Monday, June 13, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 124. Jehoiakim King Of Judah

Prophets And Kings
Day 124
Jehoiakim King Of Judah

Pharaoh Necho took King Jehoahaz captive to Egypt and put his older brother Eliakim in his place, whom he renamed Jehoiakim.

2 KINGS 24:1-7
"Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah; she was from Rumah." (2 Kings 23:36) When the author of 2nd Kings mentions the mothers of King Josiah's surviving sons, we will note that they were not all born of the same mother. In 1 Chronicles 3:15 we find a list of Josiah's sons: Johanan the firstborn (who is never mentioned again and is presumed to have died at an early age), Eliakim (renamed Jehoiakim) who we study today, Zedekiah (who will be king after Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin), and Jehoahaz the youngest who was made king in his father's place but within three months was taken by Pharaoh to Egypt. (Jehoahaz is also known by the Chronicler and the book of Jeremiah as Shallum.) So we see that Josiah, though a godly man, practiced polygamy like David before him. And we know things didn't go so well in David's family. A man can't adequately raise children in multiple households. Rivalry occurs between wives and among children. All sorts of dysfunction occurs in the families of men in the Bible who had more than one wife because this was not God's best plan for marriage. Family dysfunction and the existence of a harem and several separate family units could help explain why Josiah's sons are not faithful to the Lord. They have not spent enough time in their father's presence being taught the ways of the Lord. 

The author says of Jehoiakim, "And he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his predecessors had done." (2 Kings 23:37) Jehoiakim will reign longer than his brother before him but his kingdom will not enjoy the sovereignty or the peace that Josiah's kingdom enjoyed.

For a time Jehoiakim ruled only at the pleasure of Pharaoh Necho of Egypt as his vassal, forced to pay a heavy tribute to Egypt each year. The tribute was raised by levying heavy property taxation on the people of Judah which created a huge burden on the citizens. This was not a happy time in Judah. They are not truly a free people anymore. Their godly king Josiah whom they loved is dead and according to the book of Jeremiah they continue to mourn him, weeping for the good old days. As we studied yesterday, the Lord warned the people to stop weeping for their dead king and weep instead for the trouble that is coming. If they do not repent at the urging of the prophets many of them will perish also. Those who do not perish will be carried to a foreign land whose language they don't even speak. "I am bringing a distant nation against you---an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand." (Jeremiah 5:15) 

Egypt is currently at war with Babylon who has managed to remove Assyria from her status as a world power and is marching on toward domination of the entire area. During the time of Jehoiakim, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeats Pharaoh Neco at Carchemish and Nebuchadnezzar comes and takes Jehoiakim in chains to Babylon for a short time before replacing him on the throne in Jerusalem as a subject of Babylon. After the king is restored to the throne, the prophet Jeremiah sends Baruch to read the word of the Lord aloud to the people at the temple. The officials are frightened when they hear the law, knowing the curses that will fall on them for not obeying it, and in their alarm they decide King Jehoiakim must see the scroll. He reads it and after he finishes each section he cuts it off and throws it in the fireplace. This is how little he reveres the word of the Lord, the word his father lived by. In addition he persecuted the prophets, attempting to have Jeremiah and Baruch killed, but the Lord hid them. Jehoiakim was responsible for the death of the prophet Urijah and possibly many others, for in the Scriptures the Lord condemns the cruelty and bloodshed of Jehoiakim. Had the king listened to any of the prophets and repented, I believe the Lord would have given Judah victory over Babylon and perhaps would have put off judgment during Jehoiakim's reign, but the king remained stubborn and unyielding, determined to reject the God of his father. 

He pays tribute to Babylon for several years until Egypt once again pushes back against Babylon and it briefly appears as though Egypt might gain the upper hand. Jehoiakim takes this opportunity to rebel against Babylon and regain Judah's sovereignty but he is not successful. "During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by His servants the prophets." (2 Kings 24:1-2) The author makes certain we understand that this happens because it's the Lord's will, not because it's Nebuchadnezzar's will. 

It's the Lord's will to bring defeat on Judah because of her sins of idolatry and oppression and injustice. "Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord's command, in order to remove them from His presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive." (2 Kings 24:3-4) A few days ago we talked about Manasseh and how that he himself repented and was forgiven. It's the sinful practices he set in motion, which are still going on, that are not forgiven. During the first half of Manasseh's reign he had many prophets executed, prophets who, if they had been allowed to live, might by their sheer number have been able to convince the people of their sins and turn their hearts back to God. Jehoiakim has the same type of spirit Manasseh originally had, so opposed to the word of God that he wants to kill anyone who speaks of it. Jehoiakim is a ruthless king as Manasseh was before his conversion. Because sin was allowed to gain the upper hand during the years of Manasseh, many people did not truly convert during the reign of Josiah. They obeyed his laws and went to the temple and threw out their household idols, but as soon as ungodly kings reigned again, the people turned back to their old ways. The Lord is going to avenge the innocent blood shed on the streets of Jerusalem. He is going to restore the honor of His name which has been blasphemed and reviled. He is not willing to forgive the death of His prophets, men who stood for the truth even in the face of death, men who were willing to be martyred rather than renounce the name of their Lord. 

God is righteous. Every injustice will be judged someday. Every act of cruelty will be condemned. Innocent blood will be avenged. Sometimes on this earth it seems like justice is a long time coming. Sometimes it never comes. But we can rest in the assurance that there is a Judge sitting on an eternal throne who will face His enemies someday and He will enact the proper penalties. We see things in the news that break our hearts: abuse of children and dependent adults, horrifying neglect, murder of the innocent, the martyrdom of Christians in places of the world where allegiance to Christ carries a death sentence. No matter how many generations pass and whether or not any nation's justice system takes action, God will not forget the bloodshed of the innocent.

"As for the other events of Jehoiakim's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Jehoiakim rested with his ancestors. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 24:5-6) The Bible doesn't specifically tell us about Jehoiakim's death but Jeremiah predicted that his body "will have the burial of a donkey--dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem". (Jeremiah 22:19) Some scholars believe the people of Jerusalem assassinated him and threw him over the wall. Others believe the raiders from Babylon and her allies killed him and threw his body out of the city.

Nebuchadnezzar has been successful in putting down the rebellion of Jehoiakim and the rebellion of Pharaoh, "The king of Egypt did not march out from his own country again, because the king of Babylon had taken all his territory, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River." (2 Kings 24:7)

Judah is on a downward spiral. The prophet Isaiah predicted the rise of Babylon in a time when Assyria dominated the region, in a time when the rise of Babylon seemed impossible, in a time when it appeared the forces of Assyria, Egypt, Israel, and Judah would have easily been able to defeat anyone who came against them. But since Isaiah made his prophecies, Assyria conquered Israel and in turn has been downtrodden by Babylon. Egypt too is beaten down by Babylon and now Nebuchadnezzar crouches at Jerusalem's door. What God has foretold by His prophets, many of them martyred for their preaching, is coming true. We can trust a God who keeps His word, even when that word includes judgment. We can trust a God like this to right all our wrongs.

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