In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces met Pharaoh Necho II at Carchemish near the Euphrates river, a little south and west of the ancient city of Haran. In a decisive battle, Babylon defeated Egypt and all the kings between Carchemish and Egypt became subservient to Nebuchadnezzar – including Jehoiakim. Four years later, Nebuchadnezzar marched directly on Egypt, without success. This failure emboldened Jehoiakim to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar, and the Babylonian king punished him unmercifully with onslaughts from mercenary forces. Jehoiakim was taken to Babylon (cir. 601 B.C.), along with Daniel and other royal officials, where Jehoiakim died.
Jehoiakim was replaced by his son Jehoiachin, but spiritually, there was no improvement in Judah. In 597 B.C., He too was taken captive to Babylon along with the very best of everything – including the utensils used in the temple service and those of the priestly family like Ezekiel. Jehoiachin was replaced by his uncle, Mattaniah, whose name, in a show of supreme power, was changed by Nebuchadnezzar to Zedekiah.
Chapter 24 relates the all-too-brief stories of the last kings of Judah, but her fall came not from incompetent politics nor from military weakness. The writer is plain in attributing these disasters to the spiritual bankruptcy of the monarchy. The prophets will blame it on the people of God in general, but the author of Kings focuses on the spiritual failures of leadership. Ancient kings busied themselves with matters of rule and policy. God intended them to deal with only three things: knowing the word of God, modeling the word of God, and teaching the word of God. The Lord Himself intended to take care of rule and policy.