In the third or fourth year* of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, this same Nebuchadnezzar went up against Jerusalem, laid siege to it (Dan. 1: 1), took Jehoiakim captive and bound him with chains of brass to carry him away to Babylon. (2 Chr. 36: 6) At this time, he carried away part of the vessels of the house of the Lord in order to adorn the temple of his god. (2 Chr. 36: 7; Ezra 1: 7; Dan. 1: 2) He also carried away to Babylon a certain number of young people, who belonged either to the royal family or to the nobility. (Dan 1: 3)

The Chaldean monarch then seems to have changed his disposition toward the captive king, for we see Jehoiakim re-established on his throne at Jerusalem where he reigned for eleven years. (2 Chr. 36: 5; 2 Kings 23: 36) But three years after he had been re-integrated in his kingdom, Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar, who was occupied elsewhere, did not go up against him personally, but, until the end of his reign, at the instigation of the king of Babylon, Jehoiakim was harassed by enemy bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites. According to Jeremiah's prophecy, Jehoiakim died a violent death, and his body, which was drawn and cast out beyond the walls of Jerusalem where it was exposed to the heat by day and to the frost by night, was "buried with the burial of an ass." (Jer. 22: 19; Jer. 36: 30) Nevertheless it is said that he "slept with his fathers" (2 Kings 24: 6), an expression which seems to imply that at first he was placed in the sepulchers of the kings.

Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah, 1 Chr. 3: 16) succeeded his father Jehoiakim, but reigned for only three months at Jerusalem. It was against Jehoiachin and his people that Nebuchadnezzar vented the wrath accumulated in his heart by the false, disloyal conduct of Jehoiakim. The servants of the king of Babylon "came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, while his servants were besieging it. And Jehoiachin king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his chamberlains; and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. And he brought out thence all the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold that Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of Jehovah, as Jehovah had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained but the poorest sort of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon." (2 Kings 24: 10-15) Later, Evil-merodach, Nebuchadnezzar's son and successor, in the first year of his reign, lifted Jehoiachin out of prison, set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him at Babylon, and provided for him at his court all the days of his life. (2 Kings 25: 27-30)

After Jehoiachin was taken away captive, Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah, his uncle, and made him "take oath by God" (2 Chr. 36: 13) to remain faithful to him. But Zedekiah profaned the name of the Lord by breaking his oath and rebelled against the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar then came against Jerusalem with his entire army and captured the city after a terrible siege lasting two years which reduced the inhabitants of the city to famine. Zedekiah was taken, his sons were slain before his eyes, his eyes were put out, and he was taken away to Babylon, burdened with chains of brass. Priests, temple guards, and men of war were massacred; the temple, the king's palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem were burned; and the walls of the city were broken down. All the gold, silver and brass of the house of the Lord was carried away. "And Nebuzaradan the captain of the body-guard carried away captive the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the deserters that had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude. But the captain of the body-guard left of the poor of the land for vinedressers and husbandmen." (2 Kings 25: 11-12)

The history which we have just delineated, according to the Biblical accounts, proves that the Babylonian captivity took place at three different epochs: the first; at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign; the second: during the short period of Jehoiachin's (or Jeconiah's) reign; and finally, the third: in the eleventh year of Zedekiah. The last two epochs were the most terrible, but the seventy years of captivity predicted by the prophet Jeremiah date from the first epoch (2 Chr. 36: 21; Dan. 9: 12; Jer. 25: 1, 11, 12; Jer. 29: 10, where 70 years are "accomplished for Babylon", that is to say, from the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign; cf. Jer. 25: 1)

This first captivity had a particular character: unlike the second and the third captivities which were marked by devastation and the great number of men carried away, the first captivity was marked by the spoiling of the house of the Lord, which was deprived of precious objects used for the service of worship (Dan. 1: 1, 2; Ezra 1: 7; 2 Chr. 36: 7) At the time of Judah's restoration, all these objects, numbering 5400 (Ezra 1: 9-11), were returned, and this was even the most characteristic feature of this exodus which was to bring the remnant of the people back to their land. The dominant feature at the beginning of these 70 years, is that the glory of the temple, the glory of the service of the worship of the Lord, was itself taken away captive. A few years later, when Jehoiachin was a prisoner, Ezekiel saw moreover the glory of God leave, regretfully as it were, this house, which He had desired to make His dwelling place forever, and yet a few more years after this event, the temple, spoiled of its last ornaments, was burned and reduced to a heap of ruins.

Thus the captivity dates from this first period. God had been dishonored by the idolatry of the people and their kings: was there any great difference whether the precious vessels remained in His temple or were placed in the temple of idols at Babylon? And it is in this event that we find the essential character of the beginning of the captivity. Nothing of this kind had ever taken place previously. At the time of his rebellion against Sennacherib, Hezekiah had no doubt given him all the silver found in the temple, and in order to pay the tribute imposed on him, he had stripped the doors and pillars of the gold which covered them (2 Kings 18: 15, 16), but he did not touch the vessels destined for the service of worship. Under Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar plundered, in a much greater measure, all the treasures of the house of God and smashed the vessels which Solomon had made, according to the commandment of the Lord, but, I repeat, this was an unprecedented profanation: the ornamentation of a temple of idols with the vessels designed for the worship service of the true God, took place only under Jehoiachin. When wicked Belshazzar, with his lords, his wives and his concubines, drank wine in sacred vessels, in praise of his idols, he intended by this means to celebrate the triumph of false gods over the true God, and to oppose them to the Lord publicly. In that same night, God answered him by judgment and death. Daniel, carried away from Jerusalem with his companions, at the beginning of the seventy years of captivity, was the prophet of this judgment (Dan. 5). In the first year of Darius, the Mede, he understood, through reading Jeremiah, that the end of the captivity was near. Daniel then humiliated himself on behalf of the people and witnessed the restoration of Judah in the first year of Cyrus, for he was still in Babylon in the third year of this king (Ezra 1: 1; Dan. 10: 1).



*See Dan. 1:1; Jer. 25: 1. The Old Testament frequently presents these differences in calculation, as a fragment of a year was often counted as an entire year.