Nebuchadnezzar’s second attack on Jerusalem

By Mark Morgan | Jeremiah

Jul 31
Sieges: Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem (FreeBibleImages.org / Sweet Publishing http://freebibleimages.org/illustrations/jeremiah-cistern/ Slide 6)

Attacks on Jerusalem

The Bible reports that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem three times:

  1. In the 3rd/4th year of Jehoiakim/Eliakim (the 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar).[1]
  2. In the 11th year of Jehoiakim/Eliakim until the 3rd month of Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (the 8th year of Nebuchadnezzar).[2]
  3. In the 9th-11th year of Zedekiah/Mattaniah[3] (17th-19th year of Nebuchadnezzar[4]).  This is the most well-known attack by Nebuchadnezzar and resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem.[5]

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,[6] 10,000 people were taken into captivity.  2 Kings 24:14-16 and Jeremiah 24:1 give us descriptions and categories:

  • Jeconiah, his wives and his mother
  • Jeconiah’s servants, officials and palace officials (probably eunuchs)
  • Chief men of the land and all the officials
  • All Jerusalem
  • Mighty men of valour (7,000)
  • Craftsmen and metal workers (1,000)

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.[7]

Jeremiah’s expectations

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:

  • Jeremiah 4:6-7 Disaster and great destruction is coming from the north.  Cities will be ruins.
  • Jeremiah 7:14 I will do to this house what I did to Shiloh.
  • Jeremiah 13:13-14 The inhabitants of the land and of Jerusalem will be filled with drunkenness and smashed together.  God will destroy them.
  • Jeremiah 19:10-11 Jerusalem and nation broken like a potter’s vessel.
  • Jeremiah 22:5, 8 If the king will not listen, God will destroy his house.
  • Jeremiah 36:29 Jehoiakim complained that Jeremiah had said the king of Babylon would destroy the land.

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.

 


Notes

[1] See Daniel 1:1-4.  Also mentioned in passing in 2 Kings 24:1 and 2 Chronicles 36:6.
[2] See 2 Kings 24:6, 8-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9; Jeremiah 22:18-19; 24; 36:30; 52:28 and a passing reference in Ezekiel 1:1-2.
[3] Jeremiah 52:4-6
[4] Jeremiah 32:1
[5] See 2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 39:1-10; 52:4-27.
[6] 2 Kings 24:12
[7] Jeremiah 52:15

 

See also Sieges.

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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