The poorest of all were left in Jerusalem during the exile to Babylon as workers on the land. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Yet on earth, we often marginalize the poor in contrast to the example of Jesus, who identified with them…
4 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 5 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.
12 On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 13 He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 14 The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. 15 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile some of the poorest people and those who remained in the city, along with the rest of the craftsmen and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 16 But Nebuzaradan left behind the rest of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.
27 So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. 28 This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile:
30 There were 4,600 people in all.
Jeremiah 52:4-5, 12-16, 27, 30
Jeremiah 52 is a summary reflection after the prophets words come to a completion at the end of chapter 51. Ezra may have wrote this 52nd chapter. As I reflect on this summary of the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred as God predicted that it would, I am drawn to who was left behind.
Many people fled, many were taken into exile, yet the ones left in the land to care for the land and to work the fields were the poorest of all. I wonder, were they not even worth exiling to Babylon? They were obviously not a threat to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar. And they were also required slave labour. The poorest.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Jesus knows something about these people. They are the forgotten and the used. The pawns of the dictator… Jesus also taught us that the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 20:16). Earth was not such a great place for these folks. Heaven would be better.
Everything was torn down or burnt or carried away. God allowed the magnificent objects of his people, many of which we would think we were the holiest of objects, to be desecrated. And the poorest people were desecrated also. Perhaps their hearts were faulty as the leaders and priests and wealthy. We do not hear that disobedience to God was a class-issue for Israel. Our sin natures know no socio-economic status.
We likely often forget about these poor, though, while we focus on those who were taken to Babylon. We have the stories of Daniel and his faith escapades in Babylon. We have the stories of the sent ones who came to rebuild. Yet the poorest are a footnote.
Are the poorest a footnote for you today? In the stories of the world, and even in the church, do we have the mindset of marginalizing the poor as we see in Jeremiah 52 or do we have the mindset of Jesus, who came in humility, born in a stable, and who loved the poor against cultural norms.
May we rethink our perspectives on the poorest around us. Remember them today.