The Fall of Jerusalem and the End of the Judean Monarchy (2 Kings 25:2-7; Jeremiah 39:2-7; 52:5-11) November 27-28
In the summer of 586 B.C., when Jerusalem's food supply had run out, the Babylonians at last breached the walls of the city (2 Kings 25:2-4; Jeremiah 39:2; 52:5-7). The various rulers of the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar then "sat in the Middle gate" (39:3). "The 'Middle Gate' was probably between the upper and lower divisions of the city. The purpose of the officials' session at the Middle Gate was either to plan their military strategy or to establish their quarters there" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-3). The Nelson Study Bible suggests that it was "to assert their authority in the conquered city" (note on verse 3). At the beginning of his ministry, 40 years earlier, Jeremiah had prophesied, "'Out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,' says the Lord; 'They shall come and each one set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem...'" (1:15).
"Jeremiah gives the Babylonian names of the Babylonian high officials ([Jeremiah 39] v. 3): Nergal-Sharezer was Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law and succeeded him under the name Neriglissar [ruling Babylon from 560 to 556 B.C.]. The 'chief officer' [NIV] (rab-saris) was head of the eunuchs who served as chamberlains. 'A high official' [NIV] is literally 'chief magi' (rab-mag)" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-3).
Zedekiah, realizing Jerusalem was lost, sought to escape by night. "The two walls near the king's garden between which Zedekiah and his army slipped out of Jerusalem probably lay at the extreme southeastern corner of the city, giving direct access to the Kidron Valley (cf. Neh 3:15)" (footnote on 2 Kings 25:4). They made their way "toward the Arabah" (verse 4; Jeremiah 39:4; 52:7, NIV)—"the great Jordan Rift Valley that extends throughout the length of the Holy Land from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqabah" (same footnote). But Babylonian forces caught them in the plains south of Jericho.
They were taken to Nebuchadnezzar in "Riblah on the Orontes River in Syria, which was the field headquarters for Nebuchadnezzar's western campaigns. Jehoahaz had been summoned there earlier by Pharaoh Necho ([2 Kings] 23:33)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 25:6).
Nebuchadnezzar had no pity for those who had rebelled against him. He first killed the king's sons, followed by the nobles. "Only Zedekiah was spared for captivity after he saw with his own eyes the slaughter and then was blinded... By modern standards what Nebuchadnezzar did was unusually harsh, but was in accord with ancient pagan practices and is understandable in view of the trouble that Judah and especially Zedekiah had given Babylon. This kind of punishment, especially the blinding (v. 7), is mentioned in the Hammurabi Code... Thus two prophecies were fulfilled: (1) Zedekiah would see the king of Babylon and would be taken there (cf. 32:3-4), and (2) he would die in Babylon without ever seeing it (cf. Ezek 12:13). To add to his torture, Zedekiah had to witness the slaughter of his sons and the nobles... This kind of punishment was very ancient (cf. Judg 16:21). Assyrian sculptures show how kings delighted to put out, often with their own hands, the eyes of captive rulers" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on Jeremiah 39:6-8).
"The last thing Zedekaiah saw was the reward of his sinful folly—the horrible spectacle of his own loved ones being put to death. He would carry this picture with him until his own death in a Babylonian prison (Jer. 52:11)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 2 Kings 25:7).
Besides serving as a lesson to other nations, the killing of the princes and nobility was also to eliminate anyone who, as a possible successor ruler, might serve as a rallying point for the Jewish people. The Judean monarchy had indeed come to a brutal end. Yet, as explained in the comments on our previous reading, the dynasty of David would be transferred elsewhere and go on, just as God had promised.