It wasn’t long before the Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, invaded Judah exactly as Jeremiah had predicted (see #183 - July 2). King Jehoiakim immediately stopped paying taxes to Egypt and swore his country’s allegiance to Babylon. He hoped this would stop their army from demolishing Jerusalem. It did for a while. But before he left, Nebuchadnezzar stole many of the articles from God’s Temple to put in his own temple back in Babylon. Then he ordered his chief officer to round up the most outstanding young men in Judah and take them to Babylon to serve in his palace. Among them was a young man named Daniel. Three years later, when Babylon and Egypt got into a fierce battle, Jehoiakim suddenly switched his loyalty back to Egypt. He was sure the Egyptians would win. Jeremiah warned his king not to do this. He said that God wanted Judah to submit to the Babylonians and take the punishment God had promised. Then God could begin the healing process. But Jehoiakim refused to listen! The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians then focused their outrage on Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiakim in shackles and led him back to Babylon. It wasn’t long before Jehoiakim died. He never received a proper burial—just as Jeremiah had prophesied (see #183 - July 2). King Nebuchadnezzar assigned Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah) to reign in his father’s place. He was king for only three months when he, too, rebelled against Babylon. Jeremiah warned him that if he continued to rebel, he would be taken away just as his father had been. But like his father, he refused to listen. Soon the Babylonian army returned. They stripped the city of everything that was valuable including all the military men and skilled workers. They carried off Jehoiachin and put him in prison. Altogether, 10,000 people were marched off to Babylon. Among them was Ezekiel. Some of the Jewish officials escaped to Egypt. Only the poor people remained to oversee the land. Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, and a few officials were left behind to rule these people. One day Jeremiah saw two baskets of figs in front of the Temple. One was filled with very good figs and the other was filled with rotten figs. God told Jeremiah, “The people who have been taken into captivity in Babylon are like the basket of good figs. I will take care of them and bring them back to this land when their time of punishment is over. But Zedekiah and the officials who escaped are very corrupt. I will treat them like the rotten fruit that nobody wants. Zedekiah and his officials will be thrown in the garbage.” God told Jeremiah to send a letter to the people who were in exile saying, “Build houses in Babylon and plant gardens. Get married, have children, and help your children get married. Get involved in your community and help your city prosper. You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But I will take care of you. And when the time of your exile is over, I will bring you back to Judah and restore everything you left behind.”
God did not cause the destruction of Jerusalem or Judah’s exile in a foreign land. These were a result of Judah’s own sinful choices. God had great plans for His nation, and He showed them mercy many times. But ultimately, they chose to walk away from Him. He allowed them to suffer in order to capture their attention and bring them back to a place of blessing. Are you in a place where God can bless you?