Dates and times help to keep this history in perspective. All of these events were used by God to shape Jerusalem and Israel in preparation for the coming of his Son, Messiah Jesus. These trials and hardships were necessary for reasons that become plain the further we dig into the topic.
History of Israel:
- All of Samaria, including Israel fell to Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) and Sargon II of Assyria (722-705 B.C.)
- Josiah, a godly leader, a unique reality in Israel’s history established reforms in 628 B.C.
- The Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.: The Pharaoh of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and the Assyrians, including Israel.
- Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah ruled under the name of Zedekiah, as a Babylonian vassal. Jeremiah 27-29 suggests that from early in his reign (Jeremiah 27:1; 28:1) he was plotting revolt, and eventually he rebelled.
- The Babylonian withdrawal from Palestine in 601 B.C. turned out to be only temporary, and Jehoiakim’s rebellion brought the Babylonian army to the gates of Jerusalem at the end of the year 598.1.
- “The city surrendered to the Babylonians on the fifteenth or sixteenth of March 597 B.C. by which time Jehoiachin was king. Significant deportations followed.
- Although 1-2 Kings does not mention this, the prophet Ezekiel was among the exiles; his prophetic ministry began a few years later in Babylon.“2. This fact helps us to understand much of Ezekiel’s writings.
In 2 Kings 1-24 time is measured by Jewish kings, whose reign, what year of that reign are we discussing, etc. But when we get to 2 Kings 25, however, time is measured by the conqueror Nebuchadnezzar.
“And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they build siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. . . .
Background info: “Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia, ransacked the Temple and removed the Temple treasures in 604 B.C. and 597 B.C., and he totally destroyed the building in 587/586 B.C.”3.
“This first capture of Jerusalem occurred in 597 B.C., the seventh year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians Chronicle tells of the king’s army laying siege to Jerusalem, capturing it, and appointing his own king over it. He then took tribute from Judah.”4.
Every year religious Jews in Jerusalem and across the world pray and fast in remembrance of the destruction of the Jewish Temple to God in Jerusalem, first by the Babylonians in 587/586 B.C., resulting in the exile of the inhabitants of the city to Babylon.
What of the people? On March 16, 597 B.C., the first step of the Babylonian captivity had begun.
The captivity formally ended in 538 B.C., 59 years later, though some count it as seventy years total because of years spent as a type of vassal state to Babylon. When the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great, had defeated Nebuchadnezzar, he gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine.
Consider how you would feel if you were enslaved, chained, and forced to walk hundreds of miles away from your home, your culture, your customs, and you weren’t able to return until 59 years later. When you did, you were aged, your adult children had been scattered, some into slavery, some into pagan temple service, some you know not where. But now, you can begin walking home.
It will be a bittersweet homecoming. When you return, Jerusalem is still in the hands of the Persians.
Ezra the priest was still living in Babylon when in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia (c. 457 BCE), the king sent him to Jerusalem to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. Ezra led a large body of exiles back to Jerusalem, where he discovered that Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women.
Malachi, Disposition 2 continues. Malachi exposes the priest’s offenses and rebukes them for condoning these, thereby violating the Lord’s covenant with Levi.
The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took Ezra the priest and the caravan he was traveling with four months to traverse the nearly 900 miles (1,448 km). An army could have traveled much faster, but Ezra’s entourage probably included children and elderly people.5.
Cyrus the Great, king of the Achaemenid Empire, was the monarch who ended the Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C. In the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that Jews who wished to could return to their homeland for this purpose.
In the Bible (e.g., Ezra 1:1–4), Cyrus is famous for freeing the Jewish captives in Babylonia and allowing them to return to their homeland.
“1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’” (Ezra 1:1-4 NIV).
The new temple in Jerusalem was completed in 516 B.C.
Malachi addressed the priests in approximately 450 B.C., some sixty-six years after the new temple in Jerusalem was completed in 516 B.C. Therefore, the LORD makes it all clear.
Certain words in this prophecy require definitions, for we may be unfamiliar with some of these concepts. We have to start here as we dissect what the priests have done that has misguided all of Israel.
God wants us to know: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?‘ (Malachi 1:6 ESV).
“Honor” means: in Hebrew #3519 in the Strong’s Concordance, כָּבוֹד kāḇôḏ,: “A masculine singular noun meaning honor, glory, majesty, wealth. Commonly used of God.6.
Turning from the people to the priests, Jehovah asks, whereas His love to the people was so great, where was their love towards Him?
If the priests, as they profess, regard Him, the LORD God, as their Father (Is 63:16) and Master, let them show the reality of their profession by love and reverential fear (Ex 20:12; Lu 6:46).
Once more it’s the issue of Jacob have I loved. The Lord has loved His people, the descendants of Jacob — Israel, keeping them a people group even through a captivity of nearly seventy years. The Lord knows how the behavior of the priests can either turn the people toward Him or away from Him, and so . . .
He addresses the priests because they ought to be leaders in piety to the rest of the people, but instead, they are rather the foremost in “despising His name.” 4 The priests had failed in their purpose and their responsibility yet again.
The priests were responsible for the emotional care of Israel during captivity and afterwards, as well as the admonitions to remember God’s providence, yet they neglected this during the captivity.
We don’t talk much about reverential fear of the LORD, but our love and commitment to Him must enable us to recognize the need to respect and to exalt Him and His holy Name.
Our God holds the power of life and of death. He is the Creator of the universe.
When facing death, we hope our love has been faithful and true and our faith solid so that we may be admitted to an eternity with Him.With reverential fear and deep longing, we await the precious face of Christ welcoming us. Our lives are in HIs hands. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Click To Tweet
With reverential fear and deep longing we await the precious face of Christ welcoming us. Our lives are in His hands.
Love and reverential fear look like this: Strong’s Concordance #4172…”2. reverence, fear, i.e., respect toward a superior (Malachi 1:6; 2:5+); 3. an awesome deed, a wonder, i.e., a sign that causes awe, as a nonverbal sign of power (Dt 4:34; 26:8; 34:12+); 4. One who is feared, i.e., a title of God (Ps 76:12[EB 11]+)…”7.
Now, imagine the priests at the temple having no respect for the Lord. What would happen in your local church if the pastor and all the leaders despised God, how would that impact your church?
I imagine that a church like this wouldn’t exist for very long. What would its purpose be?
The priests of this time knew this, but had ceased to live it out, never directing Israel to honor God with this type of deep personal respect, coupled with love and an awareness of God’s might.
All of these descriptions are true of God and indicate various ways we respond to His majesty. Not only did the priests not show love, reverence, and respect — what they should have been feeling and demonstrating — but they instead showed contempt toward the LORD of hosts.
“It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you say, “How have we despised your name?” (Malachi 1:6b NIV).
“Show contempt” means: Strong’s #959. In Hebrew: בָּזָה bāzāh: A verb meaning to hold in contempt or to despise. The verb means to hold in disdain, to disrespect…or not to treat something with proper respect (Ezek. 16:59; 22:8; Mal. 1:6).”8
This is the exact opposite of deep personal respect, coupled with love and an awareness of God’s might.
The situation is truly bad when the priests don’t believe in the words and actions that they daily perform. This is hypocrisy. They act out of contempt for the LORD by mocking and disdaining the acts of worship, by talking about Him with disrespect, and by holding the entire idea of their faith in disdain.
The priests failed the people, for the responsibility of the priesthood was to instruct the Jewish nation, no longer in captivity, how to worship, how to approach God, and how to know their God.
They had not worshiped the LORD in temple worship in sixty to seventy years, yet the instructions were written down in the Old Testament scrolls. The priests knew this. They ignored it. They blew it.
Meeting together in smaller gatherings while they were in Babylon may have laid the future groundwork for the synagogue for Jews scattered abroad. Synagogues didn’t require any of the sacrificial rituals. This may have been part of the problem. Now the priests had relearn the skills necessary for the temple.
What was their place now? To instruct. To teach. To pass on the Scriptures as memorized by them.
Did they let all of this slip away?
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?‘ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?‘ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised (Malachi 1:6-7 ESV).
Because of their distrust, disdain, and contempt for the LORD, the priests neglected their duty to instruct and to guide the people in how to worship and how to approach their God.
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- ESV Study Bible note on 2 Kings 24:8-17
- ESV Study Bible note on 2 Kings 24:10-17
- Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). In The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 493). AMG Publishers.
- Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 737). Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). In The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 529). AMG Publishers.
- ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, study notes for these passages.
- Swanson, J. (1997). In Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Logos Research Systems, Inc.Swanson, J. (1997). In Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament). (electronic ed.), Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, study notes for these passages were examined.