|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2011)|
Zedekiah (//; Hebrew: צִדְקִיָּהוּ, Modern Tsidkiyyahu Tiberian Ṣiḏqiyyā́hû ; "My righteousness is Yahweh"; Greek: Ζεδεκίας, Zedekías; Latin: Sedecias), also written Tzidkiyahu, was a biblical character, said to be the last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon. He was installed as king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, after a siege of Jerusalem, to succeed his nephew, Jeconiah, who was overthrown as king after a reign of only three months and ten days.
|Rulers of Judah|
Life and Reign
According to the Hebrew Bible, Zedekiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC at the age of twenty-one. The kingdom was at that time tributary to Nebuchadnezzar II. Despite the strong remonstrances of Jeremiah, Baruch ben Neriah and his other family and advisors, as well as the example of Jehoiakim, he revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah. (2 Kings 25:1). Nebuchadnezzar began a siege of Jerusalem in January 589 BC. During this siege, which lasted about eighteen months, "every worst woe befell the city, which drank the cup of God's fury to the dregs". (2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 4:4, 5, 9)
In the eleventh year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded in capturing Jerusalem. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape, making their way out of the city, but were captured on the plains of Jericho, and were taken to Riblah.
There, after seeing his sons put to death, his own eyes were put out, and, being loaded with chains, he was carried captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; 2 Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 32:4,-5; 34:2-3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11; Ezekiel 2:12), where he remained a prisoner until he died.
After the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan was sent to destroy it. The city was plundered and razed to the ground. Solomon's Temple was destroyed. Only a small number of vinedressers and husbandmen were permitted to remain in the land. (Jeremiah 52:16)
Gedaliah, with a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah, was made governor to rule over the remnant of Judah, the Yehud Province. (2 Kings 25:22-24, Jeremiah 40:6-8) On hearing this news, all the Jews that were in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and in other countries returned to Judah. (Jeremiah 40:11-12) However, before long Gedaliah was assassinated, and the population that was left in the land and those that had returned fled to Egypt for safety. (2 Kings 25:26, Jeremiah 43:5-7) In Egypt, they settled in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph, and Pathros. (Jeremiah 44:1)
The Babylonian Chronicles give 2 Adar (16 March), 597 BC, as the date that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, thus putting an end to the reign of Jehoaichin. Zedekiah's installation as king by Nebuchadnezzar can therefore be firmly dated to the early spring of 597 BC. Historically there has been considerable controversy over the date when Jerusalem was captured the second time and Zedekiah's reign came to an end. There is no dispute about the month: it was the summer month of Tammuz (Jeremiah 52:6). The problem has been to determine the year. It was noted above that Albright preferred 587 BC and Thiele advocated 586 BC, and this division among scholars has persisted until the present time. If Zedekiah's years are by accession counting, whereby the year he came to the throne was considered his "zero" year and his first full year in office, 597/596, was counted as year one, Zedekiah's eleventh year, the year the city fell, would be 587/586. Since Judean regnal years were measured from Tishri in the fall, this would place the end of his reign and the capture of the city in the summer of 586 BC. Accession counting was the rule for most, but not all, of the kings of Judah, whereas "non-accession" counting was the rule for most, but not all, of the kings of Israel.
The publication of the Babylonian Chronicles in 1956, however, gave evidence that the years of Zedekiah were measured in a non-accession sense. This reckoning makes year 598/597 BC, the year Zedekiah was installed by Nebuchadnezzar according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar, to be year "one," so that the fall of Jerusalem in his eleventh year would have been in year 588/587 BC, i.e. in the summer of 587 BC. The Bablyonian Chronicles allow the fairly precise dating of the capture of Jehoiachin and the start of Zedekiah's reign, and they also give the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar's successor Amel-Marduk (Evil Merodach) as 562/561 BC, which was the 37th year of Jehoiachin's captivity according to 2 Kings 25:27. These Babylonian records related to Jehoiachin's reign are consistent with the fall of the city in 587 but not in 586, as explained in the Jehoiachin/Jeconiah article, thus vindicating Albright's date. Nevertheless, scholars who assume that Zedekiah's reign should be calculated by accession reckoning will continue to adhere to the 586 date, and so the infobox contains this as an alternative.
His original name was Mattanyahu (Hebrew: מַתַּנְיָהוּ, Mattanyāhû, "Gift of God"; Greek: Μαθθανιας; Latin: Matthanias; traditional English: Mattaniah), but when Nebuchadnezzar II placed him on the throne as the successor to Jehoiachin, he changed his name to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17).
Zedekiah in the Book of Mormon
According to the Book of Mormon, Zedekiah's son Mulek escaped death and travelled across the ocean (Atlantic) to the Americas, where he founded a nation that later merged with another Israelite splinter group, the Nephites.
|King of Judah
597 – 587 or 586 BC
|Judah conquered by
Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon
|Leader of the House of David||Succeeded by
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Zedekiah|
- Jeconiah/Jehoiachin for more complete discussion of 587 vs. 586
- List of minor Biblical figures: Zidkijah
- 2 Chronicles 36:9
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257, 217.
- Knight, Doug and Amy-Jill Levine (2011). The Meaning of the Bible. New York City: HarperOne. p. 31. ISBN 9780062067739.
- D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956) 73.
- Leslie McFall, “A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles,” Bibliotheca Sacra 148 (1991) 45.[dead link]
- Helaman 6:10
- Helaman 8:21