1. A national crisis. The peace, the dignity, the wealth, the religious privileges of Judah are converging to a close. Israel has already been carried away by a despot to a foreign land, and now Judah is meeting the same fate. All nations have their crises - they have their rise, their fall, their dissolution.
2. A terrible despot. The name of Nebuchadnezzar comes for the first time under our attention. Who is he? He is a prominent figure in the histories and the prophecies of the old Scriptures. He was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, who, having revolted from Assyria and helped to destroy Nineveh, brought Babylon at once into pre-eminence. The victories of Nebuchadnezzar were stupendous and many. Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, all bowed to his triumphant arms. He made Babylon, his capital, one of the most wonderful cities of the world. The walls with which he fortified it contained, we are told, no less than five hundred million tons of masonry. He was at once the master and the terror of the age he lived in, which was six hundred years before Christ. There is no character in all history more pregnant with practical suggestions than his - a mighty fiend in human form. We have in these two chapters a view of
(1) the wickedness of man;
(2) the retribution of Heaven;
(3) and the supremacy of God. Here we have -
I. THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN. The wickedness here displayed is marked:
1. By inveteracy. It is here said of Jehoiachin, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done." In ver. 19 the same is also said of Zedekiah: "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done." This has, indeed, been said of many kings of Judah, as of all the kings of Israel. What a hold, then, had wickedness taken on the Jewish people! It had so deeply struck its roots into their very being that neither the mercies nor the judgments of Heaven could uproot it. It was a cancer transmitted from sire to son, poisoning their blood and eating up their nature. Thus, then, from generation to generation the wickedness of the Jewish people seemed to be a disease hereditary, ineradicable, and incurable.
2. By tyranny. "At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it." This is seen in the conduct of Nebuchadnezzar. What right had Nebuchadnezzar to leave his own country, invade Judah, plunder it of its wealth, and bear away by violence its population? None whatever. It was tyranny of the worst kind, an outrage on every principle of humanity and justice. Sin is evermore tyrannic. We see it everywhere. On all hands do we see men and women endeavoring to bring others into subjection - masters their servants, employers their employees, rulers their subjects. Tyranny everywhere is the evidence, the effect, and the instrument of wickedness.
3. By inhumanity. "And the King of Babylon... carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon King of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, and all that were strong and apt for war, even them the King of Babylon brought captive to Babylon." He rifled the country of its people and its property, and inflicted untold misery on thousands. Thus wickedness transforms man into a fiend, and turns society into a pandemonium.
4. By profanity. We read here that Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon had made in the temple thereof. We also read here that "he burnt the house of the Lord.... And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon. And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away. The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord; the brass of all these vessels was without weight." Thus this ruthless despot, becoming a scourge in God's hands, desecrated the most holy things in the city of Jerusalem and in the memory of millions. He reduced the magnificent pile of buildings to ashes, and rifled it of its sacred and priceless treasures. Wickedness is essentially profane. It has no reverence; it crushes every sentiment of sanctity in the soul. O sin, what hast thou done? Thou hast quenched the divinest instincts in human nature, and poisoned the fountain of religious and social sympathies, substituted cruelty for love, tyranny for justice, blind superstition and blasphemous profanity for devotion.
II. THE RETRIBUTION OF HEAVEN.
III. THE SUPREMACY OF GOD. - D.T.
In his days Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up.
I. THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN. The wickedness here displayed is marked —
1. By inveteracy. It is here said of Jehoiachin, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done." In verse 18 the same is also said of Zedekiah, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiachin had done." The wickedness here displayed is marked —
2. By tyranny. "At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it." What right had Nebuchadnezzar to leave his own country, invade Judah, plunder it of its wealth, and bear away by violence its population? The wickedness here displayed is marked —
3. By inhumanity. "And the King of Babylon... he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon King of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land." The wickedness here displayed is marked —
4. By profanity. "He burnt the house of the Lord," etc. Thus this ruthless despot desecrated the most holy things in the city of Jerusalem and in the memory of millions.
II. THE RETRIBUTION OF HEAVEN. In the retribution here displayed we are reminded of two facts: That the sins of one man may bring misery on millions. "Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon," All the misery here recorded comes to the people "for the sins of Manasseh." Here is the hereditary principle of Divine government. Will not the following facts anyhow modify the severity of the complaint?(1) That no man is made to suffer more than he actually deserves on account of his own personal sin.(2) That the evils which thus descend to us from our ancestors are not to be compared with those we produce ourselves.(3) That whilst the hereditary principle of the Divine government entails evils, it also entails good. Great as are the evils that have come down to us from posterity, great also is the good.(4) This hereditary principle tends to restrain vice and stimulate virtue. The parent knowing, as all parents must know, the immense influence he exerts upon his offspring, and having the common natural affection, will be set more or less on his guard; he will restrain evil passions which otherwise he would allow to sport with uncontrolled power, and prosecute efforts of a virtuous tendency, which otherwise he would entirely neglect.
2. The pernicious influence of a man's sin in the world may continue after his conversion. Manasseh repented of the sins he had committed, and received the favours of his God. Notwithstanding we find men here suffering on account of the sins he had committed.
3. That retribution, though it may move slowly, yet will move surely. A hundred years had well-nigh passed away, and several generations had come and gone since Manasseh had gone to his grave. Yet avenging justice appears at last, and wreaks upon others the terrible effects of his crimes. The tardy march of retribution men have made the occasion and the reason of continued depravity," Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily," etc.
(David Thomas, D. D.)
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