What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, March 3, 2023):
• 2 Kings 24-25
• Ecclesiastes 12 ~ Song of Songs 1-6
• 2 Chronicles 17-24
We can really taste the end from here! We What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, March 3, 2023):
• 2 Kings 24-25
• Ecclesiastes 12 ~ Song of Songs 1-6
• 2 Chronicles 17-24
We can really taste the end from here! We close out another reading strand as we finish 2 Kings, and we will be down to two chapters a day beginning Sunday. This week we also will start (and nearly finish) Song of Songs—AKA Song of Solomon— our 66th and final book of the Bible to navigate.
Notes on 2 Kings
Things are falling apart badly for Judah. King Jehoiakim sees the land 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 Jehoiachin's 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 dissolve and be no more 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 indulged in, tolerated and overlooked all kinds of sin. However, the Lord orchestrated the exile and the pillaging. But he would also orchestrate their return.
Seventy years later, after Cyrus and the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians, Cyrus would return 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 had come to a close… for now!
Notes on Ecclesiastes
After eleven chapters of a search for meaning that continued to come up empty, the king finally 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).
All of his seeking and missing, all of his searching for meaning had been in the wrong directions. He finally finds what he is looking for after going down every path of every desire and opportunity, with access to all of these as no one else would even be able to. His conclusion is simple and profound. Our human condition finds its fulfillment, reward and rest in knowing our Maker.
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 physical consummation between them. 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, it 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 since it is plain enough).
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 in chapters three and eight. 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 players) 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. But this a wonderful analogy between God and his people that is truly encouraging if we immerse ourselves into the picture that the Bible is painting. “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (4.7—compare Revelation 19.7-9).
We find a picture of delayed pursuit, of distraction in 5.5-6. When we finally get around to responding to God’s invitation, on own terms and schedule, we may open the door to find out that he has departed. He may come back later— and then again…
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 she misses the moment of opportunity. At the end of the chapter, the beloved now describes her lover’s body in detail.
A dance is initiated at the very end of chapter six.
Notes on 2 Chronicles
Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son and the one who would become one of Judah’s best kings, succeeds his father after his death. Jehoshaphat reminds me a lot of Peter: rash, oblivious, 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 rash, unassuming behavior often got him trouble, but God was watching over him (see 18.28-32). I can almost see God chuckling as he sees the good king cluelessly walk into all kinds of trouble, before he intercedes and bails him out over and over again.
Jehoshaphat’s 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.
Even though he is a king, he wanders out into the countryside to personally encourage others to follow the Lord (19.4). When in trouble, his first response was to look to the Lord, not to plunder the Temple and give away the goods like other kings had done (20.3).
He led the entire nation on seeking God in the worst of circumstances. I always look forward every year to reading verses 20.12-13. Surrounded by armies far larger and more powerful than his own, Jehoshaphat offers up a prayer that shows us he is a man who knows his God and knows how to pray. He implores: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (20.12).
I like to picture all of those people, prayer said, waiting quietly before God. And then the Lord responds through a prophet in verse 15: “The battle is not yours, but God’s.”
Jehoshaphat then sent singers and musicians to the front of the army to sing praises. God heard and intervened, and the enemy went down without a shot of a single arrow. Jehoshaphat is the only king we read of who responded like this.
This stunning and unusual victory resulted in great fear in the hearts of their enemies which gave them increased security (20.29-30)— all because the man of God went to prayer (and fasting) first and foremost.
The “bad” (but not terrible) Jehoshaphat emerges again, as he makes an alliance with Ahaziah, the wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel (20.35). 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 for their own respective poor decisions.
Another way Jehoshaphat failed was as a father. His son Jehoram succeeded him on the throne, 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, but took time to write a letter that was sent Judah’s king to issue this dire message) that he was going to suffer a long, painful, linger death of the bowels—which he did.
Jehoram only lasted eight years, but it must have seemed like a lot longer. Of no other king do we read, “He passed away to no one’s regret…” (21.20). His ungodly wife Athaliah would then create problems and trouble in Judah for years, beginning shortly after his death.
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 the wicked Ahab and Jezebel. She coached her son, and it was not towards godliness. He only lasted one year.
Athaliah then made a play for power for herself. She decided with most of her sons and grandsons dead, she could take over and rule if she could simply kill off the rest of her own family (“Thanks, grandma!”).
However, little Joash survived, as he and his nurse were hidden away by his aunt. He was kept in hiding for six years, and at the tender age of eight was introduced to the surprise of everyone as the lone surviving heir of the previous king. Athaliah knew she was in trouble when he suddenly appeared, and was dispensed with posthaste by those loyal to the young king. The priest Jehoiada orchestrated this entire scenario, and showed unbelievable courage and leadership in restoring order and spiritual life in the land. He had no positional authority to do any of this, he just rose up and made things happen.
Joash grew to be a godly king and “did what was right all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24.2). But, unfortunately, after the death of his mentor, he turned to idol worship. He became so hard-hearted that when confronted about his sin by Jehoiada’s own son—Zechariah, a priest himself— Joash had him put to death. This is, to me, one of the saddest stories in the entire Bible. See 24.17-22.
close out another reading strand as we finish 2 Kings, and we will be down to two chapters a day beginning Sunday. This week we also will start (and nearly finish) Song of Songs—AKA Song of Solomon— our 66th and final book of the Bible to navigate.