Sunday, September 15, 2013

CLXXVI - II Chronicles 33-36

This post concludes our study of Chronicles.  I meant for this blog to be much shorter than it is but it is so difficult to condense one's thoughts on the Scripture.

In the last post we covered four chapters of II Chronicles, all of which told about one king, Hezekiah.  In this post we will also cover four chapters, but these chapters will tell of seven different kings of Judah.  As you read these final four chapters of Chronicles, you will notice that two kings get most of the coverage:  Manasseh, who was quite evil;  and Josiah, who was quite a good king, much like his great-grandfather Hezekiah.  We have studied these men in the books of Kings, but Chronicles gives a bit more detail about Manasseh and Josiah.

Chapter 33  -  Manasseh

Manasseh was Hezekiah's son.  He was only twelve years old when he became king of Judah.  He reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem, which was longer than any other king of Judah or Israel.  Early in his reign Manasseh managed to undo everything good that his father Hezekiah had done.  Everything Hezekiah built, Manasseh demolished.  Hezekiah removed all pagan idols from the Temple and Manasseh moved them back in.  Hezekiah destroyed the high places and pagan worship centers and Manasseh rebuilt them.  Hezekiah his father despised Baal and Ashteroth and everything they stood for.  Manasseh not only gave the Baal priests free reign, but joined in the worship of these idols.  Manasseh seemed like he was bound and determined to exceed Ahab in ungodly practices.  Verse 6-->  He participated in child sacrifices, killing some of his own children.  He practiced divination and witchcraft.  There was nothing evil that Manasseh did not practice beyond the levels of any of his predecessors.

     But then in verse 10, God spoke to Manasseh.  This was very merciful of God.  But Manasseh and the people of Judah didn't listen to Him.  So God moved the Assyrians to attack Judah and Manasseh.  They defeated Manasseh and put a hook in his nose and led him back to Babylon in shackles.  Finally, Manasseh humbled himself before the Lord.  As is His custom,  God felt compassion for Manasseh (Manasseh's repentance must have been sincere) and God restored him to Jerusalem as king.  Having been truly repentant, Manasseh made a sincere effort to do that which was right in the sight of God.  As stated in verses 15-17, Manasseh and the people of Judah saw the error of their ways and tried to make atonement.  {As
mentioned earlier, Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king and reigned fifty-five years.  I'm not certain what age he was when he repented and began seeking God and His righteousness.}

Verse 20 tells of Manasseh's death and that his son Amon became king at the age of twenty-two.  Amon reigned two years in Jerusalem.  Amon was as evil in those two years as his father was in the beginning of his reign.  In those two years he managed to send Judah back into the arms of Baal.  But Amon never humbled himself before God or anybody else.  The very people whom he appointed as palace officials conspired against Amon and killed him.  The people of Judah were displeased with those officials taking matters like that into their own hands.  So all of the people of the land killed all of those who betrayed and assassinated Amon.  They then made Amon's son Josiah king of Judah.

Chapter 34  -  Josiah and the Book of the Law

Josiah was eight years old when he became king of Judah and reigned thirty-one years.  Josiah was everything good and pure in a king.  It says he "did not turn aside to the right or to the left".  The Scripture uses this phrase sparingly and only pertaining to the Godliest of people.  When Josiah was sixteen years old he, like Hezekiah, proceeded to destroy all pagan idols and worship centers.  When he was twenty-six years old he ordered the Temple to be restored to its previous glory.  He had to make certain that the right people were assigned the various duties in the restoration project.  He even organized the collection of funds by which the laborers would be paid, much like David did before the Temple was even constructed.

Verses 14-33  -  The Book of the Law

During the process of restoring the Temple, Hilkiah the priest found a book which contained the Law as written by Moses.  {We can't be sure which book this was. It seems that it was probably the book of Deuteronomy, but it may have included parts of Exodus and/or Leviticus.  This book should have been with God’s ark in the most holy place (Deuteronomy 31:26).  At this time, the ark had not been in its proper place (as evidenced in 35:3). So, the book was not where it should have been.  But given the collective activities of Manasseh and Amon, it was no wonder the Temple would have been in total disarray.}  As you read these twenty verses you can see what a sobering effect its reading made on everyone who was exposed to it.  {The Scripture is still that powerful.}  Josiah was Godly enough and wise enough to understand how Judah had ended up in such a mess, having ignored the commands of God for so many generations.  Josiah then increased his efforts in cleansing the nation of all idolatrous materials and artifacts, knowing that God required absolute purity.  Note the last verse in this chapter saying that,  "As long as he (Josiah) lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors."

Chapter 35  -  Josiah Celebrates the Passover

All this time since the they found that book of the Law, Josiah was busying himself studying the Law and following every detail in it.  There was plenty to do to restore this great nation to its former glory when Solomon was king.  And now the season of Passover was upon them.  Josiah felt that the Temple and the worship procedures followed by the Levites were as close as he could get them.  He also knew by the reading of the book of the Law that the Passover was the most important celebration that could be observed by the Israelites.  {My guess is that Passover has not been observed for quite some time.}  As you read these verses 1-19, you can see how elaborate this celebration was.  It says in verse 18 that Passover had not been celebrated that elaborately since the days of the prophet Samuel.  That was 400 years ago.

Verses 20-27  -  The death of Josiah

At this time, there were three powerful nations, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt.  Judah could stay neutral and be a free nation as long as these nations were about equal in power.  But Assyria was becoming the weakest of the three nations. Babylon was becoming the most powerful and they fought with Assyria.  Pharaoh Neco of Egypt decided to try to help Assyria against Babylon.  In 609 BC he went to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates River.  To do this, Neco and his army had to pass through the territory of Israel.  Josiah decided not to allow the soldiers from Egypt to pass through any of Judah's territory.  He took his army to fight against Neco’s army.  Pharaoh Neco did not want to fight against Josiah.  He tried to talk Josiah out of fighting.  He just wanted to pass through the territory.  But Josiah was determined to defend his territory, considering the crossing was actually an invasion by the Egyptians.  They entered into battle and Josiah himself was mortally wounded.  They had taken Josiah back to Jerusalem where he died.  I consider Josiah to have been among the best kings of Judah.  Verse 25 states that the great prophet Jeremiah lamented for king Josiah.  The people of Jerusalem made Josiah's son Jehoahaz the new king of Judah.

Chapter 36

Pharaoh Neco had served Judah with a bitter defeat in battle.  As was custom of the day, Judah came under the rule of Egypt, in the name of "the spoils of war".  Even though Jehoahaz was king, Egypt controlled Judah and levied an annual tax on all of Judah's citizens.  Pharaoh even took Jehoahaz off the throne and made his brother Eliakim the official king of Judah.  To further humiliate Judah, Pharaoh forced Eliakim to change his name to Jehoiakim.  They took the real king Jehoahaz off in shackles to Egypt to live in exile.  Egypt then left Jerusalem with Jehoiakem as king, who did evil in the eyes of God.  Nebuchadnessar king of Babylon invaded Jerusalem and took Jehoiakem back to Babylon in shackles, plus he plundered the Temple for anything of value that was left.  With Jehoiakem gone, his son Jehoiachin was made king.  Only three months
after that, Nebuchadnessar came to Jerusalem and took Jehoiachin back to Babylon in chains also.   Nebuchadnessar then named Jehoiachin's uncle Zedekiah as king of Judah.  Zedekiah was king for eleven years and was evil in the eyes of God.  Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnessar, which was a large mistake.  The Babylonians marched their army against Jerusalem and ravaged it because of Zedekiah's rebellion.  Verses 15-20 gives a vivid picture of what the Babylonians did to the nation of Judah.  Verses 22-->, tell of Persia overpowering the Babylonians.

We will see in the next post how different Cyrus king of Persia was from Nebuchadnessar king of Babylon, as we begin our study of the wonderful book of Ezra.

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