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Mattaniah, meaning gift from Jehovah, who was later known as Zedekiah, meaning righteousness of Jehovah, was the third son of King Josiah of Judah; his mother was Hamutal, which made him a brother of King Jehoahaz of Judah (2 Kings 23:31, 24:17-18). Reigning from about 597-586 BC, Zedekiah was the last king of Judah (see Kings of Israel and Judah and Jews At War With Israel) as it fell to the Babylonians (see Why Babylon? and Ancient Empires - Babylon). Zedekiah's sons were killed, but his royal daughters escaped alive to Egypt with the prophet Jeremiah (i.e. Jeremiah 43:6-7). After being brutally blinded, Zedekiah himself was taken as a prisoner to Babylon where he died in exile.

Tower of David The fall of the kingdom of Judah came gradually, over a period of years, in which the Babylonians killed or exiled leading members of society, while leaving behind others who they thought that they could more easily control, in what became a subordinate kingdom. After King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon removed King Jehoiachin of Judah, he chose 21 year old Mattaniah, who he renamed Zedekiah, as Judah's vassal king:

"And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon; the king's mother, the king's wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land, he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths, one thousand, all of them strong and fit for war. And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah." (2 Kings 24:15-18 RSV)

Although the prophet Jeremiah (see Prophets) served as Zedekiah's advisor, Zedekiah "did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of The Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from His presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon." (2 Kings 24:19-20 RSV). It was the final straw, for both the Babylonians, and God, Who then allowed the complete devastation of the kingdom of Judah and the capital city of Jerusalem:

"And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it; and they built siegeworks against it round about. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah."

"On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city; the king with all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, though the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence upon him. They slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and took him to Babylon." (2 Kings 25:1-7 RSV)

Fact Finder: What very important Sacred Object was not accounted for when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem?
See Temple Mount Treasures and Temples

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