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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 24

 

 

Verses 8-17

The Reign Of Jehoiachin King Of Judah 597 BC (2 Kings 24:8-17).

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 24:2-3).

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 25:29-30). 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.

Analysis.

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 24:15-16).

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 23:31-34). 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 3:16-17; 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 27:18-20). They would follow later (2 Kings 25:13-17).

‘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; 2 Kings 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 25:13-17 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 24:15-16

‘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.


Verse 18

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 28:1-11). 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 24:18-19).

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 25:8-22).


Verse 18-19

1). Introduction (2 Kings 24:18-19).

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 25:27-30), that will finally result in the coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:11-17).

Analysis.

· 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.


Verse 20

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.

Analysis.

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 25:1-2).

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 25:3-4).

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 21:12-14; 2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 23:26; 2 Kings 24:2-3). It had been His continual purpose from the time of Manasseh. The warnings of Leviticus 18:25; Leviticus 18:28; Leviticus 26:28-35; 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 27:1-11).

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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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 24:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-kings-24.html. 2013.

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