When you’re stuck in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to see hope on the other side, isn’t it? The feeling of hopelessness can be crippling and blind us from even finding a solution. Imagine the people of Judah finding themselves in exile, mourning the loss of loved ones, and afraid for what each new day may bring in a strange land.
Our story today takes place in the thirty-seventh year of the exile and will close out the Book of 2 Kings. Thirty-seven years would mean that many of the people alive had never even lived in or near Jerusalem. Life in exile was all they knew.
Isn’t Egypt where it all started? Isn’t Egypt the land of oppression God had rescued his people from? Why are they now finding their way back there to be “safe?” Sometimes we see circular patterns like this today. It’s like the battered wife that keeps going back to her abuser thinking he’d changed. (Speaking from experience here.)
Judah’s exile story continues to morph. It wasn’t a once and done sort of take over. It seems like the desire for control has overtaken many of the people involved. Gedaliah was an interesting choice for governor, chosen by King Nebuchadnezzar to keep the land of Judah bowing to him. Gedaliah was a descendent of one of King Josiah’s right hand men, Shaphan. Other than name recognition, I’m not discerning any real strategy.
What a sad day for Judah! With the arrival of King Nebuchadnezzar’s captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, Jerusalem would never look the same. Can you imagine the horror of the people remaining in Jerusalem as they witnessed God’s holy temple being destroyed? Then they had to watch while all the expensive trimmings were hauled away.
The Babylonians meant business and were ready to finish off the city. God had given them complete access. More people were taken away into exile. Nebuzaradan saw it prudent to leave the poorest behind to tend the fields. How would it have felt to be left behind in this shell of a city, only to be slaves to the Babylonians? Did they think that life in captivity would be better?
Suddenly in charge, Judah’s final king, Zedekiah (formerly known as Mattaniah) finds himself trying to fit into his nephew’s shoes. This same nephew, King Jehoiachin, had been taken away by the Babylonians. Note that it was after Jehoiachin had surrendered. The departure of Judah into exile had begun.
We see Zedekiah as a bit of a rebel. The Babylonian king had been the one to appoint the “uncle.” Did you notice how close in age the two were. They were likely more like friends, acting like cousins would act. Why did Zedekiah choose the “rebellious” route? Was he not afraid of the Babylonian presence who had put him into office?
Jehoiakim had adversity coming to him from all directions with the Egyptians and Babylonians invaded and controlling things. Do you think Jehoiakim had a sense of dread following him around? I know how that feels to sense something bad is going to happen. Perhaps he had been stuck in a pattern of non-belief for long enough he began to lose hope. Either way, feeling that dread or fear is not a pleasant experience.
Jehoiakim had his hands full. We see God moving in an unbelievable way. “Then the Lord sent bands of Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders against Judah to destroy it, just as the Lord had promised through his prophets.” Unbelievable from the perspective that God would orchestrate the evil necessary to destroy his people. Certainly, it was believable because it was promised through the prophets.