What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, March 3, 2020):
• 2 Kings 24-25
• 2 Chronicles 16-22
• Ecclesiastes 12 ~ Song of Songs 1-6
Week 49. We end one of our strands this week as we finish up 2 Kings. Down to two chapters a day on Friday!
I hope you all will join us again for the next read-through beginning April 1 (just four weeks away!). BTW, I hope you won’t count this as laziness on my part, but I will probably do some borrowing from my old stuff in this new reading year. As you may imagine, it takes me a lot of time to put together these notes. Over the past five years, you’ve gotten new thoughts every week every year. There is enough material behind me now, I think I will do some cutting and pasting. I’m anticipating some new faces for this year, so at least the notes will be new to THEM! Hope you are all okay with this.
Notes on 2 Kings
Things are falling apart badly for Judah. Jehoiakim is invaded by Nebuchadnezzar and the weak Judean king tries to stand up to him. This does not work. He gets overrun not only by the Babylonians, but by the Arameans, Moabites and Ammonites as well (24.2). Following his death, Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin takes the throne, but barely. He only lasts three months. Nebuchadnezzar removes him (taking him hostage to Babylon) and replaces him with his uncle Zedekiah, brother to Jehoiakim and son of Josiah. Zedekiah will be the last king of Judah. But by this point, Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon are completely in control of everything. The nation of Judah will evaporate in chapter 25.
The articles of the Temple are broken up and taken to Babylon (25.13-17). This must have been one of the most painful parts of the entire ordeal. The Israelites never thought anyone could ransack the house of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They took it for granted that God would never allow it, and by that assumption allowed all kinds of sin to go on. However, the Lord orchestrated the exile and the pillaging.
Seventy years later, after Cyrus and the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians, Cyrus returned all of these articles to the people of God (See Ezra 1).
Thirty-seven years into the exile, Jehoiachin was released from prison and allowed to sit at the king’s table, albeit in Babylon. The historical account of the nation of Israel comes to a close.
Notes on 2nd Chronicles
King Asa had started well but ended badly. Instead of relying on the Lord, he turns to making treaties and giving away what was left of the treasuries in the Lord’s Temple to pay off his enemies. Hanani the prophet is sent to rebuke him, but Asa rejects the warning and has the prophet thrown into prison. Because of this, God sent Asa a disease in his feet. Still, he refused to repent, and “even in his illness…did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (16.12).
Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son and one of Judah’s best kings, succeeds him after his death. Jehoshaphat reminds me a lot of Peter: rash, clueless, but with a heart of gold. In his third year, he sent Bible teachers out into the land to instruct the people (17.7-9). The result of this was supernatural and astounding (see 17.10-11).
His foolishness comes to light in the account of Micaiah in chapter 18; yet his underlying godliness challenged the wicked King Ahab and saved his own life. The son of the prophet Hanani shows up to rebuke him on his return for this unwise venture and meet-up with Ahab (19.1-3).
Then the wise Jehoshaphat emerges as he appoints godly judges throughout the land.
Chapter twenty is one of my favorite Old Testament passages. Several nations gather together against the Judah and the good king. Judah is no match militarily against these combined forces. Jehoshaphat offers up a prayer that shows us he is a man who knows his God and knows how to pray. He closes with: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (20.12).
And then verse 13: “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.” Wish I could have seen this! Then the Spirit of God came down upon one of them, and words of assurance and deliverance come forth, declaring victory. The next day, Judah went to battle with the worship team at the front of the army. Now that is faith! I wonder if there were any in the band that day that began to question the day they said they were interested in learning the lyre?
God soundly defeated the enemies without a single arrow shot. This resulted in great fear in their enemies which gave them increased security (20.29-30)— all because the man of God went to prayer (and fasting) first and foremost.
Bad (but not terrible) Jehoshaphat emerges again, as he makes an alliance with Ahaziah, the wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel. The loss this time is a fleet of ships before they even set sail. Small beans compared to the massive slaughter of troops that many other of the kings suffered.
Another way Jehoshaphat failed was as a father. His son Jehoram succeeded him, and as soon as he was firmly established, he killed off his six brothers. Then he married a daughter of Ahab. He was so bad that he was given a prophetic word from the prophet Elijah (who ministered almost exclusively in the northern kingdom) that he was going to suffer a long, painful, linger death of the bowels—which he did.
He died at the age of thirty-two “to no one’s regret” (21.20). A sad ending to a terrible life.
Jehoram’s youngest son Ahaziah (named for the wicked king of Israel?), became king in his place, since all of his older brothers had been put to death by enemy Arabs. His mother, Athaliah, was the son of Ahab and Jezebel. She coached her son, and it was not towards godliness. He only lasted one year.
He made an alliance with Joram, the wicked king of Israel. This was during the time that Jehu was doing his “wrecking ball” ministry in cleaning up and clearing out Israel. In his fantastic zeal, Jehu killed not only Joram, but Ahaziah as well (22.8-9).
Athaliah now decided with most of her sons and grandsons dead, she could take over and rule. She tried to kill of the rest of her own family (“Thanks, grandma!”), but the baby Josiah was hidden away. He will emerge at the age of eight in next week’s episode!
Notes on Ecclesiastes
After eleven chapters of a search for meaning that continued to come up empty, the king finds his mark at the end: “Remember your creator in the days of your youth” (12.1) and “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments” (12.13)
Notes on Song of Songs
This is perhaps the most unusual book of the Bible. God’s name is never mentioned. And unlike the rather stoic as well as male-dominated perspective of the ancient eastern cultures represented in the rest of the Old Testament, this is a graphic, passionate account of two lovers.
We follow the courtship, the pursuit, the longing, the passion, and the consummation. Not the stuff for a kid’s Sunday School class at all!
We see dialogue between “she” (pathetic politically-correct title in the 2011 NIV, used to be “beloved”), “he” (pathetic politically-correct title in the 2011 NIV, used to be “lover”), and “friends” (this one didn’t have to be changed).
This account comes right out of the gate in chapter one with desire and descriptions of bodies. This continues through chapter two.
The scholars are not in agreement about whether this entire account is primarily about two or three people. There is the beloved (“she”), and the lover (“he”). We also read about Solomon. Some say that Solomon is the “he”. Others say that he is a third character in the play. I agree with the latter view.
As Solomon appears at the end of chapter three, your chosen view (of whether there are two or three) will affect the understanding and purpose of the text somewhat.
Most of chapter four is the lover’s description of his beloved’s body, in rather erotic terms.
In chapter five, the beloved comes knocking, but the lover is delayed and misses him. As we see this entire book as an allegory of Christ and the church, there is quite a lesson in here; especially as we see the ill treatment the beloved endures while searching for her lover after missing the moment of opportunity.
At the end of chapter five, the beloved now describes her lover’s body in detail.
The beloved and lover continue to interact with one another, as well as their friends, through chapter six. Some assume that the beloved’s name is Shulammite, but that seems to be a description of her location (“the Shulammite”, verse 13).