Weep Jerusalem, your sins have overtaken you – Wednesday, 12th Week in ordinary time – 2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3

Weep Jerusalem, your sins have overtaken you – Wednesday, 12th Week in ordinary time – 2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3

Since we will be celebrating several solemnities and feasts in the days to come, we will no longer hear the readings from the book of Kings. I will endure to bring this narrative to a close so that when we begin on Monday of the 13th week in ordinary time, we will begin with the prophet Amos.

In chapter 17, the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians under King Hoshea. In the South we have King Hezekiah, son of King Ahaz who begins a 29 year reign that was good in the sight of God. That reign was also turbulent as he had to deal with Sennachereb the King of Assyria who had captured all the citadels of Judah except Jerusalem. But the angel of the Lord wiped out the army of Sennachereb, 1,85,000 of them. Twenty years later Sennachereb the Assyrian conqueror of Israel is killed in his own bed by his sons. In time King Hezekiah dies but already in his lifetime Isaiah, the prophet has foretold of the fall of Judah to Babylon.

Hezekiah is succeeded by his son Manasseh who reigned for 55 years in Jerusalem and whose evil was so great against the LORD. He rebuilt the altars to Baal that his father Hezekiah had destroyed and provoked the LORD to anger. He had misled the nations into doing evil, more than any of the Kings before him. God was so furious that he says in 2 Kings 21: 12- 14; “I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. I will wipe Jerusalem out as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.”

Manasseh is succeeded by Amon who was twenty-two years old when he began his reign. He reigned for two years and continued the evil that his father had begun. He was killed by his own servants but his own assassins were put to death by the people of the land and was succeeded by his son Josiah. Our text of today deals with the reign of Josiah who reigned for thirty-one years. He was just eight years old when he took over as king but he did what was right in the sight of God. It was when Josiah was 26 years old that he began to repair the temple of Jerusalem.

Josiah understood that the work of repairing and rebuilding the temple needed organization and funding. He paid attention to both of these needs when he commanded the priest Hilkiah to begin the work on the temple. According to Jeremiah 1:1-2, the prophet Jeremiah was the son of this particular priest Hilkiah. Jeremiah began his ministry during the reign of King Josiah.

At this time, we are told that Hilkiah finds the book of the law while repairing the temple. According to Deuteronomy 31:24-27, there was to be a copy of this Book of the Law beside the ark of the covenant, beginning in the days of Moses. Shaphan the secretary of the king read the book to King Josiah. It is now that the word of God spreads. It had been forgotten and regarded as nothing more than an old, dusty book.The hearing of God’s word did a spiritual work in King Josiah. It was not merely the transmission of information; the hearing of God’s word had an impact of spiritual power on Josiah.

We are told that he tore his clothes. The tearing of clothing was a traditional expression of horror and astonishment. In the strongest possible way, Josiah showed his grief on his own account and on account of the nation. This was an expression of deep conviction of sin.

Josiah sends Hilkiah to ask the LORD what is to be done next. It wasn’t that King Josiah knew nothing of God or how to seek him; it was that he was so under the conviction of sin that he did not know what to do next. Josiah knew that the kingdom of Judah deserved judgment and that judgment would indeed come. Judah and its leaders had walked against the LORD for too long.

This time while God does not take back the impending destruction of Jerusalem, he assures Josiah that he would not live to see such a fall of Jerusalem. Josiah died in battle before the great spiritual disaster and exile came to Judah. He died in God’s favor, though by the hand of an enemy. (2 Kings 2, 22:28-30)

Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire, was concerned with Judah because of its strategic position in relation to the empires of Egypt and Assyria. Therefore, it was important to him to conquer Judah and make it a subject kingdom (his vassal), securely loyal to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem because the Pharaoh of Egypt invaded Babylon. In response the young prince Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at Charchemish, and then he pursued their fleeing army all the way down to the Sinai. Along the way (or on the way back), he subdued Jerusalem, who had been loyal to the Pharaoh of Egypt. This happened in 605 B.C and it was the first (but not the last) encounter between Nebuchadnezzar and Jehoiakim. There would be two later invasions (597 and 587 BC.).

Nebuchadnezzar, in attacking a walled city such as Jerusalem, used the common method employed in those days. He laid siege to the city by surrounding it. A siege was intended to surround a city, prevent all business and trade from entering or leaving the city, and to eventually starve the population into surrender. During the siege of Jerusalem, King Zedekiah made a last-chance effort to escape the grip of the nearly-completely successful siege. They planned a secret break through the city walls and the siege lines of the Babylonians, using a diversionary tactic.

The army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook him in the plains of Jericho.
The Babylonians were not known to be as cruel as the Assyrians who conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel some 150 years earlier, but they were still experts in cruelty in their own right. They made certain that the last sight King Zedekiah saw was the murder of his own sons, and then he spent the rest of his life in darkness.

Nebuchadnezzar burned the house of the LORD. Solomon’s great temple was now a ruin. It would stay a ruin for many years, until it was humbly rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Ezra and the prophet Haggai. The Talmud declares that when the Babylonians entered the temple, they held a two-day feast there to desecrate it; then, on the third day, they set fire to the building. The Talmud adds that the fire burned throughout that day and the next. The walls of Jerusalem, the physical security of the city, were now destroyed. Jerusalem was no longer a place of safety and security. The walls would remain a ruin until they were rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Nehemiah.

As the remaining people were taken captive to Babylon, so also the remaining valuables from the temple were taken. Jerusalem was left desolate, completely plundered under the judgment of God. Jeremiah 52:17-23 is a detailed inventory of all that the Babylonians looted from the temple.

This was the land God gave to His people, the tribes of Israel. They had possessed this land for some 860 years; they took it by faith and obedience but they lost it through idolatry and sin.

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