Jeremiah-Historical Background Part Twelve
An explosion was narrowly averted in Zedekiah’s fourth year. During the previous year, there had been an uprising in Babylon in which some of the deported Jews, incited to disorderly acts by the wild promises of their “prophets,” seemed to have been involved. Some of these “prophets” were executed by Nebuchadnezzar, undoubtedly because of their seditious speeches. Although this rebellion was quickly suppressed, it apparently stirred hopes throughout the West that Babylon was cracking, for we find many ambassadors, those of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon (Jeremiah 27:3) gathered in Jerusalem to discuss plans for revolt. There too, “prophets” were inciting the people, telling them that God had broken the yoke of Babylon and would, within two years (Jeremiah 28:2–4), bring Yehoyachin and the other exiles triumphantly back to their homeland.
Jeremiah’s vigorous opposition to talk of this sort was clear. He denounced it as a lie and urged the people to remain submissive to Babylon. Zedekiah sent envoys to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:3), and may even have gone himself (51:59), to assure Nebuchanezzar of his loyalty.
This amounted only to a temporary postponement. Five years later, carried on a wave of patriotic fervor and supported by confidence of Divine Assistance, Judah was in open rebellion.
Zedekiah himself, judging by his repeated consultations with Jeremiah (21:1–7; 37:3–10, 17; 38:14–23), was far from assured in his own mind, but unable to withstand the enthusiasm of his nobles.
The Babylonians reacted swiftly. Their armies arrived in Judah in the fall and began operations. Their strategy was to drive Judah’s forces, such as they could not destroy in the field, back into their fortified cities, which they then reduced one by one, meanwhile holding Jerusalem under an increasing blockade.
As reverses such as this followed one upon the other, morale in Judah sank, and many even of the country’s leaders, were overwhelmed by a spirit of defeatism. Jeremiah was accused of damaging the people’s spirits (38:4).