Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making Sense of the Kings of the Bible

Mountain View - Stealing Your Breath with Views of the Heart of God

There are parts of the Bible that have always been confusing to me. The period of the kings is one of them. Boy howdy! There are so many kings it’s hard to keep them all straight, and the stories seem to jump around haphazardly. Complicating matters is the fact that some of the kings changed their names, some had very similar names, and some had the same name! So today, I’m going to share some general information I learned in class last week that might help you make sense of this time period. Here goes . . .

Through Abraham, God chose the Hebrew people to be his treasured possession. The Hebrews had his favor, and he had a plan for them. (See Abraham 12:2-3; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:1-8, 19-21; Genesis 22:15-18)

God established the Hebrew people as a nation through Jacob when his 12 sons became the leaders of 12 tribes. Through Jacob’s son, Joseph, God moved his people to Egypt to preserve their lives during a famine. (See Genesis 45:17-19) The Hebrew people flourished in Egypt and their population increased. Pharaoh became nervous about their numbers and feared they might rise up and overtake his kingdom. His solution was to force them into slavery. Through Moses and Joshua, God led his people out of slavery in Egypt and into the land he had promised them in Canaan. (See the books of Exodus and Joshua)

“But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession . . .” Deuteronomy 4:20

God wanted his chosen people to be different than people of the surrounding nations so he attempted to set them apart by establishing rules and laws for the way they were to live.  (See the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy) God made it clear that obedience would bring his blessing, while disobedience would bring consequences.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:5-6

While other nations had earthly kings, the Hebrews were fortunate to have God as their king.

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?” Deuteronomy 4:6

As their King, God was present and actively engaged in their lives. He protected them, fought for them, guided them, and provided for them. Astonishingly, the Hebrew people rejected God as their king and told him they wanted a man to be their king instead. Why? They wanted to be like all the other nations. This had to pierce God’s heart. As difficult as it must have been, he gave them what they wanted with a warning about how this earthly king would rule. (1 Samuel 8:6-9)

The first king to the Hebrews was Saul. The people admired his good looks, and overlooked his character deficiencies and absence of devotion to God. The 12 tribes united under his leadership and became known as the Israelite nation. After Saul’s death, David became king. David had a whole heart for God. After David, Solomon (David’s son) assumed the kingship.  These kings each ruled for 40 years. After Solomon’s death, the nation divided into two kingdoms with one in the north (Israel) and one in the south (Judah).

Israel was led by king Jeroboam. Its capital was Samaria. The southern kingdom was led by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Jerusalem was its capital. King Jeroboam and king Rehoboam were both evil kings.

The northern kingdom of Israel had a total of 19 kings before its demise. None of them were good. The southern kingdom of Judah had 20 kings. Only eight were good. The divided kingdom lasted for 400 years.

Through the years, both of these kingdoms “did evil in God’s eyes”. Their actions were causing grievous damage to themselves and to those around them. Because God loved them dearly, he sent prophets to warn them to change their ways and turn their hearts back to him. He warned them there would be repercussions if they didn’t. But they didn’t listen.

In 722 BC, a foreign nation named Assyria conquered Israel in the north and dispersed most of that kingdom’s inhabitants to foreign lands. Years later, Babylon conquered Assyria. In 605, 597, and 586 BC, Babylon conquered the southern kingdom of Judah in three stages. Jerusalem was destroyed. The residents of Judah were sent into exile in Babylon for 70 years. The divided kingdom was no more.

The Kings of the United Kingdom

Saul (1051)
David (1011)
Solomon (971)

Kingdom splits (931)

The Evil Kings of the Northern Kingdom

Jeroboam (931-910)
Nadab (910-909)
Baasha (909-886)
Elah (886-885)
Zimri (885)
Omri (885-874)
Ahab (874-853)
Ahaziah (853-852)
Joram/Jehoram (852-841)
Jehu (841-814)
Jehoahaz (814-798)
Joash (798-782)
Jeroboam II (793-753)
Zechariah (753-752)
Shallum (752)
Menahem (752-742)
Pekahiah (742-740) Overlapping reign with Pekah. Assassinated by Pekah.
Pekah (752-732)
Hoshea (732-722)

Fall of Israel to Assyria: 722 BC

The Kings of the Southern Kingdom

Rehoboam (931-913)
Abijam (aka Abijah) (913-911)
*Asa (911-870) Coregency with Jehoshaphat.
*Jehoshaphat (873-848)
Jehoram ((848-841)
Ahaziah (841)
Athaliah (841-835)
*Joash (835-796)
*Amaziah (796-767)
*Uzziah (790-739)
*Jotham (750-735)
Ahaz (732-715)
*Hezekiah (715-686)
Manasseh (697-642)
Amon (642-640)
*Josiah (640-609)
Jehoahaz (609)
Jehoiakim (born as Eliakim) (609-598) 1st Babylonian invasion
Jehoiachin (598-597) 2nd Babylonian invasion
Zedekiah (597-586) 3rd Babylonian invasion – final conquest of Judah

Fall of Judah to Babylon: 586

*Denotes good kings

After 70 years in exile, God prepared the way for the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. Although they lived under the oppression of Persia, then Greece, then Rome, God was constantly at work preparing their hearts for the arrival of the King of all kings – Jesus Christ.

The world entices us with many things, but there is no substitute for God and what he offers. God yearns for our whole-hearted devotion. Even when we are fickle and unfaithful to him, he is always rock-solid in his faithfulness to us. He is faithful to judge wickedness and sin, yet he is also faithful to envelop us in his mercy and forgiveness when we turn back to him (Exodus 34:6-7).

Regardless of the unfaithfulness of his chosen people during the period of the kings, God was still in control. He knew with certainty the things he intended to accomplish. He responded, interacted, and patiently accommodated his actions to the free will and choices of his people in order to bring about his desired end. He is the same today. No matter how far the people of this world wander from him, God is still in control working to bring about his desired end – the return of Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, at the culmination of human history. When it seems like the world is completely out of control, I am so thankful for this truth.

The period of the kings gives me confidence in the character of God . . .