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Basic Bible: Judgment and Exile

II Chronicles 36:15-21; Psalms 137:1-6

The book of II Chronicles is an account of those things which came to pass during the reigns of Solomon and the kings who ruled after him from Jerusalem, the fall of Jerusalem, the captivity in Babylon, and through the end of the Babylonian Empire, a period of about 430 years. The text before us (both II Chronicles 36 and Psalms 137) describes events which transpired during the last seventy years of that 430 year period when Judah was taken into exile.

II Chronicles is the history of Judah as viewed in the light of its faithfulness to God’s commandments (the law) and prescribed religious practice (temple worship). Numerous kings are described as having done evil in the sight of the Lord. Scholars believe that the author of this book was Ezra, the priest who was charged with transporting the gold and silver of the first temple back to Jerusalem eighty years after the first captives returned to Jerusalem.

“And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers . . .” (v. 15). The Lord spoke to Judah through His prophets. Isaiah prophesied of the captivity in Babylon about one hundred years prior to the fall of Jerusalem (II Kings 20:17-18). Jeremiah prophesied to Judah for more than forty years, warning that Judah would be removed from the land if they refused to do that which the Lord requires (see Jer. 25:3-11).

The captivity of Judah of which Isaiah prophesied was certain. The date was in the latter days of Jeremiah. The prophesied captivity did not have to come to pass in Jeremiah’s day. If Judah had repented and turned to God, the day of judgment would have been delayed. Judah did not turn to the Lord and were determined to go their own way. The time of the Lord’s compassion had come to an end (v. 16). All that the Lord said should happen came to pass suddenly. The king of the Chaldees (the Babylonians) slew the young men of Judah. The vessels of silver and gold in the temple were taken to Babylon along with them who survived the siege of Jerusalem (v. 18-20).

In verse 21, we are told that the land would remain desolate for seventy years. God would count each year of the seventy years as one year of rest for the land. Through Moses, the Lord instructed Israel to rest the land every seventh year once they came into the promised land and to rest the land an additional year on each fiftieth year (Lev. 25:1-11). God’s chosen people had failed to do as He had said. Judah was in arrears by failing to keep seventy sabbaths. The time of judgment had arrived.

In Psalm 137, we see a picture of Judah’s captivity in Babylon. The captives sat and wept by the rivers of Babylon. The rivers of Babylon were actually canals that served as reservoirs used for irrigation.

“We hanged our harps upon the willows . . .” (v. 2). The musical instruments which were formerly devoted to lifting up sweet melodies to the Lord were in a foreign land, a place of willow trees. Their captors required them to sing the songs of Zion. That which had been songs of praise and thanksgiving in Jerusalem were now used to mock God’s chosen.

The psalmist laments, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” In Jerusalem, Judah had worshipped in the temple and in the manner set forth by the law of Moses. Judah, now, was unable to keep the law in the prescribed manner. In the face of this adversity, the psalmist pledges to remain faithful to the Jerusalem which he once knew (v. 5-6).

These pictures have been preserved as scripture by God with the intent that New Testament believers not err as Judah erred. Believers have been forewarned as Judah was. The Apostle Paul issued the warning concerning the last days that men would be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (II Tim. 3:4). In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said, “. . . the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (Thes. 5:2). Jesus instructed us to watch because we know neither the day nor the hour when He shall return (Matt. 25:13). Believers have been warned. There will be a falling away first (II Thes. 2:3). The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9). If believers were to do as the Lord has commanded us, there would be no falling away. Our failure, our unreadiness, shall speed the day of His return.

If we do as He has commanded, we shall not have cause to lament as did the psalmist. Peter said, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (II Pet. 3:14).

Let us do as we have been instructed. Let us persevere to the end.

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