43. JUDAH AND ITS BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY
In 2 Kings 24:10-16, Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile king of Babylon, took control of the people of Judah by force, overthrowing the reign of their king Jehoiachin. Notably, the people of Judah were God’s chosen people, along with the people in the kingdom of Israel, both being descendants of Jacob, who was renamed ‘Israel’ by God.
Although they were in covenant with God though, they were unfaithful to him, rebellious to his commands, turned their backs on him and did the things that he hated, which were evil.
The people in the kingdom of Israel had done a similar thing. God therefore caused them to be taken into captivity by their enemies.
2 Kings 17:5-12 states:
- “Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
- For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.
- And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger: For they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.”
Of both Israel and Judah, 2 Kings 17:13-20 states:
- “Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them.
- And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.
- Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah kept not the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.”
Similar to the captivity of the people of Israel therefore, due to their refusal to return to the Lord even after they were warned, the Lord allowed the people of Judah to be taken captive by the king of Babylon.
Under Jehoiachin’s reign of Judah, where “…he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 24:9), verses 10-16 of 2 Kings 24 states:
- “At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.
- And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.
- And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.”
There was therefore strategy to the king of Babylon’s actions. He removed all those who were in positions of leadership or positions of nobility and influence. He was careful to take away the princes, the mighty men of valour, all the persons that were strong and apt for war, the craftsmen and the smiths.
All that were strong and had skills, valuable talents and abilities that could contribute to the rebuilding of Judah therefore, he took, only leaving the poor. He therefore stripped Judah of everything that made it a mighty land and a force to be reckoned with, only leaving that which posed no threat to him. He deliberately aimed therefore, to leave Judah empty, bare, vulnerable, weak and exposed, the hope being that they would never be able to recover.
He also took everything that was precious and the holy things out of the house of the Lord. The Bible states that, ”he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said.”
This is similar to the fate that befalls God’s people, even today, when they rebelliously turn their backs on him in rebellion and disobedience, seeking to go their own way in life. Spiritually, for the Church today, Babylon signifies, among other things, captivity, bondage and oppression, due to wilful disobedience and rebellion against God.
As one writer put it: “The opposition to the rule of God by world powers or the exile of God’s people from the land of blessing is conveyed properly through the metaphor of Babylon.”
Like the people of Judah and Israel, every genuine believer who God has saved by his grace, has been adopted into his royal family and as the Church, is part of the New Covenant. When God’s children (Christians) decide to ignore the Lord and to do as they please, he warns them, chastens them (in the hope that they will return) but brings judgment on them, when they refuse to listen and persist in their stubborn ways.
Like with the people of Judah and Israel, when God’s people disobey him and turn their backs on his precepts, he allows them on many an occasion to be taken captive by the devil, them finding themselves in some type of bondage, enslaved in one way or another to his diabolical hold. The enemy of their souls, the devil, may not be able to possess them because the Spirit of the Lord indwells them but the hedge of protection around them being removed by God, the devil can certainly oppress them and grievously, in mind and in circumstance.
Like with the people of Judah, where Nebuchadnezzar was careful to take away all that was precious, all that held beautiful potential and was promising, the enemy aims to do the same with God’s people, when, through their own disobedience, he gains a foothold in their lives.
He aims to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10) and he particularly targets and goes after the precious and valuable things. Known for their distinctness and chastity, the enemy goes after God’s people when they have allowed him entrance into their lives, aiming to take away their virginity which can never be regained, their youth and years which they have wasted and can never get back, their purity, their testimony, their impact on the world and on other believers, their joy, their song, their hope of seeing the goodness of the Lord materialize in beautiful ways in their lives in the land of the living, their faith, their blessings and their legacy.
He aims to leave them with nothing, at least nothing worthwhile or valuable but to strip them bare, to make them completely ashamed, weak, destitute, exposed, vulnerable, in the hope that they will remain this way, that they will be perpetually broken and therefore, never recover. Everything about them and in them, that he regards to be a threat, he moves quickly to try to destroy or render ineffective.
Alas, he causes their blessings to be forfeited and instead, gloats as they inherit only curses.
Having given the enemy access to their life due to their rebellion against God, the quality of life that God would have wanted them to have, they do not. For, they, like Esau, who foolishly sold his birthright (which was of lasting spiritual significance) for a morsel of meat, (which could only appease him physically in that moment or for a short while), lost out on the wonderful blessings of the Lord, which maketh rich (not necessarily in finances but in general well-being in life) and which comes without sorrow (Proverbs 10:22).
As Hebrews 12:17 states of Esau, “…afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
As one of many such examples, God may have desired to give a daughter of his a beautiful family, comprising a loving, godly husband and children, a decent job, enough to thrive and to bless others and a beautiful home and testimony. However, due to that child’s decision to disobey God, to go out into the world, align herself with an ungodly man and so to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever and then to commit more sin by having sex (fornicating) with him, what she reaped instead because in the moment, she deluded herself into thinking that this was ‘love’ and idolized this man over God was:
- Pregnancy outside of marriage and an illegitimate child;
- A lost testimony, ostracism, gossip and the shame that comes with having been sexually immoral and being pregnant outside of wedlock;
- A worldly man with whom she further disobeyed God by marrying, mistakenly thinking that this would solve her sin problem but who instead broke his promise at the altar to love her always and instead, cheated on her with other women, abused her physically, verbally, financially and psychologically;
- A life of loneliness and more humiliation, after that man eventually left her for greener pastures;
- A life of restlessness and overwhelming sadness, as all sorts of issues, troubles, problems and attacks arose in her life;
- A life of hardship and sterility, her finding it difficult to take care of herself and her child and to pay her bills, including rent for the dilapidated place where she and her child were living;
- Ultimately, the favour of God being withheld and the attacks of the devil being unleashed and therefore, doors of good opportunities in life seeming perpetually shut, no matter how hard she tried for them to open and floods of troubles continually passing her way, no matter how hard she tried to avoid them.
When she, like the Prodigal son, looked back on her life, everything had gone horribly wrong and not as she had hoped or envisioned and it was because of her sin. When she looked back on where she had come from and who she was (which was a child of the King) and how this was not at all reflected in the life that she was now living, she knew that it was her own fault. She was going through all that she was going through, like the people of Judah did because she had disobeyed God. Instead of reaping blessings, she had reaped a curse because that is what she had sown.
Like Jeremiah 5:25 noted of the pathetic, sterile and stagnant place that the people of Judah had found themselves as captives in Babylon and the blessings that they did not receive by reason of their actions, she too is forced to admit the truth to herself that, “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.”
Although the joy of the Lord was supposed to be the people of Judah’s strength and in their mirth while in Judah, they were known for their singing, what the king of Babylon did, in removing them to a strange land, took away their song. In fact, when they considered where they had ended up and where they used to be and how different a life of captivity and bondage was from the quality of life lived in their own land, where they used to be free, it brought them to tears.
Just like Adam and Eve (their ancestors) who had been cast out of the garden of Eden for their disobedience and rebellion against God and just like the people in the kingdom of Israel who had also turned on God and had been taken captive away to the strange land of Assyria, the people of Judah suffered a similar fate for their own sin and therefore, no more had any heart to sing.
Psalm 137:1-4 speaks of their sad and depressive experience, after being taken away as captives to the land of Babylon:
- “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
The enemy’s hope when he gains inroads into the lives of God’s children and takes away the things that are precious and valuable, is that those children will remain down, out and destitute for a lifetime. He hopes that they will never be a help to themselves or to others, that such grievous damage would have been done to their testimony and their lives so greatly tarnished by sin, that they would never be able to recover.
There is nothing that is too hard for God to do and even when his children turn their backs on him and reap the fallout for what they have sown, sometimes, in his mercy and according to his grace, if they repent and turn from evil and confess to the him where they have sinned against him, in godly sorrow, after he forgives them, the Lord turns their captivity, as only HE the true and living God can do.
In the case of Judah and Israel for example, Jeremiah the Prophet, speaking on behalf of God and making known in advance, the Lord’s intentions, stated (although the people, by God’s decree, remained servants to the king of Babylon and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia, which, 2 Chronicles 36:21 and Jeremiah 29:10 tells us was seventy (70) years):
- “Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
- For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are thrown down by the mounts, and by the sword;They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is to fill them with the dead bodies of men, whom I have slain in mine anger and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hid my face from this city.
- Behold, I will bring it HEALTH AND CURE, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of PEACE AND TRUTH. And I will cause THE CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH AND THE CAPTIVITY OF ISRAEL TO RETURN, and will BUILD them, as at the first. And I will CLEANSE them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will PARDON all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.
- And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the GOODNESS and for all the PROSPERITY that I procure unto it.
- Thus saith the Lord; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, The voice of JOY, and the voice of GLADNESS, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of PRAISE into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord.”
In Jeremiah 29:10-14, God communicated to those who were carried away captives in Babylon, letting them know, through his Prophet Jeremiah who had remained in Judah and sent a letter to them:
- “For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
While the Lord doesn’t always do this in response to his sinning children therefore (and so we cannot presume to sin upon the expectation that he will intervene to bring us out of our captivity and to restore health to us and quality of life), sometimes he does. Sometimes, in his mercy, he gives opportunity for his children to repent and if they do, after allowing them to suffer for how ever long he decrees, causes them to be released from their captivity, to recover and he does it in such a magnificently beautiful way, that it redounds to his honour and to his glory.
(Written on 11th May, 2022)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 7 – ‘The Backslider And The Book Of Lamentations’
- Note 33 – ‘A Comeback – Better Than Before’
Additionally, under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ page:
- Note 164 – ‘Seven Mindsets That Will Keep You Stuck In The Land Of Sterility’