1 - 7 Jehoiakim King of Judah (continued)
1 In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant [for] three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. 2 The LORD sent against him bands of Chaldeans, bands of Arameans, bands of Moabites, and bands of Ammonites. So He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken through His servants the prophets. 3 Surely at the command of the LORD it came upon Judah, to remove [them] from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, 4 and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the LORD would not forgive. 5 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? 6 So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son became king in his place. 7 The king of Egypt did not come out of his land again, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates.
“In his days”, which are the days when Jehoiakim is king, Nebuchadnezzar – his name is mentioned here for the first time in Scripture – comes up against Jerusalem for the first time (cf. Dan 1:1). On that occasion Daniel, together with other princes, is brought to Babylon. It is then the year 606 BC. A year later an important battle takes place, at Carchemish, where Nebuchadnezzar takes the world domination of Egypt (verse 7; Jer 46:2). From then on, Nebuchadnezzar is the golden head (Dan 2:37-38), the first world empire after Judah is not any longer the people of God.
When Jehoiakim has submitted to Nebuchadnezzar for three years, he “rebels” against him. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that he has taken sides with Pharaoh. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar is taking measures to subjugate the rebellious Jehoiakim.
Remarkable is that the coming of the bands is not attributed to Nebuchadnezzar, but to the LORD. The LORD acts and does so in faithfulness to His Word. He had foretold this by the service of His servants, the prophets, and so it happens (verse 2). The coming up of the bands against Judah don’t even happen in the first place because of the rebellion of Jehoiakim, but “because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done” (verse 3).
A sin of Manasseh that is particularly important in this judgment is that he has shed “innocent blood”, yes, that he has “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood” (verse 4). The LORD takes all this so seriously, that He “would not forgive”.
We certainly have to do with a forgiving God. However, that does not mean that God’s patience is infinite. When the judgment comes, the moment has come when He will no longer forgive. This is never due to God, but to man’s impenitence.
We live in a time comparable to that of these last kings. Judgment comes on Christianity. The fact that God has chosen a remnant for Himself, even now, does not change this judgment. For the mass of Christianity there is no forgiveness anymore.
This brings the historian to the end of his description of the life of Jehoiakim. He only mentions his death (verse 6). Nothing is said of a burial. He doesn’t get one either. What he gets is a donkey burial: he is thrown away as unsuitable and despicable (Jer 22:18-19).
The communication of verse 7 follows directly on from the communication of Jehoiakim’s death. In this verse the writer explains that Jehoiakim did not receive help from the king of Egypt in his revolt against Babylon (verse 1).
8 - 12 Jehoiachin King of Judah
8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name [was] Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done. 10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon went up to Jerusalem, and the city came under siege. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials. So the king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign.
After the death of Jehoiakim his son Jehoiachin becomes king. This boy is only eighteen years old. The duration of his reign is three months. Also his short reign is long enough to give him the standard feature that “he did evil in the sight of the LORD”. To indicate the evil he has done, it is said that he did “according to all that his father had done”.
“At that time”, that is, in the three months that he reigned, the servants of Nebuchadnezzar go up to Jerusalem and besiege the city. While his servants are besieging, Nebuchadnezzar himself also comes up to Jerusalem. When he is there, Jehoiachin voluntarily surrenders, “, he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials”. That in itself is a sensible act. At the same time it shows that there is no trust in God in him. If he had bowed before God with confession of his sins, he would have been able to resist the king of Babylon in faith, just as Hezekiah has done at the time with the threat of the king of Assyria (2Kgs 19:15-19,35-36).
The surrender takes place in “the eighth year of his reign”, i.e. the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. This is the first dating with a reference to the reign of a foreign ruler.
13 - 16 All Jerusalem Led Away into Exile
13 He carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, just as the LORD had said. 14 Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land. 15 So he led Jehoiachin away into exile to Babylon; also the king’s mother and the king’s wives and his officials and the leading men of the land, he led away into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 All the men of valor, seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths, one thousand, all strong and fit for war, and these the king of Babylon brought into exile to Babylon.
After the surrender of Jehoiachin Nebuchadnezzar “carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house”. He takes everything with him to Babylon. The treasures of the LORD’s house are later abused by Belsazar (Dan 5:1-4). Again later Cyrus the Persian ensures that they are brought back to Jerusalem (Ezra 5:14).
After the valuable materials, also the people with influential functions are deported from Jerusalem to Babylon. These people could organize an uprising and thus endanger the authority of Nebuchadnezzar. In this captivity also the prophet Ezekiel (Est 1:1-2) and Mordecai (Est 2:5-6) are deported. The only ones who do not have to go are the poorest people of the land. From them there is no danger of an organized uprising.
He also deports Jehoiachin Babylon, along with his mother, his wives, his officials and the leading men of the land. The militant men and people who can make weapons (cf. 1Sam 13:19) are also deported by Nebuchadnezzar. In this way, Nebuchadnezzar prevents any form of resistance.
If the devil succeeds in somehow capturing us by a certain sin, he has nothing left to fear from us and nothing remains of our testimony for the Lord. The same applies to the church. If we engage in strange teachings, such as legalism (see the letter to the Galatians) and philosophy (see the letter to the Colossians), we will also be captured by them and cannot testify of the Savior. The church also loses its witnessing character, both to God and to the world, when the flesh can assert itself in it without being condemned. We see this in the first letter to the Corinthians.
17 - 20 Zedekiah King of Judah
17 Then the king of Babylon made his uncle Mattaniah king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20 For through the anger of the LORD [this] came about in Jerusalem and Judah until He cast them out from His presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar makes Mattaniah, a son of Josiah, king instead of Jehoiachin, who he deported to Babylon. He gives Mattaniah an other name and calls him Zedekiah. Zedekiah means ‘my righteousness is Yahweh’. He acted in complete conflict with that name in his actions, for he brought the iniquity of Jerusalem to a climax. As for the righteousness of Yahweh, we see that He acts with Zedekiah in accordance with that name. The judgment on Israel because of Zedekiah is an expression of the LORD’s righteousness.
Although he could have been warned by what happened to his three predecessors, he has continued to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, following Jehoiakim. Zedekiah is a weakling. He listens to what seems reasonable to him (cf. Jer 38:4-6). He does not listen to the warnings of the LORD by his prophets. There is no faith in him.
In his stupidity he rebels against the king of Babylon and breaks the oath he sworn. Therefore he will perish (Eze 17:15). He resorted to Egypt to cast off the yoke of Babylon. As if then he would not become a servant of Egypt. He does not know history, he is blind to it. So stupid is man without God.