In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Daniel 1:1-2
They had come. The prophets Isaiah and Micah had foretold of their coming a century ago. Habakkuk and Jeremiah sounded the alarm to all Judah since the reign of Josiah the king. Everyone heard the message, weighed it against what the false prophets were saying, and carried on in the expectation that we still had time. We could change our ways if and when things got rough. But things got rough and no one seemed to notice. We lost our reserves and resolve in prolonged drought and famine. We lost Josiah, our greatest King since David, to Egyptian arms at the Battle of Megiddo. We lost our independence and glory to Egypt and we lost our riches to Pharaoh Neko, our new overlord. The unthinkable had happened. The children of Israel were filling Egyptian quotas for the first time since the days of Moses. Still we chose to bow down to foreign gods and rise up to do our own pleasure.
So God sent Jeremiah again. He proclaimed that Egypt would be defeated and the Babylon would secure its yoke upon our shoulders. Before long Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Pharaoh Neko in battle near the city of Carchemish and swept all the kingdoms of Syria, Lebanon, and Canaan into his father’s empire. Our king—Jehoiakim—bowed to Nebuchadnezzar with all the solemnity that he had shown his former overlord, the Pharaoh. However, Jehoiakim had neither the character to uphold his word to man, nor the faith to turn to God for understanding and courage. The treacherous dance of the vassal king is an ancient and celebrated art in the land of Canaan. Many a vassal-king had craftily pitted one empire against another, coming out of the fray with increased power and prestige. No matter that God said that he would not escape. He thought he could do it, looked for the opportunity to rebel, and took it. He was wrong.