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The Babylonian Exile #5

From the time of Jeremiah’s call to prophesy until the time when Jerusalem’s walls were breached by Nebuchadnezzar, he had been Jehovah’s messenger to the Jews and to the house of Josiah, Judah’s final good king. The message of Jeremiah was to urge Judah to subject herself to Babylon’s yoke. Jeremiah was known by the Babylonians and once Babylon had conquered Judah sent Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard (Jer. 39:1-2), to protect Jeremiah, allowing him the freedom to go to Babylon or remain in Judea with the remnant left there. Yet, while Jeremiah urged his nation to yield to Babylon’s rule, he was not a sympathizer of  the Babylonians. His message from God was faithfully given to Judah, and his message to Babylon was just as severe (Jer. 51:25-26).

Jeremiah must have been sixty or more when Jerusalem fell, and the remainder of his life was spent in obscurity. Gedaliah, the grandson of Shaphan, was made governor over the remnant left in the land. An insurrectionist named Ishmael killed him and took captive the remaining Jews intending to carry them to Amnon (Jer. 41:10). He was thwarted from his purpose, however. A man named Johanan fought against him and rescued the people (Jer. 41:11-14). Ishmael escaped and found refuge in Amnon. Ultimately, Jeremiah and his scribe, Baruch, were carried into Egypt. What happened to Jeremiah there is simply speculation. 

Jeremiah had prophesied the captivity in Babylon would be seventy years (Jer. 25:11). Daniel was among the first carried to exile. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar unto Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand …” (Dan. 1:1-2). Some of the vessels from the temple were carried to Babylon along with some of the children of Israel, even of the seed royal and of the nobles. Among those first exiles were Daniel and his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The latter three are better remembered by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Since the men were identified as of the seed royal and the nobles, it is impossible to determine whether Daniel was of royal lineage or not.

For the next several decades Daniel was God’s voice in the courts of two world empires: Babylon and Persia. In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, the proclamation was made that those of Israel could return to their homes again, fulfilling the prophecies of two of God’s prophets. The first was Isaiah who gave the name of Cyrus as the deliverer and who also gave authority for rebuilding both the city and the temple (Isa. 44:28; 45:13). The second prophecy was Jeremiah who told how long Judah would be exiled from their homeland. The dates for this captivity were from 606 B.C. to about 536 B.C. The age of Daniel when he was carried to Babylon is not given (many surmise he was about 18 years old), so when Cyrus’ decree came releasing captives to return to their native land once more, Daniel was an old man — nearly 90 years old. Daniel’s prophecies are major bricks in building our faith in the Bible as God’s word and his life demonstrated the fact that God’s word had an impact upon one man whose life and word would be remembered and citied until the Savior came again.

Our next few posts will deal with some of the important prophecies which arose during Babylonian exile.

Jim McDonald

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