The Word Made Fresh
1Then the people made Josiah’s son Jehoahaz king to succeed his father in Jerusalem. 2He was twenty-three years old, but his rule only lasted three months in Jerusalem. 3The king of Egypt removed him from the throne and levied a tribute from Judah of three and three-fourths tons of silver and seventy-five pounds of gold. 4The Egyptian king made his brother Eliakim king of Judah and Jerusalem, changed his name to Jehoiakim, and carried his deposed brother Jehoahaz to Egypt.
5Jehoiakim was twenty-five when he came to the throne and ruled eleven years in Jerusalem. He was a wicked king in the LORD’s judgment. 6King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked and captured him and took him in chains to Babylon. 7Nebuchadnezzar also carried off some of the sacred vessels from the LORD’s house to his palace in Babylon. 8The record of Jehoiakim’s reign and the disgusting things he did that were discovered about him are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
His son Jehoiachin succeeded him. 9He was eight years old when he came to the throne and ruled for three months and ten days in Jerusalem. His rule was wicked in the LORD’s judgment. 10In the springtime of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and had him taken to Babylon along with the remaining valuables in the LORD’s house. He made his brother Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem.
11Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when his reign began. He ruled in Jerusalem for eleven years, 12and his rule was evil in the LORD’s judgment. He showed no humility when the prophet Jeremiah spoke the LORD’s word to him. 13He rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance to God. But he was a stubborn fellow and determined not to turn to the LORD God of Israel. 14Under his rule all the leading priests and public officials were also unfaithful and copied the disgusting practices of the godless nations. They polluted the LORD’s house that the LORD had set apart in Jerusalem.
15The LORD God of their ancestors again and again sent prophets to them out of love for the people and the temple, God’s house. 16But they just laughed at the messengers God sent and ignored the messages. They ridiculed the prophets of the LORD until the LORD’s anger against them was so great that there was no longer any chance of redemption.
17Then the LORD sent the king of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) against them, and their young men died swords in hand in the sanctuary. There was no compassion shown to young men or young women or the old and infirm; the LORD gave all of them over to the Chaldean king. 18Everything left in the LORD’s house, all the treasures of the kings and the government officials were taken back to Babylon. 19They burned the LORD’s house down. They demolished the wall around Jerusalem and burned down all the houses and destroyed everything of any value. 20All those who escaped the violence were taken into exile to Babylon to become the servants of the Babylonian king and his sons, until the kingdom of Persia took over. 21Thus the word of the LORD spoken through the prophet Jeremiah came to pass and the land paid for all its unobserved sabbaths. The land kept its sabbaths in desolation for seventy years.
22In the first year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, to fulfill the LORD’s word spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD stirred the heart of Cyrus to send a message by a herald throughout his kingdom to announce the king’s written edict which read thus: 23“This is the word of king Cyrus of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has placed in my hands all the kingdoms of the earth, and has charged me with the responsibility of building a house for the LORD in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever among you belongs to the LORD, may your God be with you. Let each of you who wishes get up and go!”
1-4: Josiah’s son Jehoahaz is made king to succeed his father. Jehoahaz is not the oldest son, so some details of the succession have not been supplied. However, Pharaoh Neco has no intention of letting Judah recover, having shown themselves to be a problem for him. He deposes Jehoahaz and carries him in captivity to Egypt and makes his older brother Eliakim king in his place, changing his name to Jehoiakim as a way of exercising his authority over the country. Neco levies a tax on the people of Judah, but it isn’t much of a tax, which tells us that the fortunes of Jerusalem and Judah have been in decline for some time.
5-8: Jehoiakim manages to stay in power for 11 years under Egyptian authority. The judgment on his reign, that “he did what was evil” is largely due to foreign influences which he could not afford to ignore. But Egyptian influence in the region is waning and eventually the Babylonians begin to flex their muscles. Nebuchadnezzar takes Jehoiakim into custody and carries him away, the first of the exiles to Babylon. He is succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.
9-10: Jehoiachin, however, is only 8 years old. Why he is placed on the throne is a puzzle, since he does have an older brother. And what the poor child did to earn the judgment, “he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD,” is left unexplained. In any case it only takes three months for Nebuchadnezzar to make a change. Jehoiachin is taken away to Babylon and his older brother Zedekiah is named king.
11-14: Zedekiah is 21 years old and holds office for 11 years. Jeremiah warns him about the coming wrath of God (see Jeremiah 32, 34, and 37 in particular) but Zedekiah pays him no heed. He finally has the gall, or perhaps the stupidity, to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. He and his officials do seem to have a good time, though, desecrating the house of the LORD. That’s not a smart move, either.
15-16: God is patient to the nth degree, sending messenger after messenger in an effort to draw the people back to the covenant. Finally, even God gives up.
17-21: The chronicler describes the sacking and subjection of Jerusalem in cryptic terms (see 2 Kings 25 for a more detailed and complete account). The Babylonians allow no quarter to young or old, man or woman. The wealth of the temple and of the city is taken away. The temple is burned down along with the royal palaces. The city wall is broken down. The people that are left alive are taken into exile to Babylon and the city is left in ruin. 70 years, a Sabbath of years, will pass before God will allow a restoration. By then Babylon will have been displaced by Persia.
22-23: The chronicler jumps ahead those seventy years and ends his history with a summary of the decree of King Cyrus, the Persian general who conquered the Babylonian empire. He allows the Jews to return to their homeland (as well as other peoples the Babylonians have displaced) and rebuild their temple. That will be the subject of the next book of the Bible, Ezra.
At some point God will stop punishing people for their apostacy and simply let them go. It has been said that it is a frightening thing to be in the hands of an angry God; but it is even more frightening when God’s hands are removed. Still, we will find that even then God has not abandoned them forever. God will wait for the right time and the right place to step back into the story. Whenever we fear that the LORD has abandoned us, we must simply pray and wait and suffer whatever we need to suffer.
The Chronicles Are Done. Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed.