The captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the threshold, and out of the city he took an officer who was set over the men of war; and seven men of those who saw the king’s face, 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 middle of the city. Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah. The king of Babylon struck them, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath.
So Judah was carried away captive out of his land. This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive:
in the seventh year, three thousand twenty-three Jews;
in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty-two persons;
in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty-five people.
All the people numbered four thousand six hundred.
One thing I realized as I read this, this time, is that there were only 4,600 people who went into exile. That sure is a small number. It sounds to me like a lot of people must have been killed in the process. We also know that this only represented two tribes of Israel. The rest had been taken away many years earlier by Assyria. Even if the number was multiplied by 10 it would only be 46,000, though. It causes me to realize that God intends for us to focus our attention on Israel, even though they are small. The Bible also tells us why in the New Testament.
As we consider the history of this small nation up to this point, it may seem futile. Why would God save these people out of Egypt with such power and have them build a grand and beautiful Temple, only to have the temple destroyed and the people sent back into slavery? God told them that He already knew that this was going to happen. Doesn’t it seem strange that a God who knew it all ahead of time would do it anyway?
The Bible tells us in the New Testament, that Israel is an example to us. That means that instead of saying to ourselves: “Shame on Israel for the way that they acted,” we are supposed to be putting ourselves in their place. It tells us that Israel’s behavior is the same as that of everyone else. When we attempt to stand on our own righteousness before a Holy God, we all fail. We all end up being taken back into slavery because we can’t do the good that we think we can. Israel’s example is set up for all of us to watch. This is the low part of their story. It’s where we see the futility of mankind. The great part of the story was yet to come as Jesus brought Salvation to them and to the whole world. We get a little reminder of that in our last passage of Jeremiah.