II. The Surviving Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18:1–25:30)


II. The Surviving Kingdom of Judah (18:1–25:30)

A. The Reign of Hezekiah (18:1–20:21)

18:1-3 Though Judah would eventually fall, too, the southern kingdom was temporarily blessed with the godly reign of Hezekiah, a man who was the polar opposite of his evil father, Ahaz (18:1). He enjoyed the rare commendation of doing what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestor David had done (18:3).

18:4-6 Hezekiah was one of the few kings who removed the high places—the forbidden places of worship. He also cut down the idolatrous Asherah poles. Moreover, he destroyed the bronze snake that Moses made centuries before (see Num 21:8-9), which was called Nehushtan, meaning a “A Bronze Thing.” How sad that this object that God had used to deliver his people had become a thing of worship! For these and other reasons, Hezekiah was hailed as a king set apart from and above the other kings of Judah in his faithfulness to God’s commands (18:5-6; for his other spiritual reforms and activities, see 2 Chr 29–31).

18:7-8 After we’ve read of the unfaithfulness and vile actions of so many of the kings of Israel and Judah, King Hezekiah is a breath of fresh air. The Lord was with him, and wherever he went he prospered. Notice that when Hezekiah honored God, God’s presence was with him and gave him success. And, instead of bowing down in subservience to a foreign power, the king opposed the king of Assyria and did not serve him (18:7). He also defeated the Philistines (18:8). As this man looked to God as his source of deliverance, God was with him.

18:9-12 The author briefly repeats the earlier account of Assyria conquering the northern kingdom and deporting the Israelites (see 17:3-6) because these events happened during Hezekiah’s reign.

18:13-16 Interestingly, the account in 2 Kings 18:13–20:19 very closely parallels Isaiah 36:1–39:8. The Assyrian king whom Hezekiah would deal with was Sennacherib, the successor to Shalmaneser, who had conquered Israel. Unfortunately, things did not go well for Judah. Sennacherib attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them (18:13), leaving only Jerusalem. And, at that point, Hezekiah may have been thinking that he had badly miscalculated the situation. He admitted to Sennacherib, I have done wrong, and offered a ransom to save his people from suffering the same fate as Israel (18:14). The demand made of him was huge, and Hezekiah sent all the silver and gold he could collect, even stripping the gold from the temple (18:15-16). Yet, things were about to get worse. God would circle the Assyrians around Jerusalem to test Hezekiah’s faith and to demonstrate his own mighty power to his people.

18:17-18 Either Hezekiah’s ransom wasn’t enough for Sennacherib or he was looking for a pretext to attack Jerusalem and complete his conquest of Judah anyway, because the Assyrian king sent a delegation and a massive army to Jerusalem to demand the city’s surrender. This they wanted to deliver to the king in person, but they had to settle for speaking to Hezekiah’s delegation—although there were people gathered “on the wall,” listening in (see 18:26).

18:19-25 Sennacherib’s royal spokesman (18:19) made what he thought was a slam-dunk case for Hezekiah and his people to open their gates and surrender. First, Egypt was a useless ally that would not deliver them (18:21). This was true. Second, he was sure the people of Judah had angered their God by destroying his worship centers—that is, the forbidden high places and altars that Hezekiah had demolished (18:22). Of course, Hezekiah had been right to demolish them. But likely, even the king’s supporters would question the king’s actions in light of what was happening. Third, Sennacherib’s spokesman reminded them that Judah’s army was too weak to repel the Assyrian army (18:24). Given Hezekiah’s attempt to pay off Assyria, this was also probably true. And finally, he claimed that the Lord himself had told him to attack this land and destroy it (18:25), essentially saying, “Hey, your God is on my side!” This point was a lie, but to the demoralized people of Jerusalem, it certainly may have looked as if he were right. After all, their northern neighbors had fallen to Assyria, and those same cruel conquerors were now at their gates.

18:26-30 The three men’s plea for the negotiations to be done in Aramaic instead of Hebrew was designed to shield the listeners on the wall from the threats (18:26). But, the Assyrian spokesman wasn’t about to accommodate. He wanted everyone to fear his king’s ultimatum. He even loudly threatened them in Hebrew in the most repulsive way imaginable (18:27). Then, he warned the people not to listen to any promises Hezekiah might make about the Lord showing up to rescue them (18:30). Given this diatribe, how long would the people of Judah continue to trust their king?

18:31-32 Sennacherib’s spokesman offered the people peace and prosperity instead of suffering and starvation, if they would simply surrender (18:31). Those words may have sounded tempting to the people of Jerusalem, who were about to face a siege and be cut off from the world. The Assyrian also made it clear that deportation to a land like [their] own was part of the bargain. He promised them it would be a land of grain and new wine, of olive trees and honey (18:32). Similarly, Satan tempts believers with offers that sound inviting, but sin never delivers all it promises.

18:33-37 The speech concluded with six rhetorical questions. Their essence was this: the gods of the nations had not rescued their followers from the power of the king of Assyria. And, neither would the Lord rescue Jerusalem (18:33-35). Intimidated by this encounter, Hezekiah’s men took their report back to the king with their clothes torn in distress (18:37).

19:1-4 When he heard their report, King Hezekiah did the same thing that his men did: he tore his clothes in grief (19:1). Surely, he wondered how such a terrible turn of events had happened. After all, he had been faithful to God. He had reformed Judah’s worship. He had kept the Lord’s commands. Previously, God had caused him to prosper (18:5-8). But, at that moment, God seemed silent.

This account, then, is a good reminder that faithfulness to God does not keep you from trials. However, it does prepare you to meet those trials. By living life from a divine perspective, you will be equipped to deal with trouble and suffering. To rely on him in the bad times as you’ve relied on him in the good. And, you will have an opportunity to see God at work.

In spite of his distress, King Hezekiah went into the Lord’s temple to worship (19:1). In addition, he did what so many of his predecessors had not. He sought a word from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah by sending a delegation dressed in sackcloth (19:2). They explained to God’s prophet the grim situation that Judah was facing, and they informed him that the Assyrian leader had come to mock the living God (19:3-4).

19:5-7 Isaiah already knew all of this because God knew all of this. So, he gave the servants a message for Hezekiah that began with a command: Don’t be afraid (19:5-6). This command is repeated often in Scripture. It’s God’s way of calming his people, filling them with confidence, and assuring them, “I have everything under control. You can trust me.” Not only had the Lord heard the blasphemous words of the Assyrian king’s lackey (19:6), but he also planned to do something about them. Far from defeating Jerusalem, King Sennacherib would instead return to his own land and fall by the sword (19:7).

19:8-13 Sennacherib’s royal spokesman was probably camped at the walls of Jerusalem waiting for an answer from Hezekiah when a report came that the king had pulled his army out of Lachish and was fighting at Libnah, located twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem (19:8). Sennacherib had heard a report that King Tirhakah of Cush was coming out to fight him (19:9), causing the Assyrian king to divert his attention from Jerusalem for what he thought was only a short time. So, Sennacherib made sure that Hezekiah knew he would be back, repeating the threats his underling had made earlier (19:10-13).

19:14-19 Hezekiah didn’t tear his clothes in anguish when he read the letter from Sennacherib. He took it to the temple and spread it out before God and prayed (19:14-15). Acknowledging his submission to the divine King, Hezekiah began, Lord God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim (19:15). He then reminded God of his unique relationship with Israel as opposed to the purported relationships between conquered peoples and the false gods of the nations Assyria had defeated. He knew that none of the gods of the nations had delivered their people because they were made by human hands and lacked any power (19:18). But, the Lord is different. He isn’t a creation of man; he is the Creator of man. He made the heavens and the earth (19:15). Hezekiah saw Sennacherib’s letter as an attack on God’s character (19:16), and he pleaded with God to vindicate himself and his people (19:19). Hezekiah was reminding him that answering his prayer would bring God great glory. This prayer is a model for believers in distress.

19:20-28 God heard Hezekiah and once again, sent the king his answer through Isaiah (19:20). This poetic response ridicules Sennacherib and exalts God’s sovereign rule over the nations. The king of Assyria hadn’t merely mocked Judah and her king; he had mocked and blasphemed . . . the Holy One of Israel! (19:22). While Sennacherib arrogantly assumed his own leadership and might had cut a swath through many nations (19:23-24), he didn’t know that his victories were ordained by God as part of his plan drawn up long ago (19:25). The bigheaded Assyrian king, then, was just a pawn on God’s kingdom chessboard. Sennacherib couldn’t make a move or have a private thought that God didn’t know about, which included any raging he did against the Lord (19:27). Yet, Sennacherib would find out how insignificant he was because God would put his hook in his nose and drag him back to Assyria (19:28).

19:29-31 God gave a word of comfort to a king and people facing a seemingly unavoidable siege and starvation. The people of Jerusalem hadn’t been able to go outside the walls to plant crops for fear of the Assyrians. But, God’s sign to Hezekiah was that, for the next two years, the people of Jerusalem would eat harvests from the seed that grew on its own. In the third year, they would be able to sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit (19:29). Judah would not be wiped out. A remnant would survive, bear fruit, and go outside the walls of Jerusalem, for the Lord has great zeal for his glory and for his covenant people (19:30-31).

19:32-34 God himself would defend Jerusalem (19:34) against Sennacherib. He would do this, he said, for my sake and for the sake of my servant David (19:34). God would not allow his plans to be thwarted by some upstart Assyrian king. Nor would he fail to fulfill his promise to David to keep one of his descendants on the throne of Jerusalem forever—a promise ultimately culminating in the kingship of Jesus Christ our Lord.

19:35-37 All it took to rid Hezekiah of his enemy was one stroke from the angel of the Lord—a phrase that is often used to indicate a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ in Old Testament times. In an instant one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers were dead (19:35). And suddenly, without his army, Sennacherib had no choice but to go back home. Later, his own sons killed him while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch (19:37). The Assyrian king had ridiculed the Lord for being unable to protect Jerusalem. But, in the end, it was Sennacherib’s god who was unable to protect his devoted follower—even in his own temple.

20:1-3 Sometimes biblical authors do not put events in chronological order. Rather, they order events in their narratives to fit their purposes. In this case, it’s likely that the account of Hezekiah’s illness (20:1-21) actually happened before the previous account of Sennacherib’s invasion (18:13–19:37; see 20:6; Isa 38:6).

Hezekiah became terminally ill and was advised by God through the prophet Isaiah to prepare for his death (20:1). It’s one thing when the doctor says your case is terminal. But, when the Lord announces it, there is no possibility of a misdiagnosis. So, it’s not hard to sympathize with Hezekiah’s fervent prayer and the fact that he wept bitterly (20:3).

20:4-6 God was moved by Hezekiah’s heartfelt prayer. Isaiah was still in the inner courtyard of the palace when God sent him back to tell Hezekiah, I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you (20:4-5). He also promised to deliver Jerusalem from the king of Assyria (20:6).

God does not lie (see Num 23:19), and he does not change (see Mal 3:6). Yet, he is relational; he personally relates to his people. His declaration of death for Hezekiah was real. But, God is free to change—not in his character or in his ultimate purposes—but with regard to his actions within his purposes. This is a principle articulated repeatedly in Scripture. When God threatens judgment on sin, he is free to show mercy and grace in response to repentance (see Jonah 3:4-10). When he proclaims his intent to do something—sometimes as a test of faith—he is free to alter his actions in response to prayer (see Exod 32:11-14) or obedience (see Gen 22:1-18) because people have adjusted their relationship to him.

20:7-11 Isaiah commanded that a medicinal lump of pressed figs be applied to the king’s infection (20:7) in order to draw out the poison. This tells us that prayer, medication, and the word of God worked together to bring about his healing. Before that healing, Hezekiah asked for a confirming sign from God (20:8), and God graciously granted his request (20:9-11). Signs are never to replace God’s word, but they are used to confirm it.

20:12-13 After the account of Hezekiah’s faithfulness, the author presents an account of Hezekiah’s foolishness.

Assyria was the world power at this time, and (like Judah) Babylon was feeling its pressure. The letters and gift sent by Merodach-baladan of Babylon to congratulate Hezekiah were probably also an effort to secure his support in an alliance against Assyria (20:12). As mentioned above (see commentary on 20:1-3), this visit was likely prior to the threatened Assyrian invasion since Hezekiah’s treasuries that he showed to the Babylonians were full (20:13). When Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem, Hezekiah emptied his treasuries to keep the city safe (see 18:15-16).

20:14-21 Hezekiah’s pride (see 2 Chr 32:25-26) led him to show off in front of his visitors, which is why he replied so readily to Isaiah’s questions (20:14-15). Because the king didn’t think his actions were foolish, he didn’t see any reason to hide them. But, the prophet replied to the news with the announcement of Judah’s impending Babylonian captivity—even though it was more than one hundred years in the future. Unfortunately, Hezekiah didn’t seem bothered by that because he realized he would enjoy peace and security himself (20:19). Regardless, Isaiah’s prophecy foreshadowed the grief and destruction that awaited Judah in the years ahead.

B. The Reigns of Manasseh and Amon (21:1-26)

21:1-2 The end of Hezekiah’s reign brought his son Manasseh to the throne; he had served for a time as co-regent with his father. The son was the worst of Judah’s kings, ruling for a total of fifty-five years in Jerusalem (21:1). Manasseh imitated the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites (21:2), meaning that, while he was an Israelite physically, he was a Canaanite spiritually.

21:3-9 A whole list of specifics demonstrate how much further Manasseh went in doing evil than his predecessors in Judah. Manasseh was infected with spiritual disease and plunged the kingdom of Judah into wickedness. Among his despicable acts, he rebuilt the high places that . . . Hezekiah had destroyed (21:3). (Other kings of Judah had been rebuked for leaving these idolatrous shrines in place. But, after Hezekiah had the spiritual fortitude to tear them down, his son Manasseh actually erected them again.) Manasseh also reinstituted Baal worship and made another Asherah pole, as King Ahab of Israel had done (21:3). He built altars in the temple for worship of the stars, sacrificed his son in the fire, and practiced every form of occultism imaginable (21:4-6). Furthermore, he set the carved image of Asherah . . . in the temple where God had promised to establish his name (21:7). And, under such wicked influence, Judah’s people did worse evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed in order to give the Israelites their land (21:9). Like king, like people.

21:10-11 There was nothing left to do but announce God’s judgment on Judah. One of the prophets who delivered this message of judgment may have been Isaiah, who according to Jewish tradition was sawn in two under Manasseh’s orders (see Heb 11:37 for a possible reference to this incident). Comparing Manasseh’s evil to that of the Amorites (21:11) was one way of putting it in context because they were one of the most morally deficient people groups of Joshua’s day.

21:12 God had much more to say about the disaster he was going to bring on Jerusalem and Judah. Such news would shock everyone who heard it because the people of Jerusalem in particular thought they were bulletproof. Why? Because they lived in God’s holy city with his holy temple in their midst. They were confident he would never allow an enemy to destroy it.

21:13-15 God’s word of doom on Judah included two names, Samaria and Ahab—references that would have made even the smuggest resident of Jerusalem break out in a cold sweat. He was measuring Jerusalem for the same kind of disaster that befell Samaria, and he was using the mason’s level to draw a straight line of destruction on Manasseh the way he did on the house of Ahab.

To ensure that his message wasn’t missed, the Lord threatened to wipe Jerusalem clean like someone does to a bowl after it’s been used for a meal. He would abandon his people to their enemies because of their evil.

21:16-26 The innocent blood that Manasseh spilled (21:16) certainly included his child sacrifices, but it also possibly included the innocent people he may have eliminated to hold on to power. Manasseh’s long legacy of evil continued in his evil son Amon (21:19-22), whose brief reign ended in his assassination (21:23-24).

C. The Reign of Josiah (22:1–23:30)

22:1-2 Amon’s son Josiah was just eight years old when he became king, so he obviously needed the help of advisers in his early years (22:1). According to the chronicler, Josiah began seeking the Lord at age sixteen, and four years later began his religious reforms by ridding Judah of the idolatrous mess his grandfather Manasseh had created (see 2 Chr 34:3-7). The statement that Josiah did what was right in the Lord’s sight and was worthy of comparison with David is a testimony to God’s grace and the fact that you are not condemned to follow in the footsteps of unfaithful parents.

22:3-7 One of Josiah’s greatest reform efforts began when he was twenty-six: repairing the temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the idolatrous altars and images that Manasseh had placed in it. The procedure is very similar to that used by an earlier reformer, King Joash (see 12:1-16), in that the priests collected the money and gave it to those who oversee the Lord’s temple, who passed it on to the workmen . . . to repair the damage (22:5). And, like their counterparts in Joash’s day, these workers did the work with integrity (22:7).

22:8-11 It was during this process that the high priest Hilkiah . . . found the book of the law in the temple (22:8), which could have been a copy of the entire Pentateuch (that is, the first five books of the Bible). Evidently, Manasseh had made sure the Word of God would not be available to mess up his program of idolatry, and he may have destroyed any other copies. Josiah’s court secretary Shaphan read the book for himself, then took it to Josiah and read it to him (22:8-10). The immediate, earnest response of grief by the king suggests that the law had not been part of Judah’s life and worship for a long time (22:11). This is what it looks like when God’s Word delivers its convicting power.

22:12-17 Josiah called for five of his top aides and sent them to inquire of the Lord and learn how they could appease God’s wrath against Judah for this neglect of his Word (22:12-13). The king’s men went to the prophetess Huldah, who sent them back to Josiah with a sad message of disaster for Judah. For too long, its people had abandoned God to serve other gods, provoking Yahweh to anger to such a degree that his wrath would not be quenched (22:14-17).

22:18-20 The Lord’s word to Josiah, however, was one of mercy. For his tender heart and humility, and his tears of repentance on behalf of himself and his people, Josiah would be spared the coming disaster that God would bring on Judah in the form of the Babylonian captivity (22:19-20). (Josiah would die in 609 BC, just four years before Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion of Judah.)

23:1-3 When Josiah learned that God wouldn’t bring his judgment on Judah during his reign, the young king could have simply said, “Whew,” and returned to business as usual. Instead, Josiah was rightly zealous in his desire to please and glorify the Lord. Josiah was not managing his own kingdom; he was managing God’s kingdom. So, he wasn’t about to be negligent with regard to an opportunity he saw.

Chapter 23 essentially records how Josiah rolled up his sleeves and set about destroying every vestige of false worship in the vicinity and establishing worship of the true and living God. First, the king gathered everybody in Judah at the temple where he himself read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant (23:2). (Revival among God’s people always begins with the Word of God.) Then, he led the people in making a new covenant promise before God to keep the law they had just heard. And all the people agreed to it (23:3). This public and corporate commitment would help the people to stand strong and hold one another accountable.

23:4 With God’s Word proclaimed and a fresh commitment of obedience made, Josiah was ready to begin his cleanup campaign. He started in the temple, which Manasseh had turned into a shrine to false gods. Hilkiah and other priests and temple workers brought out the things used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the stars in the sky. Then, the king burned them. His efforts are a reminder that when you identify areas of temptation in your life, you are not merely to throw them in a closet or shove them under a rug. You must eradicate them.

23:5-9 Josiah also eliminated the idolatrous priests whom previous kings had allowed to operate in the cities of Judah, and he burned and beat to dust the Ashe-rah pole in the temple (23:5-6). He defiled the high places from Geba in the far north of Judah to Beer-sheba in the far south. Priests who had worshiped at the high places could not serve at the altar of the rededicated temple (23:8-9).

23:10-15 Even with all of these reforms accomplished, Josiah was only getting started. He defiled Topheth, where worshipers of Molech practiced child sacrifice. He also eliminated items used to worship the heavenly bodies (23:10-11). The false worship sites Josiah destroyed even included some built centuries before by King Solomon after his heart was led astray (23:13; see 1 Kgs 11:1-6). Josiah went so far as to destroy the idolatry at neighboring Bethel, tearing down the altar and the high place that Israel’s King Jeroboam had built (23:15).

23:16-20 While in Bethel, Josiah saw the tomb of the prophet who, many years earlier, had foretold of him and predicted his future actions (23:17; see 1 Kgs 13:2-3). So, the king ordered his bones and those of another prophet not to be disturbed (23:18). Nevertheless, he completed his purge of idolatry in the former northern kingdom (23:19-20). That Josiah was able to freely move in this region that was part of the Assyrian empire may suggest how weak Assyria was by this time; it was in the waning years of its power.

23:21-23 After proclaiming God’s Word to the people (23:2), making a covenant to keep it (23:3), and ridding the land of idolatry (23:4-20), Josiah returned to Jerusalem to celebrate the Lord’s Passover with obedience—as written in the book of the covenant (23:21). Remarkably, such faithful attention to detail had not been seen in the land since the time of the judges (23:21-22); that is, since about five centuries earlier! How sad that God’s people had neglected his law for so long, yet how good and right it was for Josiah to lead them in reforming their ways.

23:24-27 The author added the note that Josiah also got rid of all the occult practitioners in his kingdom, and anyone or anything else that was abhorrent to the Lord, doing everything in accordance with God’s Word (23:24). Yet, despite the ultimate commendation Josiah received, that there was no king like him before or after him (23:25), God did not turn away from his decree to remove Judah from his presence and allow his temple to be destroyed (23:26-27). Josiah was one of Judah’s great kings. But, Judah had persisted in sin for a long time. A reckoning was coming.

23:28-30 Josiah died in battle at the age of thirty-nine while trying to stop Pharaoh Neco of Egypt from linking up with the Assyrian army and possibly attacking Judah (23:29). Josiah’s death was tragic, but it was also part of God’s plan in executing his judgment on Judah. He mercifully removed his faithful king from the scene before pouring out his wrath on his unfaithful people (see 22:19-20). Josiah’s son Jehoahaz (23:30) and the kings who followed him (three of whom were Josiah’s sons!) were hollow shells compared to their godly ancestors.

D. The Reigns of Judah’s Final Kings (23:31–25:30)

23:31-33 God didn’t put up with the first king in this section’s hall of shame for very long. “The common people” had made Jehoahaz king (23:30), which could mean they hoped he would continue the good reign of his father. If that was the case, they were sorely disappointed. Jehoahaz immediately reverted to the evil of his ancestors (23:32), for which he and Judah paid dearly. Soon, Jehoahaz was imprisoned by Neco, and Judah was put under a heavy tribute (23:33). To the informed reader, the name Riblah has an ominous sound; there, Nebuchadnezzar would set up his headquarters during the destruction of Judah, and he would also execute many of the nation’s leaders.

23:34-37 Neco put Jehoahaz’s older brother Eliakim on the throne in Jerusalem and changed his name to Jehoiakim (23:34) as a way of showing that he (that is, Pharaoh) was in charge. The common people suffered heavi-ly under the taxation needed to pay the tribute Neco demanded, yet Jehoiakim spent eleven years doing evil in the Lord’s sight (23:35-37).

24:1-7 The name Nebuchadnezzar appears for the first time in 2 Kings in connection with his initial attack against Judah in 605 BC, during which he took Daniel of lions’ den fame and other captives back to Babylon in the first of three deportations. Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Neco at the famous battle of Carchemish earlier that year, establishing Babylon as the next world superpower and bringing Egypt’s vassal states under Babylonian control (24:7). Nebuchadnezzar attacked Judah to firm up his control in that region, and Jehoiakim submitted to him for three years before rebelling (24:1). This rebellion, though, was contrary to God’s will for Judah: Nebuchadnezzar was his instrument of judgment on the nation, as spoken through his servants the prophets, for all the sins of Manasseh (24:2-3). The Lord had had enough (24:4).

24:8-17 Jehoiakim’s death brought his son Jehoiachin to the throne in Jerusalem for a brief, three-month, evil reign (24:8-9). Meanwhile, Nebuchadnezzar had sent troops to besiege Jerusalem because of Jehoiakim’s rebellion, but, apparently, by the time the Babylonian king arrived in 597 BC, Jehoiakim was gone and Jehoiachin was ruling (24:10-11). Undeterred, Nebuchadnezzar took captive Jehoiachin and many other officials and took them to Babylon, along with a haul of treasures—a total of ten thousand people in all (24:12-14), including the prophet Ezek-iel. Nebuchadnezzar left another puppet king named Mattaniah, a son of Josiah, on the throne in Jerusalem and changed his name to Zedekiah (24:17).

24:18-20 Zedekiah was last in the line of evil kings whom God appointed to occupy the throne in Judah’s final years. The writer first summed up the result of Zedekiah’s reign as the time in which the cup of God’s anger finally ran over, and he banished his people from his presence (24:20). In the final chapter of 2 Kings, the story of Zedekiah’s rebellion and Judah’s downfall unfolds.

25:1-7 Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon (24:20) was the historical event God used to destroy Judah. Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem brought hunger to the people and caused the city’s defenders, including Zedekiah, to try and escape at night when the Babylonians (Chaldeans) broke through into the city in 586 BC (25:1-4). Nevertheless, the invaders easily captured Zedekiah. They took him to Nebuchadnezzar at his field headquarters in Riblah, where his fearful sentence was carried out (25:6). There, the king of Judah watched his sons get executed before being blinded. He was finally taken to Babylon in bronze chains (25:7).

25:8-21 With the political and military threat against him neutralized, Nebuchadnezzar sent his troops to Jerusalem to destroy everything of importance, including the walls (25:10) and the temple (25:13-16). They took what was of value that could be carted off and burned the rest. There was no mercy for Seraiah the chief priest, an ancestor of the great priest Ezra (25:18; see Ezra 7:1), or for the seventy-one other priests and leaders in Jerusalem. They were arrested, taken to Nebu-chadnezzar at Riblah, and executed (25:20-21). Jerusalem was a smoking ruin.

25:22-24 Nebuchadnezzar still needed someone in Judah to govern the poor and the other stragglers he had left behind. So, this time he appointed Gedaliah, the grandson of Shaphan, who had been one of Josiah’s officials (25:22). Gedaliah was apparently a good man, who befriended the prophet Jeremiah (see Jer 39:14). He obviously believed Jeremiah’s counsel that the people left in the land should serve the king of Babylon so that it might go well for them (25:24; see Jer 39:11-14; 40:6, 9-10). But, there were still those left in Judah who (unwisely) wanted to fight the Babylonians.

25:25-26 A man named Ishmael led a band of assassins to murder Gedaliah and his associates, including some Babylonians, at Mizpah north of Jerusalem where he had set up his headquarters (25:25). The people then fled to Egypt in fear of Nebuchadnezzar’s reprisals (25:26).

25:27-30 In spite of all the wicked kings, sordid history, and harsh judgments of God that occupy the pages of 2 Kings, the book ends with a message of hope for its readers in exile—a final reminder of God’s promise that he would never completely abandon his people.

The date of the kindness shown to King Jehoiachin by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Evil-merodach, moves the history forward to somewhere between 562-560 BC, or in the thirty-seventh year of the king’s exile in Babylon (25:27). Jehoiachin had been imprisoned for a long time, in keeping with the harsh treatment conquered kings usually received in the ancient world. But, he received a pardon, a release, and a place of honor over the other kings who were with him in Babylon (25:28). Jehoiachin also dined regularly with Evil-merodach and received a regular allowance . . . for the rest of his life (25:29-30).

The Babylonian king may have done this to curry favor with the Jews (those who had been imported from Judah), as some historians suggest. But, God was also working his sovereign plan to preserve his people even in captivity. And, his faithful prophets in Bab-ylon reminded the exiles that when the time of their punishment was fulfilled, he would bring them back to their homeland.