STUDY TWO: INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS OF HISTORY

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2017

The books of history record the history of Israel from the entry into the promised land to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. The precise dating of the writing of the books is debated. They are written by a number of authors, some unnamed. The list below identifies date and authorship suggestions from a conservative perspective. For extra information read relevant articles on each book in a Bible Dictionary or Bible Commentary.

A. AUTHORSHIP AND DATE OF WRITING

Joshua. No firm date; but there is evidence that it contains records that are contemporary with events it describes. Nothing to identify the author.

Judges. Most likely compiled during the monarchy, but containing records contemporary with the era it records. No information about author.

Ruth. Written sometime after David became king. No information about author.

The two books of Samuel and Kings, along with Joshua and Judges, are called ‘The early [or former] prophets’ in the Hebrew Bible. This is based on the perception that the prophets were responsible for much of the content or the compilation of these books.

1 & 2 Samuel. Probably compiled during the reign of Rehoboam [c930-20 BC]. Compiled by an unnamed person from records kept by Samuel, Nathan and Gad, and other documents.

1 & 2 Kings. Compilation of these books completed before 538BC, and possibly much earlier. There is evidence that records were kept by many of the prophets, and that these records were brought together by an unnamed compiler.

The Books of Chronicles are placed last in the Hebrew Bible. They repeat much of the content of Samuel and Kings. They are frequently identified with the Writings, rather than the History.

1 & 2 Chronicles. Various dates are suggested from 537BC to 332BC. The earlier date is possible if one allows for later additions to genealogical lists. Author is uncertain; but some of the lists are attributed to Ezra. Jewish tradition attributes Chronicles to Ezra as the complier.

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book

Ezra/Nehemiah. Probably written about 450-430BCwith later additions. Most likely Ezra as major compiler.

Esther. Contemporary with events. Author unnamed, but a contemporary. Some believe Mordecai is the author.

 

B. JOSHUA – ENTRY AND OCCUPATION OF THE LAND

The book of Joshua records the entry of the Israelites into the land of Canaan and the original occupation of that land under the leadership of Joshua.

B.1 Key historical events in Joshua

Joshua commissioned and Jordan crossed [1-4]
Jericho taken [5-6]
Conquering Canaan [7-12]
     Ai – defeat and victory
     The Gibeonite deception
The defeat of the five kings
Dividing and occupying the land [13-24]
     Covenant reaffirmed

Approximate date: Entry and initial occupation of the land: 1240-1220 BC

B.2 Major doctrinal concepts in Joshua

God
Ever present [1:5b]
Miraculous power
Sovereign Judge of all nations
Holy standards
Faithful [21:43-45]

Man, sin and salvation
Role of faith
Impact of disobedience
Covenant relationship
Warnings against idolatry

B.3 Images of Christ and salvation
Joshua is a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ
The Lord himself is the ‘inheritance’ is our inheritance, as he was of the Levites [13:32-32]
Cities of refuge [Ch. 20] – a picture of salvation and grace

B.4 Lessons of faith from Joshua

Reflection and response: Read and discuss the in the following passages in Joshua. What did faith mean for these people in their circumstances, and what relevance do these examples of faith have for our Christian faith today?
Joshua [1:1-9]

 

Rahab [2:8-13,21; 6:25]

 

Caleb [14:6-12]

 

Joshua [24:14-24]

 

 

C. JUDGES – EXPOSURE OF UNBELIEF

The book of Judges covers the history of the Israelites from the death of Joshua, to some time prior to the birth of Samuel. This is one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history, following one of the brightest – the conquest under Joshua.

In Deuteronomy 7:1-5 God instructed Israel to do 3 things –

Destroy all inhabitants of Canaan.
Avoid intermarriage with Canaanites.
Shun the worship of Canaan’s gods.

Israel almost immediately failed on all three, and the book of Judges reports that failure.

Period of the judges [approximate dates]: 1220 – 1050 BC

After the generation that entered Canaan had died:

‘…another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them … whenever Israel went out to fight, they hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sword to them. They were in great distress.’ [2:10-15]

It is a sad history of repetitive cycles each with five components:

Israel sinned – forgetting the Lord, doing evil in God’s eyes [including idolatry].
God disciplined them by allowing various surrounding tribal nations to invade the land.
Israel cried out to the Lord for deliverance.
God raised up a ‘judge’ to deliver them from the invader
God freed the land, and the Israelites followed the Lord only as long as the ‘judge’ was alive.

But the Israelites seemed unable to learn the lesson:

‘But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.’ [2:19]

The various ‘judges’ were more in the style of military leaders than ‘judges’ as we understand the term today. Some led the Israelites for several years, others were temporary and localized. The most ‘famous’ are Samson and Gideon.

C.1 Key points of doctrine

God alone is God and he does not tolerate idols.

God is compassionate and of great mercy [seen in his repeated provision of a deliverer].

God allows the presence of the other nations within the land to ‘test’ the integrity of the Israelites [2:20-3:4]

Lack of knowledge of God is the precursor of sin [2:10].

Sin, rejection of God, expresses itself in disobedience, especially in idolatry

Reflection and response. Discussion points:
The danger of being a ‘third generation’ believer is indicated in 2:6-10. What is the most important thing we can pass onto our children? Discuss why?

 

What was God’s reason for ordering the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites? [Deut 7:16; 9:4-5; 18:9-13] What lessons can we learn from their disobedience?

 

What significance, if any, does God’s leaving the nations in the land to test the Israelites have for Christians? [2:20-3:4]

 

If there is no change in the way we think about God and about sin, is feeling distressed, or feeling sorry, enough? Read Judges 2:15b-17.

 

 

D. RUTH

The book of Ruth contains a refreshing example of true faith in the dark Judges period. Ruth, the Moabite, is an example of moral and spiritual strength. Her story is one of faith, love, purity and commitment. One particular point of interest is that she, a non-Hebrew, is listed in the lineage from Abraham to Jesus.

Also tucked away into this book is the story of Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, who is a prophetic picture of Christ. His redemption of Ruth from her predicament is a picture of our redemption.

Lessons from Ruth:

Ruth is an example of genuine faith [1:16-18; 2:12]
Ruth is an example of true humility [2:2,6,10; 3:1-9]
Boaz is a prophetic ‘type’ of Christ our Redeemer [3:913; 4:1-12]

 

E. FIRST SAMUEL – THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM

E. 1 Overview of 1 Samuel
[Note: The dates in this and following sections are approximate only. Some chronologies of the monarchies have dates about eight years later.]

Samuel
Birth and early life [1-3]
Eli and his decline [2-3]
Stories concerning the Ark [4-7:1]
Intercession on behalf of the Israelites [7]
Farewell speech [12]

Saul [1050 – 1010BC]
The Israelites demand a king [8]
Saul anointed and appointed as king [9-10]
Various battles [11, 13 – 14,
God rejects Saul as king [15]
Jealousy of David [18-19]
And the witch of Endor [28]
Saul’s death [31]

David [1010 – 970BC]
Anointed as king by Samuel [16]
In Saul’s service [16]
And Goliath [17]
And Jonathan [20]
Various adventures, including his sparing of Saul’s life [21-27, 29-30]

E.2 Israel’s desire for a king
First Samuel records the birth, early life and ministry of Samuel, the last of the judges, a priest of Israel, and the first of the prophets. About him it is reported:

‘The LORD was with Samuel … and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.’ [3:19-4:1]

As Samuel grew old, however, the Israelites demanded that Samuel appoint a king to rule them [8:5]. The LORD, telling Samuel to go ahead and give them a king, explained to him:

‘… it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.’ [8:7,8]

Having warned them what a king would do to them [8:9-18] the people still demanded a king because they wanted to be ‘like all the other nations’ [8:5,20]. When Saul was made king Samuel again rebuked the Israelites:

‘’This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: “I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you. “ But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, “No, set a king over us.” ‘ [10:18-19]

And later warned them:

‘You said to me “No, we want a king to rule over us’ – even though the LORD your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God – Good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers. Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! … I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king. … The people all said … “Pray to the LORD your God … so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”’ [13:12b-17]

Reflection and response: Israel’s desire for a king is equated with rejecting the Lord and idolatry. Why? And what can we as Christians learn from this?

 

 

 

F. SECOND SAMUEL [parallels 1CHRONICLES 11 – 29]

Second Samuel focuses on David:

His grief over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan [1] and his kindness to Jonathan’s son [9].
Consolidation of his recognition of his position as king by all the tribes of Israel [2-5].

His spirituality
Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem [2Samuel 6; 1Chronicles 13:1-14; 15 & 16]
God’s promises to David [2 Samuel 7; 1Chronicles 17:1-15]
David’s prayer [2Samuel 7; 1Chronicles 17:16-27]
David’s sin and its aftermath [11-12]
His song of praise [22]
His preparations for the temple [1Chronicles 22]
His last words and his mighty men [23]
His altar [24]

Various battles and victories [also in 1Chronicles 18 – 20]
Against the Philistines [5,8,21]
Against the Arameans and Edomites, etc [8]
Against the Ammonites [10]
Against Sheba and his followers [20]

Family troubles
Incest [13]
Fratricide [13]
Absalom, his conspiracy, rebellion and death [14-19]

During David’s reign the kingdom of Israel was extended to its furthest boundaries. Jerusalem was established as the centre of worship. The LORD continued to speak to David through his prophets Nathan and God.

Kingdom and theology
Despite God’s fundamental objection to the Israelites having a human king, God nevertheless embedded the concept of ‘king’ in his progressive revelation of the Messiah King who would one day be born of David’s line.

Thus we find in Scripture that:

[1] David is a prophetic picture of Christ: the anointed One; the King of David’s line; the Shepherd; the victorious One, and

[2] The Kingdom of Israel is a prophetic, physical symbol of Christ’s eternal and spiritual kingdom

 

G. FIRST KINGS [parallels 2 Chronicles 1 - 21:3]

G.1 Solomon [970 – 930BC]
First Kings begins with Adonijah setting himself up as king and David anointing Solomon as king [1]. When Solomon’s throne was established he asked the Lord for wisdom for the task, which the Lord granted [3,4]. In the fourth year of his reign Solomon began building the temple in Jerusalem and its furnishings [5,6,7]. After its completion, and the installation of the Ark of the Covenant, a ceremony of dedication occurred [8]. As he had done earlier [3:5] the Lord again appeared to Solomon [9], this time warning him against forsaking the Lord. Solomon’s building programs, wealth and wisdom attracted the attention and praise of surrounding peoples [9-10]. However, his many foreign wives and concubines turned his heart away from the Lord [11]. At this point the scripture says of him:

‘As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD … He built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab … ’ [11:4-6]

Because of this defection, the Lord brought trouble to the kingdom; but because he had promised David that his dynasty would endure, he did not take all of Israel away from David’s descendants [11:9-40].

G.2 The division of the kingdom – 930BC
As a result of Solomon falling away from God [from God’s perspective – 1 Kings 11:29-40] and as a result of his son’s harsh policies [from a human perspective 12:1-24], a civil war occurred and the kingdom was split into two.

Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, taking the advice of his peers rather than of the wiser, older men, provoked the anger of the people. After Jeroboam’s rebellion he was king of the ‘southern kingdom’, consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which adopted the name “Judah”, after the name of the larger tribe. Jerusalem continued as the centre of administration and worship for this kingdom. Rejected by Jeroboam, priests, Levites and godly people from all over Israel came to Judah and Jerusalem [2 Chronicles 11:13-17]

Jeroboam, who led the rebellion first against Solomon, then against Rehoboam, became king of the northern kingdom, known as “Israel”, which consisted of the other 10 tribes. [Samaria was eventually set up as the centre of administration and worship for the northern kingdom.] In the meantime Jeroboam set up calf gods at Bethel and Dan [12:25-33], which led the people of the northern kingdom into a commitment to idolatry which persisted right through its history and eventually brought about its destruction under the judgment of God.

G.3 The southern kingdom: Judah
1Kings records events from the reigns of Rehoboam, Abijah [Abijam], Asa and Jehoshaphat. About these kings and their reigns the scriptures record:

Rehoboam [930 – 913BC]:
After a godly start [2 Chronicles 11:17], Rehoboam’s reign was one of increasing idolatry and perversion [1Kings 14:21-24; 2 Chronicles 12:1,14]
Egypt attacked Jerusalem and stole the temple treasures [14:25-26; 2Chronicles 12]
Continuing warfare between Jeroboam and Rehoboam [14:30]

Abijah [913 – 910BC]:
Followed his father in sin, not fully devoted to the Lord [1 Kings 15:3]
Attacked by Jeroboam and the Israelites [1Kings 15:6; 2Chronicles 13] and trusted God for victory

Asa [910 – 869BC]:
Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and fully committed to the Lord all his life [1Kings 15:11,14]
Got rid of most of the false worship, [1Kings 15:12-14; 2Chronicles 14:3-3]
Instigated a religious reform in response to the word of Azariah the prophet [2Chronicles 15:1-18]
At war with Baasha, king of Israel [1Kings 15:16ff; 2Chronicles 16:1ff]
Made a treaty with Ben-Hadad, king of Aram in Damascus [1Kings 15:18ff; 2Chronicles 16:2ff]

Jehoshaphat [969 – 848BC]:
Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord [1Kings 22:43; 2Chronicles 17:3-9]
The ‘high places’ still remained and attracted worship [1Kings 22:43]
The kingdom of Judah was strengthened [2Chronicles 17:10-19]
Defeated Moab and Ammon [2Chronicles 20]
Allied himself with Ahab king of Israel, attracting God’s displeasure [2Chronicles 18 – 19]

G.4 The northern kingdom: Israel [note: Chronicles does not follow the history of the north]
During the reigns of these four Davidic kings of Judah nine kings ruled Israel. Most of these gained the throne not by inheritance but by military coups and/or assassinations. Not one of these nine kings did what was right in the eyes of the Lord; rather they followed the example of Jeroboam, who led Israel into sin.

Jeroboam [22 years – 930–909BC]:
Set up the calf gods at Dan and Beersheba [12:28-33]
Warned by a ‘man of God’, but increased his idolatrous appointments and practices [13:1-34; note verses 33-34]
Warned by Ahijah the prophet [14]

Nadab, son of Jeroboam [2 years – 909-908BC]:
Walked in the ways of Jeroboam
Assassinated by Baasha

Baasha [24 years – 908-885BC]:
Killed all of Jeroboam’s descendents [15:29-30]
Warned by Jehu the prophet [16:1-7]
Provoked the Lord by idolatry [16:13]

Elah, son of Baasha [2 years – 885-884BC]:
Assassinated by Zimri [16:8-10]
Provoked the Lord by idolatry [16:13]

Zimri [seven days – 884BC]:
Killed all of Baasha’s descendants [16]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [16:19]
Suicided [16:18]

Tibni [4 years – 884-880BC]:
Died [in battle with Omri’s forces]

Omri [12 years – 880-873BC]:
Reigned as a rival to Tibni for 4 years
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [16]

Ahab, son of Omri [22 years – 873-853]:
Did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any king before him [16:30-34]
Opposed by the prophets Elijah [17-19,21], Micaiah [22], and an unnamed prophet [20]
The contest on Mount Carmel [18]
Samaria attacked by Ben-Hadad, king of Aram [20,]. Ben Hadad defeated.
Alliance with Jehoshophat king of Judah [22] – defeat by Ben-Hadad.

Ahaziah, son of Ahab [2 years – 853-852]:
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [22:51-53]

 

H. SECOND KINGS [parallels 2CHRONICLES 21-36]

H.1 The northern kingdom [not in Chronicles]

Ahaziah [cont.]
Ahaziah sought guidance from false gods [1]
Opposed by Elijah the prophet [1]

Elijah taken up to heaven [2]
Elisha becomes prophet [2]
Elisha’s miracles: the widow’s oil, the Shunammite’ son etc [4-6]
Naaman healed of leprosy [5]
Foretells the death of Ben-Hadad [8]

Ben Hadad’s siege of Samaria [6-7]

Joram – son of Ahab [11 years – 852-841BC]
Alliance with Ahaziah king of Judah

Jehu [28 years – 841-813BC]
Anointed as king of Israel by Elisha the prophet [9]
Assassinated Joram and Ahaziah [9]
Ordered the execution of Jezebel and all the descendents of Ahab [9]
Executed the priests of Baal and destroyed the Baal idols [10]
Did not destroy the golden calves at Dan and Bethel [10]

Jehoahaz - son of Jehu [17 years – 813-798BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [13]
Oppression by Hazael, king of Aram, Israelite army decimated
Some relief when he sought the Lord’s favour.
Idolatry continued.

Jehoash –son of above [16 years – 798-781BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [13]
War with Judah; war with Aram, retrieval of some previous lost towns
Elisha dies

Jeroboam II – son of above [41 years – 781-753BC; (co-regent from 792)]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [14]
Restored boundaries of Israel

Zechariah – son of above [six months – 753-752BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [15]
Assassinated by Shallum

Shallum [one month – 752BC]
Assassinated by Menahem [15]

Menahem [10 years – 752-741BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [15]
Invasion by Assyria – Menahem pays tribute to Assyria

Pekahiah – son of Menahem [2 years – 741-739BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [15]
Assassinated by Pekah

Pekah [20 years – 740-731BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [15]
Israel attacked by Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria, various towns taken and their people deported to Assyria.
Assassinated by Hoshea

Hoshea [9 years – 731-722BC]
Did evil in the eyes of the Lord [17]
Paid tribute to Assyria
Sought help from Egypt, incurring Assyria’s anger.
Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked the whole of Israel, besieged Samaria for three years, then deported the whole population and resettled them.

Comment on the northern kingdom:
The kings of the northern kingdom, Israel, are compared to the original king, ‘Jeroboam, son of Nabat, who caused Israel to sin’. He is unrighteous and every other king who succeeded him was unrighteous, doing ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’. This evil consisted in leading the people in idolatry focused on the calf gods at Dan and Bethel [or Beersheba], as well as other expressions of idolatrous worship. Although one or two kings made some attempt to rid the land of excessive idol worship, particularly Jehu who got rid of the Baals and the priests of Baal, the nation persisted in idolatry from beginning to end. The time scale here is over 250 years, and 19 kings are involved. Because of this unrighteousness, God raised up Assyria, who in 722 BC took Israel into captivity. This unrighteous kingdom is never restored.

Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Israel. These people brought in their own gods and worship system, which they syncretized with the worship of the Lord [2Kings 17].
When we come to study the prophets we will find that Hosea and Amos were appointed by God to proclaim the word of the Lord to Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II. Their messages give some insight into the spiritual, economic and social conditions prevailing at that time.

H.2 The southern kingdom [2Kings, 2Chronicles 21-36]
As we read the history of Judah, the southern kingdom, we find increasing dependence on political alliances and an increasing tendency towards idolatry. As the prophets later pointed out, one would have thought that Judah would have learned from the judgment that fell on the northern kingdom.
The southern kingdom lasted a time scale of 400 years, having a total of 8 righteous kings and 12 unrighteous ones. Eventually, Judah’s sins brought judgment. God raised up Babylonia (which has in the meantime, conquered Assyria), and Babylonia conquered Judah in a series of invasions and deportations.

Ahaziah [1 year – 841BC] 2Kings 8, 9; 2Chronicles 22
Co-regent with his mother Athaliah
Followed the ways of Ahab, king of Israel
Alliance with Joram, king of Israel
Assassinated by Jehu

Athaliah – mother of Ahaziah [6 years – 841-835BC] 2Chronicles 22, 23
Grand-daughter of Omri, king of Israel
Planned the destruction of the whole royal family
Executed in a coup organized by Jehoida the priest

Joash [40 years – 935-796BC] 2Kings 12; 2Chronicles 23, 24
Saved by Jehoida and his sister, Jehosheba, daughter of Jehoram

Jehoida instituted a covenant to be the Lord’s people
Altars and idols smashed and Baal priests killed
Worship of the Lord re-established in the temple by Jehoida
Joash proclaimed king when he was 7 years old

Temple refurbishment ordered by Joash
Joash gave the temple treasures to Hazael, king of Aram to avert an attack

After Jehoida’s death the people abandoned the Lord and worshipped Asherah poles and idols, incurring God’s anger
Joash, having murdered the son of Jehoida, was himself assassinated

Amaziah [29 years – 796-767BC] 2Kings 14; 2Chronicles 25
Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as wholeheartedly as David had done.
Attacked by Israel; Amaziah surrendered the temple treasures to Jehoash of Israel
Turned away from following the Lord.

Azariah [Uzziah] [52 years – 767-739BC] 2Kings 14,15; 2Chronicles 26
Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, sought the Lord, feared the Lord [but high places not removed]
Rebuilt the army of Judah
Victories over Philistines and Arabs, and Ammonites
Became proud and unfaithful to God as he increased in power
Because he usurped the role of the priest he was stricken with leprosy.

Jotham [16 years 739-731BC] 2Kings 15; 2Chronicles 27
Co-regent with his father for some years.
Did right in the eyes of the Lord, walked steadfastly with God.
Rebuilding program - in temple, towns, fortifications
Strong army.

Ahaz [16 years - 731-715BC] 2Kings 16; 2Chronicles 28
Did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Worshipped and made idols, including Baals; sacrificed his sons, etc etc
Defeated by Aram – Arameans took many people prisoners to Damascus.
Defeated by Pekah [Israel] – many Judeans taken captive.
Went to Assyria for help, but got trouble instead of help
Attacked by Edomites
Set up altars at every street corner of Jerusalem and high places in every town to burn sacrifices to other gods. Built an altar based on an altar in Damascus.
Defaced the Jerusalem temple.

Hezekiah [29 years - 715-686BC] 2Kings 18-20; 2Chronicles 29-32
Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
Repaired the temple and reformed religion in the land.
National dedication to the Lord; Passover celebrated
Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Judah – exacted tribute
Sennacherib came to attack Jerusalem, but the Lord delivered the city
Hezekiah’s prayer, Isaiah’s prophecy

Manasseh [55 years - 686-641BC] 2 Kings 21; 2Chronicles 33
Did evil – followed the detestable practices of the nations, rebuilt high places, worshipped the stars, built pagan altars in the temple, led the nation astray
Shed innocent blood
Provoked God’s anger
After Assyria took him prisoner and God delivered him, he turned to the Lord and humbled himself, restoring the altar of the Lord etc.
Because of his sins God’s judgment fell on Judah after Josiah’s reign.

Amon [two years - 642-639BC] 2Kings 21; 2Chronicles 33
Followed the evil of his father, but not his father’s repentance.
Assassinated in his palace.

Josiah [31 years - 639-609BC] 2Kings 22-23; 2Chronicles 34-35
Walked in the ways of David doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, with all his heart and soul and strength
Set about the repair of the temple
Book of the law found and read to the people; general repentance
Passover celebrated
Covenant renewed
Idolatry etc removed, also mediums, spiritists, etc
Killed by Neco King of Egypt at Megiddo

Jehoahaz [3 months – 609BC] 2Kings 23; 2Chronicles 36
Evil
Taken captive by Neco

Jehoiakim [11 years - 609-597BC] 2Kings; 2Chronicles 36
Puppet king under power of Egypt
Evil in the eyes of the Lord
Attacked by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and taken captive to Babylon

Jehoiachin [3 months] 2Kings 24; 2Chronicles 36
Evil in the eyes of the Lord
Jerusalem again attacked by Nebuchadnezzar
Jehoiachin taken prisoner, along with temple gold etc, and the officials, officers and fighting men of Judah. Only the poorest people of the land left.

[Deportation to Babylon 597BC]

Zedekiah [11 years – 597-587BC] 2Kings 24, 25; 2Chronicles 36
Evil in the eyes of the Lord
Would not listen to Jeremiah the prophet or turn to the Lord
Leaders, priests and people became more and more unfaithful
Jerusalem fell to a further invasion and siege, and deportation to Babylon [c587BC]
Gedaliah appointed governor by Babylonians
Some people remaining fled to Egypt.

The recurring theme in the records of the kingdom era
Unquestionably the over-riding theme in the records of the kingdom era is the question: did this king lead his people in the ways of the Lord or into idolatry? Each king is assessed on the basis of this question. The fate of the nation hangs on this question. This is the key concern.

Here in this historical concern is the deep and underlying concern of the whole of scripture: will I, the human, honour God as God, or will I, like Adam and Eve in Eden, reject him and rebel against his command, and put in the centre of my life some object, some god, some goal, other that God himself.

It is this same question that confronts every man in the person of Jesus Christ. He stands before us and says ‘Behold, your God – he who believes in me believes in the one who sent me’. And the fate of every man, just as the fate of the nations of Israel and Judah, depends on our response to God here in the person of his Son. To reject this God is automatically to accept judgment.

Reflection and response: Discuss this recurring theme centred on the question of the kings’ relationship with the Lord. What lessons can we learn from it? Does it have any significance for the presence of false teaching or false practice in the church today?

 

 

 

 

 

I. EZRA, NEHEMIAH AND ESTHER

The northern kingdom known as Israel, was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC. During the time of the events of 2Kings, the southern kingdom, Judah (which after the destruction of the northern kingdom is sometimes referred to as ‘Israel’), received warning through Jeremiah that Judah will be taken captive by the Babylonians. This happened over a succession of times, and was completely fulfilled in 587BC. Jeremiah also accurately predicted that the captivity will last 70 years.

While in Babylon the Jews were encouraged by the prophets to get on with their life – raising families, setting up business, and so on. While they did experience some discrimination, they did become involved in the life of the community in which they were exiled.

While the Jews were exiled in Babylonia, Persia rose to power and conquered Babylonia. The Medo/Persian Empire reached from the Tigris River to the Mediterranean Sea. In fulfilment of prophecies in Isaiah [44:28; 45:1-6] Cyrus the Persian issued an edict permitting the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

After a couple of false starts the temple was finally rebuilt in Jerusalem, but the walls of the city were in ruin, making it vulnerable to attack by surrounding groups. Ezra, bringing more returning exiles with him, and finding gross sin among the returnees, successfully recalled the people to repentance and a recommitment to the Law of the Lord. Nehemiah obtained permission from Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. In the face of stiff opposition he completed this project. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were engaged in bringing the community in Jerusalem back under the law of God.

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding. The book of Esther [and the prophet, Daniel] gives insight into the lives of the exiles in their captivity.