2 Chronicles 36 – The Fall of Jerusalem
A. The last four kings of Judah.
1. (1-4) The short reign of King Jehoahaz.
Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father’s place in Jerusalem. Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. Now the king of Egypt deposed him at Jerusalem; and he imposed on the land a tribute of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. Then the king of Egypt made Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim king over Judah and Jerusalem, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. And Necho took Jehoahaz his brother and carried him off to Egypt.
a. Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father’s place: This son of Josiah was made king by will of the people. The name Jehoahaz means “the LORD has seized,” and was possibly a throne name for this son of Josiah. His given name seems to have been Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11, 1 Chronicles 3:15).
i. “The regular succession to the throne of Judah ceased with the lamented Josiah. Jehoahaz was not the eldest son of the late king. Johanan and Jehoiakim were both older than he (1 Chronicles 3:15). He was made king by popular choice: it was the preference of the multitude, not the appointment of God.” (Knapp)
ii. “It seems that after Necho had discomfited Josiah, he proceeded immediately against Charchemish, and in the interim, Josiah dying of his wounds, the people made his son king.” (Clarke)
iii. “His name is omitted from among those of our Lord’s ancestors in Matthew 1…which may imply that God did not recognize Jehoahaz, the people’s choice, as being in a true sense the successor.” (Knapp)
iv. 2 Kings 23:32 tells us, he did evil in the sight of the LORD. The reforms of King Josiah were wonderful, but they were not a long-lasting revival. His own son Jehoahaz did not follow in his godly ways.
b. Necho took Jehoahaz his brother and carried him off to Egypt: After the defeat of King Josiah in battle, Pharaoh was able to dominate Judah and make it effectively a vassal kingdom and a buffer against the growing Babylonian Empire. He imposed on the land a tribute and put on the throne of Judah a puppet king, a brother of Jehoahaz (Eliakim, renamed Jehoiakim).
2. (5-8) The reign and captivity of Jehoiakim.
Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against him, and bound him in bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried off some of the articles from the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, the abominations which he did, and what was found against him, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah. Then Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place.
a. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king: Jehoiakim was nothing more than a puppet king presiding over a vassal kingdom under the Egyptians. He imposed heavy taxes on the people and paid the money to the Egyptians, as required (2 Kings 23:35).
i. “Necho had placed him there as a viceroy, simply to raise and collect his taxes.” (Clarke)
ii. “Yet at the same time Jehoiakim was wasting resources on the construction of a new palace by forced labour (Jeremiah 22:13-19).” (Wiseman)
b. He did evil in the sight of the LORD: Jehoiakim, like his brother Jehoahaz, did not follow the godly example of his father Josiah.
i. Jeremiah 36:22-24 describes the great ungodliness of Jehoiakim – how he even burned a scroll of God’s word. In response to this, Jeremiah received this message from God: And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, “Thus says the LORD: ‘You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and cause man and beast to cease from here?”‘ Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: ‘He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night.’” (Jeremiah 36:29-30)
ii. “To all his former evils he added this, that he slew Urijah the prophet (Jeremiah 26:20, 23).” (Trapp)
c. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up: Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire, was concerned with Judah because of its strategic position in relation to the empires of Egypt and Assyria. Therefore it was important to him to conquer Judah and make it a subject kingdom, securely loyal to Babylon.
i. Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem because the Pharaoh of Egypt invaded Babylon. In response the young prince Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, and then he pursued their fleeing army all the way down to the Sinai. Along the way (or on the way back), he subdued Jerusalem, which had been loyal to the Pharaoh of Egypt.
ii. This happened in 605 B.C. and it was the first (but not the last) encounter between Nebuchadnezzar and Jehoiakim. There would be two later invasions (597 and 587 B.C.).
iii. This specific attack is documented by the Babylonian Chronicles, a collection of tablets discovered as early as 1887, held in the British Museum. In them, Nebuchadnezzar’s 605 B.C. presence in Judah is documented and clarified. When the Babylonian chronicles were finally published in 1956, they gave us first-rate, detailed political and military information about the first 10 years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. L.W. King prepared these tablets in 1919; he then died, and they were neglected for four decades.
iv. Excavations also document the victory of Nebuchadnezzar over the Egyptians at Carchemish in May or June of 605 B.C. Archaeologists found evidence of battle, vast quantities of arrowheads, layers of ash, and a shield of a Greek mercenary fighting for the Egyptians.
v. This campaign of Nebuchadnezzar was interrupted suddenly when he heard of his father’s death and raced back to Babylon to secure his succession to the throne. He traveled about 500 miles in two weeks – remarkable speed for travel in that day. Nebuchadnezzar only had the time to take a few choice captives (such as Daniel), a few treasures and a promise of submission from Jehoiakim.
d. Bound him in bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon: According to 2 Kings 24:1-7 this happened because Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. God did not bless this rebellion because though Jehoiakim was a patriot of the kingdom of Judah, he was not a man submitted to God. These sins were among those things that were found against him.
i. 2 Chronicles 36:6 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar intended to take Jehoiakim to Babylon, bound in bronze fetters. Yet Jeremiah 22:19 tells us that he would be disgracefully buried outside of Jerusalem.
ii. “The closing formulae make no reference to the burial of Jehoiakim, whose death occurred about December 598 before the first capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. 2 Chronicles 36:7 implies that he was taken to Babylon, but Jeremiah 22:19 tells how he was thrown unmourned outside Jerusalem, perhaps by a pro-Babylonian group who gave him the unceremonial burial of ‘an ass’.” (Wiseman)
iii. “2 Chronicles 36:6 states that Nebuchadnezzar ‘bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon.’ It does not say he was taken there. He may have been released after promising subjection to his conqueror.” (Knapp)
3. (9-10) The reign of Jehoiachin and his recall to Babylon.
Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD. At the turn of the year King Nebuchadnezzar summoned him and took him to Babylon, with the costly articles from the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah, Jehoiakim’s brother, king over Judah and Jerusalem.
a. Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king: 2 Kings 24:8 tells us that Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king. The difference between these two accounts is probably due to the error of a copyist in Chronicles.
i. “2 Chronicles 36:9 makes him eight years old at the beginning of his reign.… But some Hebrew MSS., Syriac, and Arabic, read ‘eighteen’ in Chronicles’ so ‘eight’ must be an error of transcription.” (Knapp)
ii. Jehoiachin “Was probably the throne-name of Jeconiah, abbreviated also to Coniah.” (Wiseman)
b. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD: He carried on in the tradition of the wicked kings of Judah.
i. “Jeremiah said of Jehoiakim, (Jehoiachin’s father) ‘He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David’ (Jeremiah 36:30). The word ‘sit’ here means to ‘firmly sit,’ or ‘dwell’; and Jehoiachin’s short three months’ reign was not that surely. And Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s successor, was Jehoiakim’s brother, not his son.” (Knapp)
ii. “That he was a grievous offender against God, we learn from Jeremiah 22:24, which the reader may consult; and in the man’s punishment, see his crimes.” (Clarke)
c. King Nebuchadnezzar summoned him and took him to Babylon:The previous king of Judah (Jehoiakim) led a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. Now the king of Babylon came with his armies against Jerusalem, and Jehoiachin hoped to appease Nebuchadnezzar by submitting himself, his family, and his leaders to the Babylonian king.God allowed Jehoiachin to be taken as a bound captive back to Babylon.
i. “His presence in Babylon is attested by tablets listing oil and barley supplies to him, his family and five sons in 592-569 B.C. and naming him as ‘Yaukin king of the Judeans.’” (Wiseman)
d. With costly articles from the house of the LORD: On this second attack against Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar took whatever valuables remained in the temple or in the royal palaces of Jerusalem.
i. “The fall of Jerusalem didn’t come about in one cataclysmic battle; it occurred in stages.” (Dilday)
· Nebuchadnezzar’s initial subjugation of the city about 605 B.C.
· The destruction by Nebuchadnezzar’s marauding bands, 601 to 598 B.C.
· The siege and fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar’s main army on 16 March, 597 B.C.
· Nebuchadnezzar’s return to completely destroy and depopulate Jerusalem in the summer of 586 B.C.
4. (11-14) The reign of Zedekiah and his rebellion against Babylon.
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel. Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem.
a. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king: Since Nebuchadnezzar had completely humbled Judah, he put a king on the throne whom he thought would submit to Babylon. He chose this uncle of Jehoiachin, who was also a brother to Jehoiakim.
i. “This king (597-587 B.C.) inherited a much reduced Judah, for the Negeb was lost (Jeremiah 13:18-19) and the land weakened by the loss of its experienced personnel. There were both a pro-Egyptian element and false prophets among the survivors (Jeremiah 28-29; 38:5).” (Wiseman)
ii. 2 Kings 24:17 tells us that the name of Zedekiah was originally Mattaniah. The name Zedekiah means, The Lord is Righteous. The righteous judgment of God would soon be seen against Judah.
b. He did evil in the sight of the LORD: His evil was especially shown in that he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet. Instead of listening to Jeremiah or other messengers of God he instead mocked and disregarded the message.
i. “Zedekiah first disregarded Jeremiah’s messages (Jeremiah 34:1-10); he came in time to direct his inquiries to this same prophet (Jeremiah 21); and he finally pled with him for help (Jeremiah 37). But at no point did he sincerely submit to the requirements of the Lord that Jeremiah transmitted to him.” (Payne)
c. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar: Jeremiah tells us that there were many false prophets in those days who preached a message of victory and triumph to Zedekiah, and he believed them instead of Jeremiah and other godly prophets like him. Therefore, he rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar.
i. For example, Jeremiah 32:1-5 tells us that Jeremiah clearly told Zedekiah that he would not succeed in his rebellion against Babylon. Zedekiah arrested Jeremiah and imprisoned him for this, but the prophet steadfastly stayed faithful to the message God gave him.
ii. “Through acts of infidelity toward his imperial master, he unwisely touched off the final revolt that brought down the vengeance of the Babylonians on Judah and Jerusalem; and thus both the state and the city were destroyed.” (Payne)
d. Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more: These last kings of Judah were all wicked and deserving of judgment, but they were not alone in their sin and rejection of God. The leaders, the priests, and the people also transgressed more and more, pushing both God and Nebuchadnezzar to the limit.
B. The fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.
1. (15-16) The rejection of the message and the messengers.
And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.
a. The LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them: God, great in mercy to His people, sent many warnings but these warnings were rejected. The greatness of His compassion towards His people is shown by the expression rising up early and sending them.
i. “What a touching and graphic phrase! How did God yearn over that sinful and rebellious city! Like a man who has had a sleepless night of anxiety for his friend or child, and rises with the dawn to send a servant on a message of inquiry, or a message of love. How eager is God for men’s salvation.” (Meyer)
b. They mocked…despised…scoffed: This tragic triple rejection of God’s message and messengers sealed the doom of Judah. They rejected the message until there was no remedy and nothing could turn back the judgment of God.
i. “Three complaints are made in particular, that they were unfaithful, defiled the temple, and laughed at the prophets. All three are frequent themes throughout Chronicles, and it is as if the entire message of Chronicles were being summed up.” (Selman)
ii. “Till there was no remedy; because the people would not repent, and God would not pardon them.” (Poole)
iii. “Men’s sins put thunderbolts into God’s hands.” (Trapp)
iv. “The cataclysm which has been threatened since Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:9, 13, 25; 29:8, 10; 30:8) has been held back only because of the faith and repentance of individual leaders (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:10; 30:8-9; 32:25-26; 33:6; 34:21, 25). Now there is no remedy, a chilling phrase meaning literally ‘no healing’. It implies the cancellation of God’s promise to heal his land and that therefore even prayer will be utterly useless.” (Selman)
2. (17-19) Jerusalem is despoiled and given over to destruction.
Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand.And all the articles from the house of God, great and small, the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his leaders, all these he took to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions.
a. He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans: Having rejected the message and the messengers of His compassion (2 Chronicles 36:15), God turned Judah over to a leader and a people who had no compassion upon their people.
i. “The end comes remarkably swiftly, like a bird of prey suddenly swooping down after circling repeatedly over its victim.… The final collapse under Zedekiah is therefore merely the final stage in a process that has long been inevitable.” (Selman)
b. He gave them all into his hand.… all the articles from the house of God.… all its palaces…all its precious possessions: The emphasis is on the complete nature of the destruction the Babylonians brought to Jerusalem and its people. Nothing was spared and all was destroyed.
i. “The over-all impression is of unrelieved destruction. ‘All, every’ is used fivefold in verses 17-19, which together with young and old, large and small, and finally (literally), ‘to destruction’ confirms that there was no respite, no escape.” (Selman)
c. Then they burned the house of God: This was the end of Solomon’s great temple. Solomon’s great temple was now a ruin. It would stay a ruin for many years until it was rebuilt in a humble form by the returning exiles in the days of Ezra.
i. “The Talmud declares that when the Babylonians entered the temple, they held a two-day feast there to desecrate it; then, on the third day, they set fire to the building. The Talmud adds that the fire burned throughout that day and the next.” (Dilday)
ii. “Thus the temple was destroyed in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, the first of the XLVIIIth Olympiad, in the one hundred and sixtieth current year of the era of Nabonassar, four hundred and twenty-four years three months and eight days from the time in which Solomon laid its foundation stone.” (Clarke)
d. Broke down the wall of Jerusalem: The walls of Jerusalem – the physical security of the city – were now destroyed. Jerusalem was no longer a place of safety and security. The walls would remain a ruin until they were rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Nehemiah.
i. “THUS, ends the history of a people the most fickle, the most ungrateful, and perhaps on the whole the most sinful, that ever existed on the face of the earth. But what a display does all this give of the power, justice, mercy, and long-suffering of the Lord! There was no people like this people, and no God like their God.” (Clarke)
ii. “In the end, the exile came not because Israel sinned, but because they spurned God’s offers of reconciliation.” (Selman)
3. (20-21) The seventy-year Babylonian captivity.
And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
a. Those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon: This was the third major wave of captivity, taking the remaining people except for the poor of the land (2 Kings 25:12).
i. “Of the prominent men of Jerusalem, only Jeremiah and Gedaliah were left behind (2 Kings 25:22; cf. Jeremiah 39:11-14). Jeremiah’s stand on the Babylonian issue was doubtless well-known.” (Dilday)
b. Where they became servants to him and his sons: One fulfillment of this was the taking of Daniel and his companions into captivity. Daniel was one of the king’s descendants taken into the palace of the king of Babylon (Daniel 1:1-4).
i. “The exiles came ‘to Babylon’ where ‘they became servants’; and yet, after an initial period of discouragement (Psalm 137) and oppressive service (cf. Isaiah 14:2-3), at least some Jews gained favor and status (2 Kings 25:27-30; Daniel 1:19; 2:49; 6:3).” (Payne)
c. Until the rule of the kingdom of Persia: The Persians (together with the Medes) conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C. and the Jewish people were only allowed to return to their native lands after the Persians came to power.
i. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus relates that the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon by diverting the flow of the Euphrates into a nearby swamp. This lowered the level of the river so his troops marched through the water and under the river-gates. They still would not have been able to enter had not the bronze gates of the inner walls been left inexplicably unlocked. This was exactly what God predicted in Isaiah 44:28-45:7 and Jeremiah 51:57-58. God opened the gates of the city of Babylon for Cyrus, and put it in writing 200 years before it happened.
d. To fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths: God had commanded Israel to observe a Sabbath for the land, allowing it to rest every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11). The people of Judah had denied the land its Sabbaths over a period of some 490 years, meaning that they “owed” the land 70 Sabbaths, and to fulfill seventy years God took the years back during the Babylonian exile.
i. This was promised to a disobedient Israel hundreds of years before: Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest; for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it. (Leviticus 26:34-35)
ii. Jeremiah spoke of the 70 years of exile in two places: Jeremiah 25:11-13 and Jeremiah 29:10.
4. (22-23) Cyrus allows the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!
a. Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia: God gave the Persian king a sense of urgency about this, and the relief from exile was granted the very first year of his reign as the LORD stirred up his spirit.
i. Cyrus made a decree giving Ezra and the Babylonian captives the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. (Ezra 1:1-4 and Ezra 5:13-17).
ii. “Cyrus’s policy of cooperating with local religions and of encouraging the return of exiles has received explicit archaeological confirmation from the inscriptions of the king himself (cf. especially the famous ‘Cyrus Cylinder’).” (Payne)
b. All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me: This remarkable recognition of God’s hand upon his life may be connected with the remarkable prophecies regarding Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28-45:4.
c. He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem: The command of Cyrus not only allowed the return of the exiled people, but also a rebuilding of the destroyed temple.
i. “‘To build him a house’ is a deliberate echo of the central promise of the Davidic covenant (cf. 1 Chronicles 17:11-12; 22:10; 28:6; 2 Chronicles 6:9-10). Cyrus of course is thinking only of the house in Jerusalem, but in the Chronicler’s thought this phrase is inevitably connected with both houses of the Davidic covenant, the dynasty as well as the temple.” (Selman)
d. Who is among you of all His people? May the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up! The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles end with this wonderful and remarkable encouragement to return and rebuild Jerusalem. This was the necessary and helpful encouragement to the first readers of Chronicles, letting them see their connection with God’s broader plan of the ages.
i. Sadly, only a small percentage decided to return from exile; but those who did needed the encouragement to know they were making a valuable contribution to God’s work.
ii. “Unlike the Book of Kings, with its central message of stern moral judgments, Chronicles exists essentially as a book of hope, grounded on the grace of our sovereign Lord.… [Chronicles shows that] History is a process, not of disintegration, but of sifting, of selection, and of development.” (Payne)
iii. “In the end, therefore, the end is also a fresh start. God’s promises continue through the exile, on through his own generation and into the future.” (Selman)