II Kings 24

 

 

 

            REST OF THE REIGN OF JEHOIAKIM (vs. 1-7)

 

Troubles now fell thick and fast upon Judaea. Within three years of the

invasion of the country by Pharaoh-Nechoh, another hostile army burst in from

the north.  In B.C. 605, the last year of Nabopolassar, he sent his eldest son,

Nebuchadnezzar, into Syria, to assert the dominion of Babylon over the

countries lying between the Euphrates and the frontier of Egypt. Nechoh

sought to defend his conquests, but was completely defeated at Carehemish

in a great battle (Jeremiah 46:2-12). Syria and Palestine then lay open

to the new invader, and, resistance being regarded as hopeless, Jehoiakim

made his submission to Nebuchadnezzar (v. 1). But, three years later

(B.C. 602), sustained by what hope we know not, he ventured on an act of

rebellion, and declared himself independent. Nebuchadnezzar did not at

once march against him, but caused him to be attacked, as it would seem,

by his neighbors (v. 2). A war without important result continued for

four years. Then Nebuchadnezzar came up against him in person for a

second time (II Chronicles 36:6), took Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim

prisoner. He designed at first to carry him to Babylon; but seems to have

afterwards determined to have him executed, and to have treated his

corpse with indignities (Jeremiah 22:30; 36:30). The writer of Kings

throws a veil over these transactions, closing his narrative with the

customary phrase — Jehoiakim “slept with his fathers” (v. 6).

 

1  “In his days Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up,” -  The

Hebrew rx"an,d]k"bun] (Nebuchadnezzar) or rx"ar,d]k"bun] (Nebuchadrezzar,

Jeremiah, Ezekiel) represents the Babylonian Nabu-kudur-uzur (“Nebo is

the protector of landmarks”), a name very common in the Babylonian and

Assyrian inscriptions. It was borne by three distinct kings of Babylon, the

most important of whom was Nebuchadnezzar III., the son of

Nabopolassar, the monarch of the present passage. According to Berosus,

he was not at the time of this expedition the actual sovereign of Babylonia,

but only the crown prince, placed by the actual king, Nabopolassar, at the

head of his army. It is possible that his father may have associated him in

the kingdom, for association was not unknown at Babylon; or the Jews

may have mistaken his position.  His father had grown too old and infirm to

conduct a military expedition, and consequently sent his son in his place, with

the object of chastising Nechoh, and recovering the territory whereof Nechoh

had made himself master three years before (ch. 23:29-33, and compare below,

v. 7) – “and Jehoiakim became his servant — i.e. submitted to him, and

became a tributary king — three years (from B.C. 605 to B.C. 602): then he

turned and rebelled against him.”  How Jehoiakim came to venture on this

step we are not told, and can only conjecture. It is, perhaps, most probable

that (as Josephus says, ‘Ant. Jud.’ 10:6, § 2) he was incited to take this

course by the Egyptians, who were still under the rule of the brave and

enterprising Nechoh, and who may have hoped to wipe out by fresh

victories the disaster experienced at Carehemish. There is, perhaps, an

allusion to Jehoiakim’s expectation of Egyptian succors in the statement of

v. 7, that “the King of Egypt came not again any more out of his land.”

 

2  “And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees,” -  That

Nebuchadnezzar did not promptly march against Jehoiakim to suppress his

rebellion, but contented himself with sending against him a few “bands”

(ydeWdg]) of Chaldeans, and exciting the neighboring Syrians, Ammonites,

and Moabites to invade and ravage his territory, can scarcely be otherwise

accounted for than by supposing that he was detained in Middle Asia by

wars or rebellious nearer home. It may have been a knowledge of these

embarrassments that induced Jehoiakim to lend an ear to the persuasions of

Nechoh – “and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and

bands of the children of Ammon,” -  (compare Ezekiel 19:8, “Then the

nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their

net over him: he was taken in their pit”), “and sent them against Judah to

destroy it,”  i.e. to begin that waste and ruin which should terminate

ultimately in the complete destruction and obliteration of the Judaean

kingdomaccording to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His

servants the prophets.” As Isaiah, Micah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Zephaniah,

and Huldah (see ch. 22:16-20).

 

3   Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah,” –

 literally, only at the mouth of the Lord did this come upon Judah;

i.e. there was no other cause for it but the simple “mouth” or “word” of the

Lord – “to remove them out of His sight (compare ch. 23:27; and see also the

comment on ch. 17:18) for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he

did.”  The meaning is not that the nation was punished for the personal sins

and crimes of the wicked Manseseh forty or fifty years previously, but that

the class of sins introduced by Manasseh, being persisted in by the people,

brought the stern judgments of God upon them.  The sins of Manasseh had

become a designation for a certain class of offences, and a particular form of

public and social depravity, which was introduced by Manassseh, but of which

generation after generation continued to be guilty.  The special sins were:

 

  • Idolatry, accompanied by licentious rites;
  • Child-murder, or sacrifice to Moloch;
  • Sodomy (ch. 23:7); and
  • The use of enchantments and the practice of magical arts (ch.21:6).

 

4   “And also for the innocent blood that he shed:” -  (compare ch.21:16, and

the comment ad loc.). Like the other “sins of Manasseh,” the shedding of innocent

blood continued, both in the Moloch offerings (Jeremiah 7:31) and in the persecution

of the righteous (Ibid. 7:6,9). Urijah was actually put to death by Jehoiakim

(Ibid.  26:23); Jeremiah narrowly escaped – “for he filled Jerusalem with

innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.”  Blood “cries to God

from the ground” on which it falls (Genesis 4:11), and is “required” at

the hands of the bloodshedder (Ibid. 9:5) unfailingly. Especially is

the blood of saints slain for their religion avenged and exacted by the Most

High (see Revelation 6:10; 11:18; 16:6; 19:2).

 

5  “Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim; and all that he did,

are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of

Judah?” -  Among the acts of Jehoiakim recorded elsewhere in the Old

Testament, the most remarkable are the following:

 

  • His execution of Urijah the son of Shemaiah (Jeremiah 26:23);

 

  • His destruction of the first collection of the early prophecies made by

            Jeremiah, in a fit of anger at hearing its contents (Jeremiah 36:20-23);

 

  • His order that Jeremiah and Baruch should be arrested (Ibid. v. 26);

 

  • His capture by some of the “nations” which Nebuchadnezzar had stirred

            up against him, and delivery into the hands of that monarch (Ezekiel 19:9),

            probably at Jerusalem. How Nebuchadnezzar treated him is uncertain.

            Josephus says (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:6. § 3) that he put him to death,

            and east him out unburied beyond the walls of the city. But from the

            biblical notices we can only gather that he died prematurely after a reign of

            no more than eleven years (B.C. 608 to B.C. 597), and was unlamented,

            “buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the

            gates of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 22:18-19).

 

6   “So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers:” -  It is not certain that the

writer means anything more by this than that “Jehoiakim died.” His body

may, however, possibly have been found by the Jews after the Babylonians

had withdrawn from before Jerusalem, and have been entombed with those

of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah - And Jehoiachin his son reigned in his

stead.”  Josephus says (l.s.c.) that Nebuchadnezzar placed him upon the

throne, which is likely enough, since he would certainly not have quitted

Jerusalem without setting up some king or other. Jehoiachin has in

Scripture the two other names of Jeconiah (I Chronicles 3:16-17; Jeremiah 27:20;

28:4; 29:2) and Coniah (Ibid. 22:24, 28; 37:1). Jehoiachin and Jeconiah differ only,

as Jehoahaz and Ahaziah, by a reversal of the order of the two elements. Both mean

“Jehovah will establish (him).” “Coniah” cuts off from “Jeconiah” the sign of futurity,

and means “Jehovah establishes.” It is used only by Jeremiah, and seems used by him

to signify that though “Jehovah establishes,” Jeconiah he would not

establish.

 

7  “And the King of Egypt came not again any more out of his land:” –

Nechoh’s two expeditions were enough for him. In the first he was

completely successful, defeated Josiah (ch. 23:29), overran Syria as

far as Carchemish, and made Phoenicia, Judaea, and probably the adjacent

countries tributary to him. In the second (Jeremiah 46:2-12) he suffered

a calamitous reverse, was himself defeated with great slaughter, forced to

fly hastily, and to relinquish all his conquests. After this, he “came not any

more out of his land.” Whatever hopes he held out to Judaea or to Tyre, he

was not bold enough to challenge the Babylonians to a third trial of

strength, but remained — peaceably within his own borders – “for the king

of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt” -  The μyir"x]mi lj"n" is not

the Nile, but the Wady el Arish, the generally dry watercourse, which was

the ordinarily accepted boundary between Egypt and Syria (see I Kings 8:65;

Isaiah 27:12). The Nile is the μyir"x]mi rh"n; - “unto the river Euphrates

all that pertained to the king of Egypt.” -  i.e. all that he had

conquered and made his own in his first expedition in the year B.C. 608.

 

 

                        REIGN OF JEHOIACHIN (vs. 8-16)

 

The short reign of Jehoiachin is now described. It lasted but three months. For

some reason which is unrecorded, Nebuchadnezzar, who had placed him on the

throne, took offence at his conduct, and sent an army against him to effect his

deposition. Jehoiachin offered scarcely any resistance. He “went out” of

the city (v. 12), with the queen-mother, the officers of the court, and the

princes, and submitted himself to the will of the great king. But he gained

nothing by his pusillanimity. The Babylonians entered Jerusalem, plundered

the temple and the royal palace, made prisoners of the king, his mother, the

princes and nobles, the armed garrison, and all the more skilled artisans, to

the number altogether of ten thousand souls (Josephus says 10,832, ‘Ant.

Jud.,’ 10:7. § 1), and carried them captive to Babylon. Zedekiah, the king’s

uncle, was made monarch in his room.

 

8   “Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign,” -

In II Chronicles 36:9 he is said to have been only eight years old, but

this is probably an accidental corruption, the yod, which is the Hebrew sign

for ten, easily slipping out. As he had “wives” (v. 15) and “seed”

(Jeremiah 22:28), he could not well be less than eighteen – “and he

reigned in Jerusalem three months.”  “Three months and ten days,”

according to II Chronicles (l.s.c.) and Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ l.s.c.). “And

his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of

Jerusalem.”  Elnathan was one of the chief of the Jerusalem princes under

Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:22; 36:12, 25). His daughter, Nehushta — the

Noste of Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:6. § 3) — was probably the ruling spirit

of the time during her son’s short reign. We find mention of her in

Jeremiah 26:26; 29:2; and in Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:6. § 3, and 10:7. § 1.

 

9  “And he did that which was evil the sight of the Lord, according to all

that his father had done.”  (see ch. 23:37; and compare II Chronicles 36:9).

Josephus says that Jehoiachin was of “a gentle and just disposition” -(‘Ant. Jud.,’

10:7. § 1); but Jeremiah calls him “a despised broken idol,” and “a vessel

wherein is no pleasure” (Jeremiah 22:28). The present passage probably does

not mean more than that he made no attempt at a religious reformation, but

allowed the idolatries and superstitions which had prevailed under Jehoahaz

and Jehoiakim to continue. It is in his favor that he did not actively persecute

Jeremiah.

 

10  “At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up

against Jerusalem,” -  This siege fell probably into the year B.C. 597, which was

“the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar” (v. 12).  Nebuchadnezzar himself was, at the

time, engaged in the siege of Tyre, which had revolted in B.C. 598 (see ‘Ancient

Monarchies,’ vol. 3. p. 51), and therefore sent his “servants” — i.e. generals —

against Jerusalem - “and the city was besieged.”  Probably for only a short time.

Jeconiah may at first have had some hope of support from Egypt, still under the rule

of Nechoh; but when no movement was made in this quarter (see the comment on

v. 7), he determined not to provoke his powerful enemy by an obstinate resistance,

but to propitiate him, if possible, by a prompt surrender.

 

11  And Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came against the city, and his

servants did besiege it.” -  rather, his servants were besieging it. While the siege

conducted by his generals was still going on, Nebuchadnezzar made his appearance

in person before the walls, probably bringing with him an additional force, which

made a successful resistance hopeless. A council of war was no doubt held under

the new circumstances, and a surrender was decided on.

 

12  “And Jehoiachin the King of Judah went out to the King of Babylon,” –

(for the use of the expression, “went out to,” in this sense of making a surrender,

see I Samuel 11:3; Jeremiah 21:9; 38:17), - “he, and his mother (see the comment

on v. 8), and his servants, and his princes, and his officers — rather, his eunuchs

 (see the comment on ch. 20:18) and the King of Babylon took him in the eighth

year of his reign.”  Nebuchadnezzar succeeded his father, Nabopelassar, in

B.C. 605; but his first year was not complete till late in B.C. 604. His “eighth year”

was thus B.C. 597.

 

13  “And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord,” –

“Thence” means “from Jerusalem,” which he entered and plundered, notwithstanding

Jehoiachin’s submission, so that not much was gained by the voluntary surrender. A

beginning had been made of the carrying off the sacred vessels of the temple in

Jehoiakim’s third (fourth?) year (Daniel 1:1), which was the first of Nebuchadnezzar.

The plundering was now carried a step further; while the final complete sweep

of all that remained came eleven years later, at the end of the reign of

Zedekiah (see ch. 25:13-17) -  “and the treasures of the king’s house,” –

(compare ch. 20:13). If the treasures which Hezekiah showed to the envoys of

Merodach-Baladan were carried off by Sennacherib (ch.18:15), still there had

probably been fresh accumulations made during their long reigns by Manasseh

and Josiah – “and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king

of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord,” -  (For an account of these

vessels, see I Kings 7:45-50.)  They consisted in part of articles of furniture,

like the altar of incense and the table of shrewbread, which were thickly covered

with plates of gold; in part of vessels, etc., made wholly of the precious metal, as

candlesticks, or rather candelabra, snuffers, tongs, basins, spoons, censers, and

the like – “as the Lord had said.” -  (compare ch. 20:17; Isaiah 39:6; Jeremiah

15:13; 17:3; 20:5).

 

14  “And he carried away all Jerusalem,” -  The expression has to

be limited by what follows. “All Jerusalem means all that was important in

the population of Jerusalem all the upper classes, the “princes” and

“nobles,” all the men trained to the use of arms, and all the skilled

craftsmen and artisans of the city. The poor and weak and unskilled were

left. The number deported, according to our author, was either ten or

eleven thousand. The whole population of the ancient city has been

calculated from its area at fifteen thousand. The largest estimate of the

population of the modern city is seventeen thousand – “and all the princes,” -

The sarim, or “princes,” are not males of the blood royal, but the nobles,

or upper classes of Jerusalem (compare Jeremiah 25:18; 26:10-16).

“and all the mighty men of valor,”  i.e. “all the trained troops”;

“even ten thousand captives,” -  As the soldiers are reckoned below

(v. 16) at seven thousand, and the craftsmen at one thousand, the upper-class

captives would seem to have been two thousand; unless, indeed, the “craftsmen”

are additional to the ten thousand, in which case the upper-class captives would

have numbered three thousand, and the prisoners have amounted altogether to

eleven thousand – “and all the craftsmen and smiths:” - the term vr;j; in

Hebrew includes all workers in stone, metal, or wood (Genesis 4:22; Isaiah 44:12;

I Kings 7:14), and there is nothing to limit it here to military craftsmen. It

was an Oriental practice to weaken a state by the deportation of all the

stronger elements of its population – “none remained, save the poorest

sort of the people of the land.”  These words must be taken with some

latitude. There are still “princes” in Jerusalem under Zedekiah (Jeremiah

38:4,25,27), and courtiers of rank (Ibid. v. 7), and “captains of forces”

(Ibid. 40:7), and “men of war” (Ibid. 52:7). But the bulk of the inhabitants

now left behind in Jerusalem were poor and of small account.

 

15 “And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon,” -  (compare II

Chronicles 36:10; Jeremiah 22:26; 24:1; 52:31; Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’

10:7. § 1). Jehoiachin continued a captive in Babylon during the remainder

of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign — a space of thirty-seven years (see the

comment on ch. 25:27) – “and the king’s mother (see above, v. 12),

and the king’s wives — this is important, as helping to determine

Jehoiachin’s age (see the comment on v. 8) — and his officers

rather, his eunuchs (compare Jeremiah 38:7; 39:16) — and the mighty

of the land,” -  Not only the “princes” and the trained soldiers and the skilled

artisans (v. 14), but all who were of much account, as the bulk of the

priests and the prophets (see Jeremiah 29:1-24) – [Especially vs. 10-14 of

that passage – the Lord shows His love and mercy to those sinners – if

you are steeped in sin, O sinner, Look to the Lord God for mercy –

with this passage compare Psalm 81:10-16 – also compare the words

of God through Ezekiel “As I live saith the Lord God, I have no

pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from

his way and live:  turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye

die, O house of Israel?”  - Ezekiel 33:11 - CY  - 2011] “those carried

he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  Babylon(lb,b;) is the

city, not the country. It was the practice for the conquering kings to carry their

captives with them to their capitol, for ostentation’s sake, before determining

on their destination. The Jewish prisoners were, no doubt, ultimately settled

in various parts of Babylonia. Hence they are called “the children of the

 province.” (Ezra 2:1; Nehemiah 7:6)

 

16  “And all the men of might” -  i.e. “The mighty men of valor”

(or, “trained soldiers”) of v 14 — “even seven thousand, and

craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war,”

— the craftsmen and smiths would be pressed into the military service in

the event of a siege — “even them the king of Babylon brought captive

to Babylon.” -  i.e. he brought to Babylon, not only the royal personages, the

officials of the court, and the captives who belonged to the upper classes

(v. 15), but also the entire military force which he had deported, and the

thousand skilled artificers. All, without exception, were conducted to the

capital.

 

 

      EARLIER PORTION OF ZEDEKIAH’S REIGN (vs. 17-20)

 

Nebuchadnezzar found a son of Josiah, named Mattaniah, still surviving at

Jerusalem. At his father’s death he must have been a boy of ten, but he was

now, eleven years later, of the age of twenty-one. This youth, only three

years older than his nephew Jehoiachin, he appointed king, at the same

time requiring him to change his name, which he did from “Mattaniah” to

“Zedekiah” (v.17). Zedekiah pursued nearly the same course of action as

the other recent kings. He showed no religious zeal, instituted no reform,

but allowed the idolatrous practices, to which the people were so addicted,

to continue (v. 19). Though less irreligious and less inclined to persecute

than Jehoiakim, he could not bring himself to turn to God. He was weak

and vacillating, inclined to follow the counsels of Jeremiah, but afraid of

the “princes,” and ultimately took their advice, which was to ally himself

with Egypt, and openly rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. This course of

conduct brought about the destruction of the nation (v. 20).

 

17 “And the King of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother

king in his stead,” -  Josiah had four sons (I Chronicles 3:15) —

Johanan, the eldest, who probably died before his father; Jehoiakim, or

Eliakim, the second, who was twenty-five years old at his father’s death

(23:36); Jehoahaz, the third, otherwise called Shallum (I Chronicles, l.s.c.;

Jeremiah 22:11), who, when his father died, was aged twenty-three

(23:31); and Mattaniah, the youngest, who must have been

then aged ten or nine. It was this fourth son, now grown to manhood,

whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed king in Jehoiachin’s room – “and

changed his name to Zedekiah.” (On the practice of changing a king’s

name on his accession, see the comment upon ch. 23:31,34.) Mattaniah

means “Gift of Jehovah;” Zedekiah, “Righteousness of Jehovah.” Josiah

had called his son the first of these names in humble acknowledgment of

God’s mercy in granting him a fourth son. So other pious Jews called their

sons “Nathaniel,” and Greeks “Theodotus” or “Theodorus,” and Romans

“Deodatua.” Mattaniah, in taking the second of the names, may have had in

his mind the prophecy of Jeremiah 23:5-8, where blessings are promised to

the reign of a king whose name should be “Jehovah- Tsidkenu,” i.e.

“The Lord our Righteousness.” Or he may simply have intended to

declare that “the righteousness of Jehovah” was what he aimed

at establishing. In this case it can only be said that it would have been

happy for his country, had his professions been corroborated by his acts.

(I recommend Jeremiah ch. 23 v.6 – Jehovah-Tsidkenu – Names of God by

Nathan Stone – this web site – CY – 2011)

 

18  “Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to

reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.” -  Probably from B.C.

597 to B.C. 586. He was thus contemporary with Nebuchadnezzar in

Babylon, with Cyaxares and Astyages in Media, and with Psamatik II. and

Ua-ap-ra (Pharaoh-Hophra) in EgyptAnd his mother’s name was

Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.”  He was thus full brother

of Jehoahaz (ch. 23:31), but only half-brother to Jehoiakim (Ibid. v. 36). His

father-in-law, “Jeremiah of Libnah” is not the prophet, who was of Anathoth.

 

19  “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all

that Jehoiakim had done.”  His attitude towards the Lord exactly resembled that

of his brother Jehoiakim, except that Zedekiah does not appear to have possessed

so much energy for that which was evil.” He allowed the people to continue their

“pollutions” and “abominations” (II Chronicles 36:14). He let the “princes”

have their way, and do whatever they pleased (Jeremiah 38:5), contenting himself

with sometimes outwitting them, and counteracting their proceeding (Ibid. vs.14-28).

He fell into the old error of “putting trust in Egypt (Ibid. 37:5-7), and made an

alliance with Apries (Pharaoh- Hophra), which was an act of rebellion, at once

against God and against his Babylonian suzerain. He was, upon the whole, rather

weak than wicked; but his weakness was as ruinous to his country as active

wickedness would have been.

 

20  “For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and

Judah,” -  It was “through the anger of the Lord” at the persistent impenitence

of the people, that that came to pass which actually came to pass — the rejection

of the nation by God and the casting of it out of His presence. In His anger

He  suffered the appointment of another perverse and faithless monarch, who made

no attempt at a reformation of religion, and allowed him to run his evil course

unchecked, (“Ephraim is joined to idols:  let him alone.” – Hosea 4:17) and to

embroil himself with his suzerain, and to bring destruction upon his nation. God’s

anger, long provoked (chps. 21:10-15; 23:26-27; here vs. 3-4), lay at the root of the

whole series of events, not causing men’s sins, but allowing them to go on until

 the cup of their iniquities was full, and the time had arrived for vengeance -

“until He had cast them out from His presence,”  - (compare chps. 17:18, 20;

23:27; here v. 3). To be “cast out of God’s presence” is to lose His protecting

 care, to be separated off from Him, to be left defenseless against our enemies.

When Israel was once finally cast off, its fate was sealed; there was no further hope

for it; the end was come.  For this there was “NO REMEDY” – (II Chronicles

36:16) - “that Zedekiah rebelled against the King of Babylon.” -  rather,

And Zedekiah rebelled, etc. The sentence is a detached one, and would, perhaps,

better commence ch.25  than terminate, as it does, ch. 24. Zedekiah, when he

received his investiture at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (v. 17), took a solemn

oath of allegiance and fidelity (II Chronicles 36:13; Ezekiel 17:13) to him and to

his successors; but almost immediately afterwards he began to intrigue with

Egypt, sent a contingent of troops to help Psamatik II. in his wars, and thus

sought to pave the way for an Egyptian alliance, on the strength of which he

might venture upon a revolt.  It was probably owing to the suspicions which these

acts aroused that, in the fourth year of his reign, B.C. 594, he had to visit

Babylon (Jeremiah 51:59), where, no doubt, he renewed his engagements and

assured the Babylonian monarch of his fidelity. But these proceedings were nothing

but a blind. On the accession of Hophra (Apries) to the throne of Egypt in B.C.

591, Zedekiah renewed his application to the Egyptian court, openly sending

ambassadors (Ezekiel 17:15), with a request for infantry and cavalry. Thus was

his rebellion complete, his “oath despised,” and his “covenant broken”

 (Ezekiel 17:15-16). The war with Babylon, and the siege of Jerusalem, were

the natural consequences.

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

 

     Conquering Kings and Nations Instruments

      in

   God’s Hands to Work Out His Purposes (vs. 1-4)

 

The sudden disappearance of Assyria from the scene, and the sudden

appearance of Babylon upon it at this point of the history, are very

remarkable. Without a word upon the circumstances that had brought it

about, the writer of Kings shows us that a great crisis in the world’s history

has come and gone; that the mighty state which had dominated Western Asia

for centuries is no more, and has been superseded by a new, and hitherto

scarce heard of, power. “In his [Jehoiakim’s] days Nebuchadnezzar king of

 Babylon came up.” We have thus presented to us, by implication:

 

  • ASSYRIA’S FALL. For nearly a thousand years Assyria had been

      “the rod of God’s anger” (Isaiah 10:5). She had been sent against

       nation after nation, to execute God’s wrath, with a charge, “to take the

       spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of

       the streets” - (Ibid. v. 6). As Hezekiah confessed in his prayer

       (ch.19:17-18), their success had been continual: “Of a truth, Lord,

      the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, and

      have cast their gods into the fire -  But why and whence was this?

      Because God had used Assyria as his instrument. God had brought it

      to pass that Assyria should exist “to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous

      heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were

      dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as

      the green herb, as the grass on the house-tops, and as corn blasted

     before it be grown up”(ch.19:25-26). But this time was now gone.

     Assyria had offended God by her pride and self-trust. She had said,

     “By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom;

     for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and

    have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a

    valiant man” (Isaiah 10:13). The axe had “boasted itself against him

    that hewed therewith; and the saw had magnified itself against him that

    moved it to and fro” (Ibid. v. 15). Therefore God thought it time to

    vindicate His own honor, and Assyria fell. Two Other nations were

    raised up to break in pieces the proud and haughty conqueror;

          and, after a short struggle, Assyria sank, to rise no more (Nahum 3:19).

 

  • BABYLON’S RISE TO GREATNESS. Babylon had in remote days

(Genesis 10:8-10) been a powerful state, and had even possessed an

empire; but for the last seven hundred years or more she had been content

to play a very secondary part in Western Asia, and had generally been

either an Assyrian feudatory or an integral part of the Assyrian monarchy.

But in the counsels of God it had been long decreed that she, and not

Assyria, should be God’s instrument for the chastisement of His people

(ch. 20:16-19). Therefore, as the appointed time for Assyria’s fall

approached, Babylon was made to increase in power and greatness. A

wave of invasion (Herodotus, 1:104, 105), which passed over the rest of

Western Asia, left her untouched. A great monarch was given her in the

person of Nabopolassar, who read aright the signs of the times, saw in

Media a desirable ally, and, having secured Median co-operation, revolted

against the long-established sovereign power. A short, sharp struggle

followed, ending in the utter collapse of the great Assyrian empire, and the

siege and fall of Nineveh. The two conquering states partitioned between

them the Assyrian dominions — Media taking the countries which lay to

the north-west and north, Babylon those towards the south-west and

south. Thus, so far as the Jews were concerned, Babylon, between B.C.

625 and B.C. 608, had stepped into Assyria’s place. She had become “the

hammer of the whole earth” (Jeremiah 50:23); God’s battle-axe and

weapons of war (Ibid. 51:20), wherewith he brake in pieces nations

and kingdoms, man and woman, old and young, captains and rulers

(Ibid. vs.20-23). The prophecy of Isaiah to Hezekiah (ch. 20:16-19),

which seemed so unlikely of fulfillment at the time that it was

uttered, found a natural and easy accomplishment, the course of events in

the latter part of the seventh century B.C. having transferred to Babylonia,

under Divine direction and arrangement, that grand position and dignity

which had previously been Assyria’s. When she had served God’s purpose,

Babylon’s turn came; and she sank as suddenly as she had risen, because

she too had been “proud against the Lord” (Jeremiah 50:29), and had

provoked His indignation.

 

 

The Beginning of the End (vs. 1-6)

 

It has been already observed (see ch. 16.) that God’s punishment of a nation, though

often long-deferred, when it comes at last comes suddenly, violently, and at once.

Nineteen years only intervened — a brief space in the life of a nation — between

the first intimation which the Jews received of danger impending from a new enemy,

and the entire destruction, by that enemy, of temple, city, and nation. Peril first

showed itself in B.C. 605; Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews carried into

captivity in B.C. 586. From first to last they were scarcely given a breathing-space.

Blow was struck upon blow; calamity followed close upon calamity. “The beginning

of the end” is to be dated from Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion — when

“Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up” against Jehoiakim, “and Jehoiakim

became his servant three years” (v. 1). When an iron vessel and an earthen one

come into contact and collision, it is not difficult to foresee the result.

Nebuchadnezzar’s first campaign proved his absolute superiority over all

the forces that could be brought against him by the nations of the west.

Could the Jews have accepted, honestly and loyally, the position which

Jehoiakim professedly took up — that of a faithful vassal and feudatory,

who would keep watch over the interests of his suzerain, and aid him to the

best of his power — a prolonged though inglorious existence would have

been possible for the people. But the nation was too proud to submit itself.

Neither king nor people had any intention of putting up with the loss of

independence or becoming loyal Babylonian subjects, however strongly the

duty might be pressed upon them by Jeremiah and the other Jehovistic

prophets. A profound antagonism was developed from the first.

Nebuchadnezzar probably carried off the captives “of the king’s seed, and

of the princes” (Daniel 1:3), from Jerusalem by way of hostages.

Jehoiakim meditated revolt from the moment of his submission; and within

three years threw off the mask, and rebelled openly. Five years of struggle

followed. Prompted by Nebuchadnezzar, “the nations set upon him on

every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him” (Ezekiel

19:8; compare v. 2), ravaged his territory far and wide, “destroyed” multitudes

of the people, and, at last, “took the king in their snare” (Ibid.), and

“brought him to the King of Babylon (Ibid. v. 9). Nebuchadnezzar punished

him with death, cast out his body unburied, and took as hostages to Babylon

three thousand more of the upper classes of the citizens (Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’

10:6. § 3). Distrust and suspicion on the one side, hatred and sense of cruel

wrong on the other, must, under these circumstances, have grown and

increased; the antagonism, instead of dying away with the lapse of time, must

have become accentuated. “The end” already approached, though itwas not

yet.” The weaker party could not but go to the wall; and events were

evidently hastening to a denouement. With the death of Jehoiakim the first

scene of the last act had terminated.

 

 

Blow upon Blow (vs. 8-16)

 

A mild and conciliatory policy might, perhaps, have won the Jews to

acquiescence in their subjection. But Nebuchadnezzar’s policy was the

reverse, and could only tend to their exasperation. With what exact

intention or expectation he made Jehoiachin king after executing his father,

it is difficult to conjecture. Perhaps he thought he had nothing to fear from

a youth of eighteen. Perhaps he trusted to the known mildness of the

youth’s disposition (Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:7. § 1). In either case, the

experiment failed. Jehoiachin, within a few weeks, gave him cause of

offence, or, at any rate, furnished him with some pretext for reopening the

quarrel. Then blow was struck upon blow. An army was sent to besiege the

city (v. 10); soon the great king came up against it in person (v. 11). In

vain did Jehoiachin make submission. He was seized and carried off to

Babylon, and there shut up in prison [for thirty-seven long years – ch. 25:27].

The temple and the royal palace were plundered, and at least ten thousand of

the inhabitants — the noblest, wealthiest, bravest, and most skilled — torn

from their homes and led into captivity (vs. 12-16). A remnant only,

consisting chiefly of “the poorest of the people of the land” (v. 14), were

left behind. Jerusalem, denuded of more than half her population, can

scarcely have known herself. She “sat solitary” (Lamentations 1:1) and

“wept sore in the night” (Ibid. v. 2), and felt that her total destruction

was nigh at hand.  So ended the second scene of the last act.

 

 

 

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