2 Kings 24; Hebrew 6; Joel 3; Psalm 143
THE FINAL UNRAVELING OF THE Davidic dynasty was not pretty. The last reforming king, Josiah, made a major mistake when he unnecessarily confronted Pharaoh Neco of Egypt. In 609 B.C., Josiah not only lost, but lost his life (2 Kings 23:29) while still a relatively young man.
His son Jehoahaz became king at the age of twenty-three, but his reign lasted a mere three months, until Pharaoh Neco arrested him and ultimately transported him to Egypt, where he died. Pharaoh Neco installed another son of Josiah on the throne, viz. Jehoiakim. He lasted eleven years. Second Kings 24 picks up the account from there.
Jehoiakim's Judah was squeezed between Egypt in the south and west, and Babylon in the north and east. The latter got the upper hand. Jehoiakim himself was corrupt, religiously perverse, and had grandiose visions of himself. He reintroduced pagan cults; violence abounded. In the fourth year of his reign, in 605 B.C., Pharaoh Neco of Egypt was crushed by the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish on the northern Syrian border; Egyptian power did not manage to reassert itself for almost three hundred years. Jehoiakim and the tiny country of Judah became a vassal tributary of the Babylonian empire.
But in 601 B.C., Jehoiakim rebelled. Nebuchadnezzar sent contingents of his armed forces to harry Judah. Then in December 598 B.C., he moved his powerful army to besiege Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died. His eighteen-year-old son Jehoiachin reigned for three months. Faced with an impossibly difficult decision, on March 16, 597 B.C., he abandoned resistance and surrendered. King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the palace retinue, the nobility, the men of valor, the leading craftsmen, and the priestly aristocracy (including Ezekiel) were transported seven hundred miles away to Babylon—at a time when seven hundred miles was a long, long way. Jehoiachin remained in prison and house arrest for thirty-seven years before he was released; but even then he never returned home, never saw Jerusalem again. The Babylonians still regarded him as the rightful king (as did the exiles), but meanwhile they installed a caretaker king back in Judah—his uncle Zedekiah, still only twenty-one years of age (2 Kings 24:18). His end belongs to the next chapter.
"Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.... It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence" (2 Kings 24:3–4, 20).