Thursday, May 23, 2013

CLI - II Kings Chapters 15 and 16 - The Decline of Israel and Judah

We are now going to get to the rapid free-falling nation of Israel.  We have seen how they have thrown away one opportunity after another to go back to God and strengthen themselves as people, families, and a nation.  Remember that our leaders matter, and have more influence than sometimes we are willing to admit.

In the last post we briefly looked at Jeroboam II being king of Israel (the northern kingdom).  Jeroboam II reigned for forty-one years.  Although he was not a Godly man, he was a strong ruler.  His reign brought political stability, territoral expansion, economic prosperity, and religious activism.  In the twenty-seventh year of his reign in Israel, Azariah (Uzziah) became king in Judah, which brings us to today's post.

Chapter 15  -  Azariah's reign in Judah is recognized as a righteous one.  Although not perfectly, he followed God's leadership.  But note in verse 5 that he was stricken with leprocy, an unspecified skin disease.  It says he lived in a "separate house".  Lepers being separated from society back then was a rule strictly adhered to.  It included everyone, even the king, as this was God's law, not man's.  Azariah, although separated from the king's palace in Jerusalem, remained on the throne.  His son Jotham lived in the king's palace in Jerusalem and served as the king's spokesman.  Having the affliction of leprocy did not effect Azariah's length of life, as he reigned fifty-two years and lived to the age of sixty-eight.  That was well beyond the average life expectancy in those days.  After Azariah died, his son Jotham became king.  Jotham was well trained for this as he really served as "co-leader" for decades, acting as a surrogate for his his father.

Verses 8-16  -  As we look at some more of Israel's king's it might begin to sound like a broken record, as they all did evil in the sight of God and further damaged their people and their nation.  During Azariah's reign in Judah, Zachariah and Shallum reigned briefly in Israel.  Zachariah was the fourth and last ruler of the dynasty of Jehu.  {God promised Jehu that there would be his descendants on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation (II Kings 10:30).  Israel's kings (unlike Judah's) were generally selected by who was the most cunning conspirator who also had the backing of the most violent group.  So when God made that promise to Jehu, that was considered to be a promise difficult to keep.}  Zachariah was an evil king.  He ruled as king for only six months.  He was assassinated by Shallum who the Scripture says killed Zachariah in front of the people.  This tells me that Shallum made a public specticle out of killing him.  Shallum then pronounced himself as king.  He could not have accomplished much of anything because he ruled only one month before Menahem assassinated him and took the throne for himself.

Verses 17-->  Menahem's ten-year reign in Samaria was marked by violence, idolatry, a treacherous alliance with Assyria, and heavy taxation of the people of Israel.  {Be careful to note that Syria and Assyria are two different countries.}  As you read vss 19-20, you will see how a cowardly king will not only make poor decisions in dealing with foreign leaders, but will impose taxes on its own citizens to pay for his mistakes.  Note how he takes the path of least resistance and imposed taxes first on those citizens who were considered wealthy.  {They were not necessarily wealthy, but probably were less poor than others.}  Menahem's reign was a complete disaster and lasted ten years.  It does not say how he died, but I don't think it was a violent take-over because his son Pekahiah succeeded him as king in Samaria.

There is not much written about Pekahiah, but it does say he "did evil in the eyes of the Lord."  He reigned only two years and one of his court officials, Pekah had him assassinated and made himself Israel's new king.  This happened in the final year of Azariah, king of Judah.  One could see the end was near for the nation of Israel at the time of Pekah.  It was during Pekah's twenty-year reign that Israel lost much of its territory (the Promised Land), mostly to the Assyrians.  Included in the land that Pekah had lost was Galilee and all the land of Naphtali.  This picture of Israel at this time is sad.  They had become smaller, their economy was in shambles, they hardly had any military at all and depended on their enemies to protect them from other enemies.  And worst of all, they had become a Godless society, at the mercy of violent groups who placed their own leaders on the throne in Samalia.  As Pekah had gained the throne of Israel through violence, it was through violence that he lost it.  Hoshea killed Pekah and stole the throne.  I'll have more on Hoshea in a later post, as he is the last king of the northern nation Israel.

Verses 32-38 - We shift from Israel back to Judah in these final verses of chapter 15 and all of 16.  It's usually refreshing to turn to the kings of Judah because most of them were good kings, especially when compared to the kings of Israel.  We see that Azahiah died and his son Jotham succeeded him as king of Judah when he was twenty-five years old.  Jotham's reign was a good one although he, like many of his predessessors, failed to remove the "high places" where people burned incense and animal offerings to please the pagan gods.  After reigning sixteen yeas, Jotham died and his son Ahaz became king of Judah.

Chapter 16  -  Ahaz, king of Judah  -  Ahaz was an exception.  He was a descendant of king David, but possessed none of David's good qualities.  Ahaz did evil in the sight of God, and actually patterned his reign after those kings of Israel.  He "thumbed his nose" at anything Godly.  Judah was not accustomed to such behavior coming out of their kings.  Their military had become weak like Israel's.  He stole treasures from the Temple and bribed the Syrians to help them militarily.  He had a drawing of a pagan temple in Damascus made so he could have one built just like it in Jerusalem.  He copied the pagan worship ceremonies and forced the citizens of Jerusalem to to the same.  Ahaz tore down sections of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem and removed from it the basins and the Sea of bronze, along with the bronze oxen.  {The Scripture suggests he did most of these things to please Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria, making himself little more that a puppet for a foreign king.}  And worst of all, Ahaz sacrificed his own son in the worship of Molech, the national god of the Ammonites.  {As I've mentioned before, a child was place on the outstretched arms of the image of Molech.  Then a fire was built below these arms, slowly burning the child to death.  Ahaz reigned for sixteen long years in Jerusalem.  When he died, his son Hezekiah became the king of Judah.  Hezekiah would be a breath of fresh air after the sixteen years of Ahaz.

Nest post  -  Israel Exiled

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