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b.c. 608

2 Kings xxiii. 31-33

"I went by, and, lo! he was gone: I sought him, but his place could nowhere be found."—Psalm xxxvii. 36.

It was under the disastrous circumstances which attended his father's death at Megiddo that Jehoahaz began to reign. There is some confusion about the four sons of Josiah, whom the Chronicler calls Johanan, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, and Shallum.752752   Chron. iii. 15. From Jer. xxii. 11, it appears that Jehoahaz was the royal name taken on his anointing by Shallum, the third son.753753   He is named "fourth," but he was older than his brothers Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (2 Kings xxiii. 31, xxiv. 18). The genealogy is as follows:— Zebudah = JOSIAH = Hamutal. | | ------ |-------------------- | | | Nehushta = ELIAKIM ZEDEKIAH JEHOAHAZ | or Jehoiakim. or Mattaniah. or Shallum. | JEHOIACHIN. If so, he cannot be identified with Johanan, the firstborn, as in the margin of our version. Further, it appears from our historians that Jehoahaz was twenty-three at his succession, and was therefore younger than Jehoiakim who (three months later) succeeded him at the age of412 twenty-five. Jehoahaz was the own brother of Zedekiah, Jehoiakim being his half-brother by another mother (Zebudah).

We do not know for what reason he was preferred by "the people of the land" to his elder brother Eliakim or Jehoiakim. It was probably because they regarded him as a prince of eminent courage and ability. The high hopes which the nation conceived of him may be seen in the pathetic elegy of Ezek. xix.:—

"Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say,—
What was thy mother? A lioness!
Amidst lions she couched,
In the midst of the young lions she nourished her whelps.
She brought up one of her whelps: he became a young lion;
He learned to catch the prey; he devoured men.
The nations heard of him;
In their pit was he taken,754754   An allusion to the Syrian mode of hunting the lion by driving it with cries into a concealed pit (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, 118; Cheyne, 140).
And they brought him with hooks into the land of Egypt."755755   Ezek. xix. 1-4.

We see, too, that he was to an eminent degree the darling of the nation in the still more plaintive wail of Jeremiah which will be quoted later.

The fact that Shallum solemnly changed his name to Jehoahaz ("Jehovah taketh hold"),756756   The name Shallum means "recompense." It may have been regarded as ill-omened, since the King of Israel who bore this rare name had only reigned a month. and that the people of the land not only "made him king in his father's stead," but also "anointed him," points to a disputed succession.757757   The Talmud says that kings were only anointed in special cases (Keritoth, f. 5, 2; Grätz, ii. 328). High hopes were conceived of413 him; but he hardly had a chance of fulfilling them, for he was only permitted to reign three months. What were the events of those months we do not know. Jehoahaz must have disappointed any hopes which may have been formed of him by the religious party; for dear as he was to them, the historians record of him that "he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done," although they specify no particular offence. The same sad verdict is passed on all his four successors; but Josephus says even more emphatically of Jehoahaz that he was impious and impure.758758   Jos., Antt., X. v. 2: Ἀσεβὴς καὶ μιαρὸς τὸν τρόπον.

He must have shown some activity in other respects, or else Ezekiel would hardly have said that "the nations heard of him," and that "he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men." Over all his deeds, whatever they may have been, "the iniquity of oblivion has blindly scattered her poppy," and he fell a victim to the great world-movements of those troublous times.

For Pharaoh, after his defeat of Josiah at Megiddo, proceeded to make himself master of Syria and Palestine. He took Cadytis, which Herodotus calls "a large city of Syria,"759759   Herod., ii. 159. and which—since it cannot here mean Gaza, as in Herod., iii. 5—has been identified by some with Kadesh. Thence he marched to Carchemish, on the right bank of the Euphrates,760760   Mr. G. Smith identifies Carchemish with Jerablûs. none venturing to check him, till "once more, after the lapse of nine centuries, Egyptian garrisons looked down on that historic stream."761761   Cheyne, Jeremiah, p. 127. On his return he stopped at Riblah, on the414 Orontes,762762   Comp. 2 Kings xxv. 20, 21. The old Hittite capital of Riblah was a convenient halting-place on the road between Babylon and Jerusalem. It was on the northernmost boundary of Palestine towards Damascus (Amos vi. 14). to consolidate his Syrian conquests; and there he learnt that, without consulting him, the people of Jerusalem had made Jehoahaz their king. Perhaps he heard enough of the warlike prowess of Jehoahaz to make him resent this act of independence. After his three months' campaign he sent for Jehoahaz to Riblah, and the unhappy prince had no choice but to obey. Possibly the Egyptian party in Jerusalem, headed by his disappointed elder brother Eliakim, may have intrigued against him with Pharaoh Necho. When he reached Riblah, he was unceremoniously deposed; and though we may hope that the expression of Ezekiel, that "they brought him with hooks into the land of Egypt," belongs to the metaphor of the captured lion's whelp, it is certain that he was taken to the banks of the Nile as a fettered captive, never to return. How long his miserable life was protracted, or how he was treated in Egypt, we do not know. The sun of the young prince went down in darkness while it was yet day. No king of Judah before him had died in prison and in exile, and the calamity smote heavily the heart of his people. Egypt was not to escape—shortly thereafter—the doom of violence and pride; but whether the young Jewish king had died meanwhile of a broken heart, or whether he dragged on to hoar hairs his maimed life, or whether he was murdered in his dungeon, no man knew. One thing only was clear to the sad prophet—that he would never return.

"Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him:415 but weep ye sore for him that is gone away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country. For thus saith Jehovah concerning Shallum, the son of Josiah, King of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place: 'He shall not return thither any more: but in the place whither they have led him captive there shall he die, and he shall see this land no more.'"763763   Jer. xxii. 10-12.

To show his absolute power over Judah and Jerusalem, Pharaoh Necho not only deposed and fettered their king, but put the whole land under a yearly tribute of one hundred talents of silver (about £40,000) and a talent of gold (about £4,000).764764   2 Chron. xxxvi. 3; 1 Esdras i. 36. The smallness of the tribute proves the impoverishment of the land. Sennacherib demanded from Hezekiah three hundred talents of silver, and thirty of gold; and Menahem paid one thousand talents of silver to Tiglath-Pileser.

Even this comparatively small sum was a heavy burden for so greatly afflicted and impoverished a country, and Pharaoh further imposed on them a vassal to see that it was duly extorted. This was Eliakim, the eldest living son of Josiah. There was nothing left to plunder in the Temple or the palace, and therefore the exaction had to be borne by the taxed and suffering people.

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