Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him.2 Kings 24:1. Nebuchadnezzar … came up] We learn from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 46:2) that Pharaoh-nechoh was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at the Euphrates near Carchemish in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. The Egyptian king had probably left his army at Carchemish on his own return to Egypt. After routing the Egyptian force the king of Babylon came forward to attack those lands which had submitted to Pharaoh, Judah among the rest.
Nebuchadnezzar was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, who founded the Babylonian Empire. It was while Nebuchadnezzar was engaged in this expedition against the Egyptians and their allies that he was recalled to take the throne of Babylon. He had been acting as general for his father, though to the Jewish mind he would appear as king of Babylon, especially as he so soon after became in reality king and was made known to them as such by terrible experience.
Jehoiakim became his servant three years] i.e. He undertook to pay a certain yearly tribute to Babylon. The conqueror appears also to have carried off captives from Jerusalem, for it was at this time that Daniel and his companions were taken away (Daniel 1:1). It would seem from the history in 2 Chronicles 36:6 that Nebuchadnezzar’s intention had been to take Jehoiakim away, for it is stated that he ‘bound him in fetters to carry him to Babylon’. See on this also the language of Ezekiel 19:9. But by some means he was maintained on his throne. After three years of vassalage, however, he rebelled, probably thinking that he could get help from Egypt.
And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets.2. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees] R.V. Chaldæans. The bands were irregular marauding parties which were allowed, perhaps encouraged, to overrun the country of the rebellious vassal before the great king could put his trained force in motion. These marauders did not consist only of Babylonians (Chaldæans) but comprised also bodies from the surrounding people, Syria, Moab and Ammon, whom Nebuchadnezzar had compelled to acknowledge the supremacy of Babylon in the same way as Judah had done. On this mixed army of assailants cf. Jeremiah 25:9.
according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by [R.V. by the hand of] his servants the prophets] Much more stress is laid in Kings on the judgement being Jehovah’s work than in Chronicles. ‘The Lord sent the bands’, they came ‘according to the Lord’s word’ and ‘at His commandment’. The prophets had been predicting judgements to come ever since the days of Ahaz, when Isaiah prophesied. Jeremiah says, in the chapter just quoted (2 Kings 25:3), that his own appeals had been long and unavailing. A special prophecy of Isaiah concerning these events is found above (2 Kings 20:17).
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;3. for the sins of Manasseh] See above on 2 Kings 23:26. The fifty-five years of Manasseh’s rule sealed the nation’s fate.
And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.4. which [R.V. and] the Lord would not pardon] The example, set for so long a time, had so penetrated the national character, that Jehovah, who multiplies His pardon (Isaiah 55:7), could bear with the transgressions no longer. We gather from Chronicles that Jehoiakim did evil like his predecessors. His abominations that he did, and that which was found in him (probably meaning, the evil found in his ways), were written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?5. the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim] One of the most conspicuous acts of Jehoiakim’s impiety was the burning of Jeremiah’s roll of prophecies (Jeremiah 36), and the way in which evil-doing had made men callous is expressed in the prophet’s narrative: ‘Yet they were not afraid nor rent their garments, neither the king nor any of his servants’. So the prophecy of the Lord against Jehoiakim was, ‘He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David’. In another place Jeremiah foretells (2 Kings 22:18-19) the fate which shall befall him. ‘They shall not lament for him … he shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem’. And in another passage, ‘His dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat and in the night to the frost’. The evil and self-indulgent character of Jehoiakim is abundantly set forth in Jeremiah 22:11-17.
So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.6. Jehoiakim slept with his fathers] How the violent death which the prophet foretold came about the history makes no record. Whether he fell in fight with the numberless invaders, or, as seems suggested by the form of the prophecies quoted in the previous note, was slain by his own subjects and his body cast forth from the city we cannot decide. No mention is made of any burial.
And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.7. the king of Egypt came not again any more] The whole Asiatic possessions of Egypt had been conquered by the Babylonians, who now become the prominent heathen people in the Scripture story.
from the river [R.V. brook] of Egypt] This is not the Nile, but the modern Wadi El Arish, a desert stream toward the border of Egypt. See note on 1 Kings 8:65 for its identification.
Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.8–17. Reign of Jehoiachin. Capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Plunder and captives carried away: Zedekiah made king of Judah (2 Chronicles 36:9-10)
8. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old] The Chronicler says eight. The letter which is required to make the difference is the smallest in the Hebrew alphabet, and may easily have fallen out by a slip of the copyist. That ‘eighteen’ is the correct number may be concluded because (see verse 15) Jehoiachin had wives, which would hardly be the case at eight. To the ‘three months’ of the king’s reign here set down, the Chronicler adds ‘and ten days’, probably having before him a precise record. Though after the last reign we come no more upon quotations from the chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah. Jehoiachin is called Jeconiah in Jeremiah 24:1, and Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28. For the double form compare Oshea and Jehoshua (Numbers 13:16).
Elnathan of Jerusalem] Almost certainly the same person who is called ‘Elnathan the son of Achbor’ (Jeremiah 26:22) and who was sent by Jehoiakim with a party of men into Egypt to fetch thence Urijah the prophet, whom Jehoiakim caused to be put to death. The name also occurs among the princes in the account of Jeremiah’s roll (Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:25). He was one of those who made intercession with the king not to burn it.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.10. the servants of Nebuchadnezzar … came up against [R.V. to] Jerusalem] There is no preposition in the Hebrew, only the accusative of direction. On ‘servants’ see note on 2 Kings 5:13.
And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.11. Nebuchadnezzar came against [R.V. unto] the city, and his servants did besiege [R.V. were besieging] it] Here a preposition is expressed, and the latter clause of the verse indicates that the siege had begun before Nebuchadnezzar came thither in person.
And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.12. Jehoiachin … went out to the king of Babylon] He did as Rab-shakeh invited the people to do on a former occasion (2 Kings 18:31) ‘Come out to me.’ This was to submit himself to Nebuchadnezzar, and in the hope of making an impression on the Babylonian king, Jehoiachin goes, taking with him the queen-mother, and all his chief men. On the influential position occupied in many Eastern states by the queen-mother, see note on 1 Kings 2:19.
in the eighth year of his reign] i.e. Of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. We know from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1) that the fourth year of Jehoiakim was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. So the time just admits of the three months’ reign of Jehoiachin, as his father reigned eleven years (Jeremiah 23:36). In connexion with this captivity should be read the prophecy of Jeremiah 24 where under the type of good and bad figs, he speaks of the fate of the two sorts of people, those that are sent into the land of the Chaldæans for their good, and the rest, who like Zedekiah inclined to a league with Egypt. To this time belongs also Jeremiah’s letter to the captives, full of wise advice and comforting promises (Jeremiah 29:1-23).
And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said.13. And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord] According to the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 36:7) some of the vessels of the house of the Lord had been taken to Babylon in the reign of Jehoiakim. With this agrees the notice in Daniel (2 Kings 1:2) where we are told that the vessels were put by Nebuchadnezzar ‘into the house of his god’, or as the Chronicler records ‘into his temple at Babylon’.
and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon … had made] We know from Ezra 1:7-11 that Cyrus gave back to the Jews after the captivity 5400 vessels of gold and silver. We must suppose that the larger portion of these had been taken away at first. This second plundering of the temple appears to have been conducted with much more violence than the former. The verb translated here ‘cut in pieces’ is rendered ‘cut off’ in the account of Hezekiah’s stripping the gold from the temple doors (2 Kings 18:16), and before that (2 Kings 16:17) of Ahaz ‘cutting off’ the borders of the bases. So that here we are probably to understand that Nebuchadnezzar stripped all that was overlaid with gold. That there was a large quantity of gold so used by Solomon we see from the account in 1 Kings 6.
as the Lord had said] Formerly to Hezekiah after his ostentation (2 Kings 20:17).
And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.14. he carried away all Jerusalem] The policy of Nebuchadnezzar was to remove out of the way all those who might be able to organize and plan a revolt when he and his army had departed. Hence all the people of rank, of wealth, and of skill as handicraftsmen are deported, and only the poorest folk left, who had neither knowledge nor means for doing more than work of drudgery. The total number of captives was 10,000. In verse 16 the numbers of some classes are specified, the ‘men of might’ were 7000, and the craftsmen 1000, which leaves 2000 for the royal household and their retainers, and the princes and the others who are spoken of in the general phrase as ‘strong and apt for war’. Such men it would have been dangerous to leave behind. In this captivity the prophet Ezekiel was included. See Ezekiel 1:3.
And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.
And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.17. Mattaniah] He was the brother of Jehoiakim, and as we gather from 1 Chronicles 3:15, he was Josiah’s third son. He is wrongly called ‘the brother’ of Jehoiachin, 2 Chronicles 36:10, unless we accept the word translated ‘brother’ for some general term of relationship and render it ‘kinsman’. Thus Lot is called Abraham’s brother, Genesis 14:16 and Bethuel also in Genesis 24:48. So also in 2 Kings 10:13 ‘the brethren of Ahaziah were not all that king’s brothers’. On the changing of names of persons taken captive or placed in some position of subjection see note on 2 Kings 23:34.
Zedekiah] Both this name and Mattaniah have Jah = Jehovah for their termination. We may therefore suppose that the choice of his new name was left to the Jewish king. Mattan-jah = gift of Jehovah; Zedek-jah, righteousness of Jehovah.
Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:7. Zedekiah king of Judah. He rebels against Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem taken. Zedekiah put to death (2 Chronicles 36:11-21; Jeremiah 52:1-11)
18. Hamutal] See 2 Kings 23:31.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.19. according to all that Jehoiakim had done] For Jehoiakim’s character, see above on verse 5.
For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.20. For through the anger of the Lord it came [did it come] to pass] Still the same language as in 2 Kings 23:27 and in 2 Kings 21:12-14, and all pointing to the evil practices of Manasseh and his times. The picture in 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, sets before us the way in which the evil doings had corrupted all classes. ‘The chief of the priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen and polluted the house of the Lord. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes and sending, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling-place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy’. God was deemed to be specially present in the temple at Jerusalem, hence the captivity was a removal from His sight.
that [R.V. and] Zedekiah rebelled] It is better to translate the conjunction as the mere copulative, putting a strong stop after ‘presence’. There were several stages in Zedekiah’s progress to complete revolt. The Chronicler (2 Chronicles 36:12) says that Nebuchadnezzar had made the new king swear unto him by God, perhaps thinking such an oath would be more binding than if he sware by any other oath. We know (Jeremiah 29:3) that Zedekiah sent an embassy to the king of Babylon, apparently with the desire of getting back the captives who had been taken away with Jeconiah. If this were really his wish it did not succeed, and thus the wish to revolt may have arisen. A little later Zedekiah went himself in the company of Seraiah (Jeremiah 51:59) to Babylon. This was in the fourth year of his reign. Amid all these communications with the conqueror, we learn (Jeremiah 27:3) that messengers came to Jerusalem from the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon, who all seemed anxious to form a league against Babylon. Zedekiah listened to false prophets like Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:1-4), who told him that the yoke of the king of Babylon was to be broken and the captives all to be brought back, and along with them the vessels of the house of the Lord. Disappointed of his petitions, and encouraged by the kings round about him, and by the smooth things he heard at home, Zedekiah revolted, probably refusing to pay the yearly tribute and sending (Ezekiel 17:15) down to Egypt to obtain help in horses and chariots. Presently afterwards the Babylonian armies came once more against Jerusalem.