Thursday, June 29, 2017
Death of a Nation
5 Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. 6 Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. . . . 7 This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. 8 They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the LORD their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. 10 They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. 11 They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the LORD’s anger. 12 Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the LORD’s specific and repeated warnings. 13 Again and again the LORD had sent His prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: “Turn from all your evil ways. Obey My commands and decrees—the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through My servants the prophets.” 14 But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the LORD their God. 15 They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their ancestors, and they despised all His warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the LORD’s command not to imitate them. 16 They rejected all the commands of the LORD their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. 17 They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the LORD’s anger. 18 Because the LORD was very angry with Israel, He swept them away from His presence. Only the tribe of Judah remained in the land. 19 But even the people of Judah refused to obey the commands of the LORD their God, for they followed the evil practices that Israel had introduced. 20 The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel. He punished them by handing them over to their attackers until He had banished Israel from His presence. 21 For when the LORD tore Israel away from the kingdom of David, they chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. But Jeroboam drew Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin. 22 And the people of Israel persisted in all the evil ways of Jeroboam. They did not turn from these sins 23 until the LORD finally swept them away from His presence, just as all His prophets had warned. So Israel was exiled from their land to Assyria, where they remain to this day. 2 Kings 17:5-23 (NLT)
The Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings describe the highest and lowest period of ancient Israel history from 970 to 586 BC. The books open with King David ruling the united kingdom of Israel with the living God as the true King of Israel. However, the book of Kings finishes with a divided nation and the Jews deported from their Promised Land into to foreign exile. Because of the people’s continual disobedience and unfaithfulness to the living God and His covenant, God allowed the Jewish nation to be divided into two nations with Israel in the North with ten tribes and Judah in the South with two tribes (see 1 Kings 12).
Similar to the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Chronicles, the Hebrew text originally treated 1 and 2 Kings as one book, called in the Hebrew tradition simply “Kings.” Another Old Testament book, 2 Chronicles, covers the same historical period as the book of Kings. Moreover, the book of Kings forms the background for other Old Testament prophetic books of the Bible, including Amos, Hosea, Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk. During Israel’s period of the Kings, God graciously sent His prophets to warn and correct the rulers of Israel.
Together 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings relate the whole history of Israel’s kingdom from its rise under the ministry of the prophet Samuel, the kingship of David and Samuel, and to its fall at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. The author of the book of Kings arranged his material in a manner that provides a sequel to the history found in 1 and 2 Samuel. In general, the book of Kings describes the history of Israel and Judah’s rulers in relationship to their faithfulness to God and His covenant. The guiding theme of the book of Kings is that the welfare of Israel and its rulers depended on their submission to and faithfulness to God and obedience to the Sinai covenant.
Many scholars believe 1 and 2 Kings were created and later edited from 539 to 330 BC during Israel and Judah’s foreign exiles. A review of the book of Kings suggests the author wrote the book to explain to God’s people living in foreign exile why God allowed their defeat and exile from the Promised Land (see 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Kings 18:9-12; 2 Kings 21:12-15). The Judah’s reformation attempts to turn the people’s hearts and minds to God and His covenant under King Josiah is viewed as too little and too late (see 2 Kings 23:26-28; 2 Kings 24:3). The reason for Israel and Judah’s exile came because of Israel’s stubborn persistence in unfaithfulness and disobedience to God and His covenant. God patiently and graciously endured His people’s disobedience and sinfulness for centuries in the Promised Land. After much patience and grace, God imposed His covenant curses upon His people for their repeated disobedience and unfaithfulness to Him and His commands (see Leviticus 26:27-45; Deuteronomy 28:58-68). From the very beginning, the living God wanted a relationship with His people, an inward heart faithfulness and love to Him, and obedience to His righteous commands (e.g., see Exodus 19:1-Exodus 23:33).
Yet, despite Israel and Judah’s foreign exiles, the author of Kings reveals God kept His promises to all of Israel and David’s eternal kingship. God is faithful to His promises (e.g., see Joshua 23:14-16; 1 Kings 8:56). The author of Kings affirmed the promise of the Davidic covenant, which promised David a “lamp,” who will always sit on his throne from the line of family line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah (e.g., see 2 Samuel 7:14-16; 1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 1 Chronicles 17:4-14). In the final four verses of the book of Kings, God maintained an heir from King David’s family line that eventually leads to Jesus the Messiah, the true King of Israel and all nations (2 King 25:27-30, see also 2 Samuel 7:14-16). Ultimately, the Davidic covenant was fulfilled in the birth of Israel’s greatest King and Savior, Jesus the Messiah (see Matthew 2:1-2; Matthew 16:16; Luke 1:32-33). Matthew’s genealogy presents Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to David to be the King of all (Matthew 1:1-17; see also Isaiah 49:6). The Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 9 through 11 reveals God’s eternal love and faithfulness to His covenant people of Israel (see Romans 11:1-2).
God’s promises to King David at 2 Samuel 7 makes the ultimate difference throughout much of the books of Kings and makes the Judean dynasty from King David unshakable even while the dynasties of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were like reeds “shaken in the water” (see 1 Kings 14:15). Kingship in the Northern Kingdom was afflicted with instability and violence. Twenty different kings reigned in the Northern Kingdom until the Northern Kingdom’s fall in 722 BC by the Assyrians. In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, there were also 20 different rulers spanning a period of about 345 years until the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC by the Babylonians. These Judean rulers were all descendants of King David, except Queen Athaliah. Queen Athaliah was from the family line of evil Ahab and Jezebel, and she briefly reigned in Judah after the death of King Ahaziah. God graciously kept King David’s family line. Good likes like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah were included from David’s family line while the Northern Kingdom of Israel has no good kings.
There is little conclusive evidence as to the identity of the author of Kings. The Jewish Talmudic tradition credits the prophet Jeremiah as the author of the book of Kings. However, few today accept Jeremiah as the author because the book of Kings does not specify Jeremiah’s authorship. Other biblical scholars argue the book of Kings were written by Levites, priests, wise men of Jerusalem, or possibly another unknown prophet. Whoever were the original author or authors of 1 and 2 Kings, these two books were deeply influenced by the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, often called the “second law.” The book of Deuteronomy essentially summarizes the Mosaic Law Code that included the Sinai covenant. In fact, the book of Deuteronomy influenced many of Israel and Judah’s prophets.
Deuteronomy’s influence of 1 and 2 Kings is clearly signaled in the opening section of the books with King David’s last instructions to his son, Solomon. King David instructed his son Solomon to seek and obey the living, to walk in all God’s ways, and keep God’s statutes and His commandments with all his heart and with all his soul (e.g., see 1 Kings 2:1-4; referencing Deuteronomy 4:6, 23-31; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12-22; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Then almost all the succeeding rulers of Israel and Judah are weighed in relation to obeying the One true and living God and the Mosaic Law Code as reflected in Deuteronomy (e.g., see 1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 14:1-16; 2 Kings 16:1-4). For this reason, biblical scholars refer to the author or authors of the book of Kings as “Deuteronomists.”
The author of Kings never intended to present the book of Kings as a social, political, nor economic history of Israel’s kingship under principles of modern day history. The author repeatedly refers the readers to other sources for more detailed information about the reigns of the various rulers (e.g., see 1 Kings 11:41; 1 Kings 14:19, 29; 1 Kings 15:7, 31). Moreover, the author emphasized a king’s commitment to God and His commands rather than the king’s social, political, or economic assessment. For instance, world history considered King Omri one of Israel’s most important rulers. Omri established a powerful dynasty and made Samaria the capital city. According to the ancient Moabite Stone, Omri was the ruler who subjugated the Moabites to the northern kingdom. Long after Omri’s death, Assyrian rulers referred to Jehu as the “son of Omri.” Yet despite Omri’s political importance, the author of Kings discussed Omri’s reign in only six verses (see 1 Kings 16:23-28) along with the statement that Omri “did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him” (see 1 Kings 16:25).
Nevertheless, the author of Kings gave the most attention to those kings whose reigns were either important deviations from or obedience to God’s covenant. For example, the book of Kings provides extensive treatment of King Ahab’s reign not so much of Ahab’s extraordinary political importance, but because Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel caused widespread Baal worship in Israel (see 1 Kings 16:29-22:10). Moreover, the author of Kings uses the life and reign of King David as a standard by which the kings were measured (e.g., see 1 Kings 9:4; 1 Kings 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 15:3, 5, 11; 2 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 18:3; 22). King David was faithful to God and His covenant, and he encouraged Israel and its leaders to seek faithfully and obey the Lord God (e.g., see 1 Kings 2:1-4; 1 Chronicles 28:8-10, 20-21). As the Old Testament reveals, David had complete trust and confidence in God’s power, sovereignty, and justice.
First and Second Kings were written in the form of a historical narrative, specifically, a record of kings succession. The main rhetorical format of the Kings’ history is the summary of individual kings’ careers, consisting of the name of each king, what kingdom the king ruled (Israel or Judah), the date of the king’s accession to the throne, the length of his reign, his religious and other policies, the details of his death, and the name of his successor. However, the book of Kings is as much theological as historical. The authors of Kings wrote the book not to provide every historical detail. The book of Kings seeks to interpret the history of Israel and Judah along theological lines, showing what happens when political and spiritual leaders foolishly choose to worship false gods or man-made gods, such as Baal and Asherah, instead of wholeheartedly loving and obeying the One true God of heaven and earth. As a result, the author of Kings present Israel and Judah’s history not as an interplay of human action but as the unfolding of Israel’s historical destiny under the guidance of an omniscient and omnipotent God, who rules all of history in accordance with His sovereign plans and promises (e.g., see 1 Kings 8:56; 2 Kings 10:10). The God of Israel is indeed in control of all nature and all history.
Also, the author of Kings stressed the importance of God’s prophets. The Lord God sent a long succession of His divine representatives to call the kings and His people back to covenant loyalty. The book of Kings gives particular attention the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In the book of Kings, Solomon is the dominant character in the first half of 1 Kings. However, the prophets Elijah and Elisha ministering to the Northern Kingdom of Israel dominate the great middle section of 1 and 2 Kings. The Elijah and Elisha narratives are discussed from 1 Kings 17:1 through 2 Kings 13:25. Almost a third of the book of Kings are devoted to God’s efforts through His prophets to turn Israel away from idolatry with its worship of Baal and other foreign gods back to wholehearted faithfulness to Him as their true and living God (see 1 Kings 12:25 – 2 Kings 17:41). A host of miracles and vignettes controls the great middle section of 1 and 2 Kings with the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. The author of Kings wanted readers to know that God’s prophets were not merely preachers or poets, but they were channels of God’s power on earth, through word and deed.
The book of Kings is unified by the choices that each king (along with the nation itself) must make between worshipping and obeying the One true God or worshiping so-called gods or idols, such as Baal, Molech, and Asherah. The book of Kings establishes the benefits of worshipping and obeying God and the disaster that follows unfaithfulness and disobedience to the living God. First and Second Kings warns the readers the one true and all-powerful God will punish sin and wickedness, but He also stands ready to forgive those who are repentant (e.g., see 1 Kings 8:22-61; 2 Kings 17:7-23). There is no other god more powerful than the true and living God of Israel, who is the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 8:4).
The overall theme of the book of Kings is to affirmatively proclaim that the God of Israel is the only true and living God, and He is the Lord and Creator of heaven and earth (e.g., see 1 Kings 8:22-23, 27; 1 Kings 18:15, 36-39; 2 Kings 5:15; 2 Kings 19:15). The one true and living God is not to be confused with the various so-called gods worshiped in Israel and other foreign nations, for these so-called gods are false and simply human creations (e.g., see 1 Kings 12:25-33; 2 Kings 17:16-17; 2 Kings 19:14-19). These so-called other gods are powerless and useless before the true and all-powerful God of Israel (e.g., see 1 Kings 16:13; 1 Kings 18:22-40; 2 Kings 17:15). The true and living God of Israel is powerfully active within His world by His Holy Spirit, and He controls all of nature (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1:2-17; 2 Kings 4:8-37; 2 Kings 5:1-18; 2 Kings 6:1-7, 27).
Moreover, the author of book of Kings wrote to affirmatively declare that the true and living God of Israel controls all of world history and not an idol god, king, military army, nation, or false prophet (e.g., 1 Kings 11:14, 23; 1 Kings 14:1-18; 1 Kings 22:1-38; 2 Kings 5:1-18; 2 Kings 10:32-33; 2 Kings 18:17-19:37). God’s control of the world is illustrated most clearly in the way in which His true prophets function within the book of Kings (e.g., see 1 Kings 11:29-39; 1 Kings 13:1-32; 1 Kings 16:1-4; 1 Kings 20:13-34; 2 Kings 19:6-7, 20-34). Much of the book of Kings focuses on wholehearted alliance, love, and faithfulness to the Lord God and no other so-called gods and images such as Baal, Asherah, Chemosh, Molech, and two golden calves (e.g., see 1 Kings 11:1-40; 1 Kings 12:25-13:34; 1 Kings 14:22-24; 1 Kings 16:29-33; 2 Kings 16:1-4; 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Kings 21:1-9). As the only true God, the God of Israel, also known as “Yahweh,” demanded exclusive worship! The true and living God of Israel will not take His place alongside the gods. The true and living God of Israel is the only God entitled to our wholehearted love, faithfulness, and worship (e.g., see 1 Kings 8:41-43, 60; 2 Kings 5:15-18; 2 Kings 17:24-41).
Inevitably, worship of these so-gods lead to moral wrongs and disregard for the Lord God’s commandments, which is our wisdom (e.g., see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 4:6; 1 Kings 21). The true and living God brings His just punishment on violations of His moral commands, whether the sinner be king (Solomon in 1 Kings 11:9-13; Jeroboam in 1 Kings 14:1-18), or prophet (the unnamed Judean in 1 Kings 13:7-25; the disobedient man in 1 Kings 20:35-43), or ordinary Israelite (Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:19-27). The Holy Scriptures clearly teaches we must obey God’s righteous commands from our whole hearts (e.g., see 1 Kings 2:1-4; 1 Kings 11:38). Even in our disobedience, the true and living God is gracious, forgiving, and compassionate to everyone who repents of their sins and turn to Him in faith and obedience (e.g., see 1 Kings 21:25-29; 2 Kings 13:23; 2 Kings 14:27). God’s grace is found everywhere in 1 and 2 Kings (e.g., see 1 Kings 11:9-13; 1 Kings 15:1-5; 2 Kings 8:19). Nevertheless, 1 and 2 Kings do reveal that our sins can accumulate and ultimately leads to God’s just punishment and judgment, not only on individuals but whole nations (e.g., see 2 Kings 17:1-23; 2 Kings 23:29-25:26).
God’s original purpose in establishing Israel had been to bring His blessing to the whole world through Israel’s covenant love, faithfulness, and obedience to Him as their only God (see Genesis 12:1-3). However, the ancient Israelites failed to stay wholeheartedly loving and faithful to God. The book of Kings reveals the tragedies of a nation’s unfaithfulness to the true and living God: the rupture of the kingdom!
I. The reign of Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-11:43)
II. Rehoboam and Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:1-14:31)
III. The divided kingdom (1 Kings 15:1-22:53)
IV. Alliance between Israel and Judah (2 Kings 1:1-9:37)
V. Israel’s prosperity and fall (2 Kings 10:1-17:41)
VI. Judah survives Assyrian domination (2 Kings 18:1-23:30)
VII. Judah defeated and absorbed by Babylon (2 Kings 23:31-25:30).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).