The Bible reliably informs us that all of the great empires of antiquity – such as the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, and the Persian Empire – only really existed to do God’s bidding. And what God’s bidding typically involved was giving Israel, or Judah, a comprehensive pants-down spanking. As a historical explanation, what such an account lacks in socio-economic realism it certainly makes up for in bold imagination.
But one thing, especially, puzzles me: why would God bother getting Kings Hezekiah and Josiah to destroy all the illicit cult places in the land, given that the Assyrian and Babylonian armies which he was controlling were doing just that, at much the same time?
“[King Hezekiah] removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole … “
” … In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.”
(2 Kings 18:4, 13)
“[King Josiah] … commanded [the priests] to bring out of the temple of Yahweh all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. He deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and all the host of the heavens … He brought all the priests out of the towns of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-sheba; he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on the left at the gate of the city … The king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem … He broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the sacred poles, and covered the sites with human bones. Moreover, the altar at Bethel … he pulled down that altar along with the high place. … Moreover, Josiah removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the towns of Samaria … He slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there … “
” … [But 3 years after Josiah’s death and 2 kings later] … Yahweh sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, bands of the Arameans, bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites; he sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of Yahweh that he spoke by his servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of Yahweh… “
(2 Kings 23:4-20; 24:2-3)
A puzzling divine redundancy? A coincidence that might provoke a more economic and mundane explanation? Well… so it might justifiably appear to our admittedly finite minds.