Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE WICKEDNESS OF ITS RULERS. One after the other, the kings of Judah had done evil in the sight of the Lord.
1. They disobeyed God's commands. They imitated the idolatry and the vices of the heathen.
2. They ill-treated God's prophets. When men begin to despise and ill-treat God's messengers, those who are trying to lead them to what is fight, they are blind to their own true interests. The treatment which the Prophet Jeremiah in particular received showed how low in degradation the kingdom of Judah had sunk. After the prophet's fearless denunciations of national sin (Jeremiah 13-19.), Pashur, who was chief governor of the temple, smote Jeremiah, and put him in the stocks, or pillory, that was in the high gate of Benjamin, near the temple, where all men might see him and mock at his disgrace. We have seen how Jehoiakim cut the roll of Jeremiah's prophecies with his penknife, and burned its leaves. Jeremiah's last years at Jerusalem were years of increased suffering and persecution. Zedekiah actually put him in prison. The princes cast him to perish in a hideous pit in the prison-house, where he sank in the mire, but at the intercession of an Ethiopian officer, Ebed-Melech, the king rescued him. Wickedness in high places soon proves to be a nation's ruin.
II. THE CORRUPTION OF ITS PEOPLE. Unhappily, the people were just as corrupt and as godless as their rulers. A nation is responsible for its national sins. The sins of Judah cried aloud to Heaven for vengeance. And in the days of the Captivity they were taught to feel that there is a God that reigneth in the earth. We learn from the fate of Judah and Jerusalem:
1. The danger of forsaking God. They forsook God in the day of their prosperity. And when the hour of their need came, the gods whom they served were not able to deliver them.
2. The danger of disregarding God's Word. How often, in these later years of Judah's history, was the Law of God utterly neglected and forgotten: No life can be truly happy which is not based on the Word of God. No home can be truly happy where the Bible is not read. No nation can expect prosperity which disregards the Word of God.
3. The danger of despising God's warnings. Every message God sends us is for our good. If it is worth his while to speak to us, it is worth our while to listen. Neglected warnings - what guilt they revolve! what danger they threaten. Because I have called, and. ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded... I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." - C.H.I.
I. THE LAST SIEGE.
1. Fatal dates. The days which mark the different stages of this terrible siege of Nebuchadnezzar are minutely recorded and carefully remembered. "The ninth year" of Zedekiah, "in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month," Nebuchadnezzar came, he and his host, against Jerusalem (ver. 1); in the eleventh year of Zedekiah "on the ninth day of the fourth month the-famine prevailed in the city" (ver. 3), and a breach was affected; "in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar," the temple and other buildings were burned by Nebuzar-adan (ver. 8). We have the same careful dating in Jeremiah 39:1, 2; Jeremiah 52:4, 12 (in the latter passage "tenth" for "seventh" as above). These were dates which burned themselves into the very memories of the wretched people crowded in the city, and could never be forgotten. Indirectly they testify to the intensity of misery which was endured, which made them so well remembered. They were observed afterwards as regular days of fasting (Zechariah 7:3, 5; Zechariah 8:19).
2. The enemy without. Nebuchadnezzar's army came up against the city, and closely invested it, building forts against it round about. Ezekiel 21. is a vivid prophecy of what was about to happen. The prophet announces the impending capture of the holy city. A sword was furbished which would work terrible destruction. Ezekiel is directed to mark off two ways along which this sword was to travel - the one leading to Jerusalem, and the other to Rabbath of Ammon. The scene changes, and we see the King of Babylon standing at the head of the ways, deliberating, which one he shall choose. He shakes the arrows, consults images, looks for omens m the liver of dead beasts. The decision given is for advancing first against Jerusalem. Now he is at its gates, and has appointed captains "to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering-rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort" (Ezekiel 21:21, 22).
3. The famine within. For a year and five months the weary siege dragged itself on, the people within well knowing that, when once it was captured, they could expect no mercy. The writings of Jeremiah give us a vivid picture of the city during this period. From the first the prophet held out no hope. When Zedekiah, at the beginning of the siege entreated him, "Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us," Jeremiah plainly told him that the city was delivered to the Chaldeans, and that Nebuchadnezzar would not spare them, "neither have pity, nor have mercy" (Jeremiah 21:1-7). Life was promised, however, to those who should surrender themselves to the enemy (vers. 8-10). This strain was kept up throughout, in spite of imprisonment, threats, and the contrary testimony of false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 32:1-5; Jeremiah 34:1-7; Jeremiah 37:6-21; Jeremiah 38., etc.). At one point an Egyptian army came forth to arrest the Chaldeans, and great hopes were raised, but Jeremiah bade the people not deceive themselves, for the Chaldeans would prevail, as indeed they did, in spite of a temporary raising of the siege (Jeremiah 37:5-11). By-and-by, as in the previous long siege of Samaria by the Syrians (2 Kings 6:24-33), the misery of the people became extreme. The bread was "spent" in the city (Jeremiah 37:21). The Book of Lamentations gives vivid glimpses of the horrors - the young children fainting for hunger at the top of every street (Lamentations 2:11, 19); crying to their mothers. Where is corn and wine? (Lamentations 2:12); and asking bread, and no mall breaking it to them (Lamentations 4:4); the delicately nurtured lying on dunghills (Lamentations 4:5); women eating their own offspring (Lamentations 2:20), etc.
II. THE FATE OF ZEDEKIAH. AS the vigor of the defense slackened, the besiegers redoubled their energies, till, on the ninth day of the fourth month, a breach was made in the walls, and Nebuchadnezzar's princes penetrated as far as the middle gate (Jeremiah 29:1-3). The stages that follow are, as respects Zedekiah, those of:
1. Flight. The besiegers had entered by the north side of the city, and the king, with his men of war, feeling that all was lost, made their escape by night through a gate of the city on the south - " the gate between the two walls, which is by the king's garden" - and, evading the Chaldeans in the darkness, fled towards the Jordan. By a symbolic action Ezekiel had foretold this flight, and the actual manner of the escape, down to its minutest details - a singular instance of the unerring prescience of these inspired prophets (Ezekiel 12:1-16). What the king's thoughts were as he fled that night with beating heart and covered face, who can tell? Jeremiah had been vindicated, and the prophets who had buoyed the people up with so many false hopes were now shown to be miserable deceivers.
2. Capture. The flight of the king was soon discovered, and a contingent of Chaldeans was dispatched in pursuit. It was not long ere they overtook the fleeing monarch, no doubt faint with hunger, unnerved by fear, and exhausted with the miles he had already traversed, unable therefore to make any defense. If his followers made any stand, they were speedily scattered, and the king was taken on the plains of Jericho. His hopes, his plans, his intrigues with Egypt, all had come to nothing. He stood there, a prisoner of the Chaldeans, as Jeremiah declared he would be. It is God's Word that always comes true. Would that Zedekiah had believed it in time!
3. Punishment. The fate which awaited Zedekiah was not long deferred. With his sons, and the nobles who were with him (Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:10), he was taken to Riblah, to have judgment passed on him by Nebuchadnezzar. Little mercy had he to look for from the haughty, infuriate king, who had given him his throne, and whose covenant he had broken, entailing on him the trouble and delay of a sixteen months' siege. Tortures, perhaps, and death in protracted agonies. The wonder is that Zedekiah escaped as mercifully as he did. But his punishment was, nevertheless, heart-breaking in its severity.
(1) He saw his own sons slain before his eyes. It was the last spectacle he ever beheld; for
(2) his own eyes were next put out. Then
(3) he was bound with fetters of brass, and carried to Babylon, where he remained a prisoner all the rest of his life (Jeremiah 52:11; cf. 34:5-8). The nobles of Judah were at the same time slain (Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:10). Life thus ended for Zedekiah when he was yet a young man of little over thirty years of age. His sons must have been mere boys, and their pitiable death would be a pang in his heart greater even than the pain of the iron which pierced his eyes. The joy of life was lost to him, like the darkness which had now fallen forever on the outer world. The dreary living death of the prison was all that was left to him. Miserable man, how bitterly he had to expiate his sin, and mourn over past errors and self-willed courses! Will it be otherwise with those who stand at the last before the judgment-seat of God, if their lives are spent in disobedience? If it was hard to face Nebuchadnezzar when he was "full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed" (Daniel 3:19), how shall men endure "the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16)?
III. JERUSALEM DESTROYED. A month elapsed before the destruction of the now captured city was carried out. It was probably during this interval that Jeremiah composed his passionate and pathetic Lamentations. When at length the work was taken in hand by Nebuzar-adan, an officer deputed for the purpose, it was done with characteristic thoroughness, amidst the glee of Judah's hereditary enemies, whose shouts, "Raze it, ruse it, even to the foundations thereof!" (Psalm 137:7), stimulated the work of demolition. We see:
1. The temple burned. "He burnt the house of the Lord," etc. Thus came to an end the great and beautiful house of God, built by Solomon, consecrated by so many ceremonies and prayers (1 Kings 8.), and whose courts had so often resounded with the psalms and shouts of the multitude that kept holy day (Psalm 42:5). But idolatry and hypocrisy had made "the house of prayer" into "a den of robbers" (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11; Matthew 21:13), and God's glory had been seen by the prophet on the banks of the Chebar departing from it (Ezekiel 11:22, 23). The temple had been the special boast of the godless people. They had trusted in lying words, saying, "The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these" (Jeremiah 7:4). This was to make the temple a fetish, and, as Hezekiah had broken the brazen serpent in pieces when it began to be worshipped (2 Kings 18:4), it had become necessary to destroy the temple also.
2. The buildings burned. "The king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire." When the central glory of the city had perished, secular palaces and houses could not expect to escape. They also were set on fire, and the ruddy blaze, spreading from street to street, would consume most of the humbler houses as well. How faithfully had all this been foretold, yet none would believe it! Literally had Jerusalem now become heaps (Micah 3:12).
3. The walls broken down. "All the army of the Chaldeans... brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about." This completed the catastrophe, made the holy city a heap of ruins, and rendered it impossible for inhabitants any longer to dwell in it. Gedaliah made his headquarters at Mizpah (ver. 23). The center of Judah's nationality was destroyed. Jerusalem had been emptied, "as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down" (2 Kings 21:13). One stands appalled at so complete a wreck of a city which God had once honored by making it the place of his abode, and for which he had done such great things in the past. But the lesson we are to learn from it is that nothing can reverse the action of moral laws. God is terrible in his justice. Though a person or place is as "the signet upon his right hand," yet will he pluck it thence, if it abandons itself to wickedness (Jeremiah 22:24, 28). - J.O.
I. THE PEOPLE CARRIED AWAY.
1. The gleanings taken. Ten or eleven thousand persons had been carried away in the earlier captivity (2 Kings 24:14), including amongst them the best part of the population (cf. Jeremiah 24:3-10). The remnant had since been thinned by famine, pestilence, and war (Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 24:10). On the most probable view of Jeremiah 52:28 ("seventeenth" for "seventh"), a further large deportation of captives - over three thousand - took place a year before the conclusion of the siege. Now there were only the gleanings to take away, and these amounted to but eight hundred and thirty-two persons (Jeremiah 52:29). They were but a small handful compared with those who had perished, but they would comprise all the people of any position and influence. They consisted of those who were in the city, of those who had previously deserted to the Chaldeans, and of the pickings of the multitude outside. The mourning and lamentation occasioned by these captivities is poetically represented by Jeremiah in the well-known description of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, as she sees the long trains defile away (Jeremiah 31:15).
2. The poor left. As before, it was only the poorest of the land, those "which had nothing" (Jeremiah 39:10) who were left behind, to till the fields and care for the vineyards. With the exception of these, the country was depopulated. The best even of this poorer class had been removed in the last sifting of the population, so that the residue must have been poor indeed. They formed but a scant remnant; but even they, as we shall see, were unable to hold together, and were soon to be expatriated, leaving the land utterly desolate.
II. THE BRAZES VESSELS CARRIED AWAY. The temple plunder. The more valuable of the temple vessels had been carried away in the first captivity (2 Kings 24:13), but there remained a large number of articles and utensils of brass, together with some of the precious metals (ver. 15), either formerly overlooked or subsequently replaced. All these had been gathered out before the temple was burnt, and were now carried away as spoil. They consisted
(1) of the two brazen pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which stood in the porch of the temple, and by their symbolical names, "He shall establish," "In it is strength," witnessed to the fact that God's dwelling-place was now established in the midst of his people, and that its stability was secured by his presence.
(2) The bases, with their layers, for washing the sacrifices; and the molten sea for the use of the priests.
(3) The common utensils connected with the service of the altar and sanctuary - pets, shovels, etc. These brazen pillars, vessels, and utensils were the work of Hiram of Tyro, and were wrought with the utmost artistic skill (1 Kings 7:13-51). The pillars were masterpieces of strength and ornamental beauty; the sea and bases were also exquisitely carved and adorned with figures of cherubim, palms, and flowers. They were the pride and glory of the temple, and as mere works of art stood in the highest place.
2. Treatment of the vessels. The more grievous, for the above reasons, was the treatment to which these beautiful objects were now subjected. Not only were they torn from their places and uses in the temple, but they were ruthlessly broken to pieces, that they might be the more easily carried away. Hiram's masterpieces had sunk to the level of common brass, and were treated only as such. The lesser vessels were, of course, taken away whole. What could more significantly tell of the departure of God from his house, the rejection of its worship, and the reversal of the promises of stability, etc., he had given in connection with it, than this ignominious treatment of its sacred vessels. They had, indeed, when his presence was withdrawn, become mere "pieces of brass," as did the brazen serpent of Moses, when men turned it into an occasion for sin (2 Kings 18:4). Their house was left unto them desolate (Matthew 23:38).
III. THE SLAUGHTER OF THE CHIEF MEN. A final act of vengeance was yet to be perpetrated. Singling out a number of the chief men, Nebuzar-adan brought them to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, and there "the King of Babylon smote them, and slew them." The victims were contributed by:
1. The temple. "Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and three keepers of the door."
2. The army and court "An officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king's presence... and the principal scribe of the host."
3. The citizens. "Three score men of the people of the land that were found in the city." All classes were thus represented, and bore their share, in the expiation of the common guilt. The slaughter was no doubt partly intended to inspire terror in those who were left. - J.O.
I. SPACE FOR IMPROVEMENT. "And the captain of the guard," etc. Though we have reason to think that the army of Chaldeans were much enraged against the city for holding out with so much stubbornness, yet they did not therefore put all to fire and sword as soon as they had taken the city (which is too commonly done in such cases), but three months after Nebuzar-adan was sent with orders to complete the destruction of Jerusalem. This space God gave them to repent after all the foregoing days of his patience; but in vain. Their hearts were still hardened. Thus wicked men constantly ignore "things that belong to their peace."
II. SPACE FOR IMPROVEMENT NEGLECTED. "And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war," etc. These men, to whom time had been given to do the work required, day after day neglected it. No effort was put forth to avoid the threatened calamity. It is ever thus. Men are waiting for a more "convenient season." The cry, "Unless ye repent ye shall all likewise perish," was neglected.
III. NEGLECTED SPACE FOR IMPROVEMENT AVENGED. "And Nebuzar-adan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the King of Babylon to Riblah." "Be sure your sins will find you out." "Rejoice, O, young man, in thy youth... but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment."
IV. THE AVENGEMENT OF THIS NEGLECT WAS TERRIBLE IN THE EXTREME. "And the King of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Biblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land." The city and the temple were burnt. The walls were never repaired until Nehemiah's time; and Judah was carried out of their land, etc. The history of this calamity is too well known to record here. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." - D.T.
I. MEN ARE SOMETIMES ELEVATED INTO RESPONSIBLE POSITIONS. Gedalaih, a friend of Jereremiah's, and acting under the prophet's counsel, took the government of Judaea, and fixed his court at Mizpah. He seemed on the whole qualified for the office he assumed. The people committed to his charge were those who were left in the country after Judah had been carried away into Babylonian captivity. They were, perhaps, considered too insignificant to be removed. However, being peasantry, who could till the land and dress the vineyards, he counseled them to submit to his rule, promising them that they should retain their possessions and enjoy the produce of the land. Such was the responsible position to which this Gedaliah was elevated. In every age and land there are some men thus distinguished - men that rise to eminence and obtain distinction and power. Sometimes it may be by the force of their own genius and character, and sometimes by the force and patronage of others. Hence in Church and state, literature, commerce, and art, we have rulers ecclesiastical, political, scholastic, and mercantile. This arrangement in our social life has many signal advantages, although often exposed to many terrible evils.
II. MALIGNANT ENMITY SOMETIMES FRUSTRATES THE PURPOSE OF SUCH MEN. "But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nathaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah." Thus envy is always excited by superiority, and one of the most cruel of human passions terminated the life of Gedaliah and-the purpose of his mission a few brief months after his elevation to office. Envy murdered Gedaliah, and drove back those poor scattered Jews to Egypt, which they loathed. Thus envy is ever at work, blasting the reputations and degrading the positions of distinguished men. "Envy is the daughter of Pride, the author of murder and revenge, the beginner of secret sedition, and the perpetual tormentor of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; a worm, a poison or quicksilver which consumeth the flesh, and drieth up the marrow of the bones" (Socrates). - D.T.
I. GEDALIAH MADE GOVERNOR. It was necessary to appoint a governor over the land, and for this purpose Nebuchadnezzar chose "Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan." The country was desolate, and had been robbed of its chief elements of strength; but, had the people chosen to hold together, they might still have subsisted with a reasonable degree of comfort, and gradually again built up a prosperous community.
1. They had a good governor. Gedaliah was one of themselves, a man of an honorable and godly stock, a sincere patriot, and of a kindly and generous nature. Under his rule they had nothing to fear, and were assured of every help and encouragement.
2. They had a good company.' In numbers the population was probably still not inconsiderable, and it was soon reinforced by many Jews, "who returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah" (Jeremiah 40:12). They mine from Moab; from Ammon, from Edom, and "all the countries," attracted by the prospect of the fields and vineyards which were to be had for the asking (Jeremiah 39:10; Jeremiah 40:11). A number of captains with their men also, who had been hiding in the fields, came to Gedaliah, and took possession of the cities (cf. Jeremiah 40:10). Their names are given - Ishmael, Johanan, Seraiah, Jaazaniah, etc. There were here the elements of a community, which, with proper cohesion, might soon have come to something.
3. They had good promises. To those who came to him, Gedaliah gave ready welcome and reassuring promises. He swore to the captains that they need fear no harm. Let them dwell in the land, and serve the King of Babylon, and it would be well with them. Let them gather wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and dwell in the cities they had occupied (Jeremiah 40:10). It may, indeed, be affirmed that the Bulk of the people now left in the land were better off materially than they had been for some time. Formerly they were poor and starving, ground down by oppression, and many of them bondmen; now they had liberty, land, the choice of fields and vineyards, and the advantage of keeping to themselves the fruits of their labor.
II. GEDALIAH'S MURDER, AND THE FLIGHT UNTO EGYPT. What the people might have come to under Gedaliah's benevolent rule, time was not given to show. It soon became fatally evident that the people were incapable of making the best of their situation, and of working heartily and loyally together for the general good. Among the leaders there was a want of faith, of patriotism, of principle; among the people the sense of nationality was utterly broken. This hopeless want of cohesion and absence of higher sentiment was shown:
1. In the murder of Gedaliah. Turbulent spirits were among the captains, who had no concern but for their own advantage, and were utterly unscrupulous as to the means they took to gain it. Intrigue, treachery, and violence were more congenial to them than the restraints of settled government. One of these captains, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, was of the seed royal, and naturally resented the elevation of a commoner like Gedaliah to the position of governor. Instigated by Baalis King of the Ammonites, he formed a plot for Gedaliah's assassination, and with the help of ten men he secretly carried it out, slaying not only the unsuspicious governor, but all the Jews and Chaldeans and men of war that were with him at Mizpah (cf. Jeremiah 40:13-16; Jeremiah 41:1-3). Ishmael gained nothing by his treachery, for he was immediately afterwards pursued, and his captives taken from him (Jeremiah 41:11-18). What a picture of the wickedness of the human heart is given in his dastardly deed, and in the manner of its accomplishment! Ishmael's moving principle was envy, the source of, so much crime. To gratify a base grudge against one whom he regarded as his rival, he was willing to become the tool of an enemy of his people, to break sacred pledges, to repay kindness with murder, and to plunge the affairs of a community that needed nothing so much as peace into irretrievable confusion. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? etc. (James 4:1, 2).
2. The flight into Egypt. The narrative here only tells that, for fear of the vengeance of the Chaldeans, "all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies, arose, and came to Egypt." From Jeremiah, however, we learn, that first the leaders consulted the prophet as to what they should do, promising faithfully to abide by his directions; that he counseled them from the Lord to abide where they were, and not go down to Egypt; and that then they turned against him - "all the proud men" - and said, "Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there" (Jeremiah 42; Jeremiah 43:1-7). They then took their own way, and compelled Jeremiah and all the people to go with them. Here the same unchastened, wayward, stubborn spirit reveals itself which had been- the cause of all their troubles. Had they obeyed Jeremiah, they were assured that it would be well with them; while, if they went down to Egypt, it was foretold that the sword and famine, which they feared, would overtake them (Jeremiah 42:16), as from the recently disinterred ruins at Tahpanhes we know it actually did. But through this self-willed action of their own, God's Word was fulfilled, and the land of Judah swept clean of its remaining inhabitants - J.O.
I. AS A VICTIM OF TYRANNIC DESPOTISM. He had been in prison for thirty-seven years, and was fifty-five years of age. It was Nebuchadnezzar, the tyrannic King of Babylon that stripped this man of liberty and freedom, and shut him up in a dungeon for this long period of time. Such despotism has prevailed in all egos and lands.
II. As AN OBJECT OF DELIVERING MERCY. We are told that as soon as Evil. Merodach came to the throne on the death of his father Nebuchadnezzar, mercy stirred his heart and relieved this poor victim of tyranny. Corrupt as this world is, the element of mercy is not entirely extinct. This mercy gave honor and liberty to the man who had been so long in confinement and disgrace. Let not the victims of tyranny - and they abound everywhere - despair. Mercy will ere long sound the trump of jubilee over all the land. "The Spirit of the Lord," said the great Redeemer of the race, "is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." - D.T.
I. A LONG CAPTIVITY. "In the thirty-seventh year of the reign of Jehoiachin King of Judah."
1. Weary years. Thirty-seven years was a long time to spend in prison. The king was but eighteen years of age when he was taken away, so that now he would be fifty-five. Existence must have seemed hopeless, yet he went on enduring. He was suffering even more for his fathers' sins, and for the nation's sins, than for his own. Life is sweet, and hard to part with, and the love of it is nowhere more strongly seen than when men go on clinging to it under conditions which might, if anything could, suggest the question, "Is life worth living?' Jehoiachin must have had a stout heart to endure so long.
2. A change of rulers. Nebuchadnezzar at length died, and his son Evil-Meredach ascended the throne. Possibly this prince may have formed a friendship with Jehoiachin in prison, and this may have contributed to sustain the captive king's hopes. A change of government usually brings many other changes in its train.
II. A GLIMPSE OF SUNSHINE AT THE CLOSE.
1. At the close of Jehoiachin's life. The new ruler treated Jehoiachin as a human being, a friend, and a king.
(1) He took him out of prison, charting the policy of harshness for one of kindness.
(2) He set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon. It was a shadowy honor; but is any earthly throne more than a shadow? Evil-Merodach himself kept his for only two years, and was then murdered.
(3) He gave him suitable provision. The ignominy of prison garments was changed for honorable clothing; the scarcity and hard fare of the dungeon was altered for the royal bounty of the king's own table. Jehoiachin, in short, had now everything but freedom. But how much does that mean? He was still an exile. All he enjoyed was but an alleviation of captivity.
2. At the close of the book. It is not without purpose that the Book of Kings closes with this glimpse of brightness. The story it has had to tell has been a sad one - a story of disappointment, failure, rejection, exile. But there is unshaken faith, even amidst the gloom, that God's counsel will stand, and that he hath not cast off his people whom he foreknew (Romans 11:2). Jeremiah had predicted the exile, but he had also predicted restoration after seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; Jeremiah 29:10). That period had but half elapsed, but this kindness shown to Jehoiachin seemed prophetic of the end, and is inserted to sustain faith and hope in the minds of the exiles. The history of the world, like the history in this book, will close in peace and brightness under Christ's reign. - J.O.