April 28 Reading: II Kings 23-25 Commentary
“Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.” (II Kings 23:25)
II Kings 23 – Josiah’s Godly Leadership
One of the greatest revivals in the history of the kingdom of Judah happened under the reign of King Josiah. Following a very long and wicked reign by his grandfather Manasseh and a short reign by his father Amon, Josiah came to the throne at the age of 8. At that young age, he must have been led by some godly advisors (some speculate the prophet Zephaniah).
But what sparked the revival? In the 18th year of his reign, Josiah instructed Hilkiah the high priest to repair the temple. While doing so, Hilkiah happened to find the abandoned Law of Moses. When Josiah heard the words of the law, probably for the first time, and realized all the sin the people had engaged in over the years by not following the commands of the Lord, he tore his kingly robes in remorse (see II Kings 22)
He went about instituting spiritual reforms that had never been seen before. He started by following the example of the ancient godly leaders of Israel like Moses (Ex. 24:3-8) and Joshua (Joshua 8:34-35). Like them, he read the law to “all the men of Judah, and…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great…he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord” (v. 2).
After reading the law to all the people, Josiah “stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (v. 3). And when he was done, an interesting thing happened. The people followed his lead. The people “took a stand for the covenant” themselves (v. 3).
Josiah’s Unprecedent Reforms
The list of actions taken by Josiah is exhaustive. After his covenant declaration, he:
1. Told Hilkiah and the other priests to bring out all the articles of Baal, Asherah and other artifacts from the temple and burn them to ashes outside the city (v. 4, 6).
2. Removed all the idolatrous priests who prior kings had instructed to burn incense to Baal and other items of worship (i.e. the sun, moon, stars)(v. 5).
3. Tore down the ritual booths (places of prostitution) in the temple (v. 7).
4. Broke down all the high places of worship around the city (v. 8), even the ones Solomon had built for Ashtoreth (v. 13).
5. Stopped child sacrifices from happening (v. 10).
6. Removed all the horses from the king’s stable who had been dedicated to false gods (v. 11).
7. Dismantled the pagan altars in the temple and the house of Ahaz (v. 12).
8. Fulfilled the words of a former prophet (I King 13:26-32) and tore down the altar at Bethel that Jeroboam king of Israel constructed
9. Took away all the shrines in the cities of Samaria, and “executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men’s bones on them” (v. 20)
10. Put away medium and spiritists and confiscated all household gods and idols (v. 24).
But it didn’t end there. Josiah commanded the people keep the Passover “as it is written in this Book of the Covenant” (v. 21). And what a Passover it was. We are told, “Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah” (v. 22).
Josiah’s Legacy and Death
Josiah’s spiritual reforms were unprecedented, driven by his love for the Lord. It culminated in the Bible describing his legacy with these words:
“Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him” (v. 25).
Sadly though, his righteous actions were not enough to turn the Lord from his anger against the nation. It wasn’t Josiah’s fault. He was righteous before the Lord. It’s that God’s actions were set in place after the reign of Manasseh. In fact, verse 26 tells us it’s “because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him” that the time for judgment had come.
Josiah met his death in battle at the valley of Megiddo against the armies of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt (v. 29). He was brought back to Jerusalem and buried in his own tomb. And the people took Jehoahaz his son and anointed him king (v. 30).
The Nation Returns to Wickedness
“Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem….And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (v. 31).
The question we have to ask ourselves is, “What had Jehoahaz been watching all those years his godly father was in power?” It must have been something else, because he didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. It’s proof again that everyone has to make their own decisions when it comes to following the Lord. A godly parenting example doesn’t always equate to translate children.
Nevertheless, his reign was short. It only lasted three months. The aforementioned Pharoah Necho put him in prison and replaced him with his brother Eliakim (aka Jehoiakim). And Jehoahaz eventually died in Egypt (v. 34).
Pharoah Necho placed tribute on the land of Judah (v. 33), which the new king Jehoakim handed over. However, to do it, he had to tax the people. He was 25 years old when he became king and reigned for eleven years.
And, like his brother, he did evil in the sight of the Lord (v. 37). Jeremiah the prophet depicted him as a monster who took advantage of the people (Jer. 22:13-17), a man who filled the nation with violence (Jer. 18:18-20) and someone who opposed all that was holy (Jer. 25:1-7). He was so bad that at one point he burned a scroll of Scripture (Jer. 36:21-24) and killed a prophet of the Lord (Jer. 26:20-23).
II Kings 24 – The Final Grouping of Kings
II Kings 24 introduces us to the new world power at the time – Babylon. The king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar. He had successfully defeated Assyria and Egypt and then invaded Judah and made it a vassal state.
Jehoiakim served Nebuchadnezzar three years and paid him tribute. However, he was emboldened for some reason to rebel. At this action, “the Lord sent against him raiding bands of Chaldeans, bands of Syrians, bands of Moabites, and bands of the people of Ammon; He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken by His servants the prophets” (v. 2). It is noted again that this was done “because of the sins of Manasseh” based on all he’d done (v. 3).
After Jehoakim died, his son Jehoiachin ascended to the throne.
Jehoiachin: King of Judah
“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months…And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done” (vv. 8-9). It was during his reign that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. The king and all his officers surrendered in the 8th year of the reign of the king of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar plundered all the treasures from the house of the Lord and stripped the king’s house of valuables as well. He “cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said” (v. 13). He also took the the king, all his family and officials, all the captains and all the valiant men back to Babylon as captives (vv. 15-16). And he took it further as “he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land” (v. 14).
Nebuchadnezzar placed Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah as ruler over what was left in Judah. He was 21 years old when he began to reign, one that lasted 11 years. Like his uncle, “He also did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done” (v. 19). And in the end, he couldn’t help himself and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar also (v. 20). This would prove to be the end of the nation of Judah.
II Kings 25 – The Fall of Judah t0 Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar seems to have had enough with Zedekiah and his rebellion. In the ninth year of his reign, he marched again on Jerusalem and laid siege to it (v. 1). His blockade created a severe famine in the city so that there was no food for the people (v. 3).
Eventually, the Babylonian army broke through the city wall. When that happened, Zedekiah the king and all the men of war fled at night, even though the army surrounded the city (v. 4). Their escape plan failed. Zedekiah was captured and his sons put to death in front of his eyes. Then they put out the eyes of Zedekiah and took him to Babylon (v. 7).
Nebuchadnezzar and his army laid waste to Jerusalem. They “burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around” (vv. 9-10). They took everything valuable from the temple (vv. 13-17). And they took most of the remaining people as captives to Babylon, although a few poor people were allowed to stay behind to work the land (vv. 11-12). In essence, all of Judah was carried away to Babylon (v. 21).
It’s a sad ending to a once mighty nation – from the heights of David and Solomon – to nothing. God’s people still existed. But they had no political entity to call their home. They were exiles – strangers in a foreign land.
Questions to Consider:
Do you have a hard time reconciling the mercy/love of God verses the judgment of God? Can both of those attributes be true of God?
If you are going to make life changes, you can’t hold on to things that are causing you trouble. You need to clear them out and let them go. Otherwise, they will remain a stumbling block for you.
The kingdom of Judah needed revival. King Josiah provided that. In II Kings 23, he cleaned house of everything in the land that would dishonor the Lord. No king before him took this as seriously as he did, turning his heart to the Lord with all his strength. Are you serious about spiritual life change? What needs to go?
What other points would you want to know about in our II Kings 23-25 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.