2 Kings 13-16

This section of Kings is rather long and confusing, with many overlapping reigns, jumping ahead in chronology then back again, not to mention the repeated names and variant spellings. However we are also reminded of God’s faithfulness and how great was the sin of Israel and Judah.

We begin in the northern kingdom of Israel, Jehu’s son Jehoahaz became king over Israel, he will reign for 17 years. Remember that his father Jehu is the reformer anointed by God’s will and Elisha’s prophecy to rid Israel of Baal worship. Now his son, Jehoahaz is evaluated negatively, “he did evil in the sight of the LORD”, as he continued the sins of mixing the worship of the LORD with the high places and he turned a blind eye to what had become culturally accepted sin. Therefore the northern kingdom suffered the consequences, the LORD handed Israel over to King Hazael of Syria and to his son Ben Hadad for many years. Things got so bad that Israel had no army, only 50 horsemen, 10 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers. In desperation, Jehoahaz cried out to the LORD for mercy and the LORD responded, then the LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, they were freed from the oppression of Syria and lived in security once more. The LORD is faithful to His people even when we are not faithful!

Joash (Jehoash), Jehoahaz’s son is the next king of Israel, he also did evil in the sight of the LORD, like his father he did not repudiate the sinful ways of Israel, he encourage them to sin. Joash will reign for 16 years. This Joash of Israel will go to war against Judah and the Arameans, which will result in victories, but here he is only regarded as evil by the LORD’s perspective, his victories are not important. Joash dies and his son Jeroboam II becomes the king of Israel.

This next section is similar to a flashback in a movie, it recalls the time during Joash’s reign before he died. Elisha is dying; remember that the kingdom of Israel is suffering under the oppression of Syria (Arameans) so King Joash visits Elisha, realizing that the prophet is important to Israel’s defense. Remember when Elisha first was under attack from Syria, that he prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened to see the thousands of invisible “horsemen and chariots” that were protecting Elisha. Elisha pronounces his last message from the LORD, he tells Joash to take the arrows and shoot one arrow out the window towards the east, then to take the remaining arrows and shoot them at the ground. Elisha said, “This arrow symbolizes the victory the LORD will give you over Syria. You will annihilate Syria in Aphek!” Then Joash shoots just three of the remaining arrows and stops for some unexplained reason. The prophet got angry at him and said, “If you had struck the ground five or six times, you would have annihilated Syria! But now, you will defeat Syria only three times.” Elisha died and was buried. The bow and arrows were symbols of strength and victory that God was going to give Jehoash. By taking the bow in his hands the king was symbolically becoming the agent of God’s power. Elisha put his own hands on Jehoash’s hands to symbolize that the power the king would exert came from the Lord through His prophet. Yet, Joash failed to trust God completely, now he will only have three victories against Syria.

Next God delivers one last demonstration of the power God gave Elisha, one day some men were burying a friend when they spied a Moabite raiding party coming their way. So they quickly threw the dead man into Elisha’s tomb where only his bones remained. When the man’s body touched the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and stood on his feet. This story, is unique in the Bible, the point we are to understand is the incredible power of Elisha, that even after his death, his bones still retained enough of God’s Spirit to bring the dead back to life!

Israel has been under oppression of Syria during the reign of Hazael and now his son Ben Hadad is king of Syria. King Joash of Israel fights back and has the three victories that were predicted by Elisha. This will be the beginning of a revival of Israel’s fortunes.

Chapter 14 returns to the southern kingdom of Judah, Amaziah becomes king over Judah; he will reign for 29 years. He is an example of a king that did what the LORD approved but not wholeheartedly. He failed to eliminate the high places and turned a blind eye to the people who offered sacrifices there. He executed the servants that assassinated his father but he did not kill their sons, as prescribed in the Law of Moses. He defeated the Edomites and regained the territory lost during the reign of Jehoram. 2 Chronicles 25 relates additional information about his reign. In his preparation to attack Edom he hired 100,000 men from Israel to help in the campaign, but the LORD sent a prophet to warn him against including the men of Israel in his plans “Because the LORD is not with Israel”. King Amaziah proceeds without the Israelites and is victorious, but then the angry Israelites begin to raid Judah’s towns in retaliation. Even though the King was warned by the prophet and victorious following the LORD’s advice, he brought home with him the gods of Edom and made them into his personal gods. Once again the LORD sent a prophet to warn Amaziah, he rejects the word from the LORD and threatens to kill the prophet. So he hears God’s sentence, “I know that the LORD has decided to destroy you, because you have done this thing and refused to listen to my advice”. Dismissing the LORD’s warning Amaziah consults with his advisers and foolishly issues a challenge to Israel’s King Joash. Samaria understood this to be a call to war and replied with message about a thistle bush trampled by wild animals which puts Amaziah and Judah in the role of being worthless. Once again Amaziah of Judah ignores the wise advice and attacks Israel. Israel prevails they capture King Amaziah, attack Jerusalem and plunder the temple and royal treasuries then return to Samaria. King Amaziah lives out his days either in captivity or as a diminished king without any real power; a plot to kill him develops in Jerusalem, so he flees to Lachish but the assassins follow to kill him then Azariah his son became king.

Again 2 Kings returns to the northern kingdom, Jeroboam II is now king of Israel. He will reign for 41 years, this will be the longest reign of all Israel’s kings, yet only a few of his accomplishments are recorded, the emphasis is only on his evil ways. At this time, Assyria is attacking Aram which allows Jeroboam II to restore the borders of Israel to the approximate area under King Solomon minus Judah. Jeroboam II died and was buried in Samaria and his son, Zechariah replaced him as king.

Now back to the southern kingdom Judah, Azariah (Uzziah) is now king, he was sixteen years old when he was crowned king and will reign for 52 years. He did what the LORD approved, just as his father had done. As long as he followed the LORD God caused him to succeed. He was one of Judah’s most influential kings; he expanded the territories of Judah, fortified Jerusalem and reorganized the army. Azariah’s achievements were so great that his pride led to his downfall. King Azariah entered the LORD’s temple to offer incense on the altar, that task was assigned by the LORD to the High Priest, the descendants of Aaron. The High Priest and 80 brave priests confront the King and tell him it is not proper for him to offer incense to the LORD. King Uzziah had the incense censer in his hand; he was angry, ranting and raving against the priests when at that very moment a skin disease appeared on his forehead right there in front of the priests in the LORD’s temple. From that day onward he lived in separate quarters, while his son served as king in charge of the palace and the people of the land.

2 Kings 15 returns to the account of northern kingdom, with the death of Jehu’s dynasty, Israel enters into another period of instability. Zechariah is king and he will reign for only six months. In that short time he did evil in the sight of the LORD just as his ancestors had done. He did not repudiate the sinful ways and he encouraged Israel to sin against the LORD. Zechariah is assassinated by Shallum; this brings to end the dynasty of Jehu the reformer and fulfills the prophecy from the LORD. Shallum will reign as king for one month; he wasn’t king long enough to receive a rating of good or evil. Menahem kills Shallum and replaces him as king; he begins a reign of terror, killing all who opposed him in Jerusalem, even ripping open the pregnant women to kill their children. He will reign for 12 years in Samaria; he did evil in the sight of the LORD. During his reign the Pul (Tiglath-Puleser) the king of Assyria invaded Israel, Menahem paid a bribe to keep control of Israel, and he got this money by taxing the wealthy men in Israel to payoff Assyria. When Menahem died, his son Pekahiah became king of Israel, he will reign for two years.

Pekahiah is killed in another coup, this time Pekah one of the officers in his personal guard conspired against him in the most secure part of the palace in Samaria. Apparently Pekah never accepted Menahem’s claim to the throne, he set up a rival government in Gilead then assassinated Pekahiah after two years. Pekah and his followers were opposed to Menahem foreign policy towards Assyria and the taxes that supported that policy. Pekah will make a treaty with Aram (Syria) against Assyria which angers Tiglath-Pileser and results in the invasion of Philistia, Aram and Israel. This is the first deportation of the people of Israel to Assyria in 733 B.C. Hoshea will conspire against Pekah and replace him as king. Hoshea is the puppet king of the Assyrian Empire which is recorded in inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III.

Meanwhile in the southern kingdom of Judah, Jotham is now the king of Judah, he will reign for 16 years. He did what the LORD approved, just as his father Uzziah had done. He rebuilt the upper gate to the temple; he built cities and fortified the areas of Judah. He had a successful campaign against the Ammonites and “grew powerful because he was determined to please the LORD his God”. Jotham’s son Ahaz will first co-reign then replace him as king. Ahaz did evil in eyes of the LORD, he even offered his son as a human sacrifice, “passed his son through the fire”, following in the horrible sins of the pagan nations.

During Ahaz’s reign Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel decided to attack Judah. Apparently, the kings of Aram and Israel wanted Judah to join them in anti-Assyria coalition, when Ahaz refused they attacked and planned to put someone else on the throne of Judah. Even though Ahaz was incredibly evil he was a direct descendant of King David, if they are successful this will bring to end the lineage of David and the promised seed. It is at this exact time that the LORD told Isaiah to take his son and confront Ahaz on the road to deliver a message from God: “Make sure you stay calm! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be intimidated! They say let’s attack Judah, it will not take place; it will not happen!”

Ahaz refused Isaiah’s offer of a sign preferring to rely on his own plans. But the LORD gives Israel and us a sign at this moment in history. He delivers the message that the Messiah will be born of David’s line, “a young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You young woman, will name him Immanuel” meaning God with us. At the time when the promised seed of David’s lineage is at risk, God reveals that he will preserve his chosen lineage to insure that the Messiah will indeed come. Isaiah also reveals that Israel will soon be overrun by Assyria. King Ahaz responds by sending a message to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria, sending silver and gold from the temple and royal treasuries and pleading with Assyria to save Judah from Aram and Israel.

King Ahaz of Judah voluntarily submitted to the power of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser responds by attacking Damascus. Then he invaded the northern half of Pekah’s territory and deported the Israelites to Assyria and put Pekah’s successor on the throne of Israel.

After Assyria’s victory over Aram and Israel, King Ahaz of Judah visits Tiglath-Pileser in Damascus where he witnesses the pagan worship of the Assyrians. He sends drawings of the pagan altar, with instructions for the High Priest to build one on the north side of the temple in Jerusalem. When King Ahaz returned to Jerusalem he personally offered sacrifices on this pagan altar, additionally he moved the bronze altar set aside for the LORD’s worship to be used in this pagan practice. This became his personal pagan altar; he brought this evil practice into the heart of Jerusalem and the temple grounds. All this was done to appease and pander to the powerful Assyrian Empire.

Joel

God continues to show His faithfulness to Israel and Judah, repeatedly delivering them from famine and their enemies, yet they continue to be unfaithful. Israel and Judah bring the pagan practices of the surrounding nations into God’s Promised Land and the worship of the LORD. “They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherah poles and idols. So wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Nevertheless, the LORD sent prophets to bring the people back to Him and to testify against them; but they would not listen”. (2 Chronicles 24:18-19)

God in His faithfulness sent prophets to turn Israel and Judah’s hearts back to the God of their fathers. We should remember that the prophets’ message was to their present-day audience, that most messages are clustered around times of crisis and the fulfillment is seen in the un-folding of history. Each prophet has an immediate message independent of the eventual fulfillment of God’s plan. The prophets delivered their message in four different types using a variety literary style:
1. Indictment oracles – a description of the offense of the people
2. Judgment oracles – the coming punishment because of the offense
3. Instruction oracles – how the people should conduct themselves
4. Hope oracles – after the judgment hope is given for deliverance and restoration.

Additionally, all of these messages have significance to the prophet’s audience and to us for what they reveal about God, we should remember that these messages are part of God’s self-revelation to us. “We come to know God by what he has done in the past (history) and by what his plans are for the future (prophecy)”. Prophecy and history flow together in God’s perfect plan for redemption for the world.

We know very little about the prophet Joel since there is no conclusive links in his message to known historical events or king. But from the basic clues in the message there are two possibilities either early date when there is still temple worship in Jerusalem or after the exile in Babylon when temple worship has been restored in Jerusalem. But what is wonderful about the message of Joel is that the date is of little importance for understanding the message from the LORD.

Joel speaks his message to “you elders”, all the inhabitants of the land including the drunkards, the farmers, children and the citizens of Zion and Jerusalem. Joel sets the occasion of his message at the time of locust plague. He describes the complete devastation that came in waves from four types of locust, absolutely nothing is left. The locusts strip the land of food; they foul the air and trigger disease and death. Joel then warns of another plague that is coming this time as an army coming from the north. Joel paints the army in locust-like terms to emphasize that this next invasion was also an instrument of the LORD’s judgment a never ending plague that no one can escape.

Joel returns to the description of the “Day of the LORD” which will begin with the sound of trumpet alarm, it will be a dreadful day of darkness, it come like a powerful army with flames blazing, like war horses and chariots there is no stopping this force, they charge forward never stopping, they scale walls, they do not alter their path, going straight ahead bursting through the city’s defenses. The Day of the LORD describes the judgment of God’s people and the nations. It will bring both purification and restoration for Israel. It describes the day when God will directly intervene in history to accomplish His plans. The Day of the Lord may refer to a particular historical event, i.e. invasion from Assyria or Babylon, and/or the end of history when Christ will come again. “The Day of the LORD is not just a day of wrath and judgment on the disobedient. It also includes deliverance and restoration for the righteous, a day of hope and blessings”. (Answers to tough questions)

God’s character is reveal in the next verses as Joel delivers God’s message to the people of Judah to “return to me with all your heart” and “rend your heart not your garments”. The LORD desires true repentance not merely outward displays. Again Joel calls for everyone to repent, mourn and return to the LORD, elders, children, infants, brides, bridegroom and priests. They are to lament, wail, put on sackcloth, cry out and announce a holy fast for the “joy of the people has dried up!” Yet even now there is still time to return to the LORD.

Joel admonishes the people to announce a holy fast, to plead to the LORD to remember His people and His promises. Then the LORD responded to their prayers and says I will remove the one from the north far from you; I will drive him out to the desert and into the sea. The LORD tells the people of Judah, do not fear, He will restore the land, He will send the rains, the harvest will be abundant and Zion will rejoice. The LORD restored what the locusts destroyed and “You will be convinced that I am in the midst of Israel. I am the LORD your God, there is no other”.

“After all this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people” Note that everyone is included not just certain people – men, women, young, old, and servants. Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved!

Joel concludes by describing the day when all the nations will come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat also called the Valley of Decision where the LORD will pronounce judgment on the nations. God’s purposes are revealed by saying, “The LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her”. In that day the land will be restored, it will flow with milk, drip new wine and water will flow out of the LORD’s house. “The LORD dwells in Zion!”

2 Kings 11-12

2 Kings 11 opens with Judah in a dire time; King Ahaziah of Judah has been killed in the judgment on the house of Ahab that is being delivered by King Jehu of Israel. Then Queen Athaliah the daughter of Ahab and mother of Ahaziah seizes the throne and sets about killing all those in line for the throne from the house of David. If she succeeds, she will bring Judah under the dominion of the house of Ahab and eliminate the promised seed through David’s lineage.

But Jehosheba the daughter of King Joram took Ahaziah’s son Joash who was about a year old and hid him away from the evil queen’s death squads. They successfully hid Joash and his nurse in the temple for six years without Athaliah finding out about the rightful heir to King David’s throne. For six years he was nurtured and trained under the leadership of the high priest Jehoiada who was married to Jehosheba.

Once again the promise of God given to Abraham and narrowed to Judah and the house of David is at risk because of the sins of kings of Israel and Judah. King Joram, the father of Ahaziah killed his brothers after assuming the throne of David, and then all of his sons except for Ahaziah were killed. Now Queen Athaliah killed the children of her son Ahaziah, her own grandchildren, in her attempt to completely destroy the house of David. This is a direct attack on God’s redemptive plan, the promised seed that is the future Messiah.

The High Priest carefully waits six years to remove Queen Athaliah from the throne. First he secures the support of the royal bodyguards, meeting with them in the Temple and swearing an oath of allegiance to the LORD before he shows them that Joash is alive. The Covenant is renewed under the 7-year-old Joash who is protected by the temple and the palace guards. Johoiada then brought to the temple the Levites from all over Judah and the heads of the families. After all have gathered he brought the boy Joash out before the crowd on the porch of the Temple, between the pillars and placed the crown of David on his head, then proclaimed him as the rightful king and anointed him with oil. The crowds of Jerusalem responded with shouting “Long live the King!”

The evil Queen hears the shouts, sees the new king with the crown and support of people and cries out “Treason!” But what the High Priest had done was not treason because Joash was the legitimate heir, a direct descendant of King David and Queen Athaliah had no claim to Judah’s throne. Johoiada orders that the queen be taken outside of the temple to be executed. Then the High Priest Johoiada draws up a covenant between all the people and the LORD stipulating that they would be loyal to the LORD. After this they set about ridding the land of Judah of the idols, temple and priests of Baal then proceeded to the royal palace where the boy king sat down on the royal throne. There was peace in Jerusalem and Judah with the purging of the Baals and Queen Athaliah’s supporters.

King Joash reign begins a 100 year period of rule by kings God judged as good kings. Throughout Joash lifetime he did what the LORD approved, just as the High Priest Jehoiada taught him. However they did fail to eliminate the high places where some people still offered sacrifices and burned incense. It appears by this time, the high places have become culturally acceptable places of worship or of no consequence by the leaders of Judah.

At this time King Joash charged the priests to use the wealth collected from census taxes and offerings to repair the temple. But this plan did not work; apparently revenue from these regular sources was insufficient to support the priests and Levites and to pay for the repairs to the temple. So after 23 years of failure to make the repairs King Joash makes a new plan, the priests would stop taking the money from the collections and they would not be responsible for the repairs. Instead they made a sealed box to collect the offerings and taxes, put the box s under guard and then handed over directly to the workman responsible for the repairs. Then King Joash sent messages throughout Judah and Jerusalem to compel the people to bring to the LORD the tax that Moses put on Israel in the wilderness. “All the officials and all the people gladly brought their silver and threw it into the chest until it was full”. They received so much in offerings and taxes that all the temple repairs were made and they were able to make new vessels used for the temple service.

It was at this time that King Hazael of Syria began his attacks, first he attack Gath (Philistines) and captures it then turns his attention towards Jerusalem. It was during this time that the High Priest Jehoiada died and officials of Judah visit Joash to declare their loyalty. Under their advice and influence Judah once again abandon the temple of the LORD and began to worship the Asherah poles and idols. Because of this sinful activity, God was angry with Judah and Jerusalem. The LORD sent prophets to lead the people back to the LORD, they warned the people but they did not pay attention to the prophets. At that time Zechariah the son of the High Priest Jehoiada delivered an unwanted message from God. “You will not be prosperous! Because you have rejected the LORD, he has rejected you!” The officials and King Joash plotted against Zechariah and stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD’s temple. As Zechariah was dying he gave his final pronouncement “May the LORD take notice and seek vengeance!” King Joash did nothing to stop this atrocity because he did not remember the kindness of Jehoiada showed him.

When the Syrian army attacked and invaded Jerusalem, King Joash collected all the sacred items from the temple, items from the royal palace and treasures from the LORD’s temple and sent them to King Hazael of Syria as a ransom, and then the Syrian army withdrew from Jerusalem.

After all the careful collections of offerings that restored the temple treasuries, they are now used to buy off Hazael. Syria attacked again, this time they wiped out the leaders of the people and sent all they plundered to Damascus. “Even though the Syrian army was relatively weak, the LORD handed over to them Judah’s very large army, for the people of Judah had abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors. The Syrians gave Joash what he deserved.”

King Joash ends his life in disgrace, he is injured in the battle, his servants conspire against him and he was murdered in his bed. This was done in retribution against King Joash because of what he had done to Zechariah the son of the High Priest Jehoiada. King Joash was buried in the city of David but not given the honor of burial in the tombs of the kings.