During the reign of Judah’s King Jehoiakim (609–598 B.C.E.), Jerusalem found itself in the middle of a power struggle. Egypt, whose pharaoh had raised Jehoiakim to Judah’s throne, was seeking to maintain its foothold in Palestine, but in the east the region’s new superpower, Babylon, was rapidly building strength. When it appeared that Babylonian forces had gained the upper hand in Palestine, Jehoiakim abandoned his policy of appeasement toward Egypt and, in 604 B.C.E., became the vassal of Babylon’s new king, Nebuchadnezzar.
It wasn’t long, however, before Jehoiakim sensed the balance of power shifting back to Egypt. Reverting to his earlier, pro-Egyptian stance, he defied Babylon by withholding tribute. This provoked Nebuchadnezzar, who marched on Jerusalem in the winter of 598/597 B.C.E. Since Jehoiakim died before the Babylonians reached the city, it was his 18-year-old son, Jehoiachin, who bore the brunt of Nebuchadnezzar’s anger. The Second Book of Kings relates what happened next: