Preliminary Considerations From this point on, the books of I and 11 Kings become increasingly difficult to understand. This is not the fault of the inspired record. It is simply that we are unfamiliar with the method by which the kingdoms kept the records. In working out the chronology of a nation, the primary requisite is that the chronological structure of that nation be clearly understood. Here are some items that must be considered:
1. The year from which a king began to count the years of his
reign: that is either from his actual accession to the throne, or from the year following his accession, or from some other time.
2. The time of the calendar year when a king began to count his
3. The method by which a scribe of one nation reckoned the years
of the king of a neighboring state; whether according to the system used in his own nation, or by that of the neighbor.
4. Whether or not the nation made use of co-regencies; whether
or not rival rulers might have been reigning at the same time; and
whether or not there was an inter-reignum.
5. Whether during the period under review, a uniform system
was followed, or whether variations took place.
6. Some absolute date during the period in question from which
the years can be figured backward and forward so that the full chronological pattern can be determined.
The customs were not the same among all nations. In Assyria,
Babylon, and Persia, the year a king ascended to the throne was known as his accession year. Not until the first day of the next new year did he begin to reckon his reign from his own first year. This is called the accession year system, or post-dating.
In other places, the king’s first year began when he ascended the
throne. This is known as the non-accession year system, or ante-dating. Any particular year of a king’s reign according to the non-accession year system was one year higher than according to the accession year method. The first year according to the accession year system would be the second year according to the non-accession year system. In order to know exactly what is meant by a recorded date, it is necessary to understand the system of reckoning involved.
The chronologist will discover that throughout this 209 year period,
Israel and Judah alternated in the method they used for reckoning the
first year of the king’s reign.
Order of narration One final consideration must be made concerning I and II Kings; that is, the method by which the author, under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recorded the events of these
two kingdoms. He had to keep track of events in two separate nations.
The author began Ws consideration with one nation and carried it on
until its history overlapped the death of the monarch in the other nation. Then he went back and picked up the history of the second
nation until a king there outlived the monarch of the first nation. Then,
he went back and picked up that history again. In doing this, a zigzag
pattern developed. His movement from one nation to the other is Eke
rungs on a stepladder; the main vertical supports being the northern
and southern kingdom. He will move back and forth from king to king
until the end of the divided kingdom in 722 B.C.
Look at an example in I Kings 15. According to verses 1 and 2,
Abijam reigned over Judah until 911 B.C., beginning in the eighteenth
year of King Jeroboam in the north. Verse 1 says, “Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam . . . Abijam reigned over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. “ In 911 B.C., Jeroboam was still ruling in the north because 14:20 says, “And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead. “ So, Jeroboam reigned from 931 to 910B.C. and Abijam’s reign is from 914 to 911 B.C. Since Jeroboam was still alive at Abijam’s death, the author of Kings continued his consideration of the southern kingdom.
Beginning in verse 9ff:
And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned
Asa over Judah. And forty and one years reigned he in
Jerusalem.... And Asa did that which was right in the eyes
of the Lord, as did David his father.
Asa came to the throne in the twentieth year of Jeroboam and we know that Jeroboam lived only two more years. So, when Asa died the author of I Kings went back and considered the kings of Israel. Chapter 15:24 says, “And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father. and jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead. “ At that point the author turns back to a consideration of the northern kingdom. Starting with 15:25:
And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over
Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and
reigned over Israel two years. And he did evil in the
sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father...
And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar,
conspired against him, and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon.
Dynasties One more point must be made. The southern kingdom,
consist of one ruling family. From the death of Solomon in
931 B.C. down to the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C., only one ruling family will sit on the throne of Judah except for a brief period when Athaliah usurped it. All nineteen kings: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah (Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin (jeconiah or Coniah), and Zedekiah, are all descendents of David.
Contrariwise, in the northern kingdom of Israel, the twenty kings
who sat on the throne were from many ruling families. They were Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Joram (jehoram), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam 11, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea. The similarity of many names in the two kingdoms also complicates the study of I and II Kings since often, without a chronological chart at hand, it is difficult to determine which kingdom the author is discussing.
Since there were many ruling families in the north, it is obvious
that they obtained the throne by some means other than inheritance.
We will see that it was a period of intrigue, assassinations, murder,
military coups, and suicide, an of which eventually brought God’s
judgment on the northern kingdom.
The Prophetic Office It is also important to take notice of the function of the prophet during this period. In addition to being a foreteller, one who spoke of future events, his function was also to anoint God’s choice as king as Samuel had done with Saul and David. Such anointing indicated to everyone that God had selected the man for his position. To be a God-approved king, one must have either been a descendent of David, as were all the kings in the south, or he must have been anointed by a prophet. Not one of the twenty kings in the north was a descendent of David. This made it vital for prophets to function in the north and anoint the king which God selected. Only two, Jeroboam and Jehu, were so anointed. This leads us to conclude that the other eighteen were there not by God’s choice, but by mere circumstance. The prophet Hosea, speaking in the middle eighth century B.C., under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said in 8:4, “They have set up kings, but not by me.
This was the function of John the Baptist when the Lord Jesus
Christ came. He was both a prophet and a king-maker. When he made his announcement regarding the Lamb of God, he was pointing at the One whom he knew God had selected to be His king. John the Baptist functioned in the same capacity as did the Old Testament prophets, and the Lord Jesus met the double criteria. Namely, He was a descendent of David, and He was anointed by God’s prophet. The anointing took place in the baptismal ceremony when the Lord Jesus identified Himself with the movement and with the program of God. It took on an even more dramatic aspect when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended on Him. In the Old Testament, the anointing off was symbolic of the Holy Spirit, but in our Lord’s case, the Holy Spirit descended in visible form. To those of spiritual discernment who observed the scene, its impact could not be misunderstood. There was the prophet of God, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit doing the anointing in a personal way which no Old Testament king had ever experienced.
The Kingdom Divided Let us return to I Kings 12 and continue our study of the divided kingdom. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, inherited the throne at his father’s death. However, at this point in the nation’s history, the people were not naturally inclined to accept Rehoboam as their king. Solomon had imposed heavy taxes and had conscripted labor for his ambitious building programs. Conscription of labor was a common practice in the ancient world. It was unpopular but a citizen could not resist.
Israel’s complaint Because of these inequities, the children of Israel were discontented. Heavy taxes and conscripted labor had
made them bitter toward the monarchy. Therefore, it was
not easy for Rehoboam to establish himself as king over all Israel. In
12:1 we read that “Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to
Shechem to make him king. “ This in itself indicated a need for conciliation because Rehoboam traveled north to Shechem rather than receiving the people in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Jeroboam learned that Solomon was dead and that
his life was no longer threatened. With the words of Ahijah burning
within him, he returned from Egypt. When Rehoboam arrived in
Shechem, he encountered not only the elders of the tribes, but also Jeroboam.
He had become the spokesman for the tribes, and confronted
Rehoboam with the demand of verse 4: “Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and the heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.” Rehoboam asked for three days in which to consider their proposal, and the people departed. He was now faced with his first major decision as king. Rehoboam first consulted with the elders who had served Solomon. Verse 7 records their advice: “If thou wilt be a servant unto the people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. “ God’s direction and criteria for the monarchy had indicated that the king was to be a servant, a shepherd, to His people. But Rehoboam did not intend to be anyone’s servant. Verse 8 says, “he forsook the counsel of the old men.... and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him. It is easy to anticipate the advice these spoiled sons of the court would give. It is recorded in verses 10and 11. Thus shalt thou speak unto the people.... my little finger
shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas
my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to
your yoke,- my father hath chastised you with whips, but
I will chastise you with scorpions.
When Jeroboam and the elders returned on the third day, the
king answered the people harshly, forsaking the old men’s counsel
and listening to his companions. “Wherefore, “ verse 15 says, “the
king hearkened not unto the people.
It is interesting to see the acts of men fine up with the will of God.
Proverbs 2 1: 1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. “ Rehoboam thought he was doing what he wanted, but all the time he was advancing the program of God who had said He would eradicate Israel from the face of the earth if Solomon did not obey. The division of the kingdom was the first step toward bringing that prophecy to pass.
Revolt When the elders of the northern tribes heard Rehoboam’s
response, they disavowed their allegiance with the statement (vs. 16):
“What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of
Jesse: to your tents, 0 Israel: now see to thine own house, David. “ These were the same words spoken back in 11 Samuel 20:1, when Sheba revolted. Israel had long been looking for an opportunity to split away from the house of David, and under Jeroboam, their opportunity had come. God allowed this penchant toward division to fulfill His will. It is a perfect example of how He may use human rebellion to bring about His purposes. “It was a turn of events from the Lord.
Following this, the ten tribes returned north and Rehoboam
retreated to Jerusalem, now king over only Judah and tiny Benjamin.
But he was not ready to give up. He instructed Adoram, who had once been in charge of Solomon’s conscripted labor, to go north and secure a labor force. How foolish this was. The use of conscripted labor was one of the issues leading to division. For almost forty years Adoram had been commandeering their sons to work in Solomon’s building projects. He personified all that Israel was rebelling against. Not surprisingly, no sooner had he arrived in the northern kingdom than they stoned him to death.
Immediately, Rehoboam gathered an army to wage war, but God
sent a prophet to forbid it. Rehoboam dropped his military plans and
the division became permanent.
XLV THE SIN OF JEROBOAM
In I Kings 12:26-27 we learn the reasoning behind the sin of
Jeroboam which Scripture so frequently mentions when referring to
him. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return
to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the
house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people
turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah,
and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.
Jeroboam had evidently forgotten the promise which God gave
to lam, through Ahijah the prophet, saying that He would establish his
house if he walked according to the ordinances of the Lord. In
Rehoboam’s capital at Jerusalem, was the temple of Solomon where
the followers of Jehovah gathered several times a year for religious
festivals, assemblies, and the Day of Atonement. Jeroboam’s heart
began to fear as he imagined his constituents continuing their religious and emotional ties to Jerusalem. How could he prevent it? Instead of trusting God, who had promised him a solid kingdom if he were faithful, his solution was to substitute an alternative religion “which he had devised of his own heart” (vs. 33).
As the crux of his devised religion, Jeroboam had two golden
calves fashioned. He set one up in Bethel, near the southern border of his kingdom, and the other at Dan, far up in the north. Then he
announced, “Behold thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (vs. 28).
From our twentieth century viewpoint, we wonder how anyone
could be foolish enough to believe that a golden calf could have lived,
breathed, and done something miraculous in the past. But, we need to remember the land in which the people lived. Their neighbors, the
Canaanites, were Baal worshipers. Much of the time they worshiped
Hadad, the storm god, who was personified and riding on a bull. In
Baal worship, the bull symbolized male regenerative power and virility. In this way, Jeroboam devised a syncretic religion. He took what
little knowledge the people had of Jehovah, and what they believed
about Baalism, the religion of the people to whom they were exposed,
and knit the two together.
Knowing that the priests of the Lord would not help him, he
devised his own priestly system. Verse 31 says, “And he made an house of high Places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. “ In addition to this, he devised his own special religious feast days. In summary, he created a satanic duplication of the worship of Jehovah. generations to follow, his epitaph would read: “The man who made Israel to sin. “ Time and time again, throughout the history of Israel, the phrase would be used: “The sin of Jeroboam, whereby he made the people to sin.
Enter the Prophet Since Jeroboam was an anointed king, God was quick in rebuking him. Chapter 13 tells us how He sent an unnamed prophet from Judah to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing at the altar, beside the golden calf, burning incense. While he was participating in his own false system, the unnamed prophet appeared and cried
out against the altar, saying, 0 altar, altar, thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that bum incense upon
thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.
This is one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Old
Testament. Only two others use an individual’s name. The other two
are Cyrus, whom we will study later on, and the Lord Jesus, of whom it was said, they “shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
This prophecy, regarding the name Josiah, would be fulfilled three
hundred years later. Its fulfillment is described in 11 Kings 23 and we
will examine it in detail when we reach that time period.
To validate his prophecy, the unnamed prophet gave a
sign, saying,” The altar shall be rent. “ When Jeroboam
heard it, he was furious and extended his hand as he commanded,
“Lay hold on him. “ To his shock and dismay, his hand dried up and he
could not pull it back. At the same time, “The altar also was rent, and the
ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord “ (vs. 5).
The king then implored the man of God to pray that his hand be
restored. The prophet did so and Jeroboam invited him home to
dinner. However, the whole episode had no real effect on the king. He had witnessed a prophecy fulfilled, had seen his hand withered when it reached out against God’s spokesman and then healed by the prophet’s prayer. Yet after all of these events, he did not repent or change, and the worship at Bethel continued.
Following the king’s invitation, the man of God refused to eat
with the king because God had instructed him not to eat or drink in
that place; that is, the northern kingdom, and especially Bethel. Instead, in obedience to God, he began the journey back to his home in Judah. At that point in the story, we are introduced to another prophet. He was old and living in Bethel where the golden calf was. This says much about how backslidden he must have been, for even the priests had left the northern kingdom. A parallel passage tells us that he was originally from Samaria. He evidently moved to Bethel to be near the new worship system. When his sons told him about the events of the day and of the prophet who had come up from Judah, he must have been furious at being overlooked, and jealous because God had not used him when he was right there at Bethel. He promptly asked, “which way went he?”
Disobedience His sons saddled a donkey for him and the old man
caught up with the unnamed prophet as he was resting
under an oak tree. He spoke warmly to him, “Come home with me, and
eat bread” (vs. 15). At first the unnamed prophet refused, saying (vs. 16ft),
I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will
I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was
said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no
bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by
the way that thou camest.
We learn now that he was not even to return by the same way he
went up to Bethel. God never contradicts Himself. The prophet went to Bethel and prophesied by the word of the Lord while under the
command of God not to eat or drink in that place. However, verse 18
records the speech of the ungodly old prophet from Bethel:
I am a prophet also as thou art,- and an angel spake unto me
by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee
into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water.
But he lied unto him.
This was nothing less than peer prestige and peer pressure. The
old prophet tried to make the other prophet believe that he too had a
vision. “So he went back with him” (vs. 19). What a tragic example this is of obeying experience instead of the Word of God. There could not be a better example of the penalty of giving heed to experience and laying aside the Word of God. God’s Word must always take precedence over experience.
Judgment “And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word
of the Lord came to the prophet that brought him back. “ God now spoke
through that ungodly old prophet just as He had formerly spoken
through Balaam. As the man from Judah sat back relaxing in comfort,
he heard a message of doom from the lips of the other (vs. 21ft):
Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and
hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God
commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread
and drunk water . thy carcass shall not come unto the
sepulchre of thy fathers.
In summary, the old prophet said: “You are going to die here.” Verse 24 says that after he started back home a Roe met and killed him. “His carcass was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcass.
Success against one’s enemy depends upon one’s relationship with
God. Remember, when the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson in his earlier years he could kill a lion with his bare hands. If I may make a spiritual application, the lion is a type of Satan who goes about seeking whom he may devour. In the Spirit of the Lord, Samson could rend him with his bare hands. In this story we see a man of God who had just proclaimed a great prophecy, had seen the power of God split the altar, had seen Jeroboam’s hand wither and then healed in answer to his own prayer. But then he disobeyed and had no power against the lion.
I submit to you that it is like that in the Christian fife. When we live
close to the Lord, when we are filled with His Holy Spirit for power in
service, Satan cannot harm us. On the other hand, when we allow sin
into our lives, Satan can devour our minds and destroy our testimony
just as the lion killed the unnamed prophet.
Ordinarily, a lion who had killed a man would devour him, then
possibly kill and devour the donkey. This did not happen and the event was recognized as a judgment from God. As for Jeroboam, verse 33, says he “returned not from his evil way.” He remained unaffected by all these events.
Death of Abijah Chapter 14 describes the illness and death of Jeroboam’s son Abijah. It is interesting to notice that when his son was in danger, Jeroboam did not consult the gods he had created, but sent his wife in disguise down to Shiloh to the prophet Ahijah in this emergency. It was he who had earlier prophesied that Jeroboam would become king over the northern tribes. In this emergency, Jeroboam wanted true information.
God advised Ahijah beforehand what was taking place, so he was
not fooled by the disguise of Jeroboam’s wife. He confronted her and
prophesied doom on the family and descendents of her husband, be-cause he had not been like David, but had “done evil above all that were before him. “ As a sign that this would come to pass, he added (vs. 12), “when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.” All Israel would mourn for him because he was the only one of Jeroboam’s descendents who would end in a normal grave because God would raise up a king over Israel who would cut off all the house of Jeroboam.
Ahijah’s words contained a complex series of prophecies. In
addition to cutting off Jeroboam’s house, an event validated by the
immediate fulfilling of the time of Abijah’s death, Abijah forsaw the
future down to 722 B.C. Verse 15 adds:
For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in
the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good
land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter
them beyond the river, because they have made their
groves, provoking the Lord to anger.
The river was the Euphrates. The groves were those places where
upright pillars were carved in the appearance of female deities, where
cult prostitution was practiced. Verse 16 concludes, “he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin. “ So the prophecy extended from the immediate death of the child to the cutting off of Jeroboam’s house, and down through history to 722 B.C. Verse 17 continues: “And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died. “ That was the event which validated all the other prophecies which were still future.