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THE TOTAL CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH
In the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem, building a wall around it. Jeremiah told Zedekiah, by the word of the Lord, that if he would surrender to the king of Babylon, he would live and the city would not be burned with fire, but if he would not surrender the city would be burned and he (Zedekiah) would not escape (Jeremiah 38:17-18), but because of Zedekiah's fear of the Jews he would not surrender.
The siege continued for one and a half years, till the 11th year of Zedekiah's reign (v.2). Their supply of food was exhausted (v.3) and also at that time the city was broken through. But instead of surrendering to the king of Babylon, all the men of war and Zedekiah sought to escape at night by way of a gate between two walls (v.4). How did they expect to escape when the army of the Chaldeans surrounded the city? At least, Zedekiah and his sons were caught, though others of his men were scattered from him (v.5).
Zedekiah, being captured, was taken to Riblah where his sons were killed before his eyes, then his own eyes were put out (v.7). How solemn a judgment for a king of Judah! But it is typical of Israel's eyes being blinded at the present time because of unbelief (Romans 11:7-8), a spiritual blindness that has continued through history from the time of their dispersal among the Gentiles.
Nebuchadnezzar seems to have had no more hope that Judah would be subject to him, so he had Nebuzaradan. his servant go to Jerusalem and burn the house of the Lord, the king's house and all the houses of the officials (v.9). He realised the Jews must have no centre of gathering, and thus the temple, so magnificently built in the time of Solomon, was destroyed by fire. What is there in Christendom that would answer to this? God's true Centre in the Church is Christ Himself. But is this realised today in the professing church? Rather, Satan has succeeded in blotting out the clear recognition of Christ as God's one Centre, with the resulting confusion of many sects and denominations striving against each other.
Besides this the army of the Chaldeans broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around, so that the city would have no protection from marauders (v.10). Thus today, in the professing church, the wall of separation has been broken down, so that unbelievers have easily come in to work havoc.
Also, the rest of the people in the city, as well as those who surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, were carried away captive to Babylon (v.11). The devastation was complete, and since that time there has not been another king of Israel, though Herod, an Edomite, was called king in Matthew 2:1 and another Herod followed him (Acts 12:1). These were not of Israel, but were mere vassals of Caesar.
However, the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers. It is possible, since they had taken so many away captive, that they brought some aliens in to replace them, as was the case among the ten tribes when they were so decimated by the King of Assyria (ch.17:24), but no mention is made of this here.
Evidently verses 13-17 refer to what took place before Nebuzaradan burned the temple. The bronze pillars and the bronze sea were broken in pieces to be taken to Babylon. Besides this the firepans, basins and things of solid gold and solid silver were also taken (vv.14-15). The bronze of the many articles was so great in quantity as to be beyond measure (v.16). All these things were God's property and are symbolical of what can only be properly appropriated by faith, but in being taken to Babylon, (which means 'confusion"), they were placed in connection with idol worship. Today also false religion has appropriated for itself what really belongs to God and uses it for its own unholy profit.
Verse 19 then Lists a number of men whom the captain of the guard found in the City, Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the second priest, three doorkeepers, an officer in charge of the men of war, five men of the king's close associates, the chief recruiting officer of the army and sixty others who were found in the city. Nebuzaradan took all of these captive and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah (v.20). None of them were allowed to live, but all were put to death by Nebuchadnezzar's order (v.21). This completed the captivity of Judah and the desolation of Jerusalem.
Though no king was allowed to rule over Judah, it was necessary that some form of government should be kept in control of the country, so Nebuzaradan appointed a man who was a descendant of the kings, Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, to be governor of the people who were left in the land (v.22).
When it became known that Gedaliah had been appointed as Governor, officers of the armies and their men who had scattered from Judah came to Mizpah, where Gedaliah resided. Among these were some prominent men, specially Ishmael and Johanan (v.23). Gedaliah was purposed to remain in the land and to be subject to the king of Babylon, and he took an oath to this affect before these men, requiring them also to serve Nebuchadnezzar. This was the wise thing to do, for God had brought them down and rebellion would have been rebellion against God. Thus too in Christendom, because of the sad failure in testimony, God has allowed confusion (the meaning of Babylon) to take possession of the church publicly, and it is only right that we bow to the shame of our confusion, not expecting ever to return to the bright Pentecostal days of the Church.
This is a principle that is too frequently ignored, or even refused, by believers of the present day, for it is popular to accept the world's attitude that we should fight for our own rights. Therefore those who realise they should bow to the government of God are considered weaklings. Some proudly think that by their heroic efforts they are going to bring in another Pentecost, and in fighting for this cause, they will sadly persuade themselves they are really accomplishing something when their work is manifestly only a poor imitation of the early days of the Church.
It is important to consider that Gedaliah required an oath from the number of prominent men who came to him, that they would dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon. It was God who had put them in that position because of Judah's previous guilt, and faith could only bow to it.
Jeremiah 40:1-16; Jeremiah 41:1-18 furnishes an enlarged history of events at this time, a passage well worth considering if we are to have our thoughts rightly formed. Johanan, whose name means "Jehovah is gracious giver" had clear discernment that Ishmael was a traitor and had come with the intention of killing Gedaliah. He warned Gedaliah against Ishmael, but Gedaliah did not believe him. Gedaliah, being governor, symbolises the government of God, and Johanan, God's grace. Ishmael reminds us of the son of the bondwoman, Hagar (Genesis 16:1-16), and he pictures the legal covenant (Galatians 4:21-25). Can legal minded men be depended on to be subject to God's government? No indeed! If one claims to be keeping the law, he deceives himself and he will not hesitate to deceive others too. In fact, like Ishmael, he will destroy true government. Johanan (grace) was a true friend of government (Gedaliah), but sadly Gedaliah was deceived by Ishmael, who could agree to a covenant then very soon break it and murder the governor he had come to serve!
In the seventh month, just two months after Jerusalem had been burned (vv.8-9), Ishmael came with ten men (reminding us of the ten commandments) and killed Gedaliah and those who were with him, at Mizpah (v.25). This murder took place immediately after Ishmael had deceitfully eaten with Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:1-2). In fact, on the second day after this happened, there were 80 men who came from Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria with desire to meet with Gedaliah. Ishmael met them, weeping, and guided them into the city, where Ishmael and his men killed them except for ten men who bribed Ishmael to let them live (Jeremiah 41:4-7).
Verse 26 (of2 Kings 25:1-30; 2 Kings 25:1-30) speaks of all those people who had come to Gedaliah deciding to go to Egypt because of fear of the Chaldeans, or Babylonians. Again, Jeremiah furnishes more information about this. Johanan and others with him asked Jeremiah to enquire of the Lord as to what they ought to do now that Gedaliah was gone (Jeremiah 42:1-3). This should not have been difficult, for they had accepted the oath of Gedaliah to remain in the land. Now they told Jeremiah that whatever the Lord said, they would obey. However, when Jeremiah told them the Lord clearly declared that they would be blessed if they remained in the land under the domination of Babylon, he also told them they had been hypocritical in saying they would obey the Lord, for they had already decided they would go to Egypt and were only hoping that God would confirm this. Therefore they would suffer more in Egypt than they expected to in Israel (Jer 42:52). The result was that they did just what Jeremiah told them they would, yet accused him of speaking falsely in the name of the Lord (Jeremiah 43:1-3).
JEHOIACHIN RELEASED, BUT NOT RESTORED
Jehoiachin (Coniah) remained a captive for 37 years in Babylon, and then a new king, Evil-Merodach, decided to release him, speaking kindly to him and giving him a place of dignity above other kings who had evidently been also brought to Babylon (vv.27-28). We are not told why he showed this favour to Jehoiachin, but this is a striking picture of grace shown to one who has long been in shame and disrepute. Is it not a foreshadowing of the eventual recovery of the nation Israel from their long history of disobedience to God? This was not because Jehoiachin was worthy of grace, but rather that the grace was solely from the kindness of the king of Babylon, just as Israel will be brought back from misery and bondage by the sovereign work of God in grace toward them.
No longer did Jehoiachin wear prison garments, but was given provision of food "before the king" all the days of his life. Thus he was a subject of both mercy and grace, for mercy is compassion shown to one in need, while grace freely gives abundant provision to satisfy every need and much more. A regular allowance was given him for each day as long as he lived. He was not restored to his place as king of Judah, nor will any men of Coniah's descendants ever reign as king, but they will rejoice in recognising the Lord Jesus as the true King of all Israel and they will be greatly blessed all the days of their life.
We have surely seen in these books of Kings the clear proof that no man is worthy to hold authority over men. This is not only true of the many kings who were ungodly and rebellious, but also of those who were the most faithful and devoted. In fact, not one of all the kings of Judah and of Israel enjoyed a really bright end to his reign. Contrast this with the brightness of the end of Paul's history (2 Timothy 4:6-8), a lowly servant of God in prison! Only the Lord Jesus is worthy of supreme authority, He who is "King of kings and Lord of lords."
Thus, though the books of the kings are full of sorrow and failure, they end with a bright promise of great blessing for Israel. How good indeed is our great God!
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 25". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent