II. The Divided Kingdom and the Kings of Judah (2 Chronicles 10:1–36:23)

After a period of having a united Israel ruled by Saul, David, and then Solomon, the Israelites would split their tribes into two kingdoms. Israel would be the name of the kingdom of the north, spanning ten tribes, and Judah would be the name of the southern kingdom, which would include the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam would be the first king of the new Israel, and Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) would be the first king of Judah. Importantly, the northern kingdom would be ruled entirely by evil kings for more than two hundred years; it would fall to the Assyrians in 722 BC. The southern kingdom of Judah, based in Jerusalem, would be ruled by a mixture of good and evil kings before finally falling to the Babylonians in 587–586 BC.

24:23-27 Silencing the Lord’s prophet wouldn’t prevent the fulfillment of his words. Within the year, the Lord handed over Judah to the invading Aramean army because Judah had abandoned the Lord (24:23-24). The devastation left Joash wounded, and in the end, his servants killed him on his bed because of his treachery against the family of Jehoiada (24:25). Once again, then, the Bible shows that what goes around comes around.

25:1-4 The tragic pattern of early faithfulness followed by later apostasy was repeated by Joash’s son Amaziah. He began well, doing what was right in the Lord’s sight—but (the chronicler quickly adds) not wholeheartedly (25:1-2). An unusual example of Amaziah’s obedience to the law was the way he handled the execution of his father’s assassins. He put the conspirators to death, but not their children, because that’s what the Mosaic law had stipulated (25:3-4).

25:5-8 Amaziah raised a large army from the men of Judah for battle (25:5). But, he wanted even more troops. So, he hired one hundred thousand Israelite warriors for 7,500 pounds of silver (25:6). But, this move displeased God, who had rejected the idolatrous northern kingdom and sent an unnamed prophet to Amaziah, declaring, the Lord is not with Israel—all the Ephraimites (25:7). “Ephraim” was a leading tribe of the northern kingdom, so the name was often used to speak of Israel as a whole. The prophet warned the king that if the warriors of Israel joined them, God would cause his forces to stumble (25:8).

25:9 To his credit, Amaziah believed the prophet’s warning. The king also followed the prophet’s instructions not to worry about recouping the money he had paid for the services of the Israelite warriors. The Lord is able to give you much more than this, the prophet said. That’s a good promise to remember. God doesn’t need Satan’s help to bless you.

25:10-14 Amaziah released the Israelites and had success against his enemies (25:10-12). But, the Israelite soldiers were so ticked off at not getting a crack at some serious plunder that they ransacked several towns in Judah and slaughtered three thousand people (25:13). Inexplicably, when Amaziah returned from battle, he brought his enemies’ false gods back to Jerusalem and set them up as his gods and worshiped before them (25:14).

25:15-16 Amaziah’s idolatry aroused the Lord’s anger. So, he sent another prophet to call the king back to his senses. The utter absurdity of Amaziah’s actions is evident in the stinging logic of the prophet’s question: Why have you sought a people’s gods that could not rescue their own people from you? (25:15). His question reveals the stark truth about idolatry: It’s insanity. But, by this time, Amaziah was feeling his power and warned the prophet to be quiet or die. The prophet’s parting words foretold the king’s doom (25:16).

25:17-19 Amaziah apparently traded the wise counsel of God’s prophets for foolish counsel that advised him to challenge Israel to a fight (25:17). King Jehoash of Israel tried to warn Amaziah to back off for his own good. While Amaziah had defeated Edom, he had become too big for his britches. Jehoash urged the upstart king of Judah to stay at home (25:18-19).

25:20-24 In verse 20, the God-inspired chronicler tells the reader of the spiritual reality that was working the downfall of the king in his earthly stupidity. God was planning Amaziah’s defeat because of his idolatry. In other words, the Lord let the stubborn and overconfident king of Judah go into battle and get thrashed (25:21-24).

25:25-28 After forsaking the Lord, Amaziah became very unpopular in Judah, and a conspiracy was formed against him. When the king fled, the assassins hunted him down and executed him (25:27). His reign had followed the pattern of his father, Joash, who also had turned away from God in his later years and was assassinated. Theirs is an unfortunate example of the adage, “Like father, like son.”

26:1-4 Uzziah was just a teenager when he became king. The reference to his installation on the throne is a little unusual. Apparently, his father, Amaziah, was not involved in naming his successor. Instead, all the people of Judah took Uzziah . . . and made him king (26:1). And, like previous kings of Judah, Uzziah began well: He did what was right in the Lord’s sight (26:4).

26:5 Uzziah had an older, godly mentor—a man named Zechariah, whom the chronicler described as the teacher of the fear of God. Like his grandfather Joash (who’d been counseled by Jehoiada), Uzziah followed the Lord as long as his mentor Zechariah was alive. In fact, as long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. It’s not certain that Uzziah’s pride and punishment coincided exactly with Zechariah’s death, but that may have been the case.

26:6-15 Uzziah enjoyed a number of successes during his fifty-two-year reign. He was successful in battle against the Philistines, the longtime enemies of God’s people (26:6-7). He became so powerful that another old enemy, the Ammonites, paid him tribute in submission as the king’s fame spread as far as Egypt (26:8). He also built defensive towers at several places along the walls of Jerusalem and was extensively engaged in agriculture (26:9-10). Uzziah was a great military leader, too, and even designed military devices to shoot arrows and catapult large stones from the Jerusalem towers (26:11-15). Therefore, it is no surprise that his fame spread wide (26:15).

26:16-18 Uzziah’s story took a wrong turn when he allowed his power, fame, and prosperity to make him arrogant. At first glance, his sin may seem relatively minor compared to the murders, idolatry, and gross immorality of which several other kings of Judah were guilty. However, by usurping the role of the priest to burn incense in the temple, Uzziah committed an act of great unfaithfulness to the Lord (26:16). A huge cadre of brave priests sought to stop the king before he went too far. They took their stand against King Uzziah (26:17-18) and called him out on his foolishness. This took tremendous courage considering that the king could have executed them with a word. They urged him to realize that he would not receive honor from the Lord (26:18).

26:19-23 Through the intervention of the priests, the Lord gave Uzziah a chance to repent. He could have humbled himself, honored God, and won the respect of the priests. Instead, he became enraged. But, before the king could unleash his anger, God afflicted him with a skin disease (26:19). This required that he live in quarantine until the day of his death (26:21). In other words, because of his arrogant violation of God’s law, Uzziah spent the rest of his days in isolation. (Keep yourself humble before the Lord. Pride will be your undoing.)

27:1-2 Uzziah’s son Jotham got a head start on ruling because he had to assume the reins of leadership during the years his father was unable to govern (27:1). The chronicler gives Jotham this commendation: He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his father Uzziah had done. In addition, he didn’t enter the Lord’s sanctuary (27:2). The statement about the temple is an obvious reference to Uzziah’s sin, but it appears that Jotham learned from his dad’s error. This is another instance of the chronicler using a historical incident to emphasize his message that faithful kings (and the nation under them) would prosper while faithless kings would lead the people into ruin.

Nevertheless, Jotham’s reign had its shortcoming. Apparently, though he himself was faithful, he was unable to rid Judah of the idolatry and spiritual unfaithfulness that had plagued God’s people for so long. So, while Jotham was following the Lord, the people still behaved corruptly (27:2).

27:3-9 Jotham accomplished significant construction projects (27:3-4) and was successful in battle (27:5) because he did not waver in obeying the Lord his God (27:6). After a reign of sixteen years, Jotham died and left the kingdom to his son Ahaz (27:8-9).

Not only did Jotham fail to influence the people to obey the Lord (even though he personally obeyed), but it also seems he failed to influence his son, as well.

28:1-4 Ahaz did not follow in the obedient footsteps of his father. In fact, he was so thoroughly corrupted by defection from the Lord and idolatry (28:2, 4) that he actually sacrificed his children by burning them in the detestable practices of the nations (28:3). This sad story highlights where idolatry leads. As we’ve seen throughout 2 Chronicles, the worship of false gods leads to godless living: wickedness, treachery, and violence. Ahaz’s actions demonstrated idolatry at its worst: it led to the murder of his innocent children.

King Ahaz was notable for another reason, too. About midway through his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC. God had given Israel over to its sin until, finally, his judgment fell on the nation. Ominously, one of the indictments issued against Ahaz was that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel (28:2). Israel was punished soundly for their idolatry with conquest and exile. It was a lesson that Ahaz should have taken to heart—but didn’t.

28:5-8 The chronicler doesn’t mention the fall of Israel because his focus was on Judah, Jerusalem, and the Davidic kings. Instead, he points out that Israel was one of the nations the Lord used in the earlier part of Ahaz’s reign to punish him for his sinfulness. And, as Judah’s king committed himself to idol worship, God handed Ahaz over to the king of Aram. The Arameans began the onslaught by inflicting a crushing defeat on Ahaz and taking hostages back to their capital of Damascus (28:5). Then, Israel came against Ahaz, resulting in the death of the king’s son and the capture of two hundred thousand people from Judah (28:7-8).

28:9-11 Here, the story takes an unusual turn. Not everyone in the northern kingdom had turned away from the Lord, because a prophet of the Lord named Oded met the Israelite army returning from its victory over Ahaz (28:9). When Oded saw all the captives straggling along behind the troops, he raised a strong protest. His speech (28:9-12) was a passionate plea not to make the suffering of Judah worse by reducing the people of Judah and Jerusalem . . . to slavery (28:10). He commanded them to release the captives to avoid the Lord’s burning anger (28:11).

28:12-15 Oded’s warning of God’s wrath on Israel for taking their brothers and sisters into captivity fell on the receptive ears of a group of leaders who insisted that the army do the right thing and release the people (28:12-13). To their credit, the soldiers obeyed and even took some of their plunder to clothe, feed, and otherwise care for the captives. Then, the designated soldiers took them to Jericho so they could be reunited with their families (28:14-15). Within this turn of events is the ultimate irony: unfaithful Israel listened to the voice of the Lord, while Judah did not—even though their kings were in the line of faithful David.

28:16-21 Ahaz didn’t seem to be moved by any of this. Instead of turning to the Lord when his kingdom was under attack by the Philistines and the Edomites, Ahaz turned to Assyria for help (28:16-18). But, this decision was doomed. The Lord brought havoc on Judah because Ahaz was unfaithful to the Lord (28:19). Rather than offering military assistance, the Assyrians oppressed Ahaz (28:20). Did that cause Ahaz to turn to God in repentance? No. He stripped the temple and the palace of their treasures and attempted to pay off the Assyrian king instead. But even this, the chronicler tells us, did not help him (28:21).

28:22-23 Idolatry is blinding, a fact highlighted in the next moves of Ahaz. The more he was plagued with trouble, the worse he became spiritually. He became more unfaithful to the Lord and sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him (28:22-23). Ahaz rationalized that because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, these same gods would also help him if he worshiped them. He didn’t understand that each catastrophe he suffered was punishment from the hand of his own God as a result of his disobedience. The idols that he looked to for deliverance were his downfall (28:23).

28:24-27 Ahaz locked up the temple and established idol worship stations on every street corner in Jerusalem (28:24). All of this, of course, only stoked the Lord’s anger against him (28:25). In the end, he was refused burial with the other kings in a final statement of his complete unfitness to be identified with the Davidic kings before him (28:27).

29:1-2 Had the man’s son followed in his footsteps, Ahaz could have served as the poster boy for bad fathers. But, remarkably, his son pulled off one of the greatest revivals in Judah’s history. The most important thing that the chronicler could say about Hezekiah was that he did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestor David had done (29:1-2). This king was worthy of comparison to David!

29:3-7 Hezekiah’s revival began in the first month of his reign, when he opened and repaired the temple doors (29:3). Having witnessed firsthand his father’s reign, Hezekiah acknowledged the wickedness done by past kings who’d committed evil in God’s sight and turned their backs on him (28:6-7). And so, his reforms began in the house of the Lord. He commanded the Levites to consecrate themselves and the temple (29:4-5). He realized that if Judah was going to turn around, it would have to start by worshiping God as he had commanded.

29:8-9 As a teenager and young adult, Hezekiah must have watched in horror as Judah’s enemies battered the nation in wars while unspeakable idolatries were practiced in Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew the reason for these disasters: The wrath of the Lord was on his nation. Therefore, God made Judah an object of terror, horror, and mockery (29:8). The king had also seen thousands of his fellow Judahites—sons . . . daughters . . . wives—carried off into captivity (29:9).

29:10-11 Hezekiah determined to do something about the sorry situation. Reopening the temple had been a good start, but Judah also needed a king whose heart was devoted to the Lord. Hezekiah, determined to be that king, set about making a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel to turn his anger away (29:10). He even challenged the Levites: don’t be negligent now. God had chosen them for their tasks, and they had an opportunity to reverse the damage done in the past (29:11).

29:12-19 The Levites and priests responded readily. They gathered their brothers together, consecrated themselves, and went to work cleansing the temple (29:15). The priests also went to the entrance of the Lord’s temple to cleanse it (29:16). For sixteen days, in fact, they purified the temple and everything associated with it. When they were done, they were able to report to Hezekiah that they had cleansed the whole temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the rows of the Bread of the Presence and all its utensils (29:18). In other words, everything was ready for the service of re-consecration and worship.

29:20-30 This service included two parts. First, Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went up to the Lord’s temple (29:20). These leaders held a great convocation of sacrifices and music in a joyful experience of worshiping the Lord and seeking his favor on his people once again (29:21-29). This ceremony ended with the king and his officials bowing their heads in worship as the music rang out (20:30).

29:31-36 What followed was apparently a broader service in which the entire congregation of Judah was invited to come and share in the worship. The people responded by bringing sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those with willing hearts brought burnt offerings (29:31). The response was so great that it overwhelmed the ability of the few priests to prepare all the sacrifices; thus, the Levites helped until the work was done (29:32-35). The conclusion of this glorious restoration of faithful worship was joy and satisfaction all around: Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced . . . for it had come about suddenly (29:36). Incredibly, Hezekiah accomplished all of this in just one month, after the temple had been padlocked for years.

30:1-5 The restoration of proper worship in the temple led to bigger things for Hezekiah and the people of Judah: the celebration of the Passover, which had fallen into neglect for many years (30:1). The date was set for the second month on the religious calendar, a month late (30:2), but the reasons were valid. There weren’t enough consecrated priests to celebrate the festival, and the people from the far regions needed time to get there (30:3). The invitation went out not only to Judah, the southern kingdom, but also to those in the northern kingdom of Israel, referred to here as Ephraim and Manasseh (30:1). This is a reference to those who had not been taken captive by the Assyrians.

30:6-12 Hezekiah’s invitation warmly asked those in the north to come to Jerusalem for a united celebration (30:6-7). It even contained a promise—return in service to the Lord, and he will return your fellow Israelites who have been taken away into captivity (30:8-9). (Now, that is a promise for the ages: return to God, and he will return to you; see Zech 1:3). But, the people of Israel, except for a few who humbled themselves, rejected the invite and mocked them (30:10-11), which confirms Gods judgment of them with captivity for their rebellion.

30:13-20 It’s obvious from the rest of the chapter that those who didn’t come to the Passover were the losers. A very large assembly of people was gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread (30:13), the seven-day celebration that immediately followed the Passover. The people’s hearts were so tuned to the Lord, in fact, that they undertook another purge of the altars where false gods were worshiped (30:14)! They celebrated the Passover with such enthusiasm that some of the people who participated were still ritually unclean (30:18), a violation that would normally have brought severe judgment. But, because they were doing so with a heart to seek the Lord, Hezekiah interceded for them and the Lord forgave them (30:18-20).

30:21-25 The Festival of Unleavened Bread that followed the Passover was such a big event in Judah that it took many thousands of animals to provide for all the worshipers (30:22-24). They even took the unprecedented step of extending the festival for another seven days (30:23). Through their enthusiasm the people were saying, in effect, “We haven’t worshiped like this in our whole lives. This is tremendous!”

30:26-27 The chronicler notes that, indeed, nothing like this had been experienced in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon son of David (30:26), which is a clear reference to the importance of the Davidic king’s faithfulness to the Lord. The long celebration ended on the best of all possible high points: the priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, and their prayer came into his holy dwelling place in heaven (30:27).

31:1-8 All of this was followed by the best of all outcomes in Judah—a spiritual revival that included still another purge of false worship, restoration of the giving of the people (chapter 31), and a miraculous deliverance from the armies of the dreaded Assyrians (chapter 32). Hezekiah reestablished the divisions of the priests and Le-vites that had been set in place to divide the workload in the various aspects of temple worship (31:2). Then came the people’s tithes and freewill offerings to support the priests and Levites as they served the Lord (31:4).

Hezekiah set the example by first giving generously and then calling on the people to give (31:3-4). They answered, bringing the best of the grain, new wine, fresh oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field . . . in an abundance (31:5). These offerings began to accumulate into large piles as the people spent four months bringing their tithes and gifts to the Lord’s house (31:6-7). Then, the Lord received all the praise (31:8).

31:9-21 The rest of this chapter describes how King Hezekiah provided for the proper oversight and use of the people’s gifts, making sure that the priests, Levites, and their families were provided for. It concludes with another ringing endorsement of Hezekiah’s faithfulness to the Lord in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple (31:21). The man was doing things right, and the Lord took careful notice.

32:1-8 The events of chapter 31 are intimately linked with what happened next in Hezekiah’s reign because the threat from Assyria came after these faithful deeds on Hezekiah’s part (32:1). The army of the Assyrian king Sennacherib invaded Judah and proceeded to conquer a number of towns on its march toward Jerusalem. Hezekiah did the wisest things he could do in the face of this terrifying threat: he prepared to defend the city (32:2-6) while hoping in the Lord (32:7-8).

Hezekiah worked hard to weaken the enemy, shore up Jerusalem’s defenses, and arm his troops, but his ultimate trust was in God. His statement to the people was a ringing declaration of Hezekiah’s faith and courage: Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. He has only human strength, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles (32:7-8).

32:9-19 The army of Assyria showed up, and its spokesman went to great lengths to dishearten the people by mocking and insulting the true God. He explained what the Assyrians had done to the other nations, whose gods had failed to protect them. Why should the God of puny Judah be any different (32:13-15)? Sennacherib’s servants even shouted to the people of Jerusalem, who were on the wall, to frighten and discourage them (32:18).

32:20-23 Hezekiah wisely sought the counsel and support of the great prophet Isaiah, and together these godly men prayed . . . and cried out to heaven (32:20). The Lord took note of the insults of a pagan king and the prayers of his humble people, and he responded. The Lord sent an angel who annihilated every valiant warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria (32:21). Sennacherib went home in disgrace and was assassinated by his own children (32:21). Hezekiah was exalted in the eyes of all the nations after that (32:23). This story is a beautiful reminder that God is sovereign. Fortunes can be reversed in a heartbeat.

32:24-33 Unfortunately, when Hezekiah was exalted, it became a source of temptation to succumb to pride. In the midst of an illness, Hezekiah prayed and received a miraculous sign from the Lord (32:24). But, Hezekiah then became proud and didn’t respond according to the benefit that had come to him. This means that while God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer, Hezekiah was ungrateful. He thought more highly of himself than he should have. So, the Lord disciplined him and the people (32:25). Thankfully, Hezekiah got the message and humbled himself. As a result, the Lord’s wrath didn’t come . . . during Hezekiah’s lifetime (30:26), which is an ominous note that bad times were still coming.

Even in light of his failures, Hezekiah was a great king who died with great honor. But, another hint of the bad times ahead is found in the note that his son Manasseh succeeded him (32:33).

33:1-3 The ultimate low point of Judah’s kings who departed from the Lord seems to have been reached with the long reign of Manasseh. And, it is evident from the beginning that Manasseh either learned nothing from his godly father, or quickly rejected it once he became king (33:1-2). His actions were a complete reversal of Hezekiah’s reforms. In fact, the chronicler reports that Manasseh rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had torn down and reestablished the altars for the Baals (33:3). The familiar formula, he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight (33:2), summarizes all but the last few years of Manasseh’s kingship.

33:4-8 It seems there was no form of degrading worship that Manasseh did not embrace and promote. He even built altars to all the stars in the sky (33:5). In other words, he worshiped the heavenly bodies rather than the God who created them. He also practiced child sacrifice, using his own sons as offerings to pagan gods in Ben Hinnom Valley. Additionally, he practiced witchcraft, divination, and sorcery, and consulted mediums (33:6).

But, these abominations weren’t enough for Manasseh. He also desecrated God’s temple. The king built altars in the Lord’s temple, where the Lord had said, “Jerusalem is where my name will remain forever” (33:4). Then, he committed the ultimate sin of erecting a carved image of the idol, which he had made, right there in God’s temple (33:7).

33:9 The catalog of evil that Manasseh practiced seemed to include every form of idolatry and abomination he could find. The chronicler’s conclusion of Manasseh’s sin was that he led Judah to commit worse evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed when he gave Israel the promised land. God had kicked the Canaanites out of the land because of their wickedness. Now, his people, recipients of that land, were worse than the Canaanites!

33:10-13 God could not allow this situation to go unchecked, so he spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen (33:10). Rather than allowing Manasseh to remain on his throne and afflict the nation further, God disciplined this wicked king. Manasseh was captured by the Assyrians and taken like an animal with hooks and shackles to Babylon (33:11). Finally, in great distress, Manasseh sought the Lord’s favor and humbled himself before the God of his ancestors (33:12). The Lord was moved by Manasseh’s humility, answered his prayer, and returned him to Jerusalem. So Manasseh came to know that the Lord is God (33:13).

33:14-17 Upon his restoration, Manasseh tried to undo all of the evils he had done. First, he fortified the city against attack (33:14). Then he removed all of the idols and pagan altars that he had erected and reinstituted true worship of the God of Israel (33:15-16). In the end, his reforms were limited because the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God (33:17).

33:18-25 Manasseh’s death set the stage for the brief and unhappy reign of his son Amon (33:18-20). The key to Amon’s reign is found in the report that, despite all the evil he did, repeating many of the sins of his father, Amon did not humble himself before the Lord like his father Manasseh (33:22-23). On the contrary, Amon increased his guilt (33:23). In the end, the king was assassinated, the common people executed his killers, and Josiah became Judah’s child king (33:24-25).

34:1-2 At the age of eight, Josiah could hardly be ready to rule. But, he obviously had a heart for the Lord, a key fact with which the chronicler sought to encourage his readers after the Babylonian captivity. Josiah did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in the ways of his ancestor David. He also merited this praise, which could be said about few other kings of Judah: He did not turn aside to the right or the left (34:2).

34:3-7 Josiah’s heart for the Lord manifested itself at the age of sixteen when he began to seek the Lord in earnest (34:3). And, when he was just twenty, he undertook a purge of all false worship and false worshipers that extended all the way north into the territory of Israel (34:3-7; see 1 Kgs 13:1-3).

34:8-18 It was during extensive and much-needed renovations to the temple (34:8-13) that the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord written by the hand of Moses (34:14). What happened next is famous in biblical history: Hilkiah told the court secretary Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law in the Lord’s temple,” and he gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan took the book to the king (34:15-16).

Just imagine it. The book of God’s law, “written by the hand of Moses,” had been tossed aside in some closet in the temple! Imagine Josiah’s shock when Shaphan told him, “Guess what we found.”

34:19-28 When he heard the law being read, Josiah tore his clothes—a symbolic act indicating great grief and mourning (34:19). He realized how far God’s people had fallen from him and how much God’s wrath was against them for their sin (34:21). The king’s men took the book to the prophetess Huldah, who confirmed God’s intent to bring disaster upon Judah for abandoning the Lord. His wrath would be poured out and would not be quenched (34:22-25) However, because Josiah had a tender heart and humbled himself, God promised that he would not see the disaster when it came (34:26-28).

34:29-33 How would you have responded to Huldah’s dire predictions (34:22-28)? Would you have been relieved? Would you have thought, “At least I won’t have to live through it?” Nothing like that was on Josiah’s mind. The king read the book of the covenant in the hearing of all the people (34:30). Then, he led a covenant renewal ceremony in which the king and the people pledged themselves to follow the Lord (34:31). Josiah made everyone agree to the covenant, removed the detestable things from the land, and required the people to serve the Lord their God (34:32-33). And, this wasn’t a mere ceremony that was later forgotten. During Josiah’s reign, Judah did not turn aside from following the Lord (34:33).

35:1-9 The temple wasn’t the only thing that had fallen into neglect when Josiah came to the throne. It had been many years since Judah had observed the Passover (35:1). Josiah made elaborate preparations to correct this problem, including his order to replace the ark in the holy of holies (35:3) after it had obviously been removed from the temple again. The king and his officials . . . donated extravagantly in preparation for this celebration (35:7-9).

35:10-19 The priests and the Levites faithfully accomplished their duties and the people celebrated (35:10-17). The event was so incredible that the chronicler confessed, No Passover had been observed like it in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel. None of the kings of Israel ever observed a Passover like the one that Josiah observed (35:18). This evaluation is at once both wonderful and tragic. It is wonderful because it demonstrates the intense repentance and devotion to the Lord of this young king. He was going to ensure that God was honored by the nation on his watch. But, it is also tragic that the worship of God had been so neglected.

35:20-27 Although Josiah was a godly king, God’s plan to spare him from seeing the destruction of Judah involved his death. Josiah went out to confront King Neco of Egypt (35:20). Neco warned Josiah that he did not want to fight him, but Josiah did not listen (35:21-22). According to the chronicler, Neco’s words were from the mouth of God (35:22). As a result, Josiah was slain by Neco’s archers (35:23-24). And, with the death of Judah’s last great king, the nation’s demise began to unfold quickly.

36:1-3 Jehoahaz became king in place of his father Josiah. The text does not explain why Neco came to Jerusalem and deposed the king after only three months on the throne, but Neco’s control was obvious in that he imposed taxes on the land and installed another son of Josiah as king.

36:4-8 When he placed Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim on Judah’s throne, Neco changed the new king’s name to Jehoiakim, perhaps to demonstrate again that Egypt was now in charge in Judah. Jehoahaz was carried off to Egypt, no doubt to be paraded as Neco’s prize and then either imprisoned or worse (36:4). Eliakim would be the first of four puppet kings who reigned in Judah before the exile to Babylon.

Like so many wicked kings before him, Jehoiakim didn’t learn anything from God’s judgment on his people. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (36:5). Throughout his reign, Jehoiakim was a puppet whose strings were being pulled by Judah’s oppressors—first Egypt, and then Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar drove out the Egyptians in 605 BC and took control of Judah. We learn in 2 Kings 24:1 that Jehoiakim rebelled against the king of Babylon. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim to Babylon in bronze shackles and also carried off articles from the temple (36:6-7). The detestable reign of Jehoiakim was over (36:8).

36:9-10 Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin did not fare well at all, due to the evil he did in the Lord’s sight (36:9). Nebuchadnezzar carried him off to Babylon, too, and made his brother Zedekiah king (36:10).

36:11-14 Judah’s royal puppet show had one final act, and it lasted a long time. Zedekiah was the fourth and last of the pitiful puppet kings who did their part to lead Judah into destruction (36:11-12). He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah at the Lord’s command and decided to rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar (36:12-13).

36:15-20 The grace of God is truly amazing. In spite of their centuries of unfaithfulness, the Lord time and time again sent messengers to warn both the king and the people to repent. Why? Because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place (36:15). God’s love for his people is unfathomable.

Sadly, when God’s kings and people continued to reject his word, there was no remedy (36:16). God handed them over to the Babylonians or Chaldeans. They killed many of God’s people, burned the temple of the Lord, tore down Jerusalem’s wall, and deported many to Babylon (36:17-20).

36:21 The chronicler adds a final comment regarding God’s judgment. The people had failed to observe the Sabbath rest of the land. The law had commanded that the land must lie fallow every seventh year (see Lev 25:1-7). Thus, God added one year of captivity for every Sabbath rest the land had missed. The people would be exiled for seventy years.

36:22-23 The story of Judah would have closed on this tragic note were it not for this very important word of hope and future restoration. (The chronicler’s readers had already witnessed the fulfillment of the promise that God would raise up King Cyrus of Persia—the Persians eventually defeated the Babylonians). Cyrus would have mercy on his people and be the human instrument of their restoration to the land of Israel (36:22). In 539 BC, he issued a decree that said the Lord had appointed him to build [God] a temple at Jerusalem in Judah. Moreover, God’s people were free to return to their land (36:23).

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