The people of Judah went back into apostasy after the death of Josiah. The kings who succeeded him could not maintain his religious reform as a result of their moral and personal weakness. Consequently, the nation began to experience turbulent and unpleasant situations due to their rebellion against God which eventually led to the captivity and destruction of Jerusalem as a fulfillment of God’s word against their apostasy.
THE CONDITION OF THE NATION (2KINGS 24;25:1-17)
Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt in a battle at Megiddo. Consequently, Judah became a vassal of Egypt. Jehahaz who succeeded his father Josiah as king at the age of twenty-three reigned for three months before he was deposed by Pharoah Neco, and in his place made Jehoiakim his brother a vassal king over Judah. During Jehoiakim did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and revolted against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar invaded him and he died. His son Jehoiachin succeeded him on the throne, but when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah again and besieged the city, Jehoiachin surrendered to the army of Babylon. And was taken as a prisoner to Babylon along with his royal family, where he later died. This period is known as the first exile or the first deportation. Nebuchadnezzar made his uncle Mathaniah, a vassal king over Judah and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah again revolted against Babylon which later led to the destruction of Jerusalem temple. Nebuzaradan, the commander of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard set the city of Judah ablaze. The Jerusalem temple and its walls were burnt down. They were taken into captivity marking the second deportation or second exile. All things except the poorest in the city were exiled. That was God’s plan to punish the land because they burn incense to other gods.
RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF THE NATION (Neh 1:1-11, 2:9-20, 4:1-23, Ezra 1:1-11, 4:5-1, 6:13-22,7:1-10)
Nehemiah was a Jew who lived in Susa, the Capital of Persia Empire. Hanani with some Jews came to him, and Nehemiah inquired from them about the condition of Jerusalem and the survivors who escaped the exile. They told him that the survivors were in great trouble and shame, moreover, the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates destroyed by fire. Having heard the devastating news about the state of Judah, Nehemiah wept for days. He fasted and prayed to God for the forgiveness of the people’s sin. When he went to king Artaxerxes to whom he was a cupbearer, the king granted his request and gave Nehemiah a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest to supply Nehemiah timbers.
Nehemiah after inspecting the extent of damages done to his nation called the people to come together for them to build the wall of Jerusalem. He revealed to them how God had been kind to him on his intention of rebuilding the city and the encouraging words of the king, the people were very happy. When sanballat and Tobiah heard what he was about doing, they were greatly opposed to the move. They threatened them that they were rebelling against the king of Persia. The Jews were not discouraged because the hand of God was on them but continued to build with a great zeal.
In the first year of King Cyrus, the king of Persia, God stirred up his spirit and he proclaimed that God charged him to build a house for Him in Jerusalem. Cyrus ordered that all the exiles from Judah should return to Jerusalem to commence the work on the temple. Cyrus released to them booty which king Nebuchadnezzar kept in the house of his gods in Babylon. He also instructed that the exile should be assisted with silver, gold and animals. They continued rebuilding the temple and it was finally completed in the face of opposition, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius. And it was dedicated, they also celebrated the Passover.
After the dedication, Ezra who was from the priestly family and also a scribe came back from Babylon. He took it upon himself to teach the returned exiles the law of God. His statues and ordinances. Thus he revived the religious life of his people. This became necessary because the long period of exile affected their religious orientation.
SIGNIFICANT POINTS AND LESSONS