DIVISION & DECLINE: WHY STUDY II KINGS
Now all theses things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come — I Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)
It is not a happy story and there is plenty of heartbreak, yet the Book of II Kings is an important part of God’s Word. For in it, we learn the legacy and the lunacy of turning away from the LORD: division, decline, decadence, depravity, and dispersion. II Kings was written is for our benefit, so that we learn from the successes and failures of the people of God.
II Kings is the narrative of the Israelite nation divided into two competing kingdoms: Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Neither of them were faithful to the LORD and the result of such unfaithfulness is the challenge of invasion, conquest, and exile. Yet in the midst of the backsliding and inevitable judgment, there is the scarlet cord of redemption. Though Judah was chastened and exiled, by God’s grace, it returned from exile. Those who returned became known to the world as ‘Jews.’ We also get a front row seat to the stunning and spectacular prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha. When the night is darkest, the stars shine brightest.
II Kings begins with Ahaziah, son of Ahab, King of Israel, facing a rebellion from his vassal state of Moab and falling through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria. He sent his servants to inquire of Baal-Zebub, god of Ekron, if he would recover from his injury. The angel of God sent Elijah the prophet to rebuke Ahaziah, asking rhetorically ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Because of this affront, Ahaziah would die from his injuries … and he did. His story was a mini-version of the faithlessness we find in the rest of the book.
From this point, II Kings switches from the kingdom of Judah, to the kingdom of Israel, then back. While there were some bright stars in Judah, like Hezekiah and Josiah, for the most part the kings of Judah and of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. The results were frighteningly predictable: eventual yet furious divine judgment. It is like being an eye-witness to a car crash in slow motion. At the end, in Chapter 25, Jehoiachin king of Judah is released from captivity and treated with respect. He represented in proxy the grace that would to extended to his nation under the Persians.
Melechim Beth or II Kings,
Either the prophet Jeremiah or someone who lived the same time as him.
PORTRAIT OF CHRIST
Christ resembles the ministry of Elisha: grace, hope, peace, and a double-portion of God’s spirit. Elisha did double the recorded miracles that Elijah did.
THEME OF II KINGS
Two backslidden kingdoms colliding towards captivity, with a hint of mercy at the end.
For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; 23Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day — II Kings 17:22-23 (KJV)
And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there — II Kings 23:27 (KJV)
David’s kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel because his son king Solomon had turned from the LORD. His successors did not learn the lesson, either. Both kingdoms continue to backslide. Judah had only 8 good kings out of 20. Israel had no good kings out of 19.
In the face of this apostasy, God graciously sent his prophets to the divided kingdom. To Israel came the prophetic ministries of Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea. To Judah cam Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk.
Yet despite their sterling ministries, and the noble efforts of Judean kings Hezekiah and Josiah, none of their efforts averted judgment on Israel or Judah. In 722 BC, the Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom and deported the population to the far reaches of the realm. In their place heathen people were settled in Samaria, of which some evolved into the Samaritans of Jesus’ day. Judah was captured by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. This led to the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple.
Mercifully, while some of the best and brightest of Judah were deported to Babylon (including Daniel and his three friends) some of the poorest of the people were left in the land. Unlike the Assyrians, the Babylonians did not transplant foreigners into Judah. Years later under Medo-Persian king Cyrus the Great, the Jews were allowed to return home and a minority did.
Even though Josiah’s reformation was not enough to appease God’s righteous wrath, thank God for the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and ent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins — I John 4:10 (cf Romans 3:25; I John 2:2). What Josiah was unable to do, Jesus does completely, saving us from the wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:10).
While both kingdoms did evil, Israel was by far more unstable than Judah. It had heathen shrines with golden calves at Bethel and Dan, established by their first king Jeroboam. Not one of their kings had the courage and conviction to repudiate this reproach on the nation. Furthermore, it had 3 capitals: Shechem, Tirzah, and Samaria. It also had 9 dynasties, all but one created by killing the previous king.
Judah had only one capital: Jerusalem. One dynasty: David’s. One sanctuary: Solomon’s temple. And because of the promise to David of the everlasting dynasty, known as the Davidic Covenant (II Samuel 7; I Chronicles 17), God gave him an heir and Son in Jesus, and a stake in Jerusalem.
Despite the backsliding and well-deserved judgment, God continues to delight in mercy. Two incidents shine out:
1. Joash: Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, mother of the slain Judean king Ahaziah, usurps the throne in Judah. Her goal was destroy the royal seed of the House of David, which happened to be her own grandchildren. Yet grandson Joash escaped the murderous rampage of his grandmother. Under the guidance of the righteous priest Jehoiada, they managed to coronate Josh as king, age 7, and his barbarous grandmother was slain.
2. Hezekiah: The Assyrian army had rampaged through the Judean kingdom in 701 BC and was poised to devour Jerusalem as a python to the egg. This was 21 years after the same army conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and deported the inhabitants to Assyria. Hezekiah was king and the His only recourse was God. Thanks to his intercession and the prophetic guidance of Isaiah, God struck the Assyrian army and they withdrew. Jerusalem was saved. This was a fulfilment of God’s promise to David, that he would have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there - I Kings 11:36.
OUTLINE OF II KINGS
I. The Divided Kingdom (1:1-17:41)
A. Reign of Ahaziah in Israel 1:1-18
B. Reign of Jehoram in Israel (2:1-8:15)
During this period, Elijah is translated to heaven. Elisha does multiple miracles: giving the widow oil; predicting and raising up the Shumanmite’s son, healing the deadly pottage, multiplying of loaves, healing of Naaman the Syrian leper, causing the ax-head to float.
C. Reign of Jehoram in Judah (8:16-24)
D. Reign of Ahaziah in Judah (8:25-9:29)
Here is the battle against Syria. Jehu is anointed king and he executes fierce judgment against king Joram, his mother Jezebel and the house of Ahab.
E. Reign of Jehu in Israel (9:30-10:36)
F. Reign of Queen Athaliah in Judah (11:1-16)
G. Reign of Joash in Judah (11:17-12:21)
H. Reign of Jehoahaz in Israel (13:1-9)
I. Reign of Jehoash in Israel 13:10-15)
Elisha dies, a dead man whose corpse touches his bones is raised to life, Israel finally gains victory over Syria.
J. Reign of Amaziah in Judah (14:1-22)
K. Reign of Jeroboam II in Israel (14:23-29)
L. Reign of Azariah in Judah (15:1-7)
M. Reign of Zechariah in Israel (15:8-12)
N. Reign of Shallum in Israel (15:13-15)
O. Reign of Menahem in Israel (15:16-22)
P. Reign of Pekahiah in Israel (15:23-26)
Q. Reign of Pekah in Israel (15:27-31)
R. Reign of Jotham in Judah (15:32-38)
S. Reign of Ahaz in Judah (16:1-20)
T. Reign of Hoshea in Israel (17:1-41)
Samaria is captured, Northern Kingdom destroyed, population deported, and foreign transplants settle in their place.
II. Surviving Kingdom of Judah (18:1-25:30)
A. Reign of Hezekiah (18:1-20:21)
Assyria unsuccessfully invades Jerusalem, Hezekiah is healed, Babylonian captivity of Judah is predicted. Hezekiah builds his famous tunnel from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam - it is still a tourist site to this day.
B. Reign of Manasseh (21:1-18)
C. Reign of Amon (21:19-26)
D. Reign of Josiah (22:1-23:30)
Josiah is the last righteous king of Judah. He renews the covenant, repairs the temple, discovers the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy), repents for Judah, brings reforms, conducts a Passover.
E. Reign of Jehoahaz in Judah (23:31-34)
F. Reign of Jehoiakim (23:35-24:7)
G. Reign of Jehoiachin (24:8-16)
H. Reign of Zedekiah (24:17-25:21)
I. Governorship of Gedaliah (25:22-26)
J. Release of Jehoiachin in Babylon (25:27-30)