Temple to Temple

The Emergence of Nebuchadnezzar (Part 5)
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Tuesday 8th December 2015

Yehoyakim the King of Judea found himself in a terrible predicament. His chief Prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) had been imprisoned for high treason, his offence being predicting the King’s downfall. The people had asked the king to repent and to embrace G-d. Although Judea was still loyal to the Egyptians, Yehoyakim saw the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, the feared Babylonian general, systematically working his way down the Mediterranean coast, amassing lands, exiling people, and building a massive kingdom. It was an exciting time in history, as a new world order was being established. Yet it was terrifying for the smaller principalities that feared being swept away, such as Judea.

Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Yehoyakim realised that he was no longer in a position to maintain his pact with the Egyptians and quickly swore allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, before the latter could attempt to breach the walls and destroy the city.

The pledging of an alliance came at a high price. Nebuchadnezzar requested that the children of the aristocracy be sent to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar wanted these children to be educated in his palace and learn his language and costumes (see Daniel 1:1-6). This was not a student exchange program.  It was an insurance plan. He wanted to hold the very future of Judea to ransom. If Yehoyakim would betray the alliance, he would risk the lives of the future leaders of Judea.

The people were devastated.  How would they face their future? Even if their Temple and cities were not yet destroyed, they felt they were left with no future leadership and a king that had no interest in finding a peaceful solution that would save the nation. It is easy for us to speak 2000 years later, knowing that amongst the youth that were raised in the palace were Chananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Daniel, all eventual leaders of the exiled Judeans. By virtue of being raised in the royal household, they were able to intercede on the people’s behalf and to ensure that, despite their exile and relocation, the people of Judea did not lose their unique monotheistic faith. Yet there was tremendous angst at the time.

The Egyptians were the closest powerful neighbour that Judea had. As Egypt entered yet another battle with the Babylonians, this time on Egyptian soil, Yehoyakim decided to send troops into battle, not on the side of his allies the Babylonians, but instead on the side of the Egyptians. Unsurprisingly, Nebuchadnezzar lost patience. At that point, Judea, which had barely registered as relevant in Nebuchadnezzar’s building of the Babylonian Empire, became a thorn in his side.