The Last Four Kings of Judah and the Weeping Prophet
II Kings xxiii:
31, to xxv: 22;
II Chronicles xxxvi: 1 to 21;
Jeremiah xxii: 10 to 12; xxiv: 1 to 10; xxix: 1 to
29; xxxvi: 1, to xliii: 13.
good King Josiah fell in battle the people of the
land made his son Jehoahaz king. At that time all
the kingdoms around Judah were in confusion. The
great empire of Assyria had been the ruler of nearly
all that part of the world; but now it had been
broken up, Nineveh, its chief city, had been
destroyed, and Egypt, Babylonia, and other lands
were at war, each striving to take the place of
Assyria as the ruler of the nations.
Pharaoh-nechoh, the king of Egypt, whose warriors
had slain King Josiah, became for a time the master
of the lands between Egypt and the Euphrates river.
He felt that he could not trust the young King
Jehoahaz, and he took his crown from him, and
carried him a captive down to Egypt, so that
Jehoahaz, the seventeenth king, reigned only three
months. The prophet Jeremiah, who arose during
Josiah's reign, spoke thus of the young king who so
soon was taken away a prisoner, "Weep not for the
dead King Josiah, nor sorrow over him, but weep for
him that goeth away, the King Jehoahaz, for he shall
return no more, nor shall he again see his own land.
In the place where they have led him captive, there
shall he die, and he shall look upon this land no
The man whom Pharaoh-nechoh set up as king over
Judah in place of Jehoahaz was his brother Jehoiakim,
another son of Josiah. But he was not like his
father, for he lived most wickedly, and led his
people back to the idols which Josiah had tried to
destroy. Jeremiah, the prophet, spoke to him the
words of the Lord, and warned him that the evil way
in which he was going would surely end in ruin to
the king and the people. This made King Jehoiakim
very angry. He tried to kill the prophet, and to
save his life Jeremiah was hidden by his friends.
Jeremiah could no longer go out among the people nor
stand in the Temple to speak the word of the Lord.
So he wrote upon a roll God's message, and gave it
to his friend Baruch to read before the people.
While Baruch was reading it some officers of the
king came and took the roll away, and brought it to
the king. King Jehoiakim was sitting in his palace,
with the princes around him, and a fire was burning
before him, for it was the winter time. The officer
began to read the roll before the king and the
princes, but when he had read a few pages the king
took up a knife and began cutting the leaves and
throwing them into the fire. Even the princes were
shocked at this, for they knew that the writing on
the roll was God's word to the king and the people.
They begged the king not to destroy the roll, but he
would not heed them. He went on cutting up the roll
and throwing it in the fire until it was all burned.
The king told his officers to take Jeremiah the
prophet and Baruch, who read his words; and he would
have killed them if he had found them. But they were
hidden, and he could not find them, for the Lord
kept them in safety.
Jehoiakim reigned a few years as the servant of the
king of Egypt. But soon the Egyptians lost all the
lands that they had gained outside of their own
country; and the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar,
rose to power over the nations, and took the place
of empire that had been held by the Assyrians.
Nebuchadnezzar was the son of the king of Babylon,
and at first was the general of his army. He came
against Judah and Jerusalem, but Jehoiakim did not
dare to fight with him. He promised to serve
Nebuchadnezzar, and on that condition was allowed to
remain king; but no sooner had the Babylonian army
gone away than he broke his promise, and rose
against Babylon, and tried to make himself free.
But in this King Jehoiakim did not succeed. Instead,
he lost his kingdom and his life, for either by the
Babylonians or by his own people he was slain, and
his dead body, like that of a beast, was thrown
outside the gate of the city. He had reigned in
wickedness eleven years, and he died in disgrace.
Jehoiakim's young son Jehoiachin, who was also
called Coniah or Jeconiah, was then made king by the
people. But he reigned only three months, for
Nebuchadnezzar, who was now the king of Babylon, and
was conquering all the lands, came with his army and
took the city of Jerusalem. He carried the young
king a captive to Babylon, as Nechoh had carried
Jehoahaz a captive to Egypt eleven years before.
With King Jehoiachin were taken away many of the
nobles and rulers, and the best people of the land.
Most of these were worshippers of the Lord, who
carried with them to the land of Babylonia a love
for the Lord, and who served him there, for their
trouble only drew them the closer to their God.
After these captives had been taken away the Lord
showed to Jeremiah in the temple a vision of what
should come to pass. Jeremiah saw two baskets of
figs. One basket was full of fresh, ripe figs, the
best that could be found. The other basket was full
of poor, decayed figs, not fit to be eaten. The Lord
said, "Jeremiah, what do you see?"
And Jeremiah said, "Figs; the good figs very good;
and the bad figs very bad, figs so bad that they
cannot be eaten."
Then the Lord said to Jeremiah, "Like these good
figs are the captives who have been taken away to
the land of Babylon. I will care for them, and keep
them, and will bring them again to this land. I will
give them a heart to know me; and I will be their
God, and they shall be my people. And the bad figs
are like those who are left in this land, the king
who shall reign over them, and his princes, and his
people. They shall suffer, and shall die by the
sword, and by famine, and by plague, until they are
God showed Jeremiah in this way that the captives in
Babylon were the hope of the nation. And afterward
Jeremiah sent a letter to these captives, saying,
"Thus saith the Lord to those who have been carried
away captive, 'Build houses and live in them; and
plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; and have
sons and daughters, and let your children be married
in that land when they grow up. And pray the Lord to
give peace to the city and the land where you are
living, for you and your children shall stay there
seventy years, and after seventy years they shall
come again to their own land in peace. For my
thoughts, saith the Lord, are thoughts of peace and
kindness toward you. You shall call upon me, and I
will hear you. You shall seek me and find me, when
you seek me with all your heart.' "
After Jehoiachin and the captives had been taken
away, Nebuchadnezzar set up as king in Judah
Zedekiah, the uncle of Jehoiachin and another son of
Josiah. He was the twentieth and last king of the
kingdom of Judah. He began by promising to be true
and faithful to his over-lord, Nebuchadnezzar, the
king of Babylon, who had made him king. But very
soon he was led by the nobles who stood around his
throne to break his promise and to throw off the
rule of Babylon; also he left the worship of the
Lord, as did his people, and began to pray to the
idols of wood and stone that could give him no help.
Jeremiah the prophet told King Zedekiah that he was
doing wickedly in breaking his promises and in
turning from the Lord to idols. He told Zedekiah
that he would fail, and would bring his kingdom to
ruin. He said, "It is better to obey the king of
Babylon than to fight against him, for God will not
bless you and your people in breaking your word. The
king of Babylon will come and will destroy this
city. You shall see him face to face, and he will
take you away a captive to his own land, and this
city shall be destroyed."
This made the princes and nobles very angry against
Jeremiah. They said, "This man Jeremiah is an enemy
of his land and a friend to the king of Babylon. He
is a traitor, and should be put to death." Zedekiah
said to his nobles, "Jeremiah is in your hands; you
can do with him what you choose. The king cannot
help him against you."
Then these men seized Jeremiah, and took him to the
prison, and threw him into a dungeon, down below the
floor, and filled with mud and filth, into which the
prophet sank; and there they left him to die. But in
the court of the king there was one kind man, a
negro named Ebedmelech. He found Jeremiah in the
dungeon, and let down to him a rope and drew him up,
and brought him to a safe and dry place, though
still in the prison.
By this time Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon,
and his army were again before the city of
Jerusalem, laying siege to it. No one could go out
or come in; no food could be found for the people,
and many of them starved to death. The soldiers of
Nebuchadnezzar built forts, and threw darts and
stones, and broke down the gates, and made great
openings in the walls of the city.
When King Zedekiah saw that the city must fall
before its enemies he tried to escape. But the men
of Babylon followed him and took him prisoner, and
with him all his family, his wives and his sons.
They were all brought before King Nebuchadnezzar, so
that it came to pass as the prophet had said,
Zedekiah saw the king of Babylon.
But he saw what was more terrible; he saw all his
sons slain before him. Then Zedekiah's eyes were put
out, and a blinded captive, he was dragged away to
Babylon. The Babylonian soldiers killed all the
leaders of the people who had led Zedekiah to rebel
against Nebuchadnezzar; and the rest of the people,
except the very poorest in the land, they took away
to the land of Babylon. The king of Babylon was
friendly to Jeremiah, the prophet, because of the
advice that he had given to Zedekiah and his people.
The ruler whom Nebuchadnezzar set over the city
opened the door of Jeremiah's prison, and allowed
him to choose between going to Babylon with the
captives or staying with the poor people in the
land. Jeremiah chose to stay; but not long after he
was taken down to Egypt by enemies to the king of
Babylon. And there in Egypt Jeremiah died; some
think that he was slain. His life had been sad, for
he had seen nothing but evil come upon his land; and
his message from the Lord had been a message of woe
and wrath. Because of his sorrow, Jeremiah has been
called "the weeping prophet."
Nebuchadnezzar carried away all that was left of the
valuable things in the Temple, and then he burned
the buildings. He tore down the walls of Jerusalem
and set the city on fire. So all that was left of
the city of David and the Temple of Solomon was a
heap of ashes and blackened stones. And thus the
kingdom of Judah ended, nearly four hundred years
after Rehoboam became its first king.