LI SOME REFORMATION IN ISRAEL AND JUDAH
After having assassinated the kings of Israel and Judah, then
taking over the throne of Israel according to the word of the servant of
Elisha, Jehu still had two divinely appointed tasks ahead of him; to
destroy the house of Ahab, and to rid the land of official Baalism.
Eradication of Ahab’s House After learning that Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria (probably by women of his harem), Jehu sent word to the elders and to those responsible for raising the young princes, challenging them to declare the best qualified son as king and to engage in battle against him and defend Ahab’s dynasty. After all, they had the advantage of horses, chariots, armour, and a walled city.
After holding counsel together, the officials decided they could
not prevail against this “usurper” who had already killed two kings. In
fear, they sent a message of surrender. Jehu commanded them to
decapitate Ahab’s seventy sons and send their heads to him. When they complied, he put the severed heads in two baskets and sent them to Jezreel with instructions to place them in “two heaps” at the entrance to the city. Second Kings 10:11-17 completes the narration of how Jehu eliminated everyone who was related to or closely associated with Ahab.
Eradication of Baal Worship With the first task completed, Jehu turned quickly to the job of eliminating Baalism. The description of that effort begins in 10:18. He was much too crafty to let his intentions be known. If he had announced that he was going to kill every Baal worshiper, it probably would have been difficult to find one. Instead, according to verse 18, “Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. “ He ordered all the priests of Baal summoned and all who worshiped him. “Let none be wanting [missing]: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal,- whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. “ But, the Scripture adds, “Jehu did it in subtlety, to the intent that he might destroy the worshipers of Baal.
He proclaimed a solemn assembly for Baal throughout the land. Verse21 says that “the house of Baal was full from one end to another. “ Then, just to be sure the Baal worshipers could be easily recognized, he furnished garments for them. He stationed Ms men around the house of Baal and threatened that if they allowed any Baal worshiper to escape, “he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life
of him” (vs. 24). Then as soon as the sacrifices were completed, he ordered his men to begin the slaughter. After slaying all the priests and worshipers, they burned the images of Baal and razed his house. Verse 28 concludes, “Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.”
Jehu’s Failure The period in Israel’s history, dominated by the sin of Ahab, ended in 841 B.C. Unfortunately, however, Jehu did not go on to complete his reforms. Verse 29 says, “Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.”
As a reward for the work he had done, the Lord promised Jehu
the longest dynasty Israel was to experience-four generations. Because
of his incomplete obedience, however, his reign of twenty-eight years
was marred by harassment from neighboring countries. Verse 31 is his real epitaph: “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart. for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.”
The period in Israel that began in 841 and lasted until 722 B.C., is
known as the half-reform of Jehu; because that is exactly what it was, a half return, not a full return to the worship of Jehovah.
Fall of Athaliah Down in Judah, reform was delayed a little longer because of the presence and influence of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. Second Kings 11 contains the story of her usurpation and downfall. As soon as she learned of the assassination of her son Ahaziah by Jehu, she began to murder her grandchildren and established herself as queen. This had been Satan’s plan: to destroy the lineage of David. It almost succeeded! But God, faithful to His promises of Genesis 3:15 and II Samuel 7, was still in control. In verse 2, we read: But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah,
took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the
king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and
his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain.
So all the descendents of David, the lamps unto David ‘in Jerusalem, had narrowed down to one tiny flicker, and that was almost extinguished by Athaliah.
Satan’s glee over the work of the evil queen must have turned to
dismay when Joash was rescued. God’s promise was safe, embodied in the life of a helpless infant.
Athaliah reigned over the land for six years, from 841 to 835 B.C. In the seventh year Jehoiada the priest gathered together the royal bodyguards, instructing them to surround the young king with weapons in their hands and to put to death anyone who went within their ranks. These personal bodyguards were to be with Joash wherever he went. Finally, they brought the slain king’s son, the only surviving descendent of David through Solomon and Rehoboam, into the temple and placed the crown on his head. They anointed him king and clapped their hands, shouting “God save the king” (vs. 12).
When Athaliah saw that she had a living grandson, and that the
crown had been placed on Its head, she rent her clothes and screamed, “Treason, treason. “ What nerve it took for this wicked woman who had murdered her own grandchildren and usurped the throne, to call it treason when the rightful heir was crowned. The soldiers dragged her to the horse gate of the king’s house and slew her there. Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord, the king, and the people. He reaffirmed and reestablished the worship of Jehovah in the land. Joash was only seven years old when he became king of Judah.
Joash’s Reforms Joash reigned for forty years. Second Kings 12:2 tells us he, “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. “ The high places were not removed, but Joash was concerned about the Lord’s house. He made arrangements with the priests whereby anyone whose heart the Lord touched might bring money in to repair and refurbish the temple. It had been broken up by the sons of Athaliah who had also taken objects dedicated to Jehovah and used them in the worship of Baal (11 Chron. 24:7).
When in the twenty-third year of his reign, the work still had not
been started, Jehoiada took a little chest and bored a hole in its Ed. He placed it on the right side of the altar and instructed the priests who guarded the threshold to put into it all the money brought in to the temple. When sufficient money had been collected, they hired workmen, bought timber and other materials, and repaired the house of the Lord. At about that time, Jerusalem was threatened by Hazael, the king of Syria who had just captured Gath. Joash bought him off with a great amount of dedicated things which had been saved from the time of Jehoshaphat, including the gold from the treasury of the temple and of the palace.
Joash’s Downfall Second Chronicles 24 adds further information about the reign of Joash (or Jehoash, as it is also spelled). In II Kings 12:2, we read that Joash did right as long as Jehoiada the priest instructed him. In 11 chronicles 24:15ff, we learn that after Jehoiada died at the age of 130 years, the princes of Judah began to flatter and influence the king. Their hearts were still with Baalism, and under their influence the house of God was once again neglected and the people began worshiping Asherim and the idols. As a result, “wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass” (vs. 18). Still the Lord tried to reach them, because,
He sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord,
and they testified against them; but they would not give ear.
And the spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada
the priest, which stood above the people.
A prophet named Zechariah rebuked them in the name of the
Lord for their transgressions, pointing out that they were not prospering “because ye have forsaken the Lord, “ and “he hath also forsaken you” (vs. 20). Then in verse 21 we read a tragic statement: “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord. “ The year was about 797 B.C. King Joash forgot all the kind- ness of Zechariah’s father Jehoiada and approved the slaying of his son. Zechariah’ last words as he died were, “The Lord look upon it,
and require it.
After that event, God’s chastening rods were turned on Joash.
From then on it was downhill for his monarchy. The Syrians attacked
with a very small band (II Chron. 24:24), and the Lord delivered a very great army of Judah into their hands “because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. “ Joash’s people then turned against him, leaving him alone and sick. Two of his own servants conspired against him and murdered him in his bed (because of the blood of Zechariah).
Reign of Amaziah The reign of Joash’s son Amaziah is covered more fully in II Chronicles than in II Kings. One of his first acts after being established on the throne was to kill his father ’s murderers. However, II Chronicles 25:4 says, he spared their children because he knew the law of Moses said that fathers should not be put to death for the sins of their sons, nor sons for their fathers (Deut. 24:16). Each man must die for his own sin.
Second Chronicles 25:5 informs us that Amaziah numbered
all the men of war in Judah, 300,000 of them. Then, to
strengthen himself he went into the northern kingdom and
hired 100,000 Ephraimites for a hundred talents of silver. This angered God and a man of God came to the king and said, “Let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel. “ Amaziah complained because he had already paid them, but the man of God said, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this. “ Reluctantly,
Amaziah sent the mercenaries home; but they were so angry that they raided Judah as they departed. The king paid dearly for his lack of faith and his confidence in numbers by hiring the mercenaries to add to his army. With his own men, he went into the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 Edomites and captured another 10,000 alive, then brought them to the top of a cliff where he commanded his men to throw them off.
Then, Amaziah did a very foolish thing. Although a descendent
of he royal house of David, and a recipient of the Davidic
Covenant, he practiced henotheism. When he returned home from the war with the Edomites, he brought the gods of Seir and set them up as his gods. He bowed down, and burned incense to them.
Look back at I Chronicles 14:12 for a comparison between Amaziah
and his ancestor David, the man who was the measuring rod for all the kings who would follow. After David defeated an enemy, they abandoned their gods; David then ordered them burned with fire. He wanted nothing to do with the gods of other nations. Contrariwise, Amaziah, one of his progeny, worshiped the gods of the army he had defeated.
God was angered at Ws foolish and wicked idolatry and sent a
prophet to ask (II Chron. 25:15), “Why hast thou sought after the gods of
the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?” In
other words, How stupid can you be? Even a logical henotheist would
realize that since you defeated them, their gods are weaker than your
God, yet you brought them back.
As the prophet was speaking, the king asked him angrily, “Art
thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear, why shouldest thou be smitten?”
The prophet replied, “I know that God hath determined to
destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my
counsel” (vs. 16).
War with Israel Soon after, Amaziah sent a declaration of war to Joash, king of Israel. Even though the king of Israel tried to
appeal to him not to start something he could not finish,
accusing him of pride because of his defeat of the Edomites, and warning, “why shouldest thou meddle to thine hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?” (vs. 19). Amaziah would not listen because of pride and because it was God’s will to chastise him for having worshipped the Edomite gods.
Drawn by an invisible hand, the armies of Israel and Judah met
in battle. Judah was quickly defeated and every man fled to his tent.
Joash captured Amaziah and took him to Jerusalem. He tore down 600 feet of the wall around Jerusalem, from the gate of Ephraim to the comer gate. He took the gold, the silver, and the utensils, even hostages, and returned to Samaria.
Death Amaziah was now a crushed and defeated man. God’s
judgment had fallen heavily on him. Rebellion was in the air and the
people of Jerusalem began to conspire against him. He fled for his life to Lachish, but he was pursued and assassinated. His constituents (and assassins) took Uzziah, his sixteen-year-old son, and made him king.
Prosperity and Decay At this point, we must pick up the narrative which begins in 11 Kings 14:23: “In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. “ This man is usually referred to as Jeroboam II, because he was named after the founder of the nation of Israel, Jeroboam. It was a suitable name for him because verse 24 says “he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. “ He was just like his namesake, practicing the same religion. He solidified himself on the throne and solidified the old religion of Jeroboam by instituting afresh the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.
As evil as he was, there was a strange irony about lam.
Archaeologists have discovered coins from the middle ninth century
B.C., with the name of Jeroboam II on them. The inscription reads,
“Jeroboam, the servant of God. “ It is one thing for a man to call himself a servant of God, for it may or may not be true. It is quite another thing, however, when God calls a man His servant. Militarily, Jeroboam was a great king. He expanded the northern kingdom to almost the same geographical size as had been promised to Abraham and was accomplished by David when he was king over both Israel and Judah.
His contemporary in the south was Uzziah. Between the efforts
of King Jeroboam H and King Uzziah, the two nations reached an economic plateau which had not been attained since the time of Solomon, and a geographical expansion not reached since the time of David and Solomon. Outwardly, it was an era of tremendous prosperity, but inwardly it was a time of spiritual decadence and decay. What reforms the nations had experienced in the past had been half-hearted and superficial.
LII RISE OF ASSYRIA
Beginning with the accession of Jehu to the throne of Israel, the
Assyrians, who had become increasingly influential among the
surrounding nations, began to exert extensive military and political pres-sure on the northern kingdom. Archaeologists have unearthed a six foot high stela known as Shalmanezer’s obelisk. It was carved by order of Shalmanezer 111, the king of Assyria between 858 and 824 B.C. Its pictorial section shows Jehu bowing down to Shalmanezer and paying tribute, or protection money, to pacify him so he would not invade Israel.
From the reign of Shalmanezer 111, onward in history, the Old
Testament shows consistent and increasing pressure on Israel by the
Assyrians until they completely destroyed and dispersed the nation in
722 B.C. Some of the other Assyrian kings who had impact during this period were Shalmanezer IV, who reigned from 782 to 773 B.C.; Tiglathpileser 111, also called Pul (745-727); Shalmanezer V (727-722); Sargon II (721-705); Sennacherib (704-681); Esarhaddon (681-660); and Ashurbanipal (669-633). It was Judah who dealt with those kings who reigned after Shalmanezer V. There were also three others, but their influence was not as extensive as that of their predecessors.
The World Around When we study the Old Testament, we often think of Israel and Judah as if they operated in a historical vacuum. Although they were of utmost importance because God was working through them alone, since through Judah His Son would come, in reality, they were a minuscule portion of the civilized world. To put Israel and Judah in a historical context, we should be aware of what was happening in the rest of the world between 900 and 700 B.C. What occurred in other places impacted on Israel and Judah, and the nations surrounding them.
Between 900 and 800 B.C., the Phoenicians settled in Cyprus and
the Dorians conquered the city of Corinth. The Iliad and the Odessey,
the Greek epics traditionally ascribed to Homer, were written.
Ashurbanipal II, of Assyria, rebuilt the capital city of Calah, and
designed a new palace with highly descriptive ornate wall paintings.
The favorite sport in Calah was hunting Eons from chariots.
Between 800 and 700 B.C., the Greeks settled on the coast of Spain.
In Crete a rivalry developed among the ancient city-states. In 753 the
foundations of the city of Rome were laid. A woman began to reign as
high priest of Thebes in Egypt, and Apollo began to be worshiped in
Delphi. Up in Assyria, construction began on the royal palace in
Nineveh. The Babylonians produced a five tone and a seven tone scale as well as the earliest known recorded music. This was a hymn written in cuneiform on a tablet discovered in Samaria. In Greece, music became part of daily life.
Homer referred to highly developed battlefield surgery. Spoke
wheels and horseshoes began to be used in Europe. In Assyria, the
military began to use animal bladders as aids to s g in warfare. The first recorded Olympic Games were in 776, although they had possibly existed since 1350. They were celebrated every fourth year and featured horse-racing, wrestling, boxing, the pentathlon, and running. Women were not permitted to even observe them. Romulus, the first king of Rome, divided the year into ten months and his successor, Numa Pompilius, who according to fable and tradition, reigned from 715 to672 B.C., added January and February.
The Early Writing Prophets Beginning with Obadiah in 845, the writing prophets became God’s spokesmen to the deteriorating nations of Israel and Judah. Since we win complete the historical study of the two nations before looking up the prophetic books in detail, we need to place them in their historic context. In this way, we can picture them on the scene as we study the history of these two nations. We can also recognize their backgrounds when we study their writings.
Prophets Preceding the Fall of Samaria
Date Prophet Prophesied Contemporary Rulers in :
to: Israel Judah Assyria
845 Obadiah Edom Joram Ahaziah Shalrnanezer III
835 Joel Judah Jelin Athahah Shalrnanezer III
782 Jonah Nineveh Jeroboam II Amaziah Shalmanezer IV
760-720 Hosea Israel Jeroboam II Uzziah Tiglath-pileser
to Hoshea III to Hezekiah & Ashur-dan
760 Amos Israel Jeroboam II Uzziah Ashur-dan III
739-685 Isaiah Judah Pekah to Uzziah Tiglath-pileser
Hoshea III, to Manasseh Shalmanezer
737-690 Micah Judah Pekah to Jotham Same as Isaiah
Hoshea to Hezekiah
Uzziah’s Error Second Kings 15:1 introduces Azariah, or Uzziah as he is better known. However, his reign is more fully covered in 11 Chronicles 26. Everything considered, he was a good king. He waged war with great power. He had skillful men who could create engines of war to be used for shooting arrows and throwing large stones. It appears that he had catapults and machinery that could shoot a number of arrows at a time. Although through most of Its life he was a great king and one who sought God, unfortunately, verse 16 begins a sad account. But how typical it is!
But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his
destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his
God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense
upon the altar of incense.
Because of his accomplishments, Uzziah became proud. As a result, he acted corruptly and was unfaithful to the Lord. He had come to think that nothing could stand in his way; that he could do anything; even perform the office of the priest. So, he entered the temple, planning to personally bum incense on the altar. You will recall that usurping Samuel’s office had been one of Saul’s great sins.
In the provisions made for a king in Deuteronomy 17, we read
that he was to have his personal devotional copy of the law of God.
Evidently, Uzziah had forgotten to do his daily Bible reading, because
if he had been consistent with his devotional copy of the law, he would have remembered that Numbers 16:40 says,
To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger
[i.e. layman], which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to
offer incense before the Lord, that he be not as Korah, and his
company: as the Lord said to him by the hand of Moses.
When Uzziah, who was of the lineage of David and not of Aaron,
entered the temple to offer incense, the priests, led by Azariah, tried to stop him. When he would not heed, God struck Mm with leprosy. He remained a leper, isolated in his house for a number of years while Jotham Ms son served as co-regent and actually reigned over Judah. Jotham must have learned a lesson from Ms father’s experience because chapter 27:2 tells us that “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did. howbeit he entered not into the temple of the Lord. “
He became a mighty warrior king, walking obediently before the Lord
his God. Jotham was co-regent with his father from 750 to 739 B.C., and reigned by himself between 739 and 735 B.C.
Anarchy in Israel While Uzziah was reigning in Judah, prior to being isolated with leprosy, other intense activities, recorded in II Kings 15, were taking place in the north. Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam 11 and the fourth generation monarch who had been promised to Jehu, became king over Israel but reigned for only six months. According to verse 9-10,
He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers
had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of
Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Shallum the son of Jabesh
conspired against him, and smote him before the people, and
slew him, and reigned in his stead.
Shallum reigned for only one month. In a coup, Menahem assassinated him and became king in his place. Menahem reigned ten years and he also did evil in the sight of the Lord.
In verse 19 we are introduced to Pul, or Tiglath-pileser, the king
of Assyria. When he threatened Israel, Menahem bought him off with a
thousand talents of silver so “that his hand might be with him; “that is, to
strengthen his position on the throne. To obtain this pay-off money,
Menahem increased taxes and everyone in his kingdom was assessed fifty shekels of silver. “So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land” (vs. 20).
After ten years, Menahem died and his son Pekahiah became king.
He reigned for two years and also did evil. Then Pekah, one of his military officers, assassinated him in the palace at Samaria. Pekah sat on the throne for twenty years and he also did evil, departing not from the sins of Jeroboam. Pekah ironically was in turn assassinated by Hoshea, who would be Israel’s last king.