The People of the Bible—Part XV
I Kings 12 – II Kings 22; II Chronicles 10 – 24

Kings of Judah and Israel
Part 1

SOLOMON’S son Rehoboam succeeded him on the throne. His mother was the Ammonite princess Naamah. (I Kings 14:21,31) Early in his reign the nation of Israel became divided; and although the Lord foreknew and foretold this division, it occurred largely as a result of Rehoboam’s unwisdom in disregarding the wishes of the people to be relieved of the burden of taxation imposed upon them by Solomon as one of the means by which he had attained and maintained the riches and glory of his kingdom.

The insurrection against Rehoboam was led by one named Jeroboam, whom King Solomon had raised to the rank of superintendent over the taxes and labor exacted from the house of Joseph. (I Kings 11:28) Solomon became aware that Jeroboam was seeking an opportunity to exalt himself as ruler, and although the Prophet Ahijah, speaking for the Lord, gave Jeroboam the assurance that if he was obedient to God’s law he would be established at the head of a dynasty equal to that of David’s, Solomon sought to have him killed, evidently to prevent the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Thereupon Jeroboam fled to Egypt but returned when he was notified that Solomon had died. And now, at the head of a people’s committee, he “spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.” (I Kings 12:3,4) Rehoboam requested that they give him three days to think the matter over, and these were granted.

First, the new king consulted the “elder statesmen” of Israel, those who had served in the government under Solomon. These men had observed much through the years. They knew that by reducing the cost of government—through eliminating some of the pomp and glory—the burden of taxes could be lightened and the whole nation be benefited. Their advice was: “If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words unto them, then they will be thy servants forever.”—vs. 7

Seemingly, however, Rehoboam was desirous of being a glorious and rich king, rather than a servant of the people, so he did not take kindly to the advice of his elders. Then he “consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him.” (vs. 8) These were his friends, and, as he had hoped, they gave him the sort of counsel he wanted. As it is in the case of so many when asking advice, Rehoboam really desired his own way and was merely seeking someone to agree with him, and his young friends accommodated him. They said to him: “Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”—vss. 10,11

The Rebellion

When the people were thus rebuffed by Rehoboam, they rebelled against him and made Jeroboam their king—all, that is, except the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and a few individuals from the other tribes who lived in the land of Judah. (vss. 17,20,23) Verse 15 explains that “the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.”

But Rehoboam did not give up easily. He “sent Adoram, who was over the tribute [a tax collector]; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died.” (vs. 18) Then, returning to Jerusalem, Rehoboam raised an army of 180,000 “chosen men” and was ready to wrest control of the ten tribes from Jeroboam by force, but the Lord interfered with this plan. Through “Shemaiah, the man of God,” Rehoboam was told, “Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel.” “This thing is from me,” the Lord said to the king of the two tribes.—vss. 21-24

This breach in the nation was never healed. There continued to be the two kingdoms. The ten tribes were known as the “Northern Kingdom” and the two tribes as the “Southern Kingdom.” Generally speaking, the Northern Kingdom was referred to as Israel and the Southern Kingdom as Judah, although the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were Israelites also, being, like the other ten tribes, the descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. The last king of the two-tribe kingdom is called a “prince of Israel.”—Ezek. 21:25

Although the Lord foretold the division of the ten tribes from Judah, he gave assurance that his covenant with David would stand—“that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.” (I Kings 11:36) Whatever the Lord’s purpose was in permitting the ten tribes to break away from Judah, it is from Judah that we must look for the fulfillment of the messianic promises. A very important one of these promises was made by Israel to his son Judah, saying, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”—Gen. 49:10

Peaceful relationships were not established between the Northern and Southern kings during Rehoboam’s reign. In the fifth year of his reign the country was invaded by the Egyptians and other African nations, under Shishak. Jerusalem itself was taken, and Rehoboam secured an ignominious peace only by the sacrifice of the treasures with which Solomon had adorned the palace and temple. (I Kings 14:25-31) There were no important events during the remaining seventeen years of his reign.

Idolatry Established

Jeroboam had a good understanding of people, which he utilized to strengthen his kingly hold over the ten tribes. Although these had rebelled against Rehoboam and had made Jeroboam their king, they had no thought of separating themselves from their brethren in their religious worship, the center of which was in the great temple at Jerusalem. Ordinarily, at least once a year the majority of the people would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which would usually be at the Passover season in the spring.

Jeroboam knew this, and in it he saw a threat to the solidarity of his kingdom. He knew that if his subjects mingled with those of the Southern Kingdom in their religious worships it would lead to an understanding along other lines and they would begin to wonder why two governments were necessary in such a small country. So he made arrangements elsewhere for their religious worship.

This led to Jeroboam’s fall from divine favor. To him God had promised: “And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.” (I Kings 11:38) But Jeroboam did not “hearken.” In order to keep the ten tribes from going to Jerusalem for religious worship, where they would mingle with their brethren of Judah, he established idol worship, setting up two golden calves, one at Bethel and the other at Dan.

Concerning these the record states: “This thing became a sin. … And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” (ch. 12:25-35) Jeroboam explained his move to the people saying: “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

From this time on to the final overthrow of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians, the worship of Jehovah was not restored by any of the ten-tribe kings. Thus did Jeroboam and his successors forfeit all claim to the conditional promise which God had made, to establish a permanent ruling house through them. When the kingdom fell there were no divine promises to give any hope that it would be reestablished, as was the case with Judah. The record is: “This thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.”—I Kings 13:34

This foretold cutting off of the ten-tribe kingdom did not occur at once. A long line of kings followed Jeroboam, eighteen in all. They were:

AhabJeroboam IIHoshea

Not one of all these kings served the Lord God of Israel. The record reveals that every one of them followed in the evil footsteps of Jeroboam. Finally, during the reign of Hoshea the Lord permitted the Assyrians to take the ten tribes into captivity, which brought to an end this succession of wicked kings.

II Kings 17:21-23 reads: “He [the Lord] rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.”

The Kings of Judah

Beginning with Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, there were in all nineteen kings who reigned over the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, besides one queen who usurped rulership and reigned for six years, that is, Athaliah. Exclusive of Rehoboam, Judah’s kings were:


Some of these kings of Judah were faithful to the Lord; some were not. Abijah—he is called Abijam in I Kings 15:1—reigned three years. During this time the Lord gave him an outstanding victory over the army of Jeroboam, king of Israel. (II Chron. 13) It would appear, nevertheless, that the heart of this king was not right in the sight of the Lord, for we read that “he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David’s sake did the Lord his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem.”—I Kings 15:3,4

When tracing the experiences of the kings of Judah, one is impressed with the frequent references revealing God’s determination to fulfill his covenant with David. Thus, while Abijam, or Abijah, was not perfect before the Lord, the rulership was continued in his family, and his son Asa succeeded him upon the throne of Judah.

Asa was one of Judah’s righteous kings. He reigned forty-one years. The record is that he “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father.” Also that “Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.” (I Kings 15:11,14) It is interesting to note that in mentioning the sins of all the various kings of Israel the record states that they walked in the ways of Jeroboam. But frequently, when reference is made to the righteous kings of Judah, they are compared with David.

King Jehoshaphat

Jehoshaphat was also a good king. The history of his reign is recorded in II Chronicles, chapters 17 through 21, to verse 3. He was one of the best, most pious and most prosperous kings who reigned over Judah. He reigned twenty-five years. The record states that “he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord.”—II Chron. 20:32

We also read that “the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.” (II Chron. 17:3,4) Again we read concerning Jehoshaphat that “his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.”—II Chron. 17:6

In his work of reform in Judah this good king sent Levites, the religious servants of the nation, throughout the cities to teach the Law to the people. The Lord blessed him abundantly. He became rich and was influential, even among many of Judah’s Gentile neighbors. “The fear of the Lord,” we read, “fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat. Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats.”—II Chron. 17:10,11

Jehoshaphat was contemporary with King Ahab, of Israel, who was one of the most wicked of the ten-tribe kings. One of the serious mistakes of Jehoshaphat’s reign was a temporary alliance he made with Ahab to fight against the Assyrians at Ramoth-gilead. In this battle Ahab was killed. Jehoshaphat was delivered but reproved by a servant of the Lord, who said to him: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.”—II Chron. 19:2

The Lord later, nevertheless, showed his favor toward Jehoshaphat by delivering Judah from an attack by the Moabites, Ammonites, and others, who combined their forces against him. The king’s reverence for the true God and his heart love for him are revealed in his prayer for help in this emergency. He said, “We have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.”—II Chron. 20:12

Not only were Judah’s enemies defeated, but Jehoshaphat and his men collected a great spoil, and they “returned … to Jerusalem with joy; for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies. And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the Lord. And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel.”—II Chron. 20:27-29

Subsequent to this, Jehoshaphat formed another unholy alliance. It was with Ahaziah, Ahab’s successor as king of Israel. They agreed to build a navy to go to Tarshish. But the Lord was against this arrangement, and the ships were destroyed. Reaching the end of his reign, he “slept with his fathers … in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.”—II Chron. 21:1

Jehoram’s Wicked Reign

Jehoram did not walk in the righteous ways of his father. He was appointed because he was the firstborn, but to strengthen his position as ruler over Judah he had his younger brothers murdered, as well as other princes of Israel. (II Chron. 21:4) He reigned eight years, “and he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord.”—vs. 6

But again the “sure mercies” of God in his covenant with David operated, for we read: “Howbeit the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons forever.” (vs. 7) But the Lord’s disfavor was against Jehoram himself and his family. The Prophet Elijah sent a letter to him, calling attention to his sins and prophesying that he would be afflicted with a loathsome disease of the bowels and would die. This prophecy was fulfilled, and while this wicked king of Judah was buried in Jerusalem, his remains were not put in the honored “sepulchres of the kings.”—vss. 12-20

Ahaziah’s Short Reign

Ahaziah, Jehoram’s son, reigned but one year. He was an idolater, which is understandable when we consider that his mother Athaliah was a daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. We are informed that “his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.” (II Chron. 22:3) Ahaziah (called Azariah in verse 6) joined hands with Jehoram, son of Ahab, king of Israel, to fight against the king of Syria at Ramothgilead. Jehoram was wounded, and Ahaziah visited him. Thus he was in the vicinity “when Jehu was executing judgment upon the house of Ahab.” And, although he endeavored to hide from Jehu and his men, they found him and slew him. We read that the “destruction of Ahaziah was of God.”—vss. 5-9

Athaliah Usurps the Throne

After the death of Ahaziah, his mother Athaliah “arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (vs. 10) This was her way of exalting herself as the ruler of Judah. Doubtless, also, this was prompted by Satan in an effort to destroy God’s ruling house and thus prevent the birth of the promised “seed,” the One who was to “bruise” his “head.”—Gen. 3:15

But the Lord had a willing servant to protect his own. Ahaziah’s sister, the wife of Jehoiada the priest, saw what was being done by Athaliah, and she kidnapped Ahaziah’s youngest child, then but an infant, and “put him and his nurse in a bedchamber.” (vss. 10-12) There he was hidden from the designing Athaliah for six years.

In the seventh year Jehoiada the priest sent “captains of hundreds” throughout Judah and summoned all the Levites “and the chief of the fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. And all the congregation made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he said unto them, Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David.” (ch. 23:1-3) Jehoiada the priest then issued instructions covering a well-laid plan of precaution against any harm coming to the young heir of David’s throne and, when the proper moment came, anointed and crowned the boy, Joash, as king, with the proclamation, “God save the king.”—vss. 4-11

There was great rejoicing, the playing of various instruments, and the singing of praises. Athaliah heard the celebration and “came to the people into the house of the Lord,” and when she realized what had taken place she cried, “Treason, treason.” But it was too late. Jehoiada the priest had his plan too well organized for this usurper to hinder its full accomplishment. The people were with the priest and were enthusiastic over their new king. Athaliah was put to death; for, in reality, she was the one who was guilty of treason.—vss. 12-15

Then Jehoiada, knowing what the real bond of union in Judah should be, “made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the Lord’s people.” (vs. 16) The priest then organized the proper religious services of the temple. The young king was “brought down … from the house of the Lord: and they came through the high gate into the king’s house, and set the king upon the throne of the kingdom. And all the people of the land rejoiced: and the city was quiet, after that they had slain Athaliah with the sword.”—vss. 17-21

Under the tutelage of Jehoiada, the faithful priest, Joash was reared in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) When old enough to take over the reins of government, he commanded that money be collected from the people for the repair of the temple and the replacement of “the dedicated things of the house of the Lord” which Athaliah had bestowed upon Baalim.—ch. 24:7

The people cooperated with enthusiasm. We read: “All the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the [money] chest, until they had made an end” of repairing the temple. There was sufficient money, both for the repair work and for the needed “vessels to minister, and to offer withal, and spoons, and vessels of gold and silver.”—vss. 8-14

Jehoiada the priest “waxed old, and was full of days when he died; an hundred and thirty years old was he when he died.” (vs. 15) With his influence over Joash gone, the king did not continue his righteous course. Instead, he yielded to the wishes of certain “princes” in the land to forsake the house of the Lord and again institute the worship of heathen gods. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, protested but was stoned to death by the commandment of the king. Swift retribution followed, and Joash became diseased and was slain by his own servants after the Syrians had left destruction behind them.—II Chron. 24:23-27

Go to Part 16
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |