Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 125. Jehoiachin King Of Judah

Prophets And Kings
Day 125
Jehoiachin King Of Judah

At Jehoiakim's death his son Jehoiachin becomes king.

"Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done." (2 Kings 24:8-9) Jehoiachin has a very short reign but even during that time he is wicked. The Lord said of him through the prophet Jeremiah, "'As surely as I live,' declares the Lord, 'even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on My right hand, I would still pull you off." (Jeremiah 22:24) A signet ring was something a king never parted with. He sealed all his letters and official documents with it. Anything bearing the seal of the king carried all his authority. If he were parted with it, the bearer of the ring could use it with the same authority of the king. For example, Pharaoh gave Jacob's son Joseph his signet ring, meaning he trusted Joseph so much that he could give orders in the king's name. The Lord is so displeased with the character of Jehoiachin that even if he were the signet ring on the Lord's right hand, He would still pull the ring off and cast it from Him. 

The Lord is taking His protective hand off the king and off the nation of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has the Lord's permission to come and conquer them, taking them captive. "I will deliver you into the hands of those who want to kill you, those you fear---Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and the Babylonians. I will hurl you and the mother who gave you birth into another country, and there you both will die. You will never come back to the land you long to return to.'" (Jeremiah 22:25-27) This prophecy comes true in our passage today, "At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner." (2 Kings 24:10-12) I can't help but wonder if the references to Jehoiachin's mother means she was a wicked person. We usually don't read much about a king's mother other than her name and where she was from, but in this case perhaps the Queen Mother was responsible for the godless heart of her son. 

The Lord declared through Jeremiah that Jehoiachin and his children would be cast out of the land and that he would never have a descendant to sit on the throne. (Jeremiah 22:28-30) This too comes true in today's passage because Nebuchadnezzar will appoint a ruler in Jerusalem: the uncle of Jehoiachin, the brother of his father. 

Nebuchadnezzar led at least three campaigns against Jerusalem and Judah before he completely conquered the nation. We saw yesterday he made an incursion against them during the reign of Jehoiakim, making King Jehoiakim his vassal until Jehoiakim rebelled against him. Jehoiakim was then either killed by the Babylonians or by his own people with his body thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem. Scholars are divided on this opinion but I tend to believe Jehoiakim's own people killed him and threw his body over the wall to distance themselves from his rebellion. The body was displayed so Nebuchadnezzar's troops could see the people had rejected their king and were setting up the king's son instead, a young man perhaps easier to control. If the people did kill their own king, it was likely to prevent Nebuchadnezzar from destroying them all for Jehoiakim's rebellion. The first campaign is the one in which many of the best and brightest of Judah were taken to Babylon, including Daniel and his friends Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. 

Today we are reading about Nebuchadnezzar's second campaign. He takes the king and the royal family captive and plunders the temple of the Lord. He also takes captive everyone left in the land whom he considers useful to his kingdom.  "As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans---a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left." (2 Kings 24:13-14) The Lord warned the people in Jeremiah 7 that they were wrong to believe He would not let them be conquered because His temple was there. He said they had made His temple a den of robbers. He was rejecting both them and the house that bore His name because the people were so sinful, so idolatrous, so cruel and oppressive to their fellow man. 

After the second campaign of Nebuchadnezzar we never see the Ark of the Covenant again. But it is not mentioned in any Biblical list of the articles the Babylonians removed from the temple. It's my opinion that it was hidden when destruction seemed imminent. If Nebuchadnezzar cared not for the temple or the consecrated articles used in the services, he would not care for the Ark. It too would have been shattered or burned or even taken back to Babylon and presented to Nebuchadnezzar's gods. It would be bizarre for the men who wrote of the looting of the temple not to mention the loss of their most holy object. The authors take care to tell us what Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple and how he treated those objects. They even count the number of captives taken to Babylon. Would they not mourn the loss of the Ark if it too were captured? In addition, there is no Babylonian record of Nebuchadnezzar taking the Ark, something he would have bragged about had he done it. He may not have known of its existence and if he did he may not have been able to find it. The apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees makes the claim that the prophet Jeremiah hid it in a cave. Others believe it's hidden somewhere underneath the Temple Mount. We may never know and I believe it was God's will for this object to disappear from history. The people were beginning to think of Him as the gods of other nations: a God who lived in a temple or in a box and not the God who spoke all things into existence. They believed He would protect the temple for the sake of His honor and for the sake of the Ark, but He cared nothing about these objects or the sacrifices and offerings people were bringing out of obligation and not out of love and reverence for Him. God wanted their hearts, not their lip-service and their offerings given by the same hands that made offerings to false idols. It was for their own good He removed the temple and allowed the Ark to disappear. They needed to understand He was bigger than those things, bigger than the world, bigger than the universe itself.

"Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king's mother, his wives, his officials and the prominent people of the land." (2 Kings 24:15) The author reiterates the horror of the loss of the royal family and the officials of the land.

"The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans." (2 Kings 24:16) Only the very poor remain and they have no soldiers to defend them and no workers to help make repairs. The entire structure of their society, government, and economy is broken down.

"He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah." (2 Kings 24:17) We find the names of King Josiah's sons in 1 Chronicles 3:15. Zedekiah was the third son, listed by the Chronicler with the name Nebuchadnezzar gave him, not the name his father gave him.

Nebuchadnezzar leaves a ruler in the land whom he believes will remain subject to him, a man who will rule over a small and defeated people, one he feels will not dare rise up against him. Nebuchadnezzar will be wrong about that, for Zedekiah has a rebellious spirit toward his conqueror and toward God. Zedekiah will be the last king of Judah. 

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