Category Archives: 2 Kings

2 Kings 24 & 25

Chapter 24 is the beginning of the end. Nebuchadnezzer king of Babylon invades the land and Judah’s king becomes his vassal, which means there was a mutual agreement to support one another. This situation lasted for three years, but then the king changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzer, and the Babylonians and other armies attacked and destroyed Judah. Here’s why:

Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.

We learned from the Pentateuch that the Lord abhors the shedding of innocent blood.

Another king of Judah comes on the scene doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord just has his father did,” and good old Neb completely plunders Jerusalem, and he takes everything from the temple of the Lord. The most important thing about Israel, what defines it as a people, is now being completely taken apart by their enemies. Very sad. This king of Judah too is taken away to Babylon.

But somehow another king reigns in Jerusalem. It doesn’t say he was the son of the previous king like it normally does, but he too does evil, of course. For some reason these kings have no idea, or refuse to see, that their plight is a direct result of their sin, of their evil. This final king of Judah will pay a heavy price for denying the God of Israel.

For two years Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem, which means famine, and eventually the army fled and the king captured it. The sentence pronounced was horrific:

He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

Just imagine, the last thing the king sees are his sons killed before he is blinded. The wages of sin . . .

And the Babylonians take everything from Jerusalem and burn the city down, complete devastation. But  they leave behind the very poorest of the people, who hang around for a while, but eventually too they flee because of threats from the Babylonians.

This all happened in the 590s to 580s BC. Here is a good explanation of The Babylonian Exile from a Jewish perspective. They claim that the real Jewish identity was forged at this time, but they don’t seem to believe that a real living God, the Lord, was in charge and working out his redemptive plans in their history. As I said in my previous post, the story is all about human failure and the necessity God’s salvation because of this human inability. Through it all we are shown the need for Christ, for a Savior who will take our place and give us his righteousness to satisfy the justice and holiness of the Living God.

2 Kings 22 & 23

Hezikiah’s great grandson, Josiah, becomes king at eight years old and fully follows the Lord as his great grandfather did, but it’s not enough to save Judah in the end. During his reign the Book of the Law is found and read before the people. Josiah renews the Covenant with the Lord, but it’s too late, the sin of Judah will bring disaster as God promises, and after several other kings the people of Jerusalem are hauled off to Babylon.

When Josiah is told about the book, and it is read to him, his response tells us something about a man of God; he tears his robes. He instantly believed what it says is from God himself, and in this case, he realized that God’s judgment was coming; he was horrified. So he inquires of the Lord through a prophetess, and God confirms that he will bring disaster on this place, but will spare Josiah in death so he will not have to see or experience God’s judgment.

Isn’t it interesting how we take for granted our Bibles. Here are God’s chosen people, and it was hundreds of years since they’d actually heard, yet alone read, God’s word to them. No doubt that being an ancient culture in which oral traditions where how truths were passed down didn’t mean there was no word from God among his people. Yet they couldn’t just pull God’s word down from the shelf and read it, like we can, like we ought, every single day of our lives.

So Josiah isn’t content with just the reading of the Book, but he completely destroys every last vestige of anything to do with idols and the worship of false gods. This is no halfhearted attempt either. Even as he’s burning the altars on the high places, he has bones of false priests taken out of their graves and burned on the altar; insult to injury. Then he sees a tombstone of a prophet who several hundred years earlier had predicted exactly what Josiah is now doing. We read in 1 Kings 13:1,2:

And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”

This was a prophecy given to Jeroboam, the king who is mentioned over and over again as the one who initially caused Israel to sin. We read earlier in 2 Kings of an earlier king:

He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

Jeroboam was the first king of the northern tribes of Israel after the 10 tribes broke away in rebellion against Rehoboam, son of Solomon, the not very wise son we will remember.

Unfortunately the Lord will not “turn away from his fierce anger, which burned against Judah” because of their sin. They too will be rejected, like Israel, and exiled. I think it very important to reflect on God’s response to his chosen people’s sin. A God of justifiable anger or wrath against sin is almost incomprehensible to modern people, especially Americans, and Christian Americans as well. A God of love and Jesus as affirming humanist are concepts Americans can swallow, but holiness, justice and wrath not so much. But we cannot understand, or appreciate, the gospel without it.

I am saved from the wrath of God by the obedience of Christ. I am justifiably condemned without it. God hates sin because he knows what it does, and what it does is lead to death; sin is death itself, and death is an aberration, as Jesus knew at the tomb of Lazarus, whom he would raise from the dead in minutes. We even see in Chapter 23, that not only will the Lord reject Jerusalem, the city he chose, but the temple itself, about which he said, “There shall my Name be.”

The presence of God and sin are mutually exclusive, which is why the story of redemption is a story of failure, human failure to fully fulfill all the demands of the law. And it is this failure that highlights the need for a Messiah, for the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. We cannot do it; all our works are tainted by sin, even the best of them. Our need is for Christ alone, and in reading Israel’s failure we contemplate our own and are left in dumbfounded gratitude that we have been saved from God’s rightful wrath and are freely given the perfectly pure righteousness of our perfect Savior, and thus transformed from enemy of God, to children of a heavenly Father whose pure and perfect love envelops us all the days of our lives and into eternity. His presence is now with us, in us. All one can say is wow. 

2 Kings 20 & 21

Hezekiah gets some bad news from Isaiah that he’s going to die, but he prays and weeps before the Lord, and the Lord heals him, gives him 15 more years. We see with this reprieve that Hezekiah doesn’t comport himself well as a follower of the Lord. He doesn’t rebuild the high places or anything like that, but his character flaws are obvious.

In the second half of chapter 20 some envoys from Babylon come to see Hezekiah, and he shows them everything, all his treasures. Why show your hand to a potential enemy? The Assyrians are Judah’s main threat now, but maybe he thought, maybe they both thought, they could be allies against the Assyrians. But this was not a good idea, to trust something other than the Lord, and Isaiah tells him that everything he showed will be carted off, along with the people of Judah in the not too distant future, but after his lifetime. His response is horrible:

19 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

So, who cares if my ancestors suffer, I’m good. This is just stated plainly with no commentary, but it’s clear that this was not an admirable sentiment. All he cared about was himself. And thus even those that do follow the Lord, who don’t worship idols, are self-centered sinners in need of a Savior.

Chapter 21 tells of Hezekiah’s son and grandson, who recommit the kingdom to doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” They rebuild the high places and do even worse things than the peoples the Israelites replaced. But his great grandson, Josiah, becomes king at eight years old and turns back to the Lord, which is the story of he next couple chapters.

2 Kings 18 & 19

Finally, a good and upright king comes to the throne in Judah, Hezikiah. Unlike other kings of the southern kingdom, Hezikiah was completely devoted to the Lord and destroyed the high places none of the previous kings seemed inclined to do. In this context it says, “he “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.” I think the contrast is instructive. Why would previous kings of Judah follow the Lord, but not remove the high places? One example from chapter 15 is Azariah:

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

What was the purpose of these “high places”? Remember that when Solomon started marrying all his foreign wives, for political reasons, he allowed high places to be set up in Israel so his wives and their people could appease their gods. He himself, as he grew old (1 kings 11), worshiped these other gods, these worthless idols. I guess we could see these other gods as insurance; in case the Lord didn’t come through, they thought they had a backup. The story in these two chapters shows us that Hezikiah had it right, that he could trust in God alone for deliverance, and this is tested in a big way.

The king of Assyria demands obeisance from the Hezikiah or he will destroy Judah. What does Hezikiah do? He tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and goes into the temple of the Lord. He seeks God because he trusts in him. God can deliver even tiny Judah from the mighty empire of Assyria. Hezikiah completely gets it. We read in chapter 19:

15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim,you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

The Lord is the sovereign creator of the universe, and these other so called gods are not gods at all; they are “fashioned by human hands.” I love this phrase because all idols are merely human constructs; they have no power to deliver any of the things they promise, as we read over and over again in the OT.

Then God sends Isaiah to Hezikiah and says, basically, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. He kills a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians! War over. And their king, Sennacherib, as God predicted, i.e. determined, was slain by his very own sons as he was worshiping in the temple of his own worthless god, who could not deliver him. The Contrast is a beautiful thing. If we would only trust in the Living God, he will ultimately deliver us completely from sin and death.

2 Kings 17

This is a fascinating chapter and the end of the line for Israel. Hoshea is the last king of Israel, and because of their sin they are deported to Assyria. Verses 7-23 tells the whole sordid story. I love verse nine because it encapsulates everything that Israel did in an incredibly profound understatement:

The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right.

It’s just not right what they did! The most powerful indictment of human nature, and not just Israel (because Israel is simply human beings who need a Savior), is what following idols, false gods does to us. Here is from and Enduring Word commentary on the passage:

They followed idols, became idolaters: The NIV translates this, “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” The NASB has it, “They followed vanity and became vain.”

“The original is more accurate at this point: ‘They worshipped emptiness and became empty.’ The word here is hebel meaning ‘air,’ ‘delusion,’ or ‘vanity.’ The idea is that they became like the gods they worshipped. They bowed down to nothingness and became nothing.” (Dilday)

I absolutely love this! The reason for the First Commandment is because there actually are no other gods. The reason Calvin is correct, that the human heart is an idol factory, and God saw it necessary to make the first three commandments what they are, is because our sinful nature yearns to find meaning and fulfillment and significance and understanding, etc., in anything other than God. Israel is us! We worship nothing and become nothing; we worship delusion, air, and death is all that results. We think this nothing, our money, power, pleasure, pride, possessions, is everything, and deep down we know it is all nothing. Yet we continue to pursue the lie until we are raised from the dead, from wrath to sonship by His power. Even then idols draw us and we must be reminded daily that we shall have no other God before him! His word, prayer, his church, the sacraments, we must be reminded daily to fight not only inertia, but the constant draw of the lie, “You will be like God . . . ”

The final part of the chapter is about the king of Assyria bringing pagan peoples from all the lands they probably conquered to Samaria. When they get there, they of course do not worship the Lord, so he sends lions to kill them. It isn’t just Israel to whom God’s commands apply, but to all the peoples of the earth. They are of course afraid, so they try to find out what the god of this country requires, and they find a priest to teach them, but of course they don’t really get it, so they worship the Lord, but their other gods as well.

You wonder why God includes this story of pagans also not getting it in the history of the people of Israel. I’d guess it points back to the universalism of the promise to Abram, and forward to Paul taking the gospel to the gentiles. In the last verse it says “while they were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols.” Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Those first three commandments, and obviously all the rest, apply to every human being who has ever lived, and this history tell us a much broader story than just the story of a certain Semitic people several thousand years ago. And praise God it does!

2 Kings 14-16

The succession of kings moves on leading as we know to the exile of Israel. There are themes throughout each king’s reign that are consistent in each kingdom. In Israel most kings are rotten. Here is an example from chapter 15, reiterated almost verbatim for each king of Israel in these, and previous, chapters:

27 In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years. 28 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

In Judah it was different, but not completely. Also from chapter 15:

In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.

The line of David was better, but it never got it completely right because for some reason the king and the people felt they still needed the protection of other gods. Or they saw no need to take the high places down, which is odd because the Lord was very clear for a very long time that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The Hebrew can also be translated “besides me.”

Actually it’s not all that hard to understand because every human being is the same way, as I’ve quoted Calvin previously, the human heart is an idol factory. Which is precisely why we need a savior who will impute to us His righteousness, who will satisfy a holy God’s wrath and do what John tells us in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Or what we read from Paul in I Corinthians 1:

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Human nature this side of eternity cannot change, period. Yes there is some improvement in us, maybe even dramatic improvement, but we are still sinners who sin. It could be that God isn’t teaching us through the OT that Israel is pathetic, but that we all are, that we all are in need and inclined to put other gods before him. Thus in the Bible we have a history of redemption, not a history of human perfection or human perfectibility. The Bible isn’t fundamentally a how-to manual, but a who-is manual, i.e. who is our Savior to reconcile us to the living God. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

The idea isn’t that we become better to gain favor with God, but that we already have as much favor with him as we will ever have because we are as righteous before him as Christ! And thus we become better because of that, not our own efforts. The latter flows from the former, not vice-versa. It is God’s change toward us that affects change in us. As John says (! John 1:19), “We love because he first loved us.” From wrath and judge, to Father and love, our lives are transformed.

Chapter 16 is the story of the very worst King of Judah, Ahaz, who I learned lived during the time of the Prophet Isaiah. Not only did he not take down the high places as other kings of Judah did before him, he transformed the temple as a place to worship other gods. And he gave himself up to the protection of the king of Assyria rather than entrust himself to the God of his father David.

 

 

2 Kings 11-13

Chapter 11 was initially confusing to me. Who are all these people! After some time in commentaries, it all became clear that God in his providence was saving the royal line of David through a lot of palace intrigue and death. It’s too convoluted to explain, but God uses whatever means are necessary to make sure his promises are fulfilled, even through less than savory people. A daughter of Ahab and Jezebel actually ruled in Judah for six years, but Joash, who is this decedent was hidden away from the evil queen until he was declared king with the help of a priest.

After this seven year old boy is declared king, this evil woman is killed, and the people at the behest of this priest rededicated themselves to the Lord. All the people tore the temple of Baal down and killed his priest, and once Joash was seated on the throne, the people of the land rejoiced. There was peace after six years of the wicked ruling the land.

Chapter 12 tells the story of Joash repairing the temple, and in biblical time, 40 years passes in one chapter. That’s economy in story telling! Chapter 13 tells of a couple more evil kings of Israel who do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord, surprise, surprise. We also read here, very simply, that Elisha was ill, then died, and was buried. That’s it. Ministry over.