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OT Survey 113 Seminar 16 Josiah Hezekiah and the Last Kings of Judah

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                                 18th August 2006

Old Testament Survey OTE 113

Seminar 16

Josiah, Hezekiah and the last Kings of Judah

Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago pp185-216; 2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27; 2 Kings 23:31-25:21; 2 Chronicles 36ff

 

 

 

Explain the differences between Kings and Chronicles. Why are there two accounts?:

            According to Jensen, the writer of Kings is not clear and “most authorities prefer the viewpoint of anonymity” although “tradition has assigned Jeremiah as the author” (p 190). What is clear is that the books were likely to have been compiled between 562 BC (release of Jehoiachin from prison in Babylon) and 536 BC (return from Babylon) as there is no mention of the latter in Kings.

1 and 2 Kings reveal the straight secular history of the decline of the United Kingdom and the subsequent split, corruption and captivity of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.

The writer of Chronicles is very likely Ezra whose Book included in the Canon continues the history of the world commenced in Chronicles, through the returns of the Babylonian exiles to the commissioning and rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under the auspices of the Babylonian King Artaxerxes 1. Both books of Chronicles were therefore written between 450 and 425 BC between the second and third waves of exilic returns. They begin with the genealogy of the Messianic line starting with Adam and running through Abraham, the Patriarchs and Judah down to Ezra’s day, and in particular include the genealogies of the priests and Levites that were to minister in the rebuilt Temple - a line which established their qualification and right to do so.

The Temple itself is said to be the key to Chronicles (G. Campbell Morgan).1a

Equally important as the writer is the readers of these Books. Ezra was communicating much more than history to his returning compatriots. They were facing a major task - not just the physical restoration of their beloved city, the city that Jehovah had promised that He would reside at and provide a King on the throne of David for ever - but the only place where God was pleased to be worshipped, a place that they had deprived themselves of for 70 years on account of their own sin, a place where they had a new opportunity to re-establish the Godly worship of their own unique Jehovah on the basis of His selection of them as His Chosen Nation.

1aG. Campbell Morgan,  Living Messages of the Books of the Bible  p 210 quoted in Jensen,Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago p 212

It should be noted again that when God has a choice between His people and the Land, He chooses the Land - possibly because the Land cannot repent, and can only be defiled by the persistent rebelliousness of His people. The return from exile is a demonstration of the mercy and forgiveness of God who has intimate knowledge of the hearts of His people and is aware when repentance is real.

Archer expresses this well: Chronicles was composed “to remind the Jews of the Second Commonwealth of their great spiritual heritage and foster a deeper appreciation of the divinely ordained foundations of their theocracy as the covenant people of Jehovah”[1]b and “Always the emphasis is upon that which is sound and valid in Israel’s past, as furnishing a reliable basis for the task of national reconstruction which lay before them.” [2] As a consequence of this view it should be noted that Chronicles leaves out the spiritual weaknesses of the exiles’ forebears eg the sins which David committed.

There are therefore two accounts because although more than half of Chronicles is contained in Genesis, 2 Samuel and Kings, the emphasis is importantly different (see Tables below) because of the different approaches of their writers, their time of writing, their purposes and their audiences.

3

4

Explain why Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent of Moses:

            The scriptural description of this is in 2 Kings 18:3-7 “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. 4 He removed the high places, and brake the imagesc, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. 5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth:”[3]

            ‘Nehushtan’ is ‘that little brazen serpent’ implying something contemptible. One reason why Hezekiah destroyed it may be that it represented worship of Satan as did the local Canaanite tribes and the Medes and Persians among many.

Of note, the fuller account in 2 Chronicles 29-31 does not mention this episode, possibly because it did not reflect well on the people’s idolatry or on the conduct of the kings and priests who kept an idol and allowed it to be worshipped for 700 years (although Scripture is silent on when this idolatry began).

            This also has spiritual significance for NT believers. The brasen serpent made by Moses was perfectly effective in preventing inevitable death when the plague of serpents invaded the camp in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9 - all the dying had to do was look toward it), and is referred to by John as a type of Christ (John 3:14) but as in our day with idols such as crucifixes, especially those with Christ still hanging there as if He had never resurrected (or as if Moses’ serpent was still effective in preventing death), destruction of idols is necessary to turn worship toward God, Who is the effective agent in the healing/salvation in any case.

           

David was “a man after God’s own heart”. Know God’s evaluation of Hezekiah:

            Hezekiah is described as doing all ‘that was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did” (2 Chronicles 29:2). This is high praise indeed and is a description given only to two other kings: Asa (1 Kings 15:11) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:2), all three Kings of Judah representing David as their spiritual forebear. It is unusual that all three Kings came of ungodly fathers; Hezekiah of Ahaz, who had made it his business to defile the Temple and to re-establish worship in the ‘high places’.

            Hezekiah’s reign was favoured by the influence and interaction of the prophets Isaiah and Micah (Southern Kingdom) and possibly Hosea (Northern).

            Hezekiah was very quick off the mark with his reforms, beginning with the restoration of the Temple on day one (2 Chronicles 29:3, 17). It still took a little time to achieve this and although he had resolved to hold a Passover feast as soon as possible, it had to be delayed by a month (30:2-3). He took care to invite any in the North who wanted to attend - the North at that time being in the last stages of apostasy under Hoshea, the Assyrian captivity being imminent (30:10-11, 18); some mocked, some responded.

            Unlike Ahaz his father (2 Kings 16:7-10), Hezekiah discards trust in man in favour of trust in God and finds great favour with God eg his initial reign of 14 years is closed with a severe illness which God spares him from and gives him another 15 years (why did Hezekiah ask for an additional sign when God had already said he would cure him? And deliver him and the city out of the hands of the Assyrians “for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake”. God was protecting His reputation when Hezekiah was unable to do so. Why was three days too long to wait? Neither God nor Isaiah appear angry at this request).

            Although Asa and Josiah have similar compliments paid to them, Hezekiah’s pre-eminence comes in terms of his trust in God (2 Kings 18:5). In addition, “and the LORD was with him” (2 Kings 18:7) is a phrase used only to describe two other Kings - David (1 Samuel 18:12, 14, 28; 2 Samuel 5:10; 1 Chronicles 11:9) and Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:1). However, it was fact the “the LORD was with them” for many of the Patriarchs, it was a promise made to Moses (Exodus 3:12) and repeated to Joshua (Joshua 1:5) and by implication to all those that would faithfully rule the Nation (2 Chronicles 15:2). It is an indictment of all the other Kings, particularly of Judah, that the same cannot be said of them.

            God’s opinion of Hezekiah influenced Him to bless him greatly - materially (2 Chronicles 32:27-30) and politically (32:23). Militarily, Judah and Hezekiah are not strong; Sennacherib king of Assyria invades Judah in the process of his conquering the Northern Kingdom and besieges Jerusalem, along the way taking a number of Judean cities including Lachish. Hezekiah has to limit himself to fortifying his capital and depriving the invaders of a water supply. Sennacherib’s servants malign the LORD God of Israel in public in front of the city wall; and Hezekiah and Isaiah together beseech the LORD to help them (2 Chronicles 32:20). God intervenes. In the parallel passage of 2 Kings 18:17-19:37 (which contains a great deal more detail) 185,000 men of the invading army die in one night, and Sennacherib slinks back to Assyria where he is assassinated by his sons while worshipping his idol Nisroch.

 

 

Discuss Josiah’s obedience after the Book of the Law was discovered:

            Josiah succeeds his evil grandfather Manasseh and his evil father Amon, and is only eight years old when the people of the land make him king, after the people had his father assassinated by his servants (2 Chronicles 33:24-25). Josiah innately does “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father” without deviating to right or left (34:2). Josiah actively seeks after Jehovah at the age of 16 and by 20 he was actively purging the country of idol worship and their worshippers (34:3-7) including the corrupt priests.

            By the age of 24 he turned himself to repairing and restoring the Temple and during the renovations Hilkiah the priest “found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses” (34:14). This Book may have been the whole Torah, but may also have been a part of it eg Deuteronomy. It had been preserved by God for this particular occasion, demonstrating how God blesses us in unexpected ways while we are about His business.

            Although focused on God, Josiah is still spiritually immature and the finding of this book will cause him to grow rapidly. His immediate response to his hearing the book read by Shaphan the scribe (the normal practice in a King’s court?) was to allow the words to judge him personally; and finding himself wanting, he rends his clothes (34:19) in a sign of grief and acknowledgment of guilt.

            He then seeks Godly advice from those he believes to be his spiritual superiors and asks them to get God’s opinion about the Book, because he has realised that what the Book has told him involves the whole nation with their recent apostasy and idolatrous sinning - he expects an imminent outpouring of the wrath of God (34:21). It is not that Josiah wonders whether the Book is authentic, but more that he needs to know how it applies to him and the Nation at the time.

            The LORD tells him through the prophetess Huldah (contemporaries Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah not available?) that indeed judgment will be poured out on Judah, but that it will be postponed until after Josiah’s death on account of his humility and repentance (34:27-28).

            Josiah’s response to this is to be even more ‘evangelical’ about following the Lord and he ropes in the whole of his kingdom, first by reading to them the Book, then by setting his own personal example of commitment to follow God’s commandments, and making everyone within Jerusalem and Benjamin do the same (34:31-32). The people responded as Josiah hoped they would, fundamentally rewriting the law of the kingdom to be God’s Law, and purging all known idolatry from the land. The wayward Temple priests were brought out of the cities back into Jerusalem to the Temple which was the only proper place for them to receive their dues. They were not permitted to serve at the altar (2 Kings 23:8-14).

            Of some significance is that Josiah was the first of Judah’s kings to tear down the pagan palaces erected by Solomon for his idolatrous wives: “Josiah also destroyed the high places which Solomon had erected in the vicinity of Jerusalem for the benefit of his pagan wives. The entire ridge of hills on the east of the city came to be known as the “mount of corruption” because of the evil rites practiced there. These ancient shrines Josiah defiled by breaking their sacred pillars in pieces, cutting down the Asherim, and by filling these areas with human bones. From the earliest times bones were considered unclean (23:13–14).”[4]

            He planned a special Passover feast run exactly along the lines recorded by David and Solomon, all the participants in their divisions making an enthusiastic contribution, “and there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet” (35:18).

            Scripture declares God’s estimation of the obedience of Josiah: “2 Kings 23:25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.” [5]

 

Explain the significance of the battle of Carchemish:

            See below. As an aside:

During Josiah’s reign, the influence of the Assyrians was declining and that of the Babylonians slowly rising. Nineveh falls to the Medo-Babylonian coalition in 612 BC. Pharaoh Necho of Egypt fears for the inevitable upset to the Middle East balance of power and crosses Israel with a large army to support the Assyrians.[6] He travels unmolested up the coastal plain to the northern Valley of Megiddo in 609 BC and Josiah “went out against him”.

            Necho specifically objects to this for God is using him as a mouthpiece to warn Josiah off. But Josiah “would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself that he might fight with him” (2 Chronicles 35:20-22) in spite of the fact that Necho declares he has no fight with Judah. Josiah is mortally wounded in the unnecessary battle. The loss of fighting men to Judah is not recorded.

            Why Josiah does this is not clear. One might suppose that because Necho was pro-Assyrian and that Assyria had taken the Northern Kingdom into captivity, that Josiah felt honour bound to do what he could against them, expecting God to prop him up even though it was a situation that common sense said was folly. Against this is that there is no mention that Josiah purged the Assyrian colonists out of the Northern Kingdom as unwanted idolaters long before this. There is no suspicion that Josiah was pro-Babylonian in any way. Even if he was it was still a very dumb thing to do.

            The battle of Carchemish occurs in 605 BC, the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 46:2), the same year in which Jeremiah made Baruch write the judgments against the king (36:1). The king tears them up, even as Nebuchadnezzar advances into Israel (36:22-23).   

The seventy years of exile in Babylon are calculated from the same date of this battle (because of Jehoiakim’s open revolt against God? Spurns God’s offer of a  last chance to repent?). It is not clear to me why this is so. The date of Cyrus’ decree and the first wave of return from exile is reasonably well documented to be 535/6 BC. Working back 70 years gives ~605 BC ie the battle of Carchemish. The change in the balance of power caused by a battle between secular powers seems to have nothing to do with dating the Captivity, which God says is caused by the sins of the Nation and of Manasseh in particular. Manasseh had died ~640 BC ie this is too early to date the commencement of the 70 years. God raised up Cyrus from the now-victorious Babylonians but His arm is not shortened to raise up any deliverer from any nation that happened to be in power over the Israelites. So why the date which happens to be the same as the Battle? And why no special incident in Judah to mark this date?

 

 

Discuss the political and religious situation in the Middle East during the reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah:

            John Macarthur comments: “Religiously, King Josiah (ca. 640–609 b.c.) had instituted reforms in Judah (cf. 2 Chr. 34). Tragically, despite his effort, idolatry had so dulled the Judeans that their awakening was only “skin deep” overall. The Egyptian army killed Josiah as it crossed Palestine in 609 b.c., and the Jews plunged on in sin toward judgment under Jehoahaz (609 b.c.), Jehoiakim [Eliakim] (609–598 b.c.), Jehoiachin (598–597 b.c.), and Zedekiah (597–586 b.c.).”[7] The Lord allowed this on account of the gross and continual sinning of the king and the Nation under Manasseh (2 Kings 23:26-27).

            On Josiah’s death, the “people of the land took Jehoahaz (Shallum) the son of Josiah and made him king” (2 Chronicles 36:1). I suspect that the people had some spiritual concept of what they felt would be right, for Jehoahaz was not the eldest of Josiah’s sons. After three months, Necho catches up with the situation, deposes Jehoahaz, deports him to Egypt where he dies, and places his elder brother Eliakim (renamed Jehoiakim by Necho) on the throne in Jerusalem.

            Jehoiakim reigns eleven years and is evil, “the villain of the closing years of Judah’s history. He was everything that is despicable in a national leader. He was a spendthrift, a bigot, an arrogant and irreverent tyrant who brooked no criticism, not even when that criticism came from a man of God. A prophet named Uriah was too bold in his denunciation of the king, and paid for his boldness with his life (Jer 26:21). Jeremiah was in danger on more than one occasion during those eleven years”.[8]

            “Jehoiakim carefully watched the political developments on the Euphrates River. From July 609 to June 605 b.c. the armies of the Babylonians and the Assyro-Egyptian coalition sparred. For the most part during those years the Babylonians were on the defensive. Finally, the Babylonian army under the brilliant young crown prince Nebuchadnezzar was able to launch a mighty offensive against the Egyptian stronghold at Carchemish (605 BC). The Babylonians won a crushing victory. The tattered Egyptian armies fled southward from Carchemish in disarray. Nebuchadnezzar was able to roam at will through Syria-Palestine, the Hatti-land as he calls it in his annals.”[9]

            This success meant that Nebuchadnezzar was now the ruler of the known world and allowed him to besiege Jerusalem at will. The city was reduced and taken into captivity in three tranches - 605, 597 and 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar binds Jehoiakim and had intended to carry him off to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6), but after three years he dies in Jerusalem (murdered?) and is buried ignominiously (Jeremiah 22:18-19; 36:30). Nebuchadnezzar places his son Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) on the throne in Jerusalem instead, but he only allows him three months and ten days on the throne (at the tender age of eight [18? - 2 Kings 24:8], but he does evil just the same [36:9]), before bringing him to Babylon (thus ensuring a continuous line of royal descendancy from David through Solomon to Joseph and the Messiah).

After Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar puts the evil Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s brother (36:10 - uncle? 2 Kings 24:17), on the throne and makes him promise under God to be a faithful Babylonian subject. After a few years he not only rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, but also against Jehovah in a big way with idolatry and pollution of the Temple, despising God’s messengers, abusing the prophets “till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:11-16). The final destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Babylonians) was complete and Zedekiah had his sons killed in front of him, his eyes put out and was deported to Babylon. He did not qualify to be in line of succession to Messiah.

All this had been prophesied by Jeremiah the prophet years before when he urged the Israelites to give in to the Babylonian Captivity as being not only the means of God’s righteous judgment on their sin, but also the means of preserving them until they were brought back to the land which had had an opportunity by then to lie fallow for 70 years.

             

Appreciate the value of Godly leadership in times of apostasy:

            See above and await Seminar.

 

 

Appreciate the justice of God’s judgment in Israel’s wickedness:

            See above

 

 

Understand how the wicked character of the last Kings brought on the exile of Judah:

            See above.

 

 

 


----

[1]bGleason Leonard Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed.]., 449 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998, c1994).

[2]ibid

3Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago p 209

4ibid p 192

c  images: Heb. statues

[3]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[4]James E. Smith, The Books of History (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1995).

[5]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[6]James E. Smith, The Books of History (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1995).

[7]John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed., Eze 1:1 (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997).

[8]James E. Smith, The Books of History (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1995).

[9]ibid

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