A Return to Captivity
Lesson 16

Though the faith of Israel faltered many times in their journey to the Promised Land, delaying their entrance for many years, by the time they crossed the Jordan they had the testimony of God that the reproach of Egypt was rolled away from them. They had rest and were, for the time, free in the Lord. This freedom was not long retained, however, for but a few years passed when they began to murmur and desire a king, that they might be like the heathen around them.

1. In desiring a king, what were the people really doing?

1 Samuel 8:7
1 Samuel 8:7

Note: In acquiring a king, the nation of Israel was following in the footsteps of the heathen nations around them. It was but a short time until their kings led them into idolatry and apostasy.

2. How did the wickedness of the kings of Israel compare with that of the heathen?

2 Kings 21:9–11
2 Kings 21:9–11

Note: Inasmuch as God drove the heathen out of the land because of their abominable idolatry, it is very evident that the children of Israel could have no real inheritance in it when they were just like the heathen and even worse.

3. Under what condition was Israel promised prosperity?

Deuteronomy 28:1–2
Deuteronomy 28:1–2

4. What did God tell Israel would happen if they failed to obey Him, thereby voiding His covenant with them?

Deuteronomy 28:64; 29:25–28
Deuteronomy 28:64; 29:25–28

5. How did God seek to stem the tide of apostasy?

2 Chronicles 24:19
2 Chronicles 24:19

6. Upon what did Israel’s prosperity depend?

2 Chronicles 20:20
2 Chronicles 20:20

7. What did God warn Israel would be the result of continued disregard of His law?

Jeremiah 17:27
Jeremiah 17:27

Note: It is of significance that, just as with Israel in the wilderness when He gave them the manna (see Exodus 16), the only commandment God specifically mentioned, by which He would test their obedience, was the Sabbath.

Jeremiah did not begin to prophesy until just twenty-one years before the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. Before he began to prophesy, nearly all the prophets had finished their labors and passed away, and their writings were in the hands of the people. Yet, even at this late date, God was still willing to fulfill His promises of greatness to Israel if they would but submit themselves to Him. See Jeremiah 17:24–26.

8. What was the general response of the people to these messengers?

2 Chronicles 36:16
2 Chronicles 36:16

9. Because of this rejection of God’s messengers, who came against Jerusalem?

2 Kings 24:1
2 Kings 24:1

Note: Because of their great wickedness, the northern ten tribes of Israel had gone into captivity nearly a century and a quarter before. Now Judah was to be made subject to Babylon. This Babylonian captivity was but the visible expression of the bondage in which the people had already voluntarily placed themselves. They flattered themselves that they were free, while they were the servants of corruption. Physical slavery is a small matter compared with soul-bondage, and, but for the latter, they would never have known the former.

10. For how long was this subjugation to Babylon to last?

Jeremiah 25:11–12
Jeremiah 25:11–12

Note: Though the nation was to be made subject to Babylon, it was the Lord’s purpose that if they would learn the lessons He desired to teach them by less extreme means, the Babylonian rule over them would be of a relatively mild nature. Following the initial victory of Babylon, Israel was allowed to retain a king of Nebuchadnezzar’s choosing. See 2 Chronicles 36:10.

11. How did Zedekiah, the new king, relate to this arrangement?

2 Chronicles 36:13
2 Chronicles 36:13

Note: Zedekiah’s name meant “the righteousness of Jehovah,” and was the name given him by Nebuchadnezzar. This sin of Zedekiah was particularly heinous, as he had sworn an oath of allegiance to the king of Babylon by the God of heaven. That Nebuchadnezzar had a right to do this is shown by the fact that God, as supreme ruler, had given Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand to rule. See Jeremiah 27:1–11. In rebelling, Zedekiah not only showed himself faithless, greatly dishonoring God, by whose name he had pledged himself to serve Nebuchadnezzar; but he was in rebellion against God’s will as revealed to him through the prophet Jeremiah.

The refusal of Israel to humble themselves under more mild measures, led to the complete destruction of the city and temple and the removal of their king. All but a few of the poorest of the people were taken into captivity in Babylon. Never again was Israel to have an earthly king. See Ezekiel 21.

Zedekiah was profane and wicked because of all his abominable idolatry, to which he added the sin of perjury, breaking a solemn oath. Therefore, the kingdom was completely removed. The crown passed from the descendants of David, and was placed on the head of Babylon. That this great kingdom would be followed by another is shown in the words of Ezekiel. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.” Ezekiel 21:26–27. That there would be three more overturnings by conquest of future world powers before the rightful King should receive the kingdom (an obvious reference to Christ) is clearly shown.

12. What king replaced the last Babylonian (Chaldean) king, Belshazzar?

Daniel 5:31
Daniel 5:31

Note: The full context indicates that it was the combined efforts of the Medes and Persians that led to the downfall of Babylon. See verses 17–31. The empire they formed is referred to as the Medo-Persian Empire.

13. What nation conquered Persia, becoming the third world empire?

Daniel 8:2–7, 20–21
Daniel 8:2–7, 20–21

Note: The first two overturnings prophesied by Ezekiel are clearly shown; Babylon was followed by Medo-Persia, and that in turn by the Grecian empire. Though the last of this earth’s great kingdoms to come upon the scene of action through the third great overturning is not directly named, it is clearly enough indicated. The birth of Christ took place in the days of Caesar Augustus, who issued a decree that all the world should be taxed, or enrolled. See Luke 2:1. We are, therefore, safe in naming Rome as the product of the third great overturning of world power, a fact that secular history confirms.

14. When on the earth, what did Christ say, was the nature of His kingdom?

John 18:36
John 18:36

15. For what purpose was Christ’s first coming?

Luke 4:17–21
Luke 4:17–21

16. What is it that makes men truly free?

John 8:32
John 8:32

During His sojourn on earth, Christ was, as was Abraham, a stranger with no place of His own where He could lay His head. See Matthew 8:20. He came, however, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and announce that whoever would abide in His Word should know the truth and be made free by it. Day by day and year by year as the centuries have rolled by, the proclamation of freedom has been sounding, and weary captives have been set free from the power of darkness.

17. When all have had the opportunity of hearing the good news of the freedom that is available to all, what is Christ’s promise?

Matthew 24:14
Matthew 24:14

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