The final chapters of 2 Kings verify the word the Lord spoke through Moses and Joshua (Deut 28:58-68; Josh 24:19-24). Their negative appraisals of Israel were confirmed despite the recent reforms of Josiah. After Josiah’s death at the hands of Pharaoh Neco of Egypt (2 Kgs 23:29), his son Jehoahaz reigned in Judah. King Jehoahaz “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestors had done” (2 Kgs 23:32). After Neco took Judah’s king captive and imposed a fine on the people, Neco placed another of Josiah’s sons, Eliakim, on the throne (2 Kgs 23:33-34). To ensure dominion over Judah, Neco changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. This Jehoiakim eventually helped Neco get the remaining treasures of Judah (2 Kgs 23:35).
But Pharaoh Neco was not the dominant power of the day. Rather, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked, and Jehoiakim became his vassal…[Nebuchadnezzar] took everything that belonged to the king of Egypt, from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River” (2 Kgs 24:1, 7). Beyond this, Jehoiakim had to endure attacks from Chaldean, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders—because of the Lord’s word of condemnation upon Judah for the sins of Manasseh (2 Kgs 24:2-5).
After Jehoiachin replaced his father Jehoiakim (2 Kgs 24:8-9), the Babylonian forces advanced upon those yet remaining in the land. Nebuchadnezzar plundered the temple and its treasuries (2 Kgs 24:13). Then Nebuchadnezzar deported all 10,000 captives, including in the number the skilled and able. “Except for the poorest people of the land, nobody remained,” the author reported (2 Kgs 24:14). Nebuchadnezzar made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king and changed his name to Zedekiah (2 Kgs 24:17)
Zedekiah “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight just as Jehoiakim had done” (2 Kgs 24:19) and rebelled against Babylon, the event that would bring about the final banishment of Judah from the land (2 Kgs 24:20). Zedekiah’s rebellion, described in 2 Kings 25, aroused the anger of the Babylonian king. In Zedekiah’s ninth year on the throne, Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Jerusalem and built a siege wall around the city (2 Kgs 25:1). The siege resulted in a famine and when Zedekiah tried to escape the siege with his army, “the Chaldean army pursued him and overtook him in the plains of Jericho” (2 Kgs 25:5). Nebuchadnezzar ordered Zedekiah’s sons slaughtered as Zedekiah looked on. Then, Zedekiah’s eyes were gouged out so that his last sight would be the death of his heirs (2 Kgs 25:6-7). Zedekiah was deported to Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar and his forces destroyed the city and put the chief priests to death (2 Kgs 25:9-21).
The final paragraph of the record of the kings of Israel takes an unexpected twist. Why mention these details about Jehoiachin, the first king taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kgs 24:12)? Jehoiachin’s favored state in the Babylonian empire offered a measure of hope to the exiles—hope that was based in the storyline of Scripture, hope that would be finally realized in Jesus Christ. On the plains of Moab, Moses stated the blessings and curses of the old covenant, prophetically telling the people:
When all these things happen to you…and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today, then He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you (Deut 30:1-3).
From a historical perspective, Jehoiachin was preserved for the sake of carrying on the Davidic lineage, for the sake of the coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew concluded his genealogy of Jesus, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations” (Matt 1:17).