Yirmiyahu Fifty-Two: Zedekiah

Now, as we’re coming to the end of the Book of Jeremiah, we hear a bit about his family. “Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah (Jeremiah 52:1).” It’s nice to get a glimpse into Jeremiah as something other than a mouthpiece for God. We know that he had a daughter, who apparently ranked highly enough to give birth to a king, and also to be counted and acknowledged in the text as his mother, in a time when normally only the father was taken into account.

Zedekiah isn’t without problems though, and he does evil in God’s eyes. He rebells against the king of Babylon, who is still Nebuchadrezzar. This inspires Nebuchadrezzar to surround and attack Jerusalem. At the same time, there’s a famine in the city, and the people are starving. Bad convergence of events. The people end up abandoning the city, including the king, who is chased to the plains of Jericho.

“And they seized the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon, to Riblah in the land of Hamath, and called him to account (Jeremiah 52:8).” Jeremiah suffers again, because Nebuchadrezzar slaughters his sons in front of him. He then blinds Jeremiah, ties him in chains, and holds him in prison until the day of his death. At least at this point, it seems that there is no prophet who has suffered to this extent in Tanakh. I understand why Jeremiah wasn’t necessarily beloved, but this is all truly tragic.

While Jeremiah is in jail, Jerusalem burns. The Temple is sacked and looted, and the people are either executed or exiled. We hear in great detail about the items broken and taken from the Temple, with detailed descriptions of each object. I’m wondering if that’s so the people in subsequent generations would know what to rebuild, or to go looking for as they regained power in Jerusalem.

The book of Jeremiah ends with Jehoiachin, king of Judah, being released from prison. He seems to stay in Babylon, but he’s finally treated well there, and is a member of the king’s court. It’s a weird ending, and doesn’t mention Jeremiah’s ultimate fate, other than that he was in jail. Therefore we can only imagine that he was left to languish in his prison, and died suffering and alone. It’s a terrible end, and definitely not what the prophet deserved. But with this implied ending, the chapter ends, and with it the Book of Jeremiah. Once again, this has been the longest book thus far, a trend that I hope doesn’t necessarily keep continuing. I’ve found that I like switching narrators or plot lines more regularly, and it’s hard to keep track of extended prophetic messages that last multiple chapters.

Tomorrow kicks off Ezekiel, the last of the major prophets. I’m looking forward to a new challenge, one that should take me straight into the Fall. As always, thank you all for reading and for being part of my learning community!

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