One of the most popular Bible reading schedules is the M’Cheyne Reading Plan, which takes you through the Bible in a year. It has four readings a day, two from each Testament. The Old Testament starts with the book of Ezra, which is not an easy place to start if you don’t know the back story. Ezra begins at the end of the captivity of the Jews and the return of the remnant back to Jerusalem. Because of a host of sins, the Lord punished them with 70 years of servitude and captivity in Babylon starting with the sacking of Jerusalem. The Lord promised and it came to pass, as it always does (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:9-10).
The deportation of Israel happened over the course of several events before it was all said and done (2 Chronicles 36). After the great King Josiah died, his son was put on the throne, but he only lasted a few months. Pharaoh (to whom Judah was paying tribute after defeating Judah in Josiah’s last battle) put his older brother on the throne, Jehoiakim. But suddenly, Babylon overthrew Egypt as the world power and came to Jerusalem and took the best of the young men they had to offer. Daniel was part of this captivity. Wicked king Jehoiakim plotted against Nebuchadnezzar, but that plan backfired because Nebuchadnezzar comes conquerors him.
Jehoiachin was next in line (yes, lots of strange “J” names, but to be fair, he would probably think Bob was a strange name) and was just an 18 year old boy and reigned for just 3 months before Nebuchadnezzar took him captive and then put Zedekiah on the throne, while he plunders Jerusalem taking the treasures from the temple and the king’s house. He took all the princes and the mighty men, and the craftsmen and left the poor and the working man behind.
Jeremiah told Zedekiah to remain under Nebuchadnezzar’s power, because that was the only hope (Jeremiah 7), but he doesn’t listen, and tries to join with Egypt to defeat Babylon. Everyone knows better than the preacher! Nebuchadnezzar hears about it and he is not one to put up with rebellion. His army surrounds Jerusalem. Jeremiah pleads with Zedekiah to reconsider (Jeremiah 36-37), but right before the battle, Egypt comes up and gives Judah some hope, but to no avail (Jeremiah 37:5-10). Lamentations chapter 4 tells the story of the 18 month siege and the horrors of what happens to Jerusalem.
This time, Nebuchadnezzar finishes the job. He burns the city, tears down the buildings, the walls, and leaves it in ruins. All the men who told Zedekiah not to listen to Jeremiah were slain. Anything of any value was stolen and what wasn’t pilfered was destroyed.
Nebuchadnezzar was powerful, but he wasn’t God and isn’t going to reign forever. Daniel had a vision in chapter 7, concerning the world powers. After Babylon, the Persians would rule. And they did. Ezra 1:1, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia…”