Removed From Privilege
Explore the Bible Series
August 29, 2004
Lesson Passages: II Kings 24:1-4,20; 25:8-10,21,27-30
Introduction: The death of King Josiah signaled the “beginning of the end” for Judah. The decline and destruction of the Southern Kingdom, long foretold by the Lord’s prophets, now appears on the historical horizon. Judah’s days were numbered, and the final years simply underscored the dismal moral and spiritual condition of the people. The text focuses on the apostasy of the monarchs; however, the spiritual condition of the leaders of the nation acts as a mirror for the decline of the citizens of Judah.
Above all, these closing chapters of II Kings teach Christians about the character of God. The entire account reveals, for instance, the extraordinary patience of the Lord (Psalm 103:8). Also, these passages remind us of the faithfulness of God. His warnings of judgment, provided consistently and liberally through the Lord’s prophets, finally came true. The Judahites apparently misinterpreted Jehovah’s patience. Perhaps they misconstrued God’s longsuffering for indulgence of their sin. Whatever the case, God kept his word and judgment now waited at the door.
I. The Reign Of Jehoiakim (II Kings 23:35-24:7)
A. Confusion in the line of kings
When King Josiah died in battle, the people of Judah anointed his son Jehoahaz as the new king. His reign, however, lasted only three months. Pharaoh Neco removed Jehoahaz from power, imprisoned him, appointed his half brother Eliakim (Jehoiakim) as the new king, and exacted a heavy tribute on the people of Judah. Perhaps Neco anticipated an anti-Egyptian bias in the young successor and simply acted to prevent any possible problems with Judah by placing Eliakim on the throne.
B. The nature of Jehoiakim’s reign
1. The new king ruled Judah for eleven years (c. 609-598), and he apparently was content to remain a vassal of the Egyptians. The tribute that this ungodly king paid to the Egyptians proved quite difficult to collect. The Prophet Jeremiah scolded Jehoiakim’s use of extortion, violence, and murder to raise the money for the Egyptians (See Jeremiah 22:13f)
2. Jehoiakim rejected the religious reforms of his godly father and returned to the wicked conduct of his forefathers. Again, Jeremiah painted a bleak picture of this man’s character (See Jeremiah 22-27).
C. The demise of Jehoiakim
1. The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.), and Jehoiakim quickly switched allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. After three years, however, the king of Judah rebelled against his Babylonian oppressors. Perhaps Jehoiakim overestimated the resurgence of the Egyptians and wrongly anticipated that they would regain the upper hand; therefore, Nebuchadnezzar formed a coalition of vassal nations to lay siege to Jerusalem. Jeremiah prophesied that Jehoiakim would be buried in a disgraceful manner, much like a donkey whose carcass would be unceremoniously dragged out of the city and let to rot (See Jeremiah 22:18-19)
2. Note that the Scriptures clearly assert that the hand of the Lord was behind all of this political and military maneuvering, and he acted according to the warnings he had given Judah many years before these events occurred.
II. The Reign of King Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:8-16)
A. Jehoiachin’s character
This king, though very young, manifests all of the unsavory characteristics of his father. The moral blindness of a sinner proves quite astounding. This youthful king surely knew of the Lord’s displeasure with the wickedness of Judah, and he observed the hand of his own destruction at the threshold of his capitol; yet, he continued, undeterred in his sin.
B. Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judah
In the initial stages of the siege of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar sent his servants to carry out the military campaign; however, eventually the Babylonian king came to Judah to oversee the final destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The devastation of the city included the following actions. (Please note that this was the second of three Babylonian sieges of Jerusalem. The devastation of the city occurred in stages).
1. Nebuchadnezzar incarcerated the king of Judah and many of the chief leaders of Judah.
2. The treasures of the Temple and the palace were confiscated and destroyed.
3. The Babylonian king imprisoned the military leaders and carried away Judah’s skilled craftsmen.
C. The Babylonians held Jehoiachin in prison for thirty-seven years. The last few verses of II Kings’ however, record that King Evil-Merodach, successor to Nebuchadnezzar, brought the king of Judah from his prison cell and allowed him to live in comfort and ease.
III. The Reign of Zedekiah and Final Ruin of Judah\(II Kings 24:17-25:30)
A. Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin’s uncle the new king of Judah. This man was named Mattaniah, but he took the royal name of Zedekiah. He ruled as a vassal king for eleven years (c. 597-587 B.C.).
B. Approximately nine years into his reign, Zedekiah rebelled against his Babylonian oppressors. Apparently he had placed his hopes in the ascendancy of an Egyptian confederacy that included Tyre and Ammon. This coalition, of course failed, and Zedekiah rekindled the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar.
C. The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem (third siege) for several months, and, as the military assault came to a crisis, Zedekiah unsuccessfully tried to escape from the city. After Zedekiah’s capture, Nebuchadnezzar killed the royal princes in the presence of their father. Then, the Babylonians put out Zedekiah’s eyes and carried him away into captivity. They added insult to injury by burning the Temple and the prominent houses of Jerusalem and razing the city walls. All of the population was carried away into captivity. Only a small group of poor people remained in Jerusalem.
D. Nebuchadnezzar appointed a prominent Jewish leader named Gedaliah to remain as governor of the defeated land. Gedaliah was apparently a good man, and he came from a family that had close ties with the Prophet Jeremiah. The new governor encouraged the Judahite remnant to serve Nebuchadnezzar so that the small population would remain secure and recover from the social trauma of occupation. Sadly, a small group of Jewish nationalists assassinated Gedaliah shortly after he assumed power.
Strangely, II Kings comes to an abrupt end. The final chapters o the book must have been written from captivity in Babylon, and, no doubt, the writer’s reminiscence must have proved very painful. Perhaps that pain helps explain the unexpected conclusion of this tragic narrative.