What has happened to Israel? What has happened to God’s promises? Is he no longer faithful? Is he no longer there? What’s going on? Well, God is working his purposes out. This chapter is the outworking of Deuteronomy 28:15-68, in which Moses warns God’s people of the consequences of failing to obey the Lord and follow his commands. They would experience disease, defeat and destruction. A ‘nation from far away’ would lay siege to the cities of Israel, and they would be scattered among the nations. In 722BC the northern kingdom of Israel had been defeated by the Assyrians (2 Ki. 17), and here, around 130 years later, the same is happening to the southern kingdom of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians.
King Zedekiah of Judah has rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and Jerusalem is surrounded, besieged and finally defeated by the Babylonian army (v4). Zedekiah is captured and brought before the king of Babylon, who punishes him cruelly and sends him into exile (v7).
Nebuchadnezzar then sends his imperial guard commander back to Jerusalem to destroy the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and the city walls, and to send into exile all except ‘some of the poorest people of the land’ (v12). The bronze pillars from the temple (1 Ki. 7:15) and various other items are broken up and taken to Babylon, and leading priests and officials are executed. ‘Judah went into captivity, away from her land’ (v21 – see Dt. 28:41).
Gedaliah is appointed by Nebuchanezzar as governor over Judah, but after just 7 months he is assassinated. Fearing repercussions, the people flee to Egypt. How ironic! How tragic! It’s almost as if the Exodus has been undone! What has happened to God’s great plan to bless the nations through his people? What has happened to the promises to Abraham (Gen. 12), and the promise to David (2 Sam. 7)?
The final paragraph, v27-30, gives a glimpse of hope, that God is still at work, and has not forgotten his promises. After 37 years of exile, Jehoiachin is released from prison and given a seat of honour at the table of Babylon’s king, whose kindness to him is a hint of the kindness of the Lord. In the midst of tragedy and disaster, there is still hope. This theme of hope is developed in the writing of the prophets, and points beyond that to the glorious events of Easter.
It is significant that Matthew, in the opening chapter of his Gospel, links Jesus with the promise to Abraham, the promise to David, and the apparent failure of these promises in the exile, showing that where Israel failed, Christ has succeeded. The remedy for the disobedience and failure of Israel, and indeed the whole of humanity, is the perfect obedience and faithfulness of our Saviour Jesus. At the human level, the events of this chapter were a terrible disaster, but God’s plans and promises are unstoppable!
Posted by: Andy Moyle
On: 13th Apr, 2020 at 5:59 am