Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CLVIII - II Kings 23:31-25:30 - Wrapping up Kings

This post will conclude our study of the two books of Kings.  In these last chapters we will look at four different kings, much unlike the great king Josiah.  We will see the succession of kings interrupted, although the Davidic Covenant remains intact.  We're going to sadly see how this great nation that David and Solomon built has been reduced to a mere puppet to other nations, all of which did not have direct access to God like Judah did.  But since Josiah, none of the ungodly kings bothered to tap into this Great Resource known as the God of Israel.  Much like Manasseh, these kings actually promoted ungodliness.  Sound familiar?

Allow me to caution you about the "sound-alike" names you will encounter.  There is Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  But there are a few more names that we will study that are significant to this last passage of Kings:  Pharaoh-Nechoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Gedaliah, and Nebuzaradan.  Quick background - The Assyrians had been a world power and were aggressive about the expansion of their kingdom.  Under their powerful king Sennacherib in 722 BC they were the ones who conquered the Northern Nation of Israel and took all of the Israelites captive, making them slaves in Damascus and other areas within the Assyrian empire.  But in the 114 years between Israel's captivity and the death of Josiah, Assyria's empire had weakened and became small and insignificant compared to the cunning and patient Babylonians to the east and the Egyptians to the south.  For centuries, nobody challenged the mighty military of the Egyptians.  They were seldom aggressive against other countries, mostly because Egypt had within its borders the resources sufficient to supply their needs, and then some.  But Pharaoh-Nechoh was different, which brings us to the beginning point of our text for this post.

II Kings 23:31-36  -  After the death of one of my favorite kings Josiah, his son Jehoahaz took the throne of Judah.  He did evil in the sight of God, much like Manasseh.  Jehoahaz reign only three months in Jersusalem before Pharaoh-Nechoh of Egypt overtook Judah's miitary and captured Jehoahaz, taking him in chains back to Egypt, where Jehoahaz later died.  The normal succession of kings in Judah would have placed the son of Jehoahaz on the throne, but Pharaoh-Nechoh named Jehoahaz's brother as the next king of Judah.  Hense the Davidic Covenant continued on, but it is sad for a nation when their leader is selected by the king of an enemy nation.  The new king of Judah was Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, brother of Jehoahaz.  Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king of Judah and reigned eleven years, doing whatever Pharaoh-Nechoh told him to do, which included disrespecting God.

II Kings 24  -  During these eleven years of Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon.  I cannot say for certain but I think Babylon had become so powerful that Paraoh-Nechoh did not wish to interfere with any dealings Nebuchadnezzar initiated with any nation, even those like Judah who paid Egypt tribute annually.  This chapter begins with Nebuchadnezzar invading the land and Jehoiakim rebeled against his aggressions.  {Perhaps Jehoiakim was thinking all along that Egypt would come to his rescue against these Babylonians, but that was not going to happen.  This was briefly explained in verse 7.}  Also during these eleven years of Jehoiakim, so much evil took place in Jerusalem that God sent not only the Babylonians, but also Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders to torment all of Judah.  {God was allowing the stage to be set for the elimination of Judah as He did Israel to the north.  God was not being unkind.  He was keeping His promise.}  Jehoiakim was killed during these raids and his son Jehoiachin succeeded him as king of Judah.

II Kings 24:8-18  -  Jehoiachin was only eighteen years old when he became king and reign only three months.  Three months was not very long, but long enough to do evil in the sight of God.  Jehoiachin was too young, inexperienced, and ungoldy to handle all that was going on around him.  Egypt had pulled out of the area, and Judah didn't have enough military to even protect the walled city of Jerusalem.  The Babylonians were camped outside the city, ready to capture it and enslave its inhabitants.  Jehoiachin had no choice but to surrender, and place himself at the mercy of Nebuchadnezzar.  As a show of obeisance, he took his mother, his court, and all of the nobles of Judah with him to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.  But this show of submission did not phase the powerful Nebuchadnezzar.  He took them all prisoner and carried them off to Babylon to enslave them and display them as a conquest.  He then pillaged the city of Jerusalem, including the Temple.  He captured and took back to Babylon all people worthy to serve Babylon as slaves.  All he left in Jerusalem were the poor and uneducated; noone who could unite the remaining people and pose a threat to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar appointed Matteniah, another of Josiah's son's, to be king of what was left of the nation of Judah.  So much control did Nebuchadnezzar have over Matteniah, that he changed his name from Matteniah to Zedekiah.  {This, to a Hebrew, would be a severe humiliation because it disrespected his ancestry.}  Judah had only its poor and uneducated people left.  Its king was an appointed puppet by their worst enemy, the Babylonians.  Judah had no military, no income, nothing of value left, even in the Temple.  There was no government or law enforcement.  It just existed.  It went on like this for another eleven years.

II Kings 25  -  The End of a Nation

In the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign he rebelled against Babylon.  {We must give Zedekiah some credit here.  He was at least able to build a military strong enough to defend Jerusalem for two years against the much superior military of King Nebuchadnezzar.}  The Babylonian army camped outside the walls of Jerusalem and simply waited them out, causing a famine within the city.  In verses 3--> Babylon finally stormed the walls of Jerusalem and captured it.  They captured Zedekiah, and killed all of his sons in front of him.  Then they burned his eyes out and carried him off in chains to Babylon.  Verses 8-->  Babylon's captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan went to Jerusalem to destroy it, which he did, starting with the Temple, being the crown-jewel of Jerusalem.  They then destroyed the rest of the city, including tearing down the city's walls.  {Later we'll find out that they left small portions of the wall intact.}  While Nebuzaradan was destroying the city, he was rounding up the remaining inhabitants to either kill or take back to Babylon as slaves.  Although most inhabitants were removed, Nebuchadnezzar wanted to leave a remnence of people there to farm the rich farmland and the vineyards.  He was not going to let anything go to waste.  He left a man named Gedaliah in charge of all of the farmland and vineyards, and their work crews.  In verse 25 Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah gathered ten men and assassinated Gedaliah.  Ishmael immediately fled to Egypt to escape death by the Babylonians.

Verses 27-30  -  Remember Jehoiachin?  He was the king who, with his mother and all of his king's court, surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar twenty-seven years earlier.  By this time Nebuchadnezzar had died and Evil-Murduk took his place as king of Babylon.  Evil-Murduk somehow came to know Jehoiachin and liked him.  He released Jehoiachin from prison and gave him a position of respect in Babylon for the remainder of his life.

This concludes our study of First and Second Kings.  We've seen twenty kings of Judah and nineteen kings of Israel.  I have repeated my claim that "leaders matter", as the nations of Israel and Judah followed their kings in doing right or doing wrong.

 Over the span of time the kings did more harm than good, and were ultimately the cause for the downfall, destruction, and elimination of the nation Israel.  Samuel warned God's people about kings.  They should have listened.

Next Post  -  I Chronicles

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