By Leslie M. Grant
Though 1 Chronicles is just as vitally the Word of God as are other scripture books, we pass over this now because, being largely composed of genealogies and many names, it is not suited to general Sunday school study. Personal study might yield great blessing to one who applies himself to it, for every name has meaning, and is actually for our benefit if we can discern it.
1 Chronicles is occupied mainly with David's reign because David is an outstanding type of Christ as king. 2 Chronicles begins with Solomon's reign. These two books differ greatly from the books of Samuel and Kings, for they emphasize the grace of God rather than His government, as do Samuel and Kings. David's great sin in connection with Bathsheba and her husband is not mentioned in 1 Chronicles, and Solomon's grave failure and disobedience is passed over also in 2 Chronicles, because the Lord here emphasizes the truth that David and Solomon are types of Christ, in whom there is no failure. Those things that demonstrate the grace of God in enabling the kings to do God's work are prominent in this history; therefore, Chronicles speaks more largely of the evils of the ten tribes and their kings rather than of the failure of Judah, though in 2 Chronicles the history of Judah and her kings is prominent, and their failures declared too, while the ten tribes spoken of only in their connection with Judah, for only Judah had a true succession of kings of the line of David.
Solomon began his reign strengthened by God and given great exaltation (v. 1). At Solomon's word all the chief men of Israel went up to the high place at Gibeon, where the tabernacle was at the time. There is no scriptural objection to this high place at the time, for it rather speaks of the place of exaltation given to the tabernacle. However, when Solomon had built the temple there was no more reason for the tabernacle: rather, the ark and all the tabernacle furniture was brought to the temple, signifying that all the truths of the tabernacle were incorporated into the temple, the place of God's choosing (ch. 5:5). After this, worship in the high places was disobedience to God, yet Solomon built high places for foreign gods (1 Ki. 11:7- 8). But 2 Chronicles passes over the failures of Solomon, since the focus of the book is on God's sovereign grace sustaining the king who was a picture of Christ.
At this time, however, the ark was not in the tabernacle, but in a tent that David had pitched for it at Jerusalem (v. 4). The bronze (or copper) altar that was made by Bezaleel (Ex. 27:1-2) was in its proper place in front of the tabernacle (v. 5), and Solomon and Israel met the Lord there. The altar symbolized his meeting the Lord in grace because of the value of the sacrifice placed on the altar, but there was inconsistency in the ark not being present, for the ark speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of the throne of God, therefore of absolute authority. Grace and authority should always be together, but God bore with this inconsistency until the temple was built, then all was in proper order again.
Young as Solomon was, he showed true devotion to the Lord in offering 1000 burnt offerings on the altar (v. 6). Thus, his reign began well. The same night God appeared to him to give him the opportunity of asking what God should give him (v. 7). His response was good, for he first showed a humble attitude of thankfulness for the great mercy God had shown to David his father and toward Solomon also in making him king. He asked that the Lord's promise to David might be established, that is, the promise of David's seed reigning over Israel (v. 9). This desire for the fulfillment of God's word shows a heart dependent on God, which was especially true in Solomon's years.
Being impressed with the size of Israel's population, Solomon felt his own insufficiency for the responsibility of ruling over them, that he asked for wisdom and knowledge, so that he might go out and come in before the people (v. 10). This prayer was good, and God commended Solomon for asking for wisdom and knowledge, rather than for riches or honor or for the destruction of his enemies (v. 11). Therefore, God told him his prayer was answered favorably, so that he was given wisdom and knowledge. But God added to this that He would give him riches, wealth and honor also, greater than any other king before or after him (v. 12).
Yet, let us observe the reason that Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge: "that I may go out and come in before this people." No doubt he remembered what scripture said of David: "All Israel and Judah loved David because he went out and came in before them" (1 Sam. 18:16). This was a good testimony before others. Solomon was concerned about this, as we too ought to be. Yet he evidently did not realize that David's good testimony was the result of much deeper exercise of heart than of concern about his testimony. Nor should we think primarily about how we affect others. Should we not first consider how we should please the Lord?
The Lord graciously answered Solomon's request for wisdom and knowledge, and in all history, there has not been another like him in intellectual wisdom and knowledge. He also told him He would give him riches and honor. But Solomon would have been wiser to ask much more than this. For instance, if he had known Scripture well he might have known that it would be a special temptation for a king to multiply wives and horses, and to greatly multiply riches, as Deuteronomy 17:14-20 indicates, and if he had prayed to be preserved from these evils, his history might have been much different. Perhaps he had not read Deuteronomy 17, but he ought to have read in the five books of Moses every day of his life, as Deuteronomy 17:18-19 tells us.
SOLOMON'S WEALTH AND POWER (vv. 13-17)
Returning to Jerusalem, Solomon began his prosperous reign in gathering wealth that exceeded all the kingdoms of the earth. 1400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen were gathered for the protection of his kingdom early in his reign. Not that he needed all this, for God was his protector and such peace was established in his days that these chariots and horsemen were not used for war. But of course, other nations would not so likely challenge him when he was well prepared.
He had such stores of silver and gold that they became as common as stones in Jerusalem (v. 15), and cedar trees became as common as the sycamores. The cedars were imported from Lebanon. Also mentioned is that he imported horses from Egypt and Keveh, as well as chariots from Egypt. Solomon also made a great business of buying and selling horses and chariots, buying from Egypt and selling to the Hittites and kings of Syria. Thus of course his wealth greatly increased.
Actually, in this traffic with Egypt Solomon was disobedient to God. Nevertheless, God used even this disobedience for His own glory, for in Chronicles nothing is said about this matter being disobedience. The emphasis is rather on the fact that Solomon's wealth, increased as it was by Gentile traffic, is a picture of the greater wealth and splendor of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus, whose glory will be increased by tribute from the whole world (which is pictured by Egypt). Zechariah 14: 16 bears witness to this future recognition of Christ by the nations.
SOLOMON'S REQUEST FROM HIRAM (vv. 1-10)
As the Lord had foretold to David, He worked upon Solomon's heart to make him determine to build both a temple for the Lord and a royal house for himself (v.1). Though David is also a type of Christ, he was not permitted to build the temple because he pictures Christ as a Man of war bringing the world into subjection to Him during the Tribulation period. The temple belongs to Christ's reign of peace; therefore Solomon was its builder.
The number of his workers was great indeed, 70.000 to carry materials, 80,000 to work in the mountains to quarry stone and 3 supervisors. These workers being selected, then Solomon sent a message to Hiram king of Tyre, reminding him that he had sent timber of cedar to David for the building of David's personal house, and asking that Hiram would now send timber for the building of a much greater house, a house for the name of the Lord. He said this house would be dedicated to the Lord for the burning of sweet incense (speaking of worship), for the continual showbread (speaking of communion with God through the person of the Lord Jesus), and for burnt offerings morning and evening (picturing the sacrifice of Christ as bringing glory to His God and Father). Such offerings also were for special occasions, Sabbaths, New Moons and set feasts, as seen in Leviticus 23:4.
Solomon told Hiram the temple will be great because the God of Israel is greater than all the idolatrous gods of the nations (v. 5). He realized also his unworthiness to build a temple for One so great, whom the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain. The temple therefore could not be a representation of Him: indeed the only true representation of God is the Lord Jesus, but Solomon was building the temple only as a place of sacrifice to God (v. 6).
He asked Hiram to send him a skillful man able to work with gold, silver and iron, also with purple, crimson and blue fabrics, and a capable engraver (v. 7). To find an expert in all these skills would certainly be amazing, but in Exodus 31:1-5 we read that God had given such ability to a man of Judah, Bezaleel, to supervise the building of the tabernacle. Each of these men is typical of the Holy Spirit of God who is in control of all the activities of the house of God. In the case of the tabernacle, since it was temporary, it was a man of Judah chosen for their work. But the temple speaks of the display of God's glory in the millennial age, when Gentiles will share with Israel in great blessing. Thus the working of the Spirit of God will include Gentiles.
As we have seen, in the millennium Gentiles will share with Israel in the great blessing that God brings to the world. Today, both Jewish and Gentile believers are joined together as the Church of God, one building growing into a holy temple in the Lord, for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22). Thus the Spirit of God produces a unity of Jewish and Gentile believers in the Church, far more vital than any measure of unity that will be seen between Jews and Gentiles in the millennium.
Solomon also asked Hiram for cedar, cypress and algum logs from Lebanon, since he knew that Hiram's servants were skilled in work with timber. He would also have his servants join with Hiram's servants in this work, another picture of the friendship between Jews and Gentiles in the millennium (vv. 8-9).
In return for this service from Tyre Solomon promised to give to Hiram's servants 20,000 cors of ground wheat, 20,000 of barley, 20,000 baths of wine and 20.000 baths of oil (v. 10). This pictures the liberality of the Lord toward those who labor for the benefit of the building of the house of God today also, for He does provide everything necessary for their sustenance and enjoyment, and much more. Any labor that is done for the Lord will be more than graciously repaid.
HIRAM'S RESPONSE (vv. 11-16)
The response of Hiram to Solomon's request was favorable and lovely. He wrote, "Because the Lord loves His people, He has made you king over them" (v. 11). No thought of rivalry is apparent in his words, but rather of heartfelt thankfulness that God had given to David a wise and understanding son to reign over Israel. He recognized that Israel's God is the Maker of heaven and earth, and was pleased at Solomon's proposal to build a temple for this sovereign God as well as a house for himself (v. 12).
Hiram therefore was sending a skillful craftsman to supervise the work of building (v. 13). Interestingly, while his father was a man of Tyre, his mother was an Israelite from the tribe of Dan (v. 14). Again, the unity of Jews and Gentiles is emphasized here. This master craftsman is certainly a picture of the working of the Spirit of God in Jewish and Gentile believers, being proficient to work in gold (dealing with what speaks of the glory of God), in silver (picturing the great truth of redemption by virtue of the sufferings of Christ), in bronze (or copper), (signifying the holiness of God), in iron (symbolizing the power of God). But not only was he a metal worker, for he was proficient in working with wood, which pictures the work of the Spirit of God in believers, for trees are symbolical of mankind (Mt. 3:10).
This man is not named, for the Spirit of God does not draw attention to Himself: instead, He glorifies Christ (Jn. 16:13-14). Yet he was also a proficient worker in fabrics; purple, which speaks of the royalty of the Lord Jesus as seen in Matthew; blue, picturing Christ as the Son of God come from heaven, as in John's Gospel; fine linen, symbolizing the purity of the perfect Manhood of the Lord Jesus, as is emphasized in Luke's Gospel; and crimson, expressing the attractiveness of His person as God's Servant, always doing His will, as Mark presents Him. All of these wonderful truths concerning the Lord Jesus are ministered by the Spirit of God and have great importance in the house of God today just as they did figuratively in Solomon's temple. Added to this is the making of engravings for the temple. Engravings are intended to preserve a permanent record, which indeed the Spirit of God does, for His work is eternal.
Hiram therefore asked that Solomon's arrangement should be carried out with wheat, barley, oil and wine being sent by Solomon to Hiram and wood cut from Lebanon by the servants of Hiram, brought in rather by sea to Joppa, where Solomon's servants would take charge and bring them to Jerusalem (v. 15-16).
ALIENS EMPLOYED IN THE WORK (vv. 17-18)
Gentiles from outside Israel were willing to help in the building of Israel's temple, but there were also Gentiles residing in the land. They were not left unemployed, but employed by Solomon in the work of the temple. In numbering these, Solomon found a total of 153,000. This may seem a large number for whom to find work, and especially when it involved the erection of only two buildings. But the size and the elaborate details of these buildings required such numbers. We may think of construction methods today not requiring such numbers, but the labor at that time was all hand labor, which is much slower and more arduous work than that of present- day construction. 70,000 of these Gentiles were to bear burdens, which would include the carrying of lumber from Joppa to Jerusalem and the carrying of stone from the quarries to the site of the temple and Solomon's house. 80,000 were employed as stone-cutters in the mountains. Of course, these worked in shifts. (v.18). The remaining 3,600 were used as supervisors of the work (V. 18)
THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE (vv. 1-17)
We are reminded that the site of the temple was Mount Moriah, on the property bought by David from Ornan the Jebusite, where his threshing floor had been (v. 1). For we must observe that the suffering of tribulation, as pictured in the threshing floor, must precede the joy of the establishing of God's house. Suffering must always come before glory (1 Pet. 4:13).
The date of beginning of building is carefully noted in verse 2, the second day of the second month in the fourth year of Solomon's reign. Thus, it was neither rushed at the beginning of his reign nor delayed for a long time. In God's ways there is always orderly preparation and orderly progression: He is never premature or late in whatever He does.
The foundation (v. 3) speaks of the fact that what God builds is solid and enduring, as indicated in Hebrews 11:10, — "the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." The size, 60 by 20 cubits, was not great compared to many buildings of our present time, for this was only about 90 by 30 feet. But the magnificence of the temple was far beyond any present day building.
There was also a vestibule across the Width of the house, that is, 20 cubits in width, though the depth of it is not mentioned. But the height (120 cubits) is immense, and seems out of proportion with the rest of the building. However, some Septuagint manuscripts evidently read 20 instead of 120. Then this was overlaid with pure gold, for the house was God's dwelling place, though in Chronicles the emphasis is placed upon the house as being the way of approach to God.
The larger room, that is, the outer sanctuary (its 20 by 40 cubits), was paneled with cypress and overlaid with fine gold, with carved palm trees and chain work. The palm trees speak of both the fruitfulness and the victory of the Lord Jesus. The chain work reminds us of the words of the Lord to the shepherdess, "Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with chains of gold" (Song 1:10). Rather than having a stiff neck, her neck was submissive to the gracious authority of the Lord Jesus, that is, "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Thus the golden chain speaks of the gentle authority of the Lord Jesus in His ability to bring souls willingly to submit to Him. How different are the chains and fetters of iron spoken of in Psalm 49:8, which indicate the enforced bondage of those who refuse to be willingly subject to the Lord.
The house was decorated with precious stones, each of these reflecting some particular virtue of the Lord Jesus, as is the case with every color. All the woodwork was overlaid with gold, for the wood speaks of humanity in its various forms, and this was to be covered by that which speaks of God's glory. Cherubim were also carved on the walls. The cherubim picture the sovereign government of God, as is also witnessed in the two cherubim on the mercy seat.
The most holy place was half the size of the outer sanctuary, that is, 20x20x20 cubits. Thus, it formed a perfect cube. Since it is symbolical of the dwelling place of God, its three dimensions are identical, speaking of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being equal. We could say that part of the sanctuary was length, part of it breadth and part of it height. Rather all of it is comprehended in each of these dimensions. Thus also the Father is not part of God: He is God absolutely and perfectly. The Son is God, and the Spirit is God. To emphasize this, all was overlaid with fine gold. Even the nails were of gold, their weight fifty shekels.
Inside the holy place there were also cherubim, two of them, carved in gold, their wings outstretched, each wing measuring 5 cubits, so that the two inside wings touched each other and thus the whole 20 cubits of the wall was included in their wing spans (vv. 10-13). We are not to think of the cherubim as created beings, for no creature can share in the glory of God's presence, but they symbolize the principle of God's government in its perfect balance, both grace and truth united in maintaining God's authority.
As in the tabernacle, there was a veil separating the most holy place from the outer sanctuary. This was made of blue, purple, crimson and fine linen. All of these speak of the various beauties of the Manhood of the Lord Jesus, for the veil was to represent "His flesh" (Heb. 10:20).
In front of the temple Solomon placed two pillars 35 cubits high with a capital at the top of each measuring five cubits. The pillars speak of that which is stable and outstanding (Gal. 2:9; Rev. 3:12). Wreaths of chainwork were put on top of the pillars and 100 graven pomegranates were put on the wreaths. As we have mentioned, the chainwork speaks of willing submission to the authority of the Lord Jesus. Pomegranates are noted for their profusion of seeds, thus indicating the promise of great fruit, which is the result of submission to the Lord. The pillars were named Jachin (meaning "He will establish"), and Boaz ("in Him is strength"), indicating the solidity and power of the Lord Jesus.
FURNISHINGS OF THE TEMPLE (vv. 1-22)
Some of the furnishings for the temple were placed on the outside, others inside. The bronze altar (v. 1) was of course outside, and much larger than that made for the tabernacle, in fact 20 by 20 cubits, and 10 cubits high, about 30 feet square and 15 feet high. Bronze (or copper) speaks of the holiness of God, so that the bronze altar emphasizes the holy judgment of God borne by His holy Son as the one sacrifice for sin. Thus, we must meet God at the cross before there is any possibility of entering His temple.
The Sea answers to the laver of the tabernacle, but again, how much higher! It was 10 cubits in diameter (about 15 feet) and its height 5 cubits (7 1/2 feet) (v. 2). It was supported by 12 bronze oxen, all facing outward, three toward each direction of the compass. The 12 tribes of Israel are thus represented. The oxen speak of lowly, patient service. The priests washed in the Sea (v. 6) symbolizing moral cleansing necessary for carrying out their service. The sea contained 3000 baths of water (v. 5), which amounts to over 12,600 gallons. Being a hand-breadth thick (about 4 inches), its weight must have been great.
Solomon also made ten lavers, their size not noted, putting five on the right side and five on the left of the Sea (v. 6). The lavers were for washing the burn offerings before offering them. The sacrifice had to be clean as symbolizing the perfect purity of Christ. He required no cleansing, but if the animal was to picture Him, the animal must be cleansed.
The tabernacle had only one golden lampstand, but the temple had ten, five of them being on each side of the outer sanctuary (v. 7). Each of these no doubt had seven branches. The lampstands speak of Christ as the Sustainer of testimony, and being ten reminds us that all the claims of the law are fulfilled in this One whose testimony is perfection, including His great sacrifice by which He has fulfilled the law on behalf of others.
Similarly, though the tabernacle had only one table, the temple had ten, with five on each side of the outer sanctuary. The table pictures Christ as the Sustainer of communion. A mere legal covenant would only hinder communion, for the law could not bring anyone near to God. But the number ten again shows that Christ has fulfilled all the law's requirements. Israel will understand this in the millennium, to which the temple has special application, so that nothing will be present to hinder the precious flow of fellowship based on the person of the Lord Jesus.
It seems difficult to understand what purpose 100 golden bowls would serve in the temple, though we may be sure that God has a spiritual reason for this. These things in verses 7 and 8 were inside the outer sanctuary. The court of the priests would be close to the temple and the great courts on the outside of that (v. 9). The doors (or gates) were overlaid with bronze, emphasizing the holiness that is necessary for any entering of the temple area.
Pats, shovels and bowls are mentioned in verse 11, and in verse 16 these are said to be made of burnished bronze (or copper), so that they were used outside the temple in connection with the sacrifices and the fire provided for the sacrifices. The furniture inside the temple was either of gold or covered with gold.
The list of things Huram provided is seen from verse 11 to verse 16. Added to what was previously mentioned are carts (v. 14) that carried the lavers. It may be that the carts were made in order that the lavers could be moved to the location where the animal of sacrifice was brought. The amount of bronze used in connection with the temple was so great that its weight was not determined (v. 18).
Verses 19 to 22 recount the furnishings inside the holy place (not the most holy); the golden incense altar, the tables of showbread, the lampstands with their flowers and lamps of pure gold, wick trimmers, bowls, ladles and censers. Wicks themselves are not mentioned; for they do not speak of the Lord Jesus, but of believers who bear testimony, but must be trimmed, for the testimony of one day cannot avail for the next day. No matter how brightly we may have shone for the Lord at one time, the burnt wick must be removed, so that we may continue to shine with new energy. Forgetting the things that are past, we should press forward with constantly renewed desire for the honor of the Lord Jesus.
Inner doors leading to the most holy place were gold. Thus, there were both doors and a veil separating the two sanctuaries. The doors of the main hall also, that is, apparently the doors of the entry into the outer sanctuary, were of gold. It is said they were gold, not overlaid with gold, so their value must have been great indeed. Gold speaks of the glory of God, so that the very entrance into the holy place was to be for the glory of God, not for the blessing of the one who entered, though if God is glorified, there cannot but be blessing for the entrant. There may have been a curtain also, as there was in the tabernacle, but this is not said.
DAVIDS PROVISIONS PUT IN THE TEMPLE (v. 1)
The work of building being completed, Solomon also brought into the temple the things that David had collected and dedicated to the Lord, silver and gold and other furnishings. These were put in the treasuries of the house of the Lord, evidently in a different room than either of the sanctuaries. But the reminder of David's part was not to be lost, for he had put down the enemies of the Lord.
THE ARK PUT IN ITS PROPER PLACE (vv. 2-14)
The bringing of the ark to the temple required a special public observance, for this was to be an occasion of great rejoicing. Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the 12 tribes, the chief fathers of Israel, to Jerusalem for this observance. This was at the time of the feast of the seventh month, very likely the Feast of Tabernacles, which began on the 15th day of this month, for it pictures the blessing of Israel's millennial glory.
When the people were assembled, the Levites took up the ark, according to the prescribed order, and also brought the tabernacle and its furnishings up to the temple (vs. 4-5). Does this not tell us that, though the temple adds to the truth that is illustrated in the tabernacle, yet nothing of the truth connected with the tabernacle was to be lost, but rather incorporated into the teaching of the temple? As this work was being done, King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel were sacrificing sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered for multitude (v. 6). Every one of these offerings is symbolical of the one offering of Christ, but the number speaks of the worship of One who is worthy of unlimited adoration because of the unlimited value of His sacrifice.
The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord into the most holy place and set it under the wings of the two cherubim whose wings were spread from wall to wall. The poles for carrying the ark were left in place so as to be seen inside the holiest of all, but of course could not be seen outside (vv. 7-8). The poles were no longer necessary for carrying the ark, but remained as a reminder that the ark (Christ in figure) had been a pilgrim at one time, just as we shall be reminded for eternity that the Lord Jesus was once on earth as an outcast sojourner (v. 9). All His history on earth will be a matter for our eternal appreciation.
Nothing but the two tables of the law were in the ark (v. 10). There will be the reminder for eternity that the law has been perfectly kept, not by mankind, but in the heart of the Lord Jesus, who not only kept the law Himself, but fulfilled all the law's claims against sinners (Ps. 40:8).
After having placed the ark in the Holy Place, the priests came out (v. 1 1), and the Levites who were singers under Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun were stationed at the east of the bronze altar, clothed in white linen, having various stringed instruments, and with them 120 priests with trumpets (V. 12).
The trumpeters and singers were "as one," their harmony beautiful as the stringed instruments also joined in, and thus the gathering unitedly thanked and praised the Lord, saying, "For He is good, for His mercy endures forever" (v. 13). All this is symbolical of the spontaneous great joy that will fill the hearts of Israel at the dawning of the millennial age. The Lord then expressed His own approval by filling the temple with the cloud of His glory, so that for the time even the priests could not enter there (v. 14).
SOLOMON SPEAKS TO GOD AND TO THE PEOPLE (vv. 1-11)
Solomon began his inauguration address by first speaking to the Lord, reminding Him that He had said He would dwell in the dark cloud and that he (Solomon) had built this exalted house for the Lord to dwell in.
Then he turned to address the whole assembly of the people standing at attention. We are told he blessed them, but the way he did this was by saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David" (v. 3). For if God is blessed, the people will be blessed also. The Lord had said that since the time He brought Israel out of Egypt; He had chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to have a house built suitable for the honor of His name. Nor had He chosen any man to be a suitable ruler for Israel until He gave David that honor (vv. 5-6). Now finally God’s choice of a city has been made clear. He had chosen Jerusalem, which name means "the foundation of peace." a truly appropriate place for God's dwelling, for the foundation of peace is righteousness. "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever" (Isa. 32:17). In fact, this verse looks forward to the millennium, when Christ the King "will reign in righteousness" (Isa. 32: 1), a wonderful Contrast to all the kings who have ever reigned on earth.
In addressing the people, Solomon speaks of David being God's chosen king; therefore Christ is called "the Son of David." Yet it was in David's heart to himself build a house for the name of the Lord, and God did not allow him to, though God commended him that such a desire was in his heart (vv. 7-8). But God promised David that his son would build the temple, and now God's Word was fulfilled in the completion of that great project. Solomon added also that he had put the ark in the temple, for it was the ark of God's covenant with Israel, the center He had chosen.
SOLOMON'S PRAYER (vv. 12-42)
Solomon then stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly and spread out his hands. Verse 13 is a parenthesis, speaking of his having made a bronze platform five cubits square and three cubits high, the same size as the altar, where all the assembly could see him. He stood on this, then knelt down and spread out his hands toward heaven (v. 13).
He began his prayer by giving God His place of great dignity and honor as the Lord God of Israel, greater than all Others, and the One who keeps His covenant with those who keep His covenant also, walking before Him with all their heart (v. 14). He shows too his appreciation of God's having kept His promise, no doubting the fact of Solomon's being put on the throne and enabled to build the temple (v. 15). He prayed therefore that God would further keep His promise to David that he should not fail to have a man sit before God on the throne of Israel, but on condition that David's sons would walk in God's law (v. 16). In fact, this promise will be fully fulfilled in spite of many of David's sons failing to obey God's law. God overrules all the failure in such a way that the Son of David, the Lord Jesus, will take the throne of Israel in perfect righteousness, but this is still future.
Meanwhile, because Israel has not kept God's covenant, they (including David's posterity) are suffering great sorrow and obscurity and will do so until they finally recognize Jesus as the true Son of David, the Messiah of Israel at the end of their Great Tribulation.
But Solomon asks a pertinent question, "Will God indeed dwell with men on earth? (v.18). To do so would require an astounding act of grace, for the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain God. He is infinite, without limits, and omnipresent, present everywhere at all times. We cannot understand the greatness of His being. He cannot be confined anywhere, yet in a very real sense He dwelt in the temple, in the holiest of all, though in thick darkness. This is a paradox in which we may rejoice.
Solomon implored God's attention and concern as regards his intercession for Israel, with God's eyes open toward the temple. He realized that when Israel prayed, they would have need of forgiveness, and he asks God to forgive.
In fact, each one of the detailed prayers that follow contemplates a condition of failure on the part of Israel, except for verses 32 to 35. In verse 22 the case of one sinning against another is seen and intercession made that God would hear prayer in this and judge according to truth (v.23). Verses 24 and 25 deal with prayer being made toward the temple when Israel's sin has caused them to suffer defeat by an enemy, asking that when they pray, God may bring them back to their land.
This was in measure fulfilled when God brought a large number of Judah back from Babylon after the 70 years of captivity. But the true fulfillment of this will be when all twelve tribes are gathered back by the power of the Lord Jesus at the end of the Great Tribulation, when their guilt will practically drive them in repentance to the Lord.
Verses 26-27 contemplate the case of Israel's sin causing God's judgment by withholding rain from the land. In the days of Ahab, Elijah prophesied drought like this, which lasted 3 1/2 years (just the length of the future Great tribulation), though we do not read that Israel after this forsook their sin and sought the Lord. Thus, God's grace was even more than Solomon asked. However, in verse 27, Solomon asked for Israel's restoration in order that God might teach them the good way in which they should walk, as well as sending rain on the land. The full accomplishment of this will not be until the introduction of the millennium, when Israel will have the character of being willing volunteers in the day of the Lord's power (Ps. 1 - and the land will bear fruit abundantly.)
Verses 28-31 consider a case of famine in the land, which might follow the withholding of rain, but might be accompanied by pestilence, blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers. This might occur, however, when enemies besieged them in their cities, when they had no access to food. Plagues and sickness could be very prevalent at such a time. If this would drive people in prayer and confession to God, then Solomon asks that God would hear from heaven and forgive Israel's sin, rendering to each individual such mercy as is appropriate, considering the state of each heart (v. 30). The desired effect was that Israel would fear the Lord (v. 31).
In verses 32 and 33 Solomon prays for any foreigner who had come to Israel from a far country because of his regard for God's great name. If such a person would come and pray in the temple (for the temple court was considered a part of the temple), Solomon asks that God would hear his prayer and answer it, that this might have some real effect on all the peoples of the earth in recognizing the greatness of the God of Israel (v. 33). If God should send Israel to battle against their enemies and they would pray toward Jerusalem and the temple there, then Solomon asks that God would hear and answer their prayer, and maintain their cause (vv. 34-35). Let us note that he does not pray for this if Israel went to battle without God's direction. We can expect God's blessing only in God's way.
In verses 36-39 Solomon speaks of an occasion when Israel sins against God (not "if they sin", "for there is no one who does not sin") and God's anger causes them to be delivered to the captivity of an enemy, whether near or far. He adds, "when" (not "if') they come to themselves in the land where they are carried captive, and repent and make supplication to God in the land of their captivity, saying "We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness. There is no shadow of doubt that Israel will do this eventually, though centuries have passed since they have been scattered through the world. The pride of man's natural heart is so great that he will stubbornly continue in rebellion against God even while going through the forms of religious observance. But the Great Tribulation will eventually break down their arrogant pride to make such a confession as is seen in verse 37.
It will be a work of God's grace in their hearts that moves all this, causing them to return to the Lord with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity (v. 38). This prayer of Solomon has in it the element of a prophecy. Even today the eyes of many Israelites are turned toward Jerusalem, though still in a state of coldness toward the Lord Jesus. But very soon a great change will take place, for the Great Tribulation is certainly not far off.
Solomon prays that God would hear from heaven, and He certainly will, in such a way that the remnant of Israel will be fully restored to their land permanently, with the full, free forgiveness of God (v. 39).
The prayer draws to its close with an appeal to God for His kind attention to what is prayed (v. 40), and Solomon's desire that the Lord God would, with the ark of His strength, find a true resting place, and that the priests, those who served in the temple, might be clothed with salvation, and all the saints rejoice in God's goodness (v. 41).
Finally, and most importantly, he draws attention to the grace of God's Anointed. Christ alone is the Center of blessing for mankind, God's anointed King. It is in Him that all the interests of believers are maintained, and all God's interests too. The finishing sentence is most precious also, "Remember the mercies of Your servant David." This refers to the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:34), though Solomon did not realize this significance at the time he spoke.
GOD'S GLORIOUS ANSWER (vv. 1-3)
God wonderfully demonstrated His approval of the temple and of Solomon's prayer by sending fire from heaven to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices (spoken of in ch. 5: 6), and filled the temple with His glory (vv. 1-2). When the children of Israel saw this, they were prostrated in lowly worship, praising the Lord, and particularly emphasizing "For He is good, for His mercy endures forever" (v. 3). This was a wonderful beginning of a new era in Israel's history, though it is sorrowful that the freshness of joy in the Lord very soon wore off, so that both Solomon and Israel departed far from their early condition.
THE DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE (vv. 4-11)
The Lord had accepted the offerings without number (ch. 5:6; 7: 1) by sending fire to consume them, and now in order to dedicate the temple Solomon and the people offered 22,000 bulls and 20,000 sheep. The priests would have abundant work to do with these offerings, and the Levites accompanied this by playing musical instruments that David had introduced when offering praise to the Lord (v. 6).
Since the copper altar was not large enough to accommodate all the offerings, Solomon consecrated the middle of the court in front of the temple to offer the burnt offerings (v. 7).
Keeping the feast for a full week, they ended this with a special assembly on the eighth day before Solomon sent the people to their homes on the 23rd day of the seventh month (v. 16). This feast therefore (the Feast of Tabernacles) pictured the coming glory of the millennial blessing of Israel, though the joy at that time, great as it was, did not last long compared to the joy of the Lord 's reign in the millennium.
Though they were long in building, both the temple and the house of Solomon were eventually finished (v. 11). The work was not in vain, as is sometimes the case with those who have not before counted the cost, but what God builds is always perfectly finished. The temple pictures the Father's house in glory, while Solomon's house is a picture of the Church in her condition and circumstances on earth, where God's order is to be maintained among His saints.
THE LORDS SECOND APPEARANCE TO SOLOMON (vv. 12-21)
The Lord had first appeared to Solomon (ch. 1:7) to offer him what he might ask. Now He appears to assure him that He has heard his prayer and to encourage him to put God first in the rule of his kingdom. This was the same night after the dedication, and the Lord sought to impress on Solomon the importance of single-hearted obedience to His Word. He had chosen the temple for Himself as a house of sacrifice and He would have special consideration for those who looked toward the temple.
The Lord then spoke of specifically answering Solomon's prayer in regard to His governmental chastening of Israel by His withholding rain or sending locusts or pestilence. If Israel would humble themselves and pray, seeking God's face, turning from the evil of their ways, then God would indeed hear from heaven, forgive them and heal their land (vv. 13-14).
God affirms again that He had both chosen and sanctified the temple, that is, He had set it apart for Himself, that His name might be there forever, His eyes and His heart there perpetually (v. 16). Yet after this the temple was destroyed and there has been no temple in Jerusalem for centuries! Why is this? Because Israel was guilty themselves of desecrating the temple. Though it was rebuilt in the days of Ezra, then destroyed again and rebuilt by Herod, the Lord Jesus declared before His crucifixion, when His disciples showed him the buildings of the temple, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down" (Mt. 24:1-2). This was fulfilled before long, and Israel has been without any temple for nearly 2000 years!
But God anticipated all this even in 2 Chronicles 7, for he speaks conditionally to Solomon in verse 17 and the verses following. "As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all the I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David.” But if Solomon turned away, forsaking the commandments of the Lord and serving and worshiping other gods, he could expect God's serious judgment in uprooting Israel from the land, casting the temple out of His sight, making it a proverb and byword among all the nations.
Was such a warning necessary for Solomon? Absolutely so! For he very soon fell into the trap of marrying many women of foreign nations and the false worship of their various idols (1 Ki. 11:1-8). Eventually the judgment of God fell on Israel for this: their land became desolate, their temple was destroyed and the people taken captive by the Babylonians. Then indeed everyone who observed the ruin of the land and the temple were astonished and questioned why the Lord had done this after expressing His of the house and greatly blessing Israel (v. 21).
Solomon was warned then that the answer would be, "Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity upon them" (v. 22). Yet 2 Chronicles does not speak of Solomon's shameful failure in turning from the Lord as does 1 Kings, for Chronicles emphasizes the grace of God rather than His government as in the books of Kings.
FURTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF SOLOMON (vv. 1-18)
After Solomon had completed the building of the temple and his own house, he rebuilt the cities that Hiram had given him and settled some of the children of Israel there (vv. 1-2). Solomon also gave Hiram some cities, though Hiram was not pleased with them (1 Ki. 9:12-13). While we read of no wars in Solomon's time because his reign symbolizes that of the Lord Jesus in the age to come, yet verse 3 tells us that Solomon went to Hamath Zobah and seized it, just as Christ will bring cities and nations into subjection to Him without bloodshed. Verses 5 and 6 speak of his building various cities, storage cities and fortified cities, some for his cavalry. Thus he was prepared for war, which is an important way of preserving peace. It is true that God had said that a king should not multiply horses (Deut. 17:16), but Solomon is not reproved for this here, for again his actions serve as a picture of the future glory of Christ, rather than as exposing his own unfaithfulness, as is done in 1 Kings.
THE VISIT OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA (vv. 1-12)
The report of the visit of the Queen of Sheba with Solomon differs only in a few details from the report in 1 Kings 10. But her visit is a lovely picture of the great interest in the Lord Jesus that will be awakened among the Gentiles when He takes His kingdom, and the glad response when they witness His wisdom and his glory.
She came to test him with hard questions. Whatever hard questions we have, the Lord Jesus can be depended on to answer anything that is worth answering in such a way as to bring us fullest satisfaction. She spoke to him of all that was in her heart. Do we fully lay bare our hearts to the Lord Jesus with willingness to accept whatever answer He gives? If we have confidence in Him, this should not be difficult, whether or not the answer is as pleasant as we desire.
The Queen of Sheba came with a great retinue, bringing spices, gold and precious stones (v. 1). Solomon answered all her questions. How much more capable the Lord Jesus is than Solomon to answer whatever questions we may have! 1 Kings 4:32-33 tells us that Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs and composed 106 songs: and that he spoke of trees, from the cedar to the hyssop, of animals, birds, creeping things and fish. But he could not speak of the heavenly things to which the Lord Jesus referred in John 3:12, for he could not know these, since at that time they were not revealed by God. Today it is heavenly things that should have the most absorbing interest for us, and the Lord Jesus can answer these for us. But the Queen saw the wisdom of Solomon in the house he had built and the striking order of his house, all of which, though literal was a picture of the more beautiful order of the house of God, the Church, today. "The food of his table" reminds us that the Lord Jesus has made wonderful provision for the nourishment and blessing of His saints in connection with His house, which is the Church (all believers of the present dispensation). The Lord tells us, "My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (Jn. 6:55). Having Him as the One who gave Himself in sacrifice for us is wonderful food and drink.
"The seating of his servants" speaks of the placing of each believer in his proper place, seated to hear the wisdom of their Lord, for there must be quiet attention to the Lord's instructions before there can be proper service. But service does follow, for "the service of his waiters" as added here. Orderly service in the Church of God should certainly be no less observed than in Solomon's house, and if we are subject to God's Word, our service will be good and acceptable. Their apparel too is mentioned here, which was no doubt very attractive, for it speaks of Christ as our righteousness, since we are seen by God as "in Christ" (1 Cor. 1:30).
"His cupbearers and their apparel" speaks of believers who give into the hand of the Lord that which refreshes and delights His heart. Does this not remind us of the Lord's supper and the privilege of giving the Lord Jesus pleasure and honor by the praise and adoration of our hearts? Their clothing too was appropriate, not the "filthy rags" of their own self-righteousness, but the "garments of salvation" provided by the King.
Also, the Queen of Sheba observed "the ascent" or causeway by which Solomon went from his own house up to the house of the Lord (v. 4). Apparently, no scripture describes this ascent, which must have been noteworthy, but the spiritual significance of it is the most important fact. Since Solomon's house pictures the Church on earth and the temple speaks of the Father's house in glory, then the ascent surely symbolizes the Rapture, when believers will be caught up to be forever with the Lord.
If the wonderful facts of Solomon's wisdom and glory seen in all these things caused the Queen of Sheba to have "no more spirit in her," what of the more wonderful facts of the wisdom and glory of the Lord Jesus manifested in the order that He has established in the Church of God, culminating in the promise of His coming to rapture all believers Home to the presence of His glory?
Anyone who has witnessed the truth of scripture as regards the wisdom of the Lord Jesus in the order of His house (the Church) must surely echo the Queen of Sheba's words. "It was a true report which I heard" (v. 5). Usually it is a report that first awakens people's interests in the truth of God, though at first we may be like the Queen of Sheba, who said, “I did not believe their words until I came and saw with my own eyes" (v. 6). Is it not true also that we have proven the fact that "the half of the greatness of your wisdom (that of the Lord Jesus) was not told me"?
She showed no jealousy of Solomon, but rather genuine delight in recognizing God's goodness to Solomon's servants and to all Israel in giving them such a king (vv. 7-8) through whose wisdom they could be so blessed. This looks forward to the day when the Lord Jesus is manifested in His glory and beauty to the nation Israel and before all the world. God will so work in the hearts of redeemed Gentiles then that they will have no more attitude of enmity toward Israel, but genuine delight in her exaltation!
The Queen of Sheba's gifts to Solomon were rather amazing, for the 120 talents of gold is equal to $855,000 in 1998! The gold speaks of the glory of God, while that great amount of spices speaks of the fragrant virtues of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, and the quantity of precious stones spear of the fruit of the Spirit of God. This pictures what true worship is at the present time, that is, the response of the heart to the work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is no work of the flesh in this, but that which is produced by the sovereign power and grace of God.
Personal faith and affection emphasized in the gifts of the Queen of Sheba, while in verses 10 and 11 we see the provision made by Hiram, a Gentile king and some servants of Solomon for walkways and instruments of music. The Queen of Sheba's gifts speak of worship to the Lord, but the others are secondary to worship, yet precious nonetheless, for they speak of walking in God's ways and rejoicing in that which pleases God.
But the Queen of Sheba was not impoverished by her giving to Solomon, just as believers today do not suffer lack because they give to the Lord. In fact, Solomon gave to the Queen all that she desired and much more, and this is no less true of the gracious giving of the Lord Jesus, as Psalm 27:4 assures us, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He Shall give you the desires of your heart." Thus indeed the Lord will always give us much more than we give to Him.
THE WEALTH OF SOLOMON (vv. 13-28)
It was very clearly the Lord who endowed Solomon with wealth far greater than any kingdom has ever had, for in this He furnished some little picture of the wealth of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus when He takes His throne. The weight of only the gold that came to Solomon in a year was 666 talents (v. 13). At present day value (1998) this would amount to over four million, 700 thousand dollars. But added to this was what merchants, traders and the kings of Arabia and governors brought in the way of gold and silver.
Some gold was used for making 200 large shields (of 300 shekels) and 300 shields of half the weight. These were put in the House of the Forest of Lebanon (v. 16). This house was not a dwelling, but held the offices of administration for the kingdom, so that the shields speak of defense in the place where the interests of the kingdom were maintained.
Solomon also had a great throne of ivory overlaid with gold (v. 17). This was in the House of the Forest of Lebanon, placed in a special Hall made for it, called the Hall of Judgment (1 Ki. 7:7). Six steps ascended to the throne. A footstool of gold was fastened to the throne, and beside the arm rests were two gold lions, one on each side. On each side of the six steps a lion stood (v. 19), thus 12 lions were on the steps, no doubt representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
In Solomon's house all the drinking vessels were gold, and the vessels in the House of the Forest of Lebanon were gold. None were silver, for silver was accounted as nothing in Solomon's kingdom (v. 20). Gold symbolizes the glory of God, which will be predominant in the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
Every three years Solomon sent ships to Tarshish, enlisting the help of Huram's servants, to bring to gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks (v. 21). Thus he had Gentile cooperation in such endeavors, as will be true in the future kingdom of Israel. So Solomon sur-passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom, though he furnishes only a faint picture of the greater glory of "the world kingdom" of the Lord Jesus.
The glory of Solomon prompted other kings to bring presents to him, articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses and mules, at a set rate every year, which indicates that it was intended as tribute (v. 24). This compares with Zechariah 14:16, speaking of the recognition of the authority of the King of kings in the millennium, with all nations called upon to give Him honor every year.
Though Solomon had no wars, he was fully prepared in case war should rise against him. He had 4000 stalls for horses and chariots, stationed in stated chariot cities and in Jerusalem. In this we are reminded that the Lord Jesus will provide complete protection for Israel in the millennium.
Verse 26 speaks of Solomon reigning over all the kings from the River (the Euphrates) to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. This was not all the land promised by God to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21), for only the kingdom of the Lord Jesus will accomplish this. Verses 27-28 picture the abundance with which Israel will be blessed when the Lord Jesus reigns.
Additional information concerning Solomon's reign was recorded by three prophets (v. 29), but these records are not scripture and have not been preserved. Solomon reigned for 40 years, as did David his father, and was buried in Jerusalem. His son Rehoboam took the throne.
JEREBOAM LEADS A REVOLT
Rehoboam was inaugurated as king at Shechem. Jereboam, who had gone to Egypt for fear of King Solomon, hearing of Solomon's death, returned to Israel. The tribes of Israel had some respect for this capable leader and asked him to intercede for them to Rehoboam. Thus Jereboam and others with him came to Rehoboam, telling him that Solomon had laid heavy burdens on them and asking him to lighten this severe bondage so that they would willingly serve him (vv. 34).
Rehoboam asked for three days to consider this (v. 5), then consulted with the elders who had served in Solomon's court. They rightly advised him to be kind to the people, thus treating them with respect and consideration, and assured him that the people would respond to gladly serve him. Rehoboam could well afford to show such kindness, for he had inherited great wealth from his father.
However, he rejected the wise counsel of men of experience (v. 8) and instead accepted the foolish counsel of the young men who had grown up with him. They told him to give the men of Israel a crushing reply, "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's and now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges" (vv. 10-11).
On hearing so harsh a reply from the king it is not surprising that the people immediately rebelled, saying, "'What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse" (v. 16). Thus they declared their immediate separation from Judah, a separation that has never been repaired and never will until the Lord Jesus returns to Israel at the end of their Great Tribulation.
In futile ignorance Rehoboam sent his head tax collector to demand revenue from these Israelites, but they stoned him to death. Then Rehoboam realized the rebels were not merely bluffing, and he quickly drove in his chariot to Jerusalem (v. 18), lest he should suffer the same fate as his servant.
GOD FORBIDS REHOBOAM TO ATTACK ISRAEL (vv. 1-4)
When Rehoboam saw his kingdom so largely torn away from him, he assembled an army of 180,000 warriors of Judah and Benjamin (for Benjamin remained with Judah) with the object of forcing the ten tribes back into subjection to him (v. 1). What suffering and desolation this would cause, with no good result!
But Rehoboam was spared the humiliation of a great defeat, for God intervened by sending the prophet Shemiah to tell the people, "Thus says the Lord, you shall not go up or fight against your brethren!" (v. 4). Rather, all were commanded to return to their homes, because, as God said, 'this thing is from Me." Though the rupture was occasioned by the folly of Rehoboam, yet God was behind it to expose the disunity that already existed in Israel, just as God often exposes similar evil in the Church of God, evil that is sought to be covered up, but eventually causes public divisions. This is certainly to our shame, but God is perfectly righteous to manifest any condition for what it really is.
At least Rehoboam had enough sense to obey the Word of the Lord at this time.
PREPAR DOG DEFENSES (vv. 5-12)
Being preserved from the folly of attacking the ten tribes, Rehoboam then concentrated on the strategy of defense, building fifteen cities in Judah and Benjamin for strongholds, with military officers over them and the cities stored with provisions of food, oil and wine. He realized now he was in danger from attack, not only from foreign nations, but from his own nation Israel. How sadly this condition has been repeated in the Church of God, where believers find themselves in danger from the attacks of other professing Christians. For this we need the preparation of the nourishing and refreshing of the Word of God. We should certainly score this in our hearts, with the ministry of the Spirit of God (the oil).
Shields and spears were also provided in every city (v. 2). We are thus reminded of "the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one" (Eph. 6:16). The spear is the only offensive weapon mentioned, but it reminds us of "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17). How much wiser it was for Rehoboam to make these preparations than it would have been for him to seek to force the ten tribes back under his control!
PRIESTS AND LEVITES MOVE TO JERUSALEM (vv. 13-17)
God had appointed the family of Aaron as priests, and the Levites to serve them. But Jereboam refused this claim and appointed priests of his own choosing for worship of idols in high places (v. 15). Therefore the priests and Levites moved to Judah, leaving the lands that had been given them among the ten tribes (vv. 13-14). What else could they do? Jeroboam’s idolatry had left no room for priests of the Lord.
The priests and Levites who came to Judah from the ten tribes strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years it appeared that Rehoboam promised to prove a faithful king, "because they walked in the way of David and Solomon." Sad to say, however, though Rehoboam had a relatively good beginning, it was not long before he spoiled it.
REHOBOAM'S WIVES AND CHILDREN (vv. 18-23)
Outwardly, Rehoboam was more careful as to the wives he took, than was Solomon, for he first took Mahalath, the granddaughter of David, and he added also Maachah the granddaughter of Absalom. But outward orthodoxy does not guarantee godliness, and besides, it was no more right for Rehoboam to have 18 wives and sixty concubines than it was for Solomon to have his large harem of wives and concubines (v. 21). Of course a man will be greatly affected by such relationships.
Though Rehoboam's first wife bore him sons, he set those aside in favor of Abijah the son of Maachah, whom he preferred above Mahalath. Deuteronomy 21:15-17 had warned against such an arrangement, saying that a man "must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn." Perhaps Rehoboam did not know this scripture, but he ought to have, for a king in Israel was responsible to provide himself with a copy of the law and read it all the days of his life (Deut. 17:18-19). Nevertheless, the grace of God transcended the failure of Rehoboam, for Abijah is confirmed in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 1:7.
In spite of Rehoboam's great lack of wisdom in causing the revolt of the ten tribes, he showed more wisdom in the administration of the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, appointing some of his sons to be dispersed throughout his territories and giving abundant provision. This was far more wise than threatening to chastise them with scourges, as he did with the ten tribes. It seems strange that he could be so cruel in the one case and so generous in the other. But perhaps the latter was because his own family was involved. In fact, his generosity went beyond proper bounds, for he sought many wives for his sons! How true it is that one who goes to extremes in one direction is likely to also go to extremes in the opposite direction! Only true faith in the Lord Jesus can enable us to maintain a proper balance.
EGYPT ATTACKS JUDAH (vv. 1-9)
Rehoboam's prosperity however became his downfall. When he strengthened himself in his kingdom sufficiently to think himself secure, he gave up any regard he had for the law of the Lord, and the people willingly followed in his steps. How often this kind of folly has been repeated in the history of the people of God! Prominence and popularity can be a dreadful snare, for wed are to think more of our reputation than of the Lord's honor!
But God was not merely a disinterested bystander. In the fifth year of Jereboam, because of his transgression God allowed Shishak king of Egypt to attack Jerusalem with 1200 chariots,60,000 horsemen and people without number (vv. 2-3). These included not only Egyptians, but Lubim, Sukkim and Ethiopians. These evidently had no inclination to attack Israel while Solomon was reigning, but they knew that Rehoboam did not have the strength of Solomon, and if God's people are not walking with Him, they become vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.
This formidable army had no difficulty in capturing the fortified cities of Judah, and came to Jerusalem with the object of capturing it also (v. 4). The Lord then graciously sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah, who told them that they were exposed to the threat of Shishak because they had forsaken the Lord.
This word from the Lord took some effect, and the king and his officials humbled themselves before the Lord, acknowledging that the Lord was righteous in allowing the attack of Egypt. The Lord will always take full account of the attitude His people take, and His word came to Shemaiah again that because the people had humbled themselves He would grant them some deliverance, so that He would not pour out His wrath on Judah by the attack of Shishak. Yet He would put Judah into subjection to Shishak in order to learn the pain of subservience to a Gentile nation in contrast to the pleasure of obedience to God (vv. 7-8).
Thus God restrained Shishak from shedding blood in Jerusalem, but allowed him to treat Judah as slaves be taking away the king's house and the golden shields Solomon had made (v.9). How strikingly significant it is that Rehoboam made copper shields to replace the golden ones! (v. 10). Gold speaks of the glory of God, but copper pictures holiness. This same type of thing has certainly taken place in the professing church of God today. Rather than God's glory being emphasized in the testimony of the church, people are content to forget about God's honor and to concentrate on personal holiness. Of course holiness is commendable, but if it takes the place of God's glory, it becomes insipid and counterfeit.
The copper shields that replaced those of gold were committed to the care of the captain of the guard who guarded the doorway of the king's house. When the king entered the house of the Lord the guard brought the shields out, and returned them afterward to the guardroom. This was evidently a formality, the shields indicating the protection of the king, but his dependence was on his holiness (of which copper speaks), not on the God of glory, as gold symbolizes.
Though Rehoboam did not walk with the Lord, yet when he humbled himself he averted the wrath of God to some decided extent, so that conditions continued relatively well in Judah (v.12). Rehoboam took advantage of favorable conditions to strengthen himself, and reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, less than half of the length of his father's reign. We are reminded that his mother was an Ammonitess (v. 13), whose influence would not likely encourage him to prepare his heart to seek the Lord, and he was left in this unholy condition till the day of his death (v.14).
Other acts of Rehoboam were recorded in a book of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer, but these were not scripture and have not been preserved. Yet sadly we are told that wars continued between Rehoboam and Jereboam all their days (v. 15). The same strife between brethren persisted afterwards also, just as strife has permeated the condition of the professing church since its early years. What marvelous relief it will be for Israel to be brought together at the end of the Great Tribulation! What relief also for believers of the Church of God to be united in the Lord's presence when He comes!
At his death Rehoboam was at least buried in Jerusalem. Then his son Abijah took the throne of Judah.
THE REIGN OF ABIJAH (vv. 1-22)
Jereboam outlived Rehoboam, though not for long (v. 20). He died after reigning 22 years (1 Ki. 14:20), five years longer than Rehoboam. But Abijah, son of Rehoboam, reigned only for three years in Judah (v. 2). 1 Kings 15:3 tells us that Abijah walked in all the sins of his father and his heart was not loyal to the Lord. Yet Chronicles does not mention this, but emphasizes rather what was this credit in regard to overcoming Jereboam in battle. The guilt of Jereboam was far greater than that of Abijah.
We are not told what occasioned the great battle between Judah and the ten tribes, but Abijah gathered an army of 400,000 to fight against 800,000 chosen warriors of Israel (v. 3).Then Abijah took the opportunity of standing on Mount Zemaraim in Ephraim to address Jereboam and his men. He must have had a loud voice, and called upon them to hear what he said (v. 4).
He first insists that the Lord's covenant with Judah that David and his descendants were the royal line was absolute and unchangeable (v. 5). Secondly, he says that Jereboam rebelled not only against the king, but against God, and had collected worthless rogues to boldly refuse Rehoboam's authority while Rehoboam was still young and inexperienced (vv. 6-7). This too was true, though Abijah did not mention that Rehoboam had treated the ambassadors of the ten tribes with cruel contempt.
Thirdly, Abijah tells them they think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord, having a great multitude of followers and depending on the golden calves that Jereboam had adopted as idolatrous gods (v. 8). This was a deeply incriminating fact.
But as a fourth matter of serious importance, Israel had totally refused the worship of the Lord, casting out the priests, the sons of Aaron and ordaining priests of any men they desired, if these men virtually bought their way into the priesthood by bringing a bull and seven rams (v. 9).
In contrast to Israel's rebellion, Abijah tells them that Judah had continued to faithfully practice the worship of the Lord. "We have not forsaken Him," he says, "and the priests who minister to the Lord are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites attend to their duties. And they burn to the Lord every morning and evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense; they also set the showbread in order on the pure gold table, and the lamp stands of gold with its lamps to burn every evening; for we keep the command of the Lord our God " (v. 11). No doubt all this was true as regards the formal worship of Judah, though the spiritual significance of this worship did not have any real effect on the heart of Abijah.
What a picture of the state of things in the professing church today! People may be champions of orthodoxy, may be able to expose the evils of idolatrous worship that are prevalent in many denominations. But though their forms are in measure orthodox, their hearts may still be far from God. This is hypocrisy. may we judge it absolutely and seek grace to honestly walk with God. Abijah thought that he was righteous in comparison with the evil of Israel, but he ought to have considered himself as under the eye of God rather than comparing himself with others.
Jereboam had no answer to the charges of Abijah, but determined to attack by sending an ambush to circle around behind the Judean army (v. 13). This was good military strategy, but God is greater than Jereboam. The men of Judah were taken by surprise in finding the battle on both sides of them. But they cried out to the Lord and the priests sounded the trumpets (v.14). Even though God's people were not in a good spiritual state, yet God heard their prayer of distress. The men of Judah shouted and God intervened by putting Israel in fear of Judah (v. 25), so that they turned and fled.
Abijah and his army defeated them with a tremendous slaughter, with 500,000 choice warriors of Israel killed (v. 17). No other battle in history has been so devastating as this. Even today, with the world's greatly increased population, it would be unheard of that one half a million men should be killed in one battle. But how much more sad it is to consider that this battle was between brethren!
In this engagement Abijah depended on the Lord, and was able also to capture cities and villages in Israel, including Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephraim. Thus the strength of Jereboam was greatly weakened and he did not recover from the effects of his defeat. By the Lord's intervention he was struck with an illness that took his life. This was evidently soon after the death of Abijah, for Jereboam reigned 22 years (1 Ki. 14:20) and it was in his 18thyear that Abijah became king of Judah (ch. 13:1), and Abijah reigned only three years. In that short time he grew mighty (v. 21), married fourteen wives and had 22 sons and 16 daughters! Of course he might have had some of his wives and children before he began to reign. Other activities of Abijah were recorded in the writings of the prophet Iddo, but these aren't scripture.
THE REIGN OF ASA (vv. 1-15)
Abijah was buried in Jerusalem and his son Asa took the throne of Judah. To his credit the land was quiet for ten years, with no attacking enemies, for the character of Asa was such that he did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord (vv. 2-3). His faithfulness involved the constructive work of commanding Judah to seek the Lord and to observe the law, but some destructive work was no less important: he removed the high places and incense altars that had been introduced in Solomon's time and was continued by Rehoboam and Abijah.
But while the land enjoyed rest from war, he was wise in preparing for war. He built fortified cities in Judah and encouraged the people to build and make walls about the cities, including towers, gates and bars. Believers today also are wise to take advantage of times of peace to store up the Word of God in their hearts as a protection from the attacks of the enemy that are sure to come eventually. Thus Asa's prosperity is an incentive for us today to learn to prosper spiritually while we have opportunity for it.
Asa also gathered an army of 300,000 from Judah and 280,000 from Benjamin, all capable warriors (v. 8).However, after ten years of his reigning the king of Ethiopia came to attack him with an army of one million men and 300 chariots (v. 9). Thus, he had 420,000 more men than Asa had. But Asa was not discouraged. After setting his troops in battle array, he prayed a prayer of simple confidence in the Lord, reminding Him, "it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let men prevail against You" (v. 11).
Such genuine confidence in the Lord produced the results we ought to expect. By the Lord's intervention the Ethiopians were routed in fear. Asa's army pursued them and overthrew all their power, leaving them without any ability to recover. Judah carried away a great amount of spoil (v. 13). At the same time they defeated all the cities around Gerard. This was Philistine territory which really belonged to Judah, but had not been possessed by them. From these cities they took a great amount of plunder also, including much livestock (vv. 14-15).
A MESSAGE FROM GOD (vv. 1-7)
As Asa returned from his victory, the Lord sent a prophet, Azariah, son of Oded, to meet him with encouraging words, telling Asa, "The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (v. 2).
Abijah reminded Asa that for a long time Israel was without the true God, without a teaching priest and without law" (v. 3). This refers especially to the time of the Judges, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. In that book we are told that many times, when in trouble, they turned to the Lord and He delivered them (v. 4). But the general condition was so low that God troubled them because of their self-will. But Azariah urges Asa to show himself strong against such dangers (v. 7).
ASA'S REFORMS (vv. 8-19)
In verse 8 the prophecy is said to be that of Oded, so that Azariah, Oded's son, was evidently only the messenger to deliver Oded's prophecy. This word from God had real effect on Asa to give him fresh courage to remove from Judah and Benjamin the abominable idols that had been entertained by his father. He also took such idols away from the cities he had captured from Ephraim.
When it is mentioned that he restored the altar of the Lord, this may mean that he restored the proper sacrifices to be offered on that altar, for there seems to be no evidence that the altar itself had been damaged.
Besides this, Asa was diligent to encourage all the people in the proper worship of the Lord. He gathered all Judah and Benjamin and others even from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon, who were willing to come when they learned of the Lord's blessing of Asa in contrast to the idolatry of the ten tribes. In this great gathering in the fifteenth year of Asa's reign, they offered to the Lord 700 bulls and 7000 sheep which had been taken as plunder (vv.10-11). How good it was to draw the attention of the people to the value of the sacrifice, for every case of recovery in Israel was attended by sacrifice, a reminder of the importance of the sacrifice of Christ as being the source of all blessing for His people.
On this occasion they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul, specifying too that any who would not agree to this should be put to death (vv. 12-13). As in the case of various other covenants being made, this was simply a renewing of the covenant of law as first given by Moses, and as in those cases, so in this case, it was not long before the covenant was broken. At this time, however, they took an oath before the Lord, with a great display accompanying it (v. 14). They had sworn with all their heart and sought the Lord with all their soul. There is no doubt they meant it, but they did not suspect the treachery of their own hearts. Still, God respected the good intentions they had, and gave them rest all around for the time being (v. 15). Only in the New Testament do we find the law set aside because it is ineffective, and the pure grace of God introduced as the only principle that can truly bring forth fruit for God. The epistle to the Galatians is a most valuable treatise on this subject.
Also, Asa showed no favoritism to his own close relative -- his grandmother -- who had made an idolatrous image of Asherah (v. 16). He removed her from the place of Queen Mother. Not even her age would make any difference in this case. Such evil cannot be excused, no matter who is guilty of it. Asa cut down and crushed her image, then burned it.
Though Asa removed the high places from Judah (ch. 14:5), he did not remove these from the rest of Israel (v.17). Of course he did not have the same authority over the ten tribes as he did over Judah, though some from those tribes had chosen to recognize him. But in the main, Asa's heart remained faithful to the Lord. It is also reported that he brought into the house of the Lord silver and gold utensils that both his father and he had dedicated. It seems Abijah had not carried through his promise in dedicating these things, and Asa fulfilled this for him as well as adding his own contribution.
ASA GOES TO THE WORLD FOR HELP (vv. 1-6)
Baasha, king of Israel, had become alarmed at the thought of some from Israel defecting to Judah, Therefore he came and built Ramah as a buffer between the two companies (v. 1). What a picture of the fact that those who have departed from the Lord's center will do all they can to keep their followers from returning to the Lord's place for them! This was not a direct attack upon Judah, but Asa considered it an offense. Why did he not then appeal to God as he did in the case of the attack of the Ethiopians? But instead he sadly sought the help of those who were enemies of the Lord, the Syrians. It seems most strange that a king whose godliness and faith had been so commendable should sink so low as to take silver and gold from the house of the Lord by which to enlist the help of Syria against his brother Israelites (v. 2).
Ben Hadad, king of Syria, moved only by his love for silver and gold, agreed to break a treaty he had with Israel and take sides with Judah (vv. 3-4). He attacked some of the cities of Israel including the storage cities of Naphtali. This had the effect that Asa had desired, and Asa would no doubt feel himself justified, as many do who consider that the end justifies the means (vv. 5-6). Asa was able thus to attack Ramah and reduce it to nothing. He gained his object through friendship with the world! If instead of this he had sought the grace and guidance of the Lord in an effort to be relieved from the threatened opposition of the ten tribes, certainly God would have intervened in the best way possible. But we too, after we have found great blessing through depending on the Lord, may find ourselves in great danger of then depending on our own ability to gain our ends.
GOD'S MESSAGE TO ASA (vv. 7-10)
Though Asa had gained his ends in hiring Syria to help him, God did not congratulate Asa! Rather, He sent Hanani the prophet to him to strongly reprove him for having relied on the king of Syria instead of on the Lord. "Therefore," he tells him, "the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand" (v. 7). He reminded Asa that the army of the Ethiopians and Lubims had been huge (far greater than that of Israel), with many chariots and horsemen; yet because Asa had then relied on the Lord, God gave him a decisive victory. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and for throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (v. 9). Thus, Hanani sought to persuade Asa that God was deeply desirous of doing the very best for those who had their full confidence in Him. The prophet faithfully told the king he had done foolishly and because of this he would be troubled by wars from that time onwards. How badly does our lack of faith affect our normal life!
However, instead of seriously taking to heart the message as from God, Asa became angry with Hanani and put him in prison (v. 10). Being a believer, why did he not recognize that Hanani did not speak his own thoughts, but had been God's mouthpiece? Thus Asa in his later years spoiled a testimony that had been bright and commendable. In fact, when faith becomes weak, we shall show this in our treatment of others also, and Asa was guilty of oppressing some of the people.
ASA'S ILLNESS AND DEATH (vv. 11-14)
The Lord gave Asa three years, following his bad treatment of the prophet, to consider and change his ways, before he allowed Asa to become diseased in his feet (v. 12). It is sad that he did not burn back to the Lord in that time. But also, when his feet were so diseased, why did he not then at least seek the Lord's mercy? Rather, he sought to physicians. There is nothing wrong in going to a physician, but Asa sought not only a physician, but "physicians." More than that, if in going to a physician we pray for the Lord's intervention, this is good, but Asa did not seek the Lord at all, but only physicians. The Lord gave him two years following the attack of his ailment before He took him away in death, but that additional two years did not turn him back to the Lord. His diseased feet symbolized a bad walk, but Asa evidently did not discern this. Thus he died in the 41st year of his reign. There was much in his reign that the people had cause to appreciate, and they laid him in a bed filled with spices and ointments, and made a very great burning for him. The people would not be as concerned about Asa's relationship with God as about his outward success in reigning.
THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT (vv. 1-19)
Asa's son Jehoshaphat, at the beginning of his reign, strengthened himself against Israel (v. 1). This was a wise move because Israel was still in a state of idolatrous departure from the Lord. Sad to say, he did not maintain such strength, for in Chapter 18:1 it is reported that he made an alliance with Ahab, king of Israel.
But as Asa had done, Jehoshaphat prepared for war by placing troops in all the fortified cities of Judah and the cities of Ephraim that Asa had conquered. Again, this is a reminder to us that, while we have time we should prepare for the conflict that must be met sometime, by storing up the Word of God in our hearts.
Because Asa walked in the ways of David, avoiding the idolatrous worship of Baal, the Lord was with him. He sought the God of his fathers in obedience to His commandments, in contrast to the ways of the ten tribes (v. 4). Therefore the Lord established the kingdom under him, and Judah was influenced to bring him presents, for they recognized the value of his honorable example. The Lord greatly increased his wealth. Though Christians cannot count on material wealth because of their devotion to the Lord, yet this will give them true spiritual wealth, which is far better.
Finding true delight in the Lord's ways, Jehoshaphat removed the high places and wooden images from Judah. Asa had done this early in his reign (ch. 14:3), so it seems that at least some of these idolatrous objects had been brought back in the latter part of his reign, when he became lax in honoring God. Of course, many people will revive such evils without even consulting the authorities.
Jehoshaphat also did the positive, good work of sending five leaders, seven Levites and two priests to teach the Book of the Law in all the cities of Judah (vv. 7-8). This of course includes the five books of Moses. There are many efforts today to revive interest in spiritual things, but the emphasis is on personal goodness rather than on teaching the Word of God, which is of the greatest importance, the only guide to spiritual blessing. God blessed the faith of Jehoshaphat by restraining any enemies from attacking him, for He impressed them with the fear of the Lord (v. 10). Thus, during the time of peace he was able to strengthen his kingdom.
Jehoshaphat's character was such that even some of the Philistines recognized the value of his reign, and willingly brought presents to him as a tribute; and the Arabians brought flocks of rams and goats. Thus is illustrated the scripture, "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to beat peace with him" (Prov. 10:7).
Becoming increasingly powerful, Jehoshaphat built fortresses and store cities in Judah (v. 12). How good for Christians too, in times of peace, to prepare for the conflict that requires a good defense, such as the fortress of the truth of God and the storing up of the truth in our hearts.
Jehoshaphat's administration was well organized, and the total of his armed men was 1,160,000, as well as soldiers the king put in the fortified cities (vv. 14-19). This is really an amazing standing army for a time of peace! But it pictures the fact that all believers should be fully prepared for conflict which will come to us in some way. Thus the Lord presents us first with all those things that were a credit to the faith of King Jehoshaphat, for He loves to commend all that is commendable.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S COMPROMISES (vv. 1-27)
Though Jehoshaphat had at first strengthened himself against Israel (ch. 1:17), his decision wavered badly after he had become strong and wealthy. He became friendly with Ahab, a king of Israel "who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord" (1 Ki. 21:25). Did Jehoshaphat not realize that Israel was in a state of idolatrous worship and disregard for God? He must have done so at first or he would not have strengthened himself against Israel. Now by the very fact of his going to visit Ahab, he was compromising his devotion to the Lord (v. 2).Ahab flattered him by offering large numbers of sheep and oxen for him, not for the Lord, though he may have wanted Jehoshaphat to take the impression that he was honoring the God of Israel.
In response to Ahab's request that Jehoshaphat go with him to fight against Ramoth Gilead, Jehoshaphat immediately responded favorably. He knew that Ramoth Gilead actually belonged to Israel but had been captured by the Syrians. But why had God allowed Syria to take Ramoth? Because of Israel's bad condition. Jehoshaphat did not mention this, but his conscience troubled him enough that he asked Ahab to enquire of the Lord about this project. How sad that he would first make his commitment and afterward suggest asking the Lord's guidance. But believers can sometimes be too kind to people.
Ahab however was agreeable and gathered together 400 prophets (or so-called prophets) to ask their counsel. But they already knew what Ahab wanted and they wanted to please him rather than have any concern for pleasing the Lord. They all dared to tell Ahab that God would deliver Ramoth into Ahab's hand (v. 5). There are such smooth talking prophets today who claim to be speaking for God, but are plainly lying! If we have God's clear word in the scriptures, we may declare this with full confidence, but if we do not, then let us not dare to speak as though representing Him. For this we shall have to give account to Him.
Jehoshaphat was not persuaded by this great crowd of prophets. Why not? Because he was a believer and discerned that they did not speak "as the oracles of God" (1 Pet.4:11), but merely as programmed robots with no spiritual conviction. He asked Ahab if there was not a prophet of the Lord available of whom they might inquire (v. 6). Ahab admitted there was one prophet whom he had not called because Ahab hated him, since he did not prophesy good concerning Ahab, but always evil.
Since Jehoshaphat wanted to heart his prophet, however, Ahab had him brought. Both kings were sitting on thrones at the entrance of the gate of Samaria. One of the false prophets, Zedekiah, to draw special attention to himself, had made iron horns and prophesied that with these horns Ahab would attack and completely defeat the Syrians (v. 10).
The messenger sent to call Micaiah thought it necessary to urge him to speak just the same as all the false prophets spoke (v. 12). Micaiah's answer was simple and to the point: he would speak what God gave him to speak (v. 13).
When Ahab asked Micaiah if he should go to war against Ramoth Gilead, Ahab knew that Micaiah was speaking sarcastically when he said, "Go and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand" (v. 14). Notice, he did not say the Lord would deliver them, nor that his message was from God. But Ahab told Micaiah that he should only speak truth in the name of the Lord. Ahab knew the difference between the prophets, but he must have realized that none of those prophets had spoken truth in the name of the Lord! -- since Micaiah had said the same as they did.
Therefore Micaiah spoke the truth, "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace" (v. 16). Terrible, startling message for Ahab! But he had asked for truth, and God gave it to him!
When Micaiah told Ahab that the Lord had prophesied that Israel would have no master, Ahab rightly considered that Micaiah had prophesied evil concerning him (v.17). But Micaiah had much more to say, and declared this to Ahab as the word of the Lord. He had seen the Lord on His throne and all the host of heaven standing, some on His right hand, others on His left. This included evil spirits. The Lord asked them, "Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?" After some had made suggestions, a spirit spoke confidently that he would persuade Ahab, by being a lying spirit in the mouths of all Ahab's prophets. This may seem a strange situation, but it illustrates the fact that the Lord allows evil spirits to do their evil work of lying so that ungodly people will be deceived, just as 2 Thessalonians 2 indicates the folly of those who are deceived by the strong delusion the Lord sends by means of the antichrist because of people's refusing to believe the truth of God (vv. 6-11). Thus, because Ahab had refused God's Word, he would accept the falsehood of Satan's prophets. Micaiah therefore declares that the Lord had put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets, and the Lord had declared disaster to fall on Ahab (v. 22).
Ahab was not happy about such a prophecy, but it did not change his stubborn will to do as he pleased. But Hezekiah! Surely he realized that this prophecy was from God, but he had already committed himself to accompany Ahab. What did Hezekiah think when Zedekiah not only spoke disdainfully to Micaiah, but struck him on the cheek, claiming that since he himself had spoken by the Spirit of the Lord, how could the Spirit have spoken to Micaiah? (v.23). Such was the contemptible wickedness of a false prophet. Micaiah replied that Zedekiah would yet have the experience of going into an inner chamber to hide himself (v. 24).When that did take place, what would be the thoughts of that poor, deluded dupe of Satan?
In foolish pride Ahab commanded that Micaiah should be put in prison and fed only bread and water until Ahab returned in peace (v. 26). Did he think such action would defeat the prophecy of Micaiah? But Micaiah gave one parting message, "If you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me" (v.27). He emphasized this by calling on all the people to witness what he said. Why did Hezekiah say nothing? He surely ought to have defended the man of God.
THE DEATH OF AHAB (vv. 28-34)
Ahab feared there might be some truth to Micaiah's prophecy, and he exposed both that fear and his own selfishness when he told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes, saying that he would disguise himself! He was plainly telling Jehoshaphat that he would rather see him killed than himself! But Jehoshaphat meekly submitted to this.
The Syrians knew that in this battle Ahab was their chief enemy, and their king gave orders that his men were to concentrate only on attacking Ahab (v. 30). When the captains of the chariots of Syria saw Jehoshaphat in his royal attire, they of course thought he was Ahab and surrounded him in his chariot, just as Ahab desired! Jehoshaphat cried out, but it is not said he cried out to the Lord. Why not? Perhaps it was because he had (rather unwillingly) left the Lord out of this whole project and was not so confident of the Lord's protection. But in pure grace the Lord helped him and diverted the Syrians from him when they realized he was not the king of Israel (vv. 31-32).
However, Ahab's disguise did not fool God, and it was God who directed a Syrian to shoot an arrow at random, and God caused the arrow to pierce through between the joints of Ahab's armor, inflicting a mortal wound. Ahab ordered his chariot driver to turn and take him out of the battle (v. 33). Why did he prop himself up in his chariot? Was it because he wanted to persuade himself that he was not so badly injured and would by this means defeat the likelihood of death? How many there are who seek to prop themselves up instead of turning in prayer to God! They will no more succeed than did Ahab. He died about the time of sunset. 1 Kings22:38 adds that his chariot was washed in Samaria and the dogs licked up his blood, as Elijah had prophesied (1 Ki. 21:19).
JEHOSHAPHAT REPROVED (vv. 1-3)
Jehoshaphat's experience with Ahab ought to have been enough to speak deeply to him as to the folly of bad associations, but God knew he needed more than experience, so he sent Jehu the son of Hanani to meet Jehoshaphat and to ask him, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? (v. 2).Jehoshaphat surely knew the answer to this was "No," and Jehu adds, "Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you." If believers become involved in wrong associations, they can only expect to incur the anger of the Lord. This is certainly as true in the New Testament as it was in the Old, as 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 insists: "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you."
Though the Lord reproved Jehoshaphat's being friendly with Ahab, yet at the same time He commended the good things that Jehoshaphat had practiced, in removing wooden images from the land and preparing his heart to seek God (v. 3).For God delights to encourage godly character, though He must reprove what is contrary to this. Evidently Jehoshaphat received this message without resentment, in contrast to the bad response of his father to Hanani in putting him in prison (ch. 16:7-10).
JEHOSHAPHAT'S REFORMS (vv. 4-11)
Jehoshaphat's dwelling was in Jerusalem, but he went out to all Judah and Benjamin as far north as the border of Ephraim, with such a message that brought the people back to recognize the God of their fathers (v. 4). "Then he set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah" (v. 5).He gave them good instruction, urging them to remember they were to judge for God, not for man (v. 40). They were to be thoroughly impartial, refusing bribes (vv. 6-7). All history has shown the obnoxious tendency of judges to stoop to taking bribes to pervert justice.
In Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests as judges in regard to controversies that might arise among the people. Again his instruction to them was vitally important, that they should act in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and with a loyal heart (vv. 8-9). If any case of wrongdoing arose, these men were to be quick to discern the evil and to warn the people against it, that they might not be guilty of allowing it to spread and cause the wrath of God to fall (v. 10). Also Jehoshaphat called upon the priests and Levites to recognize the authority of Amariah the chief priest and Zebadiah, the ruler of the house of Judah. How important is this matter of recognizing proper authority and submitting to it. Israel has suffered from the lack of this recognition and the Church has suffered too from this ailment. Jehoshaphat finished his instructions with the encouraging words, "Behave courageously, and the Lord will be with the good" (v. 11).
THREE ENEMIES ATTACKING (vv. 1-2)
The Lord now allowed a further test of the faith of King Jehoshaphat. Armies of Moab and Ammon came against Judah, and others were added in this attack. Moab speaks of self-satisfied religion (Jer. 48:11), and reminds us that a smug, self-complacent attitude is a bad enemy for any of us. Let us not dare to submit to it! Ammon (meaning "peoplish") pictures the falsehood of evil doctrine, its king in David's time being named "Nahash," which means "a serpent" (2 Sam. 10:2). So also, we must not for a moment submit to deceptive teaching.
When Jehoshaphat was told of a great multitude coming against him from beyond the sea (the sea of Galilee), he realized this was a strong enemy and he would require more than human strength for the battle. He feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah (v. 3). Fasting speaks of self-denial, which is the negative side of faith, for faith in the living God gives Him the positive place of preeminence and therefore puts self in the negative place of unimportance.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S PRAYER (vv. 3-12)
Verse 4 therefore introduces the positive side, when Jehoshaphat gathered the people of Judah together to seek the intervention of God. He then stood in the house of the Lord to address God in earnest prayer (v. 5).
In beginning his prayer Jehoshaphat asked four questions that he knew were to be answered with are sounding "Yes!" "Are you not God in heaven?" "Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations?" "In Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?" "Are you not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of the land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?" Of course these are absolute facts that Jehoshaphat himself felt necessary to be reminded of, and his speaking this way would be refreshing to the heart of God.
He reminded God also that Israel had dwelt in the land and had built a sanctuary for God's name (v. 8).This refers to Solomon's building of the temple, and also he refers to Solomon's prayer at its dedication, "If disaster comes upon us --sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine -- we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple) and cry out in our affliction, and You will hear and save."
And now a specific case had arisen (v. 10). The people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir (who had been spared by Israel when on their way to Canaan) were attacking Judah with the object of dispossessing them of the land God had given them. Therefore Jehoshaphat rightly expects God to judge them and pleads in this way (v. 12). Deeply feeling the weakness of Judah as compared to the power of the enemy, he acknowledged that they not only lacked power, but did not know what to do. Their one and only resource was therefore the God of Israel. "Our eyes are upon You," he says.
Jehoshaphat had prayed in confiding faith to God, and God answered by choosing a Levite, Jehaziel to give the message of God in clear, decided terms, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord, Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but the God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the ascent of Zig, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you" (vv. 15-17). Who could doubt that this was the plain answer of God to the prayer of Jehoshaphat?
But how good it is to see the effect this had on the godly king. He bowed his head before the Lord, and this influenced Judah to do the same, worshiping the Lord. This humble worship was followed by the standing up of the Levites to praise the Lord God of Israel with loud and strong voices. If we have prayed for God's intervention in any matter, do we remember to really thank God when He answers our prayer?
In firm decision of faith the people rose early in the morning to meet their enemies. On their way, however, Jehoshaphat stood and addressed them simply and pointedly, "Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper" (v. 28). But then he did something most unusual for the benefit of an army going to war. Consulting with the people, with whom he desired to be in concord, he appointed singers who would praise the beauty of holiness, emphasizing the words of the psalm, "Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever" (v. 21). These went before the army, a beautiful testimony of faith in the living God.
The Lord always responds to faith and He did so very remarkably on this occasion. He set ambushes against the three enemies, evidently ambushes of their own people, so that they were confused as to who was for them and who was against them. Moab And Ammon evidently thought that those of Mount Seir (Edomites) were Israelites, and vigorously destroyed them. Then in the heat of battle the Moabites and Ammonites turned against one another, possibly also confused in thinking the other army was that of Israel (v. 23). It was a simple matter for God to cause this confusion, and as He had foretold, Israel would not have to fight!
Finding all their enemies dead, Israel was enriched by a great abundance of spoil that took them three days to transport from the battlefield (vv. 24-25). Not only were they spared from the cruel ravages of war, but they profited greatly by the attack of the enemy! True faith will always find it this way. May we dependently cling to the Lord and calmly watch Him work against every threatening enemy.
But in leaving the scene of battle they did not forget to thank God for His great grace toward them. They assembled in the valley of Berachah (which means "a blessing"), and there expressed their thanksgiving together in blessing the Lord. They did this before they actually returned to Jerusalem. With great joy, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets they came to the temple, the house of God (vv.27-28). How fitting a recognition of God's honor at this time!
Other nations also heard of this marvelous occasion of God's manifest intervention in the destruction of three nations who sought to attack Israel, and this put the fear of God into them (v. 29), not the fear of Israel.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S REIGN ENDING IN PEACE (vv. 30-37)
The victory God had given Jehoshaphat had such lasting effect that the rest of his reign was quiet, with no more efforts of the enemy to molest him. It was God who gave him rest (v. 30). We are told that he was 35 years of age when he took the throne over Judah, and he reigned 25 years, thus was only 60 at his death. His mother's name is mentioned too, an indication she must have been a godly woman to have a son so devoted to the Lord. He walked in the way of his father Asa, whose earlier years were admirable, though Asa acted badly near the end inputting God's prophet in prison, which was not true of Jehoshaphat.
Yet there was one blemish that remained in the history of Jehoshaphat. He did not take the high places away. The high places indicated a desire for the recognition of men in the worship of God, just as human religion wants a church steeple that stands out in the community. How different was the character of the apostles at the beginning of Christianity! -- as Paul says, "we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless," etc. (1 Cor. 4:9-11).More than this, he took the attitude of destroying the high places when he wrote, "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor.10:5). "Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around" (2 Chronicles 20:30).
We have read of much that was good in the history of Jehoshaphat, but other acts of his also were recorded in the book of Jehu, son of Hanani, which is not available today. But this man evidently appreciated Jehoshaphat, since he recorded his actions, but not those of Asa, who had persecuted his father (ch. 16:10).
However, in spite of all the good that Jehoshaphat had done, he did not learn well enough from his experience of humiliation when he allied himself with Ahab, nor from the words of God in reproving him through Jehu (ch. 19:2-3), who asked him "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? "Did these words not burn into his heart when he allied himself with Ahaziah, the wicked son of a wicked father and mother, Ahab and Jezebel? (v. 35). But he joined with Ahaziah in a business venture, building ships to go to Tarshish.
This time the Lord did not only reprove him, but sent another prophet, Eliezer to announce to him that because he had allied himself with Ahaziah, the Lord had broken his works (v. 37). That word was backed up immediately by God's intervention in wrecking his ships before any voyage to Tarshish. Nothing is said of how Jehoshaphat received this message and action against him, but we are surely reminded that God is no respecter of persons. He will not excuse sin in even the most godly persons.
THE REIGN OF JEHORAM (vv. 1-20)
Though verse 1 speaks of Jehoram's reigning when Jehoshaphat died, it is made clear in2 Kings8:16 that Jehoram began to reign before Jehoshaphat's death, for it reads, "In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign" (JND Trans.). Evidently Jehoshaphat gave his son the place of reigning along with himself, or as regent.
Jehoshaphat had seven sons, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, the firstborn, though giving also great gifts to each of his six brothers, including fortified cities in Judah. But Jehoram was a far different character than his father, and soon expressed the wickedness of his character by killing all his brothers as soon as he was established over the kingdom, and killing also other princes of Israel whom he might suspect of having any aspirations of reigning.
Why did he not follow the godliness of his father? One reason is that his father had left him the bad example of having bad friends. Since Jehoshaphat was friendly with Ahab, his son Jehoram married Ahab's daughter Athaliah, who was no less wicked than her parents (v. 6).
Yet in spite of Jehoram's wickedness, the Lord would not destroy the house of David because of his promise to David and to David's descendants (v. 7). Thus the grace of God is emphasized as greater than judgment, though in righteous government God would bring serious suffering on Israel. This is seen in verse 8, as Edom revolted against the rule of Judah. Jehoram attempted to bring Edom back under subjection, but could do nothing (vv.9-10). Libnah also revolted, and the reason is simply given. The Lord allowed this because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord.
Jehoshaphat had not done away with the high places, but Jehoram added to these, causing the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit harlotry, that is, idolatry by means of the high places, for though at first they claimed to have the high places for the worship of God, this very soon developed into the worship of idols. Similarly, our desire for high recognition by men in our outward worship of God will very easily become virtual idolatry. God will be displaced and Satan's counterfeit will take God's place.
God had anticipated the evil of Jehoram, however, in having before inspired Elijah (previous to his translation) to write a letter of solemn reproof to Jehoram. Verses 12-15record this message from "the Lord God of your father, David." On the one hand, Jehoram had the example of Asa, his grandfather and that of Jehoshaphat his father, who sought the honor of the Lord (v. 12).But on the other hand, the kings of Israel had left an example of ungodly rebellion against the truth, and it was these whom Jehoram followed. He was guilty of making Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot, just as Ahab did in Israel. Also, Elijah wrote that Jehoram had killed his brothers who were better than himself (v. 13).
Therefore, he added that God would judge Jehoram severely for this, bringing a serious affliction on his people, his children, his wives and all his possessions, but that he would also personally suffer the infliction of a dreadful disease of his intestines, so severe that his intestines would come out, "day by day" (v. 15). This would mean protracted suffering. This solemn message, written before Jehoram was born, ought to have had specially profound effect upon the wicked king, for it came to him in a most unusual way which was clear evidence that it was a message from the all-knowing God of creation.
The message of God by the writing of Elijah apparently did not at all turn Jehoram to the Lord, as it ought to have, and the Lord stirred up his enemies against him. If one's ways please the Lord, He would make his enemies to be at peace with him, but it was just the reverse with Jehoram. The Philistines and Arabians invaded Judah, and Judah had not enough defense to keep them from plundering the king's house. They carried away his possessions, his sons and his wives, though leaving his youngest son, Johoahaz (v. 17).
Did Jehoram not reflect on the great contrast between his reign and the peaceful reign of his father? Since there is no record of his turning from his evil way, surely he could have nothing but utter remorse as his reign drew to a close. The Lord then struck him with an incurable disease of the intestines, which afflicted him for two years before his intestines came out and he died in severe pain. Thus God allowed him an extra two years for repentance, but he had evidently sold himself to do evil, as Ahab had done (1 Ki. 21:25), so that to the end he resisted the goodness of God that might have led him to repentance.
The people made no burning for him as they had for his fathers, for they were not sorry for his death. He reigned from the age of 32 until he was 40, a brief eight years, and died with no one to mourn for him. Though he was buried in Jerusalem, his grave was not with the kings. How sad an end for the son of the faithful King Jehoshaphat!
AHAZIAH'S REIGN (vv. 1-9)
Since all Jehoram's sons had been killed except Ahaziah, the youngest, he was made king by the people. Taking the throne at the age of 22 (not 42), he reigned only one year. Sadly, the Lord's judgment on his father did not affect him to turn to the Lord, but he followed the ways of the house of Ahab. His mother was Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and he accepted the wicked advice of his mother (v. 3). How different to Asa, who removed his mother from the place of queen mother because she had made an idol, an image of Asherah (2 Chron. 15:16).One who deliberately ignores the Lord leaves himself open to being led into every form of evil.
Ahaziah therefore accepted advise from the house of Ahab and joined himself to Jehoram the son of Ahab to fight against Hazael king of Syria. His grandfather had mistakenly united with Ahab in going to battle and was seriously reproved by God for doing so, but Ahaziah was so friendly with Joram king of Israel that, after Joram was wounded in battle, Ahaziah went to visit him (v. 6). But the time had come when God had sent Jehu the son of Nimshi to cut off the house
of Ahab, and Ahaziah compromised his own safety by his friendship with Joram. Jehu came to Samaria and killed all the relatives of Ahab he found there, including Joram king of Israel. Of course Jehu knew that Ahaziah was the husband of Athaliah, Ahab's daughter, and that he had come to Samaria. Ahaziah hid in the city, but Jehu's men found him and brought him to Jehu (v.9). They killed him, but because he was the grandson of Jehoshaphat they buried him. His mother-in-law, Jezebel, was not buried because the dogs ate her body except for her skull, her feet and the palms of her hands (2 Ki. 9:35).
Since Ahaziah was only 23 years old at this time, his sons were young children, so that there was no one of his descendants capable of taking the throne.
ATHALIAH'S USURPATION OF POWER (vv. 10-12)
The callous wickedness of Athaliah rose to a terrible height at this time. She killed her grandsons so that she could have free rein to take the kingdom of Judah. Ahaziah, being the son of Jehoram who was the son of Jehoshaphat, was of the royal line, but his mother, Athaliah, was not. She was a usurper with no royal rights whatever. But God was not defeated by her wickedness. He preserved one descendant of Ahaziah by means of Jehoshabeath, a daughter of King Jehoram who hid the youngest son when Athaliah murdered the rest (v. 11). It was Satan who moved Athaliah in her attempt to completely destroy the seed royal. Many such attempts were made through history, but God is above all the hateful plans of men and of Satan. Joash was only one year old when he was hidden, and since Jehoshabeath was the wife of the priest Jehoiada, they were able to hide Joash in the temple for six years. All this time Athaliah had her way in ruling over Judah.
Certainly God did not recognize her as Queen. In fact, in the genealogy of the kings in Matthew, not only is Athaliah totally ignored, but also her son Ahaziah, her grandson Joash and his son Amaziah are dropped out of the genealogy. (Mt. 1:8). Thus God showed His disapproval of the sinful union of Jehoram with Athaliah which affected all their descendants to the third generation. This is just one of various occasions when the Lord saw fit to make omissions that are significant in His sacred Word. For His wisdom is marvelously great, whether in His inclusions or His omissions.
JOASH CROWNED KING IN JUDAH (vv. 1-11)
Athaliah's tyranny was borne with for six years, when finally Jehoiada the priest took the lead in gaining the support of the military leaders in Judah, to plan the crowning of the young boy Joash. Messengers went throughout Judah to gather the Levites from the many cities, and the chief elders of the people to Jerusalem (v. 2). This was done without the knowledge of Athaliah.
The assemblage came to the temple, where they made a covenant with Joash that he should be king, in accordance with the Word of God that the ruler must be of the sons of David (v. 3).Detailed plans were made as to how the crowning was to take place. One third of the priests and Levites were to keep watch over the doors, one third were to be at the king's house and one third at the Gate of the Fountain. The people were to be in the courts of the temple, but only the priests and Levites who served in the temple were to be allowed inside (v. 6). But all the people were to keep watch, for this is typical of the concern of the saints of God that the Lord Jesus should be fully honored, with nothing allowed that would in any way compromise that honor. The Levites were to surround the king, having weapons also for his protection. If anyone attempted to come into the house without authorization, he was to be put to death (v. 7).
Thus Jehoiada had everything organized, and the Levites and all Judah cooperated fully. Jehoiada gave to the captains spears and large and small shields which David had provided to be put in the temple. When all had been put in order, then they brought out Joash, crowned him and gave him the Testimony, a copy of the law of God, and proclaimed him King of Judah, saying, "Long live the King!" (v. 11). Of course this is a picture of the recognition of Christ as King when He will displace every usurper at His coming in glory. The power for reigning was not in Joash, however, as it will be in the One who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
THE USURPER JUDGED (vv. 12-15)
Athaliah had been kept unaware of what was taking place until she heard the noise of people running and praising the king. This great celebration brought her to the temple, where she saw Joash standing, crowned, by the pillar with leaders and trumpeters beside him. Trumpets and other musical instruments were accompanying the singing of the many rejoicing at the inauguration of the King (v. 13). The poor woman tore her clothes and cried our "Treason, treason." But she herself was the only person guilty of treason, and guilty also of murder and many other crimes. Jehoiada the priest, not a government official, gave orders to the captains of the army to take Athaliah outside under guard and kill her there. The work of a priest is to have compassion on the ignorant who go astray (Heb. 5:2), but in this case a priest was to proclaim sentence against an evildoer. Similarly, when the Lord Jesus is seen as ready to judge the world, He is clothed in priestly garments (Rev. 1:13), showing that His judgment will not be merely carried out in righteous anger, but rather will be a judgment consistent with His character of goodness and compassion. It is goodness that abhors what is evil and judges faithfully for God. Athaliah's judgment came far more suddenly than she expected, but it confirms the truth of Proverbs 29:1, "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Jehoiada also gave orders that anyone who followed Athaliah should be killed (v. 14), but we are not told that anyone followed her.
ORDER AND QUIETNESS RESTORED (vv. 16-21)
Jehoiada took the lead in making a covenant between himself, the people and the king, for the king was really a ward of Jehoiada, being of such tender age (v. 16). The covenant was in opposition to the idolatry of Athaliah, and consistent with the law of Moses, stressing that Judah should be the Lord's people, not an idol worshiping people.
Such a covenant required the destruction of the temple of Baal, which the people promptly accomplished, breaking in pieces its altars and images, and killing the priest of Baal (v. 17). This negative work was necessary, just as was the execution of Athaliah, before the positive establishment of the true worship of God, as follows in verses 18-20. Jehoiada the priest was a faithful man, who gave back into the hand of the priests and Levites the oversight of the house of the Lord, consistent with the assignment of David in his insisting that the law of Moses should be obeyed in the offering of burnt sacrifices to the Lord.
Where there has been departure in our present day from the truth of the Word of God, how vital it is that we should return, not merely to what our fathers may have practiced, but to the truth laid down in the New Testament as to the character and practice of the Church of God. Israel was to return to recognize the beginning of their history under law. The Church should return to realize the character of its beginning under grace, to act consistently with what God established in the Book of Acts and the epistles of James, Peter, Paul and John.
It is good to see that when Jehoiada re-established order in the house of the Lord, this was accompanied by rejoicing and singing (v. 18). But also gatekeepers were set at the gates of the house of the Lord, to keep outside that which was unclean (v. 19). This godly care is important in the Church of God today also. Such work may not be appreciated by many, but we must not ignore it on this account. We always need discernment as to what should be allowed in and what must be refused entry. For if the enemy once gains admittance, even in a small way, he will take advantage of this to gain further ground, causing corruption in the Christian testimony.
The Lord thus being given His true place in Judah, the nobles and governors of the people brought the king from the house of the Lord to the king's house, and set him on the throne of the kingdom (v. 20). The orderly way in which these things were all done was a great credit to the faith of Jehoiada. The people of the land responded with great joy and the city was quiet, in contrast to the trouble Athaliah had caused. How instructive is the fact that when a wicked ruler dies the people rejoice!
JOASH BEGINS WELL (vv. 1-14)
Being only seven years old at his coronation, Joash reigned 40 years, thus was only 47 when his own servants killed him (v. 25). In his younger years he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, for he had the good influence of Jehoiada. He had much for which to thank God under the patronage of Jehoiada and Joshabeath who had preserved him from death and enabled him to become king. But he leaned too heavily upon the godly priest and did not learn to depend truly on the Lord. In fact, we are told that Jehoiada took two wives for Joash (v. 3). Why did he not simply instruct Joash to be careful to choose the wife that God desired him to have? But how often it is true that people so depend on a godly leader that they never learn to stand on their own feet! Of course the leader is to blame if he encourages this.
It is commendable, however, that Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the Lord (v. 4). He gathered the priests and Levites, giving them orders to go out to the cities of Judah and gather money from the people to bear the expenses of the repairs, telling them to do this quickly (v. 5).However, this was not done quickly. It may have been that they did not have a heart for demanding money from the people because people generally resist such demands. It is the principle of law-keeping, which always awakens resistance in people's minds.
Joash confronted Jehoiada with the fact that the priests and Levites had not done as they were told, for the need was evident. Athaliah and her sons had stolen the dedicated things of the temple to use them in the worship of Baal (v. 7), and if restoration was to be done in the temple, it would be necessarily expensive.
The king then employed different means of raising funds for this project. Instead of demanding from the people, he had a chest made and put outside at the gate of the house of the Lord. Then a public announcement was sent throughout Judah and Jerusalem that the chest was there to receive the contributions the people would bring (v. 9).
This method proved effective, for people came to give voluntarily without pressure being put on them. This is the principle of grace shown us in the New Testament, where believers are not required to give, but, being informed of definite needs, they are told, "Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver"(2 Cor. 9:7). A demand is not made, but encouragement is given. The leaders rejoiced in this, as did all the people, and they willingly brought their contributions, putting them into the chest (v. 10).
Checking the chest each day, the king's officers found an abundance of money, then the king and Jehoiada gave the money to those in charge of the service of the house of the Lord, who hired masons, carpenters and iron and brass workers. When thus there was a mind to do the work, the restoration of the temple was soon accomplished (v. 13).
In this project it must have been the influence of Jehoiada that moved Joash, for of course Jehoiada was in charge of the service of the temple. When the repair work had been done, there remained further money with which articles of gold and silver for serving in the temple were added. The temple being given its true place, then burnt offerings were offered continually there all the days of Jehoiada (v. 14).
THE DEATH OF JEHOIADA (vv. 15-16)
Jehoiada lived to an age of 130years, a faithful, devoted man. At his death he was buried among the kings because he had really acted as a good king (v. 16), not assuming the place of king, but giving that place to the rightful heir to the throne, yet influencing him rightly all the days of his life. We should rightly expect that Joash would keenly feel the loss of one through whom had had been so greatly blessed, and in mourning his death, would be purposed to continue to follow his example.
JOASH WILLINGLY MISLED (vv. 15-22)
Sadly, Joash had only formally accepted Jehoiada's leadership. He did not follow the faith and example of Jehoiada. Instead of continuing to stand faithfully for God, he listened to the leaders of Judah, who came to bow down to him with the intention of influencing him to accept again the worship of idols (vv. 17-18). How many since him have been more swayed by a desire to please men and therefore forget to please God!
Judah's idolatry of course incurred the anger of God, who sent prophets to them, seeking to draw them back to the Lord, testifying faithfully against their idol worship, but they refused to listen (v. 19).
Finally, the Spirit of the Lord laid hold of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, to give a strong prophetic message to Judah, "Thus says God: Why do you trespass the commandment of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you" (v. 20). Since this was spoken by a priest of God who was Jehoiada's son, we should expect Joash at least to pay serious attention, but instead Joash issued the command to stone Zechariah to death in the court of the house of the Lord! (v. 21). Thus Joash was guilty of despising the blessing he had received through Jehoiada and coldly rejecting the God of Israel (v. 22).
The Lord Jesus referred to this solemn incident when speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, saying, "The blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar" (Mt. 23:35). It may be that Berechiah was the grandfather of Zechariah, but we know of no record of Jehoiada's father. Why did the Lord Jesus accuse the scribes and Pharisees of murdering Zechariah, when this had taken place years before? Because they were exhibiting the same, cruel, unbelieving attitude toward God by their opposition to Christ, an infinitely greater Messenger than Zechariah was. By their attitude they were identifying themselves with those who hated God.
As Zechariah died, he said," The Lord look upon it and repay!" (v. 22). This was consistent with his being under law. How different were the words of the Lord Jesus at His death, "Father, forgive them, for they not know what they do" (Lk. 23:34), and the words of Stephen when he was stoned to death, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60). But the prayer of Zechariah was answered by means of serious consequences coming on Joash and his kingdom.
JOASH SUFFERING DEFEAT AND DEATH (vv. 23-27)
The Lord gave Joash at least a short time to reconsider the folly of his evil course, but there was no change in the unhappy king. In the spring of the year the army of Syria came against him, and even though the Syrian army was small in contrast to Israel's very great army (vv. 23-24), the Lord delivered the Israelites into the hand of the enemy, who destroyed many of the leaders of the people, as well as taking much spoil, then retiring, leaving Joash severely wounded. They did not kill him, for God had decided that the poor king would be killed by his own servants. They took advantage of the fact that he was wounded and killed him in bed (v. 25). Thus Joash had a little time to consider that God's judgment was upon him because of his idolatry and his cruelty to the son of Jehoiada.
Jehoiada, the protector of Joash, had been buried with the kings (v. 16), but Joash, though king, was not buried with the kings. The people discerned that he was not worthy of such a burial as Jehoiada was, though the people had followed Joash in his idolatry. How sad was the end of the man who wanted to please the people rather than to please God! The people themselves knew enough to despise this attitude. Amaziah, son of Joash, was then given the throne over Judah.
AMAZIAH BEGINS WELL (vv. 1-4)
The reign of Amaziah was relatively long, -- 29 years, because, as his father Joash, he at first did what was outwardly right in the eyes of the Lord, though his heart was not fully for the Lord (v. 2). Like Joash also, his testimony for good broke down in his later years, so that it is questionable if he knew the Lord at all.
When his kingdom was established he executed the two servants who had killed his father (v. 3), but in accordance with scripture (Deut. 24:16), he did not execute the children of these men, which some men may have done.
WAR WITH EDOM (vv. 5-13)
Amaziah had energy to gather an army from Judah with the object of warring against Edom, but one thing is painfully lacking in this endeavor. While it was right to contend against Edom, yet in all conflict we should first consult the Lord, which Amaziah did not do. He knew enough about scripture to number only those who were 20 years or older, and found he had an army of 300,000(v. 5). However, he made the blunder of hiring 100,000 warriors from Israel to support the men of Judah (v. 6). He should certainly have first asked the Lord about such a project, but did not.
Since Amaziah had hired 100,000 soldiers from Israel to support the army of Judah, the Lord sent a man of God to him to tell him God was not with Israel, and if he used Israel's help, Amaziah would be defeated (vv. 7-8). Amaziah was therefore concerned about the loss of 100 talents of silver he had already paid to Israel. But what was the loss compared to a humiliating defeat by Edom? The answer of the man of God was simple and to the point, "The Lord is able to give you much more than this" (v. 9).
Not only did Amaziah lose 100 talents of silver, but he incurred the proud anger of Israel when he discharged them from going to war. Though they ought to have been thankful to gain the 100 talents without going to battle, yet their pride was wounded and they returned home in great anger.
Without the help of Israel Amaziah went to battle against the people of Seir (the Edomites) and gained a clear victory, taking 10,000 captives. But he did not remember the words of Elisha to the king of Israel when Elisha brought the army of the Syrians to Samaria (1 Ki. 6:19-23). When the king asked Elisha if he should kill them, he responded, "You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and bow?" Instead, Amaziah's men took these captives to a high rock in the mountains and threw them down, so that they were all dashed in pieces (v. 12). This was gross cruelty, unworthy of a king of Judah.
However, the Israelite soldiers who had been sent back by Amaziah attacked the cities of Judah from Samaria to Beth-Horon and killed 3000 men, taking much spoil (v. 17). This ought to have spoken deeply to Amaziah in driving him to the Lord. But rather, when he returned from his victory over Edom, he brought with him the idols of Edom and set them up as his own gods, bowing down to them and burning incense to them. Thus he followed the foolish example of his father who had begun well but lapsed into the snare of idolatry.
Certainly the Lord is angry with such evil as this, and He sent a prophet to Amaziah to ask him, "Why have you sought to the gods of the people which could not rescue their own people from your hand?" (v. 15). Amaziah's conscience was stung by the plain force of these words, but being determined to stifle his own conscience, he arrogantly answered the prophet, "Have we made you the king's counselor? Cease! Why should you be killed? "Apparently he thought that, since Joash had killed Zechariah, he himself could as easily kill this prophet. The prophet then said no more except to warn Amaziah, "I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice" (v. 16). Solemn words indeed! Would Amaziah forget them?
AMAZIAH DEFEATED BY ISRAEL (vv. 17-24)
However, this deluded king invited his own destruction by asking advice (not God's advice) from his own idolatrous counselors, to send word to Joash, king of Israel, asking that they engage in battle (v. 17). He had previously given 100 talents of silver to Israel to enlist their help. But now he thought he was strong, since he defeated Edom and was confident he could subdue Israel. Such is the pride of fleshly men.
Joash answered him with a withering parable, comparing him to a thistle demanding recognition from a cedar tree (v. 18). But a wild beast trampled the thistle. Joash well understood that Amaziah was proud of having defeated Edom and wanted to bolster his pride by conquering Israel. He advised him to stay at home, for if meddling where he ought not, he would involve not only himself in a humiliating fall, but Judah also (v. 19).
Amaziah's foolish stubbornness refused to consider such serious warning, yet he did not realize that God was moving him in this bad direction because he had adopted the idols of Edom (v. 20). When one gives himself up to idolatry, he can expect to succumb to any evil influence, for he has sought folly rather than wisdom.
The result of the battle had been settled beforehand, and Amaziah simply went to his certain defeat (v. 22). Joash took Amaziah captive and brought him to Jerusalem, where he could witness the destruction of a large section of the wall of the city (v. 23) besides seeing the house of God stripped of all the gold and silver articles that were in it, to be taken as plunder by Joash and Israel.
What a lesson was this for Amaziah! He had shown no regard for God's glory (of which the gold speaks), nor for the need of redemption (symbolized by the silver), and therefore God allowed the very symbols to be taken from him. What do we today think of those two vital matters -- God's glory and the redemption that is in Christ Jesus? The wall broken down is the confirmation that Amaziah had already broken down his proper separation from the ungodly nations by his adoption of Edom's idols. At least Jerusalem ought to have kept out of the gross evil of idolatry. The wall was therefore of no practical value any more. For us today the wall of separation from evil should be, not the mere formal separation from people, but a godly stand for the truth that separates us to the Lord and therefore from whatever dishonors Him.
AMAZIAH MURDERED (vv. 25-28)
Though Joash had defeated Amaziah, he did not live long to savor his victory, but died fifteen years before Amaziah (v. 16). Still, there is no indication that Amaziah recovered his treasures from Israel. While Judah remained in the place God had given them and maintained their outward allegiance to God's temple, yet they were greatly humiliated by Israel who had left God's place of worship. This is a serious lesson for believers today who may be humbled in the eyes of those who maintain a formal observance of Christianity but with no vital knowledge of Christ. Why are we thus humbled? Because we have not wholeheartedly acted on the truths that we know, and God seeks by such means to drive us back to walk truly in His ways.
But the humbling of Amaziah did not accomplish the result it ought to have. His ungodly character became offensive even to his servants who conspired against him. Through fear he fled to Lachish, but to no avail, for they sent men there to kill him (v. 27). Thus he suffered the same sad fate as did his father Joash (ch. 24:25). His body was carried back to Jerusalem for burial which is said to be "with his fathers" (v. 28), which sounds as though he was buried with the kings, though his father did not have such a burial (ch. 24:25).
THE REIGN OF UZZIAH (vv. 1-15)
Uzziah, the son of Amaziah, took the throne of Judah when he was only 16 years old and reigned for 52 years. The first thing mentioned about him is the positive good work of building the city of Elath, bringing it back under Judah's authority. This was a good beginning. He did right in the Lord's eyes, as did his father Amaziah in the early stages of his reign (v.4).
Verse 5 indicates that Zechariah, evidently a priest who was a seer also, understanding "the visions of God," had some influence over Uzziah, who sought the Lord in the days of Zechariah. There was a Zechariah before him, who was killed at the command of Joash (ch. 24:20-21), and a later Zechariah, a prophet whose book was named after him (Zech. 1:1). But we know of no other mention of this prophet of verse 5. Uzziah sought the Lord and as long as he did so the Lord made him prosperous.
Following the positive work of building Elath, Uzziah also made war against the Philistines. If this sounds negative, it was still good work, for it speaks of our contending against the mere formality of Christian religion. The name Philistines means "wallowers." They had come from Egypt, as Israel had, but not through the Red Sea, which pictures redemption through the death of Christ. How many there are today who take the outward place of Christians, though they know nothing of being redeemed to God by the blood of Christ! Thus, we must contend, not against people, but against this formal, empty profession without reality. Uzziah did this, and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod. For the walls that harbor mere formal religion are far better broken down, while walls that protect the true testimony of God should be kept intact. Uzziah also built cities in the vicinity of Ashdod and among the Philistines (v. 6). These were a testimony to God in contrast to Philistine character.
Thus, because of Uzziah's faithfulness, God helped him in his victories over the Philistines, Arabians and Meunites (v. 7). The Ammonites picture those who hold false, satanic doctrine. At certain times they gained some advantage over Israel, but not so when Uzziah reigned. Thus he became exceedingly strong.
He built towers in Jerusalem at points that might be comparatively weak (v. 9). We too need watchtowers in places where the enemy is likely to take advantage of us. The towers themselves were fortified. Every precaution was to be taken for the protection of God's testimony. In fact, he also built towers in the desert. Why was this? Was it not to be aware of any approaching danger from the enemy? He was concerned, not only for the temple, but also for the welfare of the production of food from rural areas. He dug many wells for livestock in the lowlands and for farmers and vinedressers in the mountains, for, as we are told, "he loved the soil" (10). This is unusual for a king, but it is certainly to his credit that he was diversified in his activities. This diversity also included an army of warriors who were well organized by the instrumentality of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah an officer under the authority of Hananiah, one of the king's captains (v. 11), and the total number of chief officers under their authority was 2,600. In turn, under the officers' authority was an army of 307,500. Thus Uzziah was well prepared for war, having prepared for all the warriors shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and slingshots (vv. 12-14). Also, for the protection of Jerusalem he had mechanized devices with which to shoot arrows and large stones from the towers on the wall. We today should be just as concerned for the protection of God's saints from evil. So scripture tells us, "he was marvelously helped till he became strong" (v. 15).
FAILURE BECAUSE OF HIS OWN STRENGTH (vv. 16-23)
How tragically sad was the abrupt fall of Uzziah from his place of power and dignity to one of disgrace and shame! His strength became his downfall. Though God had marvelously helped him, he forgot that it was God's help that made him strong, and he succumbed to his own pride. Did he not have the Word of God to tell him that only the priests of Aaron's line could enter into the sanctuary of the temple to burn incense? Yet he boldly entered there to burn incense (v. 16).
Azariah, the high priest, and 80other priests immediately followed Uzziah and faced him with the guilt of his action, ordering him out of the sanctuary (vv. 17-18). If he had immediately humbled himself and left, he might have spared himself from the sudden infliction of leprosy, but he became furious. Since he was king, he no doubt felt insulted by their reproof. However, God immediately intervened by inflicting Uzziah with leprosy in his forehead. When the priests saw this they pushed him out of the place. In fact, he himself recognized he must leave because it was evident the Lord had brought this terrible judgment on him (v. 20).
There was no reversing of this as there had been in the case of Miriam (Num. 12:10-15), and Uzziah was isolated for the rest of his life, no longer able to act in a kingly capacity, nor to have anything to do with the temple. His son Jot ham took his place as king. How long he lived following his leprosy outbreak we are not told, but at his death he was buried among his fathers, a recognition at least of his former faithfulness.
THE REIGN OF JOTHAM (vv. 1-9)
Jotham's reign was comparatively short, just 16 years, and he died at 41years. He did what was right as his father had done, though he did not follow his father's bad example of entering the temple of the Lord. Yet in spite of his reign being better than most of the kings, the people still acted corruptly. This evil included their sacrificing in high places (2 Ki.15:35). Thus, though Jotham was personally faithful to the Lord, he did not have the spiritual energy to banish the false worship from Judah. But his good work of building the upper gate of the temple and on the wall of Ophel, and his building cities in the mountains and fortresses and towers in the forests, is commendable (vv.3-4).
Jotham also by warfare brought the Ammonites into subjection, so that they paid him tribute of 100 talents of silver, 10,000 cors of wheat and 10,000 of barley for three years in succession (v. 5). The Ammonites picture the doctrine of demons, which, though not destroyed, were allowed no liberty during Jotham's reign. Thus we are told, "Jotham became mighty because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (v. 6). After his short reign of 16 years, he died and was buried in Jerusalem. Then his son Ahaz became king.
THE UNGODLY REIGN OF AHAZ (vv. 1-4)
Ahaz stands in painful contrast to his father. Jotham had been unable to rightly influence Judah to cease worshiping in high places, and it seems his influence over his own son was ineffective, for Ahaz from the beginning of his reign at the age of 20 was committed to a course of evil. Ignoring the faithfulness of his father David and that of other kings of Judah, he chose to follow the wicked example of the kings of Israel. He made idolatrous images and burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, in that place sacrificing his own children to the fire (v. 3). This was done through placing the young child in the arms of a metal idol, a fire lit under the child and drums beaten to drown out the child's cries. Such is the callous wickedness of idolatry, though such men as Ahaz think they are very religious in practicing such idolatry. Though his father Jotham did not burn incense in the high places, he had allowed those places to remain, and Ahaz forgot the temple of God and burned incense in the high places and other outdoor areas (v.4). He was like many today who claim they need not gather with others to worship God, but can worship just as well in enjoying the scenery while they hunt or fish or play golf or hike in the mountains.
DEFEATED BY SYRIA AND ISRAEL (vv. 5-8)
Because of the idolatry of Ahaz, God sent the king of Syria against him, to badly defeat him and take a great number of captives to Damascus (v. 5). But also, Pekah, the king of Israel, also came against Judah and in one day killed 120,000 able warriors! (v. 6). Three prominent men of Judah, including the king's son, were killed by one man of Ephraim.
But as well as this, the Israelites captured 200,000 people, women with their sons and daughters, as well as a great amount of plunder, bringing this to Samaria. The devastation of Judah must have been awesome, with the number of men killed by Syria and great numbers taken captive, then 120,000 killed by Israel and 200,000 captives taken! Why did Ahaz not realize that this was a judgment from God, and turn to the Lord in repentance? But his heart remained hard as a stone.
CAPTIVES RETURNED BY ISRAEL (vv. 9-15)
The Lord intervened to stop Israel from exceeding in their harsh treatment of Judah. Having the upper hand, Israel was bent on doing all in their power to humiliate their brethren in Judah, but God sent the prophet Oded to the army of Israel with a solemn message. He told them that, because the Lord was angry with Judah, He had allowed Israel to soundly defeat them. But Israel's rage against Judah had reached up to heaven, and now they were planning to force the women and children into slavery. Israel's law had forbidden them to make slaves of other Israelites (Lev. 25:39). Did the Israelites think that because Judah had sinned against the Lord, therefore it was right to make them slaves? But Oded answered this by reminding Israel that they also were guilty before God (v. 10). Therefore, he told them, return those captives to Judah, for the fierce wrath of God was against their plan to make slaves of them (v. 11).
It was a mercy of God that here were some leaders among the people who took Oded's words to heart. Four are mentioned by name who stood up against the armed warriors, who came bringing the captives, and told them, "You shall not bring the captives here, for we already have offended the Lord. You intend to add to our sins and to our guilt; for our guilt is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel" (v. 13). These men realized that Israel was guilty in the first place of killing 120,000 men, which was far more than necessary to win the war. To also take 200,000 women and children captive as slaves would add greatly to their guilt.
Pekah, the king of Israel, is not mentioned as having anything to do with the protest of these four men, but it is good to see that they acted rightly without consulting the king. Their word had good effect on the warriors, who left the captives and the spoil then for the leaders to do with as they saw fit. Then these men named in verse 12 showed proper concern for the captives, using the spoil to clothe and feed them, even providing donkeys for those who were feeble, and brought them to Jericho to be returned to Judah. But in spite of the Lord’s dealing with Judah in allowing them to be so devastated by Syria and Israel, and in spite of kindness being shown to Judah by the return of the captives, Ahaz did not turn to the Lord. It seems he remained as cold and hard as he been before. There are some cases of men who are so decidedly sold to do evil, that, though God patiently appeals to them again and again, they not only fail to respond, but become more hardened still. This is all the more tragic when we consider that the father of Ahaz was a believer. When standing before the Great White Throne such men will have the past all brought before them with all its kind overtures by God, and no excuse will even come to their lips.
Ahaz, having refused the Lord, sought help from the kings of Assyria, when the Edomites again attacked Judah and took captives, and the Philistines invaded Judah's cities, taking possession of some of them (vv. 16-18). Thus, the Lord brought Judah low, and anyone ought to have been able to discern the reason for this was the bad influence of Ahaz in his own moral depravity and his despising of the worship of the God of Israel (v. 19), But Ahaz was so deluded by his own wickedness that he was blind to the reasons for his defeat. The king of Assyria also came to Judah, but not to help Ahaz, rather to add to his troubles. In fact, Ahaz robbed the temple of God to give some of its treasures to the king of Assyria, which the king gladly took without any intention of helping Ahaz (v. 20).
INCREASED EVIL AND DEATH OF AHAZ (vv. 22-26)
God's patience had no good effect on Ahaz, for his determination to do evil only increased instead of being arrested (v. 22). Since Syria had defeated him, he thought Syria did so by the power of their idols, and therefore he adopted Syria's idolatry, sacrificing to their gods. But this only involved him and all Judah in deeper evil. It seems he was doing everything he could to insult the God of Israel, going so far as to cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shutting its doors, and instead make altars in every corner of Jerusalem (v. 24).This pictures what many religious leaders are doing today. For instance, the table of showbread in the temple symbolized Christ as the Sustainer of true communion with God. Such truth as been cut to shreds by the false teachings of ungodly professors of religion. The lampstand speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of testimony, but this truth too has been treated with utter contempt, as have many other scripture truths that are illustrated in the articles of the temple.
By shutting the doors of the temple, Ahaz was indicating he considered the temple no longer of any use, just as today the truth of the Church, the present-day house of God, is flatly refused by many religious denominations. In contrast to this, Ahaz made altars in every corner of Jerusalem. God had placed His name in the temple, but Ahaz refused God's center and made centers wherever he wanted, just as denominations today consider it right to forget God's one center, which is Christ, and adopt for themselves any number of centers that appeal to their selfish feelings.
Bedsides his many other wicked actions, Ahaz made high places in every city of Judah for burning incense to false gods. Since he despised God's center, Jerusalem, he made centers all through Judah, making their worship more convenient with many locations (v. 25), Satan likes to make people feel at ease with no exercise of heart and conscience to know and to obey the Word of God, so he has religions of every kind to cater to the fleshly desires of everyone. But such things provoked the Lord to anger, and Ahaz died at the early age of 36 years! He was buried in Jerusalem, but not with the kings of Judah. The people evidently refused him this honor, for he was not worthy of it.
HEZEKIAH MADE KING (vv. 1-2)
Hezekiah took the place of Ahaz in reigning over Judah at the age of 25 years. His mother's name, Abijah, is told us. She must have been a far different character than her husband, because her son did what was right in the sight of the Lord, in sharp contrast to his father's wickedness (v. 2). Though his father was an exceptionally bad example, Hezekiah did not follow that example, and every individual should realize that he does not have to go in his father's ungodly footsteps. The grandfather of Hezekiah (Uzziah) had been a comparatively faithful man, but we are not told that Hezekiah did according to all that Uzziah had done, but according to all that his father David had done. Thus David was his example, the first king of God's choice in Israel. Let us remember too that we ought to follow the example of the Lord Jesus, and not to be satisfied with any lesser example.
HEZEKIAH'S REGARD FOR THE HOUSE OF GOD (vv. 3-19)
At the very beginning of Hezekiah's reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them (v. 3). Thus he quickly reversed what his father Ahaz had done. Respect for God's house is respect for God Himself. Today, we also should desire the truth of the house of God, which is the truth of the Assembly, to be available to the people of God. Not that the doors were taken away: they were opened and repaired to perform their proper function of allowing in what should be in and keeping out what should be out.
Having opened the doors of the temple, Hezekiah then gathered the priests and Levites who were designated by God to do the work of the temple. Ahaz had stopped this by his arrogant actions. But Hezekiah was no weakling. He told the priests and Levites to first sanctify themselves, then sanctify the house of the Lord and carry out the rubbish that had been accumulated in the sanctuary (vv. 4-5). Not only had Ahaz taken away the vessels of the temple, but he had replaced them with rubbish! Such too has been the guilt of present-day religion. Despising the sacred truths of the Word of God, leaders have not only gotten rid of these, but have introduced rubbish in their place, the rubbish of human substitutes for godliness and obedience to the Word of God.
Hezekiah met the evil squarely and decidedly. He said, "Our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him" (v. 6). He spoke also of their having shut the doors, put out the lamps and ceased to burn incense or offer burnt offerings in this one place that God had set apart for this purpose. It is striking that he realized the enormity of the evil of his fathers and that this had be corrected. He clearly saw what his father had failed to see, that the great evil that had come on Judah was because of their disobedience to God (v. 8). He expected Judah to see this also. Many men of Judah had died by warfare and many mothers and children had been taken captive (v. 9).
Therefore Hezekiah advocated a positive return to the Lord, calling upon Judah to agree to a covenant (v.10) This was consistent with Israel's being under law, though it would be wrong today, for covenants have nothing to do with the Church of God. Under grace God has shown that He wants no promises from man, for the Old Testament has proven Israel (and therefore all mankind) to be so sinful that they cannot keep their promises. How much better to obey God without promising to do so than to promise and fail!
But Hezekiah desired a true return to God on Judah's part, and he urged the priests and Levites to not be negligent in their duties, for the Lord had chosen them to stand before Him, to serve Him and to burn incense to Him. Both priests and Levites should serve Him, though only the priests were to burn incense.
How good it is to see the response of these men! Fourteen Levites are mentioned by name as instrumental ingathering their brethren and being sanctified to do the work of cleansing the temple (vv. 12-150. Servants of the Lord today too should be diligent to minister the Word of God faithfully, that the Word may have its proper effect in cleansing away the rubbish of human inventions and opinions.
Only the priests could go into the innermost part of the house of the Lord, which they did, cleansing it and bringing out all that debris that they found there, to the court, from which the Levites took it and carried it to the Brook Kidron (v. 16). Having begun on the inside of the house, they came to the vestibule on the eighth day, but required another eight days to finish the entire work, including the court, evidently (v. 17). They then reported to King Hezekiah that they had cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with its articles and the table of showbread with its articles. Also all the articles that King Ahaz had thrown out they had restored and sanctified, of course those treasures that Ahaz had given to the King of Assyria (ch. 28:21) could not have been included in the restoration.
THE TEMPLE WORSHIP RESTORED (vv. 20-36)
The temple being prepared, Hezekiah gathered the rulers of Jerusalem with the object of immediately offering sacrifices to the Lord. They brought seven (a complete number) of each of four different animals to be offered. The bulls speak of the strength of the offering of the Lord Jesus. The rams symbolize the devotion of that one offerings. The lambs picture the submission of His offering, and the male goats signify the substitutionary character of His offering. Indeed, all of these together cannot fully picture the wonder of the one sacrifice of Christ(v. 21).
The bulls were killed, then the rams and the lambs, the priests sprinkling the blood of these on the altar(v. 22). These three were evidently burnt offerings, though the goats are designated as sin offerings (v. 23). The burnt offerings came first, and infer much more than the sin offerings, for they speak of the glory that God receives from the offering of Christ, which is a much more important matter than the blessing we receive. The sin offering aspect of that sacrifice is nevertheless vitally important too, for without this our sins could never be forgiven and we delivered from the power of sin. Notice that they laid their hands on the sin offerings before offering them, indicating their personal identification with the value of Christ's sacrifice to atone for their guilt (v. 23). But Hezekiah knew that both the burnt offering and the sin offering were necessary (v.24).
Hezekiah also placed Levites who were musicians, with cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, in the house of the Lord, and also priests with trumpets (vv. 25-26). This was in accordance with the command of David. This music speaks of the joy of the Lord, which is to be a very real accompaniment to worship. In the Church of God today there are those who are anxious to make use of musical instruments in worship also, and of course they consider that since instruments were used in Israel's worship, they ought to be also in the worship of New Testament saints. But actually, this instrumental music is only symbolical of the joy of believers in worshiping God "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:23), just as all the sacrifices of Israel were pictures of the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. How wrong it would be for us today to sacrifice animals to God! When the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord's supper with His disciples, we read of no musical instruments, but they did sing a hymn (Mk. 14:26). What the Father desires of His saints today is not formal worship, but worship "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:23).
"And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began." Surely this tells us that when God is honored by the sacrifice of Christ (of which the burnt offering speaks)then there is reason for the saints to respond with the song of the Lord. There is far more joy in the burnt offering aspect of the sacrifice of Christ than there is in the sin offering aspect, for while we may be profoundly thankful that by the sacrifice of Christ our sins have been forgiven, yet it is only when we realize that God has been glorified in that sacrifice that our hearts really expand with rejoicing. But all the assembly worshiped (v.28) at least formally, continuing till the burnt offering was finished, and indeed beyond this (vv. 28-29).
Hezekiah and other leaders then commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord, using the psalms of David and Asaph for this. They did so with gladness and bowed their heads and worshiped. This was a remarkable result of the godly leading of Hezekiah. Today we need no such commandment, but may be led by the Spirit of God. Knowing the great glory and grace of the Lord Jesus, we surely desire to praise Him.
The freewill offerings of Judah continued for some time, the burnt offerings amounting to 70 bulls, 100rams and 200 lambs, as well as offerings of consecration totaling 600 bulls and 3000 sheep (vv. 32-33). There were not enough priests to do all the work of skinning the offerings, so the Levites helped them. Some of the priests had not sanctified themselves, being not as diligent as the Levites in this matter. Does this not remind us that we too often lack willingness to carry out priestly duties of true worship? We may be more inclined to serve (as Levites) than to worship (as priests). But Hezekiah and all the people greatly rejoiced in the goodness of God so preparing them at this time.
KEEPING THE PASSOVER (vv. 1-27)
The concern of Hezekiah to honor the Lord was then extended to his purpose that the Passover should be kept and that all Israel should be invited to this feast. Therefore he sent letters to Ephraim and Manasseh (in fact, announcing it throughout all Israel --v. 6), to invite them to come to the only center where God had ordered that the Passover should be kept, Jerusalem. At this time the ten tribes had been so overrun by enemies that they had no king reigning over them, but Hezekiah in great compassion for them, desired that individuals at least should be awakened to recognize God's center and come to honor Him by keeping the Passover.
However, being so concerned as Hezekiah was, the time was too late to gather the people together on the first month of the year, which was the stipulated time. But God had allowed that if anyone was unable to keep the Passover in the first month because of uncleanness or traveling away from home, he might keep the Passover in the second month. Hezekiah took advantage of this provision to announce the Passover in the second month (v. 2).
Runners then took the message to all Israel and Judah, urging them as "children of Israel" to return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, assuring them that if so, God would return to them, the small remnant that had not been taken captive by the kings of Assyria. Further, they were told, "Do not be like your fathers and your brethren who trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, so that He gave them up to desolation, as you see." For the idolatry that the ten tribes chose was a refusal of God's center, Jerusalem. Now at least let them recognize that center and God would bless them for it. It was necessary that they should be told not to be stiff necked, as their fathers were, but to yield themselves to the Lord (vv. 7-8). If they would show the faith to return to Jerusalem, they would not be refused permission to enter God's sanctuary (not the holiest of all, of course), but would be welcomed to the house of God.
Though the message was one of kindness and grace (v. 9), when it was brought to Ephraim, Manasseh and Zebulun, it was received with only contempt and mockery, on the part of the people generally (v. 10). The Lord had largely broken down their false worship, yet when the opportunity was given them to return to God's true center of worship, Jerusalem, they foolishly and proudly refused.
Nevertheless, there were some who responded to the invitation, from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulon, and humbly came to Jerusalem. Also, God disposed the hearts of the people of Judah to willingly obey the command of Hezekiah, so that there was a large gathering in the city in the second month (v. 13).
But as soon as the Passover was contemplated, it was clearly seen that the idolatrous altars raised by former kings must be allowed no place. These were taken away and thrown into the Brook Kidron. Similarly, when we desire to honor the Lord by remembering Him in the breaking of bread, we shall want to get rid of all those forms and relics of humanly devised worship and give the Lord Jesus His place of supreme honor.
The Passover lambs were then slaughtered on the 14th day of the second month (v. 15). It is noted that the priests and Levites were ashamed and sanctified themselves. It appears that the contemplation of the Passover woke them up to the shame of their previous laxity, for surely they ought to have purified themselves immediately if there was defilement, just as we too ought to confess our wrongs and be restored just as soon as we have done the wrong. At least they became ashamed enough to sanctify themselves. The Passover was kept "according to the law of Moses the man of God" (v. 16). We too should keep the Lord's supper in accordance with its institution by the Lord Jesus on the night of His betrayal. The simplicity of that institution is beautiful, yet many churches have added such ritual and ceremony to it today that it cannot be recognized as the same service the Lord introduced.
The ordinance of the Passover required that those who were defiled by a dead body could not eat of the Passover until they were sanctified from this (Num. 9:9). Because of some being defiled at the time of the Passover in Numbers, God had made an allowance for them the keep the Passover in the second month (Num. 9:10-11). However, since it was the second month that Hezekiah arranged the Passover, and there were large numbers from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulon who had not been purified, yet they were allowed to eat the Passover, though it was contrary to the Word of God. This was a marked exception, and Hezekiah prayed for them, that the Lord would provide atonement for this infraction of the law. The Lord accepted this prayer and healed all the people (vv. 19-20). In explanation of this, would it not have been cruel to refuse their participation in the Passover after having invited them to come from so far for this purpose, and after these people had shown such faith as to come to God's center in order to honor the Lord? This was the exception of pure grace.
All those present at Jerusalem at this time kept the feast for seven days, with great gladness, and the priests and Levites daily praised the Lord in singing with the accompaniment of musical instruments (v. 21). Instrumental music is pleasant to the human ear, though it is not really worship in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23-24), as the Lord insists that worship should be in this present age, in contrast to the "carnal (or fleshly) ordinances "prescribed for Israel (Heb. 9:9-10). The New Testament is silent as to the use of musical instruments in the service of God. When the Lord instituted the Lord's supper, it is recorded that they sang a hymn (Mk. 14:26), but there is no mention of any musical instrument. Why? Because true worship is from the heart, and though one plays an instrument well, this is not worship, for worship is for the Lord, not for people. The people may enjoy the instrumental music, but it is not worship of God. A gospel meeting is for the benefit of people, and instrumental music may attract people to hear, but this is not worship.
But Hezekiah acted according to the times in which he lived, and he encouraged the Levites during the feast to teach the knowledge of the Lord, for the feast was seven days long (v.22). However, the assembly agreed to keep it up for seven days more, which gave opportunity for much teaching as well as offering peace offerings and making confession to the Lord (v. 23). Their history under previous kings surely called for such confession.
Hezekiah himself gave to the assembly 1000 bulls and 7000 sheep for offerings, and the leaders of Judah gave 1000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. A great number of priests sanctified themselves so that they could help in the offering of all these (v.24).
Thus the whole assembly of Judah rejoiced together with the priests and Levites and the number who came from Israel. There had been no occasion like this since the time of Solomon(vv. 25-26), so that it was a unique revival after years of failure on the part of the kings. The prayer of the priests and Levites came up to God's holy dwelling place, to heaven. God was vitally interested and heard their prayer with glad approval.
HEZEKIAH'S WORK OF REFORMATION (vv. 1-21)
When Hezekiah had taken positive action to give God His true place of authority in the Passover feast, he rightly followed this up with the negative work of destroying the idolatrous pillars, images, high places and altars that had been introduced by earlier kings. The many people who had been present for the Passover carried out this destruction in the cities of Judah, but also in Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh (v. 1) before returning to their own property.
Then Hezekiah restored the priests and Levites to their proper places and their proper work according to the divisions appointed for them by the law of Moses, to take care of the sacrifices of burnt offerings and peace offerings, to serve and to give thanks and to praise in the gates of the house of the Lord (v. 2). He also appointed a part of his possessions to be provided as burnt offerings, whether for the morning and evening, or for the sabbaths, new moons and set feasts, as was prescribed in the law (v. 3). Notice the emphasis placed on the burnt offering. This was totally for God, all going up in fire to Him, indicating the value of the sacrifice of Christ to God Himself, for God has been perfectly glorified in that sacrifice, apart from all the blessing we may have received.
The people had apparently not been taught that the Levites depended on their support for the service they performed in the temple. Hezekiah therefore took notice of this and commanded the people of Jerusalem to contribute to the support of the Levites, so that they could devote themselves to their proper service. When this order was circulated the people were quick to respond, for Hezekiah's personal devotion to the Lord had very real influence on them. They brought in grain, wine, oil and honey and other produce in abundance (v. 5). When people's hearts were affected by the truth of God, tithes were not considered a hardship. Under grace there is no commandment given to tithe, but since we are infinitely blessed by the sacrifice of Christ for us, our giving is to be voluntary and spontaneous. "Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
Others of the children of Israel (outside of Jerusalem) brought tithes of oxen and sheep and of other holy things that were consecrated to the Lord (v. 6). These holy things they had laid in heaps, so that at the end of four summer months of gathering, there was a great over-abundance. When Hezekiah and other leaders of Judah came to view the heaps, they were so impressed as to gladly bless the Lord and the people also (vv. 7-8).
Azariah the chief priest told Hezekiah of the abundance remaining after the Levites had been sufficed, so that Hezekiah ordered them to prepare rooms in the house of the Lord in which to store the offerings (v. 11). How good it is to read that "they faithfully brought in the offerings, the tithes and the dedicated things" (v. 12). The Lord delights in recording the names of the twelve faithful men who did this.
One official, Kore, was appointed to take charge of the freewill offerings and their distribution, and under him six assistants who are called "faithful" (vv. 14-15). Even males as young as three years were included in the distribution of these offerings, though of course the priests who served were required to be 20 years or older (vv. 16-17). But the families of the Levites were all entitled to the support of the freewill offerings (v.18).
Also, there were men designated to distribute portions to the sons of Aaron the priests in the fields and common lands surrounding the cities (v. 19). Thus Hezekiah was diligent to see that nothing was neglected in the work of the Lord to provide for the people what was right and good. It is a precious commendation that he did every good work in the service of the house of God with all his heart. Therefore he prospered greatly (v.21).
ASSYRIA THREATENS JUDAH (vv. 1-18)
Assyria had before this conquered ten tribes (2 Ki. 17), and their king, Sennacharib, confident of taking Judah also, came to encamp against the fortified cities (v. 1). The Lord did not send him because of any guilt on Judah's part, as was the case with Israel, but it was to be a test of the faith of the godly king Hezekiah. He consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city (v. 4). Spiritually speaking, this tells us that the enemies of the Lord have no right to the refreshment of the Word of God: this belongs to believers. The unbeliever, if he gets knowledge of God's Word, will only misuse it.
Hezekiah made full preparations for war, just as the believer is told to "put on the whole armor of God" (Eph. 6:11). He built up the wall that was broken and built another wall outside as a double protection, also making many weapons and shields. But though he prepared these armaments, he did not depend on them. Gathering the military leaders in the open square of the city gate, he told them to "be strong and courageous" (v. 7), though not to depend on their strength and courage, but on the Lord their God; for the king of Assyria depended on an arm of flesh, but Israel's God was infinitely greater. Thus the words of Hezekiah were of real strength to the people (v. 8). God would certainly not fail them.
Sennacharib then tried the force of human argument against Judah. But Judah would immediately discern the ignorance of his arguments. He said that Hezekiah was trying to persuade Judah to give themselves over to die of famine and thirst when he assured Judah that the Lord God would deliver them from the power of the king of Assyria. He knew that Hezekiah had abolished the high places of worship, and thought that these were God's high places, so that he considered that Hezekiah had insulted God! What abject ignorance! Hezekiah had honored God by destroying this idolatrous worship and returning to the true worship of having one altar, symbolical of Christ.
Sennacharib further declared that the gods of many nations had not delivered those nations from destruction at the hand of Assyria, therefore Judah could not depend on their God to deliver them (vv. 13-14). How little he realized that the gods of the nations (including his own nation) were helpless idols in contrast to the God of Israel who created all things.
This haughty enemy of God appealed to the people of Judah to not let Hezekiah deceive them, but to refuse to believe him; for Sennacharib wanted Judah to let him deceive them into thinking that God was no better than the idols of the nations (v. 15). Thus his servants spoke both against the Lord and against Hezekiah (v. 16). Added to this determined campaign were letters written by Sennacharib using the same insulting language against God, declaring Him to be as helpless as the idols of other nations (v. 17). Also the servants of Sennacharib who were besieging the city called out loudly in the Hebrew language to the people of Jerusalem, desiring to frighten them into submission (vv. 18-19). Isaiah 36:11-20records this attack as being the work of Rabshakeh in railing against God.
GOD'S ANSWER TO ASSYRIA (vv. 20-23)
As we have seen, though Hezekiah had prepared for war, it was not his preparations that saved Judah. Rather, in utter helplessness, Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed and cried out to heaven, and the Lord gained the victory for him. The Lord sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria (vv. 20-21). In fact, at that time the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of the Assyrians (Isa. 37:36).Sennacharib returned in shame to his own land, and in the temple of his idolatrous god his own sons killed him with the sword. How helpless his god was to deliver him! -- and how little respect for his god did his own sons show! Thus the evil of man defeats his own selfish ends.
However, the simplicity of Hezekiah's faith assured his salvation from the king of Assyria, as from other enemies as well, and he was given the blessing of the Lord's guidance in every way. Other nations recognized the Lord's grace over Judah and brought gifts to the Lord and also presents to Hezekiah. Thus God exalted him in the sight of all the nations.
HEZEKIAH'S FAILURE AND HUMBLING (vv. 24-26)
This book of Chronicles does not give the details as regards Hezekiah's sickness and recovery as does 2Kings 20:1-11. There we read that Isaiah had told him to set his house in order, for he would die from the sickness God had allowed him. But instead of simply bowing to the Word of the Lord, he urgently prayed, on the basis of his faithful walk, that God would change his mind. He wept bitterly at the thought of dying. What had happened to his faith at this time? Did he not know that God was perfectly wise in what He had said? But evidently he needed a lesson he had not learned before.
The Lord then sent Isaiah back to him with the message that He had heard his prayer and had seen his tears, and would heal him and add fifteen years to his life (2 Ki. 20:5-6). Then Isaiah had instructed that a lump of figs be laid on the boil, which led to Hezekiah's recovery. More than this, God gave him the sign of the shadow going back ten degrees on the sundial (2 Ki.20:9-11). This is the sign of which 2 Chronicles 32:24 speaks.
"But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up (v. 25). He was evidently proud of the fact that he had gained fifteen years because of his faithful life. If he had died when the Lord told him to, he would have been the only king of Israel to have a really bright end to his reign, for his extra fifteen years added painful sorrow to his history. In fact, immediately following his recovery he failed badly when the king of Babylon sent him letters and a present to compliment him on his recovery. He was deceived by the friendliness of this enemy of Israel and showed his servants all his treasures and his armaments (2Ki.20:12-13). Because of this the Lord sent Isaiah to tell him that all these treasures would be carried away to Babylon (2 Ki. 20:16-18).What a warning to us not to be deceived by friendly enemies!
However, Hezekiah did humble himself because of his failure in this case, so that God did not in his lifetime bring the Babylonians to attack Judah (v. 26).
HEZEKIAH'S PROSPERITY AND HONOR (vv. 27-31)
2 Chronicles does not dwell on Hezekiah's failure, but on the grace of God in blessing him so greatly. He was given great riches and honor, with treasuries for silver, gold, precious stones, spices, shields and many other desirable things; also storehouses for grain, wine and oil, barns for all kinds of livestock and folds for flocks. All of these things are symbolic of the great blessing of the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus, yet only a faint picture.
An important project of Hezekiah was his bringing running water into Jerusalem by a tunnel, the water being diverted from the Upper Gihon River (v. 30). This pictures his making available to all the people the truth of the Word of God (the water), so that they might procure it for themselves. How good itis if leaders help others to find blessing in scripture for themselves!
However, in spite of all the good Hezekiah had done, God did not minimize his sad failure in feeding his own pride through unwisely entertaining the princes of Babylon who came, not only to congratulate him on his recovery of health, but to enquire about the wonder of the sun going backward ten degrees (v. 31). God had done these things for His own glory, not that attention should be drawn to Hezekiah. But God used this as a test, that Hezekiah might learn something of the evil in his own heart, and which he had not suspected. What a lesson for every believer!
HEZEKIAH'S DEATH (vv. 32-33)
Though Hezekiah had gained fifteen years through his tearful prayer, yet he died. Verse 32 records the fact that other acts of Hezekiah are to be found written in the book of Isaiah and in the book of Kings (2 Kings). He was buried among the honored kings of Judah in Jerusalem, and all Judah honored him at his death, a contrast to the burial of his father Ahaz, who was not buried among the kings (Ch. 28:37).
THE REIGN OF MANASSEH (vv. 1-9)
Manasseh was only 12 years old at the time of his father's death, therefore he was born during the extra fifteen years that God had allowed Hezekiah. Manasseh was given 55 years to reign over Judah, but he was the most wicked king Judah ever had. During his first twelve years, did his father not give him the help he needed to be preserved from evil? We are surely taught here that God knew better what was good for Hezekiah than Hezekiah thought. We should certainly learn to bow to God's will at all times, whatever we may think about it.
Manasseh followed the idolatrous abominations of the nations Israel had dispossessed, reversing the good that his father had done for Israel. He rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah had destroyed, raised up altars to idols and made images, and worshiped all the host of heaven. Even in the temple of God Manasseh set up altars to worship idols. With all his altars and images he may have thought he was very zealous religiously, more zealous than his father, but this was the folly of unbelief. Added to this evil, he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the valley of Hinnom, thinking that the sacrifice of his own sons would secure him some recognition from heaven (v. 6). He also practiced witchcraft, soothsaying and sorcery, thus involving his kingdom in the bondage of satanic deception. Placing a carved image in the temple was a direct insult to God, who had declared the temple as the place where God would set His name (v. 7). Yet God's promise to not remove Israel from their land was conditional upon their being careful to observe all God's commandments which involved the whole law with its statutes and ordinances(v. 8). Manasseh had totally departed from such a path of obedience, seducing Judah and Jerusalem to practice more evil than the nations God had destroyed because of their idolatry.
GOD BRINGS MANASSEH TO REPENTANCE (vv. 10-17)
When Manasseh had resisted the Word of God in seeking to correct his evil, the Lord therefore brought the army of the king of Assyria to take Manasseh captive and transport him to Babylon (v. 11). It was plainly the goodness of God that brought Manasseh down to this miserable condition of bondage, for Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. How marvelous it is that the discipline of God accomplished the result of bringing Manasseh to repentance. No doubt God has used this means many times in seeking to bring people to repentance, yet most do not seem to respond. But though Manasseh had sinned so grievously against God, he did repent and humbled himself greatly before God, praying earnestly to the One he had before so dishonored, and God accepted his prayer of humiliation (vv. 12-13). This is a most striking example of the grace of God being available for any sinner who repents.
No details are given as to how the king of Assyria was moved to release Manasseh from prison and allow him to return to his place as king over Judah, but it was God Himself who dictated this restoration, and Manasseh then knew indeed that the Lord is God. This was certainly a complete transformation accomplished by the grace and power of God.
There were good results also, for Manasseh built profitably instead of tearing down what was of God. He built a wall on the west of Jerusalem, no doubt with the object of withstanding the attacks of enemies, and he appointed military captains in all the fortified cities of Judah, indicating his concern for the protection of these cities (v. 14).
He also took away the idols from the house of the Lord, idols that he himself had introduced, as well as all the altars he had built in Jerusalem (v. 15). On the positive side he repaired the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it (v. 16). These offerings indicate his thankfulness for God's mercy to him, but no mention is made of burnt offerings, which emphasize the glory God receives by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ, a far more important matter than the blessing we receive.
Yet, while Hezekiah had banished worship in the high places, Manasseh did not follow his father in this, but allowed the people to sacrifice in these, though only to the Lord (v. 17).This is the same principle as is seen today in those Christians who desire recognition from the world in worshiping God, rather than being willing to take the low place of rejection with Christ. In this Manasseh failed.
THE DEATH OF MANASSEH (vv. 18-20)
Any further history of Manasseh verse 18 tells us is recorded in the book of the kings of Israel (v. 18),and other books not available to us today. Having reigned 55 years, Manasseh died and was buried in his own house, thus having more respect shown to him at his death than was true of some of the kings. His son Amon then took the throne.
AMON'S BRIEF REIGN AND DEATH (vv. 21-25)
Amon was 22 years of age in being crowned king, but in great contrast to his father, he reigned only two years. Though Manasseh had thrown out of the city the idols and idolatrous altars he had made, Amon evidently brought them back, for he sacrificed to all the images that his father had made, placing himself in servitude to these abominations. He certainly must have known that his father had repented and changed his ways radically, but this had no proper effect on Amon, who did not at all humble himself, but sinned more and more (vv. 22-23). His evil was so great that even his own servants had no respect for him, but conspired together and killed him in his own house. How pathetic it is that he had learned nothing either through the folly of his father or through the repentance of his father!
However, the people of the land had some sense of the wrong of servants killing their master, and they executed those who had done this. Thus in both cases God shows that He has ways of bringing judgment on the guilty. Then the people made Josiah, Amon's son, king over Judah.
JOSIAH BEGINS HIS GOOD REIGN (vv. 1-7)
Josiah was only eight years old when put on the throne (v. 1). His father at this time (when he died) was24 years old, so that he must have been only 16 when Josiah was born. But Josiah reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. What a contrast he was to his father Amon! He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, choosing to walk in the ways of David, maintaining a consistent path, not turning to either side, right or left (v. 2). Indeed, he was the last king in Judah to have a good record, which shows us that even when the condition of the people generally has sunk to a low ebb, there may still be bright exceptions to the general trend. At the tender age of 16 he began to seek the Lord, and at 20 years he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the carved and molded images, and had the altars of Baal broken down, the incense altars cut down, breaking in pieces the wooden, carved and molded images, grinding them to dust which was scattered on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them (vv. 3-4). Thus he made sure that those images would never again be introduced into Jerusalem. Though Manasseh had taken away the images he had before made, he did not destroy them, so Amon had brought them back. Josiah would allow no such thing.
Josiah also burned the bones of the idolatrous priests on their altars. Evidently these were the bones of those who had before died. But he did not stop with cleansing Judah and Jerusalem: he did the same in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon and Naphthali, for those tribes had been so reduced as to have no king (v. 5). When he had accomplished this work of breaking down the altars and images, reducing them practically to powder, and had cutdown all the incense altars throughout the land, he returned to Jerusalem (vv. 6-7), which means "the foundation of peace." All this took place before Josiah even knew of God's law. He had not needed the law to tell him that idolatry was sin against God. Why not? Because the practice of idolatry is sin against God as Creator, as everyone should know, not only sin against His law.
HE BOOK OF THE LAW FOUND (vv. 8-28)
When one acts rightly on the light he has, God will certainly further enlighten him. The evil in Judah having been judged, at the age of 26 Josiah was concerned about repairing the house of the Lord. He sent three qualified men with instructions to do the repair work. They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered him money that had been gathered from Manasseh, Ephraim, Judah and Benjamin. (v.9).
Those who were overseers of the material needed for the house of God used this money for the hiring of workmen to repair the house and for craftsmen and builders, to buy hewn stone and timber for beams and for the floor the house (v. 10). This was evidently a large project, for the ungodly kings previous to Josiah had been guilty of destroying a great deal of that which was not their own property, but God's.
Josiah's influence was good, for the men did the work faithfully (v. 12). The names of those who supervised the work are recorded in verse 12. Thus God highly commends those who are true builders, and surely no less today if we have concern for the building up of the saints of God, thus building the assembly. Levites are mentioned here as being skillful with musical instruments. This is symbolical of skill in ministering the Word of God for the refreshment and encouragement of saints. They may have played their instruments while the men were working, picturing servants willing to help those serving in practical matters by ministering the Word of God to them.
There were overseers set over the burden bearers also. How good for us if we are burden bearers. But we need instruction as to how to do such good work. Also some of the Levites were scribes, officers and gatekeepers (v. 13). Though there was diversity in the work, yet it was done in unity. Scribes were needed to keep things orderly; gatekeepers were required to see that only that was allowed in which ought to be in. These are all necessities in the Church of God today, though with no such functions and with no one assuming any special place for this.
However, in the course of doing the repair work, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord, given by Moses. How sad that the book had been given no place of honor, but was obscured in the house of God! (v. 14). In that book it was written that when one ruled as king over Israel he should write a copy of this law in a book and read it all the days of his life(Deut. 17:18-19). But by the time Josiah took the throne, he did not even know that this book existed! Who was to blame for this? No doubt both earlier kings and priests.
Shaphan received the book from Hilkiah and brought the message to the king that his orders were being carried out in reference to repairing the temple, but also told that Hilkiah had given him this book (vv. 16-18). Shaphan (a scribe) then read from this book before Josiah. How profoundly serious was the effect upon the godly king Josiah in hearing the Word of God! In a spirit of deep self-judgment he tore his clothes, then commanded five men, including Hilkiah and Shaphan, to go and enquire of the Lord for him and for the small number left in Israel and Judah. For he recognized that Israel was under the great wrath of God because their fathers had not kept the Word of the Lord (vv. 20-21). He did not attempt to rationalize, but faced directly the truth declared in scripture, and wanted to know just how God was now going to deal with his nation.
The condition of Israel was so low at this time that there was no prophet whom they could consult, but a prophetess named Huldah was available and they went to her (v. 22). She faithfully gave them God's answer that He would bring calamity upon Israel, all the curses written in the book Josiah had heard read. The reason is given plainly, "because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched" (vv.24-25). Not even the exceptional faithfulness of Josiah could avert this judgment.
However, God would still show His appreciation of the character and work of Josiah. Because Josiah's heart was tender and he had humbled himself before God when he heard what had been written in the book of the law, had torn his clothes and wept before Him, the Lord would respond kindly toward him, allowing him to die before the threatened judgment fell on Judah, so that he would not see all the calamity that was the result of Judah's sin(vv. 27-18). This is a striking case of which Isaiah speaks, "The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from the evil." Is this not true today also? The condition of the professing Church today is so seriously evil that there is no remedy. God will judge this condition: but He will take away the godly by rapturing them Home to heaven before His judgment is poured out.
PURPOSE TO SERVE GOD FOR THE TIME
The prediction of future judgment against Israel's sin did not discourage Josiah from serving God during whatever little time was left for this. He gathered all the elders of Judah, the priests and Levites and all the people of Jerusalem, to read to them all the word of the Book of the Law. Whether or not they were all affected by this as he was, he considered it necessary that all the people should hear God's Word. This was the basis of any relationship with God.
He then made a covenant before the Lord, requiring all the people to ratify it (vv. 31-32). This was simply a renewal of the covenant of law, in spite of the fact that they had broken that law. Was there really any hope they would now keep it? No, but it was the only basis of blessing that God had given them at the time, and they were still responsible. God was allowing them every opportunity to change if it had been possible.
Thus, we are told, "Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers" (v. 33). This illustrates what the devoted energy of faith on the part of one man can accomplish. He was a leader whose influence was great, though the eventual results among the people were not good. In the days of Josiah the Lord told Jeremiah, "Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense" (Jer. 3:10. Josiah had turned to God with his whole heart, but not so with the people generally. They could (and did) easily go in the opposite direction when Josiah died.
AN EXCEPTIONAL PASSOVER (vv. 1-19)
So near to the end of the history of the kings of Israel it is beautiful to see a Passover being kept, of which we are told, "There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet, and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem". Does this not tell us that it is possible, even in our own day of the ruin and failure of the Church publicly, to give some true honor to the name of the Lord Jesus such as will delight the heart of God? For the Passover speaks of the thankful worship of the Lord Jesus as the One who sacrificed Himself for us on the cross of Calvary. While the people may fail miserably, yet He remains faithful and true.
Hezekiah had kept a remarkable Passover (ch. 30), but it was one month later than the prescribed time, though none like it had been kept since the days of Solomon (ch. 30:36).However, there had been no Passover like Josiah's since before any king had ever reigned. Josiah made sure that all the details of order were observed in this Passover. Today this would remind us that for centuries the simple service of breaking of bread in remembrance of the Lord Jesus was ignored, and as we near His coming He would surely desire us to give Him honor in this simple way.
The Passover that Josiah kept was the most correct in all its details of any that were kept in the time of the Kings, because Josiah was careful to see that it corresponded to the Word of God. Josiah was the last of the kings in Israel or Judah who truly honored God, and this should be an encouragement for believers today to get back to the truth of scripture at a time when God's rights have been cast aside by the professing church. The following outline will be helpful in our studying this passage:
The Time (v. 1) -- that which scripture had prescribed.
The Center (v. 3) -- The Ark, typical of Christ, to whom the people were to gather.
The Preparation (v. 4) --Every house finding its place according to the instructions of David and Solomon.
The Order (v. 5) -- Priests and Levites standing in their place to kill the Passover according to the Word of the Lord by Moses.
The Provision (vv. 7-9) -- Josiah, the princes and chief of the Levites willingly giving to the people the necessary offerings for the Passover
The Death (v. 11) -- The Passover killed, the blood sprinkled, with burnt offerings accompanying the sacrifice.
The Roasting (v. 13) -- Speaking of the severe judgment of the Lord Jesus, exposed directly to the flame of God's wrath.
The Singing (v. 15) -- Speaking of the unspeakable joy resulting from the value of Christ's sacrifice.
The Guarding (v. 15) -- Porters (or gatekeepers) were necessary at every gate, allowing in what should be in and keeping out all that should be out.
Thus, the Passover was kept on the14th day of the first month, with the priests set in their proper places and encouraged to serve the Lord. The Levites were told to put the ark of the covenant in the temple Solomon had built, for this was the gathering center of Israel (v. 3), just as Christ is the gathering center for the Church of God. "For where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt.18:20).
The Levites were told also to prepare themselves by the houses of their fathers (v. 4). Their fathers were Kohath, Gershon and Merari, whose distinct services are recorded in Numbers 4:2,24,42. Thus, having prepared themselves, they were to "stand in the holy place according to the divisions of their families" (v. 5), maintaining an order according to God when they killed the Passover according to God's word by Moses (v. 6).
Before the actual killing of the Passover, however, the provision for it is seen in verses 7-10.Josiah's gift for this far outnumbered the gifts of the princes and of the chief of the Levites. For the king is typical of the Lord Jesus whose giving far exceeds the willing heartedness of the most devoted servants. Josiah gave 30,000 lambs and kids and 3,000 bulls (v.7). The rulers gave 2600 small animals (sheep, etc.) and 300 oxen (v. 8).The chief of the Levites gave 5000 small animals and 500 oxen. This was more than the rulers gave, but only one-sixth of Josiah's gift.
Verse 12 records the killing of the Passover, the priests sprinkling the blood and the Levites skinning the animals. The burnt offerings were however removed from the Passover sacrifice, which was a peace offering of which the offerers were to share. But the burnt offerings were evidently gifts given to the people to offer -- not to eat, but to offer all in fire to the Lord, signifying the glory that God receives from the value of the sacrifice of Christ.
After being killed, the Passover offering was roasted as prescribed in Exodus 12:8. Other offerings were made at the same time, some boiled in pots or cauldrons, some baked in pans, those too being peace offerings (see Leviticus 7:11-16). These were divided among the people, which shows they were peace offerings.
The Levites afterward prepared portions for themselves and for the priests, all of whom had been unselfishly occupied with caring for the people (v. 14). How lovely an example for the Church of God! Those prominent are to remember they are servants to the need of others, not masters who demand first consideration.
The singers are seen in their place, for the occasion was one of real joy in praising the Lord (v. 15).The death of the animals is of course symbolic of the death of the Lord Jesus, and this surely affects believers with deep sorrow, yet the results of that matchless death are so great and marvelous that we should be filled with unspeakable joy in the very face of the greatest sorrow. Is this not true when we remember the Lord in the breaking of bread?
Thus, at this late date in the history of the Kings, the Lord moved His servant to keep the Passover in its prescribed order, and the seven day's Feast of Unleavened Bread. This took place in the 18th year of his reign (v. 19), his age only 26 at the time. Who could despise his youth?
JOSIAH'S UNTIMELY DEATH (vv. 20-27)
"After all this" – after Josiah's faithful devotion to the Lord in banishing idolatry out of Judah, and after his keeping so outstanding a Passover to the Lord, -- this favored king made a serious blunder in not consulting the Lord before going out to war. The king of Egypt came to the Euphrates River to engage Carchemish (a Hittite king) in battle, and Josiah intervened to fight against Egypt (v. 20). Why he did this we are not told. could it have been that since he had been preserved by God from harm in warfare that he thought he could settle the disputes of others by the force of arms? In this case the king of Egypt was wiser than Josiah, telling him that he was meddling with God whom the king of Egypt considered was on his side (v. 21).
Surely Josiah ought to have considered this advice and to have at least sought God's guidance himself before proceeding any farther. But he had committed himself, and refused to change. In fact, he disguised himself (always a bad act for any believer), and like Ahab, who disguised himself to go to battle(2 Chron. 18:29), he suffered similar consequences, though he was a believer, as Ahab was not.
Verse 22 tells us that Josiah "did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God." God may speak to believers through any agency, and we should be awake to discern whether it may be God speaking even through an unbeliever. At least, Necho's words ought to have made Josiah pause to consider that he ought to consider God's will in this matter.
Josiah received no benefit from his going into battle. We are not even told whether others were killed in the battle, but only that Josiah was wounded by an arrow and ordered his servants to take him away (v. 23). He was taken by his second chariot to Jerusalem, and died, then was buried in one of the graves of the kings. How unspeakably sad was this unnecessary death of a king who had been so faithful to the Lord for the years before!
Jeremiah and all the people were deeply affected by Josiah's death and lamented greatly. Well they might, for his reign had been like a shining light in the midst of Israel's darkness, which darkness descended again rapidly after his death. In fact, the lamentations of the singing men and women became a regular memorial of Josiah (v. 25).
Verse 26 tells us that the rest of Josiah's acts and his goodness in observing the law of the Lord are matters recorded in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.
JEHOIAKIM'S REIGN AND CAPTIVITY (vv. 5-8)
Jehoiakim was evidently older than Jehoahaz, for he was 25 when he began to reign (ch. v. 2). He reigned 11 years in Judah, but he also dishonored the memory of his father, Josiah by his ungodly actions. It was not Necho who came against him, however, but Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He took Jehoiakim captive to Babylon. At the same time he took some of the articles from the temple and put them in his own temple at Babylon. The Lord allowed this as a warning to Judah, for Nebuchadnezzar might have taken all the treasures of the house, but did not. If Judah had turned back to the Lord, this might have preserved them from the later damage of verses 10 and 18.
This book does not record the death of Jehoiakim, though 2 Kings 24:6 does. He must have died in captivity. His son Jehoiachin then became king (v. 8).
JEHOIACHIN'S REIGN AND CAPTIVITY (vv. 9-10)
Jehoiachin was 18 years old at this time (not 8, as is mistakenly given in one translation), but he reigned only three months, which was enough to prove him evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 Kings 24:10-12 records that the Babylonians came to besiege the city, though we are not told the immediate reason for this. Jehoiachin and his servants surrendered without resistance. 2Chronicles 36:10 speaks of his being summoned by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, and the costly articles from the house of God were also taken to Babylon, not all the articles as yet. This is a picture of how the truth of God has been gradually stolen from the Church in the present age because of the failure and disobedience of the people. Nebuchadnezzar then made Zedekiah, Jehoiakim's brother (Jehoiachin's uncle) king in Judah. Nebuchadnezzar's dealings in deposing one king and setting up another seems rather ludicrous, but he evidently was trying to find one whom he could fully control.
ZEDEKIAH'S EVIL REIGN (vv. 11-14)
Zedekiah was the last of the kings ruling in Judah before their complete captivity. He became king at age 21,reigning 11 years, during which he proved as evil as the kings before him, though being a son of Josiah. Thus, following Josiah's good reign, the condition of Judah degenerated rapidly.
RUIN AND CAPTIVITY (vv. 11-21)
The Book of Jeremiah speaks extensively of God's warnings to Zedekiah through Jeremiah (Jer. 34:2,21), and of Zedekiah's fear of men in speaking with Jeremiah in secret, concerned about what God had spoken, but fearfully giving in to his noble sin disobeying the word of the Lord (Jer. 37:16-21; 38:4-27).
It was this fear of his servants that moved Zedekiah to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar after he had sworn an oath by God, an oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. This was plain dishonesty and God could not excuse it because of his fear of men. In fact, God says that Zedekiah stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against all God's gracious advances. Together with the leaders and priests of the people, he resisted Nebuchadnezzar when that king besieged Jerusalem again, and refused Jeremiah's words from God that he should surrender to the king of Babylon(Jer. 38:17-20). Thus leaders and priests and people were guilty of transgressing more and more, which included gross idolatry and desecration of the house of God (v. 14).
Verse 15 speaks of the many warnings God had given Judah by His servants (specially Jeremiah) because He had compassion on His people and the center where He dwelt. "But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of God arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (v. 16).
This haughty refusal of both God's goodness and His authority occasioned the final attack of the king of the Chaldeans who killed their young men even in the house of their sanctuary (v. 17). They had no regard for the holiness of the place. But after all, Judah had been guilty of showing contempt for God's house: how could they expect anything better from ungodly nations? Young men and virgins, aged or weak, were killed.
Also, all the treasures of the house of God, large and small, and the treasures of Zedekiah and his nobles were taken to Babylon (v. 18). The Chaldeans also burned the house of God, a terrible insult for Judah to have to bear, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned its palaces with fire and destroyed everything of value in the city (v. 19).
Those who were not killed were carried captive to Babylon where they became slaves to Nebuchadnezzar and his sons, until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, which took place when the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon on the same night that Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall (Dan. 5:24-30).
Thus the word of God by Jeremiah was fulfilled that the land of Israel would be left desolate to enjoy the sabbaths that it had not enjoyed for years because of the greed of the people in wanting crops in the seventh year as well as for the six years God had allotted them. Therefore God had told them by Jeremiah that the land would remain desolate for 70 years -- the length of Judah's captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:9-12)
SEVENTY YEARS LATER (vv. 22-23)
The king of Babylon never did give release to any of the captives of Judah, but when the Medes and Persians defeated Babylon, this soon worked for the blessing of Judah. Darius the Mede ruled at first, but when the authority was taken over by the Persians, Cyrus was ruler. As Isaiah had prophesied some years before, Cyrus would perform all God's pleasure in having Jerusalem rebuilt (Isa. 44:28).
It was the Lord who stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to issue a proclamation 70 years after Judah's captivity, sending the proclamation throughout all his kingdom (v. 22), to the effect that the God of heaven had commanded him to build a house for Godin Jerusalem. He did not say by what means God had given him this message, but he was evidently persuaded that it was authentic. Therefore he gave full liberty to any Israelites in captivity to go back to Jerusalem to help in this rebuilding. In fact, he encouraged them to do this, desiring that the Lord God would be with those who responded to this invitation. How beautifully this shows that God was still deeply concerned about His people Israel in spite of their previous departure and rebellion. Similarly today, He has not cast away His people (Rom. 11:1),though they have been far from Him for almost 2000 years! He will yet restore them, for He is a God of grace.
Thus the book of Chronicles does not end in total misery, but shows the pure grace of God that would not leave Israel in hopeless despair, but would graciously seek their restoration. We might well consider this in the light of conditions in the professing church today, when departure and rebellion against the pure truth of the New Testament has so broken and scattered the people of God that many are inclined to think the outlook is hopeless. But God still cares for His Church more faithfully than we do, and is willing to give to those who cry to Him the grace to maintain some testimony for Him in the face of all the opposition of Satan, together with the natural bent of our hearts to become discouraged.