The End


The author of the books of Chronicles, approaching the close of his history, indulges us with some reflections on the causes of the catastrophe which he relates. This is unusual in Scripture history, where, commonly, the facts are recorded, and the reader is left to his own reflections—unless where a prophet, priest, or angel appears to warn or to exhort. The case being so rare in which the Scriptural historian appears as a commentator upon his own narrative, the instance before us claims special notice. The greatness of the event—the awfulness of the consummation—did, however, in this case call for the observations which are introduced. After describing the iniquities of the nation, especially in the latter years, and the obduracy of the king, who “stiffened his neck and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel,” and after distinctly stating that even “all the chief of the priests and the people transgressed very much,” he goes on to say—“And the Lord God of their fathers sent unto them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but 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.” These are awful words—“There was no remedy!” The word “remedy” is to be understood medicinally—“no healing,” as the marginal reading indicates—and this renders it clear that the analogy in view is that of  the physician who, as long as there is any hope of curing his patient of the disease under which he labors, bestows the utmost solicitude and attention, and leaves untried no means or resources which the art of healing offers. But he sees at length that the disease is incurable—that there is no remedy, no healing for it. There is no hope; and therefore at length, after much reluctant delay, he abandons the case, and leaves the patient to die. The analogy is striking and true. But it may be made still more exact. The disease, we will say, is not essentially mortal—not absolutely beyond the resources of medicinal skill. But the patient is obstinate; he neglects the regimen prescribed; he refuses the medicines offered; and he even loads the physician with insult and contumely, until even his meek and kind spirit is roused to anger, and he leaves the miserable man to perish of the disease which his obduracy has placed beyond all cure.

The judgment which now befell this people, terrible as it was, is even less striking than the patience which had so long endured their perverseness—which had so long withheld the stroke that at last laid them low. Even as it was, the judgment came most gradually, with constant solicitations to repentance, and with warnings from day to day. The whole Jewish nation, both in Judah and Israel, had all along evinced a strong propensity to idolatrous abominations—which would be almost incredible, in the presence of the light with which they were favored, did we not recollect the prevailing ideas of the times, and the condition of all the neighboring nations—and consider the strong tendency of an exceptional system to be absorbed into those which are more prevalent—especially when the latter is more material, unspiritual, and demonstrative than the others. Still, we are scarcely able, in our blessed ignorance of idolatrous enticements, to appreciate the temptations to which the Hebrew people were exposed, and before which they fell, and which brought them into a state from which the jealous endeavors of good kings—the warnings, invectives, entreaties and  threats of a long series of glorious prophets, specially commissioned by God—were ineffectual to rouse them, and to produce a real reformation.

It was for this the nation was carried away captive, and the holy city and its temple reduced to ruin. This calamity came gradually, and, as it were, piece-meal, leaving ample opportunity of repentance while God had not yet forgotten to be gracious. But they repented not. Gradual punishment produced no reform in the religion or morals of the people; for their morals also had become exceedingly corrupt—and the last king was no better than his predecessors, notwithstanding the more abundant and sharper warnings be received. Therefore the long-suspended doom at length came down, and the land was given over to desolation, and the people to what must have seemed their extinction and utter ruin.

The mercy, the justice, and the wisdom of God, are all equally displayed in this event. His mercy in bringing this judgment so gradually—from lesser to greater, during the space of twenty-two years—so that most ample warning was given, and abundant opportunity was afforded to the nation, that the successive threatenings denounced by the prophets were not vain words, but would most assuredly be accomplished in their season.

That it was a most just punishment for their sins no one ever questioned, and they have themselves constantly admitted it, even with tears. It was, in particular, a most righteous punishment of their idolatry, whereby they forsook God, and so provoked him to forsake them, and to suffer their enemies to prevail over them, as Moses had long since foretold in Leviticus 26, where the succession of the Divine judgments is most remarkably traced out. This is altogether a wonderful chapter, which should be read in connection with the closing portion of the books of Kings and Chronicles.

But also the wisdom of God is seen in this. He did not mean utterly to cast off his people, and He therefore brought  them under this great affliction, because, as had too plainly appeared, nothing less would suffice to purify them, and turn their hearts from the love of idols; for in the midst of wrath the Lord remembered mercy, and this was the end He had in view. In their captive and disconsolate state they had abundant time, and their grievous calamities gave them the disposition, to look narrowly into the past, and reflect upon the long course of iniquity and perverseness, which had brought upon them the heaviest judgments of God. Now, “their own wickedness corrected them, and their backslidings reproved them,” and they failed not to “know and see that it was an evil thing and bitter that they had forsaken the Lord their God, and that his fear had not been in them.” In the land of their captivity, the utterances of the prophets, declaiming on the highest authority against their profane and wicked practices, and foretelling all that had now so dismally come to pass, would still be sounding in their ears; and their abject and wretched condition—the known consequence of these sins—made those warnings sink deep into their hearts, and gave them an utter detestation of that which they thus learned to regard as the true cause of all their sufferings. This is no hypothesis. It is certain that, after this captivity—and under occasional inducements, as strong as any to which they had ever been subjected in former times—there was never among them the least tendency to idolatry, but the most intense and vehement abhorrence of it, as the true cause of all their ancient miseries—so deep and salutary was the impression made upon them by this great affliction, and so effectual the cure.