We have here the first mention of a name which makes a great figure both in the histories and in the prophecies of the Old Testament; it is that of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kgs. 24:1), that head of gold. He was a potent prince, and one that was the terror of the mighty in the land of the living; and yet his name would not have been known in sacred writ if he had not been employed in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews.
I. He made Jehoiakim his tributary and kept him in subjection three years, 2 Kgs. 24:1. Nebuchadnezzar began his reign in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. In his eighth year he made him his prisoner, but restored him upon his promise of faithfulness to him. That promise he kept about three years, but then rebelled, probably in hopes of assistance from the king of Egypt. If Jehoiakim had served his God as he should have done, he would not have been servant to the king of Babylon; but God would thus make him know the difference between his service and the service of the kings of the countries, 2 Chron. 12:8. If he had been content with his servitude, and true to his word, his condition would have been no worse; but, rebelling against the king of Babylon, he plunged himself into more trouble.
II. When he rebelled Nebuchadnezzar sent his forces against him to destroy his country, bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites, who were all now in the service and pay of the king of Babylon (2 Kgs. 24:2), and withal retained, and now showed, their ancient enmity to the Israel of God. Yet no mention is here made of their commission from the king of Babylon, but only of that from the King of kings: The Lord sent against him all these bands; and again (2 Kgs. 24:3), Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, else the commandment of Nebuchadnezzar could not have brought it. Many are serving God’s purposes who are not aware of it. Two things God intended in suffering Judah to be thus harassed:—1. The punishment of the sins of Manasseh, which God now visited upon the third and fourth generation. So long he waited before he visited them, to see if the nation would repent; but they continued impenitent, notwithstanding Josiah’s endeavours to reform them, and ready to relapse, upon the first turn, into their former idolatries. Now that the old bond was put in suit they were called up upon the former judgment; that was revived which God had laid up in store, and sealed among his treasures (Deut. 32:34; Job 14:17), and in remembrance of that he removed Judah out of his sight, and let the world know that time will not wear out the guilt of sin and that reprieves are not pardons. All that Manasseh did was called to mind, but especially the innocent blood that he shed, much of which, we may suppose, was the blood of God’s witnesses and worshippers, which the Lord would not pardon. Isa. there then any unpardonable sin but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? This is meant of the remitting of the temporal punishment. Though Manasseh repented, and we have reason to think even the persecutions and murders he was guilty of were pardoned, so that he was delivered from the wrath to come; yet, as they were national sins, they lay still charged upon the land, crying for national judgments. Perhaps some were now living who were aiding and abetting; and the present king was guilty of innocent blood, as appears Jer. 22:17. See what a provoking sin murder is, how loud it cries, and how long. See what need nations have to lament the sins of their fathers, lest they smart for them. God intended hereby the accomplishment of the prophecies; it was according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servants the prophets. Rather shall Judah be removed out of his sight, nay, rather shall heaven and earth pass away, than any word of God fall to the ground. Threatenings will be fulfilled as certainly as promises, if the sinner’s repentance prevent not.
III. The king of Egypt was likewise subdued by the king of Babylon, and a great part of his country taken from him, 2 Kgs. 24:7. It was but lately that he had oppressed Israel, 2 Kgs. 23:33. Now he is himself brought down and disabled to attempt any thing for the recovery of his losses or the assistance of his allies. He dares not come any more out of his land. Afterwards he attempted to give Zedekiah some relief, but was obliged to retire, Jer. 37:7.
IV. Jehoiakim, seeing his country laid waste and himself ready to fall into the enemy’s hand, as it should seem, died of a broken heart, in the midst of his days (2 Kgs. 24:6). So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers; but it is not said that he was buried with them, for no doubt the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled, that he should not be lamented, as his father was, but buried with the burial of an ass (Jer. 22:18, 19), and his dead body cast out, Jer. 36:30.