Beulah Baptist Church
Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Divided Monarchy

THE DIVIDED MONARCHY 
THE GLORY AND CORRUPTION OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
 
INTRODUCTION
  1. The uniqueness of Biblical history – Bible history is different from any other history ever written because the Holy Spirit of God is the author. [II Peter 1:21]
  2. The uniqueness of Israel as a nation – Israel was not just one of many nations of the ancient world, Israel was unique because it was specially chosen and prepared by God to be His instrument to bring Christ the Messiah into the world. It is true that Israel rejected her Messiah but it is also true that God has not cast off this nation forever. His purpose for Israel will be accomplished someday [Rom. 11]. Therefore the story of the Davidic kingdom recorded in the OT is only part one of the story, part II will begin when Christ the Messiah comes back to earth again and accomplishes through Israel His original purpose of bringing full blessing to the nations of the world.
  3. Phase One of the Theocratic Kingdom – the OT historians tell of the establishment and collapse of phase one of the theocratic kingdom, but the OT prophets tell of the establishment and ultimate victory of phase II through David’s greater son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
I.                   THE GLORY OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A.    Christ’s own evaluation – the Lord Jesus Christ paid tribute indirectly to Solomon when He said in [Luke 12:27]. He also emphasized the wisdom of Solomon when He compared Himself to that great king of Israel [Matt. 12:42].
B.     Solomon may have been considered the Messiah – This leads us to ask the question concerning Solomon when his reign began following the death of David in all the wealth, wonder, glory, and peace that God gave to him is it not possible that men considered him to be the final fulfillment of the prophecies of old concerning the coming of the Seed of the woman [Gen. 3:15]; of the coming of Shiloh who would rule in the nation of Judah [Gen. 49:10]; of the coming of the star and scepter that would destroy the enemies of Israel [Num. 24:17]; of the one who would build David’s house in the Davidic Covenant of [II Sam. 7:13]. As we read [I Kings 4:20] we discover such amazing things of the glories of Solomon’s kingdom and this verse seems to be an intentional statement of fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham concerning his purpose ultimately in millennial blessing for his descendants [Gen. 32:12]. Furthermore Solomon wrote a psalm in which he ponders the significance of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to behold and admire the glory of his realm [Psalm 72:10, 15]. He speaks of this in terms of the ultimate promise of God in the kingdom age in which all the kings of the earth shall come and pay homage and bow before God’s anointed.
C.     God-given wisdom and skills – God had promised some amazing things to Solomon [I Kings 3:5], He gave him the ultimate question and offer. What would you do if God asked you that question? Jesus said [John 15:7] and we know that Solomon was in the will of God to ask for wisdom to rule over that great kingdom because God honored him in promising not only unique wisdom and jurisprudence but also added to this fantastic administrative skill, unparalleled ability in writing 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs, abilities as a natural scientist in the realm of botany and zoology, abilities in the realm of architecture and engineering which were poured out upon that temple that God had blueprinted for David and in which the greatest artisans of the world constructed under Solomon. And also as [I Kings 10] tells us commercial enterprises that reached to the ends of the earth. All of these things God provided for him in terms of the promise that Jesus spoke about in [Matt. 6:33]. We will have to admit that Solomon’s wisdom did not include detailed prophetic understanding with regard to the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that Solomon had every reason to believe in the light of the prophecies that had gone before him was the he himself was the Messiah.
D.    The basic problem - But the tragedy of it all is the fact that wisdom from God and unique skills in all of these areas was no substitute for holiness and righteousness. The Bible tells us even through the lips of Solomon himself surely there is not a righteous man upon earth that does good and sins not [Eccl. 7:20]. These words were written as Solomon neared the end of his life and from those sunset years embittered by tragedies most of which he brought upon himself he looked back and realized that there was a basic defect in his heart that made it impossible for him to fulfill the promise that God had given to Adam and Eve concerning the Seed of a woman who would crush the serpents head. It would take a greater than Solomon one who was not tainted by human sin and depravity to defeat the ultimate enemy of the human race. And thus as we look back on the amazing unparalleled glory of Solomon we cannot help but realize that all of this fell infinitely short of God’s standard of perfection for the true king that someday would rule over Israel and through Israel over the nations of the world.
 
II.                THE CORUPTION OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A.    Solomon multiplies wives [I Kings 11:1-8] – the fact that [I Kings 11:1] states that Solomon loved many foreign woman together with the daughter of Pharaoh suggests that the daughter of Pharaoh was the only legitimate wife that Solomon ever had.
B.     Was Pharaoh’s daughter his only true wife? – we read back in [I Kings 3] how he had taken Pharaoh’s daughter to be his wife and for 24 years he prepared for her an appropriate dwelling place in the city of Jerusalem. He spent 13 years building the palace and four plus 7 years for the temple, plus 13 before the Queen could move into her own appropriate dwelling place. Is it possible that during those 24 years he only had one wife? Is it possible that this is why God had blessed him so uniquely? Because he was obedient to God’s original plan for creation, one man, one woman in monogamous marriage. That would be the ideal interpretation but there are problems with this view that we must frankly acknowledge. In the first place we know that King David was mightily blessed of God during the first half of his reign even thought the OT makes it clear that he had already multiplied wives to himself. And furthermore there is a passage in [I Kings 14:21] which raises serious questions about Pharaoh’s daughter being Solomon’s only wife for there we are told that his son Rehoboam was 41 years old when Solomon died. And of course this means that Rehoboam was born one year before Solomon’s 40-year reign began. The tragic thing about this is that [I Kings 14:21] was not the daughter of Pharaoh. Rather it was Naamah an Ammonitess. We can’t help but wonder in the light of Reheboam’s character as subsequently revealed whether Naamah the Ammonitess was a proselyte to the true God of Israel or whether she brought with her pagan ideas and her pagan deity even to Jerusalem? If this is the case then Solomon had already compromised the possibility of ultimate success and victory in his kingdom before the death of David and the commencement of his own reign.
C.     Why did God permit polygamy for David and Solomon? – God permitted it for the same reason that He permitted divorce [Matt. 19:8], because of the hardness of the human heart.
D.    How did God reveal His disapproval of polygamy? - God had already warned through Moses several hundred years before Solomon or David began their reigns, in [Duet. 17:17] when the time came that kings would sit upon the throne of Israel they should not multiply wives unto themselves. God anticipated this problem for the simple reason that this was characteristic of ancient near Eastern kings. God specifically warned against this not only in precept but also through examples. Consider for example Abraham and Sarah. The tragedy that came into that home when an additional wife was brought into the scene. They were following ancient Near Eastern custom when because of Sarah’s barrenness the slave woman was brought in to become the mother of a child who was to inherit the promises. But this was obviously out of God’s will for this couple because it was a corruption of God’s original standards from creation and therefore the catastrophe this brought in that family is a far more eloquent denunciation of polygamy than any number of precepts could ever be. We also have the tragedy in Jacob’s household by his own compliance against the known will of God. And thus jealous wives and spoiled children almost brought Jacob to an untimely grave. And over and over in the OT that combination is clearly set forth, multiple wives bringing jealousy between the family units that had to share one father. And spoiled children neglected and thus undisciplined and corrupted from the very beginning of their earthly experience. Perhaps it was because of this Solomon had to say concerning Rehoboam [Eccl. 2:19].
E.     Solomon followed ancient Near Eastern customs – the reason that Solomon multiplied wives and concubines was not simply that he loved this many women but because of the ancient custom carried on consistently by kings in the near east of taking the daughter of a foreign king to be your queen in order to cement diplomatic relations with those kingdoms. This would be as it were a powerful tie politically and commercially with a king of another kingdom who would not likely break his promises with the knowledge that his daughter was a part of your harem. And by like token the king who had received this woman would not likely insult his father-in-law by breaking a treaty. Note for example when Omri the king of Israel tried to cement a political commercial alliance with the neighboring kingdom of Phoenicia. He accomplished this by taking the daughter of the Phoenician king unto his son Ahab and so Jezebel arrived in Israel bringing 850 prophets of her gods with her and set up camp establishing a foothold not only political and commercial but especially religious in the kingdom of Israel. In those day’s religion was considered a vital part of life and without religion life was unthinkable.
F.      The pagan shrines were not removed for 300 years - The Bible says Solomon brought these women into his kingdom and along with them came their gods and the paraphernalia of their religion. Including cultic experts, priests who set up little shrines all around Jerusalem and the amazing thing about this is that they continued there. A shocking example of the apostasy that set in so quickly to tarnish the glory of Solomon’s kingdom. A testimony to the power of satan to gain his foothold in the theocratic kingdom of God right in the sight of the Holy Temple. These shrines continued for 300 years, not until the time of Josiah did those shrines get torn down at last. Which proves of course that even the great reforming kings such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah somehow felt helpless to desecrate these shrines that there great forebear had established in the final years of his reign.
G.    Nehemiah points to the bad example of Solomon [13:26] – looking back over this tragic development, Nehemiah the great reforming governor who came under the blessing and with the authority of the Persian king in the fifth century B. C. used Solomon has a tragic example of what can happen even when great men turn away from the known will of God. Solomon turned his heart from the very God who had blessed him and followed the deities that were brought into his kingdom by the wives that he took unto himself in the very effort that he took to extend and establish his kingdom. After all God will bring us to judgment if we attempt to do His work in our sinful ways. 
 
THE RIVAL KINGDOM OF JEROBOAM
 
I. THE DOOM OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM IS DETERMINED
  1. God’s grace in time and extent [I Kings 11:12-13] – in spite of all that Solomon had done in disobedience to God’s known will in particular multiplying wives unto himself and pagan ones at that. God’s grace toward Solomon is remarkable indeed. We are told here that God is going to take away the kingdom all but one tribe and give it to his servant speaking of course of Jeroboam. But in Solomon’s days God would not do it he would leave on tribe for Rehoboam. In other words God’s grace in the realm of time the judgment would be postponed until after Solomon died. And in the realm of extent not all of the kingdom would be taken from him. One tribe would be left for his son and this refers not only to the tribe of Judah but to the tribe of Benjamin [I Kings 12:21] joined with Judah in supplying additional soldiers for a threatened civil war. The only way we can understand this arrangement is if the southern tribe of Simeon had already merged with Judah and the tribe of Levi doesn’t count because it was scattered among all the tribes. And therefore the ten tribes that were given to Jeroboam must have included the east and the west tribes of Manasseh, which was split by the river Jordan. At any rate God’s judgment was modified in the case of Solomon as far as the total division of the kingdom was concerned.
  2. Pressures from Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam – nevertheless during Solomon’s lifetime the seeds of disruption had already been sown and the pressures were mounting on the horizon. [I Kings 11:14ff] tell of three adversaries that God raised up during Solomon’s lifetime so that he could see very clearly what was ahead for his kingdom and because of his sin. The first of the adversaries Hadad the Edomite was provided for in the providence of God even before his father David had died. David’s army had been in Edom under the generalship of Joab and the Edomites were destroyed except that Hadad and other s had fled to Egypt at a time when Hadad was a mere child. The Pharaoh of Egypt at that time took him in and card for him and then in later years after David and Joab had died Hadad insisted being urged by God Himself we may be sure to leave the comforts and the privileges of life in Egypt to go back to his home land in Edom to do a special work. We know what that work was [I Kings 11:25] mischief many years during Solomon’s reign this adversary was causing trouble on the south border. The second adversary was Rezon the son of Eliadah in the land of Syria to the north. This man we are told in [v 25] was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon. But surely the greatest threat was from Jeroboam the son of Nebat from Ephraim. We are not told exactly when his plot to overthrow the kingdom of Solomon took place but we are told in [v 26] that he also lifted up his hand against the king. There is a very important reason why Jeroboam did this which is not presented in this particular chapter of I Kings. We may be sure that nothing ever happens in history in a vacuum there is always a background always an ultimate explanation in the realm of cause and effect and this is no exception. 
II. THE BACKGROUND OF JEROBAOM’S REBELLION
  1. Pride, because of Bethel, Joshua, and Shiloh – Jeroboam came from the tribe of Ephraim, which for hundreds of years had exhibited an incomparable pride. Ephraim you’ll remember was the tribe from which Joshua came. Joshua the conqueror of the land of Canaan. The tribe of Ephraim is the place where the tabernacle was established in the days of Joshua in the town of Shiloh and there it remained for several centuries. Abraham had built an altar at Bethel within the boundary lines of the tribe of Ephraim and perhaps it was for this reason that they Ephraimites chided with Joshua.
  2. Chiding with others
    1. With Joshua [Joshua 17:14] – about the small size of their territorial allotment in this verse. Joshua answered them on their own level and rebuked their pride.
    2. With Gideon [Judges 8:1] – when Gideon from the tribe of Manasseh accomplished by God’s power a tremendous victory against the hordes of the Midianites that tribe of Ephraim chided with him because they weren’t given the privilege of leading in that battle. And by a soft answer Gideon avoided what would have been a civil war there.
    3. With Jephthah [Judges 11:3] – Jephthah waged a battle against the Ammonites that were threatening the people of Israel across the Jordan and once again the pride of Ephraim became manifest for not consulting them first before he launched his campaign. But Jephthah was no Gideon he was not capable of soft answers and he took the tribe of Ephraim at its word and threw down the gauntlet and when the Ephraimite soldiers crossed the Jordan to take things into their own hands, Jephthah’s men cut off their retreat and demanded the Shibboleth sign before he would permit Ephraimite soldiers to cross back to the west Jordan banks and as a result 42,000 Ephraimites died. This not only crippled the pride of the tribe of Ephraim but also subdued them politically for many years during the reign of Saul of Benjamin and David of Judah and the early years of the reign of Solomon of Judah.
  3. The Ephraimite labor gang in Jerusalem [I Kings 9:15; 11:28] – but now as the years of Solomon’s reign continued and enormous building projects were carried on especially in Jerusalem it became evident to many peoples throughout the tribes of Israel that Solomon was a hard taskmaster and one who was overemphasizing in their opinion the glory of the tribe of Judah at the expense of the other tribes. We may understand therefore that later on after the kingdom was split that the northern tribes speaking through Ephraim [spokesman tribe] said in [I Kings 12:4] –thy father made our yoke grievous. This was true because in spite of all the glory of Solomon’s kingdom there was nevertheless an increasing denial of independence and liberty as the enormous burden of taxation and forced labor continued without abatement from year to year. In the labor task force in Jerusalem we are told that Jeroboam representing the group of workers from the house of Joseph was an exceptional man of valor. He was industrious and therefore Solomon gave special honors to this ambitious young man. But of course underlying his zeal was also a determination to gain independence for his own people Ephraim and to assassinate King Solomon in the process.
 
III.             THE PLOT
A.    Ahijah, the Shilonite – [I Kings 11:29] – its possible that at this time Jeroboam was going back to Ephraim to raise support from his people as a follow up for his plot to assassinate the king. But as he was leaving the city an old prophet found him and confronted him with the will of Jehovah in this situation. Ahijah took the garment that he wore and tore it into twelve pieces and gave 10 of them to Jeroboam and challenged him to submit to God’s will. This was a magnificent and gracious offer but it was contingent on Jeroboam’s willingness to come to terms with Jehovah. If Jeroboam would keep his hands off the Davidic kings in Jerusalem and the Zadokian priesthood that God had established there God would honor him and perpetuate his kingdom.
B.     Like Ahaz - What a tremendous opportunity this was for Jeroboam to be content with that which God offered but like wicked King Ahaz in a later century to whom Isaiah offered a sing in the heavens above and the earth beneath if he would just rest content and let God take care of his enemies.
C.     The initial failure [I Kings 11:40a] - Jeroboam was not content with God’s plan and the limitations it included. And therefore not only did his plot fail [v 40] Jeroboam fled to Egypt and his refusal to submit God’s will later brought about his own destruction.
 
IV.             THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM
A.    David had offended the northern tribes [II Samuel 19] – at the time of his return across the Jordan after his battle with his son Absalom according to this chapter. He gave the hint to the tribe of Judah that they should be the first to meet him at the Jordan and the northern tribes were deeply offended by this.
B.     The familiar battle cry [II Samuel 20:1; I Kings 12:16] – so when Sheba began his rebellion we’re told that the northern tribes followed him and when they did this was there battle cry: “we have no portion in David neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse every man to his tents o Israel” The interesting thing about this battle cry is that about 50 years later as Jeroboam looms on the horizon use that same cry [I Kings 12:16].
C.     The northern capitals – with the kingdom now completely set and Jeroboam having returned he establishes two new capitals around which he could rally the northern tribes. He had one capital west of the Jordan at Shechem under the shadow of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim a place of great significance in the past history of the nation. A place where Joshua and the twelve tribes dedicated the land to Jehovah after they had conquered that part of the land. And on the other side of Jordan he established Penuel. Possibly the reason why he shifted his center of government from Shechem to Penuel was to protect himself against himself from the invasion from Egypt under the direction of Pharaoh Shishak that occurred in the fifth year of Jeroboam’s reign as rival king. It is interesting that this same Pharaoh had been Jeroboam’s protector during the years that Solomon still reigned over the United Kingdom. And now Jeroboam is presumably his enemy too. But if Pharaoh Shishak was a problem for Jeroboam and even greater problem for him was the rival kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem.
 
V.                JEROBOAM’S NEW RELIGION
A.    The Challenge of Annual Pilgrimages to Jerusalem – because the scriptures made full provision for the whole nation of 12 tribes to appear three times every year for worship in Jerusalem and Jeroboam could immediately see what this would mean for the integrity and solidity of his own kingdom program. As the northerners would go to Jerusalem for these festivals the Zadokian priests would no doubt take opportunity not only to explain to them the significance of the animal sacrifices but would also emphasize the importance of recognizing the Davidic king who sat on the throne in Jerusalem [namely Rehoboam]. So Jeroboam saw immediately the necessity of establishing an entire new religion for the northern tribes.
B.     The Solution – he masterminded this change under satan’s direction because of the very brilliance and thoroughness of it. In the realms of symbols, worship centers, priesthood, and calendar.
    1. New symbols of religion – first he changed the symbols of Israel’s religion. Instead of golden cherubim above the ark we now have two golden calves. Calves being sacred to the Egyptians and furthermore having the historical precedent of Aaron himself under pressure from the Israelites built for them a golden calf as a worship symbol and cried out to the nation [Ex. 32:4]. Aaron did not intend to abandon Jehovah worship but simply to use this familiar worship symbol as an aid to worship. And so likewise Jeroboam did not intend to abandon the name of Jehovah at all but simply to attach that sacred name to a new symbol in order that he might depart from Jerusalem and yet have something that sounded orthodox to the peoples of the northern tribes.
    2. New centers of worship – he established two new worship centers one at Bethel in the south and one at Dan in the northern extremity. Bethel was Jacob’s worship center years before and therefore appropriate for its fame and Dan had been honored by Moses own grandson Jonathan who served as a priest there in the early phase of the period of the Judges. The point is why go to Jerusalem when we have two very convenient and prominent worship centers in our own northern territory.
    3. New priesthood – he established a new priesthood he suspected that the Levites and priests who were in the northern tribes would not tolerate this new religion and indeed they didn’t because the vast majority of them according [II Chron. 11:13-17] fled to the south to join the southern kingdom and to strengthen it spiritually during the early year after the kingdom was divided. So Jeroboam simply offered priestly services to the highest bidder men of his own choice and thus a substitute leadership was launched in the religious life of the northern kingdom.
    4. New religious calendar – he changed the religious calendar. The supremely important month of the year from the standpoint of religious festivals in Judah and Jerusalem was the 7th month with its Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement the 15th day, and the Feast of Tabernacles from the
15th to the 22nd days. He simply shifted the calendar one month ahead to the eighth month a month he had devised in his own heart [I Kings 12:33]. And attempted doubtless to make the ceremonies of that month even more spectacular that the traditional services of the 7th month in the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem.
It is important to notice that Jeroboam would have gotten nowhere if he had abandoned all religion. Satan never does things in this way. He offers a counterfeit, a substitute which is different from the truth to accomplish his purposes but sufficiently similar to the truth to deceive men who are willing to be deceived.
 
VI.             THE UNNAMED PROPHET FROM JUDAH
A.    His successful mission against Jeroboam – so terrible was the spiritual situation now in the northern kingdom that God sent an unnamed prophet from Judah in order to denounce Jeroboam the king and to miraculously exhibit God’s wrath against the new religion and then to return to Judah without even eating or drinking the contaminated food and water of this apostate northern kingdom [I Kings 13]. This prophet came and announced that a future Davidic king would desecrate that very altar [v 1]. And to confirm this prophecy a miracle was done and the altar fell apart in the very presence of the king. It is interesting that several hundred years later another prophet from the south named Amos went to this same capital at Bethel during the reign of Jeroboam II and denounced the apostasy of that northern kingdom [Amos 7:10-13] and with an equal lack of success it should be noted. Jeroboam put out his hand to take this prophet and his hand was withered and God restored the hand but whether by judgment or grace the king refused to learn his lesson.
B.     His disobedience and death – the tragedy of course is that the prophet of Judah having passed this test failed when satan spoke to him through a presumed friend. An old prophet from Israel who had admired this man’s testimony but who himself had been set-aside because of his compromises with the Word of God. He sent an invitation and said that an angel told him to come back and eat bread at his home. And the unnamed prophet of Judah against his better knowledge accepted the invitation and God destroyed him. The important lesson from this of course is as the apostle Paul stated [Gal. 1:8]. It is possible to recognize God’s true voice to our own heart through the Holy Spirit’s illumination and no substitute voice coming second or third hand can possibly contradict what God tells us directly to our heart through His Word. What satan could not accomplish by outward persecution he did accomplish in that unnamed prophet from Judah who may have been unnamed for this very reason through inward enticement. And not only that old prophet from Bethel but all subsequent sons of the prophets must have pondered that vivid lesson whenever they ministered the message of the Holy One of Israel.
 
THE FIRST SOUTHERN KINGS: REHOBOAM AND ABIJAM
 
I.                   THE DATE OF THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM
A.    The Problem
1.      No absolute dates – students of the OT have been perplexed for centuries by the dates assigned by OT historians to the reigns of the Northern kings of Israel and the Southern kings of Judah. Not only is it almost impossible to make these years synchronize with each other.
2.      Apparent contradictions - But it is equally frustrating to attempt absolute dates for the various events in the OT. In recent years however we believe in the providence of God great progress has been made toward solving this important problem because chronology after all is the backbone of history.
 
B.     The solution
1.      Both Ahab and Jehu mentioned by name and date in astronomically fixed chronology tablets of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III [853 and 841B. C.] – an Assyrian King by the name of Shalmaneser III fought against some western kings at a famous battle in Qarqar in Syria 853 years before Christ. The reason we know the exact date of this battle is because the Assyrian records tie in that battle with the eclipse of the sun and thus we can work back words from our present time and by astronomic methods arrive at absolute date for that battle which occurred in the sixth year of his reign. One of the kings who was involved in that battle was King Ahab of Israel and the OT historians tell us that after King Ahab died his son, Jehoram reigned 12 years and his brother Ahazaih another 2 years before Jehu took over the kingdom. The interesting thing about this is that Shalmaneser III, the Assyrian king came back again to the western part of his empire and forced King Jehu to pay tribute to him. This was in the 18th year of Shalmaneser III, which would be the year 841 B.C. Now the two kings who reigned between Ahab and Jehu are said to have combined reigns of 14 years and yet there were only 12 years actually between them. That is between the death of Ahab and the ascension of Jehu. This proves according to Dr. Thiele that the Northern kings had their reigns reckoned according to the Egyptian system that counted the first few months of their reign as their first year. Whereas other near eastern kingdoms including the kingdom of Judah did not count the first few months of a king’s reign as his first year but as ascension year. This proves then that the Northern Kingdom of Israel used a different system in reckoning the reigns of their kings than the Southern Kingdom. So we not only begin with a fixed date for the death of Ahab in 853 B.C., and fixed date for the beginning of Jehu’s reign in 841 B.C., but we have a scheme now to harmonize and synchronize the reigns of Northern and Southern kings of Israel and Judah and thus on this basis we can work back word from their reigns to the division of the kingdom which would be 931 B.C.
2.      Edwin R. Thiele’s discovery of the basic pattern of chronology used by the scribes of Israel and Judah in his Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2nd edit., 1965]. See insert sheet of Chart of Old Testament Kings and Prophets, J. C. Whitcomb [Grace Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana] – Thiele in his book shows that the OT does not contradict itself but is indeed in harmony with the absolute chronology systems that we know of from the ancient Near East.
3.      Thus, the kingdom was divided in 931 B.C.
4.      This is another demonstration of the amazing accuracy of Scripture. – this apparent problem turns out to be evidence of the amazing accuracy of the OT records. The interpretation of which had been lost for many centuries even by Jewish scribes because the Septuagint translation, which was a translation of the OT Hebrew text into Greek a couple of hundred years before Christ reveals great confusion among the Jewish scholars who did that translation work as they attempted to change the dates and to doctor up the apparent discrepancies thus revealing they had lost long since the methods used by the chronologists of the OT. God’s Word is inherent even though perhaps in our present ignorance and distance from those events we cannot fully harmonize the apparent discrepancies.
 
II.                REHOBOAM OF JUDAH
A.    His foolish threat – this son of Solomon lacked the wisdom that was essential for effective rule. We are told that when the northern tribes gathered to the city of Shechem in order to make Rehoboam the new king that Jeroboam came at their invitation in order to present to Rehoboam the challenge of an unbearable tax burden and unbearable pressure of forced labor that Solomon had placed upon them. Here of course was an opportunity for Rehoboam to modify his father’s oppressive measures and thus gain favor and breathing spell in the early phases of his reign. But instead of this Rehoboam took the advice of the young men that were grown up with him [I Kings 12:8] and insisted on the fact that he was stronger than Solomon and that his measures would be more severe than Solomon’s [I Kings 12:9-11]. Nothing could be more ridiculous than this oppressive measure in order to magnify his own power. See [Proverbs 15:1] completely by-passed him on this occasion. The anger took the form of rebellion against this proud southern king as the Northerner’s turned away from him but even stoned to death the director of internal revenue, Adoram, and Rehoboam himself barely escaped with his life and the kingdom was split permanently. The OT prophets tell us that it will not be mended again until the middle of the Great Tribulation Period yet future when God’s Holy Spirit shall fuse the scattered elements of this nation into a mighty organism an instrument of God in the day of the Lord as a harbinger of the kingdom age [Jer. 3:17-18; Ezek. 37:22; Is. 11:13]. Only the tribe of Benjamin remained to help Rehoboam in the kingdom of Judah. Determined by his own efforts to tie together the kingdom he had split by his rash pride and ignorance, Rehoboam was stopped in his tracks by a prophet from God named Shemaiah. 
B.     Shemaiah’s warning – he warned Rehoboam not to fight against the Northern tribes and launch a bloody civil war but rather to go home and to settle down and do best with what they had because this thing was of the Lord. It was a man-made split. It didn’t happen by chance. It was not satanic. It was of God. Even as He had prophesied through Ahijah, the Shilonite. It was indeed a judgment on the northern as well as on the southern tribes [Hos. 8:4-6] makes plain. Because the northern tribes had never really believed the prophet Samuel or had ever honored Judah in spite of the fact that God had prophesied through the dying Jacob [Gen. 49] that Judah would be the tribe from which the lawgiver would come. And so God’s judgment on the entire sinful nation was accomplished in this drastic fashion.
C.     The influx of true believers from the north – [II Chron. 11:13-14] because of Jeroboam’s substitute religion in the north [II Chron. 11:15] we see an influx of true believers who came to worship the God of their fathers in Jerusalem [I Chron. 11:16]. This is highly significant because it explains the unity and permanence of the 12 tribes of Israel especially in terms of the remnant from each tribe. We often here it said that the 10 tribes of Israel are lost but that has never been true. A remnant from each of the tribes came down south to Judah and stayed there permanently so that Judah now became all 12 in a sense. [Luke 2:36] – Anna was from the tribe of Asher, which was one of the most remote tribes geographically from Jerusalem in the far northwest near Phoenicia. So there was a remnant from all the tribes in Judah and this was a tremendous spiritual blessing to Judah [I Chron. 11:17]. For three years Rehoboam received strength and blessing from these men from the north.
D.    Rehoboam’s pride – in spite of this blessing however Rehoboam began to turn away his heart from the Lord and to concentrate on building up his own kingdom by his own wisdom and by carnal means. He made a ridiculous attempt to duplicate the glories of Solomon [I Chron. 11:18]. In other words he decided in order to add to his own prestige that he would have more than one wife but that these would be granddaughters of Jesse, David, and Absalom. As if that weren’t enough he took 15 more wives plus 60 concubines and of these 88 children including 28 sons was born. These were given positions of honor all over the southern kingdom of Judah and in Benjamin and special provisions of food and for them he decided to provide many wives for them as well. Just like an oriental king totally pagan in his policy and completely failing to recognize that this very thing was the cause of the tragic collapse of Solomon’s kingdom and personal spiritual career. So Rehoboam attempts by his own effort to re-establish the glory of the southern kingdom.
E.     The invasion of Shishak – in response to this God sent Shishak the king of Egypt as His means for chastening and humbling the kingdom of Judah. This was in the 5th year of his reign 926 B.C. Shishak came with a very impressive force of 1200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen, and an innumerable number of footmen from Egypt and Ethiopia as well and he took the fortified cities that pertained to Judah and actually came to Jerusalem itself [II Chron. 12:1-4]. It is interesting that Shishak has left some references to this campaign on the outside wall of the great temple of Karnak in southern Egypt. Although he doesn’t actually mention Jerusalem as one of the cities that he attacked. God in His mercy once again sent Shemaiah the prophet who had come once previously to Rehoboam in order to bring him to his knees in repentance in the acknowledgement that Jehovah had done this because of the deliberate defiance of His known will on the part of the king and doubtless many of the people. It can be said to Rehoboam’s credit that though he was a godless man he was capable on occasion of spiritual insight and genuine repentance. And just as he hearkened to the Word of the Lord against fighting the northern tribes so now he hearkened to the Word of the Lord in repenting at the invasion of Shishak [II Chron. 12:6]. In response to that humility God modified the judgment that He would have heaped upon that kingdom and gave them a measure of deliverance. God had a perfect right on this occasion to destroy the southern kingdom and end the Davidic dynasty and it is an amazing testimony to God’s longsuffering and patience that He did not do that but He extended the southern kingdom 300 years to time of Jehoiakin and Zedekiah thus making it the longest ancient single dynasty on record. [II Peter 3:9] Thus Shishak turned away having accomplished God’s purpose and took away the golden things that Solomon had put into the temple leaving only substitute brass instruments as a reminder to all that the glory of Solomon’s kingdom had become tarnished and the quality of not the actual presence of God had deteriorated. This then is the epitaph on the reign of Rehoboam the first southern king that in Judah there were good things found [II Chron. 12:12], but he did that which was evil because he set no his heart to seek the Lord [II Chron. 12:14]. 
 
III.             ABIJAM OF JUDAH
A.    The declaration of war – note in [II Chron. 13] that Abijah declared war against the northern armies of Jeroboam even though he had half the number of soldiers 400,000 against 800,000 in the northern kingdom. But even more amazing than this bold act on the part of Abijah is the speech that he made as recorded in [vv 4-12].
B.     The great sermon on Mount Zemaraim – this speech is very remarkable because of the amazing skill and bitter sarcasm by which Abijah exposed the rottenness of Jeroboam’s administration that was built on worthless men, base fellows [v 7]; the folly of his manmade religion propped up by golden calves [v 8]; and sacred offices staffed by non-Levites who could pay the price of a young bullock and seven rams [v 9]; somehow this speech could be heard by sufficient numbers of the northern soldiers to prick their conscience and to remind them of better days gone by when they too had access to genuine religious functions in Jerusalem. And so Abijam took full advantage to expose the northerners to the folly of following a false king and a false religious program in the northern tribes. He appeals to their sympathy for Rehoboam against whom they rebelled because he was young and could not stand against the worthless and base fellows of the north. It brings up the question of how old was Rehoboam? The Bible says that he was 41 but here we’re told that he was young and tenderhearted and therefore we may speculate whether age in scripture is settled entirely by the number of years. Or rather by the maturity of judgment? And so in contrast to the hollow shame of the northern setup Abijam reminded them that the Judeans had the true God with a legitimate priesthood and atoning sacrifices that cover sin and they had the table of showbread and the golden candlestick and furthermore we have the ultimate weapon God is with us. And his priests will sound the trumpet of alarm against you and then the invitation to them [v. 12].
C.     Jeroboam’s ambush and defeat – and God outmaneuvered the plot of Jeroboam to cut off the southern army by a trap and destroyed 500,000 northern soldiers a blow from which Jeroboam’s kingdom never recovered.
D.    Abijam’s failures – from this we might think that Abijah was the southern kingdoms greatest but the final verse of this chapter modify this opinion and confirms what I Kings tells us namely that he was like his father Rehoboam, a man of disobedience to God who was capable however of occasional acts of faith in serving the God of his fathers.
 
ASA AND JEHOSHAPHAT OF JUDAH
 
I.                   THE REIGN OF ASA [II Chronicles 14-16]
A.    The years of peace – after the smashing victory against King Jeroboam that God granted to Abijam a number of years of peace were granted by the Lord in the reign of King Asa the son of Abijam. The first 8 verses of [II Chron. 14] emphasize the unusual and extended period of peace and quiet that the kingdom of Judah experienced during the early years of King Asa. Just as Rehoboam and Abijah were two unrighteous but occasionally obedient kings so Asa and his son Jehoshaphat were two righteous but occasionally disobedient kings.
B.     The victory against Zerah, the Ethiopian – During these years of peace and quiet it is quite apparent that complacency and self-assurance set in because we are told without any definite reason or explanation that in the 15th year of Asa’s reign God allowed Zerah an Ethiopian perhaps backing an Arabian army numbering a million men to invade the southern kingdom.
This was a terrifying blow to the complacency of Asa and his people. Asa, however, in the midst of the crisis responded as a spiritual man [II Chron. 14:11]. This prayer of faith turned out to be the secret weapon that brought destruction to this enormous invading army. Not only were the Ethiopians defeated hopelessly but also many other cities in the south and Philistine region were conquered and spoiled by the troops of King Asa.
C.     The great revival of the 15th year – in the flush of victory they are confronted by a prophet, Azariah the son of Oded who appears only once in the OT. He warned them basically that as long as they kept true to God He would protect them but if they turned from Him He would abandon them. And then he excerpted a story of the time of the Judges as an example of what happens when men each follow their own thinking instead of the revealed will of God. The little speech of this prophet ended with this appeal in [v 7]. The impact of these words conveyed by the Holy Spirit who gave them was tremendous not only in the heart of Asa but also in hearts of all the people. As a result of these words by the Lord a tremendous revival began and the revival spread throughout the whole of Palestine and throughout all of the tribes especially those nearest to Judah. In [v 9] Asa gathered all Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, and out of Simeon for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance when they saw God was with him. Genuine revival was an irresistible magnet to draw men whose hearts the Spirit of God touched. It is interesting to note that among the tribes who took part in this revival is the tribe of Simeon of whom so little is said in the OT especially after the settlement in the land of Canaan in the days of Joshua. Presumably they were absorbed in the southern Negev area and scattered and became very ineffective in the overall theocratic program of God for the nation as a whole. One interesting aspect of this that must not escape our attention is the enforced universality of it. Notice [vv 12-13]. In other words anyone who would not be revived would be killed. What a vivid illustration of two basic truths concerning the OT history of Israel. The first was that in Israel is was not necessary to be a regenerate person to be revived because obviously not every survivor of this revival was a spiritually reborn person. And those who refused or rebelled against the command of the king were to be killed because of another basic truth in ancient Israel namely that there was no real distinction between the theocracy from a political standpoint and the theocracy from a spiritual standpoint. There was no church/state distinction so that a religious crime would receive physical corporeal punishment by the nation. And so it was here that we may presume that revival here meant not so much a change of heart as a willingness to conform outwardly with the religious functions, activities, and standards of the nation. Not that God didn’t care about heart attitude but as far as the theocracy was concerned it was impossible for the priests and kings to process citizens on any other basis than outward confession and conformity. But the prophets of Israel especially Isaiah, Amos, and Micah pled with the people not to depend upon mere outward conformity even animal sacrifices as the key to heaven and spiritual life. so we may presume that many of those who were revived outwardly were revived inwardly as well because we are told that as a result of this Judah rejoiced and the Lord gave them rest round about.
D.    The deposition of Maacah, the Queen Mother - One great disaster shared in common by the first three southern kings was a woman named Maacah, a granddaughter of the spoiled ambitious Absalom. Sort of like Jezebel she was Rehoboam’s wife, Abijah’s mother, and the Queen dowager who held the reigns of power in the early years of Asa’s administration [I Kings 15:9-13]. Asa has his claim to fame by boldly deposing Maacah because she had made an abominable image for Ashereth that he not only cut down but also burned in the Kidron valley.
E.     The blockade by Baasha
1.      The problem of chronology – the chronicler is using a different measure of chronology. Note the last verse of chapter 15 – there was no war until the 35th year of Asa. But we do know that there was war in his 15th year because of the invasion of Zerah the Ethiopian and therefore this must refer to the 35th year of the division of the kingdom. Rehoboam and his son Abijam had reigned 20 years and 15 more years brings us to the 35th year of the divided kingdom. So in this case we must be using a different reckoning system. Furthermore it is unlikely that Baasha would have waited 21 years to respond to the threat of the loss of his citizens by the revival in the south and furthermore if Baasha didn’t invade the southern kingdom until the 36th year of Asa he would have long since been dead. Therefore we must conclude that this event takes place within weeks of the revival in Judah as noted in chapter 15.
2.      The purpose of the blockade - This revival created a new crisis because the flow of northern citizens especially from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh thoroughly alarmed King Baasha of Israel. Who responded to this loss of his best citizens by a desperate Berlin wall measure of blocking the southern movement of citizens [I Chron. 16:1]. So Baasha built Ramah to prevent the people from going to the south or coming from the south.
3.      Asa’s sinful over-reaction – when Asa saw what Baasha was doing he panicked and instead of trusting the Lord he stripped the temple of all the precious things that he had dedicated to the Lord as a result of the revival [I Chron. 15:18] and he takes all of these things as a bribe to the King of Assyria, Ben-Hadad [I Chron. 16:2-4], pleading with him to break the commercial treaty that he already had with Baasha king of Israel. Ben-Hadad used this invitation as an excuse to do doubtless what he had longed desired to do anyway. Namely to attack northern border territories and to capture certain cities that would be useful to him in the expansion program of his own kingdom. When Baasha heard this news [v 5] he left off building Ramah and went to the defense of his northern borders. Thus permitting Asa to dismantle the city of Ramah and to use that timber and those stones to build two fortress cities of his own at Geba and Mizpah to protect his northern border against any possible retaliation by Baasha.
4.      Hanani’s judgment and Asa’s retaliation – the prophet Hanani came to tell him of God’s analysis of what had happened. This was a shattering blow a clap of thunder as God disrupted the serene view of future prosperity by reminding the king of four things. First you could have conquered Syria as well as Israel if you had trusted in me. Second, you have already seen how God answered your prayers and destroyed the Ethiopians. Third, strange as it may seem God’s eyes have legs that carry them throughout the whole world to bring special blessing to those who truly trust Him. Fourthly, because of your deliberate sin of entering into an alliance with a pagan king to attack your northern neighbor you will have wars to the very end of your reign. Once again Asa panicked and lashed out and had Hanani confined to prison and put into stocks and furthermore oppressed some of the people who had come to the support of Hanani the prophet. This is interesting especially in light of [15:17] that says the heart of Asa was perfect all his days. What a vivid reminder this fact that the perfection in the Bible never means sinlessness when applied to a human being. The point is not that Asa was sinless but the basic desire of his heart throughout his life to honor God and when he did sin he utilized the means of grace that God provided for sinful men through the sacrificial system and the priesthood.
F.      Asa’s disease and death – two years before he actually died he was diseased in his feet [II Chron. 16:12] and his disease was exceeding great and yet in his disease he sought not to Jehovah but to the physicians referring probably to pagan doctors who offered him sure cures from the use of magic. This further chastening did not benefit the king and he died in agony. Thus in spite of all the sweet spices that were sent heavenward at the time of his funeral, the king had learned the hard way that God alone is righteous and true.
 
II.                THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT [II Chronicles 17-20]
A.    His godly character – Jehoshaphat is some ways is the greatest enigma in the OT. A man who was capable of tremendous devotion and acts of faith toward God as a king and yet at the same time capable of astounding compromises with known evil which he never seemed to learn in spite of serious chastening at the hand of God. In this respect we can see the influence of his own father in compromising with the will of God in crisis. He walked in the first ways of his father David [II Chron. 17:3] referring obviously to the part of David’s reign before the sin with Bathsheba. And even more remarkable is the emphasis in [vv 7-9] on the teaching of the Word of God to the people of Judah. 
B.     His teachers and officers – through princes and Levites the people were taught systematically from the book of the law of Jehovah which these men carried with them as they went through all of the cities teaching the people of Judah. Surely every true revival and blessing comes from His Word and when a man’s ways are right with the Lord even his enemies will be at peace with him [v 11] – therefore the Philistines and Arabians brought him gifts and God richly blessed this king.
C.     The disastrous campaign against Ramoth-gilead
1.      The alliance with Ahab – this brought near disaster to Jehoshaphat and his entire kingdom as he married his own son Jehoram to the daughter of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab and thus this political alliance through marriage brought about an influence that nearly destroyed the southern kingdom.
2.      Jehoshaphat’s brush with death – the great battle that was fought because of this alliance brought about the death of Ahab and the near death of Jehoshaphat and were it not for the fact that he cried to God in his desperate hour his career would have ended right there.
3.      Jehu’s rebuke – when he did return to Jerusalem [II Chron. 19:1], Jehu the son of Hanani came to greet him with these terrible words found in [19:2-3] and so again the paradox of Jehoshaphat a man who did love Jehovah and yet didn’t see the danger of alliance, association, and cooperation with men who hate Jehovah. This rebuke brought humility, confession, and repentance and we read [v 4] that Jehoshaphat went out among the people and brought them back to the God of their fathers. And he warned them not to respect persons because God doesn’t respect persons [v 7], even kings are under the judgment of a Holy God.
D.    The appointment of judges – he set Levites and priests to take care of judgment and controversy in Jerusalem and pled with these men to deal courageously and the Lord shall be with the good [v 11]. The appointment of Judges whose discernment was sharp in the things of the Lord was a further gigantic forward step in the southern kingdom or at least a postponement of its spiritual decay for many years to come.
E.     The war against Ammon, Moab, and Seir
1.      The threat – these invaders threatened the very security of the southern kingdom and Jehoshaphat knew that he couldn’t cope with them on military terms.
2.      The prayer – instead of panicking and resting on the arm of the flesh he sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all of Judah and the men of his nation sought the Lord in their time of need. [v 3]
3.      The prophecy – God sent them Jehaziel to assure them that God would win the victory and so they marched forth singing hymns of praise in advance of the victory they knew He would bring [II Chron. 20:18-30]
4.      The victory – the result was a smashing victory because God’s people used the secret weapon they trusted the Lord and prayed. [v 12]
5.      The spoils and the glory – God smashed the enemy and gave them unprecedented spoil and they thanked Him in the valley of Berachah [II Chron. 20:26].
F.      The disastrous alliance with Ahaziah – once again Jehoshaphat turns in alliance with the godless king of the north, Ahaziah and again a prophet this time Eliezer the son of Dodavah had to denounce this alliance and to smash the ships that were constructed in this joint commercial enterprise and as we shall see later Jehoshaphat insisted upon alliances with the northern kingdom even to the end of his career. God doesn’t hide the facts this man had a habit that he never succeeded in conquering. May God help us to learn this lesson to see our weaknesses and give the victory that only He can give.
 
THE NORTHERN DYNASTIES OF BAASHA, ZIMRI, AND OMRI
 
I.                   THE SONS OF JEROBOAM [I Kings 14:1-20]
A.    The death of Abijah – not long after the unnamed prophet had delivered his words of judgment against Jeroboam and his false religious center and system and had died in the process to his own disobedience to the known will of God. We read in [v 1] that Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.
1.      The mother’s deception - Like Saul in his dealings with the witch at Endor through disguise he attempted to deceive God and God’s prophet by sending his wife to Shiloh to consult with the aged blind prophet concerning this boy that was sick. Of course God was not deceived nor his prophet.
2.      The prophet’s judgment – the prophet used this opportunity to not only to identify the wife of Jeroboam but also to pronounce upon her, upon her husband, and upon their kingdom the utter doom and destruction for these that had defied Him and now were attempting to deceive Him. The prophet [v 12] said when the wife’s feet entered the city the child would die. He also said that he only of Jeroboam would come to the grave because there was some good found in him toward the Lord God and that all Israel would mourn for him [v 13].
3.      The boy’s death – what an amazing statement here was a child so righteous that God would kill him. But as you see the context you understand that here is the only child that would die in peace and who would have the privilege of burial because for the rest of the royal household and for the leadership God had planned already a total destruction without burial, without honor and that by a scourge whom he would raise up named Baasha. Along with this judgment came the horrible hint the first hint in fact of Assyrian captivity. [v 15] – He will scatter them beyond the river speaking of the Euphrates. Thus did Jeroboam’s wife no sooner arrive home that the child died and the nation realized by this that all the other events of disaster that the prophet had announced take place.
B.     The death of Nadab – that left a younger son, Nadab to rule in the place of his father after his father had died. [I Kings 15:25] – we see Nadab’s brief reign of two years ending in disaster as one of his generals plotted an assassination which was accomplished at Gibbethon a Philistine city that the Israelite armies were besieging at the time. Baasha not only assassinated the king but typical of Near Eastern usurpers he wiped out all of the royal household that no rivals might be left to claim the legitimate throne and thus fulfilled to the letter and with a vengeance the prophecy of the prophet.
 
II.                BAASHA’S DYNASTY [I Kings 15:27-16:10]
A.    Baasha’s conspiracy – suffered serious defeat at the hands of Ben-hadad who was bribed by Asa in order to get Baasha off his back at a southern confrontation at the border. Baasha lived long enough to wipe out the previous dynasty and leave the throne to his own son Elah. The fascinating thing about Elah is that he lasted only two years just like the son of Jeroboam and his dynasty came to an end by an assassination plot accomplished by one of his generals by the name of Zimri [I Kings 16:9]. Zimri is the son of a nobody his father isn’t even dignified by being mentioned. And the point is that the kingdom has now disintegrated to lower and lower levels spiritually, politically, and morally, collapse is imminent.
B.     Jehu’s judgment – Zimri lasted only seven days but this was long enough for him to accomplish against the dynasty and the royal household of Baasha what Jehu the son of Hanani had prophesied against Baasha in [16:1], namely total destruction like he himself had administered to the house of Jeroboam.
C.     The death of Baasha and Elah – see [I Kings 16:1-10]
 
III.             ZIMRI’S DYNASTY [I Kings 16:11-20]
A.    His destructive work – Zimri’s destructive work was the destruction of Baasha’s dynasty.
B.     His destruction – Zimri one week after taking care of the house of Baasha he himself was trapped in his own palace at Tirzah by Omri one of his generals who came up from the battlefront at Gibbethon, which apparently even after these 25 years since the days of Nadab still had not been conquered from the hands of the Philistines and he encircled Zimri who seeing that the end was near destroyed himself in his castle and thus came to a ruinous end. Note carefully why Zimri was destroyed [v 20] because of the treason that he wrought namely the assassination of his master Elah. And yet [v 12] tells us that Zimiri destroyed the house of Baasha according to the word of the Lord which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet. This is the same strange enigmatic statement that we find in [16:7] where Baasha’s dynasty is destroyed because he smote his predecessor. And yet according to [v 2] that he did this in the providence of God. All of which proves that there is no virtue in being God’s providential tool as the Assyrians later discovered when they were used as the rod of God’s anger to destroy Israel but in turn were destroyed because they did this not consciously obeying Jehovah but accomplishing their own sinful desires. And so we see the interplay off evil forces illustrating remarkably the fact that even the wrath of man is made by God to praise Him in the mystery of His providence.
 
IV.             OMRI’S DYNASTY [I Kings 16:21-34; 20:1-43]
A.    Omri builds Samaria – for 4-5 years Omri struggled to maintain and confirm his power in the kingdom finally defeating a rival by the name of Tibni. And once the kingdom was completely in his hands he exhibited unusual wisdom and foresight by picking a new place for the capital city of Israel. [v 24] tells us that he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer, a farmer who doubtless found that hill a very advantageous place to thresh and winnow his grain as it would catch every breeze that would come across the hills. And yet Omri saw in this a ideal location from the standpoint of invulnerability from military siege like the hill of Zion in Jerusalem. So he paid a good price approximately $3500 in modern currency and made this his new capital. And so it remained an impregnable fortress for an additional 100 years until finally after a 3-year siege the Assyrian armies captured it in 722 B.C. Because of this choice for a capital city the Assyrian records tell us that for the subsequent decades that the dynasty of the north was the dynasty of the house of Omri. In fact Israel was called by them the land of Omri long after his dynasty had vanished.
B.     His son, Ahab, marries Jezebel – the worst thing that Omri ever did was to take unto his son Ahab the daughter of Ethbaal the king of Zidonians a Phoenician monarch a woman by the name of Jezebel who was a fanatic missionary and evangelist for the false god Baal worshiping Melqart of Tyre. We are told that Ahab welcomed his new queen who brought with her 850 prophets of Baal and Ashereth by establishing a temple of Baal in Samaria [v 32] and erecting an Ashereth the female deity that she brought with her. And thus Ahab did more to provoke Jehovah the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel that were before him. Each king standing on the shoulders of his predecessors in depravity thus Omri and Ahab officially abandon the compromise calf-cult that Jeroboam had set up years before. This is a startling illustration of the fact that the true danger of any compromised system is not the compromise itself but that which it will ultimately lead to. And so one step follows another in departure from God and any pretense in following Him.
C.     Jericho fortified – a shocking example of the depths of depravity of this period in the history of the northern kingdom is recorded in [16:34]. We are told that in the days of Ahab that Hiel a Bethelite who came from the capital were the calf worship cult had been established by Jeroboam, he went down to the Jordan Valley and built Jericho. In fact he laid the foundation of it and built gates around it but at the cost of his first-born and youngest son who suddenly died mysteriously as the fortification of Jericho was completed. This is a very strange statement except for one thing and that is that Joshua had warned hundreds of years before after conquering Jericho cursed be the man that rises up and builds this city Jericho with the loss of his firstborn he would lay the foundation and the loss of his youngest he would set up the gates. This doesn’t mean that nobody was ever to inhabit Jericho again because [Judges 3:13] tells us that it was later inhabited but the point is Jericho could never be fortified again. And one who tried to do this would suffer the judgment of a God who ever lives to fulfill His warnings and keep His covenants. It must have been a startling reminder to the nation that in spite of outward appearances the God of judgment was still alive. And this man defying God discovered that God is not mocked for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. This is a lesson for our day God’s warnings of coming judgment seem so remote removed 2000 years from the time of their first utterance through the lips of Jesus and the apostles. But God’s delays are evidence not of His indifference to His warnings but of His longsuffering and concern that men should repent.
D.    The war against Ben-hadad of Syria – [I Kings 20]
1.      The siege of Samaria – Ben-hadad invaded Israel and besieged the capital city of Samaria but he found that this was no easy task because of a long line of exposed supply and the obvious difficulty of conquering an elevated fortified city. The long siege of course would have exposed him to attack on his flanks by Judah to the south, Tyre, or even Assyria from the rear. So in desperation he offered to Ahab terms for surrender [vv 4-6]. Remarkably Ahab said you may have them including Jezebel presumably which he must have considered by now to be a detriment to his kingdom rather than an asset. But instead of accepting these terms King Ben-hadad demanded unconditional surrender and thus was foiled by his own scheme of clumsy frankness. Ahab now determined to fight for his kingdom and capital. Ben-hadad tried to intimidate and threaten and subdue Ahab in [v 10]. In other words, I have more people than you could possibly match by handfuls of dust. But to this ridiculous boast Ahab in spite of his wickedness replied with calm dignity that bespeaks his kingly ability [v. 11]. In other words Ben-hadad it is the better part of wisdom to do your boasting after the battle and not before. 
2.      The first defeat of Syria – so Ben-hadad completely unprepared for war set themselves for battle that brought about their defeat. The defeat was not because they didn’t have sufficient soldiers but because God in his mercy sent a prophet to assure Ahab that the God of Israel would be glorified by a battle in which there would be only 7232 Israelites against the vast array of Syrians. [v 20] – Ben-hadad barely escaped with his life on a horse with fellow horsemen.
3.      The second defeat of Syria – Ben-hadad convinced himself that the reason he lost the war was because the God of Israel was a god of the hills and high places after all he knew that Jerusalem was on a high place and he knew that Samaria was on a high hill and so he had a religious excuse for losing the war. His military excuse was that the 32 kings were incompetent and so he replaced them with captains determined now to win the battle at last. A vast army appeared the following spring and against them Ahab’s army looked like two little flocks of kids. Terrified by what he saw he received yet a third assurance through the prophet that the war would be won not because of his strength but because of a theological deficiency in the Syrian army. It’s important to recognize that all of Israel’s military victories were won by obeying the Lord. Of no other nation can such a statement be made. Joshua won the battle against Amalek only when Moses arms were held high in prayer. His attack on Ai was lost because of Achan’s sin. God cut down Gideon’s army so that he would not trust in the arm of the flesh. In fact if Israel really trusted in the Lord only one soldier would be sufficient to chase a thousand and two could put ten thousand to flight [Deut. 32:30]. Zechariah tells us that at the close of Israel’s tribulation period he that is feeble among them shall be as David and the house of David shall be as God as the angel of Jehovah before them. The amazing thing is that even though the northern kingdom was apostate and especially its king God still honored His covenant with David even for the northern tribes. And thus a smashing victory was brought about by the Lord.
4.      The covenant with Ben-hadad - Ahab assuming that he himself had won the victory his new captive was his own personal victim to dispose of any way he might even as King Saul had taken Agag as his personal prisoner. So now in direct disobedience to God’s determination to destroy the Syrians Ahab decided to spare Ben-hadad and call him my brother. The reason for this is that from a mere human standpoint Ahab did not want to destroy this buffer state between himself and Assyria a yet greater threat on the eastern horizon. And so he took advantage of his opportunity to enforce a commercial treaty permitting Israel to have bazaars in Damascus and allowing the Syrians to have a trading emporium in Samaria as well.
5.      The warning from the prophet – God’s response to this deliberate defiance of His will is remarkable indeed. It was through the instrumentality of one of the sons of the prophets who came to the side of the road along which Ahab’s chariot would move and spoke to him through bandages wrapped around his bloodied head. The bandages of course came about by a blow delivered back in the dormitory of the school of the prophets where the Lord spoke through a prophet to another one [v 35]. And understandably he hesitated although he knew that God had spoken and God killed him by a lion just as He had killed the unnamed prophet of Judah for a similar refusal to know and obey God’s will [v 36]. It is very difficult for us to imagine how this could happen and yet by these stringent lessons God was teaching His prophets that regardless of what they might think about the rationality of God’s will and word they were to obey without question. And so the wounded prophet who found another one to smite him [v 37] appeared before Ahab pleading for mercy because he had deliberately neglected a responsibility for protecting a prisoner. Ahab so shall they judgment be [v 40]. Taking off the bandages revealing himself as a prophet he said [v 42] and therefore your life shall go for his life and your people for his people. Utterly overwhelmed by this message from Jehovah, stunned to the quick and enraged at this block along his path we read that Ahab went to his house heavy and displeased [v 43. Ahab had even as other kings of Israel and Judah, had to learn that their personal will, desire, and ambitions could not possibly be carried out effectively apart from a constant contact with and submission to the will of God as revealed through personal living prophets. This was a lesson that very kings were willing to learn. And yet the message that we learn from this today is that we likewise are in a great business that we are servants and messengers of a Great King who will not tolerate our personal twisting of His Word to meet the so-called demands of the modern mind or of our personal ideas for that matter. May God speak through this message of His written Word to our own heart and situation today that however we may think about God’s will and God’s Word its our responsibility to obey it and to fulfill to the very letter the things that God has programmed for our ministry and our life.
 
THE SIN AN DEATH OF KING AHAB
 
I.                   NABOTH’S VINEYARD [I Kings 21]
A. Ahab’s unfulfilled desire – because of the message he had received from the prophet [I Kings 20:42-43] he went to his house sulking like a spoiled child and looking for something to assuage his grief he looked out his window at the beautiful vineyard of Naboth, a Jew who honored Jehovah in word and deed.
1.      The offer – Ahab said to Naboth give me they vineyard because it is near to my house and I will give you a better vineyard or money [21:2].
2.      The refusal – the response of Naboth is instructive indeed for he reflected the possibility that in much of northern Israel the worship of Baal had been discredited by the tremendous victory that Jehovah had granted to Elijah on Mount Carmel and so he replied that Jehovah forbid him from giving the inheritance of his father’s unto Ahab [v 3]. In this statement he is also reflecting a law of Moses recorded in [Lev. 25:23] – that no Jew could sell his property completely and permanently to anyone outside of his own family. This was a provision that God made to perpetuate individual families so that someday in the millennial kingdom age as the Book of Micah tells us [Micah 4:4].
3.      Ahab’s frustration – instead of wreaking vengeance on him as a totally pagan king would have done, Naboth had enough respect for Jehovah to leave Naboth and to return to his palace and sulk on his bed.
B. Jezebel’s plot – Jezebel of course couldn’t understand this attitude being a consistently pagan ruler in the land of Phoenicia. She was utterly astonished when she asked Naboth what the problem was when he told her that Naboth would not sell his vineyard [vv 6-7]. Naboth was very careful of course to omit the real reason behind Naboth’s refusal namely the scriptural reason of Jehovah because he anticipated Jezebel’s ridicule for such a reason. She tells him to get up and eat and she will take care of the situation. Unthinkable that a monarch would take no from a mere citizen. I will handle him like we do in Phoenicia and I will simply crush him. She is very careful in concocting a plot to destroy Naboth to use Jewish customs, which required two witnesses [Deut. 17:6] and a legitimate cause namely cursing God and the king [Lev. 24:16], which was a serious crime.
C.     Naboth’s execution
1.      Accusation – a fast was proclaimed and the victim was set in a court of justice and perhaps even made the chairman of the investigating committee [v 12] in order that he might be exposed before Jezebel’s henchman who were of course completely obedient to Jezebel’s word. No one protested this travesty on justice [v 13] and the two men that brought lying accusations against him remind us of even greater tragedy in the NT. Where according to [Matt. 26:60] Christ was the object of false accusation by men who were hired by the religious leaders to accuse Him.
2.      Execution – Naboth and his sons were carried out and stoned to death [II Kings 9:26]
3.      Possession – the property then was totally heirless and was confiscated then by Ahab. Two men however saw what was happening namely, Jehu and Bidkar, and later on they were used of Jehovah to wreak vengeance against the king.
D.    Jehovah’s judgment
1.      Judgment pronounced – Elijah is sent to that very vineyard and says [v 19] and without any introduction of flattery Elijah strikes the king in the tender point of his conscience. He then pronounces judgment [v 19]. This was the opportunity for God to bring to bear upon Ahab the terrific judgments that He had planned for him and his dynasty.
2.      Judgment explained – [v 20] – thou hast sold thyself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. And so God already announces Jehu, though unnamed as the broom that will completely sweep away the trash of this apostate dynasty. God said that He would destroy it like the apostate dynasty of Jeroboam, the dynasty of Baasha, and then this explanation in [v 25] to further describe Ahab. This verse speaks of the delicate balance here between his personal responsibility and the tremendous influence for evil that was found in Jezebel his wife. Reminding us of course of the biblical principle that he who sins becomes a slave to sin and is the helpless victim of the dictates of satan the master murderer and liar from the beginning.
3.      Judgment postponed – one good thing that was said of Ahab was that deep within his heart there was still a conscience that was capable of hearing and responding to the Word of God [v 27]. God honored this act because he did humble himself and therefore God said that He would not bring the evil in his days but in his son’s days even as He did for Solomon. The son would Joram who would be killed by Jehu the scourge of God.
 
II.                AHAB’S DEATH [I Kings 22:1-40]
A.    An alliance sealed
1.      The invitation accepted – we are told in [II Chron. 18] that Jehoshaphat initiated this reunion having married his son Jehoram to the daughter of Ahab, Atthaliah, ten years earlier. We’re also told in Chronicles that Ahab honored the occasion by preparing a huge banquet. He was just licking his wounds from a terrific battle against the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III at Karkar in northern Syria. But now was determined to re-conquer territory that Ben-hadad had taken from him on his eastern border namely the city of Ramoth-gilead. This tragedy of course was amplified in that he had already spared Ben-hadad’s life against the known will of Jehovah. And now is reaping the whirlwind of that complete misjudgment and sin. He pressures Jehoshaphat in this battle and what Jehoshaphat expected to gain from this the scriptures do not tell us but he was helpless to decline [v 4]. Utterly weak in his compromising attitudes, incapable of seeing the dangers of an alliance with a godless king like Ahab. But he did decide after having given his promise to ask Jehovah of His blessing [v 5]. How frequently in our own lives we make our decisions and then ask God to rubberstamp them? The very fact that he asked this may be the reason God spared his life in the battle.
2.      False prophets consulted – Ahab had prepared for this possibility and he had 400 presumably who had replaced the 850 prophets of Baal and Ashereth who were discredited at Mount Carmel. Or possibly these were the 400 prophets of the Ashereth who were now conformed to a new form of paganism namely the calf-worship Jehovah cult [vv 11, 12]. These men were cleverly trained to use symbolism that would appeal to the southern Bible believing king Jehoshaphat [v 6]. Jehoshaphat was suspicious and asked for a true prophet of Jehovah [v 7] and Ahab replied yes in [v 8] but stated that he hated him because he only spoke evil of Ahab. This revealed the typical pagan attitude toward a prophet namely that he is a hireling who for a price will bring good omens and good predictions from the gods who are mere servants at the hand of mere prophets. While waiting for Micaiah to arrive the false prophets were busy impressing Jehoshaphat the sure success of this campaign [vv 11-12]. This is almost quoting the prophesy in [Deut. 33:17] as Moses in his dying hour looked forward to the day when the firstling of his heard and the horns of the wild ox shall push the peoples all of them even the ends of the earth speaking of Ephraim and Manasseh the very territory that this event was occurring in the city of Samaria. Clever but ineffective as far as convincing Jehoshaphat or accomplishing the plot of Ahab.
B.     Micaiah’s warning
1.      Micaiah appears – he was truly one of God’s great ones and his testimony stood out if for no other reason than that Ahab hated him. The king with itching hears was interested in only hearing his own desires echoed by the mouths of well-trained prophets [II Tim. 4:3]. But here was one who remained completely aloof to the state run ecumenism and he was urged to conform his words to theirs and give the rubberstamp to the king’s plan. At first blanch it would appear that Micaiah had succumbed to the pressure [v 15] but Ahab’s response shows that Micaiah’s tone of voice intentionally betrayed the insincerity of his words.
2.      The prophetic vision – then came the straight message at the king’s request that they would be defeated and the king would die [vv 17-28].
3.      The final warning – God confirmed the judgment with a parabolic vision explained in story form the complete sovereignty of God in manipulating the evil devices of men. If the king and his false prophets thought they could control the outcomes of battles and even their own destiny by purely magical means the truth of the matter was that they like satan their master were under God’s control having willfully sold themselves to sins dominion. In the vision [vv 19-23] the spirit who volunteered to entice Ahab’s prophets may have been a personification of the spirit of false prophecy as we read in [Zech.13:2; I John 4:6] – God had given up these wicked men to judicial hardening and their doom was sealed as exemplified by the blasphemous response of Zedikiah and God’s personal judgment upon him [ v 24]. A challenge from this man to show a sign or wonder that would convince these men but instead of allowing God to destroy him and his 399 false helpers Micaiah simply says [v 25]. In other words someday you’ll know when God accomplishes in His providence the judgment of those who are not true to His Word. Ahab frustrated by this conflict between Micaiah and his false prophets had Micaiah taken back to prison to be fed with the bread and water of affliction [v 27] until he returned. The response of Micaiah is interesting indeed [v 28]. It seems that God honored that prophet’s testimony not only in the thinking of Jehoshaphat but in the thinking of many people of Israel who remembered those words for years to come. At least it seems possible that there were two people in particular who remembered the testimony of Micaiah. Namely the parents of a young man whom they named after this prophet, Micah. We gather this inference from the first recorded words of Micah hundreds of years later [1:2]. Jehoshaphat for some reason refused to take this clear warning from Jehovah and marched away like a sheep to slaughter to the battle at Ramoth-gilead.
C.     Military defeat
1.      Ahab’s disguise – even more amazing was that Jehoshaphat was willing to follow Ahab’s suggestion of going into battle with his royal robes flowing in the wind an obvious target for the enemy. Whereas Ahab would disguise himself showing that there was something about Micaiah’s warning that struck home to his superstitious heart and caused him to fear that perhaps the worst would happen. But it is impossible to hide from God [Psalm 139:8-10; Amos 9:3] and the fact that he disguised himself shows all the more that his death was by God and not by chance.
2.      Ahab’s wounds – Ben-hadad instructed his 32 captains to fight with no one but the king of Israel [fine gratitude this was for Ahab sparing his life on that earlier occasion]. When the captains saw Jehoshaphat’s royal robes they assumed that this was king Ahab himself but for some strange reason that can be explained only on the basis that Jehoshaphat cried out in prayer and God spared him in this hour of crisis; the captains discovered just in time that it was not Ahab and turned away from pursuing him. At the same moment we are told that a certain man drew his bow [v 34] and smote the king of Israel. As someone has said he drew his bow at a venture, missed the venture and hit Ahab. How inescapable is the judgment of God. 
3.      Ahab’s death – the Achilles heel of this Ahab was not simply an open place in the armor but a willful stubborn refusal to submit to God’s known will in his life. Ahab was truly a king because in order to keep up the moral of his army he instructed his men to strap him to the chariot so that they would think that he was still alive and well while the very lifeblood was departing from him. But the battle was over when the word spread around that Ahab was dead. Just as Micaiah saw in the vision [v 17] so we read in [v 36] that every man went to his city and to his country. That was the end of the army of king Ahab. The king who defied God and lost the battle. An utterly disgusting scene confronts us in [vv 37-40]. His chariot was washed in the pool of Samaria presumably the sacred fish pond of the priestesses of Ashereth in which the blood drenched chariot was dipped and as the dogs came and licked up the blood fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah. And instead of returning to his glorious ivory house in effect Ahab was greeted by the very dogs, the scavengers to deal with this man who exalted himself above the God of heaven.
 
ELIJAH; FROM THE BROOK CHERITH TO MOUNT CARMEL
 
I.                   AT THE BROOK CHERITH [I Kings 17:1-7]
A.    Confronting Ahab – like a flash of lightening across a darkened sky without any warning whatever Elijah appears on the scene no mention of father or mother or background experience but striking immediately by God’s judgment purpose into the very center of the iniquitous reign and rule of Ahab and Jezebel. This prophet boldly steps on the scene and pronounces judgment from the true God. This reminds us of John the Baptist who suddenly appears on the scene according to Malachi 4 preparing the way for Messiah who will come speaking in definite terms of crisis and judgment to an apostate people whose conscience is seared and hardened by sin. This is the only kind of message that the hardened heart can understand and so we study of a man now who in spite of the appearance of being an angel as it were from heaven above is nevertheless hard though it may be to believe a mere man of like passions like ourselves as James reminds us in the NT [James 5:17]. A man whose power came not because he was not human, not because he was not possessed of a sinful nature, but because he was unique in his day as one who responded by faith and obedience to the revealed will of God to his special call to be a prophet.
B.     Fed by ravens - The brook Cherith is a tributary to the Jordan River that flows down a deep ravine into the Jordan River from the eastern trans-Jordan territory approximately halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea a completely uninhabited barren region. Why did God send his prophet to such a place as this? Not only to protect him but also for his own spiritual strengthening for greater task ahead. And possibly to avoid all the desperate entreaties that would be brought to bear upon him by men like Ahab who thought that somehow the fate of Israel rested in a mere man. A mere prophet who could somehow be persuaded if not purchased to sway the will and the minds of the gods and there God provided for his prophet water from the brook that had not completely dried up in the famine and the birds of the heavens, ravens to feed him. And so he went there in obedience to the will of the Lord and experienced miracle provisions day by day as ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning and evening and he drank of the brook. Surely here was a prophet of miracles and throughout his whole ministry and that of his successor Elisha we find one stupendous demonstration of God after another.
Israel was at the crossroads of her destiny having officially repudiated even a semblance of Jehovah worship. They were well on the pathway to total destruction spiritually, theocratically, and God used special means in His grace, longsuffering patience to bring this nation to its senses and the miracles of Elijah were that particular means. Miracles don’t happen all the time in Bible history in fact quite rarely and at crisis points throughout history and this is instructive in our day of skepticism concerning miracle of any kind. God is reticent, God is hesitant to unveil His mighty arm before the eyes of men to force them to sense experience to acknowledge omnipotence and His sovereign right. But on occasion especially through His people Israel God did vindicate special prophets who brought new revelation or a new emphasis upon God’s truth as in this the man Elijah. Here was a man God was equipping to do a greater work in the final phase of Israel’s history in the Day of the Lord as the prophet Malachi tells us. Elijah will come before the great and dreadful Day of the Lord [Rev. 11]. It is interesting to note in [v 7] that God did not perpetuate or multiply miracles by keeping the brook flowing. It dried up of natural causes because there was no rain in the land and therefore God sent His prophet in another direction to find the sustenance that he needed.
 
II.                WITH THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH [I Kings 17:8-24]
A.    Her faith tested – Christ explained in [Luke 4:25-26] that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah but God did not send him to any of these but rather to this woman in a far off land and the reason given was because here was a woman of true faith even more than widows in the land of Israel itself. And yet she was not superhuman anymore that Elijah was and this was a tremendous test on her faith just as Elijah appeared when she and her son were gathering sticks for their final meal before dying. Instead of encouraging them to eat the food and offering by miracle to create more. He said fetch me water that I may drink and bring me a morsel of bread in thy hand. Knowing very well that she had nothing available to spare. And her response is a clear measure of her faith [v 12]. Elijah tells her to fear not but to go and do and bring it forth to him first and then go and make for her and her son [v 13]. And then the promise comparable to the great manna miracle of Israel in days before [v 14] the jar of meal shall not waste neither shall the cruse of oil fail. She took God at His word and obeyed and this is a mark of true faith and the very open door through which God’s power waits to be revealed.
B.     Her faith rewarded – because she did her faith was rewarded and she and her house did eat many days. This miracle of God’s provision must have been tremendously instructive and encouraging to his own heart. How much better to be in the presence of God’s true saints this widow and her son than merely to be in the presence of irrational ravens in an unpopulated abandoned creek in the wilderness?
C.     The death of her son - Many months in fact years and another tragedy took place in that home. We’re told in [v 17] that the son fell sick and his sickness was so sore that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah what have I to do with thee [v 18]. A typical response of an uninstructed saint of God in the presence of the ultimate mystery of human suffering and death. Why did she blame Elijah for the fatal illness of her boy? Because she somehow felt that death is the result of sin. She also felt that God’s judgment becomes more likely if God’s prophet is near than if His representative is not near. But of course the true reason for the sickness of her boy was explained by the Lord Jesus to His own disciples [John 9:3], where they saw a man born blind and asked the question: was this blindness caused by that man’s own sin? Perhaps in a previous life or was it caused by his parents? In other words like Job’s comforters they still felt that special suffering was the result of special particular sin. Jesus denied this even as He did in the Book of Job by pointing out that some things are beyond human comprehension and this man’s blindness was just an occasion for the glory of God and was not caused by anything he or his parents had done. So here it was an occasion for the glory of God. And without debating, arguing, or explaining to the woman Elijah exhibits a lesson on compassion and asked her for her son.
D.    Her son restored – Elijah stretched himself upon the child and cried out to God three times and Jehovah hearkened unto the voice of Elijah and his soul came into him again and he revived. Nothing can be clearer than the fact that this boy had literally died. Otherwise Elijah would not have prayed to let his soul come to him again. Otherwise the miracle would not be a valid analogy to a later miracle accomplished through his servant Elisha in which there was a resuscitation from death to natural life again. But note the contrast between Elijah’s miracle of bringing a man back from the dead and the miracles of Christ. Christ’ miracles were not accomplished by long drawn out desperate prayers, stretching Himself upon people, pleading with Jehovah, questioning the will or purpose of God, but with utter dignity and complete ease the Lord Jesus spoke the word in His own name and instantaneously and spectacularly men rose from the dead. Jesus said marvel not at this for the hour is coming in which all that are in the grave shall come forth. They that have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation and they that have done good to the resurrection of life. Simply a foretaste to that greater work that Jesus will perform at the end of history when untold millions of men will rise to immortality and incorruptibility. Elijah here is a forerunner to the Lord Jesus and the first one in recorded history who was used by God to bring the life of another person back again to this world [vv 23-24]. Miracles are an offense to the age of scientism but they are the mark they are the sign of a God is able to do all things a God with whom nothing is impossible. And until we learn this lesson in our day of pseudo-scientism we have no hope whatsoever. No hope for resurrection or salvation because resurrection is simple the final phase of a greater work. Namely the salvation of men under the wrath of God who have offended His infinite holiness in which salvation has required the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross of Calvary [Matt. 9:5]. And if Jesus can do the greater work which is to seek and to save those that are lost He can surely do the lesser work, not only Himself, but through His appointed servants such as Elijah and even through His apostles in the foundation age of the church in the Book of Acts. The same God who worked miracles of old is alive today and fully able to vindicate His word as He performs thousands of miracles in our day in the regeneration of men who are dead in trespasses and sin and brings them to new life in the Savior. Miracles of regeneration which exceed in quality even the miracle of bringing the dead to mortal life again. Jesus explained this emphasis of quality to his disciples [John 14:12]. We need to see this in the new perspective that God reveals namely that some miracles are more significant, permanent, more valuable, are greater than others, and the miracle of new birth is the greatest work of God in our day.
 
III.             CONFRONTING AHAB AGAIN [I Kings 18:1-19]
A.    The effects of the famine
1.      The commission to Elijah – this implies that the rainless condition had lasted three years but in view of the fact that the events of chapter 18 move rapidly toward the climax of the Mt. Carmel confrontation and the rain that came as a result of it. We must recognize that the famine had already begun about six months before Elijah had confronted Ahab in [17:1]. We are told several times in the NT [Luke 4:25; James 5:17] that the famine had continued 31/2 years and therefore we assume that there had been no rain for six months before Elijah pronounced the judgment of continued draught upon this apostate kingdom of Ahab. The situation by now obviously is desperate. The draught had taken its devastating toll in the land. Whatever the fate of the people might have been Ahab was desperately concerned about his horses for they were the first line of military defense [I Kings 5]. A few years after this draught in the year 853 B.C., the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, informs us that Ahab appears at Qarqar in Syria with 2000 chariots. So his efforts to save his horses must not have been totally unsuccessful. The rainless skies were not caused by Elijah’s magical powers as Ahab and Jezebel doubtless thought [v 17], but by their own persecution of the prophets of Jehovah [v 4], not only had Jezebel forced into the kingdom her 850 prophets of Baal and Ashereth but she had twisted Ahab’s arm and he had allowed her to kill the prophets of Jehovah. This raises some questions. These 100 surviving prophets of Jehovah were probably the same as those who knew of Elijah’s forthcoming translation to heaven according to [II Kings 2:3-5]. They may even have traced their heritage back to the prophetic guilds of Samuel’s day [I Sam. 19:20]. Elijah must not have considered their testimony to be very outstanding for in spite of the fact that Obadiah had saved 100 of them alive in caves, Elijah still insisted that he alone was left of the prophets of Jehovah [19:14, 18].
2.      Obadiah’s character – its remarkable to find a man like Obadiah [v 3] not only near the king but residing over his household. [com. Phil. 4:22] – God surely does have His own in every place to bear a testimony for Him; sometimes the least expected places in the very heart of enemy territory.
3.      Obadiah’s task – Now its true that Obadiah trusted the Lord but he also was human and he greatly feared as he met Elijah along the way seeking watering places all over the land for Ahab’s horses.
B.     Elijah meets Obadiah
1.      Elijah’s challenge - what a challenge to Obadiah’s faith when Elijah tells him to go and tell Ahab that he is here. And of course weak in himself Obadiah protested that Ahab would kill him. Why?
2.      Obadiah’s fears - Because there had been rumors sweeping back and forth that Elijah was here and Elijah was there and that the Spirit of God was carrying him about and that this would be a mockery to Ahab to come and find him gone [vv 7-10] and Obadiah would suffer the wrath of the king. The amazing thing about this in [v 10] that there was no nation or kingdom where they had not sought Elijah. And the very place that he had been as it were was in the very backyard of Jezebel’s hometown at Sidon. Obadiah swallowing his fears, trusting God went back to tell Ahab and Ahab came to meet Elijah.
C.     Elijah meets Ahab
1.      The insult – note the insult of Ahab in [v 17]. Again, The rainless skies were not caused by Elijah’s magical powers as Ahab and Jezebel doubtless thought [v 17], but by their own persecution of the prophets of Jehovah [v 4].
2.      The invitation to Mt. Carmel - Ahab was confronted with the challenge of Mt. Carmel and the contest between the true God Jehovah and the 450 false prophets of Baal and the 400 false prophets of the Asherah. 
 
ELIJAH’S GREAT VICTORY AND DEFEAT
 
I.                   THE CONTEST ON MT. CARMEL [I Kings 18:19-46]
A.    The challenge – in speaking with Ahab the king Elijah challenged him to gather the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the Asherah to Mt. Carmel for a contest in the sight of all Israel as to which God was the true God. The famine had apparently not succeeded in accomplishing God’s purpose of bludgeoning the apostate nation into submission. So now something far more drastic was called for to remove any and all excuses from the people of Israel for neglecting and rejecting their true God. This was certainly an act of mercy and grace on the part of Jehovah and here we find one of the supreme examples in all of Bible history of that fact that false gods are no gods at all and all excuse was removed from following Baal and Asherah. We might ask the question why only the 450 prophets and not the 400 prophets of the Asherah? The answer may be that Jezebel was not quite sure of the outcome of this contest and felt it wise for the security of her pagan purposes to hold back the Asherah prophets as a sort of backup team in case something happened to the 450 prophets of Baal. Ahab of course pressured Jezebel to allow this contest to occur probably reminding her of the fact that she and her prophets had every possible advantage, Mt. Carmel being on the southern border of Phoenicia, her home country and supposedly the center of power of Baal the deity she loved and fanatically served. [v 20] so Ahab sent for the prophets and all the children of Israel. [v 21] Elijah says how long will ye halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God follow Him: but if Baal then follow him. In other words far better to have Baal than a watered down compromising Jehovah worship. And this has always been true far more dangerous and typically satanic is a compromised position that takes a little truth and mixes it with a little error and thus is far more effective in deceiving the people even God’s people. So it was that Jesus said to the church of Laodicea [Rev. 3:15-16]. God cannot tolerate mixtures of truth and error and a half-hearted superficial worship. Israel was silent to this challenge possibly because they did want Baal and Jehovah finding it convenient to have a middle of the road position. To which Elijah cried out in the presence of the nation [v 22] I’m the only one who is out and out through and through 100% for the true God. But Baal not only has 450 men representing him officially but has in effect the whole nation of Israel in his hand. So I will let Baal have the first opportunity to choose the bullock and I will let him use his 450 prophets to demonstrate to the nation whether or not he can do what supposedly he is expert in doing namely sending fire from heaven. In view of the fact that he is after all a god of the weather, a god of thunder and lightening, a fertility god who can guarantee rain and abundant crops, flocks, and herds to those who follow him. The god that answers by fire let him be good and all the people said it is well spoken.
B.     The frustrated Baal priests – and so the contest began on that mountain in the far northwest of the nation along the Mediterranean Sea. A spectacular exhibition of what constitutes the true worship and the true deity. Elijah challenged the false prophets to choose their bullock first and to call upon their god by whatever means they found to be effective and they accepted the challenge. Consider the advantages they had not only were they first but they had the best sacrifice, their bullock and the wood that was under it was completely dry, their were 450 of them and could take turns as separate teams of experts in the mumbo jumbo and rigmarole of false heathen worship practices in which they had been trained from youth up and they had most of the day to devote to this task. From morning till noon they cried out o’ Baal here us. There was no voice or answer from heaven. In desperation they began to leap about the altar going through a certain religious dance a ritual that would surely provoke some response from their god but there was none. Elijah understandably stood at the sidelines and took occasion to mock these men as they cried to their deity [27]. We can’t help but laugh at such absurdities but the wisest men of the ancient world put complete confidence in their projections of the human limitations upon their gods and even the Greeks known for their wisdom believed that Mount Olympus was surrounded by deities that reflected the foibles and frailties of men as we read in Homer’s epics. In desperation and stung to the quick by this public challenge from the rival prophet they cried aloud and cut themselves till the blood gushed out upon them [v 28]. In other words they were trying to evoke the sympathy of their god. If nothing else works surely he will look down in sympathy upon their request. But there was neither voice nor any to answer nor any that regarded. The basic reason there was no answer of course was that their god had a tremendous disadvantage he didn’t even exist. There is no greater obstacle to overcome in saying or doing something than the obstacle of non-existence. And Paul reminds us in the NT that although the gods do not exist yet they do in the hearts of men and satan through his demons occupies the place of the supposed deities that men worship and so it was here. Satan had completely seared the consciences of these men so that they were impervious to the truth. Incapable as it were of repentance. When the folly of their religion and the non-existence of their god became obvious to all Elijah in dignity came by and challenged the nation to come near.
C.     Elijah’s prayer – he repaired the altar of Jehovah that was thrown down referring presumably to one of the high places Israel was accustomed to using as a substitute for going to Jerusalem [I Kings 3:2; 19:10]. We may assume on this basis that God in His mercy and condescension allowed high places in certain places especially in the northern kingdom to be temporary substitutes for Jerusalem worship. In any case Elijah set up 12 stones as he repaired this altar representing the 12 tribes of Israel. God’s original intention for that nation being its totality and unity. And then he came near and challenged the nation to consider what the true God can do [vv 33-35]. The men did this utterly soaking the sacrifice so that there would be no misunderstanding as to the true cause of the fire. Not some chance spontaneous combustion in the dryness and the heat but a tremendous unanswerable miracle from God Himself. And without dancing about the altar and crying out in desperation or spending any time at all cutting himself or going through other machinations that were characteristic of pagan worship in dignity and childlike faith the true prophet of Jehovah stood before the nation and prayed [vv 36-37]. We might well ask ourselves if we had faith like Elijah did could we pray this prayer and get this kind of response from God too? The answer of course is no. because God has not given us the word to request spectacular miracles in our day. We have the completed scriptures. We have the Holy Spirit using the completed scriptures to bear sufficient witness to the existence and power and glory of God and the truth of His claims and of His purposes. Elijah admitted that he was doing these things at they word and therefore we may say that whatever may be the will of God, He will accomplish it whether it be miracle or some other method and the age of spectacular miracles like this has passed in the superstructure phase of church maturity since the end of the apostolic age and the completion of the NT when that which is perfect has indeed come.
D.    Jehovah’s response - But for that day and that hour miracles was an order and miracle occurred [v 38]. Jehovah had experience in sending fire from heaven [Lev. 9:24] – the fire of God fell and consumed that sacrifice and thus sanctified and honored His appointed center of worship in that dawn of Israel’s history as a nation. Later on when David dedicated an altar to the true God on Mt. Zion the fire of God fell [I Chron. 21:26] and consumed that sacrifice. And when Solomon’s Temple was completed according to [II Chron. 7:1] the fire of Jehovah fell.
E.     The execution of Baal’s priests – however there is something about this that raises deep questions in the minds of men today. Namely the response of Elijah after God had demonstrated His power and brought such victory and such a confirmation of Elijah as the true prophet. Instead of saying to the defeated prophets of Baal we will now have a series of dialogues concerning the uniqueness of Jehovah and methods of serving Him. Or even presenting to them the opportunity to repent and to become true servants of Jehovah. Elijah said take the prophets of Baal and let not one of them escape and they took them and Elijah brought them down to the Kishon at the foot of Mt. Carmel and slew then there. We tend to be shocked by this until we realize that God was doing the very thing that God had commanded Israel to do to false prophets in [Deut. 13:5; 18:20]. No dialogue, no debate but instant judgment because God alone knows the hearts of men and presumably when men have publicly and defiantly taught error an denied God’s truth there is no long drawn out trial, discussion and debate permitted but instant judgment. This was the most spiritual thing Elijah could have done was to obey God’s revealed will just as Samuel hewed in pieces Agag who was a living representative of Saul’s defiance of the God of Israel.
F.      The coming of the rain – Elijah told Ahab [ 41] to get up and eat and drink and Elijah went up to the top of Mt. Carmel and put his face between his knees [v 42] and then he detected on the horizon a cloud that had within it the portent of God’s long delayed reign to spare the nation of total disaster. What mercy and grace and yet in this mountain top experience of God’s answered prayer not only by fire but also through rain the prophet Elijah physically exhausted faced his greatest test. The greatest test that God can place upon a man is not defeat but victory as he is immediately tempted to look to himself as the cause of victory and to find within himself the reason for God’s blessing.
G.    The race to Jezreel – he challenged king Ahab to make ready his chariot and to race back to Jezreel as fast as possible that he might not be bogged down in the mud in the coming rain. And God presumably gave Elijah special power and he ran ahead of the chariot back to Jezreel presumably to encourage Ahab’s small flicker of faith and to touch his heart with the realization that neither God nor his prophet had personal enmity against the king but that his best interests were at heart. Arriving at Jezreel the winter residence of Ahab and Jezebel the disaster occurred. Instead of going in personally and confronting Jezebel with the defeat of her 450 prophets of Baal and threatening her destruction if she didn’t repent or presumably bringing upon her the judgment that she so richly deserved that had already been meted out upon her prophets. Elijah stood outside and allowed Ahab to go in and tell Jezebel what Elijah had done instead of what Jehovah had done.
 
II.                ELIJAH’S DEFEAT [I Kings 19:1-8]
A.    Jezebel’s threat – Jezebel with fantastic almost unbelievable defiance determined to intimidate the prophet (although perhaps she realized that she didn’t have the power to follow through) and instead of saying I will destroy you now she said so let the gods do to me and more also if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. Why tomorrow? Only God knows what her real purpose, motive, and plan was. But that is really irrelevant because the threat accomplished her purpose.
B.     Elijah’s flight to the south – and Elijah the prophet weakened, exhausted physically for a moment took his eyes off of his Lord and began to sink beneath the waves of temptation. When he saw that he arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba, which belonged to Judah and left his servant there. He fled 200 miles south moving as fast as he possibly could the servant totally exhausted collapsed and Elijah continued another days journey into the wilderness and finally he collapsed under a juniper tree and asked God for the privilege of dying [19:4]. Perhaps for a while he had thought he was but now he saw himself in the true light. The greatness of the works that God had accomplished through him was a reflection not of Elijah’s power and skill but of God’s grace and God’s power alone. Jeremiah had frequently wished that he could do what Elijah did [Jer. 9:2], like John the Baptist Elijah was disillusioned because judgment was delayed. Perhaps Elijah had set up his own timetable as to what Jehovah should do. Perhaps he thought that when Ahab went in to Jezebel and told her what happened she would immediately surrender or would have fled in terror. And when things did not happen the way he thought they should and when he expected them to happen he became disillusioned and discouraged. You’ll remember that John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was the one or should we expect another [Luke 7:19]. How tragic! Jesus would keep His word but it was His program and His timing not John’s that would settle the question. The amazing thing about Elijah’s request to die is that he never did die. Like Enoch before the flood he was one of two men in human history that never tasted death. But as far as he was concerned he was dead already and so he lay down under the juniper tree and God graciously gave him sleep.
C.     God’s gracious provision - [Ps. 127:2] sometimes spiritual problems can be traced to physical problems total exhaustion demands rest. At an appropriate time an angel from the Lord awakened him, provided for him a cake and a cruse of water. He ate and drank and lay down again. The second time the exhausted prophet was awakened and in gentleness and infinite tenderness even as God took care of Jonah graciously and patiently in the lessons that he had to learn on the outskirts of Nineveh with the gourd and the worm so God patiently in the background as it were away from the public scene takes care of His prophet and teaches him lessons that he desperately needed to learn. We learn seep and abiding lessons from the experience of this prophet and surprising though it may seem this is one of the clearest evidences of the fact that God tells us that he failed. This is one of the clearest evidences of the divine inspiration of this history. For if mere men had written this account they could hardly have resisted the attempt to omit or at least modify the record of their hero’s spiritual failure. But this is the thing we need most to understand that apart from our blessed Savior no one not even an apostle is free from the disastrous potential of a sinful nature [I Cor. 9:27 compare Gal. 2:11]. The frailty of men: Noah, Moses, David, Solomon experienced failure and defeat because of sin and Paul says [I Cor. 10:11-12]. Sinless perfection is a mere dream this side of heaven [I John 1:8-10] and God has been gracious to us in revealing that even Elijah was quote a man of like passions with us” [James 5:17]. But the story of Elijah also proves this [I Cor. 10:13]. Elijah’s failure is a deafening warning to the spiritually proud and complacent but God’s tender invitation on His behalf is a soothing reminder that God is faithful and there is no need to despair. Like Jeremiah who more than once wrote out his official resignation from the ministry [Jer. 9:2; 20:7-18] Elijah prepared a formal speech for the Lord’s record book [19:4b]. May God help us as we learn these lessons that God who knows best works all things together for good. Elijah was not finished because God was not finished his greatest work was still in the future even beyond the time of his departure from this world. And that’s true of each of us too if we love the Lord. For it is written eye hath not seen nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him but God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit [I Cor. 2:9]
 
ELIJAH: FROM MT. HOREB TO HEAVEN
 
I.                   THE SPECIAL SCHOOL AT HOREB [I Kings 19:8-18]
A.    The basic problem – [I Kings 19:7] – the angel came and touched him the second time and touched him and so the wearied, defeated, thoroughly chastened prophet of God strengthened by the gracious and tender mercy of the Lord arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food 40 days and 40 nights supernaturally strengthened like Moses himself at the top of Mt. Sinai 800 years earlier and came to that same mount of God in Horeb. 200 miles additional distance between himself and Jezebel the embodiment of satan in the life of Elijah. Here Elijah found himself in a graduate school of theology planned and programmed by God Himself to bring his prophet through a curriculum that would prepare him for the remaining battles and crisis of his life. Even as God set aside Moses for an additional 40 years before the exodus began so God in His mercy and wisdom set apart this prophet to prepare him in the things he needed to know in the broader perspective he needed to have in serving his God. As we consider the course of instruction at Mt. Horeb, which may well have taken place in the actual cave that Moses hid in when Jehovah passed by him [Ex. 33:22]. The first phase was the deep probing of his heart [v 9], compare God’s question to Adam in [Gen. 3:9]. Elijah’s answer revealed his keen disappointment and impatience with God’s ways and an exaggerated pessimism concerning the condition of the nation [v 10]. The thrust of Elijah’s self-pitying could be expressed as: why didn’t God strike Jezebel dead in his presence and cause a great host of men to follow his spiritual leadership? In [v 14] he repeats his same compliant and thus with the prophet’s true attitude fully exposed and expressed the Lord now graciously moves him into phase two of His instructions. Namely a series of visual aids to reveal the drastic limitations of this judgment method of dealing with men and nations.
B.     Four visual aids – first he saw the wind tearing the mountains; second, he saw the earthquake rending the rocks; third, he saw the fire devouring all before it; and God does have that power but that is not God’s best method, God’s most effective method, God has a more subtle method than those because after the fire there was a still small voice. It’s true that earthquakes, strong winds and fires can quickly destroy men’s lives and God will demonstrate this during the final Great Tribulation period as Rev 6-18 make abundantly clear. But it is only by the still small voice of the Lord that men can be regenerated through the patient teaching of His Word according to Jesus [John 3; II Tim. 2:23-26]. Elijah’s problem was shared by two of Jesus’ disciples James and John, the sons of Zebedee when a Samaritan village refused them hospitality because they were heading toward Jerusalem. James and John desired to consume them with fire from heaven, Elijah’s style, but for this they were rebuked by the Savior [Luke 9:55]. And this in essence was God’s rebuke to Elijah at Mount Horeb. This doesn’t mean that judgment and destruction of sinful men has no part in God’s program for Israel and the nations. God is not only gracious but righteous as well as we can see not only in this passage beginning with [v 15] but with a parallel in [Ex. 34”6-7] as God reminded Moses that while He is gracious He is also righteous and brings judgment upon men. And so we see the other side of the coin phase three of this indoctrination course; namely that God will judge the wicked but He will do it in His own time and His own way.
C.     The threefold commission – it’s interesting that Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha were each to wield swords though in very different ways [vv 15-17]. And Elijah would directly in the case of Elisha or indirectly in the case of Hazael and Jehu launch them in their ministries of judgment.
D.    The comforting assurance – the fourth point is this that in spite of outward appearances God is doing a work in the hearts of men [v 18]. So has it ever been from Adam until the present a remnant according to the election of grace [Rom. 11:5]. It may come as a shock to those who have little understanding of the height of God’s holiness and the depth of man’s depravity that the remnant of true believers is so small. This was Abraham’s problem too when he assumed that there were probably 50 righteous men in Sodom or at the very least 10 and our Lord warned us that few there be that find eternal life [Matt. 7:14]. But in light of the frightening fact that apart from God’s special grace none would be saved [Rom. 3:9-30] it should be a constant source of amazement that the Holy Spirit has transformed so many people [Rev. 7:9] and such unlikely people [I Cor. 1:27] and under such unusual circumstances [Phil. 4:22]. Zealous to do our part in fulfilling God’s great commission to the church we must also be content with His gracious sovereignty in dealing with the nations.
 
II.                ELISHA’S CALL [I Kings 19:19-21]
A.    The call – apparently Elisha was not only a godly man but a wealthy one [v 19] presumably 11 servants were plowing each with a yoke in front of this wealthy farmer. One who had presumably already seen met and admired Elijah. Just as when Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James and John to follow Him we are not to think that was there first contact as the New Testament makes clear it was not. But here was the call to fulltime ministry and Elijah accepted it as from the Lord. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah. His desire to kiss his father and mother was not an excuse for delay or compromise as in another case [Luke 9:61], because Elijah did not rebuke Elisha for this statement [v 20]. The request was that he might have an opportunity to bear a true and clear testimony to his family, friends, and relatives, just like Matthew the tax collector in [Luke 5:27-29].
B.     The farewell banquet - So Elisha took the yoke of oxen and slew them and gave to the people and they did eat and then he arose and went after Elijah and ministered unto him [v 21]. We might well question whether Elijah ever really understood the true significance of this man’s ministry because in God’s providence Elisha would 2-3 times as long as Elijah and perform many more miracles and bring much more blessing to many more people. But these are things for God to judge as He gives to each man according to His Sovereign will gifts and opportunities for service.
 
III.             THE FINAL CONFRONTATION WITH AHAB [I Kings 21:17-29] – Ahab had probably wondered after Elijah had dashed away from Jezreel what had happened to the prophet of Jehovah. But he was to learn to his sorrow that even though the prophet was apparently absent the eyes of Jehovah were not and so this nightmare become incarnate appeared at the very place of his supposed victory over Naboth through the plot of wicked Jezebel. God through the prophet Elijah dealt a near deathblow of judgment warning to the frightened Ahab who walked softly before Jehovah as a result of this encounter.
IV.             ELIJAH VERSUS THE ARMY OF AHAZIAH [II Kings 1:1-18]
A.    The appeal to Baal-zebub – Ahab is now dead and his son Ahaziah is now king. Ahaziah by name suggests the concept: Jehovah has grasped. We may presume that his parents Ahab and Jezebel had given him this Jehovah honoring name in order to please Jehoshaphat who was related to them by marriage to their daughter. But nothing in the life of Ahaziah gives the slightest hint that he had any respect for Jehovah at all. He made no concessions whatever to Israel’s God and therefore was a true offspring of a totally pagan mother and a carnal compromising father. During his brief reign a joint shipbuilding enterprise with godly king Jehoshaphat of Judah was destroyed by the Lord. And the Moabites ceased their vast tribute of wool to the nation of Israel. But the greatest claim of this man to infamy was a futile military campaign against a one-manned army named Elijah. Seriously injured by a fall from the upper chamber of his palace Ahaziah sent messengers to Philistia about 40 miles to the southwest to enquire at a shrine of the god Baal-zebub at Ekron. Thus showing himself to be in total harmony with the total pagan attitudes of his mother. It is interesting to ponder the significance of this deity. The true name of this deity was Baal-zebul, which means lord of the high place. He was one of the chief Canaanite deities whose powers were honored at this particular shrine presumably dedicated to the healing of men who were crippled, injured, or sick. In the NT Jesus referred to this deity [Matt. 12:24], according to his true name. But the Jews utterly contemptuous of this Canaanite deity named him Baal-zebub which means lord of the flies. And indeed so despicable was this deity and those who followed him that the name used here in derision by the time of Christ had become a symbol of satan himself.
B.     The challenge from Elijah – as the kings men were on their way to this deity they were stopped en-route by God’s war machine equipped with nothing but a garment of hair and a leather girdle. This dress was a forceful rebuke of the sinful luxury of the aristocracy of Israel and became such a symbol of prophetic power that false prophets would wear a hairy mantle to deceive [Zech. 13:4; see also Matt. 11:8]. But it was more than his rough garments and rugged visage that gave him power against Baal’s henchman it was a special authority from God himself.
C.     Elijah and the three companies of soldiers – Ahaziah utterly shocked by this challenge to his regal powers sent two armies to attack and conquer this prophet. What a testimony what a tribute to the reputation of the prophet. Perhaps he was sitting near Mt. Carmel when the first captain challenged him more than likely with hostile intent because God later told Elijah not to be afraid of the third captain. [vv 9-15]. Elijah said if I be a man of God let fire come down from heaven and consume thee [v 10]; someday according to [Rev. 11] God will send two witnesses to Jerusalem and one of them according to [Mal. 4] will be none other than Elijah. A man who has gained vast experience in dealing with the enemies of God in terms of fire. A second captain came and more destruction. The third captain pled for mercy and God granted it to him. And so the third captain seeing the light surrendering to Elijah and Elijah’s God accompanied him to Samaria while the prophet personally confronted the king with his appointed doom.
D.    The death of Ahaziah – Ahaziah’s younger brother Jehoram was far more diplomatic in his willingness to make outward concessions to Jehovah but he was equally as wicked in the sight of God and took the throne as the last of the Omri kings.
 
V.                ELIJAH’S ASCENSION TO HEAVEN [II Kings 2:1-12]
A.    From Gilgal to the Jordan – this is the Gilgal of the upper regions near Mount Carmel in the land of Ephraim because they went down from Gilgal to Bethel [v 2] and then proceeding downward and eastward they came to Jericho [v 4] and then to the Jordan itself [v 7]. And so this move step by step that was understood by Elijah to be his final march was anticipated also by Elisha his servant to be the time of parting and was even partly understood by some of the sons of prophets at Bethel and Jericho was a fantastic occasion for not only honoring his great prophet Elijah but of putting Elisha to a severe test. Similar to Ruth the Moabites when she was encouraged by Naomi to avoid the uncertainties of the God of Israel, Elisha to may have replied entreat me not to leave thee and to return from following after thee for whither thou goest I will go. Jehovah do more so and to me also if ought but death part me and thee [Ruth 1:16]. For such courage on the part of Elisha he received the promise of a double portion of Elijah’s spirit if he saw his master go up to heaven. We need to understand that this double portion was not simply twice as much as something but was the portion of the firstborn son. Twice as much as any other son but especially with the authority and privileges of the firstborn [Deut. 21:17]. The point being in his case that he would be Elijah’s true successor in the prophetic ministry. We are indeed perplexed to see the unspiritual curiosity of the sons of the prophets who had been told by the Lord a little of what might happen to him as we see [v 3] at Bethel, the calf worship center for the northern kingdom. Of all the places for there to be a theological seminary for the training of God’s true prophets and they said and they were correct in a formal way [v 3]. They knew in somehow and someway Elijah would depart from this world but they thought it was by death. And Elisha understood that something would happen but he also knew that the sons of the prophets didn’t have the full explanation and so he silenced them. The same came from the prophets at Jericho and once again Elijah set aside their explanation and contribution.
B.     The crossing and the challenge – wielding his mantle like the rod of Moses Elijah walked across the Jordan on dry ground but this was nothing compared to what happened next.
C.     The ascension in a whirlwind – as the two men talked they were suddenly parted from each other by a fiery chariot and horses from heaven. It should be noted that the chariot was the mightiest military instrument known in the ancient world and was therefore a highly appropriate symbol of God’s incomparable power and there are many passages in the OT speak of God’s chariots and his armies equipped with chariots in heaven. But while his faithful companion watched in wonder Elijah was swept into the third heaven by a supernatural whirlwind leaving only his mantle for Elijah to cling too as the token of his new position and power. The request that Elisha made was this: I want a double portion of thy spirit. The answer was, thou has asked a hard thing nevertheless if thou see me when I am taken from thee it shall be so unto thee and if not it shall not be so. So though the test was great and it was a hard thing God honored Elisha by granting him the most spectacular experience in human history to this moment watching a man ascend without dying to the presence of God in heaven. Elijah left this earth in the year 852 B.C. and nearly 900 years later appeared again along with Moses in the presence of Jesus [Luke 9:27-36; I Peter 1:12]. Elisha cried out my father, my father the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof. No time for mourning. No time for tragic reminiscence, but a recognition that there was a work to do and while God may take away His workman His work carries on.
 
ELISHA: FROM THE JORDAN TO MOAB
 
I.                   WITH UNSPIRITUAL SONS OF THE PROPHETS [II Kings 2:12-18]
A.    Re-crossing the Jordan – [v 13] he took up the mantle which fell from heaven as Elijah ascended and using this like the rod of Moses as a symbol of authority that God had given to him and cried out [v 14] and smiting the waters with the mantle he experienced like Joshua did hundreds of years before the gracious and wonderful power of God in parting the waters this time not for a whole nation to cross but just for one man. This was God’s way of encouraging Elisha and of confirming the fact that God did have one man at least who was at least all out for God in this day of apostasy.
B.     The futile search – crossing over the Jordan the sons of the prophets at Jericho saw this miracle and were thrilled to realize that they were not totally bereft of a full and true representative of Jehovah [v 15]. This in itself may have been an encouragement to the prophet Elisha except for the fact that these immature sons of the prophets completely misunderstood the nature of the miracle of Elijah’s ascension [v 16]. They just simply couldn’t bring themselves to believe that he who began a good work in taking up Elijah could carry it through by taking him up to heaven. But somehow His power being insufficient to complete the task He would have to loosen his grip on the prophet and his body would be dashed into the mountains broken and shattered and thus disgracefully left for the beasts and the birds to devour. We may be sure that though Elisha was gratified to have them come to him he was equally horrified to hear these words from their lips. He protested telling him they shall not send but refusing to be reasoned or to except the explanation they urged him and giving up all debate he said send [vv16-17a]. In other words why bother to explain and why cast pearls before swine as Jesus warned us in speaking with unbelieving or immature people concerning the delicate and precious things of God’s truth that only a discerning mind and a spirit taught heart can grasp. Likewise in the ministry of Jesus we see a complete reticence on His part to explain to the general public the nature of His entrance into this world by virgin birth, and Paul waited 14 years before sharing his experience in the third heaven [II Cor. 12:1-4], and thus he sent the stubborn students on a futile three-day expedition and three days later they came back empty handed [vv17b-18]. Sometimes the only way to teach God’s truth is through experience and tragic experience at that.
II.                WITH REBELLIOUS APOSTATES AT BETHEL [II Kings 2:23-25]
A.    The challenge – we find Elisha retracing his steps with Elijah to the city of Bethel a climb of 15 miles. Bethel was the calf worship center of the nation of Israel and as he went up to Bethel [v 23] there came forth young lads and mocked him. And he looked behind him and cursed them in the name of Jehovah and there came forth two she bears out of the wood and tare forty two children of them [v 24]. And Elisha continued on to Mount Carmel and from there he returned to Samaria [v 25].
B.     The judgment – this passage has been the object of relentless attack by those who would disparage the OT as a true revelation of the mind and heart of the Living God. Surely here we are told that primitive ideas of an arbitrary and vengeful deity crop up in the text and the prophet himself a mere child of his times thinks these evil thoughts about his own God and reaps vengeance on purely innocent children. Thus is the reconstruction of the passage by the modern liberal. But as with many other problem passage in the Bible a close inspection of the text is usually sufficient to provide the answer as to the real meaning and significance of what happened in the broad and true perspective of God’s revelation in scripture. We note first of all that Bethel was the center of opposition to the true God in this nation. And before Elisha could visit the school of the prophets that was in this town he was challenged by a large mob of irresponsible young delinquents. The expression “young lads” [II Kings 2:23] certainly does not mean little children. The same term is used of David when Samuel anointed him [I Sam. 16:1] and by then David had already established a reputation as a mighty man of valor [I Sam. 16:18]. So these were young unmarried men, perhaps from 12-30 years of age, idle and vile fellows of the rabble [Acts 17:5] who were available for hire to perpetrate almost any act of violence. And in light of their words to Elisha, and his response, it seems highly probable that the calf-worshiping priests of Bethel had masterminded this plot, in order to discredit and humiliate Elijah’s successor. The taunt go up, go up, many have been intended as a mockery of the supposed ascension of Elijah. If even the sons of the prophets at Jericho refused to believe Elisha’s story, what could be expected from the unbelievers in Israel? And the expression ‘thou baldhead” was one of extreme contempt. They were pronouncing a divine curse upon him, for which baldness was often the outward sign [Is. 3:17a, 24]. Since this was an official challenge to his God-appointed ministry, Elisha cursed them in the name of Jehovah and in fulfillment of Moses’ warning against national apostasy, two wild animals leaped upon the mob and 42 were wounded [Lev. 26:21-22]. This was a shocking, but comparatively mild warning to the nation of what would soon follow if the general apostasy continued. However, instead of repenting of their sins and turning to God, they mocked the messengers of God and despised His words and scoffed at the prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against His people, till there was no remedy [II Chron. 36:16]. No wild animals could match the savage cruelty that would be heaped upon this hardened people by that specially prepared rod of God’s anger, the Assyrian army; and that rod would strike within four generations.
 
III.             WITH DISOBEDIENT KINGS IN BATTLE [II Kings 3:1-27]
A.    Jehoram’s reign and character –Ahaziah had reigned two years and his brother Jehoram took over the throne as a subtle apostate. Not openly defying Jehovah as his brother Ahaziah and his mother Jezebel did, but using the name of Jehovah for his own purposes. Nevertheless he was a totally wicked person and one whom God judged as this chapter clearly reveals.
B.     The rebellion of Mesha – after his father Ahab had died we’re told that Mesha king of Moab refused to render tribute any longer to the kingdom of Israel. Ahaziah was unable to follow through in punishing the king of Moab but Jehoram had decided that the time had come for the well-being of his own kingdom that the Moabites be dealt with drastically in order that he might recover the enormous tribute of the wool of 100,000 lambs and rams annually.
C.     The allied kings in crisis – realizing that he was unable himself to accomplish this task he asked the ever willing Jehoshaphat to accompany him on this expedition. Jehoram sent to Jehoshaphat and his reply [v 7], thus once again Jehoshaphat reveals his incapacity to learn lessons that have been bitterly learned through sad experience from years before. This is the same speech that he gave to Ahab on the eve of the great and disastrous campaign against Ramoth-gilead. And we are amazed to read this because we discover in the sequel that there was once again very little for Jehoshaphat and his kingdom to gain from this expedition. It might be mentioned that in the providence of God, a most remarkable inscription was discovered in 1868 that contains the actual words of Mesha king of Moab: “As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years, for Chemosh was angry at his land. And his son Ahab followed him and he also said, I shall humble Moab. In my time he spoke thus, but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever!” This is called the Moabite stone. This is a testimony that the biblical record to the events of that time as we might well expect coming by it does as inspiration of the Holy Spirit is once again true. It seems that God reserves such discoveries for times of difficulty and unbelief when men deny the scriptures most vigorously. God unveils a token of its truth to try and capture the hearts of men so that no man is without excuse. Archaeology can never demonstrate the absolute inerrancy and authority of scripture only the Holy Spirit can do that through the hearts of men through the Holy Scripture itself but nevertheless the confirmations that come to our attention constantly through scientific discoveries through archaeological finds simply removes any vestige of excuse the unregenerate mind may have for ignoring or rejecting God’s Word. The discussion centers in [v 8] on which way they should go up and the answer is through the wilderness of Edom. It will be recalled from [II Chron. 20:23] that the kingdom of Edom had recently been totally defeated in a spectacular supernatural display of God’s honoring of Jehoshaphat and his kingdom of Judah for turning the crisis of an invasion by Moab, Ammon, and Edom to the Lord to solve in His perfect way. The king of Edom having leaned the bitter lesson that it is futile to fight with the kingdom of Judah when it is right with it’s God now joined himself to Jehoshaphat and Jehoram so that three kings now would be involved in the attack upon Moab. And so they moved south of the Dead Sea in a utterly barren wilderness. Only to discover themselves far beyond their line of supply and without water for man or beast. In desperation the king of Israel lashed out against Jehovah for having brought them to this place of crisis [v 10b]. Jehoram a pagan is totally blind to his own sin. Jehoshaphat a saint of God although a compromising one had enough spiritual insight to ask whether or not there was a prophet of Jehovah in the army that we might inquire of him just as he had on the previous occasion with Ahab. And by that means God spared him his life in the battle. Surely again God will have mercy upon him.
D.    Elisha’s ministry - and amazing indeed these three kings were not even aware of the presence of Elisha who had been all along with the army serving presumably as a military chaplain to the few officers and men who had a desire for systematic study of the Word of God. Elisha, unimpressed by the array of royalty, denounced Jehoram to his face [II Kings 3:13]. In other words Baal’s worshipers should consult Baal’s prophets. If your god is what your mother and father say he is can surely do something now. But Jehoram realizing that he was trapped replied [II Kings 13b], polytheist that he was he did admit that there was such a deity as Jehovah and a convenient target to pin his complaints upon when things didn’t go his way. And of course he assumed that Jehoshaphat was in the same position that he himself was but he was wrong. And Elisha made that point clear [v 14]. Jehoshaphat trusted the Lord though in an inconsistent way and on that basis alone the whole army and the three kings were spared. Strangely Elisha calls for a minstrel to play on the harp and doubtless Jehoram interpreted this to be a pagan scheme for invoking the help of a deity but we may be sure that God is not to be manipulated in this way. It was rather to soothe his own over-wrought spirit by the greatest means God has ever given to soothe the soul of man and concentrate his hearts attention on the things of the Lord namely God-honoring music. All through scripture music is emphasized as a means for worship and aid to concentrate on the power and grace of God and so it was here.
E.     The miracle and the conquest – God granted to the prophet the vision of victory. In the morning God used the supply of water that he created as the very instrument to create a sense of complacency and a sense of false assurance in the Moabite army who seeing the sunrise reflecting upon the waters misinterpreted it as the blood of their enemies and rushed headlong into what turned out to be a total defeat. A similar earlier event had occurred in [II Chron. 20] and God used this event to teach the nation of Moab in its godless defiance of Jehovah and His chosen nation, Judah that it was utterly futile to fight against the true God of heaven. The Israelites, the Judeans, the Edomites moved into the kingdom of Moab and totally desecrated the land. They beat down the cities on every good piece of land they cast stones, they stopped all the fountains of water, they chopped down all the good trees, and it would seem that this is a contradiction to a law that God had given to the nation of Israel in [Deut. 20:19-20], but as you read that passage you discover that it has to do with pagan Canaanite peoples possessing the promised land itself. But here Moab is consigned to a destruction that God didn’t even permit the Canaanites to experience so great was His wrath against this nation which had been spared judgment by God’s mercy centuries before. Joshua had led his armies past Moab, Edom, and Ammon without destroying them and in thanks for that mercy we will recall how an earlier king of Moab had hired Balaam to curse Israel. 
F.      Moabite desperation and Israelite superstition – so in desperation the king of Moab took 700 men that were left and in a desperate breakthrough to kill the king of Edom just as the Nazi Germans attempted in the Battle of the Bulge at the end of the second world war his last desperate attempt failed and so he plunged into the ultimate appeal of despair and that was to appease his god Chemosh by offering his eldest son as a burnt offering upon the wall of this city. We are told frequently that this pagan technique was to be avoided at all costs by Israel [Micah 6:7]. And so we are amazed to read at the end of the chapter that there was great wrath upon Israel and they departed from him and returned to their own land. This doesn’t mean that Jehovah’s wrath was upon Israel. It must mean that Israel in its superstition believed that Chemosh would wreak his vengeance upon the nations of Israel and Judah and therefore in terror they fled back to their own lands. Revealing the amazing fact that in spite of all that God had done through Elijah on Mount Carmel this nation still was halting between two opinions and didn’t really know who there God was even in times of victory like this. 
 
ELISHA’S MIRACLE MINISTRY
 
I.                   FIVE “SMALL” MIRACLES BY THE HAND OF ELISHA
A.    The waters of Jericho healed [II Kings 2:19-22] – this miracle appears to be minor in the nations overall destiny except for the fact that it reveals something about Jehovah the God of Israel that is extremely important. Namely that this great and glorious God is not merely concerned with the so-called great things of His universe. The scriptures assure us that He has indeed created all things and that all things are held in His hand from the movement of the tiniest hand to the movement of the greatest galaxy in the universe. And the very fact that God is sovereign over all things must means that He must control not only great things but small things as well. This is the area of great uniqueness in our God. The kings of this earth are glorious to the extent that they are not only unconcerned about minor things but incapable of dealing with the minor affairs of the people in their domain. Minor matters are delegated to lesser authorities because a king in his human finite limitations can only cope with a limited number of problems and challenges at a time. This was the problem that Moses faced concerning which Jethro his father-in-law gave him wise advice that he should distribute his responsibilities to many, many men. But are God is not like this. He is not only concerned about the heavens but about the experiences of individual people and their day, by day needs and problems. And thus we look with amazement at God’s concern with the water supply at Jericho by the Jordan River. The men of this city said to Elisha [II Kings 2:19]. Elisha replied in [v 20] bring me a new cruse and put salt therein and he went forth to the spring of the water and cast the salt therein and said [v 21], thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters. And so the waters were healed unto this day [v 22]. This is a miracle comparable of course to the miracle that was performed through Moses centuries earlier in the discovery of brackish waters into which Moses cast a tree and the waters were healed and sweetened. It was certainly not Moses or the tree but God that did the healing and certainly here it was neither Elijah nor the salt but it was God who did the healing of these waters.
B.     The widow’s oil increased [II Kings 4:1-7]
1.      Death and the creditor – the situation has a tragic setting according to [v 1]. This must have been an all too typical situation not incomparable of the situation today when young men who hear and respond to God’s call to the ministry set aside their worldly possessions and with their families endure great physical sacrifice to enter into the years of preparation needed for depth and polish and preparation for the work of God. And here we find a situation that almost shocks us, not only had this man died in poverty but the creditor came to harass the widow for the repayment of the debt even in terms of turning her own children over to him as slaves until that debt should be paid off. Our first reaction is to consider the creditor to be an unparalleled villain and we stand in expectation of Elisha to destroy this villain and release the widow from his clutches. But such is not the case because the Bible even in this passage honors the creditor. Bondservant for debt payment was part of God’s plan for Israel but we need to recognize that He also safeguarded this system from abuses according to [Lev. 25:39-55]. And instead of denouncing the creditor Elisha commanded the widow to pay her full debt to him [v 7]. God does command His people to honor their rightful obligations even under inconvenient circumstances God never underwrites irresponsibility even in financial obligation. But note the method that God employed for accomplishing this supply of need in this poverty stricken home.
2.      The test of faith – the prophet challenged the woman to exercise faith in God’s power to meet her need [vv 3-4]. Can you imagine how embarrassing this must have been to the widow to go from house to house and to borrow a great number of clay pots not being able to give an explanation for her need of so many empty vessels? It was an act of faith because she knew in her own heart that in proportion to her obedience to the prophets’ command would be the supply. And so it was shutting the door upon all those who had gathered about her house to see the reason for all this unusual activity since this was not to be for public view but a sacred work of God in that little home, they began to bring the vessels and the mother said to the boys bring them. And she poured out her supply of oil and the vessels were filled on after another and the supply was not exhausted [v 6]. Finally she said bring me another vessel and their were no more vessels and the oil stopped.
3.      The victory - Thrilled with this miraculous supply she came to the prophet and told him and he instructed her to pay the debt and thus to live with her sons [v 7]. Its true that the others were excluded from seeing the actual miracle in that little home but the word must have gotten around very quickly that those who had loaned their vessel had thus participated in one of the great miracles in the history of Israel. And how thrilled they were to see that through this God spared her two boys from what would be doubtless years of bond service.
C.     The poisonous pottage healed [II Kings 4:38-41] – this miracle involved a situation in which a misguided seminary student was led as he was perhaps fascinated by the great theological lectures of Elisha and not thinking carefully gathering wild cucumbers for the whole group he shredded into the pot some that were actually poisonous. One student discovered immediately what had happened and cried out Oh man of God there is death in the pot [v 40] and Elisha has he had done in the case of the deadly waters of Jericho calls for a visible instrument to accomplish a miracle of God [v 41], and God took care of the needs of these men. This reminds us of a situation that Jesus’ assured the apostles in NT days that they would not be poisoned even though they should drink things that would be in themselves harmful. God is able under special circumstances and at certain times to protect His children and His servants from bodily harm. God is concerned for the little things of life for those who love Him.
D.    The loaves and grain multiplied [II Kings 4:42-44] – the fourth so-called minor miracle again involves the supply of food for those who are training for God’s service. We may call this the first recorded seminary offering in Bible history and characteristically it was insufficient for the need. We are told in [v 42] that there came a man from Baalshalisha and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits and said give unto the people that they may eat. Gehazi typically as an unbeliever challenges this offering [v 43a], but the prophet trusting the Lord too multiply the small offering given in faith said give to the people that they may eat [v 43b]. The scriptures say in [v 44] that there was more than enough necessary than was necessary for the supply. What a remarkable foreshadowing this is of the miracle Jesus accomplished by the shores of Galilee hundreds of years later when not with twenty loaves but only five Jesus fed not a hundred men but five thousand. And instead of ears of grain Jesus had but two fishes to multiply to feed the people with twelve baskets left over. So in this small but significant way God is foreshadowing a ministry that He shall accomplish for all those who trust Him someday who seek the kingdom of God first and His righteousness and for such all these things shall be added. God is not unmindful of our need physically but He wants us to put first things first that we might honor Him and trust Him for everything else.
E.     The axe-head recovered [II Kings 6:1-7] – this is perhaps the most fascinating of all and we might well ask could anything have been less important in the history of Israel than the loss of an iron axe-head in the Jordan River by a careless student? [vv 1-2] – it is a dormitory building project an expansion of their meager theological seminary dormitory facilities because they were inconvenienced in their studies by the lack of a place to live. It was a worthy project and so he said go ahead. They invited him to join them and so he did. And as one eager student chopping at a tree with a borrowed axe discovered to his horror that the axe-head flung off and dropped into the middle of the Jordan, he cried alas my master for it was borrowed. Iron was valuable in those days and not easily replaced. Non-plused trusting God in his simplicity and depth of his faith he simple asked where did it fall? And in that general part of the river he threw a stick and that iron axe-head jumped from the river bottom to the surface and the student took it in his hand. We might ask whether anything could be more ridiculous than this? Perhaps not in man’s estimation but the event must be studied in its proper context to be appreciated. The theological students at Jericho suffered in their studies from their inadequate housing facilities and the great prophet of God who was asked by them to join in this project was thrilled to have a little part in the work that was worthy on this occasion. God’s question to those who would challenge the importance to such an event would be this? Who hath despised the day of the small things? [Zech. 4:10]. And when this horrified students saw the borrowed axe-head fly into the water both he and his fellow students gained a never to be forgotten insight into God’s loving concern for His own when He put forth His hand and made the iron to swim. Later the Lord Jesus taught a frustrated disciple namely, Peter a similar lesson when he commanded a fish to pick up a coin from the depth of the sea and bring it to shore [Matt. 17:27]. Let’s never forget that God not man determines which events are the most important in life and in history.
 
II.                TWO ‘GREAT’ MIRACLES FOR A SHUNAMMITE WOMAN
A.    A son out of barrenness [II Kings 4:8-17]
1.      Gracious hospitality – the background and circumstances of the miracle are not impressive but they are worth considering.[vv 8-10] – a wealthy lady of Shunem provided the prophet with a chamber in her home for his convenience during his frequent travels in that region. Desiring to show her a special favor in response to hospitality, Elisha offered to speak for her to the king or captain of the host if she had any complaint against a neighbor or government official. The prophet apparently had access to the royal court at this time because of the victory over Moab, which he was instrumental in achieving [II Kings 3]. But she lived in peace with her neighbors and needed no special intercession [II Kings 4:13].
2.      A need recognized – there was a need that she had that had been a great burden on her heart and that was she was childless. And this was the first of two great miracles that God chose to accomplish in that woman’s life. First God provided her a son in spite of barrenness a situation comparable only to the provision of God a son to the aged Abraham and a son to the father of John the Baptist.
3.      The need supplied – and in dues season she was given a son by God.
B.     A son out of the realm of death [II Kings 4:17-37]
1.      The tragedy – and years past and the boy grew up and was out in the field one day probably as a teenager and suddenly he was smitten with a terrible sunstroke and cried out in agony and the father instructed servants to carry him to his mother. And they did so and when he got home he died [vv 18-20]. The Bible doesn’t leave any stone unturned to make it clear to us that this boy literally died. It not only says so in [v 20], it confirms it in [v 32], and the child was dead. It is confirmed again in [II Kings 8:5] when on a later occasion there was a reminiscence of this event of the restoration to life of him that was dead. And so we have now the scene being set for another great miracle of God in the life of this woman, the resuscitation of her son to life. As we consider this passage carefully we discover a very interesting situation with regard to the Shunammite woman. Her attitude toward the prophet Elisha and his assistant Gehazi. We discover a fascinating thing about the attitude of Gehazi himself toward Jehovah and toward His power to work miracles and in it all we discover amazing things about God’s methods in doing His work in the realm of miracle.
2.      Elisha sought – somehow the Shunammite woman knew that Gehazi lacked the depth of faith that Elisha possessed. And so hurrying to Mount Carmel ten miles to the west where she and others had presumably received systematic instruction in God’s Word in times past she insisted in seeing the prophet himself in her hour of deepest need.
3.      Gehazi’s failure – Gehazi whose spiritual shallowness was later fully exposed as we shall see in [II Kings 5], in the case of Naaman, was not only rude to her attempting to push her away from the prophet but also showed himself to be completely helpless in the presence of death even with Elisha’s equipment and his methods at his disposal. This is an exceedingly important point. God is a glorious person and can’t be manipulated by sinful men under any circumstances. So as he went ahead with the rod of the prophet and passed on before them and laid it upon the face of the child there was neither voice or hearing. And when he came back to Elisha and to the child’s mother he had to admit that the child was not awake. This was a lesson of course that Gehazi could well have pondered; is there something wrong with me in my personal relationship to my master’s God?
4.      The son restored – finally Elisha himself following the woman to her home and to the chamber confronted a situation comparable to that which Elijah his master had faced years before with the widow of Zarephath. Remembering perhaps Elijah’s explanation of how he had raised the widow’s son at Zarephath [I Kings 17], Elisha demanded privacy and time for fervent prayer. Elijah had stretched himself out upon the dead child three times before God granted life. But Elisha did this only twice, and after the first time he could detect warmth returning to the boy’s flesh. Why God directed Elijah and Elisha to employ such methods we cannot know; but it is emphatically clear that God, not the methods, brought life. But great as these miracles were, we cannot help but contrast them with the simplicity and majesty of our Lord’s work of raising the dead: a mere word (Lazarus and the widow of Nain’s son) or touch of the hand (Jarius’ daughter).
C.     The sequel [II Kings 8:1-6]
1.      The escape from famine – Elisha then warned the Shunammite to take her family to Philistia to escape a seven-year judgment drought upon the land, which probably coincided with the final years of King Joram [II Kings 8:1]. When she returned she found that her property had been confiscated but she also found that Omri/Ahab dynasty had been destroyed (in the persons of Jezebel and her son Joram), and that Jehu was now on the throne.
2.      The testimony confirmed – Gehazi was telling Jehu about Elisha’s miracles especially the raising of the Shunammite’s son.
3.      The property restored – Just then, they were brought into the king’s presence and received his assistance in regaining her property. Thus did Jehovah honor His prophet, even in high places and fulfilled his word to the letter.
 
ELISHA WITH SYRIA’S GENERAL AND SYRIA’S ARMY
 
I.                   THE HEALING OF NAAMAN’S LEPROSY [II Kings 5]
A.    The search for help – we realize a problem here with regard to the customs in the land of Israel concerning lepers. Lepers were not tolerated in Israel socially or in any position of honor that would bring them into contact with other men. Possibly in Syria at this time there was a different social level for lepers or else this particular man was so indispensable as a general that the king of Syria who at this time was probably Hazael was willing to endure his presence because of his qualities. In any case the king determined at all costs to help his great general, Naaman with his physical problem.
1.      An Israelite maiden in Damascus – we read of servant girl who had been captured by Syrian raiding bands who bragged about the great prophet of God back in the land of her birth. A prophet who had already gained a fabulous reputation for raising one from the dead [v 3]. We might well ask ourselves if under similar circumstances we would boast of our God and of His prophet or even whether we think or speak this way as opportunity affords of the great power of our Lord Jesus Christ to help those around us that are plagued with the great leprosy of sin. A thrilling testimony in this unexpected way of the missionary outreach influence of little ones from the nation of Israel. Her bragging and boasting was taken to the king and he believed her report and prepared a letter and a princely gift of at least eighty thousand dollars in modern money to send to the king of Israel assuming of course as pagan kings in those days assumed that prophets were under the control of kings who could command them especially for the sake of a foreign dignitary and the international implications of this diplomatically speaking. Whereby the prophet would be forced or bribed to bring some favorable response from the gods. But of course this was not the case in the nation of Israel.
2.      Confronting the king of Israel – the king at this time who was probably Jehoahaz who had succeeded Jehu in view of the fact that this king was not well aware of the powers and reputation of the prophet Elisha, whereas Jehu was aware of that reputation [II Kings 8:1-6]. We must recognize a serious defect in the attitude of the king of Israel, not only did he ignore the presence of Elisha in his kingdom as one who did have access to the power of God. But he attributed this visit on the part of Naaman as a means to provoke the nation of Israel to war by exposing the impotence of the king of Israel to perform a miracle or to force some courtier to help this man be rid of his leprosy [v 7].
3.      Confronting Elisha – Elisha somehow heard of this confrontation in the court of Samaria and just as his master Elijah had challenged Ahaziah for sending to a pagan god when he was in an hour of physical need, so now he challenged the king to allow him to consider the problem and God’s solution to it [v 8]. It is quite difficult to imagine a greater contrast than that which this scene presents with this great Syrian dignitary with his chariots and horses standing at the door of the humble dwelling of Elisha who not only had no royal garments but would have utterly disdained them.
B.     The Miracle Performed
1.      Seven dips in the Jordan – Elisha in order to put this man in the position where God could deal with him spiritually not only refused to come out and wave his hand as an exorcist or magician or going through the typical incantations of Near Eastern magicians he even refused to come out and see the general. He sent a messenger to him and gave what appeared at first glance to be an utterly insulting and ridiculous command [v 10]. Obviously Naaman was offended. Not only expecting some kind of a meeting with the prophet that would be appropriate for his dignity the idea of dipping himself in the muddy Jordan when there were perfectly pure and clean rivers in Damascus was almost too much for him to bear [vv 11-12]. Fortunately in the providence of God there was one man who recognized the folly of turning around and going home on such an occasion as this [v 13]. Certainly here we find one of the basic principles of the gospels the vast majority of men today consider the crucified Jesus to be an utterly foolish way to deal with the leprosy of sin. But to those who have taken God at His Word such a message has become the very power and wisdom of God. And the very simplicity of this, simply believe, is almost too much for the pride and ingenuity of sinful man. Naaman, however, recognized the logic of this challenge from his own servant and decided to comply with the command and instructions of the prophet. Naaman must have felt silly coming up the sixth time with nothing to show for it, but the seventh time like the final encirclement of Jericho [Josh. 6:16, 20], was the moment of miracle.
2.      The gift refused - With skin as fresh and clean as a little child’s [Matt. 18:3], the deeply grateful foreigner returned to offer thanks (like the Samaritan leper of Luke 17:15) and give Elisha a gift. Much in the way of testimony and principle was at stake here. If Elisha accepted the money, Naaman would have been confirmed in his view that even Jehovah’s miracles are for hire, just as Simon Magus thought he could buy the power to bestow the gifts of the Spirit [Acts 8:18-20].
3.      Compromises tolerated – another superstitious view Naaman had was that no god could be properly worshipped except in his own land. Therefore, he would take some of Jehovah’s land back to Damascus with him. Also, while accompanying his master in public worship in the heathen temple, he would pray to Jehovah while bowing to Rimmon (or Hadad), the god of Damascus. It will be remembered that the apostle Paul was willing to make large concessions to weak believers on non-essential matters [Acts 18:18; 21:26; I Cor. 8:13; 9:22; 10:28]; and in spite of the problems inherent in this passage, we must assume that Elisha considered Naaman to be ill-prepared for advance instruction in the worship of Jehovah at this moment. Thus the concession in [II Kings 5:19]
C.     Gehazi’s greed
1.      The plot hatched –but Gehazi, the servant of Elisha said, in [v 20] and here is an ominous statement. We can almost here the hiss of the serpent as this sinful mind and heart plots his own prosperity at the expense of a whole concept of the grace of God which would thereby be permanently tarnished in the mind of Naaman who would carry with him to his grave the idea that somehow he was permitted to pay for miracle of healing that he had experienced. Gehazi followed after Naaman and when he was greeted he used a very clever excuse for asking for monetary support [v 22]. It’s not for me. It’s to support seminary students surely a worthy purpose. Naaman rejoicing at last for paying his part for his healing urged upon him two talents of silver and two of his own servants to carry the heavy load back to the humble dwelling of Gehazi on the hill.
2.      The sin exposed - No sooner had the plot been completed than Gehazi entered into the presence of his master little realizing that God had a communication system. Whereby Elisha like other great prophets of old could be told what was happening whatever their senses might dictate. We remember the case of Ahijah the Shilonnite, whom the wife of Jeroboam had tried to deceive in vain. [v 26] – this must have been the ultimate design in the heart of Gehazi. To be a wealthy prosperous landowner and this was and is the ultimate desire of every false prophet seeking this world’s wealth and security and if that were bad enough Gehazi determined to do it dishonestly.
3.      The judgment pronounced – and therefore horrible though it may seem to us the judgment that God heaped upon this man was appropriate for his privileges and the disaster that he accomplished in the thinking of foreign embassies and for the reputation of Israel and Israel’s God forever. [v 28] Gehazi received permanent inheritable leprosy and instantly he went from the presence of Elijah a leper. We are reminded in [Acts 5] how Ananais and Sapphira attempted to deceive God and God’s people and dropped dead in the presence of God’s apostles. What each man sows that shall he also reap [Gal. 6:7].
 
II.                ELISHA AND THE SYRIAN ARMY [II Kings 6:8-23]
A.    Ben-hadad’s raids foiled – long before the healing of Naaman, while Ben-hadad I was still king of Syria [II Kings 6:24], a most remarkable thing happened: an entire Syrian army was captured alive by Elisha the prophet. We must realize that chapter 5 is the last recorded event in the life of Naaman, but in chapter 6-7 and even through the first six verses of chapter 8, Gehazi is in a place of prominence, which would be utterly unthinkable in Israel. So chapter 5 tells of the ultimate end of Gehazi in order that we might be prepared for some things that chapter 6 will tell us about him that otherwise might be mysterious. The scene takes place in the royal palace of King Ben-hadad in Syria. Typical raiding expeditions against the border land of Israel had been taking place but with the frustrating experience that every time he entered the are his plot to invade was blocked by the troops of the king of Israel. Suspecting that some spy was in the camp that was telling the king of Israel his every move. He challenged his men [v 11] and one of his servants said and we must wonder how he knew this said [v 12]. In other words Elisha’s God bugs your own royal bedchamber. We can’t help but think of a testimony years later by a little girl that we read about II Kings 5 who boasted of the power of her favorite prophet. Utterly alarmed by this testimony Ben-hadad determined to launch a full-scale invasion of all his armies to capture this one prophet if at all possible. We may surmise that in the pagan concepts of this king with regards to prophets for which they had a deep respect in their superstitious thinking he had in mind bribing him or forcing him to become his own court prophet whom he could use for his own purposes in years to come.
B.     The futile effort to capture Elisha
1.      Gehazi’s terror – they came in the night and surrounded Elisha and Gehazi in Dothan and early in the morning as Gehazi got up to prepare for his master he saw the horsemen and chariots of the Syrians [v 15]. He thought they were doomed!!
2.      Jehovah’s armies – but in complete calmness and dignity which of course bespeaks his constant fellowship and close relationship to his God Elisha speaks words that forevermore will be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people in times of difficulty [v 16] and his prayer to God was that Gehazi might be able to see this fact [v 17] namely so far from themselves being trapped and controlled by the enemy; the enemy was trapped and controlled by the Living God. There is no cause for alarm for those who are in the center of God’s will [Ps. 34:7].
3.      Blindness inflicted – [v 18] Elisha prayed that God would smite the people with blindness. The blindness which God inflicted upon the Syrians did not permanently damage their eyes, but was an intensive form of mental blindness. The only other occurrence of this Hebrew word [sanwerim] describes the judgment of the Sodomites who attacked Lot’s home [Gen. 19:11].
C.     The Syrians in Samaria
1.      Their helplessness - The army of Syria had been captured alive by one man. We may wonder what Elisha might have meant when he said to them [v 19], and we can only explain this as a mockery of the frustrated Syrians. They understood that they had been captured alive not simply by Elisha but by Elisha’s God. But God did not take advantage of these helpless men instead God showed Himself to be amazingly gracious to the Syrian army under these circumstances. Not only did God open their eyes again but also provided for them food and drink, protection as they were returned to their homes again.
2.      Their merciful release - When the king of Israel saw this thing he congratulated himself at a victory that he himself had not accomplished. And of course God deprived him of afflicting punishment on these men under those conditions. God could not honor a faithless ruler with such a victory as this. Why not ? Because this would be one more opportunity to confirm in the thinking of the Syrians the idea that Ben-hadad had learned earlier [I Kings 21], namely that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings because their God is a merciful God. This is the testimony that God accomplished in this experience.
 
ELISHA: FROM SAMARIA TO THE GRAVE
 
I.                   ELISHA AT THE SIEGE OF SAMARIA [II Kings 6:24-7:20]
A.    The famine – this horrible description of a famine in the capital city of Samaria [vv 24-25] reminds us of the utter folly of King Ahab in having spared Ben-hadad of Syria years before. After the lessons of the previous futile invasions of Israel had worn off in which Ben-hadad and his army were mercifully spared through the intercession of Elisha, they determined to destroy Samaria once for all. The plight of the surrounded Israelites became desperate. Even an asses head not ordinarily a choice item brought eighty shekels of silver and dove’s dung used presumably for fuel brought five shekels of silver for even four pints. This was the fulfillment of God’s warning centuries earlier through Moses himself that those among his own people Israel that would rebel willfully against His word would be reduced to savage cannibalism [Lev. 26:29; Duet. 28:53; cf. Lam. 4:10], as He gave them up to the outworking of their own carnal desires. And so the horrible story unfolds in [v 26]. And the king in [vv 27-28] says don’t ask me for help I also am starving. And the woman then explained [v 29] that she and another woman had agreed to devour each other’s children but the other woman had not kept her part of the bargain. And when the king heard this horrible report and knew by this means that Jehovah’s judgment had poured upon the nation to the uttermost; instead of mourning for his own sin which was a major cause of this catastrophe he immediately heaped the blame upon Elisha [v 31].
B.     The threat on Elisha’s life – this is exactly the judgment that his mother Jezebel had brought upon Elijah years before [I Kings 19:2] and speaking as a true son of Jezebel, he determined to destroy God’s prophet in order to break the awful curse upon his kingdom. We must assume that Elisha had promised Jehovah’s help if the nation repented of their sin and turned back to God. And therefore the king assumed that if he could somehow kill the prophet he would force Jehovah’s hand and bring an end to the siege and to the famine. So totally irrational is the sinful imagination of man especially under the pressure of judgment that such reasoning as this could pass through his mind. Elisha himself was a part of the suffering of his people. Instead of escaping to a distant place where he would not be involved in the siege and famine. Elisha has a true prophet of God was with those who were suffering. Even though he himself was far from responsible from what was happening. Elisha was sitting in his house presumably here in the capital city of Samaria with the elders and Elisha said to them see how this son of a murderer [speaking probably of the fact that the father and mother of the king were murderers especially in the case of Naboth or using a Hebrew idiom meaning that he himself was a murderer] has sent to take away my head [v 32]. An executioner was sent but [v 33] he was transfixed by the words he heard even as the temple guards returned empty-handed from their commission to capture Jesus with the strangest of excuses: never man so spake [John 7:32, 46]. From the words of [v 33], we must presume that it was the king himself who was doing the speaking because [II Kings 7:17b] confirms this assumption. The messenger was followed by the king who took over the situation and spoke his mind to Elisha and the elders.
C.     The unbelievable prophecy – Elisha speaking with the authority of one whom God had given this wisdom prophetically said [7:1]. The captain of course utterly scoffed at this totally impossible situation and comparing it to the situation in the days of the flood of Noah said in [v 2a] and Elisha replied that he would see it but would not eat thereof [v 2b].
D.    The four lepers and the spoils – the instrument for bringing about this fantastic change of affairs happened to be four exceedingly humble, desperately starving, socially ostracized leprous men at the entrance to the gate. God indeed delights to use the most humble elements of human society to accomplish His victories [Ps. 113:7-8]. Little did these men realize that they would play such a great part in the salvation of their city that had offered them no mercy in perhaps the months and years that had past. And as they began to meditate on the fate that awaited them. They said which is worse to stay here and starve to death or to chance it and go to the host of the Syrians and perhaps receive their mercy. And as they moved toward the camp of the enemy full of fear they were utterly astounded at what they found. Because in the meantime the Lord had prepared a supernatural sound resembling that of armies of Hittites and Egyptians an unlikely alliance to be sure. But the Syrians thought they heard a gigantic army of chariots and horses even a great host and filled with terror they fled for their lives leaving all of their possessions behind. And the lepers found food in fantastic abundance, silver and gold and raiment that they could not find places to hide. And as they contemplated the enormity of their discovery and the significance of it they asked themselves a significant question [v 9]. Surely in this statement we find a vastly important lesson and a principle for our day. God has utterly routed our great enemy through the work of His Son but if we who have made the great discovery fail to share it with those who are dying in their sins we will be held accountable to God [II Cor. 5:11-20]. The responsibility that we bear is far greater than that of the four lepers of Samaria. When the report of the lepers was confirmed, the half-starved survivors poured out of the city gates and gorged themselves on the fine flour and barley they found strewn all over the fields [collapsing the black market in asses’ heads and dove’s dung].
E.     The death of the scoffing captain – the captain of the guard who had been appointed by the king to supervise an orderly exodus through the city gate not only became a victim of the stampede but a literal fulfillment of Elisha’s enigmatic and somber prophecy [II Kings 7:2b, 17-20]. We may be sure however that in the midst of all the rush and confusion that few, if any, took the trouble to thank Elisha or Elisha’s God for this miraculous intervention on their behalf [cf. Ps. 78:29-32; 106:15]. And thus like a broken record the history of this thankless nation is repeated when God provides and the men accept and refuse to thank and praise the God who is the source of every blessing.
 
II.                ELISHA AT DAMASCUS [II Kings 8:7-15]
A.    Elisha’s royal welcome – this is the fulfillment of a promise of a command that God had given to his master Elijah at least ten years earlier. Namely that he would anoint Hazael to be king over Syria [I Kings 19:15]. At last we find Elisha coming to fulfill this prophecy. The aged king was sick and when he heard that Elisha was coming to his capital city he was filled with hope and expectation that somehow he could bribe this famous prophet into a favorable prophecy and cure. Of course Elisha’s reputation was great. He had supposedly single-handedly captured Ben-hadad’s army and released them and therefore as this one man military machine walked into Damascus Ben-hadad was more than anxious that his general Hazael should greet him with a princely gift. The king was desperate and was willing to pay any price for health and life.
B.     The enigmatic message to Ben-hadad - As we read the confrontation between Elijah and Hazael we are full of questions. What did Elisha really say to Hazael? And what did he mean by these words? Read [v 10] in New American Standard Version. Would he be contradicting himself in this statement or is he assuming that Hazael wicked and unscrupulous as he was would deliberately lie anyway and Elisha was telling him to go ahead and do what he would do. Just as God in previous centuries had told men like Balaam to go ahead and do what God did not want them to do [Num. 22:20-22], because of their confirmed rebellion against His will. Jesus treated Judas the same way in the night that he was betrayed. The second possibility was that he would recover from that particular sickness if he had time to do so, but God knew that would not be the cause of his death because Hazael would murder him. So techniquely he would recover from this sickness but actually God knew and showed to Elijah that he would die by another means. Yet a third possibility is that the marginal reading in the NASV should be taken namely say thou shall not recover for Jehovah has showed me that he will surely die. In which case then Hazael lied in is statement to the king in [v 14]. Whatever the interpretation is one thing is clear Elisha did not suggest or encourage the murderous scheme that was already harbored in the wicked mind and heart of Hazael.
C.     The cruelties of Hazael – [vv 11-12] – as the Lord began to show the prophet what would happen to thousands of Israelites at the hands of this cruel man, he stared at him in fascination, and then broke down and wept. And as we look back upon the fulfillment [II Kings 10:32; 13:3-7, 22 – in the light of Amos 1:3-5], we may weep too. This is what God had long ago promised would happen through Hazael [I Kings 19:7] and we read in Hosea 13:16 that this very thing happened. Hazael protested in mock humility but Elisha knew that the matter was settled in the councils of heaven and that this unwilling instrument in the hand of Jehovah for chastening Israel would exceed his predecessors in zeal to do that very thing. And so on the following day he took the king’s coverlet dipped it in water put it on his face and thus smothered and killed the king.
 
III.             ELISHA’S FINAL SICKNESS [II Kings 13:14-19]
A.    The challenge of King Joash – as we consider this tragic episode we must realize that Elijah’s prophetic ministry had lasted less than a decade but his great successor Elisha had continued a ministry of miracle and teaching throughout the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, Johoahaz, and Joash, for a total of at least 55 years. At last the aged prophet found himself upon his deathbed and the year was approximately 795 B.C. The natural sadness of the scene was magnified by the king’s reminder that Elijah had not died but was raptured to heaven, wouldn’t God do the same for Elisha? But our Lord is not obliged to do for one of His servants what He does for another. Even as He allowed James to be beheaded but spared Peter and we can be sure that Elisha was well aware of God’s sovereignty in dealing with His children. If he had ever asked the Lord for a repetition of Elijah’s whirlwind rapture we can almost hear our Lord’s reply. If I willed that he should thus depart from the earth what is that to thee follow thou me. Even as he said to Peter [John 21:21-23]. It is possible that Joash’s words in [v 14] are his way of saying I want to be your successor and to inherit the portion of the firstborn that you received from Elijah. If that is what he meant then the symbolic military campaign that Elisha told him to wage against Syria right beside his deathbed with bows and arrows was the test to determine his fitness for such a privileged position.
B.     The sign of the arrows – in any case the king’s half-hearted response to Elisha’s command brought deep disappointment to the prophet. For 40 years Hazael had attacked the Holy Land with unique cruelty and persistence and now his son Ben-hadad II was on the throne to perpetuate his dreadful work [II Kings 13:3]. Would King Joash be willing to trust Jehovah for full victory against the enemy? Apparently not and for the same reason that Ahab had spared the life of Ban-hadad I many years before [I Kings 20:34], namely the worldly desire for military security through maintaining Syria as a buffer state against even more frightful threat of Assyria father to the east. We must assume that Joash understood perfectly the symbolism of the acts that Elisha the prophet commanded him to perform. Compare for example the symbolism used by the false prophets of Ahab [I Kings 22:11], which Jeshoshaphat and Ahab both clearly understood. In this case we may assume that it was understood by the king that 5-6 strikes upon the ground with a handful of arrows meant total victory over Syria, four or less would mean partial victory. King Joash deliberately rejected God’s way and chose his own. Therefore as far as being a successor to Elisha’s prophetic office Joash was not even qualified to fulfill his own kingly office and God gave him only a limited victory against the enemy [v 25]. He did not destroy the enemies of God’s people and that because of his own unbelief.
 
IV.             THE MIRACLE AT ELISHA’S SEPULCHRE [II Kings 13:20-21] – Elisha died and so they buried him [vv 20-21]. An amazing statement Elisha was not taken to heaven in a whirlwind but God granted him an experience recorded of no other in history. After he died and was buried the body of an Israelite soldier killed while defending the land from Moabite invaders was hastily dropped into Elisha’s sepulcher and touched the bones of Elisha his life was restored to him and he stood on his feet. If it could be said of Abel that he being dead yet speaketh [Heb. 11:4], we might say of Elisha that he being dead yet ministered. And if the other one whom Elisha raised from the dead [the Shunammite’s son, now nearing sixty years of age] could have met this soldier, they would have agreed that even without a whirlwind ascension, Elisha was surely one of the greatest servants God ever had.
 
JEHU, THE SCOURGE OF GOD
 
I.                   JEHU ANOINTED [II Kings 9:1-13]
A.    The commission – [vv 1-3] is the fulfillment of God’s final phase of commission to the prophet Elijah [I Kings 19:15; II Kings 8:8-15] at Mount Sinai. We may ask the question why did not even Elisha anoint Jehu? But rather appointed one of the sons of the prophets to fulfill this phase of the commission of his master. The answer maybe that Elisha deliberately intended to avoid identification with the evil deeds that he knew Jehu would accomplish as the scourge of God.
B.     The anointing - In any case without questioning the command a son of the prophets fulfilled this commission to the letter. Strange as though it may have seemed to himself and certainly to those who watched him in action. This is characteristic of some of the strange ministries that God gave to His men especially in OT times. Men who were His representatives who were not asked to revise, improve, modify, or explain the work that God gave them to do. But simply in childlike trust and implicit obedience to carry through to the letter the word of the Lord. [vv 4-7] – this young man went to Ramoth-gilead and when he arrived there at the scene of battle he found the captains of the host plotting the next phase of the campaign. There king in the meantime [Joram] having been wounded in the battle against Hazael the king of Syria and having returned to Jezreel to recover of his wounds, the prophet burst into the scene and shouted I have an errand to thee O captain. Jehu suspecting who it was that he had in mind asked unto which of all us? And he said to thee O captain. He went into the house and poured oil on his head and said thus says Jehovah I have anointed thee king over the people of the Lord, even over Israel and he continues in [vv 7-10]. After delivering this message of doom upon the house of Omri and Ahab he opened the door and fled. We may assume that because of the fact that Jehu was to be yet another in the list of scourges that God used in the Northern Kingdom to wipe out previous apostate dynasties that God did not intend to honor this man by having his prophet linger to watch the coronation service that was about to take place. 
C.     The coronation – when the captains found out what had happened, they immediately improvised a throne, placed their garments beneath him as an act of homage [as many did for the Lord Jesus at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem], blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king” [compare Absalom II Sam. 15:10; and Solomon I Kings 1:39]. Now Jehu, the scourge of God having been commissioned in this strange way and symbolic of the madness if it were of his entire military ministry Jehu launches immediately into action.
 
II.                JORAM AND AHAZIAH KILLED [II Kings 9:14-29]
A.    The plot – determined to get back to Jezreel before Joram could hear of the coronation and organize his forces, Jehu drove furiously as it were in his chariot with a company of soldiers. In the providence of God Joram’s nephew Ahaziah, the son of his sister Athaliah was now also in Jezreel having come up to visit his wounded uncle and so God maneuvered these wicked kings to the place of their sure destruction. A watchman standing in the tower of Jezreel saw Jehu and his company arriving over the horizon stirring up a dust. The king suspicious of what this might mean sent a messenger to find out the news and Jehu came back with an enigmatic statement, what has thou to do with peace turn thee behind me [vv 17-18] and the messenger did not return. A second was sent forth and he also was captured as it were by Jehu and did not return. The watchman saw something about the movement of this chariot that identified it as the chariot of Jehu the son of Nimshi. The reason he drives furiously. The point being that Jehu had a reputation for the furious pace of his activity and movements. And this of course spoke volumes to Joram who knew that his judgment was near.
B.     Joram killed – instead of seeking refuge or committing suicide as a cowardly king would do like Ahab he went out to face the challenge personally to meet Jehu along with Ahaziah his nephew and somehow the blood of Naboth served as a giant magnet to bring these kings together for the place of God’s vindication of Naboth his righteous servant. Joram realized what was coming and he asked is it peace Jehu [v 22]. And the answer came like a clap of thunder [v 22b]. Realizing that his doom was certain he turned to flee and said to Ahaziah [v 23b] but in that very moment Jehu drew his bow with his full strength and smote between the arms and the arrow went out at his heart and he sank down dead in his chariot. It was the very place as Jehu reminded Bidkar his captain that Elijah the prophet had said that someday God would requite the blood of Naboth. The two of them had followed Ahab at the vineyard of Naboth and had heard that pronouncement of judgment and now saw at last its fulfillment. This must have left an indelible mark upon his memory and conscience in years to come, namely, that Jehovah is a God to be respected and feared.
C.     Ahaziah killed – Ahaziah desperately attempting his flight succeeded only partially and temporarily we read [II Chron. 22:9] that he fled not only by way of the garden house but actually reached Samaria. Then he fled to the ascent of Gur which is by Ibliam far to the northwest and finally near Migiddo died of the wounds that had been inflicted on him. Thus ended the male line of the southern branch of the dynasty of Omri and Ahab.
 
III.             JEZEBEL KILLED [II Kings 9:30-37]
A.    Her defiance – Jezebel after hearing of these events knew what was coming and she decided to die like a Phoenician queen, with painted eyes, set hair, and with defiance spewing from her mouth [vv 30-31]. And she said is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master’s murderer? Referring of course to a previous king of Israel who had indeed wiped out the dynasty of his predecessor. But who in the very process of that brought about his own doom within a week. In other words she is saying to Jehu you had better be careful or you will die as he did.
B.     Her death - Not bothering to debate with the queen Jehu commanded the eunuchs to throw her down [vv 32-33] to her death. Which apparently they were willing and happy to do. During the confusion that ensued although it is possible that Jehu purposely delayed the burial of this regal dignitary, dogs found her body and nearly destroyed it.
C.     Prophecy fulfilled - This is the gruesome fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy that in the portion of Jezreel shall the dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel so that people will not be able to identify the body of this hated queen who had been satan’s instrument to bring disaster to Israel’s northern kingdom.
 
IV.             SEVENTY SONS OF AHAB KILLED [II Kings 10:1-11]
A.    The challenge – intoxicated by his spectacular victory over Ahab’s widow, son, and grandson, Jehu now challenged the rulers and elders of Samaria to a formal combat to determine the destiny of the kingdom. We can surmise from previous passages in I and II Kings that Ahab harems had been large and her we discover that he had left 70 sons in the capital city of Samaria who were to somehow take over the kingdom someday after his own demise [cf. Judges 8:30- where Gideon himself begot 70 sons], and in his case as here it was perfectly obvious that not one of them had the character or the experience to lead the nation in a struggle against Jehu.
B.     The execution – and so the nobles accepted the drastic terms of surrender that were given to them by Jehu and brought to Jezreel seventy baskets containing the heads of Ahab’s sons. This was Jehu’s deliberate effort to mimic the terror tactics of the king of Assyria to whom he would bow in abject submission before the year was over according to the Black Obelisk of Shalmanser III, dated 841 B.C. the very year Jehu’s reign over Israel began. And this obelisk shows Jehu bowing before the king presenting his tribute to the great overlord from Assyria. So Jehu as a minor king attempts to inflate his own dignity and his own power by the terror tactics of the Assyrians and demanded that the heads of these potential rivals would be placed in two heaps at the entrance to the city gate so that all who passed through would have second thoughts about any revolt. Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria thus describes his methods of handling conquered cities. From an ancient Assyrian text: “I slew with the sword 300 of their warriors. Pillars of skulls I erected in front of the town. In the moat of the town I piled them up. I covered the wide plain with the corpses of their fighting men; I dyed the mountains with their blood like red wool. I erected pillars of skulls in front of his town.” Certainly Assyrian methods were the most drastic and cruel known to the ancient world. And Jehu as God’s scourge determines in a minor way to accomplish by similar tactics the complete terrorizing of this nation and to bludgeon them into submission. The point of this of course does not escape us. We realize that since the nation had not listened to the gracious message of God through prophets like the “sons of the prophets” and Elijah and Elisha, God would send them a man who would give them a message that they would understand and so Jehu was perfectly equipped to be God’s messenger to an apostate people. 
C.     The vindication – [vv 9-10] – one would think from this that Jehu was not only an admirer of Elijah but also of Elijah’s God. Such however, unfortunately, tragically was not the case. Jehu was not personally a true servant of Jehovah he was more an instrument in Jehovah’s hand and almost an unwilling one at that.
V.                AHAZIAH’S BROTHERS KILLED [II Kings 10:12-14] - We must understand that his basic thrust was to destroy from Israel the left wing elements that had brought in foreign influences like that of Jezebel’s prophets to intimidate of not to crush the traditional policies and customs of the kingdom of Israel. In other words his opposition to Baal religion was for purely political reasons. As a right wing patriot he had probably headed up an increasingly powerful opposition party within Israel against Ahab’s foreign religion and was very anxious to gain favor with the silent majority.
VI.             BAAL WORSHIPPERS DESTROYED [II Kings 10:15-28]
A.    Jehonadab recruited - This must be the explanation for Jehonadab’s fanatical support of Jehu [vv 15ff]. After he had destroyed other groups who had not yet heard of his conquest of the northern dynasty in the continuation of his blitzkrieg lightening war campaign that when he came back he met Jehonadab [v 15]. And to this he was given the invitation to officially and publicly join Jehu in his great anti-Baal campaign in the kingdom. He covered over the real reason of this campaign by a pious statement that was meant to impress this godly man Jehonadab [v 16]. The point of it all is that Jehonadab represented a deeply respected aesthetic religious group in the nation that purposely avoided the corrupt character of life in the northern kingdom. By avoiding all wine and living in tents and thus attempting to revert back to the wilderness days of Israel’s former experience in nomadic life. We learn more about this in [Jer. 35:6-19] and how fanatically observed the traditions of their ancestors in spite of all the changes in culture and society about them. Jehu wisely used this man for his own purpose as window dressing in order to impress the nation with the fact that there was a religious thrust. God, however, was not deceived. Because we shall see that Jehu himself had no love for Jehovah [v 31], and this is exactly why years later God said through Hosea the prophet [1:4], that he was to call his baby boy Jezreel for yet a little while I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease. It seems strange that God would judge Jehu for having destroyed the dynasty of Omri and Ahab and Jezebel at Jezreel. But here again the same pattern appears: God is not interested in those that would do His will by an ungodly method. God is determined to not only accomplish a specific purpose but to accomplish it His way and for His own glory. And such was not the case the case in Jehu’s method of extricating Baal worship from the nation of Israel
B.     The slaughter of Baal’s worshippers – we see the method he employed in [vv 18-19], and so all the Baal worshipers taking him at his word. Rejoicing inwardly that here at last they had a man who could promote their cause with zeal. They gathered to the Baal temple telling Jehonadab what he had in mind and brought forth the vestments for the worshipers to wear in worship services presumably. And with a diabolical efficiency that may be compared to Hitler’s scheme of duping Jews that thinking gas chambers were only shower rooms, Jehu and Jehonadab jammed the house of Baal with his most zealous worshippers and then had them slaughtered. Thus Jehu destroyed Baal from out of Israel [I Kings 10:28], carrying to completion the negative aspects of the lifelong struggles of Elijah and Elisha.
 
VII.          ANALYSIS OF JEHU’S REIGN [II Kings 10:29-31] – for his zeal against this false deity, Jehu was honored with a dynasty that continued through four more generations and nearly a century. Jehoahaz his son, Jehoash his grandson, Jeroboam II his great-grandson and Zechariah his great-great-grandson, but Jehu like Nebuchanezzar was more of an instrument than a servant of Jehovah, and was spiritually incapable of promoting the true worship of Israel’s God. Having destroyed Baal, Jehu contented himself with Jeroboam’s calf-cult at Bethel and Dan and took no heed to walk in the law of Jehovah, the God of Israel, with all his heart. Therefore what he gained through zeal he lost through spiritual blindness and God’s judgment ultimately rested upon his house as well as upon the house that he had been instrumental in destroying.
 
THE LAST KINGS OF ISRAEL
 
I.                   THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ [II Kings 13:1-9] – we now begin to see the disintegration of the northern kingdom launched as it was by the fantastic zeal of Jehu the scourge of God. We now see the unwinding of that tremendous programmed energy in the form of kings of lesser zeal. Although in some cases as in Jeroboam II, of remarkable success under the blessing of Jehovah. Jehoahaz was the probably the king who rejected the request of Naaman the leper and the king of Syria to heal him [II Kings 5]. A king of spiritual blindness and rebellion against Jehovah who suffered tremendous pressures from Hazael and losses even to the point where he had nothing left but 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and 10,000 footmen according [II Kings 13:7]. A figure that can only be appreciated when compared with the statement of Shalmanneser III, King of Assyria, that Ahab had 2000 chariots in the battle at Qarqar. 
A.    His prayer – one thing in favor of Jehoahaz is that he did beseech Jehovah [v 4] and God answered him graciously by providing him a savior from the threat and the pressure of Hazael. We are not told in [v 5] who this savior was it could possibly have been his own son, Joash as we see in [v 25] that he accomplished some victories namely three against the Syrians and recovered some cities for Israel. Or it could have been his grandson, Jeroboam II according to [II Kings 14:27]. Or it could have been some contemporary general who brought temporary relief to the people of Israel in the days of Jehoahaz himself.
B.     His defeat – we can’t help but wonder what the author of the book of Kings meant when he said in [v 8] in summarizing the reign of Jehoahaz. We can’t help but wonder what kind of sarcasm this was intended to be.
 
II.                THE REIGN OF JOASH [II Kings 13:10-25] – the son of Jehoahaz had certain qualities that the scriptures consider worth noting. His name was Joash or Jehoash as an alternate spelling. We recall from II Chronicles that this king utterly crushed Amaziah the thistle king of Judah in a confrontation, which ended up with Jerusalem’s wall being battered down and certain hostages being taken back to Israel.
A.    At the deathbed of Elisha - It is possible that Joash’s words in [v 14] are his way of saying I want to be your successor and to inherit the portion of the firstborn that you received from Elijah. If that is what he meant then the symbolic military campaign that Elisha told him to wage against Syria right beside his deathbed with bows and arrows was the test to determine his fitness for such a privileged position. In any case the king’s half-hearted response to Elisha’s command brought deep disappointment to the prophet.
B.     Wars with Hazael of Syria - For 40 years Hazael had attacked the Holy Land with unique cruelty and persistence and now his son Ben-hadad II was on the throne to perpetuate his dreadful work [II Kings 13:3]. Would King Joash be willing to trust Jehovah for full victory against the enemy? Apparently not and for the same reason that Ahab had spared the life of Ban-hadad I many years before [I Kings 20:34], namely the worldly desire for military security through maintaining Syria as a buffer state against even more frightful threat of Assyria father to the east. We must assume that Joash understood perfectly the symbolism of the acts that Elisha the prophet commanded him to perform. Compare for example the symbolism used by the false prophets of Ahab [I Kings 22:11], which Jeshoshaphat and Ahab both clearly understood. In this case we may assume that it was understood by the king that 5-6 strikes upon the ground with a handful of arrows meant total victory over Syria, four or less would mean partial victory. King Joash deliberately rejected God’s way and chose his own. Therefore as far as being a successor to Elisha’s prophetic office Joash was not even qualified to fulfill his own kingly office and God gave him only a limited victory against the enemy [v 25]. He did not destroy the enemies of God’s people and that because of his own unbelief.
 
V.                THE REIGN OF JEROBOAM II [II Kings 14:23-29]
A.    The ministry of Jonah – God graciously sent prophets to the northern kingdom even during this time of deep apostasy and on this occasion we read [v 25] of Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet that was at Gathhepher a village in the region of Galilee. We are told that is was by a prophecy that Jonah uttered that Jeroboam was able to accomplish remarkable victories against his enemies, especially against Syria. He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of Arabah [Dead Sea]. We must recognize at this time that the Assyrian empire at Nineveh had entered into a phase of deep darkness and political eclipse. It is our assumption that the reason for this basically was the preaching of Jonah which had occurred doubtless shortly before this and brought a remarkable almost unparalleled repentance and conviction of sin on the part of that whole nation. Because of this for a whole generation we hear practically nothing from the Assyrian armies because very incompetent feeble kings were ruling during this period such as Shalmanneser IV, Asherdan III, and Ashur-ninari V, during this time there was a vacuum of power in the Fertile Crescent into which the king of Israel was able to move.
B.     Conquests of Jeroboam – having crushed the Syrians he was able to move practically to the border of the Assyrian Empire proper at the Euphrates River and thus practically fulfill God’s promise to David and to Abraham that the Promised Land would extend even to the Euphrates River. This was a time of great prosperity in the northern kingdom and the prophets make it clear to us that during this period there was not only prosperity but open rebellion against Jehovah because of the pride of life and heart. We read in [Hosea 12:8; Amos 4:4-6; Is. 28:1] of this unusual prosperity comparable only to the greater days gone by in the reign of Solomon. But it was only the calm before the storm for prosperity brought complacency, pride, and insensitivity to the voice of Jehovah. The death of Jeroboam II in 753 B. C. was the beginning of the end for the northern kingdom.
 
VI.             ZECHARIAH MURDERED BY SHALLUM [II Kings 15:8-15] – within two years Zechariah his son died at the hand of an assassin thus bringing a hasty fulfillment of God’s promise of four generations of royal descendants to Jehu [II Kings 15:12]: and the assassin himself [Shallum] was slain by an utterly calloused soldier named Menahem [II Kings 15:14]. Consider the remarkable similarities to those 130 years earlier, when Elah, after a two-year reign was assassinated by Zimri, who in turn was brought to death a few days later by Omri. As in the final phase of the Roman Empire, one general after another seized the throne and the populace paid less and less heed to the bewildering game of intrigue, military takeover, and shame rule.
 
 
VII.          MENAHEM AND PEKAHIAH [II Kings 15:14-26]
A.    Menahem’s power – it was in the days of the cruel King Menahem as noted in [v 16] that a new threat on the horizon in the form of the Assyrian armies loomed again. As explained in connection with Jonah the Assyrians had been quiescent for an entire generation. But in 745 B.C. an exceedingly vigorous general took the reins of government under the title Tiglath-pileser III. This man is also referred to as Pulu [v 19] which is presumable the name he took to himself after having bludgeoned Babylon into submission and in that region he was known as Pulu according to archaeological evidences that have been brought to light in recent years. Thus in [I Chron. 5:26] where he is referred to under two names.
B.     Tribute to Tiglathpileser III – he was one of the greatest kings that the Assyrians ever had rule over their army and he succeeded in a remarkably short time of whipping the Assyrian army into an incomparable state of efficiency and zeal. Only two years after he took the throne of Nineveh he led his great army westward in 743 B. C. and conquered a number of small kingdoms including that of Israel. In his own inscription he states, “As for Menahem, I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he fled like a bird alone, and bowed to my feet.” Scripture tells us that Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver as a bribe in order to buy him off that he might not be crushed under this monstrous power from the east. In order to get the money to pay the tribute Menahem had to assess each Israelite family 50 shekels of silver which means that 60,000 Israelite families had to shoulder this heavy financial burden.
C.     Assassination of his son Pekahiah – Menahem died and left the throne to his Pekahiah who reigned only long enough to permit Menahem to say that he had a dynasty in Israel. Pekahiah was slain by one of his generals named Pekah the son of Remaliah.
 
VIII.       THE REIGN OF PEKAH [II Kings 15:25-31; 16:5] - We may assume from the statement in [v 25] that Pekah had with him 50 men of the Gileadites that he himself came from across the Jordan and probably maintained an independent area of control during the reign of Pekahiah and his father Menahem. This is supported by the discovery of Edwin R. Thiele the chronologist that the reigns of Pekah and Menahem overlapped. In other words Pekah claimed the entire period of Menahem’s reign back to the death of Shallum as his own. And it is only in this way that a chronological problem can be solved in the reigns of these northern kings of Israel. Pekah rose to power on the crest of an anti-Assyrian wave of resentment in the kingdom of Israel. The people were financially exhausted and were determined at any cost to overthrow this yoke that was unbearable. Pekah therefore proclaimed an anti-Assyrian policy, gained the support of Rezin the king of Damascus and determined to gather western kingdoms under an alliance to block any further westward move of the Assyrian generals. We are told in the book of Isaiah how this worked out. Pekah and Rezin determined to force Judah into the coalition. Judah now being ruled by Ahaz refused. Therefore Pekah and Rezin invaded Judah and administered a tremendous defeat to their southern neighbor capturing 200,000 people and over a 100,000 soldiers. Ahaz himself carried to Damascus as a hostage, but the southern kingdom still refused to cooperate. And after God intervened and allowed the captives to return including Ahaz himself we are told that Pekah and Rezin threatened another invasion. This time to kill Ahaz and replace him with Tabeal a prince from Phoenicia presumably that he might be more pliable in their hands as a puppet in the wide coalition of western kingdoms that was essential against the Assyrian armies [Is. 7:1-7]. Ahaz was desperate and he plotted to hire the Assyrians to come back again to destroy his northern enemies. Isaiah warned him against this and pled with him to ask God for a sign [Is. 7:10-12] and Ahaz refused. His plot, plan, and policy were settled in his own heart and mind. And so the Assyrian army did come and the plan that Pekah had with Rezin to invade Judah was foiled and Rezin was killed and we are told in terms of the Assyrian chronicler that they overthrew their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over them. I received from them ten talents of gold, 1,000 talents of silver as their tribute, and brought them to Assyria. And thus the great darkness of Assyrian deportation fell first upon the land of Galilee according to Isaiah 9:1. 
 
A.    THE REIGN OF HOSHEA [II Kings 15:30; 17:1-6] – the majority of Israelites now backed Hoshea’s plot to remove Pekah and to come to terms with Assyria. Hoshea was a puppet. He was the least wicked of the northern kings but nevertheless the kingdom was rotten beyond recovery and refused to comply with the decision of their own king to submit to Assyria. Seeing Tiglath-pileser dead and a new king on the throne demanding a continuation of the heavy tribute the kingdom of Israel decided to rebel and to turn to the Egyptians for help [17:4]. The Assyrians not tolerating this defiance of Israel of there over lordship invaded Israel again and took Hoshea captive and began the siege of Samaria which lasted three horrible years. Just as the siege ended in 722 B. C. the king Shalmanneser V died and his successor Sargon II [Is. 20:1] completed the destruction of the city and a deportation of the inhabitants. As he describes it himself: At the beginning of my royal rule I conquered the town of the Samaritans. I led away as prisoners’ 27,290 inhabitants of it and equipped from among them soldiers to man 50 chariots for my royal corps. The town I rebuilt better than it was before and settled therein people from countries which I myself had conquered. I placed an officer of mine as governor over them and imposed upon them tribute as is customary for Assyrian citizens.” Before the days of Tiglath-pileser III, Assyrian monarchs had been content to raid and exact tribute from western countries. But now a drastic new method of shattering national morale and resistance was instituted – mass deportations of peoples from one end of the empire to the other. God had indeed prepared a “rod of his anger” to send against a “profane nation” [Is. 10:5-6]. [vv 7-18] gives us about 20 reasons why God’s judgment was so desperately deserved. God was not helpless to rescue Israel from her enemies. In fact, He was the One who raised them up and brought them to destroy His people. Nor had He broken His covenant promises to the nation, for a remnant of each of the northern tribes had long since fled to the tribe of Judah to perpetuate their identity there [cf. II Chron. 11:16; Acts 26:7; James 1:1; and the reference to Anna of the tribe of Asher in Luke 2:36]. So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day [II Kings 17:23]. And the tragedy was compounded because Judah refused to learn spiritual lessons from the experience of her sister kingdom to the north [II Kings 17:19; cf. Ezek. 16:46-59], thus explaining why the author of Kings himself was in far off Babylon when he completed his book [II Kings 25:27-30].
 
IX.             THE CAPTIVITY OF ISRAEL [II Kings 17:7-41]
A.    The reasons – Isaiah had predicted that the process of deporting Israelites and importing foreigners with the consequent destruction of the ethnic identity of the northern kingdom. It would take 65 years beginning in 734 B. C. [Is. 7:8], and result in the formation of a new mongrel race called Samaritans. Thus the king of Assyria in [II Kings 17:24] who completed this monumental task must have been Esarhaddon, the grandson of Sargon, whose reign ended in 669 B.C., exactly 65 years after Isaiah’s prophecy. This is confirmed by the Samaritan half-breeds who hindered the work of Zerubbabel and Joshua in rebuilding the Jerusalem temple insisted that “we sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assyria, who brought us up hither [Ezra 4:2].
B.     Danger from lions – it is noteworthy that so many Israelites vanished from the scene during those years that lions began to multiply beyond control. God had long since warned the nation: “If ye walk contrary to me…I will send the beast of the field among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your ways shall become desolate” [Lev. 26:21-22; cf. Ex. 23:29]. Having utterly rejected the mild warnings of the two she-bears in the days of Elisha [cf. II Kings 2:24], the land was now literally overrun with thousands of lions.
C.     A mongrel religion – to meet this crisis the new inhabitants called for a Jehovah calf-priest to be returned to Bethel to teach them the law of the god of the land [II Kings 17:27]. The priest, however, must have felt somewhat hindered in his teaching ministry for the golden calf had been carried away from Bethel to Assyria [Hos. 10:5-6]. If this priest set as his goal the mere perpetuation of the name Jehovah in the northern regions he succeeded marvelously well. But the worship of Jehovah, even in the style of Jeroboam I, vanished permanently in the north [II Kings 17:34]. Each group of importees from Babylon, Cuth, Hamath, Avva, and Sepharvaim maintained their basic loyalty to their own gods, and either added Jehovah to the already crowded pantheon or perhaps called the name of their favorite god by the name of the local deity, Jehovah, whom they sought to placate by this means. [II Kings 17:33]. This was the final fruit of Jeroboam’s break with Jerusalem and Judah: a stench in the nostrils of God and man. From this time onward the southern Jews had no dealings with Samaritans [John 4:9]; and though the Samaritan people continue to the present hour, their numbers have dwindled to a mere handful and their national glory has departed forever.
 
 FROM JEHOSHAPHAT TO JOASH
 
I.                   THE REIGN OF JEHORAM [II Chronicles 21]
A.    His evil character and deeds – we must assume that Jehoram reigned for several years as co-regent under his father, Jehoshaphat, and yet it is difficult to imagine the things happening in [vv2-4] during this co-regency because we are told that the wicked king Jehoram, true son-in-law of Jezebel and Ahab, complete pagan, devotee of Baal through the enormous influence and pressure of his wicked wife Athaliah probably encouraged by her killed his own brothers. In [v 13] the scripture states that these brothers were better than he was. In fact it is possible that these other sons of godly king Jehoshaphat knew and loved Jehovah as younger brothers of wicked Jehoram and attempted to block his plan to introduce Baal worship centers throughout the land under the instigation of Athaliah and her mother Jezebel. And for this they were eliminated. Thus he eliminated any potential rivalry or hindrance to his plan. Along with the obvious plan of Athaliah and her parents Ahab and Jezebel to absolutely dominate the southern kingdom of Judah as an extension of the Baal religion and influence in the northern kingdom. Satan’s purposes were now rapidly unfolding and the discouraging and tragic aspect of it all was that it was brought about by the compromising attitudes of godly king Jehoshaphat who never learned his lesson of separation from evil and its representatives in promoting the work of God. And so all of Jehoshaphat’s efforts to introduce godly teachers and judges in the southern kingdom were almost totally frustrated because of his willing defiance of God’s warnings against alliance with the northern kingdom. This was the most wicked king that sat upon the southern throne of Judah [v 5].
B.     The revolts of subject nations - God recompensed him for his fantastic depravity by allowing the kingdom of Edom to slip out of his hand just as God had allowed the kingdom of Moab to slip away from the control of the northern kingdom of Israel after the death of Ahab. Libnah also revolted and this was a tributary city in the general region of Philistia [II Kings 19:8].
C.     The letter from Elijah - Not only that but just before Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind he wrote a letter to king Jehoram warning him of the sure judgment that God would bring which occurred several years later [vv 12-15] and this points out that God allowed a fatal case of dysentery to come upon him as recompense for his total denial of God’s will and God’s ways.
D.    His death and disgrace – if that weren’t enough God stirred up the Philistines from the west and the Arabians from the south to actually invade Jerusalem and take away from the palace all the substance, treasures and not only that but his sons and all of his wives except one son Jehoahaz, known otherwise as Ahaziah and Athaliah the queen. This maybe reflected in the book of Obadiah which speaks of the fact that when Jerusalem was invaded and conquered and the spoils of victory were carted away and prisoners’ were captured by the Edomites as they attempted to flee from their enemies, the Edomites took advantage of the plight of Jerusalem, gloated over there fall and humiliation. It is entirely possible in view of the fact that Jeremiah seems to quote from the book of Obadiah that this was not the 586 B.C. destruction of Jerusalem but rather this particular one described here in II Chronicles 21. If that is true then Obadiah is one of the earliest of the writing prophets of the kingdom period. And the judgment that God promised to Edom for her attitude toward Judah typifies Jehovah’s attitude toward all nations that hate Judah for Jehovah’s sake in terms of the Abrahamic Covenant [Gen. 12:1-4]. And so finally a couple of years later this depraved king died. He was not granted an honorable burial. He departed without being desired [v 20].
 
II.                THE REIGN OF AHAZIAH [II Chronicles 22:1-9]
A.    His character - Events in the northern kingdom were moving rapidly to a climax. Athaliah’s brother Jehoram was fighting his final battle against the Syrian king Ben-hadad at Ramoth-gilead [II Chronicles 22] and we read that the son of Jehoram Ahaziah went up to help him. This of course was necessary in view of the close ties between the northern and southern kingdoms because of Athaliah’s relationship to the northern family that reigned in Israel. In [v 3] we see that Ahaziah walked in the ways of the house of Ahab for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Not only that [v 4] tells us that he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction. And thus God planned that this closeness which satan engineered of course for the destruction of the southern dynasty would be the undoing of Ahaziah because he went up to help his uncle when he was wounded in the battle. And as a result was on hand when Jehu the scourge of God swept in from the battlefield to kill Jehoram and deliver a deathblow to the southern king who was there at that time.
B.     His death – this was not by chance as [v 7] reminds us the destruction of Ahaziah was by God in that he went unto Joram. Ahaziah seeing Jehoram dead in his chariot fled to Samaria. When Jehu had opportunity to do so he followed through as Ahaziah left Samaria and was brought to Jehu and we are told that he slew him. The king’s account adds an interesting detail to this, which suggest that the blow was not immediately fatal, and that Ahaziah managed to westward up the ascent of Gur toward Megiddo where he finally died [II Kings 9:27]. While his body was being returned to Jerusalem for burial, forty-two of his cousins, who had somehow succeeded in escaping the slaughter inflicted upon their family by Philistines and Arabians [II Chron. 21:16-17] were intercepted and killed by Jehu on their way to visit the royal family in Jezreel [II Kings 10:12-14].
 
III.             ATHALIAH’S USURPATION [II Chronicles 22:10-23:15]
A.    She kills all except baby, Joash – now queen Athaliah reigned supreme in the southern kingdom. Her husband having been permitted by Jehovah to have his little day in the sun as satan’s masterpiece and having been cast forth as an abominable branch not joined with his family in burial because he had destroyed God’s land and had slain God’s people [Is. 14:19-20]. Athaliah bereft of her husband and her son determined knowing as satan somehow indicated to her that her time was short. And so the feminine antichrist in Jerusalem arose and destroyed all the seed royal in the house of Judah. We are surprised of course to discover that there were any others left that had not already been destroyed because of the scourge which was Jehu in the north; and the scourges which were the Philistines and the Arabians in the south and the supreme scourge namely Jehoram himself who had killed his brethren and presumably their children as well in previous months.
B.     Jehoiada’s plot to make Joash king – but in the marvelous providence of God her plot was foiled by the presence of a woman, namely her own daughter who denied the Baal worship tendencies of her own mother. Who was married providentially to the high priest Jehoiada a godly man. And she determined to take her little brother and to hide first of all in a bedroom and then in the temple where he was protected not only from Athaliah but was kept from the knowledge of the entire nation for six long years. This is one of the great mysteries of the OT. The apparent contradiction between God’s promise of a Davidic seed to sit upon the throne [II Sam. 7] and the absence of one to sit upon the throne. At least so it seemed to the majority of the nation. What must they have thought of this promise of God to David? That his house and kingdom would be made sure forever and that his throne would be established forever [II Sam. 7:16]? Perhaps with Jehoram dead and Ahaziah dead and all the house and seed royal destroyed some suggested that the Davidic Covenant might be spiritualized. To mean not a literal king but God himself. Those who did spiritualize that promise were guilty of underestimating the word of their God. For the literal interpretation of the prophecy had its vindication in a temple playroom hidden from the public eye. Even more complex for God’s people was the problem of Jeremiah’s curse upon the line of Jehoiachin [Jer. 22:28-30] two centuries later. After Jehoiachin’s death, where was the legitimate Davidic king? The answer was hidden in the genetic code of a woman who came from one of David’s non-cursed lines [Nathan – II Sam. 5:14; Luke 3:31], whose virgin-born son would be adopted by a descendent of Jehoiachin [Joseph of Nazareth], thereby transmitting to this child the legal right to the throne without at the same time transmitting the curse. [Is. 55:8-9]
C.     Athaliah’s death – and so after this seven year tribulation period for the southern kingdom when the hopes of many were dashed and the saints of God were under enormous pressure the great day finally came as Jehoiada confided to five faithful captains to prepare for the unveiling of their true king. And on an appropriate Sabbath as all those who had been serving in the temple in the three different course were leaving they were prevented from going to their homes in order that they might protect the young king as a new group coming in to take their place was likewise prepared to do battle if necessary. We can tell from these great preparations for the unveiling practically on a national scale how far Athaliah’s reputation and influence and power had fallen during these six years of her wicked reign. The great day came and their was an unveiling of the young king Joash and as Jehoiada the high priest explained [II Chron. 23:3]. In other words God is to be believed even against impossible obstacles on the basis of a literal interpretation of his word. And so the nation stood in the presence of their new king and they brought out the king’s son and put the crown upon and gave him the testimony, that is a copy of the written law of Moses and they made him king. Athaliah, just like Adonijah the son of David heard the shouting too late to interfere and thus found herself an unwilling spectator at her own abdication. But instead of fleeing in terror like Adonijah did she determined like her cruel and yet brave bold mother Jezebel to face her enemy and fight if need be to her death. She dashed out into the court and yelled treason, treason. Those were her last words. Jehoiada ordered her to be removed from the temple, which she had already defiled and also her sons and to be killed. And so she went to the horse gate by the king’s house and they slew her there. At last satan’s purpose was thwarted seven long years after Baal had been destroyed in the northern kingdom through the schemes and plots and cruelties of Jehu the scourge of God. But in the southern kingdom there was no need for the kind of deception that Jehu had used to wipe out the remnants of Baal worship. A covenant was made between Jehoiada and the people and they went to the house of Baal and broke it down and destroyed the altars of Baal and the images and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altar [II Chron. 23:16-21]. Matten may be an abbreviation for Mattan-baal which means gift of Baal just as Mattaniah meant gift of Jehovah [II Kings 24:17]. And so at last the remnant of Baal worship was removed from the southern kingdom although we must anticipate tragically that a later king allowed Baal worship once again in an even more vicious form to enter the kingdom from which it had now been removed. And so God did have yet a purpose of judgment for the southern kingdom in spite of the fact that there were occasional revivals and reformations like this one. 
 
IV.             THE REIGN OF JOASH [II Chronicles 23:16-24:27]
A.    The kingdom reorganized – we are told that Joash was seven years old when he began to reign [II Chron. 24:1] and so obviously he needed regent during the years of his minority and that regent was Jehoiada the high priest, one of the greatest leaders that God ever provided for his people Israel. Jehoiada must have recognized a basic weakness in the young king morally and spiritually and made a concession in his case because we see [v 3] that he took for him two wives.
B.     The temple repaired – but we can also say that good things happened during the first phase of the reign of Joash who reigned in Jerusalem for 40 long years. The temple was cleansed from the defilement of Athaliah and her sons [v 7]. Although we are perplexed as to the fact that apparently not only were there great delays in doing this but there may have been some dishonesty in the handling of funds that forced the king to provide a separate unique method for collecting money. Namely a large chest at the entrance to the temple at which people could voluntarily bring their precious metals which would be used to pay the carpenters to do the necessary repair work in the temple. [II Kings 12:6] suggests that the delay in getting this done was 23 long years but we cannot be sure of that in view of the fact that we are not told exactly what year the project began. The other good things that were accomplished the scripture does not tell us. But all too soon the second phase of the reign of Joash began.
C.     The death of Jehoiada, the high priest – Namely following the death of his godly protector and teacher Jehoiada the high priest. God extended this man’s life an amazing 130 years the oldest man in biblical history since the days of Amram long before the time of Aaron and Moses and yet at last his death came.
D.    The murder of Zechariah, the prophet – and his son Zechariah was led to speak out against the abuses that began because of the left wing element of young men who caught the fancy, attention, and loyalty of Joash. Joash was obviously an unstable young man like Lot who did good things only to the extent that he followed his uncle Abram. And here we can hardly believe what we read [II Chron. 24:20-22], and thus Zechariah died in the temple as an evidence of the horrible apostasy of Joash the boy-king who had not learned to live for Jehovah as his godly counselor had taught him.
E.     The defeat and death of Joash – God recompensed this king for this horrible crime; as Zechariah cried out for God to require it and God did require it because before the year was over Hazael’s army approached Jerusalem from the west, defeated the Judean army and was finally bought of with temple treasures [II Kings 12:18]. Joash himself was sorely wounded in the battle and was later slain by two conspirators. But the supreme in indignity for this apostate king who was totally thankless toward his benefactor and God for all his privileges and blessings; the supreme indignity came when he was denied burial among the sepulchers of the kings, though Jehoiada who wasn’t even a king was given this special honor [II Chron. 24:15-16, 25]. And so God did repay this man because as he sowed so also did he reap.
 
FROM AMAZIAH TO AHAZ
 
I.                   THE REIGN OF AMAZIAH [II Chronicles 25]
A.    His obedience to the law – we read that as Amaziah’s reign began it began with an act of godly submission to the known will of God concerning the treatment of the families of criminals. His own father was assassinated by two conspirators and instead of wreaking havoc on their family as was traditional in ancient Near Eastern kingdoms in order to prevent retaliation or plots against the kings life he trusted the Lord to take care of this problem and did not put their children to death because God had commanded back in the OT [Deut 24:16] that such a typical reprisal should not be carried out in the nation of Israel.
B.     His obedience to the prophet – as Amaziah prepared his people for an invasion from the king of Edom and in spite of the fact that he had already hired 100,000 men from the northern kingdom of Israel to supplement his won army of 300,000 which was inadequate because of the losses his father had suffered at the hands of Hazael he determined to obey God once again when the prophet came and commanded him to dismiss these northern mercenaries because God was not interested in using the apostate northern kingdom for a theocratic program sponsored by the Spirit of God in the south. Amaziah was greatly perplexed by this plan because he had already spent 100 talents to hire the northerners. God’s answer is indeed noteworthy [v 9]. In other words spiritual principles must predominate over financial considerations in doing the work of the living God on earth.
C.     Edom defeated and her idols worshipped – not only was God able to supply the lost money He was able to accomplish a great victory through the mere 300,000 men of Judah whom Amaziah led in battle against Edom. While he was gone however the mercenaries who had been hired and then ignominiously dismissed reaped vengeance on the kingdom of Judah by attacking the border towns and in the process killing 3000 Judeans. This of course proved to be an excuse for Amaziah later on to challenge the northern king. In the meantime even though Amaziah had seen a tremendous victory granted to him against Edom. He did something that is frankly unbelievable. We are told that he bowed down to the Edomite deities which he captured in the form of idols and burned incense unto them [II Chron. 25:14]. Why would a king have bowed down before idols representing deities that weren’t even powerful enough to protect their own king? This is so ridiculous as to be almost unbelievable. But we must pause to ask the question how believable or rational is any sin? Not until the mind of man has surrendered to the Lord can it even begin to function properly. Like the man who was at the feet of Jesus [Luke 8:35] only after God had dealt with his spiritual problem. So Amaziah had to be rebuked by God and suffer terribly in order that he and we might learn the folly of spiritual disobedience.
D.    Amaziah defeated by Joash of Israel – here again as was so often the case in ancient kings of Israel and Judah in the very moment of pride and supposed self-triumph over the will of God a prophet of the Lord appeared. Denouncing Amaziah for what he had done he received instead of humility and confession a counter denunciation [v 16]. But God prevented this prophet from receiving the retaliatory judgment that Asa and Joash had reaped upon men who had come in the name of Jehovah in their day. And the prophet replied with this horrible warning v 16b]. Prophets were an independent instrument of Jehovah to deal with men of high position in the kingdom who deliberately defied his will. And its obvious whether the prophet had officially been appointed he was God’s man for this hour and the king was totally responsible for heeding his message from heaven. Doubtless Amaziah was able to convince his people that a campaign against the northern kingdom was necessary for the sake of redeeming national honor. But this time the Lord was not with him [II Chron. 25:20]. Completely confidant in his invincible power after having conquered the Edomites and capturing and then enlisting the help of their deities and silencing Jehovah’s meddlesome prophet. Amaziah had the audacity to challenge the king of Israel who at this time was Joash the king who had come down to see Elisha at is deathbed to a great battle in which the victorious side would then indicate Jehovah’s favor. The king of Israel was astounded by Amaziah’s pride and cut him down to size with a well phrased parable or rather a fable. One of two fables that the OT records [v 18]. In other words O’ Amaziah pitiful thistle king of Judah stay in your own league and be content with the little trophies you have already won lest you and your kingdom come to disaster. But Amaziah absolutely refused to hear a lesson that God in His providence had provided for him. And rushing headlong into battle at Beth-shemesh not far to the west of Jerusalem, he and his army was totally defeated. And Amaziah himself was dragged back to Jerusalem by the northern king to observe the destruction of hundreds of feet of the walls of Jerusalem and also the pilfering of the temple of its gold and silver and also the carrying away of hostages to Samaria.
E.     His death - So completely humiliated was Amaziah as a result of his folly and this catastrophic judgment from the Lord that his son Uzziah who was only sixteen years old at the time was placed as king while his father continued a miserable existence in disgrace. Later being a target of conspiracy from which he could not escape and he was killed at Lachish. 
 
II.                THE REIGN OF UZZIAH [II Chronicles 26]
A.    Early years and the influence of Zechariah – he too began his reign trusting the Lord and accomplishing mighty things. But then under the years of blessing and peace he became preoccupied with his own success and prosperity that God had given him in the first place and ended up being sorely chastened like his predecessors. Because he that thinketh he standeth must take heed lest he fall [I Cor. 10:12]. We are surprised to see in [v 5] that during the early part of his reign when his great prosperity and blessing was experienced that he set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah who had understanding in the vision of God and as long as he sought God, God made him to prosper. This man Zechariah is obviously not the man of the same name who had been slain in the temple by the grandfather of Uzziah. Perhaps he was named after that famous martyr but in any case his influence over the king and the kingdom was enormous. Because as long as he encouraged Uzziah to trust the Lord God could accomplish things through him.
B.     His growing strength, prosperity, and pride – he waxed exceeding strong, he had much cattle, he loved husbandry and God allowed him to build up an enormous army through modern weapons almost unparalleled in the ancient world. And God gave him victories against the surrounding kingdoms and his prosperity was unique [v 15]. But we see the ominous statement at the end of [v 15] till he was strong.
C.     Confrontation with priests in the temple – all of this is the background for one of the greatest falls in OT history. The similarity to satan’s fall from heaven is striking. When he was strong his heart was lifted up [v 16]. Why did Uzziah desire to burn incense upon the altar of incense? Because he was no longer satisfied with being a mere king and desired to be a divine king like some of his contemporaries, especially in Egypt. But the depth of this sin can be measured only by the sacredness of the position he was usurping, namely, the position of the great Priest-King, our Lord Jesus Christ who alone is qualified to sit at God’s right hand as a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek [Ps. 110:1, 4], indeed, as a priest upon his throne [Zech. 6:13]. It was God’s revealed plan that no Aaronic priest should ever sit upon David’s throne [cf. Gen. 49:10; Heb. 7:14], and no descendant of David should ever be an Aaronic priest. Uzziah clearly understood this clear distinction between kings and priests in Israel and thus was guilty of deliberately defying God.
D.    Death as a leper – no sooner had he entered the Holy of holies than Azariah the priest went in after him and with him 80 priests to confront him and they withstood him [v 28]. Instead of collapsing in utter repentance before God’s representatives Uzziah allowed his anger to reach out with the censor with burning coals to attack the priests themselves. But in that very second the fingers of God reached from heaven and smote him with leprosy on his very forehead. Uzziah knew what had happened as well as the priests that saw in horror this judgment of the Living God and so he himself hasted to go out because Jehovah had smitten him. Nothing can be more tragic than the spectacle of this mighty king who had reigned 52 years in Jerusalem sitting all by himself, isolated in a house or an infirmary according to the instructions given in [Lev. 13:45-46]
for lepers. Does this not remind us of Isaiah 6:5 when Isaiah confessed when he saw the Holy One of Israel in the year that King Uzziah died, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”
 
III.             THE REIGN OF JOTHAM [II Chronicles 27] – he is a comparatively obscure king in the line of Davidic kings of Jerusalem. This may be true because his reign was overlapped by that of his more famous father and his more infamous son. But he was basically a godly man and God did grant him a victory against the Ammonites [II Chron. 27:5]. A victory that is not mentioned in the book of Kings. The only thing said against his reign is that he didn’t enter into the temple of Jehovah [v 2] and the people did yet corruptly. We might wonder what the significance of those words would be. Possibly the fact that Uzziah was smitten with leprosy in the temple created within the heart of his son a revulsion at sitting foot any more in the place of his father’s judgment and defilement. Be that as it may we do read in [v 6] that Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before Jehovah his God.
 
IV. THE REIGN OF AHAZ [II CHRONICLES 28]
A.    His depravity – was a shocking contrast to his godly father and ranks among the most wicked rulers of the southern kingdom in a class with such blots on the biblical record as Jehoram. Athaliah, Manasseh, Jehoichin, and Zedekiah. His personal contribution to the record of royal depravity was to burn alive some of his own children [II Chron. 28:3] as sacrifices to the god Molech an example that his grandson Manasseh would later follow. God’s response to this was to permit an Ephraimite to kill another of his sons [v 7], so that when Hezekiah finally became king he had no brothers to challenge him.
B.     Deportation to Damascus – his ascension to the throne took place at a time of great international tension and turmoil. At this time the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken over by Pekah. By popular support against the completely foreign submission of another king of the north Menahem who had paid tremendous tribute to buy off the Assyrians. Pekah determined that with the help of the king of Syria, Rezin he would block the westward move of the Assyrians. And in order to do this Pekah and Rezin needed a confederacy of western kingdoms in order to have a united front against this monster from the east. Judah refused to cooperate and therefore Pekah and Rezin attacked Judah in order to depose their king. They did succeed in capturing the king and dragging him to Damascus as a hostage but he was not killed on this occasion. Perhaps forced to promise that he would not cause trouble he was released. But 120,000 of his Judean troops were killed in this battle along with one of his sons.
C.     Judean captives released – not only that but 200,000 of his citizens were dragged north to Samaria as spoils of victory. Were it not for the fact that Jehovah in His mercy sent a prophet named Oded these would have been a permanent loss to the southern kingdom [v 9]. Oded reminded the northerners that they too had sinned against Jehovah and from these words [v 9] he forced them to release these captives and send them down to Jericho with adequate provisions. Thus God in his mercy spared the southern kingdom of a blow from which it doubtless would have never recovered.
D.    Pekah and Rezin threaten to invade again – in the meantime the northern kingdoms determined to attack again.
E.     Isaiah’s stern warnings – God sent Isaiah personally to speak to Ahaz and the message was either trust me to protect your kingdom or be destroyed and in order to encourage you to trust me I will offer you a supernatural spectacular sign in the heaven above or the earth beneath I will do it. Ahaz in mock humility declined this magnificent offer of the living God and determined to follow through on a wicked plot that he had already hatched. Namely to follow the wicked example of one of his ancestors, Asa and hire a foreign army to get Israel off his back.
F.      Efforts to please Tiglathpileser – he had already determined to send to Tiglathpileser III the king of Nineveh a bribe to come and attack both Syria and Israel. Isaiah warned him that if he tried this he and his people would regret it bitterly because he would be reaping a whirlwind in the years to come. And so the second threatened invasion neither frightened Ahaz or his people into submission to God nor was it permitted by God to succeed in its wicked plot. Somehow God prevented this invasion from being successful or even from being launched until Tiglathpileser the Assyrian king did sweep in and kill Rezin at Damascus, conquered the northern kingdom at Israel and Pekah was killed.
G.    Desecrations, frustrations, and death – but if Ahaz thought he could gain a solid and lasting friendship with Assyria by means of bribery he was utterly mistaken. He was now in the “big leagues” of international intrigue and political depravity, where truth, honesty, faithfulness, and love were unknown entities. Having deliberately abandoned Jehovah, he and his little kingdom were now hopelessly enmeshed in satan’s web [Is. 8:6-8]. Ahaz died and was buried in dishonor. And such would have been the fate of his kingdom too were it not for Hezekiah his son, whose faith in Jehovah in an hour of ultimate crisis was God’s reason for extending the nation’s existence yet another hundred years.
 
THE ASSYRIANS THREATEN HEZEKIAH
 
I. YEARS OF REVIVAL AND BLESSING [II Kings 18:1-8; II Chronicles 29-31] – the reign of Hezekiah goes down in history as the most godly of any recorded in the OT, with the possible exception of King Josiah who lived 100 years later. The scriptures tell us that this man not only tell us that this man trusted in the Lord God of Israel but that he inaugurated an enormous program of negative cleansing and positive revival that continued for the first years of his reign.
  1. The brazen serpent destroyed – among the negative aspects of the reformation was the removal of the brazen serpent that Moses had made 700 years earlier [Num. 21:8-9]. The brazen serpent was a visible sign of God’s power through simple faith to accomplish miracle. The Lord Jesus used that as an example of what He Himself would accomplish on the cross [John 3:14-15]. For centuries the brazen serpent had been kept in a prominent place in Jerusalem as a reminder of God’s power to heal people and to save. But now it had become and idol in itself. Instead of seeing what this stood for superstitious Israelites bowed down before it expecting by this means to receive help as it were from the idol. All through the Bible God denounces good things that are perverted to unworthy purposes and even the brazen serpent of Moses was no exception. Hezekiah did to that sacred object what any one must do to something that positions itself between the soul and his God. And that is to see exactly for what it is and in this case a Nehushtan, a mere piece of brass and to destroy it. This was symbolic of Hezekiah’s ministry. First things first clear sharp discernment of the things that mattered.
  2. The great Passover feast – according to the book of II Chronicles one of the most spectacular works of Hezekiah in the beginning of his reign was the great Passover Feast which had to be postponed until the second month instead of the first where it normally should have taken place because of the ceremonial defilement of those who were invited to participate. This was a tremendous ceremony because not only did the southern kingdom of Judah participate but the northern kingdom was also invited as messengers were sent carrying official invitations from Hezekiah to those who had survived the destruction of the northern kingdom only a few years earlier. There was a spiritual and political vacuum in the northern kingdom as the process of transporting foreign populations into that kingdom took place and many scoffed but some responded and came to the south land. Having been drawn as it were by the magnet of true revival in Jerusalem again as it had been in the very beginning of the divided kingdom age in the early years of Rehoboam. God did have a remnant of true believers even in the northern kingdom battered, bludgeoned though it was under the iron fist of the Assyrian invaders.
  3. The rebellion against Assyria – however as the years went by Hezekiah presumably like many of his godly predecessors upon the throne, Uzziah, Amaziah, Asa, became complacent under the blessings of the Lord. At least we can be sure of this in light of the sequel that Hezekiah underestimated the challenge that he would receive from the Assyrians by rebelling against them [II Kings 18:7]. At first glance this seems like a bold act but on closer inspection of the history of that time we realize that the Assyrians were preoccupied on the eastern frontier and were unable to cope with insurrections on the west of the their empire. And in fact in the year 705 B.C. the king died [Sargon who had participated in the conquest of Samaria under Shalmanneser V] and a new king Sennacherib took the throne. And during this transition period when Assyria was least capable of retaliating against those who would defy her power and authority and cut off tribute from the overlord. This is when Hezekiah decided to make his move. 
II.      SENNACHERIB ARRIVES IN JUDAH [II Kings 18:13-16]
  1. Hezekiah ask for terms – we are not surprised to see that the King of Assyria reacted quickly we read in [v 13] that it was in the 14th year of Hezekiah 701 B.C. that Sennacherib came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. We know from the Assyrian records of this period that Judah was not the only country that was attacked by Sennacherib. He gives records in his clay tablets that the Assyrians have carefully preserved of attacking Sidon, Arvad, Byblos, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Joppa. So Judah was just one of a number of little kingdoms in the west that had refused to pay tribute for a number of years to the Assyrian overlord from the east. When Sennacherib came to Judah Hezekiah was utterly terrified by this sudden and unexpected confrontation with the mighty Assyrian army, and therefore allowed himself to be caught in a trap of his own making. [Proverbs 29:25]] tells us that the fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoso putteth his trust in Jehovah shall be safe. Instead of trusting God however he asked for terms of peace which is exactly what any worldly ruler would have done under the circumstances [cf. I Kings 20:4]. In the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in speaking of the typical responses of earthly kings to crisis like this [see Luke 14:31-32].
  2. Precious metals collected for tribute – here the conditions for peace were crushing. Sennacherib imposed upon little Judah an enormous tribute burden of approximately two million dollars in modern currency and Hezekiah in desperation had to empty both the palace and temple treasuries and even to strip the gold from the doors and pillars of the temple [II Kings 18:16]. Instead of accomplishing the purpose intended all this did was to whet the appetite of the greedy Assyrians for taking everything else that the kingdom and capital had to offer. We can’t help but remember the vain effort to appease Hitler in 1938 by giving him the outer border regions of Czechoslovakia which simply weakened their capacity to resist his onslaught and hastened the day when all of Europe would be under his heel. There is no such thing as compromise with satan and satan’s instruments. 
III. RABSHAKEH’S CHALLENGE TO HEZEKIAH’S MEN [II Kings 18:17-37]
  1. The confrontation of ambassadors – now the Assyrian sent three of his most brilliant ambassadors to confront little Jerusalem bottled up as the remaining isolated remnant of the kingdom of Judah that had escaped thus far the overwhelming forces of the Assyrian army. Tartan which means Field Marshall [cf. Is. 20:1; Rab-saris which means Chief Eunuch [cf. Jer. 39:3]; and Rabshakeh meaning Chief Officer. Sennacherib confronting the Egyptian army under an Ethiopian ruler in the southern borders of Judah at this time was desperate to protect his left flank from any possible counterattack emanating from Jerusalem. This powerful almost impregnable fortress city in the hills of Judea. Therefore instead of sending his whole army he sent three brilliant men who were skilled and doubtless successful in arguing cities to surrender. Which in the case of the Assyrian army would be a far more wonderful and effective way to solve a problem that they weren’t willing to face. Interestingly they stood in the conduit of the upper pool which is in the highway of the fuller’s field [II Kings 18:17] an area in northwest Jerusalem that was flat and was accessible to flowing water where for centuries laundrymen had whitened the clothes of the aristocracy of Jerusalem. Here it was in this very same spot that King Ahaz was confronted by Isaiah who warned him that the Assyrians would come even to Jerusalem if he did not choose God’s way of simple faith and patient waiting upon the Lord [Is. 7:3-17]. And 33 years later the Assyrians stood on this spot and threatened Jerusalem with destruction and deportation. The Jews responded by sending three of their ambassadors Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah to answer the threats and to have a summit meeting with the representatives of this great pagan power. It’s interesting to observe the real purpose of the Assyrians it wasn’t to argue or to reason or to come to come to terms. It was to intimidate, terrify, and frighten not just these three ambassadors but the whole population of Jerusalem that was lined up on the walls of the city to over hear this discussion that would determine their own fate and destiny. When during the midst of the debate the three Jewish ambassadors plead with the Assyrians not to speak in Hebrew any longer [v 26] because the Jews on the wall could hear. The response of Rabshakeh was that they were sent for the very purpose of doing that. Now if Rabshakeh could speak Hebrew is an interesting question. How could an Assyrian ambassador have had time or opportunity to master the Jews own language for such a confrontation as this? Possibly he spoke through an interpreter whose name is not mentioned a captive Jew perhaps. But in any case he insisted in speaking in Hebrew rather than in Aramaic which was being used more and more in the Near East replacing the cumbersome Akkadian language which was the official language of the Assyrians and Babylonians [II Kings 18:27]. The following are the six arguments used by Rabshakeh as to why the Jews should surrender their city.
  2. The great challenge by Rabshakeh
    1. Egypt cannot help Judah – [II Kings 18:19-25] – this argument is actually quite valid: Egypt was an undependable and weak reed to lean upon as far as military alliance was concerned. Isaiah the prophet had repeatedly warned the Jews against heeding the pro-Egyptian party in Judah, which tended to grow in influence whenever pressure from Assyria increased [Is. 30:2, 5, 7; 31:1]. And so the pro-Egyptian party in Jerusalem heard the message loud and clear and doubtless trembled in response. The real reason why Egypt was of no help to Israel was that God blocked any alternative to trusting in Him.
    2. Hezekiah has offended Jehovah – [II Kings 18:4] – this argument was a theological argument that perhaps was very impressive to the Assyrians but must have sounded ridiculous to Jews who knew anything about their God and His uniqueness. He said if you say to me we trust in Jehovah our God is not that he who’s high places and altars that Hezekiah has taken away. And has said to Judah and Jerusalem ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem. In other words the Assyrians had heard of the iconoclastic policies of Hezekiah in destroying various high places, rival worship centers, and even the brazen serpent in his desperation to cleanse the land from all of its idolatry. The Assyrians who believed that the power of a nation depended upon the number and size of their idols completely misinterpreted this to mean that Hezekiah was atheistic or was not traditional as a Jehovah worshiper and therefore they assumed that he would displease the very God he was calling upon now to help them. Doubtless many Jews hearing this must have laughed within themselves.
    3. The Assyrian army is gigantic – the third argument was impressive and basically valid as far as it went [II Kings 18:23-24]. It is true that the Assyrians had an incomparable war machine and the numbers were vast and the pitiful resources of Hezekiah in Jerusalem was no match for an army of this size and reputation. But of course here we recognize not only a spiritual truth that God delights in small and weak instruments to accomplish great victories against the mighty and the many. But just a practical military problem namely how could a vast army of chariots and horses do anything more to conquer an impregnable mountain fortress than a small army? So this was simply boasting and we may hope that many Jews saw through this argument too.
    4. Jehovah has sent the Assyrians to Judah – but the fourth argument another theological argument like the second one must have been startling indeed [II Kings 18:25]. We are amazed at this because it is entirely possible that God has said something to Sennacherib concerning the investment and the siege of Jerusalem. We do now that later on Pharaoh Neco was told by Jehovah to move up through the plains of Megiddo on his way to the Euphrates in a desperate last ditch effort to block the westward movement of the Babylonian armies. And when godly king Josiah tried to stop him Pharaoh Neco warned him that Jehovah had said for him to go through. Josiah did not believe the word of Jehovah that came through Pharaoh according to [II Chronicles 35:20-22]. This is mysterious indeed and it may have been true here in the case of Sennacherib. But we also must recognize that for years Isaiah the prophet had warned that Assyria the rod of Jehovah’s anger would bludgeon an apostate nation into submission and possibly his messengers, his spies had heard those sermons and determined them to be unconditional. We do know that Nebuchadnezzer knew about Jeremiah’s sermons and honored him when Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C., we may presume that King Cyrus heard of Daniel’s warnings against Beltshazzer and honored him when Babylon fell in 539 B.C., but the instructor believes that God had not spoken a message to Sennacherib and its possible also that he was simply inventing this even as Cyrus of Persia claimed that Marduk, the god of Babylon had called him to march against Babylon and conquer it. This in other words was typical propaganda pressure because we do know that in a later passage God Himself said that Rabshakeh was a blasphemer and therefore this speech did not come directly from the Lord [II Kings 19:6, 22]. God told Hezekiah not to worry about the words of the Assyrians.
    5. (Parenthesis: “I will continue to speak in Hebrew”) - When during the midst of the debate the three Jewish ambassadors plead with the Assyrians not to speak in Hebrew any longer [v 26] because the Jews on the wall could hear. The response of Rabshakeh was that they were sent for the very purpose of doing that. Now if Rabshakeh could speak Hebrew is an interesting question. How could an Assyrian ambassador have had time or opportunity to master the Jews own language for such a confrontation as this? Possibly he spoke through an interpreter whose name is not mentioned a captive Jew perhaps. But in any case he insisted in speaking in Hebrew rather than in Aramaic which was being used more and more in the Near East replacing the cumbersome Akkadian language which was the official language of the Assyrians and Babylonians [II Kings 18:27].
    6. We will deport you to a much better land – [II Kings 18:31-32] this fifth argument of Sennacherib’s ambassador must go down in history as one of the clumsiest and most transparent propaganda appeals on record. If you will just surrender unconditionally to us, said the Assyrian, we will provide for you free transportation to a beautiful land far away, where each of you will have a private cistern surrounded by vines, grain, and both olive and fig trees – like the Garden of Eden! The only problem with this impressive travel and settlement plan was that the sponsors had a very bad reputation. The Assyrians were experts in handling mass deportations from one end of the Fertile Crescent to the other, and heartless cruelty was their trademark [cf. Nahum 3:1-4, 19]. Was Rabshakeh incapable of recognizing that the Judeans had a clear memory of what had happened to their northern neighbors just two decades earlier – at the hands of gentle and gracious Assyrians [cf. II Kings 17:23-24]?
    7. No other kingdom has successfully resisted us – this last argument is another theological argument [II Kings 18:33-35]. Other gods that had protected greater cities than Jerusalem namely the gods of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, Ivvah, and Samaria had proven to be utterly ineffective against the might of Ashur, the god of the Assyrians. So what could Jehovah do except to surrender His city to prevent its destruction? This argument like the second one must have seemed quite unimpressive to those Jews who had any concept of the uniqueness of Jehovah.
  3. The Jewish ambassadors return to the king – the arguments were now ended. Could they be answered and refuted on a human level? No. What, then, could the Jews say to Rabshakeh? Nothing. [see II Tim. 2:23-24] Foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they engender strifes. And the Lord’s servant must not strive. Hezekiah did the right thing in commanding his delegation: Answer him not [II Kings 18:36]; for the only answer the Assyrians could possibly understand would be the language of action in the form of supernatural judgment. 
 GOD ANSWERS THE ASSYRIANS
 
I. HEZEKIAH’S FIRST PRAYER TO JEHOVAH [II Kings 19:1-7]
A.    The wise response to serious temptation - this method of responding to the Assyrian challenge did succeed whereas the method of trying to bribe the Assyrians miserably failed. God’s way ridiculous though it may seem from the standpoint of the finite and rational mind of man is always the successful way because God knows best. This particular method involved four things that stand as a permanent pattern of victory for those under pressure and temptation.
1.      Self-humiliation – Hezekiah recognized himself to be utterly helpless to cope with the crisis
2.      Go to the place of worship – Hezekiah went into the house of God and confronted the Living God in all of His glory and majesty.
3.      Consult God’s word – God has given a revelation of His mind and purpose. In the days of Hezekiah before the scriptures were completed he had access to a prophet who could speak the Living Word of God directly and in this case God sent [v 2].
4.      Be concerned for God’s honor – there needs to be a deep genuine concern for God’s honor [v 4]
B.     God’s gracious promise – [vv 6-7] spoken by the prophet Isaiah and it is the promise that God will take care of the problem.
 
II. THE ASSYRIANS’ SECOND THREAT [II Kings 19:8-13]
  1. Pressure from Tirhakah – at this time Tirhakah was not the Pharaoh of Egypt has he became a few years later but was presumably a general in charge of the armies of the Egyptians. Although he was of Ethiopian extraction he dominated the Egyptian scene at this particular period of their history. We are not to think that the statements in [vv 8-9] are the fulfillment of the promise of [v 7] because the fulfillment of [v 7] promise is that God somehow would put in Sennacherib’s ear some kind of rumor to the effect that there was trouble back in Nineveh and then God would cause him to return to his own land without his army. Thus God’s plot and trap for the godless blasphemer from Assyria was about to be sprung.
  2. Pressure upon Hezekiah – in desperation the Assyrians sent another messenger back to Jerusalem in order to browbeat them and to intimidate them into surrender so that he would not have to withdraw his troops from the frontier of Egypt and to deal with this island of resistance at Jerusalem. As he came back with a second threat Rabshakeh said nothing new except to add more examples of other great cities that had refused to surrender to the mighty Assyrian army, namely, Gozan, Haran, Reseph, and Telassar [II Kings 19:12]. This is the kind of rumor that Rahab and the people Canaan had trembled at as Joshua’s spies came to hear her amazing words of testimony with regard to the terrifying reputation of the people of Israel and their God. But in this case of course it didn’t work because the Assyrians were representing false gods and therefore Hezekiah instead of collapsing under the pressure did what any godly man must do under similar circumstances as this and that is to deliberately cast his burden upon the Lord [I Peter 5:7]. 
III. HEZEKIAH’S SECOND PRAYER TO JEHOVAH [II Kings 19:14-19]
  1. Jehovah is unique – Hezekiah received the letter, read the letter and then spread the letter before the Lord. How often in times of crisis and discouragement do we bring our problems and the challenges of the world around us and spread them before the God we know and love? This second prayer of Hezekiah received a spectacular answer from God because it was spoken from a heart that knew the uniqueness and the true glory of God. And the insignificance of puny man and his supposed deities. [v 15] speaks of the greatness of God
  2. Sennacherib a mere man – the second point is that Sennacherib is a mere finite sinful man [v 16]
  3. Pagan gods non-existent – a keen insight into the theological deficiency of the enemy that was pressure him to surrender [ vv 17-18]. Since they weren’t even deities in the first place it is little wonder that they proved to be pushovers for the Assyrian army and its king.
  4. Jehovah will be glorified – [v 19] why should God save them out of the hand of Sennacherib? What is the purpose and goal? Note carefully that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that Jehovah is God alone. God’s glory is appealed to by Hezekiah as a legitimate basis for this bold request of God’s supernatural intervention. Jesus promised that if we pray anything according to His will that God will hear us and God will accomplish through our humble prayer of faith in light of His revealed word amazing things by miracle if need be in the light of eternity and so it was here. 
IV. JEHOVAH’S RESPONSE THROUGH ISAIAH [II Kings 19:20-34]
  1. The reply to Sennacherib – Sennacherib made a fatal miscalculation when he thought of Jerusalem as just another city [II Kings 19:21-22]. Other great cities may have their kings [cf. Is. 7:8-9], but Jerusalem also has a heavenly King who happens to be the Sovereign God of the entire earth. With insufferable pride, Sennacherib’s army had destroyed one kingdom after another, like an irresponsible lumber company slashing down a beautiful forest [II Kings 19:23]. But the truth of the matter was that Jehovah had long since planned and prepared the Assyrians for this very task of destroying many cities [II Kings 19:25]. The fact that they couldn’t resist him did not so much reflect Sennacherib’s skill as it did the irresistible purpose of Jehovah for the Assyrian king was nothing but an axe, a saw, a rod or a staff in the hand of God [Is 10:15]. To prove this, He would take the raging, arrogant Assyrian by his nose and lips and lead him back to Nineveh [II Kings 19:28]. What a comfort to God’s people today to know that He has a hook in the nose of their arch-enemy satan who can do nothing outside of the will of their heavenly Father [Job 1:12; Rev. 20:2].
  2. The encouragement for Judah – [II Kings 19:29-31] – the fruitful fields and vineyards which the Assyrians had devastated [cf. Is 7:18-25] would be resown and replanted, and by the third year the normal agricultural cycle would function again. To encourage his people, it is quite possible that Hezekiah wrote Psalm 126. the first three verses of this psalm reflect the national and international astonishment that Jerusalem could be delivered so suddenly from such peril [cf. II Chron. 32:22-23]. Verse 4 is a prayer for the return of prosperity. And [vv 5-6] are an encouragement to the remnant of Judah to sow their precious seed [instead of eating it], for even though it might involve weeping and tears, yet great joy would come with the harvesting of the sheaves.
  3. Jerusalem will be defended – the threatened siege of Jerusalem would not materialize at all, for Jehovah would defend it to vindicate His glory which had been blasphemed [cf. I Kings 20:28], and to honor the covenant promise He had made to David [II Sam. 7]. The completeness of God’s protection [no arrows, shields, or mounds] reminds us of the three friends of Daniel who emerged from the fiery furnace with no clothing burned, nor hair singed, nor even the smell of fire [Dan. 3:27]. There would be no question as to who had saved Jerusalem. 
V. THE FINAL OUTCOME [II Kings 19:35-37]
  1. The Assyrians killed by the Lord – and it came to pass that night that the angel of the Lord [the pre-incarnate Christ] went forth and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! Is this difficult for us to believe? In order to make the narrative more palatable to the modern mind, some have pointed to a tradition recorded by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus that mice once infested a camp of the Assyrian army and ate the bow-strings and leather shield handles. The actual truth of the tradition, we are told, is the presence of mice which would have spread bubonic plague and thus destroyed the army. But would this many men die from such a cause in one night? It is also suggested that 185,000 is an exaggerated figure that somehow got into the text of II Kings. Note, for example, this unfortunate and irresponsible comment by an evangelical scholar: “there is no evidence outside of the Bible of such tremendous loss; in Chronicles it is much more moderate…a pestilence such as bubonic plague may have been behind both stories [i.e., Herodotus and II Kings]” Does every miracle in the Bible have to be confirmed by outside sources before we can really believe it? Does the fact that II Chronicles 32:31 omits the number of soldiers killed contradict the number given in II Kings, which is found in Isaiah 37:36? Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God [Matt. 22:29]. However, those who are skilled at reading between the lines of Assyrian historical records find convincing evidence of a great Assyrian military debacle in Palestine at this time. In his famous Prism Inscription Sennacherib states: “Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen it, had deserted him, he did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver…” Now the fact that Sennacherib said nothing about conquering Jerusalem is tantamount to admitting a total defeat, for otherwise he would have gloated over the conquest in great detail. Furthermore, it was 13 years before the Assyrians appeared in Palestine again. 
  2. Sennacherib had returned to Nineveh alone – apparently it was shortly before the destruction of his army that Sennacherib had returned to his capital city Nineveh [II Kings 19:7]. We are not told how this was accomplished but just as God had on an earlier occasion had created the sound of Egyptian and Hittite armies to terrify the Syrians in abandoning all of their equipment so here God had ways of getting Sennacherib away from the scene of imminent disaster for his army.
  3. Sennacherib later murdered by his sons – 20 years later [681 B.C.] as he was worshiping in his palace chapel, two of his sons [Is 37:38] assassinated him and fled northward to the region of Aarat between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Another son, Esarhaddon [681-669B.C.], took the throne and completed the task of transplanting Israelites to the eastern parts of the empire and replacing them with other peoples [II Kings 17:24-41; cf. Is. 7:8; Ezra 4:2]. In a fascinating inscription, Esarhaddon tells how his father Sennacherib preferred him above his older brothers, who thereupon abandoned godliness, put their trust in bold actions, planning an evil plot. Furthermore, Ashurbanipal, the son of Esarhaddon, gives us a hint as to how Sennacherib died:.. “others, I smashed alive with the very same statues of protective deities with which they had smashed my own grandfather Sennacherib – now finally as a belated burial sacrifice for his soul.” Fitting these scraps of information together, we may assume that it was in revenge for being passed over as heirs to the throne that Esarhaddon’s older brothers crept into their father’s private prayer chapel and pushed over on him a gigantic statue of Nisroch, his god. And thus the great and proud king of Assyria, who boasted that Hezekiah’s God was utterly helpless, not only lost his army at one flick of Jehovah’s finger but was himself crushed to death by the idol of a non-existent deity to whom he had devoted his life.
 HEZEKIAH AND THE BABYLONIANS
 
I. THE ORDER OF EVENTS [II Kings 20:18-19]
  1. The city will be defended – there are several reasons for believing that Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery, and the visit of the ambassadors from Babylon, took place before the attack of Sennacherib as recorded in the previous two chapters. In the first place, when God responded to Hezekiah’s prayer and promised to heal him, He also promised in [II Kings 20:6]. Such a promise would seem unnecessary if the Assyrian army had just been destroyed and Sennacherib had returned to Nineveh.
  2. The treasures were first shown to the Babylonians – secondly it would seem highly unlikely that Hezekiah could show the Babylonian ambassadors “all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold” [II Kings 20:13], if he had just stripped both the temple and the palace of all their gold and silver [including the plating on the doors and pillars] to buy off the Assyrians [II Kings 18:15-16].
  3. Hezekiah was not thankful [II Chronicles 32:24-25] – thirdly, [II Chronicles 32:25-26] informs us that after God healed him, Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of Jehovah came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah. It seems quite clear from this statement that the payment of heavy tribute and the threat of siege by Rabshakeh came after Hezekiah was healed of a deadly disease. 
II. SICKNESS AND RECOVERY [II Kings 20:1-7]
  1. God’s warning – why did the Lord tell Hezekiah to prepare to die? It is true, of course, that it is appointed unto men once to die [Heb. 9:27], but this is the only recorded instance of God telling a righteous man to prepare to die while he was still in the prime of life [Is. 38:10]. The answer seems to be that God choose to use this means to chasten Hezekiah because of a growing pride of heart. The record of unparalleled blessings [II Chronicles 29-31] that were his during the early years of revival and reformation is followed immediately by this ominous statement [II Chron. 32:1]. It is important to note that even after God healed him Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up [II Chron. 32:35]. The God who understands our thoughts afar off [Ps. 139:2] is jealous of our love and devotion to Him, and whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth [Heb. 12:6]. But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent…or else I come to thee, and will remove thy candlestick [Rev. 2:4-5]. Only in the light of such warnings can we understand the apparent severity of God’s dealings with the sins of Moses [Num. 20:12], David [II Sam. 12:10-14], and Uzziah [II Chron. 26:16-21]. We may assume, then, that if [II Kings 20:1] were expanded, it would read: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death because Jehovah chastened him for the pride that was rising in his heart after so many years of prosperity and blessing.”
  2. Hezekiah’s prayer – just as King David fasted and wept when the Lord brought a great sickness upon his and Bathsheba’s child [II Sam 12:16, 22], so now Hezekiah wept sore under the chastening hand of a gracious God who desires nothing but the best for His children [cf. Rom. 8:28, 32]. It was not that Hezekiah’s years of God-honoring service had been forgotten [cf. Heb. 6:10]. It was not that he had borne no spiritual fruit at all. The fact of the matter is, that only those who bear spiritual fruit are chastened [John 15:2]. May it never be forgotten that it was Hezekiah’s repentant tears rather than his great works that brought the miracle of physical healing [II Kings 20:7], the miracle of Jerusalem’s defense [II Kings 20:6], and the miracle of the retreating shadow [II Kings 20:8-11].
  3. God’s promise – one of the more unpleasant tasks that God imposed upon His prophets in those days was that of pronouncing judgment upon kings that had stepped outside the will of God. Isaiah had already had very unpleasant experiences with Ahaz [Is 7:13], and it must have brought him great joy to see and to participate in Hezekiah’s national reforms. Nothing could have been farther from his heart than to see now the untimely death of this great king. We can imagine his joy therefore when the Lord stopped him soon after he had given Hezekiah the divine death sentence and told him to return to the king with the assurance that he would recover within three days and that fifteen years would be added to his life. What would I do with the remainder of my life if God told me that I had just fifteen years to live? What did Hezekiah do with those years? The Bible doesn’t tell us, for the last event recorded of his reign was the destruction of Sennacherib’s army in 701 B.C., [which probably occurred less than a year after his sickness]. It has long been suggested that one reason why God prolonged his life was that he had no male heir to the throne [II Kings 21:1] states that Manasseh was only 12 when he began to reign. However, it is probable that Manasseh was a co-regent with his father for nearly ten years; because otherwise it would be impossible to fit the 55 years of his reign into this period of Judah’s history, working back as we must from the fixed dates of the Babylonian captivity. Judging from Manasseh’s character [II Kings 21:1-18], Hezekiah’s remaining years were not fruitful in passing on to his son the great truths God had taught him, though his godly influence must have been one factor in Manasseh’s later deep repentance [II Chron. 33:12-13].
  4. Hezekiah’s recovery – the statement that Hezekiah recovered [II Kings 20:7] obviously follows the giving of the sign that he would recover [II Kings 20:8-11]. For the sake of clarity therefore, [v 8] should be translated: “And Hezekiah had said unto Isaiah, what shall be the sign that Jehovah will heal me?” It is instructive to contrast the request for a sign with the attitude of Ahaz, his father, who refused to ask for a faith-strengthening sign when the Lord promised to perform a spectacular miracle for him [Is. 7:11]. Ahaz had already determined his course of action against Pekah and Rezin, namely, to call the Assyrians to his assistance; and he was not interested in committing himself to God’s way as presented by Isaiah the prophet. Therefore his response [Is. 7:12], was pure unbelief cloaked in the garment of piety. As in the case of Moses, Gideon, Nathanael, and others, a sign could be of great help only if there was genuine faith already present. The sign God gave to Hezekiah was certainly one of the most spectacular miracles in OT history. In the courtyard of the palace there was a series of steps so arranged that the shadow cast by the sun would give an approximation of the time. At the request of the king, and doubtless in the presence of a large group of officials, the shadow moved backward ten steps or degrees. How did God accomplish this miracle? Did he cause the earth to stop its rotation and turn backwards a little? All true Christians would agree that He could have done such a thing, for by Him all things consist, or hold together [Col. 1:17]. But the Bible makes it rather clear that this was not God’s method; for in referring to this miracle [II Chron. 32:24] states that Hezekiah prayed unto Jehovah; and he spake unto him, and gave him a sign [Hebrew: mopheth]. But in [v 31] we are told that the Babylonians sent ambassadors to Hezekiah to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land. Obviously, then, it was geographically localized miracle, which did not involve a reversal of the earth’s rotation, with shadows retreating ten degrees all over the Near East. Instead, the miracle occurred only in the land [of Judea]; and, to be even more specific, it was only in the king’s courtyard that the sun returned ten steps on the dial wheron it was gone down [Is 38:8]. It is Dr. Whitcomb’s conviction that a proper understanding of the nature of this great miracle helps us to understand what happened in the miracle of Joshua’s long day [Josh. 10:12-14]. Since Joshua’s need was a prolongation of light [not a slowing down of the earth’s rotation], his need could be met by a supernatural continuation of sunlight and moonlight in central Palestine for about a whole day until Joshua’s army could follow up its great victory and completely destroy the enemy. The Bible teaches us that God does not unnecessarily multiply miracles. For example, Jesus did raise Lazarus, but He didn’t remove the stone or the graveclothes. Furthermore, when the Flood ended, God promised to Noah that while the earth remaineth…day and night shall not cease [Gen. 8:22]. This was confirmed to Jeremiah less than a century after the miracle in Hezekiah’s courtyard [see Jer. 33:25-26; cf. 31:36; 33:20-21]. In other words, God has promised the earth would not cease rotating on its axis at the present rate until the very end of human history. Vague reports of a so-called missing day in astronomy must therefore be investigated with extreme caution. 
III. THE SHADOW RETURNS [II Kings 20:8-11]
  1. Promise – with his faith confirmed by this miracle Hezekiah gladly submitted to a fig poultice treatment in his deadly boil. The cake of figs did not heal him, but was a physical token of the work that God was doing, even as Jesus on one occasion put wet clay on the eyes of a blind man while healing him [John 9:6]
  2. Fulfillment – Isaiah’s account of this miracle of healing [from which the authors of Kings and Chronicles apparently selected their materials – II Chron. 32:32] includes a song of thanksgiving Hezekiah wrote when he had been sick and was recovered of his sickness [Is 38:9]. The beauty, depth, and pathos of this song demonstrates that Hezekiah was fully capable under the direction of the Holy Spirit, of contributing significant portions to the poetical books of the OT. That this song was to be use din public worship in the temple is clearly stated in [v 20]. What happened to the other songs recorded in [v 20]? Some scholars believe that they are the ten anonymous songs of Degrees in the group of fifteen [Ps. 120-134]. These psalms do have a certain similarity of style, and we have already seen that Hezekiah probably composed Psalm 126. It has even been suggested that Hezekiah wrote the ten anonymous psalms of this group in memory of the ten steps the shadow returned, and then added five appropriate hitherto unpublished psalms from the pens of David and Solomon [compare Prov. 25:1] to bring the total to fifteen, in honor of the fifteen years God added to his life. 
IV. BABYLONIAN AMBASSADORS VISIT HEZEKIAH [II Kings 20:12-15]
  1. Treasures displayed – Merodach-baladan [Is. 39:1; misspelled “Berodach” in II Kings] was twice king in Babylon, first from 722 to 710 B.C., when he was dethroned by Sargon II, and then again after Sargon died, from about 703-702 B.C., when Sennacherib defeated him again. The Jewish historian Josephus suggests that Merodach sent his representatives to Jerusalem to gain an ally and to stir up additional trouble for the hated Assyrians. This seems highly probable as one of his motives, though the Bible indicates only two [less sinister] purposes: [1] to congratulate Hezekiah for his recovery – Is and II Kings; and [2] to inquire of the wonder [sign] that was done in the land – II Chronicles. The Babylonians were indeed fascinated by the astronomic signs, for their national life revolved around the movement of the planets and comets against the background of fixed stars and the predicted time intervals of solar and lunar eclipses. Expert stargazers [called soothsayers – Dan. 2:27] spent their lives taking amazingly accurate astronomic measurements in order to control the superstitious population through astrology. Isaiah challenged these men to save Babylon from divine judgment if they could [Is. 47:13]. Because of these Babylonian astrologers, millions of heathen were dismayed at the signs of heaven [Jer. 10:2], and we must admit with sorrow that similar influence is gaining momentum even in so-called Christian America today. Thus the Babylonians were particularly amazed and alarmed to hear about the return of the sun’s shadow at the word of King Hezekiah of Judah, and they were convinced that he had some secret powers for manipulating the heavenly bodies. Perhaps a man such as this could be persuaded or bribed into accomplishing the destruction of Assyria by controlling celestial signs.
  2. Isaiah appears – Hezekiah we are told was glad to see these ambassadors [Is 39:2], and thus failed an important spiritual test; for God allowed this to happen to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart [II Chron. 32:31]. What did the test reveal – a deep suspicion of the God who had healed him and spared his life? No, his heart’s desire was to convince these men that he was not a second-rate king according to the world’s standards. And so, instead of learning about the uniqueness and holiness of Jehovah, and the necessity of acknowledging Him alone, they carried back to Babylon nothing more than a knowledge of silver, gold, spices, precious oil, and material treasures [II Kings 20:13]. Thus we see that for Hezekiah the scripture was fulfilled [II Chron. 32:35]. 
V. HEZEKIAH’S JUDGMENT [II Kings 20:16-21]
  1. God’s judgment through Isaiah – the judgment that came upon Hezekiah and his people [who shared his attitude of sinful pride and complacency] was twofold. First, within a matter of months the Assyrians would threaten Jerusalem with destruction and it would be only by a timely repentance on the part of both the king and the people that the city would be spared – [II Chron. 32:25-26]. Second, the very Babylonians in whom he had delighted would some day strip his palace of everything [in fact the Assyrians did this within a few months], carry his descendants into captivity, and make some of then serve as eunuchs in the palace of Babylon.
  2. Hezekiah’s response – Hezekiah’s response was incredibly and criminally shallow – [II Kings 20:19] this was not a confession of sin. It was an expression of the peace in our time policy, that short-sighted attitude that shows little concern for those on whom coming catastrophe shall fall. Therefore Isaiah could only turn to Jehovah and cry out [Is 41:10]. Only after the predicted destruction would there come an end to Israel’s sin of apostasy, and only then would true peace endure.
  3. Hezekiah’s tunnel – the Siloam Tunnel cut by Hezekiah [II Kings 20:20] was a 1750’ conduit that brought the waters of the Spring Gihon inside the city of Jerusalem. See pg 1591, Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia
  4. Hezekiah’s death – see [II Chron. 32:32-33]
 JOSIAH’S REFORM BEGINS
 
I. THE REIGN OF MANASSEH [II Kings 21:1-18]
  1. His abominations – he was 12 years old when he began to reign and he did that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen [vv 1-9]. In spite of the probability that Manasseh became king [or co-regent] about ten years before Hezekiah died, the godly influence of his father created only a negative reaction in the heart of this delinquent teenager. Shocking as this record of royal depravity may be, especially following the great revival of true religion in Hezekiah’s day, we have ample illustrations from our own times of just such reversals. Cultured, and even godly, homes are no guarantee of high quality among children because each child begins at zero, spiritually speaking [Ps 51:5; 58:3]. Children do not necessarily follow in the ways of their parents. Compare Ezekiel’s [18:5-18] analysis of the righteous father, the wicked son, and the righteous grandson. For half a century, Manasseh deliberately duplicated the depravity of the Canaanites whom Joshua was commissioned to destroy [II Kings 21:9; cf. II Chron. 33:9]. In fact, he murdered so many righteous men in Jerusalem that the remnant became too small to spare the nation from total destruction, in spite of the noble reforming efforts of Josiah [II Kings 21:10-15; cf. 23:26]. The fact that the majority of the people tolerated the utter paganism of Manasseh was God’s reason for sealing the doom of the city and the temple, and there could be no escape. God even told Jeremiah [Jer. 7:16; cf. 11:14; 14:11]. Their hearts had been judicially hardened [ Is. 6:9-12]. Included in the innocent blood that Manasseh shed [II Kings 21:16] may have been that of the prophet Isaiah himself; for Jewish tradition relates that he was sawn asunder [cf. Heb. 11:37]. See [II Kings 21:10-16] says that God will do exactly to this king and kingdom what he did to the house of Ahab and wipe out the kingdom and lead them into exile because of their sin. Note the statement found in [II Kings 23:26-27]. No matter what a reforming king could do the depravities and abominations of Manasseh sealed the doom of his kingdom.
  2. His repentance - Is it possible for a man as wicked as Manasseh to turn to God in genuine repentance? Ezekiel said it was possible [18:21-24, 27, 28] and [II Chronicles 33:13] tells us that he did. For some offense against Ashurbanipal, the king of Assyria, Manasseh was dragged to Babylon “with hooks” [II Kings 19:28]. While in prison [II Chron. 33:12-13] states that knew than that Jehovah, He was God. Just as Joseph’s brethren, while in prison, remembered his desperate entreaties, their consciences being activated by extreme adversity [Gen. 42:21], so now Manasseh must have recalled the teachings of his godly father and the warnings of the prophets whom he had slain [II Chron. 33:10]. How much of his 55 year reign was left after this we have no way of knowing, but it was now too late to reverse the trends he had initiated. His wicked son Amon cancelled these belated reforms and soon died at the hands of assassins. 
II. THE REIGN OF AMON [II Kings 21:18-26]
  1. His evil character – Amon must have been well on in years by the time his father died and thoroughly learned the wicked ways of his father in the majority of his reign. As is so often the case a son is skilled in following the evil ways of his parents but is skilled also in avoiding the righteous ways and lessons that God would teach to them. In fact we see [vv 21-22] that he walked not in the ways of God.
  2. His assassination – therefore Amon cancelled the reforms of Manasseh and was soon killed by assassins. 
III. JOSIAH’S EARLY YEARS AND REFORMS [II Kings 22]
  1. His early years – the author of [II Chronicles 34:1-13] lists for us in loving detail the chronological progress of Josiah’s great reformation movement. Who it was in such a corrupt society that instructed and challenged him [apart from the Spirit of God] we are not told. At the tender age of 8 he began to reign [II Chron. 34:1]. At the age of 16 he began to seek after the God of David his father [II Chron. 34:3]. At about the same time Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, died and the once-mighty empire began to fall apart. At the age of 20 Josiah began to cleanse the land of the tokens and instruments of idolatry [II Chron 34:3-7]. A year later the prophet Jeremiah began his ministry [Jer. 25:3].
  2. The temple repaired – at the age of 26 Josiah began to repair the temple with money collected from the remnant of all the tribes, delivering it to Hilkiah the high priest [II Chron. 34:8-9]. We are amazed to read [v 9] because we have no evidence other than this particular verse that Levites had gone throughout the whole of Palestine collecting money for the temple. We realize of course that the northern kingdom had for nearly a century been under the control of the Assyrians. But we also know that the Assyrian grip upon Palestine was greatly weakened because of the death of Ashurbanipal. Therefore it is entirely possible that in the early years of this reformation movement Josiah had encouraged the Levites to go through all the tribes and invite them to participate in the work of Jehovah in the temple at Jerusalem and the response was remarkable because we see once again that the northern ten tribes were not lost God always had a remnant. 
  3. The book of the law recovered – in the process of cleansing the temple of the heaps of rubbish that had accumulated during the reigns of Manasseh and of Amon, the high priest Hilkiah discovered a copy of the book of the law [II Kings 22:8]. Hilkiah gave it to Shaphan the scribe to read, who in turn came to the king. Mentioning first that the temple repairs were proceeding according to schedule, Shaphan then dropped a delayed-fuse bomb with enormous disruptive power – Jehovah’s despised and neglected warnings of national judgment. King Josiah was utterly overwhelmed when he heard God’s description of apostasy and its consequences echoing through the centuries from the time of Moses, and he feared that it might already be too late to bring the nation to repentance. What was the book of the law that Hilkiah discovered? Some Bible students believe that it was the entire Pentateuch, while others claim that it was the book of Deuteronomy or just certain sections like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 that enumerate the judgments God would bring upon His people if they continued to defy His Word. It is frankly quite difficult to imagine that a Davidic king could be so unaware of such a significant portion of scripture, especially when God had so clearly commanded that each king must write a copy of this law in a book, out of which is before the priests and Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life [Deut 17:18-19]. Did not even the priests and the Levites have copies of the law, which it was their special responsibility to teach to people [cf. Lev. 10:11; II Chron. 17:9; 35:3; Neh. 8:7; Mal. 2:6-7]? In seeking to answer this important question, we must remember that Manasseh had wiped out almost every trace of the true religion of Israel during a period of 50 years. As in the later persecutions of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes [168 B.C.] and of the Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian [A.D. 290], so also was Manasseh’s persecution of Israel’s godly remnant, it was probably a capital offense to possess a copy of the scriptures. Thus, whatever copies of the sacred scrolls actually survived this period were probably hidden in caves like those near the Dead Sea where so many priceless manuscripts have been discovered. In passing we must comment on one of the most fantastic fables ever foisted upon the Church by “the father of lies.” Nineteenth century A.D. negative critics of the OT, especially a German scholar named Julius Wellhausen, insisted that the Book of Deuteronomy was invented by an unknown contemporary of King Josiah. Making the scroll to read like an original production of Moses himself, he planted it in the rubbish heaps of the temple in order that it might be discovered during the time of cleansing and repair. The true tragedy of this fantastic theory is that the vast majority of OT scholars in Europe and America adopted it, and its influence continues to the present hour, even though the theory has experienced many modifications [see The New Bible Commentary: Revised, 1970, pp. 34-40].
  4. Huldah the prophetess consulted – the king immediately requested that Jehovah be consulted through His appointed prophets concerning these fearsome words of divine warning. Was there yet hope for the nation? Five years before this, Jeremiah had begun his prophetic ministry in Judah; and Zephaniah was also proclaiming the word of the Lord. But apparently neither of these men was in Jerusalem at this time. So Josiah’s official representatives went to a prophetess in Jerusalem named Huldah, who was probably an aunt of Jeremiah [II Kings 22:14; cf. Jer. 32:7]. This was not the first time that God had spoken to the nation through a woman. Miriam, the sister of Moses, was a prophetess [Ex. 15:20]; Deborah led the nation in a time of crisis and composed an inspired song of victory [Judges 5]; and Isaiah’s wife was also called a prophetess [Is 8:3]. In NT times we recall Anna [Luke 2:36] and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist [Acts 21:9] received this special gift from God for speaking forth His infallible words of truth. It is interesting that Huldah did not refer to Josiah as the king in her first reference to him, but simply as the man [II Kings 22:15]. This was not disrespectful, but apparently was God’s way of emphasizing the frailty of one who, though king, needed His help desperately. In spite of Josiah’s well-meaning efforts, the reformation was essentially superficial; for almost everyone involved in this great revival was insincere except for the king and a tiny remnant of true believers. Jeremiah seems to suggest this very problem when he says in one of his earlier sermons [Jer. 3:10; 12:2].
  5. God’s wrath against Judah – for these reasons, the judgment of God, though postponed, would be certain. Apostasy and paganism were too deeply entrenched in the hearts of the people to be rooted out by mere decrees emanating from the royal palace. But God would spare Josiah from seeing the coming national catastrophe, even as He had spared Hezekiah three generations earlier [II Kings 22:19].
 JOSIAH’S REFORMS AND TRAGIC DEATH
 
I. HULDAH’S PROPHESY
It may seem strange indeed that God would have promised Josiah in [II Kings 22:20], when, as a matter of fact, he was killed by an Egyptian pharaoh on the field of battle [II Chron. 35:23]. The problem, is solved, however, when we realize that for the Israelite, to die in peace meant to die in a state of fellowship with God as a true believer, whether in the front line of battle or at home in bed. In contrast to this, “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked [Is 57:21].
 
II. THE COVENANT RENEWED [II Kings 23:1-3]
Deeply shocked by the word of God through Huldah the prophetess, King Josiah gathered the leaders of the nation to the temple for a public reading of the newly discovered portions of scripture. Then he encouraged all the people to stand with him in a renewal of covenant vows to Jehovah. As we look at the list of Josiah’s great reform movement we are astounded at the mass of idolatrous influences that had been allowed to accumulate in the kingdom, the capital city, and the temple courts:
    1. The paraphernalia of paganism were carted out of the temple and burned in the Kidron Valley, the ashes being used to defile the rival center of Israelite worship at Bethel [II Kings 23:4]
    2. The idolatrous priests were put down [Hos. 10:5; Zeph. 1:4]
    3. The Asherah was removed from the temple and burned.
    4. The tents that male Baal-cult prostitutes had set up in the temple courts were removed.
    5. Priests throughout Judah were recruited to defile idolatrous high places.
    6. The place of human sacrifice to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom, was defiled.
    7. Chariots dedicated to the use of the sun god were burned.
    8. Special heathen altars erected by Ahaz and Manasseh in the temple courts were destroyed.
    9. Sacred shrines which Solomon had erected for his foreign wives on the surrounding hills were destroyed [I Kings 11:5-8]
    10. Jeroboam’s rival altar at Bethel, and all other Samaritan altars, were destroyed and desecrated with the exhumed bones of their priests [I Kings 13:2]
    11. All surviving calf-worshipping priests were slain.
    12. All mediums and wizards were removed from the land [II Kings 21:6]
As we ponder this amazing list, we cannot help but ask what had been accomplished during the previous six years of reforms. It will be recalled that a great national purge of idols had begun in Josiah’s 12th official year [II Chron. 34:3], and the present purge took place in the 18th year. We can only conclude that the task was so gigantic that it took many years to complete. Furthermore, the reform movement may have started slowly because of fear of offending the Assyrian overlords. But as the collapse of Assyrian power following the death of Ashurbanipal became evident to all, and as Jeremiah’s powerful messages struck deep into the consciences of the people, the reformation began to increase in momentum. Another important question arises: what was really accomplished by this great reformation? Were any of the fundamental spiritual problems of the people solved? Was there a widespread turning of the hearts to the Lord? Was the nation now in a position to serve and glorify their God? The answer to these questions, unfortunately is no. This might come as a great surprise to many in our own day who feel that their best energies should be spent on reform movements, purging the nation of this and that physical or moral evil. That such evils are ruining the nation and should be uprooted no sensible person would deny. But the problem is how to deal with the source, not the final product; with the root, not the ultimate fruit. Every true Christian is [or should be] concerned with the problems of environmental pollution, drugs, crime, pornography, governmental inefficiency, communism, war, etc., etc., which threaten the health, morals, and very existence of our society. But if the source and root of these problems is not recognized and dealt with in the light of God’s Word, nothing of permanent value can be accomplished for anyone. Our Lord told of a man [or, in our case, a nation] from whom an evil spirit had been expelled [Matt. 12:43]. Returning to the man the evil spirit found that there had been a great reformation – it was empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man [or nation] became worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation. Here is the abiding lesson of Josiah’s reforms. “Out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders…” [Matt. 15:19; cf. 12:33-35], and unless the heart is dealt with by the Holy Spirit speaking through His Word, there can be neither salvation nor permanent reformation [cf. Ezek. 36:26-27; Rom. 8:14; Eph. 2:1-10; Heb. 4:12].
 
III. THE GREAT REFORMS [II Kings 23:4-27]
  1. In Jerusalem – The paraphernalia of paganism were carted out of the temple and burned in the Kidron Valley, the ashes being used to defile the rival center of Israelite worship at Bethel [II Kings 23:4]
  2. At Bethel – he rooted up the fountainhead of the idolatry by which Israel had broken the covenant [Amos 3:14; 6:10, 13; Jer. 48:13].
  3. In the cities of Samaria - Jeroboam’s rival altar at Bethel, and all other Samaritan altars, were destroyed and desecrated with the exhumed bones of their priests [I Kings 13:2] All surviving calf-worshipping priests were slain.
  4. The great Passover - we are amazed as we read this passage because it certainly appears that conditions had deteriorated so badly in the temple since the days of King Hezekiah that faithful Levites had removed and hidden even the Ark of God. Josiah ordered it to be returned because there could be no proper observation of the Passover with the Ark of God missing from the temple [II Chron. 35:1-3]. [v 3] is important because it assures us that the main purpose of the Levites was to teach the nation as spiritual instructors concerning the things of the Lord. We can read of the further preparations made by the nation in [II Chron. 35:7-19]. This was the greatest Passover since the days of Samuel the prophet 500 years earlier because of the obstacles that had to be overcome and because it was done with such great zeal and according to the Law [Hezekiah’s Passover had to be held in the second month because so many were ceremonially defiled and thus unprepared to observe it [II Chron. 30:2, 3, 17-20].
  5. In Judah - Priests throughout Judah were recruited to defile idolatrous high places.
  6. Insufficiency of mere reforms - Another important question arises: what was really accomplished by this great reformation? Were any of the fundamental spiritual problems of the people solved? Was there a widespread turning of the hearts to the Lord? Was the nation now in a position to serve and glorify their God? The answer to these questions, unfortunately is no. 
IV. JOSIAH’S DEATH [II Kings 23:28-30]
  1. Pharaoh’s threat – the final years of Josiah’s reign saw tremendous changes taking place on the international scene. Nineveh had finally fallen under the combined attacks of Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C., and a remnant of the Assyrian army under Ashuruballit II fled westward to a stronghold on the Euphrates River named Carchemish. By 609 B.C., the Babylonian army was preparing to cross the Euphrates to conquer Syria, having by now consolidated their newly conquered territories to the east. Desiring to block a Babylonian move into Palestine, and to gain control of Syria for themselves, the Egyptians [whose power had increased in ratio to the decline of Assyria] determined to move north to Carchemish and back the Assyrians in their desperate last-ditch stand against the pressures of the Babylonians. The statement that Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates [II Kings 23:29] should better be translated: “on behalf of the king of Assyria, to the river Euphrates.”
  2. Josiah killed - It was at this point that Josiah made his fatal mistake. Thinking perhaps, that any friend of the hated Assyrians was an enemy of his, and boldly disregarding all prophetic warnings against meddling in international affairs, he quickly moved his army to Megiddo to block the Egyptian army. Now came one of the strangest episodes in OT history. The heathen king, Necho II of Egypt, informed Josiah that [II Chron. 35:21]. We would immediately dismiss such a statement as propaganda, of course, were it not for the explanation by the Chronicler that Josiah hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God [II Chron. 35:22]. Furthermore, Necho must be believed, for Josiah was killed. What does this mean? Did Josiah lose his salvation because of disobedience? No, he died in peace as Huldah the prophetess had prophesied. Was Pharaoh-necho a prophet of Jehovah? No, for God had spoken to pagan kings directly as various times without necessarily transforming their hearts [Gen. 12:17-20; 20:3-7]. We may conclude that God wanted to maneuver the Egyptian army to the Euphrates so that Nebuchadnezzar could destroy it as well as the Assyrian army, and thus fulfill His warning that the Babylonians would conquer and chasten Judah [Jer. 25:8-11]. Even more tragic than the fact of Josiah’s death was the manner of his death. Disguising himself as did Ahab, [I Kings 22:30], thus hoping to avoid the deadly wound that he must have suspected God was planning for him, he challenged the Egyptian army in the Valley of Megiddo, only to be pierced by an arrow that was God’s key to the grave where he would be gathered to his fathers in peace. 
THE LAST KINGS OF JUDAH
 
I. LAMENTATION FOR JOSIAH [II Chronicles 35:25]
The significance of Josiah’s death can be see from the great national mourning that took place for him. The prophet Zechariah wrote a century later in [12:11] that Israel would mourn for the Messiah they crucified, even as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. This is a remarkable evidence of the intensity and universality of Judah’s mourning for Josiah. Furthermore, Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah [II Chron. 35:25] and to protect the uniqueness of Josiah’s reputation, Jeremiah commanded the nation not to mourn over the death of Jehoiakim [Jer. 22:18].
 
II. THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ [II Kings 23:30-34]
The tragic death of Josiah at Megiddo marked the end of true quality in the royal line of Judah until the return of Christ to sit upon the throne of David – to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever [Is. 9:7]. As Pharaoh Necho marched his army to the Euphrates in June, 609 B.C., to help the Assyrian army block any further Babylonian advances toward the west, the people of Judah put Josiah’s son Jehoahaz upon the throne in Jerusalem. But his evil reign was a short one, for Pharaoh Necho deposed him at the end of the summer on his return from the Euphrates, and carried him off to Egypt, and elevated Eliakim to the throne. The prophet Jeremiah, who called Jehoahaz “Shallum,” proclaimed an oracle against him: He shall not return thither any more: but in the place whither they have led him captive, there shall he die, and he shall see this land no more [Jer. 22:11-12]. Little did Jeremiah realize that he himself would ultimately be dragged to Egypt in a miniature reversal of the Exodus, never to return to the land he loved [cf. Jer. 43, 44].
 
III. THE REIGN OF JEHOIAKIM [II Kings 23:34-24:6]
  1. Tribute to Pharaoh – for some reason, Pharaoh Necho felt that Eliakim, a brother of Jehoahaz, would be a more dependable vassal. To improve Eliakim’s image with the traditionalists in Judah, Necho changed his name to Jehoiakim. But this was hardly sufficient to offset the vast unpopularity the new king must have incurred when he taxed the people heavily to pay tribute to the Egyptians [II Kings 23:35]. To make matters worse, while the people groaned under these burdens Jehoiakim built for himself a luxurious palace [Jer. 22:14] and then refused to pay the workers [Jer. 22:13]. Jehoiakim was probably the most consistently wicked king of Judah since Ahaz [cf. Jer. 22:15-17]. He took a scroll of Jeremiah’s sermons, calmly cut it into pieces, and threw it into the fire after hearing only three or four columns read [Jer. 36:20-26].
  2. Persecution of Jeremiah – he twice attempted to capture Jeremiah, but was thwarted through the intervention of God and friends [Jer. 26:24; 36:19, 26; cf. 1:19]. However, he did kill the prophet Uriah who preached according to all the words of Jeremiah [Jer. 26:20-23].
  3. Rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar – in Jehoiakim’s 4th year [the summer of 605 B.C.], Pharaoh Necho once again led his army to the Euphrates for a confrontation with the Babylonians. Nabopolassar, the aged king of Babylon was sick at home while his Nebuchadnezzar led the army. Jeremiah had already prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would not only win this battle but would control Judah for 70 years [Jer. 25:1-11; cf. Hab. 1:1-17]. And so the Egyptian army, led like sacrificial lambs to the slaughter [Jer. 46:10], received wounds from Nebuchadnezzar that all the balm of Gilead could never heal [Jer. 46:2, 11]. In a recently translated tablet written in cuneiform, the official scribe of Babylon tells the story: “In the 21st year [605-04 B. C.] the king of Akkad stayed in his own land, Nebuchadnezzar his eldest son, the crown prince, mustered the troops; he marched to Carchemish which is on the bank of the Euphrates, and crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish – they fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him. He accomplished their defeat and to non-existence [beat] them. As for the rest of the Egyptian army which escaped from the defeat [so quickly that] no weapon had reached them, in the district of Hamath the Babylonian troops overtook and defeated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country. At that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of the Hatti-country [Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine].” Sweeping into Palestine in pursuit of the Egyptians, Nebuchadnezzar’s troops besieged Jerusalem until Jehoiakim surrendered. The Chronicler says that Nebuchadnezzar [II Chron. 36:6], but before the plan was fulfilled something of urgent importance happened to cause Nebuchadnezzar to change his mind. He received word that his father Nabopolassar had died in Babylon on August 15th. Realizing that the throne was now in jeopardy, he forced Jehoiakim to promise loyalty as his vassal, took the short route across the Arabian desert to Babylon, and sent some prisoners [including Daniel and his friends] the long way around. The Babylonian Chronicle informs us that Nebuchadnezzar sat on the royal throne in Babylon by September 6, 605 B.C., which was only 23 days after his father died.
  4. Enemies and death - Like Hoshea, the last king of Israel, Jehoiakim must have felt the increasing pressure of the pro-Egyptian party in his kingdom. After 3 years of paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, he finally decided, against the vigorous warnings of Jeremiah [cf. Jer. 36:29], to rebel against the Babylonian monarch [II Kings 24:1]. But God raised up various marauding bands from the north and east to harass Jehoiakim until he was finally killed in early December, 598 B.C. Jeremiah had predicted that they shall not lament for him, saying, in [Jer. 22:18-19; cf. 36:30]. Furthermore, he shall have none to sit on the throne of David [Jer. 36:30], which must have been in anticipation of the curse which would fall upon his son, Jehoiachin. 
IV. THE REIGN AND CAPTIVITY OF JEHOICHIN [II Kings 24:6-17]
  1. His character – Jehoiachin’s wicked reign began and ended when he was only 18 years old, for he ruled for only three months and ten days [II Chron. 36:9]. This is the last legitimate king of Judah. According to [II Kings 24:6-15], the eighth year refrains to the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Because of his father’s treasonous acts, the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem and finally captured it on March 15, 597 B. C.
  2. Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem - This date had finally come to light through the remarkably detailed Babylonian Chronicle: “the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to Hatti-land, and encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month of Adar he seized the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own choice, received its heavy tribute and sent captives to Babylon. This captivity that took place in 597 B.C. was of course phase two of the series of three conquest of Jerusalem. The first being in 605 B.C., when only Daniel, his three friends, and a handful of hostages were taken. Phase two involved a far more drastic judgment upon the city which of course came the harbinger for the final blow in 586 B. C.
  3. Deportation to Babylon – Jehoiachin, together with his mother Nehushta, his wives, and ten thousand leading citizens came out of the city to receive their judgment from the lips of Nebuchadnezzar himself: permanent deportation to Babylon. More treasures were taken from the temple [cf. Dan. 1:2 for the sacred vessels taken in 605 B.C.], leaving just enough sacred furniture for religious ceremonies to be carried on under the high priest Seraiah and the puppet king Zedekiah [II Kings 25:13-18]. Among the captives taken to Babylon at this time was a young priest by the name of Ezekiel. Five years later, at the age of thirty, he began to prophesy to the exiles in Babylon, explaining why Jerusalem was doomed to destruction and why the Shekinah Glory had departed from the temple [Ezek. 1-33]. Look closely at [chapters 8-11 with regard to the Shekinah Glory and the reluctant departure from it]. Ezekiel continued to date his own ministry in terms of Jehoiachin’s reign [Ezek. 1:2], because as long as Jehoiachin lived he [not his uncle Zedekiah] was Judah’s legitimate king. Moreover, Jeremiah made it clear that Jehoiachin was the last legitimate king of Judah [Jer. 22:30]. From the standpoint of the apparent breaking of God’s covenant promise that he would not lack a man to sit upon the throne of David. The answer of course is that the Virgin Born Son Jesus would be adopted by a descendant of Jehoiachin, namely, Joseph of Nazareth who would thereby transmit to Him His royal title to the throne without transmitting to Him the curse of Jehoiachin.
  4. Jehoiachin’s experiences in Babylon – a remarkable series of Babylonian tablets have been discovered which list foreign prisoners who received rations from the royal storehouses from 595 to 570 B.C. Among them Jehoiachin [Yaukin], his five sons and eight other Judeans are named together with other royalty and craftsmen from places in Egypt, Philistia [Ashkelon], Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia, Lydia, Elam, Media, and Persia, some of which are mentioned in the prophecies of Jeremiah. Jehoiachin, held as hostage, was still called “king of Judah.” His royal estates in Judah continued to be managed, at least between 597 and 587, by “Eliakim, steward of Jehoiachin,” impressions of whose seal were found at Debir and Bethshemesh. It seems probable that toward the close of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign Jehoiachin was involved in some treasonous plot; for when Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C., his son Evil-merodach did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; and he spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon, and changed his prison garments. And Jehoiachin did eat bread before him continually all the days of his life: and for his allowance, there was a continual allowance given him of the king, every day a portion, all the days of his life [II Kings 25:27-30]. We can understand this Evil-merodach’s effort to gain favor with subject peoples, especially the Jews, who might be tempted to revolt after the death of his powerful father. It is entirely possible that Jehoiachin suffered because of some ill considered plot that certain Jews had laid against the royal family or against some Babylonian officials in an abortive attempt to cut short their captivity and head back to Jerusalem. In any case God honored this last king by giving him in his last days a measure of the glory that he so little deserved.
  5. His grandson Zerubbabel – led nearly 50,000 Jews back to Judah in 537 B. C., was a grandson of Jehoiachin [Matt. 1:12]. He knew that he could never be Judah’s king because of Jeremiah’s curse, but God compensated with the assurance that “I will make thee as a signet, for I have chosen thee” [Hag. 2:23; contrast Jer. 22:24]. 
ZEDEKIAH, NEBUCHADNEZZAR, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
 
I. ZEDEKIAH, THE PUPPET KING [II Kings 24:17-20]
  1. His attitudes – having sent Jehoiachin to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar placed his uncle Mattaniah on the throne, changing his name to Zedekiah [Jehovah is righteous] and making him swear by Jehovah that he would remain loyal [II Chron. 36:13; Ezek. 17:11-21]. The prophet Ezekiel puts emphasis on the fact that Zedekiah broke the oath to Nebuchadnezzar that he had sworn in the name of Jehovah. It is just possible that Nebuchadnezzar refrained from destroying Jerusalem at this time because of the intervention of Daniel, who five years earlier had been established in the court of Babylon as the supreme interpreter of dreams [Dan. 2:1, 46-49]. If so, he blundered seriously in not leaving Zedekiah in the hands of more qualified advisors, for the puppet king was apparently helpless to bring Judah into submission to Babylon even if he wanted to. Zedekiah and the nobles who were permitted to remain in Judah convinced themselves that they were God’s chosen ones, while the exiles were being punished for their special sins. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel denounced this attitude, explaining that Jehovah would henceforth treat the exiles as “good figs” [Jer. 24] and would be to them a sanctuary for a little while in the countries they are come [Ezek. 11:16]. In fact, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles stating that Jehovah had thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you hope in your latter end [Jer. 29:11].
  2. His oath to Nebuchadnezzar – in his fourth year [539 B.C.], Zedekiah had to appear before Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, presumably to promise again that he would not betray his oath or look toward Egypt for help [Jer. 51:59-64]. In the same year, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to prepare some bonds and bars as symbols of submission to Nebuchadnezzar, and to present them to the ambassadors of five western kingdoms in Jerusalem to take back to their kings.
  3. His rebellion - But all to no avail. Zedekiah’s vacillation between submission to Babylon and flirtation with Egypt finally brought upon him the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the wrath of Jehovah whose name Zedekiah had uttered in his oath of loyalty [Ezek. 17:11-21]. Because of this, Ezekiel referred to him as the “deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day is come [Ezek. 21:25; cf. 14]. 
II. THE SEIGE OF JERUSALEM [II Kings 25:1-7]
  1. Nebuchadnezzar’s approach – Nebuchadnezzar had long been distracted by military commitments elsewhere in his vast empire and even a revolt within his own army in 549 B.C. But now he was free to bring his iron fist down upon rebellious Judah, whose day, like that of Zedekiah had fully come. Using divination to decide whether to attack Rabbah of Ammon first Nebuchadnezzar was led by God to move directly to Jerusalem [Ezek. 21:18-22]. The final agony of Judah had begun. 
  2. The length of the siege – because the siege began in Zedekiah’s 9th year, the 10th month, and ended in his 11th year, the 4th month, it has generally been assumed that the siege lasted for 18 months [January 588 to July 587 B.C.]. However, the siege must have lasted 30 months because Ezekiel states that it began in the tenth month of Jehoiachin’s 9th year [Ezek. 24:1] and the word of Jerusalem’s destruction reached Babylonia in the 10th month of his 12th year, exactly 3 years later [Ezek. 33:21]. Thus, Jerusalem fell on July 18, 586 B.C., and six months later the tragic news came to Ezekiel in Babylon.
  3. Ezekiel and Jeremiah vitally involved – in the light of Ezekiel’s clear chronology, it becomes obvious that the author of Kings was using a Tishri dating system [with the first day of the 7th month being the beginning of the king’s official year] in II Kings 25, so that the 10th month would be early in his 9th year, and the 4th month would be late in his 11th year. This allows sufficient time for the many events to transpire during the siege as described in Jeremiah 32, 33, 34, 37, and 38. While Ezekiel was faithfully and graphically portraying to the exiles in Babylon the inevitability of Jerusalem’s fall, Nebuchadnezzar’s forces drew near to the city. The very day the siege began, Ezekiel’s wife died [Ezek. 24:1, 15-24] – a drastic sign to the exiles that Jehovah’s sanctuary, “the desire of your eyes,” was doomed. In the meantime, Jeremiah was suffering intensely at the hands of his countrymen in Judah, who considered him to be a traitor for counseling surrender to Babylon [Jer. 18:18; 20:7-10]. As a reward for his faithfulness in delivering God’s Word without compromise, Jeremiah was plotted against by the citizens of his home town [Jer. 11:18-23], beaten and put into the stocks [Jer. 28:1-11], thrown into various prisons [Jer. 37:15, 21], and even lowered into a deep cistern full of mire [Jer. 38:6]. God did not allow His prophets who pronounced the doom of God’s judgment upon His city and His temple to stand idly by living in luxury and comfort while His people suffered.
  4. Egypt provides temporary relief – several months after the siege began, Pharaoh Hophra came up into Judah with a large army; and the Babylonians, perhaps recalling the serious losses they suffered at the hands of Pharaoh Necho in a clash at the border of Egypt 601 B.C., decided to withdraw from Jerusalem temporarily. In the meantime, Zedekiah and the people of Judah had agreed under pressure to release their Hebrew bondservants in obedience to God’s law [cf. Ex. 21:2-11]; but when the Babylonian army withdrew, they immediately broke their covenant [Jer. 34:8-21]. Therefore, God assured them that the Egyptians would depart permanently and the Babylonians would destroy the city even if their army consisted of nothing but wounded men [Jer. 37:6-10; 34:22; Ezek. 17:17].
  5. The final months – the final months of the siege of Jerusalem brought Zedekiah to the edge of despair. Secretly and frequently calling for Jeremiah to hear some encouraging word from Jehovah, he was given the clear alternative: surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and not only live in peace but save Jerusalem as well; or keep on resisting and be totally shattered by the Babylonians [Jer. 37:16-17; 38:14-23]. The Chronicler tells us that one of the reasons why God judged Zedekiah is that he humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of Jehovah [II Chron. 36:12]. The story of the confrontation between God’s weeping prophet and the fickle and godless king of Judah is almost without comparison in Scripture for its tragic overtones. Vacillating between the demands of his nobles on the one hand, and a superstitious fear of Jehovah on the other hand, Zedekiah permitted Jeremiah to be alternately humiliated and protected [Jer. 32:1-5; 37:21; 38:10]. The pitifully irresponsible puppet ruler of Judah was therefore directly responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple [Jer. 38:23].
  6. Zedekiah captured and blinded – the end came swiftly and the picture is sickening to contemplate. On July 18, 586 B.C., the city walls were breached and the enemy moved in. Zedekiah and some of his leaders fled toward Jericho, but were easily overtaken by the Babylonians who promptly dragged them to the main military headquarters at Riblah in Syria. Standing before the mighty monarch to whom he had sworn loyalty in the name of Jehovah, Zedekiah was forced to watch his sons and the chief priests and the nobility of Judah being slain before his eyes. Then he was blinded so that the memory of this horrible scene would never depart from him [Jer. 39:6-7; II Kings 25:6-7, 18-21]. Jeremiah had warned Zedekiah that he would look into the very eyes of Nebuchadnezzar [Jer. 32:4; 34:3]; but Ezekiel prophesied that he would not see Babylon with his eyes [Ezek. 12:6, 12, 13]. These prophecies were fulfilled to the letter when Zedekiah saw Babylon’s king, but entered the city of Babylon both bound and blinded. 
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CITY [II Kings 25:8-21]
  1. Prisoners deported – in the meantime, the starved survivors in Jerusalem, reduced in some cases to cannibalism by the prolonged siege [Lam. 4:8-10; cf. Jer. 37:21; 38:9; 52:6], were brutally mistreated by Babylonian soldiers [II Chron. 36:17; Jer. 38:22-23; Lam. 5:11-13], and then herded together and chained like wild animals for deportation to Babylon [Jer. 39:9; 40:1]. The only ones who were not deported were poor country people who were left to care for vineyards and orchards [Jer. 39:10]; Gedeliah to serve as the governor of this pitiful remnant; certain guerilla fighters who had been hiding in the hills [Jer. 40:7-8]; and a few other Jews who had fled to surrounding countries and were now returning [Jer.40:11-12].
  2. Jeremiah honored – as for Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar gave strict instructions that he was to be well cared for [Jer. 39:11-14] because of his great help to the Babylonians in weakening Jewish resistance [cf. Jer. 38:4]. Doubtless many deserters had spoken to the Babylonians of Jeremiah’s impassioned sermons, and it also seems possible that Daniel warned Nebuchadnezzar against mistreating this great prophet of Jehovah. In the general confusion of that followed the fall of the city, however, Jeremiah was accidentally put into chains and led five miles north to Ramah before the error was discovered and he was released [Jer. 40:1-6]. Not only was he given the choice to stay or to leave, but he also received a food allowance and a present [Jer. 40:5]. If his own nation rejected him, God had other means of honoring His faithful servant in a material way. The public honoring of Jeremiah by the Babylonians must have been the final proof to many Jews that Jeremiah was indeed a traitor [cf. Jer. 37:11-15]. But the tears he shed over the fallen city [Lam. 1:16; 2:11, 18], his refusal to leave the land when given the opportunity to enjoy great honors in Babylon [Jer. 40:4], and his lengthy and vigorous denunciations of pagan Babylon [Jer. 50-51], must have made it perfectly clear to all unprejudiced minds that Jeremiah, so far from being a traitor, was the embodiment of God’s deep love for His people.
  3. Babylonians destroy the city – from August 15 to 18, about a month after the city was taken and the captives deported, a Babylonian general named Nebuzaradan began the systematic destruction of Jerusalem [II Kings 25:8; Jer. 52:12]. The walls were broken down, the temple, palace, and chief houses burned to the ground; and all the sacred vessels that had not been taken in 605 B.C. and 597 B. C. were now processed for shipment to Babylon. Even as Ezekiel described the reluctant and gradual departure of the Shekinah Glory from the temple 7 years earlier [Ezek. 8-11], so now the inspired writer takes a final sad look at his beloved temple, lingering over the details of its destruction [Jer. 52:17-23]. 
IV. GEDALIAH MURDERED [II Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:7ff]
  1. His governorship – Gedeliah was a friend of Jeremiah [39:14]; he was, therefore, pro-Babylon and for that reason was made governor. And Gedeliah following the words of the Lord, advised cooperation with Assyria [II Kings 25:24].
  2. His assassination - but the measure of tragedy was not yet full. Two months after the city was burned, Gedeliah, the worthy governor of Judah, and many people with him, were brutally slain by an ambitious Jewish prince named Ishmael [Jer. 41:1-10]. Johanan, a guerilla captain, had warned Gedeliah about Ishmael, but to no avail [Jer. 40:13-16]. Now Johanan’s forces succeeded in rescuing Jeremiah and others from the hand of Ishmael, and fearing reprisals from the Babylonians, led the entire group of survivors down to Egypt against the strong protests and warnings of Jeremiah [Jer. 41:11-43:7]. It is difficult to conceive any situation more painful than that of a great man, condemned to watch the lingering agony of an exhausted country, to tend it during the alternate fits of stupefaction and raving which precede its dissolution, and to see the symptoms of vitality disappear one by one, till nothing is left but coldness, darkness, and corruption.
V. FINAL CONCLUSIONS
  1. Phase No. 1 of the Theocratic Kingdom ends – the first phase of Israel’s experience as a divinely-established theocratic kingdom on earth had come to an end. The period of Babylonian captivity and of Gentile dominion now began, and Jehovah’s purposes for His people Israel took a new course [Hos. 3:4-5].
  2. Biblical reasons for the captivity –why did God permit Judah to suffer the horrors of Babylonian captivity? The Chronicler lists three reasons. First, Zedekiah refused God’s Word through Jeremiah and broke his oath to Nebuchadnezzar [II Chron. 36:12-13]. Second, the priests and the people adopted heathen customs, polluted the temple, and scoffed at God’s prophets [II Chron. 36:14-16]. And third, God’s provision for the sabbatical year [cf. Lev. 25:4; 26:34] had been neglected for centuries; therefore as long as it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years [II Chron. 36:21].
  3. God is faithful – the history of Israel from Solomon to the Babylonian Exile is a 400 year demonstration of God’s faithfulness to His Word in both promise and warning. He is a God who never changes [Mal. 3:6]. He can be depended upon from generation to generation. And what He proved Himself to be for Israel, He proves Himself to be for us, as we heed His warnings and put our complete trust in His gracious promises. “Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall…but God is faithful” [I Cor. 10:11-13].