Keep Hope Alive
Explore the Bible Series
February 27, 2011
Background Passage: II Kings 23:31-25:30 (II Chronicles 36:2-21)
Lesson Passage: II Kings 24:12-13, 19-20; 25:8-11, 27-30
I greatly appreciate the lesson author’s effort to cast this passage in a positive light, and, of course, he is right to point to the hope that we have, even in desperate circumstances. However, this is a dismal story, with the exception of the reign of King Josiah. One might see this lesson as a post-mortem for Judah, a eulogy to a dying nation.
Judah’s history reaches its nadir during the fifty-five year reign of King Manasseh, perhaps the most wicked man in Hebrew history. His disobedience almost defies description. For other kings, the axiom “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”, traces the general downward spiral of Judah’s rulers, but, with Manasseh, the spiral reached its lowest point. Judah never really recovered from the damage done by this evil man.
Sadly, unless I have misread the quarterly, our lessons skip the chapters dealing with Manasseh and Josiah (Chapters 21 and 21). With your understanding, I will provide a brief discussion of these two critically important chapters. Also, I have included a very brief notation on the approximate dates of these various monarchies.
Manasseh (c. 696-642 B.C.)
Amon (c. 642-640 B.C.)
Josiah (c. 640-609 B.C.)
Jehoahaz (c. 609 B.C.)
Jehoiakim (c. 609-597 B.C.)
Jehoiachin (c. 597 B.C.)
Zedekiah (also called Mattaniah, c. 597-586 B.C.)
I. Manasseh and Amon of Judah (21:1-19)
A. The appalling evil of Manasseh’s reign (vv. 1-9): Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, governed for fifty-five years, and Judah’s disobedience multiplied under his leadership. He reversed all of the religious reforms of his father, and initiated paganism on a scale never seen in Judah: defilement of the Temple, restoration of the high places and Baal worship, and child sacrifice. His sin, so grave in the eyes of Jehovah, placed Judah on an irreversible path to destruction.
B. The opposition of the Lord’s prophets (vv. 10-18): The prophets promised that Judah would meet a similar fate as her sister nation, Israel. Like Amos, these messengers used the imagery of a plumb line to describe Judah’s failure to measure up to divine standards, and they envisioned God wiping Judah clean like a person cleaning a dirty dish. In the interest of balance, we should mention that II Chronicles recalls the repentance of Manasseh (See 33:10-17), and God, in a remarkable display of mercy, pardoned this evil man. Nevertheless, the damage done by his leadership had tragic consequences of Judah.
C. Amon’s iniquitous reign (vv. 19-26): Unfazed by his father’s repentance, Amon followed an evil path. After two years on the throne, he was assassinated by his servants the people chose Josiah to lead the nation.
II. Josiah of Judah (22:1-23:30)
A. The ascension of Josiah (22:1-2): For thirty-one years this good man ruled and reformed Judah (c. 640-609). During his mid-twenties, Josiah determined to refurbish the Temple, and he entrusted this important task to a servant named Shaphan and a priest, Hilkiah. Workmen began the project under the careful supervision of Shaphan and Hilkiah. As the restoration progressed, workmen discovered a book of the Law, probably the Book of Deuteronomy. The words of the book stirred Josiah’s heart, and he prescribed a thorough reform of Judah’s religious life. The Prophetess Huldah promised Josiah that God would indeed destroy Judah, at the hands of the Babylonians, but the Lord promised to spare Josiah the disgrace of governing Judah during this time of destruction.
B. Josiah’s reforms (23:1-27): After receiving the Lord’s promise, Josiah destroyed all the trappings of paganism and defiled the various idolatrous worship centers. He killed the pagan priests and prostitutes. His reforms reached as far as Bethel, in Samaria. Also, he restored the Passover and the Jewish liturgical traditions. Sadly, this revival did not dissuade the Lord from his ultimate determination to judge Judah. The die of judgment had been cast, and nothing would reverse the horrible consequences of Manasseh’s sin.
C. The death of Josiah (23:28-30): The Egyptian killed Josiah in a battle at Megiddo.
III. The Last Kings of Judah (23:31-24:20)
A. Jehoahaz of Judah (23:31-35): He reigned only three months after the death of Josiah; then, Pharaoh Neco exiled him to Egypt.
B. Jehoiakim (23:36-24:7): Jehoiakim served as vassal to Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and, when the king of Judah rebelled against his oppressor, like buzzards, surrounding nations descended on helpless Judah. II Kings says that all of this chaos came, at the hand of Jehovah, in judgment for Manasseh’s sin. Jerusalem filled with blood, just as the prophets had predicted.
C. Jehoiachin of Judah (24:8-17 and 25:27-30): Judah’s fate was sealed, and Jehoiachin ruled only three months. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried off the city’s treasure s and population, including the golden accoutrements of the Temple. Among the exiles, the Babylonians relocated the finest Jewish craftsmen, soldiers, military leaders, the king’s family, and Jehoiachin. Nebuchadnezzar named Jehoiachin’s uncle, Mattaniah, ruler of the ruined city. Scholars agree that this all occurred in March, 597 B.C. The Babylonians did not execute Jehoiachin; in fact, a period of imprisonment was followed by a remarkable season of freedom and luxury.
D. Zedekiah of Judah (24:18-20): We know little of this man, but he ruled Judah for eleven years (597-586 B.C.). Amazingly, the grave circumstances did not move his heart to turn from the evil; instead, he perpetuated the paganism and immorality of his fathers. Eventually, Zedekiah rebelled against the Babylonians.
IV. The Final Destruction of Judah (25:1-26)
A. The final siege (vv. 1-7): Angered by Zedekiah’s defiance, Nebuchadnezzar determined to utterly destroy Jerusalem. For approximately two years the Babylonians isolated the city, and eventually the people starved. Finally, the ramparts broke, and the Hebrew army, along with the king, abandoned their posts. Nebuchadnezzar arrested Zedekiah near Jericho, put out the Hebrew king’s eyes, and carried him, in chains, to Babylon.
B. The razing of Jerusalem (vv. 8-21): This time, Nebuchadnezzar decided to completely demolish the city. He burned the Temple, tore down the city walls, carried off the remaining treasures, and murdered the religious, military, and civic leaders. Only rubble was left in the wake of destruction.
C. Gedaliah named governor of Judah (vv. 22-25): Nebuchadnezzar chose a well-known man, from a prominent family, to govern the ruined Judah, but, after a few months, rebels murdered the governor. The remaining population, in fear of Babylonian retaliation, fled to Egypt. Ironically, the remnant of Israel found itself seeking refuge in the arms of their former slave masters. The destruction was complete.