On the seventh day of Ab, the chief of Nebuchadnezzar's army, Nebuzaradan, began the destruction of Jerusalem. The walls of the city were torn down, and the royal palace, and other structures in the city were set on fire. On the ninth day of the same month, towards the evening, the Holy Temple ("Beth Hamikdosh") was set on fire and was destroyed. Everything of gold and silver that still remained was carried off as loot by Babylonian soldiers. All the beautiful works of art with which King Solomon had once decorated and ornamented the holy edifice were destroyed or taken away. The holy vessels of the Temple that could be found were brought to Babylon. The high priest Seraiah and many other high officials and priests were executed. Many thousands of the people that had escaped the sword were taken prisoner and led into captivity in Babylon, where some of their best had already preceded them. Only the poorest of the residents of Jerusalem were permitted to stay on to plant the vineyards and work in the fields. Over these Nebuchadnezzar set a governor, Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, a great friend of Jeremiah.

Upon Nebuchadnezzar's orders Jeremiah was released from prison and saved from the cruel fate that befell the other leaders of the people. Nebuchadnezzar took off Jeremiah's chains, and allowed him to choose between remaining in his native land or going to Babylon, not as a captive but as an honored guest. Jeremiah preferred to stay and end his days on the holy soil of Judah.