Mattaniah to Zedekiah

Pastor Josh Combs

“And the king of Babylon made  Mattaniah,  Jehoiachin’s  uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.”  2 Kings 24:17

As the kingdom collapsed, the glory days of David and Solomon were faint and distant memories. To the citizenry of Judah, those days of safety, prosperity, prominence, and glory must have seemed like an impossible and implausible fairy tale. From approximately 590 BC to 586 BC, the nation of Judah had been ransacked by Babylonian forces. More than a century earlier, the nation of Israel had succumbed to the Assyrian Empire. And now the nation of Judah has been crushed by the supreme empire on the planet, Babylon. The final king of Judah was Mattaniah. He was the youngest son of King Josiah and uncle to the former king, Jehoiachin. Although the legitimacy of the nation and the role of monarch is questionable, historically, he would be the final Jewish king. His predecessor (uncle) had rebelled against the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, only to be quickly removed from power and taken away as a captive and prisoner.

To demonstrate his sovereignty and rule over the puppet kingdom and king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar placed Mattaniah on the throne and, as was common in these cases, changed his name. In 2 Kings 24:17, the author matter-of-factly states, “The king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.” As every baby truly is, Mattaniah means “gift of the Lord.” However, as was rare in the case of name changes, the pagan king did not change his new subject’s name to reflect a Chaldean deity. Mattaniah was able to maintain a Jewish name rooted in Yahweh. Zedekiah means “righteousness of the Lord.”

But rather than being a righteous leader of his people, he continued the pattern of idol worship and rebellion against God. “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” the Bible says, “according to all that Jehoiachin had done” (2 Kings 24:19).  His name may have meant “righteousness of the Lord” but his life, leadership, and actions were anything but in line with God’s holy standards. His name meant one thing, but his life was something completely different.

This reminds me of when Jesus confronted the religious leaders    in the temple. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus’ final sermon to the scribes and Pharisees reveals the truth of their genuine character and motives. They pretended to be righteous for the crowds, but, Jesus said, “Within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (verse 28).

The irony of these two accounts is that God’s impending judgment is at the proverbial door of the nation. Nine years after Zedekiah took the throne, he too would rebel against Babylonian rule, only to suffer a worse fate than his nephew, the previous king. Nebuchadnezzar, the Bible says, “Slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:7). Roughly 40 years after Jesus’ appeal to the religious leaders, the Roman empire would decimate the nation of Israel in AD 70. God’s unrelenting judgment would not stand by as idol worship, hypocrisy, religious abuse, and open rebellion against God’s Word went unchecked.

Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Throughout the world, America is regarded by many as a Christian nation. Yet so often wickedness remains unchecked. The role of the church, of God’s people as leaders, is to shine the light of the Gospel, but not by simply claiming the name of Christ or self-labeling as Christians. We are called to live truly righteous lives before the Lord, our neighbors, and our world. Jesus despised the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the Lord is still disgusted by our hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is not inconsistency, but acting or pretending. Zedekiah’s name meant righteousness, but his life didn’t match. We claim the name of the risen Lord Jesus. Does your life match?

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 24:17–25:7; Matthew chapter 23;

Proverbs 14:34

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