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In the same days the people were battling out of captivity, and fighting Gaddianton Robbers, prophets came to them to warn them to repent or face destruction (verse 1). Righteousness is the only way to bind evil, and the only way to fight the evil works of the “robbers”, and the only way to gain the help of the Lord – who had already promised to fight their battles for them.
But the people rejected the people, and pleaded instead for political protection (verse 2).
The king did listen to the prophets, and so was blessed (verse 3). The people were not immediately delivered from destruction because they had been slow to believe the prophets. When his son Shiblom began to reign, his brother rebelled against him, and there was a great war (verse 4). The prophets still urged the people to turn to the Lord or suffer their own destruction (of their choosing), and so Shiblom’s rebellious brother ordered all the prophets to be killed (verse 5).
There was “great calamity” in the land, because the prophets had testified that if the people did not change their ways, they would destroy themselves (verse 6). Specifically, the prophets said that “their bones should become as heaps of earth upon the face of the land” if they did not repent (verse 6). Not only did the people refuse to believe the prophets, but they chose darkness: combinations of evil to gain wealth and power, sexual sins, and contention that destroyed families and communities (verse 7). This led to wars and famines and pestilences, “insomuch that there was a great destruction, such as one as never had been known upon the face of the earth; and all this came to pass in the days of Shiblom” (verse 7). So the people that had rejected the prophets witnessed the fulfilling of their words.
Only then, when they themselves witnessed the fulfilling of the words of the prophets, did the people begin to truly repent (verse 8).
But the moment they did, the Lord had mercy on them (verse 8).
But the fighting brothers did not turn to the Lord, and one was slain and the other kept captive, so that his son reigned – but not in righteousness and so “few were his days” (verse 10). His son then gained the kingdom, and was as wicked as his father taught him to be (verse 11).
Because of this wickedness, prophets again were sent to the people, warning them that they would destroy themselves if they did not repent of their iniquity (verse 12). The people refused to listen to the prophets, did not believe their words, and hardened their hearts against them – and so also hardened their hearts against the Holy Spirit. The prophets “mourned and withdrew from among the people” (verse 13).
He taught his son to be wicked, and so his son was a wicked king (verse 14).
Because their wickedness was based in evil deeds done in exchange for wealth and power, the same karma came back at them again. The people rebelled, wanting the same wealth and power and willing to do the same evil deeds. They battled, the people trying to kill each other, the people trying to get the kingdom for themselves (verses 15-16).
As wickedness increased, so did the captivity of the people (verse 18), which meant their children were born into captivity also (verse 19).
Prophets were sent to the people, telling them “great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would execute judgment against them to their utter destruction” (verse 20). The prophets said that if the people did not repent and turn to the Lord, He would give the choice land to other peoples who would conquer them (verse 21).
The people rejected the prophets (verse 22), and their children were born and also died in captivity (verse 23).