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
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.