Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.THIRD SECTION
THE MONARCHY FROM THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ TO THAT OF ZEDEKIAH
A.—The Reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah
2 KINGS 23:31–25:7
31Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that his fathers had done. 33And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands [took him captive] at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign1 in Jerusalem; and put the land to [laid upon the land] a tribute of a hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. 34And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there: 35And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh; but he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every [each] one according to his taxation [assessment], to give it unto Pharaohnechoh.
36Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37And he did that which was evil in the sight of 2 KINGS 24:1the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. 2And 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 [devastate] it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by 3his servants the prophets. Surely [Only] at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to [in]2 all that he did; 4And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon. 5Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they 6not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. 7And 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.
8Jehoiachin 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. 9And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that his father had done. 10At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came3 up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. 12And 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 13[the king of Babylon’s] reign. 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. 14And he carried away [captive] all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. 15And 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. 16And 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. 17And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
18Zedekiah 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. 19And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence [.] that [omit that; insert And] Zedekiah rebelled 2 KINGS 25:1against the king of Babylon. And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched 2against it; and they built forts [siege-works] against it round about. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3And on the ninth day of the fourth [omit fourth]4 month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4And the city was broken up [a breach was made in the city], and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden (now the Chaldees were against the city round about [had invested the city]:) and the king5 went the way toward the plain. 5And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. 6So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. 7And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and [he] put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and [they] bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 23:31. Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old. This son of Josiah is called by Jeremiah (22:11) Shallum (שַׁלֻּם), which name, according to Hengstenberg, Keil, and Schlier, is significant, and means: “He who shall be recompensed,” referring to his fate (2 Kings 23:33 and 34). But why should this king be expressly so named when others, as, for instance, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, met with a similar fate (chaps. 24:15; 25:7)? According to Junius, Hitzig, and Thenius, Jeremiah gave him the name Shallum, with reference to his reign of three months (2 Kings 15:13), in the same manner as Jezebel named Jehu “Zimri, murdered of his master” (2 Kings 9:31). But this also is forced and invented. In 1 Chron. 3:15, in the enumeration of the sons of Josiah, he is called Shallum instead of Jehoahaz, but we may be certain that the chronicler did not put in a “symbolical” name, which the prophet only once used with particular significance and emphasis, by the side of three other actual names, and in a dry genealogical list. Shallum was the name which this king actually bore before his accession to the throne. When he became king he received another name, just as Eliakim and Mattaniah did (2 Kings 23:34 and 24:17). Shallum took the name Jehoahaz, i.e., He-whom-Jehovah-sustains. The people made him king in place of his elder brother, and Shallum seemed a name of evil omen, inasmuch as the former king Shallum [of Israel] only reigned for one month. According to Josephus, Jehoahaz reigned three months “and ten days.”
2 Kings 23:33. And Pharaoh-necho took him captive at Riblah in the land of Hamath. וַיַּאַסְרְהוּ is generally translated: he bound him, or put him in bands, but אסר has also “the primary meaning, to make captive, without the notion of fettering, Gen. 42:16” (Gesenius), and, taking into consideration 2 Kings 17:4, this more general signification is here to be preferred.—The city of Riblah (now the village Ribleh) belonged to the district of the Syrian city Hamath at the foot of Mt. Hermon (Antilebanon), on the river Orontes, that is, therefore, on the northernmost boundary of Palestine towards Damascus (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25; Amos 6:14). Riblah lay in a large and fruitful plain on the high-way which led, by way of the Euphrates, from Palestine to Babylon. At a later time Nebuchadnezzar also established his headquarters there (2 Kings 25:6, 20, 21. See Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 323). It can hardly be the same Riblah which is mentioned in Numb. 34:11 (see Keil on that passage). If Necho had already advanced, since the battle of Megiddo in which Josiah fell (2 Kings 23:29), on his way to the Euphrates, as far as Riblah, it cannot be that, during the three months that Jehoahaz reigned, he had also made a detour to Jerusalem and besieged and taken that city. Shalmaneser spent three years in besieging and taking Samaria, which was not so strongly fortified (2 Kings 17:5). Moreover, Necho did not probably “quit the main army without great necessity while it was advancing against a powerful enemy” (Winer). The text says distinctly that he took Jehoahaz prisoner in Riblah and not in Jerusalem, and it gives no support to Keil’s statement, that, while the main army advanced slowly towards Riblah, “he sent a detachment to Jerusalem to take that city and dethrone the king.” In that case he must have captured the king in Jerusalem and not in Riblah. The attempt has been made to sustain this notion that Necho took Jerusalem by a statement of Herodotus (II. 159): μετά τήν μάχην (at Megiddo) Κάδυτιν πόλιν τῆς Συρίης ἐοῦσαν μεγάλην εἶλε. But it is now universally admitted that Κάδυτις cannot mean Jerusalem, but rather that it was some sea-port (cf. Herod. III. 5), although this does not necessarily imply that it was Gaza, as Hitzig and Starke affirm. [It is Kadesh, a city of Syria, on the Orontes, near to Emessa, the ruins of which have lately been discovered.—Lenormant.] We are not told how Jehoahaz came to Riblah, but it certainly was not, as the old expositors supposed, with a large army in the intention of repeating his father’s attempt to arrest Necho’s advance, for the army of Judah had perished in the battle of Megiddo. According to Josephus, who says nothing of any capture of Jerusalem by Necho, the latter summoned Jehoahaz to come to his camp (μεταπέμπεται πρὸς αὐτὸν), and took him captive when he came. This is more probable than that he came of his own accord, “perhaps to seek from the victor the ratification of his election to the throne” (Thenius). However that may be, he was unexpectedly made a captive at Riblah. We may infer, as Ewald does, from Ezek. 19:4, where he is likened to a young lion whom “the nations” had taken “in their pit” (certainly not, therefore, at Jerusalem), that he was “treacherously” bound and carried away captive to Egypt. [See the Supplem. Note below, at the end of this section.]—The words בִּמְּלֹךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָםִ are translated by Keil: “When he had become king in Jerusalem.” That, however, had been said just before in 2 Kings 23:31, and is understood from the connection as a matter of course, so that it would be a mere idle remark. Neither can the translation: “Because he had exalted himself to be king in Jerusalem” (Dereser), or, dum regnaret (Vatablus) be sustained. We must, therefore, adopt the keri מִמְּלֹךְ, as is done by the Chaldee version, the Sept. (τοῦ μὴ βασιλεύειν ἐν ’Ιερουσαλήμ), and the Vulg. (ne regnaret in Jerusalem). This is further confirmed by the parallel passage (2 Chron. 36:3) in which the verse is abbreviated: “And the king of Egypt put him down (וַיְסִירֵהוּ) [i.e., removed him, set him aside] at Jerusalem.” (The Sept. have in that place ἔδησεν which represents the Hebrew of Kings, and they have here μετέστησεν which represents the Hebrew of Chronicles.) In 3 Esra 1:3 also we find: καὶ ἀπέστησεν αὐτὸν βασιλεὺς Αἰγύπτου τοῦ μὴ βασιλεύειν ἐν ’Ιερουσαλήμ. It is not necessary to suppose, with Ewald, that מִמְּלֹךְ was “dropped out” from 2 Chron. 36:3; still less, with Thenius, to read in this place, וַיְסִירֵחוּ instead of וַיַּאַסְרֵהוּ.—And laid upon the land a tribute. The relative amount of the silver and the gold is remarkable, one hundred talents of silver to one of gold, but, as the same figures are given in 2 Chron. 36:3 and in 3 Esra 1:36, we are not justified in changing them, as Thenius does, appealing to 2 Kings 18:14, and adopting the statement of the Sept. that there were ten talents of gold instead of one. It may be that Necho wanted silver, which was rarer in the Orient, or that he did not wish to alienate the country too much from himself by pitiless severity. The entire tribute amounted, according to Thenius, to 230,000 thaler [$165,600]; according to Keil the gold amounted to 25,000 thaler [$18,000], and the silver to 250,000 thaler [$180,000].
2 Kings 23:34. And Pharaoh-necho made Eliakim, son of Josiah, king, &c. After the victory at Megiddo and the death of Josiah, Necho regarded himself as master of the country, and therefore he would not recognize as king Jehoahaz, who had been elevated to the throne by the people without his (Necho’s) consent. Possibly also, as has often been assumed, either the elder brother Eliakim, who had been passed over, had appealed to Necho, or the Egyptian party had, by its intrigues, induced Necho, after setting aside Jehoahaz, to appoint the elder brother, and not a foreigner, for instance one of his own generals. He changed his name, as was the customary sign of subjection and vassalage (2 Kings 24:17; Dan. 1:7). It appears that the choice of a name was left to Eliakim, who only changed—אֶל to—יְהוֹ in the composition of his former name so that its signification: God (Jehovah) will-establish, remained the same. Whether he did this “in intentional contradiction to the humiliation of the royal dynasty of David, which Jeremiah and the other prophets had threatened” (Keil), is very doubtful. Menzel very mistakenly infers that the name Jehoiakim pleased Necho better “on account of the connection with the Egyptian moon-God.”—And took Jehoahaz away, לקח does not mean here: “He had taken prisoner,” any more than it does in 2 Kings 23:30. This much has already been stated in 2 Kings 23:33. It only means that he did not leave him in Riblah where he had taken him captive, but took him away from there (Gen. 2:15). The Sept. and the Vulg. read, instead of וַיּבֵא ,וַיָּבֹא; et duxit, and in Chronicles we find וַיְבִיאֵהוּ, but וַיָּבֹא implies that Jehoahaz came to Egypt before Necho returned thither.—”In 2 Kings 23:35 the details in regard to the payment of the tribute imposed by Necho are given before the history of the reign of Jehoiakim is entered upon, because the payment of that tribute was one of the conditions on which he was elevated to the throne” (Keil). אַךְ = nevertheless, but in order to obtain the sum; he did not pay it out of his own means. He demanded contributions “from each one, even from the humblest inhabitant” (Ewald). This place shows that by “the people of the land” we have not to understand, as Thenius does, the “national militia,” or the “male population fit for war.”
2 Kings 23:36. Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old. He was therefore two years older than Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31), and must have been begotten by Josiah in the fourteenth year of the latter’s age. His mother was not the same person as the mother of Jehoahaz. Rumah, her native place, is probably identical with Arumah in the neighborhood of Shechem (Judges 9:41).—
2 Kings 24:1. In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up. On the name נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּר (Jeremiah generally, and Ezekiel always, writes it נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר), its different forms, and its significance, see Gesenius, Thesaurus, II. p. 840, and Niebuhr, Gesch. Assyr. s. 41. [The name is Nabu-kudurri-uzur, and means either Nebo-protects-the-youth (Oppert), or, Nebo-is-the-protector-of-landmarks (Sir H. Rawlinson)—Rawlinson, Five Great Mon. III. 80.] He was the son of Nabopolassar, and he appears here for the first time in this history. The question as to the time in Jehoiakim’s reign at which he made this expedition can be answered from other data with tolerable certainty. According to Jerem. 25:1, the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign was the first of Nebuchadnezzar, and according to Jerem. 46:2 this fourth year of Jehoiakim was the year in which Nebuchadnezzar inflicted a decisive defeat upon Necho near Carchemish, a large well-fortified city at the junction of the Chaboras and the Euphrates (Winer. R.-W.-B. I. s. 211 sq.). Moreover, according to Jerem. 36:1, Jeremiah commissioned Baruch, in this fourth year of Jehoiakim, to write down his discourses in a book which was read in public on a great fast day which was held in the ninth month, that is, towards the end of the fifth year of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:9). This fast-day was not ordained on account of a misfortune which had already been experienced. “in order, by humiliation and submission, to turn aside the wrath of God, and to implore the divine pity” (Keil), but “evidently, because Jehoiakim was alarmed at the approach of the Chaldeans, and saw in it danger of a calamity to the country which might perhaps yet be averted” (Ewald); for Jehoiakim, when he heard that the book had been read, commanded it to be brought, and then cast it into the fire, because there was written in it: “The king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land” (2 Kings 24:29, cf. also 2 Kings 24:3). At the time of this fastday, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar had not yet come. His coming was something to be looked forward to even in the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim. It follows that his expedition took place, at the very earliest, at the end of the fifth, or at the beginning of the sixth, year of Jehoiakim’s reign. How far southward he penetrated, whether as far as Egypt, as some suppose, is uncertain. The supposition that he at this time captured the strongly fortified city of Jerusalem (Keil), and even took captive a part of the inhabitants of the city or country, as he did at a later time under Jehoiachin, is not sustained by anything in the Book of Kings or in Jeremiah. It is inconceivable that he should have done so and yet no mention of it be found in Scripture. This much only is certain: that Jehoiakim then “became subject to him for three years,” that is, until the eigth or ninth year of his reign (2 Kings 24:1), which may well have come to pass without the capture of Jerusalem, or the deportation of its inhabitants, although we do not know the manner in which it did come about. We have, therefore, to present to our minds the course of events as follows: After Necho had defeated Josiah at Megiddo and taken Jehoahaz captive at Riblah, and had made Jehoiakim king, he pushed on northeasterly towards the Euphrates, but he was met and so severely defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish that he was obliged to give up his plan of conquering Assyria and retreat to Egypt. The victor, Nebuchadnezzar, then advanced through the territory east of Jordan, where he had little opposition to encounter (Knobel, Prophet. II. s. 227), and made the king of Judah, who had for five years been a vassal of the king of Egypt, subject to himself. After three years, however, Jehoiakim revolted, but for the remaining two or three years of his reign he was hard pressed by bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites, who were probably incited to invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, for he was too much occupied in other directions, in consequence of the death of his father, to march against Judah in person. When he found opportunity he appeared in person with an army “to punish the revolt, and he took vengeance for it upon the son [Jehoiachin] who had recently succeeded Jehoiakim” (Thenius), especially because Jehoiachin had not at his accession, immediately submitted to the Babylonian authority.
Against this natural and simple conception of the course of events two biblical texts may be cited. 2 Chron. 36:6 reads: “Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried [some] of the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.” It is not here asserted that Jehoiakim was actually brought as a captive to Babylon, and this can, in fact, hardly have been the fact, for he was king in Jerusalem not eight or nine but eleven years (2 Kings 23:36; 2 Chron. 36:5). It would be necessary, therefore, to assume that he was set at liberty again and came back to Jerusalem as king, of which we have no hint anywhere, and which is highly improbable. Certainly he did not die in Babylon (2 Kings 24:6; cf. Jerem. 22:17–19). The Sept. filled out the meagre story of Jehoiakim in Chronicles from this account, but omitted entirely the words: “And bound him in fetters,” &c., evidently because they considered them incorrect. In view of the remarkable brevity and superficiality with which the chronicler treats the history of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin, it appears, as Hitzig supposes (note on Dan. 1:2), that he confused the two, for, according to our more detailed and more accurate account, the incidents which he mentions as having occurred to Jehoiakim really happened to Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:13–15). Josephus (Antiq. x. 6, 1) seems to have made the same mistake, for he confuses the history of the two kings. He says that Jehoiakim, on the promise that no harm should happen to him, admitted Nebuchadnezzar into the city, but that the Babylonian broke his word and put to death the king and the principal men threw the body of the king under the wall, and left it unburied, took about 3,000 Jews, among whom was Ezekiel, away captive to Babylon, and placed Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, on the throne. Then that, fearing lest Jehoiachin might, out of revenge for his father’s murder, lead the city to revolt, he sent an army to Jerusalem, but gave an oath to Jehoiachin that, in case the city should be taken, no harm should befall him. That then the king of Judah surrendered, in order to spare the city, but was nevertheless taken away into captivity with 10,000 other captives. It appears that Josephus was not able to harmonize the account in Chronicles with the account here, and so he mixed them both up together, not writing history but inventing it.—
The other text which may be cited against the construction of the history above given is Dan. 1:1: “In the third year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem and besieged it (וַיַּצַר [pressed it hard] see Isai. 21:2; Judges 9:31; Esther 8:11), and the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God,” &c. It is true that this passage does not say that the city was besieged and taken, and that then the king was bound and taken away to Babylon. When the Chaldeans had driven the Egyptians out of Palestine, Jehoiakim found himself in great distress, and, in order not to lose his crown and his kingdom, he surrendered to the king of Babylon, gave him some of the temple ornaments and utensils, and, probably enough, also gave him certain hostages, among whom was Daniel. But the statement that this took place in the third year of Jehoiakim does not agree with the statements above quoted from Jeremiah. No one has yet succeeded in removing the discrepancy, although very many attempts have been made (see a critical analysis of these attempts by Rösch in Herzog’s Real-Encyc. XVIII. s. 464). The latest of these attempts, that of Keil, which insists that we “must regard the third year of Jehoiakim, in Dan. 1:1, as the terminus a quo of Nebuchadnezzar’s coming, i.e., must understand that statement to mean that Nebuchadnezzar began the expedition against Judah in that year; that Necho was defeated at Carchemish in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s fourth year, and that, in consequence of this victory, Jerusalem was taken and Jehoiakim was made tributary in the same year,” is unsatisfactory especially in view of Jerem. 36:9. There is scarcely any escape remaining except to assume that Daniel reckoned from some other point of time which we cannot now specify. It is not admissible to give his one statement the preference over the numerous chronological statements of Jeremiah, since these are consistent with one another, and with the historical connection, and are, moreover, as will be shown below in the review of the chronology of this period, in perfect harmony with all the other chronological data both in Jeremiah and in the Book of Kings, while the statement in Daniel, if it is taken as fixed and correct, introduces confusion. [See the Supplement. Note below.]
2 Kings 24:2. And the Lord sent against him bands, &c. It is not stated what impelled Jehoiakim after three years to try to throw off the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps his courage rose again when Nebuchadnezzar had withdrawn and was fully occupied in other parts of his immense kingdom. Perhaps also he hoped for aid from Egypt. Before Nebuchadnezzar himself could come, “bands” (גְּדוּדִים in distinction from חַיִל, 2 Kings 25:1, not an organized army) devasted the country, though they could not take the capital. “All the nationalities here mentioned had no doubt been obliged to recognize Nebuchadnezzar’s supremacy, and they gratified their own hate against Judah at the same time that they served his purposes” (Thenius). The וֹ in לְהֵאַּבִידוֹ does not refer to Jehoiakim (Luther: dass sie ihn umbrächten [that they might put him to death]), but to “Judah” which immediately precedes. This is evident from 2 Kings 24:3. On 2 Kings 24:2–4 Starke observes: “It is expressly said: ‘The Lord sent,’ and again: ‘According to the word of the Lord,’ and in 2 Kings 24:3 again: ‘Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this’ (i.e., it came to pass only because the Lord had commanded it), and again in 2 Kings 24:4: ‘The Lord would not pardon,’ in order that in all this the hand of God might appear and be recognized, and that men might not think that these judgments came upon Judah by accident, or merely on account of the physical strength of the Babylonians.” The author means to say that the judgments which had long been threatened and predicted by the prophets (Isaiah, Micah, Huldah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah) now began. The invasion of all these bands on every side was the presage of the downfall of the kingdom, for from this time on came one misfortune after the other, and the kingdom and nation moved on steadily towards their downfall.
2 Kings 24:3. Only at the commandment of the Lord, i.e., it came only for the reason that God had so willed it. Instead of עַל־פִּי Ewald and Thenius desire to read עַל־אַף as in 2 Kings 24:20, i.e., because of the wrath of God. The Sept. have: πλὴν θυμὸς κυρίου ἦν ἐπὶ τὸν ’Ιούδαν; the Vulg. has: per verbum. The change in the text is not necessary. For the sins of Manasseh, see notes on chap. 21. The sin of Manasseh was far greater and heavier than that of Jeroboam. Judah gave itself up to this sin so entirely that not only were all the warnings and exhortations of the prophets ineffectual, but also the stern measures of Josiah could not effect anything in opposition; on the contrary, as we see from the words of Jeremiah, after his death this sin once more permeated the national life. The sins of Manasseh were not, therefore, avenged upon the people, but, because they persisted in them, they fell under the judgments of God. [That is, the nation was not punished under Jehoiakim for sins which Manasseh and his contemporaries had committed. The “sins of Manasseh” had become a designation for a certain class of offences, and a particular form of public and social depravity, which was introduced by Manasseh, but of which generation after generation continued to be guilty.—W. G. S.] Keil is mistaken when he thus states the connection between 2 Kings 24:1 and 2 Kings 24:2, and the following verses: “After God had given the nation into subjection to the Babylonian supremacy, as a punishment for its sins, every revolt against that power was a revolt against Him.”—In 2 Kings 24:5 we find the last reference to the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah. The history of Jehoiakim therefore seems to have formed the conclusion to this book.
2 Kings 24:6. So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers. The details which are given elsewhere in mentioning the death of a king, as to his burial and the place of his sepulture, are here wanting, certainly not through accident or error. Jeremiah says of Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 22:19: “He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem,” and, 2 Kings 36:30 “He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat and in the night to the frost.” As the statement that he “slept with his fathers” means neither more nor less than that he came to death, this text does not exclude or deny the fulfilment of the prophecy; nor can the statement which is interpolated in the Sept.: καὶ ἐκοιμήθη ’Ιωακεὶμ μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ ἐτάφη ἐν γανοζὰν μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἑαυτοῦ, for which there are no corresponding words in the Hebrew, avail, as Thenius believes, to prove the non-fulfilment of the prophecy. On the contrary, Ewald infers from the prophecy, which, however, he says “was written, in its present form, after the event,” that the following is the circumstantial story of Jehoiakim’s death: “Probably he had complied with a treacherous invitation of the enemy to visit his camp, for the purpose of making a treaty, and as soon as he came out he was taken prisoner in the very sight of his own capital. But as he resisted with rage and violence, he was borne away by force, and shamefully put to death. Even an honorable burial, for which his family no doubt entreated, was harshly refused.” This representation of the incident goes beyond the prophecy even, and builds history upon it. Winer supposes that Jehoiakim’s body was thrown out after, and in consequence of, the capture of the city in the reign of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:10), “on which occasion either the enemy, or perhaps the inhabitants of Jerusalem themselves, showed their rage against the hated king,” but, according to Jeremiah, he met with no burial at all. We therefore limit ourselves to the assumption, which is also made by Keil, “that he perished in a battle with some one of the irregular marauding bands mentioned above, and was not buried.”
2 Kings 24:7. And the king of Egypt came not again any more, &c. This remark is here inserted in order to show under what circumstances Jehoiachin succeeded his father (2 Kings 24:6), and how it came that he only reigned for so short a time (2 Kings 24:8). Necho had retired finally from Asia after such losses that he could not venture again to meet his victorious enemy, therefore Judah could expect no more support from him. Much less could it attempt alone to resist the conqueror from whom it had revolted. The river of Egypt is not the Nile, but the stream now known as Arish, which forms the southern boundary of Palestine (1 Kings 8:65; Isai. 27:12).
2 Kings 24:8. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old, &c. The form of the name יְהוֹיָכִין which occurs here and in Chronicles (II. 36:8, 9), is the full and original form. The signification is “He-whom-Jehovah-confirms.” In Ezek. 1:2 we find יוֹיָכִין; in Jer. 27:20; 28:4: יְכָנְיָהוּ; and in Jer. 22:24, 28: בָּנְיָהוּ, which last is probably a popular abbreviation of the name. Instead of eighteen years the chronicler gives eight years, evidently through an omission of י = 10. The grounds adduced by Hitzig (note on Jer. 22:28) in favor of eight are swept away by ver 15 of this chapter, where the king’s “wives” are mentioned. There is no reason to cast suspicion upon the more accurate statement of the chronicler: “three months and ten days,” as Thenius does. Elnathan belonged to the שָׁרִים at the court of Jehoiakim, Jerem. 26:22; 36:12, 25.
2 Kings 24:10. At that time, &c. The chronicler says instead: “When the year was expired” [more correctly it would read: “At the turning-point of the year,” i.e., either the spring equinox, or the beginning of the Jewish year, both of which came at nearly the same time; the time at which military movements were commenced], i.e., in the spring, not “late in the summer or in the autumn” (Thenius). Nebuchadnezzar sent out his generals (עֲבָדִים), in the first place, with the army to besiege the city. Afterwards he came himself, in order to be present at the capture (see notes on 2 Kings 24:2).—And Jehoiachin, king of Judah, went out, &c., 2 Kings 24:12. יָצָא, as in 2 Kings 18:31, is the ordinary expression for besieged who go out to surrender to the besiegers (1 Sam. 11:3; Jerem. 21:9; 38:17). Jehoiachin perceived that the city would not be able to hold out very long, and therefore determined to surrender, in the hope of meeting with grace from Nebuchadnezzar, and of being allowed to keep his kingdom, though as a vassal. He therefore went out with his mother as the Gebirah (1 Kings 15:13), and with his ministers and officers, but his hopes were all disappointed. Nebuchadnezzar distrusted him, not without reason, and he desired to punish the father in the son. וַיִּקַּח, he seized him, not “he received him graciously” (Luther and the Calw. Bib.), for, if the latter were the meaning, he would have restored him as a vassal, but he dethroned him and took him into exile. The eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, who became king in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 25:1), fell in the year after the eleven-year reign of Jehoiakim had closed. On Jerem. 52:28 sq. see below.
2 Kings 24:13. And he carried out thence, &c., that is, from the city which he had entered after seizing the king and his chief men. In the first place he took all there was in the treasuries of the temple and the royal palace, and then he took the utensils of the temple. The meaning of וַיְקַצֵּץ is not altogether clear. “To tear off the gold surface” (Keil) is a meaning which is not applicable to “all the vessels,” for many of these were entirely of gold, as, for instance, the candlesticks, and such, we may be sure, he did not leave behind. The Sept. have συνέκοψε, the Vulg. concidit or confregit (2 Kings 18:16), hence Thenius renders it: “to crush into shapeless masses,” but, if this had been done, Cyrus would not have been able to give these articles back again to the Jews, as it is stated in Ez. 1:7–11 that he did do. We must understand it to mean, to tear away violently, avellit (Winer), for the most of these articles were no doubt fastened to the floor of the temple. הֵיכָל does not mean the temple as a whole, but the sanctuary, the “dwelling,” all the articles in which were of gold. Nebuchadnezzar did not take away the brazen vessels from the forecourt until he destroyed Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:13 sq.).—As the Lord had said, 2 Kings 20:17; cf. Jerem. 15:13; 17:3.
2 Kings 24:14. And he carried away captive all Jerusalem. He left only the poorest and humblest of the population, because nothing was to be feared from them (see Jerem. 39:10: “the poor of the people which had nothing”). 2 Kings 24:14 states in general, and in round numbers, what persons were taken into exile. There were two classes: first, the שָׂרִים, the chiefs [E. V. “princes”], not the military chiefs, but the chief men of rank, the nobles, and the גִּבּוֹרֵי הַחַיִל, i.e., the mighty men of wealth, the rich (2 Kings 15:20); and second, הֶחָרָשׁ, the artisans, the workers either in brass, or iron, or wood (Isai. 44:12, 13; Gen. 4:22; 1 Kings 7:14), and הַמִּסְגֵר, i.e., not “common laborers who broke stone and carried burdens” (Hitzig on Jerem. 24:1), but, literally, one who shuts in, encloses, or locks up, from סגר, to close, or shut up, and so, according to Ewald: “persons who are skilled in siege operations (from הסגיר, to invest or enclose, cf. Jerem. 13:19),” but we prefer to understand by it locksmiths, inasmuch as these also made weapons (1 Sam. 13:19). When these persons were taken away into captivity the rest were deprived of the power to revolt or to make war. There were in all ten thousand of the exiles. 2 Kings 24:15 and 16 are not a mere repetition of 2 Kings 24:14; they particularize what 2 Kings 24:14 stated in general. The king and his court are mentioned first, then the אוּלֵי הָאָרֶץ (keri, אֵילֵי), that is, the mighty men of the land, who are included in the שָׂרִים in 2 Kings 24:14, then the אַנְשֵׁי הַחַיִל, who are there called גִּבּוֹרֵי הַחַיִל. There were seven thousand of the rich and noble, and one thousand of the two classes of artisans. הַכֹּל in 2 Kings 24:16 (not וְכֹל) “gathers in one all who have been mentioned, and it is then specified in regard to them that they were all men in the prime of life, and that they were familiar with the use of weapons” (Thenius). We see from Jerem. 29. that there were also priests and prophets among them, and according to Josephus, (Antiq. x. 6, 3) especially ὁ προφήτης ’Ιεζείλος παῖς ὤν. Cf. Ezek. 1:1–3. 2 Kings 24:17. Mattaniah was, according to 1 Chron. 3:15, the third son of Josiah, so that he was the uncle of the exiled king Jehoiachin (Jerem. 37:1). אָחִיו, 2 Chron. 36:10, must not, therefore, be translated: “his brother,” but: “his cousin,” or, “his relative,” a sense in which it frequently occurs. (Sept. ἀδελφὸν τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ). On the change of name see notes on 2 Kings 23:34. Nebuchadnezzar did not choose the name, he only approved of the new name chosen by the king, as Necho had done in the case of Jehoiakim. מַתָּן, gift, is changed to צֶדֶק, justice, righteousness, so that the name means: “the righteousness of Jehovah,” that is, “he by whom Jehovah executes justice.” It is hardly probable that the king meant by this name to identify himself with יְהוָֹה צִדְקֵנוּ promised by Jeremiah (23:6), as Hengstenberg and Von Gerlach think; it is much more likely that the prophet took occasion from the king’s name, with which his character did not at all correspond, to promise that one should come to whom alone this name might justly be applied.—Nebuchadnezzar showed himself merciful in that he put another member of the native dynasty on the throne, and did not appoint a stranger and foreigner as viceroy.
2 Kings 24:18. Zedekiah was twenty and one years old. Of the passage from this verse on to the end of the book, Jerem. 52:1–34 is a duplicate, almost word for word. The only differences are that Jerem. lacks 2 Kings 25:22–26, and 2 Kings lacks Jerem. 52:28–30. It follows that neither one is borrowed from the other. Moreover there are also a few other slight differences, as, for instance, 2 Kings 25:16, 17 compared with Jerem. 52:20–23. It is certain that the fifty-second chapter of Jeremiah is an appendix to the discourses of that prophet, and that it does not come from his hand, for it is impossible that he should have survived the liberation of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:31). (See the Introd. § 1.) Although it is not true that the text in Kings is “thoroughly corrupt” (Hitzig), yet that in Jerem. is, on the whole, to be preferred, and is therefore the more original. On the other hand, that of Kings has some peculiar excellences, as, for instance, 25:6, 7, 11, 17 compared with Jerem. 52:9, 10, 15, 20. We are driven to a conclusion similar to that which we reached in regard to the history of Hezekiah (see p. 201), and which is adopted also by Keil and Thenius, that both narratives were borrowed from one source which is now lost.—The mother of Zedekiah was also, according to 2 Kings 23:31, the mother of Jehoahaz; he was, therefore, the full brother of the latter, and the step-brother of Jehoiakim (23:36). On 2 Kings 24:20 see notes on 24:3. The author means to say that, as this king and the people persisted in their evil ways, the judgment which had long been threatened was executed in this reign. The special occasion of it was his revolt from Nebuchadnezzar who had put him upon the throne, and, according to 2 Chron. 36:13 and Ezek. 17:13, had taken an oath of fidelity from him. The year of this revolt cannot be accurately determined. At the commencement of his reign he sent an embassy to Babylon, as it seems, in order to bring about the release of the captives who had been carried away under Jehoiachin (Jerem. 29:3 sq.). In his fourth year he himself went thither with Seraiah, probably with the same intention, but in vain (Jerem. 51:59). Then came ambassadors from the neighboring peoples who wanted to unite with Zedekiah in a common effort to cast off the Babylonian yoke (Jerem. 27:3). False prophets encouraged him to agree to this (Jerem. 28). This led him to send to Egypt “that they might give him horses and much people” (Ezek. 17:15). As the Chaldean army was before Jerusalem in Zedekiah’s ninth year, the revolt must have taken place, at the latest, in his eighth year, but it probably took place in his seventh, or perhaps even earlier.
2 Kings 25:1. And it came to pass in the ninth year, &c. These dates can be given thus accurately to the month and the day, because the Jews were accustomed during the exile to fast on the anniversary of these days of disaster (Zach. 7:3, 5; 8:19). It is evident from 2 Kings 25:6 that Nebuchadnezzar did not come to Jerusalem himself, but remained at Riblah (2 Kings 23:33), and sent his army from thence against Jerusalem. According to Jerem. 34:7 they also besieged Lachish and Azekah, the only two strongholds remaining. The word דָּיֵק cannot mean a “wall” (De Wette), for it stands in contrast with סֹלְלָה as something different (Ezek. 4:2; 17:17; 21:27). It is ordinarily derived from דּוּק speculari, to observe, to watch, and is understood to mean a “watch-tower,” or, collectively, “watch-towers” (Hävernick on Ezek. 4:2; Gesenius, Keil), but סָבִיב, which does not refer to observation but to an encircling on all sides, does not fit this meaning. The Sept. translate it in Ezek. 4:2, by προμαχών, a bulwark, a rampart, in Ezek. 17:17; 21:27 by βελόστασις, a machine for throwing missiles, and this place they translate: περιῳκοδόμησεν ἐπ’ αὐτὴν τεῖχος κύκλῳ; the Vulg. has munitiones. Hitzig understands by it “lines of circumvallation,” and Thenius “the outermost of the siege lines, built only of palisades, and intended to prevent the introduction of supplies,” &c., but this last cannot be so accurately determined. We must, therefore, content ourselves with the less definite meaning, “bulwark,” or, “siege-work.” Vatablus: Machinam bellicam, qualisqualis fuerit.
2 Kings 25:2. Unto the eleventh year, &c. The siege lasted in all one year five months and twenty-seven days, for the city was very strongly fortified (2 Chron. 32:5; 33:14). This is conclusive against the assumption that a capture of the city is implied in 24:1 sq. According to Jerem. 37:5, 11, the besieging army, or at least a part of it, raised the siege and marched against the Egyptian army which was coming to the help of the Jews. It would thus appear that the siege was interrupted for a time.—Jeremiah gives the date in 2 Kings 25:3 more accurately (see Jerem. 39:2, and 52:6): “In the fourth month, on the ninth [day] of the month.” The first words בַּחֹרֶשׁ הָרְבִיעִי have been omitted by some accident in the version, in Kings, and they must be supplied. How severe the famine was, and what horrors came to pass as a consequence of it, may be seen from Lament. 2:11, 12, 19; 4:3–10 (Ezek. 5:10; Baruch 2:3). See also Jerem. 37:21. The famine did not begin on the ninth of the fourth month, but had become so severe at that time that the people were no longer capable of making a strong resistance; so on that day the enemy was able to storm the city.
2 Kings 25:4. And a breach was made in the city. This breach was on the north side, for, according to Jerem. 39:3, the leaders of the Chaldean army, when they came in, halted and seated themselves in “the middle gate,” that is, in the gate which was in the wall between the upper, southern city (Zion), and the lower northern city, and which led from one of these into the other. When the king learned of this he took to flight with his warriors by night. In the text before us not only is “Zedekiah, king of Judah” (Jerem. 39:4) omitted after הָעִיר, but also the predicate יִבְרְחוּ וַיֵּצְאוּ (Jerem. 39:4; 52:7) is omitted after “men of war.” All the old versions supply at least one of these words. They fled towards the south, because the enemy had penetrated by the north side, and there was no hope of escaping that way, but even on this side they had to fight their way through, for the Chaldeans had invested the entire city (סָבִיב). The attempt derived its only hope of success from the darkness, and from the greater weakness of the besieging force on the south side.—By the way of the gate between, &c. This gate, called the gate of the fountain (Nehem. 3:15), was at the southern end of the ravine between Ophel and Zion, the Tyropoion. At this point, inasmuch as it was the site of the pool of Siloam and there were cisterns to be protected, and inasmuch also as the formation of the ground made it a convenient place for the enemy to attack (Thenius), two walls had been built, between which was this gate (Sept.: ὀδὸν πύλης τῆς ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν τειχῶν, and in Jerem. 52:7: ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ τείχους καὶ τοῦ προτειχίσματος. This double wall is also mentioned in Isai. 22:11. The way of the gate is the way through that gate out of the city. It is not quite certain whether the king’s garden was inside or outside of this double wall; Thenius assumes that it was outside (see Map of Jerusalem Before the Exile, appended to his commentary). It is said in Ezek. 12:12: “The prince … shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth; they shall dig through the wall (בַקִיר) to carry [him] out thereby.” Here קִיר cannot be understood to refer to either of those walls, for he went through the gate; moreover it would have been impossible to break through such a wall in the night. We must therefore understand it of that wall which the enemy had built all around the city (2 Kings 25:1), and which it was necessary to break through. The fugitives then took the way to the plain (הָעֲרָבָה), that is, to the plains or meadows through which the Jordan flows, and which were called the plain (Josh. 11:2; 12:3; 2 Sam. 2:29; 4:7). Their intention was to cross the Jordan and escape, but they were overtaken near Jericho, six hours journey from Jerusalem.
2 Kings 25:6. So they took the king, &c. On Riblah see notes on 2 Kings 23:33. “Nebuchadnezzar was not present at the storming of Jerusalem (Jerem. 39:3), he awaited the result in his camp” (Thenius). Instead of the plurals וַיְּדַבְּרוּ and שָׁחֲטוּ in 2 Kings 25:7, we find in Jerem. 39:5 and 52:9 the singular with Nebuchadnezzar as the subject. Although the latter may be the more original reading, the sense is the same in either case, for Nebuchadnezzar certainly did not put Zedekiah’s sons to death with his own hand; he appointed a tribunal which judged and executed them. Instead of the singular מִשְׁפָּט Jeremiah has, in the places quoted and elsewhere, the plural, מִשְׁפָּטִים. With דִבֶּר it means, to deal with and decide a question of law. This trial cannot have occupied much time, for it was a matter of common notoriety that Zedekiah had broken his oath of allegiance and revolted. The sons of Zedekiah, not all his children, had fled with him. They also were regarded as rebels and put to death, in order to put an end to the dynasty. His daughters were taken away as captives according to Jerem. 41:20. As for Zedekiah himself, he was to suffer a painful punishment as long as he lived. His eyes were put out. This form of punishment was used by the Chaldeans and ancient Persians (Herod. 7:18). Princes are still disabled in this way in Persia when it is desired to deprive them of any prospect of the throne. “A rod of silver (or of brass), heated glowing hot, is passed over the open eye” (Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 15). The Vulg. has oculos ejus effodit, and on Jerem. 52:11: oculos eruit. It was also a customary mode of punishment in the Orient to pierce out the eyes (Ctes. Pers. 5). “Plate No. 18 in Botta (Monum. de Nin.) represents a king who is in the act of piercing out with a lance the eyes of a captive of no ordinary rank who kneels before him” (Thenius). See Cassel on Judges 16:21. However the act of piercing out the eyes is not generally expressed by עִוִּרִ, but by נִקַּר, Judges 16:21; 1 Sam. 11:2; Numb. 16:14.—With fetters of brass, and double fetters at that, נְחֻשְׁתַּיםִ. He was doubly fettered hand and foot, and brought to Babylon. In Jerem. 52:11 the words follow: “And put him in prison till the day of his death.” The Sept. have: εἰς οἰκίαν μύλωνος, evidently having in mind Judges 16:21. The author of the Book of Kings may have thought that this statement was unnecessary, since every person who was in chains was put in the prison as a matter of course. According to Jerem. 39:6, and 52:10, “All the nobles of Judah” were put to death with the sons of Zedekiah, that is, those who had fled with him. There is no reason to regard this as a false feature of the story borrowed from 2 Kings 25:21, as Thenius does.
[SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE on contemporaneous history. In the note on p. 247 we brought our notice of contemporaneous history down to the year 640, the year in which Josiah ascended the throne. The commotion of the next sixty years, during which Assyria ceased to be a nation, Egypt was humbled, and the Median and Babylonian empires advanced to the first place, amounted to an historical cataclysm. In the Bible we have references to these movements only when, and in so far as, they affected the fortunes of the Jewish people. This they did in the most important manner, and, in order to understand the influence of the neighboring nations on Judah at this time, it is necessary to have a comprehensive, if not exhaustive, knowledge of the historical movements which were in progress in Asia.
It should be distinctly understood that the history of the period now before us is very obscure. We have no historical inscriptions to guide us, and are thrown upon the authority of literary remains which are imperfect and inconsistent. Our chief authorities, Rawlinson and Lenormant (Sir H. Rawlinson and Oppert) differ very materially. It is therefore to be understood that what is here given is only conjectural and provisional.
The great question in dispute, on which the adjustment of the fragments of information which we possess into a smooth narrative depends, is as to the year in which Nineveh was taken, whether it was in 625 (Rawlinson), or in 606 (Lenormant). The weight of authority is in favor of the latter, though it is open to serious historical objections. It is, at present, impossible to bring this question to a final decision.
In 640 Asshur-edil-ilani (L.), or, Asshur-emidilin (R.) was on the throne of Assyria. His reign ended about 626–5. Rawlinson, putting the fall of Nineveh at this date, identifies this king with the Saracus, or Assaracus, of Abydenus. Lenormant, putting the fall of Nineveh in 606, supposes that Saracus was another and the last king, who reigned from 625 to 606. The last king was far inferior to his ancestors. Under him the empire was unable to meet the attacks which fell upon it.
The Medes, whose first attack on Assyria, under Phraortes, we mentioned above (p. 247), were a hardy mountain people who now arose into prominence. Cyaxares, the successor of Phraortes, made elaborate preparations to renew the attempts at conquest towards the west. He was ready for the attack (Rawl.), or made it (Lenor.), either alone (R.) or in conjunction with the Chaldeans, under Nabopolassar (L.), either in 634 (R.) or in 625 (L.). This attack was interrupted by the appearance of new actors on the scene. A horde of barbarians from the north, Scythia, poured down upon the nations in the Euphrates valley. They were of the same origin as the Goths, Huns, Avari, and Vandals, who appeared in Europe early in the Christian era, and their behavior, whithersoever they came, was the same as that of the barbarians who entered Europe. They poured over Media, Assyria, and Babylonia, and spread westward into Syria and Palestine. On the borders of Egypt they found Psammetichus besieging Ashdod. He persuaded them by gifts to turn back, and thus checked their advance in this direction. Herodotus says that their sway lasted for nineteen years. It is difficult to tell what this means, for in some countries, Media for instance, the natives overcame them sooner than in others. They were not able to found any permanent authority in any country. They perished by luxury and vice, were slain, or employed as mercenaries. Jeremiah refers to them in Jeremiah 6:22 sq.; Jeremiah 8:16; 9:10; 5:15, and, in the 50th chap., where he foretells the destruction of Babylon, the Scythian invasion furnishes the colors of the picture in which he describes it. Rawlinson puts their invasion in 632; Lenormant in 625. Rawlinson supposes, that after the Scythian invasion had subsided, the Medes renewed the attack on Nineveh, and secured the alliance of Nabopolassar, in 625, when Nineveh was taken and destroyed.
In 610 Psammetichus died, and Necho succeeded on the throne of Egypt. Necho reigned from 610 to 595. He was young and ambitious, and he planned an expedition into Asia, no doubt, if Assyria had already fallen, with the intention of winning the western provinces for himself. He marched through Philistia and Samaria. Here Josiah of Judah marched out to meet him (2 Kings 23:29). We do not need to seek far for a reason for Josiah’s action. It may have been inspired, as is generally supposed, by a desire to manifest fidelity to his suzerain, Babylon (R.), but it is a more simple explanation to notice that, under the existing weakness of Assyria, Josiah had been able to exercise sovereignty over some portion of Samaria (2 Kings 23:15 sq.). If the Babylonians were already the supreme power, they had not interfered with this. If Egypt conquered Samaria, it was at an end. Josiah, therefore, had a very natural and simple interest in opposing the Egyptian invasion. If Necho intended at this time to measure his strength with the Babylonians, he certainly desisted from that project. The words in 2 Chron. 35:21 throw no light on the party he intended to attack. There is ground here for believing that Nineveh had not yet fallen, and that the Babylonians had not yet displayed their power. Necho saw in the feebleness of Assyria an opportunity to conquer its western provinces, and the force which he had was probably only such an one as he considered necessary for this purpose. Josiah was not, therefore, as rash as we might at first suppose (cf. Ewald III. 762–3d ed. He seems to think, however, that Necho may have taken Carchemish at this time, cf. ss. 782–3). However, the Jewish king was killed in the battle, and his second son Jehoahaz was made king. Necho pursued his course of conquest with success for three months. On his return, he regarded Judah also, by virtue of his victory at Megiddo, as a conquered province, although he had declared at the outset that he had no hostile design against that country (2 Chron. 35:21). He refused to ratify the election of Jehoahaz, but took him (probably sent a detachment to bring him) from Jerusalem to the camp at Riblah (2 Kings 23:33), where he put him in chains, and carried him captive to Egypt. He made Judah tributary. Jeremiah (22:10) calls Jehoahaz more worthy of pity in his captivity than his father in his death, and Ewald, with good reason, interprets the parable (Ezek. 19, especially 2 Kings 23:2–4) of Jehoiakim. Necho put the elder brother Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34). This was in 609 or 608. Necho at this time took Gaza (Jerem. 47:1), and remained sovereign over the western provinces for two or three years.
We come now to the year 606 in which Nineveh was taken according to Oppert, Lenormant, Ewald, and others. The historical features of this event, aside from the question of its date, are as follows. The king of Assyria sent to Babylon, as satrap, a general named Nabopolassar (Nebo-protects-my-son), probably an Assyrian. It is certain that, when the final attack was made, it was twofold, both from Media and from the south. Nabopolassar and Cyaxares formed an alliance which was cemented by the marriage of Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, with Amyitis, daughter of Cyaxares. Rawlinson’s idea is that Nabopolassar was charged with the defence against the attack from the south, but turned traitor. This supposition is necessary since he does not think that the Chaldeans participated in the first attack. Lenormant supposes that Nabopolassar was sent to Babylon as satrap, that he matured plans of revolt, that he joined in the first attack, and that he employed the interval of nineteen years in establishing his independence. He also thinks that Nabopolassar was, in 607, an old and broken man, that he associated his son Nebuchadnezzar with himself on the throne in that year, and that, therefore, the capture of Nineveh is really to be reckoned among the exploits of that prince. He supposes that certain chronological discrepancies are to be accounted for by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar became joint ruler in 607, so that two starting-points for his reign were confused. (See 2 Kings 25:8, and Jerem. 52:28–30.) The attack of the confederated Medes and Chaldeans was successful, and Saracus perished with his court and treasures in the downfall of the city.
Nebuchadnezzar now becomes the chief figure in the drama. He was a prince of extraordinary talents and energy, and he consolidated, if we may not say that he actually established, the Babylonian monarchy. Having destroyed Nineveh, his next task was to recover that portion of his new conquest which the Egyptians had held in possession for two or three years. In 605, the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jerem. 46:2), he met Necho, who came out to defend his possessions, at Carchemish, on the Euphrates, and totally defeated him. He pursued the Egyptians to the border of Egypt (2 Kings 24:7), and no doubt intended to push on into that country, when news came to him (604) that his father was dead. He hastened to Babylon with a small escort through the nearer, but more dangerous, way of the desert. He met with no opposition in ascending the throne, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim of Judah (Jerem. 25:1).
In the haste of these movements, Judah had remained secure in its mountains. Nebuchadnezzar’s army marched to Egypt in two columns, one through Philistia and one through Perea (Lenormant). But Nebuchadnezzar soon returned to Palestine and Phœnicia to complete the work of conquest. In 602 or 601 he made Jehoiakim tributary (2 Kings 24:1) and took away certain hostages or captives. In 599 or 598 Jehoiakim planned a revolt (2 Kings 24:1), relying on help from Egypt. Rawlinson thinks that the embassy mentioned in Jer. 26:22 had for its object to form this alliance, and that the matter of Urijah was only a pretext. Nebuchadnezzar first incited the neighboring nations against him (2 Kings 24:2), and then himself marched into Judah. Jehoiakim died at this time, and Jehoiachin, his son, succeeded (2 Kings 24:8). He was not able to resist the Chaldeans, and surrendered at discretion (2 Kings 24:12). He was taken away prisoner, with 10,000 other captives (2 Kings 24:13 and 14), the most energetic and independent portion of the people. The city and temple were plundered, and Mattaniah, the youngest son of Josiah, was put upon the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, under the name of Zedekiah (24:17).
Lenormant justly says of Zedekiah that he was only a Babylonian satrap. A strong party urged him continually to revolt, but Jeremiah counselled patience and submission. In 595 the princes of the neighboring countries met at Jerusalem (Jerem. 27:3) to plan a concerted revolt, but Zedekiah was persuaded by Jeremiah to renounce this plan (Jeremiah 27.). He went to Babylon (in his fourth year, 594) to counteract suspicions of his fidelity which had been aroused (Jer. 51:59). However, he again cherished similar plans, and entered into negotiations with Uaprahet (Uaphris, Apries. Hophra) of Egypt. The Chaldeans again invaded Judah in 590. The siege of Jerusalem began early in January, 589 (Lenorm.). During this siege the serfs were manumitted, that they might help in the defence (Jerem. 34.). The Egyptians advanced to the relief of Jerusalem, the Chaldeans turned to meet the attack, and the hopes of the Jews revived so far that the freedmen were once more enslaved. This diversion, however, produced no effect. It is uncertain whether a battle was really fought and lost by the Egyptians (Josephus, Antiq. X. vii. 3), or whether they retreated without fighting at all. In 588 a breach was made and the Chaldeans entered the city (Jeremiah 25:3 and 4). Zedekiah fled (Jeremiah 25:4), hoping to break through the investing lines, but he was captured and taken to Riblah (Jeremiah 25:6), where Nebuchadnezzar was encamped. His sons were slain before his eyes. He was then blinded and taken captive to Babylon. One month later (Jeremiah 25:8, cf. 25:3) Nebuzaradan was deputed to carry out the systematic destruction of Jerusalem, and deportation of the most influential of its population. This he did thoroughly, though not without some slight leniency (Jeremiah 25:12–22). However, the fanaticism of Ishmael and his party destroyed the last hope of maintaining the Jewish nationality, even in the pitiful form in which the Chaldeans had yet spared it (Jeremiah 25:25). The history of Judah, from this time on, is merged in that of the great world-monarchies.—W. G. S.]
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
6 1. The author treats very curtly the history of the last four kings of Judah. In Chronicles we find a still more abbreviated account. He passes hastily over this part of the history of Judah, just as he did over the similar part of the history of Israel (see p. 162 sq.), for it is the twenty-three years of the “death-agony of the nation” (Ewald). Josiah was the last genuine theocratic king. With his death begins the end of the kingdom; the history of his four successors, three of whom were his sons and one his grandson, is nothing more than the story of this end. The author tells no more in regard to them than appears to him from his theocratic and pragmatic standpoint to be absolutely necessary. So he tells first what the attitude of each was towards Jehovah, that is, toward the covenant or the Mosaic law, and then so much of their history as pertains to the downfall of the kingdom, which was approaching step by step. We therefore learn rather what happened to them according to the counsel of God than what they themselves did. Essential additions to the history are contributed by Jeremiah, especially by the historical portions, but also by the prophetical discourses, though it is not always easy to determine which reign these latter belong to, nor what events they refer to. It is very remarkable that this great prophet, who certainly was an important personage during these last four reigns, and who is one of the most remarkable individuals mentioned in the Old Testament, is not mentioned or referred to at all in the historical book, perhaps for the reason that the acquaintance of the readers with the book of the prophet is taken for granted. [This is one reason for thinking that Jeremiah himself wrote the Books of Kings. See Introd. § 1.—W. G. S.]
2. The reign of king Jehoahaz, although it only lasted for three months, had important influence on the course of the history, inasmuch as it broke with Josiah’s theocratic régime, and introduced another policy which hastened on the downfall of the kingdom. All that Josiah had built up with such anxious care and labor fell in ruins in a few months. Although the Jehovah-worship was not formally abrogated again, yet the door was opened for all manner of heathen falsehood and corruption to re-enter, and no one of the following kings abandoned the new policy which was thus inaugurated. This is the heavy guilt which rests upon Jehoahaz. How he came to adopt this course we can only guess, since we have no explanation of it offered in the Scriptures. The notion of some of the old expositors, that he was seduced by his mother, is entirely without foundation, and is especially improbable as she came from the ancient priest-city Libnah, and so cannot certainly have been bred to idolatry. It is much more probable that the heathen-party, to which many persons of rank and influence belonged, but which had been repressed under Josiah, arose once more after his death, and sought to regain its power. He either brought them over to his side or sought to win them by concessions. It does indeed seem probable, from the course which Necho adopted towards him, that “he continued to be hostile to Egypt” (Ewald), but the text nowhere states that “he resisted unworthy proposals of the Egyptian king.” Niemeyer (Character der Bibel V. s. 105) says of him: “When compared with his elder brothers and successors, he seems to have been superior to them in many respects. One passage in Jeremiah would almost lead us to the opinion that the people longed for his return from Egypt.” Umbreit also remarks on Jerem. 22:11 sq.: “He seems, during his reign of three months, to have made himself very much beloved.” But it by no means follows, because the people passed over his elder brothers to make him king, that he was in any way better than they, for he certainly did not fulfil any hopes which may have been formed in regard to him, and Josephus (Antiq. X. v. 2), who certainly would not contradict the general verdict in regard to him which had been crystallized in tradition, calls him ἀσεβὴς καὶ μιαρὸς τὸν τρόπον. As for the text, Jerem. 22:10–12, in which he is called Shallum, it certainly cannot mean that Shallum deserved to be lamented more than the model king, Josiah, who walked in the way of his father David, and turned neither to the right hand nor to the left, whereas Jehoahaz followed in the ways of Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon (2 Kings 22:2; 23:32). The prophet there threatens the house of David (2 Kings 25:1) with destruction, because it has abandoned the covenant of Jehovah (2 Kings 25:5–9). He says that one king has already been carried away captive out of his land,—the land of promise,—that he will die and be buried in a foreign land (a great calamity and disgrace, according to Israelitish notions), and that another will be cast out before the city like a dead animal and find no burial at all. There is, therefore, no syllable here of desire and longing on the part of the people for the return of Jehoahaz as one who was better than the rest. Why should the people long for the return of a king who had disappointed all their hopes and expectations?
3. Josephus says (Antiq. X. v. 2) of king Jehoiakim: ἐτύγχανε ὤν τὴς φύσιν ἄδικος καὶ κακοῦργος, καὶ μήτε πρός Θεὸν ὄσιος, μήτε πρὸς ἀνθρώπους ἐπιεικής. The correctness of this criticism appears especially from the passages in Jeremiah which serve as supplements to the history before us, Jerem. 22:13–19; 26:20–24; 36:20–32. The idol-worship which Jehoahaz had tolerated once more grew and spread with great rapidity under Jehoiakim. All the abominations which had existed under Manasseh reappeared. Ewald and Vaihinger infer from Ezek. 8:7–13 that he “added to” the Asiatic forms of idolatry which had existed under Manasseh, “by introducing also the Egyptian cultus,” but the reference in that passage is to the worship of Thammuz (Adonis), a well-known deity of Western Asia, the chief seat of whose worship was the ancient Phœnician city of Byblus, and to whose cultus belong the representations of worms and unclean animals on the walls (2 Kings 25:10.—See Hävernick on Ezek. s. 98 and 108). Moreover, the question may be raised whether this cultus was introduced under Jehoiakim, or not until the reign of Zedekiah. However that may be, there is no hint of any Egyptian cultus under Jehoiakim, although he was a vassal of Egypt, and in fact there is no hint at all of any Egyptian forms of idolatry among the Hebrews. Jehoiakim was the tool of the heathen party; he not only did not listen to the prophets, he hated and persecuted them. He caused the prophet Urijah, who had fled from him to Egypt, to be brought back from thence, to be put to death, and then his corpse to be shamefully handled (Jerem. 26:20–24). Jeremiah barely escaped death (Jerem. 36:26). 2 Kings 24:3 and 4 also shows that Jehoiakim shed much innocent blood. He had also a passion for building, and he caused expensive structures to be erected unjustly, and without paying wages to the laborers. [Jerem. 22:13 sq.] He exacted the tribute which Necho had imposed upon him from the people instead of using the royal treasures for this purpose. Even after the resources of the country were exhausted he continued his exactions so that the courageous prophet rebuked him: “Thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence to do it” (Jerem. 22:17). Therefore the prophet warns him that he will not be lamented nor buried, but that, in spite of all his royal grandeur and glory, he will be dragged forth and cast upon the field like a dead ass. No doubt he early showed what sort of a disposition he had, and it is not strange that the people, after Josiah’s death, passed him over and made his brother king. He was a tyrant who was forced upon the nation by a victorious enemy, through whom it was punished for its apostasy. His reign formed a part of the divine judgment which had already begun to fall.
4. King Jehoiachin is placed before us by both the historical narratives (2 Kings 24:9; 2 Chron. 36:9) as just like the three other kings as regards his attitude towards Jehovah. It is simply said of him without restriction: “He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, like to all that his father had done.” The only thing further which is related in regard to him is that, when the Babylonian army appeared before Jerusalem to besiege it, he went out and surrendered himself, begging for mercy. Josephus (Antiq. X. vii. 1) regards this as a praiseworthy action. He says: ὁ δὲ φύσει χρηστὸς ὤν καὶ δίκαιος οὐκ ἡξίου τὴν πόλιν κινδυνεύουσαν δι’ αὐτὸν περιορᾷν; that the king had a solemn promise from the generals whom Nebuchadnezzar had sent that no harm should happen to him or to the city, but that this promise was broken, for Nebuchadnezzar had given orders that all who were in the city should be taken captive and brought into his presence. Niemeyer also says (Charact. d. B. V. s. 107): “Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, was undeniably a better king than his father. He does that which wisdom and humanity require under the circumstances. He desists from the active prosecution of a revolt which could only result in greater cruelty from the enemy, and greater exhaustion of the land, which was already thoroughly worn out. He must have been regarded, even in his captivity, as a man who deserved great respect (Jerem. 52:31).” Similarly Ewald (Gesch. III. s. 734) says: “This prince was obliged to yield, in religious matters, to the prevailing depravity, but he did not lack good features of character which served to excite good hopes of him. There was a greater feeling of happiness under him than under his father, and there was great lamentation when he was obliged, at an early age, to go into captivity. Probably the touching psalms 42, 43, and 84 are from his hand.” Vai-hinger also (Herzog, Real-Encyc. VI. s. 787) agrees with this general opinion: “Although he had not reigned in the spirit of the Jehovah-religion, yet there continued to be among the people a longing for his return. The false prophets especially nourished this hope (Jerem. 28:4).” These favorable opinions, however, are not at all well founded. From his sudden surrender of the city we may rather infer that he was weak and cowardly than anything else. [It should be noticed, however, that this is just what Jeremiah urged Zedekiah to do afterwards, viz., to yield to the Babylonians and sue for mercy (Jeremiah 37:17 sq., cf. also Jeremiah 37:2). Jehoiachin, by surrendering, seems to have saved the city from sack and pillage and burning, which was its fate after Zedekiah’s resistance. We cannot condemn Jehoiachin for pusillanimity in surrendering at discretion, and Zedekiah for obstinacy in resisting to the end. See next section. The surrender is as much a sign of wisdom as of weakness.—W. G. S.] There is no support in this text nor in Jeremiah for what Josephus adds in regard to the promise which had been given him and was broken. The words of the prophet (Jerem. 22:24–34), where he pronounces the divine oracle, come in here with peculiar significance: “As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah [Jehoiachin], the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence! And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country where ye were not born, and there shall ye die, but to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. Is [then, do ye ask] this man Coniah a despised, broken, idol? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? Wherefore are they cast out, he, and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O! earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord: Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days, for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” This stern condemnation by Jehovah cannot rest upon any other foundation than the fact that Jehoiachin had done “that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like to all that his father had done.” It would have been a very unjust condemnation, if Jehoiachin had been “a man deserving of the highest respect,” and if, by virtue of his good traits, he had been “superior to his brothers and his uncle,” or had belonged to the better portion of the nation. The comparison to a signet ring, which has been so often interpreted to Jehoiachin’s advantage, does not mean, if he were as dear to me as such a ring, nevertheless I would cast him away. Only those are dear to Jehovah who walk in His ways, and such he does not cast away. The meaning rather is, as is shown by the tearing off from the hand, this: however firmly he supposes that, as a king [of the House of David], he is held by me, even like the signet on my hand, nevertheless I will cast him away on account of his own sins and the sins of the people. When the false prophet Hananiah (Jerem. 28:5 sq.) foretells that Jehovah will bring back all the vessels of the house of Jehovah, and king Jehoiachin, and all who are captive with him, and will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, this does not express any especial “longing” for the return of this king, but only a general desire for deliverance from the Babylonian yoke, and the restoration of the kingdom with its independent dynasty. On the other hand it is generally understood, and with far more apparent reason, that the “young lion,” Ezek. 19:5 sq., represents Jehoiachin but this also is impossible; because all that is there implied in regard to him cannot possibly have taken place within three months (Schmieder on that passage). In the abbreviated name Coniah (see the Exeg. notes on 2 Kings 24:8), which is there used, many old expositors, such as Grotius and Lightfoot, and also Hengstenberg and Schmieder, have seen an intention to figure forth to the king his approaching doom: “The future is put first in order by cutting off the י to cut off Lope: a Schoniah with J. a God-will-confirm without the ‘will’ ” (Hengstenberg). Not to speak of any other objection to this, it is enough that the abbreviated form Coniah is used instead of Jeconiah not only in prophetical but also in historical passages (Jeremiah 37:1), where there is no possible intention to signify the “cutting off of hope.”
[Bähr seems to allow his judgment of Jehoiachin to be too much controlled by the standing formula that “he did that which was evil,” &c. This formula covered many grades of evil, and no violence is done to the general justice of this verdict upon him, if we recognize the fact that he was not one of the worst among the bad. Ewald is justified in saying; “The king meant no harm, but he was negligent in his duties. He did not look forward to the future with good judgment. He was a tool of the nobles, and he was far too weak for the bitter crisis in which he was called to reign.” Stanley also gives a fair estimate of the king and of the popular feeling in regard to him: “With straining eyes the Jewish people and prophets still hung on the hope that their lost prince would be speedily restored to them. The gate through which he left the city was walled up like that by which the last Moorish king left Grenada, and was long known as the gate of Jeconiah. From his captivity as from a decisive era the subsequent years of the history were reckoned (Ezek. 1:2; 8:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 31:1 [2 Kings 25:27]. The tidings were treasured up with a mournful pleasure, that, in the distant Babylon, where, with his royal mother (Jerem. 22:26; 2 Kings 24:15), he was to end his days, after many years of imprisonment, the curse of childlessness, pronounced upon him by the prophet (Jerem. 22:30), was removed; and that, as he grew to man’s estate, a race of no less than eight sons were born to him, by whom the royal race of Judah was carried on (1 Chron. 3:17, 18; cf. Susan. 1–4); and yet more, that he had been kindly treated by the successor of his captor (2 Kings 25:27–30; Jerem. 52:31–34); that he took precedence of all of the subject kings at the table of the Babylonian monarch; that his prison garments and his prison fare were changed to something like his former state.… More than one sacred legend—enshrined in the sacred books of many an ancient Christian Church—tells how he, with the other captives, sat on the banks of the Euphrates (Baruch 1:3, 4), and shed bitter tears as they heard the messages of their brethren in Palestine; or how he dwelt in a sumptuous house and fair gardens, with his beautiful wife, Susannah, ‘more honorable than all others’ (Susannah i.–iv.).”—W. G. S.]
5. The account of the eleven years’ reign of Zedekiah only states how that reign came to an end, for besides the standing formula that he did evil in the sight of the Lord, it contains only the remark that he revolted from the king of Babylon. We obtain a more complete picture of this reign from the descriptions and historical accounts which are preserved in the book of Jeremiah, and also to some extent in the book of Ezekiel. As concerns his attitude towards Jehovah and the law of Moses, he does not seem to have been himself devoted to idolatry, but he did not oppose it any more than his brother Jehoiakim had done. On the contrary, heathenism and immorality rather increased and spread during his reign. The stone was rolling; it could not be stayed any more. The class whose especial duty it was to oppose this tendency, namely, the priests and prophets, sank during this time lower and lower (see Jeremiah 23.). Then, too, the revolt of Zedekiah from Nebuchadnezzar was of a very different kind from that of Hezekiah from Sennacherib (see notes on Jeremiah 18:7), nay, it was even worse than that of his brother Jehoiakim from Pharaoh-Necho, for he not only owed to Nebuchadnezzar his crown and his throne (as Jehoiakim had owed his to Pharaoh-Necho), but he had also sworn an oath of allegiance to him, as is expressly stated in the brief account, 2 Chron. 36:13. This oath he broke in a frivolous way without any sufficient reason. The prophet Ezekiel declares that this oath-breaking was a great sin, not only against him to whom it was sworn, but also against him by whom it was sworn, Jehovah, and he even gives this as the reason for the ruin of the king and of the nation (Ezekiel 17:18–20): “Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when lo! he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head. And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespasses that he hath trespassed against me.” He does not appear in a much better light according to some facts which Jeremiah mentions. During the siege of Jerusalem he entered into a solemn covenant with all the people “that every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being a Hebrew or a Hebrewess, go free, that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.” The “princes” and the “people” agreed to this and manumitted the serfs or slaves. But when it was heard that the Egyptian army was coming to help them, and they thought that they would not need the freed people any more, they broke the covenant and reduced them once more to slavery. This led the prophet to declare: “Therefore, thus saith the Lord; ‘Ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth … And Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which are gone up from you. Behold, I will command,’ saith the Lord, ‘and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it and take it and burn it with fire, and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant’ ” (Jeremiah 34:8–22). What is narrated in Jeremiah 37-38 is still more significant. At that time of great anxiety and distress the king sent messengers with this request: Pray for us to Jehovah! then, however, he allowed the officers to seize Jeremiah, maltreat him, and cast him into prison, because they were angry at his threats. Not until some time afterwards did he send for Jeremiah, though secretly, and ask of him an oracle of the Lord. Even yet he did not set him free, but only granted him a somewhat less severe imprisonment. Then, when the prophet repeatedly foretold the victory of the Chaldeans, the officers and chiefs demanded his death, and the king replied: “Behold he is in your hand; for the king is not he that can do anything against you.” Then they lowered him into a dungeon in which there was no water, indeed, but slime, into which he sank, and where he would have perished wretchedly, if he had not been rescued through the efforts of an Ethiopian, Ebedmelech. Even yet, however, he was held as a prisoner. Still again the king sought a secret interview with him, but did not obey his counsel to give himself up, because he feared that he should be despised and maltreated by those Jews who had deserted to the Chaldeans. He commanded the prophet to keep the interview a secret, and especially not to let the “princes” know of it. When finally the Chaldeans penetrated into the lower city, he took flight by night with his immediate attendants from the opposite side of the city, but was soon caught by the Chaldeans, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar, who caused him to be blinded, and his sons to be put to death. From this entire story we see what was the chief feature in Zedekiah’s character: “Weakness, and weakness of the saddest kind” (Niemeyer). Instead of ruling as king, he allows himself to be controlled by those who stand nearest to him; he cannot do anything against them. [Yet it would not be fair to overlook the fact that a powerful party of nobles, in a besieged city, where excitement and confusion and anxiety reigned, might make a strong king powerless to resist a policy on which they were determined. The party of the “princes” seems to have been possessed by that fanatical patriotism which not unfrequently takes possession of men under such circumstances, and drives them to heroic folly or foolish heroism. This passion appeared among the Jews in every crisis of their history. In this case it pushed the nation on to its fate, and though Zedekiah was a weak king, he might have been a strong one and not have been able to stem this tide.—W. G. S.] He has good inclinations, but he never attains to what is good. He demands an oracle of God but in secret, and, when he receives it, he does not obey it. His weakness of character makes him vacillating, false to his word and oath, unjust and pitiless, cowardly and despondent, and finally leads him into misery. We have here another example which shows that weakness and want of character are the very gravest faults, nay, even a vice, in a ruler. Josephus (Antiq. X. vii. 2) justly says of Zedekiah: τῶν δὲ δικαίων καὶ τοῦ δέοντος ὑπερόπτης. καὶ γὰρ οἱ κατὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν ἧσαν ἀσεβεῖς περὶ αὐτὸν, καὶ ὁ πᾶς ὄχλος ἐπ’ ἐξουσίας ὔβριζεν ἃ ἤθελε.
6. Zedekiah’s end was the end of the royal house of David and of the Israelitish monarchy. This dynasty had remained on the throne for nearly 500 years, while, in the seceded kingdom of the ten tribes, within a period of 250 years, nine dynasties of nineteen kings reigned, of which each one dethroned and extirpated the preceding one. “What a wonder it is to see one dynasty endure through almost five entire centuries, and that too in the ancient times when dynasties usually had but brief duration, and to see this dynasty, in the midst of perils and changes, form a centre around which the nation always formed, so that when it perished at last, it perished only in the downfall of the nation itself.… Such a kingdom might fall into grievous error for a time, but in the long run it must be brought back by the example of its great hero and founder David, and by the wealth of experience which it had won in its undisturbed development, to the eternal fundamentals of all true religion, and all genuine life” (Ewald, Gesch. III. s. 419). This “wonder,” however, of the uninterrupted existence of the dynasty of David does not rest upon human will or power, but upon the promise which was given to David (2 Sam. 7:8 sq.): “And thy house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). The premise on which this promise was based was the idea that the Old Testament theocratic monarchy was realized in David. This monarchy is, as it were, realized in him, and he is not only the physical ancestor of his family, but the model for all his successors, according to their fidelity to which their reigns are estimated and judged (1 Kings 11:38; 15:3, 11; 2 Kings 14:3; 16:2; 18:3; 22:2). God sustains the monarchy in their hands for David’s sake, even when they do not deserve it, for their own (1 Kings 11:12; 13:32; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19). When he went the way of all the earth he left as a bequest to his son the following words: “Be strong and show thyself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: That the Lord may continue his word, which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth, with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee, said he, a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 2:2–4). When, however, after Josiah’s death, four kings in succession abandoned the way of David, and apostasy became a fixed and permanent tradition, the monarchy ceased to be what it was its calling and purpose to be; it was necessarily doomed to perish. “When the traditions of evil are maintained, or at least tolerated, then the monarchy suffers a transformation. Kings become incapable of executing the duties of their office, and a divine judgment becomes inevitable. So it was with the sons of Josiah, whose fate is a warning beacon on the horizon of history” (Vilmar). But, in spite of the inevitable doom of the nation, the promise to David was fulfilled in its integrity. Although the external authority of the house of David ceased with Zedekiah, yet from the time of his fall the preparation went on, all the more surely, for the coming of that Son of David who was to be a king over the house of David forever, and whose kingdom should have no end (Luke 1:33). The place of the light of the house of David, which had been extinguished (1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19), was taken, when the time was fulfilled, by the true light which illumines the whole world (John 1:9), and which will not be extinguished to all eternity. The last king who sat upon the throne of David, and who falsely called himself צִרְקִיָּהוּ [The righteousness of God], served to point forward, in the Providence of God, and according to the words of the prophet, to the coming king and shepherd of his people, whose name should be called: יְהוָֹה צִדְקֵנוּ, “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See the above paragraphs and compare the additional information afforded by the passages above quoted from Jeremiah.
2 Kings 23:31–25:7. The Four Last Kings of Judah. (a) The way in which they all walked. (They all abandoned the living God and His law, though they had the best model and example in their ancestor. They did not listen to the warnings and exhortations of the prophets, but followed their own lusts. Instead of being good shepherds of their people, they led them into deeper and deeper corruption.) (b) The end to which they all came. (They all learned what misery comes of abandoning the Lord, Jerem. 2:19. Two of them reigned for only three months each; their glory was like the grass, which in the morning groweth up, but in the evening is cut down, dried up, and withered. One of them was forced to go to Egypt, where he died, and another to go to Babylon, where he remained a captive for thirty-seven years. Two of them died miserably: one was dragged to death and his corpse was thrown out like that of a dead animal; the other was forced to see his sons slain before his eyes, then he was blinded and ended his days in a prison. The godless, even though they be princes, perish utterly, Ps. 73:19. The judgments of God are true and righteous, Rev. 16:7; Ps. 145:17.)—KYBURZ: We are surprised that Jehoiakim did not take warning by Jehoahaz, and that Jehoiachin and Zedekiah did not take warning by Jehoiakim, but that all made themselves abominable to God by the same sin; but how many great families and races have we seen since then come to a fearful end, without taking warning by their fate. On the contrary, we have made ourselves guilty in his sight with the same or greater sins.—A dynasty in which apostasy has become hereditary and traditional has no blessing or happiness; it must sooner or later perish. The words of Ps. 89:14: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” apply also to an earthly throne. A throne or a government which lacks this “habitation” [more correctly, stronghold] has no sure foundation. It rocks and reels and finally falls. This is shown by the history of these four kings, all of whom departed from righteousness and the law of God, and were guided in their rule only by political considerations. They became the sport of ambitious conquerors.—There can be no greater disgrace or humiliation for a country than that foreigners should set up or depose rulers for it according to their whim.
2 Kings 23:31 sq. The son’s want of loyalty to the law of God tore down in three months what the father’s zeal had built up by thirty-one years of anxious labor. How often a son squanders in a short time what a father has collected by years of careful toil.—What a responsibility falls upon the ruler who opens the door again for the return of the evils which a former government has earnestly labored to shut out.
2 Kings 23:34. Two brothers stand in hostile relations to each other. One deposes the other. They are both sons of the same pious father, but they resemble him in nothing.—Jehoiakim and Zedekiah each receive a new name when they ascend the throne. What is the use, however, of changing the name when the character is not changed, or of taking on a name to which the life does not correspond?—A throne which is bought with money won by exactions is an abomination in the sight of God. Jehoiakim does not contribute anything from his own treasures, but exacts all from his subjects. He builds great houses and lives in abundance and luxury, but does not give to the laborers the wages which they have so well earned. This is the way of tyrants, but they receive their reward from him who recompenses each according to his works (Jerem. 22:15–19). Avarice is the root of evil, even among the great and rich; it brings them into temptation, 1 Tim. 6:9.—2 Kings 24:1. To-day the mighty king of Egypt makes Jehoiakim his vassal, to-morrow the still more mighty king of Babylon; such is the fate of princes who put their trust in an arm of flesh, and turn away from the Lord instead of calling after him: “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in him will I trust” (Ps. 91:2).
2 Kings 23:2. WÜRT. SUMM.: It is not a mere chance when an armed enemy invades a country; they are sent by God, without whom not one could set a foot therein. It is a punishment for sin. Therefore let no man take courage in sin because there is profound peace. Peace is never so firm that God cannot put an end to it and send war.—He revolted. He who cannot bend under the mighty hand of God will not submit to the human powers in subjection to which he has been placed by God. Resistance, however, is vain, for God resisteth the proud.—KYBURZ: Hear, ye kings and judges of the earth! God demands that ye shall humble yourselves before His messengers. David did this before Nathan. Do not think that your majesty is thereby diminished; God can exalt again those who humble themselves before him. But, if ye do not do this, God will do to you as he did to Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.—The word of the Lord, which He spake to Jehoiakim by His prophet, the king threw into the fire and thought that he had thus reduced it to naught (Jerem. 36:23), but he was brought to the bitter experience that the word of the Lord cannot be burned up, but is, and remains to all eternity, true and sure.
2 Kings 23:3, 4. The sin of Manasseh was not visited on his descendants in such a way that they could say: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jerem. 31:29), for “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Ezek. 18:20), but the punishment fell upon Judah because it had made itself a participant in the crime of Manasseh, and, like him, had shed innocent blood (Jerem. 26:20–23; see also Ezek. 33:25 sq.).
2 Kings 23:7. Easy won, easy lost. This has always been the fortune of conquerors. What one has won by robbery and force another mightier takes from him. The Lord in heaven makes the great small, and the rich poor (1 Sam. 2:7; Ps. 75:7).
2 Kings 23:8–16. OSIANDER: As long as the people of God does not truly repent it has little cause to rejoice that one or another tyrant is removed, for a worse one may follow.—“Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matt. 24:28). A nation which is in decay attracts the conquerors, who do not quit it until it is torn to pieces.—STARKE: There is always misery and danger where there is war, therefore let us pray to be preserved from war and bloodshed.
2 Kings 23:12. Instead of calling upon God, Jehoiachin surrenders himself at once and asks for mercy. He who does not trust in God soon falls into despondency. Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.
2 Kings 23:14–16. Notice God’s mercy and longsuffering even in his judgments. He still allows the kingdom to stand, and turns the heart of the enemy so that he does not yet make an utter end of it (Ezek. 18:23, 32; see notes on 2 Kings 25:21).
2 Kings 24:17 to 25:7. Zedekiah, the last king on David’s throne. See Historical § 5. Roos: Zedekiah is an example of a man who, in spite of some good traits, finally perishes because he never can attain to victory over the world and over sin. He listened unmoved to Jerem. 27:12 sq. and 34:2 sq. He made an agreement with the people to keep a year of manumission (Jerem. 34:8). He desired that Jeremiah should pray to the Lord for him and for his people (2 Kings 37:3). He rescued Jeremiah from a fearful dungeon into which he had been cast without the king’s authority, asked of him secretly a divine oracle, and caused him to be brought into an endurable prison (2 Kings 37:17 sq.). He saved him once more from a terrible prison and asked once more privately for the divine oracle (chap. 38). Yet in the midst of all this he remained a slave of sin. He asked and listened, but did not obey. His purposes had no endurance or energy. He was a king whom his nobles had succeeded in overpowering. He feared them more than God. He had no courage to trust God’s word and he feared where there was no reason (2 Kings 38:19 sq.). On the other hand he allowed himself to be persuaded by his counsellors and nobles (2 Kings 38:22). He hoped for miracles such as had been performed in early times, particularly in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:2), although he had no promises of God to serve as a ground for such hope. He trusted in the strength of the fortification of Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:13), and did not believe what Jeremiah foretold in regard to the destruction of this city.
2 Kings 24:20. Zedekiah broke his oath for the sake of earthly gain and honor. Be not deceived, God will not be mocked. He who calls upon God and then fails of his word mocks at Him who can ruin soul and body in hell. All the misery and woe which befell Zedekiah came from his perjury (Ezek. 17:18 sq.). PFAFF: We must keep faith even with unbelievers and enemies (Josh. 9:19).—A prince who breaks his own oath cannot complain when his subjects break their oath of allegiance to him.
2 Kings 25:1 sq. STARKE: When the rod does not avail, God sends the sword (Ezek. 21:13 and 14).
2 Kings 25:3. CRAMER: God often punishes loathing of His word by physical hunger (Lament. 4:10).
2 Kings 25:4–6. WÜRT. SUMM.: When God means to punish a sinner no wall or weapon avails to protect him (Jerem. 46:6).—STARKE: If we will not take that road to escape which God has given us we cannot escape at all (Hos. 13:19; Jerem. 2:17).
2 Kings 25:7. STARKE: Many parents, by their godless behavior, bring their children into temporal and eternal ruin. Such children will some day have just cause to cry out against their parents (Sir. 41:10).—A punishment which is deserved must be inflicted upon the just condemnation of the proper authority, but even the mightiest earthly power has no right to torture a convict. The civil authority is indeed an avenger to punish the guilty, and it does not carry the sword in vain, but it ceases to be God’s servant when it becomes bloodthirsty and delights in pain.
2 Kings 23:33. On the keri see remarks under Exegetical.
2 Kings 24:3. [כְּ ·כְּכֹל here has peculiar force. It means in or throughout all that he did, infecting all according to a certain measure. Whatever he did there was a certain measure of wickedness in it according to its character. The somewhat subtle force of the particle led to variants. “One codes has כְּכֹל, Sept. and Syr. וּבְכֹל. The reading in the text is correct” (Thenius).—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 24:10. The keri is to be preferred.—Bähr. [The chetib is sing. The keri is a grammatical correction. The sing, may have been written with the mind fixed on Nebuchadnezzar. This point has importance for the question whether he accompanied the expedition from the outset. Cf2 Kings 24:11.
2 Kings25:3. [The statement that it was the fourth month is here imported into the text by the translators from Jeremiah, who gives it in both places; Jeremiah 3 and Jeremiah 39.
2 Kings25:4. [וילךְ is singular, and our version supplies “the king” as the subject. It is more likely that it is a case of the indefinite subject “one” (Fr. on; Germ. man). The army went, or, as we are obliged to translate, they went. The king’s presence in the train is implied and assumed. In Jerem. 52:7 we find וַיֵּלְכוּ, and in Jerem. 39:4, the sing. וַיֵּצֵא, but there the king is mentioned in the context.—W. G. S.]
 [GENEALOGICAL TABLE OF THE LAST KINGS OF JUDAH.Sovereigns in small capitals. the numbers designate the order of succession on the throne.—W.G.S]