Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Last Kings of Judah; the Destruction of Jerusalem; Judah Led Away Captive; and the Babylonian Exile - 2 Chronicles 36
As the kingdom of Judah after Josiah's death advanced with swift steps to its destruction by the Chaldeans, so the author of the Chronicle goes quickly over the reigns of the last kings of Judah, who by their godless conduct hastened the ruin of the kingdom. As to the four kings who reigned between Josiah's death and the destruction of Jerusalem, he gives, besides their ages at their respective accessions, only a short characterization of their conduct towards God, and a statement of the main events which step by step brought about the ruin of the king and the burning of Jerusalem and the temple.
2 Chronicles 36:1
The reign of Jehoahaz. Cf. Kg2 23:30-35. - After Josiah's death, the people of the land raised his son Jehoahaz (Joahaz), who was then twenty-three years old, to the throne; but he had been king in Jerusalem only three months when the Egyptian king (Necho) deposed him, imposed upon the land a fine of 100 talents of silver and one talent of gold, made his brother Eliakim king under the name Jehoiakim, and carried Jehoahaz, who had been taken prisoner, away captive to Egypt. For further information as to the capture and carrying away of Jehoahaz, and the appointment of Eliakim to be king, see on Kg2 23:31-35.
2 Chronicles 36:5
The reign of Jehoiakim. Cf. 2 Kings 23:36-24:7. - Jehoiakim was at his accession twenty-five years of age, reigned eleven years, and did that which was evil in the eyes of Jahve his God.
"Against him came Nebuchadnezzar (in inscriptions, Nabucudurriusur, i.e., Nebo coronam servat; see on Dan. S. 56) the king of Babylon, and bound him with brazen double fetters to carry him to Babylon." This campaign, Nebuchadnezzar's first against Judah, is spoken of also in 2 Kings 24 and Dan 1:1-2. The capture of Jerusalem, at which Jehoiakim was put in fetters, occurred, as we learn from Dan 1:1, col. c. Jer 46:2 and Jer 36:7, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, i.e., in the year 606 b.c.; and with it commence the seventy years of the Chaldean servitude of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar did not carry out his purpose of deporting the captured king Jehoiakim to Babylon, but allowed him to continue to reign at Jerusalem as his servant (vassal). To alter the infin. להוליכו into the perf., or to translate as the perf., is quite arbitrary, as is also the supplying of the words, "and he carried him away to Babylon." That the author of the Chronicle does not mention the actual carrying away, but rather assumes the contrary, namely, that Jehoiakim continued to reign in Jerusalem until his death, as well known, is manifest from the way in which, in Ch2 36:8, he records his son's accession to the throne. He uses the same formula which he has used in the case of all the kings whom at their death their sons succeeded, according to established custom. Had Nebuchadnezzar dethroned Jehoiakim, as Necho deposed Jehoahaz, the author of the Chronicle would not have left the installation of Jehoiachin by the Chaldean king unmentioned. For the defence of this view against opposing opinions, see the commentary on Kg2 24:1 and Dan 1:1; and in regard to Ch2 36:7, see on Dan 1:2. The Chronicle narrates nothing further as to Jehoiakim's reign, but refers, Ch2 36:8, for his other deeds, and especially his abominations, to the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, whence the most important things have been excerpted and incorporated in Kg2 24:1-4. עשׂה אשׁר תּועבותיו Bertheau interprets of images which he caused to be prepared, and עליו הנּמצא of his evil deeds; but in both he is incorrect. The passages which Bertheau cites for his interpretation of the first words, Jer 7:9. and Eze 8:17, prove the contrary; for Jeremiah mentions as תּועבות of the people, murder, adultery, false swearing, offering incense to Baal, and going after other gods; and Ezekiel, loc. cit., uses תּועבות עשׂות of the idolatry of the people indeed, but not of the making of images - only of the worship of idols, the practice of idol-worship. The abominations, consequently, which Jehoiakim committed are both his evil deeds and crimes, e.g., the shedding of innocent blood (Kg2 24:4), as well as the idolatry which he had practised. עליו הנּמצא, "what was found upon him," is a comprehensive designation of his whole moral and religious conduct and attitude; cf. Ch2 19:3. Jehoiakim's revolt from Nebuchadnezzar after three years' servitude (Kg2 24:1) is passed over by the author of the Chronicle, because the punishment of this crime influenced the fate of the kingdom of Judah only after his death. The punishment fell upon Jehoiachin; for the detachments of Arameans, Moabites, and Ammonites, which were sent by Nebuchadnezzar to punish the rebels, did not accomplish much.
2 Chronicles 36:9
The reign of Jehoiachin. Cf. Kg2 24:8-17. - Jehoiachin's age at his accession is here given as eight years, while in Kg2 24:8 it is eighteen. It is so also in the lxx and Vulg.; but a few Hebr. codd., Syr., and Arab., and many manuscripts of the lxx, have eighteen years in the Chronicle also. The number eight is clearly an orthographical error, as Thenius also acknowledges. Bertheau, on the contrary, regards the eight of our text as the original, and the number eighteen in 2 Kings as an alteration occasioned by the idea that eighteen years appeared a more fitting age for a king than eight years, and gives as his reason, "that the king's mother is named along with him, and manifestly with design, Kg2 24:12, Kg2 24:15, and Jer 22:26, whence we must conclude that she had the guardianship of the young king." A perfectly worthless reason. In the books of Kings the name of the mother is given in the case of all the kings after their accession has been mentioned, without any reference to the age of the kings, because the queen-mother occupied a conspicuous position in the kingdom. It is so in the case of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin, Kg2 23:36 and Kg2 24:8. On account of her high position, the queen-mother is mentioned in Kg2 24:12 and Kg2 24:15, and in Jeremiah, among those who submitted to Nebuchadnezzar and were carried away to Babylon. The correctness of the number eighteen is, however, placed beyond doubt by Eze 19:5-9, where the prophet portrays Jehoiachin as a young lion, which devoured men, and knew widows, and wasted cities. The knowing of widows cannot apply to a boy of eight, but might well be said of a young man of eighteen. Jehoiachin ruled only three months and ten days in Jerusalem, and did evil in the eyes of Jahve. At the turn of the year, i.e., in spring, when campaigns were usually opened (cf. Kg1 20:22; Sa2 11:1), Nebuchadnezzar sent his generals (Kg2 24:10), and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of Jahve, and made his (father's) brother Zedekiah king in Judah. In these few words the end of Jehoiachin's short reign is recorded. From Kg2 24:10-16 we learn more as to this second campaign of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem, and its issues for Judah; see the commentary on that passage. Zidkiyah (Zedekiah) was, according to Kg2 24:17, not a brother, but דּוד, uncle or father's brother, of Jehoiachin, and was called Mattaniah, a son of Josiah and Hamutal, like Jehoahaz (Kg2 24:18, cf. Kg2 23:31), and is consequently his full brother, and a step-brother of Jehoiakim. At his appointment to the kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar he received the name Zidkiyah (Zedekiah). אהיו, in Ch2 36:10, is accordingly to be taken in its wider signification of blood-relation.
2 Chronicles 36:11
The reign of Zedekiah; the destruction of Jerusalem, and Judah carried away into exile. Cf. 2 Kings 24:18-25:21. - Zedekiah, made king at the age of twenty-one years, reigned eleven years, and filled up the measure of sins, so that the Lord was compelled to give the kingdom of Judah up to destruction by the Chaldeans. To that Zedekiah brought it by the two main sins of his evil reign, - namely, by not humbling himself before the prophet Jeremiah, from the mouth of Jahve (Ch2 36:12); and by rebelling against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had caused him to swear by God, and by so hardening his neck (being stiff-necked), and making stout his heart, that he did not return to Jahve the God of Israel. Zedekiah's stiffness of neck and hardness of heart showed itself in his refusing to hearken to the words which Jeremiah spoke to him from the mouth of God, and his breaking the oath he had sworn to Nebuchadnezzar by God. The words, "he humbled himself not before Jeremiah," recall Jer 37:2, and the events narrated in Jer 37 and 38, and 21:4-22:9, which show how the chief of the people ill-treated the prophet because of his prophecies, while Zedekiah was too weak and languid to protect him against them. The rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, to whom he had sworn a vassal's oath of fidelity, is mentioned in Kg2 24:20, and Eze 17:13. also, as a great crime on the part of Zedekiah and the chief of the people; see the commentary on both passages. In consequence of this rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar marched against Judah with a powerful army; and after the capture of the fenced cities of the land, he advanced to the siege of Jerusalem, which ended in its capture and destruction, Kg2 25:1-10. Without further noticing these results of this breach of faith, the author of the Chronicle proceeds to depict the sins of the king and of the people. In the first place, he again brings forward, in Ch2 36:13, the stiffness of neck and obduracy of the king, which manifested itself in the acts just mentioned: he made hard his neck, etc. Bertheau would interpret the words וגו ויּקשׁ, according to Deu 2:30, thus: "Then did God make him stiff-necked and hardened his heart; so that he did not return to Jahve the God of Israel, notwithstanding the exhortations of the prophets." But although hardening is not seldom represented as inflicted by God, there is here no ground for supposing that with ויּקשׁ the subject is changed, while the bringing forward of the hardening as an act of God does not at all suit the context. And, moreover, ערף הקשׁה, making hard the neck, is nowhere ascribed to God, it is only said of men; cf. Kg2 17:14; Deu 10:16; Jer 19:15, etc. To God only את־לב הקשׁה or את־רוּח is attributed, Exo 7:3; Deu 2:30.
2 Chronicles 36:14
"And all princes of the priests and the people increased faithless transgressions, like to all the abominations of the heathen, and defiled the house of the Lord which He had consecrated in Jerusalem." Bertheau would refer this censure of their idolatry and the profanation of the temple to the guilt incurred by the whole people, especially in the time of Manasseh, because, from all we know from the book of Jeremiah, the reproach of idolatry did not at all, or at least did not specially, attach to the princes of the priests and the people in the time of Zedekiah. But this reason is neither tenable nor correct; for from Ezek 8 it is perfectly manifest that under Zedekiah, not only the people, but also the priesthood, were deeply sunk in idolatry, and that even the courts of the temple were defiled by it. And even though that idolatry did not take its rise under Zedekiah, but had been much practised under Jehoiakim, and was merely a revival and continuation of the idolatrous conduct of Manasseh and Amon, yet the reference of our verse to the time of Manasseh is excluded by the context; for here only that which was done under Zedekiah is spoken of, without any reference to earlier times.
Meanwhile God did not leave them without exhortation, warning, and threatening. - Ch2 36:15. Jahve sent to them by His messengers, from early morning onwards continually, for He spared His people and His dwelling-place; but they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets. בּיד שׁלח, to send a message by any one, to make a sending. The object is to be supplied from the verb. ושׁלוח השׁכּם exactly as in Jer 26:5; Jer 29:19. For He spared His people, etc., viz., by this, that He, in long-suffering, again and again called upon the people by prophets to repent and return, and was not willing at once to destroy His people and His holy place. מלעיבים is ἁπ. λεγ., in Syr. it signifies subsannavit; the Hithp. also, מתּעתּעים (from תּעע), occurs only here as an intensive: to launch out in mockery. The distinction drawn between מלאכים (messengers) and נביאים (prophets) is rhetorical, for by the messengers of God it is chiefly prophets who are meant; but the expression is not to be confined to prophets in the narrower sense of the word, for it embraces all the men of God who, by word and deed, censured and punished the godless conduct of the idolaters. The statement in these two verses is certainly so very general, that it may apply to all the times of gradually increasing defection of the people from the Lord their God; but the author of the Chronicle had primarily in view only the time of Zedekiah, in which the defection reached its highest point. It should scarcely be objected that in the time of Zedekiah only Jeremiah is known as a prophet of the Lord, since Ezekiel lived and wrought among the exiles. For, in the first place, it does not hence certainly follow that Jeremiah and Ezekiel were the only prophets of that time; then, secondly, Jeremiah does not speak as an individual prophet, but holds up to the people the witness of all the earlier prophets (cf. e.g., Ch2 26:4-5), so that by him all the former prophets of God spoke to the people; and consequently the plural, His messengers, His prophets, is perfectly true even for the time of Zedekiah, if we always keep in mind the rhetorical character of the style. וגו עלות עד, until the anger of Jahve rose upon His people, so that there was no healing (deliverance) more.
2 Chronicles 36:17
When the moral corruption had reached this height, judgment broke upon the incorrigible race. As in Ch2 36:12-16 the transgressions of the king and people are not described according to their historical progression, but are portrayed in rhetorical gradation; so, too, in Ch2 36:17-21 the judgment upon the sinful people and kingdom is not represented in its historical details, but only rhetorically in its great general outlines. "Then brought He upon them the king of the Chaldeans, who slew their young men with the sword in their sanctuary, and spared not the youth and the maiden, the old man and the grey-headed; he gave everything into his hand." Prophetic utterances form the basis of this description of the fearful judgment, e.g., Jer 15:1-9; Jer 32:3., Eze 9:6; and these, again, rest upon Deu 32:25. The subject in the first and last clause of the verse is Jahve. Bertheau therefore assumes that He is also the subject of the intermediate sentence: "and God slew their young men in the sanctuary;" but this can hardly be correct. As in the expansion of the last clause, "he gave everything into his hand," which follows in Ch2 36:18, not Jahve but the king of Babylon is the subject; so also in the expansion of the first clause, which וגו ויּהרג introduces, the king of the Chaldeans is the subject, as most commentators have rightly recognised. By מקדּשׁם בּבית the judgment is brought into definite relationship to the crime: because they had profaned the sanctuary by idolatry (Ch2 36:14), they themselves were slain in the sanctuary. On נתן ב הכּל, cf. Jer 27:6; Jer 32:3-4. הכּל includes things and persons, and is specialized in Ch2 36:18-20.
2 Chronicles 36:18
All the vessels of the house of God, the treasures of the temple, and of the palace of the king and of the princes, all he brought to Babylon.
2 Chronicles 36:19
They burnt the house of God; they pulled down the walls of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces of the city with fire, and all the costly vessels were devoted to destruction. On להשׁחית, cf. Ch2 12:12.
2 Chronicles 36:20
He who remained from the sword, i.e., who had not been slain by the sword, had not fallen and died in war, Nebuchadnezzar carried away to Babylon into captivity; so that they became servants to him and to his sons, as Jeremiah (Jer 27:7) prophesied, until the rise of the kingdom of the Persians. These last words also are an historical interpretation of the prophecy, Jer 27:7. All this was done (Ch2 36:21) to fulfil (מלּאת instead of מלּא, as in Ch1 29:5), that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, he having prophesied (Jer 25:11., Ch2 29:10) the seventy years' duration of Judah's desolation and the Babylonian captivity, while the king and people had not regarded his words (Ch2 36:12). This period, which according to Ch2 36:20 came to an end with the rise of the kingdom of the Persians, is characterized by the clause וגו רצתה עד as a time of expiation of the wrong which had been done the land by the non-observance of the sabbath-years, upon the basis of the threatening (Lev 26:34), in which the wasting of the land during the dispersion of the unrepentant people among the heathen was represented as a compensation for the neglected sabbaths. From this passage in the law the words are taken, to show how the Lord had inflicted the punishment with which the disobedient people had been threatened as early as in the time of Moses. רצתה עד is not to be translated, "until the land had made up its years of rest;" that signification רצה has not; but, "until the land had enjoyed its sabbath-years," i.e., until it had enjoyed the rest of which it had been deprived by the non-observance of the sabbaths and the sabbath-years, contrary to the will of its Creator; see on Lev 26:34. That this is the thought is placed beyond doubt by the succeeding circumstantial clause, taken word for word from Lev 26:34 : "all days (i.e., the whole time) of its desolation did it hold it" (שׁבתה, it kept sabbath). "To make full the seventy years;" which Jeremiah, ll. cc., had prophesied.
This connecting of Jeremiah's prophecy with the declaration in Lev 26:34 does not justify us in supposing that the celebration of the sabbath-year had been neglected seventy times, or that for a period of 490 years the sabbath-year had not been observed. Bertheau, holding this view, fixes upon 1000 b.c., i.e., the time of Solomon, or, as we cannot expect any very great chronological exactitude, the beginning of the kingly government in Israel, as the period after which the rest-years ceased to be regarded. He is further of opinion that Ch2 35:18 harmonizes with this view; according to which passage the passover was not celebrated in accordance with the prescription of the law until the end of the period of the judges. According to this chronological calculation, the beginning of this neglect of the observance of the sabbath-year would fall in the beginning of the judgeship of Samuel.
(Note: The seventy years' exile began in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., in the year 606 b.c., or 369 years after the division of the kingdom; see the Chronol. Tables at 1 Kings 12 (ii. 3, S. 141), to which the eighty years of the reigns of David and Solomon, and the time of Saul and Samuel, must be added to make up the 490 years (see the comment. on Judges).)
But this is itself unlikely; and still more unlikely is it, that in the time of the judges the sabbath-year had been regularly observed until Samuel; and that during the reigns of the kings David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, this celebration remained wholly in abeyance. But even apart from that, the words, that the land, to make full the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah, kept the whole time of the desolation holy, or enjoyed a sabbath rest such as Moses had proclaimed in Lev 26:34, do not necessarily involve that the land had been deprived of its sabbath rest seventy times in succession, or during a period of 490 years, by the sin of the people. The connection between the prophecy of Jeremiah and the provision of the law is to be understood theologically, and does not purport to be calculated chronologically. The thought is this: By the infliction of the punishment threatened against the transgressors of the law by the carrying of the people away captive into Babylon, the land will obtain the rest which the sinful people had deprived it of by their neglect of the sabbath observance commanded them. By causing it to remain uncultivated for seventy years, God gave to the land a time of rest and refreshment, which its inhabitants, so long as they possessed it, had not given it. But that does not mean that the time for which this rest was granted corresponded to the number of the sabbath-years which had not been observed. From these theological reflections we cannot calculate how often in the course of the centuries, from the time of Joshua onwards till the exile, the sabbath-year had not been observed; and still less the time after which the observation of the sabbath-year was continuously neglected. The passage Ch2 35:8 has no bearing on this question, because it neither states that the passover had been held according to the precepts of the law till towards the end of the time of the judges, nor that it was no longer celebrated in accordance with the precept from that time until Josiah; it only contains the thought that such a passover as that in Josiah's reign had not been held since the time of the judges: see on the passage.
2 Chronicles 36:22
To point out still further how exactly God had fulfilled His word by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, it is in conclusion briefly mentioned that God, in the first year of Coresh king of Persia, stirred up the spirit of this king to cause a command to go forth in all his kingdom, that Jahve, the God of heaven, who had given him all the kingdoms of the earth, had commanded him to build again His temple in Jerusalem, and that whoever belonged to the people of God might go up to Jerusalem. With this comforting prospect for the future, the author of the Chronicle closes his consideration of the prae-exilic history of the people of God without completely communicating the contents of the royal edict of Cyrus, since he purposed to narrate the history of the restoration of Judah to their own land in a separate work. This we have in the book of Ezra, which commences by giving us the whole of the edict of Cyrus the king of the Persians (Ezr 1:1-3), and then narrates the return of a great part of the people to Jerusalem and Judah, the rebuilding of the temple, and the re-settlement in the land of their fathers of those who had returned.