This should have been the history of king Jehoiachin’s reign, but, alas! it is only the history of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, as it is called, Ezek. 1:2. He came to the crown, not to have the honour of wearing it, but the shame of losing it. Ideo tantum venerat, ut exiret—He came in only to go out.
I. His reign was short and inconsiderable. He reigned but three months, and then was removed and carried captive to Babylon, as his father, it is likely, would have been if he had lived but so much longer. What an unhappy young prince was this, that was thrust into a falling house, a sinking throne! What an unnatural father had he, who begat him to suffer for him, and by his own sin and folly had left himself nothing to bequeath to his son but his own miseries! Yet this young prince reigned long enough to show that he justly smarted for his fathers’ sins, for he trod in their steps (2 Kgs. 24:9): He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as they had done; he did nothing to cut off the entail of the curse, to discharge the incumbrances of his crown, and therefore (transit cum onere—the incumbrance descends with the crown) with his own iniquity that of his fathers shall come into the account.
II. The calamities that came upon him, and his family, and people, in the very beginning of his reign, were very grievous. 1. Jerusalem was besieged by the king of Babylon, 2 Kgs. 24:10, 11. He had sent his forces to ravage the country, 2 Kgs. 24:2. Now he came himself, and laid siege to the city. Now the word of God was fulfilled (Deut. 28:49-69), The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, of fierce countenance, that shall first eat of the fruit of thy land and then besiege thee in all thy gates. 2. Jehoiachin immediately surrendered at discretion. As soon as he heard the king of Babylon had come in person against the city, his name having at this time become very formidable, he beat a parley and went out to him, 2 Kgs. 24:12. Had he made his peace with God, and taken the method that Hezekiah did in the like case, he needed not to have feared the king of Babylon, but might have held out with courage, honour, and success (one should have chased a thousand); but, wanting the faith and piety of an Israelite, he had not the resolution of a man, of a soldier, of a prince. He and his royal family, his mother and wives, his servants and princes, delivered themselves up prisoners of war; this was the consequence of their being servants of sin. 3. Nebuchadnezzar rifled the treasuries both of the church and of the state, and carried away the silver and gold of both, 2 Kgs. 24:13. Now the word of God by Isaiah was fulfilled (2 Kgs. 20:17), All that is in thy house shall be carried to Babylon. Even the vessels of the temple which Solomon had made, and laid up in store to be used as the old ones were worn out, he cut off from the temple, and began to cut them in pieces, but, upon second thoughts, reserved them for his own use, for we find Belshazzar drinking wine in them, Dan. 5:2, 3. 4. He carried away a great part of Jerusalem into captivity, to weaken it, that he might effectually secure to himself the dominion of it and prevent its revolt, and to enrich himself with the wealth or service of those he took away. There had been some carried away eight years before this, in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar and the third of Jehoiakim, among whom were Daniel and his fellows. See Dan. 1:1, 6. They had approved themselves so well that this politic prince coveted more of them. Now he carried off, (1.) The young king himself and his family (2 Kgs. 24:15), and we find (2 Kgs. 25:27-29) that for thirty-seven years he continued a close prisoner. (2.) All the great men, the princes and officers, whose riches were kept for the owners thereof to their hurt (Eccl. 5:13), tempting the enemies to make a prey of them first. (3.) All the military men, the mighty men of valour (2 Kgs. 24:14), the mighty of the land (2 Kgs. 24:15), the men of might, even all that were strong and apt for war, 2 Kgs. 24:16. These could not defend themselves, and the conqueror would not leave them to defend their country, but took them away, to be employed in his service. (4.) All the craftsmen and smiths who made weapons of war; in taking them he did, in effect, disarm the city, according to the Philistines’ policy, 1 Sam. 13:19. In this captivity Ezekiel the prophet was carried away (Ezek. 1:1, 2) and Mordecai, Exod. 2:6. This Jehoiachin was also called Jeconiah (1 Chron. 3:16), and in contempt (Jer. 22:24; where his captivity is foretold) Coniah.
III. The successor whom the king of Babylon appointed in the room of Jehoiachin. God had written him childless (Jer. 22:30) and therefore his uncle was entrusted with the government. The king of Babylon made Mattaniah king, the son of Josiah; and to remind him, and let all the world know, that he was his creature, he changed his name and called him Zedekiah, 2 Kgs. 24:17. God had sometimes charged it upon his people, They have set up kings, but not by me (Hos. 8:4), and now, to punish them for that, the king of Babylon shall have the setting up of their kings. Those are justly deprived of their liberty that use it, and insist upon it, against God’s authority. This Zedekiah was the last of the kings of Judah. The name which the king of Babylon gave him signifies The justice of the Lord, and was a presage of the glorifying of God’s justice in his ruin. 1. See how impious this Zedekiah was. Though the judgments of God upon his three immediate predecessors might have been a warning to him not to tread in their steps, yet he did that which was evil, like all the rest, 2 Kgs. 24:19. 2. See how impolitic he was. As his predecessor lost his courage, so he his wisdom, with his religion, for he rebelled against the king of Babylon (2 Kgs. 24:20), whose tributary he was, and so provoked him whom he was utterly unable to contend with, and who, if he had continued true to him, would have protected him. This was the most foolish thing he could do, and hastened the ruin of his kingdom. This came to pass through the anger of the Lord, that he might cast them out from his presence. Note, When those that are entrusted with the counsels of a nation act unwisely, and against their true interest, we ought to take notice of the displeasure of God in it. It is for the sins of a people that God removes the speech of the trusty and takes away the understanding of the aged, and hides from their eyes the things that belong to the public peace. Whom God will destroy he infatuates.