Some strides were made in the last set of chapters and even some here, but none are enough to reign in God’s anger against the Jews. Unlike some of the other posts, this one is an example of extremes. When things go bad, they go really bad, and when they go good, it’s like no one has ever seen before. It’s an interesting set of kings.
And then there came Manasseh, who reversed all the good things his father did in the land of Israel and made everything bad again. Everything is so bad that God makes this promise:
Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.
Manasseh gets God this mad but he dies in the next paragraph, in what seems like an unremarkable way, leaving Amon to reign in his place. Amon turns out to be bad enough to the people around him that the servants conspire to kill him, though they are in turn killed off by the rest of the people. This leaves Josiah as the king of Judah at the end of this chapter.
Josiah fixes everything, doing things right in the way of David.
As it happens, he decides that he wants to rebuild and repair the house of the Lord and while giving provision for this, he is given a book. It’s funny the way it reads in the chapter that they found it. As in, it was lost in the house of God, shoved in a closet or something, and now they found it and realized why God had been mad at everybody. So the king refers them to a prophetess.
That’s right. A prophetess. She’s the first one in a while and not one that I had ever heard of, though I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I didn’t grow up with a lot of Bible stories. Her name is Shallum. She tells them that all the horrible things that God promises to do if they don’t keep his laws will come to pass but that the way the king reacted to hearing of this basically ensured that he would not see the destruction.
King Josiah has the Book of the Covenant read to the people and then there is a detailed account of every altar and other religious relic of every other religion in the area that he “burns to dust” and the like. He even goes to Samaria and has everything there burned down. Then he reinstates Passover, mentioning that it hadn’t been done since “the days of the judges”. That’s a pretty long time. There’s this note about how well Josiah followed God and His word:
Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after.
It sounds a bit like he outdid David. It’s not a contest or anything, but I feel like this is a name we should hear more often.
Of course, it does take the opportunity to reinstate that this did not assuage God’s overall anger and that He still intended to “remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel”. It also cites that this is on account of how bad Manasseh was.
King Josiah is later killed by Pharaoh Neco when he went to “meet him”. The study section of my Bible makes it sound like Josiah was trying to prevent the passage of the pharaoh’s army on their way to go up against Babylon again. I looked over several other translations of this verse and several outright say that he “marched against” the pharaoh and other similarly militaristic terms. So I guess it makes sense that the pharaoh killed him “as soon as he saw him”. The header for that paragraph did specify that Josiah died in battle, I just didn’t get that from the way it was written.
The last two paragraphs of the chapter detail the horribleness that the next two kings go back to after Josiah.
This is the first place we see the famous name of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. He “besieges” Judah and when the king at the time gives himself to the king, he imprisons him, putting his own king in place. Despite how bad that king had been, I can totally respect giving yourself up in hopes that a siege stops. It doesn’t say that he hopes it but he goes out and doesn’t just pull the wall down, so that’s what I would guess. Nebuchadnezzar takes a whole bunch of other people with him too.
Here the siege finally ends after a great famine and in the time of the king that Nebuchadnezzar placed, Zedekiah. When the siege was finally broken, so was everything else:
And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
WOW. I knew that everything was eventually destroyed but that’s quite the accounting of it. I know from sermons and stuff that I’ve heard before that it’s important to note that there were people left during this time. This will be important later despite that it says that “all the people” left after a group killed the governor Nebuzaradan had put in place.
Some time down the road, there is a new king of Babylon, Evil-merodach, who frees the king of Judah that had been taken back in chapter twenty four and seems to take decent care of him.