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2 Kings—Decline of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms
Once a single unit with the book of 1 Kings, 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings left off—with the reign of Ahab’s successor. It documents the transition from Elijah’s prophetic ministry to Elisha as the main Spiritual leader in Israel. And it tracks the steady decline of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah until the time of the Babylonian exile.
2 Kings Chapter 1
Ahaziah king of Israel fell through the lattice of an upper room at his palace in Samaria, seriously injuring himself (2 Kings 1:2). Whether this means he fell from a balcony or through a window is uncertain. At any rate, the fall was enough that he was concerned about whether he would recover or not. Rather than ask the Lord, he sent messengers with that question to Ekron to ask the Philistine god Baal-Zebub (v. 3). An angel told Elijah to intercept the messengers and tell them the king was sure to die for his unfaithfulness (4).
When the messengers arrived earlier than expected with this answer, the king was surprised and asked why they came back (5). When they told him what happened and relayed YHWH’s message, the king asked for a description of the man who had told them this (6-7). When they replied that he was “A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist,” Ahaziah knew at once that it was Elijah the Tishbite who had spoken to them (8).
So the king sent a military detachment of fifty men to arrest the prophet and bring him to the palace. When they found him sitting on top of a hill, the captain ordered, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’” (2 Kings 1:9, NIV). Not the least bit concerned, Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men” (10). He was, and so it did!
A second detachment was sent, and demanded Elijah “Come down quickly!” (11). He again called down fire from heaven to prove he was a man of God and more in charge than they or the king (12).
The third captain came to the prophet with a far more humble spirit. He went up the hill himself, fell to his knees at Elijah’s feet, and said, “Man of God, please let my life and the life of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight” (13). He begged the prophet not to do to them as he had done to the other two sets of guards sent to fetch him, so the angel assured Elijah it was safe to go with this man (14-15).
At the palace, Elijah repeated to the king’s face what he had previously said to the messengers. “This is what the LORD says: Why did you send messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will get well? Is there no God in Israel? Now, since you have done this, you will never leave the bed on which you are lying, but you will surely die” (2 Kings 1:16, NLT).
Just as Elijah prophesied, so Ahaziah soon died. With no son to take his throne, Ahaziah’s brother, Jehoram, became king of Israel in the second year of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram (v. 17). What a confusing mess that had to be for anyone talking about either of the two closely related kings!
2 Kings Chapter 2
Now, by this time, Elijah was pretty far up there in years. Yet, rather than have him retire and die of disease or old age, the Lord let the prophet know He planned to take his faithful servant home some other way.
Before Elijah went to Bethel, he tried to get Elisha to stay where they were, but he refused, promising with an oath not to leave him (2 Kings 2:1-2). The prophets at Bethel told Elijah’s assistant that his master was going to be taken from him that day, but he told them to be quiet (v. 3). Elijah tried again to persuade the younger man to stay behind, while he proceeded to Jericho, but Elisha refused (4). The prophets at Jericho made the same observation to Elisha, who promptly shushed them, as well (5). Elijah tried a third time to get Elisha to stay behind as he went over the Jordan, but the younger man insisted he would not leave (6). As the two of them approached the river, fifty of the prophets from Jericho followed at a distance (7).
At the Jordan River, Elijah rolled up his cloak and struck the water with it, dividing the stream down the middle, so he and his companion were able to cross on dry land (8). On the other side, he asked what he could give Elisha to reward his loyal service; to which Elisha answered, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9, NIV). By this, the young man meant he wanted to be like a firstborn son—receiving twice the allotment of Elijah’s power, wisdom, authority, etc., than any other spiritual heir. Elijah said that was a tough request, but if Elisha was able to see him when he was taken, his petition would be granted (10).
At that moment, a flaming chariot with horses of fire appeared between the two men, taking Elijah in a whirlwind up to heaven (11). Elisha cried out in surprise, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” and then tore his garments in sorrow (12).
Elijah’s cloak had fallen from his shoulders when he was taken to heaven. Elisha took it to the Jordan and repeated what his mentor had done, asking, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” (13-14). When the fifty prophets saw the waters part for Elisha as they had for his master, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha,” and came to pay their respects to their new Spiritual leader (15).
Thinking that God might’ve just transported Elijah someplace else, the men offered to go look for the old prophet, but Elisha knew better (16). Only when they pressed him did Elisha agree to let them go (17). When they came back empty-handed after three days, he said he’d told them not to bother (18).
Back at Jericho, the men told Elisha the city was pleasant, but the water was bad and the land unproductive (19). Elisha had them bring him a new bowl full of salt, which he threw into the source of the water, declaring, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness’” (20-21). From that day the water was pure and wholesome (22).
When he left for Bethel, some boys came out from the city and made fun of Elisha for his baldness (23). He cursed them in the name of YHWH, and two she-bears came out and mauled 42 of the young men (24). He showed them you don’t mess with a man of God! From there he went to Mount Carmel and then to Samaria (25).
2 Kings Chapter 3
Jehoram son of Ahab assumed the throne of Israel in the 18thyear of Jehoshaphat and ruled for twelve years (2 Kings 3:1). Now, we were just told in chapter 1, verse 17, that Jehoram took charge in Israel in the second year of Jehoshaphat’s son. How can both statements be true, when they seem to contradict one another? If you consider that many Hebrew monarchs would appoint their successors while they were still alive and allow them to rule with them, this is not a problem. Very likely Jehoshaphat gave his son Jehoram some authority during the last several years of his administration as co-regent, rather like David had done with his son Solomon.
Jehoram wasn’t pleasing in God’s sight, since he continued the false worship system started by Jeroboam. But he did get rid of the Baal worship his parents had introduced, so he wasn’t as bad as Ahab and Jezebel (vv. 2-3). (vv. 2-3).
As we were told in 2 Kings 1:1, Moab rebelled against Israel after Ahab died. Previously Mesha, king of Moab, had paid Israel in lambs and rams’ wool each year as tribute (2 Kings 3:4). But he discontinued that practice after Jehoram’s father passed away (v. 5).
So Jehoram gathered the men of Israel to go to war and invited Jehoshaphat and the Edomites to join him in fighting Moab (6-9). Jehoshaphat answered Jehoram as he had his father: “I will go with you. My soldiers and my horses are yours” (2 Kings 3:7, NCV).
After taking a roundabout route for seven days, the three kings found themselves in a wilderness area with no water for their men or horses (9). Jehoram was sure they were doomed to fall into the hands of the Moabites (10). Ever the man of faith, Jehoshaphat asked whether there was a prophet of YHWH they could consult, and one of Jehoram’s men mentioned Elisha (11).
The three kings went to get the prophet, who was not at all receptive of King Jehoram (12-13). He said, were it not for the respect he had for King Jehoshaphat, he wouldn’t talk with them at all (14)! Curiously enough, the young prophet requested a musician to come play for him, during which time “the hand of the LORD came upon him,” and Elisha told the men what to do (15). Elisha had the men dig ditches all over the valley where they were encamped (16). There would be neither wind, nor rain, yet God would fill the trenches with water for everyone to drink (17). Not only that, but the Lord also promised to deliver Moab into their hands (18). The kings were ordered to attack every important city in Moab, cut down the trees, stop up the springs and cover the fields with stones (19).
The morning after the ditches were dug, water flowing from the south came and filled them, so the three armies could drink (20). Meanwhile, in the crimson light of sunrise, the water looked like blood to the Moabites, so they thought the three armies had fought amongst themselves, leaving the spoils for the inhabitants of the land (21-23). Imagine their surprise, finding the forces of Israel, Judah and Edom alive and well and ready to cut them down (24)! So Jehoram and his allies carried out the commands of Elisha, as they pursued the Moabites (25).
The Moabite king made a desperate attempt to break through to the king of Edom, but failed (26). When he saw he couldn’t beat the three armies, he made a terrible choice: The king of Moab sacrificed his firstborn son on the wall of Kir Haraseth to appeal to the gods (27). This so horrified the men of Israel and Judah, they broke off the attack and went home.
2 Kings Chapter 4
The widow of one of the prophets came to Elisha and told him that, even though her deceased husband feared God, a creditor was coming after the family, threatening to enslave her sons to pay the debt their father owed him (2 Kings 4:1). Elisha asked what she wanted him to do and what resources she had (v. 2). She replied, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” In other words, she had apparently sold all she had to try and pay the debt, and this little bit of food/fuel was all that remained of value.
Then the prophet gave her some unusual instructions. He told her to borrow all the jars, pots, etc., she could lay her hands on from the neighbors (3). Then the woman and her sons were to shut themselves up in their house, where no one could see or interrupt them, and she was to pour from her little jar of oil into all those vessels (4). The wife of a prophet, she was used to the unusual, so she followed Elisha’s direction without hesitation. As long as she had empty pots to pour into, the oil in her jar kept flowing, but as soon as the woman and her boys ran out of containers, the supply stopped (5-6). When this was done, she came back and asked Elisha what to do now. He said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.” They must’ve borrowed a lot of jars, to have had enough to do all that!
An influential woman of Shunem took particular interest in Elisha, and had an apartment built for him on her roof. She and her husband had a standing invitation for the prophet to come enjoy a meal and stay the night whenever he happened to be in the area (8-10). When Elisha wanted to repay this kindness, he asked if there was anything he could do for the woman (11-13). When she indicated she was content with what she had, Elisha’s servant Gehazi pointed out that the Shunammite and her older husband had no children (13-14). So, to her astonishment, Elisha promised her a son (15-16). Sure enough, by the appointed time the next year, the woman and her husband were blessed with a little boy (17).
The child grew up. One day, while he was out with his dad bringing in the harvest, he complained of a headache and was carried home by a servant to his mother (18-19). Who knows whether it was sunstroke, an aneurism, fever or what? But the little fellow sat in his mother’s lap until noon, and then died (20).
Surprisingly calm, the woman laid the boy on the prophet’s bed and had her husband instruct a servant to saddle a donkey for her to go see the man of God (21-22). When he asked why she needed to see him, she only replied, “It’s all right” (2 Kings 4:23, NIV).
When she caught up with Elisha at Mount Carmel, she told his servant the same thing she had said to her husband, but she fell at the prophet’s feet and wouldn’t let go (24-27). When Gahazi tried to extricate the woman from his master, Elisha said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why” (2 Kings 4:27, NIV). At her cryptic remark about her son, Elisha sent Gehazi on ahead to the woman’s house with his staff, while he and she returned at a slower pace (28-30). Gehazi reported there were no signs of life; sure enough, when Elisha reached the boy, he was dead (31-32).
As his predecessor had done with the son of the widow in Zerephath, Elisha prayed to YHWH and then stretched himself across the boy, until the body was warm (c.f.—1 Kings 17:17-24 & 2 Kings 4:33-34). He paced the house, and went back and stretched himself again over the child. This time, “The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes,” after which Elisha called the woman and returned her son to her (2 Kings 4:35-37, NIV).
Back in Gilgal, there was a famine in the land, but Elisha had the prophets put on a pot of water to make stew (v. 38). Everyone went out to the fields to gather what they could, and one fellow happened upon a vine full of wild gourds and cut them up into the soup, not knowing what they were (39). When the meal was served, they realized the soup was poisonous (40). Elisha merely added a bit of flour to the broth, and then it was fine (41).
In a foreshadowing of the miracle of Jesus, a man brought a first fruits offering of bread and grain to share with the prophets, but it was not enough to feed the 100 men present (42-43). The prophet assured his servant that the 20 loaves of barley would not only feed them all, but that there would be some left over. Sure enough, the word of the Lord was fulfilled, so they probably ate from the left-overs the next day (44)!
2 Kings Chapter 5
This next chapter is yet another example of how God extended His kindness to foreigners, proving He was not just the God of Israel. There was a mighty warrior in Syria, who was highly esteemed by his master, but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1). During one of the Syrian raids against Israel, a girl was captured and brought back as a slave for the general’s wife (v. 2). One day this Hebrew maid mentioned the prophet in Samaria, saying he could heal her master, Naaman (3).
When Naaman passed this on to the king, the king of Syria wrote a letter to the king of Israel, requesting that his general be healed of his leprosy (4-6). Naaman was prepared with a gift of “750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing,” in compensation for this favor (2 Kings 5:5, NLT), yet all the king of Israel could think of was how impossible this request was and how the king of Syria must be looking for an excuse to invade his country (v.7). He tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy?”
When word of the incident reached Elisha, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (8). So Naaman and his entourage came to Elisha’s house, but the prophet didn’t even receive him personally (9). He sent his servant to the door, telling the soldier to wash seven times in the Jordan River, and then he’d be healed (10).
Expecting a more personal ceremony, the Syrian stormed off, offended. He didn’t know why the prophet would have him bathe in the muddy waters of the Jordan, when the rivers back in his own country were far better (11-12). His servants managed to talk him into giving it a try, so when he dipped himself in the river the seventh time, the general’s skin was restored to child-like perfection (13-14)!
When he returned, the Syrian was elated. He told Elisha, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” (15). When the general tried to get the prophet to take a gift, Elisha would accept nothing (16). The man requested two mule loads of dirt from Israel, so he could make offerings to YHWH on Israeli soil in his own country (17). He also asked Elisha to pardon him in advance for those times when his boss would require him to kneel before his idol in Syria (18). Elisha said to him, “Go in peace” (19). So the Lord performed a miracle for this foreigner, who consequently became a worshiper of YHWH!
But Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, felt the prophet had let the Syrian off too easily (20). He ran after the retinue and gave the general a story about unexpected visitors needing some silver and two sets of clothes (21-22). Naaman gladly obliged, giving him twice as much silver and sending some servants to escort him safely back (23). When he returned home, Gehazi hid the loot and went back to Elisha as if nothing had happened (24-25). But Elisha was fully aware of the deception and said,
“Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever” (26-27).
Because Gehazi coveted the foreigner’s possessions, he got what he didn’t want that belonged to the man, as well—the disease from which Naaman had been healed. That’s why you never try to outsmart God or His spokesperson!
2 Kings Chapter 6
When the prophets decided to enlarge their monastery, they invited Elisha to come with them to cut down trees at the Jordan River to build a bigger place (2 Kings 6:1-3). One of the fellows swung a bit too hard at his tree, sending the head of his axe spinning into the river (vv. 4-5). He was upset, because the axe was borrowed. When he showed Elisha where the implement had fallen, the prophet had him toss in a stick (6). Miraculously, the iron axe head floated to the surface, so the man was able to retrieve it (7)!
While the Syrians were at war again with Israel, the Lord kept using Elisha to inform the king of Israel about the Syrians’ actions (8-10). So accurate was the prophet’s intelligence that the king of Syria began to suspect a spy in his midst (11)!
When one of his men informed him that the prophet Elisha told the king of Israel his most intimate secrets, the Syrian monarch sent an army to go and capture the trouble-maker (12-14). Early the next morning, the servant of Elisha [probably not Gehazi anymore, since he was leprous] awoke to find the city of Dothan surrounded by enemy troops and was dismayed (15). The prophet told him not to worry, since “those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” and then he prayed for the Lord to open the servant’s eyes, so he could see the innumerable multitudes of flaming horses and chariots of God protecting them (16-17).
When the Syrians came to seize him, the prophet prayed for the Lord to blind the men, so they wouldn’t recognize him or where they were (18). Then he led them straight to the king in Samaria and prayed for the Lord to open their eyes again (19-20). When the king of Israel saw the army, he asked Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them?” (21). Elisha indicated they were prisoners of war and said he should feed them and send them home (22). After he did so, the men returned to Syria, and the raiding parties stopped coming to Israel (23).
That didn’t stop Ben-Hadad II, king of Syria from fighting Israel, however. He came and besieged Samaria, until there was a desperate famine in the city, so even the basest food sold for ridiculous prices (24-25). One woman came to the king, telling him she and another woman had killed and cooked her son one day, but the other woman had hidden her own son whom they had agreed to eat the next (26-29). The king was so disturbed by this revelation, he tore his robe, revealing to onlookers that he was wearing sackcloth—the clothes of mourning or fasting—underneath (30).
Forgetting that cannibalism was one of the curses declared against Israel, if ever God’s people should forsake Him (Lev. 26:29), the king was ready to execute Elisha for bringing this on his kingdom (31). The Lord warned the prophet, however, so the executioner was not able to carry out the king’s command (32). The king followed soon after and asked Elisha why he should wait for God’s help, since this terrible calamity was from Him (33).
2 Kings Chapter 7
Elisha informed the king that relief was already on its way: “By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of fine flour will cost only half an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only half an ounce of silver” (2 Kings 7:1, NLT). To the officer assisting the king, this was inconceivable. He scoffed, “That couldn’t happen even if the LORD opened the windows of heaven!” (v. 2, NLT). Because of the man’s unbelief, Elisha said he would witness the fulfillment of this prophecy, but he would not get to eat any of the food himself.
The next evening, there were four lepers huddling close to the city gate, who decided they were no worse off surrendering to the Syrians than going into the city to die or staying outside where they would starve (3-4). When they went to the Syrian camp at twilight [conceivably when the Syrians were less likely to recognize that they were diseased], they found the place deserted, so they ate and drank and carried off loot from one tent, and went and repeated the process at a second (8).
What had happened was that the Lord had caused the Syrians to imagine they heard the sound of chariots and horses from the Hittite and Egyptian armies advancing against them around sunset (6). So they ran in terror, leaving all their stuff behind (7).
It wasn’t long before the lepers realized they couldn’t keep such good news to themselves, so they went and reported what they had found to the king’s household (9-10). When the gatekeeper passed along the news to the king, he was sure it was a trick (11-12). One of his men suggested they send several men on their few surviving horses to go check it out, so they geared up two chariots to do just that (13-14). Sure enough, all along the road to the Jordan River, the soldiers found clothes, weapons and other gear the Syrians had discarded in their haste to flee their imagined attackers (15)!
When the report was given to the king, and then to the people, everyone rushed out and plundered the enemy camp (16). Just as Elisha had said, fine flour and barley sold dirt cheap that day, yet the officer who had doubted God’s word didn’t get any of it, since he was trampled at the gate of the city and died (17-20).
2 Kings Chapter 8
Quite possibly before all of this, Elisha had warned the Shunammite woman that a seven-year famine was on its way, and that she and her family should go to some other country to wait it out (2 Kings 8:1). Fully believing the prophet’s foreknowledge, she did as he said and stayed in Philistia seven years (v. 2). When she returned from her sojourn, she went to seek an audience with the king to get her property back (3).
It ‘just so happened’ that Gehazi was with the king at that very time [this must’ve been before he was stricken with leprosy], telling him about the prophet’s exploits (4). He had just finished telling the king of Israel how Elisha had raised the Shunammite’s son, when she and her boy appeared to speak to the king (5). Because of this happy ‘coincidence,’ the king immediately assigned an officer to make sure the woman recovered her land and its back proceeds that very day (6). Talk about the providence of God!
Since Elijah never fulfilled the Lord’s commission to go and anoint the next king of Syria, the job fell to his successor, Elisha. The younger prophet went to Syria when Ben-Hadad II was sick (7). When Ben-Hadad heard that the man of God had come from Israel, he knew from previous experience that Elisha possessed great power and was privy to deep secrets (See 2 Kings 5:1-14 & 6:8-23). Therefore, the king sent a present by the hand of Hazael, the man YHWH said would replace the king (1 Kings 19:15), and told him to find out whether he would recover from his illness or not (2 Kings 8:8). This was no small gift Hazael carried to Elisha: The king’s agent loaded 40 camels with “every good thing of Damascus” (v. 9)!
When Hazael found the prophet and asked Ben-Hadad’s question, Elisha instructed him to tell the king he would recover. “However,” he said, “the LORD has shown me that he will really die” (10). Then Elisha stared at Hazael until the fellow was embarrassed (11). No doubt, it was one of those stares where you feel like the person is peering straight into your soul—and, in a way, Elisha was. When Hazael saw the prophet weeping, and asked why, Elisha replied,
“Because I know the evil that you will do to the children of Israel: Their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword; and you will dash their children, and rip open their women with child” (12).
Hazael was shocked that Elisha would say such a thing and asked how it could be possible. The prophet quietly explained, “The LORD has shown me that you will become king over Syria” (13).
Hazael wasted no time fulfilling the word of the Lord. He went back to the king and repeated the reassuring word Elisha had given him at first (14). But the very next day, the man dipped a blanket in water and held it over his master’s face. Too weak to fight him, Ben-Hadad suffocated and Hazael took the throne (15).
Meanwhile, Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, assumed the throne of Judah five years after his brother-in-law, Joram son of Ahab, became king of Israel (16). Jehoram was 32 years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem (17). Married to one of Ahab’s daughters, the king of Judah was as wicked as his father-in-law (18). Nevertheless, for David’s sake, the Lord did not wipe out his family (19).
During Jehoram’s administration, the Edomites rebelled against Judah and appointed their own king (20). When he attempted to quash the uprising, the Edomites surrounded his army, so they barely escaped (21). Libnah, a city in southwest Judah, also revolted (22). When Jehoram died and was buried in the City of David, his son Ahaziah reigned next (23-24).
In Joram of Israel’s 12th year as king, Ahaziah, son of Jehoram of Judah, began to reign (25). Being the son also of Althaliah, granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel, he was as corrupt as the rest of Ahab’s family (26-27). Ahaziah went with his uncle to war against Hazael, where the Syrians wounded Joram (28). While Joram was in Jezreel recuperating from his injuries, Ahaziah went to see him (29).
2 Kings Chapter 9
About that time, Elisha told one of the prophets to take a flask of oil to Ramoth Gilead and privately anoint a fellow named Jehu as king of Israel (2 Kings 9:1-3). He probably picked a young man who was more fit than he, since he needed to escape just as soon as the deed was done.
When the messenger arrived, he did as Elisha had commanded, informing Jehu that he would not only be king of Israel, but that he would carry out YHWH’s vengeance on the house of Ahab for killing the Lord’s prophets and other devout Hebrews (4-7). In addition to wiping out the entire royal family, as had been done to Jeroboam’s and Baasha’s families, God singled out the wicked queen in particular, saying, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her” (8-10).
When the prophet dashed out of the house, the other men present with Jehu asked what such a madman could have wanted with him (11). When they saw through his evasive answer, he told them truthfully that the man had said he would be king (12). With that, the other military men spread their coats on the steps and blew a trumpet, shouting, “Jehu is king!” (13).
Now we learn why Elisha had told the prophet to flee the scene as soon as he anointed Jehu. In verse 15, we are told that he ordered the other men defending Ramoth Gilead to seal the city, so that no one could warn the king in Jezreel that Jehu was coming to kill him. Jehu then got in his chariot and drove full-speed toward the royal residence where Joram was convalescing.
A watchman on the wall reported seeing Jehu and his company approaching, so the king sent a messenger to meet him and inquire whether he was friend or foe (17). When the man on horseback met Jehu and asked, “Do you come in peace?” Jehu replied, “What do you have to do with peace?” and ordered the fellow to fall in behind him (2 Kings 9:18, NIV). When the king sent a second messenger with the same result, the watchman noted that the occupant of the lead chariot looked like Jehu, “…for he drives furiously!” (vv. 19-20).
With that, the king and his nephew mounted their own chariots and went to meet the commander themselves (21). When Joram asked the same question his men had, Jehu replied, “How can there be peace…as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” (2 Kings 9:22, NIV). Turning his chariot around and warning Ahaziah of the treachery, Joram tried to make it back safely to the city (v. 23). But Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram right between the shoulder blades, so the arrow pierced the king’s heart, and he died on the spot (24).
Jehu said to Bidkar, one of the captains with him, to pick up Ahaziah’s body and throw it into the field that had previously belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Apparently, the two of them had been present with Ahab when Elijah had confronted him in that very spot and told him he would repay him and his sons for what he had done to that innocent man (25-26). Jehu and his men then pursued Ahaziah as he fled toward a place called Beth Haggan [or “Garden House”]. He was mortally wounded on the way, but managed to make it to Megiddo before he died (27). So Ahaziah’s servants took him back to Jerusalem and buried him in the City of David (28).
Jezebel had heard what Jehu did, and got herself all dolled up to greet him through a window when he arrived at the royal residence (30). She did not win any favors for herself; however, when she taunted the soldier by comparing him to Zimri, who had overthrown Elah and reigned only seven days as king before Ahab’s father, Omri, defeated him (c.f.—1 Kings 16:8-20 & 2 Kings 9:31).
Jehu looked up and asked if any of the queen’s attendants were on his side (32). When a few eunuchs—emasculated male servants—peered out at him, Jehu ordered them to throw the wicked woman down (33). Falling from several stories, she hit the pavement hard enough to splatter gore on the wall and Jehu’s horses, and then he promptly drove over her body.
Hours later, after celebrating in the palace, Jehu said someone really ought to go and bury the wretch, since she was a king’s daughter; yet all his men could find was Jezebel’s skull, feet and hands (34-35). Jehu said the dogs must’ve eaten her, just as Elijah the Tishbite had prophesied (36). He added that the prophet had said, “Her body will be like manure on the field in the land at Jezreel. No one will be able to say that this is Jezebel” (2 Kings 9:37, NCV). I can’t think of a more fitting way for this woman to go, having valued the lives of others so little and being responsible for the death of countless innocents!
2 Kings Chapter 10
That was only phase one of Jehu’s overthrow of this evil family. In 2 Kings 10:1, we learn that Ahab had 70 sons living in Samaria, under the guardianship of the leaders in that city. Jehu sent letters to them and to the leading men of Jezreel, telling them to pick one of the king’s sons to rule in Joram’s place and prepare to defend the royal family (vv. 2-3).
Considering how Jehu had already defeated the kings of Israel and Judah, the men were not about to risk their necks in this way, so they wrote back and said they were his servants and would do whatever he asked (4-5). So Jehu instructed them to bring the heads of their master’s sons to him by the next day (6). The guardians complied, executed all 70 young men, and delivered their heads in baskets to the fortress at Jezreel (7). Imagine the spectacle the people saw when they got up the next morning and found two piles of severed heads at their city gate (8-9)!
Jehu addressed the people and told them he intended to carry out every word which YHWH had foretold concerning the house of Ahab (10). Then he proceeded to execute every friend, adviser and priest that was associated with the royal family (11).
En route to Samaria, Jehu met up with 42 brothers of Ahaziah who were on their way “to greet the sons of the king and the sons of the queen mother” (12-13). By this he knew that they, too, were related to Ahab, so he had them taken alive to a well in Beth Eked, where he slaughtered all 42 members of Judah’s royal family (14).
As he continued on, Jehu met a man named Jehonadab, the son of Rechab [mentioned in Jeremiah 35], and invited him into his chariot to see his zeal for YHWH in action (2 Kings 10:15-16). Then he went and killed all the remaining allies of Ahab who lived in Samaria (v. 17).
Now, in order to wipe out all traces of Baal worship in Israel, Jehu resorted to a clever ruse. He gathered everyone together saying, “Ahab served Baal a little, Jehu will serve him much” (18). Then he proclaimed a huge sacrifice to Baal, in which every priest and follower of that pagan deity was commanded to participate, on pain of death (19-21).
When everyone arrived and packed the temple, Jehu had festal robes provided for everyone, and ordered everyone who was not truly devoted to Baal out of the building (21-23). Then he offered his sacrifice to continue his pretense—not letting on that he had 80 men positioned outside with instructions to let no one escape (24). When the ceremony was over, Jehu went and gave the order, and the soldiers slaughtered everyone inside (25). Then they tore down the temple and all its objects of worship, burned the sacred pillars, and turned the site into a latrine (26-27). What a fitting way to end Baal worship in that country (28)!
Unfortunately, Jehu didn’t go so far as to destroy the golden calves in Bethel and Dan, but perpetuated the sins of Jeroboam (29). Because he had done everything else God commanded, the Lord promised to keep Jehu’s descendants on the throne to the fourth generation (30). But because of the sins of the people with the calf idols, He began to whittle away at the Northern Kingdom through Hazael, king of Syria (31-32). So all the land of Israel east of the Jordan was lost—including the territories of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh (33). When Jehu died and was buried in Samaria, after reigning 28 years, his son Jehoahaz took his place (34-36).
2 Kings Chapter 11
As the saying goes, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ and Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, was no exception. As soon as this wicked woman learned of her son Ahaziah’s death—and the deaths of the 42 other members of the royal family—she promptly seized the throne of Judah and killed off every living heir she could find (2 Kings 11:1). Jehosheba, Azariah’s sister, managed to sneak the youngest son of her brother out from among the king’s children and hid him and his nurse away from the evil queen’s destruction (v. 2). For six years the little boy was raised in one of the apartments at the temple complex, while the self-made queen ruled the land (3).
In the seventh year, Jehosheba’s husband, Jehoiada the priest (c.f.—2 Chron. 22:11), decided it was time to act. He called together all the temple guards, swore them to secrecy, and then introduced them to Prince Joash (4). Next, he made arrangements for all of them to remain on duty to guard the prince while he was introduced to the general population (5-8). The priest armed the men with weapons and shields which had belonged to King David and his men (9-10). When everyone was in place, the priest gave Joash a copy of the Law, anointed him and put a crown on his head (11-12).
When everyone clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!” Athaliah heard the commotion and came out to see what was going on (13). When she spotted the lad near the pillar at the temple where monarchs were traditionally crowned, heard the trumpet heralds and saw everyone celebrating, she tore her robes and cried, “Treason!” (14). Jehoiada promptly ordered his officers to arrest the woman and take her outside the temple complex to execute her (15). So she was seized and killed at one of the gates to the king’s palace (16).
With Athaliah out of the way, Jehoiada made a covenant between YHWH, the king and the people, that they would serve the Lord (17). When they all agreed, their next order of business was to tear down the temple of Baal and destroy all its trappings, which the evil queen had brought into the royal city. They killed the high priest of Baal and reestablished the proper worship system at the temple of YHWH (18).
The boy-king was escorted to the palace and placed upon the throne of his father (19) Then “all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet,” because Athaliah was dead and a rightful ruler from the line of David was in place (20). Jehoash [another form of the name Joash] was a mere seven years old when he was made king of Judah (21).
2 Kings Chapter 12
Jehoash was made king in Jehu’s seventh year over Israel, and he reigned forty years in Judah, doing what was right all the years that his uncle Jehoiada was alive to instruct him (2 Kings 12:1-2). However, in spite of their covenant, the high places remained, and the people still made sacrifices on them (v. 3).
One of Jehoash’s first concerns was with the renovation of the temple. Having lived there for the first several years of his life, I’m sure the young man was well aware of the run-down condition of the Lord’s house. He ordered all the priests and Levites to take the money from the census and various offerings and use it to pay for repairs (4-5). When this was still not done by Jehoash’s 23rd year, he called the religious leaders to task and ordered them to take no more money, but to get busy repairing the temple (6-7). Slowly, the cash was collected from the various clergy members, and the work got done (9-10). Stonemasons were hired, stones and timber were purchased and the temple was eventually restored (11-15).
About this time, Hazael king of Syria managed to capture the Philistine city of Gath, and then set his sights on Jerusalem (17). But Jehoash took all the treasures from the palace and the temple and bought the Syrian king off (18). The Judean king’s rule came to an abrupt end, when two of his servants conspired to kill him at his house in the Millo (19).
If one only had this account to go by, you would wonder why a relatively good king would be assassinated. The answer can be found in the parallel passage of 2 Chronicles 24:17-26. After his uncle Jehoiada died, Jehoash started to follow the counsel of lesser men, who led him into apostasy. When Jehoiada’s son tried to correct the king, he had the priest’s son killed. According to 2 Chronicles 24:25, Jehoash’s “officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest” (NIV). After his father’s death, Jehoash’s son Amaziah reigned in his place (2 Kings 12:20).
2 Kings Chapter 13
In the 23rd year of the reign of Joash king of Judah, Jehu’s son Jehoahaz became king of Israel and reigned in Samaria for 17 years (2 Kings 13:1). Like his father and the kings of Israel before him, Jehoahaz perpetuated the idolatry of Jeroboam (v. 2). So YHWH let the Syrian kings, Hazael and his son Ben-Hadad, harass him and his kingdom throughout Jehoahaz’s administration (3).
When Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord in behalf of Israel, God was merciful and sent them a deliverer (4-5). But, because the nation persisted in their idolatry, the Lord left only 50 horsemen, 10 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers in Israel’s army, once the Syrians had finished with them (6-7). When Jehoahaz died and was buried in Samaria, his son Joash reigned in his place (8-9).
“In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years” (10). [You may notice that 2 Kings uses the names Joash and Jehoash interchangeably. According to Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary, Jehoash means “fire of the Lord,” while Joash means “one who despairs/burns.” It would be nice if we had just one form used to designate each of the kings, so we could more easily distinguish them. However, you just have to pay close attention to the context to keep track.]
The administration of Joash king of Israel was pretty much a continuation of the idolatrous policies of his predecessors—to the point that the historians responsible for the content of 2 Kings didn’t even bother to say anything further about this monarch, other than that he fought with Amaziah king of Judah, that he died, was buried in Samaria and was succeeded by his son, Jeroboam II (11-13)!
Before Joash’s death, however, Elisha became sick with a fatal illness (14). Interestingly enough, the king of Israel came and wept over the prophet. As a final act of his ministry in that country, Elisha told the king to take a bow and arrows and shoot out through an east window (15-16). With Elisha’s hands over his, the king shot, and the prophet told him the arrow symbolized YHWH’s deliverance from Syria and that the king was to attack them at Aphek (17). Next, the prophet instructed the king to take the remaining arrows and strike the ground with them (18). When he struck only three times, the prophet scolded him, saying he should’ve done it at least five or six times so he could wipe out the Syrians completely. “But now you will strike Syria only three times” (19).
Not long after Elisha died and was buried, some men were transporting a body for burial, when a band of Moabite raiders attacked. In their haste to get away, the men laid the body in the tomb of Elisha. As soon as the corpse touched Elisha’s remains, the dead man “revived and stood on his feet” (20-21). Imagine the stories that circulated about this prophet, whose body retained enough of the residual power of God to raise the dead post mortem!
Although Hazael oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz, God didn’t let the Syrians wipe Israel out completely, out of faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (22). When Hazael died, his son Ben-Hadad III became king of Syria (24). During his administration, Joash, son of Jehoahaz, was able to recover some of the cities the Syrians had taken from Israel. As Elisha prophesied, he struck the Syrians three times to accomplish this end (25).
2 Kings Chapter 14
“In the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, became king” (2 Kings 14:1). He was 25 when he took the throne, and he reigned 29 years in Jerusalem (v. 2). He carried on his father’s good policies, but he was not as whole-heartedly devoted to YHWH as David had been, and the high places were still used to make sacrifices (3-4). He executed those who had assassinated Joash, but not their children, in compliance with the Law of God from Deuteronomy 24:16—“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall be put to death for his own sin” (2 Kings 14:5-6).
Amaziah killed 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt, seized Sela and renamed the city Joktheel (7). After that, he was feeling pretty confident of himself and challenged King Joash of Israel to fight him (8). Joash told a little parable about a thistle wanting to marry the daughter of a cedar tree, but then being trampled by a wild animal (9). He told his challenger to enjoy the victory over Edom, but stay out of Israel’s business or suffer the consequences (10). Amaziah didn’t listen, and his army was soundly defeated (11-12). Joash captured Amaziah, took him to Jerusalem, knocked down about 600 feet of the wall of the city, and then pillaged the gold and silver from the palace and temple (13-14).
Amaziah survived Joash by 15 years before someone formed a conspiracy against the king of Judah and chased him to Lachish, where he was killed (17-19). After they returned his body for burial in the City of David, the people made Amaziah’s son Azariah [called Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26 and Isaiah 6] the new king of Judah (2 Kings 14:20-21).
Meanwhile, in Amaziah’s 15th year, Jeroboam, son of Joash became the king in Israel and reigned 41 years (v. 23). Same story as his predecessors, only he was able to restore some of the territory of the Northern Kingdom, “according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet…” (24-25). This is the very man for whom the book of Jonah was named. It wasn’t that the king or his subjects deserved this kindness; rather, God felt sorry for them and knew there was no one else to help (26-27). When Jeroboam II died, his son Zechariah reigned in his place (29).
2 Kings Chapter 15
“In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, became king” (2 Kings 15:1). Called Uzziah by 2 Chronicles and Isaiah, this ruler was crowned at the age of 16 and reigned for a whopping 52 years in Jerusalem (2 Kings 15:2)—the longest administration of any of Israel or Judah’s kings! According to verses 3-4, he did what was right in God’s sight, following in his father’s footsteps; only the high places remained during his administration, so the people still made sacrifices and burned incense where they were not supposed to.
Having read those verses, one might wonder at verse 5, which says, “the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death.” The king had to dwell for several years in isolation, while his son Jotham judged the people. The answer to this mystery is found in the parallel passage of 2 Chronicles 26:16-21, which tell us King Uzziah became so full of himself with his accomplishments, that he went into the temple to burn incense. When the priests confronted him about it, Uzziah became angry, so YHWH struck him with leprosy right before their very eyes as punishment for his pride.
So at about age 68, King Azariah died, and was buried in the City of David. Jotham, his son, then became the king of Judah (2 Kings 15:7).
During Azariah’s 38th year as king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam II became the king of Israel. Because he committed the same sins as his namesake, he only lasted for six months on the throne, before a guy named Shallum conspired against and murdered him right in front of his subjects, and then seized the throne for himself (vv. 8-10). In fulfillment of the prophecy recorded in 2 Kings 10:30, the Lord had extended Jehu’s dynasty to the fourth generation of his descendants (2 Kings 15:12).
Shallum took the throne of Israel in the 39th year of Uzziah’s reign and was in charge for all of one month, before a man named Menahem from Tirzah came and assassinated him (vv. 13-14). Menahem was a real brute. He invaded Tiphsah [Hebrew for “ford”], a city near the Euphrates River at the northern extent of David and Solomon’s ancient dominion. When this city refused to surrender to him, Menahem attacked it, cutting open the bellies of all the pregnant women in the city and its surrounding territory (16). Unfortunately, this guy remained in charge for ten years, perpetuating the sins of Jeroboam I in Israel (17-18).
During Menahem’s administration, King Pul (or Tiglath-pileser) of Assyria invaded Israel. The king of Israel exacted a tax of 50 shekels (about 20 oz.) of silver from each of Israel’s wealthiest men to pay Pul a total of 37 tons of silver (1,000 shekels) to let him continue to reign in Israel unmolested (19-20). The Assyrians agreed and withdrew from Menahem’s kingdom. When he died, the king’s son, Pekiah took his place (22).
Menahem’s son Pekiah assumed the throne of Israel in the 50th year of Judah’s King Azariah. He reigned for two years, continuing the sins of Jeroboam I, until one of his officers—Pekah the son of Remaliah—came with 50 men from Gilead to assassinate Pekahiah in his palace, “along with Argob and Arieh” (23-25). We aren’t told who Argob and Arieh were. Perhaps they were influential friends of the king, or heirs to the throne. In any case, Pekah was in charge, now.
Seizing the throne in Azariah’s final year as king of Judah, this wicked man ruled in Samaria for 22 years, continuing the sins of Jeroboam (27-28). During Pekah’s administration, “Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria” (2 Kings 15:29, NIV). His rule was abruptly ended when a guy named Hoshea conspired against and assassinated Pekah in the 20th year of King Jotham of Judah (v. 30).
“In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign” (32). Aged 25 when he began to rule independently of his father, Jotham was one of the good guys and reigned 16 years in Jerusalem (33-34). Although the high places were still in use in Judah, Jotham built the Upper Gate of the house of the LORD (35). Perhaps as a consequence of the people’s idolatry, YHWH “began to send Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah” (37). Eventually Jotham died and was succeeded by his son Ahaz (38).
2 Kings Chapter 16
In the 17th year of Pekah’s administration, Ahaz became the king of Judah at age 20 (2 Kings 16:1-2). For 16 years this corrupt man ruled in Jerusalem, following the practices of the kings of Israel. He even went so far as to sacrifice his own children to demons, “according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel” (v. 3). He worshiped false gods on high places and hills, and under every green tree (4).
Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel, besieged Jerusalem but were not able to overcome it (5). However, Rezin was able to capture Elath and drive the men of Judah out of the area (6). Then the Edomites claimed the city. 2 Chronicles 28:5-7 tells us how heavy the casualties were that these people inflicted.
Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, asking him to come save him from the kings of Syria and Israel (7). King Ahaz raided the treasuries of the temple and the palace to present the gold and silver to the king of Assyria (8). So the king of Assyria captured Damascus, killed Rezin, and carried his people captive to Kir (9).
When Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser, he was impressed by an altar he saw there, and sent a sketch of its design to Urijah the priest with orders to duplicate the structure (10). Heaven only knows why, but the priest had an altar constructed and ready by the time the king returned (11).
When Ahaz got back from Damascus, he started to use the new altar for all his burnt offerings and sacrifices (12-13). He moved the bronze altar from the front of the temple to the north side of the new altar and commanded the priest to make the usual sacrifices on the pagan altar, instead (14-16). He chopped up the smaller water basins, and took down the large Sea from the bronze oxen, placing it on a stone pavement (17). Furthermore, he remodeled the temple courtyards, so as not to offend the king of Assyria (18).
When Ahaz died, he “was buried with his fathers in the City of David,” but 2 Chronicles 28:27 tells us he was not placed in the tombs of the kings. Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.
2 Kings Chapter 17
“In the 12th year of Ahaz king of Judah,” Hoshea seized the throne of Israel in Samaria, and was in charge for 9 years (2 Kings 17:1). If you pay any attention to the numbers in this book of the Bible, you may be a bit confused at this point. 2 Kings 15:30 tells us Hoshea assassinated King Pekah in the 20th year of Jotham, king of Judah; while this verse claims it was during the 12th year of his son Ahaz. Furthermore, 2 Kings 15:33 says Jotham only reigned for 16 years. So which passage is right? If you consider that many of the Judean kings reigned concurrently with their sons, this is not a problem. Jotham was standing in for his leprous father several years before he was given full-fledged authority over Judah. That explains the statement that Pekah was assassinated during Jotham’s 20th year. As for this also being the 12th year of Ahaz, perhaps it means that Ahaz was 12 years old when this occurred.
In any case, he was an evil ruler, but not as bad as earlier kings of Israel (v. 2). Shalmaneser king of Assyria made Hoshea his vassal, and the king of Israel paid him tribute money (3). But when the Assyrian king learned that Hoshea had sent envoys to Egypt, he put the rebel king in prison (4). After a three year siege of Samaria, the Assyrian king carried off all the inhabitants of Israel and resettled them in distant lands (5-6).
The next ten verses list the reasons for this judgment against Israel:
- First, the Israelites forgot about YHWH, who had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt, and “they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel” (7-8).
- They secretly “built for themselves high places in all their cities” (9).
- “They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree,” to burn incense to false gods “like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them” (10-11)
- They were idolators, in violation of God’s commandments (12).
- They ignored the prophets YHWH sent to testify against them (13-14).
- “And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers,” preferring the idols and the nations around them (15).
- In blatant rebellion against YHWH’s commandments, Israel “made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal” (16).
- The Israelites “caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD” (17).
Out of anger toward the Northern Kingdom, YHWH “removed them from His sight,” leaving only the southern tribes of Israel in their land (18). Judah messed up, too (19); however, they at least had a few good kings that bought them more time. The Northern Kingdom was corrupt from the time they first broke off from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. They were on a collision course with destruction from the time that Jeroboam I “drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin,” which the Israelites were unwilling to depart from during all their years as a separate kingdom (21-22). That’s why “the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight” and sent them into exile in Assyria (20 & 23).
Having cleared the land of the Israelites, “the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead” (24). Since these were not God-fearing people, YHWH sent lions to attack the new inhabitants of the land (25). They reported this to the king of Assyria: “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land” (26). So the Assyrian king sent back a priest from Israel to inform them about YHWH (27-28).
Nevertheless, the new inhabitants of the land continued to worship their traditional gods and appointed priests to sacrifice according to Israeli tradition at the shrines and high places (29-32). “They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away” (33). In other words, they really didn’t care about YHWH, but paid Him lip-service while adhering to their own preferred religion, just as the apostate Hebrews had done (34-40). The descendants of these transplants from pagan countries perpetuated these practices on into the time of the editor of the book of Kings (41).
2 Kings Chapter 18
In Hoshea’s third year as king of Israel, Ahaz’s son Hezekiah became king of Judah at age 25 and ruled in Jerusalem for 29 years (2 Kings 18:1-2). He chose to do what was right in God’s eyes—including the removal of the high places, sacred poles and wooden idols that were so offensive to YHWH (vv. 3-4).
Interestingly enough, the bronze serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness (Num. 21:4-9) had been worshiped by Israel for years. This artifact that YHWH meant to save them, the people turned into an idol, which they called Nehushtan [Hebrew for “bronze thing”]. Hezekiah, realizing this, chopped the image to pieces, so it would no longer be a snare to his subjects (4).
Verses 5-6 tell us, “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments…” Consequently, YHWH was with Hezekiah and made him successful in everything he undertook (7).
Hezekiah broke away from the king of Assyria and subdued the Philistines all the way to Gaza (7-8). In Hezekiah’s fourth year (Hoshea’s seventh), Shalmaneser began his three-year siege of Samari (9-10). “Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive” and deported them to other lands, “because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God,” and ignored everything He told them (11-12). Eight years later, “Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them” (13). Hezekiah apologized for rebelling against the Assyrian monarch and promised to pay whatever penalty the king required (14). When Sennacherib imposed a fine “of more than eleven tons of silver and about one ton of gold” (2 Kings 18:14, NLT), Hezekiah raided the treasuries of the palace and the temple and even stripped the gold from the temple doors to pay it (14-16).
Still, the Assyrian king dispatched a massive army against Jerusalem (17). The spokesman of the group told Hezekiah’s representatives to relay the following message from the king of Assyria:
“What confidence is this in which you trust? You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me? …You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him” (19-21).
My guess is that Sennacherib assumed that Hezekiah had formed an alliance with Egypt as Hoshea had attempted to do. He also covered the possibility that Hezekiah, who was well known for his faith in YHWH was telling the people to trust God to protect them. In his mind, Hezekiah had surely offended the Lord by breaking down the altars the Hebrews had traditionally used to worship their gods and limiting them to one worship center (22). He offered to give Hezekiah 2,000 horses to fight him, but boasted that they would be no match even for one of the Assyrian captains (23). He even went so far as to suggest that the Lord Himself had sent him on a mission to destroy Jerusalem (25).
Having heard enough of the Assyrians’ trash talk and wanting to spare the Judean soldiers from this obvious attempt to undermine their morale, Hezekiah’s spokesmen asked the Assyrian captains to speak to them in the trade language of Aramaic, rather than Hebrew (26). Yet the head spokesman of the Assyrian delegation crassly responded, “Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, who will eat and drink their own waste with you?” (27).
Then he shouted in Hebrew that the men should not be fooled into thinking Hezekiah or their God would save them (28-30). Instead he urged on behalf of his king:
“Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!” (2 Kings 18:31-32, NIV).
Comparing the Living God to the idols of the nations defeated by the Assyrians, he asked, “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (vv. 33-35).
Instructed not to talk to the enemy, the men on the walls of Jerusalem answered not a word (36). Then Hezekiah’s servants came and reported to the king with their clothes torn in grief and shame (37).
2 Kings Chapter 19
When King Hezekiah got the news, he also tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went to the temple to pray (2 Kings 19:1). He sent Eliakim, his household steward, Shebna the scribe, and the leading members of the priesthood to Isaiah, all wearing sackcloth as a sign of mourning and humiliation (v. 2). They relayed a message from the king that Judah was in a tough spot and asked God to appeal to the Lord in their behalf, in hopes that YHWH would be insulted enough by what the Assyrians said that He would take action in Hezekiah’s behalf (3-4).
Isaiah told them not to worry, but relayed this message from the Lord:
“Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (5-7).
Sure enough, when the Assyrian spokesman returned to his king, they were told that the Ethiopian king was coming to fight the Assyrians (8-9). As he broke off his attack against Lachish, the Assyrian king sent a parting message to Hezekiah not to be deceived by his God into thinking he was going to escape (10). He again compared YHWH to the idols of pagan nations already defeated by Assyria (11-13).
When Hezekiah got the message, he took the letter into the temple and spread it out for God to see, praying, “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth” (14-15). He called attention to the words which the Assyrian monarch had “sent to reproach the living God” (16). He acknowledged that the Assyrians had devastated many nations and burned their idols (17). Yet that was only because their deities weren’t really gods, “but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone” (18). He prayed for YHWH to defeat the blasphemers, so that everyone would know He was the One true God (19).
YHWH sent a message via Isaiah that He had heard Hezekiah’s prayer and was ready to take action (20). Here’s what He had to say about the Assyrian king:
- Jerusalem was going to laugh him to scorn (21).
- He had boasted about his superior military might and reproached the God of Israel (22-23).
- He had boasted about his achievements and conquests, not realizing YHWH had determined long ago that the Assyrian king would do this; the nations were overpowered because God willed it (24-26).
- “But I know your dwelling place, your going out and your coming in, and your rage against Me” (27).
- Like a bull with a ring in his nose, YHWH was going to drag the Assyrian monarch back where he belonged (28).
As a sign that this prophecy would be fulfilled, YHWH told Hezekiah his people would eat grain that came up on its own that year, and then the volunteer crop from that in the year following (29). In the third year, they’d be able to plant and reap as usual. “And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” (30). Survivors from Jerusalem would repopulate Judah, and it would all be accomplished by the “zeal of the LORD of hosts” (31).
The Lord promised the Assyrian king would not come into Jerusalem, nor shoot an arrow there, or build any siege mound against it (32). He would withdraw the same way he came, since the Lord Himself was determined to defend the city for His sake and the sake of King David (33-34).
About that time, the angel of YHWH killed 185,000 men in the camp of the Assyrians (35). No doubt completely freaked out by this unexplained body count, Sennacherib king of Assyria went back home to Nineveh (36). As promised, when Sennacherib was worshiping in the temple of his god, two of his own sons attacked him with the sword; and ran away to the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place (37).
2 Kings Chapter 20
Not long afterwards, Hezekiah became deathly ill (2 Kings 20:1). God sent Isaiah the prophet to tell the king, “Set your house in order, for you shall die…” Naturally, Hezekiah was upset. Once the prophet left his presence, Hezekiah reminded YHWH of the way he had followed Him “in truth and with a loyal heart,” and wept bitterly (2-3). Before Isaiah had left the palace, the Lord sent him back with a message for Hezekiah:
“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.” (4-6)
As a prescription for Hezekiah’s condition, Isaiah prescribed a poultice of figs, which was applied to the boil, so the king recovered (7). Whatever the king’s ailment, this natural antibiotic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory fruit was just what was needed to cure it.
Not seeing any conceivable way this could happen, Hezekiah asked for a sign that YHWH would make him well enough to go to the temple in three days (8). Isaiah gave the king a choice of seeing the shadow on his sundial go backwards or forward ten degrees (9). Hezekiah chose the more difficult feat, which was for the sun to go backwards (10). When the prophet cried out to YHWH, He did just that (11)!
After the Babylonian king, Berodach-Baladan, heard about Hezekiah’s miraculous recovery, he “sent letters and a present to Hezekiah” by way of some messengers (12). King Hezekiah was pleased with this attention and proceeded to give them a grand tour of all his treasuries (13).
Isaiah inquired about the men and what they had seen, and the king told him they had come from far away and there was nothing among his possessions that he had not shown them (14-15). Then the prophet informed Hezekiah that everything his ancestors had accumulated would be carried to Babylon (16-17). Not only that, but some of his own descendants would be taken to Babylon and made eunuchs in the palace of the foreign king (18).
Amazingly enough, Hezekiah was not the least bit concerned about this dire prophecy. He said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good,” since it was not going to happen during his administration (19)!
Verse 20 tells us that the king made “a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city.” In Jerusalem today, you can still see this aqueduct built during Hezekiah’s administration. See photos and links at http://www.bibleplaces.com/heztunnel.htm. When Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh reigned in his place.
2 Kings Chapter 21
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem” (2 Kings 21:1). He was as bad as the kings that ruled the nations that God removed from the land of Canaan to settle the Israelites there (v. 2). He rebuilt all the high places his father had torn down, set up altars and idols for Baal and Asherah worship like King Ahab of Israel, and worshiped the sun, moon and stars (3 & 7). If that wasn’t enough, Manasseh erected pagan altars and images in the house of the LORD and in its two courtyards (4-5 & 7). He sacrificed his own children to idols, practiced fortune-telling and witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums (6). Thanks to Manasseh’s bad example, the children of Israel completely ignored God’s laws and fell into more evil practices than any of their predecessors (9). Verse 16 also tells us the wicked king filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.
Through His prophets, YHWH warned the people, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations,…” He intended to bring “such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle” (10-12). God was planning to do the same thing to Judah that He had done to Israel and its king, forsaking and delivering them into the hands of their enemies to be plundered, “because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt” (13-15).
When he died, Manasseh was buried in the garden of Uzza at his royal residence (18). “Then his son Amon reigned in his place.”
Amon assumed the throne at age 22 and reigned just two years in Jerusalem (19). In every way, he walked in his father’s footsteps, doing all sorts of wicked things to provoke God to anger (20-22). Not surprisingly, his own servants conspired against the 24-year-old king and murdered him in his own home (23). However, “the people of the land executed all those who had conspired against King Amon” and “made his son Josiah king in his place” (24). Amon, too, was buried in the garden of Uzza, rather than with the rest of the kings of Judah (26).
2 Kings Chapter 22
Josiah was the second youngest member of the royal family to be crowned the King of Judah. A mere eight years old when he became king, Josiah was in charge 31 years in Jerusalem (2 Kings 22:1). Like his ancestor David, Josiah did what was right in God’s eyes (v. 2).
Like his great-grandfather, Hezekiah, young Josiah was concerned about restoring temple worship and getting rid of the idols in the land. About halfway into his administration, he sent Shaphan the scribe to check with Hilkiah the high priest for the total amount of money collected for the repairs on the temple (3-4). He wanted the money to be given to the carpenters, builders and bricklayers to buy stone and timber for the restoration of YHWH’s house (5-6). Because the men were all faithful, he didn’t require an accounting of the expenditures; however, you do sense that he was anxious for the work to get underway soon (7).
When Shaphan arrived at the temple complex, Hilkiah informed him, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD” (8). Shaphan read it, and then immediately brought it to the king and read it, after giving his report about the money (9-10).
As soon as Josiah heard everything from the Torah, he tore his clothes in grief and shame (11). Realizing how miserably his people had failed the Law of YHWH and the curses they had brought upon themselves through their sins, the king sent Hilkiah the priest, Shaphan the scribe, and three other trusted men to Huldah, a prophetess in Jerusalem (12 & 14). He told the five men,
“Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (13).
The prophetess had bad news and good for the men to relay to their master:
- First, she gave this stern word from the Lord: “…I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read—because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.” (15-17).
- But to Josiah himself, YHWH had some reassuring words, as well: “…because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you” (18-19). The Lord promised he would die in peace, without seeing all the horrors God had planned against his country (20).
2 Kings Chapter 23
When this was reported to him, Josiah’s first order of business was to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem and read to everyone what had been read to him from the Book of the Covenant of YHWH which Hilkiah had found in the temple (2 Kings 23:1-2). Standing next to one of the pillars at the house of worship, the king “made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (v. 3). The people agreed.
In keeping with this covenant to follow YHWH alone, the king and his people set about at once, cleansing the land of anything that smacked of idolatry:
- The priests and Levites were commanded to clear out all the paraphernalia made for Baal, Asherah, and “all the host of heaven,” which were promptly burned outside the city. The ashes were dumped at the old Israelite pagan worship center, Bethel (4).
- The “idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places” in the territory of Judah were removed (5). We are not told whether this means they were merely banished or not, but my guess is that this zealous new follower of YHWH had them executed, as the Law commanded.
- He had the sacred pole dedicated to Asherah removed from the temple, burned to ashes at the Brook Kidron, and scattered on the graves of the common people (6).
- The ritual booths where people committed lewd sexual acts in worship of their pagan gods were torn down (7). It’s inconceivable to me that these were actually erected by the Jews right in the temple of the Lord! This was also where women used to weave tapestries to drape the image of their vile diety.
- The high places were defiled in all the land of Israel and Judah (8).
- It sounds as if those priests who had not led the people into idolatry but had burned incense YHWH at these high places were not killed or kept from partaking of the offerings at the temple; however, they were not allowed to minister at the altar of the LORD either (9).
- Topheth, in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, was desecrated, as well, in order to stop the practice of human sacrifices to Molech (10).
- Josiah got rid of the horses dedicated to the sun and burned their sacred chariots (11).
- He destroyed Ahaz’s rooftop altars, Manasseh’s altars at the temple, and Solomon’s high places for Ashtoreth (a Sidonian goddess), Chemosh (a Moabite deity that required human sacrifices), and Milcom (the abominable god of the Ammonites) (12-13).
- Human remains were used to desecrate all the places of false worship (14).
- He also got rid of every person in his realm who was known to consult mediums and spiritists, household gods and idols, or anything else YHWH’s Law defined as unacceptable (24).
Josiah’s reforms were not isolated to Judah’s territory alone. Fulfilling prophecy uttered centuries before by the man of God who came to Jeroboam at Bethel (1 Kings 13:1-2), Josiah demolished the ancient altar, calf image and high place erected by the first king of the Northern tribes and burned human bones on the altar to defile it (2 Kings 23:15-16). When he spotted one monument in particular, the king inquired about it from the locals, and learned of the ancient prophecy given by the occupant of the tomb (v. 17). Then he gave orders that no one was to disturb this grave (18). So the remains of the man of God and the prophet from Samaria who had him buried there were preserved the ignoble treatment of the commoners whose graves dotted the mountain nearby.
“Josiah also took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger,” following the same procedures performed at the high place in Bethel (19). He executed every priest of these false gods, so they could not lead others astray, and then returned to Jerusalem (20).
Once the land was purified, Josiah invited everyone to Jerusalem for the biggest Passover celebration that had been held “since the days of the judges” (21-22). Scripture tells us “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25, NIV). He was distinguished in his devotion to YHWH above all the other monarchs over God’s people.
Of course, even Josiah’s goodness was not enough to keep the Lord from carrying out His judgments against Judah “because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him” (v. 26). He still planned to remove Judah from His sight, just as He had removed Israel, in spite of YHWH’s former commitment to always let His name be connected with the holy city of Jerusalem and its surrounding territory (27).
As the old saying goes, ‘all good things must come to an end’—including the good reign of Josiah. Verse 29 tells us, “In his days Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went to the aid of the king of Assyria, to the River Euphrates; and King Josiah went against him.” In the parallel passage of 2 Chronicles 35:20-24, we learn that Necho had no quarrel with Josiah, but the Judean king opposed him in battle, in spite of the Egyptian’s warning to back off. So Josiah was wounded and died in battle, and then his servants transported his body in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem, where the king was buried in his own tomb (2 Kings 23:30).
The people of Judah took Josiah’s second son, Jehoahaz, anointed him, and made him king in his father’s place (v. 31). He was 23 years old when he became king, and reigned so wickedly he was only in charge for three months before Necho came and imprisoned him in Hamath north of Israel (31-33). Pharaoh imposed a tribute of 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold on the kingdom of Judah, and then made Josiah’s older son king (34). It’s interesting that the king of Egypt changed the Judean monarch’s name from Eliakim (which means “God raises up”) to Jehoiakim (which means “YHWH raises up”). Once this was done, Pharaoh took Jehoahaz to Egypt, where he died, just as the prophet Jeremiah foretold (Jer. 22:11-12).
Jehoiakim was 25 years old when he became king and reigned 11 years in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:36). He imposed an income-based tax on the people in order to pay the tribute owed to Pharaoh Necho (v. 35). He was another of Judah’s bad kings (37).
2 Kings Chapter 24
During Jehoiakim’s administration, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded and made the king of Judah his vassal (2 Kings 24:1) For three years, Jehoiakim cooperated. But when he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH sent raiders from Chaldea, Syria, Moab and Ammon, who systematically beat Judah down (v. 2). Verses 3 & 4 tell us these troubles came upon the people of Judah in fulfillment of prophecy as a result “of the sins of Manasseh…and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed.” This wicked king had so filled the royal city with innocent victims that it was more than YHWH was willing to pardon.
When Jehoiakim died, his son Jehoiachin reigned in his place (6). Pharaoh, king of Egypt was no longer a problem, since Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken all his territory from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt (7).
Jehoiachin ascended the throne of Judah at eighteen years of age; he lasted a paltry three months in Jerusalem, continuing in his father’s evil footsteps (8-9). Again, Nebuchadnezzar’s army besieged Jerusalem (10-11). “Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him” (2 Kings 24:12, NIV).
Just as the prophet Jeremiah had foretold (Jer. 22:24-26), Jehoiachin—referred to as Coniah by Jeremiah—his mother and other important people were deported to Babylon in the second of three waves of political prisoners. Nebuchadnezzar also removed the treasures Hezekiah had shown Babylonian envoys, as Isaiah had warned years before (2 Kings 20:14-17 & 24:13). 10,000 men among the cream of Jerusalem’s population were taken—including all the best military commanders and warriors, the craftsmen and the metal smiths. Only the poorest people were left behind (2 Kings 24:14-16).
Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle [another son of Josiah], as king in Jehoiachin’s place, giving him the name Zedekiah. How interesting that the pagan Babylonian king would choose a name that means, “YHWH is righteous,” reminding everyone by/to whom it was spoken that the Lord is good, rather than the king’s original name, which meant “gift of YHWH.”
“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (18). He was just as bad as his brother Jehoiakim had been, and brought YHWH to the end of his patience with the people of Judah and Jerusalem (19-20a). The second half of this final verse informs us that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon (20b).
2 Kings Chapter 25
In the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year of Zedekiah’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar came a third time against Jerusalem and besieged for almost two whole years (2 Kings 25:1-2). Verse 3 tells us that by the 9th day of the 4th month in Zedekiah’s 11th year as king, the famine in the city was so bad, there was nothing left to eat.
Just as the prophet Ezekiel had previously enacted (Ezek. 12), the city wall was broken through, so that the king and his men of war could slip out past the Chaldean army and flee by way of the plains (2 Kings 25:4). However, they were overtaken by the Babylonians, who scattered the soldiers and captured the king (5). When Zedekiah was taken to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon decreed that the sons of Zedekiah should be executed before his eyes, and then he was blinded, chained and taken off to Babylon (6-7).
Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, was left behind by the king of Babylon to finish pillaging the city, breaking down its walls and reducing it to ashes (8-10). He led the rest of the people—save a few of the poorest of the poor—captive, along with those who had defected to the king of Babylon (11-12).
As prophesied in Jeremiah 27:19-22, the captain of the guard also broke in pieces the bronze pillars, the carts and the bronze Sea at the temple and carried it off to Babylon (2 Kings 25:13). All the bronze and gold utensils left at the temple were carted away, as well (vv. 14-15).
All the leading men of Jerusalem, including the priests, gatekeepers, military and civic leaders were dragged off to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar was camped (18-20). All of these men, who had ignored the word of YHWH through His prophets, were executed in that place (21).
Nebuzaradan then appointed “Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, governor over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left” (22). When word of this arrangement reached the military men still scattered throughout Judah, they all returned to the capital and rallied around the new governor (23). Gedaliah made a pact with them and urged the men not to fear the Babylonians rulers, but to settle down in the area and serve their new masters (24).
A man named Ishmael from the royal family hatched an assassination plot, killing Gedaliah, the Jews, and the Chaldean overseers who were with him at Mizpah (25). The surviving Jews were so afraid of reprisals from the Babylonians that they all gathered and fled to Egypt (26).
37 years after Jehoiachin had been carried off to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s descendant, Evil-Merodach, released the former king of Judah from prison (27). Jehoiachin was given a place of honor among the other kings at Evil-Merodach’s dining table, along with a comfortable allowance for the rest of his life (28-30). Just as Jeremiah the prophet had foretold (Jer. 22:26-27), Jehoichin never returned to Judah, but died in the land of Babylon.
Much can be learned from this book and the lives of the kings and other leading men and women of Israel and Judah. I would say the most significant is this: How important it is for us to remain daily dependent on the Lord and to listen to and obey what He says. If we start out well, but end poorly, what use have we been in the Kingdom of God? If we mess up, but sincerely repent, forgiveness is available, although consequences will remain. It is so much better to follow God with all our hearts so that we and all whose lives are influenced by our own will be blessed!
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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