2 Kings 23-25
This is Josiah’s last stand. He desperately tries to slam the brakes on the train wreck that is Judah, and make things right with Yahweh. He reads the whole Book of Laws to the people, and then starts cleaning house, getting rid of all the idols, pagan priests and ‘sodomites’ (v 7 in the KJV), or ‘male and female shrine prostitutes’ (NLT), or ‘male shrine prostitutes’ (NIV). (Aside: I checked the Hebrew-English version and it just says ‘sodomites’. So has the NLT gone overboard with political correctness, or what?) Verses 4 – 19 detail the extent of his rage and destruction. In v 20 he re-introduces the Passover celebration; then returns to the desecration, targeting household gods, mediums and psychics this time. But his actions aren’t enough to make Yahweh change his mind about giving up on the Israelites. (And why not? He changed his mind when Hezekiah begged!) Josiah is forsaken and dies in battle (so much for that peaceful death he was promised in the last chapter!) The end is near. Josiah’s evil son rules Judah for only 3 months before he is thrown in prison by the Pharaoh of Egypt, where he dies. Then another evil son takes over, and lasts 11 years by raising taxes to pay off the Pharaoh.
The events in this chapter take place between 597 and 587 BCE. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invades Judah. Well we knew that was coming. Yahweh allows all of Israel’s old enemies to raid Judah and destroy it – the Arameans, the Moabites, and the Ammonites. Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar takes the king as prisoner, picks Solomon’s temple clean of valuables, and takes all of Jerusalem captive. He hauls away King Jehoiachin, the royal family, the palace officials, and all the city’s elite (troops and craftsmen) to Babylon, and installs a puppet king in Judah. And no surprise – the new king is also evil.
The bitter end! Nebuchadnezzar leads his whole army into Jerusalem. King Zedekiah tries to escape the siege, but is caught and made to watch as his sons are slaughtered; then his eyes are gouged out and he is led away to Babylon bound in bronze chains (v 7). (Digression – apparently the Book of Mormon claims that one of Zedekiah’s sons survived, traveled to the America, and set up a civilization there.) And finally, the Babylonian army moves in, burns the temple, destroys buildings, knocks down the city walls, and takes most of the citizens captive, leaving only a few poor laborers in the fields. But more unrest follows, and the stragglers end up fleeing to Egypt. So that’s the end for Israel. (This doesn’t jive with Isaiah’s prediction in chapter 19:30 that the people remaining in Judah would ‘put down roots and flourish there’.)
Does 2 Kings try to end on a hopeful note? Maybe. Jehoiachin is still captive in Babylon, and treated more kindly by the new king who takes over from Nebuchadnezzar. On the other hand, who would want to be captured by the enemy and then regarded as a sort of household pet?
Thus begins the period in Jewish history known as The Exile. Note that the date on this map is incorrect – the Exile did not last until 516 BCE, as we will see when we get to Ezra. This map is probably the work of an apologist who wanted to make the exile last 70 years, to fit prophesy in Jeremiah 29:10. 516 BCE is when the temple was rebuilt after the Exile, but the Jews actually began returning from Babylon around 538.