They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.
What do blind people see in their darkness? Can they truly not see? Is their darkness the same as our darkness? Is the darkness that we see when we close our eyes true darkness? It’s been often said that our sense of sight is the sense that we rely on the most – the sense that we most take for granted. Zedekiah is known to be the last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon, and in today’s study we will look at the tragic nature of his downfall, where the contradictory nature of the prophecies made regarding him were fulfilled, and the numerous prophecies made regarding the destruction and fall of the Jewish kingdom was so gruesomely fulfilled.
Zedekiah was called Mattaniah, the uncle of King Jehoiachin, and put on the throne by King Nebuchadnezzar the Second of Babylon himself. At that point Judah was pretty much a puppet state to Babylon, the people were suffering, and the Babylonians had just about looted everything they could from Jerusalem. Yet Judah still existed, while numerous prophecies all explicitly mention a complete and tragic destruction. Two prophets made prophecies regarding Zedekiah – Jeremiah prophesied that he will see Nebuchadnezzar with his own eyes [Jer 32:4, Jer 34:3]; while Ezekiel prophesied that he will not see the land of Babylonia [Eze 12:13]. Contradictory? Kind of, because, well, how do you see the King of Babylon without seeing his land? How do you go to Babylonia without being able to see it? Yet it was fulfilled – Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, blinded him, and brought him to Babylonia.
The Bible records many kinds of deaths and downfalls for kings. Saul committed suicide because his armor-bearer was too terrified to kill Saul for him [1 Samuel 31:4]. Herod Agrippa I was said to be struck down by an angel of the Lord and eaten by worms and died [Acts 12:23]. Zimri set the palace around him on fire and died [1 Kings 16:18]. Ahab was wounded by a random arrow that somehow went through sections of his armor, and failing to escape the battlefield and was trapped in the raging battle, he eventually died from a non-fatal wound [1 Kings 22:34-35]. Many of the kings of Israel and Judah died in battle, or were assassinated by plots, or died of some gruesome disease, even good kings like Azariah, who died in isolation after a long battle with leprosy [2 Kings 15:5] But among all that, I personally feel that King Zedekiah’s ranks as the worst.
They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes – I have no idea how cruel it was to kill his sons before his eyes – if it were up to me to judge, I would think it extremely cruel, but these were cruel times, when sons killed fathers and fathers killed sons for the sake of power, security, stability and the throne. Killing his sons and his entire family was a given – Zedekiah was to be the last king of Judah. He was a puppet king, of a puppet state, and Babylonia was pretty much in control over Jerusalem, but still Zedekiah rebelled. It is simple logic that there was no longer any need to keep up the faux state, when the Babylonians can just destroy it and be rid of the threat and danger. It was a no-brainer that the sons of Zedekiah had to die – especially when the enemy is the Babylonians, who were known for their cruelty and barbarian ways.
Yet it was entirely not necessary to kill his sons before his eyes. This was just an extra means to be cruel.
Then they put out his eyes – Common sense would say, kill the king and his sons and be done with the issue, and Babylonia can go on their good old merry way. But no, they had to be extra cruel about it. Killing his sons before his eyes would be meaningless if they killed Zedekiah straight after that. Death would have been his immediate reprieve. No – they didn’t allow him to end his suffering. They worsened it by making the sight of the death of his sons the last scene he would ever see by gorging out his eyes.
Looking back on your life right now, what do you think would be the one scene you will never forget if you become blind tomorrow?
Perhaps it is the happiest moment of your life. The saddest moment of your life. The guiltiest moment of your life. Or, the very last thing you saw with your eyes.
The last thing King Zedekiah saw was the brutal sight of his family killed in cold blood. Then his eyes were gorged out. He wasn’t killed – he was given a life far worse than the deliverance that death might bring – a life in darkness, with the last scene of his sight forever haunting him in his guilt, grief and misery.
bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon – again, it would have been common sense and less troublesome to kill Zedekiah straight away. But they didn’t do that, because Ezekiel’s prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled if Zedekiah died at that point. He needed to be brought to Babylonia, blind. And so he was, and he was never killed. He lived out his life as a prisoner, blinded with the scene of his son’s murder forever etched in his dark sight. Judah was destroyed, horribly so. Thus the word of the Lord was fulfilled.
Zedekiah was uncle to Jehoiachin, who was the son of Jehoiakim, the son of Josaih; and thus Zedekiah was also the son of Josiah, known to be the last good king of Judah, and was the grandson of Manasseh, to whom the Lord, the God of Israel says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day. [2 Kings 21:12-15]
For generations and for years, as one bad king after another took the throne, be it in Israel or in Judah, the pleadings of the good prophets of God had been falling on deaf ears, as the people continued in their debauchery and sin, adamant that the destruction and punishment that the prophets speak of will never come. After all, up until their time, it hasn’t come, has it? Perhaps Manasseh was the final straw, as even in all the good and godly things that his grandson Josiah did, the Lord did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger [2 Kings 23:26]. Destruction ultimately came.
Perhaps in similar fashion, as the world today continues in its own merry way soaked in sin and debauchery, adamantly ignoring the words of the Bible that the end will soon come – after all, it has been two thousand years – it will creep upon us like a thief in the silence of the night [1 Thes 5:2]. I imagine Zedekiah never thought of himself to be the last king of Judah, never expected his downfall to be so tragic, never truly felt that destruction was possible, taking for granted the overstretched mercy of God. Destruction must be to him as hazy as the day of the Lord is to us today, whether christians or not. We may be christians, but that doesn’t mean that we’re doing more to prepare for that day. Most of us probably do not think that it will happen in our lifetime.
I consider the downfall of Zedekiah to be amongst the worst in the Bible. Cruel, tragic, and leaves me wincing at the thought of it. It’s kind of ironic that his nephew, whom Nebuchadnezzar disposed of and imprisoned, allowing Zedekiah to succeed in the throne, was imprisoned but never quite suffered Zedekiah’s fate. In fact, Jehoiachim was ultimately released from prison and treated quite kindly [2 Kings 25:27-30]. It was also through Jehoiachim whom Jesus’ genealogy to David was traced, and not Zedekiah. Yet as cruel as Zedekiah’s plight was, I dare say that when the day of the Lord comes, the suffering and the extent of destruction that will be cast upon us will be many times worse. Zedekiah was plunged into darkness by blindness, but the people will be plunged into darkness by true darkness.
But that’s a topic for another day.