“‘If you are willing,
If you are obedient,
You shall eat
The goods of the land.
But if you refuse,
If you rebel,
You shall be devoured
By the sword.’
The mouth of Yahweh
This oracle of Yahweh was clear, since the mouth of Yahweh had spoken to Isaiah. Obedience meant the good life. Rebellion meant death. Forgiveness could be achieved by being obedient, instead of being rebellious. You had to be willing and obedient to enjoy the good foods of the land. However, if you refused and rebelled, you would fall by the sword.
“Before they had sated their craving,
While the food was still in their mouths,
The anger of God rose against them.
He killed the strongest of them.
He laid low the flower of Israel.
In spite of all this,
They still sinned.
They did not believe in his wonders.
So he made their days vanish like a breath.
Their years were in terror.”
This section is based on Numbers, chapters 11 and 14 about the anger of God and the death of the original Exodus Israelites. They were still eating with the food in their mouths when God struck them with a plague, which is not mentioned here. It was after the second rebellion that Yahweh said that none of those who had left Egypt would see the Promised Land. Thus they lived in terror not knowing when they would die. They refused to believe in the wonders of God. Thus this led to the long trek in the wilderness.
“Lysias heard that Philip, whom King Antiochus while still living had appointed to bring up his son Antiochus to be king, had returned from Persia and Media. Philip had the forces that had gone with the king so that he was trying to seize control of the government. So Lysias quickly gave orders to withdraw. He said to the king, the commanders of the forces, and to the men.
‘Daily we grow weaker.
Our food supply is scant.
The place against which we are fighting is strong.
The affairs of the kingdom press urgently upon us.
Now then let us come to terms with these people.
Make peace with them.
Make peace with their entire nation.
Let us agree to let them live by their laws as they did before.
For it was on account of their laws that we abolished
That they became angry
That they did all these things.’”
Lysias heard that Philip was coming back from Persia. Philip had been appointed by the late King Antiochus IV to take care of his son King Antiochus V, who happened to be with Lysias here. Lysias knew that Philip had all the eastern forces with him. Thus he wanted to go back to meet Philip to prevent him from seizing control of the Syrian part of the government. He wanted his forces to withdraw. He gave a little speech to the king, the troop commanders, and the men. He told them that they were getting weaker by the day. Besides, the Jews had strong fortifications. On top of that, there were other pressing problems in the kingdom. He wanted to have a peace treaty. He wanted to let the Jews live by their own laws like before. That would make the Jews happy and end the rebellion.
“King Artaxerxes sent an answer. ‘To Rehum, the royal deputy, and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. Now the letter that you sent to us has been read in translation before me. So I made a decree. Someone searched and discovered that this city has risen against kings from long ago. Rebellion and sedition have been made in it. Jerusalem had mighty kings who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore issue an order that these people be made to cease. This city shall not be rebuilt, until I make a decree. Moreover, take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?’”
The king had an answer. He had the letter read to him in translation. He had someone check the annals or records. Sure enough, there was a mighty king of Jerusalem who ruled beyond the river. This might have been a reference to King David or King Solomon. Therefore he told them to issue an order to make them stop building the wall. Nothing should be built without his decree. He warned them not to be slack in this matter.
“This is a copy of the letter that they sent. ‘To King Artaxerxes: Your servants, the people of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. Now may it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now may it be known to the king that, if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll. The royal revenue will be reduced. Now because we share the salt of the palace, it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor. Therefore we send and inform the king, so that a search may be made in the annals of your ancestors. You will discover in the annals that this is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces. Sedition was stirred up in it from long ago. On that account the city was laid waste. We make known to the king that, if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.’”
This supposedly is a copy of the letter that the Persian officials at Samaria had sent to the king of Persia. It is written from the Province Beyond the River that is west of the Euphrates River. They recited the history of Jerusalem that led to its destruction in the 6th century BCE because of its rebellious way, about a century earlier. They referred to the annals or books where things were written down. There must have been some king of history of each king in the various countries. The objection here is not to the temple being built, but to the fortification of the city walls of Jerusalem. If the walls were rebuilt there would be no revenue from there.
“King Nebuchadnezzar made the brother of King Jehoiachin Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem. King Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh his God. He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh, the God of Israel.”
There are some major differences from this story as in 2 Kings, chapter 24. Instead of being succeeded by his uncle, here King Zedekiah is the brother of King Jehoiachin. There is nothing about the mother of King Zedekiah. He would be older than King Jehoiachin, either 3 or 13 years older. Here it does not say that the king of Babylon established him as king and gave him a new name, King Zedekiah. Both accounts agree that he ruled for 11 years in Jerusalem and he walked in evil ways. However, he did rebel against the king of Babylon, which was not always a good idea at this time. There is also an insertion about the prophet Jeremiah that was not in 2 Kings.
“When all Israel saw that the king would not listen to them, the people answered the king.
‘What share do we have in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Look now to your own house, David.’
So Israel departed to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah. When King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam then hurriedly mounted his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. Thus Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.”
When the people of Israel heard King Rehoboam, they responded that he was not listening to them. They would have nothing to do with David, the son of Jesse. Israel would go to its tents and not with the house of David. Rehoboam was still in charge of the Israelites who lived in Judah. However, when he sent his taskmaster in charge of forced labor, Adoram, to Israel, they stoned him to death. Then King Rehoboam took off for Jerusalem. This split was so complete that it lasted until the writing of this biblical work.