2 Chronicles 36

2 CHRONICLES CHAPTER 36

Exile of the Kings of Judah (36:1-10)

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “See 2 Kings 23:31-25:21. The Chronicler presents the reigns of the last four kings of Judah quite summarily, as the history of the nation accelerates toward an outcome that has been inevitable since Manasseh’s reign. With Josiah’s death, the covenant is abandoned by king and people alike. The Chronicler treats the last four reigns essentially as a unit: he omits the names of the queen mothers and the customary death notices, so that there is no strict separation between each of the reigns, and the common fate of these kings is exile, as it will be for the people. Another common theme is the temple vessels (2 Chron 36:7, 10, 18…) As well as the kings (2 Chron 36:5, 9, 11-12), the whole nation from its leaders down shares in the mounting collective guilt (v. 14) that finally overwhelms it in destruction. Yet the exile is a positive time of purification, and the book concludes on a positive upswing in a new act of God’s grace declared through a pagan king (vv. 22-23).”

Judah’s King Jehoahaz

      • The people of the land took Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him king in Jerusalem in his father’s place. Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king and he ruled for 3 months in Jerusalem. The king of Egypt deposed him in Jerusalem and fined the land 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold. The king of Egypt installed Jehoahaz’s brother, Eliakim, as king over Judah and Jerusalem and changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. Then Necho seized Eliakim’s brother Jehoahaz, and took him to Egypt.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Jehoahaz, also known as Shallum (see Jer 22:11), was not Josiah’s oldest son (1 Chr 3:15), and the reason he was chosen as king is not explained. Pharaoh Neco immediately intervened and established Jehoahaz’s older brother Eliakim in his place and renamed him Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz’s reign of three months was in 609 BC.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Pharaoh Neco II asserted control over Judah after Josiah’s death. The people of the land who made Jehoahaz king probably hoped he would continue Josiah’s opposition to Egypt. Neco preempted this possibility by deposing Jehoahaz in favor of Eliakim, whom he renamed Jehoiakim as a mark of authority over him. The tribute Neco imposed on the land was a tax exacted from those who had supported Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:35). Inscription 88 of the Arad Ostraca, dating to c. 600 BC, is fragmentary but appears to be a letter from a king who has just been enthroned. In it he apparently warns the military commander of Arad (which guarded the southern border of Judah) of a possible military encounter with Egypt. The excavator of this ostracon identified the author of this letter as Jehoahaz, who ruled Judah for three months in 609 BC.”

Judah’s King Jehoiakim

      • Jehoiakim was 25 years old when he became king and he ruled in Jerusalem for 11 years. He did what was evil in the eyes of Yahweh his God. Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar attacked him, bound him in bronze shackles, and took him away to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the items in Yahweh’s house to Babylon and put them in his palace there.

      • The rest of the events of Jehoiakim’s reign, including the detestable things that he did and everything found against him, are recorded in the “Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.” His son Jehoiachin succeeded him as king.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Jehoiakim’s reign (609-598 BC) was marked by a return to idolatry (Jer 25:1-7) and the king’s persecution of the prophets (Jer 26:20-24; 36:20-31). Nebuchadnezzar, following is defeat of Neco at Carchemish (605 BC), besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:1) and carried off some of its citizens and some of the temple vessels to Babylon (2 Chron 36:7; Dan 1:1-2). This may have been the occasion when Nebuchadnezzar bound him in chains to take him to Babylon, making Jehoiakim into his vassal. Jehoiakim later rebelled against the Babylonians, and in 598 BC Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem, just after Jehoiakim’s death.

Judah’s King Jehoiachin

      • Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he became king and he ruled in Jerusalem for 3 months and 10 days. He did what was evil in Yahweh’s eyes. In the spring, Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and had him brought to Babylon along with the valuable items in Yahweh’s house. Then he installed Jehoiachin’s relative, Zedekiah, as king over Judah and Jerusalem.

        • HCSB notes, “Jehoiachin’s reign was in 598-597 BC.” On his age when he became king, the same source continues, “The Masoretic text reads ‘eight years old,’ but the Septuagint and 2 Kg 24:8 agree he was 18 years of age. In addition to this, Babylonian records show that Jehoiachin had five sons in 592 BC, five years after his exile. All of this leads to the conclusion that a scribe made an error here in the Masoretic Text.”

        • Some translations say that Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s brother. However, NET Bible explains, “According to the parallel text in 2 Kgs 24:17, Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle, not his brother. Therefore many interpreters understand…(ʾakh) here in its less specific sense of ‘relative’ (NEB ‘made his father’s brother Zedekiah king’; NASB ‘made his kinsman Zedekiah king’; NIV ‘made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, king’; NRSV ‘made his brother Zedekiah king’).”

Zedekiah’s Reign and the Fall of Jerusalem (36:11-21)

Judah’s King Zedekiah

      • Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king and he ruled in Jerusalem for 11 years. He did what was evil in Yahweh’s eyes. He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke for Yahweh. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear his allegiance by God. He became obstinate, hardened his heart, and wouldn’t turn to Yahweh, the God of Israel. All the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations. They defiled the house of Yahweh, which He had consecrated in Jerusalem.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Zedekiah’s reign (597-586 BC) culminated in rebellion, a siege of almost two years, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the deportation of its leading citizens (see Jer 52:28-30…). This reign is presented as the zenith of disobedience to God, with the king leading the way and the people becoming exceedingly unfaithful (Hb ma’al…). Their mocking rejection of the prophets (see Jer 25:4) meant the refusal to repent, so now there was no remedy (lit. ‘no healing’; see 2 Chron 7:14) against God’s wrath (see 34:25…).”

        • Guzik says, “Jeremiah tells us that there were many false prophets in those days who preached a message of victory and triumph to Zedekiah, and he believed them instead of Jeremiah and other godly prophets like him. Therefore, he rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar. For example, Jeremiah 32:1-5 tells us that Jeremiah clearly told Zedekiah that he would not succeed in his rebellion against Babylon. Zedekiah arrested Jeremiah and imprisoned him for this, but the prophet steadfastly stayed faithful to the message God gave him…These last kings of Judah were all wicked and deserving of judgment; but they were not alone in their sin and rejection of God. The leaders, the priests, and the people also transgressed more and more, pushing both God and Nebuchadnezzar to the limit.”

The Fall of Jerusalem

      • Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them by His messengers repeatedly, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking His messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until Yahweh’s wrath became so great that there was no remedy. So He brought the king of the Babylonians against them. The Babylonians killed their young men with swords in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young men and women, or even the old and feeble. God handed them all over to him. The king took back to Babylon all the items in the house of God, large and small, as well as what was in the treasuries of Yahweh’s house and the treasuries of the king and his officials. They burned down the house of God and tore down the walls of Jerusalem. They burned down all its fortified buildings and destroyed all its valuable items. He deported everyone who escaped the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the Persian kingdom rose to power. This fulfilled the word of Yahweh that He had spoken through Jeremiah, and lasted until the land had experienced its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the 70 years were fulfilled.

        • Guzik says, “Having rejected the message and the messengers of His compassion (2 Chronicles 36:15), God turned Judah over to a leader and a people who had no compassion upon their people…The emphasis is on the complete nature of the destruction the Babylonians brought to Jerusalem and its people. Nothing was spared and all was destroyed…This was the end of Solomon’s great temple. Solomon’s great temple was now a ruin. It would stay a ruin for many years, until it was humbly rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Ezra…The walls of Jerusalem – the physical security of the city – were now destroyed. Jerusalem was no longer a place of safety and security. The walls would remain a ruin until they were rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Nehemiah.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “The beginning point and the ending point of Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years of exile (Jer 25:8-14) is not exactly specified within the Biblical material. One option is to see the destruction of the temple in 586/585 BC as inaugurating this period, which then comes to a close with the dedication of the rebuilt temple in 516/515 BC. Another option is understanding the decree of Cyrus (539 BC; see v. 22; Ezr 1:1-4) as signaling the end of the 70 years, which implies a beginning point at the death of Josiah, at which point the southern kingdom lost its independence and became a pawn to the geopolitical interests of Egypt and Babylonia.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “It appears that there were three separate deportations of Judeans to Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar (see also Jer 52:28-30). The first came in 597 BC during the reign of Jehoiachin, when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away many of the treasures of the temple and the royal palace. The second occurred after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, when the walls of the city were leveled and the temple was completely destroyed. The third appears to have occurred around 582 BC while King Nebuchadnezzar was reasserting his control over the general region of Palestine…”

        • Guzik remarks, “The Persians (together with the Medes) conquered the Babylonians in 539 b.c. and the Jewish people were only allowed to return to their native lands after the Persians came to power. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus relates that the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon by diverting the flow of the Euphrates into a nearby swamp. This lowered the level of the river so his troops marched through the water and under the river-gates. They still would not have been able to enter had not the bronze gates of the inner walls been left inexplicably unlocked. This was exactly what God predicted in Isaiah 44:28-45:7 and Jeremiah 51:57-58. God opened the gates of the city of Babylon for Cyrus, and put it in writing 200 years before it happened.”

        • Guzik continues, “God had commanded Israel to observe a Sabbath for the land, allowing it to rest every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11). The people of Judah had denied the land its Sabbaths over a period of some 490 years, meaning that they “owed” the land 70 Sabbaths, and to fulfill seventy years God took the years back during the Babylonian exile. This was promised to a disobedience Israel hundreds of years before: Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest; for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it. (Leviticus 26:34-35) Jeremiah spoke of the 70 years of exile in two places: Jeremiah 25:11-13 and Jeremiah 29:10.”

Restoration Under Cyrus (36:22-23)

    • In the first year of Persia’s King Cyrus, in order to fulfill the word of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah, Yahweh stirred the spirit of Persia’s King Cyrus to make a proclamation throughout his land and also to put it in writing. It read:

      • This is what the king of Persia says: ‘Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of His people among you may go up there, and may Yahweh his God be with him.’”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds provides the following historical context:

          • The death of Nebuchadnezzar II in 562 BC set in motion the beginning of the end of the Babylonian Empire. His son Awel-Marduk was assassinated after two years and the next two Babylonian kings (Neriglissar [probably ‘Nergal-Sharezer, Jer 39:3] and Labashi-Marduk) reigned for a combined five years or so before Nabonidus assumed the throne. Nabonidus ruled Babylon 556-539 BC, but his interest in the mood-god Sin (rather than Marduk) caused numerous issues, and within a few years Nabonidus departed for the Arabian oasis city of Tema (some 500 miles from Babylon) and appointed his son Belshazzar to rule in his stead.”

        • Meanwhile, Persia continued to gain strength and encroach on Babylonian territory, so that by 546 BC Persia was controlling much of the southern region of Babylonia and closing in on Babylon. In 539 BC, Cyrus the Persian (559-530 BC) took Babylon with hardly a fight and presented himself as a loyal worshiper of Marduk and the liberator of Babylonian people. The Persian Empire ruled the ancient Near East 539-333 BC.”

        • By conquering the Babylonian Empire, Cyrus inherited various nations exiled to Babylon and overturned the foreign policy of the Babylonians by allowing peoples previously deported to return to their homeland if they so desired. Thus, within the first year of his rule Cyrus issued proclamations to this effect, as reflected in the Cyrus Cylinder (Clay Barrel; see illustration in ‘Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament,’ p. xxviii). Cyrus also sought to placate the gods of these people groups by encouraging traditional worship of local deities, as reflected in his respect of Marduk and his reverential words toward Yahweh (v. 23). One way to do this was by returning religious articles seized by the Babylonians and funding rebuilding efforts of temples and shrines (Ezr 1:2-8; 6:1-12).”

Cyrus Cylinder. Image via Wikimedia Commons

      • HCSB writes, “Verses 22-23 are verbatim with Ez 1:1-3; many believe a later editor copied these from the book of Ezra to show the historical connection and continuity of these books. The ‘first year’ of Cyrus was 539 BC. Thus the Chronicler brought his story up to his own time, leaving his readers with the possibility of hope through repentance and the freedom to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. See Jer 25:11-14; 28:10; Ezk 1:2-4; 6:2-5.”

      • Guzik adds, “The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles end with this wonderful and remarkable encouragement to return and rebuild Jerusalem. This was the necessary and helpful encouragement to the first readers of Chronicles, letting them see their connection with God’s broader plan of the ages. Sadly, only a small percentage decided to return from exile; but those who did needed the encouragement to know they were making a valuable contribution to God’s work.”