Thursday, January 24, 2013

Second Kings

In the Hebrew Bible, First and Second Kings are one book.  Collectively, they are a history of the Israelite monarchy.   During most of this period, it is dual monarchies because two southern tribes make up the kingdom of Judah, the remaining tribes being Israel.

Second Kings covers a period of about 250 years.  It begins in the reign of Ahaziah.  It ends with the fall of Judah to Babylon.

Fall is an appropriate word.  The book describes the decline of the Israelite monarchy.  It is strongly associated with moral decline and apostasy.  Israel was called out to be God’s people.  Instead, they worshiped the gods of the people who occupied the land before them or of their neighbors.  Sometimes this idol worship was introduced and encouraged by the kings.  Some of the practices associated with these foreign religions included temple prostitution, sodomy, and child sacrifice.

When God established ancient Israel as a nation, he made a covenant with them.  If they followed Him, He would cause them to prosper in the land He gave to them.  If they did not, and especially if they abandoned Him to worship other gods and do evil, he would cut them off from the land and let their enemies overcome them.  That is exactly what happened.

Israel, the northern kingdom, succumbed first.  It fell during the reign of Hoshea.  It became a vassal state to Assyria.  More than that, the Assyrians removed the Israelite population to other lands and resettled Israel with people from across its empire.  Chapter 17 is an indictment against Israel, listing its crimes the judgment of expulsion from the land.

God did not let Israel go easily.  Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the exploits of Elijah and Elisha.  These prophets called people back to God and stood up against the influence of false religions.  Later, Isaiah would warn against the coming captivity to Assyria.

Judah held out longer, in part probably because of fitful reforms by kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah.   None of the kings of Israel committed themselves to god, but some of the kings of Judah turned their hearts to God, restoring the worship of God and sometimes even breaking down the idols of false gods.  Even so, they fell like their brothers to the north.

Babylon was the empire that overtook Judah during the reign of Zedekiah.  Zedekiah himself was appointed by Babylon after it took his nephew Jehoiachin as a prisoner.  Babylon also moved much of the population.  The poor were left to tend the farms, but anyone with status, military skill, training in crafts, or education was moved to Babylon to serve there.  The Israelite monarchy was finally broken and replaced with a Babylonian governor.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in

Second Kings.  The Holy Bible.  New King James Version.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.