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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 36

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-23

XIX

THE DOWNFALL OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM

2 Kings 23:30-25:30; 2 Chronicles 36:1-23

We take up now the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem. The causes which led to this downfall are almost identical with the causes which led to the fall of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom: the idolatry and wickedness of the people, their departure from the worship of Jehovah, their apparent determination to pay no attention to the words of the prophets, the conspiracy of the last king, Hoshea, with Egypt and his revolt against the king of Assyria. These were the causes remote and near which led to the fall of Samaria. The same causes operated in bringing about the fall of Judah and Jerusalem: the wickedness, the perverseness, the determination and incorrigibility of the people – their refusal to give heed to the voice of the prophets, especially Jeremiah, the conspiracy of the last king with Egypt to form an alliance, and his attempt to throw off the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. These are the remote and near causes which brought about the destruction of the Southern Kingdom.


Let us look at the situation at the death of Josiah. That sad event occurred in the year 608 B.C. It was a death blow to the hopes of the prophets and the prophetic party and all the righteous ones of Judah. It was a death blow to the hopes of the nation, and the sadness and mourning that resulted from the death of Josiah is suggested to us by Zechariah 12:11. Judah never forgot the death of this good king. Zechariah, prophesying of the times of the restoration and messianic age, when all Israel would repent and mourn for their sins, says, "In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon." The mourning of all Israel in the future when it shall repent of its sins and be restored is compared to the mourning of Judah at the death of Josiah.


Now let us glance at the political horizon as well. The great empire of Assyria had reached the climax of its conquests, and its oppressions, and was not hastening to its end. The Babylonian Empire had risen; they had formed a league with the Median Empire, and the two combined, with the help of many other small nations, had at last concentrated their energies upon old Nineveh, and it was soon to be destroyed.


Zephaniah 2:13-14 gives a distinct prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian Empire. Zephaniah lived probably in the time of Josiah, possibly earlier. Let us read what he says in his prophecy: "And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria, and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. And herds shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he hath laid bare the cedar work."


The entire prophecy of Nahum is on this one subject – the downfall of Nineveh. Nahum is a poet, who gives a vivid description of the siege and fall of Nineveh. The world rejoiced when old Nineveh was destroyed. That occurred about 607 or 606 B.C.


Now looking more closely at Judah and Jerusalem, our first point is the Egyptian supremacy in Judah. I have called attention to the successes of Pharaohnecho, king of Egypt, and noted that it was to hinder his advance north that Josiah came out against him and was slain. Pharaohnecho pursued his victorious career north as far as the land of Hamath and conquered that country, and extended his kingdom as far north as the Euphrates River, thus subjecting all Syria to his sway and establishing his headquarters at Riblah in the valley of Hamath.


Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, was put on the throne by the people, doubtless because of his popularity. He had a reign of only three months. During these three months he was under tribute to Pharaohnecoh who had conquered all this country, and he made him prisoner and carried him away to Egypt. His older brother, Jehoiakim, was put upon the throne by Pharaoh. Jehoahaz had a brief reign and a very wicked one. His end is unspeakably sad. Jeremiah 22:10-12 gives an account of him.


Jeremiah at this time was a prophet of Judah and Jerusalem, and he was very active. Here is what he says about the end of Jehoahaz: "Weep not for the dead [that means Josiah], neither bemoan him; but weep sore for him that goeth away [Jehoahaz] ; for he shall return no more, nor see his native country. For thus saith Jehovah touching Shallum [another name for Jehoahaz] the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went forth out of this place: He shall not return thither any more; but in the place whither they have led him captive there he shall die, and he shall see this land no more."


In Ezekiel 19:3-8 we have a striking statement also. Ezekiel was in Babylon prophesying to the exiles. He says, "And she brought up one of her whelps [Judah and Jerusalem represented as a lioness]: he became a young lion, and he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men, . . ." It is Ezekiel’s description of the capture of Jehoahaz, a young lion that Pharaoh caught and took away to Egypt.


Jehoiakim, two or three years his senior, was placed upon the throne by Pharaoh-necho, paid him tribute doubtless, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He was just the opposite of his father, King Josiah, in almost every particular. It seems remarkable that such good kings as Hezekiah and Josiah should have such bad sons, utterly reprobate sons, &a Manasseh and Jehoiakim, but we see that even today.


Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian, rose up in the year 608 B.C. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, and the Medes destroyed Nineveh and left her such an utter ruin that the very place of her existence was soon forgotten. It was completely overwhelmed and devastated by the Babylonians and the Medes, who for centuries had been looking for a chance to get a blow at the ferocious Assyrians.


Nabopolassar was in the East undertaking that great work, and his son Nebuchadnezzar was sent to the West to check the advance of the Egyptian king. We have already stated that Pharaohnecho had extended his empire to the Euphrates River, and now he was ready to go farther. Nebuchadnezzar was sent with a large army to check him. They met near Carchemish, 605 B.C., and here one of the great decisive battles of the world was fought. We find an account of this in Jeremiah 46, beginning with the second verse. It was the greatest event of that time: "Against Egypt, came the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah."


Our next point is the supremacy of Babylon. The result, of course, was that the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept down in hot pursuit of the fleeing Egyptians and all the country was transferred into the hands of the Babylonians again. At once Jehoiakim began to pay tribute. Every nation in this region was compelled to pay heavy tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, the invincible head of the Babylonian army. Thus the allegiance of Judah and Jerusalem was transferred, at it where, in a moment from Egypt to Babylon. Now at that time there occurred a raid of the Babylonians upon Judah and Jerusalem and evidently many of the nobles and princes of the people were taken away. Daniel 1:1 shows that in this raid upon Judah and Jerusalem Daniel with others was among those that were taken to Babylon: "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it." Then it goes on with the story of Daniel and his three friends. This is one of the first deportations leading up to the final downfall. Jeremiah 52:28 is a reference probably to the same deportation by Nebuchadnezzar: "This is the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty." That may refer to the first one or it may possibly refer to a later one, we cannot be positive as to the chronology.


The next thing we note about Jehoiakim is that he rebels against the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps he felt that he could make an alliance with Egypt, that old shame which Isaiah denounced, and which was one of the main things that caused the downfall of Samaria. Jehoiakim was evidently conspiring with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar was in the far east engaged in his conquests; Jehoiakim, led on by his nobles and princes, thought he could free himself again from the galling yoke of Babylon and in spite of all Jeremiah’s entreaties he was determined to do so. In Jeremiah 36 there is a little story of the prophecies which Jeremiah wrote and which were read in the presence of Jehoiakim as he was sitting in his winter palace before an open fire. When the roll was read to him, he took his penknife and cut it in pieces and threw it into the fire. Nearly all of those present with him seemed to approve of his action; only two or three are said to have begged him not to do it. This is the character of Jehoiakim and his attitude toward Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 22:13-19 we have Jeremiah’s own description of Jehoiakim; also a reference to Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 26:20-23.


All this indicates Jehoiakim’s character, bold and incorrigibly defiant of God’s word and of every principle of right and truth. The result we find in 2 Kings 24:2-4: "And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, 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 the hand of his servants the prophets." They did not destroy it utterly, but they carried away a good many captives and much spoil. Jehoiakim died in the year 598 B.C., and the manner of his death is a mystery. There is some difficulty in reconciling the Bible accounts. In 2 Chronicles 36:6 we find: "Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon." Jeremiah said that he should be cast out, drawn forth out of the city and buried as a beast. In Jeremiah 36:30 we also have a statement similar: "Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost." The explanation possibly is that Nebuchadnezzar found him to be such a traitor and such a wretch and villain that he would not take him to Babylon, but had him slain and his body cast forth as refuse out of the city of Jerusalem.


In the next place we have the brief reign of Jehoiachin. Judah and Jerusalem are still under the yoke of Babylon, but the people rise up and put Jehoiachin on the throne, a boy only eighteen years old, and he reigns but three months. Evidently Nebuchadnezzar found something false or treacherous about him; so he comes to the city and besieges it. Jehoiachin surrenders the city, with all his family, and is taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and carried in chains to Babylon; there lodged in the palace prison spending the rest of his life in captivity. At last the king of Babylon brings him out from his dungeon, lifts up his head, speaks kindly to him, and gives him a place among the other kings, tributary to Babylon.


Now comes the reign of Zedekiah, last of the kings of Judah. He is made king by Nebuchadnezzar and at the same time there is a great deportation of treasures and of nobles and of artisans from Jerusalem. This is the second deportation, and the most important one of this period. Treasures – all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king’s house at Jerusalem – all the princes and mighty men, craftsmen and smiths, all the artisans, the best and most skillful minds of Jerusalem, were taken and there was left only the poor and laboring classes. Nebuchadnezzar took away all these because he had a great deal of building to do in his own land, completing the walls of Babylon, and other general work, irrigating the lands of the country, etc. But there is another object in it also, viz: With all the best blood gone, Jerusalem could not offer much resistance.


Afterward Zedekiah rebels, doubtless because he had some hope of a league with Egypt and that he might throw off the yoke of Babylon. Jeremiah 27:12; Jeremiah 27:17 gives Jeremiah’s advice to Zedekiah and all the other small nations telling them in substance: "You keep on yourselves the yoke of Babylon, for that is the only thing that will save your kingdom from destruction." But Zedekiah did not heed Jeremiah any more than Jehoiakim did.


The result is just what we might expect. Nebuchadnezzar sets his army in motion, and in a few years the armies of Nebuchadnezzar are again surrounding the city and this time he means business. Jeremiah pleads with Zedekiah to surrender and take upon himself the yoke of Babylon but the influence of the princes that surround the weak Zedekiah counteracts all the influence of Jeremiah and he goes out on his final rebellion. We find that discussed in Jeremiah 36-37.


But now a ray of hope dawns upon the people of Jerusalem; the siege has been on some time. They hear that the king of Egypt, at last, is coming up to help them. The siege is raised, Nebuchadnezzar moves his army away from Jerusalem in order to meet the Egyptians, but he very soon defeats the Egyptian army and again the walls of Jerusalem are encompassed with his hosts, and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:5-11) gives what the prophet says about it at the time. The siege was raised, but he warns them against false hopes: "For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire." "The doom is inevitable, if you carry out your principle of rebellion." Zedekiah refuses the advice absolutely and for eighteen months Jerusalem endures the horrors of a siege. The fourth chapter of the book of Lamentations describes this. It speaks about the pitiful mother boiling her own children, and those who have been brought up in scarlet as embracing the dunghills to find something to eat, the nobleman’s skin is blackened, going about like a walking skeleton, the babes crying after the mothers’ breasts, and the people perishing.


After eighteen months they try to escape by breaking through, and Zedekiah and his army flee down into the valley of the Jordan and are overtaken by the Chaldeans; he is captured and his army scattered. He is brought before Nebuchadnezzar and Zedekiah’s last vision is his sons slaughtered before his eyes, and then (according to the Assyrians) he is laid upon his back, a short spear driven through each eye, and Zedekiah’s day becomes night, and he sees no more in this world. He is taken to Babylon and there held a prisoner.


Nebuchadnezzar makes a thorough work of the destruction of Jerusalem. He sends his captain, Nebuzaradan, and destroys the entire city, burning up everything that would burn, throwing down everything that can be thrown down, and the best of the people: the priests, the scribes, old and young, young men and maidens, are slain. All these nobles who had been. Zedekiah’s advisers in his intrigues with Egypt are slain. They deserved it. Had it not been for them, Jeremiah might have influenced Zedekiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, and thus saved the city and the people. All the treasurers were taken -- everything that was worth anything – and what could not be taken was broken to pieces. The description given in 2 Kings 25:13-21.


In connection with that event a large number of the best people of Jerusalem are again deported to Babylon and only the poor are left in the land that they may keep and dress the vineyards. This is the third deportation to Babylon; so the exile from Judah and Jerusalem was a process extending over about twenty years, altogether.


In the meantime, what happens to Jeremiah? Jeremiah 40:1-6, we have an account of the captain of the Babylonians, who took Jeremiah in chains, but he remembered the good services rendered Babylon by Jeremiah in trying to persuade Zedekiah to surrender to Babylon. So he gave Jeremiah the choice of going with him as a prisoner to Babylon where he would be well treated, or remaining at Jerusalem with the remnant of poor people left there. He remained with God’s people in his own land.


Next we have the governorship of Gedaliah. Jeremiah had prophesied that the captivity would last only seventy years, and he wrote the captives at Babylon a letter telling them what to do during that period, advising them to remain there and settle down and make the very best of it because seventy years was the appointed time for remaining in captivity. Gedaliah was made governor of the almost completely depopulated land. In a few months he was murdered by one of the Jewish princes that had survived, and others were murdered with him who were loyal to Babylon, and Ishmael and his friends gathered together to take advice. Jeremiah advises them to remain in the land and if they were faithful and true even yet, they would be blessed, but they paid no attention to Jeremiah, fled to Egypt taking Jeremiah with them.


That forty or more years of preaching by Jeremiah was without apparent success, but he stayed with it to the end. Down in Egypt they still worshiped idols and burnt incense to the queen of heaven in spite of all that Jeremiah could do, as is found in Jeremiah 43-44 and at last, according to tradition, the people became so incensed against him that they rose up and stoned him to death. Tradition says that such was the end of Jeremiah and it is quite probable. A picture of Jerusalem is found in Lamentations 1-3. What a picture of the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem! There is nothing superior to it in all literature.


How many deportations of Israel to the Far East were there altogether? The first great deportation was that of Tiglathpileser when he removed all the inhabitants east of the Jordan. The next one was that of Tiglathpileser when he carried away the inhabitants of the northern part of the Northern Kingdom, and the next was the deportation of Sargon after he had captured Samaria; the next one was that of Sennacherib when he came down in the reign of Hezekiah and swept all Judah and carried away two hundred thousand or more inhabitants. Then one was in the time when Daniel was taken away. The next one was in the time of Jehoiachin, and the last one recorded in Kings and Chronicles was at the end of the reign of Zedekiah. So we may reckon that there were several deportations of the Jewish people to the Far East; to Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc. Thus more than a quarter of a million of Jews were deported to various places in central Asia, and some of their descendants, perhaps, are there yet.


The Exile, as we have said, was a process rather than an event. The people were brought into Babylon and there put to use in serving. They helped Nebuchadnezzar build his cities, his great treasuries, they helped to dig canals, as mentioned in Psalm 137: "By the rivers [or canals] of Babylon, we sat down and wept." They helped to irrigate that vast plain between the two rivers.


This captivity did several things for Israel:


1. It permanently cured the nation of its idolatries. I mean that part of the nation that returned after the captivity and built up the Jewish nation at the period of the restoration. The vast multitude that remained in the East adhered to their idolatries.


2. It spiritualized religion. No Temple, no altar, no priesthood, no sacrifices, no holy of holies, no atonement! They were thrown upon their own individual responsibility and individual relation to God, and in this period we have the rise of what we call individualism in religion. We find that discussed at length by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. This is a period when mankind found that it could do without the externals of religion and made it an affair of the heart only, something new in the history of the world.


3. It made the problem of suffering an acute and real one; they were suffering because of their father’s sins, and complained about it: "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own sin, every man that eateth sour grapes, his own teeth shall be set on edge." "The soul that sinneth it shall surely die."


4. It enlarged their conception of God. We find the noblest and highest and loftiest conception of God in Isaiah 40-66. These were written to meet the needs of the people in this trying period. God is pictured as the God of the world, the God of history, and the God of nations; God is pictured as raising up Cyrus as his own servant in order that he might conquer and subdue Babylon and let Israel go free.


5. It gave a truer conception of the mission of Israel to the world. Here we have the rise of the idea of the Suffering Servant of God, as the Servant suffering for the sins of Israel. Here we have the conception of Israel as being the means of bringing all the world to a knowledge of God.


The seventy years close. In the closing verses of 2 Chronicles it refers to Cyrus releasing the captives at Babylon, enabling them to return to rebuild their Temple and to restore their nation.

QUESTIONS

1. What was the religious conditions of Judah at the death of Josiah?

2. What was the political situation?

3. Who succeeded Josiah and how was he made king?

4. What was his character?

5. How was he deposed, what became of him, who succeeded him, how was he made king and what was his character?

6. What was Pharaohnecoh’s relation to Judah and who severed this relation?

7. Give an account of Jehoiakim’s rebellion and death.

8. Who succeeded Jehoiakim, what was his character and end?

9. Who was the last king of Judah and how was he made king?

10. Describe the first great deportation, stating who, what, and where carried.

11. What was Zedekiah’s character, what were his efforts to free himself and what results?

12. What reason here assigned for the ruin of Judah and Jerusalem?

13. Describe the siege of Jerusalem and Zedekiah’s captivity.

14. Describe the final overthrow of Jerusalem.

15. What disposition did they make of the nobles?

16. Give a list of the treasures taken by the Chaldeans.

17. What disposition did they make of the residue of the people?

18. Is this the last deportation? If not, what?

19. What was the length of the captivity and what determined it?

20. Did they carry all the people into captivity? If not, what provision was made for them?

21. What became of Gedaliah and what was the result?

22. What became of Jehoiachin?

23. How did these people get back to their land and when?

24. What prophet foretold this event and where do we find his prophecies?

25. What was the significance of the Exile, and what the several things it did for Israel?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Chronicles 36". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-chronicles-36.html.
 
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