Scriptures

2 Chronicles 36

Introduction

‘And the people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and made him king in Jerusalem in place of his father. Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. The king of Egypt dethroned him in Jerusalem and imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. The king of Egypt made Eliakim, a brother of Jehoahaz, king over Judah and Jerusalem and changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. But Necho took Eliakim’s brother Jehoahaz and carried him off to Egypt.’ 2 Chronicles 36:1-4

Jehoahaz King Of Judah

Following the death of Josiah, Jehoahaz became king of Judah and reigned for only three months, before Pharaoh Necho put him in chains, 2 Kings 23:31-35.

Jehoahaz was probably a throne name, for his personal name was Shallum, Jeremiah 22:11 / 1 Chronicles 3:15. His older brother was Eliakim. When Pharaoh heard that they had made Jehoahaz king, he immediately sent a detachment of soldiers to Jerusalem and deposed of him and placed Eliakim on the throne.

Judah was now under the control of Egypt and they had to pay a heavy levy to Egypt for as long as they stayed under their control. Pharaoh Neco, then appointed his brother, Jehoiakim as king over Judah.

Jehoiakim King Of Judah

‘Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also took to Babylon articles from the temple of the LORD and put them in his temple there. The other events of Jehoiakim’s reign, the detestable things he did and all that was found against him, are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king.’                        2 Chronicles 36:5-8

Jehoiakim now becomes king of Judah at the age of twenty-five and he reigned for eleven years, 608 B.C. to 597 B.C. 2 Kings 23:36-37. Although Judah was under Egypt’s control in the early part of his reign, later Judah would come under the control of the Babylonians, 2 Kings 23:34 / 2 Kings 24:1.

There’s no doubt that Jehoiakim was a very greedy king who oppressed God’s people. He was an idolater, he killed innocent people, introduced forced labour and was far from being a just king, Jeremiah 22:13-17. He even killed Uriah, God’s prophet for prophesying that Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, Jeremiah 26:20-23.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took Jehoiakim into captivity. This was the first conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, which resulted not only in the change of Judean kings, but also the plundering of the treasures of the temple.

Jehoiachin King Of Judah

‘Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. In the spring, King Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and brought him to Babylon, together with articles of value from the temple of the LORD, and he made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, king over Judah and Jerusalem.’ 2 Chronicles 36:9-10

Jehoiachin was now king of Judah, he became king at the age of eighteen. He is also known as Jeconiah, Matthew 1:11 / Jeremiah 22:24. He was just as evil as his father, Jehoiakim, which is surprising considering he only reigned for three months, 2 Chronicles 36:9-10. But in those three months, he murdered men and ravished their wives, Ezekiel 19:5-7.

2 Kings 24:8-17 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar takes all the skilled workers away from Jerusalem, but he leaves behind all those who didn’t have any skill.

This was his way of removing anyone who may rebel against him and of course, this would mean that the skilled workers would work for him in building up his empire. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon.

This was the first conquest of Jerusalem which occurred in 597 B.C. but because Jehoiachin surrendered, there was very little destruction to the city.

A second conquest of the city occurred in 586 B.C. to stop the rebellion of Mattaniah, that is Jehoiachin’s uncle, whose name was changed to Zedekiah 1 Chronicles 3:15.

It was during this conquest that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, 2 Kings 25:1-7. The third and final assault on Jerusalem took place in 582 B.C. Jeremiah 52:29-30.

Coffman says the following concerning the plundering of Solomon’s temple. ‘Nebuchadnezzar spoiled Solomon’s temple three times.

1. He took some of the treasures away when Jehoiakim was king, placing the golden vessels in the temple of his god in Babylon, Daniel 1:2. These were the vessels profaned by Belshazzar, Daniel 5:2.

2. He continued the destruction by taking many other treasures, breaking and cutting them into pieces when he came up against Jeconiah, as in this chapter.

3. He thoroughly looted and destroyed the temple, even cutting up the brass and all other metal objects of value when the city fell a third time at the end of the reign of Zedekiah, 2 Kings 25:13-16.’

Zedekiah King Of Judah

‘Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God’s name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel. Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.’ 2 Chronicles 36:11-14

Zedekiah is now king of Judah and he begin his reign when he was twenty-one years old and reigned for eleven years, 2 Kings 24:16-20 / Jeremiah 52:1-3. He too did evil in God’s eyes, because it was Nebuchadnezzar who placed him on the throne, 2 Kings 24:17, we can be sure that he was totally in submission to the Babylonian king.

He probably would have had to swear an oath to Nebuchadnezzar, which would have involved invoking the Name of the Lord. The change of his name to Zedekiah was an essential element in the whole procedure, 2 Kings 24:17. Jeremiah tells us his rebellion against Babylon was also a rebellion against God, Jeremiah 31:1-40 / Ezekiel 17:13.

He should have never rebelled in the first place because it was totally against everything God had said to His prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 8:1-18, and against everything God had said to His prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 25:11-12 / Jeremiah 28:1-4 / Jeremiah 34:8.

2 Kings 24:16-20 tells us that God ‘thrusts them from his presence’. The sin of people had become so bad, God couldn’t even bring Himself to look at them any longer, Isaiah 6:9-10. This is one of saddest descriptions of God looking at His people in the Scriptures.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel were taken into Assyrian captivity because their sins were too great, 2 Kings 17:5-6, and we read that the Southern Kingdom of Judah were just as bad, and they too are taken into Babylonian captivity for sent years.

Zedekiah broke his oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, and when Nebuchadnezzar came up once more to destroy Jerusalem, Zedekiah asked Jeremiah to pray for the city, but God, declared that He would fight against Zedekiah and the city and destroy them, Jeremiah 37:1-21.

Jehoiachin was the last king of Judah and was so recognised by the Jews, because Zedekiah was merely a hand puppet of Nebuchadnezzar and because of his foolish rebellion, Jerusalem fell a third time.

The Fall Of Jerusalem

‘The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfilment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.’ 2 Chronicles 36:15-21

2 Kings 25:1-7, tells us it was on the ninth year of Zedekiah when Nebuchadnezzar marched against Jerusalem, he did this for a year and a half, Jeremiah 39:1-10.

The people in Jerusalem were desperate because there was no food. Despite fleeing form the city, they had no chance against the mighty Babylonian army, Jeremiah 52:4-27.

Zedekiah was captured and his son were killed before his eyes because of his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 24:20. Nebuchadnezzar had shown mercy to Jehoiachin, but none was shown to Zedekiah, hence the harsher treatment he received.

Notice that the land enjoyed it sabbath’s rest, Leviticus 26:34-43 / Daniel 9:2, that is, the land rested from being used for crops.

Jeremiah had prophesied that the Israelites would go into seventy years of captivity, Jeremiah 29:10, however, as we now know the people didn’t listen.

The Stages Of The Exile

The Exile of Judah took place in three specific stages.

The First Stage

The first stage took place in 605 B.C. On his way back from victory in Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar, general of the armies of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem, and took some of the leading nobles, and young men from the city of Jerusalem as hostages and carried them back to Babylon.

It is at this point that Daniel and his three friends are carried off, Daniel 1:1-7. Most of the citizens are still in the land of Judah but are certainly subservient to Babylon. It is possible that it was at this point that Jeremiah prophesied the 70-year captivity, Jeremiah 25:11-12.

Nebuchadnezzar had just vanquished the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish, thus establishing Babylon as the new rulers of the eastern Mediterranean world. Nebuchadnezzar was establishing Babylonian dominance over all that area and had come to Jerusalem and laid siege to the city.

Hearing of his father’s death, he took several young men from the royal family as hostages and trainees for his court, including Daniel and his three friends according to Daniel 1:1-7.

He also made King Jehoiakim a vassal, 2 Chronicles 36:6, and then hastened back to Babylon to establish himself on the throne. Nebuchadnezzar and a small military force took the short route across the desert, sending the captives with his greater army along the Fertile Crescent.

At this point, though most of her citizens were yet in the land of Judah, the nation was subservient to Babylon. It is at this point that Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would be carried off to Babylon for 70 years.

Therefore, most scholars believe that the 70 year captivity began with this event. This would coincide well with the decree for the first return around 538 B.C., which would be followed by that return and the beginning of the temple rebuilding process around 537/536 B.C.

The Second Stage

The second stage took place in 597 B.C. Jehoiakim rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, about 602 B.C., who finally comes and attack Jerusalem, March 10th 597 B.C., carrying off 10,000 captives to Babylon.

After rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar, King Jehoiakim died on December 10th 598 B.C., so that by the time Nebuchadnezzar arrived to punish Jerusalem for its rebellion, his son Jehoiachin, had been on the throne for three months and ten days.

In other words, Jehoiachin was in the wrong place at the wrong time and would essentially pay for the rebellion of his father against Babylon. Jehoiachin was taken captive to Babylon and remained a prisoner there until the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 561 B.C. 2 Kings 25:27-30.

Nebuchadnezzar also carried off the wealthy elite from Jerusalem; included in these was Ezekiel, the prophet. Although, Ezekiel wasn’t actually called to the prophetic ministry until after he had been carried off to Babylon, probably about 593 BC.

The Third Stage

The third stage took place in 586 B.C. King Zedekiah ignores the warnings of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 27-28, and plots against Babylon once again, so that Nebuchadnezzar returns, lays siege against Jerusalem, January 15th 588 B.C. to July 18th 586 B.C., and captures it. One month after the city fell, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s army burned the city and the temple.

It is interesting that the temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. and would not be completely rebuilt until February/March of 516 B.C., 70 years after its destruction. So, not only were the Jews in captivity a minimum of 70 years, but the temple would not exist for 70 years as well.

A tiny remnant of Jews, including Jeremiah was left in Judah under Gedeliah, who was appointed governor. When Gedeliah was murdered, those Jews feared reprisal and fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah there against his wishes, Jeremiah 40:13-16.

‘In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfil the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up and may the LORD their God be with them.’” 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

The first year of Cyrus king of Persia is referring to the first year of his reign over the Babylonian lands in 538/537 B.C. His actual reign over the Medes and Persians began earlier in 557 B.C.

He was known as Cyrus the Great, and he is the very person whom Isaiah names in his prophecy, Isaiah 45:1, who would help Israel rebuild the temple and Jerusalem, Isaiah 44:28-45:7.

The seventy years of captivity were coming to an end just as Jeremiah had said, Jeremiah 15:12-14 / Jeremiah 29:10-12. The seventy years is calculated from the first captivity during the days of Daniel and his friends, Daniel 1:1, to the first return of the captives in 536 B.C. There is no doubt that the Jews saw what was happening as a fulfilment of the prophecies.

It would be easy for God to move the heart of Cyrus, especially if someone pointed out to Cyrus that his name actually appears in the prophecies of Isaiah, which were written many years before Isaiah 44:28 / Isaiah 45:1-4 / Isaiah 24:13.

Cyrus then goes on to make a proclamation not only verbally but also in writing, 2 Kings 19:9-14. The accounts of this proclamation here and in Ezra 1:1-4 were the public proclamations of the decree.

The quotation of the proclamation in Ezra 6:3-5 was the official recording of the decree. It’s possible that each group would receive a different letter with the same thing written on them.

Cyrus gives credit to God and proclaims that he will build a temple for God in Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 17:11-12 / 1 Chronicles 22:10 / 1 Chronicles 28:6 / 2 Chronicles 6:9-10.

He then proclaims that God’s people may return home to help with the building work. Sadly, only a small number of Jews decided to return home from exile, as Isaiah had prophesied, Isaiah 10:22.

The Cyrus Cylinder

If you visit the British Museum in London, you will see on display an original pair of cufflinks based on the Cyrus Cylinder. The cufflinks are made from 24k plated bronze and are supplied in a presentation box.

The Cyrus Cylinder is one of the most famous objects to have survived from the ancient world. The cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform, cuneiform is the earliest form of writing, on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great, 559-530 B.C. after he captured Babylon in 539 B.C.

It is often referred to as the first bill of human rights as it appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands. The cylinder was found in Babylon, modern Iraq, in 1879 during a British Museum excavation.

After the deportations only the poor of the land, the vine-growers and farmers were left, 2 Kings 25:12 / Jeremiah 39:10 / Jeremiah 40:7 / Jeremiah 52:16.

Notice that Cyrus also proclaims freewill offerings, this tell us that it wasn’t just about the remnant returning to Jerusalem to live but they were to return to also rebuild the temple, Ezra 1:1-4.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:20

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