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In this chapter we first find the reign of three sons and a grandson of Josiah who are successively king of Judah. They all have double names:
1. Joahaz/Jehoahaz (or Shallum, 1Chr 3:15-16), son of Josiah, 2Chr 36:1-4;
2. Jehoiakim (or Eliakim), son of Josiah, 2Chr 36:5-8;
3. Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah or Coniah, Jer 22:24; 28; Jer 24:1; Jer 37:1), son of Jehoiakim, 2Chr 36:9-10;
4. Zedekiah (or Mattaniah), son of Josiah, 2Chr 36:11-16.
The description of their reign is brief. It is as if the chronicler is in a hurry to come to the end, in order to point out a new perspective.
During the reign of Zedekiah the destruction of Jerusalem takes place (2Chr 36:17-21). God’s patience with His people has ended.
However, this is not the end of the book. In the last two verses the writer points to a new beginning. God allows through Cyrus the possibility that the Jews who were deported into exile can return to Jerusalem (2Chr 36:22-23).
Joahaz King of Judah
After the death of Josiah the people take the initiative and choose a successor (2Chr 36:1). This is not the eldest son, Jehoiakim, but a younger son, Shallum, who takes the name Joahaz. He reigns for only three months (2Chr 36:2). He reigns that short period of time by the grace of the king of Egypt, who deposes him after three months (2Chr 36:3). Here we see the result of Josiah’s failure by interfering in a battle of the king of Egypt (2Chr 35:20-24). Josiah interfered with Egypt and was overwhelmed by it.
The king of Egypt also imposes a heavy fine on the land that must be paid by all the people (2Kgs 23:35). As a result, the whole population feels the yoke of domination. This must have been a huge difference with the favors they enjoyed under Josiah.
Now the king of Egypt decides who becomes king (2Chr 36:4) and not the people of the land (2Chr 36:1). The power of the king of Egypt is also shown by the fact that he gives another name to Eliakim he made king (cf. Dan 1:7). It seems that Joahaz has caused the displeasure of the king of Egypt, because he is taken to Egypt. There he also died (Jer 22:10-12).
Jehoiakim King of Judah
After Joahaz, Jehoiakim reigned eleven years (2Chr 36:5). The characteristic of his reign is that “he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God”. More information about this can be found in the book of Jeremiah. He is an arrogant, selfish man, who is completely indifferent to the LORD (Jer 36:21-31). He is a tyrant who abuses his power to oppress and extort. He has imposed enormous taxes on the people to live a life of indulgence (Jer 22:13-17).
After Egypt, Babylon comes to power in Jerusalem (2Chr 36:6). Nebuchadnezzar goes up against Jehoiakim to take him, bound with bronze chains, to Babylon. It is not clear whether Jehoiakim has arrived there. It is assumed that he was allowed to stay in Jerusalem because he swore allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. However, with this arrival of Nebuchadnezzar the first deportation to Babylon takes place (2Kgs 24:14; Jer 52:3-16; Dan 1:1-3). This is the beginning of the seventy-year exile of Judah (Jer 29:10), which lasted from 606-536 BC.
The king of Babylon also takes some articles from the house of the LORD to Babylon (2Chr 36:7). There he places them in “his temple”. In this way he mixes the things of God with his idols. He does not bring his pagan gods into the house of God, but takes the objects of God’s house to his own pagan idolatry. This is an illustration of what has taken place in the history of Christianity through the ages. First, pagan practices are brought into the church. Later, things from God’s Word are introduced into the idolatrous practices of a worldly religion, which we see especially in roman-catholicism.
The remarks with which the chronicler concludes his description of Jehoiakim’s life are not particularly flattering. He doesn’t have a good word left for him. He summarizes the life of this king with the words “the abominations which he did” (2Chr 36:8). He doesn’t say a word about his death and burial. Jeremiah tells us that this man was given a burial of a donkey, that he was thrown away as a cadaver (Jer 22:19; Jer 36:30).
Jehoiachin King of Judah
Jehoiachin becomes king when he is eight years old (2Chr 36:9). He reigns only three months and ten days. He is young and reigns short, but the judgment of him is as negative as that of his predecessor. Also “he did evil in the sight of the LORD”. Nebuchadnezzar puts an end to his reign by bringing him to Babylon “at the turn of the year” (2Chr 36:10). Here the second deportation takes place.
Together with that deportation “the valuable articles of the house of the LORD” are taken away (2Chr 36:7). Nebuchadnezzar gradually robs the temple. Thus the confessing Christianity is in the process of robbing the church of its truths. This is done by giving a different content to biblical expressions. Repentance is then no longer a turning to God with repentance for sins, but, for example, the letting go of a habit that hurts someone himself or others, a change in social behavior.
Nebuchadnezzar makes his power felt by making Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem. Zedekiah is not Jehoiachin’s brother, but his uncle. He is a son of Josiah and the brother of Jehoiachin’s father.
Zedekiah King of Judah
Then Zedekiah becomes king of Judah (2Chr 36:11; 2Kgs 24:18-20; Jer 37:1). Zedekiah means ‘the LORD is my righteousness’. Zedekiah does not honor his name, for he tramples on the righteousness of the LORD. As a result he shall experience that righteousness personally. He is the last king of Judah.
Zedekiah is a weak figure and an evil man. He also “did evil in the sight of the LORD his God” (2Chr 36:12). He does not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah. This can be said, because Jeremiah speaks “for the LORD”, literally, “out of the mouth of the LORD” (cf. Jer 1:6-9; Jer 37:2). Zedekiah does let him come, but does not listen to his words.
That he ignores the word of Jeremiah means that he lives in rebellion against God. The result is that he rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, breaking the oath that Nebuchadnezzar made him swear (2Chr 36:13; Eze 17:13-19). This gives him a unique mention. It is said of him that he both stiffened his neck and hardened his heart. Such a combination appears only here in Scripture. He has a stubborn neck and a toughened heart. By deliberately hardening his own heart, he deprives himself of the chance of conversion.
Wickedness is not limited to Zedekiah. It is ‘so king, so people’. All the leaders of the priests and the people were very unfaithful (2Chr 36:14; Ezekiel 8-11). They join in the abominations of the pagan people and defile the house which the LORD has sanctified for himself in Jerusalem. They transgress in all things that the LORD has abhorred. They take over the whole form of life of the Gentiles.
We see in this end time of Judah a striking picture of the end time of Christianity in which we live. Christians increasingly live in a way that resembles that of people who live without God. The last days are characterized by loving oneself and loving pleasure more than God (2Tim 3:1-5).
Nebuchadnezzar Destroys Jerusalem
At a certain moment the measure is full. Before God lets the judgment come, He lets hear again how much effort He has made to spare His people and His dwelling place (2Chr 36:15). Again and again He has called the people to return to Him through His messengers. The expression “again and again” indicates the necessary urgency of the message. God has made haste. He has not been slow or sparse in His attempts to urge them to turn back. None of this has been effective.
It is striking to read about “His people and His dwelling place”. It is about what is His. His judgment of what is His concerns Him Himself. He does not judge aloofly. It touches Him Himself deeply. That is why He has done everything He can to keep it from coming this far.
The rebellion of God’s people and their leaders is evidenced by their reception of His messengers (2Chr 36:16). All the effort of God to bring His people back to Himself has been answered with contempt and scorn (cf. 2Chr 30:10; 2Pet 3:3). People always mock those who come with a message from heaven that they do not like. Religious people in particular react in this way.
Then God can no longer postpone the judgment and gives His people and also His dwelling place to the enemy. He makes the king of the Chaldeans rise up against them (2Chr 36:17). Judgment comes to all age groups who are responsible for their actions (cf. Rev 19:18; Rev 20:12). There is no regard for persons with God.
According to the historians, Nebuchadnezzar goes up against Jerusalem on January 15, 588 BC. On 28 July 586 BC the city falls. On 14 August the temple is burned (2Chr 36:19). Before this happens, the treasures are robbed from God’s house and brought to Babylon (2Chr 36:18). These will be the treasures left over from the previous two lootings (2Chr 36:7; 10).
This time also the treasures of the king (2Kgs 20:15-17) and his princes are robbed and taken. All the palaces of the princes in which they have lived their lazy lives, with everything in them, go up in flames.
God makes everything happen because there is nothing more desirable in the temple for Him. He gives His temple to the Gentiles (Psa 79:1; Lam 2:1; 7; Lam 4:1; Jer 51:51). We see the same when the church reveals her “Laodicea spirit” (Rev 3:14-22). There is also nothing in it that pleases Him. Therefore, He will give up Christianity, which culminates in the great Babylon, to judgment (Rev 17:15-18; Rev 18:1-2; 19).
All who have not been killed are taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon to serve him and his sons as servants (2Chr 36:20). The judgment is total, the humiliation complete. Yet the rejection is not final, but temporary. There is talk of a “until”, i.e. “the rule of the kingdom of Persia”. Persia is the kingdom through which God judges Babylon and to which He then gives world dominion (Dan 5:28).
What happens as soon as the Persians have world domination and therefore authority over Judah and Israel, we will see in 2Chr 36:22-23. First it is said how long the exile will last and that is, after “the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah”, seventy years (2Chr 36:21; Jer 29:10; Jer 25:11; Dan 9:2; 24-27). This period of seventy years is counted from the first transportation to Babylon.
The fact that the exile lasts seventy years is not coincidental. The people are driven out of the land for seventy years to let the land enjoy its sabbaths. God has set a perfect time for the land to come to rest after all the idolatry the people have committed there (Lev 26:34-35; 43a).
When those years are fulfilled, the LORD fulfills His word and brings the people back to His land and to His city and to His house. We see the fulfillment in the books of Ezra and of Nehemiah. The next two verses, the last two of this Bible book, prepare us for this.
Return to Jerusalem
At the end of this book in these verses a ray of hope lights up of the return of a remnant. In the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles is the last book of the Old Testament. The Hebrew Old Testament concludes with this word of hope, the expectation of restoration. If these verses were missing, the reader could be overwhelmed by a feeling of despair at the end of the book.
These two verses show that the last word is not the judgment of God, but that after the judgment there is a new beginning. They describe the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise in 2Chr 36:21. A revival or restoration is always the work of God. That is why we read that He stirs up the spirit of Cyrus. He does this right at the beginning of His reign, “in the first year”. As soon as the period of seventy years is over, the LORD immediately goes to work to fulfill His promise, which He has made through Jeremiah.
The name of Cyrus has been mentioned by the LORD a hundred and sixty years before (Isa 44:28). God brings through him, who is called “His anointed” (Isa 45:1), the judgment of Babylon (in October 539 BC). Cyrus acknowledges that he is God’s servant and that he owes his dominion over all kingdoms to “the LORD, the God of heaven” (2Chr 36:23). He also acknowledges that God has commanded him “to build Him a house in Jerusalem”. The house is to be built for Him and not for the Jews.
God’s house today, the church, is also not a house where people determine the service, but God Himself. The church should not strive to be interesting and useful to the world outside. The church should not make itself attractive to the world, but to its bridegroom, Christ. In the local church today, the question sounds more and more: How do people get the most out of the church? The only question that matters, however, is: How does God get to His right?
Cyrus does two things. First, he gives everyone who belongs to God’s people, whoever they may be, the freedom to go to Jerusalem and build God’s house. In the second place he wishes everyone who goes, the company of “the LORD his God” on his way. The first is a call in a way that exercises the conscience of everyone who professes to belong to God’s people. No one is forced to go. The second means that everyone who goes up cannot or does not have to do so in his own strength, but that the LORD goes with him.
Spiritually this word is now being fulfilled for us. Anyone who confesses to belong to the church of God, may return to the principles that God’s Word tells us about the church. In practice this will only happen by those who have been exercised in their consciences, while at the same time realizing that there is no power in them, but that the Lord is with them.
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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Chronicles 36". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27