2 Kings 24: The King of Babylon Takes Captives
We have to learn a long name, Nebuchadnezzar. He was king of Babylon, a large, rich city on the Euphrates River, which at this time ruled over a wide stretch of country, even to the border of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar was now at war with Jerusalem because King Jehoiakim was not paying him the tribute which he had been paying.
We have seen pictures of Jerusalem on its hills, with the beautiful Mount of Olives standing by it. There were strong walls and gates. Inside the walls there were the temple and the king's palace and other beautiful houses, and busy streets and squares. It is sad to think of armies on these hills, from Babylon and from many nations around, battering down the walls of Jerusalem and carrying away to Babylon people and treasure. You know why this came upon the city. Prophets had told the people that it would be so. It was because the kings and the people disobeyed the Lord and worshiped idols and had images and altars of the idols in the temple courts and did other evil things.
Soon Nebuchadnezzar and his army came again against Jerusalem, when Jehoiachin was king, and this time, worse than before, he took the king and the king's family, and the able men and skilled craftsmen, and left only the poor and the weak. He appointed another king and called him Zedekiah.
Look at the map and see the long way that the captives must go from Jerusalem, up by Damascus and on to the Euphrates River, and down the Euphrates to Babylon. One can go to Babylon now and see walls and floors of Nebuchadnezzar's palace and of the temples. Were there no prophets to rebuke and teach the people? Jeremiah was in Jerusalem, a great prophet of the Lord, but the people would not listen to him, and even put him in prison. Daniel as a young man and Ezekiel went with the captives to Babylon. If the people had listened to the prophets, it would have been better for them.
You will be interested to follow the army of Pharaoh-nechoh which Josiah tried in vain to stop at Megiddo. Jeremiah the prophet lived and prophesied at this time, and we learn from the book of Jeremiah that Pharaoh-nechoh was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, at Charchemish on the Euphrates, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign. (Jer. 46:2) All the Holy Land was now practically in the power of Babylon. (2 Kings 24:7) You can learn who Jehoiakim was by reading carefully the last verses of 2 Kings 23. He was the son of Josiah, whom Pharaoh-nechoh had made king of Jerusalem. Be sure to read about Jehoiakim in Jer. 36:20 to the end.
Three times Nebuchadnezzar and armies of Babylon, called sometimes Chaldees, attacked Jerusalem: in the time of Jehoiakim, in the time of Jehoiachin, and in the time of Zedekiah. We learn of the first two today, and of the last in our next lesson. Read of Jehoiakim in verses 1-4. It was then that the prophet Daniel was taken to Babylon and some of the gold of the temple. Read of Jehoiachin in verses 8-16; how Nebuchadnezzar the great king of Babylon, with an army, besieged Jerusalem, and Jehoiachin and his mother and the great men of the country, seven thousand soldiers and one thousand craftsmen and smiths, and the members of the royal family, their servants and others, all numbering ten thousand people, were carried captive out of the beautiful city and country which the Lord had given them, where they and their ancestors had lived for about eight hundred years, and were taken to the far-off country of Babylon, and the vessels of gold which Solomon had made in the temple (one wonders that by this time there were any left) were cut in pieces and all the treasures in the house of the Lord and in the king's houses were carried away. When have we heard before of Babylon, with warning that it would some day take captives from Jerusalem and rob the city of its treasures? (2 Kings 20:12-19)
Why did this dreadful punishment visit the people? Because they did not keep the Lord's commandments. They worshiped idols and were more evil than the heathen people about them. What are meant by “the sins of Manasseh” and by his shedding innocent blood? (Chapter 21) Not all the people were carried away, only the “best,” that is, the ones who were the most able. The people who were not rich or skillful were left in the land, and the king of Babylon made another son of Josiah, whom he called Zedekiah, king of Judah. Notice how the foreign kings who conquered the Jews changed the names of the Jewish kings. The taking of captives from Jerusalem had begun, and the spoiling of the city, which would not end until the city was destroyed.
1. Who was Pharaoh-nechoh?
2. Who was Nebuchadnezzar?
3. What two among the last kings of Judah had very similar names? Which of these was taken captive to Babylon?
4. What other captives and what treasures were taken at this time?
In 2 Kings 17, we read about the kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes, being carried away captive into Assyria because of their idolatrous and wicked life, and they never returned to the Holy Land. Now, for disobedience and wickedness, the people of Jerusalem and Judah were carried captive to Babylon.
You remember the wickedness of kings who brought idols into the temple, and especially of Manasseh who also “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood: which the Lord would not pardon.” Again Jeremiah tells us in his prophecy that they burnt incense to the idol Baal, poured out drink offerings to other gods, placed abominations in the house of Jehovah, built high places to Baal, and in the valley of Hinnom which is close to Jerusalem had their sons and daughters pass through the fire to the idol Molech. (Jer. 32:29-35) And Jehoiakim the king cut in pieces and burnt in the fire the Word of the Lord which had been revealed through Jeremiah. (Jer. 36:20 to the end) They had profaned all the statutes and judgments and laws which represented the good things which people should love and the truths of the Word which people should believe, till there was almost no good or truth remaining. Such a wicked and profane state of the church, full of self-love and abusing holy things, is meant in the spiritual sense of the Word by Babylon, and therefore, when the Jews had become so bad, they were given into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, which represented the same evil into which they had fallen. Much is told about Babylon and its meaning in A. 1029. Jerusalem was ruined and made desolate. The Jews were taken out of the Holy Land, and the Divine history ends, for the people no longer represented a true church.
It is true that we know something about the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, how they rebuilt the temple, and something of their history down to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of what we know of this story is told in books that do not belong to the inspired Word of the Lord. Some of them are preserved in our Bible, especially the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. They are good and interesting books, and precious because they help to prepare us for the Gospel and the coming of the Lord.