I just finished reading through the history of Israel from creation to exile in the year-long Bible reading plan I’m doing. My heart warms every time I read the last few sentences of this massive historical train of books that begins in Genesis and ends in 2 Kings. OT Scholars have often called this the “Deuteronomic history” of Israel, precisely for the way in which the latter books especially view the actions and events in Israel’s history in light of the covenant blessings and curses promised by Moses back in Deuteronomy. A king is faithful to the Law; God blesses the nation. The kings and people are unfaithful; covenant curses come upon them. Of course, the bad kings, it seems, always outnumbered the good, the high places and idol worship remained more than they were removed, and the ultimate covenant curse of the Exile was brought first in devastating fashion to the 10 Northern tribes of Israel by Assyria and then later to the kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
2 Kings 25 is a terrible chapter. The author recounts how the army of Judah is defeated, the walls are broken down, the kings’ palace and Solomon’s temple are burned, all the wonderful objects of worship (some going back to Israel’s glory days under Solomon) are melted down and/or carried off to Babylon like plastic rings from a Chuck E. Cheese evening. All is lost. Israel failed the covenant. The curses have come.
But it doesn’t end there.
“27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin from prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. 28 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. 30 Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.”
The glimmer of hope. This is that scene after the credits of the movie where it’s alluded to that the main character hasn’t really died, that hope remains still in the darkest hour, and that good is not finished. Of course, the main character isn’t Jehoiachin. It’s God. And he’s still working. He’s not done yet. The pattern of Genesis where God’s chosen people (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, the Israelites at the Exodus) stumble and trip over themselves into what appears to be accidental blessing is resumed here in these few verses. The failed king is pulled out of prison and banquets at the table of a Gentile king. The candle that was snuffed out by Assyria and Babylon and wicked kings re-ignites just before the curtain closes. Israel may have failed YHWH’s covenant, but YHWH hasn’t failed Israel. He’s not done yet.