January 19, 2018

Prophets, Priests, & Kings: The History of Israel’s Monarchy – Part 4

Layton Talbert

Previously in this series:

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

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

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

This article is Part 4 – The Southern Kingdom

In her 345-year history (931-586 B.C.), Judah saw 20 kings (well, one was a usurping queen-mother, Athaliah). Only eight (see * below) “did right in the sight of the Lord,” despite their failures. Only three were compared to David (see ** below).

REHOBOAM (17 yrs; 931-913) 2 Chronicles 10-12

Davidic/Solomonic heir foolishly heeded the cocky counsel of youthful advisors and lost most of the kingdom. Providence ruled over his decision, for it was God’s purpose to divide the kingdom (10:15). Spiritually, his reign had a good beginning but a bad finish.

SUMMARY: Started well (11:17), but forsook the Lord (12:1, 5) and did evil because his seeking of the Lord was only tentative (12:14).

ABIJAH (3 yrs; 913-911) 2 Chronicles 13

Chronicles says nothing bad about Abijah, but merely recounts a spiritual-sounding speech to the Israelite army. Kings, however, says nothing but bad (1 K. 15:1-8). Taken together, the accounts present Abijah as illustrating someone who takes the right position, says the right words, occupies the right theological territory, attends the right kind of church, and defends the right kind of worship, yet is as far from God in heart as Dan is from Beersheba.

SUMMARY: Creed without conviction or conduct. Talked the talk, but no heart for God.

ASA* (41 yrs; 911-870) 2 Chronicles 14-16

Sought the Lord (14:7, 15:12-15) and displayed great faith and reliance on God in the face of impossible odds (14:9-12); yet when more “manageable” crises came along, he relied on man, not God (16:1-12). Ironically, the first king to persecute a prophet!

SUMMARY: A perfect heart but diseased feet; a godly king who developed a stubborn streak of relying on man, not God.

JEHOSHAPHAT** (25 yrs; 873-848) 2 Chronicles 17-20

A godly king, but his denning flaw was repeated alliance with the wicked house of Ahab. He allied with Ahab (18:2ff.), Ahab’s son Ahaziah (20:35-37), and Ahab’s other son Jehoram (2 K. 3:6ff.). Jehoshaphat’s marriage of his son (Jehoram) to Ahab’s daughter (Athaliah) had long-lived and devastating consequences: a sustained wicked influence on his own son, Jehoram (21:6); a sustained wicked influence on his grandson, Ahaziah (22:3-4); the near extinction of the entire Davidic line by Athaliah (22:10ff.), and — through the reigns of Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah — a sustained wicked influence on God’s people in Judah. Key passage is 19:1-4 — The fact that a man is — like Jehoshaphat — good and godly and sincere (1) does not mean that all his actions are, therefore, right; (2) does not mean that his wrong actions should be overlooked or unrebuked because he is, after all, a good and godly and sincere man; (3) does not mean that his wrong actions necessarily nullify his good, godly, and sincere character; (4) does not mean that there is not an unseen “wrath from the Lord” on him for wrong actions or alliances.

SUMMARY: The “New Evangelical” king. A godly king who sought the Lord (2 C. 17:3-6); but because he valued external unity (1 K. 22:4, 2 K. 3:7) over genuine allegiance to the Lord and faith in God’s Word as the criteria for determining his alliances, he repeatedly allied himself with the wicked and wasted his love and loyalty on those who hated the Lord (19:1-4).

JEHORAM (8 yrs; 848-841) 2 Chronicles 21

Murdered his brothers; walked like his in-laws (Ahab); rebuked by prophetic post (Elijah’s letter); most wives and sons captured by enemies; a two-year painful and incurable intestinal disease. Departed without being desired.

SUMMARY: Legacy of Jehoshaphat, a compromising leader and father.

AHAZIAH (1 yr; 841) 2 Chronicles 22:1-9

Walked in the ways of the house of Ahab (22:3-4). Providence led the 22-year-old to be in the wrong place at God’s time (22:7). Judicially executed by Jehu, along with his Uncle Joram of Israel.

SUMMARY: Legacy of Jehoshaphat, a compromising leader, cont’d.

ATHALIAH (6 yrs; 841-835) 2 Chronicles 22:10-23:15

Judah’s reign of terror. The usurping queen-mother of Ahaziah and daughter of Ahab nearly annihilated the entire Davidic line (22:10). Only one escaped — an infant, Joash, secreted away into the temple by his Aunt Jehosheba and Uncle Jehoiada the priest. Executed when Joash was crowned at age 7.

SUMMARY: Legacy of Jehoshaphat, a compromising leader, cont’d. The unintended but lasting legacy of a godly man’s compromise.

JOASH* (40 yrs; 835-796) 2 Chronicles 23-24

Crowned at age 7. But only good as long as his Uncle Jehoiada the priest was around (24:2, 14b); then guilty of apostasy, gross ingratitude, and murder (22:15-22). Assassinated.

SUMMARY: Thread of the Davidic line. A spiritual dependent who, lacking personal conviction, fell away after the death of his mentor and uncle, Jehoiada the high priest.

AMAZIAH* (29 yrs; 796-767) 2 Chronicles 25

Jehoshaphat had a “perfect heart” (i.e., loyal to Jehovah) but made bad alliances; Amaziah “did right” but not with a “perfect heart” (25:2). After God gave him victory over Edom, he began to worship Edom’s gods, to his ultimate destruction. Note again God’s providence in Amaziah’s haughty stubbornness (25:20). Assassinated.

SUMMARY: Danger of doing right, but not with a perfect heart. Spiritually, one can appear externally healthy but be internally defective.

UZZIAH* (52 yrs; 792-740) 2 Chronicles 26

A.K.A. Azariah, he reigned from age 16-68. God blessed him with a prosperous reign (26:5,7,8,15); he came to regard God’s blessing as indicating he was an exception to God’s Word and prescriptions for worship. He presumed on his standing before God by entering the Temple to offer incense, where he was instantly smitten with leprosy. Died a leper.

SUMMARY: Danger of prosperityspiritual presumption. A God-prospered king becomes a presumptuous and leprous king.

JOTHAM* (16 yrs; 75O-731) 2 Chronicles 27

For chronological difficulties with the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz, see Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, 402-405.

SUMMARY: Did right, prepared his ways before the LORD his God, and prospered; but the people still acted corruptly.

AHAZ (16 yrs; 735-715) 2 Chronicles 28

Judah’s most wicked king yet (28:1-4). God delivered him into the hand of Syria (28:5a) and of Israel (28:5b-6, 9), and gave him trouble from Edom and Philistia (28:19). Since Syria defeated him, he decided to worship Syria’s gods — blind to the fact that it wasn’t Syria’s gods that helped Syria; it was Ahaz’s own God, Jehovah, who helped Syria to chasten him for his infidelity and idolatry in the first place! Received the virgin-birth/Immanuel prophecy (Isa. 7).

SUMMARY: Unprecedentedly wicked, judicially delivered to his enemies, but graciously preserved by God out of His loyalty to David (Isa. 7:1-16).

HEZEKIAH** (29 yrs; 729-686) 2 Chronicles 29-32

Faced the ominous threat of Sennacherib’s army which besieged Jerusalem in 701; delivered when an angel slew 185,000 Assyrians outside Jerusalem in one night. The accounts of this episode (2 K. 18-19; 2 C. 32; Isa. 36-37) all emphasize that the issue at stake was not political or military, but spiritual and theological — pitting the sovereignty of the one true God against all other gods. Also experienced a unique healing and a 15-year extension of his life.

SUMMARY: Initiated great revival in Judah, experienced unparalleled deliverance (from Sennacherib) and healing, but still succumbed to the perpetual stumbling block of the spiritualpresumption against the goodness and grace of God (32:25).

MANASSEH (55 yrs; 696-642) 2 Chronicles 33:1-20

Judah’s longest-reigning king, and the only one to start out wicked and end repentant and righteous. Engaged in paganism, converted the temple for worshipping the stars, practiced witchcraft, and seduced Judah to become more wicked than the Canaanites. Imprisoned in Babylon by Ashurbanipal of Assyria around 648; he repented, was restored to the throne, and destroyed all the former vestiges of paganism. “Manasseh’s sin, deportation, repentance, and restoration … serves as a foreshadowing in microcosm of the Judean captivity” (Merrill, 435).

SUMMARY: The eventual repentance and conversion of godly King Hezekiah’s wicked son.

AMON (2 yrs; 642-640) 2 Chronicles 33:21-25

Reigned from age 22-24. Assassinated.

SUMMARY: Learned his father’s evil but not his humility and repentance (33:22-23).

JOSIAH** (31 yrs; 640-609) 2 Chronicles 34-35

Reigned from age 8 to 39. Purged Judah of paganism when he was 16. Initiated a great revival when he was 26 and the priests discovered the Book of the Law in the Temple. Died in battle.

SUMMARY: Began to seek God in his youth (34:3) with a tender, humble heart (34:27).

JEHOAHAZ (3 months; 609) 2 Chronicles 36:1-4

A.K.A. Shallum, an evil 23-year-old who reigned only three months. Egypt deposed, exiled, imprisoned, and replaced him with his older brother, Eliakim. Beginning with Jehoahaz, the final four kings come and go in rapid succession within 14 verses.

SUMMARY: First of the final four.

JEHOIAKIM (11 yrs; 608-598) 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

Another evil son of Josiah, Eliakim was renamed Jehoiakim by the Egyptians who set him in place of his younger brother Jehoahaz. Reigned during Nebuchadnezzar’s first Jewish deportation (605, when Daniel was taken to Babylon). Later exiled to Babylon and imprisoned.

SUMMARY: Cut and burned Jeremiah’s scroll (Jer. 36).

JEHOIACHIN (3 months, 10 days; 598-597) 2 Chronicles 36:9-10

A.K.A. Coniah. The evil 18-year-old (36:9; cf. 2 K. 24:8) son of Jehoiakim. Deposed, imprisoned in Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s second Jewish deportation (597; Ezekiel also taken then), and replaced by his uncle, Zedekiah.

SUMMARY: “Written childless” (Jer. 22:24-30).

ZEDEKIAH (11 yrs; 597-586) 2 Chronicles 36:11-21

Another evil son of Josiah who replaced his deposed nephew, Jehoiachin. Stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against Jeremiah and God Himself (36:12-13). Third Jewish deportation and destruction of Jerusalem in 586. Seventy-year Babylonian captivity begins.

SUMMARY: Judah’s last king.

Chronicles underscores the truth that the theological territory you occupy is less telling than the direction your heart is facing. When the smoke clears in the aftermath of Judah’s destruction and captivity at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the only one left standing is not a king, but the prophet Jeremiah weeping over the decimation of the city that would not hear the Word of God at his mouth.

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

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

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