This is the last of the southern kingdom of Judah. Seven final kings until Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon. While Hezekiah was a very good king who walked in the ways of the Lord and of his father David, his son Manasseh was just the opposite. Scripture tells us he walked in the abominations of the nations, just like Ahaz. And he reigned a long time, 55 years. Manasseh undid all the good his father did and found more ways to disobey the Lord. He practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, consulted mediums and spiritists and even worse, sacrificed his sons in fire worshiping the Canaanite god Molech. The Lord sent prophets to turn Manasseh back to him to no avail. God’s ancient promise never to remove the people of Israel from the land they had inherited was conditioned on their obedience to all the covenant stipulations…law, statutes, and ordinances…to which they had sworn. Manasseh’s behavior greatly jeopardized the presence of the people in the land. The Lord used the Assyrians to discipline Manasseh and the Jews and they carried Manasseh off to Babylon. In his affliction Manasseh implored the Lord and humbled himself greatly before the Lord. The Lord heard him and brought him back to Jerusalem. Then Manasseh knew the Lord was God. When Manasseh returned he built a wall outside the city of David. He put military captains in all the fortified cities. And best of all, Manasseh removed all the foreign gods and idols from the house of the Lord. He also removed all the altars to other gods and tossed them out of the city. All of this was a sign of their conversion and devotion to God. Removing all the high places meant there was only the temple in Jerusalem as a place to worship. When Manasseh died he was buried in his palace. Even though he had truly converted, his prior sin had been so heinous that he was denied burial in the royal cemetery.
Amon was Manasseh’s son and took the throne after his father died. He was as evil as his father had been at first. Amon served all the idols his father had and he did not humble himself…ever…before the Lord. His servants killed him in his own house, perhaps remembering how his father had changed when he turned towards the Lord. The people of the land then killed the people who killed Amon. His son Josiah began to reign. He was eight years old. Eight!!! Even though his father had no regard for the Lord, Josiah not only did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but he also walked in the ways of his father David. Once again the altars to Baal and the Asherah poles came down. Any idol or image was destroyed and he burned the bones of false priests on their altars. Josiah’s purge of the idolatrous cults was not limited to Judah and Bethel but extended from the south…Simeon…to the north…Naphtali.
Josiah’s reformation was one of the pivotal events of Old Testament history, but it was ultimately a failure since the people did not truly change their ways. Josiah wanted to consolidate worship in the temple so that the paganism that had flourished around the high places would be shut down and the religious life of the people would be easier to control. Images and altars were destroyed not only in Jerusalem and Judah but also in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and as far north as Naphtali. Ultimately this movement was top down and had little effect on popular religious practices. In 622 B.C. while the temple was being repaired Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord that had been given to Moses. He gave it to the scribe Shaphan who read it to King Josiah. This caused Josiah to tear his clothes in grief because the Israelites had for generations disregarded God’s laws. Josiah sent a delegation to Huldah the prophetess to inquire of the Lord.
The book of the law of the Lord’s discovery began a great revival in Israel. It was the impetus that began Josiah’s religious revival. Technically this book was the first five books of the Bible but at the very least it included the book of Deuteronomy. The reading of the law of the Lord caused Josiah to judge himself. He humbly confessed that he and the people had neglected God’s commands. After learning more about it’s truths Josiah shared the scripture with others and led them in following it. He has the book read before the entire nation and led the Israelites in recommitting their lives to the Lord though many may have made the commitment never intending to keep that commitment. By the time the book of the law was read the Lord was angry. He had intended to destroy all of Israel but because Josiah humbled himself, the Lord held off on His punishment and Josiah lived out his life in peace. Part of Josiah’s reform included the celebration of the Lord’s Passover. Josiah and his administrators donated large amounts of animals for sacrifice. This became the tradition and that allowed the priests to gain influence and power over the people. There were burnt offerings and thank offerings and peace offerings as well as the Passover. Musicians played and there was worship and praise. It was most unusual to have this combination of festivals and offerings all on the same day. It had been almost 400 years since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings had held so great a Passover in all that time. Josiah was 26 years old in this eighteenth year of his reign.
In 609 B.C. when Josiah was in his thirty first year of his rule and still a young man of 39, Pharaoh Neco II marched his army north to aid the Assyrians in their attempt to hold off the Babylonians. Josiah, in an effort to undermine this force, who were dominant in the region, tried to head Neco off at Megiddo. The Judahite army was soundly defeated and Josiah lost his life. As a result Judah became subject to Neco until 605B.C. when the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians. After Josiah’s death his son Jehoahaz was made king. He only ruled three months and Pharaoh Neco replaced him with Josiah’s oldest son Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was banished to Egypt, where he lived out the rest of his days.
Jehoiakim ruled for eleven years but he changed his loyalty from Egypt to Babylon. He was a trusted vassal of Babylon for three years and then he rebelled against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem to punish him. Nebuchadnezzar bound Jehoiakim to carry him off to Babylon. He did not actually take him away, since Jehoiakim reigned until about 598B.C. He died of natural causes in Jerusalem. But, Nebuchadnezzar did loot the temple of much of its treasure, fulfilling the prophecy made to Hezekiah a century earlier. Zedekiah was Jehoiakim’s brother and Nebuchadnezzar made him king next. That means three of Josiah’s four sons ruled over the southern kingdom of Judah. Zedekiah also rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and like his brother and nephew before him, invited swift Babylonian retribution. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem after a two year siege.
2 Chronicles ends with two important events in Israel’s history. First we see that the Lord sent warnings by messengers, that is prophets, to warn His people to return to Him. But His people ignored and abused the prophets . They mocked the prophets, scoffed at their words and it was clear to the Lord the people did not want to return to Him. So the Lord used the Babylonians as a disciplining rod against His people. Nebuchadnezzar took all the valuable items from Jerusalem, the palace and temple, to Babylon with him. He took the people of Jerusalem and Judah as well. They burned the temple and broke down the city walls. The other event recorded here comes after Cyrus, king of Persia defeated the Babylonians. This occurred in Cyrus’s twelfth year of rule. Cyrus was not only a mighty monarch but he was the instrument God used to deliver His people from exile. He returned them to their land and rebuilt the temple. The next phase of the Jews history follows as we begin out reading of the a book of Ezra.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W