Story Six

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
THE LAST FOUR KINGS OF JUDAH, AND THE WEEPING PROPHET
WHEN the good King Jō̇-sī́ ah fell in battle the people of the land made his son Jē̇-hṓ a-hăz king. At that time all the kingdoms around Jū́ dah were in confusion. The great empire of Ăs-sy̆ŕ ĭ-ȧ had been the ruler of nearly all that part of the world; but now it had been broken up, Nĭń e-veh, its chief city, had been destroyed and Ḗ ġy̆pt, Băb-y̆-lṓ nĭ-a, and other lands were at war, each striving to take the place of Ăs-sy̆ŕ ĭ-ȧ as the ruler of the nations.
Phā́ raōh=nḗ choh, the king of Ḗ ġy̆pt, whose warriors had slain King Jō̇-sī́ ah, became for a time the master of the lands between Ḗ ġy̆pt and the Eū-phrā́ tēs̝ river. He felt that he could not trust the young King Jē̇-hṓ a-hăz, and he took his crown from him, and carried him a captive down to Ḗ ġy̆pt, so that Jē̇-hṓ a-hăz, the seventeenth king, reigned only three months. The prophet Jĕr-e-mī́ ah, who arose during Jō̇-sī́ ah's reign, spoke thus of the young king who so soon was taken away a prisoner, "Weep not for the dead King Jō̇-sī́ ah, nor sorrow over him, but weep for him that goeth away, the King Jē̇-hṓ a-hăz, for he shall return no more, nor shall he again see his own land. In the place where they have led him captive, there shall he die, and he shall look upon this land no more.”
The man whom Phā́ raōh=nḗ choh set up as king over Judah in place of Jē̇-hṓ a-hăz was his brother Jē̇-hoí a-kĭm, another son of Jō̇-sī́ ah. But he was not like his father, for he lived most wickedly, and led his people back to the idols which Jō̇-sí ah had tried to destroy. Jĕr-e-mí ah, the prophet, spoke to him the words of the Lord, and warned him that the evil way in which he was going would surely end in ruin to the king and the people. This made King Jē̇-hoí a-kĭm very angry. He tried to kill the prophet, and to save his life Jĕr-e-mī́ ah was hidden by his friends.
Jĕr-e-mī́ ah could no longer go out among the people nor stand in the Temple to speak the word of the Lord. So he wrote upon a roll God's message, and gave it to his friend Bā́ rṳch to read before the people. While Bā́ rṳch was reading it some officers of the king came and took the roll away, and brought it to the king. King Jē̇-hoí a-kĭm was sitting in his palace, with the princes around him, and a fire was burning before him, for it was the winter time. The officer began to read the roll before the king and the princes, but when he had read a few pages the king took up a knife and began cutting the leaves and throwing them into the fire. Even the princes were shocked at this, for they knew that the writing on the roll was God's word to the king and the people. They begged the king not to destroy the roll, but he would not heed them. He went on cutting up the roll and throwing it in the fire until it was all burned.
The king told his officers to take Jĕr-e-mī́ ah the prophet and Bā́ rṳch, who read his words; and he would have killed them if he had found them. But they were hidden, and he could not find them, for the Lord kept them in safety.
Jē̇-hoí a-kĭm reigned a few years as the servant of the king of Ḗ ġy̆pt. But soon the Ē̇-ġy̆ṕ tians̝ lost all the lands that they had gained outside of their own country; and the Băb-y̆-lṓ ni-ans̝, under Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar, rose to power over the nations, and took the place of empire that had been held by the Ăs-sy̆ŕ ĭ-ans̝. Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar was the son of the king of Băb́ y̆-lon, and at first was the general of his army. He came against Jū́ dah and Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm, but Jē̇-hoí a-kĭm did not dare to fight with him. He promised to serve Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar, and on that condition was allowed to remain king; but no sooner had the Băb-y̆-lṓ ni-an army gone away than he broke his promise, and rose against Băb-y̆́ lon, and tried to make himself free.
But in this King Jē̇-hoí a-kĭm did not succeed. Instead, he lost his kingdom and, his life, for either by the Băb-y̆-ló ni-ans̝ or by his own people he was slain, and his dead body, like that of a beast, was thrown outside the gate of the city. He had reigned in wickedness eleven years, and he died in disgrace.
Jē̇-hoí a-kĭḿ s young son Jē̇-hoí a-chĭn, who was also called Cō̇-nī́ ah or Jĕc-o-nī́ ah, was then made king by the people. But he reigned only three months, for Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar, who was now the king of Băb́ y̆-lon, and was conquering all the lands, came with his army and took the city of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm. He carried the young king a captive to Băb́ y̆-lon, as Nḗ choh had carried Jē̇-hṓ a-hăz a captive to Ḗ ġy̆pt eleven years before. With King Jē̇-hoí a-chĭn were taken away many of the nobles and rulers, and the best people of the land. Most of these were worshippers of the Lord, who carried with them to the land of Băb-y̆-lṓ ni-ȧ a love for the Lord, and who served him there, for their trouble only drew them the closer to their God. After these captives had been taken away the Lord showed to Jĕr-e-mī́ ah in the Temple a vision of what should come to pass. Jĕr-e-mī́ ah saw two baskets of figs. One basket was full of fresh, ripe figs, the best that could be found. The other basket was full of poor, decayed figs, not fit to be eaten. The Lord said, "Jĕr-e-mī́ ah, what do you see?”
And Jĕr-e-mī́ ah said, "Figs; the good figs very good; and the bad figs very bad, figs so bad that they cannot be eaten.”
Then the Lord said to Jĕr-e-mī́ ah, "Like these good figs are the captives who have been taken away to the land of Băb-́ y̆-lon. I will care for them, and keep them, and will bring them again to this land. I will give them a heart to know me; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the bad figs are like those who are left in this land, the king who shall reign over them, and his princes, and his people. They shall suffer, and shall die by the sword, and by famine, and by plague, until they are destroyed. God showed Jĕr-e-mī́ ah in this way that the captives in Băb́ y̆-lon were the hope of the nation. And afterward Jĕr-e-mī́ ah sent a letter to these captives, saying, "Thus saith the Lord to those who have been carried away captive, 'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; and have sons and daughters, and let your children be married in that land when they grow up. And pray the Lord to give peace to the city and the land where you are living, for you and your children shall stay there seventy years, and after seventy years they shall come again to their own land in peace. For my thoughts, saith the Lord, are thoughts of peace and kindness toward you. You shall call upon me, and I will hear you. You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."'
After Jē̇-hoí a-chĭn and the captives had been taken away, Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar set up as king in Jū́ dah Zĕd-e-kī́ ah, the uncle of Jē̇-hoí a-chĭn and another son of Jō̇-sī́ ah. He was the twentieth and last king of the kingdom of Jū́ dah. He began by promising to be true and faithful to his over-lord, Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar, the king of Băb́ y̆-lon, who had made him king. But very soon he was led by the nobles who stood around his throne to break his promise and to throw off the rule of Băb́ y̆-lon; also he left the worship of the Lord, as did his people, and began to pray to the idols of wood and stone that could give him no help.
Jĕr-e-mī́ ah the prophet told King Zĕd-e-kī́ ah that he was doing wickedly in breaking his promises and in turning from the Lord to idols. He told Zĕd-e-kī́ ah that he would fail, and would bring his kingdom to ruin. He said, "It is better to obey the king of Băb́ y-lon than to fight against him, for God will not bless you and your people in breaking your word. The king of Băb́ y̆-lon will come and will destroy this city. You shall see him face to face, and he will take you away a captive to his own land, and this city shall be destroyed.”
This made the princes and nobles very angry against Jĕr-e-mī́ ah. They said, "This man Jĕr-e-mī́ ah is an enemy of his land and a friend to the king of Băb́ y̆-lon. He is a traitor; and should be put to death." Zĕd-e-kī́ ah said to his nobles, "Jĕr-e-mī́ ah is in your hands; you can do with him what you choose. The king cannot help him against you.”
Then these men seized Jĕr-e-mī́ ah, and took him to the prison, and threw him into a dungeon, down below the floor, and filled with mud and filth, into which the prophet sank; and there they left him to die. But in, the court of the king there was one kind man, a negro named Ḗ bed= mḗ lech. He found Jĕr-e-mī́ ah in the dungeon, and let down to him a rope and drew him up, and brought him to a safe and dry place, though still in the prison.
By this time Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar, the king of Băb́ y-lon, and his army were again before the city of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm, laying siege to it. No one could go out or come in; no food could be found for the people, and many of them starved to death. The soldiers of Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar built forts, and threw darts and stones, and broke down the gates, and made great openings in the walls of the city.
When King Zĕd-e-kī́ ah saw that the city must fall before its enemies he tried to escape. But the men of Băb́ y̆-lon followed him and took him prisoner, and with him all his family, his wives anti his sons. They were all brought before King Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar, so that it came to pass as the prophet had said, Zĕd-e-kī́ ah saw the king of Băb-y̆́ lon.
But he saw what was more terrible; he saw all his sons slain before him. Then Zĕd-e-kī́ ah's eyes were put out, and, a blinded captive, he was dragged away to Băb́ y̆-lon. The Băb-y̆-ló ni-an soldiers killed all the leaders of the people who had led Zĕd-e-kī́ ah to rebel against Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar; and the rest of the people, except the very poorest in the land, they took away to the land of Băb́ y̆-lon. The king of Băb́ y̆-lon was friendly to Jĕr-e-mī́ ah, the prophet, because of the advice that he had given to Zĕd-e-kī́ ah and his people. The ruler whom Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar set over the city opened the door of Jĕr-e-mī́ ah's prison, and allowed him to choose between going to Băb́ y̆-lon with the captives or staying with the poor people in the land. Jĕr-e-mī́ ah chose to stay; but not long after he was taken down to Ḗ ġy̆pt by enemies to the king of Băb́ y̆-lon. And there in Ḗ ġy̆pt Jĕr-e-mī́ ah died; some think that he was slain. His life had been sad, for he had seen nothing but evil come upon his land; and his message from the Lord had been a message of woe and wrath. Because of his sorrow, Jĕr-e-mī́ ah has been called "the weeping prophet.”
Nĕb-u-chad-nĕź zar carried away all that was left of the valuable things in the Temple, and then he burned the buildings. He tore down the walls of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm and set the city on fire. So all that was left of the city of Dā́ vid and the Temple of Sŏĺ -mon was a heap of ashes and blackened stones. And thus the kingdom of Jū́ dah ended, nearly four hundred years after Rē-ho-bṓ am became its first king.
Lesson 39. The Later Kings of Judah.
(Tell Stories 4, 5 and 6 in Part Fifth.)
1. Who was the best of all the kings of Judah? Hezekiah.
2. From what enemies did the Lord save the city of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah? From the Assyrians.
3. What bad king became good after being put into prison? Manasseh.
4. What king while he was young chose the Lord and followed him? Josiah.
5. What lost book was found in the temple in the time of Josiah? The book of the law.
6. Who was the last king of Judah? Zedekiah.
7. What prophet warned the people by Judah of evils that were coming? Jeremiah.
8. What great king over many lands came against Jerusalem? Nebuchadnezzar.
9. What did Nebuchadnezzar do? He burned the city and the temple.
10. To what land did he carry away all the people of Judah? To the land of Babylonia.