Lesson 9: Chapters 23:31-25:30
Part II: The Kingdom of Judah
The Destruction of Jerusalem

Almighty Lord,
The destruction of Jerusalem should be a reminder to all professed believers that You are great in Your mercy and also fair in Your judgments. Lord, prepare us for our individual judgment at the end of our lives by daily calling us to resist the power of sin and when we sin to seek Your forgiveness in the Penitential Rite of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We know, Lord, that Your mercy is greater than our sins. And we know that it is our destiny to be with You in eternity if only we will persevere to the end in faithfulness and in righteous behavior by demonstrating the Law of Love to You and to our brothers and sisters in the covenant and to those others not in covenant with You but who are members of the human family. Let our lives be a living witness of Your truths that we may hear the words at the end of our journey, "Welcome, good and faithful servant!" We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ + +

Apart from David, Hezekiah and Josiah, they all heaped wrong on wrong, they abandoned the Law of the Most High: the kings of Judah disappeared; for they handed their power over to others and their honor to a foreign nation. The holy, chosen city was burnt down, her streets were left deserted, as Jeremiah had predicted...
Sirach 49:4/5-7a/9

The year 609 BC was a disastrous turning-point in the history of the Kingdom of Judah that began with good King Josiah's death in his failed attempt to stop the army of Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II at Megiddo. The Babylonian annals record that in the month of Tammuz (July) of that same year, a large Egyptian army led by Necho II crossed the Euphrates River and marched toward Haran, an important Assyrian city conquered earlier by the Babylonians. Even with the help of the Egyptians, the Assyrians could not retake Haran. In the summer of 605 BC, a battle was fought just east of the city of Haran at Carchemish, on what is now the border between modern Turkey and Syria. The Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar II fought Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt along with what was left of the Assyrian army (Jer 46:2). It was the goal of Necho to contain the westward advance of the Babylonian Empire and to cut off its trade route across the Euphrates. The Babylonians completely defeated the opposing armies and the victory effectively spelled the end of the Assyrian Empire. The new dynasty of the Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean empire, founded by Nabopolassar, ruled the region from 605 to 562 BC.

Most historians believe Josiah of Judah's attempt to stop the Egyptians at Megiddo was because he had made an alliance with the Babylonians, and he feared if the Egyptians and Assyrians regaining dominance over the region that Egypt's reward would be to claim Judah and the entire Levant as their reward. The death of Josiah at Megiddo was a devastating event for his people. The inspired writer of 2 Chronicles attributed Josiah's death to his refusal to listen to Pharoah Necho's words according to God's command (2 Chr 35:22), but according to Jewish tradition his ill-advised intervention in the advance of the Egyptian army may also have been from his failure to listen to a warning from Jeremiah the prophet (1 Esdr 1:28-29) who afterward wrote his funeral lament that has been lost to time (2 Chr 35:25; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 10.78).

In response to the tragedy, the people of Judah took the responsibility for the continuation of the Davidic line by choosing as Josiah's successor in his fourth son Shallum, who took the throne name Jehoahaz (1 Chr 3:15; 2 Chr 36:2-4). It is unknown why the youngest of Josiah's four sons was chosen to succeed him unless the political faction that chose him considered him more easily manipulated to suit their agenda or his mother's family was powerful enough to secure his selection. Jehoahaz's mother's family was from the powerful Levitical city of Libnah; Zedekiah is also her son. The sons of Josiah and a grandson were the last kings of Judah.

The sons of Josiah (list of sons in 1 Chr 3:15-16):
1st : Johanan
2nd : Jehoiakim, appointed king of Judah by Egyptians 609-598;
     grandson = Jeconiah/Jehoiachin king for 3 months in 598/597 and deposed by Babylonians
3rd : Mattaniah/ Zedekiah, king of Judah 598-587
4th : Shallum/Jehoahaz, king of Judah three months in 609, deposed by Pharaoh Necho II

Chapters 23-24: The Reigns of the Last Kings of Judah

Do not weep for the man who is dead, do not raise the dirge for him. Weep rather for the one who has gone away, since he will never come back, never see his native land again. For this is what Yahweh has said about Shallum son of Josiah, king of Judah, who succeeded Josiah his father and was forced to leave this place, "He will never come back to it but will die in the place to which he has been taken captive, and he will never see this country again.
Jeremiah 22:10-12 (prophecy against Jehoahaz)

2 Kings 23:31-35 ~ The reign of Jehoahaz in Judah (c. 609 BC)
31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah, of Libnah. 32 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, just as his ancestors had done. 33 Pharaoh Necho put him in chains at Riblah in Hamath, to prevent his reigning any longer in Jerusalem, and imposed a levy of a hundred talents of silver and ten talents of gold on the country. 34 Pharaoh Necho then made Eliakim son of Josiah king in succession to Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. Carrying off Jehoahaz, he took him to Egypt, where he died. 35 Jehoiakim paid over the silver and gold to Pharaoh, but first had to tax the people of the country before he could raise the sum which Pharaoh demanded: he levied the silver and gold to be paid over to Pharaoh Necho from each according to his means.

Jehoahaz's maternal grand-father was not the prophet Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah was from Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin (Jer 1:1) while Jehoahaz's maternal grandfather was from Libnah, a Levitical city in the territory of Judah. Unfortunately, the young king did not follow the righteous practices of his father.

The Egyptians took control of the region in 609 after the death of Josiah and the defeat of Judah at the Battle of Megiddo. Three months after Jehoahaz was crowned king, he was called to Riblah in Syria where Pharaoh Neco was laying claim to territories in the Levant. Evidently the young king was defiant and so the Egyptian Pharaoh immediately deposed Jehoahaz, put him in chains and sent him to Egypt. This must have been a terrifying event for the citizens of Judah who had just lost a much beloved king in Josiah to have the son they chose for kingship suddenly deposed.

The prophet/priest Jeremiah had been sent by God to warn the new king people about Yahweh's judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. God sent him from the Temple that was above the palace on Mount Moriah: Yahweh said this, "Go down to the palace of the king and there say this word: Listen to the word of Yahweh, king of Judah now occupying the throne of David, you, your officials and your people who go through these gates. Yahweh says this: Act uprightly and justly; rescue from the hands of the oppressor anyone who has been wronged, do not exploit or ill-treat the stranger, the orphan, the widow; shed no innocent blood in this place. For if you are scrupulous in obeying this command, then kings occupying the throne of David will continue to make their entry through the gates of this palace riding in chariots or on horseback, they, their officials and their people. But if you do not listen to these words, then I swear by myself, Yahweh declares, this palace shall become a ruin!" (Jer 22:1-5). Unfortunately the new king did not heed God's warning through His prophet.

Question: What did Jeremiah tell the people of Judah about Jehoahaz son of Josiah? See Jer 22:10-12.
Answer: He told them not to mourn for the dead king (Josiah) but for his son who would never return because he would die in Egypt.

The Egyptians made Judah a vassal state and replaced the young king with his brother Eliakim, the second son of Josiah by another wife. Necho changed his new vassal's name to Jehoiakim, a sign of Necho's dominance over his "servant-son" as his new "king-father." The Egyptians also demanded a large tribute.

2 Kings 23:36-24:6 ~ The reign of Jehoiakim in Judah (c. 609-598 BC) and the taking of royal prisoners
36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, just as his ancestors had done. 24:1 In his times, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years, but then rebelled against him a second time. 2 So he sent armed bands of Chaldaeans, Aramaeans, Moabites and Ammonites against him; he sent these against Judah to destroy it, in accordance with the word which Yahweh had spoken through his servants the prophets. 3 That this should happen to Judah was due entirely to Yahweh's anger; he had resolved to thrust them away from him because of Manasseh's sins and all that he had done, 4 and also because of the innocent blood which he had shed, flooding Jerusalem with innocent blood. Yahweh would not forgive. 5 The rest of the history of Jehoiakim, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 6 Then Jehoiakim fell asleep with his ancestors; his son Jehoiachin succeeded him.

Without King Josiah's godly influence, the Kingdom of Judah was again caught up in pagan worship and Jeremiah, who found himself without political support, began to be persecuted by his own people (Jer 26:1-8). Nevertheless, he continued to speak against the evil practices of both the king and the people, even though such speech brought about the death of a fellow prophet (Jer 26:20-24). But Jeremiah remembered God's promise of His divine protection (Jer 1:18-19). He was, however, not alone. The ministry of the prophet Habakkuk is dated within the reign of King Jehoiakim.

4 and also because of the innocent blood which he had shed, flooding Jerusalem with innocent blood. Yahweh would not forgive. God had already decided to bring divine judgment down upon Judah as innocent blood of his prophets continued to be shed (Jer 26:20-24).
Question: What is the significance of the innocent blood and Yahweh's resolve not to forgive such an offense? See Gen 4:10.
Answer: The blood of the innocent cries out to God for justice from the ground upon which it has been spilt and God, in His justice, will answer the cry until justice is satisfied.

It was in the third year of the reign of Josiah's son Jehoiakim that the Babylonians sent their army into the region and made Judah a vassal state. Jehoiakim raised taxes and made use of forced labor to raise the tribute the Babylonians demanded and to further his own interests, which Jeremiah criticized (Jer 22:13-19). It was the Babylonian incursion into territory that the Egyptians believed belonged to them that led the Egyptians to challenge the Babylonians at Carchemish in 605 BC. The Egyptians only maintained their control of Judah until their defeat by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. Jeremiah provided political commentary to the event in Jeremiah chapter 46:1-12.

Nebuchadnezzar was the son of Nabopolassar, the dynasty founder who ruled Babylon from 626-605 BC. Dynasty XI of Babylon (Neo-Babylonian):

Jehoiakim was forced to become a vassal for the Babylonians led by King Nebuchadnezzar II. Tribute was taken from Jerusalem as well as Judean prisoners to Babylon from the royal family in 605 BC and included the future prophet Daniel and other young people from the royal family: In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let Jehoiakim king of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels belonging to the Temple of God. These he took away to Shinar, putting the vessels into the treasury of his own gods. From the Israelites, the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring a certain number of boys of royal or noble descent; they had to be without any physical defect, of good appearance, versed in every branch of wisdom, well-informed, discerning, suitable for service at the royal court ... The chief eunuch gave them other names, calling Daniel Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Mishael Meshack, and Azariah Abed-Nego (Dan 1:1-4, 7). Notice that the old Hebrew name for Babylon is given in the passage as Shinar. According to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, the people of Shinar were descendants of Noah's son Ham and Ham's grandson Nimrod who was the first potentate on earth and founded the cities of Babel, Nineveh and several other cities in the land of Shinar (Gen 10:6-12).

In addition to the royal children taken hostage, there will be three major deportations of citizen from Judah into Babylon in 598, 597 and 587 BC (Jer 52:28-30).
Question: What happened to King Jehoiakim and what else did the Babylonians do to Jerusalem? See 2 Chr 36:6-7.
Answer: Jehoiakim was taken away in chains to Babylon and the Babylonians also took some of the sacred objects that belonged to the Temple and put them in the palace at Babylon.

Question: What reason is given for the sufferings of the Kingdom of Judah at this time? 2 Kng 21:9, 14-15; 24:3; 2 Chr 33:2-7.
Answer: It was because of the accumulation of the people's sins from the time of the Exodus generation and especially because of the sins during the reign of King Manasseh that included child sacrifice and the other abominable practices of the Canaanites that God had helped the Israelites drive out of the land.

Despite the turbulent events, Jehoiakim never heeded the warnings of Jeremiah and Yahweh's other prophets. The ministry of the prophet Habakkuk is generally dated within the reign of Jehoiakim, and Obadiah may have ministered at the same time. Jeremiah even wrote a scroll calling the king and the country to repentance (Jer chapter 36), but the king only showed contempt for it and the prophet. Jeremiah was declared an enemy of the king and became a hunted man, but he refused to keep silent.

2 Kings 24:7 ~ The Ascendance of Babylon over the entire Near East
7 The king of Egypt did not leave his own country again, because the king of Babylon had conquered everywhere belonging to the king of Egypt, from the Torrent of Egypt to the River Euphrates.
The defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish in the late spring of 605 made Nebuchadnezzar the master of Syria and the entire Levant down to the border with Egypt. A capable leader, Nebuchadnezzar II, conducted successful military campaigns in Syria and Phoenicia, forcing tribute from the Aramaeans at Damascus and the Phoenicians at Tyre and Sidon. He also conducted numerous campaigns in Asia Minor. Like the Assyrians, the Babylonians had to campaign yearly in order to control their colonies and vassal states.

2 Kings 24:8-9 ~ The Reign of Jehoiachin in Judah (c. 598-579 BC)
8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, just as his father had done.

In 601 BC Nebuchadnezzar's army invaded Egypt. His failed attempt to conquer Egypt was probably the reason Jehoiakim unwisely stopped paying to tribute to Babylon (24:1b-2). At first local Babylonian garrisons and vassal troops harassed Judah, but later the Babylonian army was sent to punish Judah and Jerusalem came under siege. It was at this point that Jehoiakim died and his son Jehoiachin took the throne in time to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar three months later.

2 Kings 24:10-17 ~ Another Babylonian deportation
10 At that time the troops of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on the city and his generals laid siege to it. 12 Jehoiachin king of Judah, he, his mother, his retinue, his nobles and his officials, then surrendered to the king of Babylon, and the king of Babylon took them prisoner in the eighth year of his reign. 13 The latter carried off all the treasures of the Temple of Yahweh and the treasures of the palace and broke up all the golden furnishings which Solomon king of Israel had made for the sanctuary of Yahweh, as Yahweh had foretold. 14 He carried all Jerusalem off into exile, all the nobles and all the notables, ten thousand of these were exiled, with all the blacksmiths and metal workers; only the poorest people in the country were left behind. 15 He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon, as also the king's mother, his officials and the nobility of the country; he made them all leave Jerusalem for exile in Babylon. 16 All the men of distinction, seven thousand of them, blacksmiths and metalworkers, one thousand of them, all the men capable of bearing arms, were led off into exile in Babylon by the king of Babylon. 17 The king of Babylon deposed Jehoiachin in favor of his paternal uncle Mattaniah, whose name he changed to Zedekiah.

In 599 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Arabia and defeated the Arab kings at Qedar. In 598 BC, he invaded Judah and captured Jerusalem, deposing king Jehoiachin and replacing him with his uncle. Jeremiah wrote a scathing rebuke of Jehoiachin, prophesizing his death and his mother's death in Babylon (Jer 22:20-30). There was also another great deportation in 597 BC. Note that Jehoiachin is called Jechoniah in 1 Chronicles 3:16. It is by that name that he will be identified in Matthew's genealogy in 1:11.

Question: What became of Jehoiachin and why is he important in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus? See Jer 52:31-34 and Mt 1:11-12.
Answer: He lived in Babylon and had children. He is the ancestor of Joseph, Jesus' adopted father, and therefore Jesus' legal claim as an heir of David.

Jesus' mother was descended through another Davidic heir, the line of David's son Nathan (Lk 3:31) whereas Joseph was descended through Solomon (Mt 16).

2 Kings 24:18-20 ~ Introduction to the reign of Zedekiah in Judah (c. 598-587 BC)
18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal* daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, just as Jehoiakim had done. 20 That this should happen to Jerusalem and Judah was due to Yahweh's anger, resulting in his casting them from his presence. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
* In the Hebrew text her name is listed as Hamutal in 2 Kng 23:31; 24:18, and Jer 52:1. She was the mother of King Jehoahaz and King Zedekiah.

Egyptian and Babylonian armies fought each other for control of the Near East throughout much of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, and this may have encouraged king Zedekiah to revolt. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt in 568-567 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis. The prophecy of the invasion was made by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 43:8-13 and his commentary is in 46:13-28.

The Book of Jeremiah lists three deportations out of Judah: The number of people deported by Nebuchadnezzar was as follows. In the seventh [seventeenth]* year: three thousand and twenty-three Judaeans; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, eight hundred and thirty-two persons were deported from Jerusalem; in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan commander of the guard deported seven hundred and forty-five Judaeans. In all: four thousand six hundred persons (Jer 52:28-30). The years of these three deportations would have been 598, 597, and lastly 587 BC. These numbers reflect the people in the countryside as well as those in Jerusalem and differs from the number carried off from Jerusalem in 24:14 that is probably a total number of the Jerusalem exiles: He carried all Jerusalem off into exile, all the nobles and all the notables, ten thousand of these were exiled... *seventeenth agrees with Babylonian records and therefore the "seventh" is probably a scribal error.

Chapter 25: The Siege and Fall of Jerusalem

Yahweh declares: "In the prophets of Samaria I have seen insanity: they prophesied in the name of Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: adultery, persistent lying, such abetting of the wicked that no one renounces his wickedness. To me they are all like Sodom and its inhabitants are like Gomorrah. So this is what Yahweh Sabaoth says about the prophets, Now I shall give them wormwood to eat and make them drink poisoned water since from the prophets of Jerusalem godlessness has spread throughout the land.'"
Jeremiah 23:13-15

The word came to Jeremiah from Yahweh when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his whole army, with all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion and all the peoples, were waging war on Jerusalem and all its towns, "Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, God and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, Yahweh says this; I am going to hand this city over to the power of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. And yourself will not escape his clutches [hands] but will certainly be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon face to face and speak to him personally. Then you will go to Babylon. Even so, listen to the word of Yahweh, Zedekiah king of Judah! This is what Yahweh says about you: You will not die by the sword; you will die in peace ...the prophet Jeremiah repeated all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem, while the army of the king of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem and all such towns of Judah as still held out, namely Lachish and Azekah, these being the only fortified towns of Judah remaining.
Jeremiah 34:1-7

2 Kings 25:1-7 ~ The siege of Jerusalem
1 In the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem with his entire army; he pitched camp in front of the city and threw up earthworks round it. 2 The city lay under siege till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 In the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, when famine was raging in the city and there was no food for the populace, 4 a breach was made in the city wall. The king then made his escape under the cover of dark, with all the fighting men, by way of the gate between the two walls, which is near the king's garden (the Chaldeans had surrounded the city), and made his way towards the Arabah. 5 The Chaldean troops pursued the king and caught up with him in the Plains of Jericho, where all his troops deserted. 6 The Chaldaeans captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence on him. 7 He had Zedekiah's sons slaughtered before his eyes, them put out Zedekiah's eyes and, loading him with chains, carried him off the Babylon.

Early in his reign, Zedekiah was called to Babylon, probably to assure Nebuchadnezzar of his loyalty (Jer 51:59). Unfortunately, his loyalty was short lived for in 588 Zedekiah withheld the tribute. Nebuchadnezzar, who faced two revolts from vassal kings, consulted his gods on whether to attack Judah or the Ammonites. The answer was Judah (Ez 21:21-29). Twenty-one ostraca (pottery shards used to write messages) were found in a gate room at Lachish and give testimony of the tensions within the Judean army concerning the approaching Babylonian army. Jeremiah 34:7 refers to the attacks of Nebuchadnezzar's armies on the cities of Judah and mentions that besides Jerusalem only Lachish and Azekah were still holding out against the enemy.

25:1 In the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem with his entire army... The war against Judah began in December of 589 BC in the 9th year of Zedekiah's reign. The fortified cities of Lachish and Azekah fell, and then in January 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem (Jer 52:4).

Question: What did God send Jeremiah to tell King Zedekiah? See Jer 27; 34:2-7).
Answer: God sent His prophet to tell the king that Babylonia was acting out God's divine will. He told the king to surrender to save lives and to save his own family, but the king could not bring himself to act on Jeremiah's advice.

2 The city lay under siege till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 In the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, when famine was raging in the city and there was no food for the populace, a breach was made in the city wall.
The siege of Jerusalem came to an end in June-July of 587 BC (see Jer 52:6). The city had been under siege approximately 18 months. The king, his sons, and his royal guard escaped from the city and made their way towards the Araba, the desolate valley of the Jordan River, probably planning to ford the river near the city of Jericho. He was captured on the Plains of Jericho and taken to Riblah in Syria to face King Nebuchadnezzar. He was found guilty of treason against his overlord and had to witness the deaths of his sons before he was blinded and sent to Babylon.

2 Kings 25:8-12 ~ The sack of Jerusalem and the third deportation
8 In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month (it was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan commander of the guard, a member of the king of Babylon's staff, entered Jerusalem. 9 He burned down the Temple of Yahweh, the royal palace and all the houses in Jerusalem. 10 The Chaldaeans troops who accompanied the commander of the guard demolished the walls surrounding Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan commander of the guard deported the remainder of the population left in the city, the deserters who had gone over to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the common people. 12 But the commander of the guard left some of the poor country people behind as vineyard workers and ploughmen.

8 In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month (it was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon)... It is still the eleventh year of Zechariah in the month of Ab = July/August 587 BC, and it is the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. The city was set on fire. Solomon's Temple and the royal palace were destroyed, and thousands of Jews were deported to Babylon. This was the third large deportation of the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah into Babylonian lands.(1)

Question: When Jeremiah realized that the city and the Temple were going to be destroyed, what did Jeremiah do? See 2 Mac 2:1-8.
Answer: Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant and the remains of the ancient tent Sanctuary and hid it in a cave on Mount Nebo. He also saved the Book of the Law (probably the first five books of Moses) and took some embers that he had saved from Yahweh's sacred altar and gave them to some of the priests who were about to be deported to Babylon.

Nebo was the same mountain where Moses had viewed the Promised Land before he died (Dt 34:1-4). According to Leviticus 6:5-6/12-13, the altar fire was never to be allowed to go out. God had lit the altar fire from heaven in the first liturgical worship service in the desert Sanctuary at Mt. Sinai, and He lit the altar fire again at the dedication of Solomon's Temple (Lev 9:22-24; 2 Chr 7:1). The purpose of taking the sacred flame is that it was a visible promise that the Temple and God's altar of sacrifice will be rebuilt.

Question: But what prophecy did Jeremiah make about the Ark of the Covenant where God's presence dwelled among His people in the future after the return from exile when God reclaimed His people? See Jer 3:16-17 and 31:21-22, 31-34; also see Heb 9:4. Note: the literal translation of Jer 31:22b is: "For Yahweh is creating something new on earth: the Woman shall encompass a man." It is a reversal of the birth of the virgin Eve from Adam's body in a new birth of a man who was encompassed in the body of another virgin.
Answer: A time will come when the Ark is no longer important. At that time the Virgin Mary, will carry in her womb the new Adam who is the Son of God, Jesus. In a New Covenant that will be established, the Virgin Mary will become the Ark of the New Covenant as her womb held the Living Word of God, the Living Bread come down from Heaven, and He who will die but return to life like Aaron's staff. Jesus will be God's Divine Presence dwelling among His covenant people.

2 Kings 25:13-17 ~ The destruction of Solomon's Temple
13 The Chaldaeans broke up the bronze pillars from the Temple of Yahweh, the wheeled stands and the bronze Sea, which were in the Temple of Yahweh, and took the bronze away to Babylon. 14 They also took the ash containers, the scoops, the knives, the incense boats, and all the bronze furnishings used in worship. 15 The commander of the guard also took the censers and the sprinkling bowls, everything made of gold and everything made of silver. 16 As regards the two pillars, the one Sea and the wheeled stands, which Solomon had made for the Temple of Yahweh, there was no reckoning the weight of bronze in all these objects. 17 The height of one pillar was eighteen cubits, and on it stood a capital of bronze, the height of the capital being five cubits; round the capital were filigree and pomegranates, all in bronze. So also for the second pillar.

The inspired writer describes in detail the destruction of Solomon's Temple. Each of the two magnificent bronze pillars that stood at the entrance to the Temple's Holy Place was 27 feet high and the bronze capitals were four and a half feet high (1 Kng 7:15-22). The bronze sea was 15 feet wide and 7.5 feet high (1 Kng 7:23-25) and the the bronze water stands were each 6 feet x 4.5 feet. Think of the immense quantity of bronze the Babylonians were acquiring not to mention the gold and sliver.

2 Kings 25:18-21 ~ The third deportation
18 The commander of the guard took prisoner Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank, and the three guardians of the threshold. 19 In the city he took prisoner an official who was in command of the fighting men, five of the king's personal friends who were discovered in the city, the secretary to the army commander, responsible for military conscription, and sixty men of distinction discovered in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan commander of the guard took these men and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah, 21 and at Riblah in the territory of Hamath the king of Babylon had them put to death. Thus Judah was deported from its country.

Question: What three groups of the king's advisors were executed for sharing responsibility for advising the king to rebel against Babylon?

  1. The religious leadership: the high priest and his chief priests
  2. The king's friends = personal advisors
  3. The king's army commander and chief officers

2 Kings 25:22-26 ~ Gedaliah appointed the governor of Judah
22 For the people remaining in the country of Judah whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left behind, he appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan as governor. 23 When the military leaders and their men all heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they went to him at Mizpah: Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Jonanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the Maacathite, they and their men. 24 To them and to their men Gedaliah swore an oath. "Do not be afraid of the Chaldaeans," he said, "stay in the country, serve the king of Babylon, and all will go well with you." 25 But in the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, who was of royal descent, and ten men with him, came and murdered Gedaliah, as well as the Judaeans and Chaldaeans who were with him at Mizpah. 26 Then all the people, high and low, with the military leaders, set off and went to Egypt, being afraid of the Chaldaeans.

Gedaliah was the son of Ahikam and grandson Shaphan, a royal officer and court secretary/scribe of King Josiah's court (2 Kng 22:8-14). He was appointed the governor of the Babylonian province of Judah. He established an administrative center at Mizpah, about 7.5 miles north of Jerusalem. A number of army commanders rallied around him, including Jaazaniah (verse 23).

Gedaliah was warned of a plot to take his life; however he dismissed their concerns (Jer 40:13-14). A group of 4 military officers and their men who had avoided capture came to him at the stronghold at Mizpah. Gedaliah assured them of fair treatment, but in the seventh month after the fall of Jerusalem, in the early spring, a group of men led by a Davidic descendant named Ishmael and his men assassinated Gedaliah and his garrison. A high quality onyx seal bearing the inscription "Belonging to Jaazaniah, servant of the king" was discovered in a 6th century tomb near what is believed to be the site of Mizpah. It appears that Jaazaniah was killed along with the governor and was buried at the site.

The Judeans who remained in the land were so fearful of what the Babylonians would do in reprisal for the murder of their royal governor and the Babylonian garrison that they fled to Egypt.

Question: How did Jeremiah advise the remnant of people left behind in Judah? See Jer 42:1-43:7. What happened to them? Jer 44:7-14.
Answer: He told them to remain in Judah and not to go the Egypt. However, even though their leaders had promised to be obedient to whatever Yahweh told His prophet, they denied Jeremiah had spoken the words of Yahweh and left for Egypt. When he saw he could not persuade them, Jeremiah also went with them. In Egypt the people began offering worship to the false gods of Egypt and ignored Jeremiah's warnings; therefore, God decreed they would all die in Egypt and never return to Judah except for a few refugees.

2 Kings 25:27-30 ~ King Jehoiachin is pardoned in 562 BC
27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year he came to the throne, pardoned Jehoiachin king of Judah and released him from prison. 28 He treated him with kindness and allotted him a seat above those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin laid aside his prisoner's garb, and for the rest of his life always ate at the king's table. 30 And his upkeep was permanently ensured by the king, day after day, for the rest of his life.

>Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 and was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach (562-560 BC). It was common for kings in the first year of their reigns to offer clemency to certain prisoners in their custody, and so in February/March of 562 BC the new king pardons Jehoiachin, grandson of Josiah and former king of Judah.

Question: What act of clemency did the new Babylonian king give Jehoiachin? How old was the former king of Judah when he was freed and what became of him? Jehoiachin was taken prisoner in 597 BC.
Answer: The new king pardoned Jehoiachin king of Judah who was taken prisoner 35 years earlier (as we count) in 597 BC. He was 18 years old when he was taken prisoner and he was freed when he was 53 years old. He lived out the rest of his life in Babylon as an honored guest of the Babylonian king.

Archaeologists have confirmed Jehoiachin's presence in ancient Babylon in the 6th century BC. They discovered a Babylonian tablet from the royal archive listing provisions for the household of the state prisoner King Jehoiachin of Judah.

The Length of Judgment for Judah in Exile and the Prophecy of Return

Until the country had paid off its Sabbaths, it will lie fallow for all the days of its desolation, until the seventy years are complete.
Jeremiah 36:21

Divine judgment within temporal time is not God's final word for His people. He does not want His people to perish; judgment is meant to be redemptive in causing His people, in their suffering, to turn again to Him. Even when His people repeatedly betray Him, God still does not forget His covenant promises. A holy "remnant" will be allowed to survive (Is 4:3; 40:1-11; Zeph 3:11-20). The concept of a "holy remnant" is first introduced by the prophet Amos in 5:15 and is developed in the writings of the prophets who came after him. Down through salvation history, judgment succeeds judgment as crisis succeeds crisis, and the survivors are the "remnant" with whom God's covenant promises will continue and with whom is kept safe the "promised seed" of the future Davidic Messiah (Jer 33:14-18). It is the Davidic Messiah who will redeem Israel and the world and will bring forth from the redeemed "new Israel" the nucleus of the sacred kingdom He is promised to establish that will rule all nations (Is 11:10; 37:31; Ez 37:12-14; Dan 7:13-14; Mic 4:7; 5:6-7; Zec 8:11-13).

Yahweh will bring judgment on the Babylonians for their crimes and a Persian named Cyrus will conquer Babylon. He will be God's instrument for the return of the covenant people to their homeland as prophesied two centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah: ... say to Jerusalem, "You will be inhabited," and the towns of Judah, "You will be rebuilt and I shall restore the ruins of Jerusalem" ... who says to Cyrus, "My shepherd." He will perform my entire will by saying to Jerusalem, "You will be rebuilt, and to the Temple, you will be refounded." Thus says Yahweh to his anointed one, to Cyrus whom, he says, I have grasped by his right hand, to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings, to open gateways before him and to disarm kings, to open gateways before him so that their gates be closed no more... (Is 44:26-45:1).(2)

In the judgment against Judah, Jeremiah gave both the reason for their judgment, which was the failure to keep their covenant with Yahweh and their accumulated sins (Jer 16:10-15; 25:8-9), and the length of time set for the punishment to be completed before the "faithful remnant" would be allowed to return.
Question: What was the gage that set the time for the exile judgment to be completed? See Jer 25:10-14; 29:10; and 2 Chr 36:21 in light of the command in Lev 25:1-7.
Answer: God promised they will be allowed to return from their Babylonian exile after seventy years. According to 2 Chronicles 36:21 the length of the judgment is based on the length of years the people did not observe the "rest" of the land on the Sabbath year prescribed by Law to fall every 7th year. God demanded one year for each of the Sabbath rest years that people of Judah did not observe which amounted to seventy years.

The seventy years are probably counted from the destruction of Solomon's Temple and Jerusalem in c. 587 BC to the rebuilding of the new Temple in c. 517 BC (see Zec 1:12, 16). Others see the seventy years as a rounded number and not a literal number and count the years from the year the royal children were taken as hostages in 605 BC to the first return of the survivors in 538 BC, or it is determined from the mass exile in 598 to the first return in 538 BC. Only the number of years from the destruction of the Temple to the rebuilding of the Temple are a literal 70 years. According to archaeologists, there is a total absence of new building sites in Judah for approximately 70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem until the year of the return.

The Prophecy Fulfilled

As Daniel, the member of the royal family who was taken captive by the Babylonians in 605 BC, was studying the scriptures and counting over the number of years as revealed by God to Jeremiah, he saw that the seventy years were almost up (Dan 9:1-2). He began to pray to the Lord God, confessing his sins and the sins of his people and pleading with God to remember His promise and to redeem His people (Dan 9:3-19). God did remember. He placed Cyrus the Persian on the throne of a new empire and in 539 BC he wrote an edict commanding that all exiled peoples be allowed to return to their homelands.

Then, at the end of the seventy years of judgment, Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled when King Cyrus of Persia issued an edict for the return of the Judean exiles to their homeland: In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah, Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: "Cyrus king of Persia says this, Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever among you belongs to the full tally of his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem, in Judah, and build the Temple of Yahweh, God of Israel, who is the God in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of his locality with silver, gold, equipment and riding beasts, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem.'"(Ezra 1:1-4; also see 2 Chr 36:22-23). And therefore Cyrus issued the "Edict of Cyrus" in c. March-April of 539/8 BC, allowing the return of all the Judean exiles to their homeland. He also returned the sacred items from the Temple and to gave the funds to rebuild the Temple of Yahweh (Ezra 1:7-11).

The Books of Kings and the New Testament

Had God abandoned the children of Israel and His promise of an eternal covenant to David? He had not! The Books of Kings demonstrate God's great patience and mercy to His covenant people despite their repeated sins, but finally divine judgment could not be withheld. As is always the case in salvation history, judgment is tempered with mercy and the promise of salvation. A remnant of the covenant people was preserved in exile in Babylon where they atoned for the sins of their ancestors and waited for their redemption as promised by God's holy prophets. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah record their return. And it is in the New Testament that we realize God had not forgotten His eternal covenant with David. St. Matthew's genealogy gives the information that Jehoiachin, also known as Jechoniah, grandson of Josiah, who spent the rest of his life in exile in Babylon, fathered children. Jesus' legal claim to the throne of David is through Jechoniah's descendant Joseph, the foster father of Jesus of Nazareth. David's eternal covenant is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth and in Mary His mother who was also a Davidic descendant (Lk 126-33).

1. By 572 Nebuchadnezzar was in full control of Babylonia, Assyria, Phoenicia, Samaria, Judah, northern Arabia, and parts of Asia Minor. He fought the pharaohs Psammetichus II and Apries throughout his reign, and in 568 BC, during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis, he invaded Egypt.
2. In 1879 archaeologists discovered a clay cylinder in the ancients ruins of Babylon on which was written a declaration in the name of Persia's King Cyrus the Great and dating to the 6th century BC. The cylinder seal confirms that Cyrus allowed peoples taken into exile by the Babylonians to return to their native lands.
3. For other references to the number 70 see Ps 90:10; Is 23:15 and as a period of judgment in Is 23:15, 17.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.