Judah’s exile in Babylon was an epoch. In its formative years as a nation, Jacob’s seed had willingly gone to Egypt and because they had multiplied so rapidly there they were viewed as a “threat” to the Egyptians, and because the ruling regime had changed (“there arose another king that knew not Joseph,” Exo. 1:8), the family that grew into a nation was enslaved by Egypt. And, although in later years Rome would destroy Jerusalem and carry enslaved the remaining inhabitants to Rome, the exiles in Babylon were released and allowed to return to their land and gained a semi-independence, the sole instance this would occur to the nation.
It was epic also in that the period produced the major number of the so called “major prophets.” Of the four men who are so classified, three of them prophesied prior to and during these sad years of Judah’s history: Jeremiah, God’s voice to His people in beleaguered Judah and Jerusalem; Ezekiel, God’s prophet to the exiles in Babylon by “the river Chebar” (Ezekiel 1:1); and, Daniel who was in the hostile king’s court, prophesying of the destiny of his nation, other world kingdoms, the Messiah’s rule (Dan. 7:13-14), and of God’s spiritual kingdom which His Son would establish (Daniel 2:44). Even the voice of the fourth major prophet (Isaiah), heard scarcely a hundred years earlier, had prophesied that exile would come to Hezekiah’s seed (Isa. 39:5-7). He identified the nation into which Judah would be exiled (Babylon) and the ultimate destruction and destroyers (Medo-Persia) of that Babylonian super power (Isa. 13:17-22).
It is likely that Jeremiah suffered the most of these prophets, for his messages angered kings, priests and prophets of Judah. Jeremiah warned that God would punish Judah for her idolatry, and the only way to avert the destruction of her temple and capital city would be to willingly submit to Babylon’s yoke. His warnings were not pretty. In the siege Jerusalem would endure from the Babylonian armies, scarcity of food would become so great the people would kill and eat their own children (Jer. 19:9). Second Kings records this horrid atrocity occurring in the history of the northern kingdom (2 Kings 6:28-29). It was Jeremiah’s own fate to know it happened and to write with his pen that terrible thing occurring in Jerusalem (Lam. 2:20; 4:10). The inhabitants of his hometown, Anathoth, plotted his death (Jer. 11:21). He was lowered into the mire of an abandoned well. He was hated and despised. Daniel suffered threats of death by the Babylonian king, but that threat was not only against him, but all the wise men who could not interpret the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. He was thrust into the lion’s den because contemporaries of his were jealous of his elevation in prominence above them by the ruler of the empire (Dan. 6:1-9). But Jeremiah’s life was in peril almost daily. Still the Lord had promised him His protection (Jer. 1:18-19).
Jeremiah prophesied that the rule of the legitimate heir to the Davidic throne would come to an end with exile to Babylon. This exile occurred at his youthful age of 18. The fall of and destruction of Jerusalem and the transporting of those who remained in the city marked the end of David’s heirs ruling as monarchs in Judah. The prophet wrote: “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol — a vessel in which is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, and cast into a land which they do not know? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days, for none of his descendants shall prosper; siting in the throne of David and ruling anymore in Judah’” (Jer. 22:28-30).
His words were true: Judah returned to its native land but the Davidic monarchy was never restored until Christ was given David’s throne (Psa. 110:1; Acts 2:36). Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, would be exiled to Babylon and so he was (Jer. 32:3-4). And Jeremiah added his voice that the oppressive nation Babylon would be destroyed to Isaiah’s who had preceded him about 100 years. Jerusalem would be destroyed but she would be rebuilt; Babylon would be destroyed and never be rebuilt. She was destroyed and remains so to this very day (Jer. 51:26-26). Jeremiah prophesied the exile would endure 70 years (Jer. 25:11). A promise that the nation would return was God’s command, during Jerusalem’s siege, to Jeremiah to purchase the field of his uncle (Jer. 32:6-15). This assured his nation that land would once again be bought and sold in Judah when their exile ended.
What a mighty confirmation of God’s veracity and truthfulness: “So shall My word be that goeth forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void but it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).