STUBBORN REJECTION OF GOD LEADS INEVITABLY TO EXILE AND TEMPLE PLUNDERING AS JUDGMENT FALLS ON JERUSALEM
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler has arranged the accounts to portray two themes (cf. Williamson, 412):
(1) the common fate of the last four kings, each ending in exile, and
(2) the tribute paid by each, largely through spoliation of the temple.
This has the effect of drawing a parallel between the fate of the Davidic dynasty and the temple: both destined for exile, but with hope of restoration.
Matthew Henry: The destruction of Judah and Jerusalem is here coming on by degrees. God so ordered it to show that he has no pleasure in the ruin of sinners, but had rather they would turn and live, and therefore gives them both time and inducement to repent and waits to be gracious.
August Konkel: Every society has a propensity to disintegration. Historically, all great civilizations have ended, usually under the weight of their own dysfunction and capitulation to opposing powers. It would be unwise to think that present societies will be the exception to that pattern. For people of faith, it is not only history but also the revelation of Scripture that provides the warning. The nation Israel fell to political forces aided by its own intrigue and corruption. Theologically, it was because of their unfaithfulness to God. But the theology of divine judgment is also the reason for hope since God is a God of mercy.
Andrew Hill: The Babylonians sacked the city of Nineveh in 612 B.C. and then deposed the remnants of the Assyrian political establishment from Haran in 610 B.C. Thus Assyria’s reign of terror in the ancient Near East came to an end. This colossal event, one the prophet Jonah longed to see and the prophet Nahum eventually witnessed, did not really bring peace to the peoples of Syria and Palestine. The resulting vacuum of political power in the Levant was quickly filled, as Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt marched to Carchemish on the Euphrates River. He intended to join with the Assyrian ruler Asshur-uballit in a last-ditch attempt to repulse the Babylonians and help restore Assyrian control in the western sector of the disintegrating empire. King Josiah’s ill-fated attempt to intercept Neco at Megiddo only delayed the defeat the Egyptians experienced at Carchemish. Although the Egypto-Assyrian alliance failed to save the Assyrian Empire, Neco’s campaign did result in Egyptian control of Syria-Palestine. It is unclear whether King Josiah was obligated to oppose Pharaoh Neco II as a vassal of Babylonia or if he acted independently. In either case, his death meant the end of political autonomy for Judah. His successor, Jehoahaz, was dethroned by Neco and deported to Egypt. Neco placed Eliakim (or Jehoiakim), the brother of Jehoahaz, on the throne, and Judah became a vassal state to the pharaoh. Judah remained under Egyptian control until 605 B.C. . .
This final section of the Chronicler’s history is driven by both a documentary impulse (i.e., telling what happened) and the literary impulse (i.e., telling how it happened). The references to Jeremiah the prophet (36:12, 21) may indicate the Chronicler’s dependence on the book of Jeremiah as a source for this portion of his history. In any event, the repetition of the twin themes of the exile of the last Judahite kings and the repeated plundering of the Lord’s temple explains what happens to the kingdom of Judah (36:4, 6-7, 10, 18, 20). The descriptions of King Zedekiah (who does not humble himself and will not turn to the Lord, 36:12-13; cf. 7:14) and the priests and all the people (who are unfaithful, 36:14; cf. 30:8) illustrate how all this happens to Judah.
Martin Selman: The fact that this is the only section of 2 Chronicles 10-36 where Chronicles has dealt more briefly than Kings with the same subject clearly indicates a special purpose. That purpose is revealed in three distinctive emphases.
– The first is that responsibility for the exile did not belong to any individual or generation, but implicated the whole nation. The sense of corporate guilt is very strong and is made explicit in verses 15-16.
– The second is that the exile is remarkably comprehensive, both in its character and its effects. For the land, the monarchy, and the temple there was no remedy (v. 16), and only a remnant is left (v. 20). The only basis for future hope is that the Lord remains in charge throughout.
– The third and most surprising emphasis is that despite everything, an alternative still exists. The gathering clouds of judgment have never entirely obscured the brightness of God’s grace, though now it shines through the exile rather than instead of it (vv. 22-23; cf. 28:14-15; 30:9; 33:12-13).
The book ends, therefore, on a definite note of hope, which neither persistent sin nor the reality of judgment is able to overcome. However, one should not be misled into thinking that this implies that final judgment will never come (e.g. Mk. 13:24-31; 1 Thes. 5:1-7; cf. Heb. 1:10-12). Though the exile provides further evidence that God is always gracious and compassionate (cf. 2 Ch. 30:9), the opportunity to call on his mercy will not always exist. It is therefore wise to take God’s invitation seriously (v. 23).
I. (:2-4) EXILE OF JEHOAHAZ TO EGYPT
Thomas Constable: In these few verses, the will of the king of Egypt contrasts with the will of Judah’s people. Whereas the people still held out hope that a descendant of David would lead them to the great glories predicted for David’s greatest Son (e.g., Ps. 2), such was not to be the case any time soon. Other superpowers now dominated Judah’s affairs. God had given His people over into their hands for discipline (cf. Deut. 28:32-57). Jehoahaz (Joahaz), rather than lifting the Davidic dynasty to its greatest glories, ended his life as a prisoner in Egypt, the original prison-house of Israel. Jehoahaz reigned only three months. Then Pharaoh Neco replaced him, fined the Judahites, and set up Jehoahaz’s brother on Judah’s throne.
A. (:2) Age and Duration of Reign
“Joahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king,
and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.”
Raymond Dillard: In the latter half of 609 B.C. Judah underwent great political turmoil and experienced three successive changes of monarch. Josiah’s death was followed by the three month rule of Jehoahaz who was in turn succeeded by Jehoiakim.
Jehoahaz, also known as Shallum, was not Josia
h’s firstborn; he had at least two older brothers (1 Chr 3:15). Nothing is known of the fate of Josiah’s firstborn Johanan; he may have died before Josiah’s own death. Jehoahaz came to the throne at age twenty-three and was succeeded three months later by Jehoiakim, who was twenty-five. The people of the land made Jehoahaz king, setting aside the right of primogeniture (21:3) probably in an effort to continue the anti-Egyptian or pro-Babylonian policies of Josiah. The same anti-Egyptian posture may explain Nebuchadnezzar’s later choice of Zedekiah, Jehoahaz’s younger brother by the same mother, Hamutal (2 Kgs 23:31; 24:18).
The Chronicler makes no overt moral judgment on Jehoahaz’s reign, content to present the themes of exile and tribute that characterize his treatment of the last four kings of Judah. The deuteronomic historian does provide a brief, formulaic moral judgment (2 Kgs 23:32). Jeremiah provides more information regarding the actual character of his reign; it is an indictment for self-aggrandizement and injustice (Jer 22:11–17).
B. (:3) Subjugation by King of Egypt
“Then the king of Egypt deposed him at Jerusalem, and imposed on the land a fine of one hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold.”
Andrew Hill: Curiously, the Chronicler fails to report the death formulas for the last kings of Judah as recorded in the kings account (e.g., “and there he [Jehoahaz] died,” 2 Kings 23:34; and “Jehoiakim rested with his fathers,” 24:6; etc.). Kingship just fades into oblivion, as if the Chronicler seeks to represent the stories of the four kings as simply “different manifestations of the same phenomenon.” In so doing, the Chronicler offers his audience hope because he leaves open the possibility for the restoration of Israelite kingship as predicted by Jeremiah (Jer. 33:15-16) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 34:23).
C. (:4a) Succession
“And the king of Egypt made Eliakim his brother king over Judah
and Jerusalem, and changed his name to Jehoiakim.”
Frederick Mabie: In the ancient Near East the act of changing a name reflects a change of destiny – a destiny now being shaped by the one powerful enough to effect the name change – and carries with it the expectation of loyalty. This idea of a change of destiny enabled by the name changer and symbolized by the new name may shed light on passages such as Isaiah 62:2 and Revelation 2:17. The names given to Judean rulers by Pharaoh Neco and Nebuchadnezzar retain theophoric elements consistent with Israelite faith rather than incorporating foreign religious elements (cf. Da 1:6-7). For example, Eliakim and Jehoiakim are largely the same name, with a substitution of one theophoric element (“El[i],” God) with another (“Jeho,” Yahweh).
D. (:4b) Captivity in Egypt
“But Neco took Joahaz his brother and brought him to Egypt.”
II. (:5-8) EXILE OF WICKED JEHOIAKIM TO BABYLON
Thomas Constable: Jehoiakim’s conduct did nothing to retard the inevitable conquest of Jerusalem. Judah’s captivity was one step closer when Babylon replaced Egypt as the controller of God’s people. Jehoiakim was not able to establish a dynasty of kings to follow him, as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 22:30)
A. (:5a) Age and Duration of Reign
“Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king,
and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem;”
B. (:5b) Moral Evaluation
“and he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God.”
C. (:6-7) Subjugation by Nebuchadnezzar
1. (:6) Bondage of Jehoiakim in Babylon
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against him
and bound him with bronze chains to take him to Babylon.”
2. (:7) Booty Carried Off to Babylonian Temple
“Nebuchadnezzar also brought some of the articles of the house of the LORD to Babylon and put them in his temple at Babylon.”
J.A. Thompson: Taking temple objects was common in times such as this, as it represented the complete military and religious conquest of a city (cf. Dan 1:1-2; Ezra 1:7).
D. (:8a) Recorded Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim and the abominations which he did, and what was found against him, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.”
Iain Duguid: To the standard concluding statement of sources, the Chronicler has added “abominations . . . and what was found against him,” an evaluation warranted by the consistent negative oracles in Jeremiah, including those concerning Jehoiakim’s arrogant, dismissive attitude to Jeremiah’s prophetic word (Jer. 19:3–15; 22:13–23; 26:20–23; 36:1–32).
E. (:8b) Succession
“And Jehoiachin his son became king in his place.”
III. (:9-10) EXILE OF WICKED JEHOIACHIN TO BABYLON
A. (:9a) Age and Duration of Reign
“Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king,
and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem,”
B. (:9b) Moral Evaluation
“and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.”
C. (:10a) Subjugation by Nebuchadnezzar
1. Bondage of Jehoiachin in Babylon
“And at the turn of the year King Nebuchadnezzar
sent and brought him to Babylon”
2. Booty Carried Off to Babylon
“with the valuable articles of the house of the LORD,”
D. (:10b) Succession
“and he made his kinsman Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem.”
John Mayer: The cause of Nebuchadnezzar’s taking of Jehoiachin is not stated. However, Josephus said that fearing the young king would seek to revenge his father’s capture and ignominious casting out of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, he thought it unsafe to allow Jehoiachin to reign. Therefore he came against him, carried him away to Babylon and set up another king in his stead: Z
edekiah. Others think that Nebuchadnezzar, having first made Jehoiachin king, soon repented and returned thus again. . . . But on God’s part, the cause of Nebuchadnezzar’s being sent against Jehoiachin was due to the latter’s wickedness.
IV. (:11-14) REBELLION OF WICKED ZEDEKIAH
A. (:11) Age and Duration of Reign
“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king,
and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.”
David Guzik: 2 Kings 24:17 tells us that the name of Zedekiah was originally Mattaniah. The name Zedekiah means, The Lord is Righteous. The righteous judgment of God would soon be seen against Judah.
B. (:12a) Moral Evaluation
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God;”
C. (:12b-13) Stubborn Rejection of God by King Zedekiah
1. (:12b) Resisted God’s Prophetic Warnings
“he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet
who spoke for the LORD.”
2. (:13a) Rebelled against God’s Appointed Political Leader
“And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar
who had made him swear allegiance by God.”
3. (:13b) Rejected God Stubbornly and Ultimately
“But he stiffened his neck
and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel.”
J.A. Thompson: Zedekiah’s rebellion was no doubt encouraged by some of his political advisers in this respect. The oath of allegiance that he swore to Nebuchadnezzar in the name of his God was normal in political treaties, but his breaking of the oath only serves to reinforce the portrait of him as an apostate (cf. Ezek 17:11-21). Not only did Zedekiah display disloyal and unfaithful attitudes and responses, but all the leaders of the priests and the people behaved in the same way (v. 14). In Zedekiah the people had the kind of king they deserved.
D. (:14) Corresponding Unfaithfulness of the Priests and the People
1. Depravity Paralleling Pagan Nations
“Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people
were very unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations;”
Frederick Mabie: Sadly, the depth of unfaithfulness is not limited to the ungodly reign of Zedekiah (cf. vv. 12-13) but is likewise seen in the hearts of both people and priests. The inclusion of priestly leaders is especially egregious, since a key covenantal responsibility of priests was to “teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them” (Lev 10:11; cf. Dt 33:8-11). This dereliction of duty on the part of priests is also an issue during the Chronicler’s own time, as reflected in the divine message against priests delivered via the postexilic prophet Malachi (2:1-9).
2. Defiling the Temple
“and they defiled the house of the LORD
which He had sanctified in Jerusalem.”
Iain Duguid: From Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective, it was Zedekiah’s rebellion that led to the final attack when Jerusalem was sacked, the temple destroyed, and kingship in Jerusalem brought to an end. For the biblical writers, however, the reason was the Lord’s “wrath” because of the persistent rejection of his word. Kings simply states this fact (2 Kings 24:20), but Chronicles expands on the rejection (2 Chron. 36:12–16).
V. (:15-21) DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE TEMPLE OF GOD
Raymond Dillard: The prophets and messengers spoken of in vv 15–16 probably refer to more than those who were active only in the last decades before the exile; the author appears to be speaking of the entire prophetic succession, though this is not unambiguously clear. The role of the prophets in Chronicles is primarily that of guardians of the theocracy; they are the bearers of the word of God to kings, who are in turn blessed or judged within a short time in terms of their response. Here, however, the Chronicler describes the guilt of Israel as cumulative: rather than each generation or king experiencing weal or woe in terms of its own actions, there is a cumulative weight of guilt which ultimately irretrievably provokes the wrath of God and brings the great exile.
Derek Cooper – the English Annotations: Four Causes of God’s Wrath
God’s wrath is not easily incensed. Yet here we see four causes: first, there was a conspiracy among the people against the Lord; second, there was a multiplication of transgressions; third, there were monstrous abominations; and fourth, there were great profanities and contempt for God’s messengers. By all these and by many other things the people of Judah provoked the wrath of the Lord. And the last means that is ordinarily used to reclaim people is God’s messengers, to tell the people of their sins to their faces and to pronounce judgment against them. If this does not prevail, nothing remains but an expectation of God’s judgment and wrath.
Thomas Constable: The last verses of this section are very sermonic (vv. 14-21). Yet the Chronicler did not set them off as a sermon but caused them to flow out of what he had said about Zedekiah. The writer gave reasons for the conquest of Jerusalem and the exile of the Israelites:
1. Zedekiah “did evil in the sight of the LORD his God” (v. 12).
2. “He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD” (v. 12).
3. He “rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar,” to whom he had sworn allegiance in the name of Yahweh (v. 13).
4. He “stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD” (v. 13).
5. Israel’s “officials,” “priests,” and “people” followed all “the abominations of the nations” around them (v. 14).
6. The Israelites “defiled the house of the LORD” (v. 14).
7. They “mocked,” despised,” and “scoffed at” God’s “words” and His “messengers,” the prophets (v. 16).
A. (:15-16) Stubborn Rejection Leads to Certain Wrath
1. (:15) Compassionate Entreaties by the Lord
“And the LORD, the God of their fathers,
sent word to them again and again by His messengers,
because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;”
Meyer: What a touching and graphic phrase! How did God yearn over that sinful and rebellious city! Like a man who has had a sleepless night of anxiety for his friend or child, and rises with the dawn to send a servant on a message of inquiry, or a message of love. How eager is God for men’s salvation.
2. (:16a) Three Fatal Charges of Stubborn Rejection
“but they continually mocked the messengers of God,
despised His words
and scoffed at His prophets,”
Martin Selman: Three complaints are made in particular, that they were unfaithful, defiled the temple, and laughed at the prophets. All three are frequent themes throughout Chronicles, and it is as if the entire message of Chronicles were being summed up.
3. (:16b) No Remedy for the Deserved Wrath of God
“until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people,
until there was no remedy.”
August Konkel: The offense of ma’al, a favorite word of the Chronicler, is oath violation or a violation of the sacred space of the temple (26:16-18). These violations are equivalent because both are directly offenses against God. Zedekiah’s refusal to submit to Babylonian rule led him to oath violation and brought all of the people to increasing their unfaithfulness. Destruction and exile on a national scale follow in the wake of the ma’al of oath violation (Lev 26:14-17). On this basis, Ezekiel can pronounce exile for the entire nation (Ezek 17:19-21). The Chronicler’s view is that ma’al trespasses on the divine realm by breaking the covenant oath. It is a lethal sin that destroys both the offender and his community.
B. (:17-20) Severe Destruction of God’s People, Temple and City
1. (:17) Severe Destruction of God’s People
“Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.”
Martin Selman: The end comes remarkably swiftly, like a bird of prey suddenly swooping down after circling repeatedly over its victim.… The final collapse under Zedekiah is therefore merely the final stage in a process that has long been inevitable.
2. (:18) Severe Plundering of God’s Temple
“And all the articles of the house of God, great and small,
and the treasures of the house of the LORD,
and the treasures of the king and of his officers,
he brought them all to Babylon.”
3. (:19) Severe Destruction of God’s Temple and City
“Then they burned the house of God,
and broke down the wall of Jerusalem
and burned all its fortified buildings with fire,
and destroyed all its valuable articles.”
Dilday: The Talmud declares that when the Babylonians entered the temple, they held a two-day feast there to desecrate it; then, on the third day, they set fire to the building. The Talmud adds that the fire burned throughout that day and the next.
Martin Selman: The over-all impression is of unrelieved destruction. ‘All, every’ is used fivefold in verses 17-19, which together with young and old, large and small, and finally (literally), ‘to destruction’ confirms that there was no respite, no escape.
4. (:20) Subjugation in Babylon
“And those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia,”
Andrew Hill: Essentially the Chronicler offers his generation a twofold rationale for Judah’s expulsion from the land of the promise.
(1) Both king and people have rejected God’s word spoken by his prophetic messengers (36:16).
(2) The people of Judah have failed to keep the covenant stipulation of giving the land “its sabbath rest” (36:21; cf. Lev. 25:1-7).
Here again the compiler assumes his audience has a working knowledge of the Torah and the Prophets in the intertwining of the covenant curse (Lev. 26:34) and the word of Jeremiah (Jer. 29:10).
Dilday: The fall of Jerusalem didn’t come about in one cataclysmic battle; it occurred in stages.
• Nebuchadnezzar’s initial subjugation of the city about 605 B.C.
• The destruction by Nebuchadnezzar’s marauding bands, 601 to 598 B.C.
• The siege and fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar’s main army on 16 March, 597 B.C.
• Nebuchadnezzar’s return to completely destroy and depopulate Jerusalem in the summer of 586 B.C.
C. (:21) Sabbath Rests Required for the Land
“to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah,
until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.
All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.”
Frederick Mabie: The beginning point and ending point of this seventy-year period (Jer 25:8-11; 29:10) is not exactly specified within the biblical material. The most likely possibility is that the destruction of the temple in 586 BC started the seventy-year period,
which comes to a close with the dedication of the Second Temple (ca. 516 BC). Another possibility is that the end of the seventy-year period is connected with the Decree of Cyrus (539 BC; cf. 2Ch 36:22), which would imply a beginning point around the death of Josiah (609 BC), after which Judah became a pawn to the geopolitical interests of Egypt and Babylonia.