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In Jeremiah 34:2-5, God tells Zedekiah he will let Babylon conquer Israel, but not to be afraid because he will die peacefully,but in Jeremiah 52:10-11 and 2 Kings 25:6-7, he has his sons slaughtered in front of him, his eyes put out, was bounded in chains and died imprisoned, did God fail on his promise?

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    From context (34:4-5), peacefully seems to mean of old age (52:11), as opposed to dying by the sword (either in the midst of battle, or by execution: 52:10).
    – Lucian
    Sep 10 at 6:08
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Actually, Zedekiah did die in peace - he died in Babylon of natural causes and was not killed.

However, there is more to this story - Zedekiah was warned several times. This is the brief history of Zedekiah in Chronological sequence -

  • In Jer 27:1-22 Jeremiah is told to tell Zedekiah not to resist but to submit the king of Babylon despite the great victories his false prophets were giving.
  • In 2 Kings 24:20b-25:2 - Zedekiah rebels against the king of Babylon
  • In Jer 21:1-14 Zedekiah inquires of the LORD via Jeremiah. Jeremiah tells Zedekiah to -

Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done – burn with no one to quench it.

Note the warning and the consequence of ignoring it.

  • Jer 34:1-22 - Zedekiah is promised a peacefull death, BUT -
  • Jer 27:1, 2 "Neither he [Zedekiah] nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the LORD had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet."

Thus, it is no surprise that after repeated warnings from Jeremiah and Zedekiah's repeated rebellion and spurning the advice from Jeremiah, his final capture was so brutal. However, we have this about him:

2 Kings 25:5-7 - but the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was separated from him. The Chaldeans seized the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where they pronounced judgment on him. And they slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon.

Thus, Zedekiah was bound and taken to Babylon where he later died but not executed. Thus, his death was peaceful but I am also sure this thoughts were anything but peaceful - he would have been in turmoil for all the trouble he had caused his own people.

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    +1 I also think there is a second word to Zed starting at Jeremiah 34:8 wherein Zed fails again. Sep 10 at 11:11
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That's a really good question! Thank you for asking it!

The answer lies in 2 Kings 24:20.

For because of the anger of the Lord this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, that He finally cast them out from His presence. Then Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

The Lord's prophecy in Jeremiah 34:2-5 could have meant a peaceful surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. But because Zedekiah rebelled, he made it much harder for himself and the nation since he also sought help from Egpyt (which never came). As a result, the Israelites were made an example of through the beseiging and the horrible slaughter that occurred.

Whether or not Zedekiah rebelled, the Babylonians would still have burned Jerusalem down to the ground because that was part of their psych war. They would assassinate the identity of their enemies before sending them to Babylon and learn all about Babylonian culture. That was how they psychologically conquered other kingdoms.

In summary, instead of heeding the prophecy of the Lord from Jeremiah (whom Zedekiah was known to ignore quite often) and experiencing relative peace, his disobedience earned him the consequences he suffered from the end of his reign until the end of his life.

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  • A good answer, but can you try to explain why God didn't tell Zedekiah that his promise was conditional on whether he rebelled against Babylon or not? That would clarify things for me, in the OT, God always says when his promises are conditional, why he didn't in this case? Thanks. Sep 10 at 3:22
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    Sure thing, Black Watch. Jeremiah and Zedekiah were leaders who definitely know about the ins and outs of cultural politics and faith. Plus, whenever Jews wrote something like a historical text, it was always for fellow Jews (who immediately understood the context), not for Gentiles like you and me. That's why these can be implied in the text. Plus, even if Jeremiah told Zedekiah that specific detail was from the Lord, he didn't listen as the Bible clearly states he was a stubborn person per 2 Chronicles 36:13.
    – Philip
    Sep 10 at 4:11
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    Shouldn't God all-knowing be able to foresee that Zedekiah would rebel? (arguably, even with mere human abilities, it is fairly predictable). Regardless of this point, the answer seems to be more of an explanation of the reasons that led Zedekiah to take decisions that falsify the prophecy, but does not really solve the fact that the prophecy as stated is false. Your resolution consists more of adding clauses a posteriori to the prophecy that are not present or hinted in the text, which seems biased and not strongly justified Sep 10 at 9:15
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    In general prophecies were conditional. It's something the people understood, and I believe (but don't have time to lookup right now) that there are passages that establish this.
    – bob
    Sep 10 at 16:12

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