Disputation #2, The Priests, Part 1. Malachi exposes these offenses and rebukes the priests for condoning them and thereby violating the Lord’s covenant with Levi.
Let’s begin with Levi, the man who fathered the tribal lineage of the priests, including Phinehas, the one with whom God made a covenant as if with Levi himself (Numbers 25:6-13). There were 38,000 Levites 30 years old or more when David was king (1 Chronicles 23:3-5).
- 24,000 were to supervise the work of the temple of the Lord
- 6,000 were to be officials and judges
- 4,000 were to be gatekeepers in the temple
- 4,000 were to praise the Lord with musical instruments
In addition to teaching the entire community, including the king, the Levites were warrior-priests, often leading Israel into battle, singing with full voice as they approached the conflict. They led out at the front of the attack, terrifying their enemies because they sang. These were men who strove, in every way, to honor the LORD in accordance with all twenty-seven chapters of the Law found in Leviticus.
These priests were men who followed the instructions given in the Book of the Law.
“Meanwhile, having no guidance from the priests, the kings of Israel had become hardened by sin. They all ‘did evil in the sight of the LORD.’ Unaware that they were the end of their royal lineage, Jehoiakim was followed by Jehoiachin, who was eighteen. He reigned only three months in Jerusalem, before being taken into captivity. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.” This is the statement that describes all of the Jewish kings of that era.
So now, we have an eighteen-year-old king after the country had previously been looted for the most intelligent and the wealthiest. The Babylonians had robbed the young priests’ livelihoods and guaranteed their stupidity of their duties while in Babylon, for no aged priests were taken to teach the younger. With this action, the Babylonians sought to eradicate the worship of Yahweh, the LORD God.
10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, 12 and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. . . .
“…The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign 13 and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold. . . .
“14 He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths.
None remained, except the poorest people of the land. . . .
15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, the first wave. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon” (2 Kings 24:10-14 ESV).
[With this group most certainly went Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.]
“16 And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war. 17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah” (2 Kings:10-17 ESV).
The Babylonians put to death the scholars, the young priests, and 14,000 of the people. After that carnage, in despair the Persian captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, exclaimed:
“I have destroyed the flower of them. Do you wish me to massacre them all? So stricken was Nebuzaradan that he exclaimed: “If they who killed only one person have been so severely punished, what will be my fate?” He thereupon became a righteous proselyte (Sanh. 96b).1.
14 He carried away all Jerusalem . . . None remained, except the poorest people of the land. 15 And he carried away Jehoiachin, the king himself, to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war. 17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.” (2 Kings 24:10-17)
“By the waters, the waters, of Babylon, we laid down and wept and wept for thee, Zion. We remember thee, remember thee, remember thee, Zion,” the people sang in lament.
The first capture of Jerusalem occurred in 597 B.C.
- Nebuzaradan, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/nebuzaradan-2