The struggle between Judah and Babylon was long and ultimately disastrous for Judah. During the reign of King Jehoiakim (609—597 BC), “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years” (2 Kings 24:1). The beginning of Jehoiakim’s servitude was 605 BC. Three years later, Judah’s king rebelled against Babylon, refusing to pay the tribute. Nebuchadnezzar quelled the rebellion and took prisoners back to Babylon—Daniel and his three friends among them. After Jehoiakim’s death in 597 BC, his 18-year-old son, Jehoiachin, became king, reigning for three months and doing evil in God’s sight (2 Kings 24:8–9). During Jehoiachin’s reign, in 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city of Jerusalem and Jehoiachin gave himself up: “And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.” 2 Kings 24:11–14 This second deportation of Jews to Babylon included the priest Ezekiel, who later wrote the book that bears his name. The nation of Judah continued to exist under Babylonian rule with King Zedekiah installed in Jerusalem as a puppet king. But Zedekiah too, rebelled..
“And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.” 2 Kings 25:1–2
The city fell in 586 BC: “[Nebuchadnezzar] And he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away. But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.” 2 Kings 25:9–12
After the destruction of Jerusalem, Gedaliah was placed in charge as a governor in Judah (2 Kings 25:22). He was killed two months after his appointment (seven months after the fall of Jerusalem, verses 8 and 25), causing many of the remaining Jews to flee to Egypt in fear of their lives (verse 26). This group of refugees included the prophet Jeremiah, who was forced against his will to go to Egypt. The book of 2 Kings ends with King Jehoiachin being released from prison in Babylon and given freedom to dine at the king’s table in Babylon. Though originally a king, Jehoiachin became a foreign prisoner of war and was released from prison. These events had all been predicted by God’s prophets. The Jews’ exile in Babylon lasted for 70 years, as Jeremiah predicted (Jeremiah 25:12). Then the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and start rebuilding. That period of history is described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.