The Story – Chapter 17: The Kingdoms’ Fall
This week, we look at Chapter 17 in The Story and see the end of the kingdom of Judah as the people there are exiled into Babylon. However, even then God provides hope for the people in the words of two prophets – Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Once again, these stories are also found in the Bible, but in lots of different places.
If you don’t have The Story book, you can read 2 Kings 21, 23-25; 2 Chronicles 33, 36; Jeremiah 1-2, 4-5, 13 and 21; Lamentations 1-3, 5; and Ezekiel 1-2, 6-7 and 36-37. (Clearly, this week, it’s much easier to read it or listen to it in The Story.)
Summary of Chapter 17 – The Kingdoms’ Fall
Hezekiah, one of Judah’s best kings, led his people back to God for 29 years. The Bible says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Hezekiah trusted God, kept his commands, and followed Him. Because of this, God was with him. When Jerusalem was under threat of attack, God sent Isaiah to encourage him to continue to trust the Lord.
Upon his death, Manasseh, his son, reigned for 55 years. Unfortunately, he was not at all like his father. In fact, the Bible says he did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He led the people astray so that they actually did more evil than the nations that were in the land before God gave it to His people.
This yo-yo effect of following God and falling from God continued through another bad king, Amon, the son of Manasseh. Fortunately, his reign was only two years long. His son, Josiah followed him, and he was a good king. With the help of some godly advisors, he helped restore God’s place within the kingdom of Judah.
Following Josiah, four more bad kings reigned over the final twenty years of Judah. To the very end, God sent His messengers, the prophets, to call His people to repent and turn to Him. But when all was said and done, God’s people refused to listen.
So God let God’s people deal with the consequences of their actions. Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar laid three sieges against Judah and Jerusalem. The first came against King Jehoiakim and the second against King Jehoiachin. Nearly 10,000 Judeans were captured and taken away to Babylon. The king and the prophet Ezekiel were among their prisoners.
Finally, in 586 after an 18-month blockade, the Babylonian army broke through the walls of Jerusalem. They demolished the city, looted the temple, and led most of the remaining people away to Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah was among the few who were left behind. He grieved the loss of his beloved city and mourned the sin of God’s people. But even then, he trusted that God would have compassion on the remnant who remained in Jerusalem.
It had been eight centuries since God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. Now they were exiles in Babylon. Hope vanished. But God told Ezekiel that all was not lost. He reminded His people that God would one day restore them. He assured their return to the homeland. And He promised that He would be their God.
To illustrate His point, God showed Ezekiel a valley of dry bones and asked, “Can these bones live?” When Ezekiel spoke God’s message to the bones, they came to life and stood like a vast army. This astonishing demonstration confirmed that even exile in Babylon would not hinder God’s redemptive plan. Life would return to Israel’s dried up bones. God would make them a nation again. He would bring them back to their land. Only God could.
As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which is also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:
- Who do you think is most culpable for the sins of Judah—the people or their king? How can we today avoid being led astray by our leaders?
- God told Ezekiel (see The Storyat p. 236), “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious,”. Have you ever been fearful to speak the truth, but felt compelled to do so? Did you follow through? What were the results?
- During the exile, God gave Ezekiel the mission of sharing his word with the Jews living in a foreign land. Does the Christian mission today resemble this situation in any way? How is it similar? How is it different?
- After the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah grieved for his beloved city (pages 243-245). What did Jeremiah believe was God’s saving plan for humans in the midst of all of the devastation? What can you learn from seeing Jeremiah’s lament and praise all mixed together in the midst of troubling circumstances? Can you think of a time in your life when praise and lament were mixed together?
- What did God promise He would do for Israel in spite of their great sin, their Babylonian exile, and their stone hearts (check out pages. 245-246 in The Story)? What does this teach you about God’s heart for His chosen nation? What does it tell us about God’s heart for us?
- Just as Jeremiah wept with his people (Lamentations 1:1–2), so the New Testament (in Romans) tells us to “mourn with those who mourn.” Do you think it is important to acknowledge pain and sorrow before offering advice? Why or why not? Can we learn anything from Jeremiah about loving those who have mistreated us?