The first year of the reign of King Zedekiah was 600 B.C. and this is the year when the Book of Mormon begins. However, 600 B.C.was a terrible year for Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, made his first major assault on Jerusalem and temporarily besieged the city. He looted the temple of gold to make up for the taxes and tribute the Jews had not been contributing. The Babylonians also carried off 10,000 of the city's best workers and artisans. King Nebuchadnezzar was so angry with Jerusalem that he removed the king from the throne and made his younger brother king in his stead. This was the young 21-year-old Zedekiah mentioned in this verse.
Meanwhile, the prophet Jeremiah was going up and down the city urging the people to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. After all, Nebuchadnezzar's chief advisor was the prophet Daniel, and Babylon was being governed by three Jews, Shadrack, Meshak and Abednego. But the ruling class in Jerusalem despised the Babylonians. They preferred the Egyptians. They also despised the prophet Jeremiah who was saying that if the people did not listen to his warnings, Jerusalem would be totally destroyed. Furthermore, not only was Jeremiah going up and down the streets predicting the fall of Jerusalem but so was a host of other lesser prophets. All of these developments were terribly disturbing to Nephi's father who was a wealthy caravan merchant living in Jerusalem. His name was Lehi.