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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

2 Chronicles 36

Verses 1-23

IV. THE REIGNS OF SOLOMON’S SUCCESSORS CHS. 10-36

"With the close of Solomon’s reign we embark upon a new phase in Chr.’s account of Israel’s history. That account can be broadly divided . . . into the pre-Davidic era, the time of David and Solomon, and the period of the divided monarchy up until the Babylonian exile." [Note: McConville, p. 150.]

". . . the Chronicler never regarded the northern monarchy as anything but illegitimate and a rebellion against God’s chosen dynasty. As far as he was concerned, all Israel had one and only one ruling family." [Note: Thompson, p. 249. See also G. N. Knoppers, "Rehoboam in Chronicles: Villain or Victim?" Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (1990):423-40.]

The writer continued his "sermon" by evaluating each of Solomon’s successors with the same yardstick he had used on Solomon, namely, the example of David. His intent appears to have been to show that none of David’s descendants measured up to him, much less surpassed him. Consequently, the promised Son of David was yet to appear. The relationship of each king to temple worship showed his heart commitment to God. So there is much in what follows that deals with the kings’ relationship to the temple and temple worship.

Verses 1-4

1. Jehoahaz 36:1-4

In these few verses, the will of the king of Egypt contrasts with the will of Judah’s people. Whereas the people still held out hope that a descendant of David would lead them to the great glories predicted for David’s greatest Son (e.g., Psalms 2), such was not to be the case any time soon. Other superpowers now dominated Judah’s affairs. God had given His people over into their hands in discipline (cf. Deuteronomy 28:32-57). This king of Judah, rather than lifting the Davidic dynasty to its greatest glories, ended his life as a prisoner in Egypt, the original prison-house of Israel.

Verses 1-21

Q. The Last Four Kings 36:1-21

The sovereignty of the Davidic kings over Judah had ended. With the death of Josiah, Judah fell under the control of foreign powers, first Egypt and then Babylonia. God used other more powerful kings and kingdoms to punish His people (cf. 2 Kings 23:31 to 2 Kings 25:17). The temple motif in Chronicles also climaxes in this section with its destruction.

Verses 5-8

2. Jehoiakim 36:5-8

The Babylonians took Jehoiakim captive to Babylon, and they took some of the glory of the temple, and of the God it represented, with him.

"Taking temple objects was common in times such as this, as it represented the complete military and religious conquest of a city (cf. Daniel 1:1-2; Ezra 1:7)." [Note: Thompson, p. 388.]

Jehoiakim’s conduct did nothing to retard the inevitable conquest of Jerusalem. Judah’s captivity was one step closer when Babylon replaced Egypt as the controller of God’s people.

Verses 9-10

3. Jehoiachin 36:9-10

Like his father Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin was under Nebuchadnezzar’s thumb. He too suffered deportation to Babylon, and with him went more of the glory of Israel.

Verses 11-21

4. Zedekiah 36:11-21

In Zedekiah’s reign, Judah bottomed out spiritually. The king refused to humble himself before either Yahweh or Nebuchadnezzar, even though God repeatedly sent messages and messengers urging him to do so. Hardness of heart now characterized the Davidic king as it had characterized the pharaoh of the Exodus. God humbled this king against his will as He had previously humbled that pharaoh.

The last verses of this section are very sermonic (2 Chronicles 36:14-21). Yet the Chronicler did not set them off as a sermon but caused them to flow out of what he had said about Zedekiah. The writer gave reasons for the conquest of Jerusalem and the exile of the Israelites. The burning of the temple symbolized the end of God’s glory and presence among His people in the land that He had given them to occupy.

"What constitutes the greatest evil for the Chronicler-and it is a theme that is taken up elsewhere in the Bible-is not wrongdoing in and of itself, but wrongdoing in defiance of the clear knowledge of what is right (Mark 12:1-2; Luke 16:31; Isaiah 1:2 f.)." [Note: McConville, p. 268.]

"The real tragedy of the exile was not the removal of the people nor even the utter destruction of the city and the temple. It was the departure of their God from their midst, an absence symbolized in one of Ezekiel’s visions by the movement of the Shekinah from the temple to the summit of the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:23)." [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 470.]

God had descended on the temple in a cloud at its dedication (2 Chronicles 7:1). Now He left it in smoke. Had the Chronicler ended here, there would have been little hope for the future. He justified God’s treatment of His vice-regent amply. The returned exiles could not accuse Yahweh of being unfair or impatient. Rather, His grace stands out, though it had now run out.

"The fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. meant the loss of the three major mainstays of Israelite life: temple, monarchy, and land." [Note: C. Hassell Bullock, "The Priestly Era in the Light of Prophetic Thought," in Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison, p. 71.]

Verses 22-23

R. The Edict of Cyrus 36:22-23

These two verses reflect the whole mood of Chronicles. Rather than ending with the failure of man, the writer concluded by focusing attention on the faithfulness of God (cf. Lamentations 3:22-23). God was in control of the Persian king as He had controlled the kings of Babylon, Egypt, and Israel. God had promised Israel a future as a nation. His people would experience this future under the rule of a perfect Davidic Son. Yahweh was moving now-after 70 years of captivity-to bring that future to pass (cf. Isaiah 9:7). Even though the Babylonian army had burned Yahweh’s temple to the ground (2 Chronicles 36:19), it would rise again (2 Chronicles 36:23).

The message to the returned exiles was clear. God would respond to their repentance (2 Chronicles 6:36-39). He would forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Moreover, He would raise up a descendant of David who would rule over not only Israel but all the nations forever (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

"Now that Cyrus had decreed the rebuilding of the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23), here was prima facie evidence that God had not annulled His covenant with Israel nor the Levitical system revealed at Sinai." [Note: George Harton, "Fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28-30 in History and in Eschatology" (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981), p. 190.]

The closing words of Chronicles are identical to the opening ones in Ezra. If the same person wrote both books, he may have duplicated this pivotal information to tie the events of these two books together. If different people wrote them, the writer of Chronicles probably included this material to present a note of hope at the end of his "sermon." [Note: See Menahem Haran, "Explaining the Identical Lines at the End of Chronicles and the Beginning of Ezra," Bible Review 2:3 (Fall 1986):18-20, for one explanation of the duplication, and Edwin Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," in I Kings-Job, vol. 4 of Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 573, for another.]

"Unlike the Book of Kings, with its central message of stern moral judgments . . . Chronicles exists essentially as a book of hope, grounded on the grace of our sovereign Lord." [Note: Payne, "1, 2 Chronicles," p. 559.]

"If Chronicles in its last chapter tells us that God acted in mercy by restoring his people Judah, Ezra-Nehemiah will reveal to us how they fared upon their return, privileged with a new opportunity to be God’s people in their own land." [Note: J. G. McConville, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, p. 1.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 36". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-chronicles-36.html. 2012.