Who Was Blamed for Judah’s Captivity?

Or, “Yes, Abortion Is That Serious”

You probably know who took the Kingdom of Judah captive, but do you know why?  Perhaps you have heard several reasons, and probably all of them can be supported by the Bible.  However, there is one statement repeated more than once that says exactly why God did not show mercy to them at that time (He did show mercy by allowing them to return, however).

Before giving that reason, however, it is instructive to notice when Nebuchadnezzar began to attack Judah.

34 And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.

~ 2Ki 23:34

24 In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him.

2 And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets.

~ 2Ki 24:1-2

I included v2 to reinforce what I wrote yesterday that it was not just one physical enemy that was sent against the children of Israel.  God sent several in order to wear them down over time until they fell.  Judah did eventually fall to Babylon, but as we see above Babylon was not the only battle going on at the time.  Focusing upon a physical enemy tends to avoid the real problem, which is that human beings, collectively and individually, are often their own worst enemies.

So, it was during the reign of Jehoiakim that Nebuchadnezzar came up against Judah.  Yet, vv 3 – 4 tell us that the cause was several years earlier.

3 Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did;

4 And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.

Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jehoiakim, but it wasn’t the sins of Jehoiakim being called into question here.  It was Manasseh!  The account in Chronicles says Manasseh repented, but that did not cleanse Israel of the blood he spilled.

Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah.  Manasseh was succeeded by his son Amon, who reigned only 2 years.  Josiah his son took his place, and he reigned 31 years.  It is notable that Josiah was one of the better rulers, but that did not cleanse the sins of his grandfather.

26 Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.

~ 2Ki 23:26

Therefore, Manasseh was Jehoiakim’s great grandfather.  In spite of religious reforms, God did not change His mind about sending Judah into captivity.

In “Innocent Blood”, written by Robert P Meyers, we read (bolding mine):

God has always taken a special interest in the murder of the innocent.  In our text, He has determined to give Judah grief over the practice during the rule of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah  who was a faithful servant of God and a holy man, yet, Jewish history does not record, perhaps, a more wicked ruler than his son, Manasseh.  It seems a shame that this man should even carry the same name as the godly son of Joseph who was the founder of the family of this name. 

Manasseh had been wicked beyond comprehension.  … Incidentally, some of you might be surprised to learn that after all the wickedness Manasseh acted out (see 2 Kings 21& 2 Chron. 33; defied and reversed all his dad’s work at destroying idolatry in Judah, practiced idolatry even so far as to put an idol in the house of God; offering his children to idols; practiced sorcery, divination, etc.), he repented and the bible tells us that God pardoned him (2 Chron. 33:12-13)  This should be held forth as proof that there is hope in Christ for even the most wicked sinner on the planet. 

Nevertheless, we find that Manasseh’s repentance did not happen until he and all Judah were carried away into slavery by the king of Assyria [sic].  That is, until God afflicted them greatly in judgment.  And the thing that keeps recurring in the Lord’s condemnation on Judah and Israel is that they, along with their leader, Manasseh, shed innocent blood.  Our text says in v. 4 that the Lord “would not pardon” this sin.  There is something strikingly meaningful about the fact that God separated this particular sin from the rest of those which He lumped together as “things that he (Manasseh) did.”

The blog Word of God Speak explores this tension between the personal forgiveness of Manasseh’s sins and yet not obliterating the punishment in “It’s All His Fault: Blaming the Exile on Manasseh (Jeremiah 15.4)”.  Before that, however, he makes an interesting and important observation.

What makes this interesting is not just the obvious fact that more people than just Manasseh were to be blamed for the exile. He was not the only king to worship other gods, even though he took it to new levels of wickedness. Moreover, the people of Judah also worshipped other gods and refused to obey the Lord’s commandments. And whereas Jeremiah 15.4 lays the exile at Manasseh’s feet, the rest of the prophecies of Jeremiah make it very clear that the entire population from the priests down to the common man and woman were just as guilty.

Would I be too repetitive to state that nations often get the leaders they deserve?  Why was Manasseh allowed to continue in his bloodshed?  Could he have carried it out alone?  Obviously, he had to have help.

It is also worthy of note that Manasseh was taken captive before he repented.  His back was against the wall, and God had to humble him first.  Likewise, the people he ruled were stiff necked and hard hearted.  Only by captivity would they be humbled as well.  This is made most obvious in the Book of Jeremiah.

13 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,

14 At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.

15 And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:

16 But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.

17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

~ Jer 34:13-17

If someone is in power, then it is because someone is supporting them.  Leadership does not exist in a vacuum.  The wicked rise up when no one restrains them.  The support of evil is the same as committing evil, which Paul makes clear in the end of Romans 1.  When the majority are following God’s laws, however, evil is normally nipped in the bud before it has a chance to take root and prosper.

Manasseh repented.  He was allowed to return for a time to Judah and clean things up, but only for a short time.  If all of Judah had repented, who knows how much longer the Kingdom of Judah would have survived?

We cannot overlook the seriousness of Manasseh’s sins, either.  God takes the murdering of the innocent seriously.

29 When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land;

30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.

31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.

~ Dt 12:29-31

A society that allows the killing of children for no cause is so depraved that God will take action.  He did it with Canaan, He did it with ancient Judah, and He will do it to the United States.