2 Chronicles 36: Captivity of Judah
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2 Chronicles 36: Captivity of Judah

Original Publication Date
March 25, 2017
Updated
Apr 15, 2023 11:13 PM
Tags
2 ChroniclesChapter StudyBabylonCaptivityNebuchadnezzarEliakim/JehoiakimAhaziah/JehoahazZedekiah
Bible References
2 Chronicles 36
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on March 25, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

The Babylonian captivity occurred in 3 stages. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, kept returning to take people away until finally, he destroyed the Temple and city of Jerusalem. The events leading up to this and after are very important in understanding the Bible. In prophecy about the end times, Babylon is always used to symbolize the end times. Just as Jerusalem is always God's city, Babylon is the city of the devil. However, it is unlikely that in end times prophecy Babylon refers to the literal location.

Egypt

Josiah died because he got involved in a battle with Egypt that didn't concern him. Even though he disguised himself in battle to protect Judah, this came back to haunt the people he left behind. Josiah's son, Jehoahaz, only reigns 3 months before the Egyptian pharaoh takes him off the throne and places his brother Eliakim on the throne. On top of placing Eliakim on throne, the pharaoh renames him to Jehoiakim.

Meaning of the Names

The name Eliakim roughly means "God will establish" or "God sets up." Jehoiakim means "YHWH raises up." The major difference between these names is that "El" in Eliakim refers to the Canaanite god, where "Jeho" (which is actually β€œYaho” in Hebrew) refers to the Yah in YHWH.[2][3]

This is interesting for a few difference reasons.

The first point of interest is that a foreign king changes the king's name to be "closer" to the name of God. At first glance it seems odd that the Egyptians would think to name the king after the Israelite God while the Israelites named him after a pagan god. However this isn't quite the case and makes much more sense. Egyptian pharaohs thought of themselves as god. Even today, we see that people tend to force their culture on others, which is likely what the Egyptian pharaoh was doing. Many Egyptian pharaohs bore the name of the god they promoted, so Necho applied this tradition to Eliakim.

Another interesting point is the naming convention of the Israelites. El, though also associated with the god of Canaan, is heavily featured in the names of the Israelites: Israel, Emmanuel, Bethel, Elijah, Elisha. Some of these names are given by God Himself. Today, there are many people who argue about the name given to God. There is an entire movement that rejects calling Him God, Jesus, and/or Jehovah. They focus on the name of God given in the Bible (YHWH) and the modern origin of the letter J. In their interpretation, it is wrong to call God by any other name. Yet, Elohim is also given as a name for God. It is from this name that the many of His people's names draw on. This could be because we are not worthy of His true name, which would make Necho's renaming sacrilegious. However, Jehoshaphat and Joshua also make use of "Yah" in their name. I find there to be ample evidence in the Bible to suggest both are acceptable.

Stealing A Name

So what is the major takeaway from Necho changing Eliakim's name to Jehoiakim? You can only name something if you have ownership of it or if the owner grants you that right. Stars, planets, theorems, buildings... All of these things are named after the people who discover or create them. Naming something signifies control over it; this is true in all cultures. In the Japanese anime Spirited Away, stealing the name of a person is what gives the villain power over people. The same was true for Necho. Necho was exerting his authority over Eliakim and Judah. From this point on, Judah was essentially a vassal kingdom struggling to maintain independence.

Pharaoh Necho

The pharaoh during this conflict is identified simply as Necho in 2 Chronicles 36:4. He is associated with the secular record of Egyptian pharaoh Necho II who reigned from 610-595 BC.

Kings of Judah

Given the fact that Judah is basically a puppet nation until the final captivity by Babylon, we know the kings must have been corrupt. Jehoiakim reigns for 11 years before he is taken captive by Babylon. His son, Jehoachin, takes over in his absence.

Jehoiachin

Jehoiachin is only 8 years old when he takes the throne, but we are told that he does wickedly. This is quite a different sentiment than that of Josiah who also took the throne at 8. Jehoiachin only reigns for 3 months and Josiah didn't seek out God until he was 16, which means they were both ungodly rulers at the age of 8. However, only Jehoiachin is described as wicked.

In the previous post, I discussed the age of accountability. The difference between the description of these two rulers could be evidence that the age of accountability is based on the individual. We would conclude that Jehoiachin knew that his actions were ungodly but chose to do them anyway while Josiah was unaware.

Another possibility is that Jehoiachin's actions were more severe than Josiah's. What I mean is, there are varying degrees of ungodly people. There are people who are very nice, loving, and desire good for those around them, despite having no relationship with God. Then there are people who claim to have a relationship with God, but commit heinous crimes and abuse their fellow man. Perhaps Jehoiachin fell into the latter category and Josiah fell into the former.

For me, the real question is: what did an 8 year old command in 3 months that was so wicked? Was Jehoiachin violent at 8? Was he idolatrous? Did he take on the ways of the Egyptians and require the the Israelites to worship him as a god? He was clearly born after Jehoiakim was placed on the throne and named following Jehoiakim's Egyptian given name instead of his birth name.

Jehoiachin is taken to Babylon during the second phase of captivity, just as his father had been taken during the first.

Zedekiah

In Jehoiachin's stead, Zedekiah takes over the throne. When I first read the passage in 2 Chronicles 36:10-11, I was confused. Zedekiah is described as Jehoiachin's older brother. The first born son was the one who was supposed to inherit everything from the father, which would have placed Zedekiah on the throne first. With the exception of Jacob tricking Esau, the only time the younger brother was given everything was when the eldest sinned against the father (or God). Both Zedekiah and Jehoiachin are described as wicked kings, so how did the 8 year old Jehoiachin end up king over the 21 year old Zedekiah?

My study bible actually identifies Zedekiah as the uncle of Jehoiachin.[4] If this is the case, Zedekiah would have been the younger brother of Jehoiakim and Jehoahaz. As Jehoiakim's brother, Zedekiah would only have been first in line for the throne if Jehoiakim did not have sons. 2 Kings 24:15-17 tells us that Zedekiah was originally named Mattaniah and the brother of Jehoiakim.

2 Chronicles 36:10 is likely supposed to read "and made Zedekiah, his father's brother, king" instead of "and made Zedekiah his brother king." The NKJV and NIV translate the verse to reference Zedekiah as an uncle, the NASB refers to Zedekiah as a kinsmen, while the ESV and KJV use the phrase "Zedekiah his brother." Regardless, this is not a contradiction because brother could mean kinsmen or relative without meaning a literal brother. In fact, Zedekiah may have acted more as a older brother to Jehoiachin than an uncle.

Zedekiah was the final king of Judah before the complete reign of Babylon. He doesn't just rebel against God during his reign, he rebels against the king of Babylon. Pride often goes hand-in-hand with rebelling against God, and it also leads to trouble with our fellow man. Had Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon while seeking God, the outcome would likely have been in his favor. However, Zedekiah rebels against both the true King (God) and the false king (Babylon), which only makes both angry. God does not come to Judah's defense when Babylon carries out this final attack. Without God's protection, the Israelites are swiftly defeated by the Babylonians who destroy the Temple and carry off the people to be captives.

The Exile

If each book of the Bible were a TV show, 2 Kings would have ended with a major cliff hanger leaving us to wonder what happened. 2 Chronicles, on the other hand, tells us exactly what happened after the exile. The book ends with Cyrus, king of Persia, issuing a decree for the Israelites to return home many years later. In Jeremiah 25, Jeremiah prophesies that the Israelites will be captive for 70 years. This is referenced and expanded upon in 2 Chronicles 36:21.

Many kings tried to restore Judah, but it is obvious that there were periods of time when they did not follow the sabbaths and feasts proclaimed by God. It is these days that needed to be fulfilled while Judah was in captivity.

Babylon

I often wonder why Babylon is the city representing evil in prophecy. Why not Egypt or Assyria? Why not Rome? The people of Judah would not have had any experience of bondage with Assyria, only the lost tribes from the northern kingdom would have related to that. Since the prophecies were given to Judah, it would make sense that God would stick to nations they understood. There was one major differences between bondage in Egypt and the Roman takeover, compared to captivity in Babylon. Babylon pounced on a weak kingdom of Judah. The Babylonians invaded Judah, destroyed God's Temple, and forced the Israelites to another location. In the cases of Egypt and Rome, the terms of bondage were a little different. The Israelites freely walked into Egypt. The Romans took over Judah, but didn't actually conquer or subdue the Jews until after most of the Bible was written. This is likely why Babylon is the big bad villain in prophecy. Identifying the differences between the Babylonians and these other nations is important to help us identify traits of the antichrist and how the world will operate at the end.

References and Footnotes

  1. "Necho II".Β Wikipedia; visited March 2017
  2. "Eliakim".Β Abarim Publications; visited March 2017
  3. "Jehoiakim".Β Abarim Publications; visited March 2017
  4. Holman Bible Publishers.Β Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 787-788. 2014

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