Comments on the Second Book of Kings (ch.8-25)

by Henri Rossier

CONTENTS

Introduction

2 Kings 1-Elijah and Ahaziah

2 Kings 2-Elijah and Elisha

2 Kings 2: 1‑12      The Ascension of Elijah

                           Elijah, a Type of Christ

                           Elisha, the Servant

2 Kings 2: 13‑25     Elisha, or Christ in the Spirit

 

2 Kings 3 ‑ 8: 15-Elisha

2 Kings 3               Jehoram and the War Against Moab

2 Kings 4: 1‑7        The Prophet's Widow

2 Kings 4: 8‑37                The Shunammite

2 Kings 4: 3841                Death in the Pot

2 Kings 4: 42‑44 The Man of Baal‑shalishah

2 Kings 5            Naaman

2 Kings 6: 1‑7     The Sons of the Prophets and the Jordan

2 Kings 6: 8‑23    Dothan

2 Kings 6: 24‑7:20       The Siege of Samaria

2 Kings 8: 1‑6             The Shunammite Again

2 Kings 8: 7‑15            Ben‑Hadad and Hazael

 

2 Kings 8: 16 ‑ 17: 41-Kings of Israel and of Judah

2 Kings 8: 16‑29 Jehoram, King of Judah, and His Son, Ahaziah

2 Kings 9        Jehu, King of Israel

2 Kings 10      Jehu (continued)

2 Kings 11      Athaliah

2 Kings 12      Joash, King of Judah

2 Kings 13: 1‑9                  Jehoahaz, Son of Jehu, King of Israel

2 Kings 13: 10‑25 Joash, King of Israel, and Elisha

2 Kings 14: 1‑22 Joash, King of Israel-Amaziah, King of Judah

2 Kings 14: 23‑29 Jeroboam II, King of Israel

2 Kings 15: 1‑7                  Azariah or Uzziah, King of Judah

2 Kings 15: 8‑12 Zechariah, King of Israel

2 Kings 15: 13‑22 Shallum and Menahem, Kings of Israel

2 Kings 15: 23‑31 Pekahiah and Pekah, Kings of Israel

2 Kings 15: 32‑38 Jotham, King of Judah

2 Kings 16      Ahaz, King of Judah

2 Kings 17: 1‑6                  Hoshea, King of Israel

2 Kings 17: 7‑41 The Divine Recapitulation of the History of Israel

2 Kings 18 ‑ 25-The Last Kings of Judah

2 Kings 18 ‑ 20                    Hezekiah, King of Judah

                        The Revivals of the End

2 Kings 18: 1‑18                Hezekiah and the First Revival

2 Kings 18: 19‑37 Rab‑Shakeh's Discourse

2 Kings 19      Sennacherib and the Lord

2 Kings 20: 1‑11                Hezekiah's Illness

2 Kings 20: 12‑19 The Embassy from Babylon

2 Kings 21: 1‑18                Manasseh

2 Kings 21: 19‑26 Amon

2 Kings 22: 1 ‑ 23: 30-Josiah

2 Kings 22      Josiah and the Second Revival

2 Kings 23: 1‑20 The Book of the Covenant and the Sanctification of the people

2 Kings 23: 21‑23 The Passover

2 Kings 23: 28‑30 Pharaoh‑Nechoh

2 Kings 23: 31 ‑ 25: 30-The Final Downfall

2 Kings 23: 31‑35 Jehoahaz

2 Kings 23: 36‑24: 7 Jehoiakim

2 Kings 24: 7‑17                Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah, or Coniah)

2 Kings 24: 18‑25: 21 Zedekiah

2 Kings 25: 22‑26 Gedaliah

2 Kings 25: 27‑30   The End

Introduction

The Second Book of Kings follows the First without any interruption. In order to spare the reader an erroneous conclusion it may be useful to remark that this division into two books does not form part of the inspired text, which originally formed but one book in the Hebrew canon. As we are mentioning this subject in passing, we would add for our readers that one of the great divisions of the Old Testament, "the Prophets," included besides the books of the prophets proper with exception of Daniel and Lamentations, all the books from Joshua through the books of Kings except for the book of Ruth.*

{*The Old Testament was composed of three major divisions: the Law, that is, the five books of Moses; the Prophets, of which we are speaking; and finally the Hagiographa or "Sacred Writings," known also by the title "the Psalms" (Luke 24: 44), and containing Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two books of Chronicles.}

The mere title, "the Prophets," enlightens us about the authors of the historical books with which we are occupied. We owe these books to the prophets; they bear their imprint. So‑called modern theological criticism should in no way influence the Christian's convictions on this point. The Word of God alone is enough to explain itself and to furnish us assurance as to its contents.

Thus the acts of David are written in the words of Samuel the seer, in the words of Nathan the prophet, and in those of Gad the seer (cf. 1 Chr. 29: 29 with 1 & 2 Samuel); the acts of Solomon, in the words of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah, and in the vision of Iddo the seer con­cerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (cf. 2 Chr. 9: 29 with 1 Kings); the acts of Rehoboam, in the words of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer in the genealogical registers (2 Chr. 12: 15); the acts of Abijah, in the treatise of the prophet Iddo (2 Chr. 13: 22); those of Jehoshaphat, in the words of Jehu the son of Hanani which are inserted in the book of the Kings of Israel (2 Chr. 20: 34). The acts of Uzziah were written by Isaiah the son of Amoz (2 Chr. 26: 22); those of Hezekiah, in the vision of Isaiah the prophet (cf. 2 Chr. 32: 32 with 2 Kings 18‑20 and Isa. 36‑39). Finally, 2 Kings 24: 18‑25 corresponds to Jeremiah 52.

Isn't it remarkable that it should be precisely the books of Chronicles, so contested and so attacked by the ration­alists, that confirm the prophetic authority of our histori­cal books? Now if it is true that the books of Kings are the work of the prophets, and that is enough for us since the Word of God does not tell us any more concerning the man­ner in which they were composed, we can expect to find in them not only the simple account of historical facts, and a perfectly exact statement of these facts since it is of di­vine origin, but also the features which form the substance of all prophetic writing: examples of the past sufferings and of the future glories of Christ.

This is what the books of Samuel and the first book of Kings have shown us superabundantly in the persons of David and Solomon. But this also explains for us why the prophets themselves play a preponderant role in these books. This fact, as we have already mentioned elsewhere, strikes us as soon as we enter into these books. Nothing but the activity of Elijah and of Elisha is dwelt upon in nineteen of the forty‑seven chapters contained in Kings.

By way of preface, it is well yet to add here some remarks which did not get a place in the introduction to the First Book of Kings. They bear upon the character of the prophets of Israel in contrast to those of Judah. In studying 1 Kings we have been able to ascertain the character of Elijah's ministry, which above all was a ministry of miracles. We shall have occasion to notice this even more fully in the life of Elisha, the second great prophet of Israel. The ac­tivity of these men of God consisted much more of deeds than of words. On the contrary, that of the prophets of Judah is altogether different. They speak, and only rarely perform a miracle, such as that of the sun dial of Ahaz (Isa. 38: 8). This contrast springs from the fact that the public profession of the worship of Jehovah was still acknowledged in Judah, and subsisted in spite of idolatrous intermixture; thus it did not need miracles to be accredited.

This leads us to respond to the question that is often asked, why one no longer sees miracles in Christendom to­day. The reason is the same. As long as it has not been spued out of the Lord's mouth, the miracles intended to strengthen the hearts of the faithful grappling with aposta­sy shall not take place, nor those intended to vindicate the character of the true God before men who have renounced Him.

It was otherwise at the beginning of the Church's histo­ry. Numerous miracles took place, whether among the Jews who had rejected their Messiah, in order to prove the divinity of the Savior to them, or whether among the idolatrous Gentiles, in order to accredit the preaching of the God who was unknown to them. God bore witness with His servants "both by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Ghost, according to his will" (Heb. 2: 4).

Catholicism pretends to miracles, just as in a measure also the Protestantism of our days pretends to miraculous gifts. In fact, that which the first presents to us are false miracles intended to blind the simple, whereas the second seeks to accredit itself by an appearance of divine power when apostasy has already made itself known in its bos­om on every hand.

After the rapture of the saints, the miracles of the age to come shall be made manifest, whether among the Jews or before the nations, by means of the remnant, as we see in Revelation 11. The story of Elisha will furnish us occasion to consider this subject in type. But at the same time the land of Israel-of the apostate people under the Antichrist-and the entire world will be the theater of ly­ing wonders performed by the‑ false prophet, Satan's last instrument to seduce the men who dwell upon the earth. (Rev. 13: 13‑15).

We shall limit ourselves to these few preliminary re­marks, which will find ample confirmation in that portion of the Scriptures which we want to study under the Lord's eye and with the help of His Holy Spirit.

- Chapter 1 - 8:15: omitted here -

Kings 8: 16-2 Kings 17: 41

Kings of Israel and of Judah

 

2 Kings 8: 16‑29

Jehoram, King of Judah, and his Son, Ahaziah

 

The beginning of this passage presents a small chrono­logical difficulty which the rationalists have not failed to exploit against the authority of the biblical account (cf. 2 Kings 3). Here we are told that Jehoram of Judah began to reign over Judah during the lifetime of his father, in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel. Now in 2 Kings 1, Jehoram of Israel succeeds his brother Ahaziah in the second year of Jehoram of Judah. This can be explained very simply by the fact that Jehoshaphat of Judah had conferred the regen­cy upon his son Jehoram, and at the end of seven years, while Jehoshaphat was still alive, he fully conferred the kingdom upon him, perhaps in view of difficulties he might have had with his brothers (2 Chr. 21: 1‑4). The first year of the regency of Jehoram of Judah corresponds to the time when his father Jehoshaphat went up with Ahab, king of Israel, to retake Ramoth‑Gilead from the Syrians. These so‑called contradictions are never such to the simple Christian who has received these accounts from the hand of God. It is not always possible for him to answer the objections for he is a limited and ignorant creature, but in waiting upon the Lord he will sooner or later receive the answer-when God judges this to be appropriate. To him it remains an estab­lished fact that God has spoken, and that He will be found true when He speaks, whereas every man will be found a liar.

The short history of King Jehoram and King Ahaziah of Judah, woven in here in order to link together the order of events, nevertheless presents serious and instructive fea­tures. The daughter of Ahab (the husband of Jezebel) was the wife of Jehoram of Judah. Ahaziah, Jehoram's son, was also "the son‑in‑law of the house of Ahab." These pro­fane alliances led the one and the other into the ways of the kings of Israel. The same holds true at all times. A Christian yoked together with a child of the world neces­sarily loses his testimony and even the appearance of his Christianity, for the world is never improved by the Chris­tian's alliance with it. Rather, to the contrary, it is bad com­pany that corrupts good manners. True, the Lord, faithful to the promises made to David, does not destroy Jehoram of Judah, but this latter does not find in the world that rest which his corrupted religion cannot give him and which the discipline and chastening of God do not leave him. Edom, which until now had a governor dependent upon the throne of Judah, revolts and chooses a king for itself. The consequence is war. Jehoram has the advantage, but the revolt is not crushed, and this unsubdued enemy continues on "unto this day." At the same time, Libnah revolted. Lib­nah was a city of Judah, a priestly city belonging to the sons of Aaron (Joshua 21: 13; 1 Chr. 6: 57). What a shame for Jehoram! In his own kingdom one of the morally most im­portant cities detached itself from him. The reason is given in 2 Chronicles 21: 10‑11. The sons of Aaron could not associate themselves with one who "had forsaken Jehovah the God of his fathers," and who urged Judah into this path by his high places and fornications. Some testimony was then still left in Judah, and this testimony was to Jehoram's shame. The Lord separated from him a part of the priesthood, that which alone could yet maintain Jehoram's relationship with Himself. When we come to our study in Chronicles, we will consider the judgment of this impious king in greater detail.

Ahaziah the son of Jehoram of Judah, began to reign in the twelfth year of Jehoram of Israel (2 Kings 8: 25). His mother was Athaliah, daughter of Omri, a common way of speaking among the Jews; for she was in fact the granddaughter of the head of this dynasty, Omri, the daughter of Ahab, and the wife of Jehoram of Judah (v. 18). She was thus the sister of Jehoram of Israel. Ahaziah himself was the son-in‑law of the house of Ahab. As Jehoshaphat his grandfather had made an alliance with Ahab in order to retake Ramoth-Gilead, which had fallen under the power of the king of Syria, so Ahaziah the son of Jehoram of Judah made an alliance with Jehoram of Israel, son of Ahab, to make war against Hazael, the king of Syria, at Ramoth‑Gilead, which was a city of refuge (Deut. 4: 43). This was done according to the advice of his counsellors of the house of Ahab and of Athaliah his mother (2 Chr. 22: 4‑5). This alliance with the kings of Israel was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. Jehoram of Israel suffered the same fate at Ramoth as Ahab, who had earlier been wounded by the Syrians at the same place (1 Kings 22: 34). He retired to Jizreel to be healed of his wounds. It was there that his ally Ahaziah, king of Judah, came to him to express his sympathy. By the world's standards this was an act of simple courtesy, but after having opposed Hazael, God's rod against Israel, Ahaziah subjects himself to the blows of Jehu, the second of God's rods against his ally. These judgments upon Israel neither move him nor restrain him in his pathway, and lo, these judgments will reach his very own person!

 

2 Kings 9

Jehu, King of Israel

Jehu's entire history takes up three verses in Chronicles (2 Chr. 22: 7‑9), which speaks sorely of his relations with Judah. We shall return to this when we study Chronicles.

The chapter we are considering brings out, as we have mentioned above, the character of the grace of Elisha. In­stead of anointing Jehu himself, he entrusts this mission to one of the sons of the prophets. This young man must not remain for an instant with Jehu, but he must flee as soon as his deed is accomplished. All is done secretly and in haste, for when it is a matter of judgment, Elisha's soul neither rests nor abides there. Judgment must take place, for God has spoken, but God finds his delight in grace and approves his servant's manner of acting.

How much, in virtue of its judicial character, does this scene differ from that which accompanies the anointing of David! Here this son of the prophets must make Jehu rise up "from among his brethren," lead him far away from all eyes into "an inner chamber," and anoint him without wit­nesses in haste and secretly. Samuel, on the contrary, anoints David king of grace "in the midst of his brethren"; they do not sit down at the table until he arrives, and this family feast reunites them for a common meal. After that, Samuel rises up in peace and goes to Ramah (1 Sam 16: 11‑13). These scenes of communion form an absolute con­trast to the one which unfolds here. Jehu is God's rod against Israel and Judah, and God cannot have commun­ion with an instrument of judgment, however necessary it may be. Later He will approve (2 Kings 10: 30) the way Jehu car­ried out his task, but without communion with him; for all the while He is speaking thus He is approving neither the man nor his motives, as we shall have occasion to note more than once in these chapters.

If the prophet Elisha had wept before Hazael, what would he have done before Jehu? He also gives as brief as possi­ble a commission: "Thus said Jehovah: I have anointed thee king over Israel" (2 Kings 9: 3). A prophet himself, he leaves up to this son of the prophets without dictating the words to him, the concern for what he will have to add to it by the Spirit.

This young man reveals to Jehu the unsparing judgment upon the house of Ahab. The motive for this judgment was the way in which this king, urged on by Jezebel, had treat­ed the servants of the Lord and His prophets. In fact, there will ever come the time when the Lord will call to mind that which has earlier been done to "His brethren," whether in Israel or in the Christian assembly.

The fact that the young prophet adds all this detail to the words of Elisha is very characteristic of this latter's career and moral essence. Not once, except at Bethel (and we have shown the reason for this), does he pronounce judgment himself, though he must pass through a scene where all is judgment on God's part. This judgment must put an end to the dynasty of Omri in order to fulfill the sentence pronounced upon Ahab. For the same reason, the Lord had already put an end to the house of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat (1 Kings 15: 28‑30), and to that of Baasha (1 Kings 16: 1‑4), each time repeating the dreadful word: Him that dieth . . . in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the field shall the fowl of the heavens eat" (1 Kings 14: 11; 1 Kings 16: 4; 1 Kings 21: 24).

The young man flees according to the command given by the prophet. He did not have to retract that which has been decreed, has no explanation to give, no warning, as had been the case for Ahab (1 Kings 21: 27‑29); judgment was at the door and to be executed immediately.

Jehoram of Israel (vv. 11‑15), wounded in battle, had just left Ramoth‑Gilead where Hazael had kept him at bay, and had come to Jizreel to be healed of his wounds. During this time the captains of his army were at Ramoth, continuing to occupy and to keep this important post, justly claimed by the kings of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 22: 3). We see here how God has the upper hand in all events and over all men when the moment to accomplish His decrees has arrived. Scarcely had Jehu received the anointing oil than-without any preliminary arrangements, for they do not know what the prophet whom they call a fool had just done-all the cap­tains acclaimed Jehu as king Were they wise men them­selves, these men who without intelligence, without reason­ing it out, without a choice in the matter, sound the trum­pet and say: Jehu is king; while the one who despite his youth had just proclaimed God's mind, being fully aware of the reason for it, was called a fool or imbecile by them?

In our days we can often observe the same anomaly. The Christian, having knowledge of the thoughts of God, can announce them to men in their fullness and in detail, these events for which the world will be the "heater. Those who are wise call them fools, until that day when their eyes will be opened-but too late-to acknowledge the truth of what has been announced to them.

Let us note that Jehu does not conspire against Jehoram until after he has been proclaimed king He then immedi­ately takes measures so that the king of Jizreel should not receive any news of what had taken place (v. 15). Jehu's character made up of great impetuosity joined together with much prudence, decisiveness, and understanding of human nature, offers ample material for study. Let us note this trait: "If it be your will, let not a fugitive escape out of the city to go to tell it in Jizreel" (v. 15). He artfully engages his accomplices in a collective responsibility, in order that in case of failure everything cannot be laid to his charge. That which follows will give us a second exam­ple. But it is in this that we may also ascertain his lack of piety and of dependence upon God, and his ambition which takes advantage of the word of Jehovah to assure himself of full power. He is thinking only of himself, of his own interests, and of the gratification of his passions; he ex­ercises judgment to assure himself of benefits, and covers all this egoism with a cloak which he calls "zeal for Jehovah."

During the interval, Ahaziah had come down to Jehoram to express his sympathy concerning his wounds. Despite its appearance of urbanity and cordiality, this liaison was odious to the Lord. The lamp that had been maintained up to now in David's house, was about to be extinguished unless God should occupy Himself with trimming it. But his relationship to a family of an apostate race was of more value to Ahaziah than the glory of the God of Israel. Simi­lar conditions are often met with in our days. The family of God has, however, nothing to gain by such relationships. Each time Israel gained an advantage through the friend­ship of the king of Judah, what did it give in exchange? The loss was always on the side of those who, in some fee­ble measure, still bore the testimony of the true God.

Jehu goes to Jizreel. "Is it peace?" This is the great ques­tion raised. Judgment is at the door, and Jehoram does not yet know whether it is peace or wrath that has come to him. What use are his messengers and the precautions he takes to him? None of his servants returned to warn him and ad­vise him to be on his guard. The prudence of Jehu had provided for this. "Turn thee behind me," he tells them- excellent means to reach his ends without prematurely awakening the distrust of his king But God is controlling all things, even those that are contrary to his character. He is a God of truth; His ways are straight and never crooked. He has said: "There is no peace . . . to the wicked", His sentence must be executed.

"Jehu . . . drives furiously." The rumbling of thunder an­nounces the storm to all except to Jehoram, as deaf to the approach of the tempest as he had been to that of the grace so often pronounced before him. He does nothing to ward off his fate. He comes with Ahaziah to seek refuge at the foot of the tree upon which the blow is to fall. Alas! Such is the lot of men. They seek for peace outside the peace that God offers to all, and find nothing but agitation, anguish, and finally the judgment of God. "Peace, peace to him that is afar off, and to him that is nigh, saith Jehovah; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, and whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (Isa. 57: 19‑21). Also in that moment when men will "say, 'Peace,' then sudden destruction will come upon them. "What peace," answered Jehu, "so long as the fornications of thy mother Jezebel and her sorceries are so many?" Jehoram cries while fleeing, "Treachery, Ahaziah!" Not treachery, but judgment! The word of God to Elijah is fulfilled to the letter. "And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay" (1 Kings 19: 17). Jehu himself smites king Jehoram. Then he recalls the prophe­cy of Elijah to Ahab (1 Kings 21: 19‑24), not in the identical words, but with the same meaning Miserable king! In what was he trusting? In his title and his royal dignity, as we see by his riding forth which leads to his ruin; in the twelve long years of his reign, no doubt, (and who would dream of treachery after such a long reign); in the faithfulness of his subjects and of those who surrounded him. Vain sup­ports! "How are they suddenly made desolate!"

And who has made all these circumstances work together to this result? Who caused Jehoram to depart from Ramoth, leaving Jehu and his captains there? Who had led him to Jizreel, the scene of Ahab's sin? Who led him to Naboth's vineyard in his chariot? Who left him lying there outside the city in the very place where the blood of this righteous man had flowed? One cannot mistake it; it is the hand of the Lord.

Ahaziah meets the same fate (vv. 27‑29), nevertheless with mitigation, the Lord having not yet finally rejected the house of Judah. If Ahaziah's "coming to Joram was from God the complete ruin of Ahaziah" (2 Chr. 22: 7), yet he was not abandoned to the beasts of the field and the fowl of the heavens like a vile criminal, but he was buried in his sepulchre with his fathers in the city of David.

Jehu enters into Jizreel (vv. 30‑37). Jezebel hears of it and paints her face and decks her head in savage confidence of triumph. She wants to show him that she does not fear him with his company, for she still has authority and power. From high up in the window she flings down these ironic words to him: "Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of his master?" Is it peace for you? You are not worth more than Zimri, Baasha's assassin. He had succeeded in reigning for seven days following his conspiracy; then he had perished. All these disdainful thoughts reverberate in these few words. Jehu lifts his face to the window where the queen is standing, and cries out, "Who is on my side? who?" And to two or three eunuchs who nod to him from above he says, "Throw her down! And they threw her down; and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses; and he trampled on her" (v. 33). Here we see how much Jehu is a stranger in his thoughts to the honor and the glory of the Lord, all the while knowing the divine decree and that he is its executor. One might have expected that the word "Who is for the Lord?" might have come forth from his mouth, but God had little place in the thoughts of this violent and ambitious man. Even that which had been prophesied by Elijah concerning Jezebel, a scene at which he had been present (v. 25; cf. 1 Kings 21: 23), does not recur to his memory. He says, "Go, look, I pray you, after this cursed woman, and bury her; for she is a king's daughter" (v. 34). When the men returned, having found nothing more than some wretched dog‑eaten remains, he recalls the prophecy, but only when it is in accord with his passions. If it be a matter of governing his conduct by the prophecy, he pays it no heed.

2 Kings 10

Jehu (continued)

 

Jehu sends a message to Samaria, whose rulers, the elders and great ones, were bringing up Ahab's seventy sons. "And now,' he says, "when this letter comes to you, seeing your master's sons are with you, and there are with you chariots, and horses, and a fortified city, and armor, look out the best and worthiest of your master's sons, and set him on his father's throne, and fight for your master's house" (vv. 2‑3). This letter, beneath its generous appearance, breathes forth the threatening of a man sure of himself, or at least wishing to appear so. As we continue on we discover several character traits of this remarkable man, at least remarkable according to the world's thoughts. Impetuousness, promptness of decision, a political eye, a knowledge of and a disdain for men, skillfulness in taking advantage of situations or in bringing them about, an imposing of himself on others or a using of them for his own purposes, an absolute absence of all scruples when it is a matter of surmounting obstacles, and all this basing itself upon the consciousness of being an instrument of the Lord in His work of destruction.

The rulers of Samaria become frightened and show that they are ready for treachery and murder that the Lord had not commanded them. They obey Jehu when he says to them, "If ye are mine, and will hearken to my voice, take the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jizreel tomorrow at this time" (v. 6). Always the same thought as before: Who is for me? Who is mine? Jehu thus obtains the advantage of having this massacre accom­plished by others, whose act justifies him before the inhabi­tants of Jizreel. "Ye are righteous! behold, I conspired against my master and killed him; but who smote all these?" (v. 9). He proudly proclaims his conspiracy and crime, but he has as accomplices all the great ones and cap­tains of Israel whom he had constrained to serve him by his boldness and arrogance. It is he who by his skillfulness gets all the leaders of this people on his side. Then he adds: "Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of Jehovah, which Jehovah spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for Jehovah has done that which he said through his servant Elijah" (v. 10). He invokes the infallibility of the word of God to justify his conduct; then he "slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jizreel, and all his great men, and his acquaintances, and his priests, until he left him none remaining" (v. 11). This was not properly what the Lord had said (1 Kings 21: 21‑26). Jehu goes beyond his orders and his commission, but it was in the interest of his dominion that all who sympathized with Ahab should disappear from Israel.

When the Word portrays such characters for us, let us remember that God is far from always expressing to us His approval or disapproval of the instruments that serve his purposes. He tells us of that in which Jehu discharged his task well, and goes no further, leaving the evaluation of his conduct to our spiritual judgment, in order that we may draw instruction for ourselves. Let the reader recall the his­tory of the judges and the manner in which the deeds of Israel's liberators are recalled to us there. We might mul­tiply examples by taking Jacob's history and that of so many others. That God should use a Jehu or a Samson to accomplish His judgments in no wise signifies that there is living faith in these men, or that their heart's condition had His approval. Samson and Barak are named in Hebrews 11, because in this chapter it is not a matter of faith in itself, but of the activity of faith, which is another thing Their conduct, I repeat, is discerned spiritually, and that is why the world does not understand anything of these examples given us by the Word. In other cases, especially that of a king, God usually tells us how He feels. In him He judges the state of the things of which he is the respon­sible representative; if God would not do this, the righte­ousness of His judgments could well be questioned, if it were left up to our fallible evaluation of them.

This remark has a very practical application in Jehu's case, who at the same time is both the instrument of God's wrath against the house of Ahab and he to whom the reign is entrusted. On the one hand he receives the testimony of the Lord's approval for having executed that which was right in His eyes (v. 30), and that without any reservation as to his moral character; on the other hand, in the follow­ing verse (v. 31) his conduct as king is severely blamed by the Lord. With regard to the massacre of Jizreel, we find in Hosea 1: 4‑5 what God thinks of it and what its conse­quences are: "For yet a little while, and I will visit the blood of Jizreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause the king­dom of the house of Israel to cease. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jizreel.

Near the shepherds' meeting‑place, the brothers of Ahazi­ah, king of Judah (vv. 12‑14), undergo the same fate he also had met. In comparing 2 Kings 9: 27‑29 with 2 Chronicles 22: 7‑9, we learn that before being smitten near Megiddo, Ahaziah had fled to Samaria for refuge and had not yet been forced from his retreat when his brothers came to visit the sons of the king It was not until after the extermina­tion of his brethren that Ahaziah was brought to Jehu and suffered "from God" this "complete ruin" at the ascent of Gur, only to flee to Megiddo to die there, and then to be carried to Jerusalem and be buried there.

If Jehu's action had not been ordered of the Lord, it is no less true that God had decreed it. This passage affords us a serious lesson. To ally oneself, as did Ahaziah, to a world over which divine wrath is suspended, is to expose oneself to the sudden ruin which will overtake it. But those who without thought for the holiness of God go, be it but to strengthen the bonds of friendship with the same world, suffer a similar fate. Ahaziah's brothers suffer fatal conse­quences. There cannot, there must not be, for those whom God calls to lead His people, any fellowship whatsoever with that which He condemns.

In contrast, we find a striking example of separation from evil in Jehonadab the son of Rechab (Jer. 35), who comes to meet Jehu (v. 15). Jehonadab was of the race of the Kenites, who had entered into Canaan with Israel. They were divided into several branches: the least of these in the extreme north at Kedesh in Naphtali (Judges 4: 11), the stron­gest in the desert of Judah to the south of Arad (Judges 1: 16), and lastly, a third branch, subdivided into several families in the vicinity of Jabez, which belonged to Judah (1 Chr. 2: 55). We do not know what led Jehonadab from the king­dom of Judah to that of Israel. Was he part of those follow­ing Ahaziah's brethren, as Jehu's abrupt question might suggest? Whatever the case may have been, he had no link with the evil which surrounded him. His principles were those of absolute separation to God as a true Nazarite and, being unable to teach these principles here in this corrupt sphere that surrounded him, he had at least taught them in his family and in his house. The circle of his testimony was a limited one in the presence of the infidelity flowing like a rising tide over the two houses of Israel, but it was nonetheless a testimony, and God approved it. We know these details from Jeremiah 35. Jehonadab's principles were those of every true Nazarite. Firstly, to ab­stain from wine, which represents the intoxicating coveteousness of the world. Secondly, to refrain from building a house, that is, to refrain from establishing oneself upon the earth in a permanent way. Thirdly, to refrain from sowing grain, as if one were expecting something, even if it were only a year of harvest. Fourthly, to refrain from planting a vineyard, that is to say, to refrain from cultivating that which would sooner or later lead to the abandoning of one's Nazariteship-and how many believers have lost their Nazariteship through failure to watch over this point! Fifth­ly, to dwell in tents, as true sons of Abraham, as pilgrims and sojourners in the land of promise. Jehonadab under­stood that this land given to God's people was in no wise a present possession, as long as the moral ruin of the peo­ple existed along with the material disorder which was its consequence. His faith was still waiting for a rest for the people of God. He and his sons testified to this by their attitude.

We are not told on what occasion Jehonadab had taught these commands to his own, but as the one and only histor­ical mention of him that is made is found in our chapter, we may infer from this that the sight of the evil and of the general ruin after the glorious reigns of David and Solo­mon had made him feel the necessity of a very narrow walk, and of a return to "that which was from the beginning," taught by the patriarchs, in contrast to the laxity which surrounded him. May we also at this time of the end be true children of Jehonadab the son of Rechab, not in out­ward practices which leave the heart far from God and through which Satan deceives souls, as is so common today, but by the moral conduct which these practices symbolized during the dispensation of the law!

Jehu greets Jehonadab and says to him, "Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?" Jehonadab can an­swer, "It is." But there is a difference here. His heart was upright with respect to the Lord; his principles have shown us this. Jehu's heart was upright with respect to Jehonadab to whom he confided his plans, but could one say that it was upright in respect to God? That which follows will show us: "Come with me, and see my zeal for Jehovah" (v. 16). Yet nevertheless, how greatly divided was this zeal! If zeal for the Lord is wholehearted, the servant of God barely speaks of it, but rather is disposed to exclaim, "I am an unprofitable servant." That Jehu was zealous need not be doubted, but in what proportion was this for the Lord? Saul of Tarsus was an ardent zealot for the traditions of his fathers; concerning zeal, he persecuted the Church, believ­ing that he was serving God. Paul said of the Jews, his brethren according to the flesh, that they had a "zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." There was more true zeal, more understanding, more power in Jehonadab's holy separation than in the impetuous walk of Jehu. Verse 31 informs us about the value and measure of the zeal of this latter.

After having slain "all that remained to Ahab in Samar­ia, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of Je­hovah, which he spoke to Elijah" (v. 17), Jehu moves against the priests of Baal. Here too we see human caution, a leav­ing nothing to chance, joined with a craftiness which, however, is not the dominant trait of his character (v. 19). In any case, it is not the simple and courageous walk of faith according to the truth. How greatly Jehu's attitude differs from that of Elijah who stood alone in unshakeable confidence in the Lord, over against the hostile power of the king, of all the priests of Baal, and of a people halting "between two opinions" standing alone against all, be­cause the God in whom he trusted was with him. No sub­tlety in this scene at the brook of Kishon! The authority of the prophet's word alone was enough to destroy all the priests of the false god!

It is not that Jehu did not appreciate the word of God spoken by Elijah, but he went no further. Beyond the prophet's word concerning himself he had no real under­standing of the thoughts of God. He quotes only Elijah (2 Kings 9: 25, 36; 2 Kings 10: 17); he does not know anything save the judg­ments of God. He does not even mention Elisha, whose career he had been able to follow from its beginning Grace has no hold upon his heart. Nothing is more dangerous than a partial understanding of divine principles. This al­ways leads to a false application of these principles and a bad walk. Jehu thought he had accomplished everything by his work of extermination, and did not understand that all the zeal imaginable was not worth a single act of obe­dience which would have separated him from the religion of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin.

At the time of the extermination of the priests of Baal, of their temple, and of their idol, when Jehu assigned his captain and his servants their roles with such great strategic sense (vv. 18‑27), Jehonadab the son of Rechab's manner of acting brings out the character of this man of God. Jehu had confided his plan to him; he accompanied Jehu, but did not appear (v. 23) except to verify that no servant of the Lord was confounded with the servants of Baal. Is not this a beautiful role, similar to that of Jeremiah: "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth" (Jer. 15: 19)? Jehonadab was as the mouth of the Lord in separating first of all his own house, then all the true servants of the Lord from the corrupt and idolatrous mass.

Today, as then, the work which separates from the world and gathers together all the children of God, for these two functions are but one, has the full approbation of the Lord, whatever the world may say, or even those Christians who wish to keep up relationships with the world. It is also there that power is found (Jer. 15: 20). Elijah possessed the Spirit of God who effected a complete separation from evil in him, and whose power animated the prophet with a holy zeal for the Lord. Jehu had zeal without the Spirit, a zeal using human means to answer to God's commands. What then will happen? If in appearance the result, the extermination of the priests of Baal, is the same with both Elijah and Jehu, it is completely otherwise in reality. Elijah, (all the while he is being disciplined) continues on his pathway in the power of the Spirit, resembling at the end of his career the Christ, whom in type he represents, and he ends gloriously, taken up to heaven by the chariot and horsemen of Israel. Jehu, fiery executor of judgment upon others, does not exercise it in any way upon himself, and does not turn aside from evil and idolatry to serve God alone The calves of Jeroboam, that national religion consecrated by usage, do not give offense to him, for unquestionably his politics and the human interests of his reign accommodate themselves to them perfectly. In spite of that, what a fair appraisal on God's part! He credits Jehu with the fact that he had "executed well that which is right in my sight" in judging the house of Ahab, and on this account gives him a posterity upon the throne unto the fourth generation.

On the other hand, what righteousness and what perfect holiness in God. He uses Hazael, His rod, to smite Jehu. "In those days Jehovah began to cut Israel short; and Hazael smote them in all the borders of Israel; from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, both Gilead and Bashan" (vv. 32‑33). During Jehu's lifetime his kingdom is cut short on all sides, and especially in the region of the tribes beyond Jordan. These woes are God's judgment upon his conduct. Here God expresses His discontent, not by words, but by acts, which do not seem to have reached the conscience of the king

The chronicles of the kings of Israel (v. 34), if they would ever be found, contain the acts and all the might of Jehu, but not what he was before God, nor the judgment of God upon his conduct as king

Jehoahaz, his son, then reigned in his stead.

2 Kings 11

Athaliah

Athaliah was a granddaughter of Omri, daughter of Ahab, sister of Jehoram of Israel, wife of Jehoram of Judah, and mother of Ahaziah. She had other sons of whom the greater part, no doubt, were from other mothers, for there were forty‑two of them (2 Kings 10: 14). We are told concerning them and their mother: "For the wicked Athaliah and her sons had devastated the house of God; and also all the hal­lowed things of the house of Jehovah had they employed for the Baals" (2 Chr. 24: 7). Is it astonishing that God should have permitted their extermination by Jehu? When Athaliah learned of the death of her son Ahaziah (the king's brothers had, as we have seen, suffered the same fate be­fore he did), this ambitious woman, without scruples and without natural affection, put to death all the king's sons-her own grandsons-in order to secure the kingdom for her­self. God's judgment passed like a tempestuous wind sweep­ing away everything in Israel and Judah. The instruments of this judgment were the fleshly zeal of Jehu and the in­iquity of Athaliah's idolatrous heart. Both produced the same result, massacre and murder. These instruments, especially Athaliah, imagined that they were thereby ac­complishing their plans, but in the final analysis, they were only the sword of the Lord to vindicate the holiness of his character by this extermination. Moreover, God will break the sword when it will have finished its work and will show in breaking it that He is a righteous God who does not leave crime unpunished.

The royal house of Israel is destroyed without leaving a single man, and God begins the trial of His patience again with a new dynasty, that of Jehu. But it is not so with the house of Judah. The faithful God keeps His word, for He had said that He would give David "always a lamp for his sons" (2 Kings 8: 19). In the person of Joash He sustains for Him­self a feeble candle stub which He does not extinguish, and through whom an era of blessing and of the fear of the Lord would be inaugurated for the kingdom of Judah. The long­suffering of God still delayed the moment of rejecting His guilty people.

Jehosheba, the daughter of Jehoram of Judah and sister of Ahaziah, the wife of Jehoiada the high priest, steals Joash away from the massacre of the king's sons and hides her nephew with her in the house of the Lord for six years, that is, in the part of the house of the Lord where her hus­band and the priests dwelt.

The presence of the seed of David manifests that which was according to the heart of the Lord in Judah. Around the anointed is grouped and concentrated everything that could work together for the restoration of the people. Despite all the disorder, the place where the Lord had made His name to dwell still existed, and the king was there se­curely under His safe‑keeping And, what is more, a faithful high priest could walk before the face of His anointed and regulate all things according to God's mind, the secret of which he had, even in the absence of a recognized royalty.

In the seventh year, true year of jubilee and of deliverance, Jehoiada presents the king's son to the officers of the army. He sets them, with most minute precautions, over the safe‑keeping of this sacred person, this precious jewel, without which the house of David would be extinguished. No profane person could approach this inviolable person without incurring death; his bodyguards accompany him upon his entering and his exiting. One feels that Jehoiada's heart is aflame for the son of David, his only hope and that of the kingdom, to lose him would be to lose all, and he did not want to be deprived of him at any cost.

Is not Jehoiada an example for us? Will we suffer in this difficult time, more perilous, despite all appearances, than that of Athaliah, that anyone touch the person of the Son of God? Let us surround Him, every one with his weapon in his hand. Our weapons are not carnal; they are the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Let us press together around Him, be we but a few, and God will be with us as He was with the faithful group that surrounded Joash, and the efforts of the enemy to destroy the name of the holy Son of God and to destroy his testimony will be foiled.

Jehoiada, to defend the kingship, has recourse to David's weapons. "And the priest gave to the captains of the hundreds king David's spears and shields which were in the house of Jehovah" (v. 10). Thus he returned to the origin of the divine institution of the kingship. These weapons were good and were kept in the house of God. So we too must defend "that which was from the beginning." We do not seek this Word in human arsenals, but in the temple of God. It is hidden there in the most holy place, where the Spirit of God alone is able to reveal it to us and make us take hold of it.

Then they bring Joash out to the entrance of the house, into its court. The king's son has upon himself the anointing oil which consecrates him; the crown, sign of his royal dignity; and "the testimony," the law, which the king, seated upon his throne, was to copy out for himself and from which he was to learn to fear the Lord and to keep His statutes (Deut. 17: 18‑20).

In spite of the surrounding poverty and the invasion of apostasy, what, in fact, was wanting for this restoration? The temple of God, His habitation in the midst of His own, was there; the high priest, the mediator between the Lord and the people, was there; the son of David was there, doubtless recognized only by some, but soon to be acclaimed by all the people; the anointing, the Holy Spirit, was there; and a feeble remnant acclaimed the anointed of the Lord and surrounded him, just as David's mighty men had at one time surrounded the king.

To Athaliah (vv. 13‑16), the restoration of the kingship according to God was a conspiracy. She cries, "Conspiracy,'" as Jehoram of Israel had cried, "Treason." Neither the one nor the other could assert their rights for a moment. Jehoram falls under the rod of God. Athaliah cannot assert any claim to these rights when the chosen of the Lord is made manifest. So it will be for Christ's enemies before the judgment and before the appearing of the glory of His kingdom. But what joy for the heart of Jehoiada and his faithful wife! They had waited patiently through a full cycle of years for the Lord's time to manifest His anointed; they did not allow themselves to become discouraged nor pressed by impatience into using human means to bring about the triumph of the king's cause. During these long years, they had lived in secret with the precious object of their hope, and at last they were receiving the glorious result of their faith. Let us imitate their patience. Our Joash is still in the secret place of the sanctuary. Let us there learn from day to day and from year to year to know Him better. May He increase in our eyes. Soon He shall appear, and all shall rejoice in this sight; but even today some, like Jehoiada and his wife, because they have dwelt with Him while He was not yet visible, will have been showing forth, while awaiting His glory, the bright rays of His dawning, like the morning star arisen in their hearts!

"And Jehoiada made a covenant between Jehovah and the king and the people, that they should be the people of Jehovah; and between the king and the people" (v. 17). A covenant supposes two parties: here, under the law, they engage themselves mutually, the Lord on the one side, the king and the people on the other. It is as if the king were answering for the people and the people for the king, as forming but one whole in relation to the Lord. But this engagement is rendered yet the more solemn by the covenant between the king and the people. They mutually engage themselves to follow the same path. "Then all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and broke it down: his altars and his images they broke in pieces completely, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars" (v. 18). It is a community of zeal for God. There is no need for the subtlety and artifices of Jehu (2 Kings 10: 18‑27) to extirpate Baal from Judah. One sees here the powerful action of the Spirit of God in a people-much more blessed, in sum, than the action of a single individual, even when in fact, he is accomplishing the will of God. Jehu had conceived his plan by himself alone and had confided its execution to guards and to captains. Here, the whole people, laying claim to their title as the people of the Lord, intimately bound to the king whom God had given them, extirpate Baal, his house and his worship; and for about 180 years, until the reign of ungodly Manasseh, this abominable idolatry disappears from the house of Judah.

Jehu had assembled all the people to speak to them with subtlety, doubtless not having confidence in their disposition. Here the people act in virtue of the covenant, and that is where it must begin. Jehu's zeal had not reestablished the covenant, though destroying Baal, and it goes no further than that. The ancient idolatry, Jeroboam's calves, exists for him, whereas the new idolatry has been extirpated. It is always thus when the flesh has a part in reform. It cannot remedy that abandoning of God which has characterized it from the beginning; otherwise it would no longer be the flesh. The natural man (and this takes place under our eyes every day), may well extirpate an idol, whether it be wine or any other vice, only to replace it with and to bring all the more into relief the idolatry of self, his own self‑righteousness, and his want of conscience with regard to God, a God whom he pretends, like Jehu, to serve with zeal.

Athaliah is led into the king's house by the way of the horse-gate, there to be put to death. Joash enters by another gate, that of the couriers, that he might sit peacefully upon the throne of David. The path to this throne must not be defiled by blood. It was not so for Jehu with relation to Jezebel. Her blood was sprinkled upon the wall and upon the horses, and Jehu, trampling her underfoot, entered into the house to eat and to drink (2 Kings 9: 33‑34). All this scene, though decreed by God, breathes "the fury" of him who is its author. In Judah, all takes places in solemn calm and in the consciousness of the presence of God, maintained by the high priest. It is with the Lord that souls have to do, for Him that they act, His honor that they seek, for, without these motives there could never be purification or complete restoration. In Judah this presence of God acting upon the conscience of the people brings, after purification, a blessed result. "All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet" (v. 20). Joy and peace are the portion of the souls who, in order to please God and serve Him, have separated them­selves from that which dishonors Him.

2 Kings 12

Joash, King of Judah

The condition of which we have spoken did not last. The reign of Joash is a sad example, given us by the Word, of a happy beginning in the power of the Spirit of God and an end from which everything the beginning had promised disappears. Byway of exception, Chronicles exposes to us the details of Joash's final unfaithfulness, whereas Kings, no doubt to establish the contrast between the worship of the true God reestablished in Judah and the idolatrous religion of Israel, speaks to us only of the happy and blessed beginning of this reign. Let us then begin with this, but let us first of all examine that which in Joash's character could lead to completely deny the principles that charac­terized the beginning of his career.

The first words of our account inform us as to this: "And Joash did what was right in the sight of Jehovah, all the days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him" (v. 2). Joash, brought up in the law of the Lord from most tender years, guarded with pious care from all outward tempta­tion through the solicitude of Jehoiada and Jehosheba, gift­ed with a pliant character, distinguished more by his sub­mission than by his energy, submitting to good influences as long as they prevailed, but in danger through lack of "virtue" of yielding to evil influences-Joash was ac­customed from childhood on to enjoy a relationship with God through an intermediary without feeling the need for direct communion with the Lord. Not that he lacked the spirit of initiative; the course of piety in which he was en­listed rendered him capable on occasion of reproving even the high priest himself (v. 7); but he lacked the immediate direction of the Spirit of God.

Children of Christians often offer this spectacle. Their parents' faith guides their first steps, a thing which is legiti­mate and approved of God. They later manifest a genuine faith, but not stripped of its first habits, looking to men rather than to God Himself. Their conscience has never been deeply exercised about man's sinful state and his natural distance from God. They believe that which they have always believed; however one cannot doubt that they have life. Their conduct leaves nothing to be desired, and they have a real interest in the things of God. The Word is not unknown to them, and one sees a Joash reminding even the high priest of the "tribute of Moses the servant of Jehovah laid upon the congregation of Israel, for the tent of testimony" (2 Chr. 24: 6). But the hour of their spiritual emancipation has not yet sounded, when it should have taken place long ago. Knowledge and real piety do not make up for the lack of a direct relationship of the soul with the Lord. The Christian must seek this before all else. Thou­sands of godly souls remain in a condition of childhood, de­pending first of all upon their parents, and later upon their spiritual leaders, instead of depending upon God and the Word. Let the leader disappear, and their godliness disap­pears with him; let him turn aside, and their soul turns aside after him. However amiable certain traits of this pi­ety may be, let us be kept from it, especially during the difficult times that we are passing through. Let us medi­tate often on this word of the apostle, addressed to the "lit­tle children": "And ye have the unction from the holy one, and ye know all things" (1 John 2: 20, 26‑27). Not that obe­dience to leaders should be wanting Christians are to obey their leaders and submit to them because "they watch over your souls"; the apostle also charges them to "Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God" (Heb. 13: 7, 17). In no wise, however, does this imply that they must submit to all these without discernment, nor, if they would be kept, that they should refrain from seeking direct and immediate communion with the Lord. Joash obeyed lead­ers indiscriminately, whether Jehoiada or the princes-and that was his ruin.

Leaders may change or fail; Christ alone does not change: He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is "the great shepherd of the sheep." It is to Him that we must cleave. This is one of the solemn instructions that the character and career of Joash offers us.

From the beginning of his reign, one thing, apparently secondary, foretold its decline: "Only, the high places were not removed: the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places" (v. 3). From Solomon's reign on, the presence of the high places was tolerated, for in the begin­ning, before the erection of the temple, these had not neces­sarily been idolatrous. Solomon had sacrificed to God at the great high place of Gibeon (1 Kings 3: 2‑4); but already the people, encouraged by the king's example, were seeing something else in this, and their superstitious or idolatrous thoughts rose up with the incense that was burned there. Through these high places of Rehoboam, Solomon's son, had allowed shameful idolatry to get a grip upon his kingdom. From thenceforth none of Judah's faithful kings had the courage to abolish them. Asa, whose "heart was perfect with Jehovah all his days," did not remove them (1 Kings 15: 14). Jehoshaphat, who "walked in all the way of Asa his father,' who "turned not aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of Jehovah," allowed them to remain (1 Kings 22: 43‑44). The high places are not spoken of in connection with Abijam the son of Rehoboam, Jehoram of Judah, and Ahaziah, because these ungodly kings followed the ways of the kings of Israel and engaged in worse idolatry than they. The same thing that is mentioned about Joash is mentioned again about Amaziah his son, although he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 14: 34); about Azariah (or Uzziah) the son of Amaziah (2 Kings 15: 34); about Jotham the son of Uzziah (2 Kings 15: 34‑35); whereas Ahaz the son of Jotham, who followed the ways of the kings of Israel, used the high places for his abominable idolatry (2 Kings 16: 34). With Hezekiah and the first true restoration of Judah, the high places at last disappeared (2 Kings 18: 4). Ungodly Manasseh, his son, rebuilt them (2 Kings 21: 3); Amon, Manasseh's son, followed the way of his father. Lastly, Josiah, at the time of the second restoration was not content merely to remove them like godly Hezekiah, but destroyed them altogether, defiled them, and filled the places where they had been with bones (2 Kings 23: 8, 13‑14). This destruction was so complete that none of the evil kings that followed found it possible to rebuild them. In actual fact, only one king of Judah, Josiah, and that near the end of the history of the people, definitely extirpated this evil, this permanent danger for the people of God. These end times, this time of ruin corresponding to our own day, give us such an example. If, as in Josiah's days, God's present testimony is of much lesser importance and extent in the eyes of men, if they even consider it according their own expression, as a negligible quantity, it is not so in God's eyes. The testimony of a Hezekiah or of a Josiah is recorded in His "book of remembrance," and although it raises but a temporary dike against the course of decline and but temporarily postpones the execution of judgment, it brings out the character of God in this world and serves as a means of salvation or edification for the good of souls.

Joash's first concern was the temple of the Lord, the place of God's presence in the midst of His people. When there is a revival of godliness, this neglected object requires a totally new value. God's children feel the need of gathering there where the Lord has been pleased to make His name to dwell, and of honoring His presence in the midst of His own by their activity, by their devotion, and by all their conduct.

"And Joash said to the priests, All the money of the hallowed things that is brought into the house of Jehovah, the money of every one that passes the account, the money at which every man is valued, and all the money that comes into any man's heart to bring into the house of Jehovah, let the priests take it, every man of his acquaintance; and let them repair the breaches of the house, wherever any breach is found" (vv. 4‑5).

As we have said before, we see here with Joash an exact knowledge of the law of the Lord which had been given him at his coronation. A goodly sum must have been employed, according to the king's order, for the restoration of the sanctuary. First of all, we have "all the money of the hallowed things that is brought into the house of Jehovah." This included all the cases mentioned by Moses of voluntary gifts and gifts of "a willing heart" for the building of the sanctuary (Ex. 35: 5, 20‑29; Num. 7). Money from the spoil may be included in this category (Num. 31: 25‑54). Atonement money and ransom money made up the second category (Ex. 30: 11‑16; Num. 3: 44‑51). Lastly, the money at which every man was valued at consisted of every voluntary gift which was not prescribed by any law or ordinance. This was given at different times, as some of the passages referred to show us. To Joash the important thing was to go back to "the tribute of Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness" (2 Chr. 24: 9), and not to turn aside from the word of the law, when it was a matter of honoring the house of God and all that was connected with it. It is the same in our day, No more than for Joash is it a question for us of beginning to build the house, of re‑erecting a new Church; it is only a matter of repairing the breaches, and for that God does not abandon us to our own initiative which would but add new breaches to the ancient evils. In the Word of God we too have our tribute of Moses, the indication of what God is expecting of us; and if our hearts are "willing," they will seek but one thing, the interests of Christ and of the house of God upon earth.

If Joash is full of zeal at this moment, he does not find this same degree of zeal in the priesthood or even in godly Jehoiada who is its head. The priests were employing for their own use the gifts they received from their acquaintances (vv. 7‑8). It was not that they did not have the right to live from the things offered at the altar, but their own interest were taking precedence in their hearts over those of the Lord and of His house; their conduct showed this. They lived from their gifts, and the house of God retained its breaches. Jehoiada himself let them do so without protesting Further down (v. 15) we see that people without any official character, from among those who were set over the work down to the carpenters and masons, "dealt faithfully," much more so than the priests themselves. May we exhort ourselves, following the example of these men, to show the same heart for the work and faithfulness in the service entrusted to us, in order to "adorn the teaching which is of our Savior God in all things" (Titus 2: 10).

On the other hand, those who had the money in hand to distribute to the workers, did not distrust them, for they recognized the selflessness brought to light by their entire conduct. Thus a happy communion reigned among all, and nothing came in to hinder the orderly advance of the work. Such a result is always produced when the interests of the house of God, instead of being relegated to the background, are considered as the chief thing.

In spite of this, the needs of the priests were not forgotten. Certain sums (the monies of the trespass and sin offerings) were not deposited in the chest placed at the entry of the house of the Lord, and these remained set apart for the priesthood (v. 16). Thus everything was provided for with order and measure.

Between verses 16 and 17, the account in 2 Chronicles 24: 17‑22 is woven in, that is to say, the fall of Joash who went as far as to murder Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. When we come to the books of Chronicles, there will be time to meditate upon this last sad year of such a lovely reign; but this deed was enough to destroy the fruit of Joash's testimony.

Hazael, the king of Syria, God's rod, comes up against Jerusalem after having seized Gath, located at the foot of the mountains of Judah and which formed the key to the land on the side of the land of the Philistines. Joash, in order to pay his ransom to Hazael, sent him all the hal­lowed things of the house of God. What had become of his wonderful zeal for all that pertained to Jehovah? Accord­ing to 2 Chronicles 24: 23‑27, this did not prevent Hazael from presenting himself at Jerusalem with a small num­ber of men, to the shame and disgrace of Joash's great army, now without strength because he had forsaken the Lord, the God of his fathers. All the princes of the people who had incited the king to evil and had conspired against Zechariah are put to death. Thus the word spoken by that dying prophet was fulfilled: "Jehovah see and require it." Joash himself, left "in great diseases" by the enemy, is slain by his servants, an Ammonite and a Moabite, unconscious instruments of divine justice, this also avenging the blood of the son of Jehoiada upon the king according to the word of the prophet.

2 Kings 13: 1‑9

Jehoahaz' son of Jehu, King of Israel

The Lord fulfilled His promise made to Jehu: "Thy chil­dren of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Is­rael" (2 Kings 10‑30). Jehoahaz succeeded his father. Second Chronicles, which gives the history of the family of David, makes no mention of Jehoahaz because there were no rela­tionships between this king and Judah. When such rela­tionships did not exist, this book passes over those kings in silence. Jehoahaz did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam any more than did his father, and even the Asherah, idol of the Phoenician goddess of love, whose impure worship had been inaugurated by Ahab at Samaria (1 Kings 16: 33) remained in Israel's capital. Also God's rod, in the persons of Hazael and Ben‑Hadad his son, continued to beat down the ten tribes.

Nevertheless, what mercy in the heart of God! It is sufficient that Jehoahaz, without his heart being changed in any way, besought the Lord, for Him to answer, moved by the misery and oppression of Israel. "And Jehoahaz be­sought Jehovah, and Jehovah hearkened to him; for he saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them" (2 Kings 13: 4). He takes account of the slightest movement of an unhappy soul toward Himself. God is very easily found. Who henceforth might be able to say that he had sought Him in vain, when the most ungodly man, should he but for an instant turn toward Him, would receive an answer? "And Jehovah gave Israel a savior, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before" (v. 5). This savior appeared, as we shall see, in the person of Joash, the son and successor of Jehoahaz. At last the people might enjoy a little quiet. Had they attributed this favor to God, this blessing would have continued, but "they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, ' but "walked therein" (v. 6). The remark is constantly made that the world gladly enjoys God's favors without being the least bit careful to serve him.

2 Kings 13: 10‑25

Joash, King of Israel, and Elisha

Joash, the son of Jehoahaz and grandson of Jehu, reigned sixteen years, the first three years simultaneously with Joash, king of Judah, whose reign lasted forty years. Not only did he not turn aside from any of the sins of Jeroboam, but "he walked therein" (v. 11), the Word here indicating to us that he took them as his rule of conduct. These kings of Israel who one after another followed the same path had very powerful and readily discerned motives for acting thus. Indeed, their authority and the possession of their kingdom were, humanly speaking, bound to a religion which separated them from Judah's worship with its temple and Jerusalem as its center. To return to the worship of Jehovah would have been to abandon their dominion, to submit themselves to the family of David, and to renounce their own royal prerogatives. Their thoughts naturally had no connection with those of God. The Lord's judgment had separated the ten tribes from the house of David. Had they remained faithful to the Lord, He would doubtless have taught them the way to combine His worship with their being deprived of the temple. But rather than that, though separating them in practical respects from Judah, He could have kept them in relationship religiously with the temple at Jerusalem. This is all the more striking in Joash of Israel's case, in that later God delivered into his hand the king of Judah and Jerusalem. If he had had any concern for Jehovah whatever, occasion was thus offered him to renew the religious bond with the temple of God that had been broken by Jeroboam. Much later still, Josiah, this faithful king of Judah, furnishes us with another example. Without pretending to recover his royal prerogatives over Ephraim, by his zeal he becomes the restorer of the worship of Jehovah among those of the ten tribes who had escaped the captivity (2 Kings 23: 15‑20).

As for the power of Joash of Israel, it was great. His reign was important, and he accomplished many things. But he lived without God, and what is left of him? As with so many other rulers over men, nothing remains as to him but this word: "This man was born there" (Ps. 87: 4).

There was however a bright spot in the life of Joash of Israel (vv. 14‑21), as in that of Jehoahaz. The latter, at a time of oppression and misery, besought the Lord, who answered him. Joash went to visit Elisha when Elisha was dying, and wept over his face. At this time circumstances were still as difficult for him as they had been for his father. Hazael, and after him his son Ben‑Hadad, were making their yoke weigh heavily upon Israel. The "savior of Israel" had not yet been manifested in the person of Joash. Only God's grace could consecrate him for this work; but meanwhile the prophet, dispenser of this grace, was about to die. With him the last means of deliverance for the people would disappear. What would become of Israel without him? The king laments, weeps over the face of Elisha, crying out: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" Remembering the prophet's word at Elijah's rapture, he thus expresses his sorrow at losing him. Was not he, Elisha, the prophet of grace, who was about to die, as worthy of going up to heaven as Elijah? At the same time the king was bearing witness by these words that Elisha had the same value to him that Elijah had had to Elisha. If the only agent of blessing between God and Israel must die, all blessing was then lost to this oppressed people. Joash's heart is torn. Perhaps this was merely a superficial feeling, in any case it was not very long‑lasting, but it was one that drew the sympathy of the heart of God to this votary of idols. He had promised a savior to Israel; Joash would be this savior. Had he not gone down to Elisha, deliverance would have been hindered, and victory impossible.

Let us notice an interesting fact: We have here two histories of Joash, each one ending in a summary which repeats the same words (vv. 12‑13; 2 Kings 14: 15‑16). The first history contains the king's general character; the second, his victories over Syria and over Judah. Between these two portions we find the end of Elisha's career, and what was able to make of this evil king an instrument of deliverance for his people. This was grace. God shows grace whenever and as long as He is able to do so. Grace delights in a soul in which even a flash of repentance appears, or in the mere sigh of an oppressed heart. With his last breath the prophet's moments, now numbered, are yet used to rekindle, be it but for an instant, the little spark of life still remaining in the heart of the king, this blackened firebrand.

Moreover, let us notice that the word spoken to Elijah: "Him that escapeth the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay," is only fulfilled, and that prophetically, in these last mo­ments of the prophet's life. So little is he a prophet of judg­ment that he does not exercise judgment except in figure, and even this judgment is nothing other than the salva­tion of Israel and its deliverance from the yoke of Syria. Thus, as we have seen all though his history, Elisha never loses his character of grace, but in order to communicate grace to his people, he must die, and this is what we shall find in the passage now occupying us.

If Joash is to become a savior for Israel, it will in no wise be because he merits this title by or in himself. His heart is unchanged, his ungodliness remains, but God will use him as instrument of a salvation whose starting‑point is the death of the man of God. "And Elisha said to him, Take bow and arrows. And he took a bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thy hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it; and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands, and said, Open the window eastward" (vv. 15‑17). The king was only to follow Elisha's word and must not take any initiative, but more than that, it is Elisha's hands that direct the hand of the king, that identify them­selves with the judgment of Ben‑Hadad, but at the same time with the salvation that this judgment would bring about for Israel. Elisha's hands are those of the savior of the people; without them there would not be any deliver­ance. Here the prophet is the representative of the Lord; it must be demonstrated that everything comes from Him.

"Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, An arrow of Jehovah's deliverance, even an arrow of deliver­ance from the Syrians; and thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou hast consumed them" (v. 17). The king shoots his arrow eastward; nothing is done without the word of God. Joash is unable to understand anything of this; the prophet must explain the matter to him. It is needful for Joash to know that he is an instrument devoid of ac­tion, having no worth in himself, when God condescends to employ him.

"An arrow of Jehovah's deliverance!" Such is the gener­al plan. Next we find the detail of the defeat of the Syri­ans. "And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed" (v. 18). The destruction of Syria would depend upon the degree of faith, of zeal, of trust in God which Joash is about to display. It will be shown whether this instrument can become a means of complete deliverance for Israel by itself. Alas! When it is a matter of smiting upon the ground without having Elisha's hands over his hands, when, in a word, he is left to his own resources, the king strikes the ground with his arrows three times and stops. Before so much grace and condescension on God's part, the man shows himself to be not only insuffi­cient, but faithless. Before, when he was shooting his ar­rows eastward, he was ignorant of the significance of this act and was not responsible to know it. God explained it to him. Now that he could understand it in striking his ar­rows upon the ground, he stops. The wrath of the man of God, God's wrath, blazes against him: I would have com­pletely delivered this people; that depended upon you, and you were not willing to do so! You shall smite the enemy but thrice.

Just as does Elijah's end, so Elisha's speaks to us of Christ. It is with a dying Christ that we find grace and deliverance. A sigh sent up to Him is enough that one can be freed from the enemy who is oppressing us. This salvation is offered to the most wretched, to the most unworthy, who may thus become instrument of deliverance for others. What an honor and what a privilege! But the heart's natural unbelief paralyzes the action of the Spirit and reduces all God's good will towards man to nothing As long as we allow ourselves to be directed by the word in every movement we must make (this account is the evident confirmation of this), success is assured to us; once the least thing is left to our responsibility, we grind to a halt and thus thwart the Lord's plans of grace.

The scene that follows (vv. 20‑21) is as striking as that which we have just considered. The history of Elisha does not end with the prophet's wrath, but ends with death for himself and resurrection for others. During his lifetime, Elisha, like Elijah his master, had brought a dead person back to life. This event, which in itself alone demonstrated God's presence in a man in the midst of Israel-this event which later characterized the Son of God at the tomb of Lazarus-had even reached the ears of the king. But a scene marvelous in another way from that of the Shunammite's son unfolds before us now. It is in his death that Elisha becomes the means of life for one who is dead. It was reserved for Another, and for Him alone, to come forth from the tomb in the power of the life that was in Himself, and to be declared Son of God in power, Son of the living God, through His own resurrection. Here it is by the death of the prophet, in touching Elisha's bones, that one who had died finds life. This thing became much more real, even in a material way, at the death of our beloved Savior. It was at His death, when He had dismissed His spirit, that the bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised to enter into the holy city. From the moral and spiritual aspect it is by entering through faith into contact with a dead Christ that we have eternal life and resurrection in the last day (John 6: 54). In His death the power of death has been conquered for us, and the dominion of him who held this power is broken. He who was unable not to want to die, has died that He might give life.

However, let us not forget the prophetic character of this scene. The end of Israel's last great prophet, the herald of grace, is not linked up with chariots and horsemen which carry him to heaven; it is linked up with a tomb. "Elisha died, and they buried him." After his death the enemy's oppression is displayed in a Moabite incursion upon Israel's territory. The poor people do not even have leisure to bury their dead, but they find the sepulchre of Elisha just in the nick of time to cast in a dead body. From the moment that this dead body, typical of Israel, is laid among the dead and comes into actual contact with the dead prophet, from the moment that he "touched the bones of Elisha, and he revived, and stood upon his feet" (v. 21). So it will be with Israel in the last days; Israel will find national life again and come forth from among the dead from the moment they enter into relationship with Him whom they have pierced, and believe in Him. This will be the last miracle of grace worked for this people, when it will have been demonstrated that the nation's state is without resource and hopeless. The history of Elisha ends here.

In verses 22 to 25, the prophet's word to Joash is fulfilled. Hazael had taken the cities of Israel away from Jehoahaz; Joash retakes them from Ben‑Hadad, the son of Hazael, and "three times did Joash beat him."

 

2 Kings 14: 1‑22

Joash, King of Israel-Amaziah, King of Judah

Amaziah, the son of Joash king of Judah, began to reign in the second year of Joash king of Israel. He reigned fifteen years simultaneously with this king and twenty‑nine years in all at Jerusalem. At this point let us notice here in the history in kings, the role of mothers in the conduct of their children. When these mothers come from Judah and Jerusalem, it is rare to see their sons follow the worship of false gods. Only the four last kings of Judah, in the time of its thorough decadence, escape this influence of their mothers, who were of the same tribe and were them­selves enveloped, so to speak, in this apostasy. It is said of these kings, that they "did evil in the sight of Jehovah, ac­cording to all that his father(s) had done." But we shall come back to this remark again.

The mother of Joash of Judah was Zibiah of Beer‑sheba; the mother of Amaziah the son of Joash was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. We shall meet other such examples. Contrar­iwise, the influence of idolatrous mothers or wives was per­nicious for the kings.

The wife of Jehoram of Judah was Athaliah, the daugh­ter of Ahab (2 Kings 8: 18); Ahaziah was the son of Athaliah (2 Kings 8: 26). This observation should make Christian mothers realize their responsibility and ought to exercise them to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord; on the other hand it shows that the union of a Christian family head with a woman of the world is morally disastrous for the children issuing from such a union.

Amaziah "did what was right in the sight of Jehovah, yet not like David his father: he did according to all that Joash his father had done" (v. 3). To govern his conduct, Amazi­ah should have gone back to the origin of the kingship and to the conduct of David, king according to God's heart. No doubt David had seriously failed in his life and had had to undergo severe discipline on this account; but David's heart had always been upright when it had been a matter of the Lord's service and of the throne of God in the midst of His people. Amaziah followed the footsteps of his father Joash whose life was divided, as we have seen, into two very distinct periods, one of true godliness, the other of a decline all the more marked in that its beginnings had been so brilliant.

Nevertheless, this beginning by itself does not denote a heart devoted unreservedly to the service of the Lord. A straw in a piece of cast iron is enough to cause it to break when the right occasion presents itself. This straw was the maintenance of the high places. We have already spoken of this subject, and we return to it to observe that, apart from the two exceptions already mentioned, this word "Only, the high places were not removed" is like a refrain accompanying the history of the faithful kings of Judah; whereas another refrain, "He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin," designates the kings of Israel. These kings ordered their conduct in matters religious according to that of the head of their royal house, who was an idolater. The kings of Judah, instead of governing themselves according to David their father, were generally content to seek their point of departure in the reign of Solomon, who had not abolished the high places. But it is always very dangerous to accommodate oneself to a system which, even when boasting of great antiquity, does not seek the mind of God as its source. This is also the history of the responsible Church. Instead of link­ing up her testimony with "that which was from the be­ginning," she found her starting‑point in the customs, tra­ditions, and principles that characterized her when she was already in decline. Joash tolerated the people's incense-burning upon the high places; he himself, no doubt, did not participate in these idolatrous customs, but he was no less guilty. To tolerate evil in the people whom God had entrust­ed to him was the equivalent of committing it himself.

A second point is to Amaziah's praise: "And it came to pass when the kingdom was established in his hand, that he slew his servants who had smitten the king his father" (v. 5). He did not let evil go unpunished in the sphere of his responsibility. At least in this respect he understood, like Solomon at his accession to the throne, that to toler­ate crime and evil was to make himself liable for it. This question of liability is little understood today. Most Chris­tians feel that they are not guilty in tolerating evil in the sphere to which they belong, that their responsibility is taken care of if they abstain from evil personally. This is a serious error, which sooner or later bears its sad fruits! "Holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for ever" (Ps. 93: 5)-not only the Christian individually. The ruin and final apostasy of Christendom plays a large part in the mis­understanding of this truth. In this at least, Amaziah was faithful, somewhat counterbalancing his lack of vigilance with respect to the high places.

"But,' it is added, "the children of those that smote him he did not put to death; according to that which is written in the book of the law of Moses wherein Jehovah command­ed saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the chil­dren, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin" (v. 6). There again, Amaziah shows an intelligent respect for the Word of God. This commandment of the Lord had been given in Deuteronomy 24: 16 and Amaziah governed himself by it with the obedient heart required of all those who hear and read His Word.

Between verses 6 and 7 we have an intentional hiatus filled in by 2 Chronicles 25: 5‑16. We shall follow our cus­tom of not, except in passing, encroaching upon that which this latter book presents, for by this omission the Word brings out the sin of the kings of Israel, by opposing it to that which was righteous and godly in the conduct of the kings of Judah. Nevertheless, the account in Chronicles gives us to understand the event related in verses 7 to 14 of our chapter. Amaziah, for a time disposed to use troops of Israel whom he had hired to fight Edom, and warned by the prophet that "Jehovah is not with Israel," gives up his project which had already been executed in part and sends this contingent back to their homes. With only his own army and in dependence upon the Lord, he undertakes the campaign against Edom, and wins a brilliant victory. The troops of Israel that had been dismissed fall upon the ci­ties of Judah, smiting three thousand men and taking much spoil. But, as the prophet had said to Amaziah, the Lord was able to give him much more than the wages given to the men of Ephraim. If he must in some measure incur the consequences of his unbelief in hiring them without having consulted the Lord, he can on the other hand count upon the blessing that follows obedience.

This calamity, casting a pall upon his victory over Edom, does not drive the king to the Lord. Even his victory becomes an occasion of stumbling for him. He brings the gods of the Edomites to Judah and bows down before them without listening to the protests of a new prophet.

His pride as a victorious king being wounded, and incensed by the humiliation which the troops of Ephraim had inflicted upon him, Amaziah provokes Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. He collides with a pride even greater than his own. Joash answers him by a very transparent parable: Jehoram of Judah, the thorn‑bush of Lebanon, husband of Athaliah the daughter of Ahab, had sent to Jehoram of Israel, the cedar of Lebanon, asking him for a wife from the house of Ahab for his son Ahaziah. Jehu, the wild beast in Lebanon, had trodden underfoot Ahaziah, the king of Judah . . . And now his successor, instead of humbling himself, was glorying in his victory over Edom! Here we see Joash's irritation break forth, seeing his military forces despised while Judah alone had been sufficient to conquer Edom.

Amaziah does not listen to this warning, and "it was of God," Chronicles tell us (2 Chr. 25: 20), "that he might deliver them into the enemy's hand, because they had sought after the gods of Edom." Judah is beaten, Amaziah taken prisoner, Jerusalem broken down, all the treasures of the king and of the temple taken away as spoil along with hostages (vv. 12‑14). Amaziah meets his God, whom he had professed to serve and honor, as a consuming fire from that moment when he forsakes Him to serve other gods.

This same unfaithfulness is the cause of Amaziah's tragic death. Our chapter simply recounts that they conspired against him at Jerusalem and that he fled to Lachish, that they sent after him to slay him, and that they brought him on horses to bury him with his fathers in the city of David. But Chronicles gives us the solemn reason for this drama: "From the time that Amaziah turned aside from following Jehovah, they made a conspiracy against him."

In the meantime (vv. 15‑16), Joash of Israel, the son of Jehoahaz, died so that Amaziah lived an additional fifteen years after his conqueror. His son Azariah succeeded him. He recovered Elath for Judah and restored it. This city which previously, together with all the territory of Edom to which it belonged, had been under the rule of David and had formed part of the Solomon's dominion, had been an important outlet for his maritime power, for it was located not far from Ezion‑Geber on the shore of the Red Sea (1 Kings 9: 26; 2 Chr. 8: 17). After Azariah, it did not remain in the hands of Judah for long Sixty‑eight years later, Rezin the king of Syria, recovered it (2 Kings 16: 6).

 

2 Kings 14: 23‑29

Jeroboam II, King of Israel

Jeroboam, king of Israel, the third successor of Jehu, suc­ceeds Joash, his father. "He did evil in the sight of Jehovah: he departed not from any of the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin" (v. 24). Nonetheless his reign lasted forty‑one years! One might believe, and we have several examples in this history, that God always prompt­ly cut off the kings whose conduct dishonored Him. Such is the case with Zechariah, the son of this same Jeroboam (2 Kings 15: 8), but it is not so here. God has different ways which He knows how to reconcile with His longsuffering and His mercy. His pity for Israel's state of being oppressed directs His ways concerning Jeroboam's reign. "Jehovah saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and that there was not any shut up, nor any‑left, nor any helper for Israel. And Jehovah had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under the heavens; and he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash" (vv. 26‑27). God raises up a savior for this people in the person of this king who had incurred His displeasure, just as He had previously done with Joash his father (2 Kings 13: 5). "He restored the bord­er of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the sea of the plain" (v. 25).

The territory of Hamath, the principal city of upper Syr­ia, had at one time belonged to Solomon (2 Chr. 8: 3). Jeroboam's victory restored to Israel "the entrance of Hamath," a very important strategic position. The city of Hamath itself does not seem to have been part of the con­quest, but the borders of Israel were restored from the en­trance of Hamath to the Salt Sea, which is the Dead Sea (cf. Joshua 3: 16). Taking possession of this enlarged Israel's territory at the expense of that of Judah, for a part of Damascus and of Hamath had formerly belonged to the lat­ter (v. 28).

Jonah the prophet, the son of Amittai, had announced this event beforehand (v. 25). Jonah is the first prophet about whom we have a prophetic writing Our passage here presents him as a prophet of Israel. His prophecy has not been preserved for us. It spoke of a particular event which had no abiding import. It is mentioned in Scripture, but it is not, according to what we have in 2 Peter 1: 20, a "prophecy of scripture." The latter is never interpreted by the events near at hand to which it alludes. Jonah is presented to us in this passage as a prophet of grace and of temporary deliverance of Israel.

A few words will suffice to characterize the book which speaks of him. Jonah, representing the people who glory in their legal righteousness, rebels against the Lord, who wishes to send him to the Gentiles. He is for the moment thrown into the sea by the nations whose ship can then sail in peace upon a calmed sea. At the end of three days, the prophet, representing the Messiah who takes the place of unfaithful Israel, is raised, and the new Israel announces the judgment and grace that follow its repentance. He is then enlightened as to the merciful purposes of the Lord.

Apart from its prophetic meaning which ought not to de­tain us here, Jonah's preaching against Nineveh has a historical importance for the course of events which are un­folded in this part of the book of kings. It shows us the con­siderable role of the Assyrian kingdom at this epoch, a kingdom which would enter into conflict with that of Is­rael, to accomplish the judgments of God.

The prophet Amos, who prophesied in the same epoch, announced to the house of Israel that Jeroboam's conquests would not be long‑lasting The Assyrian would capture these from them. "For behold, O house of Israel, said Je­hovah the God of hosts, I will raise up against you a na­tion; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hamath unto the torrent of the Arabah" (Amos 6: 14). Less than one hundred years later, this prophecy was realized under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18: 34; 2 Kings 19: 13). Jeroboam had "put far away the evil day" (Amos 6: 3), in reconquering Israel's borders to "Hamath the great" (Amos 6: 1‑2), and unto the sea of the plain. Behold, says Amos, the evil day is near at hand. On the eve of ruin, the prince was relaxing, think­ing only of his ease (Amos 6: 4), and behold, Hamath itself and Gath (recaptured by Uzziah-2 Chr. 26: 6), and Calneh and Babylonia were about to fall into the hands of the As­syrians! The house of Jeroboam was threatened with ruin under the judgment of the Lord, who would "not again pass" His people any more, and who would cause judgment to fall upon them from top to bottom, even to their founda­tions (Amos 7: 7‑9).

It is remarkable that Hosea, prophesying under the reign of Uzziah, of Jotham, of Ahaz, and of Hezekiah, kings of Judah, mentions only Jeroboam, king of Israel, and passes over his successors, under whom he likewise prophesied, in silence (Hosea 1: 1). For him their history seems to stop with Jeroboam, although Zechariah, this latter's son, represented the fourth generation granted the house of Jehu by the Lord (2 Kings 10: 30). But Zechariah, the last link of this chain, is in fact already rejected. He reigns only six months, and God turns away from him and his successors, according to His word: "I will not again pass by them any more" (Amos 7: 8; Amos 8: 2); and according to that which Hosea says: "They have set up kings, but not by me" (Hosea 8: 4).

Amos gives us some details about the end of the reign of Jeroboam II (Amos 7: 10‑17). Amaziah, priest of the calf at Bethel, warns the king that Amos is prophesying against Israel, adding (which was a lie) that he had foretold the violent death of the king By this slander, Amaziah was seeking to rid himself of the prophet and to have him sent away to Judah, for he was giving him competition at Bethel, "the king's sanctuary, and . . . the house of the kingdom." (Bethel, "the house of God" had been completely forgotten.) God's true witness embarrasses Amaziah, who clings to his usurped priesthood and to his official position. Amos an­swers him: "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was a herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And Jehovah took me as I followed the flock, and Jehovah said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel" (Amos 7: 14‑15). Amos was not dependent upon a prophets' school, but directly upon God, nor was he of the priestly family. Christ expresses Himself likewise later on in the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 13: 6). The Holy Spirit had chosen Amos from among the shepherds of Tekoa (Amos 1: 1), from being among the sheep, just as He had formerly chosen David, His anointed. The Lord had said to him, "Go" and he had gone. We have in Amos an example of the ministry that is attached directly to that of Christ, and that is a foretaste of what the entire Christian ministry later on would be, or rather ought to be. Now the prophet takes the false minister and his false pretensions to task directly: "There­fore thus said Jehovah: Thy wife shall be a harlot in the city, and thy sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided with the line; and thou shalt die in a land that is unclean; and Israel shall certainly go into captivity, out of his land" (Amos 7: 17).

A terrible judgment must fall upon these official men in the service of the world and of its false gods whom they christen with the name of the Lord; as for Israel, they must certainly be carried away captive. Henceforth there would be no more repentance in God's heart with respect to them. The time was come; it was too late, as it is said in Revela­tion 22: 11: "Let him that does unrighteously do unrighte­ously still; and let the filthy make himself filthy still!" Judah was to be spared a while yet, and God wanted to produce revivals there until the hour foretold by Jeremiah would sound for Judah.

2 Kings 15: 1‑7

Azariah or Uzziah, King of Judah

Second Chronicles 26 gives us the detailed history of Azariah or Uzziah, who succeeded Amaziah, his father. His mother was of Jerusalem. His reign was long, beginning when he was still very young. "And he did what was right in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only,' the account adds, "the high places were not removed: the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places" ever the habitual refrain for Judah, just as with the calves of Jeroboam for Israel. The prophet Micah alludes to these two characters to explain the judgment of God upon his people. "For the transgression of Jacob is all this " he says, "and for the sins of the house of Israel. Whence is the transgression of Jacob? is it not from Samaria? And whence are the high places of Judah? are they not from Jerusalem?"(Micah 1: 5).

Our account of the reign of Uzziah contains the same hiatus that we have already noted with regard to Amaziah.

Like the idolatry of the latter, the sin of Uzziah, reported in 2 Chronicles 26, is passed over in silence. We have above said that the reason is evident. It is a matter of bringing out, without weakening it by the account of their faults and of their inconsistencies, the piety of the kings of Judah, con­trasting this with the idolatry of the kings of Israel which cried to the Lord for vengeance. Here we find only, "And Jehovah smote the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house," (v. 5) without the cause of his judgment being mentioned.

In fact, Uzziah, blessed at the beginning for his faith­fulness, but puffed up by the enormous success of his career, had thought he could usurp the high priest's place in offer­ing incense upon the golden altar himself. This act may recall the rebellion of the Levite, Korah, long before, who wanted to take Aaron's place. But with Uzziah this evil had another character. The idea of his dignity, of his consider­able importance as king, led him, the civil power, to usurp the religious authority. This sin forms one of the numer­ous elements of present‑day Christendom. The Lord judges Uzziah by striking him with leprosy. He is expelled from the temple by the priests and remained excluded from the congregation of Israel until his death. This authority, of which he was so proud and the honor of which he had not attributed to the Lord, is removed from him and entrusted to his son Jotham years before his death. It was impossible to tolerate fleshly pretensions-terrible defilement when one brought these into the house of God-and Uzziah dies, separated from the blessings of this house for having dis­regarded the dignity of the high priesthood (type of that of Christ), which the Lord had established there.

2 Kings 16: 8‑12

Zechariah, King of Israel

We shall not enter into the chronological difficulties raised concerning the date of the accession to the throne of Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, our purpose not be­ing to answer here the attacks of unbelief. When difficul­ties are raised by human reasoning, wisdom consists in waiting upon God to resolve them, if we lack the necessary light. Our dependence upon Him is thus put to the test, and we can be certain that in due time we shall receive the answer. How often have Christians who were in hum­ble submission to the Word made this experience!

Zechariah, the last king descended from Jehu, reigns only six months at Samaria. "And he did evil in the sight of Je­hovah, according as his fathers had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Is­rael to sin." If, as we have seen, the godly kings of Judah were lacking in energy to abolish the high places-and how Solomon's negligence in respect to this had born disastrous results among his successors, accustomed to patterning themselves according to the customs tolerated by the glori­ous head of their dynasty-those of Israel, by contrast, had walked resolutely in the custom instituted by Jeroboam I. Examples are not wanting in present‑day Christendom to characterize these two tendencies. From the moment when, not going back to the pure fountain of the Word of God, Protestant Christendom, at the very time when accept­ing the scriptural truths proclaimed by the reformers, also accepted certain anti‑scriptural dogmas which these had not given up, all was already destined for quick ruin. From the moment when, walking in the semi‑idolatrous religion of the bishops of Rome or of the East, Catholicism forsook the Word of God to substitute its own fables for it, judg­ment must overtake it. It has been pronounced and will in the near future fall on the great harlot.

Here the final period of usurpations and of assassinations which precede the carrying away of the ten tribes begins, the period of which Hosea, the prophet of Israel, had said: "They are all hot as an oven, and devour their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me" (Hosea 7: 7). The heart of the prophet in his lengthy lamentation betrays his anguish concerning Israel. The time had come when God would "visit the blood of Jiz­reel upon the house of Jehu, and cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease" (Hosea 1: 4). The Lord had kept si­lent about the blood shed by Jehu at Jizreel; He had not spoken of it to anyone, no, not even to guilty Jehu. Con­trariwise, it might have seemed to him that when God said to him, "Thou has executed well that which is right in my sight" (2 Kings 10: 30), and I shall reward thee, that God was approving all that Jehu had done. Far from it! If the Lord had raised him up for judgment and approved him in that, the time was come when the fleshly guile and the furious violence of this king must find their chastisement. The word of the Lord: "Thy sons shall sit upon the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation" (2 Kings 15: 12), had been ac­complished as recompense, and now His word was being accomplished in retribution and in righteous judgment. What a God is ours! Who is able, as He is, to weigh in the same balance both the acts He approves of and those He condemns, to reward and to punish them in rendering retri­bution according to His ways of righteous government?

 

2 Kings 15: 13‑22

Shallum and Menahem, Kings of Israel

Shallum conspired against Zechariah, killed him, and reigned in his stead. His crime scarcely benefited him, for at the end of a month he fell beneath the blows of Menahem. We are touching the reason for all these acts of violence: each is wanting to usurp power for his own gain. With conscience no longer lifting up its voice, sinners are delivered up to all the instincts of their evil nature.

The city of Tiphsah not having wanted to open its gates to Menahem, he treats it with utmost cruelty. He succeeds in maintaining himself upon the throne for ten years. He does that which is evil, walking in the sins of Jeroboam all his days. Under his reign the Assyrians at last appear upon the scene: "Pul the king of Assyria came against the land" (v. 19). This is the first king of Assyria whose name is mentioned in biblical history. This personage has occasioned much debate among critics, who seem to agree now to consider him identical with Tiglath‑Pileser, one of the greatest and best‑known among the Assyrian monarchs (2 Kings 15: 29; 2 Kings 16: 7; etc.). In keeping simply to the letter of Scripture, we shall rather be led to see in Pul, king of Assyria, a distinct person, according to what is told us in 1 Chronicle 5: 26: "And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath‑Pileser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh." The carrying away of the tribes beyond the Jordan is attributed in verse 29 of our chapter to Tiglath‑Pileser, whereas Pul is presented to us in verse 19 as coming against Israel, but influenced by an immense tribute of silver (more than six million U.S. dollars in terms of the value of silver at the time of the translation of this book) to become the protector of the king of Israel "that his hand might be with him to establish the kingdom" so greatly shaken "in his hand." This Pul, we have not yet pointed out enough, "turned back, and stayed not there in the land" (v. 20), which was not the case with his successor. It is true that human documents are silent with regard to him, and perhaps will always remain so, but we have the Word of God as guide, and our safeguard is to receive it simply, as God has given it to us. Hosea mentions the fact that is before us now: Ephraim went "to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb; but he was unable to heal you, nor hath he removed your sore (Hosea 5: 13). This king Jareb may well be none other than Pul* His name means, "He who contests," doubtless an allusion to the combative power of the Assyrian, whom Israel thought to appease and to propitiate by presents. "The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calf of Beth‑aven; for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the idolatrous priests thereof shall tremble for it, for its glory, because it is departed from it. Yea, it shall be carried unto Assyria as a present for king Jareb" (Hosea 10: 5‑6). Even one of Jeroboam's calves had been carried to Assyria as a present for its king! And the same prophet adds in another place: "They are gone up to Assyria as a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim has hired lovers" (Hosea 8: 9). But what a shame for Israel! Their god given to the enemy of their race as a common present! That too was of the Lord.

*Perhaps also Shalmaneser. In thiscase, the calf of Bethel would have been sent to this latter by Hoshea. Beth even (Hosea 4: 15; Hosea 5: 6) signified "House of iniquity," taking the place of Bethel, "House of God."

In the final analysis, what was the use of all the politics and quests after alliances and protection, turning now toward Assyria, then toward Egypt? Did they delay for one instant the judgment that had been decreed? And it is the same in our own day, is it not? The guarantees that nations are seeking to procure one from the other will all disap­pear like chaff carried away by the wind when "the Lamb that was slain" shall step forward to take the book of God's counsels and ways toward the world and carry it into execution.

2 Kings 15.23‑31

Pekahiah and Pekah, Kings of Israel

Menahem not having died a violent death, his son Pekahiah reigned in his stead. The retributive government of God is not exercised toward Menahem, and his case, like a number of others in this history, teaches us that God's earthly government is not the measure of His righteousness nor His full retribution of the ways of men. This was the error of Job's friends, against whom Elihu rose up in anger.

During the two years of his reign, Pekahiah like all his predecessors persevered in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Let us note here that which is repeated so often in the preceding chapters, that by the sins of their kings, Israel was made to sin. The sin of an individual is rendered con­siderably more serious when it becomes a stumbling‑stone for others, and its consequences are reckoned to those who carry away the ignorant and poorly established in the pathway of their own disobedience.


 

Pekah, the son of Remaliah, assisted in his conspiracy by men of Gilead, kills Pekahiah as well as two of his compa­nions. He reigns twenty years in Samaria and follows, with regard to the Lord, the way of the kings of Israel. The results of his reign are summarized in verse 29. The Assyrian Tiglath‑Pileser comes up against him and carries away captive the Reubenites, the Gadites, and that half tribe of Manasseh, all the people settled beyond the Jor­dan, "and brought them to Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan-unto this day" (1 Chr. 5: 26). The dismemberment of the kingdom of Ephraim begins with the tribes which, for their own convenience, had chosen their portion on the other side of the Jordan.

It is always so. Christians who do not enter resolutely and without a backward glance upon the ground where, like the Jordan, the death of Christ an insurmountable barrier between them and the world, such Christians are the first to be exposed to the attacks of the enemy and become the poor captives of the world, with which, despite their real faith, they have not consented to break completely. Thus the dismembering of the kingdom of Israel begins to take place. This would be completed under the reign of Hoshea. We shall return to Pekah in the next chapter, but before this we find mention made of the reign of Jotham.

2 Kings 15: 32‑38

Jotham, King of Judah

This son of Uzziah began his reign the second year of Pekah (cf. 2 Chr. 27: 1‑9), and reigned sixteen years at Jerusalem. His mother, Jerusha, daughter of Zadok, was probably of the priestly family. With her we continue to observe the blessed role of the mothers of the kings of Judah. Nothing of the kind for the kings of Israel. But "the people still acted corruptly" (2 Chr. 27: 2), because of the lack of decision in these godly kings who did not dare at­tack idolatry at its root. The account in Chronicles teaches us that Jotham "became strong, for he prepared his ways before Jehovah his God." Godliness is a source of strength for us also, and of spiritual power. From the moment that our ways are not ordered before God, strength forsakes us. Serious reflection for all, and a thousand times yet more serious for those who have a particular responsibility with respect to the people of God. Only the sense of this strength presents a danger. We have seen in the case of Uzziah that this feeling pushed him to lift himself up before the high priest (2 Chr. 26: 16‑21). Jotham does not become puffed up by his strength. Also it is said of him, in comparing him with his father: "Only he entered not into the temple of Jehovah" (2 Chr. 27: 2). On the contrary, being humble, he was occupied with the house of God. He "built the upper gate of the house of Jehovah" (v. 35), a deed characteristic of his reign in the book of kings. What a privilege when a believer leaves behind him as a remembrance, that which he has done for the house of God! God records this deed and leaves it with us as a memorial for Jotham. There are other deeds in his life, and Chronicles informs us of them, but is it not touching to see that God puts this one into the spot­light as characteristic, in His eyes, of the reign of this faith­ful king Without giving way to imagination, there is noth­ing that forbids us to think that the daughter of Zadok might have inculcated into her son from his youth on a respect for the temple of the Lord, and that under this in­fluence the center of the king's activity was the house of God.

Pekah, the son of Remaliah, allied with Rezin, king of Syria, begins to go up against Judah in the days of Jotham (v. 37). The sin of Judah necessitated the discipline of God, but the consequences of this discipline could be removed by the godliness of their leader, as happened later under pious Hezekiah with regard to the Assyrian. It seems also that this may have been the case during the reign of Jotham.

2 Kings 16

Ahaz, King of Judah

Ahaz, the son of Jotham, began to reign over Judah three years before the death of Pekah, king of Israel, who reigned twenty years at Samaria. As though God would spare bring­ing shame to his mother, her name is not given us. Instead of serving the Lord, he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and returned to the evil days of ungodly Ahab, es­tablishing in Judah the worship of Baal and that of Moloch, to whom he sacrificed his sons (2 Chr. 28: 2). His predeces­sors had never abolished the high places, and had allowed the people to burn incense there without themselves join­ing in this idolatry. Ahaz himself "sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, and on the hills, and under ev­ery green tree" (2 Kings 16: 4). He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord like the kings of Israel. Let us observe that this designation "evil" is always given us in reference to the Lord. It no doubt happens that forsaking God delivers the guilty one to all sorts of moral evil, to crime and impu­rity, but it is not always so. Jeroboam I, Joash of Israel, and Jeroboam II were remarkable monarchs in the eyes of men. Two of them were "saviors" of their nation, contributing to establish its repute and to reconquer its domains. But for God, the question is a different one. It is a matter of determining the relationship that these kings, as Ahaz king of Judah here, had with Him. The simple fact that the moral stature of a man is found in his conduct relative to God is especially forgotten in our days. A man may be a freethinker, even an atheist; if he conducts himself morally and renders service to humanity, even Christians will regard him as an excellent man, as though God could accept something from him or in some way exempt him from believing in Him on account of His good conduct. This is a fatal error for such a man, but it is especially distressing when one sees it sanctioned by Christians who thus are not recognizing that without the fear of God there cannot be even the beginning of wisdom for man. When these unbelievers appear before God, they will be convicted by Him-alas! too late for them-of having done that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Christians who have excused their unbelief will be responsible for having by their guilty approbation of them closed the path of repentance. Ahaz "walked in the ways of the kings of Israel" (v. 3). Double condemnation for this king who, knowing the worship of the true God in Judah, turned his back upon Him in order to follow the abominations of the idolatrous nations.

Also the judgment which was prepared for the people under Jotham now overtakes Ahaz on account of his unfaithfulness. We are told, "Then Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to battle; and they besieged Ahaz, but were unable to conquer him" (v. 5).* Although we must, to limit ourselves, postpone the mention of the prophets of Judah till we study 2 Chronicles, we are obliged here and there to depart from this rule and to refer here to Isaiah, the more so as Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, plays an important role there. The king of Israel, once at war with Syria, is now its ally, no doubt in order to free himself on the one side from the yoke to Tiglath‑pileser, king of Assyria, who, as we have seen previously, had stripped him of a large part of his territory, but also to regain, while serving the designs of his ally, that which Judah had taken from him.

{*We will not speak here of the victories won by Rezin and Pekah over Judah, nor of the Prophet Oded, who succeeded in reaching the consciences of some of the chief men of Ephraim, making them send away their prisoners and the spoil taken from Judah instead of retaining these captives. All this account will be found in its place in our study of Chronicles.}

These two kings, then, went up against Jerusalem and "besieged Ahaz, but were unable to conquer him." The hearts of Ahaz and his people are agitated "as the trees of the forest are shaken with the wind" (Isa. 7: 2). The Lord sends Isaiah to meet the king The prophet is accompanied by his son Shear-jashub, whose name signifies "the remnant shall return" (cf. Isa. 10: 21). He speaks in grace to this wicked king It is true that whatever may happen, God remains faithful to His promises, and He will renew His relationships with Israel and Judah in the persons of Christ and of the remnant. But how touching is the patient grace God has toward this evil king! He reassures him instead of crushing him; He announces deliverance to him; He says to him, "Take heed and be quiet" let Me act. He says, "Fear not" to him who on his part had everything to fear. He gives him the date when Ephraim "shall ... be broken, so as to be no more a people." Evil is decreed for a fixed and irrevocable time, and in spite of everything, if he would believe, then Judah would yet continue to exist for a little while (Isa. 7: 9). The Spirit of God, through the prophet, says to Ahaz: "Ask for thee a sign from Jehovah thy God." Ahaz answered, "I will not ask, and will not tempt Jehovah" (Isa. 7: 10‑12), coloring his unbelief and his disobedience with an appearance of piety. To tempt the Lord was to distrust Him, but in fact, Ahaz did much more than distrust Him: he did not believe the word of the Lord. Then God announced a sign to him: Judah, that is to say, the house of David represented by Ahaz, had wearied the patience of God, who would replace him by Immanuel, the Seed of the woman (v. 14). But before the second son who to be born to the prophet would know "to refuse the evil, and to choose the good, the land whose two kings thou fearest shall be forsaken" (v. 16). Before this Maher‑shalal‑hash‑baz (haste ye, haste ye to the spoil) should know "to cry, My father! and, My mother!" the lands of Pekah and of Rezin should be forsaken. This prophecy was literally accomplished, and the design of these kings to establish "the son of Tabeal" over Judah was brought to naught.*

{*The name of Tabeal, which has somewhat intrigued scholars, would seem to indicate by its roots, a man bound both to Syria and to Ephraim, whom these two powers were interested in choosing as a candidate for the throne of Judah.}

Ahaz prefers to confide in the king of Assyria against Pekah and Rezin than to confide in the Lord and to obey Him. This explains his answer to Isaiah. He had "sent messengers to Tiglath‑pileser king of Assyria, saying: "I am thy servant and they son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, who have risen up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and the gold that was found in the house of Jehovah, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it as a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria hearkened to him; and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried it captive to Kir, and put Rezin to death" (2 Kings 16: 7‑9). Also God declares to Him: "Jehovah will bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days which have not come since the day when Ephraim turned away from Judah-even the king of Assyria" (Isa. 7: 17); and against Israel and Syria: "The riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria" (Isa. 8: 4). Thus, that which the Lord had pronounced against Israel which had sought the support of Assyria (Hosea 5: 13‑14), He now pronounces against Judah, who sough this same alliance. The first result of this trust in Assyria seemed to be favorable for Judah. Tiglath‑pileser seized Damascus, carried away its inhabitants, and slew Rezin. The prophecy pronounced long before by Amos (Amos 1: 3‑5) is now fulfilled.

Ahaz is not at the end of his transgressions. Isaiah's prophecy had no effect upon his conscience. He went to Damascus to meet the king of Assyria, whom he congratulated for his help and for his success. Having seen Rezin's idolatrous altar, he sends its pattern to Jerusalem and has it erected in the court of the temple. He finds a high priest to accomplish this act of sacrilege. 2 Chronicles 28: 22 tells us that Ahaz sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, for to burn a sacrifice upon an altar other than the brazen altar was to sacrifice to false gods.

Do we not find something similar in today's religions when men professing to be Christians think that they are able to approach God by another altar than that of expiation, in which they do not believe? Like Rezin's altar, theirs is much broader, has a much more beautiful appearance than that of God. The old‑fashioned religious narrowness has given place to broader views, they say. It is no longer the blood of the cross that justifies and redeems the sinner. They have another Christ than that One, a Christ who by His life has renewed humanity's ties with God, His cross being nothing more than the crowning act of a life of devotion. The new altar has no point of contact with the old. Its form and its beauty render it infinitely more desirable to the world than the brazen altar, so the latter is removed from its place, set aside (v. 14); it is no longer the indispensable way of approach when presenting oneself before God in His sanctuary. In sum, there is a new way of approach; a new religion is set up, and the first is relegated to a corner. At most, the brazen altar may serve to "inquire by" (v. 15), not, as one has said, that one might think of what one must make of it, but in order to use it for superstitious practices. It is thus that in one whole part of Christendom the use of the cross is misdirected and employed for grossly superstitious practices. Ahaz's religion, when it is a matter of so‑called worship of the Lord, on the one hand ends in unbelief regarding the very foundation of the faith, the cross of Christ, and on the other hand, ends in superstition when it is a matter of this same foundation.

Ahaz's sacrilege extended to the lavers (v. 17), which as we have seen in our meditations on 1 Kings, served for washing the victims, typifying the complete absence of defilement in Christ offered for expiation. Ahaz removes the lavers from their bases. And here again, do we not find an analogy with that which is taking place in our sight or that is being spoken of round about us? The thought of the perfect purity of Christ, the Lamb of God, is given up by making Him subject to the same tendencies that we have and by presenting Him as One tempted by internal lusts to which He never yielded. While keeping the lavers, they remove them from their bases.

It was the same for the brazen sea (v. 17), vessel for the daily purification of the priests. This was set upon oxen, symbolic of the God's patience toward His people with regard to their practical purification. This purification could not be accepted except by virtue of God's longsuffering in all His ways toward His people. Ahaz removed the basin from that which constituted its base and "put it upon a stone pavement." Is not this stone pavement a striking picture of the nature and heart of man? All the religious tendencies of the present day are established upon the pretension that the human element and not the character of God are the basis of our practical consecration for His service, and that man's resolution of will renders him able to walk without defilement and without sin in God's pathway here on earth.

Lastly, Ahaz changes the entry of the house of Jehovah (v. 18) which was prohibited to others besides the king He does so "on account of the king of Assyria." He disowns his own privileges as head of the people of God, and also the "covered way of the sabbath," the privilege of the people themselves-all this in order to avoid offending the world whom he is serving Now the king of Assyria may declare himself satisfied! The very foundations of Israel's religion, by which the people were sanctified for God, have disappeared. Why should not the world henceforth enter into relationship with the God of Israel by means of the altar of Damascus? This religion, modified and stripped of its power and of its privileges, suits it perfectly!

 

2 Kings 17: 1‑6

Hoshea, King of Israel

We now come to the last events of the history of Ephraim, otherwise called the ten tribes. Hoshea, the murderer of Pekah, reigned nine years in Samaria while doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. His conduct in relation to Him was less profane than that of his predecessors, only, he did not take into account the judgments of God by which the subjection of Israel to Assyria had been foretold through all the prophets. From year to year king Hoshea had been sending presents to the king of Assyria (v. 3), following the example of one of his predecessors, Menahem, who by means of presents had declared himself a vassal of Pul's in order that this latter might establish the kingdom in his hands (2 Kings 15: 19‑20). Later Tiglath‑pileser had come up against Pekah and, as we have seen, had transported the tribes beyond the Jordan to Assyria. Pekah evidently had not followed, as had Menahem, this rule of submission to Assyria, which would explain the political motives for the carrying away of these tribes. These political motives are not given us in the Word, but the divine motive is indicated to us by a word in Chronicles: "And the

God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath-pileser . . . and he carried them away" (1 Chr. 5: 26). Here in 2 Kings, the usual ways the kings of Assyria act toward Israel are brought to light. "Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria, and Hoshea became his servant, and tendered him presents" (2 Kings 16: 3). The threat of an invasion by an enemy stronger than he obliges Hoshea to submit himself, howbeit unwillingly no doubt, to his vassalage. But these presents hardly help him. "For they are gone up to Assyria," says Hosea the prophet, "as a wild ass alone by himself; Ephraim hath hired lovers. Although they hire among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall begin to be straitened under the burden of the king of princes" (Hosea 8: 9‑10).

"But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and sent up no present to the king of Assyria as he had done from year to year" (v. 4). Actually, this two‑faced, suspicious conduct of the king is mentioned by the prophet: "Ephraim feedeth on wind, and pursueth after the east wind: all day long he multiplieth lies and desolation; and they make a covenant with Assyria, and oil is carried into Egypt" (Hosea 12: 1), and again "Ephraim is become like a silly dove without understanding: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria" (Hosea 7: 11). So, discovering Hoshea's conspiracy, Shalmaneser "shut him up and bound him in prison" (v. 4). "As for Samaria her king is cut off," according to the prophecy of Hosea (Hosea 10: 7), without the circumstances of his death being reported to us. The king of Israel having been made a prisoner, "the king of Assyria overran the whole land, and went up against Samaria, and besieged it three years" (v. 5; cf. 2 Kings 18: 9); but it was not Shalmaneser in person who took the city, for it is told us, "And at the end of three years they took it" (2 Kings 18: 10). Actually, during this interval Sargon (Isa. 20: 1) had succeeded Shalmaneser, or at least was at the head of the army during a short interregnum. The fate of this rebellious city was terrible, according to the word of Micah who prophesied " concerning Samaria and Jerusa­lem": "Therefore will I make Samaria as a heap of the field, as plantings of a vineyard; and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will lay bare the foundations thereof. And all her graven images shall be beaten to pieces, and all her harlot‑gifts shall be burned with fire, and all her idols will I make a desolation; for of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them, and to a harlot's hire they shall return" (Micah 1: 6‑7). Hosea also describes this event: "Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up" (Hosea 13: 16).

"The king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (v. 6). It has been supposed that part of the ten tribes fled to Egypt at that time. We do not think that the expression in Hosea 8: 13: "They shall return to Egypt," is to be inter­preted in this manner. This same prophet had said: "They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria"; then, "Ephraim hath hired lovers (Hosea 8: 19); then again: "Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and in Assyria shall they eat that which is un­clean" (Hosea 9: 3). All this fully harmonizes with Hoshea's conspiracy, as also this other word: "He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king" (Hosea 11: 5). "Return into the land of Egypt" does not neces­sarily mean to flee there, but to seek assistance there, as it is said in Isaiah 31: 1: "Woe to them to go down to Egypt for help."

As to the passage in Hosea 8: 13, it must be observed that the prophet continually associates Judah's iniquity with that of Ephraim. "The peoples shall be assembled against them, when they are bound for their two iniquities. And Ephraim is a trained heifer, that loveth to tread out the corn; I have passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to draw; Judah shall plough, Jacob shall break his clods"(Hosea 10: 10‑11). So he also reunites them together in the same future blessing once they will have reached the complete measure of their servitude (Hosea 10: 12). This observation helps us to understand that "They shall return to Egypt" in 2 Kings 8: 13 applies to Judah, morally as­sociated with Israel. What proves this is the following verse: "Israel...buildeth temples, and Judah has multiplied fenced cities," but even more so "For behold, they are gone away because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Moph (or Noph=Memphis) shall bury them" (Hosea 9: 6). Now we know from the account of Jeremiah 43 to 44: 1 that the fu­gitives of Judah fled before the king of Babylon and found refuge in Egypt, and at Noph, among other places. They forced the prophet to accompany them there, and we know that there he prophesied against them when they thought they were safe from their oppressor (cf. 2 Kings 25: 26).*

{*Apart from this explanation, we do not intend to try to resolve the historical difficulties con­tained in these books. So also, for the most part, we are not touching the questions of chronology. Others have answered the objections of so‑called "higher criticism" with regard to these.}

 

2 Kings 17: 7-41

The Divine Recapitulation of the History of Israel

Now God Himself recapitulates this long history of Israel which begins in Exodus and ends in our chapter. Not that it is ended for good; it is ended only as that which concerns this people and its kings, viewed as responsible. The bowels of the prophet Hosea, moved with divine compassion, an­nounce its future restoration: "My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man-the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not come in anger. They shall walk after Jehovah; he shall roar like a lion; when he shall roar, then the children shall hasten from the west: they shall hasten as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of As­syria; and I will cause them to dwell in their houses, saith Jehovah" (Hosea 11: 8‑11). This same God who had given them a king in His anger and taken him away in His wrath (Hosea 13: 11) says, "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death" (Hosea 13: 14), and again "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them free­ly; for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His shoots shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Leba­non. They shall return and sit under his shadow; they shall revive as corn, and blossom as the vine: the renown there­of shall be as the wine of Lebanon" (Hosea 14: 4‑7).

From verses 7 to 18 of our chapter God shows what He had done for Israel since, delivering from Egypt, He had introduced them into Canaan (v. 7). He then speaks of that which they had done, first of all acting "secretly" against the Lord, walking according to the idolatry of the nations which God had dispossessed before them, and in the sta­tutes that the kings of Israel, beginning with Jeroboam I, had established in founding and maintaining their national religion of the calves of Dan and Bethel. Moreover, they had erected everywhere in their fortified cities, and even to the watchmen's tower, high places and male and female idols in greater excess than had Judah, which was content to keep the high places, at one time consecrated to the wor­ship of the Lord, turning them into places of idolatrous prac­tices (vv. 8‑13). The Lord had testified against Israel and against Judah by all the prophets. Had they listened to these? No, they had forsaken the commandments of the covenant to deliver themselves up to terrible apostasy, described in all its aspects in verses 14 through 17. Final­ly, in His wrath God removed them from before His face and "there remained but the tribe of Judah only,' no doubt for a short time, but God still recognized it according to the word of Hosea: "Ephraim encompasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah yet walketh with God, and with the holy things of truth" (Hosea 11: 12).

In verses 19‑20 God mentions Judah as in passing This latter had followed the statutes established by the ten tribes, and the Lord was rejecting all the seed of Israel. But from verses 20‑24 He returns to Ephraim and to its separation from the house of David. It was doubtless a judgment of the Lord against Solomon, and as such ordered of God, but on the other hand it was the fruit of the evil heart of Israel for whom the temple of God at Jerusalem had little importance when they thought of becoming a nation independent of Judah. Perhaps, notwithstanding, Israel would not have dreamed of forging a new religion for itself from many bits and pieces if the political views of Jeroboam, a complete stranger to the fear of God, had not forced the people to enter upon this path. "Jeroboam violently turned Israel from following Jehovah, and made them sin a great sin" (v. 21). But on the other hand, "the children of Israel walked" (they were therefore themselves guilty) "in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them" (v. 22). And Israel was carried away to Assyria. We see here in verse 24 and also in verse 6 the enormous extent to which the kingdom had grown. The Assyrian monarch made the people of Babel and of other places come to replace those deported from the cities of Samaria.

These idolatrous nations, brought into the land of Israel, did not fear the Lord He sent lions among them, which slew them. In spite of its desolation, God was caring for the land of His inheritance. He was asserting His rights over it, not allowing these to be taken away. He would not have the land again fall under the curse from which He had delivered it when He had exterminated the Canaanites. Whatever the ruin might be, the name of the Lord must not be entirely removed from the land of Israel, and that in view of the future, for the remnant, the true Israel, is to inherit the land.

Decimated by lions, these poor ignorant pagans who likened the God of Israel to their own false gods understood this judgment. They were more intelligent than the Lord's people (v. 26). The king of Assyria had one of the priests who had been carried away captive sent to them in order to "teach them the manner of the god of the land"; but this priest himself had supported the dreadful mixture of idolatry with the worship of the true God and so was unable to teach them anything but his own corruption, so that on the one hand they learned "how they should fear Jehovah," whereas, on the other hand, "every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places that the Samaritans had made" (v. 29). A corrupted religion-this fact which is so evident must nonetheless be especially insisted upon-cannot lead men on in the truth and will always mold them according to its own pattern. And so it is said, "They feared Jehovah, and made to themselves from all classes of them priests of the high places, who offered sacrifices for them in the houses of the high places" (v. 32). Had not Jeroboam done the same thing with regard to the priesthood? That which they learned from the priest of Samaria led them on in that same path, only they go a little further and the priests whom they establish, following the pattern set by Jeroboam, became simply priests of their idols (v. 32, cf. v. 29). The word of God repeats that "they feared Jehovah, and served their own gods after the manner of the nations, whence they had been carried away" (v. 33), but it adds in verse 34: "To this day they do after their former customs: they fear not Jehovah, neither do they after their statutes or after their ordinances, nor after the law and commandments that Jehovah commanded the sons of Jacob, whom he named Israel." Let us not forget that the fear of the Lord, this first step in the path of wisdom, cannot be allied with the idolatry of the world, no more with heathen idols than with those of the present‑day world which, in rejecting Christ, has recognized the overlordship of Satan. Those who in appearance fear Him, in fact do not truly fear Him if they do not obey Him, for to fear Him is to obey Him. God does not tolerate mixtures.

Observe in all this passage how the fear of the Lord, this beginning of wisdom, had been brought before the conscience of the people (vv. 35‑40), as well as the nations. The Lord had said to Israel: "Ye shall not fear other gods"(vv. 35, 37, 38), "Jehovah alone . . . him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship" (v. 36), "but ye shall fear Jehovah your God, and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies" (v. 39). In this short passage the expression "fear Jehovah" occurs eleven times! All else depended upon this elementary ordinance and still depends on it!

As for these nations, in making them feel His displeasure by the attack of the lions, the Lord had impressed upon them that they turn to Him. Then, following the same principle toward them that He had used with His own people, He left them to their own responsibility. They pay no more attention to this than had Israel. But which of these two groups was the more guilty? When the captives of Judah were restored to their land that they might receive Christ, they deeply despised the Samaritans and had no relationship with them (John 4: 9) But they went further than that, and said to their Messiah, "Thou art a Samaritan!" (John 8: 48). It is thus that the religious man judges other men, he who himself is under the same judgment, and so too He judges God! The rejected Jesus accepted this name that He might in a parable show that despite this position of dishonor which was accorded Him He alone was the dispenser of grace, in contrast with religious men whose self-righteousness prevented them from being a neighbor to wretched Israel, fallen into the hands of the nations who had spoiled it!

2 Kings 18‑25

The Last Kings of Judah

2 Kings 18‑20

 

Hezekiah, King of Judah

 

The history of Israel being ended, we now find, to the end of this book, the history of the kings of Judah. Before considering its details, let us enter upon a general subject of greatest importance.

THE REVIVALS OF THE END

Outwardly, no doubt, Judah "yet walk[ed] with God" (Hosea 11: 12); but its ruin had already long been manifest. It had been particularly accentuated since godly Jehoshaphat had sought an alliance with Ahab. All the while keeping up this outward appearance, given up by Ephraim from the beginning of its existence, Judah was morally far from God. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel inform us about its inward condition. It is thus that Isaiah, describing Judah's state during this period, writes: "For as much as this people draw near with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is removed far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught of men; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do marvellously with this people, to do marvellously, even with wonder, and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their intelligent ones shall be hid" (Isa. 29: 13‑14). And again: "This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of Jehovah" (Isa. 30: 9). And again, at the eve of the invasion of Sennacherib: "The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling hath surprised the hypocrites: Who among us shall dwell with the consuming fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting flames?-He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from taking hold of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil" (Isa. 33: 14‑15). It is useless to multiply quotations. Furthermore, we shall have occasion to return to the subject when, with regard to Josiah's reign, we consult Jeremiah concerning the subject of the moral history of Judah.

In the midst of this state of things, Ahaz, king of Judah, had made it his business to alter the fundamental institutions of the temple of the Lord. We do not see the people protesting in the least against this profanity. They let him do as he pleased. And so the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Judah under the reign of Ahaz (2 Chr. 28: 9) delivering it into the hand of Ephraim, and against Ahaz, "for Jehovah humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had made Judah lawless, and transgressed much against Jehovah" (2 Chr. 28: 19). Only ungodly Manasseh later surpassed the iniquity of Ahaz.

But, between these two kings God raised up a testimony in Judah. We are entering the period of revivals, properly so called; the first, that of Hezekiah, with which we are about to be occupied; the second, that of Josiah. The prominent characteristic of these revivals is that they are absolutely the fruit of the grace of God. They are not foreseen, no preliminary work introduces them, no sign of repentance on part of the people precedes them. They are the direct work of the Spirit of God and break forth in a brilliant way in the midst of the ruin of Judah. Hezekiah is the son of a profane father who was devoted to idolatrous abominations. Hezekiah's son Manasseh surpassed Ahaz in apostasy. Manasseh's son Amon was just as apostate as he, but Amon's son, Manasseh's grandson Josiah, is the instrument of the second revival in Judah. After him comes the period of the end, when the lamp of David seemed extinguished forever.

These revivals have a particular importance for us. We are witnessing the end of the history of Christendom, which, except for the pagan idolatry involved in Judah's apostasy, has the greatest moral analogy with the end of the Judah's history. Judgment has been pronounced long ago by the Word upon the present state of things (read 2 Timothy: 2 Peter; and Jude), and no one takes heed. At the moment of their sudden destruction, men will yet be crying, "Peace and safety." For the time being the grace of God by these revivals is placing a dam before the torrent that will sweep them away. He is using them to withdraw from the already condemned mass a greater or smaller number of souls who have become attentive to the voice of His gospel. He thus is making ready for His Beloved to take His own to Himself, by completing the number of the elect so that not one of them will be wanting at that last call when they are finally being gathered together.

These revivals at the end do not all have the same character, but when one seeks to distinguish them from the returns to godliness that preceded them, one finds first of all that they concern not only the king, but are shared by the people; next, that despite their diversity they have as common characteristic a complete rupture with the traditions which by their antiquity appeared respectable in the eyes of men, but were not the teaching of the Holy Spirit and had not been instituted by God. The revivals at the end are, in a word, a rupture with tradition and a return to that which was at the beginning. This fact strikes us particularly in the history of Hezekiah and in that of Josiah. David, the head of the royal family, had never sacrificed upon the high places; he had had but one concern: to find a place for the ark of the Lord. This place having been found in Zion, he crave to it and worshipped God there. Solomon does not follow his father's walk but turns aside from it in that he sacrificed to the Lord upon the high places, a dangerous practice that bore abominable fruit when the king's heart allowed him to be carried away by strange women(1 Kings 11: 7). Since that time the sacrifices upon the high places, this tradition of Solomon's reign, were no more banished from Judah, and one can say, as we have already observed, that the high places were part of its national religion.* We have reason to affirm then that this religion, while keeping some features of the truth, had given up that which was from the beginning, and which went back, not only to David, but to Moses (see Deut. 12: 1‑2). It had facilitated Jehoshaphat's alliance with the king of Israel, for even if there was no moral bond existing between them, the conformity of certain religious practices between their two peoples blinded this godly king to the impiety of such a mutual alliance. This initial laxity bears its fruits sooner or later. Iniquitous Ahaz attacks, not the high places of Solomon, but the things established by him according to the model David had communicated to him in the beginning, that is to say, the house of God itself. He treats lightly all the divine principles proclaimed in the arrangements of the temple, just as in our own day all doctrines are treated lightly, without any more respect for the divine institution of the things of Christianity than the respect Ahaz had for the altar and the lavers.

{*We shall see, in the study of 2 Chronicles, the manner, contradictory in appearance, in which this book presents this important subject to us.}

We have said that the common characteristic of the end time revivals is separation from the religion of the day, in order to return to that which was taught at the beginning in the Word of God. We go on to find, under Hezekiah, (and even more radically under Josiah, who carried this out throughout the whole territory of Canaan), the complete destruction of all that stood in relationship to the high places, statues, groves, incense, priests, and all this religion of soothsayers, mediums, and others toward which Israel had been drawn. In comparing Josiah's history with that of Hezekiah, we shall observe the distinctive characteristics of these revivals, for, as we have mentioned, each has its special character according to the different epochs of time, the needs of which God knows. Let us confine ourselves for now to considering the revival which characterizes the reign of Hezekiah.

 

2 Kings 18: 1‑18

Hezekiah and the First Revival

Hezekiah's mother was probably of the priestly or levitical family and no doubt, as we have often noted, the Lord used her in the upbringing of her son, whereas Ahaz, Hezekiah's father, could only have had a bad influence upon him. But whatever may have been the case with these favorable or unfavorable influences, it is grace alone that explains the characters of Hezekiah and of Josiah; the last kings of Judah, ungodly despite their Jewish mothers and their godly father, are the proof of this.

"He did what was right in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that David his father had done" (v. 3). God traces his faithfulness back to the example given by David, a fact all the more remarkable in that it is not stated of his predecessors. Jotham "did what was right in the sight of Jehovah: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done" (2 Kings 15: 34); Uzziah, "according to all that his father Amaziah had done" (2 Kings 15: 3); Amaziah "according to all that Joash his father had done (2 Kings 14: 3). The Word of God makes the same remarks about Josiah as about Hezekiah (2 Kings 22: 2), thus confirming the fact that these two kings returned to that which was at the beginning One cannot today call a revival a true revival which does not have this character.* It was the same in the days of Ezra and of Nehemiah. In the very scene of ruin, the people returned to the divine foundations and to the Word of God, at the same time separating themselves from all activity in common and any alliance with the world. In our days, claims are made of being able to create revivals, while still being joined together with professing Christendom which dishonors God, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Word. It was not so with Hezekiah. In no wise did he compromise with the corruption which had been introduced into Judah. Only, what distinguishes him from us, simple Christians, with regard to principle is that Hezekiah had a special authority and responsibility as king, given him by God, and that his duty was to use his own authority to cleanse the people, an activity which, as in the preceding reigns, could well have left his subjects more or less indifferent to his personal piety. The revival was accomplished in the king's heart, the king was its agent, and there might have been a question whether the heart and conscience of the people would follow the impetus thus given. Now we see in 2 Chronicles 30: 10‑14 and 31: 1 that Hezekiah's zeal bore fruit and was followed by the humiliation of the people and by unity of heart and mind to cleanse themselves from evil. Not only those of Judah, but also the remnant of Ephraim after the carrying away felt the blessed effect of the king's piety, so that the destruction of the implements of idolatry spread not only to Judah and Benjamin, but also to Ephraim and Manasseh.

{*We are not speaking here-that goes without saying-of the evangelization of the world and of the conversion of sinners.}

"He removed the high places, and broke the columns, and cut down the Asherahs, and broke in pieces the serpent of brass that Moses had made; for to those days the children of Israel burned incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan" a piece of brass (v. 4). Here this cleansing is attributed to the king alone. It was complete on his part, going even as far as the brazen serpent which Moses had made. Is it not striking to note that the Word does not mention the brazen serpent from the time when Moses lifted it up in the wilderness, and yet Israel had carefully kept it for more than seven hundred years, no doubt in memory of the marvelous deliverance brought about thereby on behalf of the people. Israel had been healed by its means, and was it not natural that they should desire to keep it as a visible testimony to his healing It was a respectable thing, an ancient type of deliverance from sin and its consequences by the sacrifice of Christ, but this object in the hands of the enemy of our souls had become a means of idolatry for the people, who burned incense unto it. Faithful Hezekiah's intervention was needed to single out and destroy this hidden idolatry, clothed in the guise of a divine institution. The serpent was a symbol, not a thing having in itself any miraculous property. The unique occasion when it had been employed not having been renewed, and being impossible to be renewed, it had no more value in itself than any other nehushtan or piece of brass. Nehushtans, more hidden, but also more gross than ordinary idolatry, are ever numerous in Christendom. Like Nehushtan, the cross of Christ has given rise to superstitious practices. To possess a piece of the "true cross," to kiss it, or to revere a piece of bronze or of ivory representing the Lord dying upon the cross- these are general practices in a large part of Christendom. Man is attached to the symbol and sees in it some value or special property. He makes of the symbol his God. Is it better than the idolatry that defies the attributes of God? Certainly not; it is an idolatry just as gross, but still more dangerous, because it takes that which is most sacred, most elevated, the cross, center of all the counsels of God, the symbol of eternal love, to make of it an idol which the eyes of the flesh see, which the lips of the flesh kiss, an idol which has neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. Faith rids itself of these things and takes them for what they are, neither more nor less than a piece of wood or brass.

"He trusted in Jehovah the God of Israel" (v. 5). He finds here the particular and very striking character of Hezekiah, and of the revival which accompanied his reign. It is trust in God. This trust caused him to reject all human aid. He does not, like other kings, seek the help of Egypt in order to escape Assyria (Isa. 30: 1‑5; 31: 1‑3) or lean, like his father upon the Assyrian against other enemies from without. Nevertheless, even from that side his faith presents its weaknesses, as we shall see.

In respect to trust, Hezekiah had no equal among the kings of Judah. This trust is inseparable from obedience: "He clave to Jehovah, and did not turn aside from following him, but kept his commandments, which Jehovah commanded Moses" (v. 6). Let us beware of so‑called trust in God which links itself to disobedience of His Word. If I trust in Him, I will cleave to Him; if I cleave to Him, I will keep His Word, and I keep it just as He has confided it to me at the beginning, just as Hezekiah kept "his commandments, which Jehovah commanded Moses." One may find, no doubt, trust in Him mixed with much ignorance, but ignorance is not disobedience. Only, from the time one's soul is brought into relationship with the clear revelation of the mind of God, and yet prefers its religious forms to it-its high places and its Nehushtan-it will never have true trust in God. Yes, trust, cleaving to the Lord and obedience are things that are inseparable. The result of Hezekiah's faith is soon apparent; "Jehovah was with him; he prospered whithersoever he went forth" (v. 7). What a happy circle of blessings! God's favor and spiritual prosperity accompany faithfulness. May these blessings be ours, dear reader! Amen.

We are then told that Hezekiah "rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not" (v. 7). He acted in opposite fashion to how his father Ahaz had done, who, solemnly warned by Isaiah not to fear the attack of Rezin, king of Syria, and of Pekah, son of Remaliah, and exhorted to ask of the Lord a sign that His promise would be fulfilled, had preferred to have recourse to the Assyrian. God then had declared to him that this king of Assyria in whom he trusted should fill the breadth of the land of Immanuel with "the stretching out of his wings" (Isa. 7: 1‑17; Isa. 8: 8). Hezekiah, it seems to us, acted according to God in not recognizing this authority. It was not the same later on for Judah, when it had to do with Babylon, as we can see in Jeremiah and at the end of our book. To revolt against Nebuchadnezzar when God has transferred the sovereignty to him and was using this yoke as a judgment upon Judah, was to revolt against God. In Hezekiah's case, it was a declining to accord to the Assyrian an authority which God had in no wise given him at that time with regard to Judah. Hezekiah was God's servant and could not be the servant of the king of Assyria. And thus victory over the Philistines (v. 8) is granted him following his trust in God which had caused him to shake off this yoke.

But even there, so far as the dominant character of his faith is concerned, we see from the beginning of his reign that the trust of this godly king wavers. God often allows things to happen in order to teach us to know our own hearts, so that we might have no confidence in our own hearts. The history of men of faith from Abraham to David affords us numerous examples. It is in regard to the very trust that above all else characterizes his walk that Hezekiah takes his first false step. Israel's terrible disaster through Shalmaneser's invasion doubtless caused his confidence to be shaken, but when Hezekiah saw all the cities of Judah fallen into the hands of the king of Assyria, his heart failed him. He sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying: "I have sinned; retire from me: I will bear what thou layest upon me" (v. 14). Fear gripped him. Like Peter, he beheld the wind and lost sight of the Lord. He compared himself to the king of Assyria, instead of comparing him to the Lord. This king imposed tribute upon him; Hezekiah stripped himself of everything in order to pay it, even to removing the gold from the doors and from the pillars of the temple of the Lord. What use was it to him? The king took no account of it. What did it matter to him to break his word to this despised servant of Jehovah?* Chronicles is silent about this failure (2 Chr. 32: 1‑8) and proceeds, as does Isaiah 36, to the account of that which follows in our chapter from verse 17 on. This is because, as we have often seen in the course of these meditations, it is a matter here of the king in responsibility, whereas Chronicles shows us the action of the grace of God in the hearts of those whom He employs in His service. The discipline was full of blessing to Hezekiah's heart, as we shall see in what follows.

{*It has been supposed that Hezekiah could not have paid the entire tribute, which amounted to an enormous sum, but inscriptions confirm the biblical account and show that he paid it in full. This was therefore perfidy on part of the Assyrian monarch, and God used it for Hezekiah's discipline.}

Before going further, let us observe that the account in Chronicles (2 Chr. 29‑31) places much emphasis upon one part of Hezekiah's activity at the beginning of his reign, activity which the account in Kings passes over in silence. In effect, Chronicles presents to us, all along, Hezekiah's zeal to restore the worship and the house of the Lord, whereas our account here depicts his energy in separating himself from evil and in purifying the people from it. These two characteristics are inseparable for a true revival, and it may be said that the first, the return to God, must needs excel the second, or to put it even more clearly, that separation from evil follows the restoration of our relationship with God. That is so true that Chronicles shows us Hezekiah as having it "in [his] heart to make a covenant with Jehovah" "in the first year of his reign, in the first month," and that the hollowing of the temple began "on the first of the first month" (2 Chr. 29: 3, 10, 17). Thus from the first day of his reign this twenty‑five‑year old king resolutely undertakes the cause of God. He comes to the throne young, inexperienced, having under his father's reign only witnessed sights that would serve to turn souls away the Lord. How then are we to explain his attitude? He enters upon his career with faith alone, with the fruit of grace!

"And in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them" (v. 13). Here we would make a historical observation which is important. Hezekiah reigns twenty‑nine years. In the fourteenth year of his reign, Sennacherib comes up against him. 2 Kings 20 tells us that after his supplication, when he was sick unto death, the Lord added "to [his] days fifteen years" Hezekiah's illness therefore took place at the beginning of the Assyrian invasion and before this latter's defeat, and is not presented to us in its chronological place.* Also these events are mentioned in an imprecise way: "In those days Hezekiah was sick unto death" (2 Kings 20: 1). By this fact, we can measure the depths of the trial which this man of God had to pass through. On the one hand, the invasion of all his country except for Jerusalem (2 Kings 18: 13); on the other hand, a fatal illness, and that at the time when he had restored to his people the worship of the true God, exterminated idolatry, and freed Judah from Assyrian bondage! One understands that his faith, subjected to this terrible trial, wavered, that his trust in God was momentarily dimmed in his heart.

{*What we say of the date of Hezekiah's illness is confirmed by the word of the Lord at his healing: "I will add to thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for mine own sake" (2 Kings 20: 6).}

The king of Assyria, who had besieged and conquered Lachish, sends his servants, the Tartan or general at the head of his armies, the Rabsaris (chief chamberlain) whose functions are not too well‑known, and the Rab‑shakeh, the political head of the king's household and his mouthpiece on important occasions. They stand before Jerusalem, and Hezekiah's servants, Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah come out to them. Except for this moment, our account agrees almost word for word with that in Isaiah 36 and 37.

2 Kings 18: 19‑37

Rab‑Shakeh's Discourse

The first part of Rab‑shakeh's discourse deals with Hezekiah's trust in the Lord, trust which we have seen characterizing his piety. "What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? . . . Now on whom doest thou rely, that thou hast revolted against me?" (vv. 19‑20). Here the formidable pride of the Assyrian is laid bare. Could Hezekiah, deprived of his territory, shut up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage, resist the army of the Assyrian? The last thought that occurs to the enemy is that one may confide in an invisible God, and that Hezekiah might have other governing principles, other succor than that of the world. If he were trusting in someone, it must be in Egypt. These thoughts increased the king's wrath against Hezekiah. Egypt was exactly the enemy against whom his expedition was directed, and if Hezekiah had revolted it was, so he thought, that he was expecting its help. This was the case with all the surrounding nations who had thrown off the heavy yoke of the Assyrian. Was Hezekiah's case different from all these? Perhaps he was pretending to trust in the Lord. "And if ye say to me, we rely upon Jehovah our God . . . " (v. 22). Empty words! Hezekiah had taken away the high places and the altars of this God, for Sennacherib is ignorant of the true God and confuses Him with the idols which faithful Hezekiah had abolished. You may as well say you are trusting in Egypt! The world can never understand that Christians are not seeking to be allied with the world, and in fact there is nothing astonishing in this scepticism when we look at the condition of Christendom all around us. Is religion menaced with danger? Is it undergoing attacks or persecution? The Christian world immediately has recourse to the governments of this world to avoid this or to be delivered from it. Christendom's behavior and works are founded upon the influence of the world or its financial aid. Their good works have no other support. The unbeliever is justified when he says to us, "But 'if ye say to me, We rely upon Jehovah our God . . .' in actual fact, you are not trusting Him any more than we are!" It was not so with Hezekiah. He could let the Assyrian speak, for he knew from what gods he had cleansed his people. He knew upon which God he could count.

But a very serious thing to consider is that the unfaithfulness of Judah had given the enemy an occasion to blaspheme the true God and to deny his existence. Since you had high places and altars, these were the Lord for you, he says. He does not know the Lord except by the idols which Judah had made its gods. He had the right to say to them, You have the same kinds of gods I do, and you serve them in the same way. And now you are saying: As for us, we trust in the Lord! What Lord, pray tell me? The Lord of the high places, or the Lord of the altar you have just set up? Are they different from one another?

And now, it is Jehovah that "said to me, Go up against this land and destroy it" (v. 25). Did not the Assyrian have the right to speak about the Lord too, to say, "I have the same God as you, I know Him as well as you"? Are not these same expressions heard daily in the world today? War breaks out between two nations. Which one has God on its side? Both of them call upon His name, sure of the victory. Where is He, the true God? Alas! even among Christian nations-neither on the one side nor on the other. The true God is unknown to both. This was not the case with Hezekiah. His trust in God was being questioned by the enemy who was defying and mocking him. What should he do? Let the enemy talk, but himself hold his peace, looking humbly to God. The enemy was saying, The Lord is with me against you. Let him say so, Hezekiah, and just trust in your God whom the enemy does not know!

The Rab‑shakeh speaks in Hebrew to the people upon the wall. Hezekiah's servants beg him to speak in the Syrian language. This he refuses in words of defiance and disdain. The danger of seeing the people become discouraged may have filled Hezekiah with anguish. But the same danger leaves the believer's soul tranquil and peaceful. He has only to keep silence. His trust in God answers to everything.

And now the Rab‑shakeh attacks the person of the king Hezekiah is a deceiver, a seducer (vv. 29, 32). He is lying to you in persuading you to trust in the Lord (v. 30). Do not listen to Hezekiah (vv. 31‑32). Listen to the king of Assyria (v. 28). He will let you live in tranquillity; then he will carry you away to "a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive-trees and of honey" (v. 32), a land just as full of good things as the land of Canaan. There is where you will find true abundance (cf. Deut. 8: 7‑10). No doubt you will be in bondage too, but the Assyrian will see that you are happy! Satan has always spoken thus to the hearts of men. Woe to him who listens to him, for the prince of this world never makes a man happy. Is it necessary to reason with him, to enter into controversy, or even conversation with him, even to answer him? Our first parents only proved it too well, to their own ruin and that of their posterity; the man of faith is not tempted to answer him. "But the people were silent and answered him not a word; for the king's command was, saying, Answer him not" (v. 36). It is only a matter of keeping silent and leaving the enemy to his threats or to his honeyed words. The people trust the words of the king, their leader, and imitate his faith. God uses this open attack of the Assyrian against God and against His anointed to strengthen and to revive the people.

 

2 Kings 19

Sennacherib and the Lord

Before going on, I want to make one or two remarks upon the three accounts of the life of Hezekiah contained in the Word (2 Kings 18‑20; 2 Chr. 29‑32; Isa. 36‑39). Only our ac­count in Kings begins with Hezekiah's revolt against Sen­nacherib, followed by the invasion of Judah and the humili­ation of the king upon his lack of trust. This is because this account presents to us the careers of kings placed under responsibility. God's discipline toward Hezekiah on this oc­casion shows him that only trust in the Lord is able to sus­tain him. This same account insists above all upon the character of the true testimony at the time of the end; this consists of forsaking any mixture with the idolatry of the world. Next we find Sennacherib's attack against Jerusa­lem, where Hezekiah's absolute confidence in the Lord is put to the proof and comes forth victorious.

In the account in Chronicles, we find the king according to the counsels of God. Judah is nothing more than a little insignificant remnant, confined to Jerusalem. From the first day on, the king appears as prepared by God for his work of grace. The temple of the Lord remains with the rem­nant who look after it. Hezekiah cleanses it, restores the worship of God in its integrity, and the worship of the false gods is uprooted and abolished. The remnant of the people thus acquire the right to be the bearers of the testimony of God. But the city of God must still be secured against the enemy, by cutting off the resources that supply the city; he is left with nothing at all in common with the testimo­ny. The picture is complete within the measure and the limits of this little, humbled people. The history of Sen­nacherib's attack against Jerusalem is much briefer here than in the other two accounts.

In Isaiah we have the history of Hezekiah from the prophetic point of view. Three facts only are set forth in detail there: Sennacherib's attack and Hezekiah's grievous illness, followed by the visit of the ambassadors, which sets forth prophetically Babylon's rise and fall in relation to Judah. In this account Hezekiah is in some respects a type of the Messiah, in many other respects a type of the rem­nant. This latter, condemned to death, recovers life in resur­rection, as it were. Hezekiah's illness, also mentioned in the two other accounts, acquires in Isaiah a very special prophetic importance through the mention of the "the writ­ing of Hezekiah," the prophetic lamentation of the remnant who desire to celebrate the Lord "in the land of the living" (Isa. 38: 9,11).

Let us now resume the course of our account.

After the Assyrian's threats against him, Hezekiah goes up to the house of the Lord a first time. As it appeared, lit­tle was left to this poor king All Judah sacked, the Assyri­an army besieging the only city still remaining standing, Jehovah's servant of the Lord despised, treated as an evil­doer by the nations, the name of the Lord trampled under­foot, circumstances such that all must be borne in silence, and this humiliation accepted as the righteous retribution of the sin and disobedience of the people. Did they have any resource, this weak "remnant that is left" (v. 4)? Yes, in­deed! They still had Jehovah's temple, His beloved city, Mount Zion, the son of David and his throne, the prophet- bearer of the word of God; they still had much more than David himself had in the cave of Adullam! The flesh might become discouraged; faith could not in any wise, for amid this indescribable disaster faith possessed everything that gave it firm assurance, everything that consoled it, and that caused it to rejoice in the affliction: Immanuel, the presence of God with His people. Is it not the same today? Seek the testimony of God in the midst of a world ripe for apostacy. Faith alone can discover it, "the remnant that is left"; but faith does discover it; it prefers the house of God to all the tents of wickedness, the poor and afflicted people to all the prosperity of the Assyrian; it hearkens to the voice of the prophet, and closes its ear to the blaspheming voice of the enemy's servants. It gathers around the Lord's Anointed, and how shall it fear, since God sees and beholds the face of His Anointed?

Not that this confidence excluded anguish, and that the extreme danger did not press upon the heart, nor that they do not wear sackcloth and rend their garments in token of affliction, of humiliation, and of mourning But the danger drives Hezekiah and his people towards the house of God and towards the oracles of God to receive counsel, strength, and consolation. "This day is a day of trouble and of rebuke and of reviling; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" (v. 3). In such times as well as in our own it must be felt that these are days "of trouble and of rebuke," that our part is deep humiliation, that like this little remnant we have to take upon ourselves the reproach of a great people, and that we have to express it by our tears and sighing over the state of Christendom which has so dreadfully dishonored the Lord. But one thing suffices the afflicted remnant and ought to suffice us: the Lord is there; it is He, not ourselves, that has been defied. Therefore, let us say like Hezekiah: Perhaps the Lord will hear the words of him who reproaches the living God, and punish the words which He has heard (v. 4), and the Lord will answer us.

"Be not afraid," said Isaiah, "of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will put a spirit into him and he shall hear tidings, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land" (vv. 6‑7). The word of the Lord is fulfilled to the letter. The news that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, who had seized Egypt, was advancing against him when his own objective was precise­ly the conquest of Egypt, caused him to depart suddenly to meet him.*

{*It is at his return from this expedition that his camp is smitten upon the mountains of Israel, just as will be that of the future Assyrian in prophecy.}

But before his departure Sennacherib sends a written message to Hezekiah. He had previously sent his spokes­men with this message to the people: "Let not Hezekiah deceive you . . . neither let Hezekiah make you rely upon Jehovah" (2 Kings 18: 29‑30). Now he says to Hezekiah, "Let not thy God, upon whom thou relies", deceive thee" (v. 10), likening Him to the false gods that he, the Assyrian, had destroyed. It was a direct "reproach" against the "living God." The rage that filled the Assyrian monarch, hindered in his project and wounded in his pride, now shows itself in its true character. It is the God of Israel whom he opposes.

 

Hezekiah goes up to the house of the Lord a second time. It is no more a question of humiliation like the first time, but one of a direct attack upon the name of the Lord whom Hezekiah honors. God must take account of this letter. The king places God's cause into God's own hands, but he knows that to honor His name, the Lord will save His humbled people. "And now, Jehovah our God, I beseech thee, save us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, thou only" (v. 19).

Then Isaiah causes the king to know the word of the Lord pronounced against the Assyrian. If Hezekiah bears upon his heart the interests of his God when it is a question of the enemy, Jehovah answers him that He will not allow the world to reproach "the virgin‑daughter of Zion;" since she is bride of the Great king "The virgin‑daughter of Zion despiseth thee, laugheth thee to scorn; The daughter of Jerusalem shaketh her head at thee" (v. 21). Thus God justi­fies the character and honor of His beloved ones, guilty but humbled, when these justify His personal honor and character. The Assyrian in his foolishness had lifted up his eyes against the Holy One of Israel. He had been the rod of the wrath of God, who had given him this power from long before, but he had become proud of his success and had not feared to lift himself up against God. He had said: "I have come up...I will cut down...and I will enter...I have digged...I have dried up..."(vv. 23‑24), whereas it was the Lord who had decreed the ruin of the nations and of His people by this means (vv. 25‑26). "But I know," said the Lord, "thine abode, and they going out, and thy com­ing in, and thy raging against me. Because thy raging against me and thine arrogance is come up into mine ears, I will put my ring in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will make thee go back by the way by which thou camest" (vv. 27‑28).

The Lord then gives Hezekiah a sign of His deliverance: The first year they should eat that which would grow from the fallen grain, a poor harvest, but which would keep them from dying of hunger. It is, prophetically, the history of the preservation of the remnant at Jerusalem. The second year there would be a strength of growth; in the third year the harvest and the fruit of the vine should come. The Lord ex­plains this parable to the king: "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root down­ward, and bear fruit upward; for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of mount Zion they that escape: The zeal of Jehovah of hosts shall do this" (vv. 30‑31). The remnant of Judah should be established anew by the Lord, and filled with His blessings.

If it be so with Jerusalem, how much more so with the Assembly, the Bride of Christ-weak remnant in the midst of ruins, lacking the power to bring to birth, and so abased that the enemy can say, "Let not thy God, upon whom thou relies", deceive thee"; but precious to Christ who will make her to sit with Him upon His throne, and shall plant her forever in the courts of God like a tree laden with blossoms and fruit.

The Assyrian should not enter the city, nor shoot arrows into it, nor cast a bank against it; nevertheless the enemy army was surrounding it at that very moment. But God intervened because of His name, and because of David His servant toward whom He would neither revoke His covenant nor His promises (vv. 32‑34).

The very night of this prophecy the camp of the Assyrians was smitten. In the morning they were all dead bodies. "The stout‑hearted are made a spoil, they have slept their sleep; and none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep . . . When God rose up to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth" (Ps. 76: 5, 6, 9). It will be thus also that the Assyrian of the end time, the king of the North, shall meet his judgment: "But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate, and utterly to destroy many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the mountain of holy beauty; and he shall come to his end, and there shall be none to help him" (Dan. 11: 44‑45). He himself, the head of his army, suffers the sentence pronounced against him by the prophet (v. 37). His sons smite him with the sword as he was bowed down in the house of Nisroch his god. He had said to Hezekiah: The Lord will not deliver you; and behold, his god Nisroch was incapable of delivering him when he worshipped before him.

In all this we follow the progress of the man of God, and the reward which his trust in the Lord receives. At the beginning he rebels against the Assyrian when perhaps, lacking knowledge of his own heart, he could have mistaken for confidence in God alone that confidence to which self was not a stranger. Then he loses his confidence before the enemy, but God uses the discipline to remove from him all his self‑confidence. In this trial Hezekiah, humbled by the

state of his people, seeking no support within his own heart, commits all to God. His confidence increases in the measure that the trial grows. He no longer thinks of himself nor of his people, except to judge them; he seeks only the glory of the Lord; linking the salvation of Israel to this glory, however. God answers him by showing him that Jerusalem, the son of David, and the beloved remnant occupy His thoughts exclusively. He delivers His people by judgment, answering the humble prayer "the remnant that is left" addresses to Him by the mouth of the prophet (v. 4).

 

2 Kings 20: 1‑11

Hezekiah's Illness

"In those days Hezekiah was sick unto death" (v. 1). As we have already said, this event historically precedes the ene­my's attack against Jerusalem, but it follows it in all three accounts that we have. The book of Chronicles tells us of it in few words, that of Kings at greater length, and Isaiah in great detail, for this prophet adds to it: "the writing of Hezekiah" which is not found in the historical books. There are various reasons for this transposition. The first is that in the sending of the ambassadors Babylon's role is linked to the illness of Hezekiah. Babylon was destined to cut off the Assyrian under whose jurisdiction it then was, and was henceforth to play the preponderant role in the history of Judah. This role, that of the power transferred to the Gen­tiles and the establishment of the first universal monar­chy, does not begin to appear in God's ways toward His peo­ple until the historical-not the prophetic-role of the As­syrian has ended. The second reason is that it was neces­sary to set Hezekiah's faithful career before our eyes be­fore his grievous illness which threatened to put an end to it. From the prophetic point of view, especially in Isaiah, this makes Hezekiah's tears and supplications all the more poignant. His death might have appeared to have been a judgment of God when his whole life has been spent before Him in integrity. This is also why the writing of Hezekiah is not found in the prophecy properly so called, for it describes the feelings of the remnant appointed to death. In effect, the remnant will be called upon to pass through similar circumstances. Upright in heart, having served God all their lives, like Hezekiah cleansed from evil and from all evil associations, they must realize in their souls what it is to be cut off from the land of the living under the weight of the governmental indignation of God against Is­rael of which they form part. But they will be delivered and come to life again, as a result of the part they have in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. The third reason is that in the book before us it was important not to inter­rupt the account that began with the legitimate revolt of Hezekiah, continued with the invasion of Judah when the king's confidence was put to the test, and ended with his marvelous deliverance in answer to implicit trust in God when all human help was impossible.

After having reached Hezekiah in his circumstances, God's discipline reached him in his person: "Set they house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live" (v. 1). He must die. What misery! He who could say, "Ah! Jehovah, remember, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done what is good in thy sight" (v. 3), this man must die! For a godly Jew, to walk before God in the land of the living was an evident sign of His favor. Was this favor then withdrawn from the king? God would take no account of fourteen years of devotion to Himself, to His cause, and to His house! He was there­fore being rejected as a useless instrument, just at the mo­ment when his piety and his confidence in God had shone out in a special way! This kingdom which God had entrusted to him would have fallen into other hands, less pure than his own!

All this speaks to us of that which overtook the Messiah, of whom Hezekiah is but a feeble type. He also must be cut off in the midst of His days, be cast down after having been lifted up. He also, the faithful Witness who had done solely the will of God, had to suffer death; He also had to depart with nothing and lose His kingdom and all His earthly glory. But Christ-and this could not be the case with Hezekiah-suffered these things because He was bearing the iniquity of a great people, and must suffer God's righteous condemnation in our place. A man like Hezekiah could in no way redeem his brother nor give God a ransom for him (Ps. 49: 7); but He could pass through the experience of the wrath of God in His government. And this is what will happen to the remnant. Like Hezekiah, lifting up their voice to God from the depths, they will learn that the Lord will not take heed to their iniquity because He has visited it upon the Messiah.

It is therefore only in the measure in which Hezekiah participates in the experiences of Christ that he can be considered a type of the Messiah in our passage. Personally, just like the Lord, the zeal of the house of God had eaten him up too, but this not without a failure. He could say, "I trust in thee"; when it came to dying, he seemed to be cut off from the land of the living without cause; only, Hezekiah was a sinner, and as such it was necessary for another to take his place under the judgment of God.

"Hezekiah wept much" (v. 3). The Lord never wept because of the lot that was reserved for Him, for He had come into this world to die. He wept over rebellious Jerusalem; He wept before the tomb of Lazarus as He saw the power of death weigh upon poor fallen men, but He never wept for Himself. Only in one sense, like Hezekiah, He "offered up both supplications and entreaties to him who was able to save him out of death with strong crying and tears" (Heb. 5: 7), but it was not, like Hezekiah, in order not to die; it was to be saved out of death, to be delivered through resurrection from the horns of the buffaloes, so that the fruit of His work for us might not be lost. As for Hezekiah, tears became him, as they will become the upright remnant. He must learn to accept the sentence of death as being due to him; to say at first without understanding God's purpose: "What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it (Isa. 38: 15); to understand at last, at the end of all his anguish, that the Lord "was purposed to save" him (Isa. 38: 20).

God's answer does not wait long: "And it came to pass before Isaiah had gone out into the middle city that the word of Jehovah came to him saying, Return, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus said Jehovah, the God of David thy father: I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up to the house of Jehovah" (vv. 4‑5). Scarcely has Hezekiah's soul been searched out than the word of the Lord comes to Isaiah. One senses that God had beforehand prepared for the king all that He here accords him in his affliction. Hezekiah is brought back to life by a sort of resurrection. "Isaiah said, Take a cake of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered"(v. 7) To all appearances the means had no value, but applied at the prophet's word it is found to be the power of God unto salvation. "And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, What shall be the sign that Jehovah will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of Jehovah, the third day? And Isaiah said, This shall be the sign to thee from Jehovah, that Jehovah will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah said, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: no, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried to Jehovah, and he brought the shadow back on the degrees by which it had gone down on the dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward" (vv. 8‑11).

Ahaz had set up this dial. Since his reign the shadow had gone forward. Time was passing rapidly and must end in night, in the complete vanishing of the monarchy under God's judgment. The Lord could hasten this end, for the measure was full, but it pleased Him to answer the desire of the godly king and the prophet's request by delaying the hour instead of hastening it, thus granting an extension of time to the power of the king But this miracle has a deeper meaning It signifies that God could and would overturn all the order of nature and its laws which made the sinner subject to death so that He might accomplish the salvation of His beloved ones. Death no longer retains its fatal course; that life which was declining and which would then, as it were, be cut off from the loom like the weaver's fabric (Isa. 38: 12), would commence anew for the faithful remnant in the resurrection of the Messiah, their representative. For us it begins anew in eternal life by the resurrection of the Savior. Such is the sign that Hezekiah asks for. His request denoted a complete confidence in God who alone can do the impossible with the impossible. In reversing in Christ that which through sin had become nature's order for us so that He might save us, the Lord assures us that His counsels concerning us will be accomplished.

"On the third day thou shalt go up to the house of Jehovah." It is thus that Christ's death and resurrection give us, at the end of three days, free entry into the sanctuary.

Hezekiah had already received, without asking it, the sign of the enemy's final overthrow (2 Kings 19: 29‑31) in the fact that God had kept alive, without any human intervention, this remnant from which He would form the new Israel; he learns here by what means this remnant should be saved.

Let us observe before ending this part of Hezekiah's history the prophet Isaiah's remarkable role in all these events. Like the Word of God which he represents, he is the bearer of the sentence of death against the best of men who form part of a sinful, fallen race. Death is decreed, and there is no appeal. This message produces a deep affliction in the soul that receives it. Immediately Isaiah announces the happy news of the king's healing He then indicates the means by which this healing may be effected, and applies it to the fatal boil. Lastly, he makes known the sign by which, reversing the order of nature, the Lord engages Himself to effect that which He has promised. These things take place in virtue of the mediation of the prophet who cries unto the Lord, for one does not possess the blessing except by the personal intervention of the Lord Jesus. We have here a complete example of that which the gospel brings to the soul of every sinner.

2 Kings 20: 12‑19

The Embassy from Babylon*

{*As Hezekiah had despoiled himself of his treasures in order to ward off the king of Assyria's attack against Jerusalem (2 Kings 18: 15‑16), one might suppose that the embassy from Babylon had come before that time, shortly after Hezekiah's illness had befallen him in the fourteenth year of his reign. It would seem that if Hezekiah had showed all his treasures to the ambassadors, he would not yet have been impoverished by an enormous tribute which forced the king to strip even God's temple of its gold. But the event related in 2 Chronicles 32: 23 must be remembered. After Hezekiah had been delivered from Sennacherib, "many brought gifts unto Jehovah to Jerusa­lem, and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah; and he was thenceforth magnified in the sight of all the nations." Then again: "Hezekiah had very much riches and honor" (v 27). It was therefore only after Sennacherib's attack that the embassy from Babylon came, and that those who were sent got to see the treasures of king Hezekiah (v 31).}

A brief passage in Chronicles, the only passage in this book that speaks of all the contents of our chapter, informs us of Hezekiah's state of soul when the ambassadors were sent by the king of Babylon: "In those days Hezekiah was sick unto death, and he prayed to Jehovah; and he spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was lifted up; and there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. And Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusa­lem, so that the wrath of Jehovah came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah" (2 Chr. 32: 24‑26). Here we see the king's feelings when he received the messengers of Baby­lon. "His heart was lifted up." At that time under Berodach-baladan Babylon was not yet that which she later became.

Her king had thrown off the overlordship of Assyria and wanted to ward off the return of this power on the offen­sive by seeking friends among the nations located to the west of his kingdom. He therefore sent a letter and a present to Hezekiah by his ambassadors. Our passage says that Hezekiah "hearkened to them." Thus they had some request to make of him, some alliance to propose to him against their common enemy, whose yoke Hezekiah had himself thrown off. The Word does not tell us that this al­liance was concluded, but that the king received the am­bassadors favorably. Here he once more made the humiliat­ing experience that his trust in God was not absolute. Ac­cording to the account in 2 Chronicles 32: 27‑31 God had abundantly blessed him for his faithfulness during the first fourteen years of his reign: he had "very much riches and honor," and it was just at that time that "the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land" arrived. Such was the avowed purpose of Berodach‑baladan. As for his secret pur­pose, he flattered Hezekiah's pride. On this occasion "God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart" (v. 31). Left to himself, "his heart was lifted up." He displayed the riches God had given him so that he might vaunt himself before the eyes of these strangers instead of glorifying before these idolaters the God who had saved him by a miracle when he was appointed to death, and who had richly blessed him in replenishing his treasures. These treasures, together with his arsenal, his house, and his do­main were passed in review before a jealous world which could not, except merely superficially, be a friend to the saints and the people of God. And lo, in the near future "all . . . which thy fathers have laid up . . . [should! be carried to Babylon" (2 Kings 20: 17; Isa. 39: 6). There was, Chronicles tells us, "wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem," and Hezekiah had to make painful experience of it. But during the interval his soul had been humbled and restored. He was now prepared, as he says in his writing, to "go softly all [his] years" the fifteen years of life he yet had before him "in the bitterness of [his] soul." Softness and bitterness together! These qualities which seem unable to harmonize, harmonize perfectly for the Christian. To the bitterness of the discipline by which we are broken is joined the unspeakably sweet feelings of the Father's love, which He has bestowed on us!

Isaiah plays a new role here, that of the Word which penetrates and searches us out. Happy are we if, like Hezekiah, we do not try to hide anything from Him with whom we have to do. The godly king, taken aside, acknowledges and owns everything before the prophet. "What said these men? and from whence came they to thee?" asks Isaiah. "They came from a far country, from Babylon," answered Hezekiah. Did this "far country" where the prodigal son could live in pleasure far from the face of God (Luke 15: 13) have anything to do with the presence of God? These men came "from Babylon,' cradle both of rebellion against God and of idolatrous worship. Hezekiah had not contracted an alliance with their king, but had bound himself to him by friendship. The prophet asks, "What have they seen in thy house?" The king answers, still with the same sincerity, "All that is in my house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not strewn them." Then Isaiah announces the judgment of God: "Hear the word of Jehovah: Behold, days come that all that is in thy house, and what thy fathers have laid up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left" (1 Kings 20: 14‑17). Is this not the final sentence of the Word if our hearts allow themselves to be attracted and puffed up by things of this earth? "And the world is passing, and its lust." Nothing shall be left!

Hezekiah, having hidden nothing from the Lord, accepts his sentence in all humility. His words recall those of David: "I have sinned against Jehovah,' but they contain yet more: "Good is the word of Jehovah which thou hast spoken" (v. 19). With a contrite heart he accepts the consequences of his deed. The testimony which God had entrusted to him does not escape his hands unharmed; on the contrary, it is hopelessly ruined. This revival, begun in the freshness of divine power, ends through the fault of him who had been its instrument. But in a personal way Hezekiah's heart and conscience had gained through these experiences. If his testimony had been unable to maintain itself and had slipped into ruin, his soul through discipline had recovered its fellowship with the Lord and this humble confidence in Him which it had forsaken for a moment to let itself to be ensnared by the words of the enemy who had flattered his pride.

"And Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem," Chronicles tells us (2 Chr. 32: 26). Blessed result of personal humiliation-it produced the same result in others. When the Assyrian had appeared before the walls of Jerusalem, the king and the people had been of one heart and mind to answer him not and to despise his threats, trusting in the Lord. Discipline having produced its fruits, Hezekiah's wish "Is it not so? if only there shall be peace and truth in my days! was fulfilled" "The wrath of Jehovah came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah" (2 Chr. 32: 26).

2 Kings 21: 1‑18

Manasseh

Often a period of revival is followed by a faster pace down the pathway of decline; and remarkably, it is not said that God especially emphasizes this state of things by His judgments. The reign of Manasseh, characterized by a real overflow of idolatry, is the longest reign registered in the history of the kings of Judah and of Israel. One cannot judge men's condition by the greater or lesser severity of God's ways toward them. This was precisely the error of Job's friends, who were judging his character according to his tribulations, and in their arguments assumed that men must be relatively righteous by their lack of tribulation. Manasseh began his reign when he was twelve years old and it stretched out for fifty‑five years at Jerusalem. His mother's name is given us: Hephzibah-My delight is in her-the very name restored Jerusalem shall be called by the Lord (Isa. 62: 4). For the time being Hephzibah had, alas! brought forth a monstrous being, object of the Lord's displeasure. Is it for this reason that neither the father nor the birthplace of Manasseh's mother are mentioned? Manasseh rebuilt the high places destroyed by his father, raised up altars to Baal, made an image of the love‑goddess Astarte whose impure worship put even her worshippers to shame, placed her statue in the temple, built altars in the house of the Lord and in its two courts, devoted himself to the worship of the stars, sacrificed his son to Moloch, gave himself up to fortunetellers and enchanters, and by all his conduct caused Jehovah's people to err. There was no king in Judah more abominable than he; nevertheless his reign was prosperous, first of all in its duration, and except on one occasion we do not see that it brought any special calamities upon his people. We repeat what we have already said, God judges the deeds of men according to what they are in relation to Himself, and not according to how they conduct themselves toward the world round about them. Should we conclude that an atheist is any less guilty before God because he has devoted himself to humanitarian causes? In no wise. Men will be judged according to what they have thought of God and His Christ, and if their works do not have the Father and the Son for their object, their works are evil. Such was the case with Cain who attempted to acquire merit for himself by the abundant fruits of his labor, while hating his brother Abel.

Manasseh's deeds called for judgment, but God was not yet done with His testimony in Judah. "And Jehovah spoke by his servants the prophets" (v. 10). It is thus that God's Word still remains the only resource in these difficult times, but it is nothing other than the testimony of imminent judgment for the people, judgment from which there is no appeal. "I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipeth a pan, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; because they have done evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt even to this day" (vv.13‑15). The Lord links their state to their exodus from Egypt. From that time on they had been sinning Could one, can one say that God has not exercised patience toward those upon whom His name has been invoked?

The Word adds that, "Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem with it from one end to another" (v. 16). Thus Manasseh persecuted God's people, those who were innocent of all these infamous deeds. God here leaves us with this terrible sight which called for di­vine vengeance, but Chronicles, which is always pleased to note the action of grace, gives us information about the end of Manasseh's history. He had, up to a certain time in his history, accepted the suzerainty of the kings of Assyr­ia. Esarhaddon had succeeded Sennacherib (2 Kings 19: 37), then Assurbanipal his son. Babylon, which had thrown off the yoke of Asshur under Berodach‑baladan, had soon been reconquered and brought back under the dominion of the kings of Assyria. Manasseh, probably enveloped in a con­spiracy of all these oriental kingdoms against this harsh servitude to the Assyrians, is led captive to Babylon weighed down with chains of brass To judge by history, such was probably the cause of his cruel captivity. But the true cause is revealed to us by the Word. It was Jehovah who brought upon Manasseh and his people "the captains of the host of the king of Assyria" (2 Chr. 33: 11).

The purpose of God, who does not desire the death of a sinner was attained. Manasseh humbled himself, judging his entire conduct before God, and God brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then he was as zealous to burn that which he had been worshipping as the pious kings who had preceded his father Hezekiah, and the peo­ple followed in the same path. Joel, who prophesied under Manasseh, seems to allude to this event (Joel 2: 12‑14). Only the high places were not abolished. It was not a revival in the proper sense of the term, but a return to God through the affliction which had caused this wretched man to cry to Him and receive deliverance from all his distress. This subject should be taken up later in our study of Chroni­cles. The book of Kings stops when it has taken note of the king's responsibility; that of Chronicles shows us grace act­ing through judgments to restore him. What a blessed thought, that the hearts of the most hardened may become the objects of grace! How many will be found in the Lord's presence whose careers, as here, seemed broken by judg­ment, and who, beyond any doubt, were touched by repen­tance unto salvation.

 

2 Kings 21: 19‑26

Amon

Amon's short reign of two years is characterized by the same impiety as that of his father, even more serious, if this is possible, in that as witness of the judgment inflicted upon Manasseh, and of his repentance and forsaking of his idols, he ought to have received instruction for himself. His mother was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. She must have been an Edomite, if Jotbah is the same place as the Jobathah of Israel's journeys (Num. 33: 33; Deut. 10: 7). It was not without cause, as we have often said, that our book makes discrete allusions to the maternal origins of the kings throughout. Whatever the case may be, to raise up idols that have been destroyed is even worse in the eyes of Jehovah than to set up new ones. It is an insolent despisal of God after He has revealed Himself to us through His ways and His Word that He might make us forsake that which dishonors Him. To return to such is to act as though God did not exist and had not spoken, and this is also what makes Christendom so guilty. God had separated it from idolatry and its immoral principles; it has returned to these principles, as we see when we compare 2 Timothy 3: 1‑5 with Romans 1: 29‑32, and later it will return to idols themselves. Amon "forsook Jehovah the God of his fathers"; such is his sentence. For him there was no place left for repentance. He died a violent death just like the last kings of Israel.

2 Kings 22: 1-2 Kings 23: 30

 

 

Josiah

2 Kings 22

 

Josiah and the Second Revival

 

Having in this chapter arrived at the second great revival which took place in Judah's last days, we shall find in it ample material for our own instruction. We have said with regard to Hezekiah that end time revivals are characterized by rupture with traditions, however hallowed by long usage some of these may be, and by a return to things that have been from the beginning It goes without saying that apart from this special and powerful action of the Holy Spirit one encounters times when individual piety predominates and cuts off the idolatry then current, as seen in Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah. Those who act with God are ever able thereby to exert an influence of blessing around themselves; but a remarkable thing in the ways of God is that in the measure in which evil increases and draws the world to its final judgment, so does the truth of God shine in brighter splendor and shed about it a more general influence that revives souls.

Under Josiah, as under Hezekiah, there is a resolute and complete rupture with ancient evil, long tolerated or established in Judah. Josiah's faithfulness in this respect, so as it is reported to us in Kings, is altogether remarkable.

Josiah began to reign while still a small boy and consequently under the care of his mother, Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozcath, a woman of Judah (Joshua 15: 39). He walked, like Hezekiah, "in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand nor to the left" (v. 2). The first thing we are told of him here* is that he began by taking care of the Lord's house, repairing its breaches, counting upon the faithfulness of those who were charged with this work. This is one of the distinctive signs of a revival in the last times. God's house acquires an entirely new importance to believers, and its state of ruin draws out their solicitude. It ought to be so in the days that Christendom is passing through at present. The voice of the faithful ought to be heard, drawing the attention of God's people to His house, the Assembly of the Living God, as being that object that is most dear to Christ's heart. It is in no way a matter of freshly rebuilding the ruined temple but one of repairing‑its breaches, of faithfully bringing the necessary material, of adding to this building cedar wood and hewn stone pleasing to God who had built the house. Likewise at this time of the end the Christian who is conscious of his calling, instead of adding wood, hay, and stubble to the house, will bring to it that which is suitable to the house of God-living stones, hewn by the Holy Spirit, in the quarry of the world, cut by the Master, and capable ultimately of forming a part of the building of God. The revival in our times has comprehended this. For it, God's Assembly exists, although this Assembly is in ruin; whereas it takes no account of those buildings that men call their churches and which are maintained by men. It is not to these buildings that Christ's faithful witnesses will bring material, but to the Church of the Living God, and each is responsible to Him alone for the work which has been entrusted to him. "But no reckoning was made with them of the money that was given into their hand, because they dealt faithfully" (v. 7).

{*The order is different in Chronicles, where Josiah begins by the cleansing of the land and then occupies himself with the temple. This same book shows us Hezekiah beginning with the temple and then cleaning the land. In Kings this latter is Hezekiah's first act.}

This zeal for the house of God has an immediate and most important result: "And Hilkijah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah" (v. 8). If Josiah had not had the restoration of the temple at heart, the book of the law, which was kept there (2 Chr. 34: 15) would not have come to light again. This is the special character of Josiah's revival. Hezekiah had more especially shown confidence in the Lord accompanied-this goes without saying-by a real submission to the word of God which Isaiah the prophet bore, but under Josiah we find, as it were, a totally new revelation of the written Word, and in this particular case of the books of Moses. In this revival the Holy Scriptures, neglected and forgotten as it were during the preceding reigns, again suddenly occupy their place of importance. This was the great blessing attached to the revival called the Reformation. The Bible, brought out of obscurity through providential ways and presented to all, immediately shone forth with brightest splendor. Nevertheless, it is painful to see that the Reformation did not begin, as did Josiah, with a zeal for the house of God, but doubtless the importance of Christ's Assembly was being reserved for a latter time and had not yet been manifested.

When zeal for the house and obedience to the Scriptures go together, these latter become as it were a totally new revelation. Things already known be of God certainly do not lose their importance, but a light bursts forth that not only astonishes and impresses people as having been totally unknown until then, but that also touches consciences most deeply. "And it came to pass when the king heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his garments" (v. 11). Is it possible that the Word of God could have been violated in such a way by his people! Is it astonishing that the consequence of this has been their ruin?

And now who will interpret this Word for us? How are we to "inquire of Jehovah" regarding what we are to do, knowing that according to this Word we have incurred His displeasure? The prophet alone, the representative of the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1: 11), can interpret it for us. Josiah does not turn to Shaphan the scribe for this, or even to Hilkijah the high priest, he seeks to be put into direct relationship with the Word. There were many prophets at the time of ungodly Manasseh (2 Kings 21: 10). In Josiah's time, in these days of revival but of profound weakness, we find a prophetess at Jerusalem. Not that prophets were lacking in Judah (2 Kings 23: 2), but activity entrusted to a woman characterizes decline, just as with Deborah in the book of Judges. Like Deborah, Huldah, this servant of Jehovah, does not seek to exercise a public ministry like the false prophetesses of our days; she employs her gift in the sphere appointed her. Josiah's servants come to her: "Now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the second quarter of the town" (v. 14). Here we are far from an Isaiah whose ministry embraced the whole range of prophecy and whose presence characterized Hezekiah's revival. But the Spirit of Christ speaks through this woman, to confirm "all the words of the book that the king of Judah hath read" (v. 16), and, at the same time to reassure Josiah as to his own future. God had respect to the king's deep humiliation: "Because thy heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before Jehovah, when thou heardest what I spoke against this place and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and curse, and didst rend thy garments and weep before me, I also have heard thee, saith Jehovah" (v. 19). To humble himself was, in fact, the only thing needful. This characterized Josiah and at all times characterizes the faithful remnant in the midst of evil (Ezek. 9: 4) in the days of the ruin of the Church, and among those who profess to know the name of the Lord. Today one can recognize the hearts of the faithful by the humiliation they feel at the state of things. Josiah's heart was very sensitive to this; he rent his garments and wept. But according to verse 20 he was to be "taken away from before the evil," as Isaiah says (Isa. 57: 1).

 

2 Kings 23: 1‑20

The Book of the Covenant and the Sanctification of the People

The importance of God's house on earth, that place where the Lord causes His name to dwell, and of the book of the covenant-this now, as we have seen, is what characterizes the spiritual revival under Josiah. Let us not hesitate to repeat: in the times in which we live these two things always characterize a true revival. Interest in the Assembly of the Living God and not in the miserable imitations thereof with which fallen Christendom has replaced it, zeal for the inspired authority of the Holy Scriptures-this is that to which every faithful soul that is seeking the glory of the Lord will be attached today, whatever the cost may be.

The king has all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem gathered about him and goes up to Jehovah's house, having "all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great." He causes to be read before them "all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of Jehovah" (v. 2). This book of the covenant included not only the covenant of Sinai, but also that which was made in the plain of Moab, that is to say, all the words of Deuteronomy. It applied exactly to the people's state as it now was; and God had beforehand described it in this book. Deuteronomy spoke above all of obedience and made the blessing or cursing of the people whom God had redeemed from Egypt depend upon obedience to the Word. Here this covenant is renewed: "The king stood on the dais, and made a covenant before Jehovah, to walk after Jehovah, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart, and with all his soul, to establish the words of this covenant that are written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant." (v. 3).

 

In these end time revivals a powerful effect is produced upon all, although reality is found only in the hearts of the remnant. The book of Jeremiah, who prophesied under Josiah, shows us that in fact the moral state of the people was in no wise changed. They easily consented to the abolition of idolatry through the faithfulness of the king, but their hearts remained as far removed from God as ever. The prophet says: "And Jehovah said unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen what backsliding Israel hath done? She hath gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath committed fornication. And I said, After she hath done all these things, she will return unto me; but she returned not. And her sister Judah, the treacherous, saw it. And I saw that when for all the causes wherein backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce, yet the treacherous Judah, her sister, feared not, but went and committed fornication also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her fornication that she polluted the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And even for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not returned unto me with her whole heart, but with falsehood, said Jehovah" (Jer. 3: 6‑10. Read also Jer. 5: 27‑29; Jer. 6: 9‑15, 29; Jer. 8: 8‑13).

In spite of that, a moral constraint upon souls is exercised by means of those who are faithful, even upon those who are in fact afar off from God. In 2 Chronicles 34: 33 we see that Josiah "made to serve, all that were found in Israel-to serve Jehovah their God: all his days they did not depart from following Jehovah, the God of their fathers." It is thus that all the people here enter into the covenant. Amon had reestablished all that Manasseh had abolished at the time of his repentance. Josiah in his zeal for God and for God alone, quite different from Jehu's zeal, completely cleanses Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel, as far as his arm could reach. In the fields of Kidron he burns all the objects that had been accumulated in the temple for the worship of Baal, Astarte, and the stars, and carries their dust to Bethel, the initial site of Jeroboam's idolatry. He suppresses (v. 5; Zeph. 1: 4) the Chemarim-the priests established by the kings of Judah to burn incense before false gods. He completely destroys the lewd statue of the goddess of love which had been set up in house of the Lord, and casts the powder of its ashes on the graves of those who had worshipped her. He does away with the prostitution which had been widespread at Jerusalem under guise of the worship of Astarte. He gathers together the priests who under repentant Manasseh had continued to offer sacrifices to the Lord upon the high places (2 Chr. 33: 17). He does not treat them like the Chemarim, but does not allow them to go up to the altar of the Lord at Jerusalem. All fellowship with a religion which, even in being separated from idolatry, had dared to despise the only gathering center for the people, is resolutely broken. In this we find instruction for the day in which we live. This deed of Josiah's shows us that a true revival cannot be associated with worship which is not rendered around the Lord's Table, the only gathering center for His own. Nevertheless, Josiah acknowledges the right of these priests to eat "of the unleavened bread among their brethren" (v. 9). The individual holiness of those whom the Lord had consecrated is fully recognized, but for the moment, if not forever, their functioning in Israel's worship is not tolerated. Josiah furthermore abolishes the horses given to the sun and demolishes and burns the altars which had dared to replace God's only altar. In his zeal for the Lord he even attacks altars built by Solomon (v. 13).

He goes still further. His interest extends to all the people of God. He goes to Bethel, condemns all this evil at its source, and thus fulfills the prophecy once pronounced before Jeroboam against the altar where that king had offered up sacrifices (vv.15‑16; 1 Kings 13: 2). However, he spares the sepulchre of the man of God who had pronounced these things. Whatever the unfaithfulness of this man had been, he recognizes what had been done for God by him, also sparing the bones of the prophet of Samaria, the cause of his fall, but who had humbled himself for his error. It is thus that every truly Christian heart acknowledges that which men of God in the past times have done to serve Him, and respects their work, though blemished by failures which caused it to lose its power or spoiled its result (vv. 17‑18).

Lastly, the king goes through all the cities of Israel destroying the temples of the high places without pity for their idolatrous priests whom he exterminates, although since the people had been carried away by the Assyrians, the in­fluence of these to all appearances had been lost. He acts in view of a future restoration; and his heart, fervent in the service of the Lord, is attached to this; for prophets, even during his own reign, were announcing a restoration un­der the scepter of a king of righteousness and peace.

2 Kings 23: ‑21-23

The Passover

"And the king commanded all the people saying, Hold the passover to Jehovah your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant. For there was not holden such a pas­sover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of king Josiah was this passover holden to Jehovah in Jerusalem" (vv. 21‑23).

The celebration of the passover is given us here in few words, whereas Chronicles describes it at length (2 Chr. 35: 1‑19); but this event has too great an importance in the history of the revival to fail to arrest the reader's atten­tion for a moment. We have just spoken of the two great principles which characterize revival in the end times: breaking with the idolatry of the world or its religious tra­ditions, and returning to the Holy Scriptures. Following these two facts and as consequence of them we have the celebration of the Passover.

The Passover as an institution had first of all been celebrated in Egypt. The people of Israel had been redeemed from the land of bondage by the blood of the passover lamb. Through it, God's judgment which overtook Egypt was turned aside from Israel. The people, placed under the sprinkling of the blood, ate the passover. It was a figure of the appropriating of the sacrifice of Christ that faith does for us once for all: this symbol corresponds to what is said of the Christian in John 6: 53.

The memorial of this deliverance comes next. It was repeated each year on the fourteenth day of the first month (Ex. 12: 14, 26‑27, 45). This memorial was celebrated by all the people. In normal circumstances no one in Israel could abstain from it, under penalty of being "cut off from Israel." As a first condition to partake, it was necessary to be circumcised (Ex. 12: 48). This sign was the sign of the separation to God by the judgment of sin and the cutting off of the flesh. And so, at the time of entering into the land of Canaan, after the passage of the Jordan, all those who belonged to the generation whose fathers had fallen in the wilderness and who had not been circumcised were circumcised at Gilgal. "The reproach of Egypt" was thus rolled away from them, and they could celebrate the Passover in the plains of Jericho (Joshua 5: 6‑12).

By the fact that it was given to a redeemed and circumcised people, the memorial became the symbol of the unity of the people of God. The Passover was thus at the same time the remembrance of redemption and the proclamation of the unity of the people.

The Spirit of God shows us that this celebration was a fundamental institution, first of all in traversing the wilderness (Num. 9: 1‑14) and then upon entering Canaan (Joshua 5: 10). From that time on the Word does not mention it again until the days of Hezekiah, not as though it had not been observed under the judges, under David, Solomon, and the kings, but it was not the special object presented by the Holy Spirit; whereas we see the feasts of the seventh month, especially the feast of tabernacles, occupying a preponderant place under the reign of Solomon.

At the time of Hezekiah's revival, the Passover was not celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month, but of the second month (2 Chr. 30: 15), the date authorized by the Word for those who were unclean or on a journey at the time of the celebration of the feast (Num. 9: 11). The priests found themselves in the first situation, having lacked the zeal to sanctify themselves, they were unclean, and Hezekiah acts in consequence of this. Josiah's Passover was celebrated on the appointed date of the first month (2 Chr. 35: 1). The need of sanctifying oneself for the Lord was much more generally felt than it had been under Hezekiah, for the Word of God was better understood, and the desire to obey Him was more real.

At the time of Ezra, the Passover was celebrated by "the children of the captivity" on the day consecrated thereto, "for the priests and the Levites had purified themselves as one man" (Ezra 6: 19‑20).

Therefore, in the measure that we advance in the history of the ruin of the people of God, the greater the importance to the faithful the Passover and the state of soul appropriate to it acquire; and, quite remarkably, the sign of the unity of the people becomes all the more important as the people are dispersed all the more by the ruin.

Is it needful to add that these truths answer to the present day? The Lord's Supper, which on that night in which Jesus was betrayed replaced the Jewish Passover as a memorial, is served and the Lord's Table is set up for His redeemed people and for them alone. The Lord's death is proclaimed there until He returns. At the same time this table is a rallying center for the people of God, and it is the proclamation of the unity of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10: 17), even at a time when everything apparently contradicts this truth, or even when, as at the time Hezekiah, those who proclaim it are laughed at and mocked (2 Chr. 30: 10).

The history of the Passover does not end here, and in fact shall never be ended. A willing people will yet celebrate it upon earth during Christ's millennial reign (Ezek. 45: 21). It will be celebrated at the same time in the heavenly kingdom where the glorified saints will be gathered around the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 5).

Thus since redemption is accomplished, the memorial of that which has acquired it for the people of God lasts, come what may, and will last throughout eternity. The remembrance of the death of Christ is always necessary for it is the sole foundation for every blessing

Let us return now to Josiah's Passover. The account in our book, though very brief, is characterized by an important expression: "As it is written in this book of the covenant" (v. 21). No doubt, as we see in Chronicles, the people under Hezekiah had also come to celebrate it according to "the word of Jehovah" and "the law of Moses, the man of God" (2 Chr. 30: 12, 16), but under Josiah the written Word, marvelously preserved and rediscovered in the temple, takes on a yet much greater importance. Nothing that pertains to this memorial should be done without the Word. It was "according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon" that they were to prepare it (2 Chr. 35: 4); "according to the word of Jehovah through Moses" (v. 6) that one ought to present the sacrifice to the Lord (v. 12); "according to the ordinance" that one should roast it with fire (v. 13); "according to the commandment of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun the king's seer" that each occupied his place to observe the due order according to God in singing and praising (v. 15). And all was done "according to the commandment of king Josiah" (v. 16), that is to say, the instrument of this revival had the intelligence neither to communicate nor order the people to do anything but that which was in accord with the Scripture.

Let us take these things to heart. Josiah, warned by the Lord, knew perfectly well that in doing this he would not stop the course of judgment; he also knew that he would be gathered to his fathers before the evil would come and that his eyes should not see it (2 Kings 22: 20), but he had but one thought. Feeling with deepest humiliation the dishonor inflicted upon the Lord and His worship, he was pressed to honor Him in the midst of the ruin of Israel, in the very place where He had been so dishonored. By all his conduct he was protesting against the infamy which had been committed in Judah under the cloak of religion. He humbled himself under this apostasy, as being responsible for it just as others were, but without being in the least distracted all his activity was directed toward the service of the Lord and toward the cleansing for Him of a peculiar people, however abased or dispersed they might be.

Josiah's era was not marked, as Hezekiah's, by special attacks of the enemy, by trials coming from without or from within. It was a relatively peaceful time when indifference certainly played a greater part than hatred; but whereas the world rested and let things be, Josiah used this lull to show forth greatest activity for his Master.

Our times, we have already said, resemble those times, and the faithful have the same position and the same duties. May we use these end times with their relative calm to render testimony to these three things: separation from the religious and irreligious world which surrounds us, attachment to the Scriptures, and gathering God's children around the Lord's Table until He comes.

Our chapter adds that "all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, Josiah took away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkijah the priest had found in the house of Jehovah" (v. 24). Thus, to the end of his career Josiah put into practice the principles he had drawn from the Scriptures. There was no king like him, neither before nor after him, and that was not due to his personal merit nor to his righteousness, but to the fact that the Word of God, mixed with faith in his heart, had become an integral part of himself.

2 Kings 23: 28‑30

Pharaoh‑Nechoh

Josiah's end does not correspond to the initial blessings of his reign. We have seen that by special grace God had accorded external rest to him, so that his testimony might develop in peace. It was Josiah himself who now allowed himself to be drawn into war. The time had come when, according to prophecy, the power of the Assyrian which had been weighing so heavily upon all the peoples was to be broken to give place to the universal empire of Babylon. Nechoh goes up with an Egyptian army against the king of Assyria. Josiah takes the Assyrian's part against Pharaoh, something that God had in no wise commanded him. What did he have to do with supporting the tottering structure of this power, Israel's cruel enemy? Through prophecy he knew that the final ruin of the Assyrian was near. Was he commissioned by God to correct world happenings or to lend his support in them? Nothing in this world's condition can be improved in God's eyes, and we know that this world is already judged. Josiah had been set apart from all the course of this world to serve the Lord, he and his people, and we see him meddling in politics! He does not have to wait long for the result: the world punishes us for our intervening in its affairs. "What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah?" Pharaoh, who is conscious of being an instrument of God, says to him: "God . . . is with me. God has told me to make haste," and "the words of Nechoh [camel from the mouth of God" (2 Chr. 35: 20‑22). From the moment that he entered upon this path, Josiah lost his discernment of the mind of the Lord and was no longer able to recognize the word of his mouth.

It is always so. Spiritual intelligence and a true understanding of the Word are linked to true separation from all that makes up the world, including its politics. And for the rest, the child of God will always be a terribly poor diplomat, because he cannot avoid letting himself be governed by moral principles to which the world pays no heed. But on the other hand, who can know the world's future like the Christian? A simple child in the faith cleaving to the Word of God through his knowledge of the future will be able to instruct the greatest politician, for such a child knows all its details according to the revelation God has given him of them.

Josiah must suffer for his doings, for this intervention was serious unfaithfulness for a man favored by the blessings and the fellowship of his God. He was killed by Pharaoh at Megiddo, and buried in his sepulchre. Jeremiah lamented for the end of this pious servant of Jehovah (2 Chr. 35: 25).

2 Kings 23: 31‑25: 30

The Final Downfall

2 Kings 23: 31‑35

 

JEHOAHAZ

 

All God's favor under the reign of Josiah, the blessing and the joy with which the Lord had filled the hearts of the people, bear no results in the successors of this king Jehoahaz, chosen and proclaimed king by the people in his father's stead, "did evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all this his fathers had done" (v. 32). He is linked not to Josiah, but to his unbelieving and idolatrous fathers and he is not numbered in the line of faith. It is not possible to have Josiah or Abraham as father without producing fruits meet for repentance. Here the axe was being laid to the root of the tree and Judah's royalty was about to pass through its last convulsions before being finally cut off. Mothers issuing from among the people of God are henceforth without influence, whether because there is no more ear to hear them, or whether because they themselves take part in the ruin. Hamutal, the wife of Josiah and mother of Jehoahaz, was the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah and apparently of the priestly race (cf. Joshua 21: 13). Her son reigns only three months, and yet finds time to do evil and by his conduct toward God to gainsay that which Josiah had established.

Pharaoh‑nechoh avenges himself upon him for the opposition of Josiah who had foolishly supported the Assyrian by seeking to prevent the march of the Egyptian army. Bound with chains, Jehoahaz is led to Egypt and dies there. Pharaoh takes no account of this royalty established by the people. Jeremiah prophesies about him: "Weep not for the dead, neither bemoan him; but weep sore for him that goeth away, for he shall return no more, nor see his native country. For thus said Jehovah concerning Shallum the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, who went forth out of this place: He shall not return thither any more; for he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more" (Jer. 22: 10‑12). Nechoh takes Eliakim, the son of Josiah, and establishes him king "instead of Josiah his father," changing his name to Jehoiakim. This latter becomes servant and tributary to the king of Egypt and gives Pharaoh the gold and silver that he gathers up through taxes.

2 Kings 23: 36-2 Kings 24: 7

Jehoiakim

The same observation applies to this king's mother as to the mother of Jehoahaz. Her name is Zebuddah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. She probably came from one of the cities of Judah. Jehoiakim, at first tributary to Pharaoh, then becomes tributary to Nebuchadnezzar whose reign began the fourth year of Jehoiakim. The Lord's warnings are lavished upon him by Jeremiah (Jer. 22: 13‑19) and other prophets; they are not heeded. He slays Urijah, a prophet who prophesied against Jerusalem and against Judah, but who, lacking faith in presence of the king's murderous plans, fled to Egypt (Jer. 26: 20‑23). Jeremiah also runs the same dangers, but this man of God trusts in the word of the Lord: "And I, behold, I appoint thee this day as a strong city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls, against the whole land; against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee saith Jehovah, to deliver thee" (Jer. 1: 18‑19; see also Jer. 6: 27; Jer. 15: 20‑21). The Lord watches over him according to this word. When in his unbelief the king, after having cut up the roll of the prophecy of Jeremiah with a penknife and thrown it into the fire, seeks further to seize the prophet and his faithful companion, Baruch, we are told that "Jehovah hid them" (Jer. 36, especially vv. 23, 26).

Jeremiah had begun to prophesy in the thirteenth year of faithful Josiah when the people were still enjoying the prosperity which the faithfulness of the king had procured for them, but the people had not listened. Then the prophet announced the seventy years of captivity under the yoke of Babylon (Jer. 25: 11), the destiny of all the nations, at the head of whom he placed Jerusalem, comparing it to the idolatrous peoples, and finally, the destiny of Babylon itself (Jer. 25: 17‑29). This account indicates what the universal monarchy begun by Babylon would be like, regardless of how short its dominion might be by comparison with the long Assyrian dominion. But Assyria had never formed a compact kingdom, well established and universally recognized like that of Babylon.

Jehoiakim had changed masters. He could hardly wait to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. After his land had in part become a prey for all his neighbors (2 Kings 24: 2), this monarch went up against him and bound him with chains of brass to take him away to Babylon (2 Chr. 36: 6). We learn through Jeremiah what word the Lord had pronounced concerning him: "Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost" (Jer. 36: 30).

"Verily, at the commandment of Jehovah it came to pass against Judah, that they should be removed out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done; and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and Jehovah would not pardon" (vv. 34). From the time of Manasseh this irrevocable decree had gone forth from the Lord; it had been suspended during Josiah's reign, and would have remained so during the reigns of his successors had they been willing to listen (Jer. 25: 1‑11). There were two causes for this final judgment: idolatry, and innocent blood; and Jehoiakim, like Manasseh, had shed the latter according to his power in Jerusalem, the city that has killed the prophets and stoned those who were sent to it.

From thenceforth Pharaoh came not again any more out of his land (v. 7), the Babylonian empire having deprived him of all his possessions from the Nile to the Euphrates.

 

2 Kings 24: 7‑17

Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah, or Coniah)

Jehoiachin, otherwise known as Coniah, continues in his father's path. His mother was Nehusta, the daughter El­nathan of Jerusalem. It appears more and more evident that the mothers of these latter kings had themselves, like their sons, forgotten the Lord. In Coniah's day, Nebuchad­nezzar's servants besieged Jerusalem. This great king him­self then came to take part in the siege in person. Jehoia­chin went out to him. He was carried captive to Babylon, along with his mother, according to the prophecy of Jeremi­ah: "As I live, saith Jehovah, though Coniah the son of Je­hoiakim, the king of Judah, were a signet upon my right hand, yet will I pluck thee thence; and I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them before whom thou art afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bear thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. And into the land whereunto they lift up their souls to return, thither shall they not return. Is this man Coniah a despised broken vase? a vessel where­in is no delight? Wherefore are they thrown out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of Jehovah! Thus said Jehovah: Write this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days; for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jer. 22: 24‑30).

All the treasures of the king and those of the temple were carried away to the capital of the Chaldeans, and all the noble or able‑bodied people, men of war, princes, and crafts­men were taken away captive (vv. 14‑16).

This carrying away having been effected, Jeremiah in a vision sees two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the Lord (Jer. 24), the only place where the true state of the people might be appreciated. One of these baskets was full of very good figs in God's eyes, like figs that are first ripe; the other of very bad figs. That which men saw was exactly the opposite of that which God reveals to Jeremi­ah. To the world the good figs were the people remaining at Jerusalem under Zedekiah; to God's heart they were those carried away from Judah. The* goodness rested upon the fact that they had submitted to Gods' judgment due their iniquity. This same principle holds true for us, only thanks be to God, we have suffered our judgment in the person of Christ, condemned in our stead upon the cross. Once the sentence was executed, God could look down with favor upon those who had been its objects. "And I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up" (Jer. 24: 6). He was able to establish them in His presence forever. They must be perfect for that, and it was in this character that the Lord viewed the poor captive remnant. It is the same for us: in virtue of Christ's judgment God sees us perfect in Him, however wretched we may be in ourselves.

The Lord announces the restoration of the people. "I will bring them again to this land," but at the same time He proclaims that in the future He would give them moral per­fection before him, the result of a new covenant in which everything would come from Him. He alone is its author; it will be a covenant of grace, not of responsibility. "And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Jehovah; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" (v. 7).

The "bad figs, which cannot be eaten for badness" (v. 8), and with which God Himself could do nothing, were those who, not having undergone the first judgment under Je­hoiachin, must undergo a second and this time final judg­ment. Whereas God declared that everything was lost, they, trusting in themselves, were boasting that they were the representatives of the people of God. The land of Egypt, type of the world under the dominion of Satan, suited them very well. Instead of accepting the judgment of God they revolt­ed against Him, as we shall see in the history of Zedekiah.

In the midst of the ruin God opened a door of hope to the people. It was from among those who were carried away that God would raise up a remnant, nucleus of Israel of the fu­ture, over whom the king of righteousness, the Anointed of the Lord, would reign after all the sons of David had com­pletely failed in their responsibility. The words of Jeremiah concerning the end of Jerusalem's desolation were later to console and strengthen Daniel's heart when the Babylonian captivity was about to reach its end (Dan. 9: 1‑3). We find these same words of consolation for people of the carrying away under Jehoiachin in Ezekiel: "And the word of Je­hovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, it is thy brethren, thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel, the whole of it, unto whom it inhabitants of Jerusa­lem say, Get you far from Jehovah: unto us is this land given for a possession. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Je­hovah: Although I have removed them far off among the nations, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries whither they are come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will even gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where ye are scat­tered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away from thence all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my sta­tutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (Ezek. 11: 14‑20).

Let us again mention with regard to Jehoiachin, an event related by Jeremiah (Jer. 28) which took place under Zedek­iah. A prophet, and there were many of these in this peri­od, Hananiah the son of Azzur, prophesied before Jeremi­ah in the house of the Lord. According to him, at the end of two years the yoke of the king of Babylon which Jeremi­ah was bearing on his neck before all the people as a sign was to be broken. At the end of two years the captives of Judah (those that had been carried away under Jehoiachin) were to be brought back to Jerusalem and the holy vessels restored to the house of the Lord. Thereupon he broke the yoke borne by the prophet. He did that which the princes had done who were counselling those who had been carried away not to build houses, in opposition to what Jeremiah had told them (Ezek 11: 3). Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: The wooden yoke which Hananiah had broken was to become an iron yoke upon all the na­tions, and the false prophet was condemned to death be­cause he had "spoken revolt against Jehovah" (Jer. 28: 16). Two months after this prophecy God's sentence was carried out.

This little scene shows us what the feelings of the people and of their leaders were, in the midst of God's judgments. They did not accept these judgments and did not submit themselves to them. Their national pride would not stand this humbling; neither they nor their king would turn to God to seek His will.

Thus, all along we have had occasion to observe through the prophets that the hearts of the people were desperate­ly evil, and that their state necessarily called for God's judgment.

Just as it was necessary to accept the judgment, so it was necessary to bear it patiently until the end of the seventy years assigned it by the Lord. So Jeremiah wrote to those taken captive under Jeconiah (Jehoiachin): "Build houses, and dwell in them, and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and‑give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace" (Jer. 29: 5‑7). At the appointed time there was to be a restoration. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you in your latter end a hope" (Jer. 29: 11).

2 Kings 24: 18‑25: 21

Zedekiah

Zedekiah was Jehoiachin's uncle and been established in office by the king of Babylon, who had changed his name form Mattaniah to Zedekiah. His mother, Hamutal, was a daughter of Judah; we shall not repeat our remarks previ­ously made about her.

In setting Zedekiah into office, Nebuchadnezzar counted on having a king dependent upon himself who would not foment new revolts. Zedekiah's two predecessors had had obliged the king of Babylon to make two expeditions against Jerusalem, but now he expected to have peace with this proud, turbulent nation that submitted to his scep­ter. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 17) in a parable describes the politics and purposes of Nebuchadnezzar. The great Babylonian eagle had cropped off Jehoiachin, the top of the young shoots of the cedar of Lebanon, and had carried him away to Babylon. He had then taken the seed of the land- Zedekiah-and planted it by great waters like a willow tree. It had become a vine, spreading, but not high, for the king of Babylon wanted to have an abased royalty in Judah de­pendent upon him. This vine turned toward another great eagle, the Pharaoh of Egypt, instead of remaining in submission to the first. God declares through the prophet what the result would be.

"Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon" (1 Kings 24: 20). This act was an infamous and sacrilegious act in the eyes of the Lord, and this is why: Nebuchadnezzar "had made him take oath by God" (2 Chr. 36: 13). And Ezekiel tells us that he "made a covenant with him, and brought him under an oath" (Ezek. 17: 13). Thus to all his other transgressions this king was adding the breaking of an oath made in the name of the Lord. Doing this before the idola­trous nations, he demonstrated before them that he had no regard for the God to whom he pretended to belong Chronicles registers four reasons for the judgment of this king: He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke to him on behalf of Jehovah; this was rebellion against the word of the Spirit of God. He revolted against Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against return­ing to Jehovah (2 Chr. 36: 12‑13). As to the first point, so often repeated about these latter kings of Judah, we are not told about those who immediately preceded Zedekiah that their idolatry was as dreadful as that of Manasseh, or at least the details are not given to us. But as to Zedeki­ah, we are informed first of all by Chronicles (2 Chr. 36: 13‑14), where we are told that together with all the chief of the people, he defiled the house of Jehovah which he had hallowed in Jerusalem"; and the prophet Ezekiel, in his vision (Ezek. 8) gives us details of these abominations. "The image of jealousy," This Astarte set up by Manasseh which "provoked Jehovah to jealousy" was there at the entry of the temple; within the court and in the "chambers of im­agery" all sorts of idols had been painted, before which the elders were burning incense; at the entry of the northern gate of the house women were weeping for Tammuz- probably Adonis; at the entry of the temple between the porch and the altar men were worshipping the rising sun. The thoughts of the hearts of the people were no better. In­stead of recognizing that God's judgment had overtaken them because of their unfaithfulness, they said: "We will be as the nations, as the families of the countries, in serv­ing wood and stone " (Ezek. 20: 32). The same prophet also presents to us the moral state of the prophets, the priests and the princes. Everywhere there was violence, profana­tion, dishonest gain, extortion, and rapine (Ezek. 22: 23‑31); see also Jer. 32: 30‑35).

Zedekiah's revolt might have had plausible political mo­tives in the eyes of the world. As happens today too, it won the sympathy of all those who chafed under Babylon's yoke. But this yoke was according to God, and the Lord proclaimed this in a visible way by the prophet Jeremiah who walked through the city bearing a wooden yoke upon his neck. The king of Judah ought to have known and remembered this, had he had the least concern to serve the Lord. But this man, so brave to revolt, down deep was filled with terror, fearing to compromise himself before the princes of the people. He was doubtless being encouraged in his actions by the surrounding nations, as we see in Jeremiah 27: 3, where the kings of Moab, of Edom, of the children of Ammon, of Tyre, and of Zidon had sent their messengers to encourage him to shake off the yoke of Baby­lon together with them. The chief men of Judah were of the same mind and had their ideas of resistance supported by prophets who used their gifts to lead the people into error and lead them into a path of rebellion against the Lord (Jer. 27: 12: 22).

One can understand the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar who thrice under three successive reigns was obliged to return to Jerusalem to besiege it, and the rage of this despot to whom everything had been subjected by God (The Lord had proclaimed this openly to him. Dan. 2: 37‑38) on seeing himself despised and scoffed at by the weak people of the kingdom of Israel who had been brought so low. He made no delay in setting out to punish the revolt. Ezekiel describes his uncertainty about the execution of his vengeance; should he begin with Rabbah of the Ammonites, or with Jerusalem. He practiced divination to know where to begin. Without his being aware of it, the Lord's hand led him against Judah. "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it!" said Jehovah (Ezek. 21: 18‑31).

Nebuchadnezzar builds ramparts all around Jerusalem and undertakes a siege which lasts about eight months. Famine intensifies in the city, according to the word of Jeremiah: "And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one of the flesh of his friend, in the siege and in the straitness wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them" (Jer. 19: 9). During all this time, despite the innumerable dangers threatening him Jeremiah stands firm for the Lord, according to His word: "I will make thee unto this people a strong brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee, to save thee and to deliver thee, saith Jehovah; yea, I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible" (Jer. 15: 20‑21). His word, again and again repeated, is: "Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon." "Thou shalt go to Babylon." He gives the same warning to the nations confederated with Judah (Jer. 27: 3‑11) and to Zedekiah and his people (vv. 12‑15). The princes persecute the prophet and seek to put him to death, under pretext that he is weakening the hands of the people. Zedekiah fears the princes (Jer. 38: 24). At a given moment Pharaoh with his army comes to the aid of Jerusalem (Ezek. 17: 17; Jer. 37: 5). The Chaldeans, learning this news, withdraw from Jerusalem. Jeremiah shows the people their fallacy. The army of Pharaoh, he says, will return to the land of Egypt, and the Chaldeans will come again. At the time when the Chaldeans withdraw the prophet goes out of Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to have his portion there among the people (Jer. 37: 12). He is made prisoner, accused of being a deserter, persecuted, and thrown into a deep dungeon where he sinks into the mire. The princes of the people are the most fierce against him. Ebed‑melech the Ethiopian speaks to the king in his favor and pulls him up out of the dungeon (Jer. 38). The day the city is taken this man is saved, according to the word of the prophet (Jer. 39: 15). Zedekiah himself persecutes Jeremiah and shuts him up in the court of the prison (Jer. 32: 2‑3), but in fact it is the king who is the captive of his captains and of his princes and does not dare resist them, In reality he did not hate Jeremiah, but was under the pressure of the fear of men instead of being governed by the fear of the Lord whom he had despised and dishonored (Jer. 38: 24‑28). The prophet, with a boldness that rests upon the word and the promises of God, hides nothing from the king of that which was about to take place: destruction, plunder, conflagration. As judgment is approaching, he cries out all its details in the ears of all and in the king's ears. He says: "Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans; for he shall certainly be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes" (Jer. 32: 4); and again: "Thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon" (Jer. 34: 3). And Ezekiel says: "The prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth; they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby; he shall cover his face that he see not the land with his eyes. And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare; and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; but he shall not see it, and there shall he die"(Ezek. 12: 12‑13). These two prophecies were fulfilled to the letter. When Zedekiah, on the occasion of the temporary departure of the Chaldean army, proclaimed a jubilee and ordered that all Israelite servants should be set free, all "the princes of Judah and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land passed between the parts of a calf cut in two to confirm the covenant that they made before the Lord (Jer. 34: 18‑19; cf. Gen. 15: 9), but scarcely was the promise made than they transgressed it, going and taking back their servants to bring them into bondage again. And so judgment was pronounced upon them with greatest energy by the prophet (Jer. 34: 20‑22).

Only a small remnant who had received the Lord's message and had delivered themselves over to the Chaldeans had their lives saved (2 Kings 25: 11). They were the excellent figs of Jeremiah 24.

Jerusalem is taken. Zedekiah flees with his army toward Jordan. His retinue is dispersed, he is taken, led to Nebuchadnezzar, judged as we have seen, and led away to Babylon, where the king of Babylon "put him in prison till the day of his death" (Jer. 52: 11). Only, according to the word of the prophet, he does not die a violent death (Jer. 34: 4‑5), the Lord paying heed to the least bit of evidence of turning in this poor king who had shown a moment of pity for the servant of the Lord and had listened to his word, although he lacked the courage to follow it and the faith to humble himself before God.

The people are carried away to Babylon; the priests and those who had helped with the resistance die a violent death at Riblah. The last vestiges of the power and prosperity of Judah disappear following this attack. Even the two pillars of the temple are broken in pieces and carried away to Babylon as well as all the brass, the gold, and the silver of the house of God. The Lord had been despised. What should Jachin and Boaz yet have to do at Jerusalem? The strength that was in the Lord had departed through Judah's unfaithfulness, and God had destroyed it instead of establishing it. Thus ends the history of man, placed under responsibility before God. God must give him up-but His promises are without repentance. He will re‑establish the reign of His anointed upon these two marvelous pillars, and this reign will be unshakeable.

 

2 Kings 25: 22‑26

Gedaliah

Nebuchadnezzar establishes Gedaliah the son of Ahikam over the people left in the land to be vinedressers and laborers. This Ahikam had saved Jeremiah in the days of Jehoiakim, when even as Urijah the prophet, he had prophesied against Jerusalem (Jer. 26: 24). No doubt this action had had its influence upon the king of Babylon, who respected and protected Jeremiah. Gedaliah dwelt at Miz­pah, a strong city that Asa, king of Judah, had built with the stones of Ramah (1 Kings 15: 22). It was there that Jeremi­ah went, and there all those from the surrounding regions who had escaped together with the poor people that were left came to seek the protection of Gedaliah, this noble lieu­tenant of the king of Babylon. He reassured the people, swearing to them that they had nothing to fear in accept­ing their servitude to the Chaldeans.

For this poor remnant there was a respite of several months. They gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance (Jer. 40: 12). The worship of the Lord even seems to have been held in honor again, now at a time when the temple had been completely destroyed and ruined. At least there was a "house of Jehovah" to which those who mourned over Israel's condition could go up. The captains of the forces that remained gathered around Gedaliah, Ish­mael the son of Nethaniah of the royal seed at their head. This latter, however, came with evil purposes, sent by Baa­lis, the king of the Ammonites, and pushed, no doubt, by his own ambition. Gedaliah warned by Johanan, one of the captains, of the treachery being planned, refused to believe it and to have part in the murder of Ishmael (Jer. 40: 13‑16). Ishmael smote him in a cowardly manner, thus for the last time rebelling against the king of Babylon's authority. He massacred the governor's followers and the Chaldean war­riors who were found there. On the second day he killed the men who, perhaps ignorant and not free from heathen practices but with broken hearts, had come to seek the Lord; and led captive all the remainder of the people who were at Mizpah along with the king's daughters to the Am­monites (Jer. 41: 4‑10). Johanan and the captains of the forces followed him, found him near the waters of Gibeon, defeated him, and recovered the captives from him, while he succeeded in escaping with eight men and going to Baalis.

These delivered captives, filled with apprehension and wanting to go to Egypt, consult the Lord through Jeremi­ah to secure an answer according to their desires, but in fact they had decided to disobey if this answer would not be favorable to their purpose. The prophet solemnly warned them. If they would stay, this would be their salvation, for blessing always accompanies the accepting of God's judg­ment when the soul humbly submits and in spite of every­thing counts upon him to bless. To go down to Egypt where they thought they would find security would be to go on to inevitable judgment (Jer. 42).

In their pride the leaders do not want to accept humiliation, and they treat the word of God as a lie. Is it not always so when God presents His word which condemns the world and the will of man to souls who have chosen the world and their own self will? In face of the most clear sentence they say: "Thou speakest falsely; Jehovah our God hath not sent thee to say" this (Jer. 43: 2). Thus they do not listen to the word of the Lord. Obstinate in their purpose to the end, they revolt against God and take with them Jeremiah and faithful Baruch, not wanting to leave behind these witnesses to their disobedience and of their unbelief. They forget only one thing, that they are carrying with them the Word that condemns them. Jeremiah continues to the end in his faithful exercise of the gift of prophecy that God had entrusted to him. At Tahpanhes, just as at Jerusalem, he is a witness of the true God. He announces the future invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, who at that time would remember these revolts (Jer. 43).

These wretched folk begin again to serve other gods in the land of Egypt to which they had fled. Their state is described to us in these words: "They are not humbled unto this day, neither have they feared nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes which I set before you and before your fathers" (Jer. 44: 10). So God declares that of all those who had gone down to Egypt, except for "a very small company" that would escape (v. 28), "none of the remnant" should "escape or remain, so as to return into the land of Judah" (Jer. 44: 14).

The people openly declare their will to continue sacrificing "to the queen of the heavens," and attribute to her the prosperity which they had formerly enjoyed at Jerusalem (Jer. 44: 17‑18). The predicted calamity overtakes them in Egypt, the Lord delivering Pharaoh‑hophra into the hands of the king of Babylon (Jer. 44: 30)

2 Kings 25: 27‑30

The End

In the thirty‑seventh year of the carrying away, Evilmerodach, king of Babylon, took Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) out of prison and maintained him at his court all the rest of his life. The lamp that seemed extinguished began again to shed a feeble glimmer, proof that the Lord is always mindful of the promises made to David, His anointed, and that in spite of everything His grace is watching over this guilty race. In fact a day would come, and it was not far off, when according to Isaiah, the Spirit would announce liberty to the captives and proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor, the acceptable year of the Lord. Would the people have it then? They rejected Jehovah's Anointed even as they had rejected Jeremiah and all the prophets before him, but in spite of all, God's promise will be fulfilled as to them, and their final jubilee will be held when the sword of judgment will have accomplished its strange work upon earth, and the everlasting gates shall be lifted up to let the King of glory enter!

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