Read Scripture: 1-2 Kings

The book of first and second kings Although they are two separate books in our Bibles They were originally written as one book telling a unified story that continues on from the book of Samuel that came before it So David has unified the tribes of Israel into a kingdom and God promised that from his line would come a Messianic king who would establish God’s kingdom over the nation’s and fulfill the promises made to Abraham So the Book of Kings tells the story of the long line of Kings that came after David and none of them lived up to that promise In fact, they run the nation of Israel right into the ground The book is designed to have five main movements the story begins and ends focus on Jerusalem First with Solomon’s reign in the construction of the temple and then in this last section ending with jerusalem’s destruction and Israel’s exile to Babylon and the story leading up to this tragedy is what makes up the center three sections which explain how Israel split into two rival kingdoms how God tried to prevent the corruption of Israel by sending the prophets and how exile became unavoidable consequence of Israel’s sins The book opens with two chapters about the kingdom passing from the aging David to his son Solomon and David’s final words to Solomon they’re very similar to those of Moses and Joshua and Samuel to the people It’s a call to remain faithful to the commands of the covenants and to give allegiance to the God of Israel alone but David’s words bring somewhat hollow here because David and Solomon then go on to conspire how they’re going to consolidate this new kingdom through a whole series of political assassinations so it’s not off to a great start Solomon’s brightest moment comes when he asked God for wisdom to lead Israel and he even complete David’s dream to make a temple for the God of Israel Here the story actually stops and describes the design of this temple in detail just like the tabernacle design in the Torah there’s all these gold and jewels and depictions of angels and fruit trees It’s all symbolism echoing back to the garden of eden it’s the place where heaven and earth meet where God’s presence dwells with his people but no sooner does Solomon finish the temple but he makes them really horrible choices and the Kingdom falls apart he starts marrying the daughters of other kings hundreds of them for political alliances and then he adopts their gods and introduces the worship of those gods into Israel Solomon then accumulates huge amounts of wealth he built a huge army He even Institute slave labor for all of his building projects Now if you go back to the Torah and look at God’s guidelines for Israel’s kings in Deuteronomy 17 Solomon is breaking every one so by the time that he dies Solomon resembles Pharaoh the king of Egypt more than he does his father David the next section of the book opens with Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, acting just like his father it’s a very sad story of greed and lust for power he tries to increase taxes for slave labor and under the leadership of Jeroboam the northern tribes reject this they rebelled and secede and form their own rival Kingdom and so now in the story you have the southern kingdom of Judah centered in Jerusalem with Kings from the line of David and now this new northern kingdom called Israel who’s capital will be Samaria eventually Jeroboam also goes on to build two new temples to compete with Solomon’s temple in the south he put the Golden Calf in each one to represent the God of Israel The connection to Exodus 32 and the Golden Calf It’s all quite explicit From this point on the story goes back and forth from north to south tracing the fate of both kingdoms Each one had about 20 successive kings and as the author introduces each king he evaluates their reign by a few criteria did they worship the God of Israel alone or did they promote the worship other gods did they deal with idolatry among the people and did they remained faithful to the Covenant like David or do they become corrupt and unjust and according to these criteria the author finds no good kings in northern Israel zero for twenty And then in southern Judah only eight out of 20 get a positive rating which connects to another huge purpose in this book and that to introduce the role of the prophet key figures in israel’s history so in the Bible, prophets were not fortune tellers rather they spoke on behalf of the God of Israel and they played the role of Covenant watchdog which means they called out idolatry and injustice among the Kings and the people they were constantly reminding Israel of their calling to be a light to the nations that they should obey the commands of the Torah and so the prophets challenged Israel to repent and follow their God In these centres sections for each King, God then raises up prophets to hold them accountable the most prominent prophets over the northern ones are Elijah and his disciples Elisha right here in the center of the book Elijah was a wild man of a prophet living out in the desert and his arch nemesis was the northern King Ahab and his Canaanite wife Jezebel together these two had instituted the worship of the Canaanites God Baal over Israel and so in a famous story Elijah challenged four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal to a contest to see which God was a real so they both built altars and prayed to their gods but only the God of Israel answers with fire After this, Ahab uses his royal power to murder an Israelite farmer and then steal his family’s vineyard and the Elijah again confront Ahab’s injustice and he announces the downfall of his house Elijah eventually passes the mantle of his prophetic leadership to a young disciple named Elisha who asks for two times the authority of Elijah but what’s fascinating here is how the author is recounted 7 miraculous feats for Elijah and then he offers stories of 14 acts of power from Elisha Both prophets were clearly remarkable men and they played the same role confronting Israel’s Kings for idolatry and injustice and ultimately they were unsuccessful in turning Israel back from apostasy In the next section, the northern kingdom has rocked by a bloody revolution started by a king named Jehu who destroys Ahab’s family and although Jehu was at first commissioned by God his violence just gets out of control and it creates the spiral of political assassinations and rebellions from which Israel never recovered coup follows coup after Jehu and each King follows other gods allows horrible injustice it all leads up to second Kings chapter 17 the big bad empire of Assyria swoops down and takes out the northern kingdom altogether and the capital city of Samaria is conquered and the Israelites were exiled and scattered throughout the ancient world now chapter 17 is key the author stops the story and offers this prophetic reflection and what’s just happened he blames the downfall of the northern kingdom on the idolatry and covenant unfaithfulness of Israel and its kings and so God has allowed them to face the consequences of their decisions The final movement of the book tells the story of the lone southern kingdom In here, we meet very heroic kings like Hezekiah who trust God when the armies of Assyria come knocking on Jerusalem’s door or Josiah who discovers this lost scroll of the Torah in the temple So he start to reading it.

He’s convicted and he institutes religious reforms to remove idolatry in Canaanite influences from the land but Judah is just too far gone The King right in between these two, Menassah. He’s the worst by far so he not only introduces the worship of idols statues into the Jerusalem Temple, he also institutes child sacrifice And so God sends prophets to say the time is up. Israel has reached the point of no return The final chapters tell the story of the Babylonian Empire coming to invade Jerusalem destroy the temple and carry the people and the royal line of David off into exile and so the story ends leaving us wondering has God done with Israel has he done with a line of David Well, the final paragraph zooms about forty years forward into the exile and it tells very odd story. It’s about Jehoiachin, a descendant from David who would have been king and he was back in Jerusalem and the king of Babylon releases him from prison and invite them to eat at the Royal table for the rest of his life and the book ends so it’s not much but it’s a story that gives a glimmer of hope that God has not abandon the line of David so the question now is how is that going to fulfill his promises to Abraham to David How he is going to bless the nations and bring the Messianic Kingdom and answer those questions you have to read on into the wisdom and the prophetic books but for now that’s the Book of Kings

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