Jehoiachin & Zedekiah; The End of a Civilisation – 2nd Chronicles 36:9-21

The defeat and death of Jehoiakim represented a new era in international relations. The Egyptians who previously dominated the region after the collapse of Assyria were forced to concede to the might of Nebuchadnezzar and his, now dominant, Babylonian Empire. The last two Kings who reigned in Judah, from the family of David, would do so under the dark shadow of Babylon. The judgement that had been threatened and prophesied over many years are now drawing increasingly closer. This study will explore the final years of a nation before the horrid captivity was visited upon them.

1: The Captive King

Jehoiachin, the son of Jeohoiakim, replaced his father upon the throne of David in Jerusalem. Like his uncle Jehoahaz he only reigned three months, spending the majority of his life as a prisoner in Babylon.

The careful reader of Scripture discovers a problem, however, when comparing the accounts of Jehoiachin in Chronicles and Kings

2 Kings 24:8

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 36:9

Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

It is difficult to believe that eight years of age is the correct age because of the judgement upon his reign, that he did evil in the sight of the Lord. While there were young Kings previously, those who were too young to carry the responsbility were assisted by a regent. Therefore the reponsibility for evil would be borne by the adult and not the child. That being the case, how can we then reconcile the two ages?

Some adopt the position that a copyist made an error; after all one slip of the pen is the difference between eight and eighteen. This is a difficult position to take due to the scruplouous care with which the Scriptures were handled by the ancient scribes, and the manner in which their work was verified.

Is there another explanation?

Matthew Poole is the master of the difficult text; he explains the discrepency well:

Both are true; in his eighth year he began to reign with his father, who made him king with him…and in the eighteenth year he reigned alone.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Bible

Jehoaikim reigned for eleven years, which allowing for some overlap due to the birth month it is entirely logical to reoncile the eight with the eighteen. The heir in the East was often associated with the reign of the Monarch.

Jehoiachin is linked with his mother in terms of his coronation and his eventual surrender to Babylon according to the record in Kings; which intimates a close relationship. Sadly her influence was not godly, this is implied as her son’s three month reign was wicked.

It would appear that Nebuchadnezzar was desirous to impress his authority over Judah and so quickly removed the young man from office. According to the account in Kings the Babylonian soldiers stripped the Temple of its enormous wealth and carried thousands away captive at this time.

Ezekiel first began to see his visions in the fifth year of Jehoichin’s captivity (Ezekiel 1:2), indicating that he was probably taken to Babylon at this time. Ezekiel significantly saw the judgement of God descending gradually but with irreversable momentum, by faith he could read the signs of the times:

Ezekiel 10:4

Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.

Ezekiel 10:18

Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.

As the glory departed judgement was coming. We need to see the signs as God withdraws his blessing from our nation.

Jehoichin, however, was taken from his captivity in the thirtieth year and given a place with the rulers of Babylon. It was a dramatic turnaround, although in all likelihood it was Babylon’s way of highlighting their power and prestige; a Jewish King in their courts following in their ways! He ever remained a symbol of the apostacy of the nation (Jeremiah 52:31-34)

2: The Proud King

Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s brother, was the next to reign and he did so as an appointee of Nebuchadnezzar, as his father was an appointee of Pharoah. There was yet another similiarity with his father; both men were given new names by their foreigh superiors. Zedekiah’s name was Mattaniah but under Babylon’s supremacy he had to take on a new name. Zedekiah was a good name meaning “The righteounsess of Jehovah” but to him it was merely paying lip service to a faith.

Zedekiah had personal dealings with Jeremiah, making him a prisoner, regarding him as seditious and even having him thrown into a deep well on one occasion. One gets a sense there was a lingeirng respect in Zedekiah’s heart for the prophet yet he refused to listen to his words, to his own detriment. When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem for the final time Jeremiah told Zedekiah to surrender; but the King refused to do so.

The clear warning from Zedekiah’s life is that we must listen to God’s word and accept it, even when it is most unpalatable, expecially when it is most unpalatable.

Zedekiah heard a clear and uncomprimising message which offered him hope:

And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey. For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.

Jeremiah 21:8-10

Zedekiah’s major problem, however, was the fear of man. He dreaded being seen a coward and a failure and he articulated this to the prophet:

And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me:

Jeremiah 38:19-21

The end for this King, who had the man of God in is midst but chose the way of death is heart breaking, pathetic and tragic:

Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.

Jeremiah 39:6-7

3: The Temple’s Destruction

The end of the siege of Jerusalem also brought about the burning of the Temple.

Throughout 2nd Chronicles the holy and beautiful house has witnessed prayers, sacrifices, revivals, apostacy, restoration, treachery but now all of this history will come to a close, most dramtatically as the Gentile army sets it ablaze.

The Chronicler is quite clear, however, as to where the fault lay:

Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.

2nd Chronicles 36:14-16

While the Temple fell physically at this moment in history, she had already fallen spiritually. She had a become a momument to what God had done but the cause of truth does not survive because of monuments! There must be life but the life had gone. Therefore in the words of the Revelation – the candlestick was removed. Spriritual death leads to the physical decay of the local congregation, the denomination and even the nation.

But still even in this darkness there would be hope as the final study will reveal.

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