2He was 23 years old at the time, and he ruled only 3 months from Jerusalem. 3King Neco of Egypt captured Jehoahaz and forced Judah to pay 3.4 tons of silver and 34 kilograms of gold as taxes. 4 Then Neco appointed Jehoahaz's brother Eliakim king of Judah and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He led Jehoahaz away to Egypt as his prisoner.
King Jehoiakim of Judah
(2 Kings 23.36—24.7)
5 Jehoiakim was 25 years old when he was appointed king, and he ruled 11 years from Jerusalem. Jehoiakim disobeyed the Lord his God by doing evil.
6 During Jehoiakim's rule, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded Judah. He arrested Jehoiakim and put him in chains, and he sent him to the capital city of Babylon. 7Nebuchadnezzar also carried off many of the valuable things in the Lord's temple, and he put them in his palace in Babylon.
8Everything else Jehoiakim did while he was king, including all the disgusting and evil things, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel and Judah. His son Jehoiachin then became king.
(2 Kings 24.8-17)
9Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled only 3 months and 10 days from Jerusalem. Jehoiachin also disobeyed the Lord by doing evil. 10 In the spring of the year, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had Jehoiachin arrested and taken to Babylon, along with more of the valuable items in the temple. Then Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah king of Judah.
(2 Kings 24.18-20; Jeremiah 52.1-3)
11 Zedekiah was 21 years old when he was appointed king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem for 11 years. 12He disobeyed the Lord his God and refused to change his ways, even after a warning from Jeremiah, the Lord's prophet.
13 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had forced Zedekiah to promise in God's name that he would be loyal. Zedekiah was stubborn and refused to turn back to the Lord God of Israel, so he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. 14The people of Judah and even the priests who were their leaders became more unfaithful. They followed the disgusting example of the nations around them and made the Lord's holy temple unfit for worship. 15But the Lord God felt sorry for his people, and instead of destroying the temple, he sent prophets who warned the people over and over about their sins. 16But the people only laughed and insulted these prophets. They ignored what the Lord God was trying to tell them, until he finally became so angry that nothing could stop him from punishing Judah and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Is Destroyed
(2 Kings 25.1-21; Jeremiah 52.3-30)
17 The Lord sent King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia to attack Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar killed the young men who were in the temple, and he showed no mercy to anyone, whether man or woman, young or old. God let him kill everyone in the city. 18Nebuchadnezzar carried off everything that was left in the temple; he robbed the treasury and the personal storerooms of the king and his officials. He took everything back to Babylon.
19 Nebuchadnezzar's troops burned down the temple and destroyed every important building in the city. Then they broke down the city wall. 20The survivors were taken to Babylonia as prisoners, where they were slaves of the king and his sons, until Persia became a powerful nation.
21 Judah was an empty desert, and it stayed that way for 70 years, to make up for all the years it was not allowed to rest. These things happened just as Jeremiah the Lord's prophet had said.
Cyrus Lets the Jews
22In the first year that Cyrus was king of Persia, the Lord had Cyrus send a message to all parts of his kingdom. This happened just as Jeremiah the Lord's prophet had promised. 23 The message said:
I am King Cyrus of Persia.
The Lord God of heaven has made me the ruler of every nation on earth. He has also chosen me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. The Lord God will watch over any of his people who want to go back to Judah.
“How many times do I have to tell you?” seems to be a standard question in the parenting manual of many families. Parents have their challenges with ‘repeat offenders,’ and often struggle to find enforcable boundaries for their children.
Having painted a series of kingdom portraits throughout 1 and 2 Kings, the author in this closing chapter describes the downfall, the destruction and the restoration spread out over 70 years. We witness God’s encounter with an entire nation of rebels.
What brought about the nation’s downfall? Disobedience. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The characters change, some of the names are a challenge to pronounce, but the evil casting director has a multitude of actors and actresses with plenty of understudies waiting to move into these destructive roles.
Nebuchadnezzar, a foreign, evil, politically competent world leader, moves onto centre stage and is permitted to conquer God’s people, carry off the objects of temple worship and crush the city (Jerusalem) which had been described (Psalm 48) as the ‘city of the great King.’
As the destruction progresses, God in repeated acts of mercy warns his people and through a series of prophetic messages calls them to repent. In perfect justice, his wrath is poured out on the people who respond to this loving parent’s warnings with laughter and insults. For years God felt mercy for these rebels, until their stubborn refusal sealed their fate.
After seventy years of displacement, God, in a remarkable act of mercy, raises up a very different world leader and prompts him to permit a returning home for this nation of rebels. Like those of us who have brought on our own downfall, experienced the threat of destruction due to rebellion, God posts the invitation to come home.
Lord, help us to acknowledge our rebellion against you. Thank you for those you send to warn us in personal and public ways. Help us to find our way back to you. We praise you for your amazing grace. Amen.