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THE FALL OF THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 24:1. In his days Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuchadnezzar’s reign commenced in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s. Hales (“Sacred Chron.”) shows that Jehoiakim was made king by Pharaoh-Necho, of Egypt, in July, B.C. 607; whereas Nebuchadnezzar mounted the throne of Babylon January 21, B.C. 604. The Chaldean cylinders place all chronology back by twenty-two years, so that these dates become B.C. 590 for Jehoiakim’s accession, and B.C. 586 for Nebuchadnezzar’s. This Nebuchadnezzar was son of Nabo-polassar, and founded the Chaldee monarchy. This invasion of Judea occurred in Jehoiakim’s fourth year, therefore, in Nebuchadnezzar’s first year.
2 Kings 24:2. Bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, &c.—Not an organized army, but a congregate host from various nationalities. These, doubtless, had been compelled to own Nebuchadnezzar’s supremacy, and now, in attacking Judah, both gratified their own hostility against this kingdom, and fulfilled Nebuchadnezzar’s commands. Joining with the Chaldean troops that were left on the borders, they attacked Judah.
2 Kings 24:3. Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah—The judgments long threatened by God through the prophets Micah, Huldah, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah, now began. These bands were but instruments of God, unconsciously working out His behests.
2 Kings 24:6. Jehoiakim slept with his fathers—We have no record of his death; certainly he was not buried in his father’s sepulchre. Jeremiah records the reverse of that (see Jeremiah 22:18-19). Probably he died soon after reaching Babylon, burdened with his captive chains; but it is equally probable that he was slain by Nebuchadnezzar, and his corpse cast aside unburied. Certainly he perished ignobly, and at the age of thirty-six.
2 Kings 24:8. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old, &c.—His reign lasted but three months and ten days. For thirty-six years he lingered a captive in Babylon—i.e., through Nebuchadnezzar’s lifetime—but was elevated into some dignity and respect by Evil-merodach, who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar (comp. chap. 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). With the admonitory example and warning doom of his father before him, this wilful and impious youth defied God and His prophets, and reaped disasters which overwhelmed the entire royal household and the nation.
2 Kings 24:12. Jehoiachin, king of Judah, went out to the king of Babylon—This act. יָצָא describes the going out to surrender. Possibly, persuaded thereto by Jeremiah, but improbably so. It might have been a part played in the hope of gaining favour with the enemy, and retaining his throne as vassal. But Nebuchadnezzar was in no mood to show clemency now. 2 Kings 24:13-16. He carried away all Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14)—In all, about 10,000 exiles. Only “the poorest of the people” (2 Kings 24:15) were left. Every article of worth in palace and temple was seized. The land was thus bereft of all those inhabitants who were of value to Jerusalem or useful to Babylon. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:1) records that priests and prophets were included; and Josephus tells that Ezekiel was among the prophets who were carried away with these exiles (comp. Ezekiel 1:1-8). The numbers were: 2,000, consisting of the royal household, princes, state officers, priests, and prophets; 1,000 craftsmen; 7,000 warriors. 2 Kings 24:17-20. The king of Babylon made Mattanish king—An act of grace; instead of sending a foreign viceroy. He was Josiah’s third son (1 Chronicles 3:15), brother of Jehoahaz, and uncle of Jehoiakin. Zedekiah means “the righteousness of God,” and as a Hebrew name it intimates that he was allowed himself to choose the title by which to dignify his pitiably poor kingship. A false name in its descriptive import, for he was hardened and impious.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 24:1-18
A NATION AT BAY
WITH the death of Josiah the history of the Judaic Kingdom virtually closes. The historian treats with almost contemptuous brevity the reigns of the last four kings, who were mere puppets of Egypt and Babylon. The period of the remaining twenty-three years, called by Ewald “the death-agony of the nation,” is occupied by successive conquests and deportations. The nation is picked at by the invading vulture, bit by bit, till it is picked clean. In the graphic simile of the prophet, the dish is at length emptied and turned upside down. This chapter portrays a nation at bay.
I. A pathetic sight when we consider the greatness of its past history. No nation under the sun had been so favoured as Israel. It was called out of obscurity and was raised into a great nation. From its cradle and throughout its career it was the special ward of heaven. Its pathway was strewn with flowers, margined with mercies, and adorned with brilliant miracles. It was allowed to reach a height of imperial greatness that commanded the honour and astonishment of the mightiest nations in its day. Its soil, its wealth, its culture, its overflowing peace and plenty were the envy of all. But now, see to what unfaithfulness and repeated disobedience has reduced it! How complete a contrast have we here between the expansive greatness and world-wide influence of Solomon, and the lustreless crown and limited resources of Jehoikim! Israel had glittered like a signet ring on the right hand of the Almighty, but it was now plucked off and cast aside (Jeremiah 22:24-26). And yet, in its decay, there is a touch of the old brave spirit which awakens both sympathy and respect.
II. A pathetic sight when we observe the gigantic forces against which it struggles (2–4: 10–16). The kinglets and small dependencies that had been accustomed to look up to Judah with awe, now swarmed around her in her downfall, and took a savage delight in inflicting injury and indignity. They pecked at her like a speckled bird, and ceased not while there was a feather left. Behind and above all these was the overshadowing power of Babylon with its vast and invincible army. But the most formidable foe of all was the Friend and Patron whom they had offended beyond remedy (2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 24:20) Now that Jehovah is against Judah, all her struggles are in vain. And yet, with all these odds against her, Judah obstinately resists. Every one can see the inevitable but herself.
III. A pathetic sight when it is compelled at length to succumb (2 Kings 24:12). It had held out with all the tenacity of despair; to have persisted in opposition would have been fanaticism—madness. Grimly it yields to stern necessity. The sins of Manasseh (2 Kings 24:3-4), sins which the people had approved and practised, had stained too deeply the national character, and emasculated the national life. The strength of true bravery is conscious virtue. In the midst of that beleagured city was a man (Jeremiah) whose counsels, if sooner followed, would have led to a different result; and Jehoiachin, like Hezekiah, might have defied the investing forces to do their worst. Even the victor admires the brave and gallant resistance of the foe who is now his captive.
IV. A pathetic sight when the noblest of its people in rank, usefulness, and moral worth are dragged into ignominious captivity (2 Kings 24:14-16). The brain and sinew of the nation were now to be employed in the aggrandisement of a strange land. The impoverishment of Judah was the enrichment of Mesopotamia—the fall of Jerusalem meant the glorifying of Babylon. The favourites of heaven are now the servants of Nebuchadnezzar; the rulers are changed by the fortunes of war into slaves. It is difficult to describe the feelings of the captive emigrants as they took their last look of the Holy City on their march to Babylon. They were leaving behind all they loved and prized most. Jerusalem was never so dear to them as when they were compelled to leave it.
Who would not bleed with transports for his country,
Tear every tender passion from his heart
And greatly die to make a people happy!—Thomson.
1. A brave nation it slow to believe in its possible extinction.
2. The calamities of a nation are all the more painful when conscious they were preventible.
3. The nation that discards the Divine protectorate it absolutely defenceless.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 24:1-4. The beginning of the national catastrophe.
1. A desperate but futile attempt to recover national independence (2 Kings 24:1).
2. The harrassing inroads of combined enemies (2 Kings 24:2).
3. The forces of destruction are under the Divine sanction (2 Kings 24:3).
4. The national iniquity attains a malignity and turpitude that utterly forfeit the Divine pardon (2 Kings 24:4).
2 Kings 24:2. This passage describes the irruption of different inorganic bands of freebooters. The time of it may correspond to the time of that Scythian domination of which Herodotus speaks. In such an anarchy, waifs and relics of the different nations, which had been extinguished by the Assyrian Empire, would be gathered together. What the Greek historian describes under one vague general name, would present itself to each particular land as a collection of different neighbouring tribes, one more conspicuous and civilized than the rest as its leader. Nebuchadnezzar now presents himself to us as the head and representative of the Chaldæan race, as the organiser of these loose bands into a new empire, as the conqueror of Egypt, as the Babylonian ruler of his day.—Maurice.
2 Kings 24:3. The judgment came not merely for the actual sins of that one idolatrous king, but, as the whole course of the history shows, because the nation persisted in a class of sins of which those of Manasseh were most conspicuous representatives.—Whedon.
2 Kings 24:6. A mystery hangs over his death, befitting the gloom and mystery of the times; one account speaking of him as having fallen in a skirmish with a band of raiders, or in a battle with Nebuchadnezzar, and being left un buried; another as having been murdered in Jerusalem, and cast out on the streets; a third, as having been enticed to Nebuchadnezzar’s camp, and there put to death, and left without burial. But, whatever the mode of his death, so bitterly was he hated that no funeral dirge was raised for him, though he was the son of Josiah, and his corpse was left thrown out, like that of a dead ass, on the waste land outside the gates of Jerusalem, in the sun by day, and the frost by night. Ultimately, indeed, if we may trust the Septuagint, his dishonoured body was rescued from this last shame, and interied alongside Josiah and Manasseh, in their tomb in the garden of Uzzah, which was connected, apparently, with the royal stronghold on Aphel. But men whispered that on the dried skin of the corpse, as it lay naked before all, the name of the demon, Codonazer, to whom he had sold himself, appeared stamped in clear Hebrew letters.—Geikie.
2 Kings 24:7. The fall of a nation.
1. A part of the Divine plan in the government of the world.
2. Removes a prop on which a weaker nation had been accustomed to lean.
3. Prepares the way for the desolating march of Divine vengeance.
—The judgment upon Judea was really a judgment upon all nations. Egypt, the land of the Philistines, the kings of Tyrus, the kings of Sidon, the kings of Arabia, the kings of the mingled people that dwelt in the desert, were all forced to drink of a wine cup of fury which had been mingled for them. It was a time of far-reaching destruction and desolation. The great conqueror, the destroyer of boundaries, had gone forth; God had given the inhabitants of earth into his hands for a certain season; no strength or policy would avert or delay the sentence.—Maurice.
—Easy won, easy lost. This has always been the fortune of conquerors; what one has won by robbery and force, another mightier takes from him. The Lord in heaven makes the great small, and the rich poor (1 Samuel 2:7; Psalms 75:7).
2 Kings 24:8-17. A crown lost.
1. By a stubborn persistence in sin (2 Kings 24:9).
2. In sheer inability to resist overwhelming numbers (2 Kings 24:10-12).
3. Involves all its former supporters in degradation and servitude (2 Kings 24:14-16).
4. Is followed by the total impoverishment of a nation (2 Kings 24:13.)
2 Kings 24:8. Though his reign at Jerusalem was so short and unfortunate, he was looked upon by the exiles as the last lawful successor to the throne of David; and notwithstanding the appointment of Zedekiah, Jehoiachin remained the representative king of Judah, and in the preservation of his life through thirty-seven years of imprisonment, and his elevation to kingly honours in the court of Babylon, the theocratic historian discerned the purpose of Jehovah to perpetuate the throne of David.—Whedon.
2 Kings 24:12. The incident was never forgotten. Writing after the last fall of Jerusalem, Josephus tells as that as long as the city stood the anniversary of an event so touching was commemorated in the services of the temple as a signal instance of self-sacrifice for the public good. Jehoiachin had gone, with his family, men said, into voluntary captivity, to save the temple from being destroyed, and we may, also, readily believe, to save the city and its inhabitants.—Geikie.
2 Kings 24:14-16. Liberty lost.
1. When the king is dethroned and captive.
2. When its brave defenders are vanquished and demoralised.
3. When the Fatherland is in the pitiless grasp of a victorious foe.
—The shock of such a calamity was terrible. Nearly a hundred-and-fifty years had passed since the glades beyond the Jordan had resounded with the lamentations of the captives of Gilead, dragged away to Assyria by Tiglath Pileser, and it was over a hundred-and-twenty years since Sargon had marched back to Nineveh, leading the people of the Western half of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes into exile. Assyria had fallen within the last few years, and now itself lay in ruins as desolate as those of the Hebrew cities it had turned into solitudes. But another power had risen as fierce and ruthless, and Judah, the last hope of the chosen people, saw its king and its leading citizens swept off in chains to the Euphrates.—Geikie.
—Notice God’s mercy and long-suffering even in His judgments. He still allows the kingdom to stand, and turns the heart of the enemy so that he does not yet make an utter end of it (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 18:32).
2 Kings 24:18-20. The infatuation of rebellion.
1. Notwithstanding the hopelessness of success.
2. An evidence of the blinding nature of incorrigible sin.
3. Invites and hastens the approach of Divine vengeance.
—The reign of Zedekiah presents us with the most vivid picture of a king and people sinking deeper and deeper into an abyss, ever and anon making wild and frantic efforts to rise out of it, imputing their evil to every one but themselves—their struggles for a nominal freedom always proving them to be both slaves and tyrants at heart.—Maurice.
2 Kings 24:20. It is characteristic of the high standard of prophetic morality that the violation of this oath, though made to a heathen sovereign, was regarded as the crowning vice of the weak king of Judah.—Stanley.
—In the course of God’s righteous Providence, his policy as king would prove ruinous to his country. Instigated by ambassadors from the neighbouring states who came to congratulate him on his accession to the throne (Jeremiah 17:3, with Jeremiah 28:1), and at the same time get him to join them in a common league to throw off the Assyrian yoke, Zedekiah rebelled. Though warned by Jeremiah against this step, the infatuated and perjured Zedekiah (Ezekiel 17:13) persisted in his revolt by forming an alliance with Egypt.—Jamieson.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany