A. The reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah.
1. (1) Nebuchadnezzar makes Judah a vassal kingdom.
In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him.
a. 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 (his vassal), 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 Charchemish, 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, who 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 evidences 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.
b. Then he turned and rebelled against him: When Nebuchadnezzar had to make a hurried return to Babylon, Jehoiakim took advantage of his absence and rebelled against him.
2. (2-4) The troubled reign of Jehoiakim.
And the LORD sent against him raiding bands of Chaldeans, bands of Syrians, bands of Moabites, and bands of the people of Ammon; He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken by His servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the LORD this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the LORD would not pardon.
a. The LORD sent against him: We might think that God would honor the Judean independence movement of Jehoiakim, but He did not bless it. God sent against him many adversaries because Jehoiakim was a patriot of the kingdom of Judah, but not a man submitted to God.
i. Bands of Syrians, bands of Moabites, and bands of the people of Ammon: “Nebuchadnezzar’s army was made up of several nations, who were willing to fight under the banner of such a puissant and victorious emperor.” (Poole)
b. Surely at the commandment of the LORD this came upon Judah: Many in the days of Jehoiakim believed that God’s will was to deliver them from their enemies and to preserve an independent Judah. Yet that was not God’s will; it was His will to bring Judah into judgment (knowing they had not genuinely repented and would not). The best thing for Judah to do was to submit to this will of God, as Jeremiah told them to do – despite great opposition.
c. Also because of the innocent blood that he had shed: This tells us that one of the great sins of Manasseh was that he persecuted the godly in his day, and he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.
i. “His name, like that of his brother, is omitted from the royal genealogy of Matthew 1.” (Knapp)
3. (5-7) The passing of Jehoiakim.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Jehoiakim rested with his fathers. Then Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place. And the king of Egypt did not come out of his land anymore, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the River Euphrates.
a. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim: 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.
i. “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)
ii. “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)
b. The king of Egypt did not come out of his land anymore: In the geopolitical struggle between Egypt and Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt. They were then the dominant power in that part of the world.
i. “About three years later, in 601 b.c., Egypt tried one more time to return to power by attacking Babylon’s army… It was after this brief Egyptian victory that Jehoiakim, hoping to renew his alliance with the Pharaoh against Babylon, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1), an action Jeremiah sharply condemned.” (Dilday)
B. The reign of Jehoiachin.
1. (8-9) Jehoiachin, another evil king over Judah.
Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.
a. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king: 2 Chronicles 36:9 says that Jehoiachin was eight 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. “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)
2. (10-12) Jehoiachin surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar.
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, as his servants were besieging it. Then Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his servants, his princes, and his officers went out to the king of Babylon; and the king of Babylon, in the eighth year of his reign, took him prisoner.
a. Then Jehoiachin… went out to the king of 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.
b. Took him prisoner: Like his rebellious father, 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)
3. (13-16) Jerusalem is impoverished and taken captive.
And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land. And he carried Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officers, and the mighty of the land he carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. All the valiant men, seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths, one thousand, all who were strong and fit for war, these the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.
a. And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house: 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 initially subjugated the city about 605 b.c.
· Destruction from Nebuchadnezzar’s marauding bands followed from 601 to 598 b.c.
· The siege and fall of Jerusalem occurred under Nebuchadnezzar’s main army on 16 March, 597 b.c.
· Nebuchadnezzar returned to completely destroy and depopulate Jerusalem in the summer of 586 b.c.
b. He cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made: This tells us what happened to the furniture and precious things of Solomon’s temple. Some ancient traditions tell us that Jeremiah hid the ark of the covenant before this, so that it was not among the things that were cut up and carried back to Babylon.
c. None remained except the poorest people of the land: Nebuchadnezzar not only took the material treasures of Judah, but also the human treasures. Anyone with any skill or ability was taken captive to Babylon.
i. “The like craft useth the devil, when he endeavoureth to take out of the way such as are zealous and active, valiant for God’s truth, and violent for his kingdom.” (Trapp)
ii. Among these captives was the Prophet Ezekiel, who compiled his book of prophecies while in captivity in Babylon.
iii. “With only the poor and unskilled people of the land remaining, it might be assumed that Jerusalem would cause no further trouble.” (Patterson and Austel)
C. The reign of Zedekiah.
1. (17) Nebuchadnezzar makes Zedekiah king of Judah.
Then the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
a. Then the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place: Since Nebuchadnezzar had completely humbled Judah, he put a king on the throne whom he thought would submit to Babylon. He chose an uncle of Jehoiachin, 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)
b. Changed his name to Zedekiah: The name Zedekiah means, The Lord is Righteous. The righteous judgment of God would soon be seen against Judah.
2. (18-20) The evil reign and rebellion of Zedekiah.
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. He also did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the LORD this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, that He finally cast them out from His presence. Then Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
a. He also did evil in the sight of the LORD: 2 Chronicles 36:11-20 tells us more of the evil of Zedekiah, specifically that he did not listen to Jeremiah or other messengers of God. Instead, they mocked and disregarded the message.
i. “Zedekiah’s evil (v. 19) is fully explained in 2 Chronicles 36:12-14. (i) He was not willing to listen to God’s word through Jeremiah; (ii) he broke an oath made in Yahweh’s name as a vassal of Babylon; (iii) he was unrepentant and failed to restrain leaders and priests from defiling the temple with the reintroduction of idolatrous practices.” (Wiseman)
b. He finally cast them out from His presence: God’s patience and longsuffering had finally run its course and He allowed – even instigated – the conquering of the kingdom of Judah.
i. Ultimately, there were many reasons for the exile. One mentioned by 2 Chronicles 36:21 is that Judah was depopulated in exile 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.
c. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon: 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 the king of Babylon.
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. “He had no real faith in Jehovah, Israel’s covenant-keeping God, and therefore did not scruple to break his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar. But how dearly he paid for this violation of his oath!” (Knapp)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission