The Chronicler was no dull historian. Throughout 1 and 2 Chronicles, he often expanded on information found in the record of 1-2 Kings, emphasizing specific aspects of covenant faithfulness through more detailed accounts of the reigns of Judah’s kings. But at the close of 2 Chronicles, there is an abrupt change in style. Here at the climax of his account of Judah’s history, the author set out to anger his contemporaries. He wanted them to fume at the unfaithfulness of past generations.
In 2 Kings, the four leaders described in 2 Chronicles 36 are afforded nearly twice as much ink. The Chronicler’s brief summary advanced the emotional impact of the fall of Judah—it happened abruptly. Jehoahaz (2 Chron 36:1-3) was deposed by the king of Egypt, who was also responsible for the death of Josiah (2 Chron 35:20-25). Jehoahaz’s reign became the pattern each subsequent king would follow. Pharaoh Neco replaced Jehoahaz with Jehoiakim (2 Chron 36:4-8). Jehoiakim did evil in the Lord’s sight (2 Chron 36:5). Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon dethroned Jehoiakim and plundered the temple, taking some of the gold to Babylon (2 Chron 36:7). Jehoiachin reigned only three months before Nebuchadnezzar removed him from the throne and brought him, with some of more the temple’s treasures, to Babylon (2 Chron 36:9-10). Zedekiah enjoyed the longest reign of the kings mentioned in the last chapter of 2 Chronicles. But during his eleven years on the throne, Zedekiah “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet at the LORD’s command” (2 Chron 36:12). Zedekiah placed himself in a position of rebellion and “All the leaders of the priests and the people multiplied their unfaithful deeds, imitating all the detestable practices of the nations, and they defiled the LORD’s temple that He had consecrated in Jerusalem” (2 Chron 36:13b-14).
The fate of Judah was sealed, and the Chronicler wrote of the sad end of the nation. Though the Lord had sent prophets to warn them time and again, “they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the LORD’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (2 Chron 36:16). Finally, the Lord sent the Babylonians to plunder Jerusalem, destroying the temple and Jerusalem’s wall; any who escaped were taken captive to Babylon (2 Chron 36:17-20).
While the Chronicler employed the emotion of anger in the arrangement of this chapter, he also aroused a measure of hope in his audience. He reminded them that their Lord was sovereign over the 70-year exile, when “the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest” (2 Chron 36:21). At the conclusion of that period, the Lord prompted King Cyrus of Persia to allow the Hebrews to return to their land and rebuild their temple (2 Chron 36:22-23). Now was their time to be faithful.
From the Chronicler’s account of the last days of Judah in the Promised Land, it is clear that God’s discipline of His people was not without warning. Time and again their gracious God had sent messengers to warn them of the consequences of their actions but they would not listen (Isa 6:8-13; Jer 1:17-19). Perhaps this reality was on Jesus’ mind during the last week of His life, when He told the Parable of the Vineyard Owner (Matt 21:33-43//Mark 12:1-11//Luke 20:9-18) —a parable which provides the rubric of the storyline of Scripture. The Lord had sent many slaves to reap the harvest of the Promised Land; He had planted His people there for His glory (Deut 4:1-14) but to no avail. Jesus knew that His time had come, the builders were going to reject the cornerstone. It is thus no surprise that the Jewish leadership reacted so sharply to Jesus’ teaching. The Synoptic Evangelists note that the scribes and the chief priests looked for a way to get their hands on Jesus from that very hour, because they knew He had told the parable against them (Matt 21:45//Mark 12:12//Luke 20:19).