DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: 2 Kings, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Lamentations

2 Kings

Final Days of Judah

source for questions

2 Kings 23:31 through 25:30

key verse for memorization

“Surely at the commandment of the Lord came his upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.” (2 Kings 24:3-4) 

background

These chapters review the events during the reigns of the final four kings of Judah and its last, chaotic years as an independent nation. The text begins with Jehoahaz’s ascent to the throne of Judah, following the death of his father, righteous King Josiah, who was killed in battle. In spite of having a godly father, Jehoahaz immediately reverted to the evil practices of Manasseh, Amon, and other wicked kings of Judah. After just three months, he was forcibly removed from the throne by Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, who had gained control of Judah when he defeated King Josiah. 

Pharaoh-necho replaced Jehoahaz with another son of King Josiah, Eliakim, who Pharaoh-necho renamed Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim reigned in Judah for eleven years, and was also ungodly. During his reign, Babylon became the new world power after overthrowing Assyria in 612 B.C. and Egypt in 605 B.C. 

Today’s lesson describes the captivity of Judah, which took place in three stages. The first invasion (2 Kings 24:1) took place in 605 B.C. Many people were taken captive to Babylon at this time, including Daniel and the three Hebrew children.

Three years later, King Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and Babylonian control. Judah was left vulnerable to bands of soldiers from the Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, who attacked the weakened nation as a judgment from God for the sins of Manasseh. Jehoiakim died, and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.

In just three months, Nebuchadnezzar again laid siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiachin, being young and inexperienced, responded to the Babylonian assault by surrendering. This second invasion of Judah (2 Kings 24:10) took place in 597 B.C. At this time thousands of people, including the prophet Ezekiel, craftsmen and artisans, strong men of war, and royal personnel were taken captive. Many of the Temple treasures were also confiscated and taken to Babylon, and King Jehoiachin was bound and taken to Babylon as well. 

Nebuchadnezzar established Mattaniah, an uncle of Jehoiachin, as king of Judah, and changed his name to Zedekiah. This final king of Judah reigned for eleven years, and continued the evil of his direct predecessors. During his ninth year, the third invasion of Judah took place (2 Kings 25:1-3). Beginning in 588 B.C., the city of Jerusalem was under siege for eighteen months and a severe famine devastated the land. One third of the people died from hunger and plague, and one third died by the sword. In 586 B.C., the city was invaded and all but the very poor were taken captive. King Zedekiah was captured, and he witnessed the slaying of his sons before his eyes were gouged out and he was taken to Babylon in chains. Jerusalem and the Temple were broken down and burned. “The anger of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:20), evoked by the terrible sins of the people, was poured out upon the people of Judah. Their continued refusal to humble themselves before God resulted in their ultimate destruction as a nation.

Suggested Responses to Questions
  1. God sent enemy troops to defeat Judah because He wanted the inhabitants of Judah removed from His sight. According to our key verse, why was the Lord so angry with Judah? 2 Kings 24:3-4

    The Lord remembered the sins of Manasseh and the innocent blood that he had shed. God is a just God, and He has a special place in His heart for the poor, downtrodden, and helpless. The blood of the innocent victims of Manasseh had to be atoned for. In addition, after the death of Josiah, the nation as a whole rapidly returned to its wicked ways. (Jeremiah, chapters 5 through 10, describe many of their sinful and idolatrous practices.) 

    Ask your class, If Judah had turned wholeheartedly from her wickedness, how might things have turned out differently for the nation? Your group should conclude that God is merciful, and genuine repentance and turning away from evil will bring His forgiveness and restoration in the case of an individual. Perhaps if Judah had turned back to God, His divine favor would have rested on the nation once more, and the people could have been spared the terrible devastation that resulted from their continued rebellion against Him.

     
  2. For many years the people of Judah had been warned to turn from their sinful ways. Prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah had pled with them, warning them of impending destruction. Yet the people ignored the warnings and continued to live as they pleased. What spiritual warnings are people ignoring today?

    Many people have heard that the Lord is coming. They know that there is judgment awaiting those who do not repent. They see warnings such as turmoil in the Middle East, wars, earthquakes, and other signs of the times. Yet they choose their sin rather than turning to a merciful God.

    As a follow-up to this discussion, ask your students what we can do to make sure our hearts stay in a state of spiritual alertness to the warnings, correction, and instruction of God. Thoughts brought out may include: not ignoring the checks of the Spirit; eliminating things from our lives that distract or hinder us from serving God; and making an effort to feed our souls on the Word of God through church attendance, private devotions, etc. 

     
  3. What common phrase is used to describe each of the four kings in our lesson text? What spiritual truth can we derive from this phrase? 2 Kings 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19

    The phrase used to describe all four kings is, “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.” Class discussion should be directed to the second phrase in these verses, making the point that we do not live only to ourselves. Our behavior and choices greatly impact our children and those who come after us.

    Discussion can be generated with examples of how habits, reactions, goals, and many other aspects of life often will follow a pattern in a family or society. The important lesson here is that we do influence others, so we must be very careful to set the right example. This would be an opportunity to ask your students to tell of some good examples who have had a positive influence on their lives.

     
  4. King Jehoiachin was treated well at the end of his life. Evil-merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, liberated him from prison and was kind to him, giving him clothing, food to eat, and a daily allowance. On the other hand, King Zedekiah was made to witness the slaughter of his sons before he lost his eyes, and then was taken to Babylon in chains. There was a difference in the way each of these kings reacted to the takeover of the Babylonians, which may account for why they were treated differently. How did they respond to the Babylonian assaults? 2 Kings 24:12, 20

    When the king of Babylon came against Jerusalem, Jehoiachin surrendered. In contrast, King Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. God had ordained that Judah would serve Babylon and Jeremiah had prophesied this. Yet, Zedekiah tried to thwart God’s plan by resisting, thereby causing much suffering and bloodshed to his people through the prolonged siege.

    You may bring out that from a rational standpoint, surrendering to the enemy might have seemed counter-intuitive to King Zedekiah, even though the prophet had indicated that Judah’s subjection to Babylon was ordained by God. The conclusion should be reached that when we submit to God’s will in our lives even though we do not understand the “why” of His leading, we will save ourselves a lot of trouble.

     
  5. What happened to Jerusalem when the Babylonian forces entered it for the third and final invasion of Judah? 2 Kings 25:8-13

    The Babylonians burned the House of the Lord and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem. They broke down the walls of the city. They carried away the people, leaving only the very poor to tend to the land. They broke in pieces the brass pillars of the House of the Lord and the emblems of worship, and carried away the brass to Babylon.

    It seems that at this point, Nebuchadnezzar brought the full fury and force of his armies against Jerusalem. God had appointed this Babylonian leader to be the instrument that would judge His rebellious people. Moses had warned the Children of Israel that if they forgot God, they would be driven from their land (see Deuteronomy 28:36-46), and at this point divine judgment was being fulfilled.
     
     
  6. After Jerusalem’s fall, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah to govern Judah. Gedaliah was from a prominent and seemingly God-fearing family. His father had influenced Jehoiachin to save Jeremiah from death (Jeremiah 26:24), and his grandfather Shaphan had been secretary to King Josiah and participated in the king’s efforts to turn Judah back to God (2 Kings 22). Gedaliah was the one who returned Jeremiah back to his home after the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:14). What message did Gedaliah give to the remnant left in Jerusalem? 2 Kings 25:24

    He offered a message of encouragement to the remnant left in Judah, promising them support and protection if they would simply “dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon.” In essence, Gedaliah was telling the people of Judah, “You have no reason to fear further trouble. If you continue peaceably in the land, no harm will befall you.” The earthly kingdom of Judah had been demolished, but God was still willing to keep His spiritual Kingdom alive in the hearts of the exiles if they would look His way for strength and comfort in their time of need.

    Class discussion should bring out that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can always be assured that God sees and cares about what is happening in our lives. As we accept difficult circumstances — things we cannot control in our lives — and keep trusting Him, He will watch over us and bring us strength, comfort, and encouragement in our hour of great need.

    You may wish to follow up your discussion by asking for some in your class to share times when someone encouraged them personally.

     
  7. What lessons can we learn from the final years of the nation of Judah?

    Thoughts suggested by your class may include:

    • Those who resist and rebel against God will eventually be judged and punished.

    • Although the people of Israel and Judah had God’s Law, priests, and prophets to guide them, they chose to worship false gods. Knowledge of God is not enough; we must purpose to obey His commandments and follow Him with our whole hearts.

    • Even in the midst of terrible circumstances, God has a faithful minority who stand true to Him. Faithfulness and devotion will ultimately be rewarded.

    • The people of Judah could have learned from the fate of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but they failed to amend their ways in spite of that example. We must be watchful and keep our minds and hearts attuned to the examples and lessons God allows to come our way. 

    As you consider this question with your class, you will be able to use their answers to summarize this lesson and our study of the Book of 2 Kings. 
conclusion

God’s great desire was for the people of Judah to return to Him, but they persisted in their idolatry and rebellion against Him. Because of that, God’s judgment was ultimately poured out and they were overthrown as a nation.