THE DIVIDED KINGDOM: ISRAEL and JUDAH
Suggested Readings: 1 Kings 12:1-32, 2 Kings 17:13-23, 2 Kings 22:1-23:30, 2 Kings 25:1-21
The kingdom was divided between north and south again. The kingdom of Israel was in the north and its capital was Samaria. The kingdom of Judah was in the south and its capital was Jerusalem. The kings of both north and south were judged by the historians who wrote the Books of Kings on their faithfulness to God. All the northern kings were judged failures by this standard. The northern kingdom’s history was defined by 200 years of conflict with enemies from without and by religious strife within. Jeroboam had established shrines in Dan and Bethel to compete with Jerusalem. The kings who followed him, like Solomon before them, had invited in and tolerated the worship of false gods. Finally, in 722 BC, Samaria was taken and the kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. The Scriptures make it clear that Israel’s destruction was because of the sin of worshipping false gods (2 Kings 17:13-23).
The kings of Judah fared little better. All except Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah failed to live up to the standard of faith and devotion to God raised by David. During the reign of Josiah (639-609) BC), a copy of the Book of the Covenant between God and His people was found in the Temple as it was undergoing repairs. King Josiah had the book read and began a reform of the law and worship in Judah. He did away with worshipping false gods, celebrated Passover, and introduced other reforms based on God’s law (2 Kings 22:1-23:30). After Josiah’s death, however, the kings of Judah turned from the Lord again. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Judah, destroyed the Temple, and forced the people into exile in Babylon. This is called the Babylonian Exile or the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews (2 Kings 25:1-21). The Babylonian Captivity lasted from 587-538 BC, when Cyrus of Persia defeated Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Judah.
The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles re-tell the story of David and Solomon, but from the perspective of the people of the kingdom of Judah. It is a much more positive account of David and Solomon’s reigns. The writer was trying to build patriotism for the Jewish people and wanted his readers to see what great heroes David and Solomon were.
WHAT TRUTHS DOES THE HISTORY OF THE KINGDOMS REVEAL ABOUT GOD?
- God is not a silent by-stander of history, but is actively involved in the affairs of humankind.
- Success as king depends on faithfulness to God.
- If you ask God to forgive your sins, God will forgive you.
- If you worship other gods, you will lose your kingdom.
ELIJAH and ELISHA
Suggested Readings: 1 Kings 17:7-18:46, 2 Kings 2:1-4, 2 Kings 4:1-7, 2 Kings 5:1-9, 2 Kings 6:8-23
The prophet Elijah was a great miracle worker during the time of King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel (874-853 BC). He is famous for prophesying a drought (1 Kings 17:1), saving a widow and her son from starvation (1 Kings 17:7-16), and raising the same widow’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). But his greatest fame is for the mission God gave him to denounce the evil king Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, who had killed one hundred of the Lord’s prophets. Jezebel worshipped the false god, Baal, and Ahab allowed her to spread devotion to the false god in Israel. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal in a contest to prove who served the true God. Meeting on Mount Carmel, Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal each built an altar and set upon it a bull for a sacrifice, but neither set a fire. Elijah said, “You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD. The God who answers with fire is God” (1 Kings 18:24). The prophets of Baal prayed, but nothing happened. Then Elijah poured water over his bull and altar. Then he poured more water over it. Then, still more water! Finally, he prayed to the Lord and the Lord sent a fire that consumed the sacrifice. At the end of his ministry, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11).
Elisha was called by Elijah to succeed him in his mission as the Lord’s prophet. His greatest miracles included saving a widow and her sons from poverty and slavery by miraculously multiplying her stores of olive oil, which they could then sell (2 Kings 4:1-7). He healed Naaman, commander of the Syrian army, from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-19), and struck the Aramean army blind in order to turn them away from attacking Israel. When Israel had the upper hand against the Arameans, the king asked Elisha if he should kill them. Elisha told him not to kill them, but to feed them instead. After this act of mercy, the Arameans turned away from Israel and never attacked them again (2 Kings 6:8-23).
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.