Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Last King of Judah

When Mattaniah, the son of King Josiah, was 13 years old, his brother King Yeho'yakim (who had succeeded Josiah) of Judah died after an open rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Eight years later, Mattaniah’s nephew, King Yeho'yachin (son of Yeho'yakim) offered himself and his family as a prisoner to Nebuchadnezzar in order to end the siege brought on by his own rebellious acts (aligning himself with Egypt). When Mattaniah was 21 years old, the King of Babylon placed the crown upon his head and declared his new name to be Zedekiah.

One would think that having witnessed the exacting revenge of the Babylonians on those who rebel, Zedekiah would have passively accepted Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion. Indeed, at first Zedekiah played the perfect role of a puppet monarch and swore (upon the Torah , no less!) that he would not rebel.* It was a promise that did not last long.

While Zedekiah wanted to assert himself as more than a puppet king, the prophet Jeremiah warned him time and again that Judea’s subjugation to Babylon was part of God’s plan and that the people would suffer from any further instigation on Zedekiah’s part. Zedekiah responded by imprisoning Jeremiah.

Nine years after elevating him to the throne, Nebuchadenezzar had had enough of Zedekiah. The brutal, final siege of Jerusalem began. Two years into the siege, Zedekiah and his family were captured as they attempted to escape the city.  Nebuchadnezzar forced Zedekiah to watch as he killed his ten sons, after which Nebuchadnezzar blinded Zedekiah with hot iron pokers. Taken in chains back to Babylon, Zedekiah was left to rot in the dungeon for 25 years until six days after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, when Nebuchadnezzar’s son,  Evil-Merodach, released both Yeho'yachin and Zedekiah from jail. On that same day, the 27th of Adar, Zedekiah passed away.

*According to Pesikta Rabbasi

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