2Ch 36:14. Moreover, in those days all the chief of the priests, and the people wickedly transgressed according to all the abominations of the Gentiles: and they defiled the house of the Lord, which he had sanctified to himself in Jerusalem.
Moreover draws a connection with verse 12 and the sins of King Zedekiah: And he did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God, and did not reverence the face of Jeremias the prophet speaking to him from the mouth of the Lord.
The people wickedly transgressed. Thus imitating the king. The words wickedly transgressed are quite strong in the Hebrew: הרבו למעול מעל, “Their wicked wickedness increased” (see how the RNAB employs the dual use of “infidelity” in this verse). The Greek text has the same basic construction, employing two forms of the word ἀθετέω (atheteō ). Wickedly transgressed, as in the translation I’m using, and the RSV’s “exceedingly unfaithful” give the sense of the construction, but not the force. The emphasis on all the chiefs of the priests, and the people, indicates the extent to which the sorry state of affairs had come to. That state of affairs is also emphasized: they wickedly transgressed according to all the abominations of the Gentiles.
Abominations of the Gentiles. תעבות, the disgusting or loathsome things of the Gentiles. Either a reference to idols, or pagan practices, or, (most likely) both.
And they defiled the house of the Lord, which he had sanctified to himself in Jerusalem. The word defiled ( ויטמאו) is probably a reference to profaning ceremonies. The word stands in marked contrast with sanctified. What the righteous king Josiah did to the false altars in his day has been done to the Temple of God in Zedekiah’s: And as Josias turned himself, he saw there the sepulchres that were in the mount: and he sent and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burnt them upon the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the Lord, which the man of God spoke, who had foretold these things (2 Kings 23:16). Josiah was acting in accord with the words of a prophet (“man of God”), the priests and people of Zedekiah’s day (and Zedekiah himself) were acting in opposition to the prophets (see verse 12 and the following two verses below).
2Ch 36:15 And the Lord the God of their fathers sent to them, by the hand of his messengers, rising early, and daily admonishing them: because he spared his people and his dwelling place.
2Ch 36:16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused the prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, and there was no remedy.
In spite of what they were doing, God did not leave them without warnings and appeals through his prophets who, studiously, rising early and daily, admonished them, wishing to spare them and his dwelling place (the Temple) [see Jer 26:5; Jer 29:19] . But just as Zedekiah did not reverence the face (presence) of Jeremias the prophet speaking to him from the mouth of the Lord (verse 12), so too his people mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused the prophets.
But the mocked. ויהיו מלעבים, “They launched into mockery”. Greek: και ησαν μυκτηριζοντες, “They made mouth at” (i.e., comic mimicking).
Until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people. Hebrew, “His hot indignation חמת; (Greek, θυμος ‘his hot breath’) arose (literally, ascended) against his people.” Both the Hebrew and Greek words usually translated as wrath are related to the words for fire. The fact that his wrath is said to rise (literally, ascend) perhaps implies the image of a burnt offering sacrifice which is often said to ascend to God. If they will not worship and sacrifice properly, they will be sacrificed to the Lord’s anger.
And there was no remedy. Medicine can be of no use to the one who spits it out, and a prophet can be of no avail to the man who spits on him.
Ch 36:19 And the enemies set fire to the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burnt all the towers, and what soever was precious they destroyed.
2Ch 36:20 Whosoever escaped the sword, was led into Babylon, and there served the king and his sons, till the reign of the king of Persia,
A complete reversal of what God had intended for his people and Temple (see verse 15). The warning of prophets such as Jeremiah (7:1-15; 26:1-6) and Ezekiel (11:1-12; 12:1-20) came to pass. The covenant curses fell upon the people (Deut 28:63-68).
2Ch 36:21 That the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremias might be fulfilled, and the land might keep her sabbaths: for all the days of the desolation she kept a sabbath, till the seventy years were expired.
The word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremias (Jeremiah). A reference to Jer 25:11-12, with allusion to Leviticus 25 and 26. The Law stipulated that the land of Israel had to undergo a “Sabbath” rest every seven years (Lev 25:1-7). As has often been pointed out, this was very practical since allowing farmland to lie fallow regularly helps to maintain its productivity. According to Leviticus 26:14 ff., the punishment of exile would come upon the people for disobeying the Law and then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths all the days of her desolation. When you shall be In the enemy’s land, she shall keep a sabbath, and rest in the sabbaths of her desolation: because she did not rest in your sabbaths, when you dwelt therein (Lev 26:34-35).
2Ch 36:22 But in the first year of Cyrus king of the Persians, to fulfil the word of the Lord, which he had spoken by the mouth of Jeremias, the Lord stirred up the heart of Cyrus, king of the Persians: who commanded it to be proclaimed through all his kingdom, and by writing also, saying:
2Ch 36:23 Thus saith Cyrus king of the Persians: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord the God of heaven given to me, and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judea: who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.
See Ezra 1. And listen to this podcast introduction and study of chapter 1 of Ezra which deals with the return from exile mentioned here. The actual study of chapter 1 begins almost exactly half way through the talk. The podcast comes from St Irenaeus Ministries.
Suggested Readings: Not a lot out there on 1 & 2 Chronicles
Liturgy and Empire: Faith in Exile and Prophetic Historiography in 1 and 2 Chronicles. Dr. Scott Hahn. An online article which originally appeared in volume 5 of Letter and Spirit Journal.
The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire: A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles. Dr. Scott Hahn. Includes some interesting typological motifs
First and Second Chronicles: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: Old Testament. John C. Endres. Very, very basic.
First and Second Chronicles: (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching. Steven S. Tuell. Protestant.
Chronicles and Its Synoptic Parallels in Samuel, Kings, and Related Biblical Texts. Various authors, Catholic and otherwise. More for the serious student than the average man in the pew.
Ezra and Nehemiah (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible). Dr. Matthew Levering.
Podcast: 1 Chronicles Through Nehemiah. An introductory overview of 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.