KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.” (2 Kings 24:3-4)
These chapters review the events during the reigns of the final four kings of Judah and its last, chaotic years as an independent nation. The text begins with Jehoahaz’s ascent to the throne of Judah, following the death of his father, righteous King Josiah, who was killed in battle. In spite of having a godly father, Jehoahaz immediately reverted to the evil practices of Manasseh, Amon, and other wicked kings of Judah. After just three months, he was forcibly removed from the throne by Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, who had gained control of Judah when he defeated King Josiah.
Pharaoh-necho replaced Jehoahaz with another son of King Josiah, Eliakim, who Pharaoh-necho renamed Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim reigned in Judah for eleven years, and was also ungodly. During his reign, Babylon became the new world power after overthrowing Assyria in 612 B.C. and Egypt in 605 B.C.
Today’s lesson describes the captivity of Judah, which took place in three stages. The first invasion (2 Kings 24:1) took place in 605 B.C. Many people were taken captive to Babylon at this time, including Daniel and the three Hebrew children.
Three years later, King Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and Babylonian control. Judah was left vulnerable to bands of soldiers from the Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, who attacked the weakened nation as a judgment from God for the sins of Manasseh. Jehoiakim died, and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.
In just three months, Nebuchadnezzar again laid siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiachin, being young and inexperienced, responded to the Babylonian assault by surrendering. This second invasion of Judah (2 Kings 24:10) took place in 597 B.C. At this time thousands of people, including the prophet Ezekiel, craftsmen and artisans, strong men of war, and royal personnel were taken captive. Many of the Temple treasures were also confiscated and taken to Babylon, and King Jehoiachin was bound and taken to Babylon as well.
Nebuchadnezzar established Mattaniah, an uncle of Jehoiachin, as king of Judah, and changed his name to Zedekiah. This final king of Judah reigned for eleven years, and continued the evil of his direct predecessors. During his ninth year, the third invasion of Judah took place (2 Kings 25:1-3). Beginning in 588 B.C., the city of Jerusalem was under siege for eighteen months and a severe famine devastated the land. One third of the people died from hunger and plague, and one third died by the sword. In 586 B.C., the city was invaded and all but the very poor were taken captive. King Zedekiah was captured, and he witnessed the slaying of his sons before his eyes were gouged out and he was taken to Babylon in chains. Jerusalem and the Temple were broken down and burned. “The anger of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:20), evoked by the terrible sins of the people, was poured out upon the people of Judah. Their continued refusal to humble themselves before God resulted in their ultimate destruction as a nation.
God’s great desire was for the people of Judah to return to Him, but they persisted in their idolatry and rebellion against Him. Because of that, God’s judgment was ultimately poured out and they were overthrown as a nation.