2 Kings 23:29-37
In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him…
A new power had risen in Egypt which was to play a temporary, but influential, part in the evolution of God's purposes towards Judah. Assyria was at this time in its death-agonies. The scepter of empire was soon to pass to Babylon. But it was Pharaoh-Nechoh who, following the designs of his own ambition, was to set in motion a train of events which had the effect of bringing Judah within the power of the King of Babylon.
I. THE DEATH OF JOSIAH.
1. Circumstances of his death. Taking advantage of the troubles in the East, Pharaoh-Nechoh was bent on securing his own supremacy over Syria and extending it as far as the river Euphrates. He disclaimed all intention of inter-feting with Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:21), but that monarch thought it his duty to oppose him. It was a perilous venture, and Josiah seems to have entered upon it somewhat rashly. He certainly had not prophetic sanction for the enterprise. The issue was as might have been anticipated. He encountered Pharaoh-Nechoh at Megiddo, and was disastrously defeated. Wounded by the archers, he bade his servants carry him away, and, placing him in another chariot, they drove him off. It is to be inferred from Zechariah 12:11 that he died at "Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo," and that his dead body was afterwards brought to Jerusalem. By this defeat Judah was brought into subjection to Pharaoh-Nechoh, and the way prepared for its subjection to Nebuchadnezzar, when he, in turn, became master of the situation. It is wise not unduly to meddle with the quarrels of other nations.
2. Mourning for his death. The untimely death of Josiah was a cause of unexampled mourning throughout the whole land. The affection with which his people regarded him, and the confidence they placed in him, are strikingly shown by the sorrow felt at his loss. The mourning at Hadadrimmon is used by the prophet to illustrate the mourning which will take place at the national repentance of Israel in the times of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:9-14). It was as the mourning for a firstborn. Jeremiah composed an elegy for the good king departed, and the singing-men and singing, women kept up the practice of lamenting for him even unto the Captivity (2 Chronicles 35:24, 25). Well might Judah mourn. Josiah was the last great and good king they would see. But infinitely better would it have been if their sorrow had been the "godly sorrow" which "worketh repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10). This unfortunately it was not, as the result showed. It is because it was not that, the mourning of Hadadrimmon will have to be done over again (Zechariah 12:10), next time in a very different spirit. We see that it is possible to lament good men, yet not profit by their example. The best tribute we can pay the just is to live like them.
3. Providential aspects of his death.
(1) An irreparable loss to the nation, Josiah's death was yet great gain to himself. It was God's way of taking him away from the evil to come, and so of fulfilling the promise given by Huldah (2 Kings 22:20). Josiah, perhaps, erred in taking the step he did, but while God punished him for his error, he providentially overruled the event for his good. Death is sometimes a blessing. It may hide things from our eyes we had rather not see; as, in the case of the good, it translates to scenes of bliss beyond human conception. "The dark things" of God's providence are these in which we may ultimately recognize the greatest mercy. "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense," etc.
(2) In regard to the nation, the providential aspects of this death were widely different. It took from them a gift which they had failed to prize, or at least to profit by. It was, moreover, a step in Providence towards the fulfillment of the threatenings of captivity. Pharaoh-Nechoh's conquest was the gate through which Nebuchadnezzar entered.
II. THE DEPOSITION OF JEHOAHAZ.
1. A brief reign. In virtue of the defeat of Josiah, Judah became ipso facto a dependency of Pharaoh-Nechoh. The people, however, were in no mood to acknowledge this subjection, and immediately set about making a king for themselves. They passed by Eliakim, Josiah's eldest son, and raised the next son, Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11), to the throne under the name of Jehoahaz. The younger son was probably the more spirited and warlike of the two. Ezekiel compares him to a young lion (Ezekiel 19:3). Under him the nation cast off the restraints of thee reign of Josiah, and reverted to its former sinful ways. It does not suffice to make a good king that he has -
(1) a good father - "the son of Josiah;"
(2) a good name - Jehoahaz, "he whom the Lord sustains;" or
(3) a solemn anointing - they "anointed him"
The people probably thought otherwise, for it was they, apparently, who gave him this name, and took the step of formally consecrating him with the anointing oil Anointing oil, without the grace which it symbolizes, of little use. Jehoahaz was permitted to possess his throne only for three brief months.
2. A hard captivity. By the end of the period named, Pharaoh-Nechoh was sufficiently free to attend to the proceedings at Jerusalem. The city had flouted his supremacy, and he did not let it escape. His own camp was at Riblah, but he sent to Jerusalem, required Jehoahaz to attend his court at Riblah, there put him in chains, and carried him with him into Egypt (Ezekiel 19:4). This was a worse fate than Josiah's. "Weep ye not for the dead," said Jeremiah, "neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country." (Jeremiah 22:10). This captivity of Jehoahaz was a prelude to the captivity of the nation - the first drop of the shower soon about to fall. Yet the people would not hearken.
3. A heavy tribute. In addition to removing the king, Pharaoh-Nechoh put the land under a tribute. He exacted a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. Again we see how sin works out bondage, misery, and disgrace. An oft-read lesson, but how impossible, apparently, for this people to learn!
III. JEHOIAKIM'S VASSALAGE.
1. Egypt dictates a king. Once again, as in the earliest period of their history, Israel was in bondage to Egypt. Pharaoh-Nechoh used his power unsparingly. The eldest son of Josiah, who seems not to have been a favorite with the people, was willing to accept the throne as a vassal, and him, accordingly, Nechoh made king, changing his name, in token of subjection, from Eliakim to Jehoiakim. How bitter the satire - Jehoiakim, "he whom Jehovah has set up!"
2. Jehoiakim becomes Egypt's tool. Jehoiakim had, perhaps, no alternative but to give "the silver and the gold to Pharaoh," but in his manner of exacting it he showed himself the willing tool of the oppressor. To obtain the money, he put heavy taxation on the people. His rule was a bitter, ignominious, and oppressive one for Judah. Jeremiah says of him, "But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it" (Jeremiah 22:17). But such are the kings men must submit to when they reject God for their Sovereign. In a moral respect Jehoiakim's reign was "evil," and in a temporal respect it was the stumbling on from one misfortune to another. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.
WEB: In his days Pharaoh Necoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and [Pharaoh Necoh] killed him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.