Page images

apparent in his conduct. His confederate Pharaoh Necho had died the preceding year.

Jehoiachin next succeeded to the government of Judah. This prince, called also Jeconiah and Coniah, was the son of Jehoiakim. In the 2nd Book of Chronicles, chap. xxxvi. he is said to have been eight years old when he began to reign, while in the 2nd Book of Kings we are told he was eighteen. Divines reconcile these two accounts, by concluding that his father associated him in the government when only eight years of age: a custom very prevalent in those times. Jehoiachin followed the example of his father; but his career of impiety and vice was short, for Nebuchadnezzar now came in person against Jerusalem, and besieged the city in form. In the twenty-second chapter of Jeremiah, to which I have already referred you, there is a prediction so remarkable for its clearness, and the circumstantial manner in which it was accomplished, that I cannot forbear copying it for you; though I have every reason to hope that you always seek the passages of scripture to which I direct your attention. The Lord, speaking to Jehoiachin by his prophet, says, “ I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, 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 bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born, and there shall ye die." This is the prophecy; and its fulfilment was literal, as we read in the 2nd Book of Kings xxiv. 12-15; for Nebuchadnezzar pressing the siege, and Jehoiachin having no means of escape or defence, the city was reduced in three months; and the king, with

all his family, household, and nobles, surrendered them selves prisoners of war, and were carried captives to Babylon. It is a circumstance worthy of observation, that Jehoiachin and his mother are mentioned together in the narrative,* as they had previously been in the prediction. Nebuchadnezzar at this time despoiled the temple of the vessels and treasures he had spared on his first visit, and seized all the treasures of the king's house also. The number of captives he now carried away amounted to several thousands, consisting not only of the higher classes and the remains of the army, but of all the carpenters, smiths, and artificers he found in Jerusalem and Judah, whom he intended to employ in the buildings he was carrying on at Babylon. The prophet Ezekiel who was among the captives, whenever he speaks of the captivity, reckons from this era... He was a priest when carried away, and was not called to the prophetical office till four or five years after. Jehoiachin, by surrendering himself to the king of Babylon, retarded the destruction of his capital, and escaped immediate death; but his lengthened life was no great Jadvantage to him, since he was not allowed even the slender comfort of personal liberty in his degradation and exile, being kept in prison during the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar's life, a period of thirty-seven years. Thus were the Lord's threatenings executed upon him ; he was indeed “ a man that did not prosper in his days;" and it is much to be feared that adversity and chastisement had no salutary effect in leading him to repentance.

Nebuchadnezzar having thus subjected the kingdom of Judah, and sent the principal inhabitants of it into captivity, made Mattaniah, a younger son of Josiah, and uncle to Jehoiachin, king over the residue of the people. He exacted from this prince a solemn oath of fealty and subjection to him ; and changed his name to Zedekiah, which signifies the Justice of the Lord: intending thereby to remind him of the punishment he might expect from God if he violated his law, by departing from this engagement.

* 2 Kings xxiv. 15.

nos Thus ended the second war of Nebuchadnezzar against the Jews; he had conducted it by his lieutenants and governors of the neighbouring provinces during three years; in the fourth year he came in person to follow up the advantages they had obtained. We are not told why he did not come sooner, but it is probable that he was engaged in settling the affairs of his kingdom, after his father's death. It is said that he had been called upon as arbitrator in a difference between two neighbouring states, the Medes and Lydians, about this time. A war had been carried on between them with various success during five years; when collecting all ineir forces they met in a battle which they expected would prove decisive. But while victory was yet undetermined, an eclipse of the sun awed the combatants on both sides, and they came to an agreement to refer the matter of dispute to arbitration. The king of Cilicia on the part of the Lydians, and the king of Babylon on that of the Medes, soon brought about a peace between them, which was further strengthened by a mutual family alliance. Astyages, son to the king of Media, married Ariena, daughter to the king of Lydia, and from this marriage was born, the year following, Cyaxares, whom Daniel calls Darius the Mede.

,! Astyages had a daughter named Mandane by a formér marriage; this princess was espoused by Cambyses, king of Persia, and I have no doubt you remember her as the mother of Cyrus, to whom she gave birth in the last year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah.

These circumstances, therefore, are not so unconnected with our history as they at first appear. On the one hand we see Nebuchadnezzar made the instrument of upholding an apparently inconsiderable state, from which, nevertheless, was to proceed a new empire, that should totally subvert his own. On the other hand, we see the Lord, “ in judgment remembering mercy," and while inflicting chastisement on his rebellious people, raising up a deliverer for them in the person of Cyrus, whom he had called by name more than a hundred years before his birth.*


We are now to enter upon the eventful and interesting reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah: eventful, as it leads to the final overthrow of that degenerate king. dom; and peculiarly interesting, from the display of the long suffering and tender forbearance of Almighty God towards this impenitent and perverse remnant of his people. Zedekiah's character, as portrayed by the writer of the 2nd Book of Kings, is, that “ he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.” There are other traits also mentioned in the 2nd Book of Chronicles, to which we shall advert as the history unfolds them. "The events of this reign are briefly narrated in the last chapters of the abovementioned books; but it is in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah that we find a detailed account of them, related with all the tenderness peculiar to this faithful messenger of God, this distinguished lover of his country. We may well suppose that Jeremiah bewailed the calamities he witnessed at the carrying away of Jehoiachin; and sympathized with those of his countrymen who were doomed to cap tivity. The Lord, however, made known to him in a vision,* that he ought rather to lament for those who were left in the land : as sufferings more terrible, and judgments more fatal awaited them; while they who were carried into Babylon were removed “ for their good," that they might be preserved, and eventually restored to the possession of their land, and to the favour of their God. This circumstance shows us in an impressive manner that the best men are but short sighted, when they form judgments respecting God's providential dealings with themselves or others; as they frequently in these cases “ call evil good, and good evil." We should always remember that the Lord can educe good out of " seeming evil;" and that he has promised to make all things work together for good, to them that love him.

* Isaiah xliv. 28.

When Nebuchadnezzar had left Jerusalem, and Zedekiah was settled in his kingdom, ambassadors arrived from the neighbouring princes of Ammon, Moab, Edom, Sidon, and Tyre, either to congratulate him on his accession, or to engage him in a confederacy against the king of Babylon, whose yoke they probably designed to shake off. Jeremiah by the command of God made for himself bonds and yokes, and

• Jeremiah xxiv.

« PreviousContinue »