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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter gives the reigns of Jehoahaz (2 Chronicles 36:1-4), of Jehoiakim (2 Chronicles 36:5-8), of Jehoiachin (2 Chronicles 36:9-10), and of Zedekiah (2 Chronicles 36:11-21); the proclamation of Cyrus (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Parallel with 2 Kings 23:21-25. “The chapter scarcely adds anything to our knowledge of the later history of the Jewish kingdom, but it was requisite to complete the design of the work, which aimed at tracing the fortunes of the Jewish people from the death of Saul to the return under Zerubbabel” [Speak. Com.].
2 Chronicles 36:1-4.—Succession of Jehoahaz. Original name Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11); third son of Josiah (1 Chronicles 3:15); took name of Jehoahaz (“the Lord possesses”) on accession. 2 Chronicles 36:3. Necho followed up advantage gained in Judah, deposed J. Condemned, fined the land, and set up Eliakim as vassal on the throne. 2 Chronicles 36:4. Turned, change of Eliakim into Jehoiakim (“God sets up,” into “Jehovah sets up”), in deference to the king and people, and in keeping with politic character of Necho. Eg., where he died.
2 Chronicles 36:5-8.—Jehoiakim two years older than Jehoahaz, and of a different mother (2 Kings 23:31-36); evil, followed the course of idolatrous predecessors. 2 Chronicles 36:6. Nebuchad., first expedition against Palestine in lifetime of his father, Nabopolassar, who was old and infirm, and adopted his son Neb. joint sovereign, dispatched him against Egyptian invaders of the empire. Neb. victorious at Carchemish, drove them from Asia, reduced provinces west of Euphrates, and Jehoiakim became vassal of Assyrian kingdom (2 Kings 24:1). At end of three years J. rebelled, but vanquished, stripped of possessions, and taken prisoner. Allowed for a short time to remain in his tributary kingdom, gave fresh offence. Jerusalem besieged, and the king slain in a sally (cf. 2 Kings 24:2-7; Jeremiah 22:18-19; Jeremiah 36:30).
2 Chronicles 36:9-10.—Jehoiachin. Eight: “As Nebuchad carried away this king’s wives (2 Kings 24:15), it is plain that eight here is a slip of the transcriber for eighteen, the number found in 2 Kings 24:8; and even in the Sept. Jehoiachin is otherwise Jechoniah (1 Chronicles 3:16), and even Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24). His reign of three months and ten days scarcely called a reign, as he merely claimed the crown until taken away by Nebuchad.” [Murphy]. Year expired, lit., “at the return of the year,” in spring, when campaigns began City captured, temple pillaged, king, nobles, and skilful artisans carried to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-17).
2 Chronicles 36:11-21.—Zedekiah’s reign. Originally Mattaniah, appointed by Nebuchad., from whom he received crown on conditions of solemn oath. 2 Chronicles 36:13. Swear, took oath of allegiance, which he broke, and was censured (Ezekiel 17:13). 2 Chronicles 36:14. Further justification for God’s rejection. Idolatry added to other sins. 2 Chronicles 36:15. Messengers, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others. Betimes, continually and carefully. 2 Chronicles 36:16. No remedy, no healing; sinned beyond mercy (2 Kings 24:4). 2 Chronicles 36:17. Slew, out and slew; reference to God, who caused disasters to fall upon them for sins. Slaughter fearful at capture of city (cf. Ezekiel 9:6-7; Lamentations 2:7-10). 2 Chronicles 36:20. Vessels enumerated (2 Kings 25:14-15). The pillage more sweeping than in days of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 25:1-10; Jeremiah 39:1-8). Those who escaped from sword carried into exile till accession of Persian king; servants, slaves to Neb. and his sons, employed in forced labour which great works necessitated. 2 Chronicles 36:21. Word (Jeremiah 25:11; Jeremiah 29:10). Sabbaths (Leviticus 26:34-35). The seventy years to be counted from first taking of Jer. by Neb. in fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 B.C.).
2 Chronicles 36:22-23.—Proclamation of Cyrus. Peculiar to Chron. “An interval of fifty years passed over in silence” [Murphy]. First year, as sovereign of second monarchy of Daniel (B.C. 538). Stirred up, mode not mentioned; prophecy (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1) may have been shown to him by Daniel, and exercised powerful influence over him. God of heaven, “similar formula at commencement of the great majority of Persian inscriptions” [Speak. Com.]. Intimates acquaintance with supreme God, not necessarily an intelligent adherent; Cyrus considered that he was charged, chosen agent to build God’s house, and therefore invites his people to return. “Such is the finale of Chronicles. It thereby shows itself to be an introduction to the history of the returning exiles of Judah and Israel, which is contained in Ezra and Nehemiah, and an exposition of the peculiar principles by which the restored people had to be governed” [Murphy].
THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ.—2 Chronicles 36:1-4
After death of Josiah, a deplorable period of misrule and imbecility. Unhappy sons struggled for independence, but entailed miseries of siege and capture. Kings recede into obscurity: Jeremiah, the prophet, the central figure around whom gather interests of a falling State. For three-and-twenty years almost alone, he endeavours to avert, delay, or mitigate the judgments, but in vain. “When he cannot give hope,” says one, “or consolation, or peace, he gives his tender sympathy—is himself the sad example of exile, persecution, misery, death.”
I. The method of his accession. “The people of the land made him king.” Not the eldest son of Josiah, but popular favourite on account of his martial spirit (Ezekiel 19:3), and determined opposition to aggressive measures in Egypt. Anointed—a ceremony not deemed necessary in regular and undisputed succession—to impart greater validity to popular choice and render disturbance from Necho less likely, who, like all Egyptians, associated idea of sanctity with regal anointing. “Man proposeth, but God disposeth.”
II. The shortness of his reign. “He reigned three months, and the king put him down.” Necho on victorious return from the Euphrates deposed him, and deemed it expedient to have a king of his own nomination on the throne. The will of the people, the solemnity of anointing of no avail. The autocrat, good or bad, a Solomon or a Herod, is without control. (Sic volo; sic jubeo; stat pro ratione voluntas), “He doeth whatsoever pleaseth him, and who may say unto him, What doest thou?” (Ecclesiastes 8:3-4).
III. The taxing of the land. “Put the land to a tribute” (a hundred talents of silver, £3,418 15s.; and a talent of gold, £5,475; total amount of tribute, £8,893 15s.). Heb., set a mulct upon the land (2 Kings 23:33). This a dishonour, a sign of subjection and dependence. What a fall from exalted position and former greatness!
IV. The end of his career. The deposed king sent for to Riblah, in Syria, arrested in chains, taken prisoner, and carried into Egypt, where he died. “Something there had been in his character, or in the popular mode of his election, which endeared him to his country. A lamentation, as from his father, went up from the princes and prophets of the land for the lion’s cub (Ezekiel 19:14), that was learning to catch his prey, caught in the pitfall, and led off in chains—by a destiny even sadder than death in battle. ‘Weep not for the dead, nor bemoan him, but weep sore for him who goeth away.’ He was the first King of Judah who died in exile. ‘He shall return no more, he shall return no more to see his native country—his native land no more’ (Jeremiah 22:10-12)” [Stanley].
JEHOIAKIM, THE WICKED PRINCE.—2 Chronicles 36:3-8
Jehoiakim second son of Josiah, born B.C. 634, and eighteenth king of separate throne of Judah for a period of eleven years, set up as vassal of Egyptian king.
I. The significant change of his name. Originally Eliakim (El-yakim), changed into Jehoiakim (Jeho-Yakim). Heathen princes gave new names to those who entered their service usually after their gods. This an Israelitish name, bestowed probably at Eliakim’s own request, whom Hengsten-berg supposes to have been influenced by a desire to be connected with the promise (in 2 Samuel 7:12), where not El, God, but “Jehovah will set up.” The change signifies loss of liberty and dependence. A striking contrast between the beauty of the name and the misery of its fate. Aspire to that “new name which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.”
II. The wickedness of his conduct. A reign filled with idolatry, oppression, and misfortunes. Sketched with masterly hand in Jeremiah 22:13-23, and in Ezekiel 19:5 to Ezekiel 9:1. In his restoration of idolatry. He followed the example of idolatrous predecessors, people eagerly availed themselves of vicious license of a lax government. Land filled with heathen “abominations.”
2. In his tyrannical measures of government. Jeremiah reproaches him for covetousness, cruelty, injustice, violence, and luxury (Jeremiah 22:13-17). Bloodthirsty (2 Chronicles 26:20-23), selfish, and most extravagant. Indifferent to sufferings of his people, and at a time of impoverishment of land by heavy tributes to Egypt, he squandered large sums in building luxurious palaces.
3. In his impious defiance of God. From beginning of his reign the voice of Jeremiah predicts and prefigures danger by striking signs. Attempts to silence the prophet by princes, priests, and false prophets. Jehoiakim used the penknife to cut up the leaves of the Book and destroy the effect of the message, at a period of solemn fast. The counsel of God stood sure, but no impression made upon the mind of the king by the fresh roll.
4. In his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. After three years’ subjection, deluded by Egyptian party in court, he ventured to withhold tribute and throw off Chaldæan yoke (2 Kings 24:1). Perhaps desired to spend money in luxury and pride, not to pay the King of Babylon; perhaps sought to become independent since severance of Egypt from Syria at battle of Carchemish. But the step, contrary to earnest remonstrance of Jeremiah, in violation of oath of allegiance, and the ruin of king and country.
III. The Calamities of his reign. Scripture statements brief but graphic.
1. The invasion of his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzer too busy in conflict between Lydian and Median empires to march against Jerusalem and chastise his rebellious vassal, sent his governors to rouse surrounding nations, and Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites united with Chaldæan forces to harass Judah. No rest or safety out of the walled cities. At length, in seventh year of his reign (B.C. 598), Nebuchadnezzar took field in person, concentrated forces, marched first against Tyre, which had rebelled about time of Judah; then, after investment of city, went against Jerusalem.
2. The desecration of the Temple. “Carried the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon.” A portion of sacred vessels, perhaps in lieu of tribute unpaid, and deposited in the house of Belus, his god (Daniel 1:2; Daniel 5:2).
IV. The dishonour of his end. Though a prisoner and chained to be carried to Babylon at first, he was permitted to remain in his tributary kingdom. In siege of the city, by an engagement with the enemy, or by the hand of his own oppressed subjects, who thought to conciliate the Babylonians by the murder of their king, he came to a violent end in eleventh year of his reign. His body ignominiously treated as predicted—cast over the walls, left exposed, dragged away “with the burial of an ass beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (cf. Jeremiah 22:10 and Jeremiah 36:0). Warning lost upon J.; disregarded future with its clear and awful signs, held the throne in sufferance, until he fell into disgrace and ruin. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
ZEDEKIAH’S REIGN: THE EXTINCTION OF THE ROYAL LINE.—2 Chronicles 36:11-21
Zed. the twentieth and last king of Judah. His proper name, Mattaniah, changed to Zedekiah at accession, may be in allusion to Jeremiah’s prophecy of Israel’s future as Jehovah-tsidkenu—Jehovah, our Righteousness (2 Chronicles 23:5; 2 Chronicles 23:8). Rather weak than wicked, Z. requested the prophet to pray for him, but refused his advice. Rebellion brought siege to the city, destruction to the Temple, and exile to himself and Royal family. The events of his reign summed up in brief record—
I. Reckless disregard of Divine warnings. Jeremiah a true prophet and best friend, but unheeded; treated alternately as a traitor and a madman (Joseph. Ant. 2 Chronicles 10:7, sec. 41); and at last imprisoned. Admonished, but amended not. “He humbled not himself before Jeremiah, &c.”
II. Ruinous policy pursued. Policy of Jeremiah prevailed for a while in foreign matters. An embassy sent to Babylon to take solemn oath with Nebuchadnezzar in the sacred name of Elohim, which Israel and Babylon alike acknowledged.
1. In throwing off yoke of allegiance. “Rebelled against N., who had made him sware by God” that he would keep the kingdom for Nebuchad., make no innovation, enter into no alliance with Egypt (Ezekiel 17:3; Joseph, 2 Chronicles 10:7, s. 3). He acted in contravention to this oath, perjured his character, and committed the crowning act of wickedness, according to the high standard of prophetic morality. “Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant and be delivered? As I live, saith the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon shall he die” (Ezekiel 17:15-16).
2. In persisting in rebellion. Hananiah’s prophecy had been falsified, and he himself had died according to the word of Jeremiah—the folly of a mere remnant opposing a mighty nation was exposed. Egyptian help in vain, and real alliance with surrounding nations impossible. Yet the king infatuated, held out and was mined.
III. Incurable idolatry into which the nation had fallen.
1. All classes were corrupted. “All the chief of the priests” who should have opposed idolatry, “and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen.” Into the sacred precincts of the temple idolatrous rites had crept. In the outer court women wept and wailed for Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14); in subterranean chambers incense offered by elders to creeping things and abominable beasts (ib. 2 Chronicles 10:11); and at the entrance to the temple building, between porch and altar, the rising sun was worshipped, by those who turned their backs to the sanctuary and their faces to the east (2 Chronicles 36:16). Thus “they polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.”
2. The prophets of God were insulted. Mocked in words, opposed openly in acts, and ill-treated in life. This affront to God who sent them, an evidence of implacable enmity and an invincible determination to persevere in sin. But those that abuse God’s messengers provoke his wrath and cannot escape.
3. The nation beyond all hope. “The wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16). “No healing,” no physician, for a body corrupt and already dead. Sins beyond mercy, “which the Lord would not pardon” (2 Kings 24:4). Possible to sin too long, to sin away the day of grace. “They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof, therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices.”
IV. The execution of Divine judgments. The end rapidly coming. The city besieged and reduced to extremities. Fire of besiegers aided by severe famine within. Inhabitants resorted to terrible expedience (Jeremiah 38:9; Lamentations 4:10). At length a breach effected and Chaldæns entered.
1. The temple burned;
2. The city ruined; and
3. The inhabitants carried to Babylon. Sacred vessels taken, palaces of princes levelled to the ground, fortifications demolished, and predictions fulfilled to the letter. No escape by flight. Zedekiah pursued, caught, and despatched to Riblah. Nebuchadnezzar, with cruelty characteristic of the times, ordered his sons to be killed and his own eyes to be thrust out (cf. Jeremiah 32:4 and Ezekiel 12:13). “The king of Babylon bound him in chains and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.”
1. Transgressors cannot escape from appointed judgments.
2. The bitterness of sin is seen in the overthrow which it creates.
3. Since we have not otherwise any guarantee against national humiliation, what need to have the Lord on our side!
“Justice, like lightning, ever should appear
To few men’s ruin, but to all men’s fear” [Swenam].
THE PROCLAMATION OF CYRUS.—2 Chronicles 36:22-23
God pitied his people in captivity. Predicted long before that he would restore them again to the land of their fathers. The promise not forgotten. “In the first year,” when Cyrus gained possession of Babylon, an edict granting exiles permission to return to Jerusalem.
I. The work Cyrus was called upon to undertake. “He hath charged me to build him an house.” Jerusalem in ruins, materials and men required to rebuild. Some pull down and delight in destruction. Cyrus felt responsible for rebuilding of Temple, construction of Theocracy, and arrangements for future kingdom and welfare of God’s people. The secular welfare of his government and the religious interests of his own country overlooked. Absorbed in one grand mission. Israel’s disobedience to God’s charge aggravated by obedience of Cyrus, a heathen king.
II. The proclamation for help in this work. “He made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom.” His dominions first confined to province of Persia, successively enlarged by addition of Media, Lydia, Asia Minor, Babylon and Assyria, Samaria and Judea.
1. The proclamation was inspired. “The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.” Not the suggestion of Magi in the city; not the instruction of Daniel, who informed Cyrus of predictions concerning him. But “the Lord God of heaven,” who influences the heart of kings like rivers of water, prompted him to fulfil this duty.
2. The proclamation was written. Written in Jewish language to be understood by tribes in distant provinces. Written and proclaimed aloud, “caused a voice to pass,” like a jubilee trumpet to sound deliverance to captives.
3. The proclamation was gracious. Political considerations might prompt. Egypt a formidable rival to the great world empires. Might be advantageous to have an advanced post in south of Judea to protect against invasion, or from which to make rapid descent upon lands of the Nile. But higher aim in the emancipation of Jews and liberty to return.
III. The response to the proclamation. Cf. Ezra 1:0. Leaders and chief men responded heartily. God disposed many to make sacrifices and return, others remained in Babylon.
1. The response must be immediate. “Let him go up without delay.”
2. The response must be voluntary. “Who is there among you of all the people?”
3. The response must be accepted. May involve risk, long journey and great sacrifices; but duty urges, God promises, and privileges enjoyed if we comply. The gospel preaches deliverance to the captives, but many in love with sin, prefer to stay in the world and have no portion in Jerusalem.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 36:8. Found in him.
1. Evil latent in every heart.
2. Circumstances only required to discover and develop it.
2 Chronicles 36:13. Three steps in wickedness. Broke his engagement, stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart. Rebelled, &c.
1. The sanctity of an oath. Though taken under compulsion, and not due on natural equity: yet must be held sacred, not binding merely till exigency should pass away.
2. The danger of infringement. Its violation not excused, nor passed in silence; but the filling up of the cup of the nation’s guilt. Contracts and oaths not mere legal forms, to be lightly esteemed, but solemn obligations. Violations more criminal than breaking promises; sins of great deliberation, signs of lax morals, and may be precursors of national ruin.
2 Chronicles 36:16. His prophets.
1. Prophetic teaching a constant element in Israel’s history. Not left in darkness like heathen nations. Crises and master minds. Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, &c.
2. The method of this teaching unique and worthy of consideration. Divinely taught. Each set apart; all pre-eminently raised above their fellow-men, “the messengers of God.” Earnestly taught. “Rising up betimes,” i.e., earnestly and carefully: unwearied anxiety and solicitation. Patiently taught. “Sending them” constantly, though ill-treated and set at nought. What kindness and forbearance!
3. Rejection of this teaching brings guilt and danger. Guilt aggravated, “until the wrath of the Lord arose.” Escape hopeless, “till there is no remedy.” God’s long-suffering and earnest entreaties by servants “rising early and protesting to them.” The most awful aggravations of guilt in “refusing to hear” (cf. Jeremiah 11:11).
“God sends his teachers with every age,
To every clime and every race of men,
With revelations fitted to their growth
And shape of mind” [Lowel].
No remedy. These words contain three facts of great importance.
1. That there was, at least at one time, a remedy.
2. That the remedy went on, and might have been used, for a very long period.
3. That there came a time when the remedy ceased.
1. All life is a remedy. The conditions of things require it. Life a great restorative process.
1. Comes that marvellous provision of God in Jesus Christ.
2. Subordinate to this great remedy of the cross of Christ, and working with it, all providences have a curative character.
3. Every one carries within himself an antidote to himself. Conscience, till silenced, a sure antidote for evil. II. Notice the word “till.” It shows how slow God is to take away the remedy. His mercy holds back the arm of justice. But we may sin ourselves into a state, not in which there is no forgiveness, but no thought or desire to seek forgiveness. “No remedy,” not on God’s account, but your own; not in God’s want of will to save you, but in your own incapacity to will your own salvation [J. Vaughan, Sermons].
2 Chronicles 36:21. As long. Seventy years’ desolation predicted by Jeremiah. “The idea that the duration of the desolation was determined in the Divine counsels by the number of the neglected sabbatical years, and that the enforced fallow was intended to compensate for previous unlawful cultivation, is not found in Jeremiah, and, indeed, appears only in Leviticus 26:34-35, and in this place” [Speak. Com.]. Learn—
1. The purpose of God in the affliction of his people.
2. The providence of God in regulating affliction for good, and as regards—a, method; b, degree; c, time. As the exodus from Egypt came in the exact time, so return from Babylon after seventy years. Times of deliverance correspond with minute exactness to prophetic announcements. Hence patience, submission, and hope. “Even the selfsame day it came to pass” (Exodus 12:41).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19