These verses report on the downfall of the realm of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by order of Nebuchadnezzar. This work begins “the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon” (verse 88Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.), which in our era is August 15, 586 BC. “Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, the servant of the king of Babylon, a servant of the king of Babylon” begins burned with fire all the houses in Jerusalem. He sets them on fire in order of importance.
The first house he burns is “the house of the LORD” (verse 99He burned the house of the LORD, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.). The house has been empty for five years. Maybe there are still some materials, but the glory of the LORD has left. That glory is gone to this day. Christianity also has buildings that are impressive to the eye but empty inside. They are empty shells. The house of the LORD has become useless, and is given away to the nations. The king’s house and the other houses have lost their meaning and are being destroyed. Where there are no more houses and people, a wall is no longer necessary. The wall is also demolished (verse 1010So all the army of the Chaldeans who [were with] the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.).
Then it is the turn of the rest and homeless population of the city. Together with the deserters and a remnant of the crowd living outside Jerusalem, they are led by Nebuzaradan to Babylon (verse 1111Then the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the people, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away into exile.). Nebuzaradan does not take all people with him. He leaves a few to take care of the land and not to let it fade (verse 1212But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.).
In verses 13-1713Now the bronze pillars which were in the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea which were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried the bronze to Babylon.14They took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the spoons, and all the bronze vessels which were used in [temple] service.15The captain of the guard also took away the firepans and the basins, what was fine gold and what was fine silver.16The two pillars, the one sea, and the stands which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD—the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight.17The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and a bronze capital was on it; the height of the capital was three cubits, with a network and pomegranates on the capital all around, all of bronze. And the second pillar was like these with network., a detailed description is given of everything Nebuchadnezzar takes with him. It shows us once again how beautiful everything has been and how good it could have been if the people had not only a beautiful temple, but also a heart to serve the LORD. If that heart is not there, everything loses its value to God. He is not bound to His people. If it does not meet His purpose, He sets it aside. This is also the general judgment on Christianity.
What happens to all these temple objects is an extremely sad contrast to the destination given to them by Solomon and as he placed them with great care in the house of the LORD at the time. In verse 1515The captain of the guard also took away the firepans and the basins, what was fine gold and what was fine silver., reference is still made to that time in connection with “the two pillars, the one sea, and the stands”. The Babylonians have no respect for this. They demolish these parts. What is of value to them, they take with them.
The people was not worrying about the meaning of the pillars and the sea. The pillars symbolically represent the power of God, the basis on which the temple can only be maintained. The sea points to the cleansing of the priest to be fit to enter God’s temple. However, if the people deny God’s power and the necessary cleansing, the symbols lose their meaning and God let these things taken away by the nations.
Today we see the same thing in Christianity. The meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper lose their real meaning when they are separated from God’s meaning and given their own interpretation. If we do not experience them prayerfully and spiritually, the flesh will feed on them. In this way God let take away these things by the nations and withdraws Himself from them and from those who give them their own interpretation. It may all look beautiful, but He is not present there.
The verses 18-2118Then the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest, with the three officers of the temple.19From the city he took one official who was overseer of the men of war, and five of the king’s advisers who were found in the city; and the scribe of the captain of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city.20Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.21Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was led away into exile from its land. give an account of the putting to death of leading persons from Jerusalem. In the city the people who are connected to the temple are first captured. They must have been the most fierce opponents of surrendering to the king of Babylon. They were also those who preceded the people in idolatry. Their imprisonment and death are an exercise of God’s righteousness. With the prisoners the commander takes some other prominent people from the city to the king of Babylon to be killed together with the temple officials.
This liquidation as an expression of God’s righteousness is the beginning of the Babylonian exile (verse 21b21Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was led away into exile from its land.).