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Well, then, in the next portion of our book (2 Kings 21:1-26) we see how truly a pious father may be followed by an impious son. Manasseh, young as he was, did not only begin to reign, but "did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah after the abominations of the heathen, whom Jehovah cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of Jehovah, which Jehovah said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of Jehovah. And he made his son pass through the fire." Burnt them to Moloch. Cruel king! "And observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of Jehovah to provoke him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which Jehovah said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them. But they hearkened not."
The consequence was that Manasseh not only did evil, but "seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom Jehovah destroyed." How was it possible then for Judah to abide in the land of Jehovah? It became a moral impossibility. Hence therefore the message which Jehovah sends by His servants the prophets. After Manasseh, reigned Amon; and Amon follows in the steps of his wicked father, not of his pious grandfather. "He walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them, and he forsook the Jehovah God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of Jehovah."
But after him comes a truly godly prince Josiah younger, too, than either (2 Kings 22:1-20). He was not too young to serve the Lord. "He was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left. And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of Jehovah, saying, Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of Jehovah, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: and let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of Jehovah: and let them give it to the doers of the work;" and so on. But when we are in the path of duty we are in the place of blessing. And Hilkiah gives the glad message to Shaphan, "I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah." How strange! found the book of the law of Jehovah. So it was, and people wonder how that in Christendom men have so long departed, and so long forgotten the word of God.
According to the analogy of Israel, we ought rather to expect it. Here was a people still more bound by letter than we, still more dependent therefore upon a law, if possible, than we could be upon any outward observances. For the law was essentially outward, and the law was a thing that was not so dependent upon inner life and the Spirit of God as outward statutes and observances and ordinances of every kind. Yet even here the law had been lost all this time, and it was a great discovery to find it. God was faithful, and he that had a heart to observe the word of Jehovah found the law through His servant Hilkiah, the high priest. "And it came to pass when the king had heard the words, of the book of the law, he rent his clothes." He had a tender conscience. There is nothing more important in its place; for what is the good of knowledge if there is not a conscience? It appears to me that to grow in knowledge of the truth, if there be not simplicity in following it out, turns the knowledge into a curse, not a blessing. The one value of the truth of God of the word of God being better known is that we may be more faithful towards the Lord, and also in our relationships one with another in doing His will in this poor world. But the moment that you divorce the truth from conscience, it appears to me that the state of the soul is even worse. Far better to be simple in using aright the little that we know than to grow in knowledge where there is no corresponding fidelity. The king, however, was very different. When he heard the words, he rent his clothes, and the consequence was that there was a mighty work of real revival, in the true sense of the word; because I need not tell you that it is a great misapplication of the term "revival" to use it for the conversion of souls. Revival is rather a process of raising up the people of God to a better state or condition, so as most truly to follow what the Lord looks for among them where they have slipped into a lower, slumbering, condition. This is the true sense of it, and this is exactly the meaning of it here, So the king gave an impulse to the people and they gathered to him, as we are told in the next chapter.
"The king went up into the house of Jehovah, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of Jehovah. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before Jehovah, to walk after Jehovah, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant" (2 Kings 23:1-37). And we find, accordingly, the practical fruits at once, public and private, national and personal, for at this time you must remember it was not the church: it was a nation, and it is the greatest confusion of things that differ to confound an elect nation with the church of God. The church is a gathering out of all nations. The congregation of Israel was merely an assemblage of that nation. To talk, therefore, about the Jewish church is really nonsense. It is a common phrase, but there is no truth in it. It is only allowing ourselves phraseology that is altogether foreign to the word of God.
The account then of the great reformation that was wrought is fully gone into in the rest of the chapter, but I shall only add that although the king had been thus faithful, he slips out of the path of the Lord in opposing Pharaoh-nechoh. God had not called him to it, and if the Lord always blesses fidelity, and loves to bless wherever He can, on the other hand the Lord is righteous in His government; and if therefore the righteous man slips out of the path of fidelity he bears the consequences. What we sow to the flesh, we must reap in corruption. It matters not who. Converted or unconverted, it is always true. So with Josiah. There might be grace on the Lord's part to take him away from the evil to come, but I do not doubt it was a chastening upon his eagerness of spirit in opposing the king of Egypt without a word from the Lord.
However, the king of Egypt put Jehoahaz in bands. The people had made him king in Jerusalem in the stead of Josiah, and he made Eliakim his brother king, changing his name to Jehoiakim. And Jehoiakim, we are told, was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. But all this was only one sorrowful event after another.
In the next chapter (2 Kings 24:1-20) we have the mighty king of Babylon, who first comes before us Nebuchadnezzar, the destined beginner of the great imperial system with which we have not done yet; for the world is yet to see the last phase of the imperial power that began at this very time, or shortly after. This gives deep interest to what we are now looking at. I am aware that men are not expecting it. This does not at all hinder its truth as the word of God, and His word alone can decide such questions. The first then who acquires the empire of the world Nebuchadnezzar comes up, and Jehoiakim, became his servant three years. Afterwards he rebels. The Lord puts him down, and Jehoiachin his son reigns in his stead, and the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land, because he was put down by Nebuchadnezzar. These are the steps by which he arrives at the throne of the world, according to the sovereign gift of Jehovah. And Jehoiachin does evil; and at that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar came up when he rebelled, and Nebuchadnezzar himself too besieges the city and carries away the treasures of the house as well as the princes and mighty men. Not only the king, but as we know also a man afterwards most distinguished, and of such deep interest to us Daniel, the prophet. Then follows another sorrowful state. Zedekiah having been made king provisionally in the land over a small remnant, he too is guilty of breaking the oath of Jehovah, and Nebuchadnezzar comes against him. Here we find the last phase of Jerusalem's sorrowful history of the last batch of the Jews that was carried down into captivity. And this is pursued to the end of the twenty-fifth chapter, and this closes the book.
Thus we have completed these two Books of the Kings cursorily, I admit, but still I trust so as to give at any rate a general picture of this wonderful history of the Old Testament; the end being the great imperial power under which will take place the return of a little remnant of the Jews to find themselves in Jerusalem once more to set up a king who will be Satan's great instrument for deceiving men under the shelter of the last holder of the power that began with Babylon. But I enter no farther. This would take me out of history into prophecy.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany