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2 Kings 21-25
Manasseh succeeded his father Hezekiah as king of Judah (see Kings of Israel and Judah). He was elected king (see Royal Democracy) at a young age and reigned for fifty five years. Unfortunately, Manasseh continued the corruption, political and religious, that was bringing the end to Judah (see The Southern Kingdom), just as it had to Israel (see The Northern Kingdom).
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom The Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the High Places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal, and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of The Lord, of which The Lord had said, "In Jerusalem will I put My Name." And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of The Lord. And he burned his son as an offering, and practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of The Lord, provoking Him to anger." (2 Kings 21:1-6 RSV)
The crookedness of Judah (see the Fact Finder below) had rendered it unfit for habitation by The Lord. The only remedy was demolition - and a later rebuilding.
"Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations, and has done things more wicked than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols; therefore thus says The Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will cast off the remnant of My heritage, and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day." (2 Kings 21:11-15 RSV)
The books of Kings and Chronicles provide parallel accounts of kings, however sometimes one provides information that the other does not - and the books sometimes refer to the other (as quoted below). For example, Chronicles tells us "Therefore The Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and bound him with fetters of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress he entreated the favor of The Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God received his entreaty and heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that The Lord was God." (2 Chronicles 33:11-13 RSV), while Kings tells us of his death after his return.
"Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza; and Amon his son reigned in his stead." (2 Kings 21:17-18 RSV)
Manasseh was succeeded by his son Amon. The only good thing that came from Amon was his righteous son Josiah who succeeded him as king of Judah.
"Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. And he did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, as Manasseh his father had done. He walked in all the way in which his father walked, and served the idols that his father served, and worshiped them; he forsook The Lord, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of The Lord.
2 Kings Chapter 22
Josiah succeeded his father Amon and quickly began to turn the kingdom back to The Lord. It was too late, but Josiah's Reforms were one of the bright times of the Israelite monarchy.
"Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the eyes of The Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." (2 Kings 22:1-2 RSV)
While Josiah was having repairs done to the neglected and misused Temple of God, "the book of the law" was found - a blatant testimony to how much the people of Judah had turned their backs to The Lord. Even more bizarre, it was the high priest who found it - the man who was responsible, more than anyone, to have not only known where it was, but to have been living by every letter of it.
"And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of The Lord." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it." (2 Kings 22:8 RSV)
When Josiah heard the written Word of God, he realized how corrupt that Judah had become - and why The Lord's wrath was upon them.
"And when the king heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, "Go, inquire of The Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of The Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." (2 Kings 22:11-13 RSV)
2 Kings Chapter 23
Josiah then set out to restore the knowledge and obedience of the Word of God to the kingdom.
"Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him. And the king went up to the house of The Lord, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of The Lord. And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before The Lord, to walk after The Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people joined in the covenant." (2 Kings 23:1-3 RSV)
Josiah didn't just bring back the good; he also rid the kingdom of the bad.
"And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal [see also Baal-zebub and Beelzebub], to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Asherah from the house of The Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes [see Sodomites] which were in the house of The Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah." (2 Kings 23:5-7 RSV)
Despite Josiah's efforts, it was too late (see Why Babylon?).
"Still The Lord did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. And The Lord said, "I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city which I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there." (2 Kings 23:26-27 RSV)
Josiah was killed in battle against Egypt. At least he was spared the sight of the fall of Judah which was soon to come.
"Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria [see Ancient Empires - Assyria] to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; and Pharaoh Neco slew him at Megiddo, when he saw him. And his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead." (2 Kings 23:28-30 RSV)
Jehoahaz succeeded Josiah as king of Judah and quickly undid much of the restoration that his righteous father had done. Jehoahaz was captured by Pharaoh Neco and taken to Egypt where he died in exile. Pharaoh Neco also dabbled in "regime change" of other nations i.e. "Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz away."
"Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. And Pharaoh Neco put him in bonds at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and laid upon the land a tribute of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. And Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz away; and he came to Egypt, and died there. And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh, but he taxed the land to give the money according to the command of Pharaoh. He exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, from every one according to his assessment, to give it to Pharaoh Neco." (2 Kings 23:31-35 RSV)
Jehoiakim was installed by Pharaoh Necho as a puppet king of Judah but the Egyptian empire itself was becoming overpowered by the rise of the Babylonian empire. Babylon would finish what Egypt started.
"Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zebidah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. And he did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, according to all that his fathers had done." (2 Kings 23:36-37 RSV)
2 Kings Chapter 24
King Nebuchadnezzar is one of the most well-known Babylonian kings (see Ancient Empires - Babylon), primarily from his experiences with the prophet Daniel (see also Nebuchadnezzar's Dream and Nebuchadnezzar The Believer).
"In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. And The Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of The Lord which he spoke by his servants the Prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of The Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and The Lord would not pardon.
"And the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates." (2 Kings 24:7 RSV)
The siege of Jerusalem began during the reign of Jehoiachin. Like most imperialistic kings, Nebuchadnezzar came to visit his troops in the country that he conquered. He returned to Babylon with his prize, Jehoiachin, the deposed king of Judah. In his place, Zedekiah was installed as Nebuchadnezzar's vassal (i.e. an obedient stooge) king.
"Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, according to all that his father had done.
2 Kings Chapter 25
Zedekiah later found his courage and patriotism and declared Judah's independence from Nebuchadnezzar's foreign interference. Nebuchadnezzar responded with a troop surge that had one purpose - to crush the independence out of the kingdom of Judah. Zedekiah was captured, blinded and taken to Babylon to be added to Nebuchadnezzar's trophies.
"And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it; and they built siegeworks against it round about. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city; the king with all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, though the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence upon him. They slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and took him to Babylon." (2 Kings 25:1-7 RSV)
The city, the Temple and almost everything else (see Raiders Of The Lost Ark) was destroyed.
"In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month - which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon - Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of The Lord, and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem." (2 Kings 25:8-10 RSV)
Fact Finder: Both the The Northern Kingdom of "Israel" and The Southern Kingdom of "Judah" eventually fell because they made themselves crooked. How is it that The Messiah will be a better builder - of a Kingdom that will never fall?