II Kings 23:31–25:30
the End of Judah’s National Existence.
Key Notes: Judah and Jerusalem died under repeated Babylonian attacks. Decisions of the last four kings and thier outcomes. The USA in the last 30 years.
Josiah’s revival did not continue. When he died, Judah turned back to idols. Jeremiah knew that even during Josiah’s time, a large segment of society was far away from God. This lesson tells the story of the last twenty years of Judah and focuses on the four kings who led it on to ruin. Judah had become a plaything, a rag doll, tossed around by Assyria, Egypt and Babylon, and chewed on by marauding bands. Yet almost nobody believed that God would do just as He had said because Jerusalem was the home of “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord”….(Jer.7:4)
This is not a story of hopelessness. It is a story of God’s sovereign control and the behavior of human leaders in their extremity.
IIKings 23;31–33 Jehoahaz (Shallum) was a son of Josiah, put on the throne by the people of Judah, but deposed by Pharaoah Neco. He ended up in Egypt, where Jeremiah prophesied that he would die. (Jer.22:11). He was king for only three months, but was obviously able to be evil and to do evil in that short time.
IIKing. 23:34–24:6 Pharaoh Neco put his brother Jehoiakim in his place and exacted a large tribute from Judah. Jehoiakim was 25 at his accession and survived 11 years.
Nebuchadnzzar now asserted Babylonian power and deported Jehoiakim to Babylon. (IIChron.36:6). It was 606BC, the third year of Jehoiakim’s rule. (Dan.1:1). This was the first of four attacks on the city of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar carted off vessels from the temple (IIChron.36:7) and a number of the high-ranking people including Daniel and his friends.
Jehoiakim later returned to Jerusalem apparently unrepentant. Jeremiah denounced Jehoiakim for planning to build another palace with slave labor. Jer.22:13–16
When Jeremiah wrote his scroll of judgment on Jerusalem (Jer.25), the text was read before Jehoiakim and the princes of Judah. As the text was read and handed to him, Jehoiakim cut it to ribbons with his knife and burned it in the fire. (Jer.36). Jeremiah prophesied that his body would lie exposed (Jer.36:30), and that he would be buried like an animal. Jer.22:18–19
IIK.24:6–16. Jehoiachin (Coniah), Jehoiakim’s son, was only 18 years old, and did not last more than three months. When Nebuchadnezzar came for the second attack, Jehoiachin surrendered and went off to Babylon in captivity along with a second tier of skilled people, ten thousand of them, and more of the temple treasure.
IIK.24:17–25:9. Zedekiah was another son of Josiah, uncle to Jehoiachin. He was set up as king by Nebuchadnezzar at 21 and survived 11 years as king. In his ninth year, he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, believing that the Egyptians would help him against the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar came back to besiege the city. Several scenes describe the chaotic conditions.
The Egyptians did come up against the Babylonians during the siege and Nebuchadnezzar retreated. (Jer.37:1–5). Jeremiah warned Zedekiah not to rely on this apparent relief. (Jer.37:6–10). The Babylonians would soon return and sack the city. Meantime, the leaders had freed their slaves, but when the Egyptians came on and the siege was lifted, they recaptured the slaves and put them back to work. Jer.34:8–22
Jeremiah pled with the people to surrender to the Babylonians. (Jer.38:1–4). He was charged with treason and put in a well to die. (Jer.38:4–6). Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch, kindly rescued him from the well. (Jer.38:7–13). Zedekiah then had a private audience with Jeremiah. Jeremiah begged the king to surrender. Jer.38:14–28
Food ran out after two years of siege, although the water supply apparently did not fail. At night the king and his troops tried to escape through a break in the wall. They were captured near Jericho. Zedekiah’s sons were killed before him; he was blinded and bound in chains to Babylon. Ezekiel, living among the exiles in Babylon, had prophesied his fate. Ezek.12:10-
IIK.25:8–21 The fourth attack and final destruction of the city was carried out by the king’s bodyguard a month later. The bronzes of the temple, the silver and gold were stripped off. The temple and the palace, the houses of Jerusalem were burned. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down. Leaders left in Jerusalem were brought to Nebuchadnezzar, judged, and executed. The rest of the people were carried into exile leaving only the poorest to care for the land. Jer.52:30 lists a final figure of only 4600 deported.
IIK.25:22–26 Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah, son of Shaphan, to govern the territory. One of the lawless bands heard him say that they should not fear the Babylonian officials, but stay in the land and serve Nebuchadnezzar. They evidently regarded him as a traitor and killed him and the rest of his official party. They went down into Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them.
IIK.25:27–29 A footnote ends the story. Jehoiachin in captivity was rehabilitated, given an allowance and a seat at the king’s table. Although there was lingering hope that he could come back to Jerusalem and lead Judah, that did not materialize. He was the only king who had followed Jeremiah’s advice, and the only one who survived.
How could the Babylonians capture the temple, where only the priests could go, or enter the holy of holies, where only the high priest could go under special circumstances and in fear of death? (Heb.9:7)
Ezekiel had a vision of the glory of God leaving the cherubim of the holy of holies and resting on the threshold of the temple. (Ezek.9:3). Then the glory of God went out of the city and stood on the mountain on the east side of the city (?the Mount of Olives). (Ezek.11:22)
The Babylonians were entering a discarded building. The glory of God was gone. It was just a gold box.
Should our time be a time of rejoicing or of weeping and tearing our clothes? In May-Day’60 a Christian writer was calling for jeremiads—lament and denunciation. The Soviets were upon us. We were threatened with atomic war. Our country was awash in corruption and injustice. He decried our injustice to African-americans, our “adult” movies, illegitimate births, and rich churches.
By’90, after a series of intense confrontations of the Cold War, the Soviet menace melted. The Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union was decentralized. Gorbachev said “We had deprived you of your target.” In the ‘90’s Americans were jubilant,, extravagant, and more immoral than ever. The stock market soared. US News had a cover story “Big Time Spender.”
Now disasters befall us again. The Stock Market dropped sharply. The Third Jihad was begun. New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. Our industries are running away. Our political parties loathe each other’s leaders and policies. Our mainline churches are torn and stained with moral turpitude.
On the other hand, there is more work being done today by Christian people in public life than ever. Advocacy groups of all kinds are at work—inner-city, social justice, the persecuted church. Perhaps our sins will lead thinkers to reconsider our “value-free” society. Evangelicals are beginning to make an impact in academic life. Megachurches are a common phenomenon. Prayer groups meet in the Capitol.
We should not be afraid. We should pray and work, witness and teach.