23 1 The king acted immediately, assembling all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Then the king proceeded to The Temple of God, bringing everyone in his train - priests and prophets and people ranging from the famous to the unknown. Then he read out publicly everything written in the Book of the Covenant that was found in The Temple of God. 3 The king stood by the pillar and before God solemnly committed them all to the covenant: to follow God believingly and obediently; to follow his instructions, heart and soul, on what to believe and do; to put into practice the entire covenant, all that was written in the book. The people stood in affirmation; their commitment was unanimous.
4 Then the king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, his associate priest, and The Temple sentries to clean house - to get rid of everything in The Temple of God that had been made for worshiping Baal and Asherah and the cosmic powers. He had them burned outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron and then disposed of the ashes in Bethel 5 He fired the pagan priests whom the kings of Judah had hired to supervise the local sex-and-religion shrines in the towns of Judah and neighborhoods of Jerusalem. In a stroke he swept the country clean of the polluting stench of the round-the-clock worship of Baal, sun and moon, stars - all the so-called cosmic powers. 6 He took the obscene phallic Asherah pole from The Temple of God to the Valley of Kidron outside Jerusalem, burned it up, then ground up the ashes and scattered them in the cemetery. 7 He tore out the rooms of the male sacred prostitutes that had been set up in The Temple of God; women also used these rooms for weavings for Asherah. 8 He swept the outlying towns of Judah clean of priests and smashed the sex-and-religion shrines where they worked their trade from one end of the country to the other - all the way from Geba to Beersheba. He smashed the sex-and-religion shrine that had been set up just to the left of the city gate for the private use of Joshua, the city mayor. 9 Even though these sex-and-religion priests did not defile the Altar in The Temple itself, they were part of the general priestly corruption and had to go. 10 Then Josiah demolished the Topheth, the iron furnace griddle set up in the Valley of Ben Hinnom for sacrificing children in the fire. No longer could anyone burn son or daughter to the god Molech. 11 He hauled off the horse statues honoring the sun god that the kings of Judah had set up near the entrance to The Temple. They were in the courtyard next to the office of Nathan-Melech, the warden. He burned up the sun-chariots as so much rubbish. 12 The king smashed all the altars to smithereens - the altar on the roof shrine of Ahaz, the various altars the kings of Judah had made, the altars of Manasseh that littered the courtyard of The Temple - he smashed them all, pulverized the fragments, and scattered their dust in the Valley of Kidron. 13 The king proceeded to make a clean sweep of all the sex-and-religion shrines that had proliferated east of Jerusalem on the south slope of Abomination Hill, the ones Solomon king of Israel had built to the obscene Sidonian sex goddess Ashtoreth, to Chemosh the dirty-old-god of the Moabites, and to Milcom the depraved god of the Ammonites. 14 He tore apart the altars, chopped down the phallic Asherah-poles, and scattered old bones over the sites 15 Next, he took care of the altar at the shrine in Bethel that Jeroboam son of Nebat had built - the same Jeroboam who had led Israel into a life of sin. He tore apart the altar, burned down the shrine leaving it in ashes, and then lit fire to the phallic Asherah-pole. 16 As Josiah looked over the scene, he noticed the tombs on the hillside. He ordered the bones removed from the tombs and had them cremated on the ruined altars, desacralizing the evil altars. This was a fulfillment of the word of God spoken by the Holy Man years before when Jeroboam had stood by the altar at the sacred convocation. 17 Then the king said, "And that memorial stone - whose is that?" The men from the city said, "That's the grave of the Holy Man who spoke the message against the altar at Bethel that you have just fulfilled." 18 Josiah said, "Don't trouble his bones." So they left his bones undisturbed, along with the bones of the prophet from Samaria. 19 But Josiah hadn't finished. He now moved through all the towns of Samaria where the kings of Israel had built neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines, shrines that had so angered God. He tore the shrines down and left them in ruins - just as at Bethel 20 He killed all the priests who had conducted the sacrifices and cremated them on their own altars, thus desacralizing the altars. Only then did Josiah return to Jerusalem.
The Passover Kept
21 The king now commanded the people, "Celebrate the Passover to God, your God, exactly as directed in this Book of the Covenant. 22 This commanded Passover had not been celebrated since the days that the judges judged Israel - none of the kings of Israel and Judah had celebrated it. 23 But in the eighteenth year of the rule of King Josiah this very Passover was celebrated to God in Jerusalem.
The LORD's Persistent Anger against Judah
24 Josiah scrubbed the place clean and trashed spirit-mediums, sorcerers, domestic gods, and carved figures - all the vast accumulation of foul and obscene relics and images on display everywhere you looked in Judah and Jerusalem. Josiah did this in obedience to the words of God's Revelation written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in The Temple of God.
25 There was no king to compare with Josiah - neither before nor after - a king who turned in total and repentant obedience to God, heart and mind and strength, following the instructions revealed to and written by Moses. The world would never again see a king like Josiah. 26 But despite Josiah, God's hot anger did not cool; the raging anger ignited by Manasseh burned unchecked. 27 And God, not swerving in his judgment, gave sentence: "I'll remove Judah from my presence in the same way I removed Israel. I'll turn my back on this city, Jerusalem, that I chose, and even from this Temple of which I said, 'My Name lives here.'"
The Death of Josiah
28 The rest of the life and times of Josiah is written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. 29 Josiah's death came about when Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt marched out to join forces with the king of Assyria at the Euphrates River. When King Josiah intercepted him at the Plain of Megiddo, Neco killed him. 30 Josiah's servants took his body in a chariot, returned him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. By popular choice Jehoahaz son of Josiah was anointed and succeeded his father as king.
The Reign and Dethronement of Jehoahaz
31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to rule. He was king in Jerusalem for a mere three months. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah. She came from Libnah. 32 In God's opinion, he was an evil king, reverting to the evil ways of his ancestors. 33 Pharaoh Neco captured Jehoahaz at Riblah in the country of Hamath and put him in chains, preventing him from ruling in Jerusalem. He demanded that Judah pay tribute of nearly four tons of silver and seventy-five pounds of gold. 34 Then Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah the successor to Josiah, but changed his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was carted off to Egypt and eventually died there. 35 Meanwhile Jehoiakim, like a good puppet, dutifully paid out the silver and gold demanded by Pharaoh. He scraped up the money by gouging the people, making everyone pay an assessed tax.
The Reign of Jehoiakim
36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to rule; he was king for eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah. She had come from Rumah 37 In God's opinion he was an evil king, picking up on the evil ways of his ancestors.
24 1 It was during his reign that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the country. Jehoiakim became his puppet. But after three years he had had enough and revolted. 2 God dispatched a succession of raiding bands against him: Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite. The strategy was to destroy Judah. Through the preaching of his servants and prophets, God had said he would do this, and now he was doing it. 3 None of this was by chance - it was God's judgment as he turned his back on Judah because of the enormity of the sins of Manasseh - Manasseh, the killer-king, 4 who made the Jerusalem streets flow with the innocent blood of his victims. God wasn't about to overlook such crimes. 5 The rest of the life and times of Jehoiakim is written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. 6 Jehoiakim died and was buried with his ancestors. His son Jehoiachin became the next king. 7 The threat from Egypt was now over - no more invasions by the king of Egypt - for by this time the king of Babylon had captured all the land between the Brook of Egypt and the Euphrates River, land formerly controlled by the king of Egypt.
Jehoiachin and the Nobles Taken Captive to Babylon
8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king. His rule in Jerusalem lasted only three months. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. 9 In God's opinion he also was an evil king, no different from his father. 10 The next thing to happen was that the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked Jerusalem and put it under siege. 11 While his officers were laying siege to the city, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon paid a personal visit. 12 And Jehoiachin king of Judah, along with his mother, officers, advisors, and government leaders, surrendered. 13 Nebuchadnezzar emptied the treasuries of both The Temple of God and the royal palace and confiscated all the gold furnishings that Solomon king of Israel had made for The Temple of God. This should have been no surprise - God had said it would happen. 14 And then he emptied Jerusalem of people - all its leaders and soldiers, all its craftsmen and artisans. He took them into exile, something like ten thousand of them! The only ones he left were the very poor. 15 He took Jehoiachin into exile to Babylon. With him he took the king's mother, his wives, his chief officers, the community leaders, 16 anyone who was anybody - in round numbers, seven thousand soldiers plus another thousand or so craftsmen and artisans, all herded off into exile in Babylon. 17 Then the king of Babylon made Jehoiachin's uncle, Mattaniah, his puppet king, but changed his name to Zedekiah.
The Reign of Zedekiah
18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he started out as king. He was king in Jerusalem for eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah. Her hometown was Libnah. 19 As far as God was concerned Zedekiah was just one more evil king, a carbon copy of Jehoiakim. 20 The source of all this doom to Jerusalem and Judah was God's anger - God turned his back on them as an act of judgment. And then Zedekiah revolted against the king of Babylon.
The Fall of Jerusalem
25 1 The revolt dates from the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah's reign. Nebuchadnezzar set out for Jerusalem immediately with a full army. He set up camp and sealed off the city by building siege mounds around it. 2 The city was under siege for nineteen months (until the eleventh year of Zedekiah). 3 By the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year, on the ninth day of the month, the famine was so bad that there wasn't so much as a crumb of bread for anyone. 4 Then there was a breakthrough. At night, under cover of darkness, the entire army escaped through an opening in the wall (it was the gate between the two walls above the King's Garden). They slipped through the lines of the Babylonians who surrounded the city and headed for the Jordan on the Arabah Valley road. 5 But the Babylonians were in pursuit of the king and they caught up with him in the Plains of Jericho. By then Zedekiah's army had deserted and was scattered. 6 The Babylonians took Zedekiah prisoner and marched him off to the king of Babylon at Riblah, then tried and sentenced him on the spot. 7 Zedekiah's sons were executed right before his eyes; the summary murder of his sons was the last thing he saw, for they then blinded him. Securely handcuffed, he was hauled off to Babylon.
The Captivity of Judah
8 In the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, on the seventh day of the fifth month, Nebuzaradan, the king of Babylon's chief deputy, arrived in Jerusalem. 9 He burned The Temple of God to the ground, went on to the royal palace, and then finished off the city - burned the whole place down. 10 He put the Babylonian troops he had with him to work knocking down the city walls. 11 Finally, he rounded up everyone left in the city, including those who had earlier deserted to the king of Babylon, and took them off into exile. 12 He left a few poor dirt farmers behind to tend the vineyards and what was left of the fields. 13 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the bronze washstands, and the huge bronze basin (the Sea) that were in The Temple of God and hauled the bronze off to Babylon. 14 They also took the various bronze-crafted liturgical accessories used in the services of Temple worship, 15 as well as the gold and silver censers and sprinkling bowls. The king's deputy didn't miss a thing - he took every scrap of precious metal he could find. 16 The amount of bronze they got from the two pillars, the Sea, and all the washstands that Solomon had made for The Temple of God was enormous - they couldn't weigh it all! 17 Each pillar stood twenty-seven feet high, plus another four and a half feet for an ornate capital of bronze filigree and decorative fruit. 18 The king's deputy took a number of special prisoners: Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the associate priest, three wardens, 19 the chief remaining army officer, five of the king's counselors, the accountant, the chief recruiting officer for the army, and sixty men of standing from among the people. 20 Nebuzaradan the king's deputy marched them all off to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 And there at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king of Babylon killed the lot of them in cold blood. Judah went into exile, orphaned from her land.
The Remnant Flee to Egypt
22 Regarding the common people who were left behind in Judah, this: Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as their governor. 23 When veteran army officers among the people heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. Among them were Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, and some of their followers. 24 Gedaliah assured the officers and their men, giving them his word, "Don't be afraid of the Babylonian officials. Go back to your farms and families and respect the king of Babylon. Trust me, everything is going to be all right." 25 Some time later - it was in the seventh month - Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama (he had royal blood in him), came back with ten men and killed Gedaliah, the traitor Jews, and the Babylonian officials who were stationed at Mizpah - a bloody massacre. 26 But then, afraid of what the Babylonians would do, they all took off for Egypt, leaders and people, small and great.
Jehoiachin Released and Honored in Babylon
27 When Jehoiachin king of Judah had been in exile for thirty-seven years, Evil-Merodach became king in Babylon and let Jehoiachin out of prison. This release took place on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. 28 The king treated him most courteously and gave him preferential treatment beyond anything experienced by the other political prisoners held in Babylon. 29 Jehoiachin took off his prison garb and for the rest of his life ate his meals in company with the king. 30 The king provided everything he needed to live comfortably.