Josiah is dead and God’s wrath is still stored up for Judah. Her last free king takes the throne only to be replaced by puppets as Judah declines.
We are going to move quickly through the last four kings of Judah. The Holy Spirit doesn’t give us much detail about this time in this book. We will certainly get a much closer look when we get to Jeremiah’s story. He was there for all this process. This period of time covers 22 ½ years. I find it interesting that the start of each conquest period had a ‘3 month probation’ for the new king.
Jehoahaz was the last ‘free’ king to take the throne in Judah. He was Josiah’s son. We are not told if he was a godly king here but 2 Kings 23 says that he was not. He reigned for only three months. The king of Egypt, Pharaoh Necho, took him to Egypt in chains where he eventually died. Pharaoh made his older brother, Eliakim, king in his place. Why his name was changed to Jehoiakim I have not a clue.
I have a question here. I’m wondering if Egypt’s new interest in Judah was sparked by Josiah’s insertion of himself into Pharaoh’s conflict. Pharaoh told Josiah that he had no interest in Judah at the time but Josiah wouldn’t take ‘stay home’ for an answer. Kind of like a lion hunting a gazelle who gets side tracked by an easier prey. Judah was now easy pickings as they were in the ‘new king’ phase.
Another question is if Judah was extra vulnerable because Jehoahaz did a 180⁰ turn from the Lord. Were the people reeling from the switch? Were they in turmoil at the time and this allowed Egypt to come in and take command? They got an even greater shock when Pharaoh inserted his chosen leader in place AND gave them his demands.
For eleven years Pharaoh’s man extorted from the people a heavy toll. Eliakim, aka Jehoiakim, taxed the people to supply Pharaoh’s demand of 100 talents of silver and a talent of gold. I’m imagining that this was a yearly price instead of a one-time tax. Jehoiakim was also an ungodly king. Neither of these two sons of Josiah followed in their father’s footsteps.
Eleven years later Nebuchadnezzar began looking towards Judah as a conquest. He took Jehoiakim away in chains and many of Judah’s treasures from the Temple. Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, took the throne for three months and ten days. The same three month period that his uncle had. I’m not certain but it looks like both these ‘three month kings’ were appointed by the people. Maybe not though because Nebuchadnezzar “sent and brought him to Babylon” (verse 10b). I don’t know if this was an ‘in chains’ brought or a voluntary trip. Whichever way he went, the remaining vessels of the Temple went with him.
The last king of Judah is put in place by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah reigns over Judah for another eleven years. He too did evil in the eyes of the Lord. His reign ended with the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. We will hear more about that next time.
In all this progression there is one VITAL fact that we MUST note. God was reaching out to His people this whole time. He sent them Jeremiah with His own words. They refused to listen for the entire 22 ½ years. God promised Josiah that His wrath would be poured out on Judah for her previous sins. God also promised Josiah that He would wait until after his death to deliver that wrath. One might expect Him to begin pouring out that wrath right after Josiah’s death but he gave Judah time to repent again. For eleven years, twice, He put His hand out to them. He waited and Waited and WAITED for them to repent. He was/IS loving and patient. But His patience has limits. His people were up against that limit.
God is patient with each of us too. But His patience still has limits. His love endures forever but not His patience. He calls out in love to each of us, ready to wrap us in His arms and clean us from all our sin. But we have to accept His conditions. That condition is accepting ALL that Jesus did and Who He is. He reaches out to us and calls us to Himself. He calls to us as surely as He called to these kings. We have our whole lives to listen. We are not guaranteed what method He will use to reach out to us but we can be CERTAIN that He does. We need to take a lesson from Josiah on this front and listen to the message and check the Source. Not every message is from God but He DOES send them to us and we need to be on the lookout for them.
Father God, thank You for Your patience! I know I have tried that patience on more than one occasion. Thank You also for continuing to reach out to me and to call me home whenever I wander away. Thank You for pulling me back. Please don’t let get close to the edge ever.