The Bible reports that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem three times:
On the first two occasions, Nebuchadnezzar took prisoners and reduced the ability of the nation to defend itself.
In this article, we are looking at the second attack by Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim was king at this time, but he died at some time during the invasion (see “How did he die?”). He was replaced as king by his son Jeconiah (also known as Jehoiachin or Coniah), who reigned in Jerusalem for 3 months and 10 days – all of it spent under siege.
When Jeconiah surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar during the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, 10,000 people were taken into captivity. 2 Kings 24:14-16 and Jeremiah 24:1 give us descriptions and categories:
Since the components with numbers only add up to 8,000, and some of the categories have no numbers given, it seems likely that the 10,000 only includes the numbers of men. Women and children were probably additional, making a total of something between 30,000 and 50,000 or even more. There does not seem to have been a large number of people killed. It is possible that Daniel, working for Nebuchadnezzar in far-off Babylon, may have had some influence over that.
There is also more information in Jeremiah 52:28 which reports that 3,023 Judeans were taken away in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar. These may well have been men from outside the city of Jerusalem, who were taken away before Jeconiah gave up.
Only the poorest men remained, a phrase that is repeated 11 years later after the destruction of Jerusalem, described in 2 Kings 25:12, Jeremiah 40:7 and 52:16. After that, some of the poorest were also taken into captivity.
Sometimes it is interesting to look at events from the point of view of God’s prophets. God seems to have given them some information about the future, but often just snippets, rather than a detailed picture of events with times and order.
This raises the question: Did Jeremiah expect Jerusalem to be destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar besieged it in the time of Jeconiah?
Jeremiah had been given quite a few prophecies of coming destruction, commencing from the start of his mission and continuing afterwards. Here are some examples that I believe were all given before the reign of Jeconiah and refer to the land, the cities and the temple:
So when would Jeremiah have expected these prophecies to be fulfilled? It seems most likely to me that he would have felt much the same as many people do now in expecting the return of Jesus very soon. In the reign of Josiah, he may have hoped that God would relent, but from then on he would have expected the devastating judgement to come very soon. Every year that passed would probably have been an unexpected delay.
When it came to the reign of Jeconiah, and Nebuchadnezzar’s army was camped outside the walls, I think it is very likely that Jeremiah would have been expecting the immediate fulfilment of those prophecies of complete destruction.
As a result, when Jeconiah surrendered, I imagine that Jeremiah would have expected death and destruction on a grand scale – but it did not happen, not then.
God’s timing is not like ours.
See also Sieges.
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