Ethical Issues in the Historical Books of Tanach;
JOSHUA, JUDGES, SAMUEL, KINGS (Nevi’im Rishonim)
These four books ostensibly are merely the history of Israel from the entry into the Promised Land until the destruction of the Temple and the temporary loss of independent statehood. In fact they are actually, in a specifically Jewish sense, the most deeply religious and spiritual books of the Bible. One does not have to be specifically Jewish to see or feel the religion and spirituality in the revelations of the prophetic writings or in the words of the Tehillim. They speak to all people, as evidenced by the fact that the Bible is still the world's bestseller and there are millions of non-Jews who regularly recite the Psalms. However, it is specifically and intrinsically Jewish to understand that G-d is revealed in the prosaic material, in the political, social and military events in the lives of ordinary men and women, kings and leaders that are described in the Nevim Rishonim. Here are described the ideology and religious thoughts in Judaism, while in Chronicles we have the purely historical.
Exile  Melachim Bet 24-25
Actually there were three stages to this punishment. Firstly, there had been the destruction and exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel of the 10 Tribes by the Assyrians. In Judah, the sins of idolatry and murder of Menashe and of the people during his long reign were so severe, that neither his own repentance nor the piety of his son Yoshiyahu, were sufficient to prevent national punishment. So then there were two almost equal periods of destruction, following the death of Yoshiyahu.
First, Yehoachaz, the son of the pious king, who was an evil person, was deposed after ruling only for three months, by the same Pharaoh Necho that had killed his father at Meggido. He was called to Antakya in modern Turkey, close to the border with Syria and imprisoned there; later he was taken to Egypt and murdered. His brother Elyakim was a party to his imprisonment and fate.
The Egyptian king, who was returning from his defeat at Carchemish at the hands of the Babylonians, the rising power in the Middle East, then set Elyakim, on the throne of Judah. The new king's name was changed to Yehoyakim by Necho, as a sign of his vassalage, and the country was also taxed heavily. Rashi comments that such renaming is a custom amongst the kings, whereby they show that the other party is subservient and actually powerless; Pharaoh changed Yosef's name to Tzafnat Pane'ach, when he made him viceroy of Egypt (B'reishit 41:45).
Unfortunately, the new king was no better than his brother had been, so that there was no change in the religious and moral behavior of the country. The Divine answer was immediate even as Yirmiyahu prophesied: "I sent My prophets to you but you did not listen. Behold I send you to the nations and the empires, that they may destroy and uproot, that they may shatter and obliterate" (Yir. 1:10, 18:7). His 11-year reign was marked by constant incursions and destruction by the forces of the Chaldees, Moav, Aram, and Amon. When he died, there is no mention any- where of his burial, although the text in Divrei HaYamim Bet (36:6-7) does tell that he was put in chains to be taken down to Bavel. Yirmiyahu prophesied, "They shall not lament for him saying, 'Ah my brother! Ah lord! Ah his glory!' He shall be buried the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth from the gates of Yerushalayim" (22:18-19).
His son inherited the throne. Three months later, Nevuchadnetzar of Babylon on his way to conquer Egypt and destroy it so that it disappeared as an independent power, invaded Judah as a reaction to the father's revolt against him. The new Jewish king, Yehoyachin, seeing the power of Bavel, went out of Yerushalayim to surrender the city and thereby save it from destruction. Chazal praised him for this and we know that during the time of Bayit Sheni, there was a gate in the walls of Yerushalayim known as Sha'ar Yechanya [as he is named in the book of Yirmiyahu] to mark where that king went out to surrender [Mesechet Midot]. Nevuchadnetzar took him bound in chains into exile to Bavel, looted the royal and Temple treasuries, and exiled together with their king the nobles, the wealthy families and almost all the artisans with him. Only the small-holder farmers, petty merchants and the workers were left behind. In the British Museum in London, there is a clay tablet, on which Nevuchadnetzar recorded his wars with Judah.
Chazal interpreted the craftsmen and the smiths - the experts and the masters - mentioned in the text, to refer to the Talmidei Chachamim (Rambam, Introduction to Seder Zeraim). The whole religious and spiritual aristocracy of Israel was taken to Babylon, including Ezekiel the prophet and the ancestor of Mordechai (Esther2:5-6). In Babylon, the Jews established a center of Jewish life that was destined not only to include the major part of the nation, but also to rival Eretz Yisrael. From there grew the Babylonian Talmud, the great yeshivot of Sura, Pumpedita and Nehardaa, the literature of the Geonim, and some of our prayers written in Aramaic, such as Kaddish, Yakum Purkan, and Ha Lachma Anya. Given the great degree of autonomy that Israel enjoyed there, the powerful and ramified communal structure that has been such a characteristic of our social, legal and religious life was able to flourish.
Although they exiled him, Nevuchadnetzar and all the Bavlim referred to Yehoyachin as the king of Judah and granted him a special noble rank in the political and social hierarchy of that country. Indeed the Davidic dynasty continued to provide leadership and government to the Jewish People in exile for approximately 1500 years [Resh Galuta].
Nevertheless, Nevuchadnetzar appointed Metanjah [renamed Hezekiyahu by him], the king's uncle to be his puppet king of Judah. He reigned for 11 years, evil and sinful years, years of which Hashem warned: "As I live, surely My oath that he has despised and My covenant that he has broken, even that will I recompense upon his own head" (Ezekiel 17:19). Hezekiyahu moved Israel to the final stage of the end of statehood, the conquest of Yerushalayim and the destruction of the Temple.
This is the 69th installment in Dr. Tamari’s series on “Tanach and its messages for our times”