I Kings 12 – 2 Kings 25

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Failure and Hope in the Divided Kingdom

 

Introduction

1. Summary

• God was gracious and patient with the North and the South, and especially with David’s descendants.

• God punished the North for idolatry

• God rewarded faithfulness in the South but also judged when it was unfaithful.

• God gave His people hope of restoration after the exile

2. Structure

-Failure and hope in the divided years (1Kings 12:1-2Kings 17:41)
-Failure and hope in the final years (2Kings 18:1-25:30)
 

I. Failure and Hope in the Divided Years (1Kings 12:1-2Kings17:41)

A. General Analysis

-Divided Monarchy (1Kings12:1–16:28)

-Harmony between Judah and Israel (1Kings 16:29–2 Kings 9:37)

-Divided Monarchy (2Kings 10:1–25:30)
Decline and fall of Israel (2Kings 10:1-17:41)
Decline and fall of Judah (2Kings 18:1-25:30)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Divided Monarchy (1Kings12:1-16:28)

Assembly (1Kings 12:1-24)
-Apostasy in the North (1 Kings 12:25–14:20)
Man made worship symbols and worship system (IKgs.12:26-33)
Divine condemnation of false worship (IKgs.13:1-34)
-Apostasy in the South (1Kings 14:21-31)
Man made worship (IKgs.14:22-24)
Divine condemnation (IKgs.14:25–28)
-Conflict (1Kings 15:1-16:29)
Between Israel/Judah and God
Between Israel and Judah
 

2. Assembly at Shechem (IKgs.12:1-24)

When Solomon died in 930 BC, the kingdom appeared to be in good shape outwardly. Yet because of the idolatry introduced in his last days, the seeds of kingdom disintegration had already been sown. Solomon’s son Rehoboam lacked the wisdom of his father and rejected the wisdom of his father’s older counselors. Jeroboam, the forced-labor supervisor of the North took advantage of Rehoboam’s stupidity and led a secession of the ten northern tribes.
Deuteronomist’s Message: God not only threatens covenant curses, but executes them.
 

3. Apostasy in the North (IKgs.12:45-14:20)

As soon as the kingdom is divided, Jeroboam’s first act is idolatry. In defiance of the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:4) he made gods out of molten images and identified them with the God of the Exodus. He then tried to revive pre-Jerusalem religious traditions from the Exodus and conquest periods by erecting shrines at Dan in the far north and Bethel in the far South of Israel in order to discourage pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Jeroboam’s sin is the measure against which all subsequent Israelite kings are measured (eg. 1 Ki.16:19).

However, the prophetic editor is not impressed with this attempt to turn to a pre-Jerusalem tradition of multiple sanctuaries and sees Jeroboam’s moves as tantamount to a repetition of Exodus 32 (1 Kings 12:28 and Exod. 32:4). This rejection of Jerusalem by the north comes as the great apostasy of the period, and keeps south and north apart thereafter. So Jeroboam’s “gods” are polytheistic and idolatrous. For the prophets, Jeroboam’s cult revives and perpetuates Aaron’s Exodus 32 apostasy. The prophetic rebuke and dismissal come for Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13, and exile for Israel is to result (1 Kings 14:15). The sin of Jeroboam would determine the future of Israel. The house of David and Jerusalem is reaffirmed in the strange but symbolic chapter of the disobedient prophet (IKgs.13:1-10); then the theme of obedience to the voice of true prophecy is highlighted (IKgs.13:11-34). It is clear that Josiah is to be the second David, the restorer of the kingdom and the reviver of the fortunes of empire, bringing north and south together again, as his ancestor had done (IKgs.13:2).[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 95-96.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: The roots of the northern exile lay in idolatry.
 

4. Apostasy in the South (IKgs.14:21-31)

Under Rehoboam, the first successor to Solomon, the people did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (1 Kings 14:22), a contrast with the Davidic ideal.
Deuteronomist’s Message: The south were no better than the north.
 

5. Conflict (IKgs.15:1-16:29)

An underlying theme of this unit is enmity and war between Israel and Judah and between Israel/Judah and God. The animosity between Israel and Judah was an outgrowth of a historical rivalry between the two because of the priority God gave to Judah instead of Joseph’s sons (See Isa.11:13; Josh.15 &16; 18:5; Ps.78: 9, 67). The first attempt at establishing a monarchy occurred in the tribe of Ephraim (Judges 8). The second attempt was in Judges 9 with Abimelech in Ephraim. During Judges and early Kings (Saul) the central area was Ephraim – Shechem, Bethel and Shiloh. So when David moved the central sanctuary to Jerusalem on the border with Judah that was always going to be problematic. In 1Kings 11:26ff Solomon showed favoritism by putting tax burden on north but not on Judah in South.
Deuteronomist’s Message: Rebellion against God’s will leads to conflict between God and man, and between man and man.
 

6. Two kingdoms contrasted

Please see appendix for a summary of the individual kings of the North and South. We do not have time to study each king individually. All we can do is pick out general trends and themes.

Israel Judah
Northern Kingdom
-Ten Tribes
First King: Jeroboam
Capitals: Shechem, Samaria
Temples: Dan, Bethel, Samaria
Dynasties: 9
Kings: 19
All Bad Kings
Duration: 209 Years
Destruction: 722 BC
Land of Exile: Assyria
Longest Reign: Jeroboam II
41 Years
Shortest Reign: Zimri
7 Days
Last King: Hoshea
Southern Kingdom
-Two Tribes
First King: Rehoboam
Capital: Jerusalem
Temple: Jerusalem
Dynasty: 1
Kings: 19 + a Queen
Good and Bad Kings
Duration: 344 Years
Destruction: 586 BC
Land of Exile: Babylon
Longest Reign: Manasseh
55 Years
Shortest Reign: Jehoahaz
3 Months
Last King: Zedekiah

[footnote]J E Smith, The Books of History (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
a. The Northern Kingdom
Although there was roughly the same number of monarchs in both nations, there was much greater political instability in the north. The longest dynasties were those of Omri (four kings) and Jehu (five kings). Seven Israelite kings died by assassination, to be replaced by their assassins: Nadab, Elah, Joram, Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah. An eighth, Zimri, burned his palace down around himself when he realized he was doomed (1 Kings 16:18). In Israel, out of a total of twenty monarchs, none was judged to have been good by the author of 1 & 2 Kings. Jehu came the closest: he was anointed king by Elisha at the Lord’s command (2Kgs.9:1–13), and he was commended by God for his destruction of the enormously wicked house of Ahab (2Kgs.10:30). As a result God gave him the longest dynasty in Israel (five kings). However even he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, who set the standard of iniquity in the northern kingdom (2Kgs.10:29, 31). The prophetic word brings down the northern dynasties

The instability in Israel was also due to the pervasive disregard for the covenant exhibited by the northern kings. This consequent apostasy led the Lord to cast off entire royal dynasties and replace them with new ones. This pattern of upheaval was God’s means of disciplining and renewing Israel’s leadership.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 534.[/footnote]

b. The Southern Kingdom
In Judah, the dynasty of David continued unbroken from beginning to end. There were eight kings who did some good things: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Of these, the first six neglected to remove from the land the symbols of Canaanite pagan practices, the high places. Only Hezekiah and Josiah received unreserved praise for their reforms. Yet, in the end, even the greatness of these kings was not enough to spare Judah from destruction. Ultimately, the survival of the Davidic line was not due to any king’s inherent goodness. Rather, it was due to God’s grace

The Book of Kings aims to carry on the history of the theocracy until its end in the Babylonian exile. The Kings of Judah are judged in accordance with the promise given to David in II Sam. 7:12-16, whereas those of the northern kingdom, all of whom are condemned, are condemned because they have continued in the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin.[footnote]E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: Tyndale Press, 1953), 185.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: God dealt more graciously and patiently with the South because of His covenant promises to David.
 

7. Alliance/Harmony between Judah and Israel (1Kings 16:29-2 Kings 9:37)

The initial period of hostility between Israel and Judah (1 Ki.15:1-16:28) was followed by a period of peace between the two nations (1 Ki.16:29-2 Ki.9:37), before hostility was renewed prior to the fall of the Northern Kingdom (2 Ki.10-17).
The period of relative harmony extends from the reign of Ahab to the deaths of Joram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah. Jehoshaphat’s son in the South married Ahab’s daughter in the North. Also, Judah had joined with Israel in war against Syria. This focus on the north means that Judah recedes into the background for a time. Another reason for the Northern focus was religious. King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, had gone further than Jeroboam and his successors. They had used idols to worship Yahweh, which was bad enough in that it broke the first commandment. However, Jezebel broke the first commandment by introducing Canaanite Baal worship into the land. Ahab then raised Baal-worship to supreme place in the land and built a temple and altar to Baal in Samaria. This was bad enough for the Northern Kingdom, but the fact that the South was so closely involved in the North at this stage in their history meant that both North and South were in great danger.

The Lord, therefore, must intervene, and Elijah, His messenger appears upon the scene. The prophets, performing miracles in the Name of Jehovah, were by God’s grace enabled to prevent the Baal-worship from becoming the dominant state-religion in Israel. This is the second great period of miracles in Biblical history.[footnote]?[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: God intervenes with His providence and His prophets to deter His chosen people from idolatry.
 

8. Prophets v. kings

Though the Kings of the North and the South were at harmony during this period, yet the prophets were not at harmony with the Kings. Since the founding of the kingdom of Israel in 930 BC, the prophets and the kings had been at odds with one another. The king had as his primary goals military security, economic expansion and a higher standard of living for his people. The prophets, on the other hand, were concerned first and foremost about fidelity to Yahweh. They viewed with suspicion the foreign treaties negotiated by the government. The antagonism between the government and prophets reached its climax in the Ahab-Elijah clash.
a. Worst King v. Most Powerful Prophet
If there ever was a time when God needed to intervene in a mighty way in the stream of human history, it was in the time of the worst ever King in Israel, Ahab (IKgs.16:30). In that dark hour a determined effort was being made to stamp out faith in Yahweh. True prophets and priests were outlawed and persecuted. The priests and prophets of Baal became the religious officials of the nation. Apostasy from Jehovah had become formal and official. Only mighty miracles such as were performed by Elijah and Elisha could have been sufficient to counteract the influence of Jezebel and her 850 priests and prophets. The greatest prophet is reserved for the worst age. Israel had never had such an impious king as Ahab, nor such a miraculous prophet as Elijah.

Elijah may be regarded as a second Moses, one in whom the prophetic power culminated. He is zealous for the Law and the honor of God, and like Moses, performs miracles. But he also serves as a model of that great Prophet whom Moses had predicted (Deut. 18:15), the One in whom both the Law and the Prophets would be fulfilled.[footnote]E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: Tyndale Press, 1953), 191.[/footnote]

b. Baal v. Yahweh
Baal was believed to control the fire, the rain, the oil and corn, fertility, healing, resurrection. The writer teaches that Yahweh controls the fire (1 Ki.18:17-46; 2 Ki.1:9, 16, 11); Yahweh controls the rain (2 Ki.7:1-3; 1 Ki.17:1; 2 Ki.3:14-17; 1 Ki.18:41-46); Yahweh is the author of food (1 Ki.17:1-6; 1 Ki.17:8, 16; 1 Ki.19:1-6; 2 Ki.4:1ff; 41,42-44); Yahweh gives children (2 Ki.4:14-17); Yahweh heals (2 Ki.5:1-14; 2 Ki.4:20ff); Yahweh revives (1 Ki.17:17-23; 2 Ki.4:18, 37; 2 Ki.13:20-21)
c. The call for covenant fidelity
On Mt Carmel, believed to be Baal’s sacred mountain, Elijah throws down the gauntlet and calls for undivided allegiance to Yahweh.

[This] is virtually a recall to the Sinai relationship (note the tenor of 18:21), and this to covenant renewal for the north. Elijah’s challenge is met by silence on the part of the spectators. Then Yahweh himself asserts his sole sovereignty, as he had done on Sinai, by fire in a spectacular theophany (v. 38). Like Moses at Sinai, Elijah turns the sword on the apostates (v. 40), having made clear the indivisibility of the people of God (vv. 30-32) by his selection of the twelve stones to repair the older altar.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 97.[/footnote]

d. Execution of the Baal prophets (1Kings 18:39-46)
The slaughter of the Baal prophets has been called an act of gross fanaticism and cruelty by some; others have seen in it a wild and terrible vendetta for Jezebel’s persecutions of Yahweh’s prophets. However, the law required the execution of those who worshiped false gods, and especially those who taught others in Israel to so worship (Ex.22:20; Deut.13; 17:2–7). Also, whereas it was normally the duty of the monarch to carry out such executions, in Elijah’s day the king was corrupt, powerless, and an idolater. We must also remember that these prophets had threatened the very existence of true religion, and so of Israel itself.

In Ahab’s and his son’s day, the nation was in great danger of losing its identity as a nation called apart to be God’s special people (cf. Ex. 19:4–6). This time, the threat was internal and officially sanctioned by the king, which made it all the more insidious. The king’s function was to be immersed in the law of the Lord and to lead his people in obedience to it (Deut.17:18-20), not to be leading them in Baal worship (1 Kings 18) or in listening to innumerable false prophets (chap. 22 ).[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: God will oppose and punish idolaters, whether they be kings, priests or people.
 

9. Elijah’s “depression” (IKgs.19:1-18)

The conflict had left Elijah physically, mentally and spiritually drained. Threatened by Jezebel, he ran away and asked God to find another prophet. He returns to Mt Sinai, the scene of Israel’s foundation and the original theophany to Moses (1Ki.19:9; Ex.33:22). There God ministers to him and prepares him for further ministry. Perhaps the most significant feature in this episode is the revelation of a faithful remnant who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Ki.19:18). Also, immediately after he meets Elisha, who will become his successor.
Deuteronomist’s Message: God preserves a faithful remnant even in the worst of times.
 

10. The Lying Spirit (1Kings 22)

In 1 Kings 21, the confrontation between Elijah and the king does not so much revolve around idol worship but around Ahab’s arrogance in office, demonstrated by his stealing of Naboth’s vineyard. Even here, however, Ahab’s idol worship is condemned (IKgs.21:25–26). Chapter 22 relates how the Southern and Northern kings joined to go to war. However, before they went, they decided to consult the prophets. This became a battle between the professional false prophets who tried to say what the King wanted them to say, and the true prophets who said what God wanted them to say regardless of the King’s desires. The true prophet, Micaiah related a heavenly vision in which he saw God send out a lying spirit to enter a false prophet and deceive Ahab. God is not here the initiator of evil. In a sense He is simply allowing the existing evil to run its course. When Jesus said to Judas, “What thou doest, do quickly,” He was not commanding evil but simply permitting existing evil to fulfill its plans. We should also note that God did not deceive Ahab because He revealed the vision to him and so gave him full warning.

Nevertheless, it is ironic (and fitting) that Ahab, who had lived his life by consulting false (and lying) prophets and rejecting true prophets, now faced the possibility that he might be led to his death by listening to a false prophet.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: Rejection of God’s prophets and acceptance of false prophets will result in danger and death.
 

11. Centrality of Elisha

Just as Elijah was the key person of 1 Kings, so Elisha is the central figure of 2 Kings as he followed Elijah in prophesying to the Northern Kingdom.

The events relating to Elisha receive a disproportionate amount of attention (about two-fifths of the whole book), especially since Elisha is not a king in a book devoted to the history of Israelite kings. The amount of Elisha material is due to the author’s purpose. He wanted to write not a survey of the events, but an explanation for the destruction of both kingdoms. In the Books of Kings, the greatest single cause for the failure of Israel was the policies of their kings and their lack of obedience to the prophetic word. In 2 Kings, the author praises only Hezekiah and Josiah because of their high regard for the word of God. All the other kings were neglectful at best, and evil at worst…The point of the Elijah-Elisha narratives, then, is that the kingdom succeeded when it followed the leadership of the prophets. Failure and destruction resulted when the kings rejected the word of God offered through the prophets. These narratives about Elijah and Elisha relate many victories for the prophets of Yahweh. But the tide of religious apostasy was not easily stemmed. Sadly, the book continues the tale of ruin for both kingdoms.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 240.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: Israel’s only hope of deliverance is in listening to God’s faithful prophets.
 

12. Cluster of Miracles

Miracles are not evenly spread throughout the Bible. They are clustered around times of major transition or crisis. The first cluster is around Moses in the Exodus and in the Wilderness. The second cluster is the miracles performed through the instrumentality of Elijah and Elisha due to the mortal threat Israel was facing. The third is in the New Testament when Jesus and His apostles were establishing the early church.
Dorsey argues that the centerpiece of the whole book of Kings is Elisha’s miracles of kindness which gives him divine authority for his ministry in contrast to the false prophets who lacked such legitimacy (2Ki.2:1-8:6).

The unit may serve to illustrate – and underscore – the kind of righteous leadership that Yahweh wanted Israel’s kings to practice – defending and helping the poor and weak, as Elisha, Yahweh’s representative did so admirably, and as Israel’s kings failed to do (cf. Ahab’s treatment of Naboth). The unit may also serve as a key piece of evidence against Israel. It recounts Yahweh’s many miracles through Elisha, which amply demonstrated Yahweh’s power, his love for his people, and his disapproval of their disobedience – so that even foreigners like Naaman the Aramean were moved to respect Israel’s God. Israel was without excuse in its rejection of Yahweh…The layout reinforces the theme that Yahweh is worthy of their respect, their trust, and their obedience. Not only is he all powerful, as the stories of Elijah and Elisha show; but he also loves his people and is able and willing to help them, even in the worst of times and even in foreign lands, as those same stories (and others in the book) show. The Judean exiles in Babylonia needed to know these truths if they were to continue to place their trust in the God who had destroyed their land.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 143.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: God, in His grace and kindness, can yet restore and heal exiled Israel.
 

13. Decline and fall of Israel (2Ki.10:1-17:41)

Israel’s occupation of the land of Canaan is singled out as the most prominent of all the features by which their nationhood is signified. The supreme punishment is seen as that of being driven out from the land to perish among the nations. The conditional nature of the covenant is therefore taken very seriously and no hesitation appears in drawing the direst consequences from the threat which this inevitably brought.

The striking absence of a prophetic witness characterizes this unit. God has apparently given up; his silence is obvious and the effect is a sense of hopelessness. The successive reigns of the kings in this unity are recounted in a negative, staccato, relentlessly linear fashion. There are no interruptions, no hopeful pauses in this downward plunge to destruction. Even the interruptive accounts of the kings of Judah offer no hope – they are equally short, generally negative, and devoid of promise. The last episode, standing in the highlighted position, is the unit’s climactic grand finale: the fall of Samaria and the end of the northern kingdom.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 141[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: The exile was God’s just punishment for covenant failure.
 

14. The downward spiral

  • Israel apostatizes after the Exodus (2Kgs.17:7-12)
  • Israel apostatizes despite the prophets warnings (2Kgs.17:13-17)
  • Israel rejected (2Kgs.17:18-23)

The rejection of “all the seed of Israel” took place in three great stages. First, God had torn the ten northern tribes away from the house of David. By the introduction of the calf worship, Jeroboam “drove Israel from following Yahweh.” Throughout the history of the northern kingdom, the people never turned from this great sin introduced by Jeroboam. Second, God removed Israel from his sight, i.e., from the land which was under the guardianship of Yahweh. In fulfillment of prophetic warnings dating back to Moses, Israel was carried away captive to Assyria. The third stage of the rejection of “all the seed of Israel” unfolds in the remaining chapters of the book of Kings (2Kgs.17:21–23).[footnote]J E Smith, The Books of History (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

A prophetic commentary upon the reason for the fall of the north, given as the failure to heed the prophetic word, appears in 2 Kings 17. Not only Israel, however, but Judah also does not keep the commandments; but the time of her punishment is not yet. In 2 Kings 17, the people have been reminded that they have squandered their heritage of exodus, covenant, wilderness, and conquest. In spite of Yahweh’s deliverances, they have ignored his law. The message is for Judah, for the north had gone. But will Judah heed?[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 100.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: Rejection of the prophetic word will be punished by God’s withdrawal of the prophetic word.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Reunited kingdom

The temporary period of harmony between Israel and Judah foreshadowed the day which all the prophets looked forward to, when one king would re-unite the two kingdoms (Ezek.37:15ff). Christ is the Son of David who will reunite the kingdoms forever. He breaks down the divisions, walls and boundaries between peoples.
 

2. Elijah and Elisha Analogy

Matthew draws literary parallels between the lives of Elijah and Elisha and the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus. He presents John as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would come again (Mal.4:5), and he presents Jesus as the new Elisha. The Jews of Jesus’ day apparently expected that Elijah would appear literally and physically from the grave, and so when John the Baptist was asked if he was Elijah, he replied, “I am not” (John 1:21). On the other hand, Jesus described John as “the Elijah who was to come” (Matt.11:14; 17:12), and Matthew goes out of his way to demonstrate how this was so. Both were known for their distinctive style of dress (2Kgs.1:7-8; Mat.3:4). Both faced a hostile political power throughout their lives. In particular, the main antagonist for both was a woman who was seeking their lives. For Elijah, it was Jezebel (1Ki.19:2, 10, 14); for John, it was Herodias (Matt.14:3-12). Both anointed their successors at the Jordan River. Elisha had accompanied Elijah to the Jordan, and he asked that a double portion of the spirit of Elijah also rest on him (2Kgs.2:9-14). When John baptized Jesus at the Jordan, he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending upon God’s Son (Matt.3:1-17). Elijah was the forerunner of Elisha, just as John the Baptist was for Jesus. (Lk.1:17; Mal.4:6). Miracles of compassion abounded in Elisha’s and Christ’s ministry.

While Elijah was known for his ministry of forceful prophetic denunciations and is a type of John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14; 17:10–12; Luke 1:17), Elisha’s ministry reminds us of Christ. Elijah generally lived apart from the people and stressed law, judgment, and repentance. Elisha lived among the people and emphasized grace, life, and hope.[footnote]Nelson’s complete book of Bible maps and charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

 

3. Moses, Elijah and Jesus (Matt.17:1-8)

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus is present with Elijah and Moses. This should not surprise us, as Kings presents a number of parallels between Elijah and Moses.

Moses had also experienced the power of God on a mountain, only to find idolatry underway when he came down (Ex. 32; 1 Kings 18). Through Moses God had provided food and water for Israel during her forty years in the wilderness (Ex. 17, Num. 11, 20), just as he provided Elijah with food and beverage that sustained him for forty days (1 Kings 19:8). Moses had encountered God at Sinai, and now God leads the prophet to that same place (1 Kings 19). There, like Moses, Elijah would experience the presence of God in the wind, earthquake, and fire (cf Ex. 19:16-19). The cave where Elijah took refuge (1 Kings 19:9) reminds us of the cleft in the rock that concealed Moses (Ex. 33:22). On that same mountain God would “pass by” both (vv. 19, 22; 1 Kings 19:11), and both would avoid looking at God (Ex. 33:22; 34:33; 1 Kings 19:13). Both would be sent back to their tasks, their commissions to serve God renewed (Ex. 33:12; 1 Kings 19:15-16). Both Moses and Elijah would complain that they had had enough and ask God to take their lives (Num. 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; cf. Ex. 32:32), and God would appoint prophets as help for each (Num. 11:16-17,25; 1 Kings l9:l6-l7). Both Moses and Elijah would yet behold the glory of God and hear his voice another time on another mountain (Matt. 17:1-13). There the splendor of the godhead enveloped Jesus, the Son of God, the one who was “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3). Like Elijah, Jesus had spent forty days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:2), but unlike Elijah, he did not succumb to despair. Biblical authors also pair Elijah and Moses in reference to the Day of the Lord (Mal.4:4-5), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3-4; Mark 9:4-5), and in Revelation (Rev.11:3-6). Moses represented the law, and Elijah, the prophets; in Jesus one greater than Moses and Elijah had come, and all the law and the prophets spoke of him (Luke 24:27).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 166-167.[/footnote]

 

4. Elijah: a man of like passions

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit (Jas.5:17-18).

 

II. Failure and Hope in Surviving Kingdom (2Kings 18-25)

A. General Analysis

-Good King (18:1–20:21)
Hezekiah/Sennacherib, illness, pride

-Wicked Kings (21:1-26)
Manasseh/Amon, 21:1–26

-Good King (22:1–23:30)
Josiah and his reforms

-Wicked kings (23:31-25:21)

-Favor shown to Jehoiachin (25:22–30)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Will Judah fall too?

This last section of the unit traces Judah’s fortunes after the fall of Israel. Judah’s kings oscillated between genuine religious reform (Hezekiah and Josiah) and absolute apostasy (Manasseh and Jehoahaz). The alternation itself teaches that even the reforms were generally superficial and short-term. It answers the question raised by chapter 17: Israel has gone, but will Judah learn the lessons?
Jensen points out three influences which might have spared Judah from the fate already suffered by Israel
a. The example of Israel.
b. The reform programmes of Judah’s kings, especially Hezekiah and Josiah.
c. The ministry of the prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah.
The fact that none of these factors had the desired result, confirms the justice of the exile which had been foreshadowed in Deuteronomy 29-30 and Joshua 23-24 and came about as the just recompense for covenant disobedience.
Deuteronomist’s Message: Judah had ample opportunity to learn the lessons and avoid exile.
 

2. Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20)

Hezekiah purified Israel’s religion from pagan practices, removed the high places, destroyed the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah, broke the bronze serpent and restored true worship. However, his pride led him to show off the public treasury to the Babylonian ambassadors. Although he repented, and although Hezekiah himself would escape, Isaiah told him that the political descendants of these same Babylonians would return to Jerusalem and carry off her treasures and people (2 Kings 20:17-19). The exile and captivity of Judah is foretold to Hezekiah, not to blame him for this (Scripture blames another King), but to convince him of the folly of his pride and to make him ashamed of it. Hezekiah’s reign ends on this sad note. Moreover, his reforms seem to have been superficial and short-term. From his death onwards Judah’s moral and spiritual life declined continuously, apart from the reign of Josiah.
Deuteronomist’s Message: Judah’s Babylonian exile was prophesied beforehand and a just reward for her proud self-confidence.
 

3. Manasseh (2 Kings 21)

In the reign of this king lies the answer to the question, “When did the fall of Jerusalem become inevitable?” Manasseh violated almost every stipulation of the Mosaic and Davidic covenants. His covenant violations included child sacrifice, soothsaying, sorcery, divination and mediums. He rebuilt the high places, reintroduced the Canaanite religions of Baal and Asherah and established a state astral cult. Many of these things had been done by previous kings and they were suitably chastised. However, Manasseh’s evil exceeded previous kings on two accounts. Firstly, he did these things in Jerusalem. Secondly, he desecrated the house of God. He built pagan altars in both the outer and the priest’s courts and erected the pagan Asherah pole in the temple itself (2Kgs.21:4-7).
Manasseh disobeyed the most important covenant stipulation and for this the punishment is severe. These provocations by Manasseh set the stage for that which would appear to be inconceivable in the light of all that had preceded. God had maintained his covenant lovingkindness to David and Jerusalem for all these years. Yet now the doom of Jerusalem must be sealed (2Ki.21:9-15, Jer.15:1-4)
The author of Kings can say no good word of Manasseh, but instead brands him the worst king ever to sit on David’s throne. His sins were considered by the authors of Kings and Chronicles as the worst in ancient Israel and as the ultimate cause of the destruction of the temple. The fall of Jerusalem, therefore, became inevitable during the reign of Manasseh (687-642 BC), when the Lord pronounced the judgments in 2 Kings 21v9-15.
Manasseh was carried to Babylon as punishment, where he repented. He returned to Jerusalem and tried to repair the city physically, morally and spiritually. However, events had been set in motion that could not be averted.
Deuteronomist’s Message: God punished His people for the ultimate crime of desecrating His own dwelling place.
 

4. Josiah (2 Kings 22-23)

Josiah is famous for the religious reformation he instigated, and which was accelerated when the book of the law was found during the course of Temple repairs. These reforms are a fulfillment of the prophetic word which portrayed Josiah as a second David (1Kgs.13:2).

Fulfilling the duty of a pious ancient Near Eastern king, Josiah began temple renovations (2Kgs.22:3-10) before the finding of the book of the law was reported. Josiah’s commission, in response to the finding of the law (2Kgs.22:8-10), for his messengers to inquire of Yahweh for him, at the house of Huldah, showed covenant sensitivity for prophetic direction. K. Baltzer (1971, 13-18) has noted that in Hittite treaties, two offenses constituted violation: disobedience and loss of the treaty document. Second Kings 22 presupposed the latter and mentions the former as the source of Josiah’s agitation (2 Kings 22:11-13). Josiah’s ancestors had not been totally disobedient but selectively disobedient. The finding of the scroll justifies Josiah’s unprecedented intervention into the religious affairs of Judah with his radical reforms.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 101.[/footnote]

The contents of this “Book of the law” are not stated explicitly. However Josiah’s reaction on hearing it read, and the subsequent reforms he ordered suggest that it contained Deuteronomy and perhaps also Leviticus.
When the law was read Josiah tore his clothes and wept because he realized that the nation was living in a fool’s paradise in assuming that Yahweh, through his promises to David, was irrevocably committed to its defense. Josiah sought advice from Huldah the prophetess. Her message in 2 Kings 22:14ff paralleled the covenant curses in Deuteronomy 29:20-28. She plainly intimated to Josiah that matters had gone too far in the wrong direction. Although Josiah would not see Jerusalem destroyed, the curses written in the law would still certainly be accomplished.

Josiah’s response was to convoke a national assembly. A covenant renewing the Sinai compact was ratified among deity, king, and people, providing support for Josiah’s further interventions. This was not a new covenant but a renewal of the Sinai covenant. Josiah acts as covenant mediator ensuring a united front behind his reforms (2Kgs.23:4-20). Josiah’s role in generating public interest, defining the terms of the covenant, and supervising its confirmation is highlighted. Josiah’s southern reforms (2Kgs.23:4-14) are then set in motion. He begins with reforms which are chronologically and geographically more immediate (2 Kings 23:5-6) and then moves on to reforms which are chronologically and geographically more distant (Knoppets 1994, 2:181). He begins at the house of God, the Jerusalem temple, and then moves progressively through southern to northern centers (vv. 15-20).[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 101-102.[/footnote]

However, all his reforms were not sufficient to stave off the judgment of God. The sin of Manasseh in leading the nation to repudiate the covenant had planted the seeds of inevitable destruction for Judah, Manasseh’s repentance and Josiah’s reformation notwithstanding, the unavoidable consequence was defeat and deportation (2Kgs.23:25-27).
Deuteronomist’s Message: Though God is long-suffering, He is not forever-suffering and will not cancel His judgments for mere superficial reformations.
 

5. Last five kings

The history of Judah is concluded with abbreviated summaries of the last five kings, being the dying gasps of a nation under inevitable divine judgment. They were to accept the divine judgment and submit to Babylonian suzerainty. Rebellion was pointless and Judah’s destruction inevitable because of Manasseh’s sin (Jer.15:1-4, 2 Kings 24:2-4). In 586 BC Jerusalem fell and the Judean monarchy was ended.

The chronologically linear layout of the book of Kings draws attention to the book’s concluding unit (the final unit in a linear scheme is the natural point of emphasis). The ending, or actual double ending, features the disastrous fall of the northern and southern kingdoms. Its highlighted position as the book’s grand finale suggests that Israel’s and Judah’s fall is what the Book of Kings is about. The book’s successive units build toward this conclusion and function to establish a reason for it.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 142[/footnote]

The collapse of the Israelite state saw the failure of a national experiment. This failure seemed to make it clear that neither a national state nor a system of institutionalized religious practices would henceforth be the carrier of the promises to Abraham. With the fall of the Israelite state, the dawn of the New Testament age had virtually begun. For, after the exile, though many attempts to revive the past would be made, it would eventually become clear that the visible carrier of the promises would not finally be physical Israel as such, but a community of faith. In retrospect this had always been so. The exile would underline this biblical truth.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 103-104.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: Israel’s failure to be a blessing to many nations is punished by the cutting off of the nation.
 

6. Final Hope (2Kgs.25:27-30)

Scholars are divided as to the nature of the last section of the book. Dumbrell says that it is largely negative.

Perhaps this indirect reference to the promises given to the Davidic line (2 Sam. 7) is a glimmer that in the midst of despair and uncertainty, Yahweh is still at work, but Jehoiachin, the Davidic king in exile, is now dead. He indeed had been released, but the portrayal of the Davidic monarch, eating defiled food puppet-like at a pagan king’s table, contrasts markedly with that of the faithful Jew, Daniel, whose uncompromising conduct indicates a faith that would survive the exile. We are thus left with the distinct impression that, once again, a question mark has been raised over the future of Israel. The monarchical period began with the recognition of the need for a more ordered institutional life under Yahweh’s leadership (Judg.21:25). The period witnessed the growth of Israel’s institutional life but also the progressive denial of the authority of Yahweh by gross acts of apostasy.[footnote]Ibid.,103-104.[/footnote]

The more positive view sees the author ending his book by reminding his readers that the Davidic promise has not failed. The promise may look far away and weak but it still exists and one day will be raised up again. God moved the Babylonians who carried away Israel’s king to raise him up from prison and restore him to royal favor. God had not forgotten his promise, even in a distant land and difficult circumstances. The release and subsequent elevation of Jehoiachin no doubt bolstered the morale of the Jewish captives and made them ever more confident that one day God would fulfill his promise to put an end to their banishment and restore them to their native land. The book ends in the Exile, but with a muted note of hope – that God would continue to remember his promises to David.

Although individual kings would be punished severely for covenant violations, the family of David would never be permanently removed from power. God’s love for David prompted divine patience toward his descendants (1Kgs.15:4), and it explained the grand significance of the last scene of the book – when Jehoiachin was released from prison in Babylon – as a hopeful sign that God had not given up on David’s royal house.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), ?[/footnote]

The book begins with King David and ends with the King of Babylon. It opens with the Temple built and closes with the Temple burnt. It begins with David’s first successor on the throne of his kingdom, and ends with David’s last successor released from the house of his captivity.
Deuteronomist’s Message: In the midst of Israel’s hopelessness, her only glimmer of hope lay in the Davidic King.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Josiah as a type of Christ

First and Second Kings will make it clear that no human king can lead God’s people, not even the second David, Josiah. He tried to unite North and South and failed, but Christ succeeded
 

III. The Message

Original Message: God graciously blessed Israel’s faithfulness and justly punished unfaithfulness, but holds out hope of renewed blessing upon repentance
Present Message: God graciously blesses the faithful and justly judges the unfaithful, but holds out hope of renewed blessing upon repentance.