The Fall of Zedekiah

5th century, with medieval and modern restorations
Nave, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

In the lower register King Zedekiah, blinded by order of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, is carried into exile after the fall of Jerusalem. The others appear to be his fellow exiles and their Chaldean captors. The story is told in 2 Kings 25:1-21, Jeremiah 52, and briefly in 2 Chronicles 36:15-21.

Nothing in those three passages has Chaldeans attacking the Jews with stones, so the scene on the right in the upper register more likely offers an extreme version of 2 Chronicles:15-16, "And the Lord the God of their fathers sent [messengers] to them…. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused the prophets…." Chronicles explains that it was because of this outrage that God had the Chaldeans conquer the Jews.

On the left in the upper register five women pray in a landscape with sand, palm trees, and distant mountains. The three passages do not mention any praying women, but the scene may refer to 2 Kings 25:22-26: A small number of Jews remained in Judah under a governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar. When the governor was assassinated the remaining Jews feared the Chaldeans' retribution so they all left for Egypt.

This is part of the extensive series of Old Testament scenes portrayed in mosaics along the two walls of the nave. To view the others, follow this link.

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Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.