Judah and the Babylonian Conquest
Just the gist (for small children and others with tiny attention spans):
Judah alternated between good and bad kings. King Hezekiah and King Josiah were particularly good. Unfortunately, after Josiah, the were no more good kings. The kingdom was conquered by Babylon and the Jews were marched into captivity.
For those that can handle just a bit more: (Okay, this one is a lot more.)
Unlike the Northern Kingdom which had all unfaithful kings, the southern kingdom of Judah had good kings (did what was right in the eyes of God) and bad kings (did what was evil in the eyes of God).
Rehoboam – did what was evil. (1 Kings 14:21-31)
Abijam – did what was evil. (1 Kings 15: 1-8)
Asa – did what was right. (1 Kings 15:9-24)
Jehoshaphat – did what was right. (1 Kings 22:41-50)
Jehoram – did what was evil (including killing all his brothers).
Ahaziah – did what was evil, but only for a year. He was King Ahab’s son-in-law. (2 Kings 8:25-9:28)
Queen Athaliah (Ahaziah’s mother) – did what was evil including trying to kill off the entire house of Judah and, therefore, the Davidic line. Happily, Joash (Ahaziah’s son and one of David’s descendants) was hidden away in the house of the Lord so that Athaliah could not find him. The Queen came to a violent end, though they made sure not to do it in the Temple, which was thoughtful. (2 Kings 11:1-20)
Joash (began his reign at the age of only 7 so he got a lot of help from Jehoida the priest) – did what was right, until Jehoida died and then did what was evil, including having Jehoida’s son killed. ( 2 Kings 11:21-12:21)
Amaziah – did what was right-ish. (2 Kings 14:1-20)
Azariah/Uzziah – did what was right-ish. Unfortuntaly, he became prideful and tried to take on the role of priest. His reign ended with him getting leprosy. (2 Kings 14:21-15:7)
Jotham – did what was right-ish. (2 Kings 15:32-38)
Ahaz – did what was evil. Not just evil, but evil-evil. This is the fella to whom Isaiah told the prophecy about a virgin conceiving and bearing a son and naming him Emmanuel back on Day 15. (Isaiah 7:10-14) Ahaz choose to not appreciate having been the recipient of history’s greatest prophecy. Instead, he made molten images for the Baals and sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and other pagan places of worship. Most notably, he burnt incense in the Valley of Hinnom which is called Gehenna in Aramaic. It was considered cursed because of the child sacrifice that took place there by the Canaanite cult of Molech. King Ahaz sacrificed his sons there. He also closed up God’s temple and had his people, instead, worship at the altars he had made all over Jerusalem to worship other gods. See what I mean? Evil-evil.
He also made political alliances with Assyria instead of trusting in God’s help against his enemies. (2 Kings 16:1-20)
Hezekiah – did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that King David had done. This is high biblical praise. He immediately got to work undoing the things his evil father had done. He had the temple cleansed and restored worship there. He had all the pagan shrines destroyed.
Assyria turned its war machine on Judah. It invaded and overtook all of the Southern Kingdom excepting Jerusalem. Instead of turning to political alliances to save his kingdom like his father had done, King Hezekiah turned to God. He prayed, listened to the advice of the prophet Isaiah and had faith in God. Adding to the drama, Hezekiah fell deathly ill. Again, he prayed for God’s assistance.
God helped both Hezekiah overcome his illness and tiny Judah overcome the massive Assyrian army. He sent his gifts with a sign. He moved time backwards on a sundial. Superman will later use a similar move when he reversed the rotation of the earth to save Lois Lane. #truestory
As promised through the words of Isaiah, God had his angel slay a bunch of the Assyrians in the night and when the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, woke up and saw the mysterious slaughter, he made like a tree and booked it back to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. He died by the sword at the hands of his sons.
An envoy from Babylon came by to congratulate Judah’s king on his victory and Hezekiah, all puffed up with pride, showed them all of the country’s treasure. The Babylonians took notes, said thanks and promised to drop by again some time. (2 Kings 18:1-20:21)
Manasseh – did what was evil. Not just evil, but evil-evil. Manasseh was voted worst king from the Davidic line. He was considered to be the “Ahab” of the Southern Kingdom. Under his rule, Israel sank into unprecedented faithlessness in which idolatry was not only tolerated, but aggressively encouraged. Manasseh pretty much undid all of the reforms that his father had done. He rebuilt the Canaanite high places, he restarted the worship of Baal and Asherah, he desecrated God’s temple, went to fortune tellers and he sacrificed his sons in the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna, the evil cursed place that is so evil, its name is used for hell in the New Testament). Manasseh was so nefarious, he had the people of the Southern Kingdom doing more evil than the Canaanites that God had thrown off the land on account of their evilness. His reign was 55 years of making God so mad that even his grandson Josiah’s reign couldn’t undo what Israel had brought upon itself under Manasseh’s kingship. (2 Kings 21:1-18)
Amon – did what was evil. (2 Kings 21:19-26)
Josiah – did what was right. A priest found a copy of Deuteronomy during Josiah’s temple renovations. Josiah read it and, distressed, realized Judah was headed for disaster in that they’d spent the last many years breaking nearly every commandment in the text and it specified in the text that breaking the commandments would bring a curse upon their heads.
Josiah consulted with some prophets and found out that, yes, Judah was headed for trouble, but it wouldn’t happen while he was in charge in that he had walked in the ways of King David.
Josiah read the law to his people and then set out reforming his kingdom. He destroyed all of the pagan shrines and high places, even defiling the site where rituals of child sacrifice were conducted to Molech so that people would stop sacrificing their children there.
Unfortunately, Josiah did not live long. He was killed in battle by a Pharoah. (2 Kings 22:1-23:30)
Jehoahaz – did what was evil. (2 Kings 23:31-34)
Jehoiakim – did what was evil. (2 Kings 23:36-24:6)
Jehoiachin – did what was evil. (2 Kings 24:8-15)
Zedekiah – did what was evil. Jeremiah the prophet told him to just surrender to Babylon but Zedekiah didn’t listen and paid a horrible price for ignoring the sage’s advice. A price that is absolutely not Christmas talk. (2 Kings 24:18-25:7)
The prophet Jeremiah popped up near the end of Josiah’s reign aaaaaaand that was the last king who might have listened to him. Jeremiah was a wee bit depressing. He foretold Judah’s destruction but he also bought some land and prophesied that God would bring his people back to the promised land in 70 years. But not until after they met humiliating defeat in 586 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians on the plains of Jericho. Where God’s people had once triumphed against all odds through faith and prayer under the leadership of Joshua, they have now lost their promised land under the faithless leadership of Zedekiah. At the hands of their Babylonian conquerors, they walked the story of salvation backwards on the long march from the land promised to Abraham back to his ancient homeland as slaves.
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