Read Jeremiah 37-38 at Bible Gateway.
Reading this account of the siege and coming fall of Jerusalem, with the benefit of hindsight, I am tempted to ask myself why on earth didn’t King Zedekiah surrender to the Babylonians? Through Jeremiah, the LORD had given a promise that anyone who surrendered to the Babylonians would save their life. The city would still be captured. The people would presumably still be taken captive to Babylon. But the city would not be burned down, and the people would remain alive, so that they or their children could return one day.
As to why he did not surrender: he did not know that, when he was captured trying to flee, that his children would all be slain before his eyes and his own eyes put out. He did not have the benefit of hindsight. And I think he was under political pressure to resist the Babylonians. No king of the house of David had voluntarily ever surrendered Jerusalem to an invading army.
Zedekiah was not a strong ruler like David or Solomon. He was the third son of Josiah to serve as king. His nephew had served as king before him, and I am sure there were others (the Scripture mentions the princes) who would take his place in a heartbeat. The volatile political situation, with Jeremiah telling the people to defect to the Babylonians if they wanted to save their lives, meant that one of the princes could defect to the Babylonians and make a deal that they would open the city to them and deliver Zedekiah if they were placed on the throne in his place.
The other part of the equation, is that they might have had trouble believing, until they saw it unfolding before them with their own eyes, that the Babylonians would really overcome the LORD’s city and burn it to the ground, and take all the people captive. Jeremiah kept saying Thus says the LORD, but there were just as many (false) prophets who were saying that the city would be preserved. The Babylonians had been at their doorstep before, more than once, and each time had made terms and gone away.
When we read it, we have the benefit of having all of Jeremiah’s prophecies together, reading them from beginning to end. The weight of their consistency is unavoidable. But to someone, like King Zedekiah, who heard them over the course of 20 or 30 years, without the benefit of having them written down, and who perhaps did not have any of the Torah or the other prophets written down to review, we can understand why he might have been in doubt as to the outcome of the siege.
That helps us understand why he made the decisions he did. May the LORD give us grace, if we are ever faced with uncertain or perilous times, to heed the word of the LORD that we have written down, and that comes from the mouth of His prophets!