Background

To understand more of what happened in the book of Daniel and other references, an examination of some Judean history is appropriate.

Hezekiah was the son and successor of Ahaz as king of Judah (716/15-687/86 B.C.) Hezekiah began his reign when he was twenty-five years old. The nation of Assyria had risen to power. When Ahaz succeeded Jotham as king of Judah, he began pro-Assyrian policies by making Judah a vassal to Assyria. Ahaz's political involvements with Assyria brought idolatry and paganism into the Temple (2 Kings 16:7-20).

Hezekiah began his reign by bringing religious reform to Judah. Hezekiah did not worry about satisfying the Assyrian kings. The Temple in Jerusalem was reopened. The idols were removed from the Temple. Temple vessels that had been desecrated during Ahaz's reign were sanctified for use in the Temple. The sacrifices were initiated with singing and the sounds of musical instruments. The tribes in the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been subjected to Assyrian dominance. Hezekiah invited the Israelites to join in the celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem. Places of idol worship were destroyed. Hezekiah even destroyed the bronze serpent Moses had erected in the wilderness (Num. 21:4-9) so the people would not view the bronze serpent as an object of worship. Hezekiah organized the priests and Levites for the conducting of religious services. The tithe was reinstituted. Plans were made to observe the religious feasts called for in the Law.

Manasseh, the King of Judah (696-642 B.C.), was a son of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:21). His was the longest reign of any Judean king. Manasseh's reign was known as one of unfaithfulness to Yahweh. Second Kings blames him for Judah's ultimate destruction and exile (2 Kings 21:10-16). Manasseh eventually repented but it was too late to change the pagan way of life.

Amon, Manasseh's son, came into leadership. He was so evil, he ruled only three years. His servants killed him. Josiah, Amon's son, was chosen by the people to go to the throne. Josiah was Judah's king from about 640-609 B.C. This man will be remembered as one of Judah's greatest kings. The people of the land avenged Amon's death by putting the assassins to death (2 Kings 21:24). Josiah then became king at the age of eight. Josiah reigned for thirty-one years.

The Book of 2 Chronicles reveals much about the early years of Josiah. After about eight years as king, he began to seek the God of David. Because of this new belief, during his twelfth year on the throne he started a religious purge of Jerusalem, Judah, and surrounding areas (2 Chron. 34:3-7). This purge included tearing down the high places, the Asherah idols, (a fertility goddess, the mother of Baal) and the altars to Baal (worshiped as the god who provided fertility). The high places were essentially Canaanite (normally thought of in the Old Testament as traders or merchants) worship centers that had been taken over by Israel.

In his eighteenth year as king an unexpected event turned his energies in new directions. A "Book of the Law" (thought to be the book of Deuteronomy - the Book of the Second Law) was discovered while repairs were being made on the Temple. Hilkiah, the high priest, found the book and gave it to Shaphan, the scribe, who in turn read it to King Josiah. Upon hearing the message of the book, Josiah tore his clothes (see below references I Kings, II Kings, Gen, II Chron, Isa, and Matt ), a sign of repentance, and humbled himself before God. Josiah was assured that the promised destruction would not come in his time (2 Kings 22:8-20; 2 Chron. 34:15-28). This book prompted Josiah to lead one of the greatest religious reforms in Israel's history. A major thrust of the Book of Deuteronomy was to call the nation Israel to exclusive loyalty to Yahweh.

Most scholars believe "Book of the Law" found was at the least the core of our present Book of Deuteronomy, either chapters 5-26 or 12-26. A major thrust of the Book of Deuteronomy was to call the nation Israel to exclusive loyalty to Yahweh. Perhaps a thrust such as this inspired the Josianic revival.

Josiah had two sons who were successors as kings of Judah: Jehoahaz (also called Shallum) and Jehoiakim (also called Eliakim).

There is no more information about the remaining years of Josiah until his death. Assyria's power was decreasing and Babylon's influence was on the rise. Assyria and Egypt joined forces against Babylon. Pharaoh Neco's [second Pharaoh of the 26th dynasty of Egypt (609-594 B.C.)] troops, while going to join forces with Assyria, defeated Josiah's army and killed Josiah (2 Kings 23:29) in Megiddo. With great mourning for him throughout the land (2 Chron. 35:24-25), he was buried in Jerusalem. He was only thirty-nine when he died. He was highly respected:

(2 Kings 23:25)
"Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with the Law of Moses" (NIV).

"And before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him." (NASB)

During Josiah's reformation, he met an untimely death at Megiddo (II Chron 35:20-37). His son Jehoahaz was chosen by the people (609 B.C.). However, Pharaoh Neco removed the evil Jehoahaz within three months and replaced him with Jehoahaz's brother, Jehoiakim (609-597). Jehoiakim was a throne name given to him by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt, who deposed his brother Jehoahaz. His original name had been Eliakim (2 Kings 23:34). At the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, Judah was subject to Egypt. Babylon defeated Egypt. Jehoiakim, seemed to be content to be under Egypt. However, he transferred his allegiance to Babylon, but rebelled after three years. At his death he was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.

At the very end of the Assyrian period, when Nebuchadnezzar was incorporating all former Assyrian territory within the new Babylonian Empire, Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt came to Carchemish to try to save the remnants of the Assyrian army. He hoped to preserve a weak Assyria as a buffer between him and a strong and aggressive Babylon. He arrived too late to save the Assyrians, perhaps held up by Josiah's unsuccessful challenge at Megiddo. Nebuchadnezzar defeated Neco at Carchemish in 605 B.C. This victory gave Babylon authority over all of western Asia within the next few years; for this reason it ranks as one of the most decisive battles of all time. In addition, this was the point at which Daniel's captivity started.

Jeremiah predicted the Babylonian take over of the territory. Jehoiakim, listening to the writings of Jeremiah burned the scrolls. Jeremiah immediately rewrote them with the addition of a terrible judgment from God upon Jehoiakim.

Zedekiah, Josiah's third son, was the last king of Judah. He was not a very good man. Zedekiah met a tragic ending (II Kings 25:4-7). The people (but not poor people) were then led to Babylon (II Kings 25:11). Daniel was also taken to Babylon at this time.

According to William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, says the Jews were characterized during this captivity in several ways. There were years of false hope. They were sure they were going to return to their land soon. The Temple was still standing at this time. Jeremiah was sent to make sure they did not put their hopes in the false prophets. Then there were the years of hopelessness. When the temple was destroyed in 586 B.C., it seemed God had completely ignored or left them. Ezekiel was the person sent to comfort them. The Captivity Psalms (Psa 137) expresses some of the words of despair. Then there was the season of revived hopefulness. This was the time when one could return to their homeland. Hope was stirred up for the Jews. For others there was the time of indifference and assimilation. Babylonia, Media, and Mesopotamia had become home to them. They inter-married with the people and some adopted their religion.

For the most part, the Jews choosing to stay were given the freedom to continue in colonies of their own. They could gather for worship. Most of the Jews were probably farmers. Some became businessmen. Some Jews became very rich and influential and even enter politics of the age.

The purposes for the captivity were probably as follows:

  • God's method of punishment (II Chron 36:15-17)
  • God's means of purification and preparation of the remnant (Ezek 36:22-31)
  • God's method of blessing the Gentiles in preparation for the Messiah (Micah 5:7)
Other Readings:
II Chron 29-31; 33:7,21-24; 34:1; 15-28; 35:20-24; 36;11-14
Jer 15:4; 25:1-12; 32:5; 34:3; 46:2
Ezek 12:13; 20:31-32
Esther>br> II Kings 21:19-23; 22:1; 22:8-20;
I Kings 11:29-39
Gen. 37:34-35
Isa 36:1-37:38
Matt 26:65


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