Comments On 2 Chronicles
The comments on previous chapters of 2 Chronicles have been lost, so we begin only at
2 CHRONICLES 11:17
The priests and Levites who came to Judah from the ten tribes strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years it appeared that Rehoboam promised to prove a faithful king, "because they walked in the way of David and Solomon." Sad to say, however, though Rehoboam had a relatively good beginning, it was not long before he spoiled it.
REHOBOAM'S WIVES AND CHILDREN (vv. 18-23)
Outwardly, Rehoboam was more careful as to the wives he took, than was Solomon, for he first took Mahalath, the granddaughter of David, and he added also Maachah the granddaughter of Absalom. But outward orthodoxy does not guarantee godliness, and besides, it was no more right for Rehoboam to have 18 wives and sixty concubines than it was for Solomon to have his large harem of wives and concubines (v. 21). Of course a man will be greatly affected by such relationships.
Though Rehoboam's first wife bore him sons, he set those aside in favor of Abijah the son of Maachah, whom he preferred above Mahalath. Deuteronomy 21:15-17 had warned against such an arrangement, saying that a man "must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn." Perhaps Rehoboam did not know this scripture, but he ought to have, for a king in Israel was responsible to provide himself with a copy of the law and read it all the days of his life (Deut. 17:18-19). Nevertheless, the grace of God transcended the failure of Rehoboam, for Abijah is confirmed in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 1:7.
In spite of Rehoboam's great lack of wisdom in causing the revolt of the ten tribes, he showed more wisdom in the administration of the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, appointing some of his sons to be dispersed throughout his territories and giving abundant provision. This was far more wise than threatening to chastise them with scourges, as he did with the ten tribes. It seems strange that he could be so cruel in the one case and so generous in the other. But perhaps the latter was because his own family was involved. In fact, his generosity went beyond proper bounds, for he sought many wives for his sons! How true it is that one who goes to extremes in one direction is likely to also go to extremes in the opposite direction! Only true faith in the Lord Jesus can enable us to maintain a proper balance.
EGYPT ATTACKS JUDAH (vv. 1-9)
Rehoboam's prosperity however became his downfall. When he strengthened himself in his kingdom sufficiently to think himself secure, he gave up any regard he had for the law of the Lord, and the people willingly followed in his steps. How often this kind of folly has been repeated in the history of the people of God! Prominence and popularity can be a dreadful snare, for wed are to think more of our reputation than of the Lord's honor! But God was not merely a disinterested bystander. In the fifth year of Jereboam, because of his transgression God allowed Shishak king of Egypt to attack Jerusalem with 1200 chariots,60,000 horsemen and people without number (vv. 2-3). These included not only Egyptians, but Lubim, Sukkim and Ethiopians. These evidently had no inclination to attack Israel while Solomon was reigning, but they knew that Rehoboam did not have the strength of Solomon, and if God's people are not walking with Him, they become vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.
This formidable army had no difficulty in capturing the fortified cities of Judah, and came to Jerusalem with the object of capturing it also (v. 4). The Lord then graciously sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah, who told them that they were exposed to the threat of Shishak because they had forsaken the Lord.
This word from the Lord took some effect, and the king and his officials humbled themselves before the Lord, acknowledging that the Lord was righteous in allowing the attack of Egypt. The Lord will always take full account of the attitude His people take, and His word came to Shemaiah again that because the people had humbled themselves He would grant them some deliverance, so that He would not pour out His wrath on Judah by the attack of Shishak. Yet He would put Judah into subjection to Shishak in order to learn the pain of subservience to a Gentile nation in contrast to the pleasure of obedience to God (vv. 7-8).
Thus God restrained Shishak from shedding blood in Jerusalem, but allowed him to treat Judah as slaves betaking away the king's house and the golden shields Solomon had made (v.9). How strikingly significant it is that Rehoboam made copper shields to replace the golden ones! (v. 10). Gold speaks of the glory of God, but copper pictures holiness. This same type of thing has certainly taken place in the professing church of God today. Rather than God's glory being emphasized in the testimony of the church, people are content to forget about God's honor and to concentrate on personal holiness. Of course holiness is commendable, but if it takes the place of God's glory, it becomes insipid and counterfeit.
The copper shields that replaced those of gold were committed to the care of the captain of the guard who guarded the doorway of the king's house. When the king entered the house of the Lord the guard brought the shields out, and returned them afterward to the guardroom. This was evidently a formality, the shields indicating the protection of the king, but his dependence was on his holiness (of which copper speaks), not on the God of glory, as gold symbolizes.
Though Rehoboam did not walk with the Lord, yet when he humbled himself he averted the wrath of God to some decided extent, so that conditions continued relatively well in Judah (v.12). Rehoboam took advantage of favorable conditions to strengthen himself, and reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, less than half of the length of his father's reign. We are reminded that his mother was an Ammonitess (v. 13), whose influence would not likely encourage him to prepare his heart to seek the Lord, and he was left in this unholy condition till the day of his death (v.14).
Other acts of Rehoboam were recorded in a book of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer, but these were not scripture and have not been preserved. Yet sadly we are told that wars continued between Rehoboam and Jereboam all their days (v. 15). The same strife between brethren persisted afterwards also, just as strife has permeated the condition of the professing church since its early years. What marvelous relief it will be for Israel to be brought together at the end of the Great Tribulation! What relief also for believers of the Church of God to be united in the Lord's presence when He comes!
At his death Rehoboam was at least buried in Jerusalem. Then his son Abijah took the throne of Judah.
THE REIGN OF ABIJAH (vv. 1-22)
Jereboam outlived Rehoboam, though not for long (v. 20). He died after reigning 22 years P. 28
(1 Ki. 14:20), five years longer than Rehoboam. But Abijah, son of Rehoboam, reigned only for three years in Judah (v. 2). 1 Kings 15:3 tells us that Abijah walked in all the sins of his father and his heart was not loyal to the Lord. Yet Chronicles does not mention this, but emphasizes rather what was this credit in regard to overcoming Jereboam in battle. The guilt of Jereboam was far greater than that of Abijah.
We are not told what occasioned the great battle between Judah and the ten tribes, but Abijah gathered an army of 400,000 to fight against 800,000 chosen warriors of Israel (v. 3).Then Abijah took the opportunity of standing on Mount Zemaraim in Ephraim to address Jereboam and his men. He must have had aloud voice, and called upon them to hear what he said (v. 4).
He first insists that the Lord's covenant with Judah that David and his descendants were the royal line was absolute and unchangeable (v. 5). Secondly, he says that Jereboam rebelled not only against the king, but against God, and had collected worthless rogues to boldly refuse Rehoboam's authority while Rehoboam was still young and inexperienced (vv. 6-7). This too was true, though Abijah did not mention that Rehoboam had treated the ambassadors of the ten tribes with cruel contempt.
Thirdly, Abijah tells them they think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord, having a great multitude of followers and depending on the golden calves that Jereboam had adopted as idolatrous gods (v. 8). This was a deeply incriminating fact.
But as a fourth matter of serious importance, Israel had totally refused the worship of the Lord, casting out the priests, the sons of Aaron and ordaining priests of any men they desired, if these men virtually bought their way into the priesthood by bringing a bull and seven rams (v. 9).
In contrast to Israel's rebellion, Abijah tells them that Judah had continued to faithfully practice the worship of the Lord. "We have not forsaken Him," he says, "and the priests who minister to the Lord are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites attend to their duties. And they burn to the Lord every morning and evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense; they also set the showbread in order on the pure gold table, and the lamp stands of gold with its lamps to burn every evening; for we keep the command of the Lord our God " (v. 11). No doubt all this was true as regards the formal worship of Judah, though the spiritual significance of this worship did not have any real effect on the heart of Abijah.
What a picture of the state of things in the professing church today! People may be champions of orthodoxy, may be able to expose the evils of idolatrous worship that are prevalent in many denominations. But though their forms are in measure orthodox, their hearts may still be far from God. This is hypocrisy. may we judge it absolutely and seek grace to honestly walk with God. Abijah thought that he was righteous in comparison with the evil of Israel, but he ought to have considered himself as under the eye of God rather than comparing himself with others.
Jereboam had no answer to the charges of Abijah, but determined to attack by sending an ambush to circle around behind the Judean army (v. 13). This was good military strategy, but God is greater than Jereboam. The men of Judah were taken by surprise in finding the battle on both sides of them. But they cried out to the Lord and the priests sounded the trumpets (v.14). Even though God's people were not in a good spiritual state, yet God heard their prayer of distress. The men of Judah shouted and God intervened by putting Israel in fear of Judah (v. 25), so that they turned and fled.
Abijah and his army defeated them with a tremendous slaughter, with 500,000 choice warriors of Israel killed (v. 17). No other battle in history has been so devastating as this. Even today, with the world's greatly increased population, it would be unheard of that one half a million men should be killed in one battle. But how much more sad it is to consider that this battle was between brethren!
In this engagement Abijah depended on the Lord, and was able also to capture cities and villages in Israel, including Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephraim. Thus the strength of Jereboam was greatly weakened and he did not recover from the effects of his defeat. By the Lord's intervention he was struck with an illness that took his life. This was evidently soon after the death of Abijah, for Jereboam reigned 22 years (1 Ki. 14:20) and it was in his 18thyear that Abijah became king of Judah (ch. 13:1), and Abijah reigned only three years. In that short time he grew mighty (v. 21), married fourteen wives and had 22 sons and 16daughters! Of course he might have had some of his wives and children before he began to reign. Other activities of Abijah were recorded in the writings of the prophet Iddo, but these aren't scripture.
THE REIGN OF ASA (vv. 1-15)
Abijah was buried in Jerusalem and his son Asa took the throne of Judah. To his credit the land was quiet for ten years, with no attacking enemies, for the character of Asa was such that he did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord (vv. 2-3). His faithfulness involved the constructive work of commanding Judah to seek the Lord and to observe the law, but some destructive work was no less important: he removed the high places and incense altars that had been introduced in Solomon's time and was continued by Rehoboam and Abijah.
But while the land enjoyed rest from war, he was wise in preparing for war. He built fortified cities in Judah and encouraged the people to build and make walls about the cities, including towers, gates and bars. Believers today also are wise to take advantage of times of peace to store up the Word of God in their hearts as a protection from the attacks of the enemy that are sure to come eventually. Thus Asa's prosperity is an incentive for us today to learn to prosper spiritually while we have opportunity for it.
Asa also gathered an army of300,000 from Judah and 280,000 from Benjamin, all capable warriors (v. 8).However, after ten years of his reigning the king of Ethiopia came to attack him with an army of one million men and 300 chariots (v. 9). Thus, he had 420,000 more men than Asa had. But Asa was not discouraged. After setting his troops in battle array, he prayed a prayer of simple confidence in the Lord, reminding Him, "it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let men prevail against You" (v. 11).
Such genuine confidence in the Lord produced the results we ought to expect. By the Lord's intervention the Ethiopians were routed in fear. Asa's army pursued them and overthrew all their power, leaving them without any ability to recover. Judah carried away a great amount of spoil (v. 13). At the same time they defeated all the cities around Gerard. This was Philistine territory which really belonged to Judah, but had not been possessed by them. From these cities they took a great amount of plunder also, including much livestock (vv. 14-15).
A MESSAGE FROM GOD (vv. 1-7)
As Asa returned from his victory, the Lord sent a prophet, Azariah, son of Oded, to meet him with encouraging words, telling Asa, "The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (v. 2).
Abijah reminded Asa that for along time Israel was without the true God, without a teaching priest and without law" (v. 3). This refers especially to the time of the Judges, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. In that book we are told that many times, when in trouble, they turned to the Lord and He delivered them (v. 4). But the general condition was so low that God troubled them because of their self-will. But Azariah urges Asa to show himself strong against such dangers (v. 7).
ASA'S REFORMS (vv. 8-19)
In verse 8 the prophecy is said to be that of Oded, so that Azariah, Oded's son, was evidently only the messenger to deliver Oded's prophecy. This word from God had real effect on Asa to give him fresh courage to remove from Judah and Benjamin the abominable idols that had been entertained by his father. He also took such idols away from the cities he had captured from Ephraim.
When it is mentioned that he restored the altar of the Lord, this may mean that he restored the proper sacrifices to be offered on that altar, for there seems to be no evidence that the altar itself had been damaged.
Besides this, Asa was diligent to encourage all the people in the proper worship of the Lord. He gathered all Judah and Benjamin and others even from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon, who were willing to come when they learned of the Lord's blessing of Asa in contrast to the idolatry of the ten tribes. In this great gathering in the fifteenth year of Asa's reign, they offered to the Lord 700 bulls and 7000 sheep which had been taken as plunder (vv.10-11). How good it was to draw the attention of the people to the value of the sacrifice, for every case of recovery in Israel was attended by sacrifice, a reminder of the importance of the sacrifice of Christ as being the source of all blessing for His people.
On this occasion they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul, specifying too that any who would not agree to this should be put to death (vv. 12-13). As in the case of various other covenants being made, this was simply a renewing of the covenant of law as first given by Moses, and as in those cases, so in this case, it P. 32
was not long before the covenant was broken. At this time, however, they took an oath before the Lord, with a great display accompanying it (v. 14). They had sworn with all their heart and sought the Lord with all their soul. There is no doubt they meant it, but they did not suspect the treachery of their own hearts. Still, God respected the good intentions they had, and gave them rest all around for the time being (v. 15). Only in the New Testament do we find the law set aside because it is ineffective, and the pure grace of God introduced as the only principle that can truly bring forth fruit for God. The epistle to the Galatians is a most valuable treatise on this subject.
Also, Asa showed no favoritism to his own close relative -- his grandmother -- who had made an idolatrous image of Asherah (v. 16). He removed her from the place of Queen Mother. Not even her age would make any difference in this case. Such evil can not be excused, no matter who is guilty of it. Asa cut down and crushed her image, then burned it.
Though Asa removed the high places from Judah (ch. 14:5), he did not remove these from the rest of Israel (v.17). Of course he did not have the same authority over the ten tribes as he did over Judah, though some from those tribes had chosen to recognize him. But in the main, Asa's heart remained faithful to the Lord. It is also reported that he brought into the house of the Lord silver and gold utensils that both his father and he had dedicated. It seems Abijah had not carried through his promise in dedicating these things, and Asa fulfilled this for him as well as adding his own contribution.
ASA GOES TO THE WORLD FOR HELP (vv. 1-6)
Baasha, king of Israel, had become alarmed at the thought of some from Israel defecting to Judah, Therefore he came and built Ramah as a buffer between the two companies (v. 1). What a picture of the fact that those who have departed from the Lord's center will do all they can to keep their followers from returning to the Lord's place for them! This was not a direct attack upon Judah, but Asa considered it an offense. Why did he not then appeal to God as he did in the case of the attack of the Ethiopians? But instead he sadly sought the help of those who were enemies of the Lord, the Syrians. It seems most strange that a king whose godliness and faith had been so commendable should sink so low as to take silver and gold from the house of the Lord by which to enlist the help of Syria against his brother Israelites (v. 2).
Ben Hadad, king of Syria, moved only by his love for silver and gold, agreed to break a treaty he had with Israel and take sides with Judah (vv. 3-4). He attacked some of the cities of Israel including the storage cities of Naphtali. This had the effect that Asa had desired, and Asa would no doubt feel himself justified, as many do who consider that the end justifies the means (vv. 5-6). Asa was able thus to attack Ramah and reduce it to nothing. He gained his object through friendship with the world! If instead of this he had sought the grace and guidance of the Lord in an effort to be relieved from the threatened opposition of the ten tribes, certainly God would have intervened in the best way possible. But we too, after we have found great blessing through depending on the Lord, may find ourselves in great danger of then depending on our own ability to gain our ends.
GOD'S MESSAGE TO ASA (vv. 7-10)
Though Asa had gained his ends in hiring Syria to help him, God did not congratulate Asa! Rather, He sent Hanani the prophet to him to strongly reprove him for having relied on the king of Syria instead of on the Lord. "Therefore," he tells him, "the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand" (v. 7). He reminded Asa that the army of the Ethiopians and Lubims had been huge (far greater than that of Israel), with many chariots and horsemen; yet because Asa had then relied on the Lord, God gave him a decisive victory. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (v. 9). Thus, Hanani sought to persuade Asa that God was deeply desirous of doing the very best for those who had their full confidence in Him. The prophet faithfully told the king he had done foolishly and because of this he would be troubled by wars from that time onwards. How badly does our lack of faith affect our normal life!
However, instead of seriously taking to heart the message as from God, Asa became angry with Hanani and put him in prison (v. 10). Being a believer, why did he not recognize that Hanani did not speak his own thoughts, but had been God's mouthpiece? Thus Asa in his later years spoiled a testimony that had been bright and commendable. In fact, when faith becomes weak, we shall show this in our treatment of others also, and Asa was guilty of oppressing some of the people.
ASA'S ILLNESS AND DEATH (vv. 11-14)
The Lord gave Asa three years, following his bad treatment of the prophet, to consider and change his ways, before he allowed Asa to become diseased in his feet (v. 12). It is sad that he did not burn back to the Lord in that time. But also, when his feet were so diseased, why did he not then at least seek the Lord's mercy? Rather, he sought to physicians. There is nothing wrong in going to a physician, but Asa sought not only a physician, but "physicians." More that that, if in going to a physician we pray for the Lord's intervention, this is good, but Asa did not seek the Lord at all, but only physicians. The Lord gave him two years following the attack of his ailment before He took him away in death, but that additional two years did not turn him back to the Lord. His diseased feet symbolized a bad walk, but Asa evidently did not discern this. Thus he died in the 41styear of his reign. There was much in his reign that the people had cause to appreciate, and they laid him in a bed filled with spices and ointments, and made a very great burning for him. The people would not be as concerned about Asa's relationship with God as about his outward success in reigning.
THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT (vv. 1-19)
Asa's son Jehoshaphat, at the beginning of his reign, strengthened himself against Israel (v. 1). This was a wise move because Israel was still in a state of idolatrous departure from the Lord. Sad to say, he did not maintain such strength, for in Chapter 18:1 it is reported that he made an alliance with Ahab, king of Israel.
But as Asa had done, Jehoshaphat prepared for war by placing troops in all the fortified cities of Judah and the cities of Ephraim that Asa had conquered. Again, this is a reminder to us that, while we have time we should prepare for the conflict that must be met sometime, by storing up the Word of God in our hearts.
Because Asa walked in the ways of David, avoiding the idolatrous worship of Baal, the Lord was with him. He sought the God of his fathers in obedience to His commandments, in contrast to the ways of the ten tribes (v. 4). Therefore the Lord established the kingdom under
him, and Judah was influenced to bring him presents, for they recognized the value of his honorable example. The Lord greatly increased his wealth. Though Christians cannot count on material wealth because of their devotion to the Lord, yet this will give them true spiritual wealth, which is far better.
Finding true delight in the Lord's ways, Jehoshaphat removed the high places and wooden images from Judah. Asa had done this early in his reign (ch. 14:3), so it seems that at least some of these idolatrous objects had been brought back in the latter part of his reign, when he became lax in honoring God. Of course, many people will revive such evils without even consulting the authorities.
Jehoshaphat also did the positive, good work of sending five leaders, seven Levites and two priests to teach the Book of the Law in all the cities of Judah (vv. 7-8). This of course includes the five books of Moses. There are many efforts today to revive interest in spiritual things, but the emphasis is on personal goodness rather than on teaching the Word of God, which is of the greatest importance, the only guide to spiritual blessing. God blessed the faith of Jehoshaphat by restraining any enemies from attacking him, for He impressed them with the fear of the Lord (v. 10). Thus, during the time of peace he was able to strengthen his kingdom.
Jehoshaphat's character was such that even some of the Philistines recognized the value of his reign, and willingly brought presents to him as a tribute; and the Arabians brought flocks of rams and goats. Thus is illustrated the scripture, "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to beat peace with him" (Prov. 10:7).
Becoming increasingly powerful, Jehoshaphat built fortresses and store cities in Judah (v. 12). How good for Christians too, in times of peace, to prepare for the conflict that requires a good defense, such as the fortress of the truth of God and the storing up of the truth in our hearts.
Jehoshaphat's administration was well organized, and the total of his armed men was 1,160,000, as well as soldiers the king put in the fortified cities (vv. 14-19). This is really an amazing standing army for a time of peace! But it pictures the fact that all believers should be fully prepared for conflict which will come to us in some way. Thus the Lord presents us first with all those things that were a credit to the faith of King Jehoshaphat, for He loves to commend all that is commendable.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S COMPROMISES (vv. 1-27)
Though Jehoshaphat had at first strengthened himself against Israel (ch. 1:17), his decision wavered badly after he had become strong and wealthy. He became friendly with Ahab, a king of Israel "who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord" (1 Ki. 21:25). Did Jehoshaphat not realize that Israel was in a state of idolatrous worship and disregard for God? He must have done so at first or he would not have strengthened himself against Israel. Now by the very fact of his going to visit Ahab, he was compromising his devotion to the Lord (v. 2).Ahab flattered him by offering large numbers of sheep and oxen for him, not for the Lord, though he may have wanted Jehoshaphat to take the impression that he was honoring the God of Israel.
In response to Ahab's request that Jehoshaphat go with him to fight against Ramoth Gilead, Jehoshaphat immediately responded favorably. He knew that Ramoth Gilead actually belonged to Israel but had been captured by the Syrians. But why had God allowed Syria to take Ramoth? Because of Israel's bad condition. Jehoshaphat did not mention this, but his conscience troubled him enough that he asked Ahab to enquire of the Lord about this project. How sad that he would first make his commitment and afterward suggest asking the Lord's guidance. But believers can sometimes be too kind to people.
Ahab however was agreeable and gathered together 400 prophets (or so-called prophets) to ask their counsel. But they already knew what Ahab wanted and they wanted to please him rather than have any concern for pleasing the Lord. They all dared to tell Ahab that God would deliver Ramoth into Ahab's hand (v. 5). There are such smooth talking prophets today who claim to bespeaking for God, but are plainly lying! If we have God's clear word in the scriptures, we may declare this with full confidence, but if we do not, then let us not dare to speak as though representing Him. For this we shall have to give account to Him.
Jehoshaphat was not persuaded by this great crowd of prophets. Why not? Because he was a believer and discerned that they did not speak "as the oracles of God" (1 Pet.4:11), but merely as programmed robots with no spiritual conviction. He asked Ahab if there was not a prophet of the Lord available of whom they might inquire (v. 6). Ahab admitted there was one prophet whom he had not called because Ahab hated him, since he did not prophesy good
concerning Ahab, but always evil.
Since Jehoshaphat wanted to heart his prophet, however, Ahab had him brought. Both kings were sitting on thrones at the entrance of the gate of Samaria. One of the false prophets, Zedekiah, to draw special attention to himself, had made iron horns and prophesied that with these horns Ahab would attack and completely defeat the Syrians (v. 10).
The messenger sent to call Micaiah thought it necessary to urge him to speak just the same as all the false prophets spoke (v. 12). Micaiah's answer was simple and to the point: he would speak what God gave him to speak (v. 13).
When Ahab asked Micaiah if he should go to war against Ramoth Gilead, Ahab knew that Micaiah was speaking sarcastically when he said, "Go and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand" (v. 14). Notice, he did not say the Lord would deliver them, nor that his message was from God. But Ahab told Micaiah that he should only speak truth in the name of the Lord. Ahab knew the difference between the prophets, but he must have realized that none of those prophets had spoken truth in the name of the Lord! -- since Michaiah had said the same as they did. Therefore Michaiah spoke the truth, "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace" (v. 16). Terrible, startling message for Ahab! But he had asked for truth, and God gave it to him!
When Micaiah told Ahab that the Lord had prophesied that Israel would have no master, Ahab rightly considered that Micaiah had prophesied evil concerning him (v.17). But Micaiah had much more to say, and declared this to Ahab as the word of the Lord. He had seen the Lord on His throne and all the host of heaven standing, some on His right hand, others on His left. This included evil spirits. The Lord asked them, "Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?" After some had made suggestions, a spirit spoke confidently that he would persuade Ahab, by being a lying spirit in the mouths of all Ahab's prophets. This may seem a strange situation, but it illustrates the fact that the Lord allows evil spirits to do their evil work of lying so that ungodly people will be deceived, just as 2 Thessalonians 2 indicates the folly of those who are deceived by the strong delusion the Lord sends by means of the antichrist because of people's refusing to believe the truth of God (vv. 6-11). Thus, because Ahab had refused God's
Word, he would accept the falsehood of Satan's prophets. Micaiah therefore declares that the Lord had put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets, and the Lord had declared disaster to fall on Ahab (v. 22).
Ahab was not happy about such a prophecy, but it did not change his stubborn will to do as he pleased. But Hezekiah! Surely he realized that this prophecy was from God, but he had already committed himself to accompany Ahab. What did Hezekiah think when Zedekiah not only spoke disdainfully to Micaiah, but struck him on the cheek, claiming that since he himself had spoken by the Spirit of the Lord, how could the Spirit have spoken to Micaiah? (v.23). Such was the contemptible wickedness of a false prophet. Micaiah replied that Zedekiah would yet have the experience of going into an inner chamber to hide himself (v. 24).When that did take place, what would be the thoughts of that poor, deluded dupe of Satan?
In foolish pride Ahab commanded that Micaiah should be put in prison and fed only bread and water until Ahab returned in peace (v. 26). Did he think such action would defeat the prophecy of Micaiah? But Micaiah gave one parting message, "If you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me" (v.27). He emphasized this by calling on all the people to witness what he said. Why did Hezekiah say nothing? He surely ought to have defended the man of God.
THE DEATH OF AHAB (vv. 28-34)
Ahab feared there might be some truth to Micaiah's prophecy, and he exposed both that fear and his own selfishness when he told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes, saying that he would disguise himself! He was plainly telling Jehoshaphat that he would rather see him killed than himself! But Jehoshaphat meekly submitted to this.
The Syrians knew that in this battle Ahab was their chief enemy, and their king gave orders that his men were to concentrate only on attacking Ahab (v. 30). When the captains of the chariots of Syria saw Jehoshaphat in his royal attire, they of course thought he was Ahab and surrounded him in his chariot, just as Ahab desired! Jehoshaphat cried out, but it is not said he cried out to the Lord. Why not? Perhaps it was because he had (rather unwillingly) left the Lord out of this whole project and was not so confident of the Lord's protection. But in pure grace the Lord helped him and diverted the Syrians from him when they realized he was not the king of Israel (vv. 31-32).
However, Ahab's disguise did not fool God, and it was God who directed a Syrian to
shoot an arrow at random, and God caused the arrow to pierce through between the joints of Ahab's armor, inflicting a mortal wound. Ahab ordered his chariot driver to turn and take him out of the battle (v. 33). Why did he prop himself up in his chariot? Was it because he wanted to persuade himself that he was not so badly injured and would by this means defeat the likelihood of death? How many there are who seek to prop themselves up instead of turning in prayer to God! They will no more succeed than did Ahab. He died about the time of sunset. 1 Kings22:38 adds that his chariot was washed in Samaria and the dogs licked up his blood, as Elijah had prophesied (1 Ki. 21:19).
JEHOSHAPHAT REPROVED (vv. 1-3)
Jehoshaphat's experience with Ahab ought to have been enough to speak deeply to him as to the folly of bad associations, but God knew he needed more than experience, so he sent Jehu the son of Hanani to meet Jehoshaphat and to ask him, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? (v. 2).Jehoshaphat surely knew the answer to this was "No," and Jehu adds, "Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you." If believers become involved in wrong associations, they can only expect to incur the anger of the Lord. This is certainly as true in the New Testament as it was in the Old, as 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 insists: "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you."
Though the Lord reproved Jehoshaphat's being friendly with Ahab, yet at the same time He commended the good things that Jehoshaphat had practiced, in removing wooden images from the land and preparing his heart to seek God (v. 3).For God delights to encourage godly character, though He must reprove what is contrary to this. Evidently Jehoshaphat received this message without resentment, in contrast to the bad response of his father to Hanani inputting him in prison (ch. 16:7-10).
JEHOSHAPHAT'S REFORMS (vv. 4-11)
Jehoshaphat's dwelling was in Jerusalem, but he went out to all Judah and Benjamin as far north as the border of Ephraim, with such a message that brought the people back to recognize the God of their fathers (v. 4). "Then he set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah" (v. 5).He gave them good instruction, urging them to remember they were to judge for God, not for man (v. 40). They were to be thoroughly impartial, refusing bribes (vv. 6-7). All history has shown the obnoxious tendency of judges to stoop to taking bribes to pervert justice.
In Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests as judges in regard to controversies that might arise among the people. Again his instruction to them was vitally important, that they should act in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and with a loyal heart (vv. 8-9). If any case of wrongdoing arose, these men were to be quick to discern the evil and to warn the people against it, that they might not be guilty of allowing it to spread and cause the wrath of God to fall (v. 10). Also Jehoshaphat called upon the priests and Levites to recognize the authority of Amariah the chief priest and Zebadiah, the ruler of the house of Judah. How important is this matter of recognizing proper authority and submitting to it. Israel has suffered from the lack of this recognition and the Church has suffered too from this ailment. Jehoshaphat finished his instructions with the encouraging words, "Behave courageously, and the Lord will be with the good" (v. 11).
THREE ENEMIES ATTACKING (vv. 1-2)
The Lord now allowed a further test of the faith of King Jehoshaphat. Armies of Moab and Ammon came against Judah, and others were added in this attack. Moab speaks of self-satisfied religion (Jer. 48:11), and reminds us that a smug, self-complacent attitude is a bad enemy for any of us. Let us not dare to submit to it! Ammon (meaning "peoplish") pictures the falsehood of evil doctrine, its king in David's time being named "Nahash," which means "a serpent" (2 Sam. 10:2). So also, we must not for a moment submit to deceptive teaching.
When Jehoshaphat was told of a great multitude coming against him from beyond the sea (the sea of Galilee), he realized this was a strong enemy and he would require more than human strength for the battle. He feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah (v. 3). Fasting speaks of self-denial, which is the negative side of faith, for faith in the living God gives Him the positive place of preeminence and therefore puts self in the negative place of unimportance.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S PRAYER (vv. 3-12)
Verse 4 therefore introduces the positive side, when Jehoshaphat gathered the people of 41
Judah together to seek the intervention of God. He then stood in the house of the Lord to address God in earnest prayer (v. 5).
In beginning his prayer Jehoshaphat asked four questions that he knew were to be answered with are sounding "Yes!" "Are you not God in heaven?" "Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations?" "In Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?" "Are you not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of the land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?" Of course these are absolute facts that Jehoshaphat himself felt necessary to be reminded of, and his speaking this way would be refreshing to the heart of God.
He reminded God also that Israel had dwelt in the land and had built a sanctuary for God's name (v. 8).This refers to Solomon's building of the temple, and also he refers to Solomon's prayer at its dedication, "If disaster comes upon us --sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine -- we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple) and cry out in our affliction, and You will hear and save."
"And now" a specific case had arisen (v. 10). The people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir (who had been spared by Israel when on their way to Canaan) were attacking Judah with the object of dispossessing them of the land God had given them. Therefore Jehoshaphat rightly expects God to judge them and pleads in this way (v. 12). Deeply feeling the weakness of Judah as compared to the power of the enemy, he acknowledged that they not only lacked power, but did not know what to do. Their one and only resource was therefore the God of Israel. "Our eyes are upon You," he says.
Jehoshaphat had prayed in confiding faith to God, and God answered by choosing a Levite, Jehaziel to give the message of God in clear, decided terms, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord, Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but the God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the ascent of Zig, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you" (vv. 15-17). Who could doubt that this was the plain answer of God to the prayer of Jehoshaphat?
But how good it is to see the effect this had on the godly king. He bowed his head before the Lord, and this influenced Judah to do the same, worshiping the Lord. This humble worship was followed by the standing up of the Levites to praise the Lord God of Israel with loud and strong voices. If we have prayed for God's intervention in any matter, do we remember to really thank God when He answers our prayer?
In firm decision of faith the people rose early in the morning to meet their enemies. On their way, however, Jehoshaphat stood and addressed them simply and pointedly, "Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper" (v. 28). But then he did something most unusual for the benefit of an army going to war. Consulting with the people, with whom he desired to be in concord, he appointed singers who would praise the beauty of holiness, emphasizing the words of the psalm, "Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever" (v. 21). These went before the army, a beautiful testimony of faith in the living God.
The Lord always responds to faith and He did so very remarkably on this occasion. He set ambushes against the three enemies, evidently ambushes of their own people, so that they were confused as to who was for them and who was against them. Moab And Ammon evidently thought that those of Mount Seir (Edomites) were Israelites, and vigorously destroyed them. Then in the heat of battle the Moabites and Ammonites turned against one another, possibly also confused in thinking the other army was that of Israel (v. 23). It was a simple matter for God to cause this confusion, and as He had foretold, Israel would not have to fight!
Finding all their enemies dead, Israel was enriched by a great abundance of spoil that took them three days to transport from the battlefield (vv. 24-25). Not only were they spared from the cruel ravages of war, but they profited greatly by the attack of the enemy! True faith will always find it this way. May we dependently cling to the Lord and calmly watch Him work against every threatening enemy.
But in leaving the scene of battle they did not forget to thank God for His great grace toward them. They assembled in the valley of Berachah (which means "a blessing"), and there expressed their thanksgiving together in blessing the Lord. They did this before they actually returned to Jerusalem. With great joy, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets they came
to the temple, the house of God (vv.27-28). How fitting a recognition of God's honor at this time!
Other nations also heard of this marvelous occasion of God's manifest intervention in the destruction of three nations who sought to attack Israel, and this put the fear of God into them (v. 29), not the fear of Israel.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S REIGN ENDING IN PEACE (vv. 30-37)
The victory God had given Jehoshaphat had such lasting effect that the rest of his reign was quiet, with no more efforts of the enemy to molest him. It was God who gave him rest (v. 30). We are told that he was 35 years of age when he took the throne over Judah, and he reigned 25 years, thus was only 60at his death. His mother's name is mentioned too, an indication she must have been a godly woman to have a son so devoted to the Lord. He walked in the way of his father Asa, whose earlier years were admirable, though Asa acted badly near the end inputting God's prophet in prison, which was not true of Jehoshaphat.
Yet there was one blemish that remained in the history of Jehoshaphat. He did not take the high places away. The high places indicated a desire for the recognition of men in the worship of God, just as human religion wants a church steeple that stands out in the community. How different was the character of the apostles at the beginning of Christianity! -- as Paul says, "wehave been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake.........we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless," etc. (1 Cor. 4:9-11).More than this, he took the attitude of destroying the high places when he wrote, "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor.10:5). "Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around" (2 Chronicles 20:30).
We have read of much that was good in the history of Jehoshaphat, but other acts of his
also were recorded in the book of Jehu, son of Hanani, which is not available today. But this man evidently appreciated Jehoshaphat, since he recorded his actions, but not those of Asa, who had persecuted his father (ch. 16:10).
However, in spite of all the good that Jehoshaphat had done, he did not learn well enough from his experience of humiliation when he allied himself with Ahab, nor from the words of God in reproving him through Jehu (ch. 19:2-3), who asked him "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? "Did these words not burn into his heart when he allied himself with Ahaziah, the wicked son of a wicked father and mother, Ahab and Jezebel? (v. 35). But he joined with Ahaziah in a business venture, building ships to go to Tarshish.
This time the Lord did not only reprove him, but sent another prophet, Eliezer to announce to him that because he had allied himself with Ahaziah, the Lord had broken his works (v. 37). That word was backed up immediately by God's intervention in wrecking his ships before any voyage to Tarshish. Nothing is said of how Jehoshaphat received this message and action against him, but we are surely reminded that God is no respecter of persons. He will not excuse sin in even the most godly persons.
THE REIGN OF JEHORAM (vv. 1-20)
Though verse 1 speaks of Jehoram's reigning when Jehoshaphat died, it is made clear in 2 Kings8:16 that Jehoram began to reign before Jehoshaphat's death, for it reads, "In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign" (JND Trans.). Evidently Jehoshaphat gave his son the place of reigning along with himself, or as regent.
Jehoshaphat had seven sons, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, the firstborn, though giving also great gifts to each of his six brothers, including fortified cities in Judah. But Jehoram was a far different character than his father, and soon expressed the wickedness of his character by killing all his brothers as soon as he was established over the kingdom, and killing also other princes of Israel whom he might suspect of having any aspirations of reigning.
Why did he not follow the godliness of his father? One reason is that his father had left him the bad example of having bad friends. Since Jehoshaphat was friendly with Ahab, his son Jehoram married Ahab's daughter Athaliah, who was no less wicked than her parents (v. 6).
Yet in spite of Jehoram's wickedness, the Lord would not destroy the house of David
because of his promise to David and to David's descendants (v. 7). Thus the grace of God is emphasized as greater than judgment, though in righteous government God would bring serious suffering on Israel. This is seen in verse 8, as Edom revolted against the rule of Judah. Jehoram attempted to bring Edom back under subjection, but could do nothing (vv.9-10). Libnah also revolted, and the reason is simply given. The Lord allowed this because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord.
Jehoshaphat had not done away with the high places, but Jehoram added to these, causing the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit harlotry, that is, idolatry by means of the high places, for though at first they claimed to have the high places for the worship of God, this very soon developed into the worship of idols. Similarly, our desire for high recognition by men in our outward worship of God will very easily become virtual idolatry. God will be displaced and Satan's counterfeit will take God's place.
God had anticipated the evil of Jehoram, however, in having before inspired Elijah (previous to his translation) to write a letter of solemn reproof to Jehoram. Verses 12-15record this message from "the Lord God of your father, David." On the one hand, Jehoram had the example of Asa, his grandfather and that of Jehoshaphat his father, who sought the honor of the Lord (v. 12).But on the other hand, the kings of Israel had left an example of ungodly rebellion against the truth, and it was these whom Jehoram followed. He was guilty of making Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot, just as Ahab did in Israel. Also, Elijah wrote that Jehoram had killed his brothers who were better than himself (v. 13).
Therefore, he added that God would judge Jehoram severely for this, bringing a serious affliction on his people, his children, his wives and all his possessions, but that he would also personally suffer the infliction of a dreadful disease of his intestines, so severe that his intestines would come out, "day by day" (v. 15). This would mean protracted suffering. This solemn message, written before Jehoram was born, ought to have had specially profound effect upon the wicked king, for it came to him in a most unusual way which was clear evidence that it was a message from the all knowing God of creation.
The message of God by the writing of Elijah apparently did not at all turn Jehoram to the Lord, as it ought to have, and the Lord stirred up his enemies against him. If one's ways please P. 46
the Lord, He would make his enemies to be at peace with him, but it was just the reverse with Jehoram. The Philistines and Arabians invaded Judah, and Judah had not enough defense to keep them from plundering the king's house. They carried away his possessions, his sons and his wives, though leaving his youngest son, Johoahaz (v. 17).
Did Jehoram not reflect on the great contrast between his reign and the peaceful reign of his father? Since there is no record of his turning from his evil way, surely he could have nothing but utter remorse as his reign drew to a close. The Lord then struck him with an incurable disease of the intestines, which afflicted him for two years before his intestines came out and he died in severe pain. Thus God allowed him an extra two years for repentance, but he had evidently sold himself to do evil, as Ahab had done (1 Ki. 21:25), so that to the end he resisted the goodness of God that might have led him to repentance.
The people made no burning for him as they had for his fathers, for they were not sorry for his death. He reigned from the age of 32 until he was 40, a brief eight years, and died with no one to mourn for him. Though he was buried in Jerusalem, his grave was not with the kings. How sad an end for the son of the faithful King Jehoshaphat!
AHAZIAH'S REIGN (vv. 1-9)
Since all Jehoram's sons had been killed except Ahaziah, the youngest, he was made king by the people. Taking the throne at the age of 22 (not 42), he reigned only one year. Sadly, the Lord's judgment on his father did not affect him to turn to the Lord, but he followed the ways of the house of Ahab. His mother was Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and he accepted the wicked advice of his mother (v. 3). How different to Asa, who removed his mother from the place of queen mother because she had made an idol, an image of Asherah (2 Chron. 15:16).One who deliberately ignores the Lord leaves himself open to being led into every form of evil.
Ahaziah therefore accepted advise from the house of Ahab and joined himself to Jehoram the son of Ahab to fight against Hazael king of Syria. His grandfather had mistakenly united with Ahab in going to battle and was seriously reproved by God for doing so, but Ahaziah was so friendly with Joram king of Israel that, after Joram was wounded in battle, Ahaziah went to visit him (v. 6). But the time had come when God had sent Jehu the son of Nimshi to cut off the house
of Ahab, and Ahaziah compromised his own safety by his friendship with Joram. Jehu came to Samaria and killed all the relatives of Ahab he found there, including Joram king of Israel. Of course Jehu knew that Ahaziah was the husband of Athaliah, Ahab's daughter, and that he had come to Samaria. Ahaziah hid in the city, but Jehu's men found him and brought him to Jehu (v.9). They killed him, but because he was the grandson of Jehoshaphat they buried him. His mother-in-law, Jezebel, was not buried because the dogs ate her body except for her skull, her feet and the palms of her hands (2 Ki. 9:35).
Since Ahaziah was only 23 years old at this time, his sons were young children, so that there was no one of his descendants capable of taking the throne.
ATHALIAH'S USURPATION OF POWER (vv. 10-12)
The callous wickedness of Athaliah rose to a terrible height at this time. She killed her grandsons so that she could have free rein to take the kingdom of Judah. Ahaziah, being the son of Jehoram who was the son of Jehoshaphat, was of the royal line, but his mother, Athaliah, was not. She was a usurper with no royal rights whatever. But God was not defeated by her wickedness. He preserved one descendant of Ahaziah by means of Jehoshabeath, a daughter of King Jehoram who hid the youngest son when Athaliah murdered the rest (v. 11). It was Satan who moved Athaliah in her attempt to completely destroy the seed royal. Many such attempts were made through history, but God is above all the hateful plans of men and of Satan. Joash was only one year old when he was hidden, and since Jehoshabeath was the wife of the priest Jehoiada, they were able to hide Joash in the temple for six years. All this time Athaliah had her way in ruling over Judah.
Certainly God did not recognize her as Queen. In fact, in the genealogy of the kings in Matthew, not only is Athaliah totally ignored, but also her son Ahaziah, her grandson Joash and his son Amaziah are dropped out of the genealogy. (Mt. 1:8). Thus God showed His disapproval of the sinful union of Jehoram with Athaliah which affected all their descendants to the third generation. This is just one of various occasions when the Lord saw fit to make omissions that are significant in His sacred Word. For His wisdom is marvelously great, whether in His inclusions or His omissions.
JOASH CROWNED KING IN JUDAH (vv. 1-11)
Athaliah's tyranny was borne with for six years, when finally Jehoiada the priest took the lead in gaining the support of the military leaders in Judah, to plan the crowning of the young boy Joash. Messengers went throughout Judah to gather the Levites from the many cities, and the chief elders of the people to Jerusalem (v. 2). This was done without the knowledge of Athaliah.
The assemblage came to the temple, where they made a covenant with Joash that he should be king, in accordance with the Word of God that the ruler must be of the sons of David (v. 3).Detailed plans were made as to how the crowning was to take place. One third of the priests and Levites were to keep watch over the doors, one third were to be at the king's house and one third at the Gate of the Fountain. The people were to be in the courts of the temple, but only the priests and Levites who served in the temple were to be allowed inside (v. 6). But all the people were to keep watch, for this is typical of the concern of the saints of God that the Lord Jesus should be fully honored, with nothing allowed that would in any way compromise that honor. The Levites were to surround the king, having weapons also for his protection. If anyone attempted to come into the house without authorization, he was to be put to death (v. 7).
Thus Jehoiada had everything organized, and the Levites and all Judah cooperated fully. Jehoiada gave to the captains spears and large and small shields which David had provided to be put in the temple. When all had been put in order, then they brought out Joash, crowned him and gave him the Testimony, a copy of the law of God, and proclaimed him King of Judah, saying, "Longlive the King!" (v. 11). Of course this is a picture of the recognition of Christ as King when He will displace every usurper at His coming in glory. The power for reigning was not in Joash, however, as it will be in the One who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
THE USURPER JUDGED (vv. 12-15)
Athaliah had been kept unaware of what was taking place until she heard the noise of people running and praising the king. This great celebration brought her to the temple, where she saw Joash standing, crowned, by the pillar with leaders and trumpeters beside him. Trumpets and other musical instruments were accompanying the singing of the many rejoicing at the inauguration of the King (v. 13). The poor woman tore her clothes and cried our "Treason, treason." But she
herself was the only person guilty of treason, and guilty also of murder and many other crimes. Jehoiada the priest, not a government official, gave orders to the captains of the army to take Athaliah outside under guard and kill her there. The work of a priest is to have compassion on the ignorant who go astray (Heb. 5:2), but in this case a priest was to proclaim sentence against an evildoer. Similarly, when the Lord Jesus is seen as ready to judge the world, He is clothed in priestly garments (Rev. 1:13), showing that His judgment will not be merely carried out in righteous anger, but rather will be a judgment consistent with His character of goodness and compassion. It is goodness that abhors what is evil and judges faithfully for God. Athaliah's judgment came far more suddenly than she expected, but it confirms the truth of Proverbs 29:1, "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Jehoiada also gave orders that anyone who followed Athaliah should be killed (v. 14), but we are not told that anyone followed her.
ORDER AND QUIETNESS RESTORED (vv. 16-21)
Jehoiada took the lead in making a covenant between himself, the people and the king, for the king was really a ward of Jehoiada, being of such tender age (v. 16). The covenant was in opposition to the idolatry of Athaliah, and consistent with the law of Moses, stressing that Judah should be the Lord's people, not an idol worshiping people.
Such a covenant required the destruction of the temple of Baal, which the people promptly accomplished, breaking in pieces its altars and images, and killing the priest of Baal (v. 17). This negative work was necessary, just as was the execution of Athaliah, before the positive establishment of the true worship of God, as follows in verses 18-20. Jehoiada the priest was a faithful man, who gave back into the hand of the priests and Levites the oversight of the house of the Lord, consistent with the assignment of David in his insisting that the law of Moses should be obeyed in the offering of burnt sacrifices to the Lord.
Where there has been departure in our present day from the truth of the Word of God, how vital it is that we should return, not merely to what our fathers may have practiced, but to the truth laid down in the New Testament as to the character and practice of the Church of God. Israel was to return to recognize the beginning of their history under law. The Church should return to realize the character of its beginning under grace, to act consistently with what God established in the Book of Acts and the epistles of James, Peter, Paul and John.
It is good to see that when Jehoiada re-established order in the house of the Lord, this was accompanied by rejoicing and singing (v. 18). But also gatekeepers were set at the gates of the house of the Lord, to keep outside that which was unclean (v. 19). This godly care is important in the Church of God today also. Such work may not be appreciated by many, but we must not ignore it on this account. We always need discernment as to what should be allowed in and what must be refused entry. For if the enemy once gains admittance, even in a small way, he will take advantage of this to gain further ground, causing corruption in the Christian testimony.
The Lord thus being given His true place in Judah, the nobles and governors of the people brought the king from the house of the Lord to the king's house, and set him on the throne of the kingdom (v. 20). The orderly way in which these things were all done was a great credit to the faith of Jehoiada. The people of the land responded with great joy and the city was quiet, in contrast to the trouble Athaliah had caused. How instructive is the fact that when a wicked ruler dies the people rejoice!
JOASH BEGINS WELL (vv. 1-14)
Being only seven years old at his coronation, Joash reigned 40 years, thus was only 47 when his own servants killed him (v. 25). In his younger years he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, for he had the good influence of Jehoiada. He had much for which to thank God under the patronage of Jehoiada and Joshabeath who had preserved him from death and enabled him to become king. But he leaned too heavily upon the godly priest and did not learn to depend truly on the Lord. In fact, we are told that Jehoiada took two wives for Joash (v. 3). Why did he not simply instruct Joash to be careful to chose the wife that God desired him to have? But how often it is true that people so depend on a godly leader that they never learn to stand on their own feet! Of course the leader is to blame if he encourages this.
It is commendable, however, that Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the Lord (v. 4). He gathered the priests and Levites, giving them orders to go out to the cities of Judah and gather money from the people to bear the expenses of the repairs, telling them to do this quickly (v. 5).However, this was not done quickly. It may have been that they did not have a heart for P. 49
demanding money from the people because people generally resist such demands. It is the principle of law-keeping, which always awakens resistance in people's minds.
Joash confronted Jehoiada with the fact that the priests and Levites had not done as they were told, for the need was evident. Athaliah and her sons had stolen the dedicated things of the temple to use them in the worship of Baal (v. 7), and if restoration was to be done in the temple, it would be necessarily expensive.
The king then employed different means of raising funds for this project. Instead of demanding from the people, he had a chest made and put outside at the gate of the house of the Lord. Then a public announcement was sent throughout Judah and Jerusalem that the chest was there to receive the contributions the people would bring (v. 9).
This method proved effective, for people came to give voluntarily without pressure being put on them. This is the principle of grace shown us in the New Testament, where believers are not required to give, but, being informed of definite needs, they are told, "Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver"(2 Cor. 9:7). A demand is not made, but encouragement is given. The leaders rejoiced in this, as did all the people, and they willingly brought their contributions, putting them into the chest (v. 10).
Checking the chest each day, the king's officers found an abundance of money, then the king and Jehoiada gave the money to those in charge of the service of the house of the Lord, who hired masons, carpenters and iron and brass workers. When thus there was a mind to do the work, the restoration of the temple was soon accomplished (v. 13).
In this project it must have been the influence of Jehoiada that moved Joash, for of course Jehoiada was in charge of the service of the temple. When the repair work had been done, there remained further money with which articles of gold and silver for serving in the temple were added. The temple being given its true place, then burnt offerings were offered continually there all the days of Jehoiada (v. 14).
THE DEATH OF JEHOIADA (vv. 15-16)
Jehoiada lived to an age of 130years, a faithful, devoted man. At his death he was buried among the kings because he had really acted as a good king (v. 16), not assuming the place of king, but giving that place to the rightful heir to the throne, yet influencing him rightly all the days of his life. We should rightly expect that Joash would keenly feel the loss of one through whom had had been so greatly blessed, and in mourning his death, would be purposed to continue to follow his example.
JOASH WILLINGLY MISLED (vv. 15-22)
Sadly, Joash had only formally accepted Jehoiada's leadership. He did not follow the faith and example of Jehoiada. Instead of continuing to stand faithfully for God, he listened to the leaders of Judah, who came to bow down to him with the intention of influencing him to accept again the worship of idols (vv. 17-18). How many since him have been more swayed by a desire to please men and therefore forget to please God!
Judah's idolatry of course incurred the anger of God, who sent prophets to them, seeking to draw them back to the Lord, testifying faithfully against their idol worship, but they refused to listen (v. 19).
Finally, the Spirit of the Lord laid hold of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, to give a strong prophetic message to Judah, "Thus says God: Why do you trespass the commandment of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you" (v. 20). Since this was spoken by a priest of God who was Jehoiada's son, we should expect Joash at least to pay serious attention, but instead Joash issued the command to stone Zechariah to death in the court of the house of the Lord! (v. 21). Thus Joash was guilty of despising the blessing he had received through Jehoiada and coldly rejecting the God of Israel (v. 22).
The Lord Jesus referred to this solemn incident when speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, saying, "Theblood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar" (Mt. 23:35). It may be that Berechiah was the grandfather of Zechariah, but we know of no record of Jehoiada's father. Why did the Lord Jesus accuse the scribes and Pharisees of murdering Zechariah, when this had taken place years before? Because they were exhibiting the same, cruel, unbelieving attitude toward God by their opposition to Christ, an infinitely greater Messenger than Zechariah was. By their attitude they were identifying themselves with those who hated God.
As Zechariah died, he said," The Lord look upon it and repay!" (v. 22). This was
consistent with his being under law. How different were the words of the Lord Jesus at His death, "Father,forgive them, for they not know what they do" (Lk. 23:34), and the words of Stephen when he was stoned to death, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60). But the prayer of Zechariah was answered by means of serious consequences coming on Joash and his kingdom.
JOASH SUFFERING DEFEAT AND DEATH (vv. 23-27)
The Lord gave Joash at least a short time to reconsider the folly of his evil course, but there was no change in the unhappy king. In the spring of the year the army of Syria came against him, and even though the Syrian army was small in contrast to Israel's very great army (vv. 23-24), the Lord delivered the Israelites into the hand of the enemy, who destroyed many of the leaders of the people, as well as taking much spoil, then retiring, leaving Joash severely wounded. They did not kill him, for God had decided that the poor king would be killed by his own servants. They took advantage of the fact that he was wounded and killed him in bed (v. 25). Thus Joash had a little time to consider that God's judgment was upon him because of his idolatry and his cruelty to the son of Jehoiada.
Jehoiada, the protector of Joash, had been buried with the kings (v. 16), but Joash, though king, was not buried with the kings. The people discerned that he was not worthy of such a burial as Jehoiada was, though the people had followed Joash in his idolatry. How sad was the end of the man who wanted to please the people rather than to please God! The people themselves knew enough to despise this attitude. Amaziah, son of Joash, was then given the throne over Judah.
AMAZIAH BEGINS WELL (vv. 1-4)
The reign of Amaziah was relatively long, -- 29 years, because, as his father Joash, he at first did what was outwardly right in the eyes of the Lord, though his heart was not fully for the Lord (v. 2). Like Joash also, his testimony for good broke down in his later years, so that it is questionable if he knew the Lord at all.
When his kingdom was established he executed the two servants who had killed his father (v. 3), but in accordance with scripture (Deut. 24:16), he did not execute the children of these men,
which some men may have done.
WAR WITH EDOM (vv. 5-13)
Amaziah had energy to gather an army from Judah with the object of warring against Edom, but one thing is painfully lacking in this endeavor. While it was right to contend against Edom, yet in all conflict we should first consult the Lord, which Amaziah did not do. He knew enough about scripture to number only those who were 20 years or older, and found he had an army of 300,000(v. 5). However, he made the blunder of hiring 100,000 warriors from Israel to support the men of Judah (v. 6). He should certainly have first asked the Lord about such a project, but did not.
Since Amaziah had hired 100,000 soldiers from Israel to support the army of Judah, the Lord sent a man of God to him to tell him God was not with Israel, and if he used Israel's help, Amaziah would be defeated (vv. 7-8). Amaziah was therefore concerned about the loss of 100 talents of silver he had already paid to Israel. But what was the loss compared to a humiliating defeat by Edom? The answer of the man of God was simple and to the point, "The Lord is able to give you much more than this" (v. 9).
Not only did Amaziah lose 100talents of silver, but he incurred the proud anger of Israel when he discharged them from going to war. Though they ought to have been thankful to gain the 100 talents without going to battle, yet their pride was wounded and they returned home in great anger.
Without the help of Israel Amaziah went to battle against the people of Seir (the Edomites) and gained a clear victory, taking 10,000 captives. But he did not remember the words of Elisha to the king of Israel when Elisha brought the army of the Syrians to Samaria (1 Ki. 6:19-23). When the king asked Elisha if he should kill them, he responded, "You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and bow?" Instead, Amaziah's men took these captives to a high rock in the mountains and threw them down, so that they were all dashed in pieces (v. 12). This was gross cruelty, unworthy of a king of Judah.
However, the Israelite soldiers who had been sent back by Amaziah attacked the cities of Judah from Samaria to Beth Horon and killed 3000 men, taking much spoil (v. 17). This ought to have spoken deeply to Amaziah in driving him to the Lord. But rather, when he returned from his
victory over Edom, he brought with him the idols of Edom and set them up as his own gods, bowing down to them and burning incense to them. Thus he followed the foolish example of his father who had begun well but lapsed into the snare of idolatry.
Certainly the Lord is angry with such evil as this, and He sent a prophet to Amaziah to ask him, "Whyhave you sought to the gods of the people which could not rescue their own people from your hand?" (v. 15). Amaziah's conscience was stung by the plain force of these words, but being determined to stifle his own conscience, he arrogantly answered the prophet, "Have we made you the king's counselor? Cease! Why should you be killed? "Apparently he thought that, since Joash had killed Zechariah, he himself could as easily kill this prophet. The prophet then said no more except to warn Amaziah, "I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice" (v. 16). Solemn words indeed! Would Amaziah forget them?
AMAZIAH DEFEATED BY ISRAEL (vv. 17-24)
However, this deluded king invited his own destruction by asking advice (not God's advice) from his own idolatrous counselors, to send word to Joash, king of Israel, asking that they engage in battle (v. 17). He had previously given 100 talents of silver to Israel to enlist their help. But now he thought he was strong, since he defeated Edom and was confident he could subdue Israel. Such is the pride of fleshly men.
Joash answered him with a withering parable, comparing him to a thistle demanding recognition from a cedar tree (v. 18). But a wild beast trampled the thistle. Joash well understood that Amaziah was proud of having defeated Edom and wanted to bolster his pride by conquering Israel. He advised him to stay at home, for if meddling where he ought not, he would involve not only himself in a humiliating fall, but Judah also (v. 19).
Amaziah's foolish stubbornness refused to consider such serious warning, yet he did not realize that God was moving him in this bad direction because he had adopted the idols of Edom (v. 20). When one gives himself up to idolatry, he can expect to succumb to any evil influence, for he has sought folly rather than wisdom.
The result of the battle had been settled beforehand, and Amaziah simply went to his certain P. 54
defeat (v. 22). Joash took Amaziah captive and brought him to Jerusalem, where he could witness the destruction of a large section of the wall of the city (v. 23) besides seeing the house of God stripped of all the gold and silver articles that were in it, to be taken as plunder by Joash and Israel.
What a lesson was this for Amaziah! He had shown no regard for God's glory (of which the gold speaks), nor for the need of redemption (symbolized by the silver), and therefore God allowed the very symbols to be taken from him. What do we today think of those two vital matters -- God's glory and the redemption that is in Christ Jesus? The wall broken down is the confirmation that Amaziah had already broken down his proper separation from the ungodly nations by his adoption of Edom's idols. At least Jerusalem ought to have kept out of the gross evil of idolatry. The wall was therefore of no practical value any more. For us today the wall of separation from evil should be, not the mere formal separation from people, but a godly stand for the truth that separates us to the Lord and therefore from whatever dishonors Him.
AMAZIAH MURDERED (vv. 25-28)
Though Joash had defeated Amaziah, he did not live long to savor his victory, but died fifteen years before Amaziah (v. 16). Still, there is no indication that Amaziah recovered his treasures from Israel. While Judah remained in the place God had given them and maintained their outward allegiance to God's temple, yet they were greatly humiliated by Israel who had left God's place of worship. This is a serious lesson for believers today who may be humbled in the eyes of those who maintain a formal observance of Christianity but with no vital knowledge of Christ. Why are we thus humbled? Because we have not wholeheartedly acted on the truths that we know, and God seeks by such means to drive us back to walk truly in His ways.
But the humbling of Amaziah did not accomplish the result it ought to have. His ungodly character became offensive even to his servants who conspired against him. Through fear he fled to Lachish, but to no avail, for they sent men there to kill him v. 27). Thus he suffered the same sad fate as did his father Joash (ch. 24:25). His body was carried back to Jerusalem for burial which is said to be "with his fathers" (v. 28), which sounds as though he was buried with the kings, though his father did not have such a burial (ch. 24:25).
THE REIGN OF UZZIAH (vv. 1-15)
Uzziah, the son of Amaziah, took the throne of Judah when he was only 16 years old and reigned for 52 years. The first thing mentioned about him is the positive good work of building the city of Elath, bringing it back under Judah's authority. This was a good beginning. He did right in the Lord's eyes, as did his father Amaziah in the early stages of his reign (v.4).
Verse 5 indicates that Zechariah, evidently a priest who was a seer also, understanding "the visions of God," had some influence over Uzziah, who sought the Lord in the days of Zechariah. There was a Zechariah before him, who was killed at the command of Joash (ch. 24:20-21), and a later Zechariah, a prophet whose book was named after him (Zech. 1:1). But we know of no other mention of this prophet of verse 5. Uzziah sought the Lord and as long as he did so the Lord made him prosperous.
Following the positive work of building Elath, Uzziah also made war against the Philistines. If this sounds negative, it was still good work, for it speaks of our contending against the mere formality of Christian religion. The name Philistines means "wallowers." They had come from Egypt, as Israel had, but not through the Red Sea, which pictures redemption through the death of Christ. How many there are today who take the outward place of Christians, though they know nothing of being redeemed to God by the blood of Christ! Thus, we must contend, not against people, but against this formal, empty profession without reality. Uzziah did this, and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod. For the walls that harbor mere formal religion are far better broken down, while walls that protect the true testimony of God should be kept intact. Uzziah also built cities in the vicinity of Ashdod and among the Philistines (v. 6). These were a testimony to God in contrast to Philistine character.
Thus, because of Uzziah's faithfulness, God helped him in his victories over the Philistines, Arabians and Meunites (v. 7). The Ammonites picture those who hold false, satanic doctrine. At certain times they gained some advantage over Israel, but not so when Uzziah reigned. Thus he became exceedingly strong.
He built towers in Jerusalem at points that might be comparatively weak (v. 9). We too need watchtowers in places where the enemy is likely to take advantage of us. The towers themselves were fortified. Every precaution was to be taken for the protection of God's testimony. In fact, he also built towers in the desert. Why was this? Was it not to be aware of any approaching danger from the enemy? He was concerned, not only for the temple, but also for the welfare of the production of food from rural areas. He dug many wells for livestock in the lowlands and for farmers and vinedressers in the mountains, for, as we are told, "he loved the soil" (10). This is unusual for a king, but it is certainly to his credit that he was diversified in his activities. This diversity also included an army of warriors who were well organized by the instrumentality of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah an officer under the authority of Hananiah, one of the king's captains (v. 11), and the total number of chief officers under their authority was 2,600. In turn, under the officers' authority was an army of 307,500. Thus Uzziah was well prepared for war, having prepared for all the warriors shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and slingshots (vv. 12-14). Also, for the protection of Jerusalem he had mechanized devices with which to shoot arrows and large stones from the towers on the wall. We today should be just as concerned for the protection of God's saints from evil. So scripture tells us, "he was marvelously helped till he became strong" (v. 15).
FAILURE BECAUSE OF HIS OWN STRENGTH (vv. 16-23)
How tragically sad was the abrupt fall of Uzziah from his place of power and dignity to one of disgrace and shame! His strength became his downfall. Though God had marvelously helped him, he forgot that it was God's help that made him strong, and he succumbed to his own pride. Did he not have the Word of God to tell him that only the priests of Aaron's line could enter into the sanctuary of the temple to burn incense? Yet he boldly entered there to burn incense (v. 16).
Azariah, the high priest, and 80other priests immediately followed Uzziah and faced him with the guilt of his action, ordering him out of the sanctuary (vv. 17-18). If he had immediately humbled himself and left, he might have spared himself from the sudden infliction of leprosy, but he became furious. Since he was king, he no doubt felt insulted by their reproof. However, God immediately intervened by inflicting Uzziah with leprosy in his forehead. When the priests saw this they pushed him out of the place. In fact, he himself recognized he must leave because it was evident the Lord had brought this terrible judgment on him (v. 20).
There was no reversing of this as there had been in the case of Miriam (Num. 12:10-15),
and Uzziah was isolated for the rest of his life, no longer able to act in a kingly capacity, nor to have anything to do with the temple. His son Jot ham took his place as king. How long he lived following his leprosy outbreak we are not told, but at his death he was buried among his fathers, a recognition at least of his former faithfulness.
THE REIGN OF JOTHAM (vv. 1-9)
Jotham's reign was comparatively short, just 16 years, and he died at 41years. He did what was right as his father had done, though he did not follow his father's bad example of entering the temple of the Lord. Yet in spite of his reign being better than most of the kings, the people still acted corruptly. This evil included their sacrificing in high places (2 Ki.15:35). Thus, though Jotham was personally faithful to the Lord, he did not have the spiritual energy to banish the false worship from Judah. But his good work of building the upper gate of the temple and on the wall of Ophel, and his building cities in the mountains and fortresses and towers in the forests, is commendable (vv.3-4).
Jotham also by warfare brought the Ammonites into subjection, so that they paid him tribute of 100 talents of silver, 10,000 cors of wheat and 10,000 of barley for three years in succession (v. 5). The Ammonites picture the doctrine of demons, which, though not destroyed, were allowed no liberty during Jotham's reign. Thus we are told, "Jotham became mighty because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (v. 6). After his short reign of 16 years, he died and was buried in Jerusalem. Then his son Ahaz became king.
THE UNGODLY REIGN OF AHAZ (vv. 1-4)
Ahaz stands in painful contrast to his father. Jotham had been unable to rightly influence Judah to cease worshiping in high places, and it seems his influence over his own son was ineffective, for Ahaz from the beginning of his reign at the age of 20 was committed to a course of evil. Ignoring the faithfulness of his father David and that of other kings of Judah, he chose to follow the wicked example of the kings of Israel. He made idolatrous images and burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, in that place sacrificing his own children to thefire (v. 3). This was done through placing the young child in the arms ofa metal idol, a fire lit under the child P. 58
and drums beaten to drown out thechild's cries. Such is the callous wickedness of idolatry, though suchmen as Ahaz think they are very religious in practicing such idolatry.Though his father Jotham did not burn incense in the high places, he hadallowed those places to remain, and Ahaz forgot the templeof God and burned incense in the high places and other outdoor areas (v.4). He was like many today who claim they need not gather with others toworship God, but can worship just as well in enjoying the scenery while they hunt or fish or play golf orhike in the mountains.
DEFEATED BYSYRIA AND ISRAEL (vv. 5-8)
Because of the idolatry of Ahaz,God sent the king of Syria against him, to badly defeat him and take agreat number of captives to Damascus (v. 5). But also, Pekah, the king ofIsrael, also came against Judah and in one day killed 120,000 ablewarriors! (v. 6). Three prominent men of Judah, includingthe king's son, were killed by one man of Ephraim.
But as well as this, theIsraelites captured 200,000 people, women with their sons and daughters, aswell as a great amount of plunder,bringing this to Samaria. Thedevastation of Judah must have been awesome, with the number of men killedby Syria and great numbers taken captive, then 120,000 killed byIsrael and 200,000 captives taken! Why did Ahaz not realize that this wasa judgment from God, and turn to the Lord in repentance? But his heartremained hard as a stone.
CAPTIVESRETURNED BY ISRAEL (vv. 9-15)
The Lord intervened to stop Israelfrom exceeding in their harsh treatment of Judah. Having the upper hand,Israel was bent on doing all in their power to humiliate their brethren inJudah, but God sent the prophet Oded to the army of Israel with a solemn message. He told them that, because the Lord wasangry with Judah, He had allowed Israel to soundly defeat them. ButIsrael's rage against Judah had reached up to heaven, and now they wereplanning to force the women and children into slavery. Israel's law had forbidden them to make slaves of otherIsraelites (Lev. 25:39). Did the Israelites think that because Judah hadsinned against the Lord, therefore it was right to make them slaves? ButOded answered this by reminding Israel that they also were guilty before God (v. 10). Therefore, he told them,return those captives to Judah, for the fierce wrath of God was againsttheir plan to make slaves of them (v. 11).
It was a mercy of God that herewere some leaders among the people who took Oded's words to heart. Fourare mentioned by name who stood up against the armed warriors, who camebringing the captives, and told them, "You shall not bring the captiveshere, for we already have offended the Lord. You intend toadd to our sins and to our guilt; for our guilt is great, and there isfierce wrath against Israel" (v. 13). These men realized that Israelwas guilty in the first place of killing 120,000 men, which was far more than necessary to win the war. To alsotake 200,000 women and children captive as slaves would add greatly totheir guilt.
Pekah, the king of Israel, is notmentioned as having anything to do with the protest of these four men, butit is good to see that they acted rightly without consulting the king.Their word had good effect on the warriors, who left the captives and the spoil then for the leaders to do with as they sawfit. Then these men named in verse 12 showed proper concern for thecaptives, using the spoil to clothe and feed them, even providing donkeysfor those who were feeble, and brought them to Jericho to be returned to Judah. But in spite of the Lord'sdealing with Judah in allowing them to be so devastated by Syria andIsrael, and in spite of kindness being shown to Judah by the return of thecaptives, Ahaz did not turn to the Lord. It seems he remained as cold and hard as he been before. There are some casesof men who are so decidedly sold to do evil, that, though God patientlyappeals to them again and again, they not only fail to respond, but becomemore hardened still. This is all the more tragic when we consider that the father of Ahaz was a believer.When standing before the Great White Throne such men will have the past allbrought before them with all its kind overtures by God, and no excuse willeven come to their lips.
Ahaz, having refused the Lord,sought help from the kings of Assyria, when the Edomites again attackedJudah and took captives, and the Philistines invaded Judah's cities,taking possession of some of them (vv. 16-18). Thus, the Lord broughtJudah low, and anyone ought to have been able to discern thereason for this was the bad influence of Ahaz in his own moral depravityand his despising of the worship of the God of Israel (v. 19), But Ahazwas so deluded by his own wickedness that he was blind to the reasons for his defeat. The king of Assyriaalso came to Judah, but not to help Ahaz, rather to add to his troubles.In fact, Ahaz robbed the temple of God to give some of its treasures to theking of Assyria, which the king gladly took without any intention of helping Ahaz (v. 20).
INCREASED EVILAND DEATH OF AHAZ (vv. 22-26)
God's patience had no goodeffect on Ahaz, for his determination to do evil only increased instead ofbeing arrested (v. 22). Since Syria had defeated him, he thought Syria didso by the power of their idols, and therefore he adopted Syria'sidolatry, sacrificing to their gods. But this only involved himand all Judah in deeper evil. It seems he was doing everything he could toinsult the God of Israel, going so far as to cut in pieces the articles ofthe house of God, shutting its doors, and instead make altars in every corner of Jerusalem (v. 24).This pictures what many religious leaders are doing today. For instance,the table of showbread in the temple symbolized Christ as the Sustainer oftrue communion with God. Such truth as been cut to shreds by the false teachings of ungodly professors ofreligion. The lampstand speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of testimony,but this truth too has been treated with utter contempt, as have many otherscripture truths that are illustrated in the articles of the temple.
By shutting the doors of thetemple, Ahaz was indicating he considered the temple no longer of any use,just as today the truth of the Church, the present-day house of God, isflatly refused by many religious denominations. In contrast to this, Ahazmade altars in every corner of Jerusalem. God had placedHis name in the temple, but Ahaz refused God's center and made centerswherever he wanted, just as denominations today consider it right to forgetGod's one center, which is Christ, and adopt for themselves any number of centers that appeal to theirselfish feelings.
Bedsides his many other wickedactions, Ahaz made high places in every city of Judah for burning incenseto false gods. Since he despised God's center, Jerusalem, he madecenters all through Judah, making their worship more convenient with manylocations (v. 25), Satan likes to make people feel at easewith no exercise of heart and conscience to know and to obey the Word ofGod, so he has religions of every kind to cater to the fleshly desires ofeveryone. But such things provoked the Lord to anger, and Ahaz died at the early age of 36 years! He wasburied in Jerusalem, but not with the kings of Judah. The people evidentlyrefused him this honor, for he was not worthy of it.
HEZEKIAH MADE KING (vv. 1-2)
Hezekiah took the place of Ahaz inreigning over Judah at the age of 25 years. His mother's name, Abijah,is told us. She must have been a far different character than her husband,because her son did what was right in the sight of the Lord, in sharp contrast to his father's wickedness (v. 2). Thoughhis father was an exceptionally bad example, Hezekiah did not follow thatexample, and every individual should realize that he does not have to go inhis father's ungodly footsteps. The grandfather of Hezekiah (Uzziah) had been a comparatively faithful man,but we are not told that Hezekiah did according to all that Uzziah haddone, but according to all that his father David had done. Thus David washis example, the first king of God's choice in Israel. Let us remember too that we ought to follow theexample of the Lord Jesus, and not to be satisfied with any lesserexample.
HEZEKIAH'SREGARD FOR THE HOUSE OF GOD (vv. 3-19)
At the very beginning ofHezekiah's reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the houseof the Lord and repaired them (v. 3). Thus he quickly reversed what hisfather Ahaz had done. Respect for God's house is respect for GodHimself. Today, we also should desire the truth of the house of God,which is the truth of the Assembly, to be available to the people of God.Not that the doors were taken away: they were opened and repaired toperform their proper function of allowing in what should be in and keeping out what should be out.
Having opened the doors of thetemple, Hezekiah then gathered the priests and Levites who were designatedby God to do the work of the temple. Ahaz had stopped this by his arrogantactions. But Hezekiah was no weakling. He told the priests and Levites to first sanctify themselves, then sanctify the houseof the Lord and carry out the rubbish that had been accumulated in thesanctuary (vv. 4-5). Not only had Ahaz taken away the vessels of thetemple, but he had replaced them with rubbish! Such too has been the guilt of present-day religion. Despisingthe sacred truths of the Word of God, leaders have not only gotten rid ofthese, but have introduced rubbish in their place, the rubbish of humansubstitutes for godliness and obedience to the Word of God.
Hezekiah met the evil squarely anddecidedly. He said, "Our fathers have trespassed and done evil in theeyes of the Lord our God, they have forsaken Him, have turned their facesaway from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him"(v. 6). He spoke also of their having shut the doors,put out the lamps and ceased to burn incense or offer burnt offerings inthis one place that God had set apart forthis purpose. It is striking thathe realized the enormity of the evil of his fathers and that this had be be corrected. He clearly sawwhat his father had failed to see, that the great evil that had come onJudah was because of their disobedience to God (v. 8). He expected Judahto see this also. Many men of Judah had died by warfare and many mothers and children had been taken captive(v. 9).
Therefore Hezekiah advocated apositive return to the Lord, calling upon Judah to agree to a covenant (v.10) This was consistent with Israel's being under law, though it wouldbe wrong today, for covenants have nothing to do with the Church of God.Under grace God has shown that He wants no promises fromman, for the Old Testament has proven Israel (and therefore all mankind) tobe so sinful that they cannot keep their promises. How much better to obeyGod without promising to do so than to promise and fail!
But Hezekiah desired a true returnto God on Judah's part, and he urged the priests and Levites to not benegligent in their duties, for the Lord had chosen them to stand beforeHim, to serve Him and to burn incense to Him. Both priests and Levitesshould serve Him, though only the priests were to burnincense.
How good it is to see the responseof these men! Fourteen Levites are mentioned by name as instrumental ingathering their brethren and being sanctified to do the work of clreansingthe temple (vv. 12-150. Servants of the Lord today too should be diligent to minister the Word of God faithfully, that theWord may have its proper effect in cleansing away the rubbish of humaninventions and opinions.
Only the priests could go into theinnermost part of the house of the Lord, which they did, cleansing it andbringing out all that debris that they found there, to the court, fromwhich the Levites took it and carried it to the Brook Kidron (v. 16). Having begun on the inside of the house, they came tothe vestibule on the eighth day, but required another eight days to finishthe entire work, including the court, evidently (v. 17). They thenreported to King Hezekiah that they had cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with itsarticles and the table ofshowbread with its articles. Also all thearticles that King Ahaz had thrown out they had restored and sanctified,Of course those treasures that Ahaz had given to the King of Assyria (ch. 28:21) could not have been included in therestoration.
THE TEMPLEWORSHIP RESTORED (vv. 20-36)
The temple being prepared,Hezekiah gathered the rulers of Jerusalem with the object of immediatelyoffering sacrifices to the Lord. They brought seven (a complete number) ofeach of four different animals to be offered. The bulls speak of thestrength of the offering of the Lord Jesus. The rams symbolizethe devotion of that one offerings. The lambs picture the submission ofHis offering, and the male goats signify the substitutionary character ofHis offering. Indeed, all of these together cannot fully picture the wonder of the one sacrifice of Christ(v. 21).
The bulls were killed, then therams and the lambs, the priests sprinkling the blood of these on the altar(v. 22). These three were evidently burnt offerings, though the goats aredesignated as sin offerings (v. 23). The burnt offerings came first, and infer much more than the sin offerings, for theyspeak of the glory that God receives from the offering of Christ, which isa much more important matter than the blessing we receive. The sinoffering aspect of that sacrifice is nevertheless vitally important too, for without this our sins could never beforgiven and we delivered from the power of sin. Notice that they laidtheir hands on the sin offerings before offering them, indicating theirpersonal identification with the value of Christ's sacrifice to atone for their guilt (v. 23). But Hezekiah knewthat both the burnt offering and the sin offering were necessary (v.24).
Hezekiah also placed Levites whowere musicians, with cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, in the houseof the Lord, and also priests with trumpets (vv. 25-26). This was inaccordance with the command of David. This music speaks of the joy of theLord, which is to be a very real accompaniment toworship. In the Church of God today there are those who are anxious tomake use of musical instruments in worship also, and of
course they consider that sinceinstruments were used in Israel's worship, they ought to be also in theworship of New Testament saints. But actually, this instrumental music isonly symbolical of the joy of believers in worshiping God "in spirit andin truth" (Jn. 4:23), just as all the sacrifices of
Israel were pictures of the one greatsacrifice of the Lord Jesus. How wrong it would be for us today tosacrifice animals to God! When the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord'ssupper with His disciples, we read of no musical instruments, but they didsing a hymn (Mk. 14:26). What the Father desires of Hissaints today is not formal worship, but worship "in spirit and intruth" (Jn. 4:23).
"And when the burnt offeringbegan, the song of the Lord began." Surely this tells us that when Godis honored by the sacrifice of Christ (of which the burnt offering speaks)then there is reason for the saints to respond with the song of the Lord.There is far more joy in the burnt offering aspect of thesacrifice of Christ than there is in the sin offering aspect, for while wemay be profoundly thankful that by the sacrifice of Christ our sins havebeen forgiven, yet it is is only when we realize that God has been glorified in that sacrifice that ourhearts really expand with rejoicing. But all the assembly worshiped (v.28) at least formally, continuing till the burnt offering was finished, andindeed beyond this (vv. 28-29).
Hezekiah and other leaders thencommanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord, using the psalms of Davidand Asaph for this. They did so with gladness and bowed their heads andworshiped. This was a remarkable result of the godly leading of Hezekiah. Today we need no such commandment, but may be led bythe Spirit of God. Knowing the great glory and grace of the Lord Jesus, wesurely desire to praise Him.
The freewill offerings of Judahcontinued for some time, the burnt offerings amounting to 70 bulls, 100rams and 200 lambs, as well as offerings of consecration totaling 600 bullsand 3000 sheep (vv. 32-33). There were not enough priests to do all the work of skinning the offerings, so the Levites helpedthem. Some of the priests had not sanctified themselves, being not asdiligent as the Levites in this matter. Does this not remind us that wetoo often lack willingness to carry out priestly duties of true worship? We may be more inclined to serve (asLevites) than to worship (as priests). But Hezekiah and all the peoplegreatly rejoiced in the goodness of God so preparing them at this time.
KEEPING THEPASSOVER (vv. 1-27)
The concern of Hezekiah to honorthe Lord was then extended to his purpose that the Passover should be keptand that all Israel should be invited to this feast. Therefore he sentletters to Ephraim and Manasseh (in fact, announcing it throughout all Israel --v. 6), to invite them to come to the only centerwhere God had ordered that the Passover should be kept, Jerusalem. At thistime the ten tribes had been so overrun by enemies that they had no kingreigning over them, but Hezekiah in great compassion for them, desired that individuals at least should beawakened to recognize God's center and come to honor Him by keeping thePassover.
However, being so concerned asHezekiah was, the time was too late to gather the people together on thefirst month of the year, which was the stipulated time. But God hadallowed that if anyone was unable to keep the Passover in the first monthbecause of uncleanness or traveling away from home, he mightkeep the Passover in the second month. Hezekiah took advantage of thisprovision to announce the Passover in the second month (v. 2).
Runners then took the message toall Israel and Judah, urging them as "children of Israel" to returnto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, assuring them that if so, Godwould return to them, the small remnant that had not been taken captive bythe kings of Assyria. Further, they were told, "Donot be like your fathers and your brethren who trespassed against the LordGod of their fathers, so that He gave them up to desolation, as yousee." For the idolatry that the ten tribes chose was a refusal of God's center, Jerusalem. Now at least let themrecognize that center and God would bless them for it. It was necessarythat they should be told not to be stiffnecked, as their fathers were, butto yield themselves to the Lord (vv. 7-8). If they would show the faith to return to Jerusalem, they wouldnot be refused permission to enter God's sanctuary (not the holiest ofall, of course), but would be welcomed to the house of God.
Though the message was one ofkindness and grace (v. 9), when it was brought to Ephraim, Manasseh andZebulun, it was received with only contempt and mockery, on the part of thepeople generally (v. 10). The Lord had largely broken down their falseworship, yet when the opportunity was given them to returnto God's true center of worship, Jerusalem, they foolishly and proudlyrefused.
Nevertheless, there were some whoresponded to the invitation, from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulon, and humblycame to Jerusalem. Also, God disposed the hearts of the people of Judah towillingly obey the command of Hezekiah, so that there was a large gathering in the city in the second month (v. 13).
But as soon as the Passover wascontemplated, it was clearly seen that the idolatrous altars raised byformer kings must be allowed no place. These were taken away and throwninto the Brook Kidron. Similarly, when we desire to honor the Lord byremembering Him in the breaking of bread, we shall want toget rid of all those forms and relics of humanly devised worship and givethe Lord Jesus His place of supreme honor.
The Passover lambs were thenslaughtered on the 14th day of the second month (v. 15). It is noted thatthe priests and Levites were ashamed and sanctified themselves. It appearsthat the contemplation of the Passover woke them up to the shame of their previous laxity, for surely they ought to havepurified themselves immediately if there was defilement, just as we tooought to confess our wrongs and be restored just as soon as we have donethe wrong. At least they became ashamed enough to sanctify themselves. The Passover was kept "according to thelaw of Moses the man of God" (v. 16). We too should keep theLord's supper in accordance with its institution by the Lord Jesus onthe night of His betrayal. The simplicity of that institution is beautiful, yet many churches have added such ritual andceremony to it today that it can not be recognized as the same service theLord introduced.
The ordinance of the Passoverrequired that those who were defiled by a dead body could not eat of thePassover until they were sanctified from this (Num. 9:9). Because of somebeing defiled at the time of the Passover in Numbers, God had made anallowance for them the keep the Passover in the secondmonth (Num. 9:10-11). However, since it was the second month that Hezekiaharranged the Passover, and there were large numbers from Ephraim,Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulon who had not been purified, yet they were allowed to eat the Passover, though it wascontrary to the Word of God. This was a marked exception, and Hezekiahprayed for them, that the Lord would provide atonement for this infractionof the law. The Lord accepted this prayer and healed all the people (vv. 19-20). In explanation of this,would it not have been cruel to refuse their participation in the Passoverafter having invited them to come from so far for this purpose, and afterthese people had shown such faith as to come to God's center in order to honor the Lord? This was theexception of pure grace.
All those present at Jerusalem at this time kept thefeast for seven days, with great gladness, and the priests and Levitesdaily praised the Lord in singing with the accompaniment of musicalinstruments (v. 21). Instrumental music is pleasant to the human ear, though it is not really worship in spirit andin truth (Jn. 4:23-24), as the Lord insists that worship should be in thispresent age, in contrast to the "carnal (or fleshly) ordinances"prescribed for Israel (Heb. 9:9-10). The New Testament is silent as to the use of musical instruments in theservice of God. When the Lord instituted the Lord's supper, it isrecorded that they sang a hymn (Mk. 14:26), but there is no mention of anymusical instrument. Why? Because true worship is from the heart, and though one plays an instrument well, this is notworship, for worship is for the Lord, not for people. The people may enjoythe instrumental music, but it is not worship of God. A gospel meeting isfor the benefit of people, and instrumental music may attract people to hear, but this is not worship.
But Hezekiah acted according tothe times in which he lived, and he encouraged the Levites during the feastto teach the knowledge of the Lord, for the feast was seven days long (v.22). However, the assembly agreed to keep it up for seven days more, which gave opportunity for much teaching as well asoffering peace offerings and making confession to the Lord (v. 23). Theirhistory under previous kings surely called for such confession.
Hezekiah himself gave to theassembly 1000 bulls and 7000 sheep for offerings, and the leaders of Judahgave 1000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. A great number of priests sanctifiedthemselves so that they could help in the offering of all these (v.24).
Thus the whole assembly of Judahrejoiced together with the priests and Levites and the number who came fromIsrael. There had been no occasion like this since the time of Solomon(vv. 25-26), so that it was a unique revival after years of failure on the part of the kings. The prayer of the priests andLevites came up to God's holy dwelling place, to heaven. God wasvitally interested and heard their prayer with glad approval.
HEZEKIAH'S WORK OF REFORMATION (vv. 1-21)
When Hezekiah had taken positiveaction to give God His true place of authority in the Passover feast, herightly followed this up with the negative work of destroying theidolatrous pillars, images, high places and altars that had been introducedby earlier kings. The many people who had been presentfor the Passover carried out this destruction in the cities of Judah, butalso in Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh (v. 1) before returning to their ownproperty.
Then Hezekiah restored the priestsand Levites to their proper places and their proper work according to thedivisions appointed for them by the law of Moses, to take care of thesacrifices of burnt offerings and peace offerings, to serve and to givethanks and to praise in the gates of the house of theLord (v. 2). He also appointed a part of his possessions to be provided asburnt offerings, whether for the morning and evening, or for the sabbaths,new moons and set feasts, as was prescribed in the law (v. 3). Notice the emphasis placed on the burntoffering. This was totally for God, all going up in fire to Him,indicating the value of the sacrifice of Christ to God Himself, for God hasbeen perfectly glorified in that sacrifice, apart from all the blessing we may have received.
The people had apparently not beentaught that the Levites depended on their support for the service theyperformed in the temple. Hezekiah therefore took notice of this andcommanded
the people of Jerusalem to contributeto the support of the Levites, so that they could devote themselves totheir proper service. When this order was circulated the people were quickto respond, for Hezekiah's personal devotion to the Lord had very real influence on them. They brought in grain, wine, oiland honey and other produce in abundance (v. 5). When people's heartswere affected by the truth of God, tithes were not considered a hardship.Under grace there is no commandment given to tithe, but since we are infinitely blessed by the sacrifice ofChrist for us, our giving is to be voluntary and spontaneous. "Let eachone give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; forGod loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
Others of the children of Israel(outside of Jerusalem) brought tithes of oxen and sheep and of other holythings that were consecrated to the Lord (v. 6). These holy things theyhad laid in heaps, so that at the end of four summer months of gathering, there was a great over-abundance. When Hezekiah andother leaders of Judah came to view the heaps, they were so impressed as togladly bless the Lord and the people also (vv. 7-8).
Azariah the chief priest toldHezekiah of the abundance remaining after the Levites had been sufficed, sothat Hezekiah ordered them to prepare rooms in the house of the Lord inwhich to store the offerings (v. 11). How good it is to read that"they faithfully brought in the offerings, the tithes andthe dedicated things" (v. 12). The Lord delights in recording the namesof the twelve faithful men who did this.
One official, Kore, was appointedto take charge of the freewill offerings and their distribution, and underhim six assistants who are called "faithful" (vv. 14-15). Even malesas young as three years were included in the distribution of theseofferings, though of course the priests who served wererequired to be 20 years or older (vv. 16-17). But the families of theLevites were all entitled to the support of the freewill offerings (v.18).
Also, there were men designated todistribute portions to the sons of Aaron the priests in the fields andcommon lands surrounding the cities (v. 19). Thus Hezekiah wasdiligent to see that nothing was neglected in the work of the Lord toprovide for the people what was right and good. It is aprecious commendation that he did every good work in the service of thehouse of God with all his heart. Therefore he prospered greatly (v.21).
ASSYRIATHREATENS JUDAH (vv. 1-18)
Assyria had before this conqueredten tribes (2 Ki. 17), and their king, Sennacharib, confident of takingJudah also, came to encamp against the fortified cities (v. 1). The Lorddid not send him because of any guilt on Judah's part, as was the casewith Israel, but it was to be a test of the faith of thegodly king Hezekiah. He consulted with his leaders and commanders to stopthe water from the springs which were outside the city (v. 4). Spirituallyspeaking, this tells us that the enemies of the Lord have no right to the refreshment of the Word of God:this belongs to believers. The unbeliever, if he gets knowledge ofGod's Word, will only misuse it.
Hezekiah made full preparationsfor war, just as the believer is told to "put on the whole armor ofGod" (Eph. 6:11). He built up the wall that was broken and builtanother wall outside as a double protection, also making many weapons andshields. But though he prepared these armaments, he did not dependon them. Gathering the military leaders in the open square of the citygate, he told them to "be strong and courageous" (v. 7), though notto depend on their strength and courage, but on the Lord their God; for the king of Assyria depended on an arm offlesh, but Israel's God was infinitely greater. Thus the words ofHezekiah were of real strength to the people (v. 8). God would certainlynot fail them.
Sennacharib then tried the forceof human argument against Judah. But Judah would immediately discern theignorance of his arguments. He said that Hezekiah was trying to persuadeJudah to give themselves over to die of famine and thirst when he assured Judah that the Lord God would deliver them from thepower of the king of Assyria. He knew that Hezekiah had abolished the highplaces of worship, and thought that these were God's high places, sothat he considered that Hezekiah had insulted God! What abject ignorance! Hezekiah had honored God bydestroying this idolatrous worship and returning to the true worship ofhaving one altar, symbolical of Christ.
Sennacharib further declared thatthe gods of many nations had not delivered those nations from destructionat the hand of Assyria, therefore Judah could not depend on their God todeliver them (vv. 13-14). How little he realized that the gods of the nations (including his own nation) were helpless idolsin contrast to the God of Israel who created all things.
This haughty enemy of God appealedto the people of Judah to not let Hezekiah deceive them, but to refuse tobelieve him; for Sennacharib wanted Judah to let him deceive them into thinking that God was no betterthan the idols of the nations (v. 15). Thus his servants spoke bothagainst the Lord and against Hezekiah (v. 16). Added to this determinedcampaign were letters written by Sennacharib using the same insulting language against God, declaring Him to be ashelpless as the idols of other nations (v. 17). Also the servants ofSennacharib who were besieging the city called out loudly in the Hebrewlanguage to the people of Jerusalem, desiring to frighten them into submission (vv. 18-19). Isaiah 36:11-20records this attack as being the work of Rabshakeh in railing againstGod.
GOD'S ANSWER TOASSYRIA (vv. 20-23)
As we have seen, though Hezekiahhad prepared for war, it was not his preparations that saved Judah.Rather, in utter helplessness, Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed and cried out toheaven, and the Lord gained the victory for him. The Lord sent an angelwho cut down every mighty man of valor, leader and captainin the camp of the king of Assyria (vv. 20-21). In fact, at that time theangel of the Lord killed 185,000 of the Assyrians (Isa. 37:36).Sennacharib returned in shame to P. 71
his own land, and in the temple of hisidolatrous god his own sons killed him with the sword. How helpless hisgod was to deliver him! -- and how little respect for his god did his ownsons show! Thus the evil of man defeats his own selfish ends.
However, the simplicity ofHezekiah's faith assured his salvation from the king of Assyria, as fromother enemies as well, and he was given the blessing of the Lord'sguidance in every way. Other nations recognized the Lord's grace overJudah and brought gifts to the Lord and also presents to Hezekiah.Thus God exalted him in the sight of all the nations.
HEZEKIAH'S FAILURE ANDHUMBLING (vv. 24-26)
This book of Chronicles does notgive the details as regards Hezekiah's sickness and recovery as does 2Kings 20:1-11. There we read that Isaiah had told him to set his house inorder, for he would die from the sickness God had allowed him. But insteadof simply bowing to the Word of the Lord, he urgentlyprayed, on the basis of his faithful walk, that God would change his mind.He wept bitterly at the thought of dying. What had happened to his faithat this time? Did he not know that God was perfectly wise in what He had said? But evidently he neededa lesson he had not learned before.
The Lord then sent Isaiah back tohim with the message that He had heard his prayer and had seen his tears,and would heal him and add fifteen years to his life (2 Ki. 20:5-6). ThenIsaiah had instructed that a lump of figs be laid on the boil, which led to Hezekiah's recovery. More than this, God gavehim the sign of the shadow going back ten degrees on the sundial (2 Ki.20:9-11). This is the sign of which 2 Chronicles 32:24 speaks.
"But Hezekiah did not repayaccording to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up (v. 25). Hewas evidently proud of the fact that he had gained fifteen years because ofhis faithful life. If he had died when the Lord told him to, he would havebeen the only king of Israel to have a really brightend to his reign, for his extra fifteen years added painful sorrow to hishistory. In fact, immediately following his recovery he failed badly whenthe king of Babylon sent him letters and a present to compliment him on his recovery. He was deceived bythe friendliness of this enemy of Israel and showed his servants all histreasures and his armaments (2 Ki. 20:12-13). Because of thisthe Lord sent Isaiah to tell him that all these treasures would be carried away to Babylon (2 Ki. 20:16-18).What a warning to us not to be deceived by friendly enemies!
However, Hezekiah did humblehimself because of his failure in this case, so that God did not in hislifetime bring the Babylonians to attack Judah (v. 26).
HEZEKIAH'SPROSPERITY AND HONOR (vv. 27-31)
2 Chronicles does not dwell onHezekiah's failure, but on the grace of God in blessing him sogreatly. He was given great riches and honor, with treasuries for silver,gold, precious stones, spices, shields and many other desirable things;also storehouses for grain, wine and oil, barns for all kinds oflivestock and folds for flocks. All of these things are symbolic of thegreat blessing of the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus, yet only afaint picture.
An important project of Hezekiahwas his bringing running water into Jerusalem by a tunnel, the water beingdiverted from the Upper Gihon River (v. 30). This pictures his makingavailable to all the people the truth of the Word of God (the water), sothat they might procure it for themselves. How good itis if leaders help others to find blessing in scripture for themselves!
However, in spite of all the goodHezekiah had done, God did not minimize his sad failure in feeding his ownpride through unwisely entertaining the princes of Babylon who came, notonly to congratulate him on his recovery of health, but to enquire about the wonder of the sun going P. 68
backward ten degrees (v. 31). God haddone these things for His own glory, not that attention should be drawnto Hezekiah. But God used this as a test, that Hezekiah might learnsomething of the evil in his own heart, and which he had not suspected. What a lesson for every believer!
HEZEKIAH'S DEATH (vv. 32-33)
Though Hezekiah had gainedfifteen years through his tearful prayer, yet he died. Verse 32 recordsthe fact that other acts of Hezekiah are to be found written in the book ofIsaiah and in the book of Kings (2 Kings). He was buried among thehonored kings of Judah in Jerusalem, and all Judah honored himat his death, a contrast to the burial of his father Ahaz, who was notburied among the kings (Ch. 28:37).
THE REIGN OFMANASSEH (vv. 1-9)
Manasseh was only 12 years old atthe time of his father's death, therefore he was born during the extra fifteen years that God had allowed Hezekiah. Manasseh was given 55 years to
reign over Judah, but he was the mostwicked king Judah ever had. During his first twelve years, did his fathernot give him the help he needed to be preserved from evil? We are surelytaught here that God knew better what was good for Hezekiah than Hezekiah thought. We should certainly learn to bow toGod's will at all times, whatever we may think about it.
Manasseh followed the idolatrousabominations of the nations Israel had dispossessed, reversing the goodthat his father had done for Israel. He rebuilt the high places thatHezekiah had destroyed, raised up altars to idols and made images, andworshiped all the host of heaven. Even in the temple of GodManasseh set up altars to worship idols. With all his altars and images hemay have thought he was very zealous religiously, more zealous than hisfather, but this was the folly of unbelief. Added to this evil, he caused his sons to pass through the fire inthe valley of Hinnom, thinking that the sacrifice of his own sons wouldsecure him some recognition from heaven (v. 6). He also practicedwitchcraft, soothsaying and sorcery, thus involving his kingdom in the bondage of satanic deception. Placing acarved image in the temple was a direct insult to God, who had declared thetemple as the place where God would set His name (v. 7). Yet God'spromise to not remove Israel from their land was conditional upon their being careful to observe all God'scommandments which involved the whole law with its statutes and ordinances(v. 8). Manasseh had totally departed from such a path of obedience,seducing Judah and Jerusalem to practice more evil than the nations God had destroyed because of their idolatry.
GOD BRINGS MANASSEH TOREPENTANCE (vv. 10-17)
When Manasseh had resisted theWord of God in seeking to correct his evil, the Lord therefore brought thearmy of the king of Assyria to take Manasseh captive and transport him toBabylon (v. 11). It was plainly the goodness of God that brought Manasseh down to this miserable condition of bondage, forRomans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads torepentance. How marvelous it is that the discipline of God accomplishedthe result of bringing Manasseh to repentance. No doubt God has used this means many times in seeking to bring people torepentance, yet most do not seem to respond. But though Manasseh hadsinned so grievously against God, he did repent and humbled himself greatlybefore God, praying earnestly to the One he had before so dishonored, and God accepted his prayer ofhumiliation (vv. 12-13). This is a most striking example of the grace ofGod being available for any sinner who repents.
No details are given as to how theking of Assyria was moved to release Manasseh from prison and allow him toreturn to his place as king over Judah, but it was God Himself who dictatedthis restoration, and Manasseh then knew indeed that the Lord is God. This was certainly a complete transformationaccomplished by the grace and power of God.
There were good results also, forManasseh built profitably instead of tearing down what was of God. Hebuilt a wall on the west of Jerusalem, no doubt with the object ofwithstanding the attacks of enemies, and he appointed military captains inall the fortified cities of Judah, indicating his concern forthe protection of these cities (v. 14).
He also took away the idols fromthe house of the Lord, idols that he himself had introduced, as well as allthe altars he had built in Jerusalem (v. 15). On the positive side herepaired the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it (v. 16). These offerings indicate histhankfulness for God's mercy to him, but no mention is made of burntofferings, which emphasize the glory God receives by virtue of thesacrifice of Christ, a far more important matter than the blessing we receive.
Yet, while Hezekiah had banishedworship in the high places, Manasseh did not follow his father in this, butallowed the people to sacrifice in these, though only to the Lord (v. 17).This is the same principle as is seen today in those Christians who desire recognition from the world in worshiping God,rather than being willing to take the low place of rejection with Christ.In this Manasseh failed.
THE DEATH OFMANASSEH (vv. 18-20)
Any further history of Manassehverse 18 tells us is recorded in the book of the kings of Israel (v. 18),and other books not available to us today. Having reigned 55 years,Manasseh died and was buried in his own house, thus having more respectshown to him at his death than was true of some of the kings.His son Amon then took the throne.
AMON'S BRIEFREIGN AND DEATH (vv. 21-25)
Amon was 22 years of age in beingcrowned king, but in great contrast to his father, he reigned only twoyears. Though Manasseh had thrown out of the city the idols and idolatrousaltars he had made, Amon evidently brought them back, for he sacrificed to all the images that his father had made, placinghimself in servitude to these abominations. He certainly must haveP. 75
known that his father had repented andchanged his ways radically, but this had no proper effect on Amon, who didnot at all humble himself, but sinned more and more (vv. 22-23). His evilwas so great that even his own servants had no respect for him, but conspired together and killed him in his own house.How pathetic it is that he had learned nothing either through the folly ofhis father or through the repentance of his father!
However, the people of the landhad some sense of the wrong of servants killing their master, and theyexecuted those who had done this. Thus in both cases God shows that He hasways of bringing judgment on the guilty. Then the people made Josiah,Amon's son, king over Judah.
JOSIAHBEGINS HIS GOOD REIGN (vv. 1-7)
Josiah was only eight years oldwhen put on the throne (v. 1). His father at this time (when he died) was24 years old, so that he must have been only 16 when Josiah was born. ButJosiah reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. What a contrast he was to his father Amon! He did what was right in the sight of theLord, choosing to walk in the ways of David, maintaining a consistent path,not turning to either side, right or left (v. 2). Indeed, he was the lastking in Judah to have a good record, which shows us that even when the condition of the people generallyhas sunk to a low ebb, there may still be bright exceptions to the generaltrend. At the tender age of 16 he began to seek the Lord, and at 20 yearshe began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the carved and molded images, and had the altarsof Baal broken down, the incense altars cut down, breaking in pieces thewooden, carved and molded images, grinding them to dust which was scatteredon the graves of those who had sacrificed to them (vv. 3-4). Thus he made sure that those images wouldnever again be introduced into Jerusalem. Though Manasseh had taken awaythe images he had before made, he did not destroy them, so Amon had broughtthem back. Josiah would allow no such thing.
Josiah also burned the bones ofthe idolatrous priests on their altars. Evidently these were the bones ofthose who had before died. But he did not stop with cleansing Judah andJerusalem: he did the same in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon and Naphthali, for those tribes had been so reduced as tohave no king (v. 5). When he had accomplished this work of breaking downthe altars and images, reducing them practically to powder, and had cutdown all the incense altars throughout the land, he returned to Jerusalem (vv. 6-7), which means "thefoundation of peace." All this took place before Josiah even knew ofGod's law. He had not needed the law to tell him that idolatry was sinagainst God. Why not? Because the practice of idolatry is sin against God as Creator, as everyone should know, not onlysin against His law.
THE BOOK OF THE LAW FOUND(vv. 8-28)
When one acts rightly on the lighthe has, God will certainly further enlighten him. The evil in Judah havingbeen judged, at the age of 26 Josiah was concerned about repairing thehouse of the Lord. He sent three qualified men with instructions to do the repair work. They came to Hilkiah the high priestand delivered him money that had been gathered from Manasseh, Ephraim,Judah and Benjamin. (v.9).
Those who were overseers of thematerial needed for the house of God used this money for the hiring ofworkmen to repair the house and for craftsmen and builders, to buy hewnstone and timber for beams and for the floor the house (v. 10). This wasevidently a large project, for the ungodly kings previousto Josiah had been guilty of destroying a great deal of that which was nottheir own property, but God's.
Josiah's influence was good,for the men did the work faithfully (v. 12). The names of those whosupervised the work are recorded in verse 12. Thus God highly commendsthose who are true builders, and surely no less today if we have concernfor the building up of the saints of God, thus building theassembly. Levites are mentioned here as being skillful with musicalinstruments. This is symbolical of skill in ministering the Word of Godfor the refreshment and encouragement of saints. They may have played their instruments while the men were working,picturing servants willing to help those serving in practical matters byministering the Word of God to them.
There were overseers set over theburden bearers also. How good for us if we are burden bearers. But weneed instruction as to how to do such good work. Also some of the Leviteswere scribes, officers and gatekeepers (v. 13). Though there was diversityin the work, yet it was done in unity. Scribes were needed to keep thingsorderly; gatekeepers were required to see that only that was allowed in which ought to be in. These areall necessities in the Church of God today, though with no such functionsand with no one assuming any special place for this.
However, in the course of doingthe repair work, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord,given by Moses. How sad that the book had been given no place of honor,but was obscured in the house of God! (v. 14). In that book it was written that when one ruled as king over Israel he shouldwrite a copy of this law in a book and read it all the days of his life(Deut. 17:18-19). But by the time Josiah took the throne, he did not evenknow that this book existed! Who was to blame for this? No doubt both earlier kings and priests.
Shaphan received the book fromHilkiah and brought the message to the king that his orders were beingcarried out in reference to repairing the temple, but also told thatHilkiah had given him this book (vv. 16-18). Shaphan (a scribe) then readfrom this book before Josiah. How profoundly serious was theeffect upon the godly king Josiah in hearing the Word of God! In a spiritof deep self-judgment he tore his clothes, then commanded five men,including Hilkiah and Shaphan, to go and enquire of the Lord for him and for the small number left in Israel andJudah. For he recognized that Israel was under the great wrath of Godbecause their fathers had not kept the Word of the Lord (vv. 20-21). Hedid not attempt to rationalize, but faced directly the truth declared in scripture, and wanted to know just howGod was now going to deal with his nation.
The condition of Israel was so lowat this time that there was no prophet whom they could consult, but aprophetess named Huldah was available and they went to her (v. 22). Shefaithfully gave them God's answer that He would bring calamity uponIsrael, all the curses written in the book Josiah had heardread. The reason is given plainly, "because they have forsaken Me andburned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with allthe works of their hands. Therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched" (vv.24-25). Not even the exceptional faithfulness of Josiah could avert thisjudgment.
However, God would still show Hisappreciation of the character and work of Josiah. Because Josiah'sheart was tender and he had humbled himself before God when he heard whathad been written in the book of the law, had torn his clothes and weptbefore Him, the Lord would respond kindly toward him,allowing him to die before the threatened judgment fell on Judah, so thathe would not see all the calamity that was the result of Judah's sin(vv. 27-18). This is a
striking case of which Isaiah speaks,"The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men aretaken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away fromthe evil." Is this not true today also? The condition of theprofessing Church today is so seriously evil that there is noremedy. God will judge this condition: but He will take away the godly byrapturing them Home to heaven before His judgment is poured out.
PURPOSE TO SERVE GODFOR THE TIME
The prediction of future judgmentagainst Israel's sin did not discourage Josiah from serving God duringwhatever little time was left for this. He gathered all the elders ofJudah, the priests and Levites and all the people of Jerusalem, to read tothem all the word of the Book of the Law. Whether or notthey were all affected by this as he was, he considered it necessary thatall the people should hear God's Word. This was the basis of anyrelationship with God.
He then made a covenant before theLord, requiring all the people to ratify it (vv. 31-32). This was simply arenewal of the covenant of law, in spite of the fact that they had brokenthat law. Was there really any hope they would now keep it? No, but it was the only basis of blessing that God had giventhem at the time, and they were still responsible. God was allowing themevery opportunity to change if it had been possible.
Thus, we are told, "Josiahremoved all the abominations from all the country that belonged to thechildren of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligentlyserve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from followingthe Lord God of their fathers" (v. 33). This illustrateswhat the devoted energy of faith on the part of one man can accomplish. Hewas a leader whose influence was great, though the eventual results amongthe people were not good. In the days of Josiah the Lord told Jeremiah, "Judah has not turned to Me with herwhole heart, but in pretense" (Jer. 3:10. Josiah had turned to God withhis whole heart, but not so with the people generally. They could (anddid) easily go in the opposite direction when Josiah died.
AN EXCEPTIONALPASSOVER (vv. 1-19)
So near to the end of the historyof the kings of Israel it is beautiful to see a Passover being kept, ofwhich we are told, "There had been no Passover kept in Israel like thatsince the days of Samuel the prophet, and none of the kings of Israel hadkept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priestsand the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitantsof Jerusalem". Does this not tell us that it is possible, even in ourown day of the ruin and failure of the Church publicly, to give some true honor to the name of the Lord Jesussuch as will delight the heart of God? For the Passover speaks of thethankful worship of the Lord Jesus as the One who sacrificed Himself for uson the cross of Calvary. While the people may fail miserably, yet He remains faithful and true.
Hezekiah had kept a remarkablePassover (ch. 30), but it was one month later than the prescribed time,though none like it had been kept since the days of Solomon (ch. 30:36).However, there had been no Passover like Josiah's since before any kinghad ever reigned. Josiah made sure that all the detailsof order were observed in this Passover. Today this would remind us thatfor centuries the simple service of breaking of bread in remembrance of theLord Jesus was ignored, and as we near His coming He would surely desire us to give Him honor in thissimple way.
The Passover that Josiah kept wasthe most correct in all its details of any that were kept in the time ofthe Kings, because Josiah was careful to see that it corresponded to theWord of God. Josiah was the last of the kings in Israel or Judah who truly honored God, and this should be an encouragement forbelievers today to get back to the truth of scripture at a time whenGod's rights have been cast aside by the professing church. Thefollowing outline will be helpful in our studying this passage:
1. The Time (v. 1) -- that which scripture had prescribed.
2. The Center (v. 3) -- The Ark, typical of Christ, to whom thepeople were to gather.
3. The Preparation (v. 4) --Every house finding its place according to the instructions of David and Solomon.
4. The Order (v. 5) -- Priests and Levites standing in theirplace to kill the Passover according to he Word of the Lord by Moses.
5. The Provision (vv. 7-9) -- Josiah, the princes and chief of the Levites willingly giving to the people the necessaryofferings for the Passover
6. The Death (v. 11) -- The Passover killed, the blood sprinkled,with burnt offerings accompanying the sacrifice.
7. The Roasting (v. 13) -- Speaking of the severe judgment of theLord Jesus, exposed directly to the flame of God's wrath.
8. The Singing (v. 15) -- Speaking of the unspeakable joy resulting from the value of Christ's sacrifice.
9. The Guarding (v. 15) -- Porters (or gatekeepers) were necessary at every gate, allowing in what should be in and keeping out all thatshould be out.
Thus, the Passover was kept on the14th day of the first month, with the priests set in their proper placesand encouraged to serve the Lord. The Levites were told to put the ark ofthe covenant in the temple Solomon had built, for this was the gathering center of Israel (v. 3), just as Christ is thegathering center for the Church of God. "For where two or three aregathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt.18:20).
The Levites were told also toprepare themselves by the houses of their fathers (v. 4). Their fatherswere Kohath, Gershon and Merari, whose distinct services are recorded inNumbers 4:2,24,42. Thus, having prepared themselves, they were to"stand in the holy place according to the divisions of theirfamilies" (v. 5), maintaining an order according to God when they killedthe Passover according to God's word by Moses (v. 6).
Before the actual killing of thePassover, however, the provision for it is seen in verses 7-10.Josiah's gift for this far outnumbered the gifts of the princes and ofthe chief of the Levites. For the king is typical of the Lord Jesus whosegiving far exceeds the willingheartedness of the mostdevoted servants. Josiah gave 30,000 lambs and kids and 3,000 bulls (v.7). The rulers gave 2600 small animals (sheep, etc.) and 300 oxen (v. 8).The chief of the Levites gave 5000 small animals and 500 oxen. This was more than the rulers gave, but onlyone-sixth of Josiah's gift.
Verse 12 records the killing ofthe Passover, the priests sprinkling the blood and the Levites skinning theanimals. The burnt offerings were however removed from the Passoversacrifice, which was a peace offering of which the offerers were to share.But the burnt offerings were evidently gifts given tothe people to offer -- not to eat, but to offer all in fire to theLord,
signifying the glory that God receives from the value of the sacrifice of Christ.
1 After being killed, the Passover offering was roasted as prescribedin Exodus 12:8. Other offerings were made at the same time, some boiled inpots or cauldrons, some baked in pans, those too being peace offerings (seeLeviticus 7:11-16). These were divided among the people, which shows they were peaceofferings.
The Levites afterward preparedportions for themselves and for the priests, all of whom had beenunselfishly occupied with caring for the people (v. 14). How lovely anexample for the Church of God! Those prominent are to remember they areservants to the need of others, not masters who demand firstconsideration.
The singers are seen in theirplace, for the occasion was one of real joy in praising the Lord (v. 15).The death of the animals is of course symbolic of the death of the LordJesus, and this surely affects believers with deep sorrow, yet the resultsof that matchless death are so great and marvelous thatwe should be filled with unspeakable joy in the very face of the greatestsorrow. Is this not true when we remember the Lord in the breaking ofbread?
Thus, at this late date in thehistory of the Kings, the Lord moved His servant to keep the Passover inits prescribed order, and the seven day's Feast of Unleavened Bread.This took place in the 18th year of his reign (v. 19), his age only 26 atthe time. Who could despise his youth?
JOSIAH'SUNTIMELY DEATH (vv. 20-27)
"After all this" -- afterJosiah's faithful devotion to the Lord in banishing idolatry out ofJudah, and after his keeping so outstanding a Passover to the Lord, -- thisfavored king made a serious blunder in not consulting the Lord before goingout to war. The king of Egypt came to the Euphrates River toengage Carchemish (a Hittite king) in battle, and Josiah intervened tofight against Egypt (v. 20). Why he did this we are not told. could ithave been that since he had been preserved by God from harm in warfare that he thought he could settle thedisputes of others by the force of arms? In this case the king of Egyptwas wiser than Josiah, telling him that he was meddling with God whom theking of Egypt considered was on his side (v. 21).
Surely Josiah ought to haveconsidered this advice and to have at least sought God's guidancehimself before proceeding any farther. But he had committed himself, andrefused to change. In fact, he disguised himself (always a bad act for anybeliever), and like Ahab, who disguised himself to go to battle(2 Chron. 18:29), he suffered similar consequences, though he was abeliever, as Ahab was not.
Verse 22 tells us that Josiah"did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God." God mayspeak to believers through any agency, and we should be awake to discernwhether it may be God speaking even through an unbeliever. At least,Necho's words ought to have made Josiah pause to consider that heought to consider God's will in this matter.
Josiah received no benefit fromhis going into battle. We are not even told whether others were killed inthe battle, but only that Josiah was wounded by an arrow and ordered hisservants to take him away (v. 23). He was taken by his second chariot to Jerusalem, and died, then was buried in one of thegraves of the kings. How unspeakably sad was this unnecessary death of aking who hadbeen so faithful to the Lord for the years before!
Jeremiah and all the people weredeeply affected by Josiah's death and lamented greatly. Well theymight, for his reign had been like a shining light in the midst ofIsrael's darkness, which darkness descended again rapidly after hisdeath. In fact, the lamentations of the singing men and women became aregular memorial of Josiah (v. 25).
Verse 26 tells us that the rest ofJosiah's acts and his goodness in observing the law of the Lord arematters recorded in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.
JEHOIAKIM'S REIGNAND CAPTIVITY (vv. 5-8)
Jehoiakim was evidently older thanJehoahaz, for he was 25 when he began to reign (cf. v. 2). Hereigned 11 years in Judah, but he also dishonored the memory of his father,Josiah by his ungodly actions. It was not Necho who came against him, however, but Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He tookJehoiakim captive to Babylon. At the same time he took some of thearticles from the temple and put them in his own temple at Babylon. TheLord allowed this as a warning to Judah, for Nebuchadnezzar might have taken all the treasures of the house, but didnot. If Judah had turned back to the Lord, this might have preserved themfrom the later damage of verses 10 and 18.
This book does not record thedeath of Jehoiakim, though 2 Kings 24:6 does. He must have died incaptivity. His son Jehoiachin then became king (v. 8).
JEHOIACHIN'SREIGN AND CAPTIVITY (vv. 9-10)
Jehoiachin was 18 years old atthis time (not 8, as is mistakenly given in one translation), but hereigned only three months, which was enough to prove him evil in the sightof the Lord. 2 Kings 24:10-12 records that the Babylonians came to besiegethe city, though we are not told the immediate reason forthis. Jehoiachin and his servants surrendered without resistance. 2Chronicles 36:10 speaks of his being summoned by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon,and the costly articles from the house of God were also taken to Babylon, not all the articles as yet. This is a picture of how thetruth of God has been gradually stolen from the Church in the present agebecause of the failure and disobedience of the people. Nebuchadnezzar thenmade Zedekiah, Jehoiakim's brother (Jehoiachin's uncle) king in Judah. Nebuchadnezzar's dealings indeposing one king and setting up another seems rather ludicrous, but heevidently was trying to find one whom he could fully control.
ZEDEKIAH'SEVIL REIGN (vv. 11-14)
Zedekiah was the last of the kingsruling in Judah before their complete captivity. He became king at age 21,reigning 11 years, during which he proved as evil as the kings before him,though being a son of Josiah. Thus, following Josiah's good reign, the condition of Judah degenerated rapidly.
RUIN AND CAPTIVITY (vv. 11-21)
The Book of Jeremiah speaksextensively of God's warnings to Zedekiah through Jeremiah (Jer. 34:2,21), and of Zedekiah's fear of men in speaking with Jeremiah in secret,concerned about what God had spoken, but fearfully giving in to his noblesin disobeying the word of the Lord (Jer. 37:16-21; 38:4-27.
It was this fear of his servantsthat moved Zedekiah to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar after he had sworn anoath by God, an oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. This was plaindishonsty and God could not excuse it because of his fear of men. In fact,God says that Zedekiah stiffened his neck and hardenedhis heart against all God's gracious advances. Together with theleaders and priests of the people, he resisted Nebuchadnezzar when thatking besieged Jerusalem again, and refused Jeremiah's words from God that he should surrender to the king of Babylon(Jer. 38:17-20). Thus leaders and priests and people were guilty oftransgressing more and more, which
included gross idolatry anddesecration of the house of God (v. 14).
Verse 15 speaks of the manywarnings God had given Judah by His servants (specially Jeremiah) becauseHe had compassion on His people and the center where He dwelt. "Butthey mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at Hisprophets, until the wrath of God arose against His people, tillthere was no remedy" (v. 16).
This haughty refusal of bothGod's goodness and His authority occasioned the final attack of the kingof the Chaldeans who killed their young men even in the house of theirsanctuary (v. 17). They had no regard for the holiness of theplace. But after all, Judah had been guilty of showing contemptfor God's house: how could they expect anything better from ungodlynations? Young men and virgins, aged or weak, were killed.
Also, all the treasures of thehouse of God, large and small, and the treasures of Zedekiah and his nobleswere taken to Babylon (v. 18). The Chaldeans also burned the house of God,a terrible insult for Judah to have to bear, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned its palaces with fire and destroyedeverything of value in the city (v. 19).
Those who were not killed werecarried captive to Babylon where they became slaves to Nebuchadnezzar andhis sons, until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, which took place whenthe Medes and Persians conquered Babylon on the same night that Belshazzarsaw the handwriting on the wall (Dan. 5:24-30).
Thus the word of God by Jeremiahwas fulfilled that the land of Israel would be left desolate to enjoy thesabbaths that it had not enjoyed for years because of the greed of thepeople in wanting crops in the seventh year as well as for the six yearsGod had allotted them. Therefore God had told them byJeremiah that the land would remain desolate for 70 years -- the length ofJudah's captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:9-12)
SEVENTYYEARS LATER (vv. 22-23)
The king of Babylon never did giverelease to any of the captives of Judah, but when the Medes and Persiansdefeated Babylon, this soon worked for the blessing of Judah. Darius theMede ruled at first, but when the authority was taken over by the Persians, Cyrus was ruler. As Isaiah had prophesied someyears before, Cyrus would perform all God's pleasure in having Jerusalemrebuilt (Isa. 44:28
It was the Lord who stirred up thespirit of Cyrus to issue a proclamation 70 years after Judah'scaptivity, sending the proclamation throughout all his kingdom (v. 22), tothe effect that the God of heaven had commanded him to builda house for Godin Jerusalem. He did not say by what means God had givenhim this message, but he was evidently persuaded that it was authentic.Therefore he gave full liberty to any Israelites in captivity to go back toJerusalem to help in this rebuilding. In fact, he encouraged them to do this, desiring that the Lord Godwould be with those who responded to this invitation. How beautifully thisshows that God was still deeply concerned about His people Israel in spiteof their previous departure and rebellion. Similarly today, He has not cast away His people (Rom. 11:1),though they have been far from Him for almost 2000 years! He will yetrestore them, for He is a God of grace.
Thus the book of Chronicles doesnot end in total misery, but shows the pure grace of God that would notleave Israel in hopeless despair, but would graciously seek theirrestoration. We might well consider this in the light of conditions in theprofessing church today, when departure and rebellionagainst the pure truth of the New Testament has so broken and scattered thepeople of God that many are inclined to think the outlook is hopeless. ButGod still cares for His Church more faithfully than we do, and is willing to give to those who cry to Him thegrace to maintainsome testimony for Him in the face of all the oppositionof Satan, together with the natural bent of our hearts to becomediscouraged.