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THE UTTER DESOLATION OF JERUSALEM
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 25:1. In the ninth year of his reign—The revolt of Zedekiah so incensed Nebuchadnezzar that he determined on the final act of the utter spoliation of Judah. With an immense army, which he conducted in person, he swept down upon the northern parts of the country, taking almost all the forced cries (Jeremiah 34:7), and marched direct against Jerusalem to besiege it. He was drawn aside temporarily from the siege to oppose the coming of the Egyptian army to the relief of the Jews. This prolonged the siege to a year and a half. At length (date given in Jeremiah 29:2), at midnight, in our month of July, B.C. 587, when the city was reduced to misery and starvation, an entrance was forced into the lower city on the north side. It was a moment for fearful slaughter (2 Chronicles 36:17; Lamentations 1:15). Zedekiah, with his wives and children and guards, fled through an opening made in the wall (Ezekiel 12:12), but were captured in the plains of Jericho, his troops scattered (Jeremiah 52:8), he and his family manacled, and marched to Riblah to confront the wrathful Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:5). Doomed for his violation of his oath of allegiance to Babylon, Zedekiah was first made to behold the slaughter of his family and courtiers, then his own eyes were put out, and he was carried in chains to Babylon.
2 Kings 25:8. Came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard—A month elapsed, during which the Chaldean princes had probably gone to Riblah to consult the king as to the fate of the city; and they then returned with orders to destroy Jerusalem with fire. While fire consumed the city, foul ravages were committed upon the inhabitants (Lamentations 5:11-12), and desecration heaped upon the dead.
2 Kings 25:11. Did Nebuzar-adan carry away—Among these captives carried off to Ramah (Jeremiah 39:9) was Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 40:1). Pilgrims from around afterwards came to wonder and bewail over the ruined city (Jeremiah 41:5-6).
2 Kings 25:21. So Judah was carried away out of their land—This was the end of the Israelitish monarchy; but the last king who occupied the throne of the House of David, and called himself “The Righteousness of God,” צִדְקִיָּהוּ (Tsidkiyahu), but falsified such a name, left the throne vacant until He should come who was truly “The Righteousness of God,” and the Eternal King, predicted by Jeremiah as יְהֹוָה צִדְקֶנוֹ (Jehovah Isidkener), “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 2 Kings 25:22-26. Gedaliah’s rule—This Gedaliah had been Jeremiah’s firm and trusted friend through the period of the prophets’ struggles (comp.Jeremiah 26:24), and is described by Stanley as “a man of a generous, genial nature, such as might have rallied the better spirits of the men around him, and taken the place of the fallen dynasty.” Against him Ishmael conspired. This Ishmael was the most conspicuous of a band of chiefs who fled across the Jordan during the siege. There he became closely leagued with Baalis, king of Ammon (Josephus, Antiq. x. 9, 2); and prompted by him, as well also as coveting Gedaliah’s power, he plotted his assassination (Jeremiah 40:1). Then, contrary to Jeremiah’s dissuasions, the whole people turned to Egypt for protection against the Chaldean king.
2 Kings 25:27. Evil-merodach did lift up the head of Jehoiachin—It was on the occasion of his accession to the throne of Babylon, upon Nebuchadnezzar’s death. Spake kindly to him, &c. (2 Kings 25:26)—Gave him liberty upon parole. This kindness is traced to a record that Evil-merodach himself was a fellow-prisoner with Zedekiah, in consequence of some antipathy of Nebuchadnezzar towards him, and that a sympathetic goodwill towards the captive king was engendered. Yet had not God declared that though, for their apostasy the seed of David should be severely chastised, yet they should not be utterly abandoned (2 Samuel 7:14-15)? And to the captives in Babylon it was a promise of good things to come, when the term of their exiled lot should close, and merciful deliverance should reach them according to the good promises of the Lord God.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 25:1-30
THE LAST DISMAL SCENES IN A NATION’S OVERTHROW
Nothing of interest remains to be recorded of king or people. The historian is chiefly concerned in this chapter in relating how unmistakeably the Divine Word was fulfilled in the total overthrow of Jerusalem. The city was sacked, its palaces and public buildings demolished, and its massive walls pulled down. And the Temple—the house of Jehovah, the pride of the Hebrews, the pivot of their national history, the lament of the pious to this day—was pillaged, dismantled, burnt to the ground, and its sacred vessels and furniture broken and scattered.
I. Here we have all the horrors of siege and famine (2 Kings 25:1-3). The Babylonish hosts, like a flock of vultures with outspread wings, closely invested the fated Jerusalem as if eager to devour it. The hour of final doom rapidly approached. A sword furbished, sharpened, and glittering, seemed to leap from the Divine scabbard, like that which, in the siege of Titus, was believed to flame across the heavens. The blockade was so complete that the besieged were reduced to great extremities. Hunger fastened upon them with its remorseless grip, and under its maddening torture the most inhuman atrocities were committed. The fathers ate their sons, and sons their fathers; and the pestilence consumed what hunger spared (Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 2:22; Lamentations 4:9-10; Ezekiel 5:10). In all this we see the dire fulfilment of the prophetic denunciations hurled against an apostate people (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57; Jeremiah 15:2; Jeremiah 27:13; Ezekiel 4:16).
II. Here we have a desperate but unavailing effort to escape (2 Kings 25:4-6). The ponderous enginery of the Chaldees battered down the outer wall, and admitted a stream of the besieging forces into the northern part of the city. Seized with fear and weakened with famine, the king and his brave defenders made a night sally towards the Jordan Valley, with the hope of effecting an escape. But too many Chaldean eyes were awake, the retreat was cut off, and the king and his party captured. The toils of the Babylonian net were too thickly and widely spread to admit of successful flight; and the military strategy of Nebuchadnezzar was favoured by the avenging power of heaven.
III. Here we have a king cruelly degraded (2 Kings 25:7). Perfidious and rebellious as Zedekiah undoubtedly was, his punishment was a horrible example of the barbarity of the times. The last sight on which he gazed was the butchery of his own sons, and then he was rendered for ever incapable of ruling by his eyes being gouged; that—as Bishop Hall strongly puts it—“his sons might be ever dying before him, and himself in their death ever miserable.” This painful incident fulfilled two prophecies that were apparently contradictory of each other: that Zedekiah should come to Babylon, but should not see it (Jeremiah 32:5; Jeremiah 34:3; Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 17:16). The last vassal king of Judah perished in a Babylonian prison. His was a life of religious vacillation, of stirring incident, of frightful carnage, of suffering and shame.
IV. Here we have a great and world-famed city utterly demolished (2 Kings 25:8-12). The Babylonian conqueror was not satisfied with the subjection of the Jewish people; his rage extended to the buildings in which they lived and worshipped. The celebrated buildings for which David had made such elaborate and wealthy preparations, and which Solomon had erected with infinite labour, and adorned with so much pomp and magnificence, were ruthlessly destroyed with fire and crowbar. Jerusalem, which was invincible, and had for centuries maintained a proud pre-eminence, while Jehovah was acknowledged and worshipped within its walls, was no sooner forsaken by that guardian Presence, than it shared the fate of many a great heathen city, and was levelled with the dust. The mightiest city cannot long survive the loss of virtue and religion; walls and bastions are no protection when the garrison is demoralised.
V. Here we have the sacred vessels of the Temple contemptuously broken, and the chief officers of religion savagely massacred (2 Kings 25:13-21). Persons, places, and things lose the sacredness which, like the delicate bloom of fruit, was their adornment and glory, when they are Divinely abandoned. The blessing changes into a curse that blackens, disfigures, and destroys. Years before Jeremiah had predicted that even the vessels of the Temple should be carried away to Babylon; but, like Cassandra, though he spake the truth, he was fated not to be believed. Little did the sacrilegious Babylon care for the sacred uses and hallowed associations of the Temple furniture and little did he understand that he was, after all, to be the safe custodian of those relics till better days should dawn for Israel, when they should again resume their place and office in a purified temple (Jeremiah 27:21-22). The priests and other temple officers were nothing in the eyes of the exasperated destructionists but so many rebels and instigators of sedition; and they shared the same fate as the shrine they had disgraced.
VI. Here we have, as the last record of the national remnant, a scene of conspiracy, assassination, and flight (2 Kings 25:22-26). The sagacious Nebuchadnezzar did not leave the country without some form of government, and Gedaliah was perhaps, the best adapted for the post of governor or overseer. He saw it was infatuation to contend with the Chaldees, and was disposed to rule the land in submission to their authority. But the prospect of rest and peace was dissipated with the plottings of envy. Once more the land is torn with faction and stained with bloodshed. Stricken with fear and despair, the feeble remnant fled into Egypt, where their forefathers had been enslaved, and from which they had been miraculously delivered, and where greater troubles awaited them than those from which they sought to escape. Such is the grim irony of history; the people who had sprung from poverty and serfdom, after a brilliant career among the foremost nations of the earth, sank again into poverty and serfdom!
VII. Here we have, as a relief to the dismal series of panoramic pictures, a commendable instance of royal clemency towards a captive prince (2 Kings 25:27-30). It could not but add bitterness to the grief of the exiles, as they sat by the waters of Babylon and wept, to know that two of their monarchs were miserable tenants in prison garments, in one of the dungeons of the city—the lamented Jehoiachin and the sightless Zedekiah. After thirty-seven years’ imprisonment, on the death of Nebuchadnezzar, his captor, Jehoiachin was released, and treated with great kindness and distinction by the successor to the Chaldean throne. It was some compensation for the dreary years of humiliation he had endured, that the last years of his life were spent amid brighter surroundings. Jehoiachin represented the faded glory of Israel; and the last reference made to him in the history suggests a faint hope of the future restoration and elevation of his unhappy people. “Doubtless, the improvement in Jehoiachin’s condition is to be traced to the overruling providence and grace of Him who still cherished purposes of love to the House of David” (2 Samuel 14:15).—Jamieson. The longest, weariest, darkest night comes to an end, and the long looked for dawn breaks at length, bringing rest, and hope, and gladness with its expanding light.
1. The power of a great conqueror is sometimes used to inflict Divine punishment for sin.
2. The destruction of the most highly favoured nation does not frustrate the progress and triumph of the Divine purpose.
3. In national as in individual life, the greatest sufferings are not unmixed with blessings.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 25:8-21
THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
I. Was a calamity of world-wide significance. It was the grand catastrophe of the Jewish nation. The other cities of Palestine were insignificant: they were all subsidiary to, and received the law from, the great Metropolitan. Its influence dominated and governed the nation. In its midst the Temple reared its stately pile, the political and religions centre of the State, the basis and bond of the national unity. When the Temple fell, the national life was smitten, the national hope extinguished. The Jews fought with unexampled desperation, and endured incredible sufferings (2 Kings 25:3; 2 Kings 25:18-21) in defence of the holy city; and to the last clung with dogged pertinacity to the very ruins of the Temple (2 Kings 25:18). Other great cities have fallen; but their loss has not been mourned with a pathos and a grief like that which is continued by the wailing Israelites to this day. The significance of such a downfall dilates itself through the centuries, and stands out as a warning-beacon to the great cities of modern times.
II. Was a Divinely-declared punishment for persistent disobedience. The decline and fall of great cities have been traced to the inevitable operation of natural and universal forces. Gibbon attributes the ruin of Rome to the injuries of time and nature, the hostile attacks of the barbarians and Christians, the use and abuse of the materials, and the domestic quarrels of the Romans; and thus he seeks to eliminate the Operation of a Divine retributive Providence. But the movements of the Divine Hand cannot be eliminated from the fall of Jerusalem, though we may trace the action of similar causes to those which have wrecked the fortunes of other great cities. While Israel remained true to Jehovah, the city was invincible and impregnable; and it was only after un-paralleled obstinacy in sin that Jerusalem was abandoned to its fate (Amos 3:2; Leviticus 26:2; 2 Chronicles 36:14-17; Jeremiah 25:8-9). This mournful truth is admitted by the Jews with sighs and tears.
III. Was a solemn and impressive proof to all ages of the Divine fidelity and justice. The promises and threatenings of the Divine Word have been faithfully fulfilled, and the Divine justice fully vindicated. “In the history of the Jewish State this great truth is clearly and powerfully impressed, that, as “righteousness exalteth a nation, so sin is the reproach of any people”—(Proverbs 14:34)—a lesson which, but for the immediate and extraordinary Providence displayed in this awful dispensation, could never have been so forcibly inculcated, or so clearly understood”—(Graves). The Jews are living witnesses to-day of the truth and faithfulness of God—
Amazing race! deprived of land and laws,
A general language, and a public cause;
With a religion none can now obey,
With a reproach that none can take away;
A people still, whose common ties are gone;
Who, mixed with every race, are lost in none.—Crabbe.
1. A city where piety predominates is a great power for God.
2. The most strongly-fortified city may become a tomb in which its wicked inmates are interred.
3. The holiest and most renowned city is degraded and ruined by sin.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 25:3. Famine.
1. A more formidable enemy to contend with than an armed force.
2. Shows how rapidly consumption follows in the wake of production—it is like the Salt Sea swallowing the Jordan.
3. One of the most dreaded evils of war.
2 Kings 25:7. A suffering captive.
1. To the humiliation of defeat is added the excruciating agony of destroyed eye-sight.
2. It would intensify the pangs of the sufferer that the last sight on which his eye rested was the cruel massacre of his own sons.
3. The man who acts the traitor and rebel exposes himself to severe penalties.
4. It tarnishes the reputation of the mightiest conqueror to needlessly torture his helpless victim.
5. War is a prolific source of human misery.
—The eyes of whose mind had been put out long before, else he might have foreseen and prevented this evil—as prevision is the best means of prevention—had he taken warning by what was foretold (Jeremiah 32:4; Jeremiah 34:3; Ezekiel 12:13). The Dutchmen have a proverb: When God intends to destroy a man, He first puts out his eyes.—Trapp.
2 Kings 25:8-17. Three other like events of parallel magnitude have been witnessed: the fall of Babylon, as the close of the primeval monarchies of the ancient world; the fall of Rome, as the close of the classical world; and, in a fainter degree, the fall of Constantinople, as the close of the first Christianized empire. But, in the case of Jerusalem, both its first and second destruction have the peculiar interest of involving the dissolution of a religious dispensation, combined with the agony of an expiring nation, such as no other people or city has witnessed, such as no other people have survived, and, by surviving, carried on the living recollection, first of one, then of the other, for centuries after the first shock was over.—Stanley.
2 Kings 25:9. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the wonder of all times, the paragon of nations, the glory of the earth, the favourite of heaven, how art thou now become heaps of ashes, hills of rubbish, a spectacle of desolation, a monument of ruin! If later, yet no less deep hast thou now pledged that bitter cup of God’s vengeance to thy sister Samaria! Four hundred and thirty-six years had that temple stood, and beautified the earth, and honoured heaven; now, it is turned into rude heaps. There is no prescription to be pleaded for the favour of the Almighty: only that temple not made with hands is eternal in the heavens. Thither he graciously brings us, for the sake of the glorious High Priest, that hath once for all entered into that holy of holies.—Bp. Hall.
—Those of the captivity bewailed the destruction of Jerusalem by an annual fast (Zechariah 7:0.; Psalms 137:0.) The Jews at this day, when they build a house, leave one part of it unfinished, in remembrance that Jerusalem and the Temple lie desolate. At least they leave about a yard square of the house unplastered, on which they write in great letters: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, &c.;” or else the words, “The memory of the desolation.”—Trapp.
2 Kings 25:13-17. The changing aspects of religious work.
1. That religious work is carried on with a great variety of instrumentalities (2 Kings 25:14-15).
2. That the value of religious work depends on the strength and symmetry of moral character (2 Kings 25:13; 2 Kings 25:16-17).
3. That there are Chaldean enemies ever ready to destroy character and depreciate religious work (2 Kings 25:13).
2 Kings 25:18-21. Official responsibility.
1. Demands that the post of duty should be the more tenaciously held in time of danger.
2. Exposes to the first and fiercest attacks of the enemy.
3. Involves great suffering, and even death itself (2 Kings 25:21), in trying times.
4. Often makes one long for the peace and security of the poor and obscure (2 Kings 25:12).
2 Kings 25:18. These likely were fired out of those secret corners of the temple where they lay hid. Our chroniclers tell us that William the Conqueror, firing the city Mayence in France, consumed a church there, in the walls whereof were enclosed an anchoret, who might but would not escape, holding it a breach of his religious vow to forsake his cell in that distress. At the last destruction of Jerusalem, certain Jews who had taken sanctuary in the Temple came forth when it was on fire, and besought the emperor Titus to give them quarter for their lives; but he refused so to do, giving this for a reason, which, indeed, was no reason—Ye deserve not to live, who will not die with the downfall of your Temple.—Trapp.
2 Kings 25:21. “So Judah was carried away out of their land.” The curse and the blessing of the exile. I. The curse consisted in this, that the Lord removed the people from before his face (chap. 2 Kings 23:27; 2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 24:20); that is, He removed them from the land of promise, in which he gave them his gracious blessings, and placed them in a distant country, where nothing was known of the true and living God. This curse, which had long been threatened (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:27; Deuteronomy 28:26; Daniel 9:11) is a proof of the truth of the words, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, &c.” (Galatians 6:7). God still does spiritually to individuals and to nations what he did to Judah—He removes them from before His face; He removes from them His word and His means of grace, if they do not repent, and leaves them to live in darkness, without Him. II. The curse became a blessing for this people. It humiliated itself and repented. It experienced that there was no greater curse than to live far from its gracious God, and it longed for the land of promise. When it had lost its earthly kingdom and its earthly king, it learned to look for the kingdom of heaven, and for that One in whom all God’s promises to man are fulfilled. The exile became a blessing for the whole world, for the Jewish nation was thereby made fit to fulfil its destiny in the redemptive plan of God. It was “a great opportunity, by which the name and glory of Jehovah were spread abroad, as a preparation for the preaching of the gospel of Christ” (Starke). “We all lay under the curse of the law, but Christ has redeemed us (Galatians 3:13-14).—Lange.
—The mercy, the justice, and the wisdom of God are all equally displayed in this event. His mercy appears in bringing this judgment so gradually—from less to greater, during the space of twenty-two years—so that most ample warning was given, and abundant opportunity of repentance was afforded. That it was a most just punishment for their sins no one ever questioned, and the Jews themselves have constantly admitted it, even with tears. It was, in particular, a most righteous punishment of their idolatry, as Moses had long ago foretold in Leviticus 26:0., where the succession of the Divine judgments is most remarkably traced out. But the wisdom of God is also seen here. He did not mean utterly to cast off His people, and he therefore brought them under this great affliction, because, as had too plainly appeared, nothing less would suffice to purify them, and turn their hearts from the love of idols. It is certain that after this captivity—and under occasional inducements, as strong as any to which they had ever been subjected in former times—there was never among them the least tendency to idolatry, but the most intense and vehement abhorrence of it, as the true cause of all their ancient miseries—so deep and salutary was the impression made upon them by this great affliction, and so effectual the cure.—Kitto.
—While the work of destruction was carried on by the Chaldean army, it was viewed with malignant exultation by the nations which had so long chafed beneath the yoke of their kinsman Israel. The Ammonites cried “Aha!” against the sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah when they went into captivity. Moab and Seir said, “Behold the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen.” The more active enmity, which was but natural in the Philistines, who “took vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred,” was emulated by Edom, the nearest kinsman and bitterest rival of his brother Israel. All these nations soon fell victims to the like fate, which the prophets again and again denounce upon them.—Dr. Smith’s Student’s Scrip. History.
2 Kings 25:22-26. The last vestige of government in Judah.
1. Might have been an important rallying point for the scattered remnant.
2. Was destroyed by the blind infatuation of envy.
3. When destroyed, completed the desolation of the country.
2 Kings 25:25. We see by the example of Israel, how envy and jealousy, pride in high descent, and destiny, and love of power, lead to the most utter ruin. Passion makes men fools. Ishmael could not hope with his small company to resist the Chaldean power.—Lange.
—Self-love and envy teach men to turn the glass to see themselves bigger and others lesser than they are.
—An envious spirit.
1. Cannot brook a superior.
2. Is disquieted with ambitious and wicked designs.
3. Does not hesitate to commit the worst crimes to attain its ends.
4. Loses the prize at which it clutches. (Jeremiah 41:15).
2 Kings 25:26. When the godless attempt to flee from a calamity they plunge themselves into it (Isaiah 24:17).—Starke.
—Jeremiah lived on in the land to see the misery and anarchy which followed the murder of Gedaliah; to tell the Jews who were flying to Egypt that if they stayed in the land they would be safe, that in Egypt they would meet with destruction—for that Egypt had been given up to the king of Babylon—finally to sing the future ruin of Babylon itself; the confusion and breaking in pieces of her idols, the deliverance of those in whose destruction and desolation she had rejoiced.—Maurice.
2 Kings 25:27-30. The release and preferment of Jehoiachin suggestive of the future restoration of his exiled people.
1. Their captivity, like his, might be painful and prolonged.
2. As in his case, a prince might arise who would have compassion on their sufferings.
3. As in his experience, they might be restored to freedom and comparative prosperity.
4. The darkest distress is not without some ray of hope.
—The new king, Evil Merodach, having no such personal feeling against Jehoiachin as had swayed his father, strove to atone for the long sufferings of the unfortunate exile by setting him free, and entertaining him thenceforward at the royal table in suitable splendour. Legend has brightened the story of his last days, describing him as living on the Euphrates, in a sumptuous house, surrounded by a spacious paradise, and married to the fairest woman of his day, the chaste Susannah, the companion of the king of Babylon, and the chief personage of and high judge among the captives. It is added, moreover, that amidst all, he was still mindful of his native land, listening, with his brethren, to Baruch at he read the prophecies before them, and amidst weeping, fasting, and prayer, sending off help to the remnant of his people in Jerusalem. But this touching picture is only a creation of national pride, to adorn with a fictitious prosperity the closing years of the last direct heir to the Jewish crown.—Geikie.
2 Kings 25:29. The like whereto befel Joseph, whose fetters one hour changed into a chain of gold, his rags into robes, his stocks into a chariot, his goal into a palace. So God turned again the captivity of Job, as the streams in the South.—Trapp.
2 Kings 25:30. So is, or might be, every true believer’s portion; who should therefore “eat his bread with joy, and drink his wine with cheerfulness all the days of his life,” which are not to be numbered by the hours, but measured by spiritual mirth; as monies are not by tale, but by value.—Ibid.
Great principles illustrated in the books of Kings.
I. That the Divine purpose in raising up the Jewish nation as a means of conveying greater blessing to the world is steadily kept in view.
II. That the nation is prospered and strengthened in proportion to its fidelity to the Divine purpose.
III. That the ambition to form foreign alliances was contrary to the fundamental law of the theocracy, and led to the introduction of the idolatry which ultimately wrought the nation’s ruin.
IV. That a nation, as an individual, cannot be purged of great evils without great suffering.
V. That God is slow to punish, and delays the final blow till all possible means of reclamation are exhausted.
VI. That great emergencies bring to the front the noblest and most highly gifted talent of the nation.
VII. That the unfaithfulness and vice of the Jewish people did not prevent the carrying out of the Divine purpose.
VIII. That true religion can alone give greatness and permanent to national life.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 25". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany