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).
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).
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.
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.