Today we finish the book of 2 Chronicles. Our reading begins with the reign of the evil Manasseh (33:1). All that Hezekiah did to remove the idolatry from Judah, Manasseh undid (vv. 3-5), even offering his own children to Molech (v. 6). He placed idols in the Temple (v. 7). The chronicler is careful to point out that he is disobeying what YHWH commanded, obedience to which is tied into Judah remaining in the land (v. 8). Manasseh and all of Judah had become as wicked as the nations driven out of Canaan by God (v. 2, 9). The chronicler is pointing out the supreme wickedness of Manasseh.
And what did God do? He called them to repentance (v. 10), and when they did not heed Him, He sent a foreign nation against them (v. 11). Manasseh is taken in chains to Babylon (a foretaste of the coming captivity for the whole nation). In verse 12, we see that Manasseh does repent. So God restores him and brings him back to Judah (v. 13). The chronicler is painting a picture. Manasseh was as wicked as wicked could be. God punished him by taking him to a foreign land. When he repented, God forgave him and restored him to the Land. The picture would be clear to the remnant. And the picture is brought into clearer focus. Manasseh responds to God’s forgiveness with obedience (vv. 15-16). However, there is remaining sin in Judah (v. 17). The chapter ends with a brief recounting of the reign of evil Amon.
Chapter 34 begins the reign of the godly Josiah. He purged Judah of the high places (34:3). Note that he also purged idolatry out of Israel (v. 6). The account of the Book of the Law being found parallels 2 Kings 22. The difference is that we see that even the remnant of Israel repented and turned to YHWH during the reign of Josiah (v. 33).
In chapter 35, we see that the Passover is kept (which it presumably was not since Hezekiah – see chapter 30). We get a brief mention of this in 2 Kings 23:21-23. Here we get much more detail. We see that Hezekiah’s restoration of worship had completely been forgotten (35:2-6). We see that like Hezekiah (see 31:3), Josiah provides for the needed sacrifices (v. 7), and others follow suit (vv. 8-9). The chronicler is careful to point out that all that was done was according to the Law (vv. 12-13). We also see that Josiah restored the music ministry as David arranged it (v. 15). In verse 18, we see that this is the first time that the Passover was followed in such detail and with such willing hearts since the time of Samuel (v. 18).
In verses 20-23, we see more detail of Josiah’s death at the hands of Pharaoh Neco (see 2 Kings 23:29). We see in verses 24-25 how beloved Josiah was by the people of Judah. He was the last good king, and this was the last time the people were faithful to YHWH. The remnant reading this would know that it was now up to them to be faithful.
Chapter 36 records the decline and destruction of Judah. The wicked Jehoahaz reigns only briefly and is taken captive to Egypt (36:2-4). His brother Jehoiakim was also wicked (v. 5). He is taken captive and brought to Babylon (v. 6). His son Jehoiachin is also wicked (v. 9). His brother Zedekiah was also wicked (v. 12). In a quick succession of wicked kings, we see the chronicler show exactly how wicked the nation had become.
But we see that God is still patient! He sent the prophet Jeremiah to Zedekiah (v. 12), but Zedekiah did not repent. So it was his hard-heartedness against YHWH (v. 13), and that of the nation (v. 14), that led them to continually disregard God (vv. 15-16). So the time had finally come. The people of Judah had forsaken YHWH, so He now forsook them. He brought Babylon to Judah (v. 17). Note that they had no compassion on the young or old. This is the same devotion to destruction that YHWH sentenced the Amorites and Amalekites to at the hand of Israel (see Deut 3:6). There was now no difference between Judah and the nations.
And this is confirmed when God has Babylon destroy the Temple and Jerusalem (v. 19). God removed Himself from among the people. His presence was no longer there. And He removed the people from the Land of Promise (v. 20). He did this to give the Land the Sabbaths He commanded (v. 21 – see Lev 25:4-5), as He said would happen (see Lev 26:34-35, 43). This is symbolic of all that the people failed to do in obedience to God. For 490 years the people disobeyed, and they held no seventh-year Sabbath rests (this would bring us back to the start of the monarchy).
So for 70 years, God would give the land its Sabbaths – He would be the One to fulfill His own commands. This points us forward to Christ. And since the seventh-year Sabbaths were not observed, neither were the Jubilees that should have been (see Lev 25:8-22). So the year of Jubilee was yet to come. This is also a pointer to Christ. And no king had yet fulfilled the covenant God made with David. This would also be fulfilled in Christ. The chronicler is pointing out that none of God’s promises were fully realized – the rest, the land, the king, the restoration of all things (pictured in the Jubilee) – all of this was yet to be fulfilled. The promises were still the hope of the chosen remnant.
So the chronicler ends the book with hope. Cyrus fulfills the prophecy of Jeremiah (see Jer 29:10). The remnant is released to come rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem that God may dwell again among His people (v. 23). Would they remain faithful and receive the promises? We know on this side of the cross that the answer is no. God brought them back that He may fulfill His promises in Christ, the true Israel, the true Temple, the Greater Son of David. He was their – and our – only hope.