Introduction: This chapter tells of Judah’s demise under its last three kings. These included (1) Jehoiakim (Eliakim), (2) Jehoiachin (Coniah) and (3) Zedekiah (Mattaniah). Like most of their predecessors, these kings embraced evil. God then removed His hand of protection and allowed Nebuchadnezzar II to gain control of Judah and deport its people. The people suffered because of the sins of these three kings and the evil kings who preceded them. Even God’s prophets were deported because of the sins of these leaders. Jesus does not promise every believer a stress-free life. Like the Jews, you will frequently experience tribulation: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33). From the mistakes of Judah’s final three leaders, God reveals seven lessons for surviving your trials. These include: (1) faith / trust, (2) repentance, (3) fear God, (4) hope, (5) dependence, (6) humility, and (7) obedience.
First, King Jehoiakim / Eliakim faced an invasion from a far superior army under Nebuchadnezzar II from Babylonian. Initially, Jehoiakim submitted to Nebuchadnezzar II. Yet, he then put his trust in an alliance with Egypt to rebel against Babylon. This would lead to Judah’s destruction. God wants you to learn from this mistake to put your faith and trust in Him, not the world. Second, Jehoiakim failed to repent of his sins. He instead adopted the sinful ways of his predecessors. Thus, God fulfilled a promise of judgment that He gave to Manasseh. From Jehoiakim’s mistakes, God wants you to learn to repent of your sins and change your ways. Third, Jehoiachin took power after Jehoiakim. Despite observing God judge Jehoiakim and hearing of God’s warnings of judgment against Judah, Jehoiachin continued his father’s sins. He did this because he did not fear God. The Bible defines the fear of God as hating evil. God wants you to learn from Jehoiachin’s mistakes by hating what He defines as evil. Fourth, God allowed the Jews to be taken into captivity in three waves. Even God’s prophets were taken captive. God allowed the Jews to experience captivity so that the Jews would place their hope in Him. In your hour of darkness, God wants you to also learn to put your hope in Him. Fifth, God allowed Nebuchadnezzar II to strip Judah of all of its wealth and talent. He left only poor people behind. God allowed this so that the Jews would learn to depend upon Him and not in their wealth for deliverance. God also wants you to depend upon Him and not in your wealth. Sixth, God allowed Nebuchadnezzar II to take the proud people of Judah and humble them as slaves. He wants you to learn to humble yourself before Him. If you are prideful, He may be forced to humble you to save you from yourself. Finally, Zedekiah brought further tragedy upon Judah because he refused to obey God’s prophet Jeremiah. Instead, he obeyed false prophets who encouraged him to form a new alliance with Egypt and again rebel against Babylon. From Zedekiah’s mistakes, God wants you to obey His Word and not your own understanding.
God allows Nebuchadnezzar II to control Judah. As part of God’s judgment against Judah, He allowed the Babylonians to gain control over it. Yet, three years after the Babylonians gained control, King Jehoiakim / Eliakim led Judah in a failed rebellion against them: “1 In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years; then he turned and rebelled against him.” (2 Kgs. 24:1). At a time when Judah was weak, Pharaoh Neco previously appointed Josiah’s evil son Eliakim as King of Judah, and he renamed him Jehoiakim to demonstrate his control over him (2 Kgs. 23:24). Jehoiakim / Eliakim heavily taxed the Jews to pay tribute to his master in Egypt (2 Kgs. 23:25). This weakened Judah’s ability to defend itself. In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II, the then crown prince of Babylon, gained control over Judah after he defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians at Carchemish in northern Syria. He then chased the Egyptians back to the Sinai Peninsula. He seized Judah and made it a vassal state because the Jews had become loyal to Babylon’s enemy in Egypt. Also in 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II raced back to Babylon to succeed his father Nabopolassar to become King of Babylon. He reigned from 605 B.C. to 562 B.C. With him, he took the first wave of deportees to Babylon in 605 B.C. These included the prophet Daniel and his friends (Dan. 1:1-3). Between 605 and 587 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II invaded and deported the Jews two more times. Jehoiakim / Eliakim submitted to Nebuchadnezzar II first as crown prince and at first when he became king three years into Jehoiakim’s reign (Jer. 25:1). Yet, after three years of Babylonian rule, Jehoiakim / Eliakim joined with the Egyptians to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar II. The two powers assumed that Babylon was weak and distracted with the death of Nebuchadnezzar’s father. Jehoiakim / Eliakim formed this alliance and attacked against the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 27:9-11). In 597 and in 587 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II invaded and deported the Jews two more times. Jehoiakim / Eliakim failed to trust in God. Instead, he put his trust in Egypt.
Jehoiakim / Eliakim led a revolt against Nebuchadnezzar II that God did not authorize1
Jehoiakim / Eliakim pursued evil instead of righteousness. The Bible records that Jehoiakim / Eliakim: “did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.” (2 Kgs. 23:37). This means that he pursued idolatry. He also placed his trust in the world and his own strength instead of trusting in God and living righteously.
Place your trust in God and not in powerful people or yourself. God warned His people to trust in Him and not in human leaders for their deliverance. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). Jehoiakim / Eliakim placed his trust in a pharaoh. Many today may see no connection in this to the modern world. Yet, it is common during elections in western nations for people to put their hopes in one political party or in one candidate. It is important to care about who is elected. A Spirit-led leader can lead a nation into God’s blessings, and a rebellious leader can lead a nation into God’s curses. Yet, like everyone else, leaders will sin (Ro. 3:23). Thus, you should never place your hopes in leaders. Instead, place your hope in Jesus (1 Tim. 6:17).
God sends foreign oppressors against Judah because of its sins. Because Jehoiakim / Eliakim refused to trust God, God sent foreign invaders to cause the Jews to turn back to Him. Yet, because the Jews would not repent of their evil ways, God fulfilled His prior judgments upon King Manasseh: “2 The Lord sent against him bands of Chaldeans, bands of Arameans, bands of Moabites, and bands of Ammonites. So He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken through His servants the prophets. 3 Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, 4 and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive. 5 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?” (2 Kgs. 24:2-5). The prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Micah had all preached warnings of God’s judgment and the need for the Jews to repent. God had also judged the Jews for their sins that they willingly committed under both King Manasseh and King Amon. This included the adoption of all the detestable practices of the condemned Canaanites and the now extinct nation of Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 16:3; 21:2; Dt. 18:9-12). Following these practices expressly violated God’s law (Dt. 12:29-31). Yet, the Jews would not repent. Before Nebuchadnezzar II invaded again, God allowed other lesser nations to attack Judah from different directions and weaken it. The Jews, however, again would not repent. Jehoiakim / Eliakim even murdered the prophet Urijah. Thus, God fulfilled His prior judgment against Manasseh.
Manasseh’s seven deadly sins. Manasseh holds the dubious distinction as the most evil King of Judah (2 Chron. 33:1-9). He rejected the reforms that his father Hezekiah had instituted. Instead, in the beginning, he emulated his evil grandfather Ahaz of Judah. He then emulated and exceeded the evil of King Ahab in Northern Israel. Manasseh’s seven deadly sins included but are not limited to the following. First, he reinstituted Ahab’s practices of Baal and Asherah worship (2 Kgs. 21:3). This violated God’s First Commandment against worshipping other gods (Ex. 20:3; Dt. 5:7). Because Asherah worship involved ritual sex, he turned the Temple into a brothel. Second, he rebuilt the pagan altars that Hezekiah faithfully destroyed (2 Kgs. 21:3). God ordered the Jews to destroy these altars (Dt. 12:2-3; Jer. 2:20). This also violated God’s Second Commandment against idolatry (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Third, he went beyond Ahab’s idolatry by following Babylonian worship of the sun, moon, and stars through astrology (2 Kgs. 21:3). In addition to again violating the First Commandment, God separately prohibited astrology because of the demonic influences that it involved: “And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” (Dt. 4:19; 17:2-5). Fourth, he desecrated God’s Temple with pagan altars (2 Kgs. 21:4, 7). God “put [His] name forever in the Temple (1 Kgs. 8:29; 9:3; 21:7). Thus, his actions also blasphemed God’s holy name. This in turn violated the Third Commandment (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). Fifth, he practiced witchcraft and divination, and he dealt with mediums and spiritists (2 Kgs. 21:6). This was also expressly prohibited under God’s law (Lev. 19:31; Dt. 18:9-12). This placed him in direct communion with demonic forces. Indeed, God condemned Saul to death for speaking with a medium (1 Sam. 28:16-19). Sixth, he sacrificed his own son through fire to the pagan god Molech (2 Kgs. 21:6). This also directly violated God’s law: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:21; Dt. 18:10-12). Ahaz was the only other king in Judah to do this (2 Kgs. 16:3) This practice was so offensive to God that it was a reason for His judgment of the Ammonites (Gen. 15:16; Dt. 20:17). Finally, he murdered God’s prophets, including Isaiah (2 Kgs. 21:16). This violated the Sixth Commandment against murder (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). Sadly, the Jews continued to persecute those who spoke God’s Word (Jer. 26:21). Jehoiakim / Eliakim’s murder of the prophet Urijah showed how little he had learned. It was only out of mercy and grace and God’s covenant with David that he did not die (2 Sam. 7:11-13).
God tested the Jews with foreign invasions so that they would return to Him. Moses warned the Jews that God tested them to expose their sins: “for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20(b); Dt. 8:2). David also warned that even the righteous are not beyond God’s testing: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked . . .” (Ps. 11:5). “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, . . .” (Jer. 17:10). God’s testing and discipline are done out of love (Heb. 12:6). When you are tested, you may find that your heart has hidden anger, lust, or covetousness. When God exposes wickedness, He expects you to repent of it: “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). David invited God’s testing to show him where he needed to change (Ps. 139:23). When God tests you and exposes your sins, do you repent?
God desires a contrite and repentant heart. God wanted the Jews to recognize and repent of their sins. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, o God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17). Jesus also began His ministry by preaching repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2). One commentator observes: “Many in the days of Jehoiakim believed that God’s will was to deliver them from their enemies and to preserve an independent Judah. Yet that was not God’s will; it was His will to bring Judah into judgment (knowing they had not genuinely repented and would not). The best thing for Judah to do was to submit to this will of God, as Jeremiah told them to do – despite great opposition.” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 24). When God exposes your sins, repent of them so that He can forgive you. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9).
Jehoiachin reigns and does evil in God’s eyes. Following the death of Jehoiakim / Eliakim, his son Jehoiachin became King of Judah. Even after God took his hope of Egyptian protection away, Jehoiachin did evil in God’s eyes: “6 So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son became king in his place. 7 The king of Egypt did not come out of his land again, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates. 8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.” (2 Kgs. 24:6-9). Jehoiachin is known by Jechonias, Jechoniah, Jeconiah, and Coniah. He became king at age 18. Yet, because he pursued evil, God allowed him to reign for only three months.
Jehoiachin observed God’s judgment upon Eliakim. At age 18, Jehoiachin observed God judge his father. According to the prophecy of Jeremiah, Eliakim died without a burial or any honor (Jer. 22:18). The Babylonians captured him and bound him in chains to bring him to Babylon. Yet, after leaving Jerusalem, he died and received no burial (2 Chron. 36:6). At this time, the Babylonians also captured some of the treasures in God’s Temple and carried them to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:7). If Jehoiachin were a God-fearing king, he would have repented. But he didn’t.
Jehoiachin observed God’s judgment upon Judah’s only ally, Egypt. In 601 B.C., at the end of the reign of Jehoiakim / Eliakim, Nebuchadnezzar II defeated the Egyptians, and he drove them back to their territory. The Egyptians’ army never again left its territory (2 Kgs. 24:7). This deprived Judah of its only ally and only means of defending itself against Babylon. A God-fearing king would repented and turned to God for help against the Babylonians. But neither Jehoiakim / Eliakim nor Jehoiachin turned to God.
Jehoiachin observed Jehoiakim / Eliakim’s evil acts and copied them. Despite seeing God’s judgment and hearing from God’s prophets, Jehoiachin continued in his father’s evil acts before God. This most likely included idolatry (2 Kgs. 24:9; Jer. 22:24). Thus, God lifted His hand of protection, and Jehoiachin’s reign ended after only three months.
Jehoiachin heard God’s warnings of judgment and ignored them. Through His prophets, God warned Judah before sending its people into exile: “Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.”’ (2 Kgs. 17:13). Dating back to Solomon, God warned that open disobedience would bring His judgment upon His peoples: ‘“6 But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the Lord has brought all this adversity on them.’” (1 Kgs. 9:6-9). The people, however, would not listen to God’s prophets because they were stiff necked and unwilling to listen: “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. . . . And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, by which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.” (Neh. 9:16, 29). “So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.’’ But they will say, ‘It's hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” (Jer. 18:11). “So I will choose their punishments and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.” (Is. 66:4). Because God is just, He gives many warnings to sinners before He is forced to judge unrepentant sin.
Fear God by hating evil. Jehoiachin did not respond to God’s many warnings because he did not fear God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7). Many assume that a just and loving God will never judge sin. Yet, because God is just, He must judge sin. Even when Jesus takes your judgment, there are still consequences for sin. To keep yourself from sinning, you must fear God. This is defined in the Bible as hating evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). “Hate evil, you who love the LORD, who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Ps. 97:10). “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Ro. 12:9(b)). If you are tolerating what God calls evil in your life, you may also return to your sins.
Nebuchadnezzar II defeats and deports the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar II fulfilled God’s judgment against the Jews by capturing Jerusalem and taking its leaders prisoner: “10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon went up to Jerusalem, and the city came under siege. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials. So the king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign.” (2 Kgs. 24:10-12). In 597 B.C., eight years into Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign, he captured Jerusalem. That same year, he also took a second wave of Jewish captives into exile. The prophet Ezekiel was part of the second wave of captives that Nebuchadnezzar II sent into exile (Ezek. 1:1).
God allowed Nebuchadnezzar II’s soldiers to capture Jerusalem2
Jehoiachin observed Nebuchadnezzar II’s invasion but failed to repent. If Jehoiachin were a godly king, he would have turned to God upon hearing of the Babylonian army’s advance. Yet, because his heart was evil, he failed to turn to God. Thus, God lifted His hand of protection, and the Babylonians took Jehoiachin into captivity for 36 years.
God’s Word (including His law) will keep you from returning to the bondage of sin. God deported the Jews because they rejected His law. “64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. 65 Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul.” (Dt. 28:64-65). By placing Judah under Nebuchadnezzar II’s physical captivity, God made manifest the spiritual captivity that already existed in the Jews’ hearts. God desired to set His people free from bondage: “With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”’ (Ex. 13:14(b)). Jesus also came to free mankind from the bondage to sin and human oppression that humans have imposed upon themselves. On the first day of His public ministry, He entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. After reading the passage, “He has come to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set free those who are oppressed,” Jesus proclaimed: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:14-21). “‘So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”’ (Jo. 8:36). “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17). “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1). Jesus gave you His Word (which includes His law) to protect you from slavery to sin. When you ignore His Word, you also risk placing yourself into bondage, just as the Jews did under Jehoiachin.
Let God use your trials to build up your faith. The Jews’ exile was one of their darkest times in history. To many, all hope would seem to have been lost. Yet, God tested the Jews with these other trials so that they would learn to place their faith in Him. Your trials should produce perseverance and endurance: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3). Paul faced a similar trial when he faced death in Asia. He advised that God put him through trials so that he would rely upon Him and not his own strength: “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; . . . He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,” (2 Cor. 1:8-10). Are you turning to Jesus to build up your faith and deliver you during your trials?
Put your hope in Jesus, the Rock of your salvation. Ezekiel would not have wanted to be placed into bondage. Yet, he knew that this was part of God’s plan. Without their bondage, the Jews would not have listened to his message and learned to put their hope in God. David also placed his hope in the “the Rock of Israel”, who encouraged him: “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2). “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation,” (Ps. 18:46). “The LORD is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed.” (Ps. 28:8). Paul reveals that “the rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4). He is our Rock and the power or horn of our salvation: “And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant—” (Lk. 1:69). Jesus wants you to call upon Him as your Rock of deliverance in times of trouble. He will give you the strength to persevere.
God allows Nebuchadnezzar II to loot the Temple and impoverish the Jews. In addition to seizing the leaders of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar II also looted whatever treasures he could find: “13 He carried out from there 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, just as the Lord had said. 14 Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.” (2 Kgs. 24:13-14). Nebuchadnezzar II took the treasures from the Temple (2 Kgs. 24:13). He left Judah destitute and without its skilled workers.
God allowed Nebuchadnezzar II’s soldiers to loot the gold from His Temple3
Nebuchadnezzar II fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy against Hezekiah. Because of Hezekiah’s prideful acts in showing all the treasures of God’s Temple to the Babylonians, Isaiah prophesied that the Babylonians would one day return and seize the remaining gold inside of Judah: “16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. 17 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. 18 ‘Some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away; and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” (2 Kgs. 20:16-18). Nebuchadnezzar II fulfilled this prophecy as he did many others.
Nebuchadnezzar II left Judah destitute and without the means to rebuild. In addition to taking any treasures that he could find, Nebuchadnezzar II took all the skilled laborers as prisoners. He took approximately 10,000 captives (2 Kgs. 24:15-16). These missing labors prevented Judah from rebuilding into its former greatness. Nebuchadnezzar II also took people who could have helped the Jews rebuild spiritually in Judah. The prophet Ezekiel was amongst those taken in this wave of exiled Jews (Ezek. 1:1-3). The prophet Ezekiel would help to spiritually rebuild the Jews. Yet, it would be during their captivity where they would finally listen to God’s Word and accept it as true. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” (Hos. 2:14). Don’t force God to drag you into the wilderness before you will listen to Him.
God desires your dependence and faith over your comfort. God’s willingness to judge His people and allow their treasures to be looted might appear troubling to some. Some falsely believe that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. But He never changes (Heb. 13:8). He also never changes His mind (Nu. 23:19). These verses show that He desires that you depend upon Him and not in your wealth. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” (Matt. 6:19-20). “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (Ja. 6:1-3). God wanted the Jews to depend upon Him and not their wealth. Are your treasures in heaven? If so, no thief or calamity can take them from you.
God allows Nebuchadnezzar II to humble the proud Jews. Nebuchadnezzar II also humbled the Jews as he led the proud away into captivity: “15 So he led Jehoiachin away into exile to Babylon; also the king’s mother and the king’s wives and his officials and the leading men of the land, he led away into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 All the men of valor, seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths, one thousand, all strong and fit for war, and these the king of Babylon brought into exile to Babylon.” (2 Kgs. 24:13-16). The Babylonians forced King Jehoiachin and every other royal member to walk in chains 680 miles to Babylon. The wealthy Jews had anything of value taken from them. Jehoiachin then lived in squalor as a prisoner for 37 years (2 Kgs. 25:27).
Nebuchadnezzar II’s marched the Jews 680 miles to Babylonian captivity4
Nebuchadnezzar II fulfilled a prophecy of judgment against the king and his mother. The Bible tells us that Nebuchadnezzar II led away both King Jehoiachin and his mother Nehushta (2 Kgs. 24:8) after stripping them of their valued belongings. This fulfilled a prophecy of judgment that Jeremiah gave while referring to Jehoiachin by his alternative name Coniah: “24 ‘As I live,’ declares the Lord, ‘even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off; 25 and I will give you over into the hand of those who are seeking your life, yes, into the hand of those whom you dread, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans. 26 I will hurl you and your mother who bore you into another country where you were not born, and there you will die. 27 But as for the land to which they desire to return, they will not return to it.”’ (Jer. 22:24-27). These verses show that God’s Word always comes true. You can fully trust His promises to you.
Nebuchadnezzar makes Mattaniah / Zedekiah king, who also does evil in God’s eyes. Nebuchadnezzar II picked Mattaniah as a puppet king. He also renamed him “Zedekiah” to demonstrate his control over him: “17 Then the king of Babylon made his uncle Mattaniah king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20 For through the anger of the Lord this came about in Jerusalem and Judah until He cast them out from His presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.” (2 Kgs. 24:17-20). Mattaniah was Jehoiachin’s uncle and a descendent through Josiah (1 Chron. 3:15; Jer. 1:3). The name Mattaniah meant “gift of the Lord”. His new name Zedekiah means “righteousness of the Lord.” Yet, he was neither of these things. Despite seeing the horrors that rebellion had brought upon Judah, he also refused to submit to God’s authority in his life. For 11 years, from 597-586 B.C., Mattaniah / Zedekiah ruled as a Babylonian puppet king. The Babylonians further weakened Judah by reducing the size of its territory (Jer. 13:18-19). Mattaniah / Zedekiah continued the idol worship, and he refused to lead his country in repentance. Without God to support him, his rebellion against Babylon led to his demise. Some believe that he formed an alliance with pharaoh Apries /Hophra in 588 B.C. to revolt against the Babylonians (Ezek. 17:15-18). Like the kings who preceded him, he could not expect to rely upon Egypt for his salvation. The Egyptians never came to support Judah. Zedekiah should have trusted in God alone.
The Jews were forced to live as servants to the the Babylonian Empire5
Zedekiah refused to listen to God’s Word. While Zedekiah was willing to take directions from first his Babylonian master and then his Egyptian ally, he refused to humble himself and listen to God’s prophet Jeremiah. He also broke his oath, and he would not abandon the evil ways of the world: “11 Zedekiah . . . did evil in the sight of the Lord his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance by God. But he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord God of Israel. 14 Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people were very unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations; and they defiled the house of the Lord which He had sanctified in Jerusalem. 15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy.” (2 Chr. 36:11-16). Jeremiah told Zedekiah that his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar II would not succeed (Jer. 32:1-5). But Zedekiah instead listened to the false prophets who told him what he wanted to hear. Zedekiah then compounded his evil acts by arresting and imprisoning Jeremiah.
Obey God’s Word, not your own understanding. Zedekiah should have obeyed God’s Word. Instead, he leaned upon his own understanding regarding what he should do: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). Zedekiah’s failure to trust God’s Word led to his ruin. Even worse, it led to the destruction of the entire nation of Judah.
God desires obedience more than sacrifice. God wanted Zedekiah’s obedience more than any heroic sacrifices against a pagan enemy. “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22). Are you obedient in your walk with Jesus? If not, what kind of an example are you setting?
Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord. Yet, Jesus is not your Lord if you disobey Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24). “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matt. 7:26). If you call Jesus your Lord, is there any area of your life where you are refusing to obey Him?
Have faith that God will also protect you when you do His will. God promised to protect the Jews when they acted in faith-led obedience (Dt. 28:1-14). As led by the Holy Spirit, David also promised Solomon that obedience would ensure that their descendants continued to rule on the throne: “4 so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kgs. 2:4). When the Jews walked with Him, God also promised to cause their enemies to fear them: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). ‘“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” (Dt. 2:25). You also never need to fear your enemies when you act in Spirit-led obedience and do God’s will. If you are serving God, do you trust Him to protect you? If not, you may act foolishly like Zedekiah.
Image credit: (Ralph F. Wilson) https://i.pinimg.com/originals/89/ab/00/89ab00d0bb0107dd6cffc08e8387f443.jpg↩︎