This chapter, then, contains, first, very brief accounts of the four reigns of Jehoahaz ( 2 Chronicles 36:1-4 ), Eliakim or Jehoiakim ( 2 Chronicles 36:4-8 ), Jehoiachin ( 2 Chronicles 36:9 , 2 Chronicles 36:10 ), and Zedekiah ( 2 Chronicles 36:10-13 ); next, general remarks on the iniquity that heralded the destruction of the nation and the punishment of it by the Chaldean captivity ( 2 Chronicles 36:14-17 ); thirdly, the methods of that destruction and captivity ( 2 Chronicles 36:17-21 ); and lastly, the restoring proclamation of Cyrus King of Persia.
Hath the Lord God of heaven given me … the Lord his God be with him . The adopting by Cyrus of the Hebrew "Jehovah" in both these places cannot escape our notice. There can be no room to doubt that Cyrus was acquainted with the sacred literature of the Hebrews, and especially with the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, as with the language of Daniel. It may have been partly a graceful act on the part of Cyrus to word his proclamation to the Jews thus, or it may have been simply, what under the circumstances came most naturally to him, with little or no intention in it either way. The numerous passages in Ezra parallel in matter with this verse do not need specification here. Now begins the new period of Jewish life, with fiercer probation, with unbounded and various trial, and probably of world-length continuance.
The final indictment, sentence, and execution of it.
It is in 2 Chronicles 36:11-21 of this chapter that we are given to read the final summary of, first, the folly and sin of Judah, her king, princes, and people; and second, the just displeasure and necessary punishment of Jehovah after an unparalleled forbearance. The historic incidents of the four reigns which occupy this chapter abound in pathetic, tragic interest. The account of them given in the parallel (2Ki 23:31-25:30) is fuller. And both are illustrated and extraordinarily enhanced in interest by the light and by the cross-lights flung on the scene in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel (particularly Jeremiah 21:1-14 ; Jeremiah 24:1-10 ; 27-29; 32-34; Jeremiah 37:1-21 ; Jeremiah 38:1-28 ; 51:59-52:34; Ezekiel 1:1-3 ; Ezekiel 12:13 ; Ezekiel 40:1 ). Many of these portions of history write, and loudly utter forth as well, their own emphatic and impressive homilies. The present Scripture, however, offers matter of most solemn reflection, in summarizing the long indictment of centuries that lay against Judah, and in a most pathetic rehearsing of the compassionate, forbearing, ever-forgiving ministration of Divine love which had for equal length of time striven to prevail over her infidelity, yet all in vain! Her day of visitation had been not one day only; it had been many a day! She "knew" them not, and "now they are hid from her eyes." Judah's long-drawn sin, of many a day, year, generation, and even century, had been, in one word, idolatry. That sin incurs the guilt of the first two commandments set at nought. There is a sense, only too obvious and too certain, in which it is the world's fundamental source of sin and snare of sin. No age, no people, exempt from the danger, and every individual exposed, at any rate, to it.
I. THE CLAIM OF GOD UPON MAN IS THAT MAN WORSHIP HIM . The honoured word "worship" is often dishonoured, in our not keeping in vivid memory all its strangely beautiful import. To love supremely, to obey perfectly, to serve perpetually, to express praise and render homage intelligently, and to say without a reserve that all this is the simple due of the object adored— this is to worship! Notice:
1 . The claim is absolute, one undivided and unshared, and always operating without intermission.
2 . It is natural, reasonable, vindicable in every sense, and from every point of view. Nothing else could be thought, nothing else would ever have been thought, except from one circumstance.
3 . It postulates the consent, not the conflict, of that in man which is called his free-will. That free-will is a great fact in human nature-solemn, responsible, and inspiring fact—but it is the central fact of a moral nature, instead of a merely physical or merely animal nature. Nay, more; it is the head and the crown—the very crown of that moral nature, resting on its brow, and by rights resting there as an imperishable crown. Unless miserably and most mournfully forfeited, it is such. There belongs to it by equal rights immortality of honour, and the honour of immortality. The lesson Judah never learnt effectually was that she was not her own. The last lesson any of us learns absolutely perfectly is—just that same. Happy is the fresh full life, the patience, the strength, the confidence, the love, of that man who has learnt, "rising up betimes," that he is not his own; and that he ought not to be sin's and Satan's, but the blest property of God, and prized (with and because of his freewill and all) of that God! It is when our free-will becomes an infatuated will, perverse will, self-will, that our glory is dragged in the dust, and our crown and diadem fall. There is no so great, broad, practical, ennobling rule for any man's and every man's life than to study to remember well and absolutely that he is God's and Christ's, and not (as also a man often says, oftener thinks in his heart, of his money), NOT his own, to do with himself, his lifetime, his powers, his heart, his tongue," what he likes. "
II. DIVINEST MINISTRY IS VOUCHSAFED IN SUPPORT OF THAT CLAIM .
1. That gracious ministry helps by informing. The force of habit, of example, of hereditary misinclinations and disinclinations, has been potent to put out the truth in this matter. "The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people" (verse 15).
2 . The informing ministry is the ministry of revelation.
3 . It is a graciously persistent one, repeating over and over again its various methods.
4 . It is a warning, and, if needs be, a threatening ministry—sometimes so to the last degree, confronting a man, and standing awhile in his actual way, as the angel in the way of Balaam.
5 . It is also an encouraging and rewarding ministry. None who heed it doubt this, or ever find it otherwise. Sin, how often it gave heart-ache and life-ache to king and people! but "the turning to the Lord God of Israel" (verse 13) never failed to do the contrary.
6 . It is a punishing and again relenting and forgiving ministry. How often punishment is learnt, before it is experienced—if, alas! it should be so by any—for the long last time!
7 . When, after all, that ministry is sinned against, "mocked, despised, misused, till there is no remedy" (verse 16), then comes the wreck of "wrath," that wrath which can no longer be made light of, decisive, irrevocable, and in itself dreadful.
III. AFTER JUDAH 'S IRREVOCABLE SENTENCE OF PUNISHMENT , AND THE DREAD SEVENTY YEARS OF HUMILIATION AND CAPTIVITY , THERE IS THE SUDDEN , UNEXPECTED , HEAVEN - SENT INTERPOSITION OF A GREAT REDEMPTION . After the banishment from Eden it was so; after the deluge of Noah it was so; now, after Israel and Judah had run their course as separate kingdoms, it was so; after Malachi, the last of "the prophets," it was most chiefly so. And it is so now. The world of sin, the "mocking, despising, misusing" world of sin, the ever-suffering world of sin, pitiless toward itself, and mercilessly inflicting self-punishment, knows the announcement of an interposition great beyond all before, and the offer of a Heaven-sent, free, priceless hope and redemption!
Cyrus of Persia; or, the return of the exiles.
I. The GREAT DELIVERER . ( 2 Chronicles 36:22 .)
1 . Foretold in Scripture.
2 . Raised up in history.
II. THE CHEERING PROCLAMATION . ( 2 Chronicles 36:23 .)
1 . Its date. The first year of Cyrus, i.e. the first year of his reign as King of Babylon, i.e. B.C. 538 (Canon of Ptolemy).
2 . Its cause. The stirring up of his heart by Jehovah. Though the monuments have shown that Cyrus was not a monotheist, but a polytheist, they have also made it manifest that he considered himself as under the immediate guidance of Heaven in the taking of Babylon; and hence, it may be assumed, also in the liberation of the captives. That he was powerfully persuaded of the propriety of such an action, and regarded his impulse in that direction as "from Heaven," is apparent. The sacred writer states that the true source of that inspiration was Jehovah. Cyrus believed it to be Merodach.
3 . Its design. To fulfil the Word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 29:10 ), that after seventy years the captives should be restored. This was Jehovah's design, not Cyrus's—concerning which see above. That the seventy years, in round numbers, were accomplished, can be seen from an easy calculation. Dating from b.c. 599, the year of Jehoiachin's captivity, and setting down the first year of Cyrus as b.c. 538, the interval is only sixty-one years; but if the period of the exile be dated from the third ( Daniel 1:1 ) or the fourth year of Jehoiakim ( Jeremiah 25:1-12 ), i.e. b.c. 606, then the interval from Jeremiah's prediction to Cyrus's proclamation will be sixty-eight years, or sixty-nine inclusive, which, with the months that elapsed before the first company of exiles settled in Palestine ( Ezra 3:1 ), will practically make seventy years. Or the prophetic year may be taken as consisting of 360 days; in which case 360 x 70 = 25,200 days = 69 years of 365 days.
4 . Its form.
5 . Its contents.
1 . The ability of God to fulfil his promises no less than his threatenings.
2 . The secret access which God has to the hearts of men—of kings no less than of common men.
3 . The certainty that God can raise up at any moment a fitting instrument to do his will.—W.