2 Kings 24:1 - 25:10.
Sin's Final Consequence
American Journal of Biblical Theology August 22, 2004 Copyright © 2004, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
2 Kings ends with the end of the reign of the kings of Judah, ending the period of the Jewish kings. The tribe of Judah remained in the promised land of Canaan for about 130 years after the exile and destruction of the northern nation of Israel. The northern nation, following the division of the kingdom after Solomon's reign, failed at any time to turn to the Lord. Its kings were a succession of pagan leaders who promoted idolatry and the sensual and perverted worship practices of the pagan culture. The consequence of sin is separation from God, and after about 400 years of apostasy, God drove them from the land and they were destroyed as a nation.
What is the relationship between exile from Canaan and separation from God? Today's "moderns" understand the doctrine of God's omnipresence: God's existence and influence is equally and powerfully present in every point in the universe. One cannot escape God by means of travel. However, ancient culture had no concept of the vastness of the universe, and little teaching of the omnipresence of God. Since different local cultures developed their own sets of pagan gods, their intrinsic localities led to a belief that the influence of the gods was geographically limited and centered around those who gave them authority. This is why Jonah attempted to run away from God by taking a ship to the farthest known place in the region.
For God to remove the people from the promised land was a metaphor for separation from Him. Those who were exiled from the promised land could physically observe how they had lost the promised inheritance. God is Holy and Just, and does not condone sin, nor does he allow unrighteousness in His presence. In the same manner, God has promised eternal life with Him for those who turn to Him in faith.
The southern kingdom of Judah, nearly as apostate as the northern Kingdom of Israel, remained in the promised land after Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria. Judah occasionally returned to the traditions and beliefs concerning the Lord, and among its kings were those who occasionally recognized God for who He is and responded with godly leadership. Still, however, just as the faith of a Christian cannot justify to salvation the apostate soul of another individual, even the godly kings did not change the hearts of the people in the nation. Hezekiah is noted as a king who, following a line of ungodly kings, restored the temple to its intended purpose and banished pagan practices from the land. However, his son, Manasseh had no such interests in God and went so far as to re-establish pagan worship and persecute those who continued to follow the Lord. Though no scripture describes it, Jewish traditional history holds that the purge of the faithful under Manasseh included in its victims the prophet, Isaiah. The prophesies of the latter years of Judah are largely those of Jeremiah.
Following the deplorable reign of Manassah, the nation continued in its apostasy until the reign of Josaiah who, in his 18th year as king, found the temple scrolls that contained the Mosaic law, and reestablished appropriate temple worship. He removed from the temple the shrines to the pagan gods that had been place there by his predecessors, and like Hezekiah, he destroyed the pagan places of worship and put to death the pagan religious leaders. Still, Josiah's efforts were too little, and too late. The heart of the people was hardened against God, and the kings who followed Josiah returned Jerusalem and the temple to pagan practice.
In the meantime, Babylon and Egypt had become the more powerful influences in the region. Pharaoh Neco of Egypt sought and alliance with Assyria against Babylon, and Josiah went to meet Neco in battle, only to lose his life, leaving Judah in the hands of the Egyptians. Though the people named Jehoahaz, son of Josiah as king, Neco replaced him with Eliakim the second son of Josiah and renamed him Jehoiakim. Neco took Jehoahaz back to Egypt where he was killed. Eliakim served as Neco's vassal king for eleven years while he exacted heavy taxes from the people of Judah and sent them to Egypt.
2 Kings 24:1-7.
In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. 2And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets. 3Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; 4And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon. 5Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 6So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. 7And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.
Babylon overran Judah under king Nebuchadnezzar when Neco's influence in the region abated, and Jehoiakim served as Babylon's vassal king. During this time Jehoiakim did what was "evil" in the sight of the Lord as he led his people in pagan apostasy. Much of the prophesy of Jeremiah refers to the apostasy of Jehoiakim's reign. Manasseh's purge had removed from Judah enough of the Lord's influence that the people would never turn back to Him, so the Lord put sent up a multiple of nations against Judah, a move that would ultimately destroy the nation. Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of the Egyptians and Assyrians at Charchemish resulted in Jehoiakim's allegiance to him. However, Jehoiakim only waited for the best opportunity to rebel. In 601 BC when Neco successfully repelled a Babylon assault on its borders, Jehoiakim thought the time was right to make his move. However, it was three years before Babylon's forces would be sufficiently rebuilt. In the meantime Nebuchadnezzar harassed Judah by sending in neighboring tribes. The scripture describes this treatment of Judah as a judgment against it because of their continued rejection of God.
In 598 BC Nebuchadnezzar was ready to move on Judah, now under the reign of Jehoiachin who succeeded Jehoiakim.
2 Kings 24:8-9.
8Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his motherís name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.
Like his father, Jehoiachin led his nation in pagan apostasy. We might be reminded of James 3:1 which states that those who are in positions of spiritual authority will receive the greater judgment. Jehoiachin could have used his position to restore the nation. The charge he had as its king was to do so, and that charge was part of the ordination process. However, the pomp and ceremony of the process ignored the purpose of its content. Even today, the pomp and ceremony of religious ritual can appear pious, and yet totally ignore God and His purposes, usually integral to the ceremonies when the traditions were started. Like his fathers, Jehoiachin observed the pomp and ceremony of religious ritual but gave its purpose no thought and reign as a pagan, worldly king, engendering no hope for the nation to return to the Lord. As Judah faced the coming wave of oppression from Babylon, Jehoiachin lacked the wisdom to call upon God, and he lacked the armies to hold back Nebuchadnezzar's newly rebuilt forces. The situation for Jerusalem was desperate.
2 Kings 24:10-11.
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.
A common offensive against a fortified city was the siege. A military offensive against the walls would result in the loss of many soldiers as the defenders could simply shoot arrows and spears down upon the intruders. The siege was conducted by surrounding the city with a line of forces that would disallow anyone from traveling in and out of the city with the intent of bringing starvation upon its people.
2 Kings 24:12-16.
And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. 13And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the kingís house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. 14And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. 15And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the kingís mother, and the kingís wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.
By the time of this offensive, the Babylonians had adopted the Assyrian strategy of taking away from the nation all of the people of influence. The nation, incubated in the bondage under the Egyptians was given an opportunity for freedom and security in a promised land simply by turning to the Lord in faith. Lesson upon lesson was given to the children of Israel, given to teach them of the consequence of their sin. Failure to turn to God in faith will always result in separation from Him, and now after many hundreds of years, the nation finds itself back in bondage in a foreign land. Further enhancing the "departing' of God's Spirit, the temple was completely looted by the Babylonians.
Nebuchadnezzar left behind only the poor and unskilled people who would now be no threat to the sovereignty of Babylon in the region. He left the city intact, including its defensive walls.
2 Kings 24:17-20.
And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his fatherís brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his motherís name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
Amazingly, not only did Nebuchadnezzar leave the city intact, he also maintained the line of Davidic kings when he named Mattaniah, the uncle of Jehoiachin as the next vassal king. Renamed Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar, this new king was like his brother and nephew, reigning with no regard for the Lord. It would seem natural that with his nation largely taken to Babylon that he would be shouting out to the Lord in distress as persecuted Israel had done so many times in the past. Instead, he led his new and faltered nation as a vassal to Babylon, and started rebuilding. This Conqueror - Vassal relationship opened the door for Judah to once again cry out to the Lord for a deliverance that would have surely come if they would turn to Him in faith. However, no such revival occurred. With all of the the rich and well-documented history, with the resource of the scrolls instructing the people in righteousness, the nation ignored all of what God had provided for them.
One of the greatest errors occurs when one is ignorant of their past ... repetition. With the Lord's hand of protection removed from this apostate and pagan people, they were left at the mercy of the errors of their leadership and the greed of their neighbors. At the same time, Zedekiah was rebuilding the infrastructure of the nation and beginning to think that he could stand against the might of Babylon. Such a position is quite unbelievable, but simply goes to show how deluded Judah had become. Zedekiah had less of a chance of resisting the forces of Nebuchadnezzar than Sadaam Hussein had against the coalition of Western forces in the Second Gulf War. However, his confidence and braggadocio was no less than that demonstrated by Hussein.
2 Kings 25:1-7.
And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the kingís garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. 5And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. 6So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. 7And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.
The cycle continues for one last interation. Judah has had numerous opportunities for repentance, but had not given the Lord the least attention. The commitment that they had made to the Lord many years ago was long since forgotten. The people lived for the pagan world, had become integrated into it, and lost the protection of the Lord against its dangers. Zedekiah's growing intransigence against Babylon was seen by Nebuchadnezzar as yet one more uprising from this rebellious people, an uprising that would be quelled once and for all. Late in 588 BC Nebuchadnezzar brought the force of his army to bear on Jerusalem, and again, laid siege against it. However, this time the siege was far more complete. While he cut off the city from outside supplies he systematically went throughout the region and destroyed the Jewish strongholds, cutting off any chance for outside assistance. Well into the two-year siege, Nebuchadnezzar withdrew his forces, relying on the Chaldeans to hold the siege while he took his army to deal with coming Egyptian relief under the command of Apries (Jer. 37:5). Interpreting this as an opportunity to escape, Zedekiah and his royal troops fled through what they thought was an obscure route, ony to be overtaken by the Chaldeans. Here Zedekiah was held while he watched the slaughter of his sons. The Chaldeans then blinded him so that his last vision would be that of his slain sons. He was then taken to Babylon where he was imprisoned.
This retreat from the city by Zedekiah left the city without its king and without its army, leaving its besieged people completely without defense and subject to a Babylonian king intent on crushing the city. The situation is hopeless, of course, the children of Israel cry out to the Lord for deliverance ...
2 Kings 25:8-10.
And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: 9And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the kingís house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great manís house burnt he with fire. 10And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.
About a month passed while the walls were left virtually undefended. While the siege was still imposed, the Chaldeans awaited the arrival of Nebuzaradan, the commander of the Babylonian army that was directed to take Jerusalem. Upon his arrival, the city was entirely despoiled. Unlike the ending of the previous siege that left the city intact, all of the contents were removed from the temple and palace and both were burned and broken down. Meanwhile, the Chaldeans were tasked with the destruction of the city walls.
The destruction of Jerusalem was made complete. As was done after Nebuchadnezzar's first siege, the leadership of the city was taken captive. Nebuchadnezzar left his own man as king, only to have him assassinated by the Jews who remained behind. Following the assassination, the remaining Jews fled to Egypt. Judah was no more.
There is only one result of a life that is lived apart from a relationship with God: an eternity separated from Him. Both Israel and Judah were determined to live like the world lives, embracing their pagan attitudes and beliefs, turning their back on the One God who created them for a relationship with Him. Today's world is scarcely different from that of the ancient Israelites. The secular culture is pagan to the extreme, and like the gods of Canaan, has power to draw people away from the righteousness that comes from a life that is committed to God. Today's gods are similar to the ones of ancient Israel. Sex is used to sell products and entertain the populace as the culture continues to eliminate any taboos concerning its expression. These are simply expressions of worship of the gods of Asherah and Baal. Child sacrifice is rampant, conducted to the god Chemosh, but done in the name of a "woman's choice."
God has promised an eternal home for those who turn from the wicked ways of this world and turn to Him in repentance and faith. It is probably quite appropriate that the Christian church of today take a close look at the demise of the nations of Israel and turn fully to God in repentance and sincere faith, for eternal separation from God, imposed upon those who reject him, is a promise.