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|Judah and Jerusalem|
Nov. 9th, 2007 at 8:47 am
Last year I wrote a post about “Studying Scripture As A Couple” … my wife and I had been reading the Book of Mormon together and had decided we would begin reading the Old Testament. We generally read a single chapter in the morning and we’ve been moving along at that pace for some time. A few mornings ago we finished 2 Kings and moved into 1 Chronicles.
I’m never going to forget the feelings I’ve had as we’ve finished reading 2 Kings together. My feelings have been in regards to Judah and Jerusalem and they have been feelings of sorrow for what happened to these people. Somewhat logically but also terribly, 2 Kings ends when the kings of Judah end – and it is a catastrophic ending.
We read about how a Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, lays siege to Jerusalem. The effects of the siege are devastating:
When I read the phrases “the famine prevailed in the city” and “the city was broken up” I can almost picture the seismic societal panic that is taking place in Jerusalem. Then to read about the Babylonian pursuit of king Zedekiah and how he was abandoned by his people when the Babylonians caught up with him. I can only imagine the terror he was feeling. Justifiably too. Zedekiah suffered such a terrible punishment – to see his sons killed in front of him and then to have his eyes gouged out so that the death of his sons is the last thing he ever sees.
At the same time the Babylonian army is in the process of destroying Jerusalem’s greater structures and walls:
By coincidence I’ve also been examining some of the topical guides associated with 1 Nephi Chapter 1. 1 Nephi 1:4 has a Topical Guide for “Jerusalem.” In the list of verses associated with that guide appears the following:
I’m not going to ever forget “Micah the Morasthite” and his words. For some reason this verse, when I read it, hit me like a load of bricks. I feel a real affection for Jerusalem and I could feel to some degree the horror of this idea – that Jerusalem would be razed and destroyed like this.
Reading the end of 2 Kings has also heightened my appreciation for the Book of Mormon. I ended up pondering how we read about this destruction of Jerusalem in the Book of Mormon as well. In a sense, from a Book of Mormon textual perspective, this destruction happens offstage – but this is exactly the destruction that Lehi and Nephi were fleeing away from:
We know from the Book of Mormon text that Lehi was a very wealthy man and that he had a house in Jerusalem where he owned gold and silver and many precious things. 2 Kings Chapter 25 is very clear about the fact that the leader of the Babylonian armies made a point of destroying the wealthy neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In regards to what Nebuzar-adan did, we read “every great manâ€™s house burnt he with fire.” It does not seem unlikely then that in the vision he describes, Lehi saw his own house burning among the others. As I look at these texts, Lehi certainly was not exaggerating the mercy of the Lord in warning this family to flee before these things happened.
If one considers it, it is obvious that the destruction of peoples and societies is a major theme of the Book of Mormon. What might not always be so obvious is that these destructions are like bookends in the Book of Mormon text – in a sense the Book of Mormon begins with the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem and ends with the destructions of the Jaredites and Nephites. Again, the destruction of Jerusalem (as it is portrayed in the Book of Mormon) happens offstage – but Lehi and Nephi are walking around with a very heightened awareness of this terrible reality.
Reading 2 Kings has really been an eye-opener for me in regards to all of these things and has genuinely deepened my appreciation, love and affection for Jerusalem and it’s people, past and present. I am feeling a lot of gratitude these days for the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible. It is a truly priceless record.