Jehoiakim was King of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, marched on Jerusalem and laid siege to the capital of the Southern Kingdom. Jehoiakim died during the siege and Jehoiachin replaced him as king for a brief 3 months before the city is taken over by Babylon. Jehoiachin was exiled along with most of the aristocracy of Judah.
Nebuchadnezzar placed Mattaniah as King of Judah and in the process he changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah.
Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was a leader who wasn’t given much to work with. He was stripped of his name, of the elite of his country including the craftsman, the social, political, and military leaders….. the country’s morale was low… and on top of all that, a prophet named Jeremiah traveled his kingdom pronouncing that all of this was the result of God’s judgment…… and that they should prepare for Judah to be in exile for 70 years and gladly accept the Babylonian rule over them…..
Zedekiah was a puppet king….. many of the Israelites who remained in the country still looked to the exiled King Jehoiachin as the rightful king…… many who remained in the country had an agenda to try to gain independence for their own personal gain…. He was surrounded by political and spiritual advisors who were self-serving and not very savvy….. he was set up for a recipe of disaster as a leader….. Even with all of these factors considered, he had an opportunity to show true courage and leadership and rise to the occasion…..
Unfortunately he’s an example of a leader who turned a bad situation into something much worse.
Much of what we learn about Zedekiah is found in the book of Jeremiah. This book is constructed in a rather complex way and it’s not in chronological order. Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch bounce back and forth in the book of Jeremiah throughout their 40 years of ministry.
A majority of what we learn about Zedekiah’s 11 year reign comes from brief passages in 2 kings 24 and 2 chronicles 36 and scattered passages throughout the book of Jeremiah.
Zedekiah found himself a slave-king to Nebuchadnezzar. He didn’t like it…the people didn’t like it…and he was looking for some way to free himself from the Babylonians…. Over and over again Jeremiah prophesied to Zedekiah that this was the judgment of the Lord and he should accept the defeat and work the best possible deal with the Babylonians. The exile was going to last 70 years according to Jeremiah.
Zedekiah had other false prophets who told him that the exile would be 2 years or less. He chose to listen to the false prophets…although he continued to seek information from Jeremiah about what God had spoken to him…..
Tensions mounted and Babylon began to sense a revolt form Zedekiah—-Babylonian troops were sent to the city of Jerusalem to lay siege to the city and recapture it….. The Pharoah of Egypt became involved in the skirmish and began to maneuver troops north toward Judah….. Babylon pulled its troops away from Jerusalem to deal with Egypt… Jerusalem began to feel a relief thinking the siege had been lifted……. Jeremiah warned that even though Egypt was now in the fight and Babylon had pulled back, Babylon was going to return and destruction was still coming.
In one of the most dramatic illustrations of Jeremiah’s ministry he approached the king with a wooden yoke around his neck and told the king that Babylon was going to rule over Israel for decades to come as a result of the King and the people’s failure to follow God. Another false prophet grabbed jeremiah’s yoke and broke it as a sign that his prophecy was wrong. Up to this point all of Jeremiah’s prophecies had come to pass so Zedekiah knew that he needed to heed Jeremiah… but he didn’t. In the end, Jeremiah’s prophecy proved true. Babylon captured the city of Jerusalem after a 2 year siege and Nebuchadnezzar’s army chased Zedekiah out of the city and captured him on the plains of Jericho….He was taken to Neb where he was forced to watch his children be killed. His eyes were put out and then he was taken to Babylon.
As I look at the rule of Zedekiah, I see 7 negative leadership traits that led to his downfall… and these are sure ways that we can wreck our lives today as well.
- Send someone else to seek Godly wisdom for you until you have to go seek it out yourself
Jeremiah 21:1 The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur … and the priest Zephaniah ….
Jeremiah 37:3 King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehucal … with the priest Zephaniah … to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the LORD our God for us.”
Jeremiah 37:17 Then King Zedekiah sent for [Jeremiah] and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the LORD ?
- Live off of past spiritual experiences as you drift spiritually and expect that God will move the same as He has in the past without any faithfulness from you…
Jeremiah 21:2 “Inquire now of the LORD for us because Nebuchadnezzar [a] king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”
- Don’t listen to God’s instructions after being repeatedly warned over and over again about what to do…
Jeremiah 37:17 “Is there any word from the LORD ?”
“Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be handed over to the king of Babylon.”
Jeremiah 38:15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”
- Surround yourself with people who don’t seek the Lord and who are antagonistic toward God’s directions…
Jeremiah 37:2 Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the LORD had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.
- Make decisions based on what is expedient and politically helpful for you at the moment without considering the ultimate consequences of your decisions….
Jeremiah 38:4 Then the officials said to the king, “[Jeremiah] should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
Jeremiah 38:8 Ebed-Melech went out of the palace and said to him, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
- Don’t keep your word even when you have given it as an oath before all the people
Jeremiah 34:10 So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free. 11 But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.
- Let fear control your decisions
Jeremiah 38:19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”
Great lessons in failed leadership.