Israel: Death of Josiah to 597 BCE

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After the death of Josiah, his son Jehoahaz ascended to the throne. Within a month the Egyptian Pharaoh has to intervene and exile him to Egypt as he continued his father’s policy of expansion. Pharaoh appointed his brother Eliakim whose name he changed to Jehoiakim (also known as Shallum, see Jer 22: 10-11). With this tight fist of Pharaoh, Judah had once more come under the shadow of Egypt.

Jehoiakim, who came after Jehoahaz, remained faithful to the Egyptians till 605 BCE. He was personally extravagant and built fine palace with forced labour (Jer 22: 13-19). Public morality deteriorated (Jer 5: 26-29). Prophets who resisted his extravagant and pagan practices were persecuted (Jer 26: 20-23). Jeremiah was not happy with Jehoiakim and in fact suffered much under Jehoiakim. Jeremiah terribly criticised and condemned the activities of Jehoiakim (Jer 22).[1]

In this context, there comes a new scene in the political scenario of the Ancient Near East. Nabopolassar the founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire had appointed his able son Nebuchadnezzar as commander-in-chief. Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Neco II at Carchemish (Jer 46: 2-12). With this Syria and Palestine came under the foothold of Babylon. Even then, time to time there were rebellions in Syria and Palestine but always suppressed by Babylon.

The vassal king Jehoiakim rebelled at least twice against Babylon. Jehoiakim was assassinated (Jer 22: 18-19) and his son Jehoiachin succeeded Jehoiakim. In order to control Judah’s rebellious attempts in the year 597 BCE Nebuchadnezzar came in person to Jerusalem and carried off Jehoiachin into exile to Babylon. In the place of Jehoiachin he appointed his incapable uncle Mattaniah (brother of king Josiah) with the change of his name into Zedekiah, as his vassal king.

[1] Woe to him who builds hi house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbour serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages (Jer 22: 13). …But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.” Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah my brother!’ or ‘Ah my sister!’ They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah lord!’ or ‘Ah his majesty!’ (Jer 22: 17-18)

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