Bible Commentary: 2 Kings 24:10-20a and Related

You are here

Bible Commentary

2 Kings 24:10-20a and Related

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

The Second Babylonian Deportation and the Reign of Zedekiah

Nebuchadnezzar returns to Jerusalem “at the turn of the year” (2 Chronicles 36:10 2 Chronicles 36:10And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
), near the spring equinox, “in the eighth year of his reign” (2 Kings 24:12 2 Kings 24:12And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.
American King James Version×
)—that is, in March of 597 B.C. (his first year according to Jewish reckoning being September 605-September 604 B.C.). Jeconiah’s time as king of Judah is up.

“After replacing his father on the throne of David, Jehoiachin [Jeconiah] evidently maintained an anti-Babylonian posture that immediately brought Nebuchadnezzar’s stern reaction. After only three months in power Jehoiachin found his city surrounded by the Babylonian hosts and he quickly capitulated. This time the royal family was deported along with other leading citizens including Ezekiel the prophet. The cream of Judah’s military force and her most skillful craftsmen also had to abandon their land and homes to go into exile. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar helped himself once more to the temple treasures and carried them back to Babylon as a sign of his complete success” (Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 1987, p. 452).

The Babylonians were prolific recorders of their accomplishments. Among some 300 cuneiform tablets unearthed near modern Baghdad, one Babylonian chronicle was found paralleling the biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar’s sacking of Jerusalem and capture of its monarch in 2 Kings 24:10-17 2 Kings 24:10-17 [10] At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. [11] And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. [12] And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. [13] And he carried out there all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. [14] And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. [15] And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. [16] And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. [17] And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
American King James Version×
.

“Here is the Babylonian version: ‘Year 7 {of Nebuchadnezzar [according to Babylonian reckoning]}. In the month of Kislev {December 598}, the king of Babylonia mobilized his troops and marched to the west [showing that he began his assault as soon as Jeconiah assumed the throne]. He encamped against the city of Judah {Jerusalem}, and on the second of Adar {March 16, 597}, he captured the city and seized {its} king. A king of his choice he appointed there; he to{ok} its heavy tribute and carried it off to Babylon.

“The corroboration of the biblical text by the records of Israel’s ancient foe is unmistakable, and a bit ironic,” writes U.S. News & World Report religion writer Jeffery Sheler. “Until a century ago, it was commonly claimed by skeptics in the biblical academy that Nebuchadnezzar had never existed—that he was yet another of the Bible’s legendary figures invented for propaganda purposes. But then the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey, excavating in Iraq beginning in 1899, came upon the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s magnificent palace complex, the famed temple of Marduk, and the remains of the Ishtar gate [now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin]—as well as numerous inscriptions, statues, and stelae from the ancient Babylonian empire. At once, Nebuchadnezzar ceased to be a fictional foil in a supposed Hebrew mythology; archaeology had affirmed him as a true historical figure. And now the royal records of this ancient enemy of the Israelites are adding testimony to the accuracy of the Bible as it relates this important chapter of Israel’s history. This reversal once again shows the capacity of archaeology to turn the skeptical suppositions of biblical scholarship upside down” (Is the Bible True?, 1999, p. 137).

Returning to the scriptural account, it is clear that Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion is a devastating blow to the nation. While the first deportation of Jews to Babylon, which included Daniel and his friends, was quite small, this one is major—involving a substantial portion of Jerusalem. The Babylonian emperor, we are told, takes all but the poor captive (2 Kings 24:14 2 Kings 24:14And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.
American King James Version×
; compare Jeremiah 27:20 Jeremiah 27:20Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem;
American King James Version×
; Jeremiah 29:2 Jeremiah 29:2(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)
American King James Version×
). “This method of eliminating leaders and leaving the peasant population to pay taxes to the kingdom was learned from the Assyrians and was designed to reduce the likelihood of rebellion” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 2). The beginning of 2 Kings 24:20 2 Kings 24:20For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
American King James Version×
sums up this episode and all that would soon transpire: “It was because of the LORD’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence” (NIV).

Nebuchadnezzar removes Jeconiah and his mother from power and places Josiah’s remaining son Mattaniah—Jeconiah’s uncle—on the throne, renaming him Zedekiah as a demonstration of the emperor’s supremacy. As with Necho’s replacement of Jehoahaz with Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar keeps the Jewish kingship within the royal family of David rather than introducing a new dynasty. This was a smart move on both occasions, as the people would not have accepted a non-Davidic ruler and it maintained the façade of Jewish self-rule, which helped to prevent uprising. More importantly, of course, God’s overseeing direction in keeping His promise to David was certainly a factor.

Mattaniah’s new name Zedekiah meant “Yahweh Is Righteousness.” Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary says, “This being a purely Hebrew name, it seems that [Nebuchadnezzar] allowed the puppet king to choose his own name, which was confirmed” (note on 2 Kings 24:17 2 Kings 24:17And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
American King James Version×
). If that’s so, it’s interesting to recall that Jeremiah had prophesied that, after Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:24-30 Jeremiah 22:24-30 [24] As I live, said the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet on my right hand, yet would I pluck you there; [25] And I will give you into the hand of them that seek your life, and into the hand of them whose face you fear, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. [26] And I will cast you out, and your mother that bore you, into another country, where you were not born; and there shall you die. [27] But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. [28] Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? why are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? [29] O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. [30] Thus said the LORD, Write you this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
American King James Version×
), a “Branch of righteousness” would come from David’s house to save Judah (Jeremiah 23:5-6 Jeremiah 23:5-6 [5] Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. [6] In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
American King James Version×
) called “Yahweh Our Righteousness” (see verse 6). Could it be that Mattaniah, probably with the help of advisers, intentionally chose a name meaning something very close to that? In other words, might Mattaniah have co-opted Jeremiah’s prophecy to set himself up as a messianic figure to inspire popular support? It is certainly a possibility.

But the people had difficulty accepting him as the true king, much less anything beyond that. “Though ‘he reigned in Jerusalem,’ the fact that seals have been discovered with the inscription ‘Eliakim steward of Yaukin [Jehoiachin or Jeconiah]’ indicates that, at the least, his nephew Jehoiakin continued to wield influence as a recognized possessor, even if an absentee one, of royal property and, at the most, that Zedekiah may have ruled to some extent as a regent for his exiled predecessor” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on 2 Chronicles 36:11 2 Chronicles 36:11Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
).

“Though Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle and Josiah’s son, was left as puppet ruler of Judah, it is clear that the Jewish people regarded Jehoiachin as the true scion of David until the day of his death. He never returned to Jerusalem, it is true, but after long years as a political prisoner in Babylon he was placed on a government pension and apparently was treated more as an honored guest of Babylon than as her prisoner (2 Kings 25:27-30 2 Kings 25:27-30 [27] And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; [28] And he spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon; [29] And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life. [30] And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.
American King James Version×
). It must have seemed to the exilic Jewish community that the time would surely come when Jehoiachin would lead them back triumphantly to Jerusalem and restore the former glory of the house of David” (Merrill, p. 452). Yet this was utterly foolish, considering that God had banned Jeconiah and his descendants from inheriting David’s throne (Jeremiah 22:24-30 Jeremiah 22:24-30 [24] As I live, said the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet on my right hand, yet would I pluck you there; [25] And I will give you into the hand of them that seek your life, and into the hand of them whose face you fear, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. [26] And I will cast you out, and your mother that bore you, into another country, where you were not born; and there shall you die. [27] But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. [28] Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? why are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? [29] O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. [30] Thus said the LORD, Write you this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
American King James Version×
).

In any event, Zedekiah was “king de facto of whatever was left of Judah in 597” (Merrill, p. 452). Indeed, he was more than that, for God’s decree against Jeconiah made Zedekiah the legitimate successor of David despite what the people thought or desired. Yet the stubborn and faithless Zedekiah does not heed God, propagating 11 more years of wicked rule. “Evil like his brothers, he paid no attention to the admonishings of Jeremiah the prophet to accept Babylonian suzerainty as the will of God [as we will see in upcoming readings]. Rather, he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, thus inviting sure and swift disaster. The date of this rebellion cannot be determined” (Merrill, p. 452)—but it was sometime between 593 and 588 B.C., as we will see. The Jewish king’s rebellion is utter defiance, not merely against the Babylonian king, but also against God and His prophet (2 Chronicles 36:12 2 Chronicles 36:12And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.
American King James Version×
)—doubly so since Zedekiah took an oath in God’s name that he would not rebel against Babylon (verse 13).

This all spells disaster for the king—and for the Jewish nation. The end would come soon.

The Two Baskets of Figs

God had a plan in allowing some of the Jews to go into exile while allowing others to remain in Jerusalem. To make clear to Jeremiah and others what He was doing, God gave the prophet a vision of two baskets of figs (Jeremiah 24), one filled with good, ripe figs and the other with foul, rotten ones.

Through the image of the good figs, God explained to Jeremiah that He was providing a place of refuge for those who would later be able to return to Him with a right heart. As we’ll later read, the exiles were given the opportunity to prosper in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:4-7 Jeremiah 29:4-7 [4] Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon; [5] Build you houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; [6] Take you wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that you may be increased there, and not diminished. [7] And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray to the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall you have peace.
American King James Version×
). At the time of the second deportation, Daniel had already been in Babylonian exile for eight years and was by now entrusted with enormous responsibility in the empire. No doubt he was able to wield considerable influence with regard to the Jewish exiles—including their treatment, settlement, employment, education, etc. An important lesson for us here is that God doesn’t just act impulsively, but plans for the future—in this case placing Daniel in Babylon first and promoting him to a position of high authority ahead of the arrival of the remaining exiles.

The bad figs represented those such as Zedekiah and the other leaders of Judah who were rebellious and stubborn. Left behind in Jerusalem (or in Egypt), they would ultimately be destroyed. Concerning those who “dwell in the land of Egypt” (Jeremiah 24:8 Jeremiah 24:8And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus said the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:
American King James Version×
) there is some debate. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary contends: “To understand them as those involved in the events of chapters 43 and 44 [when a sizable remnant of Judah later flees to Egypt following Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Judah in 586 B.C.] is to leap too far ahead in the narrative of the book” (note on Jeremiah 24:8 Jeremiah 24:8And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus said the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:
American King James Version×
). Yet the statement could certainly mean this, as it was a prophecy. However, there are other possibilities.

Expositor’s continues: “A number of scholars suggest that those living in Egypt were Jews who were deported with Jehoahaz to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco (cf. 2 Kings 23:31-34 2 Kings 23:31-34 [31] Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. [32] And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done. [33] And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. [34] And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.
American King James Version×
). Others suggest that they were emigrants who were opposed to the Babylonian domination of Judah or fled to Egypt at the first approach of Nebuchadnezzar. Another proposal is that they were fugitives from Judah who went to Egypt during various wars. Since details are lacking, it is impossible to rule out those probabilities. Archeological research does, however, reveal that those who remained in Egypt set up a rival temple later on” (same note). Perhaps God intended all of these groups.

Jeremiah 24 concludes with a warning of the ominous cycle of sword, famine and pestilence also mentioned elsewhere (verse 10; see Jeremiah 14:12 Jeremiah 14:12When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
American King James Version×
; Jeremiah 27:8 Jeremiah 27:8And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, said the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.
American King James Version×
, 13; Jeremiah 29:17-18 Jeremiah 29:17-18 [17] Thus said the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. [18] And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations where I have driven them:
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 8:33-39 1 Kings 8:33-39 [33] When your people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against you, and shall turn again to you, and confess your name, and pray, and make supplication to you in this house: [34] Then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land which you gave to their fathers. [35] When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against you; if they pray toward this place, and confess your name, and turn from their sin, when you afflict them: [36] Then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, and of your people Israel, that you teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain on your land, which you have given to your people for an inheritance. [37] If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there be; [38] What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all your people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: [39] Then hear you in heaven your dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart you know; (for you, even you only, know the hearts of all the children of men;)
American King James Version×
; Ezekiel 14:21 Ezekiel 14:21For thus said the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments on Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?
American King James Version×
; compare Revelation 6:3-8 Revelation 6:3-8 [3] And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. [4] And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given to him a great sword. [5] And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and see a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. [6] And I heard a voice in the middle of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see you hurt not the oil and the wine. [7] And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. [8] And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given to them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
American King James Version×
). Indeed, tying in directly with this chapter, Jeremiah 29:18 Jeremiah 29:18And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations where I have driven them:
American King James Version×
says, “Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”

You might also be interested in...