Lessons From the Kings (Josiah to Zedekiah)

Recorded live February 18, 2021.

Our Adult Discipleship group (Midweek Bible class) is going through the Kings of Israel and Judah. You are welcome to join us for any session in person or online.  See the calendar for dates. [View Series & Handouts]

This chart is a map of our course of study.  We will go chronologically king by king.

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Pains that Come After Spiritual Reform

The “Thirty Years War” began in 1618, 99 years after the start of the Lutheran Reformation.  Catholic forces threatened Protestant faith groups. Battles raged across central Europe and ended up taking the lives of an estimated 4.5 to 8 million people.  Some estimate over half the population of Germany perished. The fall of Jerusalem would occur about one hundred years after Manasseh’s wicked practices and a few years after Josiah’s reforms. Many might argue that religion is the cause of many wars.  But in truth the devil’s attacks against the body always follow his failed attack against the soul.  Spiritual revival will often lead to physical attacks from the world. It includes God’s judgment on unbelief and his means for testing and purifying his own people.

Josiah was the polar opposite of Manasseh. He worked toward a spiritual revival. But it seemed to be to no avail. “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, according to all the Law of Moses, and after him no one like him arose. 26But even so, the Lord did not turn from his great wrath which burned against Judah because of all the offenses with which Manasseh had provoked him.” (2 Ki 23:25–26)

What does God encourage us when it seems like all our spiritual struggles for the truth lead to further pain and hardship and loss?  “Do not fear anything that you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you will be tested, and you will suffer for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

King Jehoahaz

Josiah was the last king of Israel to enjoy an independence from foreign powers. He died at the hands of the Egyptian army when he tried to stop them from marching across their land. The people made his son, Jehoahaz king in his place. 

Though Jehoahaz was not the oldest, it seems the people preferred him as king because of his opposition to Egyptian rule. The twenty-three-year-old king is described as doing evil.

He only ruled for three months before Egypt took him prisoner and made his older brother King and demanded that Judah pay them a tribute.

What dangers are there in focusing on political prosperity over spiritual?

Read about Jehoahaz: 2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4

King Jehoiakim

Jehoiakim is the fist king (18th of the line) in Judah to be placed on the throne by a foreign nation.  He ruled for eleven years and did evil. He first ruled as a vassal to Egypt, then later as a vassal to Babylon.

His reign is marked with selfishness. He made the people pay a heavy tribute to Egypt. He also used forced labor build himself extravagant mansions.

The prophet Jeremiah rebuked him and contrasted Jehoiakim with his father, Josiah: “Does it make you a king when you are extravagant with cedar? Didn’t your father eat and drink, and do what was just and right?” (Jeremiah 22:15)

Jehoiakim rebelled against the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, who then came against him. But the city wasn’t destroyed. Instead, the people betrayed their king and threw him over the wall. (Jeremiah 22:18-19) Jehoiakim was bound and taken prisoner to Babylon.

Read about Jehoiakim: 2 Kings 23:36 – 24:6; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8, Jeremiah 36

The Word is Despised

A public bible burning is about as close as you can get to the opposite of a healthy spiritual revival. Jehoiakim’s father Josiah treasured the Word greatly. But Jehoiakim despised it. God sent him prophets, but he persecuted them and tried to have them killed.  At one point he had all of the prophet Jeremiah’s writings burned. Read Jeremiah 36.

Why did the Lord continue to provide his Word to the people in Jehoiakim’s days?

Explain: “The call to repent is just as urgent today as it was during the days of Jehoiakim.”

What was the king’s solution to the call to repent? In what ways might we begin to treat God’s Word as only fit for the ash heap?

What comfort do you find at the end of this account regarding the Word of God?

King Jehoiachin

Jehoiachin took the throne after his father had been handed over to King Nebuchadnezzar.  He proved to be just as rebellious as his father. After only three months Nebuchadnezzar came and attacked Jerusalem.  The city surrendered and tens of thousands of people were carried off to exile in Babylon, including thousands of skilled workers and fighters.  Jehoiachin remained in exile in Babylon for the rest of his life, eventually serving under their government.

Jehoiachin’s story: 2 Kings 24:8-17, 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10

King Zedekiah

Zedekiah was the 20th and final sovereign king over Jerusalem. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord.” (2 Ch 36:12)

He was the uncle of Jehoiachin and had been placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar. He was supposed to rule as a vassal to Babylon. When he came to the throne in 597 Nebuchadnezzar had full power over the land. Zedekiah’s army had been deported and most of the skilled workers had been deported to Babylon. But in the ninth year of his reign, Zedekiah began his futile, puny rebellion.

Jerusalem labored under a siege for three summers.  But when the wall was breached the people fled the city.  The king fled under the cover of darkness but was captured.

Read about Zedekiah: 2 Kings 24:17 – 25:21; 2 Chronicles 36:11-20

It Is Hard to Kick Against the Pricks

“It is hard to kick against the pricks.” This was a Greek expression which the people were familiar with in the New Testament. When an ox was plowing the field, it would be directed by a metal goad.  If the ox resisted, it would experience further pain for its resistance as the goad tore at its flesh.  Jesus used this expression when talking about Paul’s defiance against his gospel advancing.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Zedekiah that resisting Babylon was futile and would only make things worse for him.

Read 2 Chronicles 36:11-16 & Jeremiah 38 to read about Zedekiah’s stiff-necked refusal to surrender. Why do you suppose Zedekiah wanted to both hear Jeremiah and yet hide his message?

In what ways might we try to “hide” God’s message instead of sharing it?

Explain why Jesus our prophet, priest, and king has a message which we desire to make known to all creation.