THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH
Copyright, John T. Stevenson, 2000
The scepter shall not depart from Judah
Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:10).
The promise of kingship from the line of Judah had a long tradition, going back all the way to the prophecy of Jacob. Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, had sinned against his father and lost the birthright. Simeon and Levi had also disqualified themselves from leadership. This promise of leadership had come to Judah.
Judah was the tribe from which David had come. Because of this, when the other tribes split off and went their own way, Judah remained faithful to the lineage of David. Even though Jerusalem was thought of as a neutral city, it still lay within the boundaries of the lands of Judah. Furthermore, Judah had been exempted from the forced labor which Solomon demanded of the rest of Israel.
The land of Judah was geographically divided from the rest of Israel by the deep valley of Sorek. It was bordered in the east by the Dead Sea, on the west by the lands of the Philistines and in the south by Edom and the Sinai Desert.
The history of the northern and southern kingdoms would run in parallel courses. Though both of these kingdoms would see periods of rebellion against the Lord, Judah's history would be marked by occasional periods of repentance and return.
SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH
NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
19 Kings, 1 Queen
1 Dynasty - the line of David
5 Dynasties and several independent kings.
Judah & Benjamin
10 Northern Tribes.
Most were unstable; some were good & some were bad.
Character of the Kings
All were bad, but only Ahab and Ahaziah were Baal worshipers.
By Babylon in 586 B.C.
By Assyria in 721 B.C.
Returned to the land.
REHOBOAM OF JUDAH
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon who found himself ruling, not over Israel, but only over the southern kingdom of Judah.
Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there. And his mother's name was Naamah the Ammonitess. (1 Kings 14:21).
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. His mother was of the country of Ammon - presumably one of the 700 foreign wives which Solomon had married. Theirs had been a political marriage and it had produced this young man.
The parallel account in 2 Chronicles 11:17 tells us that the people of Judah served the Lord for three years. It was only after Rehoboam felt himself secure and established as king of Judah that he led the nation in forsaking the way of the Lord (2 Chronicles 12:1).
Rehoboam's story is one of good beginnings but poor endings. It is a pattern which we shall see repeated in a number of the kings of Judah. It began with Solomon. And now it is seen in his son.
It is often seen in people today. The Christian life has been likened to a race. Paul said that we all run. But it is not a sprint. It is a marathon. We are in for the long haul. We are running for eternity. No one ever won only the first half of a race. You only win if you cross the finish line.
a. The Sins of Judah.
Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed.
For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree.
There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. (1 Kings 14:22-24).
Judah actually seems to have descended more readily into idolatry and the worship of false gods than did Israel. This process had begun with Solomon and the pagan practices of his foreign wives. It now returned with a vengeance.
It was the custom throughout the entire fertile crescent to conduct worship in a "high place." The origin of this practice may go back all the way to the Tower of Babel.
This is different from a support pillar or column. This is an obelisk. They were used by the Canaanites as fertility symbols.
An Asherah was a tree which was used for worship. Asherim (plural) were an entire grove of such trees.
A part of the pagan worship involved homosexual acts within the places of worship. It was thought that participation in such actions would incite the various gods who ruled over the wind and the rain to participate and thus bring fertility to the land.
The people of Israel had been forbidden from participating in these pagan practices. But now they entered into them with a passion. As a result, the Lord soon brought judgment upon the land.
b. Invasion from Egypt.
Now it happened in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, that Shishak the king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.
He took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house, and he took everything, even taking all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.
So King Rehoboam made shields of bronze in their place, and committed them to the care of the commanders of the guard who guarded the_doorway of the king's house.
Then it happened as often as the king entered the house of the Lord, that the guards would carry them and would bring them back into the guards' room. (1 Kings 14:25-28).
The 21st Dynasty of Egypt had been friendly to Israel to the point of Pharaoh's daughter being wedded to King Solomon. However these good relations did not last past Solomon's death.
Now there came a Libyan to the throne who founded a new ruling family - the 22nd Dynasty. He is known in historical records as Sheshonq (the Biblical Shishak). He was able to reunify the country which had been previously divided and brought a certain amount of stability to the crown. He then turned his attention to foreign policy, renewing an alliance with Byblos and regaining control of Nubia.
It is likely this same Sheshonq who had given refuge to such enemies of Israel as Jeroboam and Hadad the Edomite.
Now he marched into Judah. Archaeological records list 150 cities which he claimed to have taken in this campaign. Among the cities which were looted was Jerusalem and its temple.
Egyptian records list the thousands of pounds of gold and silver that the son of Shishak offered to the Egyptian gods following his raid into Canaan. This was the plunder which he had taken from Solomon's Temple.
From this time on, the reign of Rehoboam would be only a shadow of its former glory. The golden shields of Solomon were replaced by shields of bronze, a less-valued commodity. The old forms continued, but they lost some of their luster.
2. Abijam (913-911 B.C.).
Rehoboam was followed by his son, Abijam. The reader should take care not to confuse Abijah, son of Jeroboam with Abijam, son of Rehoboam. Like his father before him, Abijam followed Yahweh sometimes and even showed a certain amount of faith when he was in trouble; but he worshiped other gods and was not consistent.
Judah and Israel went to war during his reign. At the Battle of Zemaraim, Israel ambushed the army of Judah in a pincer movement and with a force that outnumbered Judah by a factor of two to one.
In the midst of this situation, the Lord gave the victory to Judah. This ended the war as Jeroboam retreated back to Israel.
THE FIRST REFORMATION PERIOD
1. Asa (911-870 B.C.).
Abijam was succeeded by his son Asa. He was the first godly king of the Divided Monarchy. With his advent began a period of national reform in Judah.
a. Religious reform.
Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father. (1 Kings 15:11).
Throughout the rest of the book of Kings, we will read of each of the kings of Judah a summary statement of the way in which he conducted himself. This summary will say one of two things.
(1) He walked in the sins of his fathers.
(2) He walked right in the sight of the Lord like David.
Asa tore down all of the heathen temples and altars in Judah, leading the Jews back into the exclusive worship of Yahweh and renewing the covenant promises. He even removed his own mother from the office of queen because of her idol worship.
He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made.
He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron. (1 Kings 15:12-13).
The writer of Kings make no mention of the prophet Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1-7) who was a moving influence in the life of Asa. There are times when God will use a man or a woman as an influence for good behind the scenes.
b. Military reform.
He guaranteed peace and security for Judah by building up his military machine. When an army of Ethiopians threatened to invade from the south, they were beaten off.
c. War with Israel.
The reforms which Asa brought about in Judah served as a beacon for the worship of the Lord to all Israelites. He gave an open invitation to members of every tribe of Israel to come and to worship in the Temple.
And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who resided with them, for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord was with him. (2 Chronicles 15:9).
This was seen as a threat to the continued security of the Northern Kingdom and the response was an embargo against all traffic coming from or going into Judah.
Now there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.
Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. (1 Kings 15:16-17).
Baasha was a usurper to the throne of Israel. He gained the throne by murdering all of the dynasty of Jeroboam. He invaded Judah and captured the city of Ramah, a scant 5 miles north of Jerusalem. There are several different cities in Palestine by this name. The name means "high place." Those towns with this name were all built on top of a mountain.
The purpose of Baasha's taking of this city was to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. It was not enough for Baasha to walk in the path of idolatry. He also wanted to stop others from worshiping the Lord. Evil is like that. Evil always wants company.
d. Alliance with Aram.
Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and the treasuries of the king's house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants. And King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying,
So Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah and all Chinneroth, besides all the land of Naphtali. (1 Kings 15:18-20).
Instead of turning to the Lord for help, Asa responds to the incursion by soliciting assistance from the King of Aram (modern Syria), the country to the northeast of Israel.
The Aramaeans had been long-standing enemies of Israel. David had subdued the Aramaean tribes, occupying Damascus (2 Samuel 8:6), but in the days of Solomon, Rezon ben Eliada had retaken Damascus, being "Israel's adversary as long as Solomon lived" (1 Kings 11:23-25).
Now there was a new dynasty in Damascus headed by Ben-Hadad (there will be several kings of Damascus with this name. Hadad was the name one of the pagan deities of that day).
Asa stripped the treasures of the Temple and used them to bribe Benhadad into invading Israel from the north.
For relying upon a Syrian alliance instead of upon Yahweh, Asa was rebuked by the prophet Hanani. Instead of repenting, Asa responded by throwing Hanani. into prison.
As a result, the Lord afflicted him with political unrest and with a disease which affected his feet. Even then, he refused to return to the Lord.
2. Jehoshaphat (870-848 B.C.).
Jehoshaphat became co-regent with his father as his health continued to fail. Once his father died, Jehoshaphat became king. He followed his father s early example in worshiping Yahweh.
a. Religious policy.
Jehoshaphat sent officials throughout Judah accompanied by Levites to teach the Law of the Lord to the people.
b. Military policy.
He had a strong military policy, fortifying the cities of Judah and even establishing garrisons within territories belonging to Ephraim. He was able to field an army of nearly a million men. Both the Philistines and the Arabians were vassal states to Judah during this period.
It was during his reign that Assyria was repulsed by a coalition of Israel, Aram and a number of other countries at Qarqar.
c. Alliance with Israel.
When Ahab approached him with the offer of an alliance, Jehoshaphat was agreeable. The alliance was sealed by the marriage of Ahab s daughter to Jehoshaphat's son.
Later in the same year, Ahab and Jehoshaphat marched against Damascus and were defeated. Ahab was killed in the battle and Jehoshaphat barely escaped.
Returning to Judah, Jehoshaphat was rebuked by the prophet Jehu for having entered into the alliance with an enemy of Yahweh. Jehoshaphat repented of his sin and continued his religious reforms, establishing a judicial system invested in the Levites and priests.
3. Jehoram (848-841 B.C.).
Jehoshaphat had several sons. Jehoram, as the firstborn, was made co-regent for several years and then became king upon the death of his father.
a. Murder of his brothers.
The first thing that Jehoram did upon coming to the throne was to murder all of his brothers and other high-ranking nobles so that none might pose a threat to his authority.
Jehoram had married Athaliah, daughter to Ahab and Jezebel. He followed after his wife in the Canaanite religious system. Shrines to Baal were set up in the high places around Judah.
c. Military defeats.
During his reign, Edom revolted and became an independent state. Perceiving this weakness, the Philistines and the Arabs raided Judah, murdering and pillaging. They even plundered the king's own palace and put to death most of his sons.
Ultimately, the Lord judged Jehoram with a disease which caused his bowels to fall out. He died a terrible and painful death.
4. Ahaziah (841 B.C.).
The young son of Jehoram came to the throne at the death of his father. Like his father and mother, Ahaziah worshiped false gods and practiced the Canaanite cultic rituals.
He joined with his uncle Joram, king of Israel, in a war against Aram. The battle ended in defeat and Ahaziah was wounded. He was convalescing in Jezreel when a palace revolt broke out in Israel, led by Jehu. Ahaziah sought refuge in Samaria, but was captured, brought before Jehu, and put to death.
5. Athaliah (841-835 B.C.).
Athaliah, the queen mother used this opportunity to seize power, murdering all of her children and grandchildren. However, one of her daughters took her infant nephew and hid him in the temple, a building that had been all but deserted by the Jews. His name was Joash.
The young crown prince Joash was raised in the temple by Jehoida, a faithful priest. After six years, a conspiracy successfully placed the young prince upon the throne. Athaliah was put to death.
THE SECOND REFORMATION PERIOD
The Second Reformation Period was to see only a partial return from the paganism that was beginning to be entrenched in Judah.
1. Joash (835-796 B.C.).
Joash was only 7 years old when he came to the throne of Judah. For many years, Jehoida, the high priest who had raised him, was the ruling power of Judah.
a. Policies during Jehoida's life.
As long as Jehoida lived to guide the young king, the nation prospered. Under his direction, the Temple was cleansed and restored. The sacrifices which had been abandoned were reinstated.
b. Policies after Jehoida's death.
After the death of Jehoida, Joash was swayed by the opinion of the young liberal party and began to worship false gods.
He even went so far as to have Zechariah, the son of Jehoida, stoned when he spoke out against this idolatry.
c. Invasion from Aram.
The Arameans invaded Judah and Jerusalem, pillaging the city and killing many of the king's officers. What was remarkable about this invasion is that the victorious invaders were vastly outnumbered by the military forces of Judah.
Indeed the army of the Arameans came with a small number of men; yet the Lord delivered a very great army into their hands, because they had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash. (2 Chronicles 24:24).
This military defeat was a judgment from the Lord against Judah and her wayward king. Joash was finally assassinated by his own servants.
2. Amaziah (796-767 B.C.).
Amaziah was 25 years old when he came to the throne, he was to rule Judah for the next 29 years.
a. Religious policies.
Amaziah was a good king, obeying all of the commands of Yahweh during the first part of his reign.
b. Spiritual failure.
After a successful expedition into Edom, he brought back the idols of the Edomites and set them up for display. It was not long before they were being worshiped.
c. Military defeat.
Soon after this, Amaziah was defeated in battle against the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom. The Israelites led Amaziah in chains back to Judah. They pillaged Jerusalem, tearing down a portion of the wall and looting the gold and silver in the Temple.
When a conspiracy was uncovered, Amaziah fled to Lachish to escape assassination. The conspirators followed him there and put him to death.
Apparently this was not considered to be a move against the Davidic Dynasty, but rather was designed to place a worshiper of Yahweh upon the throne (2 Chronicles 25:27).
3. Uzziah (767-740 B.C.).
Uzziah had already served as co-regent with his father for 23 years when he was crowned king of Judah.
a. Religious policy.
Like his father before him, Uzziah began his reign with a return to Yahweh.
b. Military policy.
Uzziah concentrated on building up a very strong, professional military. He used this to conquer the Philistines and the Arabians.
He also built up much of Jerusalem, adding towers, gates and war machines to protect the city.
c. The Beth-Yahweh Ostraca.
Ostraca is a piece of broken pottery. It was used as scrap paper. In this case, it served as a receipt. Dated between the 7th and 9th century B.C., it is not known where it was originally discovered, but it somehow made its way into the private collection of Shlomo Moussaieff (London, England).
Translation reads as follows: According to your order, Ashyahu the king, to give by the hand of [Z]echaryahu silver of Tarshish for the house of Yahweh 3 shekels.
8.6 centimeters high
10.9 centimeters wide
5 lines of writing
7th-9th century B.C.
Private collection of Shlomo Moussaieff (London, England)
4. Jotham (740-732 B.C.).
Jotham followed his father's example by obeying the Law of the Lord. However, it is notable that he never entered the Temple. There are several possible reasons for this.
He may have been showing respect for his father who had been judged for his sin in the Temple. Or he may have been superstitious about entering the Temple, thinking that he might also contract leprosy.
As a result of Jotham's obedience, Judah prospered in both the areas of military strength as well as in the economy.
5. Ahaz (732-716 B.C.).
The name Ahaz is shortened from Jehoahaz, meaning Possession of Yahweh. Perhaps the reason that his name was shortened was that he was so rebellious to the Lord. Ahaz was the complete opposite of his father.
a. Religious policy.
As soon as he came to the throne, Ahaz began to follow the Canaanite religious practices, even sacrificing his own children to the false gods.
b. Military defeats.
Because of the sins of Ahaz, the Lord allowed the Philistines, the Edomites and the Syrians to invade and conquer the border cities of Judah. It was at this time that Judah lost the port of Elath on the Gulf of Aqaba.
c. Alliance with Assyria.
Because of these military threats, Ahaz made an alliance with the Assyrians, robbing the Temple to send money to bribe Tiglath-Pileser. In return, the Assyrians offered to attack Aram and Israel (they had been planning to do so anyway).
Isaiah confronted Ahaz and advised him to trust in the Lord instead of Assyria. He even offered to give Ahaz a sign from the Lord to prove the truth of his words. When Ahaz refused to choose a sign, the Lord Himself chose one, promising that a child world be born and that, before the child had reached a certain age, the kings of Aram and Israel would be overthrown.
It is in the midst of this prophecy that Isaiah tells of a Child whose name would be Immanuel, literally "God with us."
d. Destruction of Samaria.
Tiglath-Pileser 3rd died in 727 B.C. and Israel took this opportunity to revolt, stopping payment of the annual tribute. Ahaz wisely continued to pay the required tribute as the Assyrians swept down from the north, laying siege to the capital city of Samaria. For three years, Samaria held out under the siege until famine and disease had decimated the population. When the city fell in 721 B.C., the surviving population was deported. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had ceased to exist.
The Jews of the Southern Kingdom were terrified as they watched the inhuman cruelties which the Assyrians inflicted upon their captives.
Now. the Assyrians began to eye the Southern Kingdom of Judah. It was only a matter of time before they attacked.
THE THIRD REFORMATION PERIOD
The Third Reformation Period took place at a time when Judah seemed to be on the verge of extinction. The power of the entire Assyrian Empire was poised about the tiny Kingdom.
1. Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.).
Hezekiah was 25 years old when he came to the throne. The prophet Isaiah had already been ministering for 35 years. With the advent of Hezekiah, a great revival began.
a. Religious reform.
Hezekiah began his reign by destroying all of the Canaanite idols and then repairing the Temple of God.
b. Envoys from Merodach-baladan.
Merodach-baladan had managed to snatch Babylon and hold it from the Assyrians. Looking for allies against Assyria, he sent envoys to Hezekiah, king of Judah. In a moment of pride, Hezekiah foolishly showed these envoys all of the treasures of the temple. As a result, the word got out of the great wealth that was stored up in Jerusalem.
c. Solicitations to rebellion.
Philistia, Egypt and Ethiopia sent envoys to Hezekiah, urging him to join in a rebellion. Isaiah warned him not to put his trust in Egypt.
And the Lord said, "Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush,
"Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast." (Isaiah 20:3-5).
Hezekiah listened to the warning of Isaiah and continued to pay homage to Assyria.
d. Revolt against Assyria.
When Assyria was drawn into an extended conflict with Merodach-baladan, Hezekiah was persuaded to join Egypt; in a revolt. The cities of Philistia also joined in, along with Tyre and Sidon.
In 701 B.C. Sennacherib conducted a massive campaign against this western alliance. The Phoenician cities each submitted or were destroyed. The Egyptians were routed and Judah was left to face Sennacherib alone.
Hezekiah offered to pay any tribute in return for peace. Sennacherib set the price at 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold (in that day even a single talent was considered to be a fortune).
And Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king's house.
At that time Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:15-16).
Instead of keeping his agreement, Sennacherib changed his mind and decided to try to take Jerusalem.
e. Hezekiah's Tunnel and the Siloam Inscription.
Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah" (2 Kings 20:20).
Now when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem,
It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did. (2 Chronicles 32:30).
Hezekiah ordered a tunnel to be cut through the mountain on which Jerusalem rests. This tunnel served to bring water from the Gihon Spring down into the city. The tunnel can still be seen today. It winds its way 1900 feet under the city of Jerusalem.
This tunnel was explored by Edward Robinson when he arrived in Jerusalem in April of 1838. He made the first scientific study of this amazing engineering feat. The conduit, cut from solid rock in a rather circuitous route, was 1,750 feet long, with an average width of 2 feet, and an average height of six feet. Because the workmen's chisel marks changed directions at about the half-way point, Robinson speculated that two crews had dug the tunnel, starting at opposite ends, finally meeting in the middle. His theory was later confirmed.
In 1880 a boy was wading in the pool of Siloam and entered Hezekiah's Tunnel. Nineteen feet inside the entrance, he noticed marks on the wall of the tunnel. It was an inscription. It was later cut out and taken by the Turkish government to the Ottoman Museum in Constantinople. It related how a team cut through each end of the mountain to some together at a point in the middle.
"The boring through is completed. And this is the story of the boring through: while yet they plied the drill, each toward his fellow, and while yet there were three cubits to be bored through, there was heard the voice of one calling unto another, for there was a crevice in the rock on the right hand. And on the day of the boring through the stone cutters struck, each to meet his fellow, drill upon drill; and the water flowed from the source to the pool for a thousand and two hundred cubits, and a hundred cubits was the height of the rock above the heads of the stone cutters."
While the Biblical narrative recounts Hezekiah's part in the construction, this inscription tells the same story from the point of view of the workers who dug the tunnel.
f. Jerusalem delivered.
This time, Hezekiah turned to the Lord for help and was promised deliverance. In a single night, the Assyrian army was overthrown.
Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. (2 Kings 19:35-36).
The palace of Sennacherib was discovered in 1847 by the English archaeologist Austen Henry Layard at Kuyunjik. A total of 71 rooms were uncovered. Many of the walls were lined with sculptured slabs. One of Sennacherib's campaigns is described on the Taylor Prism, a clay octagonal cylinder which today resides in the British Museum (an even better copy is on a prism at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago). It contains the following:
"As for Hezekiah, the Jew, who did not submit to my yoke, 46 of his strong walled cities, as well as the small cities in their neighborhood, which were without number, by escalade and bringing up siege engines, by attacking and storming on foot, by mines, tunnels and breaches, I besieged and took 200,150 people, great and small, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, cattle and sheep without number, I brought away from them and counted as spoil. Himself, like a caged bird, I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city. Earthworks I threw up against him. The one coming out of his city gate I turned back to his misery. The cities of his which I had despoiled, I cut off from his land and gave them to Mitinti king of Ashdod, Padi king of Ekron, and Silili-bel king of Gaza. Thus I diminished his land. I added to the former tribute and laid upon him as their yearly payment a tax in the form of gifts for my majesty. As for Hezekiah, the terrifying splendor of my majesty overcame him and the Urbi and his mercenary troops which he had brought in to strengthen Jerusalem, his royal city, deserted him. In addition to 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, there were gems, antimony, jewels, large sandu stones, couches of ivory, house chairs of ivory, elephant's hide, ivory, maple, boxwood, all kinds of valuable treasures, as well as his daughters, his harem, his male and female musicians, which he had them bring after me to Nineveh, my royal city. To pay tribute and to accept servitude he dispatched his messengers."
It is interesting to note Sennacherib's description of this campaign. He brags about how he had besieged the city of Jerusalem, closing up Hezekiah as a bird in a cage, but makes no mention of the outcome of the battle.
The remaining years of Hezekiah's life were peaceful and prosperous as the Lord continued to bless him.
2. Manasseh (686-642 B.C.).
Manasseh has the distinction of being one of the worst kings that Judah ever had.
a. Murder of Isaiah.
One of Manasseh's first acts was the arrest and execution of the prophet Isaiah. The old prophet was placed inside a hollow tree trunk and then sawn apart.
Manasseh was involved in all of the practices of the Canaanite religious system.
(1) Worship of false gods.
(2) Child sacrifice.
(4) Idols in the Temple of God.
c. Assyrian invasion.
Because of Manasseh's sin, the Lord allowed the Assyrians to invade Judah. The Scriptures tell how Manasseh was captured and taken in chains to Babylon. At this time in history, Babylon was a part of the Assyrian Empire and Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria, used it as his southern palace.
In Babylon, Manasseh repented and turned back to God. Soon after this, he was released and allowed to return to Jerusalem. He now led Judah back to the Lord, tearing down the false idols in the land.
3. Amon (642-640 B.C.).
Amon was 22 years old when he came to the throne. He quickly undid much of what his father had accomplished, leading the Jews back into idolatry. He was murdered by his own servants after a short reign of only two years.
THE FOURTH REFORMATION PERIOD
The Fourth Reformation Period of Judah was to be the last before the nation disintegrated in the Babylonian Captivity.
1. Josiah (640-609 B.C.).
Josiah was only an 8 year old boy when he came to the throne. Even as a boy, he served Yahweh and began to bring a revival to Judah.
a. Religious reform.
As he grew older, Josiah began a program of reforms, breaking down the idols and executing the Canaanite priests. Then he began the work of rebuilding the Temple.
While the Temple was being restored, a copy of the Scriptures was located. It was brought to Josiah and read to him.
Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.
And it came about when the king heard the words of the hook of the law, that he tore his clothes. (2 Kings 22:10-11).
When Josiah heard the terms of the covenant of Yahweh read, he was struck with the realization that Judah had transgressed that covenant. Accordingly he now led the nation in a prayer of repentance. For this, he was informed by the prophetess Huldah that the nation would not be judged in his lifetime.
b. Fall of Assyria.
The final years of Josiah's reign saw a great number of changes on the international scene. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell to the combined assault of the Medes and the Chaldeans in 612 B.C.
A remnant of Assyrians escaped to Carchemish where they allied themselves to the Egyptians in an attempt to hold off the Medes and the Chaldeans.
c. Battle of Megiddo.
When Pharaoh Echo, the king of Egypt, began to march through Palestine toward Carchemish, Josiah tried to intercept him at Megiddo.
After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him.
But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, "What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, that He may not destroy you."
However, Josiah would not turn away from him, hut disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. (2 Chronicles 35:20-22).
In spite of the warning of Necho that he had been sent by God, Josiah met him in battle in the Valley of Megiddo. In the heat of the battle, Josiah was shot by a stray arrow and he ultimately died from his injury.
Josiah had left three sons and a grandson. Each one of them would sit for a time upon the throne of Judah. With Josiah dead, the people of Judah placed Joahaz upon the throne.
2. Joahaz (609 B.C.).
Joahaz remained on the throne for three months. At the end of that time, Pharaoh Necho came to Jerusalem and deposed Joahaz, placing a tribute on the land of Judah of 100 talents of silver and a talent of gold. Joahaz was taken to Egypt for the remainder of his life.
3. Jehoiakim (609-597 B.C.).
Necho now placed Eliakim upon the throne of Judah and changed his name to Jehoiakim. Jeremiah had been prophesying for nearly 20 years when Jehoiakim became king. The prophet denounced the wickedness of the leadership of Judah and warned that Jehoiakim would die and, instead of a royal burial, would be given that accorded to a beast of burden.
a. The Battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.).
Pharaoh Necho met Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish on the Euphrates in 605 B.C. The Egyptians were defeated with enormous losses. They retreated south with Nebuchadnezzar hot on their heels.
b. Nebuchadnezzar in Palestine.
Prince Nebuchadnezzar pursued the Egyptian forces all the way down to Palestine, encountering no serious resistance along the way.
As Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Canaan, he called for Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to swear allegiance to him and pay a tribute. Jehoiakim complied and was permitted to retain his throne.
Nebuchadnezzar also took hostages from among the Hebrew nobility at this time. Among these hostages was Daniel.
c. The Chaldean/Egyptian War.
Nebuchadnezzar mounted an invasion into Egypt in 601 B.C. The outcome of this campaign was indecisive with each side inflicting heavy casualties upon the other. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to regroup and strengthen his forces.
d. Judah's Rebellion (597 B.C.).
Jehoiakim saw this and interpreted it as a defeat for Nebuchadnezzar. He promptly rebelled and allied himself with the Egyptians. Retribution from Babylon was quick in coming.
Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and threw Jehoiakim into chains, and placed his 18 year old son Jehoiachin on the throne.
4. Jehoiachin (597 B.C.).
Jehoiachin, also known as Coniah, was only 18 years old when he became king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar set him upon the throne and then moved down against Egypt. While he was in Egypt, young Jehoiachin foolishly rebelled, contrary to the advice of Jeremiah.
Nebuchadnezzar returned, recaptured Jerusalem, and took Jehoiachin, his family, servants and princes, threw them into chains, and marched them away to Babylon.
This second deportation was made up of about 10,000 of the nobles of Judah. Among them was the prophet Ezekiel.
5. Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.).
Having deposed Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar now placed Zedekiah, uncle to Jehoiachin, upon the throne of Judah.
a. Intrigue with Egypt.
Zedekiah was constantly vacillating between Egypt and Babylon. In 593 B.C. when Pharaoh Necho died, representatives from the city-states of Edom, Moab, Ammon and Tyre met in Jerusalem, hoping that the new Egyptian ruler would join them in a new rebellion against Babylon.
However, the new pharaoh, Psammetichus 2nd, adopted a policy of non-interference. The plot against Babylon left Zedekiah on the spot and he had to travel to Babylon where he swore allegiance once again to Nebuchadnezzar.
In 588 B.C. Psammetichus 2nd died and Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) came to the throne of Egypt. He immediately persuaded the countries of Palestine to join him in a revolt against Babylon.
c. Jerusalem under siege.
Nebuchadnezzar assembled his army and invaded Palestine, setting up his headquarters at Riblah on the Orontes River. From there, he launched simultaneous invasions of Judah, Ammon, Edom and Tyre with a small reconnaissance patrol to the Egyptian border.
Zedekiah sent messengers to Jeremiah, asking for help from the Lord. Jeremiah's response was that the city of Jerusalem was doomed.
You shall also say to this people, "Thus says the Lord, Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.
"He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty.
"For I have set My face against this city for harm and not for good,' declares the Lord. 'It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire." (Jeremiah 21:8-10).
Judah was quickly overrun except for the cities of Jerusalem, Lachish and Eziekah. The siege of Jerusalem began on January 588 B.C. It would be another year and a half before the city was taken.
d. The siege lifted.
The siege of Jerusalem was temporarily interrupted when Pharaoh Hophra led the Egyptian army up into Palestine in an attempt to relieve Tyre and Sidon.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh's army had set out from Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who had been besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they lifted the siege from Jerusalem (Jeremiah 37:5).
Many of the inhabitants of the city were heartened by this, thinking that it indicated a turn in their fortunes. Instead of heeding the warnings of Jeremiah, they strengthened their resolve to hold out against; Nebuchadnezzar.
As Pharaoh Hophra marched up along the Way of the Philistines, the Chaldeans who had been besieging Jerusalem pulled out and hit the Egyptians, driving them back into Egypt. Having defeated the Egyptian threat, they returned to Jerusalem.
e. The fall of Jerusalem.
The siege continued for many long months as the food ran out and disease and starvation spread through the city.
On July 10, 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar's forces broke through the northern wall of Jerusalem. It would be another month before the southern wall could be taken.
On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls beside the king s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and he passed sentence on him. During this siege, Zedekiah and the remnants of his army broke out of Jerusalem and fled east toward Jericho, only to be captured and brought to Riblah where Nebuchadnezzar still maintained his headquarters. When he was come. Nebuchadnezzar began to call him a wicked wretch and a covenant-breaker and one that had forgotten his former words, when he promised to keep the country for him. (Antiquities 10:8:2).
Zedekiah was forced to watch his sons being executed and then his eyes were put out. He was thrown into chains to be dragged back to Babylon where he would die in prison.
The Jewish survivors were hauled across the Syrian Desert to Babylon, many of them perishing en route. The Southern Kingdom of Judah had ceased to exist.
Jerusalem was burned and the walls of the city were torn down. All military, civil and religious leaders were either executed or carried away into captivity. Only the poorest of the peasants of Judah were allowed to remain in the land that was by now completely desolate.
6. The Lachish Letters.
Lachish was one of the city-forts in Judah at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. It lay about 20 miles to the southwest of Jerusalem. Tel Lachish was partially excavated from 1932 to 1938 by James L. Starkey who led a large-scale British expedition. This work ended abruptly when Starkey was murdered by Arab bandits while traveling from Lachish to Jerusalem.
Starkey uncovered massive fortifications built in the 17th century B.C. which extended down the entire slope of the tel, ending at the bottom in a dry moat (fosse). Subsequent digs uncovered more of the history of this city.
No fortifications discovered - possibly due to protection from Egypt.
Destroyed by fire, but soon rebuilt (See Joshua 10:31-32).
Another Canaanite city was built showing a marked architectural change from Level 7, but with a clear cultural continuity and having a marked Egyptian presence and influence.
Destroyed by fire after 1150 B.C., after which the site was abandoned and not rebuilt until the 10th century B.C.
No fortifications have been discovered.
Judean palace-fort in the days of Solomon.
Judean palace-fort in the days of the divided Kingdom.
There were two city walls and gates during this period.
The city appears to have been densely populated and fortified with two walls. An Assyrian siege ramp has been found along with a Judean counter-ramp.
City destroyed by Sennacherib in 721 B.C.
City was rebuilt in 701 B.C. as a fortified city.
This is the period from which the Lachish Letters were written.
The city was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 588-586 B.C.
The city was rebuilt during the Persian period with a palace and a fortified city wall and gate. It continued into the Hellenistic period.
Archaeologists have not found walled fortifications at either Level 6 or Level 7, the two Canaanite occupations of the Late Bronze Age.
A cartouche was discovered bearing the name of Rameses 3rd at Level 6, indicating that the destruction of this level did not take place until after his period (Rameses 3rd is dated at 1182-151 B.C.).
In 1935, J. L. Starkey discovered an ostraca in what was thought to be a guard room adjoining the gate of Lachish. The ostraca was buried in a burnt layer of charcoal and ashes. There were 18 ostraca found here. Most of them were letters written by a man named Hoshaiah who was a military officer reporting to a higher commander at Lachish named Jaosh. They are written just prior to the final fall of Lachish in 588 B.C.
"Your servant Hoshaiah has sent to inform my lord Yaosh. May Yahweh cause my lord to hear tidings of peace! And now you have sent a letter but my lord has not enlightened your servant concerning the letter which you sent to your servant yesterday evening, for the heart of your servant has been sick since you wrote to your servant. And as for what my lord has said, 'You do not know it! Read any letter,' as Yahweh lives no one has undertaken to read me a letter at any time, nor have I read any letter that may have come to me nor would I give anything for it! And it has been reported to your servant saying, 'The commander of the host, Coniah son of Elnathan, has come down in order to go into Egypt and unto Hodaviah son of Ahijah and his men has he sent to obtains things from him.' And as for the letter of Tobiah, servant of the king, which came to Shallum son of Yaddua through the prophet, saying 'Beware,' your servant has sent it to my lord."
Is this the same Hoshaiah who is mentioned in Jeremiah 42:1? We have no way of knowing and this may have been a fairly common name.
"Who is thy slave, a dog, that my lord has sent the letter of the king and the letter of the officers, saying, Read, I pray thee, and thou wilt see; THE WORDS OF THE (PROPHET) ARE NOT GOOD, TO LOOSEN THE HANDS, TO (MAKE) SINK THE HANDS OF THE COUNTRY AND CITY."
This is remarkably similar to the words recorded in Jeremiah:
Thus saith the Lord, "This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it." 4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, "We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus HE WEAKENETH THE HANDS OF THE MEN OF WAR that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt." (Jeremiah 38:3-4).
7. Gedaliah (587-583 B.C.).
To maintain order over the desolate country, Nebuchadnezzar appointed a Jewish noble named Gedaliah. A seal which has been discovered at Lachish indicates that he had served as the chief minister on Zedekiah s cabinet. His family had evidently been pro-Chaldean and friendly to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). He was given command of a Babylonian garrison at Mizpah.
Nebuchadnezzar had underestimated the poor of Judah. Once again they rose up, killing Gedaliah and wiping out the Babylonian garrison. In 582 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar made another march to Palestine and another deportation left the land almost unpopulated. Refugees from this incident fled to Egypt. Jewish tradition has it that Jeremiah was taken along to Egypt at this time.