What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, March 17, 2023):
• 2 Chronicles 31-36
We finish the entire Bible this week! This will be the last post.
Notes on 2 Chronicles
King Hezekiah was a great leader, and he led by example. Even in giving, “he contributed from his own possessions” (31.3). He re-enlisted the Levites and priests to their worship duties. He “did throughout Judah… what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God” (31. 20). He is given more space in the pages of the Old Testament than any other king except for David.
In spite of his consistent faithfulness to God, Hezekiah, like Jehoshaphat, was threatened by a powerful, invading force led by Sennacherib, king of Assyria. In 32.2-4, Hezekiah stopped up the water that his enemies could access. But then he went to prayer. He gave us a good example of doing what we can, while asking God to do the heavy lifting.
Hezekiah’s spiritual leadership through this time is wonderful, for the most part. He initially tried to pay off the king in silver and gold (2 Kings 18:14), but once he started praying, God brought about an amazing victory.
Because of his diligence in seeking God’s face (along with a prayer very similar to that of Jehoshaphat), he did not need to fire a single arrow. And without a single casualty, Hezekiah also simply watched the destruction of this threat and the death of his enemies. See 32.21-22.
At his death, the people honored Hezekiah (32.33). And here I would have been sweating, as we have seen again and again the high possibility of a very bad king following the very good king. And this indeed was the case once more. Manasseh, his son, would reign for fifty-five brutal years, becoming one of Judah’s absolutely worst kings.
He offered up his own sons as sacrifices in fire, used fortune-telling, omens, and sorcery; mediums and necromancers. Why does this keep happening?
Manasseh led with violence and all manner of ungodliness. The bad king did, however, did repent of his sins at the very end (33.12-14), but Judah was on the way to an inglorious end.
Manasseh’s son, Amon, was another wicked king, but was only on the throne for two years. He was followed by godly King Josiah. Amon died at twenty-four years old, so his son Josiah was only eight years old when he became king. Nevertheless, he followed in the footsteps of his great grandfather Hezekiah and tried hard to reform a badly broken system. He smashed a lot of idols and tore down high places.
I found it interesting that Josiah, though he became king at the age of eight, did not begin following the Lord until he was twenty. See 34.3. Josiah was Judah’s last godly king, but came to power after God had already determined that he had had enough.
The Lord sent a prophet (a woman!) to tell the good king that in spite of his great intentions, it was too late for Judah, and judgment would finally fall. Showing his godly character, Josiah only increased his intensity in restoring proper worship of Yahweh to the nation, even formally renewing the covenant to follow the Lord, all after this prophecy of certain doom was issued (34.31).
Josiah was killed in a battle that he should not have even been a part of. But the time had come for Judah’s desolation, and perhaps it was God’s mercy that saw to it that he died a rather quick death.
We see the “holy ark” in 35.3. We’re not sure if this is the actual ark of the covenant or a replica (nowhere else is the original given this description), but this is the very last time we will see an ark of any kind in the entire Bible (at least on earth).
The Temple would be destroyed by Babylon, then rebuilt by Ezra, though plain and unadorned. Herod the Great would actually provide millions of dollars of Roman government money to restore it to its initial glory, decked out in gold.
This gloriously rehabbed Temple would then be the one where Jesus and all New Testament figures would worship. This is the Temple where the curtain in front of the holy of holies would be torn from top to bottom at Jesus’ death. However, through all of this, from Ezra’s time forward, there would be no ark of the covenant inside.
In the very last chapter of 2 Chronicles (36), things go wildly out of control. Even before the Babylonians come in and take everyone away, Egypt and Babylon have already stepped in and taken control. Josiah’s son Jehoahaz is the last king that the Israelites themselves actually seat. The enemy countries take it from there.
You need a scorecard not unlike a MLB National League manager in a close game, where he empties out the bull pen to keep track of all of the changes: Josiah’s son was king for only three months. The king of Egypt deposed him and not only put his brother on the throne, but changed his name. Jehoiakim, the brother, lasted eleven years until he was taken to Babylon. His son, Jehoiachin was next, and only lasted three and half months. Then the king of Babylon removed him and installed his brother Zedekiah. He would be in puppet power for eleven years, and would be the last of Judah’s kings.
Fifty years pass between verses 21 and 22. The dispersion had already been taking place in stages, beginning twenty years earlier.
We read of Cyrus, the King of Persia, who displaced the mighty Babylonians, and who tried to help nations conquered by Babylon to be restored to their former status, including Israel. He would set the stage for Ezra and Nehemiah to return and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. Verses 22-23 are repeated word for word Ezra 1.1-3, where the historical account continues.
Our history lesson closes not on a depressing note of defeat, but of the dawn of the next age, the long years of God’s preparation for the arrival of the Messiah.