Jeremiah 6 – Jerusalem Under Siege & The Last Days of Jerusalem

ThinkingWhen You made David king he chose Jerusalem to be the capital (2 Sam 5:6-12).  People wonder why he did that because there were quite a few better choices in regards to military, political and economical reasons.  Can’t people see that he did that under Your decision and his love for You?  Who knows anything better than You do?

1 General view of the Tel Motza excavation site
General view of the Tel Motza excavation site
A 2,750-year-old temple and a cache of sacred vessels from biblical times were discovered in an archaeological excavation near Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

The finds, unearthed at Tel Motza on the western outskirts of the capital, date from the early monarchic period and include pottery figurines of men and horses, providing rare evidence for the existence of a ritual cult in the Jerusalem region at the beginning of the Judean monarchy. The precise significance of the figurines is still unknown.

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in Biblical time.  It’s still standing, after being destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.  But then again, since You have an interest in that town it’s not surprising at all.  

Jerusalem is still the capital of Israel today, but then again, some people want to say that Tel Aviv is the capital.  I have no knowledge of this, but those that want to call Tel Aviv the capital are not followers of Jesus Christ, but probably Jews of the Synagogue of Satan.

Jeremiah 6
Jerusalem Under Siege

1 O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Beth-haccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.

6:1-30 – Jeremiah envisions the future Babylonian attack on Jerusalem.

6:1-3 – the Lord’s words in v. 1 is strongly reminiscent of 4:6.  But whereas in 4:6 the command was to seek protection in Jerusalem, in 6:1 the people are to flee from Jerusalem because no place – not even the holy city itself – will be safe from the invaders.

2 I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.

3 The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed everyone in his place.

4 Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.

The invaders speak in vv. 4-5.

“Prepare” – since ancient battles had religious connotations, soldiers had to prepare themselves ritually as militarily.

2 Ancient figurines of people found at Tel Motza
Ancient figurines of people found at Tel Motza
“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” said excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz.

They said the structure’s uniqueness was enhanced by the site’s proximity to Jerusalem, which was the kingdom’s main center and the seat of kings David and Solomon. An IAA statement described the walls of the structure as massive, and said it includes a wide, east-facing entrance, conforming to the tradition of temple construction in the ancient Near East: the rays of the sun rising in the east would have illuminated the objects placed inside the temple, symbolizing the divine presence within.

A square structure which was probably an altar was exposed in the temple courtyard, and the cache of sacred vessels was found near the structure. The assemblage includes ritual pottery vessels, with fragments of chalices (bowls on high bases which were used in sacred rituals), decorated ritual pedestals, and a number of pottery figurines.

“At noon” – to take advantage of the element of surprise, since the usual time of attack was early in the morning.

5 Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces.

“By the night” – since attacking soldiers normally retired for the night and resumed siege the following morning, the phrase underscores their eagerness and determination.

6 For thus hath the LORD of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her.

The Lord addresses the Babylonian troops.

7 As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness: violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds.

“Grief and wounds” – Jerusalem suffers from spiritual decay and disease and is not aware of it.

8 Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.

9 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grape gatherer into the baskets.

10 To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.

11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.

Jeremiah speaks, then the Lord resumes His speech through 23.

12 And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD.

13 For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

14 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.

16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

3 Figurine of a horse found in Tel Motza
Figurine of a horse found in Tel Motza
Motza and the surrounding region are well-known for their archaeological importance.

Many finds from a variety of periods have been unearthed at the site, among them a public building, a large structure with storehouses and a considerable number of silos supposedly used to store the capital’s grain supplies. Experts have proposed identifying the site with the Biblical settlement of Motza which is mentioned in the Book of Joshua.

18 Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.

19 Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.

20 To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.

21 Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumbling blocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish.

22 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.

23 They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.

24 We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.

25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.

26 O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.

27 I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.

The Lord appoints Jeremiah to test the people of Judah as a refiner tests metals.

4 Map
Tel Motza Location
According to the site’s directors, “The finds recently discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archaeological evidence for the existence of temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general, and in the Jerusalem region in particular, prior to the religious reforms throughout the kingdom at the end of the monarchic period at the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah, which abolished all ritual sites, concentrating ritual practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem.”

28 They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.

29 The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.

In ancient times, lead was added to silver ore in the refining process.  When the crucible was heated the lead oxidized and acted as a flux to remove the alloys.  Here the process fails because the ore is not pure enough (cf. Eze 24:11-13).

30 Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.

“Reprobate…rejected” – the “grievous revolters” the “wicked” have failed to pass the Lord’s test.  Nothing worthwhile can be made of them.

The Last Days of Jerusalem

5 Small Ceramic Lamp
This small ceramic lamp was probably used by Jews hiding in the Great Revolt during the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.
History records the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, but archaeologists never have found evidence of the famine that plagued Jews – until now.

Archaeological excavations near the Western Wall have unearthed three complete cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp that are the first pieces of evidence of the Jewish famine during the revolt during the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is digging up history in excavations of the drainage channel that runs from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David to Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall.

“This is the first time we are able to connect archaeological finds with the famine that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem at the time of the Great Revolt,” said excavation director Eli Shukrun.

The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp, discovered inside a small cistern in a drainage channel, indicate that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them, and this is consistent with the account provided by Josephus,” he explained.

In his book “The Jewish War,” Josephus describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem and in its wake the dire hunger that prevailed in the blockaded city.

In his dramatic description of the famine in Jerusalem he tells about the Jewish rebels who sought food in the homes of their fellow Jews in the city. Josephus said that the Jews concealed the food they possessed for fear it would be stolen by the rebels, and they ate in hidden places in their homes.

“As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it…. Nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the houses and ransacked them. If they found some, they maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured them,” Josephus wrote.

“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of corn-wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor. They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of the their houses, where some through extreme hunger ate their grain as it was, others made bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table laid…”

Jerusalem, after a 30-month siege, fell to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar on July 18, 586 B.C.  contemporary writings of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Babylonian Chronicle, the Lachish Letters and Egyptian records all provide details of this period.

The Judeans hoped for the restoration of King Jehoiachin, exiled in Babylon along with 10,000 Judean soldiers and artisans since 597 B.C.  Babylonian ration tablets report distributions to Jehoiachin from 595 until 570 B.C.

A weakened Judah, ruled by Zedekiah, struggled against pressures from two sides: the ambitions of Pharaoh Apries (also known as Hophra) to gain control over the Levant (Syria-Palestine) and Babylonian interest in maintaining control of the same territory.

Zedekiah was summoned to Babylon perhaps to proclaim his loyalty, but was soon involved in an anti-Babylonian coalition with Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon.  When he withheld annual tribute, Nebuchadnezzar responded, laying siege against Jerusalem on January 15, 588 B.C.

A year later Zedekiah proclaimed the release of Hebrew slaves in the city, probably to add them to the meager ranks of the city’s defenders.  The Babylonian’s laid siege to Lachish and Azekah, prompting an unsuccessful Egyptian intervention at Lachish.

Nebuchadnezzar broke off the siege of Jerusalem for a month to deal with the Egyptians, prompting Zedekiah to rescind his order for the release of the Hebrew slaves.  Some Judeans used the occasion to flee or to surrender to the Babylonian’s, following Jeremiah’s advice.

The siege quickly resumed, and Jerusalem’s wall was breached on July 18, 586 B.C.  owing to famine within the city, resistance was feeble.  Zedekiah fled but was captured and blinded shortly after having been forced to witness his own son’s being put to death.

Jerusalem was ransacked, the temple burned and many exiled to Babylon.  Others fled to Egypt after assassinating Gedaliah, the Babylonian governor.

Jerusalem isn’t the oldest city and the Israelites have existed longer than Jerusalem, so was there a city before Jerusalem? 

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