2 Chronicles 36 (New Living Translation)
These last four kings are treated almost as a single unit, and indeed they have much in common. During their reigns, Judah was effectively under the control first of Egypt and then of Babylon. And, of course, they are all rebellious against the Lord.
Jehoahaz Rules in Judah
1Then the people of the land took Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him the next king in Jerusalem.
2 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months.
2 Kings 23:20 records that “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
3 Then he was deposed by the king of Egypt, who demanded that Judah pay 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold as tribute.
Jehoiakim Rules in Judah
4The king of Egypt then installed Eliakim, the brother of Jehoahaz, as the next king of Judah and Jerusalem, and he changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. Then Neco took Jehoahaz to Egypt as a prisoner.
5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God.
One of the main sources of information about Jehoiakim is the book of Jeremiah, which deals in much more detail with what is quickly covered here.
6 Then King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and captured it, and he bound Jehoiakim in bronze chains and led him away to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the treasures from the Temple of the Lord, and he placed them in his palace in Babylon.
8 The rest of the events in Jehoiakim’s reign, including all the evil things he did and everything found against him, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. Then his son Jehoiachin became the next king.
Jehoiachin Rules in Judah
9Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. Jehoiachin did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.
10 In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon. Many treasures from the Temple of the Lord were also taken to Babylon at that time. And Nebuchadnezzar installed Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, as the next king in Judah and Jerusalem.
It was under this king that the first major deportation to Babylon took place.
Zedekiah Rules in Judah
11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and he refused to humble himself when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the Lord. 13He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name. Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.
The book of Jeremiah depicts Zedekiah as an insecure, weak, hunted man, under pressure from his “hawks” to resist Babylon, yet not unwilling to appeal to Jeremiah and hear his message of non-resistance.
Jeremiah 38:19-26 (NIV 1984)
King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”
“They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the LORD by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD has revealed to me: All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:
“‘They misled you and overcame you—
those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
your friends have deserted you.’
“All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will be burned down.”
Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’ then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’”
14 Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.
This is beyond the pale — that they would do wrong in defiance of the clear knowledge of what is right.
Luke 16:31 (English Standard Version)
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The Fall of Jerusalem
17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. The Babylonians killed Judah’s young men, even chasing after them into the Temple. They had no pity on the people, killing both young men and young women, the old and the infirm. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. 18 The king took home to Babylon all the articles, large and small, used in the Temple of God, and the treasures from both the Lord’s Temple and from the palace of the king and his officials. 19 Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value. 20The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon, and they became servants to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.
21 So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.
The ax falls! The final devastation of Judah by Babylon is one of the decisive events in the whole history of Israel, surpassing any of the other “exiles” which the Chronicler has reported in the course of his account. It was, indeed, one of the stimuli which resulted ultimately in modern Judaism, because it taught the Jews how to live without Temple or political status. Independence would not be theirs again (with the exception of the remarkable Maccabean renaissance between the decline of Greece and the rise of Rome), even though Temple and religious liberty would be regained after the return from Babylon.
The Chronicler is well aware of all this. He has allowed as much by virtue of the place given to Huldah’s prophecy (34:23ff) and to the telescoping of this final chapter, which gives to the Babylonian captivity the intensity of a climax. For his readers in the post-exilic community, all his previous demonstrations of the possibility of restoration from the utmost ignominy and distress are now brought to bear upon their own experience. The Chronicler’s desire for his people is that they rise above defeatism and see that the securing of a glorious future in within their grasp if they will only take the road of obedience.
So in the reference to the land “enjoying its Sabbaths,” the exile is interpreted as a “catching-up” period. And the decree of Cyrus permitting the Jews in Babylon to return to their homeland ends the book on a high note.
–J. G. McConville
Cyrus Allows the Exiles to Return
22In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:
23 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!”
There has been discussion of the question whether the Chronicler has a messianic message. Some have said that it is intended to preserve a Temple-centred status quo. It can be no accident, however, that the Chronicler has made his chief models of obedience and open-ended possibility the greatest kings of Israel, David and Solomon. He leaves us no hing that he had “inside information” about a coming son of David. Yet it is clear, with hindsight, that all he promised of blessing, wealth, wisdom and the presence of God—not in a Temple but in the human heart—has been finally and dramatically realized in Jesus Christ.
–J. G. McConville
2 Corinthians 6:16 (English Standard Version)
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.”
Why must the Jews return to Jerusalem? Because the prophecy says that the Messiah will be born — not in Babylon — but in Judea! Grace is never far away!
From Vespers (All-Night Vigil), by Sergei Rachmaninoff, “Lord, Now Lettest Thou.” A joyful funeral song, if you will. Sung by the USSR State Academic Russian Choir; listen to the low basses on their descending scale at the end!
As written in the Book of Common Prayer, 1662:
- Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
- For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
- Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
- To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.