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:

2 Kings 25:2-7
2 And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.
3 And 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.
4 And 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.
5 And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.
6 So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.
7 And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.

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:

2 Kings 25:8-10
8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:
9 And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.
10 And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.

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:

Jeremiah 26:18
Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.

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:

2 Nephi 1:1-4
1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.
2 And he spake unto them concerning their rebellions upon the waters, and the mercies of God in sparing their lives, that they were not swallowed up in the sea.
3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.
4 For, behold, said he, I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed; and had we remained in Jerusalem we should also have perished.

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 man’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.