Judah enjoyed a prolonged stay in the Promised Land in part because of Hezekiah’s loyalty to the Lord during the siege of Jerusalem. In time, Hezekiah’s faithfulness waned. Near the end of his life, and during the days of King Manasseh his son, the Lord announced that Judah’s residence in the land was about to end.
King Hezekiah had enjoyed great success with the Lord, so when he became ill and the prophet Isaiah announced his imminent death, Hezekiah had the faith necessary to seek the Lord’s favor and extend his days (2 Kgs 20:1-11). Yet, Hezekiah’s transparency and possible capitulation before the cohort from Merodach-baladan, son of Baladan king of Babylon, proved costly. Baladan had also been at war with Assyria and sent emissaries with a gift for the ailing king of Judah. These Babylonians spied on Judah to know of its strengths. Hezekiah, either lacking the shrewdness of a successful king or desiring to form an alliance with the Babylonians, “showed them his whole treasure house—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the precious oil—and his armory, and everything that was found in his treasuries” (2 Kgs 20:13). Upon hearing of the Babylonian entourage, Isaiah immediately asked the king, “What have they seen in your palace?” (2 Kgs 20:15). Isaiah announced the word of the Lord that Hezekiah’s treasures and children would soon be carried off to Babylon (2 Kgs 20:16-19).
After Hezekiah, his son Manasseh became king (2 Kings 21). The boy was not like his father. Manasseh “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, imitating the abominations of the nations that the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites” (2 Kgs 21:2); “rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed and reestablished the altars for Baal” (2 Kgs 21:3); “made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists” (2 Kgs 21:6); “set up the carved image of Asherah he made in the temple that the LORD had spoken about to David and his son Solomon” (2 Kgs 21:7, 9); and “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem with it from one end to another” (2 Kgs 21:16).
In light of the conditions Manasseh established in his 55-year reign in Judah, destruction was inevitable. The unnamed prophets announced the word of the Lord, “I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will become plunder and spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in My sight and have provoked Me from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until today” (2 Kgs 21:14-15). The Chronicler recorded that Manasseh’s later years included a time of genuine repentance and devout spiritual leadership (2 Chron 33:10-17). That Manasseh’s son Amon walked unfaithfully as Manasseh had during his earlier reign reveals that Manasseh’s latter-day reforms were either superficial or ineffective or both (2 Kgs 21:19-26).
After Hezekiah’s folly with the envoy from Babylon, Isaiah prophesied that Judah would soon be taken over by this powerful nation. In the macro-narrative of Scripture, the nation of Babylon represents the ultimate national foe of God’s people. John employed the nation of Babylon metaphorically. To Babylon, John heard a mighty angel say, “The blood of the prophets and saints, and all those slaughtered on earth, was found in you” (Rev 18:24). Babylon was “a dwelling for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, and a haunt for every unclean and despicable beast” (Rev 18:2) because, “all the nations have drunk of the wine of her immorality, which brings wrath. The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury” (Rev 18:3). This is why John witnessed such jubilation amongst the heavenly throng when the destruction of Babylon was in view. The heavenly throng sang, “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God, because His judgments are true and righteous, because He has judged the notorious prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality; and He has avenged the blood of His servants that was on her hands” (Rev 19:1b-2). Her defeat was realized when John saw heaven open and a white horse come forth whose rider is called “Faithful and True” (Rev 19:11), “king of kings and lord of lords” (Rev 19:16b).