- 1. One of the four hundred prophets (I Kings xxii. 11, 24, 25) whom Ahab summoned to inquire of them before Jehoshaphat whether he should attack the Syrians in battle at Ramoth-gilead. Zedekiah appeared as a rival of Micaiah, whom Ahab always feared, and who on this occasion ironically foretold Israel's defeat. Zedekiah struck him on the cheek because he explained by a figure that the words of the four hundred prophets were inspired by a lying spirit. Micaiah's reply was that his rival should see a verification of the adverse prophecy with his own eyes.
- 2. One of the evil men of Israel in the Captivity, whose false utterances and immoral acts aroused even Nebuchadrezzar, King of Babylon, to such a pitch of wrath that he ordered them to be roasted in the fire (Jer. xxix. 21-23), probably in some such fiery furnace as that mentioned in Daniel.
- 3. The last king of Judah. He was the youngestson of Josiah and full brother of Jehoahaz (II Kings xxiii. 31, xxiv. 18), the first son of Josiah to reign, who was carried captive to Egypt by Pharaoh-Necho in 608 B.C. (ib. xxiii. 33). Zedekiah's real name was "Mattaniah" (ib. xxiv. 17), but Nebuchadrezzar, who enthroned him (in 597) in the place of the rebellious and captive Jehoiachin, his nephew, changed it to "Zedekiah" (= "righteousness of Jah"). The new king assumed the throne under the sovereignty of Nebuchadrezzar; and an abundance of material descriptive of the events of his reign is furnished in II Kings (xxiv. 17-xxv. 7), in II Chronicles (xxxvi. 10-21), and in more than a dozen chapters of Jeremiah. The eleven years of Zedekiah's reign were notable for a steady decline in Judah's power and for the desperate efforts of Jeremiah to avert the coming disaster. As a ruler he was pliant in the hands of his princes and of Jeremiah, yielding readily to the influence of any adviser, whether prince or prophet. He made a journey to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign to assure Nebuchadrezzar that he would stand by his oath (Jer. li. 59); but the undying ambitions of the Egyptian kings kept turning toward Asia, and Zedekiah, with his usual wavering policy, could no longer resist the persuasions of Hophra (Apries), King of Egypt (589-569 B.C.), and in 588 B.C. broke off his allegiance to Nebuchadrezzar. This brought the Babylonian army against Jerusalem; but it had no sooner settled down to a siege than Judah's Egyptian ally appeared from the southwest. The Babylonians hastily raised the siege and gave Hophra's army such a blow that it retired to the land of the Nile. The siege of Jerusalem was then resumed, and after an investment of one and one-half years the walls yielded. Zedekiah and his retinue escaped through some hidden gate and fled toward the Jordan; but the Babylonians overtook him on the plains of Jericho, and carried him captive to the King of Babylon, whose headquarters were at Riblah. Here Zedekiah's sons, heirs to the throne, were slain in his presence, his own eyes were put out, and he was bound with fetters and taken to Babylon as an ignominious rebel prisoner. As a result of his conspiracies Jerusalem was taken, plundered, and burned; its best population was deported to Babylon as captives; the Jewish kingdom perished; and Israel ceased to exist as an independent nation. Zedekiah passed the remainder of his days in a Babylonian dungeon.