Musings of a Christian Geek about the Word, Geek Culture, Science, Music, Movies, and anything that is deemed noteworthy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

God's Leadership in the Old Testament: The Many Warnings of Zedekiah

Richard Dawkins once wrote in his The God Delusion (2006), “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it…” I apologize for alluding to this man however unpleasant his views are, but he seems to be the self-appointed poster boy for all arguments against Christianity in this modern era. In 100 hundreds, if Christ has not returned yet, another man will be appointed by the adversary to do exactly the same as Dawkins does today and one constant will still remain, the Word of God.

Returning from my little aside, I want to address Dawkins’ "original" comment about God in the Old Testament. The idea of a violent and unjust God is a very prevalent thought in modern atheistic academic circles as well as an excuse for many others not to believe. Though, is it really based in reality? The first place we must go to in any argument against the Almighty is His Word.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. -1 John 1:5

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. –Psalm 136:1

An obvious disconnect exists between the thoughts of the accusing unbelievers and that which is said in the Word; so, they can’t both be right. My money is on the words of the Lord, but that’s only my experience (insert sarcastic inflexion). “But,” one might say, “the Old Testament is full of much cruelty and the Israelites, God’s chosen people, were eventually taken into captivity under Assyria and Babylon. How can you explain all of that?” Well, let’s start by having a little history lesson about the last king of Judah, Zedekiah. 

Zedekiah was the son of the great king, Josiah, who died in battle against Necho II, pharaoh of Egypt. His reign came at a perilous time of much change in the Kingdom of Judah, his nephew Jeconiah had been carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II and he had been placed as vassal king over Judah to the ruler of the Chaldeans (Nebuchadnezzar). Zedekiah decided to rebel against the king of Babylon and his fate and that of Jerusalem are mentioned in 2 Kings starting in verse 25:1:

And it came to pass in the ninth year of his [Zedekiah] reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.

Wow, that is pretty brutal! It is safe to say that Zedekiah did not have a peaceful nor quick end. Just looking at this instance, you might posit the question, “How could this happen to God’s people?” Well, 2 Chronicles 36 provides a little deeper insight into this inquiry beginning in verse 11:

Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD. And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel. Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.

The record in 2 Chronicles provides us with some insight into what God had done in trying to avoid the fall of Jerusalem from ever happening. It was not God who brought upon these calamities but the people and their sin. Zedekiah is a good representation of the Israelites’ failure to heed the word of the Lord concerning their fate because the king was warned multiple times by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel not to side with Egypt and surrender to the Babylonians.

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying, Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us. Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city. –Jeremiah 21:1-4

And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:  -Jeremiah 24:8

I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the LORD hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? –Jeremiah 27:12-13

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire:  -Jeremiah 34:2

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he [Zedekiah] despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. -Ezekiel  17:16

These are but a few verses which prophecy of Zedekiah’s inevitable failure and death at the hands of the Babylonians and they are in the Word for a reason. God wanted to show us that He had warned Zedekiah time and time again and still he would not heed the warnings. As it says in 2 Chronicles 36, God had compassion on even Zedekiah to warn Him, but he continued to “stiffen his neck” and disobey God Almighty.
Tomorrow, we will look at the disobedience of Israel and the rest of humanity...
Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. New York, NY: Bantam Books.