Friday, April 19, 2013

CXLI - II Kings

II Kings

Author:               Unknown
Date Written:     590-550BC During Exile
Place Written:    Babylon
Main Purpose:   Evaluation of Kings and Their Impact on Israel

I don't want to get too detailed with History of the writings of the individual Books of the Bible, but some information is helpful in understanding the Bible as a whole Book.  In the original Hebrew canon, First and Second Kings were one Book.  This Book of Kings was first divided in the third centure BC by the Jewish scholars who produced the Septuagint.  You have probably heard of the Septuagint.  It is a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek.  Since Greek includes vowels absent in Hebrew, the Septuagint was almost twice as long as the original Hebrew text.  Consequently, the entire Book required two separate scrolls to hold the volume of Greek text, named accordingly in chronological order.

Our last post finished the Book of I Kings.  I Kings took us from the death of David, through the reign of his son Solomon, through the division of the kingdoms, through the beginning of the downfall of both nations with their first individual kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and on through the reigns of Jehoshaphat and Ahab.  I Kings ended during the reigns of Jehoram in Judah and Ahaziah in Israel.  I Kings also introduced us to the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  The main thought we need to take from I Kings is the impact that leaders have on the people of their nations.  King David had set the bar very high by setting the proper example of Godly leadership.  Rehoboam and Jeroboam lowered the bar to a ridiculous state, and it just got worse, with a few exceptions.

As in I Kings, it is impractical to try to set to memory all of the kings in these two Books.  However, we will see two kings of Judah who somewhat stand out.  Hezekiah stands out as one who had an exceptional trust in the Living God.  Josiah stands out as one who devoted his reign to following in detail the Law of Moses.

As we enter the Book of II Kings, the nation of Israel has already started down a very dark road of self-destruction, due to turning its back on God and following the pagan Caananites in worshipping Baal and Ashteroth, the Caananite fertility gods.  The kingdom of Judah was also on the downslide, but not at such a rapid pace.  Although Judah was much smaller in population and land mass, it remained a sovereign nation 136 years longer than Israel.  It is clear that the reason Judah held on so much longer than Israel was because of its leadership.  Out of 20 kings, 8 of Judah's kings were men who tried to follow in David's footsteps as a king who followed God's commandments and laws.  On the other hand, all of Israel's 19 kings followed after Jeroboam, leading the nation's people away from the only true God and towards false pagan gods.  One difference between First and Second Kings is that our study of this book will concentrate a bit more heavily of the prophets, mainly Elisha who was Elijah's successor.
II Kings, Chapter 1  -  God's Judgement on Ahaziah

At the very end of I Kings we learn that Ahab's son Ahaziah did evil in the sight of the Lord during his short two-year reign.  The first verse of this Book tells us that Moab has reared its ugly head and was going to cause Israel a lot of problems.  Then in the second verse we see that Ahaziah had an accident and hurt himself.  {I have to wonder about that accident.  Fell through a lattice?  What was a king doing that he would have fallen through a lattice?  My guess is that he was doing something stupid.}  But look at the second part of verse 2.  This is an indicator of just how far Israel has drifted away from God.  The king of Israel sent a messenger to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, as to whether or not the king would recover from his injury.  {The name Baal-Zebub sound familiar?}  So concerned was God over this action that (vs 3) He sent an angel to instruct Elijah about this.  As instructed by the angel of God, Elijah intercepted the messenger who was on his way to find Baal-Zebub.  Elijah sent the messenger back to Ahaziah to ask, "Is there no God in Israel, that you must consult a false pagan god?"  Has Israel become so coorrupt that its king does not even give the One and Only God of the heavens, the earth, and the universe a thought?  This very act alone describes to us this period of darkness that has befallen God's chosen people.  Upon the messenger's return to king Ahaziah, he delivered Elijah's message.  Ahaziah immediately asked about the man who said this.  (vs 8)  "He had a garment of hair and a leather belt".  I don't understand how the king knew, but he immediately recognized the description as Elijah.  Just like his mother and father would have done, Ahaziah sent an army officer with fifty men to capture Elijah and drag him back to the king.  But as we see in the following verses, God burned these soldiers up with fire.  The king sent a second group of fifty soldiers to get Elijah and God burned them up also.  Then Ahaziah sent a third group of soldiers.  But this time when the captain approached Elijah, he fell to his knees out of fear and respect for God and His prophet, asking for mercy.  Due to this show of humility, Elijah went back with them to the king.  When Elijah arrived in the presence of the king, he repeated his question, then pronounced God's judgement on Ahaziah, which was death from the injury, ending his short and evil reign.

In the last two verses of this first chapter, we see that the reign from the house of Omri has now ended because Ahaziah had no sons to succeed him on the throne of Israel.  Instead, Joram took the throne.  {I've yet to find how Joram was selected to succeed Ahaziah.  My guess would be that there was violence involved.}

Next post - II Kings Chapter 2  -  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

{I realize I do not cover much of the Bible in any single posting to this blog.  I assure you that I am not trying to "stretch" this out.  You know that is not my style.  My reason for the way I write about the Scripture is best explained by referencing a preacher I heard while attending First Baptist Church of Suffolk, Virginia.  I forget who it was, but he told of one time being asked to speak at a ceremony of some sort, and the subject he was asked to speak on was the influence of the Holy Spirit on the lives of modern-day Christians.  He said he considered that to be an honor and asked how much time he would be expected to speak.  He was told that due to the crowded slate of speakers that each speaker was asked to limit his speech to ten minutes.  This preacher respectfully declined, saying "The ceremony I would be speaking at is to take place next week.  If I was to speak on the Holy Spirit with no notice, it would take three hours of speaking time.  If you wanted me to speak for an hour on this subject, it would take me a few days to prepare.  If I was to speak on this subject for ten minutes, I would need at least a month to prepare."  I understood then and I understand now why that preacher said what he did.  In any attempt to shorten a lesson of the Scriptures, the fear of omitting something important is overwhelming, and unless one is particularly gifted at writing, consolidating a lesson into a smaller space is laborious, time-consuming, and lends itself to confusion.} 

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