Friday of the 21st week after Trinity: 2 Kings 24:8-25:12.
This is the account of the fall of Jerusalem and how Nebuchadnezzar took the inhabitants of the city into exile to Babylon. It is a slow, labored, formulaic account, detailing which persons went out from the city, and how Nebuchadnezzar despoiled it.
After hearing of the siege during the reign of Jehoiakim, it is astonishing to read that Jehoiakin also rebelled. 24:7 explains that “the king of Egypt did not come out of his land anymore, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the River Euphrates.” This was a consequence of the Battle of Carchemish (605 BC), at which Nebuchadnezzar put a permanent end to the existence of Assyria as a recognizable power, and annihilated the Egyptian force that was allied with them. As a result, Egypt never again interfered in the politics of the ancient Near East. The balance of power, the oscillating pendulum of Egypt and Babylon, finally swung all one way.
And yet Zedekiah, having been installed by the Babylonians after the capture of Jehoiakin, also rebelled. One cannot imagine quite what he was thinking. His pitiful end — forced to watch the deaths of his sons, and then blinded so that that would be the last thing he ever saw — makes any sensitive reader shudder at the refined cruelty of the Babylonians.
One last thing strikes me: Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, is said to have burned with fire “the palace of the king and all the houses of the great”, but to have “left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers.” It is the world turned upside down: the Lord at work as usual.