiah.[11] Zedekiah allowed them to throw Jeremiah into the pit of Malchiah, the king’s son.[12] Ebed-melech heard of this and went to the king, who allowed him to save Jeremiah.[13] No more bread in the city at this time.[14]
  • Zedekiah called Jeremiah to the third entrance of the house of God to talk to him. Jeremiah advised him to give himself up for minimum trouble, or else complete disaster would come – but Zedekiah was scared of being abused by the deserters. He gave Jeremiah advice on how he should answer the rulers and Jeremiah followed the advice.[15]
  • Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guard until the city was taken.[16]
  • Another message from God arrived while Jeremiah was in the court of the guard, but possibly after the capture of Jerusalem,[17] describing how the houses against the wall had been broken down to get room to defend against siege mounds, as well as depicting the return from captivity and presenting a wonderful message about Jesus.

While Jerusalem was besieged, no food could be brought into the city. New water could be collected only if rain fell, and after a while the inhabitants were short of both food and water. Not only that, but disease was rife in the city.

About five years before all of this happened, God had told his prophet Ezekiel to act out a prophecy showing how the people in Jerusalem would suffer. Ezekiel was to make his own bread, but he was only allowed to eat about 220g (8 ounces) each day.[18] Loaves of bread differ a lot, so it is hard to suggest the number of slices of bread this would represent, but a slice of full grain bread such as Ezekiel was making would often weigh about 50-60 grams (2 ounces). Ezekiel would have been able to eat about four such slices each day. Nothing else.

Feeling hungry?

The amount of water he could drink each day was about 600 millilitres (roughly 0.6 US quarts).[19] This is a little more than two cups of water for a whole day.

Feeling thirsty?

God’s message through Ezekiel was that all of the people living in Jerusalem would be hungry and thirsty during the siege. And it would keep getting worse.

After the siege had been going for one year and 6 months, there was no food left in the city. By this time, horrible though it is to imagine it, people were eating other members of their family: parents ate their children or children ate their parents.

And this was exactly what God had predicted would happen through Moses about 900 years before.

“The man who is the most tender and refined among you will begrudge food to his brother, to the wife he embraces, and to the last of the children whom he has left, so that he will not give to any of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because he has nothing else left, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in all your towns.”

Deuteronomy 28:54-55 (see also Leviticus 26:29)

 

Jeremiah had also predicted that this would happen,[20] and after Jerusalem fell, he mourned that it had done so.[21]

Ezekiel too, predicted the same terrible truth about five years before it happened.[22]

It is dreadful what desperation will do to people – but it is also tragic to see how, over hundreds of years, the nation of Israel followed the downward path God had predicted, despite his frequent warnings and reminders to change. Eventually there was no remedy, and the horrific predictions God had made were fulfilled. The few attempts made over the centuries to pull the nation back to God were short-lived, as the majority of the nation resisted God’s leadership and refused to obey his laws.

By the day that Jerusalem fell (the 9th day of the 4th month of the 11th year of King Zedekiah), there was nothing left in the city to eat.[23]

The aftermath

Once Jerusalem was conquered, Nebuchadnezzar took away:

  • Zedekiah the king.[24]
  • All the people left in the city, including:[25]
    • Some of the poorest of the people.[26]
    • The rest of the artisans.[27]
  • All the people who had deserted to the Chaldeans.[28]
  • All the vessels of God’s house, great and small, and the treasures of Yahweh’s house.[29]
  • Treasures of the king, and of his princes.[30]
  • The brass obtained from breaking up the pillars, the bases and the huge bath in Yahweh’s house.[31]
  • Pots, shovels, snuffers, spoons, and all the vessels of brass with which the priests and Levites ministered.[32]
  • The fire pans and the basins: those made of gold, as gold, and those made of silver, as silver[33] (this implies that they were crushed, broken up or melted).

Not only were these people and items taken away, but many people were killed, the city was burned with fire and most of the buildings were destroyed.
Opinions vary as to the numbers of casualties; some ancient Jewish stories suggest that several million died (https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/144569/jewish/The-First-Temple.htm), but it is hard to make any good estimates. In Ezekiel 5:1-4 you can read a prophecy that Ezekiel was to act out which also gives a suggestion of how different groups of the nation would suffer. The next few chapters describe how the events were to play out and they make devastating reading. And all of it could have been avoided.

For more information

The Torah.com: The Babylonian Officials Who Oversaw the Siege of Jerusalem
Blog post: Sieges

In the news

CNN article from 13 August 2019: Archaeologists find evidence of Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem — as told in the Bible
News.com.au article from 18 August 2019: New evidence proves Bible story of Babylonian siege really happened

 


Notes
[1] Jeremiah 37:17
[2] Jeremiah 37:21
[3] Jeremiah 32:3
[4] Jeremiah 37:21
[5] Jeremiah 32:1-15
[6] Jeremiah 21:1-14
[7] Jeremiah 37:3
[8] Jeremiah 21:1
[9] Jeremiah 38:1
[10] Jeremiah 21:9
[11] Jeremiah 38:4
[12] Jeremiah 38:6
[13] Jeremiah 38:7-13
[14] Jeremiah 38:9
[15] Jeremiah 38:24-27
[16] Jeremiah 38:28
[17] Jeremiah 33
[18] Ezekiel 4:9-10
[19] Ezekiel 4:11
[20] Jeremiah 19:9
[21] Lamentations 2:20; 4:10
[22] Ezekiel 5:10
[23] 2 Kings 25:3; Jeremiah 39:2; 52:6
[24] 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 52:11
[25] 2 Kings 25:11
[26] Jeremiah 52:15
[27] Jeremiah 52:15
[28] 2 Kings 25:11; Jeremiah 52:15
[29] 2 Chronicles 36:18
[30] 2 Chronicles 36:18
[31] 2 Kings 25:13; Jeremiah 52:17
[32] 2 Kings 25:14; Jeremiah 52:18
[33] 2 Kings 25:15; Jeremiah 52:19

 

Terror on Every Side!

This article is one of a series of articles on Jeremiah published as back-up material for the Bible-based fiction series Terror on Every Side!
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