The Last Kings of Judah
The Church Age: The Divided Kingdom 22
THE LAST KINGS OF JUDAH—2 Kings 23:31-37, 24—As the nation mourned the death of the last good king, Josiah, the faithful in Jerusalem realized that their days of blessing were over and the coming years would bring only progressive hardship, loss of freedom, and loss of national identity for Judah. While Pharoah-neechoh of Egypt marched his army on to the Euphrates River to assist the Assyrians against Babylon, the people of Judah chose JEHOAHAZ, the middle son of Josiah, as their king.
Jehoahaz reigned for three months when Pharaoh-neechoh, now in authority over Judah since Josiah’s death, ordered him to be replaced by his older brother, Eliakim, whose name was changed to JEHOIAKIM. At this time, Paroah-nechoah also demanded tribute from Judah. Jehoahaz was taken as a prisoner to Egypt, where he died as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 22:11-12).
Jehoiakim did not follow his father Josiah’s godly leadership. He served Egypt and himself (2 Kings 23:34-37, Jer. 22:13-19) for 11 years. He taxed the people heavily in order to be able to pay the tribute to the Egyptians. He exhibited his presumptuous disregard for the Word of God by cutting one of Jeremiah’s prophecies into pieces with a penknife and throwing it into the fire after having heard only three or four columns read (Jer. 36:21-25). Twice Jehoiakim tried to capture Jeremiah; but the Lord, through Jeremiah’s friends, protected him. Jehoiakim killed the faithful priest Uriah (Jer. 26:20-23). Jeremiah admonished Jehoiakim to submit to the authority of Babylon (Jer. 27:18-19). In the same month of Jehoiakim’s death , Nebuchadnezzar began to march his troops toward Jerusalem to stop the rebellion that Jehoiakim had generated.
Jehoiakim’s son, JEHOIACHIN (called Conaih), began his reign when he was eighteen years old. Three months later the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and carried off Jehoiachin to Babylon (597 B.C. with other important Jews and artisans. Ezekiel was on of those deported at this time. After 37years of imprisonment in Babylon, Jehoiachin was released from prison and treated favorably. Jeremiah indicated that Jehoiachin was the last legitimate king (from the line of David) in Judah. “…for no man of his seed shal prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jer. 22:30).
The first Jewish captives were taken to Babylon from Judean villages in 605 B.C. As Nebuchadnezzar moved throughout his newly conquered territories, he selected choice young men from each of the conquered lands. Among the prisoners sent to Babylon by way of the Fertile Crescent in 605 B.C.were Daniel and his friends. The 70 years of captivity of Judah foretold by Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10) is figured from this date of deportment rather than 597 B.C. or 586 B.C. (the second and third deportments).
Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoichin’s uncle (Josiah’s third son) MATTANIAH king of Jerusalem and changed his name to ZEDEKIAH. For 11 years he was Nebuchadnezzar’s vassal on the throne. He was a weak character, yet he sought Jeremiah’s advice and protected Jeremiah’s life on several occasions. Evidently he rebelled, and in his ninth year Nebuchadnezzar began the final siege on Jerusalem. It lasted for two years, until the city was finally captured and destroyed. Zedekiah was blinded and carried off to Babylon along with fellow countrymen.
The Lord sent Jeremiah and other prophets to give the kings direction. Jeremiah was called of God to give God’s message to Judah, but no one listened. With a steel determination and a tender heart, he faithfully spoke the truth of God, never doubting God’s message. Satan won the battle in the lives of the last kings of Judah. They did not regard the Word of God; rather, they hated it because it condemned their sin.