I finished Jeremiah today. Hallelujah! Something in chapter 52 caught my eye. I read earlier about how Zedekiah was captured and tortured, then carted off to Babylon. This chapter outlines how everything went down.
The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars in front of the Lord’s Temple, the bronze water carts, and the great bronze basin called the Sea, and they carried all the bronze away to Babylon. They also took all the ash buckets, shovels, lamp snuffers, basins, dishes, and all the other bronze articles used for making sacrifices at the Temple. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, also took the small bowls, incense burners, basins, pots, lampstands, dishes, bowls used for liquid offerings, and all the other articles made of pure gold or silver. (Jeremiah 52:17-19)
The next section talks about the weight of the pillars and all the artifacts. I love how their value is calculated, as if that was why Nebuzaradan took these holy items. I mean, I’m sure Babylon could always use more income, but it wasn’t the only reason. Reading on, I learned more.
Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took with him as prisoners Seraiah the high priest, Zephaniah the priest of the second rank, and the three chief gatekeepers. And from among the people still hiding in the city, he took an officer who had been in charge of the Judean army; seven of the king’s personal advisers; the army commander’s chief secretary, who was in charge of recruitment; and sixty other citizens. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took them all to the king of Babylon at Riblah. And there at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king of Babylon had them all put to death. So the people of Judah were sent into exile from their land. (Jeremiah 52:24-27)
Nebuzaradan took people, too. The people he kidnapped were even more important than the temple service tools. Taking the officer and secretary of the army meant any remnants of an army couldn’t reconfigure or recruit. They would be leaderless. Taking the king’s advisors meant wisdom would be difficult to find.
Most importantly, snatching the priests and the chief gatekeepers meant the traditions of temple could not be observed correctly. Old Neb knew the Hebrews were Yahwistic. They had a monotheistic faith. Destroy all vestiges of that, you conquered the people. Nabbing the bronze sacrificial articles as well as gold and silver implements meant they didn’t have *anything* to work with. They were literally at ground zero for rebuilding.
On August 17 of that year, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard and an official of the Babylonian king, arrived in Jerusalem. He burned down the Temple of the Lord, the royal palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem. He destroyed all the important buildings in the city. Then he supervised the entire Babylonian army as they tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, then took as exiles some of the poorest of the people, the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had declared their allegiance to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen. But Nebuzaradan allowed some of the poorest people to stay behind in Judah to care for the vineyards and fields. (Jeremiah 52:12-16)
Hmm. Nebuzaradan also took some poor people, the rest of the ones hiding out in the city, defectors and all of the craftsmen. Huh? Craftsmen? At this point, he reminds me of the Grinch, taking all the Christmas decorations – trees, lights, ornaments, food. He must have seen the value in the ability of craftsmen to make, well, everything. Useful in a bustling kingdom. I’m sure he thought, Hey, if I kill everyone, this land will go back to nature and be inhabited by wild beasts. Gotta leave some of these losers here.
Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. Surrender, and your life is your reward. God’s fulfilled judgment against Israel changed the course of the nation. Despite the devastation, the book of Jeremiah ends on a hopeful note as the possibility of Israel’s rebirth hangs in the air. Just like the Grinch couldn’t really steal Christmas, the future of the Israelites remained tied to God. The ones left behind and the survival of Judah’s king show the mercy of God. The next king of Babylon, Evil-merodach (unfortunate, that) favored Jehoiachin, exiled king of Judah. Now the only thing missing is the rise of King Cyrus.