December 18, 2017

At a Glance: Prophets, Priests, & Kings: The History Of Israel’s Monarchy – Part 3

Layton Talbert

Part 1 – Transition to Monarchy (1 Sam 1-8)

Part 2 – The United Monarchy (1 Samuel 9–1 Kings 11)

This article is Part 3-The Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17)

In her 210-year history (931-722 B.C.), the northern kingdom of Israel went through 20 kings representing 9 different dynasties (ruling families). To a man, Israel’s monarchs were morally corrupt and spiritually defective. Yet God centered His most dramatic and intense prophetic activity on the wayward northern kingdom, until her recalcitrance was incurable and her doom sealed. (Note: Each name with an asterisk marks the head of a new dynasty.)

JEROBOAM* (22 yrs; 931-910) 1 Kings 11-14

Vaulted into leadership with gracious promises from God (11:26–40), Jeroboam’s introduction of deviant worship into Israel colored all future generations. (See 1 Ki. 15:26, 34; 16:2, 19, 26, 31; 22:52; 2 Ki. 3:3; 10:29,31; 13:2,6,11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:22). He ignored repeated revelation from God, till the Lord determined to cut off both his family (14:7-11) and Israel (14:14-16). In the end, “the Lord struck him” (2 Chron. 13:20).

SUMMARY: Refusal to believe God’s Word breeds a deviant worship.

NADAB (2 yrs; 910-909) 1 Kings 15:25-28, 31

Jeroboam’s son receives 5 verses. His moral/spiritual legacy is predictable (15:26). He was assassinated by one of his own commanders, Baasha. (of the tribe of Issachar).

SUMMARY: Like father, like son.

BAASHA* (24 yrs; 909-886) 1 Kings 15:32-16:7

Baasha was held accountable for his own murderous actions, though they were predicted and permitted by God for Jeroboam’s judgment. What he did for personal and ambitious reasons, God providentially permitted for spiritual reasons. In a kind of prophetic/poetic justice, Baasha became the object of the same doom pronounced upon Jeroboam (16:1-7). Baasha’s dynasty (like Jeroboam’s) lasted only 2 generations.

SUMMARY: Providence does not negate personal responsibility.

ELAH (2 yrs; 886-885) 1 Kings 16:8-10, 13-14

That prophetic/poetic justice played out further in Elah’s rise and fall. Like Nadab, Elah reigned only 2 years, is given only 5 verses, and was assassinated by a trusted lieutenant, Zimri-who proceeded to exterminate the entire line of Baasha Gust as Baasha had done to Jeroboam’s line).

SUMMARY: Prophetic/poetic justice played out.

ZIMRI* (7 days; 885) 1 Kings 16:9-20

Zimri assassinated the drunken King Elah and exterminated his predecessors’ posterity. Word of Zimri’s coup reached the army, who elected Omri king and followed him to Trrzah to establish his reign. When he saw that Omri’s forces had taken the city, Zimri burned down the palace over himself.

SUMMARY: A short act, but he brought the house down.

TIBNI* (3-4 yrs; 885-882) 1 Kings 16:21-22

Another leader surfaced with significant support among the people; 3-4 years of divided rule and civil war ensued before Tibni was slain and Omri obtained sole rule.

OMRI* (12 yrs; 885-874) 1 Kings 16:23-28

Omri’s influence reached farther than his 6 verses suggest. He moved the capital from Tirzah to Samaria. Politically, Omri’s reign was a pivotal one for Israel, establishing it as a key power in the region. Ties with Phoenecia led to the marriage of his son, Ahab, to the Tyrian princess, Jezebel. His spiritual legacy set a new low for Israel (16:25; d. Mic. 6:16).

SUMMARY: “Worse than all before,” he opened the door to Baal worship and instituted the far-reaching “statutes of Omri” (Mic. 6:16).

AHAB (22 yrs; 874-853) 1 Kings 16:29-22:40

No other king of Israel is more notorious, occupies more space in the Biblical record, or had any more lasting, devastating impact on Israel’s spiritual decline. Ahab is king for 6 chapters; but he appears only as the nemesis, and his reign the backdrop, for God’s activity through Elijah. All the stories of Ahab and Jezebel only highlight the reliability of “the word of the Lord.” Repeatedly showed himself to be a man of power without character, dominated by the stronger Jezebel.

SUMMARY: Even worse! Power without character, remorse without repentance; Ahab sold himself to do evil (21:20, 25).

AHAZIAH (2 yrs; 853-852) 1 Kings 22:51-53; 2 Kings 1:1-18

This son of Ahab walked in the ways of both parents. The only story from Ahaziah’s reign (his accidental fall and consequent death) deliberately juxtaposes “thus saith the Lord” (1:4, 6) and “thus saith the king” (1:9, 11). Who has the last word? Note 1:13-17. Ahaziah was succeeded by his brother, J(eh)oram.

SUMMARY: Falling in the footsteps of his parents. (Or, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”)

JORAM (12 yrs; 852-841) 2 Kings 3:1-27, 5:1-8, 6:8-8:6, 9:14-26

If Joram is the unnamed king throughout the ministry of Elisha (2 Kings 3-9), he witnessed an enormous amount of divine activity and communication. Joram appears in 6 scenes: war with Moab (3:1-27); visit of Naaman (5:18ff.); capture of a Syrian band (6:8-23); Syrian siege of Samaria (6:24-7:20); tale of the Shunammite woman (8:1-6); and his own assassination (9:14-26). Joram removed his father’s Baal-image-a courageous act, since his mother, Jezebel (the real instigator of Baal worship), was still alive and well. The text repeatedly drops hints which are unique among the kings of Israel and seem to indicate Joram was among the better of the bad kings of Israel: he (1) was not as bad as his parents (3:2), (2) referred to Elisha with respect (6:21), (3) began to acknowledge Yahweh’s hand in events (6:27,33), (4) displayed sincere repentance (6:30), and (5) manifested genuine interest in Elisha’s ministry (8:4).

SUMMARY: The nameless king during Elisha’s ministry; became one of the better of the bad kings of Israel.

JEHU* (28 yrs; 841-814) 2 Kings 9:1- 10:36

God’s anointing and commissioning of Jehu included a charge to eradicate the house of Ahab. Jehu conspired to assassinate Joram (recovering in Jezreel from battle wounds). Conveniently, King Ahaziah of Judah (a maternal grandson of Ahab and Jezebel) was visiting the convalescing Joram. Jehu assassinated both simultaneously (fulfilling “the word of the Lord,” 9:25-26), then executed Jezebel, queen mother of Israel (whose manner of death also fulfilled “the word of the Lord”). Jehu’s purge was political (10:1-17) and religious (10:18-28), eradicating all Baal worshippers and turning their temple into a public latrine. Jehu’s actions were a positive step, but not a reformation. Israel remained mired in Jeroboam’s deviant religious institutions. A political/moral/ religious purge is only as good as the heart behind it; Jehu’s was clearly defective. Still, Jehu is the only northern king commended by God, Who promised that his dynasty would last to the fourth generation. It did. Jehu’s was the longest dynasty in Israel (841-753).

SUMMARY: Scourge of God against the house of Ahab and the worship of Baal; an effective but still spiritually defective instrument (2 K. 10:28-31).

JEHOAHAZ (17 yrs; 8 14-798) 2 Kings 13:1-9

Jehoahaz’s general spiritual character matched his predecessors’ (13:2). Yet, the next verse is a surprising departure from the norm; he besought Yahweh to deliver them from their enemies and, amazingly, He did (13:3-5). Nevertheless, Israel repaid God’s goodness with continued unfaithfulness.

SUMMARY: Surprised by grace; the Lord is besought, but still not sought (2 K. 13:4-6).

JEHOASH (16 yrs; 798-782) 2 Kings 13:1-25, 14:8-16 Despite the unbroken pattern of sin on the part of Jehoash and the people (13:11), God privileged him with Elisha’s last prophetic promise (13:14-19). The Lord remained gracious to them because of “His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, neither cast he them from his presence as yet” (13:23).

SUMMARY: Elisha’s last king. Grace upon grace; God, in covenant loyalty, still would not destroy them yet.

JEROBOAM II (41 yrs; 793-753) 2 Kings 14:23-29

Reigned during Jonah’s ministry (14:25). God again blessed Israel out of pure grace and compassion (14:25-27). Called “the greatest of all the kings of northern Israel,” Jeroboam II restored the northern kingdom to its Davidic/Solomonic proportions. This sudden and prolific prosperity led to indulgent Frontline · July/August 1999 excesses condemned by God through the prophet Amos (Amos 6:4-8; 7:9-17).

SUMMARY: The king of Jonah and Amos rewards God-given prosperity with impudence; the end is in sight.

ZECHARIAH (6 months; 753) 2 Kings 15:8-12

Zechariah was publicly assassinated (15:10-12) in keeping with Amos’ prophecy (Amos 7:9). His assassination by Shallum plunges Israel into a political tailspin; 4 of her last 6 kings were assassinated (d. Hos. 8:4). Zechariah’s account ends with another reminder of the unfailing fulfillment of “the word of the Lord”

SUMMARY: A quick end to the dynasty of Jehu.

SHALLUM* (1 month; 752) 2 Kings 13:13-15

The account is almost grimly humorous. Shallum reigned a whole month — not even long enough to record that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the sins of Jeroboam … “! Assassinated by Menahem.

SUMMARY: The one-month king; what goes around comes around.

MENAHEM* (10 yrs; 752-742) 2 Kings 15:16-22 The brief account underscores Menahem’s ruthless cruelty (15:16-17) and shrewd, tyrannical politics, taxing the people at a confiscatory rate (15:19-20) in order to bribe Assyria into letting him stay in power.

SUMMARY: An assassin who ruled cruelly “by hook or by crook.”

PEKAHIAH (2 yrs; 742-740) 2 Kings 15:23-26

SUMMARY: Just one more evil king.

PEKAH* (20 yrs; 752-732) 2 Kings 15:27-31

Pekah assassinated Pekahiah (establishing his sole reign in 740) and declared Israel’s independence from Assyria. Isaiah 7 records a divinely foiled plot between Pekah and Rezin of Syria to overthrow Ahaz, king of Judah. Again, what goes around comes around; Pekah was assassinated by Hoshea.

SUMMARY: The tail end of Israel’s smoking firebrand; the fire is almost out.

HOSHEA* (9 yrs; 732-722) 2 Kings 17:1-4

Hoshea’s reign was one final glimmer before Israel’s light was snuffed out (17:2). He began as Assyria’s puppet king (17:3); not a very obedient puppet, he was imprisoned (17:4). Samaria was besieged 3 years and finally taken in 722.

SUMMARY: Too little too late; one brief glimmer before the lights go out.

The remainder of 2 Kings 17 recounts the spiritual reasons for the fall of Israel. Throughout 1 & 2 Kings, the prophets’ messages and their historical fulfillments give repeated testimony to the absolute reliability of “the word of the LORD.”


Dr. Layton Talbert teaches theology and apologetics at Bob Jones Seminary, Greenville, SC and is a Frontline Contributing Editor.

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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