Today: [2 Chronicles Thirty-Six] The Last Four Kings in Judah. In this chapter we see the pitiful account of the last four kings in Judah. These kings were vassal servants of Egypt and Babylon until finally the Babylonians completely destroy the city and the temple. Before burning the temple history tells us the Babylonians desecrated it and then the surviving captives who were not put to the sword were carried away for 70 years of captivity. During that time the Persians overthrow the Babylonians and king Cyrus ordained by God proclaims restoration and calls upon the chastened people to return and rebuild.
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[2Ch 36:1-23 KJV] 1 Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father’s stead in Jerusalem. 2 Jehoahaz [was] twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. 3 And the king of Egypt put him down at Jerusalem, and condemned the land in an hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. 4 And the king of Egypt made Eliakim his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem, and turned his name to Jehoiakim. And Necho took Jehoahaz his brother, and carried him to Egypt. 5 Jehoiakim [was] twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did [that which was] evil in the sight of the LORD his God. 6 Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon. 8 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him, behold, they [are] written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.
This chapter gives us the record of the last four kings of Judah. After the death of Josiah the succession of kings over the southern kingdom proceeds in an irregular manner. Jehoahaz was installed as king after his father Josiah but he was not the eldest son. For reasons unknown to us his two older brothers are ignored and Jehoahaz perhaps by popular choice is made king. He is 23 years old but only reigns for 3 months. His reign therefore is abortive and perhaps in some other way illegitimate because in the genealogies of Christ his name is excluded. From 2 Kings 23:32 we see the character of his reign – that “…he did evil in the sight of the Lord…” As is often the case in the kings of Judah and even with the great Josiah their father’s godly character was not passed down to their successors.
You will remember that Josiah against God’s will fought against Neco of Egypt and died. Now we see that Neco carries Jehoahaz and installs Eliakim (renamed Jehoiakim) his brother as a puppet king in Jerusalem. Judah is now effectively a vassal kingdom to Egypt – a sad state brought about by Josiah’s fateful decision to goad a war with Egypt contrary to the word of the Lord.
Jehoiakim is 25 years old when he begins to reign and like his brother before him he does evil in the sight of the Lord. Eventually he is carried away captive by Nebuchaddnezzar – taken in chains of bronze back to Babylon. God had spoken through Huldah the prophet that Judah would be destroyed but not in Josiah’s time. Now Judah is merely the battleground between Egypt and Babylon in the shadow of the rise of Assyria. When Jehoikim dies no one mourns his passing and his body is cast out of the city like a discarded corpse of an animal.
9 Jehoiachin [was] eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did [that which was] evil in the sight of the LORD. 10 And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem. 11 Zedekiah [was] one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did [that which was] evil in the sight of the LORD his God, [and] humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet [speaking] from the mouth of the LORD. 13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel. 14 Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 15 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till [there was] no remedy. 17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave [them] all into his hand.
Next in succession we see Jehoiachin the son of Jehoikim made king at 8 years of age. He reigns only three months and at that tender age it is said that he did evil in the sight of the Lord. The nation is currently under tribute to Nebuchaddnezzar who sends of Joehoiachin and brings him captive to Babylon – installing his uncle Zedekiah in his place. Zedekiah contends with the prophet Jeremiah who served under Josiah. We can understand during this time of upheaval and the last gasp of freedom of the nation of Judah that Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet.
18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all [these] he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: 21 To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: [for] as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years. 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD [spoken] by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying, 23 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which [is] in Judah. Who [is there] among you of all his people? The LORD his God [be] with him, and let him go up.
Finally the entire nation is taken into captivity and the city is destroyed in Jeremiah’s time. Ezra observes that the word of the Lord from Jeremiah was that the captivity would continue as many years as the Sabbatical Year had been neglected (Moses’ law required the land to rest every 7 years which had apparently been ignored for 490 years. After the Babylonians had taken Judah they fell to Persia and Cyrus king of Persia after a period of time makes a decree that is known to secular history as well that the temple would now be rebuilt. With this Ezra’s account is brought up to the current day and we are prepared to recount in the book of Ezra the circumstances of the return to rebuild the city and the temple itself by a people chastened in captivity.
All told there were 41 kings who reigned from David to Zedekiah and one illegitimate queen. From the time that Solomon laid the foundation of the temple till it’s destruction was 424 years, 3 months and 8 days. When the Babylonians destroyed the temple they made a point of desecrating it before the captives for 2 days of rioting and feasting before putting the building to the torch. They then proceeded to break down the walls of the city that Josiah had so meticulously repaired so that Jerusalem was left without defense, open and barren.
The captivity is to last 70 years – according to the prophets to make up for the 70 Sabbath years that had not been observed. Calculating the time frame compared to the establishing of the temple we see that from the time of Samuel the people had refused to observe the Sabbatical year. Not even in David’s time was the law of Moses meticulously respected yet God called him a man after his own heart. With the Sabbath years despised the people now languish in captivity until Cyrus chooses to underwrite the restoration of the city and the temple itself. This is where Ezra and Nehemiah come in and the narrative of the next two books that conclude the historical books of the bible after Esther.
The book ends with a pagan king calling upon the people to have it in their heart to return and rebuild the city and the temple. History tells us that very few returned. Over the course of just one generation the nation on the whole has lost all heart for the land of promise and prefer the gilded cage of Persian captivity. The last few hopeful lines of 2 Chronicles embody the underlying thread of both 1st and 2nd Chronicles – one of hope and expectation and restoration of the nation by the hand of God in the heart of Ezra.
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