Struggles of Israel Meditations: 21. Through to the End
2 Chron 33:33 Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
2 Chron 36:15-19 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.
Quick Summary: We are now on the downhill run of the southern kingdom to the point they are taken into exile. Here are the basics:
|Manasseh (55)||Did evil in every way possible||Disciplined by being carried to Babylon|
|Amon (2)||Did evil||Was assassinated|
|Josiah (31)||Mostly nothing wrong. Possibly the best king of both kingdoms||Died after battle he did not need to fight|
|Jehoahaz (3m)||3 month reign, presumably bad||Deposed by Egypt|
|Jehoiakim (11)||Did evil||Taken to Babylon|
|Jehoiachin (3m)||Did evil||Taken to Babylon|
|Zedekiah (11)||Ignored the Lord & did evil||Refused the Lord, taken into exile in Babylon|
Highlights: Two of these kings stand out for special mention, the rest as you can see above simply turned away from God and led the nation more and more towards destruction. The two kings are Manasseh and Josiah.
i) Manasseh: So much negative is written about this king (see 2 Chron 33:1-9) that I won’t try quoting it here, you will be pleased to note! Except – “But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.” (v.9) Now I include that to emphasise the wonder of what followed:
– the Assyrians came and took him to Babylon (v.10,11)
– there he repented and so the Lord returned him to Jerusalem (v.12,13)
– he then brought about a spiritual clean-up (v.15,16)
Amazing! However Ammon his son stupidly did not learn from his father, only ruled two years, and so he was assassinated!
ii) Josiah: Came to the throne aged eight, ruled 31 years (2 Chron 34:1) as an amazing reformer. (see v.3-33 plus 35:1-19) Sadly showing his feet of clay that every human seems to have, he unnecessarily confronted the king of Egypt in the south and, despite disguising himself, was hit by a stray arrow, rushed back to Jerusalem where he died! Thirty one years of good rule brought to an end by a foolish whim. Nevertheless he certainly set the nation up to continue following the Lord which makes the shear folly of the four kings who followed him even more incredible.
And So? We cover a period here of roughly 113 years. It is perhaps difficult to comprehend the scale of historical periods (especially when they are considerably longer that our own lifetimes) but what we have here is a bad time followed by a good time (Manasseh), a short bad time (Amon), a startlingly good time (Josiah) which should have been a beacon for following kings but instead we find the final four are stupidly foolish, living under the shadow of the increasingly dominant Babylonians who turn up three times to take more and more of them into exile (after Jehoahaz was replaced by the king of Egypt with Jehoiakim):
- Jehoiakim – 11yrs (2 Chron 36:5-8) (approx. 605BC)
- Jehoiachin – 3 months (v.9,10) (approx. 597BC)
- Zedekiah – 11 years (v.15-21) (587 BC)
Further Perspective: Following only the historical books does not give the full picture of all that was going on through these years and to do that we need to read Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. I always liken these three to three modern-day TV reporters sent to cover a major event in the world. Jeremiah is in Jerusalem for decades before its eventual fall, prophesying his heart out to the kings and the people of Jerusalem. God’s warnings kept coming to those final kings again and again and again through this man. Daniel was deported in 605BC in Nebuchadnezzar’s first sweep, and he gives us the perspective of those years from within Babylon, from within the royal court. Ezekiel was taken off to Babylonia in 597BC in Nebuchadnezzar’s second sweep, to live among the common people and prophesied over the nation of Judah from afar right up to and through the destruction of Jerusalem, a voice that came to his people in Babylon and which was also carried back to Jerusalem. All three men played significant roles on God’s behalf through these years. Amazing!
Not the End: So Jerusalem is utterly destroyed in 587BC after a year-long siege by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. The people are all (with the exception of a small minority that included Jeremiah – see Jer 39:11-14, 40:1-6) deported to Babylonia, the start of the Exile which was only broken 40 years later when Cyrus felt the Lord’s prompting to send some of the people back to rebuild the Temple (see Ezra 1) and later Nehemiah was allowed to return to rebuild the city (see Neh 1) Although the first exiles started returning roughly forty years after the destruction of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the Temple was not completed until 70 years after the destruction thus fulfilling Jeremiah’s seventy-year prophecy (God’s place in the midst of His people restored).
And So: Here we will come to the end of the detailing of the decline, fall and exile of the southern kingdom, but we will carry out a summary in the following study. What is blatantly obvious in this study is the intervention of the Lord by His prophets to warn, warn and warn again these foolish kings to try to head off their eventual destruction. What is also blatantly obvious is the stupidity and stubbornness of the various kings who refused to heed His warnings. Grace and Sin alongside each other. The choice is always there for every one of us – God’s grace or our own sinful self-rule. May we be able to see it so clearly that it is really a non-choice!!!