Jeremiah, Ireland, the Stone of Scone, and the English Kings ...

CHAPTER I. THE BEGINNING OF THE END

"Coming events cast their shadows before." - Thomas Campbell

THE twenty-two and a half eventful years that intervened between the death of the good King Josiah and the final subversion of the Jewish State, were, indeed, sad and troublous times for Judah and Jerusalem. When the chariot bearing the mortal remains of their late beloved monarch from the fatal field of Megiddo, reached the grief-stricken capital, the sorrow of the mourning people was sincere and universal: that of his father-in-law, Jeremiah, being specially noted (2 Chron. 35:24-25). And well in truth had they cause for lamentation: for could the inhabitants of Jerusalem have clearly "discerned the Signs of the times" (Matt. 16:3), the dead corpse of their fallen king, decked out in all the trappings of departed glory, really typified the impending extinction of their own national life.

Realizing that prompt and vigorous action was necessary in the unsettled and menacing conditions of the times and the dangers now threatening the State - as soon as the obsequies of the dead king were over - "The people of the land took Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him King in his father's stead" (2 Kings 23:30): thus passing over his elder brother Eliakim, the son of Josiah by another wife, "Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah" (2 Kings 23:36). The young King thus elected, who was only twenty-three years of age when raised to the throne, was the son of Josiah and Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah the Prophet; and the preference thus shown by the people would appear to indicate that this lady was universally regarded as the principal wife or queen of the late monarch.

But the Jewish notables and people, in thus hastily disposing of the Succession, had reckoned without their host. Pharaoh Necho, having failed in his primary objective - the capture of Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jer. 46:2) now retraced his steps, in order to reap the advantages won by his splendid archers at Megiddo and consolidate the hold upon Palestine which that victory had given him. Whether actuated by fear or from policy, the young King Jehoahaz went to meet the Victor on the Orontes, where Necho was making a strong place of arms at Riblah. If Jehoahaz went thither hoping to obtain recognition of his assumption of the throne of Judah, he was woefully undeceived; for we are told that "Pharaoh Necho put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem: and put the land to a tribute of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold" (2 Kings 23:33).

Necho then advanced upon the Capital, bringing with him the captive monarch whom he formally deposed in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36:3); making "Eliakim," the eldest son of Josiah, "King in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim; and he took Jehoahaz away; and he came to Egypt, and died there" (2 Kings 23:34). Thus ended the brief go days kingship of Jehoahaz, the favorite son of Josiah. The lament of his maternal grandfather, Jeremiah, is very pathetic: "Weep ye not for the dead (Josiah) .... but weep sore for him that goeth away; for he shall return no more, nor see his native country .... but in the place whither they have led him captive, there shall he die, and he shall see this land no more" (Jer. 22:10-12).

The protégé of Necho, whose name Eliakim was changed to Jehoiakim - a practice largely obtaining in the East, and noted in the cases of Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Israel and Joseph (Gen. 17:5 and 15, 36:28, 35:10, 41:45); Gideon (Judges 6:32 and 7:1); Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan. 1:7); Simon Barjona (John 1:42); and Saul of Tarsus (Acts 13:9) ruled as vassal-king under the suzerainty of Egypt for some three years or so, "doing that which was evil in the sight of THE LORD, according to all that his fathers had done" (2 Kings 23:37), - when clouds of foreboding mischief began to loom on the north and east, heralding the impending fulfillment of the solemn prophecies of Jeremiah - "Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land." .... "Set up a standard towards Zion; flee for safety, stay not; for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. The lion is gone up from his thicket, and a destroyer of nations: he is on his way, he is gone forth out of his place, to make thy land desolate, that thy cities be laid waste without inhabitant" (Jer. 1:14, 4:6 and 7).

And truly" out of the north" that storm did burst upon Judah which was destined, in fulfillment of the purposes of GOD, to sweep away the Jewish monarchy. Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nebopalassar (the Captor of Nineveh and Founder of the new Chaldean Kingdom), as his father's general, routed the Egyptian army and recovered Carchemish (Jer. 46:2); and, following up his successes, he finally drove Necho from one position to another until he was altogether expelled from the whole of Palestine as well. "And the King of Egypt came not again any more out of his land, for the King of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates, all that pertained to the King of Egypt" (2 Kings 24:7). Succeeding his father on the throne of Babylon in 604 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar advanced upon Jerusalem, "and Jehoakim became his servant for three years; then he turned and rebelled against him" (2 Kings 24:1, Dan. 1:1).

But this defection of Jehoiakim's, after Nebuchadnezzar's leniency - who had "bound him in fetters to carry him to Babylon" (2 Chron. 36:6), but relenting had restored him to his Kingdom - called for exemplary punishment; and such he certainly received. Jehoiakim, not only "did that which was evil in the sight of THE LORD" (2 Kings 23:37), but he was barbarously cruel, and a scorner of God's Word. He had sent men and had "fetched forth out of Egypt" Uriah the prophet, whom he murdered in cold blood, and then had his body cast into a common, perhaps, a dishonored grave (Jer. 26:20-23); he also was the impious monarch who daringly and openly mutilated and destroyed the written Word of God! (Jer. 36:20-25).

But terribly was he punished for his insolent temerity. "Thus saith THE LORD concerning Jehoakim, the son of Josiah, King of Judah: they shall not lament for him, saying, `Ah, my brother! .... Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!' He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem" (Jer. 22:18-19). And, as in the case of another great one of the earth who was a despiser of God's Word (2 Kings 7:20), "so it fell out to him." His short and wicked reign of eleven years served but to further debase and humiliate his wretched country; the wooden yoke of Egypt was indeed broken and lifted off the neck of Judah, but it was replaced by the iron collar of the Chaldean, and the firm grasp of the vigorous, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whose little finger was thicker than the Egyptian Pharaoh's loins, closed upon the miserable country and its doomed inhabitants.

Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim - called Jeconiah (1 Chron. 3:16-17, Jer. 24:1 and 36:20, Matt. 1:11-12; and Coniah, Jer. 22:24 and 28, and 37:1), a vicious youth of eighteen, now ascended the precarious Jewish throne. Whether the "servants of Nebuchadnezzar," who had deposed and slain his father, and who were now endeavoring to make themselves masters of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10), could not prevent his assumption, or whether they tolerated it pending the arrival of the Chaldean King who was on his way to the city, is not clear from the inspired narrative.

But when "Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came into the city while his servants were besieging it; .... Jehoiachim the King of Judah went out to the King of Babylon ..... and the King of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his" (Nebuchadnezzar's) "reign" (2 Kings 24:10-12). Thus ended the reign (if, indeed, a duration of 100 days can be dignified by such a name) of this depraved son of vicious parents, - for his mother was the daughter of Elnathan, one of the counsellors of his wicked father, Jehoiakim, who lured the prophet Uriah to his doom (Jer. 26. 22-23). For his terrible after-experience, and the future amelioration of his condition, by Evil-Merodach, the successor of Nebuchadnezzar, on his coming to the throne of Babylon in 561 B.C., (see 2 Kings 25:27-29).

As the conqueror of Palestine, Nebuchadnezzar now raised the uncle of Jehoiachin, Mattaniah, to the throne (changing his name to Zedekiah), whose mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah the Prophet (2 Kings 24:17-18).



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