Melakhim Bet Chapter 24
The pendulum of power in the region shifts drastically once again, and Babylonia becomes the dominant force in the region. Egypt is isolated and no longer influential. For three years, Yehoyaqim submits to the authority of Nebukhadnezzar, king of Babylonia. However, he eventually rebels, generating much turmoil for the Kingdom of Yehuda.
These difficulties are exacerbated by constant raids and incursions into Jewish territory by neighboring peoples, including Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites, etc., mainly orchestrated or encouraged by Babylonia. Of course, all of this was ultimately part of Hashem’s plan, finalized in the wake of the wicked reign of Menashe, that the nation of Israel would be exiled from their land. After a rocky period of leadership, Yehoyaqim dies, and his son, Yehoyakhin, rules in his stead.
Three months into his tenure, the young King Yehoyakhin is besieged by Nebuchadnezzar and, seemingly, surrenders to his forces. The Babylonians leave with all of the treasures of the Bet Hamiqdash and the palace, and the royal family is exiled, together with all of the officers, skilled workers, craftsmen, and soldiers in Jerusalem. Only the “working class” Jews remain in the land, under the governance of Yehoyakhin’s uncle, Matanya, who is renamed Tzidqiyahu. Although placed upon the throne as a regent of Babylonia, Tzidqiyahu eventually rebels against them as well.
In the wake of Yoshiyahu’s untimely death, we are witness to a path of apparently irreversible national disintegration. Two foreign powers – first Egypt, then Babylonia – arise in the region and exert overwhelming influence upon Israel. Twice, we find a King of Yehuda deposed after only three months of rule because of his presumably antiestablishment leanings, only to be replaced by a king selected by the “superpower” (first Egypt, then Babylonia) who reigns for eleven years before deciding to rebel. The monarchs of Israel continually seek to exploit the vulnerabilities of their adversaries and to take advantage of the instability and shifting balances of power, but their efforts are tragically unsuccessful and consistently counterproductive.
There is an element of irony, of course, in the slow downfall of the Kingdom of Yehuda at the hands of Egypt and Babylonia. Avraham began his fateful journey to the Promised Land and inaugurated his monotheistic movement when Hashem commanded him to depart from Ur Kasdim – Babylonia – and all that it represented. Generations later, his descendants, the Jewish people, became an independent nation with its own unique destiny when Hashem delivered them from Egyptian bondage.
Sadly, the clock has moved in reverse, first back to Egyptian domination and then to total destruction under the weight of Babylonian tyranny. The process of growth and development that began with Avraham, proceeded through Egypt and achieved its culmination in the establishment of the monarchy and Bet Hamiqdash in the land of Israel had been dealt an epic blow, crushing it back to its very foundation.