Searchlights from the Word by G. Campbell Morgan: 2 Kings

Helpful outline sermon suggestion from every chapter from the Book of 2 Kings

Gene Exod Levi Numb Deut Josh Judg Ruth 1Sam 2Sam 1Kin 2Kin 1Chr 2Chr Ezra Nehe Esth Job_ Psal Prov Eccl Song Isai Jere Lame Ezek Dani Hose Joel Amos Obad Jona Mica Nahu Haba Zeph Hagg Zech Mala Matt Mark Luke John Acts Roma 1Cor 2Cor Gala Ephe Phil Colo 1The 2The 1Tim 2Tim Titu Phle Hebr Jame 1Pet 2Pet 1Joh 2Joh 3Joh Jude Reve

The Book of 2 Kings - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.

Chapter 1

Is it because there is no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?
2 Kings 1:3

Ahaziah the son of Ahab had succeeded his father upon the throne of Israel. He was not so strong a personality as was his father, but he gave himself wholly to the most abominable idolatry, in that he served and worshipped Baal. In the midst of difficulties created by the fact that Israel was at war with Moab, he sought counsel from Baal-zetub, the god of Ekron. It was then that Elijah, who had been in seclusion, suddenly appeared, and asked this question. Again it was a question vibrant with satire. Baal-zebub was no god. The God of Israel was God, and beside Him there was none else. And yet this man Ahaziah, excluded by his wickedness from the true God, sought counsel of one who was no god! And that is ever so. Men cannot live without some kind of traffic with powers supernatural, and so superior to themselves. When they are cut off from direct communication with God, they turn to the under-world, to those dark and sinister forces which are no gods. That is the meaning of all forms of spiritism. God is ever available to man, but if man by sin exclude himself from God, then he turns to false methods of dealing with the supernatural. Such methods are all, and always, destructive. Sooner or later, God breaks in again upon the soul, if not in healing revelation in response to penitence, then in swift judgment.

Chapter 2

My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.
2 Kings 2:12

There is something weirdly pathetic in the final movements of Elijah. Accompanied by Elisha, and watched by the prophets, he moved from place to place. It would seem as though he endeavoured to escape into complete loneliness for that translation which he knew was at hand. Elisha, upon whom his mantle had already been cast, followed him loyally, determined to stand by him to the last. It was permitted to him to do so, and to see the chariot and horses of fire, which parted them as Elijah was caught up to heaven by a whirlwind. Then this great cry escaped from the man who was left. That cry almost certainly took this particular form as the result of the vision, but its reference was not to the fiery chariot and horses upon which he had looked but to Elijah. Elisha saw that the strength of Israel had been that of the presence of the prophet of God. It is more than a coincidence that when presently Elisha himself passed away, Joash, the reigning king, uttered the same exclamation (13:14). This is ever so. The last line of strength in national life is never that of munitions or money, nor even of men. It is that of the word of the living God, declared, interpreted, applied, by messengers whom He calls and sends. It is by this word that men live, are strong, and overcome. Without the guidance of this word, munitions, money, and men are employed to no purpose. Under the direction of this word, they all contribute to the reaching of true national strength and stability.

Chapter 3

Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee nor see thee. – 2 Kings 3:14

The ministry of Elisha stands in many respects in striking contrast to that of Elijah. There is a gentleness about it which inevitably reminds us of that of Jesus. Instead of suddenly appearing at critical moment, like thunder and flame, he seems to have moved about amongst his people, doing good wherever he came. It is the contrast between John and Jesus foreshadowed. That is not to suggest that his work and word lacked sternness where necessary. This sternness was manifested in his refusal on this occasion to deal with the king of Israel. In that refusal he stood for the righteousness of God in national life. Jehoram was continuing in the ways of evil, and to him the prophet would have nothing to say. Jehoshaphat was still desirous of discovering the will of God, even though in this alliance with Jehoram and the king of Edom, he was acting foolishly. For his sake, and that of the nation of Judah, Elisha acted as the interpreter of the Divine will, and the instrument of the Divine beneficence. These words of his to Jehoram are full of solemn meaning, as they show us that there is an attitude of life which makes it impossible for God to speak to it. If a man turns from God to idols, from the messages of God to the words of the prophets of those idols, then let him seek counsel from them in the hour of his distress. To such a man the true prophet of God can have no message, other than that of denunciation. This refusal is never that of an angry resentment; it is always that of absolute justice. It is that of Divine consent to human choice.

Chapter 4

According to the word of the Lord.
2 Kings 4:44

In this chapter we have four instances in the ministry of Elisha, in which we see him carrying on his beneficent work among the people; his provision for the need of the widow, whose creditors were threatening her; his kindness to the Shunammite woman, who had shown him hospitality; his healing of the pottage at Gilgal; and his feeding of a hundred men with twenty loaves. The words we have noted are connected with the last of these incidents, and primarily have reference to it alone. But they apply with equal force to all the rest. The ministry of this man was wholly a ministry of the word of Jehovah. He had no other burden. Everything he did was in obedience to that word, and in interpretation of it in the life of the nation. By all this activity, he was demonstrating to those who had the spiritual capacity to apprehend, how good and beneficent were the thoughts and intentions of God concerning His people. During all this time Elisha was at the head of the prophetic schools, and, as he journeyed from place to place, was known as the messenger of God. His deeds were expositions of his message. His life was that of the utmost simplicity. This is evident from the provision made for his entertainment by the wealthy Shunammite woman. His apartment was a chamber on the wall, containing a bed, and a table, a stool, and a candlestick. Yet that life was full of dignity, as the attitude of the people toward him testifies. A ministry "according to the word of Jehovah," interpreting the will of God, and illustrating it by deeds of goodness, is independent of all save the simplest ways of life; but it is ever full of sublime influence.

Chapter 5

The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee.
2 Kings 5:27

This was the punishment of a man who in answer to selfish desire, obtained advantage to himself and lied to his master. The deepest wrong in the action of Gehazi was that it involved the Divine witness which had been borne to the Syrian, Naaman, by the action of the little serving maid in his house, and the prophet Elisha. Their action had been wholly disinterested, and for the glory of God. The child had witnessed to the power of her God through His prophet, and that in a desire to bring help to her suffering master. Here the motive and the method were right. Elisha's attitude throughout was that of dignified loyalty to God. Because of this, he had resolutely refused to accept anything in the nature of personal reward for that which had been wrought by the hand of God. To these, Gehazi stood in direct contrast. Governed by selfish desire, he made capital of the work of God, to seek personal enrichment. The judgment was swift and terrible. The story searches the soul like an acid. While we clearly see, and intellectually condemn, the sin of Gehazi, when we allow the whole of the facts, especially those of the motives which moved him, to investigate our deepest life, we surely realize how much we are in danger of falling into the same sin. To exploit a beneficent and healing act of God for our own material and personal advantage, is a grievous wrong, principally in that it devitalizes the testimony to the grace of God which such an act is intended to bear.

Chapter 6

Open his eyes, that he may see.
2 Kings 6:17

Elisha, in company with his servant, was in Dothan. The city was compassed about by the hosts of the king of Syria. They were there for the express purpose of capturing the prophet of God. The servant of Elisha, going out in the morning early, saw these enveloping hosts, but he saw nothing else. Therefore his very love for his master filled him with fear. Then the prophet prayed for him, and God answered. How constantly we need to pray this prayer on behalf of ourselves: "O Jehovah, open our eyes that we may see!" To the servants of God there are often hours in which circumstances speak of defeat, forces in opposition are gathered round about in strength, and there seems no way of escape. All such seeming is false, for it is ever true, as Elisha said, that "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." It is always true that:–

It is such consciousness that maintains the heart in strength, and courage, and quietness, on the day when otherwise there might indeed be panic. That man always endures, who sees Him Who is invisible. This is the true function of faith, and so faith becomes the secret of 'endurance, and the actual method by which we may take hold upon all the sources of strength. Faith is never the imagining of unreal things. It is the grip of things which cannot be demonstrated to the senses, but which are real. The chariots of horses and fire were actually there. God is not a myth.

Chapter 7

Behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might this thing be.
2 Kings 7:2

This was the language of incredulity, in spite of faith. That is a curious statement. Let us look carefully at the situation, for there is much to learn from it. Samaria was besieged by the Syrians, and reduced to a state of famine. When a woman in sore distress appealed to the king, he became angry with Elisha. Probably Josephus was right in saying that his anger was caused by the fact that the prophet did nothing to relieve the situation. In his anger he went to the prophet, and then Elisha uttered the word of Jehovah which proclaimed deliverance as at hand. On the morrow there should be abundance of food. Then it was that this military officer uttered these words. His faith was that of a belief in Jehovah. He knew that He was able to do what pleased Aim. Yet faith failed to travel to logical conclusion. There was only one way in which there could be supply. From the earth it could not come. If it came, it must be supernaturally. If the windows of heaven were opened, it might be. But of course there would be no such interference, and so the words were those of mockery and derision. How often faith breaks down in this way! It knows that God is, and that He can act. But it only sees one way, and refuses to believe that such a way will be taken. The supply came without the opening of heaven's windows. It is good to rest in Jehovah, and to wait patiently for Him.

Chapter 8

The man of God wept.
2 Kings 8:11

This is another evidence of the greatness of Elisha, and indeed still further emphasizes what we have previously remarked as to his foreshadowing of the spirit of Jesus. The incident was a very remarkable one. Elisha visited Damascus, and while there the king, Benhadad, sent Hazael to inquire whether he would recover from his sickness Elisha's reply was a strange one. He declared that the king would recover, but that he would die; that is to say, he affirmed that his death would not come by his sickness but that it would come soon in another way. As a matter of fact, the death of Benhadad came by the hand of this man Hazael, and that almost immediately. This, it is evident, the prophet knew. He looked long and fixedly into the eyes of Hazael. He saw far more in the soul of the man than any other had seen, perhaps more than the man himself was conscious of. He gazed until Hazael was ashamed, and then the prophet broke into tears. He was conscious that this man would be the instrument of terrible chastisement to Israel in days to come, and he told him all the story. His tears were in themselves signs of his understanding of the necessity for those severe judgments which must fall upon the guilty nation; but they were the outcome of his deep love for his people. In those tears he was surely still in fullest sense the messenger of the word of Jehovah. By them he spoke for God as surely as he did in uttering the doom. The mind passes on inevitably to One Who bore the same double testimony to the truth about God, when He wept over Jerusalem, even as He pronounced its coming desolation.

Chapter 9

What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many.
2 Kings 9:22

The hour had struck for the carrying out of the sentence of God upon the house of Ahab. Of this judgment, Jehu was the instrument. He was a man of furious driving, and this was the symbol of his character. He halted at nothing, but swept like a relentless whirlwind from point to point until he had accomplished his purpose. In these words, uttered to Joram in answer to his question: "Is it peace?" Jehu showed that, so far, he understood the righteousness of the judgment he was called upon to execute. That is a truth of persistent application. Peace is not peace which is merely a cessation of hostilities on the basis of compromise with evil. The words of a later prophet are for all time: "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." In the presence of widespread and deep-rooted corruption the activity of the Divine government is no longer that of tenderness and compassion, but that of scorching and destructive flame and fire. Evil men will seek for peace, as ease, quietness, the end of suffering; but God never seeks peace except through purity. And here once more it is necessary to remind ourselves of the reasonableness and justice and beneficence of this fact. It is because God is ever seeking the true peace of man, individually, socially, racially, that He smites their godless shrines and shrivels with devouring fire the things that tend to disintegration and disturbance.

Chapter 10

Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.
2 Kings 10:16

Such were the words of Jehu to Jehonadab, as he invited him to accompany him on his mission of judgment. They are revealing words, showing, as in a sudden flash, the central pride of his spirit. That he was the instrument of the Divine judgment there is no question. With terrific speed and thoroughness he swept out the posterity of Ahab. Having accomplished this, he turned himself against Baalism. With a thoroughness which was terrific, he broke and destroyed it. It was while occupied in this very work that he spoke these words. He was proud of his own zeal. How subtle the peril! And it is a peril. Wherever it exists, it leads to other evil things. While this man was carrying out the judgments of God upon Israel, he was in his own life corrupt. It is written of him: "He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam," and "he took no heed to walk in the law of Jehovah." When the central fact of the life is that of self-glorying, even though there may be zeal for the doing of God's work in the destruction of certain evils, there will always be the toleration of others which appeal to personal desires; and that means there can be no fellowship with God. It is a story full of searching power, revealing as it does the fact that a man may be an instrument in the hands of God, for some purpose, while yet never being in personal communion with Him.

Chapter 11

She arose and destroyed all the seed royal. But ...
2 Kings 11:1,2

The significant word here is the "But." It marks the futility of evil in its campaign against the purposes of God. Athaliah was the sister of Ahab, and was of his corrupt nature, and strong personality. When Jehu slew Ahaziab, she seized the throne, and made it sure by killing - as she thought - all the seed royal. For six years she swayed the sceptre of her terrible power over the kingdom of Judah. But - and there is always a "but." In the day when she was securing her position by slaying the seed royal, her own daughter - moved either by pity for the baby Joash, or by some higher motive, perhaps by both - took the child and hid it, and for six years nursed and cared for the young life within the Temple precincts. Thus evil always breaks down. It is extremely clever, it calculates on all the changes, and seems to leave no unguarded place; but with unvarying regularity it fails somewhere to cover up its tracks, or to insure its victory. God finds His forward highway in the pity of a woman's heart, in some perfectly simple and natural circumstance, and thus the continuity and ultimate realization of His purpose is insured. This is perfectly natural. Evil is always limited in its outlook. It cannot take in all the facts or possible contingencies. God alone sees everything, knows the end from the beginning. This is in itself one reason why we are certain of Hit final triumph. In the day when it seems as though the forces of evil have done everything, and that they must succeed, let us rest assured that somewhere there is a but: and God is finding His vantage ground, amid the events even of that dark hour.

Chapter 12

And Jehoash did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed, him.
2 Kings 12:2

Jehoash was made king when he was seven years of age, and he occupied the throne of Judah for forty years. In the early days he was the symbol of the restoration of the true order, and the government of the people was really in the hands of the priest Jehoiada. As the years passed on, the responsibility necessarily devolved upon the king himself, but he had the great advantage of the friendship and guidance of this priest of God. So long as this continued, he did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah. During this period the Temple was rebuilt. In order to this, there was first the correction of official abuses, and then the institution of a voluntary system of giving. These reforms, however, were not complete, for the high places were not taken away, and the people still committed idolatry thereon. The story of good in this reign is the story of the power behind the throne. The king himself was not a strong personality, but under the influence of a good man his actions were right. When that influence was removed, the weakness of the man was manifested in the craven cowardice which, in an hour of threatened invasion by Hazael, gave up all the vessels and treasures of the House of God to secure safety. Men, naturally weak, prove their wisdom when they consent to be guided by some other person of stronger personality. The trouble too often is that weak men are too proud to do anything of the kind. Perhaps we can pray no more important prayer than that God will teach us our weakness, and make us willing to seek the help of those who are stronger.

Chapter 13

The man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times.
2 Kings 13:19

The story of corruption in Israel runs on in the account of the reign of Jehoahaz. He was succeeded by Joash, concerning whose reign the chief incident recorded is that of his visit to Elisha. The prophet was now sick and feeble, but evidently keenly alive to all the things of true national interest. It is interesting to notice here again, that the king used of Elisha the very words which Elisha had used of Elijah: "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" Joash recognized that the true strength of the nation was not that of its military equipment; but rather that of its possession of such as interpreted the will of God. In his intercourse with Elisha, the weakness of the king was manifested. Following the prophetic signs, he lacked that passion and consecration which were necessary to the full accomplishment of his purpose. There was no heart in his striking on the ground with the arrows; "he smote thrice and stayed." It was a literal obedience, devoid of enthusiasm, and it revealed the whole nature of the man. For lack of that touch of flame and passion, he would fail in his enterprise, and this the prophet plainly told him. It is a story we do well to heed. A mechanical obedience will carry us so far; but it always breaks down short of the complete fulfilment of purpose. Willingness to do ever needs the reinforcement of passion, if the thing in hand is to be well done. Perhaps one of the chief reasons of the ineffectiveness of the Church of God oftentimes is to be found in her lack of fire.

Chapter 14

And the Lord said not that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam, the son of Joash.
2 Kings 14:27

The arresting fact about these words is that of the form in which the recorder made his statement. It seems to suggest amazement in his mind as he contemplated the patience of Jehovah with the sinning nation. It had continued persistently in its evil courses, with the necessary result that it knew affliction of the most bitter kind. In spite of this it showed no signs of returning to Jehovah. To the eyes of man it seemed that the only course left open to Jehovah was that of blotting the name of Israel from under heaven. Yet that, says the historian, is what He did not do. He saved them for a time from these very afflictions by the hand of Jeroboam. He restored to the people a measure of liberty, and regained for them some lost territory. In the process of the centuries the words have come to have a wider and fuller meaning than that of their immediate application to the deeds of Jeroboam. The ancient people of God are scattered and peeled over the face of the whole earth; they are a people largely despised and persecuted. Yet God has not blotted out their name from under heaven. He has not lost them, nor abandoned them. While they walk amid the deep shadows resulting from their own infidelities, He watches and guards; and in His own time, when afflictions have accomplished His purposes, He will raise up for them their one Saviour, and bring them back to fulfil their true mission of making Him known among the nations.

Chapter 15

In those days the Lord began to send against Judah, Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah. - 2 Kings 15:37

The sequence of these chapters deals with a period in some respects the most terrible in all the history of this people. To the throne of Israel man succeeded man by the way of murder. Can anything be more appalling than this fact? What a commentary it is upon that first clamour for a king, in which they had rejected God from the place of immediate government! Israel was under a military despotism, downtrodden and oppressed, and yet sinning still with a high hand. The state of affairs in Judah was very little better. Jotham had followed Azariah upon the throne; and he was followed by Ahaz, during whose reign the sin of Judah came to its head. At this time a confederacy was formed against Judah between Israel and Syria, under their respective kings, Pekah and Rezin. From Isaiah we learn that they planned to set up a king over Judah of their choosing, one there described as "the son of Tabeel" (Isaiah 7). The historian sees the hand of God in this confederacy. He says, "Jehovah began to send against Judah, Rezin ... and Pekah." This view of the Divine overruling of all the affairs of men is persistent in these sacred writings. The plans and policies of men, their hatreds and their intriguings, are all seen; but behind them all, holding them within the grasp of His own government, God is ever seen.

Chapter 16

So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son.
2 Kings 16:7

In the hour of difficulty created by the confederacy of Syria and Israel against him, Ahaz turned to Assyria for help. From the standpoint of the policy which trusts to human wit, and shuts God out of its calculation, it was a perfectly natural thing to do. But the folly and weakness of such a policy is revealed in the method which it has to adopt. In these words Ahaz deliberately put his neck under the yoke of Tiglath-Pileser, offering to become his vassal. This led on to the blasphemy of setting up a heathen altar within the actual courts of the Temple of God. This is always so. Refusal to submit to God is acceptance of some destructive yoke. Those who are submitted to the rule of God, never bend the neck to any tyranny. Our reading of all this history needs the illumination of prophetic books. It would seem from this story as though the light of truth were wholly extinguished. It was not so, for Isaiah was uttering his message, as also was Micah. So far as the nation and its kings were concerned, the testimony of truth was indeed lost, and the very name of God was being blasphemed among the heathen. But that testimony was kept alive by the ministry of these prophets; and through it an elect remnant was held and instructed. At this period, when the king of Judah was content to describe himself as the servant and son of the king of Assyria, teaching was given to loyal souls about the coming of One Who should be Immanuel, the Servant and Son of God, through Whom the final freedom of His people should come.

Chapter 17

The Lord removed Israel out of His sight.
2 Kings 17:23

In these words the historian refers to the carrying away into captivity of the people of the Northern kingdom of Israel. Necessarily they are not to be taken with too great literalness, for there is a sense in which His people are never out of His sight, even when, through disobedience, they are excluded from His fellowship. Nevertheless, they help us to realize how great was the disaster overtaking them. They were to exist for a period as though He had no care for them. They had refused Him, and now they were to pass to an experience in which they would have no communication from Him. This chapter is of great interest, from the fact that the historian seems to have been at great pains to declare the reasons for this exclusion of the people from the land, and from the consciousness of God's government. These reasons are very explicitly stated (verses 7-12). Disobedience to Jehovah; conformity to the nations from which they had been separated; secretly-practised abominations; and, eventually, public idolatry - these were the sins which finally brought the calamity upon them. These things, moreover, they did in spite of God's patience and warning: "Jehovah testified unto Israel and unto Judah, by every prophet, and every seer." These messages they would not hear. They rejected His statutes, they forsook His commandments, they practised all the abominations of the heathen. Their sin was first against law; but finally against love.

Chapter 18

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among them that were before
2 Kings 18:5

This is high praise, and there is no doubt that it was justified. The comparison is with the kings of Judah; that is, with all those from Rehoboam to Zedekiah. Among the whole of them, Hezekiah stands out as the one who approximated most nearly to the Divine ideal of kingship. This is a remarkable fact when we remember that he was the son of Ahaz, one of the most worthless of the kings of Judah. We must remember, however, that all his life, Hezekiah had been under the influence of the great prophet, Isaiah. The one secret of his greatness was that he trusted in Jehovah, the God of Israel. In that trust he lived, doing right in the sight of Jehovah in all his personal actions; and in that same trust he instituted reforms, more widespread and thorough than any that had been attempted by his predecessors. One simple but revealing illustration is given. So low had the people sunk spiritually that the serpent of brass, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and which had been carefully preserved, had positively been made an object of worship. Hezekiah called it by its right name, Nehushtan, a piece of brass, and broke it in pieces. The greater illustration is that of how he behaved in the presence of the invasion of Sennacherib. Through his obedience to the prophetic word, based upon his trust in Jehovah, the nation was delivered. But this obedience followed a period of vacillation and fear.

Chapter 19

Save Thou us, I beseech Thee, out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even Thou only.
2 Kings 19:19

These were the closing words of the prayer of Hezekiah when confronted by the last threatening of Assyria. It reveals the deepest fact in his life. He was anxious that his people should be delivered from the oppressor, but the deeper concern of his heart was that of a zeal for the honour of Jehovah God. When the peril which he, in an hour of weakness, had attempted to buy off, was imminent, in penitence the king had turned to his old and trusted friend, the prophet Isaiah; who thereupon uttered a prophecy concerning the deliverance which was to be wrought. Said Isaiah of Sennacherib: "He shall hear tidings." This was exactly what happened, and because of the tidings the Assyrian king withdrew. Rabshakeh, finding his master departed, sent a letter to Hezekiah, which he at once spread before Jehovah, and offered his prayer. The prayer was heard and answered. The swift judgment of God passed upon the hosts of Assyria; and Sennacherib escaped to Nineveh, only to be slain in the house of his god. The one true passion of the human heart should ever be that of seeking the glory of God. It is when the heart is purged from selfish motives, that it reaches the true place of safety; for God is ever glorified in serving and saving such as put their trust in Him, and seek first His Kingdom. Here is the law of fellowship between man and God; man is ever and only to seek the glory of God; God is ever and only seeking the blessing of man. God in Christ empties Himself, and endures the Cross to save men; man denies himself, and takes up his cross to glorify God.

Chapter 20

Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things.
2 Kings 20:13

In this chapter we have the account of the last things in the life of Hezekiah. From a severe sickness he was delivered in answer to prayer, and by the intervention of the prophet. Again he manifested weakness in his action in connection with the visit of the Babylonians. He showed them all the treasures of his house, and was sternly rebuked by Isaiah for so doing. The prophet told him that the things they had seen they would ultimately carry away. The reason for the Divine disapproval of this action needs to be sought by considering the story. The ostensible reason for the coming of the Babylonians was that of congratulating the king of Judah on his recovery from sickness. The real meaning of the visit was political; Babylon desired to throw off the yoke of Assyria. What nation was more likely to help them than the one at the hands of which Assyria had been so completely defeated? Babylon sought alliance with Judah against Assyria. When they came, Hezekiah, flattered and pleased, received them with all cordiality, showing them all his treasures. Evidently he was inclined to agree to the alliance they sought. The chronicler gives us an illuminating word about this action when he says: "His heart was lifted up" (2 Chron. 32:25). He made answer to the impulse of pride as it appealed to his own judgment. In this he was not seeking the glory of God, not looking for His guidance. That was the secret of the failure. The story talks loudly to us of the need of persistent watchfulness.

Chapter 21

Manasseh seduced them to do that which is evil, more than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.
2 Kings 21:9

In this chapter we have the story of reaction. It manifested itself in two reigns, both utterly evil. That of this man, Manasseh, lasted for fifty-two years, and that of his son Amon, for two. Amon merely continued in the evil courses of his father, until his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house. The sin of Manasseh was not only that of personal wrongdoing; it was also that of deliberate undoing of what his father had been at such pains to accomplish. That which we have noted more than one as resulting from such failure, is here declared in so many words. Manasseh seduced the people of God to do that which was evil more than did the nations which Jehovah destroyed before them. Nothing can be clearer as a vindication of the absolute righteousness of the judgment which fell upon them, when presently they also were driven out from the land. The depravity of the people is marked in the fact that, when the servants of Amon slew him, so completely were they in sympathy with the evil ways of these evil kings, that they slew the men who had slain Amon. What a commentary all this is on the failure of human kingship! All that Hezekiah had done was on the surface of things only, in spite of his personal devotion to his God. Directly the opportunity was given, the corrupt heart of the people returned to all the evil courses which were bringing about their ruin. The Kingdom of God is the only kingdom in which man can be guarded from the things that destroy him, and enabled to come to the realization of his own possibilities.

Chapter 22

I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.
2 Kings 22:8

With the accession of Josiah there came the last attempt at reformation before the final sweeping away of Judah into captivity, and the ending of the period of human kingship. His first act of reformation was that of the restoration of the Temple. All that followed resulted from that. In the course of the work came the discovery of the book of the law. The condition of affairs in Judah may be gathered from the fact of such a finding. The nation had become utterly corrupt during the fifty-four years covering the reigns of Manasseh and Amon. The Temple had been neglected and deserted, and it would seem that neither king nor priest knew of the whereabouts of this book. Of its existence there can be no doubt that they were aware; but so far had the people departed from recognition of the Divine government, or response thereto, that the sacred writings had been neglected, and the actual Temple copy lost. The effect of the reading of the book upon the king revealed his ignorance of its contents. Therein he discovered how far the nation had wandered from the Divine ideal, and how terrible were the curses pronounced upon them for such wandering. Having a quick and sensitive conscience, he at once realized both the danger threatening them, and its cause; and he turned for counsel to the prophetess Huldah. Speaking on Divine authority, she recognized the sincerity of the king, and the corruption of the people; and declared that the reformation would be unreal so far as the people were concerned. The suggestive and searching fact of the story is that of the book of the law was lost in the Temple of God. When that is so, nothing can save from ruin.

Chapter 23

The king stood by the pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord.
2 Kings 23:3

The figure of Josiah in this story is heroic and pathetic. From consultation with Huldah he knew that the people were so corrupt that there would be no deep note or lasting value in their reformation. That fact, however, did not give him the right to refuse to follow the light which had come to him. The description of what he did is graphic. He carried out his work with enthusiasm and energy. He first arranged for the public reading of the book of the law. Then he made this covenant. Immediately succeeding, the work went forward; the Temple was purged of all the vessels of false religions; from one end of the land to the other, idolatrous shrines and altars were swept away. Following this, the Passover Feast, long neglected, was observed with all its ancient glory. So far as Josiah was concerned, this whole procedure was the outcome of sincerity and loyalty. The people, however, were simply following the lead of the king, not under any sense of penitence, or return to Jehovah. Therefore there was no turning on the part of God from His necessary purpose of judgment. The action of Josiah the king, like that of Jeremiah the prophet, was heroic, in that both were loyal to the will and word of God, even though their action produced no results in the national life.

Chapter 24

Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah.
2 Kings 24:3

After the death of Josiah, the judgments of God fell upon the nation in rapid succession. Jehoahaz succeeded to the throne; but, notwithstanding all that had been done during the reign of Josiah, he turned immediately to evil courses in his brief reign of three months. The king of Egypt deposed him, and set Jehoiakim upon the throne. He reigned only as tributary to Pharaoh. The lesson of righteousness was not learned, and for eleven years this man, no longer king, but only the vassal of Israel's old enemy, Egypt, continued in evil courses. He became tributary to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. The continuity of evil made respite impossible, and the solemn words are written: "Jehovah would not pardon." Calamity upon calamity fell upon the people, until completely broken and spoiled, they were carried away into captivity. And the historian in these words records the solemn fact that all these evils came upon Judah at the commandment of Jehovah. In this whole story the abiding truth is illustrated, that men cannot escape from God. They are always under His control. They may create their own experience of that government, by their attitude toward it. If His throne be recognized and His law obeyed, He commands blessing. If, on the other hand, His throne be disregarded, and His law broken, He commands calamity. Moreover, in either case the inspiration of His action is that of love.

Chapter 25

The captain of the guard left of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.
2 Kings 25:12

What a record of the last things in the history of the kingdom! Jehoiachin, who had succeeded Jehoiakim, was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, with the men of war and rulers, all who were at all likely to cause rebellion. Zedekiah was placed in authority by Nebuchadnezzar as his representative and vassal. He occupied his position for eleven years, during which he continued in courses of evil. Then he rebelled, but was captured and taken to Babylon. The picture of him is tragic. With eyes put out, and bound in fetters, he was carried to the court of the conqueror, the symbol of the people who had rebelled against God, and had been broken in pieces. The goodly and pleasant land, the God-appointed home of His chosen people - chosen to witness to Him - is seen occupied by the poorest of the people, whose life became nomadic and agricultural. Thus. on the human side, the record of the movement which began when the people clamoured for a king like the nations, ends in tragic and disastrous failure. To those whose eyes are fixed upon the eternal throne, it is certain that in spite of all such failure, the Divine purpose in and through these people must yet be accomplished. Into long years of servitude and suffering they had passed; but through them all, they would be watched over by their one and only King, and by these very sufferings prepared for co-operation ac-cording to the covenant of grace, in the forward march of the overruling God.