by Mike Ratliff
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. 6 Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego. Daniel 1:1-7 (NASB)
The northern Kingdom of Israel was in one form of apostasy or another during its entire existence. It’s first king, Jeroboam, did not want his people going back to Jerusalem to worship God at the Temple. So, he created golden calves in Bethel and Dan. He rejected the Levites as priests by creating a non-Levitical priesthood serving this false worship. In 722 B.C. the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom. The people who survived were deported and scattered all over the then known world. However, the southern Kingdom of Judah was not much better. Over the centuries its Kings became progressively worse and worse until Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, caused such horrible apostasy within the people that it was only a matter of time before God caused judgment to fall on them just as He had the Northern Kingdom. However, Mannaseh’s grandson, Josiah, was a King who followed after God with His whole Heart. He cleansed the Temple and restored genuine worship. He led the people into a proper relationship with their covenant God. It was during His reign that the people celebrated Passover and the other festivals correctly as no one before them. It is as if Josiah’s reign is a welcome respite in a long dreary line of somewhat good kings and many bad ones. Josiah knew the Lord and reigned in light of that. His heart was totally wrapped around His relationship with God. Continue reading