Sabbath School Lesson 12 – Fall of Judah
Sabbath, March 24, 2018
“The Lord bears long with men, and when they manifest a determination to follow their own judgments, the Lord allows them to do so. I have been made to see the weakness and ignorance of fallen man, even in his best estate. As man goes deeper and deeper in his studies, improving in learning the will and ways of the Lord, he sees more of his own ignorance, thus revealing that he has made decided progress from the beginning.” –This Day with God, p. 16.
Transgressions and abuses in Judah
1. In the time of Jeremiah the prophet, what transgressions were committed in the kingdom of Judah? What serious warning did the Lord send to the leaders and people?
Jeremiah 17:21-23, 27 Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. 23But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction…. 27But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
“The Lord desires everyone to work for his own spiritual and eternal good. This can only be done as we obey the lessons Christ has given. If we gain the eternal reward, we must follow the example of Christ, our Pattern, who did good and only good with the Lord’s entrusted talents. He cheerfully gave up His life to ransom a wicked, apostate race. But today selfishness, worldliness, pride, and self-indulgence are constantly consuming the means entrusted to those who claim to be Christians. They are misappropriating the money that the Lord requires them to use to bring many sons and daughters to Him.” –The Upward Look, p. 234.
“Thus it was that ‘in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem’ the message of Jeremiah to Judah was, ‘Hear ye the words of this covenant,’–the plain precepts of Jehovah as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures–’and do them.’ ” –Prophets and Kings, p. 414.
2. What other sins and irregularities were committed, despite the people’s solemn covenant with the Lord?
Jeremiah 25:6, 7; 34:8-11, 17, 18 And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. 7Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt…. 34:8This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them; 9That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother. 10Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go. 11But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids…. 17Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. 18And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof.
“Before you is the path that leads to certain ruin. Will you turn while you can? Will you seek the Lord while Mercy’s sweet voice is appealing to you, or will you still have your own way? The Lord pities you. The Lord invites you. Will you come?
“May the Lord help you to choose to be wholly the Lord’s.” –(Letter 51, 1889) Letters to Young Lovers, p. 44.
The king’s responsibility
3. What do the Scriptures report concerning Zedekiah, the last king of Judah?
2 Chronicles 36:11-13 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. 13And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel.
“Through Daniel and others of the Hebrew captives, the Babylonian monarch had been made acquainted with the power and supreme authority of the true God; and when Zedekiah once more solemnly promised to remain loyal, Nebuchadnezzar required him to swear to this promise in the name of the Lord God of Israel. Had Zedekiah respected this renewal of his covenant oath, his loyalty would have had a profound influence on the minds of many who were watching the conduct of those who claimed to reverence the name and to cherish the honor of the God of the Hebrews.
“But Judah’s king lost sight of his high privilege of bringing honor to the name of the living God.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 447.
Apostasy also among the priests
4. What particularly deplorable condition had arisen among the chief priests and the majority of the people?
2 Chronicles 36:14-16 Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 15And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
“The children of the world are called the children of darkness. They are blinded by the god of this world, and are led by the spirit of the prince of darkness. They cannot enjoy heavenly things. The children of light have their affections set on things above. They leave behind them the things of this world. They fulfill the command: Come out from among them, and be ye separate.’ Here is the conditional promise: ‘I will receive you.’ From the beginning, Christ has chosen His people out of the world and required them to be separate, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. If they love God and keep His commandments, they will be far from having the friendship, and loving the pleasures, of the world. There is no concord between Christ and Belial.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 279.
“The Jewish nation is before us as an example of the termination of God’s long forbearance. In the destruction of Jerusalem the destruction of the world is typified. The lips of Him who ever pronounced blessings upon the penitent, and spoke encouragement to the poor and suffering, and brought gladness to the humble, pronounced a curse upon those to whom He had presented light, who would not appreciate or accept light. Those who thought to evade the clear, distinct Word of God, and cherish man-made traditions, He declared would be found guilty of all the blood of the prophets which had been slain from the foundation of the world.” – Undated Manuscript 145.
“Because of the sins of Israel, the calamity which God said should come upon the temple, if His people departed from Him, was fulfilled some hundreds of years after the temple was built. God promised Solomon, if he would remain faithful, and His people would obey all His commandments, that that glorious temple should stand forever in all its splendor, as an evidence of the prosperity and exalted blessings resting upon Israel for their obedience.
“Because of Israel’s transgression of the commandments of God, and their wicked acts, God suffered them to go into captivity to humble and punish them. Before the temple was destroyed, God made known to a few of His faithful servants the fate of the temple, which was the pride of Israel, and which they regarded with idolatry, while they were sinning against God. He also revealed to them the captivity of Israel.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, pp. 114, 115.
Jerusalem under siege by the Babylonians
5. According to prophecy, who came against Jerusalem? What difficult situation developed after many months of siege?
2 Kings 25:1-4 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it: and they built forts against it round about. 2And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.
“God made Zion His holy habitation, the joy of the whole earth. But notwithstanding His goodness to His chosen people, they forgot Him, and wandered into idolatry. Before their dispersion, repeated warnings came to them; but ‘they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.’
“If men refuse to receive the admonitions of the Lord, if they persist in walking contrary to His instruction, He cannot deliver them from the sure consequences of their own course. If they place themselves in opposition to His purposes, and forsake the principles of heaven, He permits their enemies to humble them.” –The Youth’s Instructor, May 14, 1903.
The fall of the kingdom
6. Since there were no spiritual revival and reformation, what happened to the kingdom of Judah and the temple in B.C. 587/586?
2 Chronicles 36:17-20 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 18And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 19And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 20And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia.
“The weakness of Zedekiah was a sin for which he paid a fearful penalty. The enemy swept down like a resistless avalanche and devastated the city. The Hebrew armies were beaten back in confusion. The nation was conquered. Zedekiah was taken prisoner, and his sons were slain before his eyes. The king was led away from Jerusalem a captive, his eyes were put out, and after arriving in Babylon he perished miserably. The beautiful temple that for more than four centuries had crowned the summit of Mount Zion was not spared by the Chaldeans….’
“At the time of the final overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, many had escaped the horrors of the long siege, only to perish by the sword. Of those who still remained, some, notably the chief of the priests and officers and the princes of the realm, were taken to Babylon and there executed as traitors. Others were carried captive, to live in servitude to Nebuchadnezzar and to his sons ‘until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.’ Verses 20, 21.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 458-460.
Promise of restoration
7. How long was the land of Judah to remain desolate and the people subservient to the king of Babylon? What would happen after seventy years of Babylonian captivity?
2 Chronicles 36:21 To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.
Jeremiah 7:23; 29:10; 33:11 Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you…. 29:10For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place…. 33:11The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord.
“… Israel had been chosen to preserve the knowledge of God in the earth, they had been, from their first existence as a nation, the special objects of Satan’s enmity, and he had determined to cause their destruction. He could do them no harm while they were obedient to God; therefore he had bent all his power and cunning to enticing them into sin. Ensnared by his temptations, they had transgressed the law of God and thus separated from the Source of their strength, and had been left to become the prey of their heathen enemies. They were carried into captivity to Babylon, and there remained for many years. Yet they were not forsaken of the Lord. His prophets were sent to them with reproofs and warnings. The people were awakened to see their guilt, they humbled themselves before God, and returned to Him with true repentance. Then the Lord sent them messages of encouragement, declaring that He would deliver them from their captivity and restore them to His favor.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 467.
For additional study
- 2 Kings, chapter 25
- 2 Chronicles 36:11-21
- Jeremiah, chapters 34, 39
“The nearer the Christian lives to God, the more he advances in divine illumination of mind. He has more distinct sense of his own littleness, discerns his defects of character, and sees his duty in the light in which God presents it. The more closely he draws to Jesus, the more he has a near and clear sense of his own defects which had before escaped his notice, and he sees the necessity of humbling himself under the mighty hand of God. If lifted up it will not be because he lifts and exalts himself, but because the Lord exalts him. Having his eye fixed upon the purity and perfection of Christ Jesus, and acknowledging and obeying God in all his ways, he is not blinded to his own failures and imperfections. When his deportment in the eyes of men is unblamable and irreprovable, God reads the intents and purposes of the heart.
“Christian humility is a wonderful grace–the very antidote to the apostasy of Satan, which has unholy ambition and every delusion that he can frame. The grace of humility through Christ Jesus will make an imperfect man discern his imperfections and make him meet for the inheritance of the saints, where God is all and in all….” –This Day with God, p. 16