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The Reign Of Jehoiakim, King of Judah - 609-597 BC (2 Kings 23:36 to 2 Kings 24:6 ).
Nothing good is said about Jehoiakim in either Kings or Chronicles, whilst Jeremiah portrays him as an oppressive and covetous ruler (Jeremiah 22:17) who presided over a period of religious decay during which the syncretistic high places were restored (e.g. Jeremiah 25:5-24.25.7; Jeremiah 26:5-24.26.6; Jeremiah 35:14-24.35.15). He also introduced hideous Egyptian rites and filled the land with violence (Ezekiel 8:5-26.8.17; compare Jeremiah 22:17), capping it by murdering Uriah the prophet for opposing him (Jeremiah 26:20-24.26.23). Unlike his father, who had ruled justly and wisely, his thoughts were only for himself, and he built himself a palace without adequately paying his workforce (Jeremiah 22:13-24.22.16), thinking to aggrandise himself, but only thereby revealing his folly and that he had little regard for others. But none of this is described here in Kings in detail. Rather it is brought out by the prophetic author in his usual indirect way by referring to the fact that he ‘did evil in the eyes of YHWH’ (always an indication of a restoration of idolatry) and then describing the judgments that came on him as a result of YHWH’s hand at work. This was then followed by bringing out that this was because he was following in the footsteps of Manasseh. But he was not to be seen as being alone in being judged, for YHWH’s judgment was to fall on Judah as a whole, in fulfilment of the words of the prophets which portrayed the depths of sin into which they had fallen (2 Kings 24:2). This time they had gone too far. Manasseh had not been alone in his sinfulness. His people had shared in his sin with him. And that was why YHWH would not pardon, and why they would therefore share in the consequent judgment.
We note especially that the author avoids mentioning the arrival of the main Babylonian army to besiege Jerusalem because he wants us to see that the build up of YHWH’s judgment is occurring stage by stage (2 Kings 24:2). But he makes crystal clear that the end of it will be the destruction of Judah, because YHWH’s hand is against them, and that meanwhile there is no help to be had from Egypt. Judah will be left isolated, to stand, and fall, alone. It is in fact only when we get to the reign of his son Jehoiachin that we learn that calamity is awaiting Jerusalem, and had already been threatening in the final days of Jehoiakim.
a Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Zebidah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah (2 Kings 23:36).
b And he did what as evil in the sight of YHWH, according to all that his fathers had done (2 Kings 23:37).
c In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him (2 Kings 24:1).
d And YHWH sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Aramaeans, 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 YHWH, which he spoke by his servants the prophets (2 Kings 24:2).
c Surely at the commandment of YHWH this came on Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did, and also for the innocent blood that he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and YHWH would not pardon (2 Kings 24:3-12.24.4).
b Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Kings 24:5).
a So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned instead of him. And the king of Egypt did not come again any more out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken, from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates, all that pertained to the king of Egypt (2 Kings 24:6-12.24.7).
Note that in ‘a’ Jehoiakim began his reign and in the parallel his reign ended. In ‘b’ he did (religiously) what was evil in the sight of YHWH and in the parallel the remainder of what he did can be found in the official annals of the kings of Judah. In ‘c’ Nebuchadnezzar came on the scene (Jeremiah tells us that he came as the servant of YHWH) and in the parallel it was because YHWH had planned to remove Judah out of His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, which were being repeated by both Jehoiakim and Judah. Centrally in ‘d’ YHWH has Himself sent destroyers against Judah in accordance with His own word which He had spoken by the prophets. The word of YHWH has gone out against Judah and will not be called back.
2 Kings 23:36
‘Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Zebidah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.’
Jehoiakim, who was a year or two older than his half-brother Jehoahaz, began to reign when he was twenty five years old, and reigned for eleven years. The queen mother, Zebidah, came from Rumah. If this was Khirbet al-Rumah, thirty five kilometres (twenty one miles) inland from Mount Carmel, it may indicate how far Josiah had extended his rule, the marriage being in order to establish his hold in the area. It would be a reign full of turmoil because of his sinfulness.
2 Kings 23:37
‘And he did what as evil in the sight of YHWH, according to all that his fathers had done.’
Jehoiakim continued to allow, and even approved of, the outbreak of Baalism that had begun during the short reign of Jehoahaz, on the death of Josiah. Once again the syncretistic high places for the worship of both Baal and YHWH were being re-established (turning YHWH into simply another nature God. See e.g. Ezekiel 6:3-26.6.4; Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 16:16-26.16.39), and altars to Baal and Asherah and even probably to the Sun, were being introduced into the Temple (see Ezekiel 8:16).
2 Kings 24:1
‘In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years.
The arrival of Nebuchadnezzar (Nabu-kudurri-usur) of Babylon in 605/4 BC put an end to Egyptian supremacy, with the result that, on Egypt’s withdrawal behind its borders, Jehoiakim had to submit to him as his vassal. This took place in the third year of his reign (Daniel 1:1), when Jerusalem was invested and prominent men were taken as hostages to Babylon, including among them Daniel and his three compatriots. It may have been at this time that Jehoiakim was himself taken in chains to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6) where he would be forced to make an oath of allegiance. We can compare how similar ignominious treatment, followed by restoration, had been meted out to Manasseh without being mentioned by the author, whilst a similar thing had happened to Pharaoh Tirhakah under Assyrian rule.
This arrival of Nebuchadn(r)ezzar in force, followed subsequently by two further raids, is described in the Babylonian Chronicle as follows:
“In the twenty first year the king of Babylon (Nabopolassar) stayed in his own country while the crown-prince Nebuchadrezzar, his eldest son, took personal command of his troops and marched to Carchemish which lay on the bank of the River Euphrates. He crossed the river against the Egyptian army -- they fought with each other and the Egyptian army retreated before him. He defeated them, annihilating them. As for the remains of the Egyptian army which had escaped from the defeat so that no weapon touched them, the Babylonian army overtook and defeated them in the district of Hamath, so that not a single man got away to his own country. At that time Nebuchadrezzar captured the whole land of Hatti (which included Aram, Samaria and Judah). --- In his accession year Nebuchadrezzar went back again to the Hatti-land and marched victoriously through it until the month of Sebat. In the month of Sebat he took the heavy tribute of the Hatti-land back to Babylon. --- In the first year of Nebuchadrezzar (the year after the accession year) he mustered his army in the month of Sivan and went to the Hatti-land. He marched about victoriously in the Hatti-land until the month of Kislev. All the kings of the Hatti-land (including Damascus, Tyre and Sidon, and Judah) came before him and he received their heavy tribute. He marched to the city of Ashkelon and captured it in the month of Kislev.”
2 Kings 24:1
‘Then he turned and rebelled against him.’
Nebuchadnezzar’s attempt to invade Egypt three of four years after his succession (i.e. in c 601 BC) resulted in a set back for his army and he had to return to Babylon to recoup. This may well have been what caused Jehoiakim to rebel, probably with promises of support from Egypt. To him things were beginning to look promising.
2 Kings 24:2
‘And YHWH sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Aramaeans, 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 YHWH, which he spoke by his servants the prophets.’
Being in no position to return immediately to Judah himself, Nebuchadrezzar nevertheless arranged for Judah to be attacked by marauders (who would be tributaries of Babylon) from all sides. The Chaldeans (Babylonians) were possibly occupying troops stationed in Aram and were effective enough to make people take refuge in Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 35:11). They were supported by bands of Aramaeans. The Moabites and Ammonites would harry the land east of Jordan, and possibly also cross the Jordan looking for spoils as they had done in the days of the Judges (Judges 3:0).
But in the eyes of the author the main cause for this activity was not Nebuchadnezzar, but the word of YHWH (after all, unknown to Nebuchadnezzar, he was YHWH’s servant - Jeremiah 25:9). Thus in the author’s view it was primarily because of Judah’s sins that these attacks were being carried out, in accordance with the words of YHWH’s servants the prophets. History was being seen as subject to His will.
2 Kings 24:3-12.24.4
‘Surely at the commandment of YHWH this came on Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did, and also for the innocent blood that he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and YHWH would not pardon.’
The author then again stressed that all that was happening was ‘at the commandment of YHWH’. And this was because He had determined to remove Judah out of His sight as He had warned as long ago as Leviticus 18:28. He was sick of them. And this situation had come about because of the sins of Manasseh and what he had done, and because of the innocent blood which he had shed, and the fact that he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. It had been so bad that it was something that YHWH could not overlook because, although the reign of Josiah had at first altered the picture, Judah had turned back to the same behaviour as before, something evidenced by the slaying of Uriah the prophet by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:20-24.26.23). Josiah’s death had resulted in YHWH’s covenant being openly slighted on a continual basis and it revealed Judah’s permanent hardness of heart, something which even Josiah had been unable to remedy. That was why Judah was doomed. Compare Deuteronomy 29:20.
2 Kings 24:5
‘Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’
As usual the author was not interested in political activities which were not relevant to his case and in respect of them refers his readers to the official annals of the kings of Judah (for the last time).
2 Kings 24:6
‘So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned instead of him.’
The closing formula is also used for the last time, for the author is now moving into a description of ‘current affairs’ concerning which he was fully informed. It is significant that we are not told how or where Jehoiakim was buried, leaving us to infer that there was something unusual about it, and indeed his end as a whole is shrouded in mystery. Jeremiah 22:18-24.22.19 tells us that he would be buried ‘with the burial of an ass’ and that his body would be thrown unmourned outside Jerusalem. (Josephus tells us that he sought to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, but was put to death and his body tossed ignominiously outside the walls of Jerusalem, although that may simply be an inference from the words of Jeremiah). However, 2 Chronicles 36:6 ff. tells us that he was bound in fetters in order to be carried off to Babylon, although it is not said that that actually happened. Perhaps he died while in custody outside the walls of Jerusalem and never actually commenced the journey to Babylon. Daniel 1:1-27.1.2 is also equally ambiguous.
2 Kings 24:7
‘And the king of Egypt did not come again any more out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken, from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates, all that pertained to the king of Egypt.’
In typical fashion the author added to the closing formula an appropriate comment concerning events. Compare 2 Kings 15:12; 2 Kings 15:16; 2Ki 15:37 ; 1 Kings 15:23; 1 Kings 15:32. In this case it was a summary as to the situation with regard to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar’s control of the land south of the Euphrates, down almost to the borders of Egypt (to the Wadi of Egypt, just north of the border), had become such that the king of Egypt did not venture beyond his borders. All that he had previously gained had been lost and any assistance that he may have promised to Judah would thus come to nothing. He was no match for the forces of Nebuchadnezzar.
The Last Days Of Judah (2 Kings 23:31 to 2 Kings 25:26 ).
As Huldah had forewarned the death of Josiah signalled the beginning of the end for Judah, and in fact within twenty five years of his death (in 609 BC) Jerusalem would be no more. Jehoahaz (nee Shallum), who succeeded him, only lasted three months before the inevitable Egyptian punitive invasion consequent on Josiah’s precipitate action resulted in his being taken into exile in Egypt, to be replaced by his brother Eliakim, who was renamed Jehoiakim as a sign that he was Pharaoh’s vassal. And yet even within that three month period it is apparent that Josiah’s reforms had begun to collapse without Jehoahaz even lifting a hand to prevent it. The violent death of Josiah was seemingly seen as a signal to the Baalists that they could return to their old ways. Indeed Jehoahaz apparently approved of the moves, for the verdict delivered against him was that he had done evil in the eyes of YHWH. The truth was that the reforms had been mainly external, and had not really changed the hearts of the people, who could not wait to backslide.
For a few years Jehoiakim ruled as a vassal of Egypt, who now for a while controlled the land south of the Euphrates, but Egypt’s control over this area was not to last for long, and it was eventually lost to the new rising power of Babylon under first Nabopolassar, and then his son Nebuchadnezzar. The result of Nebuchadnezzar’s advance was that Jerusalem was invested and taken, and a number of important people, including Daniel and his three friends, transported to Babylon ‘in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim King of Judah’ (Daniel 1:1). Jehoiakim himself became a vassal of Babylon (2 Kings 24:3), whilst Egypt retreated behind its own borders, and remained there unable to do anything about it (2 Kings 24:7). It may have been at this stage that Jehoiakim was bound in fetters to be carried off to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6), before finally being restored to his throne.
Unfortunately, like his brother, Jehoiakim also ‘did evil in the sight of YHWH’, and whilst this might partly have been forced on him by Nebuchadnezzar, as he insisted on the gods of Babylon being introduced into the Temple, it was clearly seen as going beyond that. In line with what we have seen previously it indicated that he allowed the syncretistic and false high places to flourish again. Jeremiah tells us that Jehoiakim also ‘shed innocent blood’ like Manasseh (2 Kings 24:4), thereby demonstrating his total disregard for the Law of YHWH. This included the blood of Uriah the prophet (Jeremiah 26:23). The Chronicler further speaks of ‘his abominations which he did’ (2 Chronicles 36:8), a description which demonstrates his full participation in idolatry. Thus he fully earned the description which was applied to him. All Josiah’s efforts were proving to have been in vain. Again we see that idolatry had not been removed out of the hearts of the people.
The failure of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt in 601 BC, which resulted in heavy losses for both sides, meant that he had to retire back to Babylon to lick his wounds, and it was probably this that encouraged Jehoiakim to rebel, relying on Egypt for support. But Nebuchadnezzar’s reverse would only be temporary, and when he returned with his armies in greater force and besieged Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 25:1-24.25.12) Jehoiakim was seemingly only saved from humiliation by his death, which may well have been at the hands of assassins who were seeking to appease Nebuchadnezzar. He was replaced by his eighteen year old son Jehoiachin who almost immediately surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was carried away to Babylon, along with many prominent people (including Ezekiel), being replaced by his uncle Mattaniah, who was given the throne name of Zedekiah. Jehoiachin was, however still seen as king, even though absent, with Zedekiah merely acting as his regent. Under such circumstances it would have required a much more charismatic man than Zedekiah to hold Judah together. But Judah was in ferment and Zedekiah was unequal to the task, and lacking in his response towards YHWH.
The destruction of Assyria had brought great relief to the world and been hailed by all as the end of an era, and Judah still could not reconcile itself to the idea that Babylon had taken over Assyria’s mantle. Who did Babylon think they were? Zedekiah therefore ruled over a people in constant ferment who felt that Babylon’s yoke could be overthrown, and he was encouraged in this by ‘false prophets’. This comes out very strongly in the prophecy of Jeremiah, where Jeremiah is seen as standing almost alone in warning that Babylon must not be opposed (Jeremiah 27:12 onwards). The final consequence was that Zedekiah foolishly rebelled, and the consequence was that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and took it, and later destroyed its walls and burned it to the ground, carrying the cream of the people away to Babylon. Jerusalem was no more. All that remained of Judah was a devastated country, devoid of its most prominent people, and ruled over from Mizpah by a governor, Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:22-12.25.23).
The Reign Of Jehoiachin King Of Judah 597 BC (2 Kings 24:8-12.24.17 ).
In typical fashion the prophetic author of Kings has not told us in detail about the closing years of Jehoiakim’s life, except in so far as it can be concluded from 2 Kings 24:2, for as his death approached Judah was not only under constant attack by marauding bands, but by Nebuchadnezzar’s main forces under his generals, which had arrived outside the walls of Jerusalem, with the result that large numbers of Judeans were being besieged in Jerusalem by an even larger ‘band of Chaldeans’. A number of other cities of Judah were also no doubt under siege. Thus after the initial manoeuvrings described in 2 Kings 24:2 YHWH’s wrath has come upon Judah to the uttermost. It was in such circumstances that Jehoiakim died in a way that is not described, but seemingly violently and without decent burial, and his son Jehoiachin came to the throne. Jehoiachin bravely maintained the resistance for a short while (‘three months’), but on the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar outside Jerusalem in person he surrendered himself and the city to him. Judah’s short period of independence was over, and it was all YHWH’s doing (2 Kings 24:2-12.24.3).
This surrender of Jerusalem is described by the Babylonian Chronicle as follows:
“In the seventh year (598 BC), in the month of Kislev (November/December), the Babylonian king mustered his troops and, having marched to the land of Hatti, besieged the (main) city of Judah, and on the second day of the month Adar (16th March 597 BC) took the city, and captured the king. He appointed therein a king of his own choice (Zedekiah), received its heavy tribute, and despatched them (Jehoiachin and the tribute) to Babylon.”
But it was not to be the end for Jehoiachin, for although he was carried off to Babylon, he remained the recognised ‘king of Judah’ even there, and details of the daily rations allocated to ‘Ya’u kinu, king of the land of Yahudu’ and his sons, have been discovered in Babylon. He would eventually be released from prison by Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach) and be restored to honour ‘above the kings who were with him in Babylon’, sitting continually at the table of the king of Babylon as the king’s pensioner (2 Kings 25:29-12.25.30). In spite of all YHWH had not forgotten His promises to the son of David, and hope for the future had dawned. But before that Judah had to sink into the depths of despair.
a 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 Kings 24:8).
b And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to all that his father had done (2 Kings 24:9).
c At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged (2 Kings 24:10).
d And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it (2 Kings 24:11).
e And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers, and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign (2 Kings 24:12).
d And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold, which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of YHWH, as YHWH had said (2 Kings 24:13).
c And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths, none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land (2 Kings 24:14).
b And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the chief men of the land, carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the men of might, even seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths a thousand, all of them strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-12.24.16).
a And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s father’s brother, king instead of him, and changed his name to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17).
Note that in ‘a’ Jehoiachin became king, and in the parallel he was replaced by Zedekiah. In ‘b’ he did what was evil in the eyes of YHWH, and in the parallel he was as a result carried away to Babylon along with the cream of the people. In ‘c’ Nebuchadnezzar’s generals besieged Jerusalem, and in the parallel they carried away ‘all Jerusalem’ into exile. In ‘d’ Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived and in the parallel he carried away all the treasures of the house of YHWH. Centrally in ‘e’ Jehoiachin and all his house surrendered to the king of Babylon.
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.’
In some ways Jehoiachin patterned Jehoahaz earlier (2 Kings 23:31-12.23.34). Both came to the throne after their fathers had offended against a great power, and both were carried off as hostages within three months, Jehoahaz to Egypt and Jehoiachin to Babylon. Jehoiachin was also known as Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:16-13.3.17; Esther 2:6; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4; Jeremiah 29:2), and as Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28; Jeremiah 37:1). The name appears as Ykyn on contemporary jar handles. He began his reign at eighteen years old, with Jerusalem surrounded by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, and within three months he surrendered when Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived. (It may be that he had become co-regent with his father at eight years old - 2 Chronicles 36:9 - with the Chronicler there deliberately seeking to parallel him with Josiah). It is significant that his mother was a ‘local’. This might suggest that there had no longer been outlying cities whose favour had to be won. Judah was now of limited extent.
2 Kings 24:9
‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to all that his father had done.’
On coming to the throne Jehoiachin made no attempt to reverse the idolatries of his father. He continued with Jehoiakim’s idolatrous worship. Thus he found no favour with YHWH.
2 Kings 24:10
‘At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.’
The arrival of ‘the servants of Nebuchadnezzar’, prior to the coming of the Great King himself, must have occurred prior to Jehoiachin’s ascension to the throne, while Jehoiakim was still reigning. It was in fact possibly Jehoiakim’s attempt to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar’s generals that resulted in his ignominious death, and that caused Jehoiachin not to be willing to do so until Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived.
2 Kings 24:11
‘And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it.’
The arrival of Nebuchadnezzar himself would have caused a great stir, and it is probable that, in view of the fact that he would learn that Jehoiakim who had instigated the rebellion was dead, he on arrival offered terms to the city. These terms included the surrender of the royal house who would be transported to Babylon, along with many of the great men of the land, and the seizing of all the palace and Temple treasures, together with what remained of the golden vessels in the Temple. But it would mean that the punitive war was at an end.
2 Kings 24:12
‘And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers, and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.’
The terms were accepted and Jehoiachin, the queen mother, his courtiers, his princes and his military officers all went out and surrendered to ‘the king of Babylon’ in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. They knew, of course, that this could only result in their transportation. That was part of the agreement.
This is the first occasion in Kings when an incident has been dated by reference to something external to Israel and Judah ‘in the eighth year of his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) reign’. It was a clear indication by the author that Judah was living on borrowed time. As far as he was concerned Nebuchadnezzar now ruled over Judah with YHWH’s authority. (Jeremiah has ‘the seventh year of his reign’ - Jeremiah 52:28. Jeremiah was omitting the accession year).
2 Kings 24:13
‘And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold, which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of YHWH, as YHWH had said.’
Nebuchadnezzar then cut up and removed from the Temple all that remained of the golden vessels which Solomon had made which were in the Temple of YHWH, together with all the treasures that remained in both the palace and the Temple. These would not be overlarge. We must remember that Jehoiakim had had to tax the ordinary people in order to pay tribute to Egypt, and that tribute had had to be paid to Babylon since then. The Babylonian Chronicle’s description of it as ‘heavy tribute’ was probably exaggerated. Jeremiah makes clear that some vessels remained in the Temple, together with certain other items (Jeremiah 27:18-24.27.20). They would follow later (2 Kings 25:13-12.25.17).
‘All the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house.’ This has been a regular refrain throughout Kings (2 Kings 12:18; 2 Kings 14:14; 2Ki 16:8 ; 2 Kings 18:15; 1 Kings 14:26; 1 Kings 15:18) as the author has demonstrated that disobedience to YHWH could only result in Judah regularly losing all that it had. There could be no continuing prosperity without obedience. Here the vessels of Solomon are mentioned along with the treasures in order to connect back to the original record of Solomon’s enriching of the Temple. These vessels had been continually spared as having great sentimental value, but now even they had been taken. Together with 2 Kings 25:13-12.25.17 it was stressing that all that Solomon had built up had finally gone. Nothing was left.
2 Kings 24:14
‘And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten groups (ten alephim) of captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths, none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.’
Furthermore he carried off all the most important people in Jerusalem, including the civil servants, together with all the princes of the tribes. These comprised between them two recognisable units (alephim). Together with them were all the professional warriors comprising seven military units (alephim), and all the craftsmen and smiths who together comprised their own single unit (an eleph), being all members of the one guild. That made ten differing units (alephim) of people in all. Jeremiah 52:28 tells us that in all they amounted to three thousand and twenty three heads of families (‘Jews’). Alternately the three thousand and twenty three ‘Jews’ may refer to ‘all Jerusalem and all the princes, -- and all the craftsmen and smiths’ with the ‘mighty men of valour’ being mercenaries and not Jews, and therefore not included in Jeremiah’s figure. Only ‘the poorest sort of the people of the land’ were left behind. Judah was being stripped of its leaders and its fighting potential.
‘All Jerusalem’, when compared with the other groups, probably has in mind all the important people in Jerusalem, those who were seen as being typical Jerusalemites. These would include the civil servants, courtiers, chief priests, and many others, but not necessarily ‘everyone’. After all Zedekiah was excluded from the definition, and the ‘poorest sort of people’ would be ignored. Only a ‘residue of people’ would be left. The result would be that Zedekiah would have to build up a new civil service and re-inhabit Jerusalem as best he could, calling on experienced leaders from other major cities.
2 Kings 24:15-12.24.16
‘And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the chief men of the land, carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the men of might, even seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths a thousand, all of them strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.’
So Jehoiachin himself, the queen mother, all the king’s wives, his courtiers and officers, and the chief men of the land were all taken into captivity together with seven ‘thousand’ (seven military units) of warriors, and a recognised unit of craftsmen and smiths who crafted Judah’s armaments who would all be members of a guild. All were brought captive to Babylon, and among them was the young prophet Ezekiel. The comparatively small numbers, compared with what Judah had once been, bring out how low they had fallen.
2 Kings 24:17
‘And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s father’s brother, king instead of him, and changed his name to Zedekiah.’
The king of Babylon then appointed as king Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah, (a son of Josiah), and renamed him Zedekiah, a change of name which indicated his vassalship. He remained behind to cope with what was left of Judah.
1). Introduction (2 Kings 24:18-12.24.19 ).
This is the last use of the opening formula which has been common throughout Kings since 1 Kings 14:21, and it once more ends with the chilling words ‘and he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH’. It sums up what the house of David had finally come to. In spite of Solomon’s early promise the extravagance, pride and idolatry which began with Solomon had come to its final fruition. Such is ever the result of the outworking of the sinfulness of man. As the book has revealed, it was only due to God’s constant activity through the prophets that hope has been maintained. It is, however, the darkness before a new dawning in the ‘lifting up of the head’ of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 25:27-12.25.30), that will finally result in the coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:11-40.1.17).
· Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign (2 Kings 24:18 a).
· And he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah (2 Kings 24:18 b).
· And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to all that Jehoiakim had done (2 Kings 24:19).
2 Kings 24:18
‘Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.’
Zedekiah was twenty one years old when he began to reign and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem ‘the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there’ for David’s sake (1 Kings 14:21). It was to be the last eleven years of Jerusalem’s existence. The name of the queen mother was Hamutal. Zedekiah was thus the full brother of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31), and the half-brother of Jehoiakim.
2 Kings 24:19
‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.’
He continued to walk in the same way as Jehoiakim had done, permitting the continuation of the worship of Baal and Asherah, as well as necessarily having to perpetuate the worship of the gods of Babylon. (Neither Jehoahaz nor Jehoiachin had reigned long enough to be seen as a pattern). All Josiah’s efforts had, in the long term, seemingly been in vain. He had given Judah its last chance and it had rejected it.
The Reign Of Zedekiah, King of Judah 597-587 BC (2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:7 ).
It is a reminder of how quickly events were moving that it was a son of Josiah himself who now came to the throne as the last king of Judah, and that he was only twenty one years old, so short would be the time from the death of Josiah (609 BC) to the final destruction of Jerusalem (586 BC). Furthermore he was not helped by the fact that he was seen by many as only acting as deputy for Jehoiachin, who was still looked on as king of Judah, and expected to return (Jeremiah 28:4).
But as with his brother Jehoiakim before him he did not follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead he continued to encourage the syncretistic worship in high places, and in the Temple, for he ‘did evil in the eyes of YHWH’. It was clear that Josiah’s legacy had not been a permanent one. As we have learned above Judah had in fact fallen too far before he came to the throne. Thus YHWH’s anger continued to be directed against Judah with the result that in the end Zedekiah also foolishly rebelled against the king of Babylon and withheld tribute. We can only assume that it was largely at the instigation of Egypt, for it would have been obvious that Judah and her local allies would have had little chance alone.
However, the author of Kings was not interested in the detail. As far as he was concerned Zedekiah’s reign was doomed from the start. Thus he tells us nothing about what led up to the rebellion. In his eyes it was all due to the fact that the wrath of YHWH was levelled against His people so that He had determined to spew them out of the land. This was not without reason. As Jeremiah reveals the people had become totally corrupt, and the leadership were only out for themselves. And yet, incredibly, they were ridiculously optimistic and responsive to prophets who declared that there would be a quick end to Babylonian supremacy, and that it would be within two years from the commencement of Zedekiah’s reign (Jeremiah 28:1-24.28.11). Such was the certainty that they had that YHWH would not allow their desperate state to continue. They still remembered and held on to the earlier promises of the prophets about the final establishment of YHWH’s kingdom without recognising the need to fulfil the conditions which were required. The consequence was that Zedekiah also ignored the warnings of Jeremiah the prophet that he should remain in submission to the king of Babylon. But what they had one and all ignored was the fact that they were not walking in YHWH’s ways and that He had therefore deserted them. The promises of the prophets were not for them. They awaited a day when they would have been restored to full obedience.
This passage divides up into three sections:
1) Introduction (2 Kings 24:18-12.24.19).
2) Zedekiah Rebels And Is Brought To Judgment (2 Kings 24:20 to 2 Kings 25:7).
3) The Final Destruction Of Jerusalem And The Death Of Its Leaders (2 Kings 25:8-12.25.22).
2). Zedekiah Rebels And Is Brought To Judgment (2 Kings 24:20 to 2 Kings 25:7 ).
It will be noted that as so often the prophetic author ignores the details of Zedekiah’s reign and concentrates on what to him was theologically important. It was Zedekiah’s rebellion and its consequences in the arrival of the king of Babylon that highlighted the fact that YHWH’s anger was directed against Jerusalem and Judah for it was an indication that He intended to cast them out of His presence, so that was what he concentrated on. What happened to Jerusalem was not to be the act of Nebuchadnezzar, but the act of YHWH.
a For through the anger of YHWH did it come about in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence (2 Kings 24:20 a).
b And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:20 b).
c And it came about in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it, and they built forts against it round about, and the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1-12.25.2).
d On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land, and a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden (now the Chaldeans were against the city round about), and the king went by the way of the Arabah (2 Kings 25:3-12.25.4).
c But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him (2 Kings 25:5).
b Then they took the king, and carried him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah, and they gave judgment on him (2 Kings 25:6).
a And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon (2 Kings 25:7).
Note that in ‘a’ YHWH would cast them out of His presence, and in the parallel they were carried off to Babylon. In ‘b’ Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon, and in the parallel he was brought before the king of Babylon for judgment. In ‘c’ the Babylonian army came and the siege of Jerusalem began, and in the parallel the Chaldean army pursued the king and he was taken and all his army scattered. Centrally in ‘d’ famine was so intense in the city that they sought to escape.
2 Kings 24:20
‘For through the anger of YHWH did it come about in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence.’
The fact of YHWH’s anger against Judah and Jerusalem, and their removal from His sight has been a theme of these last few chapters (2 Kings 21:12-12.21.14; 2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 23:26; 2 Kings 24:2-12.24.3). It had been His continual purpose from the time of Manasseh. The warnings of Leviticus 18:25; Leviticus 18:28; Leviticus 26:28-3.26.35; Deuteronomy 29:28 were being fulfilled. And it was being brought about by YHWH Himself.
2 Kings 24:20
‘And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.’
The result of YHWH’s anger against Judah and Jerusalem was that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. This rebellion appears to have been inspired as a result of news being received of an internal rebellion in Babylon in which many Jews were involved (there was constant contact with Babylon), and was no doubt partly stirred up by the continuing urgings of Egypt, who would indeed at one stage send an army to temporarily relieve Jerusalem (Jeremiah 37:5). Tyre and Sidon, Edom, Moab and Ammon all appear to have been involved (Jeremiah 27:1-24.27.11).
2 Kings 25:1
‘And it came about in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it, and they built forts against it round about.’
In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came with all his army and encamped against Jerusalem, setting up siege forts around it. Nebuchadnezzar had once and for all lost patience with Jerusalem (as the Book of Daniel makes clear he suffered from a mental illness, and was probably a manic depressive).
2 Kings 25:2
‘So the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.’
The siege continued over a period of nineteen months, although at one stage possibly temporarily suspended as a result of the arrival of an Egyptian army (Jeremiah 37:5). It was clear that the city was doomed.
2 Kings 25:3
‘On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.’
As a result of the siege starvation became a problem in the city, for there was no food for ‘the people of the land’ who were now sheltering in Jerusalem. The city had been cut off from outside help for many months. (The word ‘fourth’ is not in the text but is introduced from Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:6).
2 Kings 25:4
‘Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden (now the Chaldeans were against the city round about), and the king went by the way of the Arabah.’
A breach being made in the wall by the enemy a desperate attempt was made to escape by night by using a small postern gate (the main gates would be closely guarded) which would have been identifiable at the time, and all the men of war fled from Jerusalem, along with the king who was making for the Jordan Rift Valley.
2 Kings 25:5
‘But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him.’
However, the movement of such a large number of men could hardly fail to be detected, and the escape may well have involved some fighting, so when the Chaldeans realised that there had been an escape they pursued after the king, whose troops had scattered to find refuge where they could. It is possible that the hope was that this would aid the king’s escape as the Chaldeans would not know who to follow, but if so it failed, and he was captured in the plains of Jericho in the Arabah.
2 Kings 25:6
‘Then they took the king, and carried him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah, and they gave judgment on him.’
He was then taken to Riblah in the region of Hamath on the Orontes where Nebuchadnezzar was stationed, and there given a form of trial. But the result could hardly have been in doubt. He had broken his oath of allegiance and was worthy of death.
2 Kings 25:7
‘And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon.’
Nebuchadnezzar’s penalty was severe. All his sons were slain before his eyes and he was then blinded, leaving the last sight that he had experienced before becoming blind as that of his sons being killed. Then he was bound in fetters and carried off to Babylon. His rebellion, into which humanly speaking he had been forced by the anti-Assyrian party in Jerusalem, had cost him dear. From the divine point of view his evil behaviour had brought its own reward.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 24". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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