I. JEHOIACHIN MAKES SURRENDER.
1. The city besieged. The attacks of the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, etc., mentioned in ver. 2, had served an immediate purpose in weakening the strength and exhausting the resources of Judah. The great king, whose fame was already equaling that of a Sargon or a Sennacherib, was now able to send his main army against the city, and soon after appeared upon the scene in person. Again, as in the days of Hezekiah, the city was closely invested; but this time there was no Isaiah to hurl back scorn for scorn, and assure the trembling king of the complete discomfiture of the enemy. Neither was there a king of Hezekiah's stamp to lay the blasphemous messages of the invader before the Lord, and entreat his interposition (2 Kings 19:14-19). It was another kind of message Jeremiah the prophet had to bear to king and people. The day for mercy was past; and in default of a general repentance, which was not to be expected, there remained nothing but "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation" (Hebrews 10:27). The day of final reckoning surely comes for every sinner. It had come for Israel a hundred and twenty years before; it was now come for Israel's sister Judah.
2. Jehoiachin's voluntary surrender. Seeing resistance to be hopeless, Jehoiachin did what, on the most favorable interpretation of his conduct, was a noble thing. The city could not hold out; but if he and the other members of the royal house went and made voluntary surrender of themselves to Nebuchadnezzar, the worst horrors might be spared. This, indeed, was what Jeremiah always counseled. Jehoiachin accordingly went forth, with Nehushta his mother, and his servants, princes, and officers, and delivered themselves up to the Babylonian king. He might feel, with the lepers of Samaria, "If they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die" (2 Kings 7:4). Or he may have been actuated by the nobler impulse to save the people, and may have thought, "It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (John 11:50). His submission did avert the worst from the nation. His own life was spared, though he was led away a prisoner; the city was not sacked and burned, as afterwards; and no massacre of the inhabitants took place. A tender tone pervades Jeremiah's references to this unfortunate king (Jeremiah 22:24-30). Ezekiel likens him to "the highest branch of the cedar," which the "great eagle, with great wings, long-winged, full of feathers, which had divers colors," crops off (Ezekiel 17:3, 4); and again (according to some) to "a young lion," who had "learned to catch the prey, and devoured men," but "the nations set against him on every side," and "he was taken in their pit" and put in chains, and brought to the King of Babylon (Ezekiel 19:5-9). We may share with Jeremiah in his sympathy for the unhappy young king in his exile (Jeremiah 22:28). Had his circumstances been more favorable, better things might have been hoped of him. The nobility of self-sacrifice redeems a character from many faults.
II. THE CITY DESPOILED. If Jehoiachin's surrender saved the people from slaughter, it could not save the city from plunder, nor its inhabitants from captivity. Nebuchadnezzar was no kid-gloved conqueror; where his mailed hand fell, he let it be felt. This city had rebelled against him, and he would effectually cripple its power to rebel again by impoverishing, degrading, and weakening it to the utmost. Nebuchadnezzar was intent only on his own ends, yet unconsciously he was carrying out to the letter the predictions which God's prophets had been dinning into the people's ears with so little result during all the years of their backsliding. The city was despoiled:
1. Of its wealth and sacred vessels. "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... had made," etc. Jehoiakim had saved his treasures at the expense of exactions from the people, and his "covetousness" had doubtless filled them still more (Jeremiah 22:17). These ill-gotten gains were now carried away, and with them such of the temple vessels as were made of, or plated with, gold, the "cutting to pieces" being probably confined to the latter, with such large articles as the golden candlestick, etc. Of the smaller articles some few were spared (2 Kings 25:15), and the rest were preserved in Babylon, and restored on the return (Ezra 1:7-11). Judgment thus again began at the house of God. As, with the wealth of the city, the wealth-producers were also taken (ver. 14), it is easy to see to what poverty it was reduced.
2. Of its royal family and nobles. "And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives," etc. The land was thus deflowered of its king and aristocracy. The nobles, indeed, had proved no source of strength to the nation, but had set an example of luxury, oppression, corruption, and idolatry. Still, they were the representatives of its old hereditary families; they had high social position and great influence; and they ought to have been, if they were not, patrons and examples of everything good and great. Those who have rank, fortune, and leisure may be of the highest service to a state, if only they devote their powers to its true welfare. They contribute elements of refinement, culture, and wealth to it, which cannot be lost without impoverishment. If, however, they abuse their opportunities, and grow luxurious, idle, and wicked, they have generally to suffer severely in the end.
3. Of its artisans and warriors. "And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war," etc. Besides removing from the city the wealth that enriched it, and the nobles who adorned it, Nebuchadnezzar took away the skilful hands that did its work, and the strong arms that fought for it. He left none "save the poorest sort of the people of the land." This was to drain the city dry of every element of its prosperity. The middle classes of a nation - its wealth-producers and skilled laborers - even more than its aristocracy - are the source of its strength. By them is created the capital of the country; through them that capital undergoes constant renewal and increase; they supply the wants of every other class; without them the nobles would be helpless, and on them "the poorest sort of people" - too often the unfortunate, the shiftless, the inefficient classes - depend for casual employment and support. Nebuchadnezzar looked well to his own interests when he deported these classes, and not the poor, the less able, leas thrifty, to Babylon. But their departure was ruinous to Jerusalem, and this also Nebuchadnezzar intended. It was, indeed, an irretrievable, crushing blow, which had fallen on the nation, nonetheless ruinous and terrible that it had been so long predicted, and was so richly deserved. Piety tends to the enrichment and strengthening of a nation, as of an individual, even temporally; but a course of ungodliness ends in the loss of temporal and spiritual possessions together.
III. ZEDEKIAH MADE KING.
1. Accession of Zedekiah. Jehoiachin was a man of spirited character, and Nebuchadnezzar seems to have thought that he would be better served by putting a weaker man upon the throne. The person chosen was an uncle of the young king's, a brother of Jehoiakim, whose name, Mattaniah, Nebuchadnezzar changed to Zedekiah - "the Righteousness of Jehovah." There was little honor now in being King of Judah; but at least the city and temple still stood; the priesthood had not been carried away; there were a few nobles left to grace the court; and by degrees new artisans and soldiers might have been got in, and the state again Built up. It was the last chance, and was given only to show clearly how hopeless the moral condition of the people was. For if anything could have sobered them, and convinced. them of the truth of the words of the prophets, it was such a catastrophe as had descended upon them. Deaf to all warnings, however, whether of mercy or judgment, the people only went on from bad to worse.
2. His weak character. The outstanding feature in Zedekiah's character was weakness - lack of courage and strength of will He was not without good impulses. He showed a friendly disposition to Jeremiah; on various occasions he sought his advice and intercession (Jeremiah 21:1, 2; Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 38:14-17); at Jeremiah's instigation he made a covenant with the people of Jerusalem, pledging them to give liberty to their bondmen (Jeremiah 34:8, 11), and once at least he refrained from entering into a proposed league against Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27:3). But his timid, faithless, unstable nature reveals itself at every turn. He was like Herod, who did many things at the bidding of John the Baptist, and heard him gladly, yet at last beheaded him to please a wicked woman (Mark 6:20). Zedekiah knew what was fight, but did not do it (Jeremiah 37:2); he weakly allowed himself to be overruled by his nobles - when they broke through his covenant he had no power to resist (Jeremiah 34:11); when they urged him to put Jeremiah to death, he consented, saying, "Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do anything against you" (Jeremiah 38:4, 5); then, when Ebed-Melech pleaded for the prophet, he gave orders for his deliverance (ver. 10); he disobeyed Jeremiah in throwing off his allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, and in seeking an alliance with Egypt; and when Nebuchadnezzar again came up against him, he sought Jeremiah's counsel, but did not take it when it was given (Jeremiah 38:14-28), etc. Meanwhile idolatry had firmly established itself in the holy city, and within the very precincts of the temple (Ezekiel 8.). Fitly, therefore, is the reign of this last king described, like the rest, as "evil." His weakness and vacillation, his unfaithfulness to his own best convictions, his sinful yielding to others in what he knew to be wrong, were his ruin. He was in a hard and difficult position, and he had no strength of mind to cope with it.
3. His rebellion. At length, yielding to the solicitations of his nobles, and hopeful of help from Egypt (Ezekiel 17:15), he broke his oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, an act which Ezekiel strongly condemns (Ezekiel 17:16-19). The cup was full, and the Lord left him thus far to himself, that the nation might be destroyed. Men who will not follow light, lose light. A blindness, as from heaven, falls upon them. They are left to the bent of their own hearts, and their own counsel is their ruin. Sin is the supreme folly, as righteousness is the supreme wisdom. - J.O.
In his days Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up.
I. THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN. The wickedness here displayed is marked —
1. By inveteracy. It is here said of Jehoiachin, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done." In verse 18 the same is also said of Zedekiah, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiachin had done." The wickedness here displayed is marked —
2. By tyranny. "At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it." What right had Nebuchadnezzar to leave his own country, invade Judah, plunder it of its wealth, and bear away by violence its population? The wickedness here displayed is marked —
3. By inhumanity. "And the King of Babylon... 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. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land." The wickedness here displayed is marked —
4. By profanity. "He burnt the house of the Lord," etc. Thus this ruthless despot desecrated the most holy things in the city of Jerusalem and in the memory of millions.
II. THE RETRIBUTION OF HEAVEN. In the retribution here displayed we are reminded of two facts: That the sins of one man may bring misery on millions. "Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon," All the misery here recorded comes to the people "for the sins of Manasseh." Here is the hereditary principle of Divine government. Will not the following facts anyhow modify the severity of the complaint?(1) That no man is made to suffer more than he actually deserves on account of his own personal sin.(2) That the evils which thus descend to us from our ancestors are not to be compared with those we produce ourselves.(3) That whilst the hereditary principle of the Divine government entails evils, it also entails good. Great as are the evils that have come down to us from posterity, great also is the good.(4) This hereditary principle tends to restrain vice and stimulate virtue. The parent knowing, as all parents must know, the immense influence he exerts upon his offspring, and having the common natural affection, will be set more or less on his guard; he will restrain evil passions which otherwise he would allow to sport with uncontrolled power, and prosecute efforts of a virtuous tendency, which otherwise he would entirely neglect.
2. The pernicious influence of a man's sin in the world may continue after his conversion. Manasseh repented of the sins he had committed, and received the favours of his God. Notwithstanding we find men here suffering on account of the sins he had committed.
3. That retribution, though it may move slowly, yet will move surely. A hundred years had well-nigh passed away, and several generations had come and gone since Manasseh had gone to his grave. Yet avenging justice appears at last, and wreaks upon others the terrible effects of his crimes. The tardy march of retribution men have made the occasion and the reason of continued depravity," Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily," etc.
(David Thomas, D. D.)
PeopleElnathan, Hamutal, Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim, Jeremiah, Manasseh, Mattaniah, Moabites, Nebuchadnezzar, Nehushta, Solomon, Syrians, Zedekiah
PlacesBabylon, Brook of Egypt, Egypt, Euphrates River, Jerusalem, Libnah
TopicsAnger, Arms, Babylon, Cast, Jerusalem, Judah, Pass, Point, Presence, Rebelled, Rebelleth, Thrust, Till, Wrath, Zedekiah, Zedeki'ah
Outline1. Jehoiakim, first subdued by Nebuchadnezzar, then rebelling against him,
2. procures his own ruin.
5. Jehoiachin succeeds him.
7. The king of Egypt is vanquished by the king of Babylon.
8. Jehoiachin's evil reign.
10. Jerusalem is taken and carried captive into Babylon.
17. Zedekiah is made king, and reigns ill, unto the utter destruction of Judah.
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Kings 24:20
6224 rebellion, against authority
LibraryThe Iranian Conquest
Drawn by Boudier, from the engraving in Coste and Flandin. The vignette, drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a statuette in terra-cotta, found in Southern Russia, represents a young Scythian. The Iranian religions--Cyrus in Lydia and at Babylon: Cambyses in Egypt --Darius and the organisation of the empire. The Median empire is the least known of all those which held sway for a time over the destinies of a portion of Western Asia. The reason of this is not to be ascribed to the shortness of its duration: …
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 9
Extracts No. vi.
Tiglath-Pileser iii. And the Organisation of the Assyrian Empire from 745 to 722 B. C.
Whether Vengeance Should be Taken on those who have Sinned Involuntarily?
Covenanting a Privilege of Believers.
The Greater Prophets.
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