DESPITE JUDAH’S SAD ENDING, ALL IS NOT LOST FOREVER
Judah is finally a barren land – even abandoned by those who had not been carried off to Babylon. The failed leadership of Nebuchadnezzar’s appointee, Gedaliah, could not sustain a stable remnant in the Promised Land. After his assassination, the perpetrators fled to Egypt, fearing Babylonian reprisal. The Davidic dynasty has been snuffed out … and yet the covenant promises of kingdom restoration and blessing still remain. The story of the elevation of Jehoiachin would serve as an encouragement to the exiles in Babylon that there is yet reason for hope.
Peter Pett: There can be no question that the purpose of this final narrative is to indicate that YHWH’s hand was still on the house of David. It is demonstrating that He had not forgotten His promise of the continuation of David’s seed, and that Judah and Israel had therefore hope for the future. Though history had consigned Jerusalem to destruction, God still had His hand on history and was preparing for the fulfilment of His purposes in the coming of Jesus Christ. This comes out especially in that he was ‘set above the kings who were in Babylon’. The author probably had in mind the Psalm which speaks of the son of David as ‘the highest of the kings of the earth’ (Psalms 89:27; compare Psalms 2). It was a portent of what was coming.
Dale Ralph Davis: the Jehoiachin restoration (vv. 27–30) is meant to stand as a positive scenario over against the Gedaliah fiasco of verses 22–26. Bähr sums it up well:
The two brief narratives [vv. 22–26 and 27–30] by which the author closes his work are not mere appendages to the history, but the proper epilogue to the words: “So Judah was carried away out of their land” [v. 21b].
I think this is a cogent way to look at the end of the book. Ishmael’s sheer malice and harebrained stupidity along with the survivors’ flight to Egypt (vv. 25–26) dash any hopes of a viable life and rump regime in Judah. It is telling that this group’s ‘final exile finds them back in a “pre-exodus” place’ and yet ‘Jehoiachin lives on in Babylon, from which the next exodus will take place’. Jehoiachin’s treatment in verses 27–30 may seem a very pastel hope but it is quite a turn-around when viewed through the Zedekiah and Ishmael disasters.
Caleb Nelson: We see first of all the fate of the Judean state. But then we fast forward twenty-five years and see the 55-year-old Jehoiachin released from a Babylonian dungeon and given a seat at the table. What does this mean? Well, we already know that the fate of God’s people depends on the fate of David’s line. And we see very clearly, in history, even in the midst of exile, that David’s line has its head lifted up.
I. (:22-26) APPENDIX #1 –
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE JEWS WHO REMAINED IN JUDAH?
EXILED TO EGYPT AFTER SLAYING GEDALIAH
A. (:22) Feudal Leadership of Gedaliah Appointed in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar
“Now as for the people who were left in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, he appointed Gedaliah
the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan over them.”
MacArthur: In an attempt to maintain political stability, Nebuchadnezzar appointed a governor from an important Judean family. A more detailed account of Gedaliah’s activities is found in Jer 40:7 – 41:18. Gedaliah’s grandfather, Shaphan, was Josiah’s secretary, who had implemented that king’s reforms (22:3). His father, Ahikam, was part of Josiah’s delegation sent to Huldah (22:14) and a supporter of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 26:24).
B. (:23) Fighting Forces Rally Around Gedaliah at Mizpah
“When all the captains of the forces, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah governor, they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, namely, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men.”
MacArthur: Mizpah – Located about 8 mi. N of Jerusalem, Mizpah became the new center of Judah. Mizpah might have been one of the few towns left standing after the Babylonian invasion.
Peter Pett: The ‘captains of the forces’ were commando leaders, either of bands who had hidden in the mountains when Nebuchadnezzar first invaded, or of remnants of the army who had escaped from Jerusalem at the same time as Zedekiah had tried to make his escape, and had taken to the mountains. When they heard that Gedaliah had been appointed governor they came to him in Mizpah, probably hoping for a new beginning. With Jerusalem in ruins and their kings exiled in Babylon there was little left to fight for.
C. (:24) Formula for Peaceful Existence in the Promised Land under Babylonian Rule
“And Gedaliah swore to them and their men and said to them, ‘Do not be afraid of the servants of the Chaldeans; live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will be well with you.’”
Wiseman: Gedaliah swore an oath as part of his undertaking official duties as governor, or gave his word in God’s name that loyalty would ensure safety. He urged acceptance of the judgment God had inflicted on Judah by maintaining a pro-Babylonian policy. Settle down in the land peaceably was also Jeremiah’s message to the exiles (29:4–7). When it is recognized that a foreign ruler has been the divine agent for punishment, such passive resistance is all the more powerful.
William Barnes: The remarkable naivete of Gedaliah is illustrated in more detail in Jer 40:13–16. Josephus (Antiquities 10.9.1.155) notes that Gedaliah had a reputation for being both gentle and generous.
Benson Commentary: Assured them by his promise and oath, that if they would be patient and peaceable under the government of the king of Babylon, and would conduct themselves properly, they should be kept from the evils which they feared. This he might safely swear, because he had not only Nebuchadnezzar’s promise, and interest too, but also God’s promise, delivered by Jeremiah. And it might seem that a fair prospect was now again opening for them. But, alas! This hopeful settlement was soon dashed to pieces, not by the Chaldeans, but by themselves. The things of their peace were so hid from their eyes that they neither knew when they were well, nor would believe when they were told so even by God himself.
D. (:25) Fate of Naive Gedaliah
“But it came about in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck Gedaliah down so that he died along with the Jews and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah.”
MacArthur: Ishmael probably assassinated Gedaliah because he wished to reestablish the kingship in Judah with himself as king, since he was of royal blood (cf. Jer 41:1).
Peter Pett: The main aim of the author was to bring home to us the fact that by this means YHWH was fulfilling His promise that the whole of Judah would be driven from the land.
Wiersbe: Several factors were involved in this vicious assassination plot. To begin with, Ishmael had designs on the throne and resented Gedaliah’s appointment as governor and his submission to the Babylonians (See James 4:1-6) The army officers told Gedaliah that the king of the Ammonites had sent Ishmael to take over the land (Jer. 40:13-16), but Gedaliah refused to believe them. Had Gedaliah listened to this sound advice and dealt sternly with Ishmael, things would have been different for the remnant in Judah, but he was too naïve to face facts. A third factor was the arrival in Judah of a large group of Jews who had fled to neighboring lands (Jer. 40:11-12). Their allegiance was questionable and perhaps they were too easily influenced by Ishmael. All the neighboring nations had suffered from Babylon’s expansion and would have been happy to be set free.
E. (:26) Flight to Egypt to Avoid Babylonian Reprisal
“Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces arose and went to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.”
Wiersbe: In a show of hypocritical piety, Johanan and the leaders asked Jeremiah to seek the mind of the Lord about the matter, and he agreed to do so. The Lord kept them waiting for ten days and during that time proved that He could keep them safe and well in their own land.
Jeremiah’s message to the remnant (Jer. 42:7-22) was in three parts.
– First, he gave them God’s promise that He would protect them and provide for them in their own land (vv. 7-12).
– Then he warned them that it was fatal to go to Egypt (vv. 13-18). The sword of the Lord could reach them in Egypt as well as in their own land. There could be no temporary residence in Egypt and then a return to Judah, for none of them would return.
– Finally, Jeremiah revealed the wickedness in their hearts that led them to lie to him and pretend to be seeking God’s will (vv. 19-22). These leaders were like many people today who “seek the will of God” from various pastors and friends, always hoping that they will be told to do what they have already decided to do.
The Jews rejected God’s message and went to Egypt, taking the Prophet Jeremiah with them (Jer. 43:1-7).
Constable: It is ironic that the Judahites who rebelled against the Babylonians and God’s will in an attempt to secure their independence ended up fleeing back to Egypt. Their forefathers had been slaves there, and God had liberated them from Egypt 850 years earlier (v. 26; cf. Deut. 28:68).
Wiseman: The story of Gedaliah’s assassination here is brief compared with that in Jeremiah 40:13–41:15 which shows that men from Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria were also killed. Such anti-Babylonian direct action inevitably produced reprisals and the people were justly fearful of the Babylonians. The prophet Jeremiah was forced reluctantly into exile in Egypt where Apries (Hophra) was king (24:20). He argued that they were acting against God’s word by leaving (Jer. 42:7–43:7). The Babylonian reaction came in 582/1 bc when Nebuzaradan took away a further 745 Judeans into Babylonian exile and Judah was temporarily made part of the province of Samaria (Jer. 52:30; Josephus, Ant. Jud. x.9.7). The story ends with Judah under Samaria, the old Northern Kingdom which had been the first of God’s people to be taken into exile. The Samaritans were to be constant opponents of the Jews.
II. (:27-30) APPENDIX #2 –
WHAT HAPPENED TO JEHOIACHIN IN BABYLON?
ELEVATED TO POSITION OF FAVOR AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM PRISON
A. (:27) Released from Prison
“Now it came about 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, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he became king, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison;”
MacArthur: The son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach ruled as king of Babylon from 562-560 B.C To gain favor with the Jews, the king released Jehoiachin from his imprisonment and gave him special privileges.
William Barnes: Most commentators suggest a kind of amnesty given to commemorate Evil-merodach’s accession or the like (cf. Cogan and Tadmor 1988:329; Sweeney 2007:469–470).
Matthew Henry: Jehoiachin was released out of prison, where he had been kept 37 years. Let none say that they shall never see good again, because they have long seen little but evil: the most miserable know not what turn Providence may yet give to their affairs, nor what comforts they are reserved for, according to the days wherein they have been afflicted. Even in this world the Saviour brings a release from bondage to the distressed sinner who seeks him, bestowing foretastes of the pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore. Sin alone can hurt us; Jesus alone can do good to sinners.
Caleb Nelson: He is lifted out of the dungeon. What is this but a foreshadowing of the fact that Judah, too, will someday be released from exile? The fate of the nation mirrors the fate of the king. This means that Judah once again has a chance. Judah will not remain in exile forever.
Pulpit Commentary: The writer of Kings, whose general narrative, since the time of Hezekiah, has been gloomy and dispiriting, seems to have desired to terminate his history in a more cheerful strain. He therefore mentions, as his last incident, the fate of Jehoiachin, who, after thirty-six years of a cruel and seemingly hopeless imprisonment, experienced a happy change of circumstances. The king who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar, his son, Evil-Merodach, in the first year of his sovereignty had compassion upon the miserable captive, and releasing him from prison, changed his garments (ver. 29), and gave him a place at his table, among other dethroned monarchs, even exalting him above the rest (ver. 28), and making him an allowance for his support (ver. 30). This alleviation of their king’s condition could not but be felt by the captive Jews as a happy omen – a portent of the time when their lot too would be alleviated, and the Almighty Disposer of events, having punished them sufficiently for their sins, would relent at last, and put an end to their banishment, and give them rest and peace in their native country.
B. (:28-30) Restored to Position of Favor as an Encouragement to God’s People
1. (:28a) Kind Words
“and he spoke kindly to him”
Constable: God is faithful to His promises. God’s mercy to His people is one of the persistently recurring motifs in Kings. The way was now open for return and restoration, which we read about in Ezra and Nehemiah (cf. 2 Chron. 36:22- 23; Ezra 1:1-4).
2. (:28b) Elevated Prestige and Authority
“and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon.”
3. (:29a) Changed Condition
“And Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes,”
Caleb Nelson: The new clothes symbolize a changed condition. Like Joseph, Jehoiachin no longer belongs in prison. Isaiah had used this clothing symbolism a century before, speaking of the garments of salvation with which God would clothe His people during the second exodus. Brothers and sisters, each additional detail only highlights the deeper reality that God will act to lift His people’s head.
4. (:29b) Place at the King’s Table
“and had his meals in the king’s presence regularly all the days of his life;”
Caleb Nelson: Jehoiachin is also given a place at the table, eating before the king. He is not an equal with the king of Babylon, of course, but he is recognized as dwelling in the same social orbit. No longer is he scum beneath the boot heels of the Babylonian monarch.
5. (:30) Lifelong Provision
“and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life.”
MacArthur: This good word from the king of Babylon to the surviving representative of the house of David served as a concluding reminder of God’s good Word to David. Through the curse of exile, the dynasty of David had survived. There was still hope that God’s good Word to David concerning the seed who will build God’s temple and establish God’s eternal kingdom would be fulfilled (cf. 2Sa 7:12-16). The book of 2 Kings opened with Elijah being carried away to heaven, the destination of all those faithful to God. The book ends with Israel, and then Judah, being carried away to pagan lands as a result of failing to be faithful to God.
Dale Ralph Davis: I think verses 27–30 point not merely to a general hope about the survival of the people but to a focused hope about the line of David. More ‘nuanced’ scholars will raise eyebrows. But I think the writer probably had a reason for twice dubbing Jehoiachin ‘king of Judah’ in verse 27. And even when Yahweh was ready to rip the Davidic kingdom apart, he clearly told Jeroboam, ‘I will afflict the seed of David on account of this—only not all the days’ (1 Kings 11:39). It seems to me a text like that stands behind a passage like this. Or one could simply say that Yahweh’s 2 Samuel 7 word is not something either Babylon or apostate Judah can falsify. It seems to me then that biblical theology would lead us to see a ray of hope in this kindness done to the exiled Davidic king.
William Barnes: in this final appendix to this long and involved history of God’s people, we are reminded that one era may be over but another lies ahead. And as I so often have noted throughout this commentary, the Davidic hope still lives! And all peoples on earth will eventually be blessed by that wonderful fact. To God be the glory!
August Konkel: There are also a number of comparisons that can be made with Mephibosheth. Both have a place at the king’s table (cf. 2 Sam. 9:7, 11, 13) and both suffer a disability (cf. 4:4; 9:3, 13). The fate of Saul’s house seems to be recalled at the end of the Davidic dynasty in the tearing apart of the kingdom (1 Sam. 15:28; 28:17; 1 Kings 14:8; 2 Kings 17:21). Both Mephibosheth and Jehoiachin seem to represent a dynasty that survives, though incapable of functioning as a royal order. The parallels to Mephibosheth suggest that Jehoiachin is testimony to the survival of Israel, even in exile. . .
Faith and promise are preserved among the exiles in Babylon, where the temple vessels, the king, the priests, and other leaders are located. Hope is found among those whose trust is in the God of the covenant; the One who redeemed them from Egypt can also bring them back from Babylon.