King Zedekiah—the last king of Judah. He was the third son of Josiah, and his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah, and hence he was the brother of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31; 24:17, 18). His original name was Mattaniah; but when Nebuchadnezzar placed him on the throne as the successor to Jehoiachin he changed his name to Zedekiah.
The prophet Jeremiah was his counselor, yet “he did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:19,20; Jer. 52:2,3). He ascended the throne at the age of twenty-one years.
The kingdom was at that time a tributary to Nebuchadnezzar; but, despite the strong remonstrances of God's prophet Jeremiah and others, as well as the example of Jehoiachin, he rebelled against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Hophra, king of Egypt. This brought up Nebuchadnezzar, “with all his host” (2 King 25:1), against Jerusalem.
During this siege, which lasted about eighteen months, “every worst woe befell the devoted city, which drank the cup of God's fury to the dregs” (2 Kings 25:3; Lam. 4:4,5,10). The city was plundered and laid in ruins.
Zedekiah and his followers, attempting to escape, were made captive and taken to Riblah. There, after seeing his own children put to death, his own eyes were put out, and, being loaded with chains, he was carried captive (B.C. 588) to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; 2 Chr. 36:12; Jer. 32:4,5; 34:2,3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11; Ezek. 12:12), where he remained a prisoner, how long is unknown, to the day of his death.
Zedekiah had rebelled against God and the world's most powerful kingdom. He lived in very violent and brutal times. Despite this, in the end he was allowed to live, just as God promised. Jeremiah had prophecied, “Thou shalt not die by the sword: But thou shalt die in peace…” (Jeremiah 34:4-5). The king of Babylon did not kill him. Since the Lord said he would not die by the sword, we certain that he did not, and that his death was peaceful.
Did Zedekiah SEE the king of Babylon? Some Bible readers are confused on this point. Jeremiah prophecied to King Zedekiah: “…thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon” (Jer 34:3). Later, 2 Kings 25:7 confirms that the Babylonians “put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.” If Zedekiah was blinded before he was taken to Babylon, how could he see the king? The answer is found in 2 Kings 25:6. He was taken to the king of Babylon's battle campaign headquarters in Riblah, before he was taken to Babylon. It is here that he was judged by the king of Babylon, face to face, and was severely punished for the rebellion, before being taken to Babylon to live in captivity.
After the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan was sent to carry out its complete destruction. The city was razed to the ground. Only a small number of vinedressers and husbandmen were permitted to remain in the land (Jer. 52:16). Gedaliah, with a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah, ruled over Judah (2 Kings 25:22,24; Jeremiah 40:1,2,5,6).