Part 3 of Daniel's Messianic Prophecy
David and Solomon ruled over a united kingdom, the core of which was the land of Palestine. The kingdom split in 933 BC following the reign of Solomon. The northern kingdom took the name Israel and the southern kingdom, the name Judah.
Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC by capturing its capital city of Samaria. Some Israelites were exiled to other parts of the Assyrian empire. At the same time, non-Jewish colonists were settled in Israel. The intermarriage of the Israelite remnant with the settlers produced a people called Samarians and the land came to be known as Samaria.
The southern kingdom of Judah was a country between the borders of Babylon and Egypt. Therefore, it was subjected to pressure from both of those superpowers. As a consequence, its allegiance swung in both directions. Unfortunately, when it swung towards Egypt, the results were disastrous, for Egypt's zenith had passed and it was a nation in decline.
Babylon demanded payments of tribute from its vassal states while Egypt encouraged them to refuse to make their payments and offered assistance in the event of a Babylonian military strike. Such was the political climate that confronted Judah’s kings.
In 606 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, son of the king of Babylon, invaded Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar deported the most intelligent, good-looking youths from Judah including the prophet Daniel and the miraculous Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He also took some sacred vessels from the temple and put them in the house of his god.
Upon his father's death, Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, king of Judah, reigned for three years in servitude to Nebuchadnezzar before he swung his allegiance back to Egypt and refused to pay his tribute to the Babylonian king. Consequently, Nebuchadnezzar laid such a beating on the Egyptians that Pharaoh never ventured outside of Egypt again.
Jehoiakim's reign ended in 598 BC. Some believe he died in chains while being transported to Babylon however the historian Josephus wrote that he was slain by Nebuchadnezzar and his body left unburied, far outside Jerusalem's walls. In either event, the words of the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled: "They shall not lament for him. He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem, cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night."
The prophet Jeremiah also predicted that none of Jehoiakim's descendants would prosper while sitting on the throne of David. Thus Nebuchadnezzar again laid siege against Jerusalem. He captured King Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, in the third month of his reign and led him into exile along with 10,000 others including the prophet Ezekiel, the bravest soldiers, and the tradesmen who were strong and fit for war. He also ransacked the temple cutting into pieces all the golden vessels made by Solomon.
The last and final siege was during the reign of Zedekiah who was installed as a vassal by Nebuchadnezzar after he deposed Jehoiachin. Egged on by Egypt’s pharaoh, Zedekiah refused to pay his tribute to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and his armies surrounded Jerusalem about 588 BC. They besieged Jerusalem for a year and a half with a short hiatus for fear of the Egyptian army which intervened on Judah's behalf. After finding Pharaoh's army to be of little consequence, Nebuchadnezzar re-activated his siege wall around Jerusalem.
As the Jews reached the point of starvation, their enemy breached the city's wall and Zedekiah and his army fled from Jerusalem. The Babylonian army caught up with them on the plains of Jericho. Judah's army scattered and Zedekiah was captured. The ruthless Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah watch as he slaughtered his sons. Then he plucked the king of Judah's eyes out of their sockets. Thus Zedekiah's last horrific vision was indelibly etched in his memory while he was exiled in Babylon.
In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar's captain, Nebuzaradan, was sent to Jerusalem to destroy the city. He and his army broke down the walls around Jerusalem and burned all the houses including the king's palace. Before burning the temple of the Lord, they stripped it of anything and everything of value, including articles of gold, silver, and bronze.
Babylon had totally annihilated Judah. Only the poorest of the poor remained. Everyone else had been deported to Babylon or had scattered in fear for their lives.