Yesterday we read about the kings Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim who each played a big part in handing Jerusalem over to Egypt. But during that time, Nebuchadnezzar was coming up in the world. He made Babylon stronger than Egypt and stronger than Assyria and in doing so, he became king of Babylon. Verses 1-7 describe what happened,
“In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. 2 And the Lord sent against him bands of theChaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, 4 and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon.5 Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 6 So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place. 7 And the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates.”
Jehoiakim submitted his kingship to Nebuchadnezzar for three years but then he rebelled against him. But the LORD did not swoop in and help him defend Judah, the Lord sent people to fight against Judah. The prophecy He had given Josiah was coming to pass because of the evil of Manasseh, the desecration of The Temple, and the bloody idolatry that defiled Jerusalem. Jehoiakim handed himself and Judah over to Babylon. His death was not a pleasant one. Nebuchadnezzar dragged him in chains from Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:6). He likely killed him on the way and left his body like a discarded animal on the side of the road (Jeremiah 22:19). Jehoiachin his son was left to reign in a country paying tribute and serving an evil empire. They no longer had to worry about Egypt, Babylon had risen to power. Verses 8-16 read,
“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.
10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, 12 and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign 13 and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold. 14 He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land.
15And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king's mother, the king's wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war.”
Jehoiachin not only didn’t fight for Judah, he gave himself, his household and his government to Nebuchadnezzar. And Nebuchadnezzar took them and more, the only people left were the people the king thought didn’t matter. He left them without the Temple treasures, without the palace treasures, and without the people who might make a difference. He didn’t leave them without a king. Nebuchadnezzar appointed a new king to be his puppet. Verse 17 says,
“And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place,and changed his name to Zedekiah.”
Changing names was something Nebuchadnezzar liked to do to tell his captives, they were no longer who they had once been, who they were born and that now they belonged to him. He did it with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. He changed their names to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:6-7). They stayed faithful to their true identities. That faith played a great part in Israel’s eventual deliverance from Babylon. But Mattaniah willingly became Zedekiah, Judah’s last sitting king.
Mattaniah means gift of Yahweh. His birth name represented the grace God had given Judah for His glory and for David’s sake. God had persistently saved Judah from destruction; He had untiringly kept them from the wrath their sin would had to suffer. But the time came when He had to deliver that wrath. Mattaniah became Zedekiah. Zedekiah means righteousness of Yahweh, justice. The Lord had to let Judah experience His wrath. How could He claim to love if He did not require justice for the blood Judah had spilled? I think it is no coincidence that Zedekiah begins with Zed the last letter of the alphabet. He represented the omega of Judah.
The Righteousness of The LORD is Jesus Christ. He will return with the cup of God’s wrath and all those people who gave themselves over to Babylon and serve the prince of the world through his beasts will experience God’s Justice (Revelation 19:11-21). Verses 18-20 continue to tell us about Zedekiah.
“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20 For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.
And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”
Zedekiah did evil not only because he had learned it from his uncle and his king. He did evil because Judah was no longer in the presence of The Lord. He was not guiding them. He had withdrawn his presence from them.
Tomorrow we will read about what happened when Zedekiah rebelled. Today, Believer, be encouraged that The LORD is Righteousness. He gave you a new identity, not one to make you forget who you are, but one to make you who you are meant to be. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says,
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”