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.