Module 19: The Failure of Human Kingship - Disaster without God
Module Guide: 2 Kings - Corruption; and 2 Chronicles - The Temple, Possessed and Abandoned
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
2 Kings Introduction
The first book of Kings ended with the dark days immediately following the death of Ahab, and the passing into comparative obscurity of Elijah. This book centres first around Elisha. The course of corruption to captivity is then traced in sections alternating between Israel and Judah. Conspicuous breaks in the history are caused by the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah. For purposes of survey we may divide the book into four sections: Elisha (1-9); Corruption (10-17); Hezekiah and Josiah (18-23:30); Captivity (23:31-25).
The book opens with the story of the sin and sickness of Ahaziah, who sought counsel from Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron. Elijah, who had been in seclusion, suddenly appeared, and protested against the action of the king. Twice Ahaziah attempted to capture him, and in each case the answer of God on behalf of His servant was the swift judgment of fire.
There is something pathetic and almost weird in the last stories of Elijah. It would seem as though he tried to escape into loneliness for that passing which he knew was at hand. Elisha, upon whom his mantle had already been cast, followed him loyally, determined to stand by him. Having witnessed his translation, he at once commenced his own ministry, and two incidents are recorded, one beneficent, the healing of the waters, and the other punitive, the destruction of the children. The last is misinterpreted if looked upon as an act of personal vengeance. It was rather an evidence of the sacredness of his office, and of the sin of refusing him as the messenger of God.
The ministry of Elisha stands in many respects in vivid contrast to that of Elijah. There is a gentleness about it which, in spite of ourselves, reminds us of the Messiah in His day. Instead of suddenly appearing at critical moments with thunder and a flame, he seems to have moved about amongst the people doing good wherever he came. Incidents follow each other in quick succession. He made provision for the need of the widow whose creditors were threatening her. He showed kindness to the Shunammite woman who had showed him hospitality. At Gilgal he healed the pottage, and fed a hundred men with twenty loaves. During all this time he was at the head of the prophetic school; and journeying from place to place, became known everywhere as the messenger of God. The simplicity of his life is suggested by the provision which the Shunammite woman, wealthy though she was, made for his evident requirements. His apartment was a little chamber on the wall, containing a bed and a table, a stool and a candlestick. His dignity is manifest in the attitude towards him, especially of this woman, who in her converse with him, stood ever in the doorway, recognizing the sacredness of his office.
The account of the healing of Naaman reveals Elisha's perpetual attitude of dignified loyalty to God. He rebuked the king, who was filled with fear at the coming of Naaman. He demanded on the part of Naaman absolute obedience, while he refused to take anything in the nature of personal reward for that which had been wrought by the hand of God.
The incident of the swimming of the iron axe-head is interesting, but quite secondary. In the hour of national peril Elisha rose above the gentler works which chiefly characterized his ministry. Revealing the plans of tlie Syrians, he saved his people from peril, and finally foretold the relief of Samaria. The influence of Elisha is incidentally seen in the converse of the king with Gehazi, and the restoration of the lands of the Shunammite woman for the sake of the prophet. Visiting Damascus, he foretold the death of Benhadad, and Hazaels share in the future suffering of Israel.
The story of Judah's corruption is then told, and that of the anointing of Jehu, and his carrying out of the purpose of Divine judgment in the case of the house of Ahab.
The story of the rapid and fearful corruption of the whole nation alternates between Israel and Judah. Both sections of the nation are seen sinking deeper and ever deeper into sin and decay. Jehu was used as the scourge of God in sweeping out Ahab's posterity, and in breaking and destroying the power of Baalism. His own story was, however, one of personal failure. The reign of Jehoash in Judah lasted for forty years. All that was beneficent in it would seem to have been due directly to the influence of Jehoiada the priest, for "he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him."
In Israel the story of the process of corruption continued under Jehoahaz. He was succeeded by Jeboasb, in whose reigu Elisba died.
Turning back to Judah we find Amaziab on tbe throne. Success attended bis arms, but issued in tbe lifting up of bis beart, and his foolish challenge of Jehoash, king of Israel. Defeated, be seems to bave been kept a prisoner until tbe death of Jehoash, and was then succeeded by Azariah, tbe Uzziah of Isaiah's prophecy.
There follows a section in which Israel and Judab are both seen. Jeroboam the Second occupied the throne of Israel, and in his reign Jonah, the son of Amittai, exercised bis ministry. The throne of Judah was occupied by Uzziah, whose reign was in tbe main characterized by obedience to the Divine will. Yet the people continued to sin, and tbe king was smitten with leprosy. Turning to Israel, we have the chronicle of a period the most terrible in all its history. To the throne man succeeded man by the way of murder. Zechariah was slain by Shallum. After a month's occupancy of the throne, Shallum was slain by Menahem, who reigned for ten years in evil courses. He was at last succeeded by Pekabiah, his son, who, after reigning for two years in persistent evil, was slain by Pekah. He occupied the throne for twenty years, but at last was slain by Hoshea. Israel was practically under a military despotism, downtrodden and oppressed, and sinning with high hand against God.
The state of affairs was very little better in Judah. Jotham followed Uzziah, and was in turn succeeded by Ahaz, during whose reign the sin of Judah had its most terrible expression. Isaiah was uttering his message, and Micah also, but so far as the nation or its kings were concerned the testimony of truth was lost, and the name of God was being blasphemed among the heathen.
In Israel Hoshea was the last of the kings. The stroke of Divine judgment, long hanging over the guilty people, fell. Shalmaneser first made them tributary, and after three years carried them away captive.
Hezekiah and Josiah
The third division of the book includes the story of the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah, with a period of reaction and sin between the two. Hezekiah did right in the sight of the Lord, and instituted reforms more widespread and drastic than had been attempted by any of his predecessors. It was during his reign, in the sixth year, that Israel was carried away into captivity. This in itself would have an influence upon Judah for a time at least, as there is no doubt that the prophets would carefully point out the real reason of this judgment.
When he had occupied the throne for fourteen years a most formidable foe appeared in the person of Sennacherib. In the hour of peril he turned to his old and trusted friend, Isaiah, who charged him to pray for that remnant of God's people which still remained. He also foretold the judgment which would fall upon Assyria, which prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of the army, while Sennacherib escaped to Nineveh, only to be slain at the house of his own god. The last things in the life of Hezekiah were manifestations of his weakness. Yet his reign was in many respects a most remarkable one. Everything seemed to be against him, and yet the story reveals how much one man seriously loyal to truth may accomplish in the midst of most adverse and difficult circumstances.
Then comes the acount of reaction, which was manifested in two reigns both utterly evil, that of Manasseh lasting for fifty-five years, and that of Amon lasting for two. Manasseh's sin was not merely one of personal wrong-doing, but also of the deliberate undoing of what his father had been at such pains to accomplish. After a brief reign of two years Amon was slain by his servants.
With the accession of Josiah there came the last attempt at reformation before the final sweeping away into captivity. His first act was that of the restoration of the Temple. In connection with it came the discovery of the book of the law. The condition of affairs in Judah may be gathered from the fact of such a finding. So sadly was the Temple neglected and deserted that it would seem as though neither king nor priest knew of the where-abouts of this book. The reformation proceeded along deeper lines as the result of its discovery. So far as Josiah was concerned the whole procedure was the outcome of sincerity and loyalty. The people, however, were following the lead of the king. There was no turning on their part to God; and consequently there was no turning on the part of God from His purpose of judgment. Josiah was gathered to rest before the falling of the final stroke.
The judgments fell at last in rapid succession. Jehoahaz succeeded to the throne, and, notwithstanding all that had been done during the reign of Josiah, returned immediately to evil courses in his brief reign of three months. He was deposed by the king of Egypt, and Jehoiakim was set upon the throne as tributary to Pharaoh. For eleven years, as the vassal of Egypt, he continued in evil courses. He became tributary to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. Finally Jehoiachin, who succeeded Jehoiakim, was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, and in his place Zedekiah was made ruler as the representative and vassal of Nebuchadnezzar. His occupancy of the position lasted for eleven years, during which he also continued in evil courses. In process of time he rebelled against the king of Babylon, and was captured. The picture of this man is tragic and awful. With eyes put out, and bound in fetters, he was carried to the court of his conqueror, the type and symbol of the condition of the people who had rebelled against God, and had been broken in pieces.
Thus on the human side the record ends in tragic and disastrous failure. To those whose eyes are fixed upon the eternal throne it is certain that the Divine purpose must be accomplished. The people had passed into a period of long years of servitude and suffering, during which they were still watched over by their one and only King, and by these very conditions prepared for co-operation according to the covenant of grace in the ultimate movements of the overruling God.
Part A: ELISHA - 2 Kings 1:1-9:37
A.1. Elijah - 2Kin. 1:1-1:18
- The sin and sickness of Ahaziah
- Elijah on behalf of God
- The judgement of fire
A.2. Elijah and Elisha - 2Kin. 2:1-2:18
- The translation of Elijah
- The succession of Elisha
A.3. Elisha - 2Kin. 2:19-9:37
- Healing of the waters of Jericho - 2:19-2:22
- Punishment of mocking Children - 2:23-2:25
- The sign at the war with Moab - 3:1-3:27
- Wonders - 4:1-7:20
- The restoration of the Shunammite's Land - 8:1-8:6
- Foretells Benhadad's death - 8:7-8:15
- Final Events - 8:16-9:37
Part B: CORRUPTION - 2 Kings 10:1-17:41
B.1. Israel - 2Kin. 10:1-10:36
- The zeal of Jehu - 10:1-10:28
- The failure of Jehu - 10:29-10:36
B.2. Judah - 2Kin. 11:1-12:21
- Athaliah and Jehoash - 11:1-11:21
- Jehoash - 12:1-12:21
B.3. Israel - 2Kin. 13:1-13:25
- Jehoahaz, Jehoash
- Death of Elisha
B.4. Judah - 2Kin. 14:1-14:22
B.5. Israel - 2Kin. 14:23-15:12
- Jeroboam II - 14:23-14:28
- Zechariah - 14:29-15:12
B.6. Israel and Judah - 2Kin. 15:13-16:20
- Israel's throne - 15:13-15:31
- Judah's troubles - 15:32-16:20
B.7. Passing of Israel - 2Kin. 17:1-17:41
- Victory of Assyria - 17:1-17:23
- Samaria colonized - 17:24-17:41
Part C: HEZEKIAH AND JOSIAH - 2 Kings 18:1-23:30
C.1. Hezekiah - 2Kin. 18:1-20:21
- His Accession and Character - 18:1-18:12
- The coming of Sennacherib - 18:13-18:37
- Hezekiah Isaiah Victory - 19:1-19:37
- The last things - 20:1-20:21
C.2. The Reaction - 2Kin. 21:1-21:26
- Manasseh - 21:1-21:18
- Amom - 21:19-21:26
C.3. Josiah - 2Kin. 22:1-23:30
- The finding of the Law - 22:1-22:20
- Reform and death - 23:1-23:30
Part D: CAPTIVITY - 2 Kings 23:31-25:30
D.1. Tributary: Egypt, Babylon - 2Kin. 23:31-24:7
D.2. Beginning of Captivity - 2Kin. 24:8-24:20
D.3. Carried away - 2Kin. 25:1-25:30
2 Chronicles Introduction
This is really the second half of the one Book of Chronicles. The essential values are the same as those in 1 Chronicles. The history centres round the religious life of the people, and is confined to Judah and the Davidic line of kings. Degeneracy resulted from neglect of the house of God, and each reform was associated with return thereto. The story is a very sad one, opening with all the glory of Solomon's reign, and ending with captivity and the patronage of Cyrus. Its broad divisions are Solomon (1-9); the Kings of Judah (10-36).
This book opens with the story of Solomon's entering upon full possession of his kingdom, and taking up the great work entrusted to him of building the Temple. He commenced by gathering the people with him to a sacred act of worship. God met him in a special vision of the night, as a result of which wisdom was granted to him, and the promise was made of great material prosperity. Then followed the days of Israel's greatest glory so far as material things were concerned. Prosperity is always a more insidious danger than adversity to the man of faith.
Solomon devoted himself to his great work of building the Temple. In all fundamental essentials it was on the pattern of the Tabernacle which Moses had made. Its proportions and relations were identical, but it was larger. The period occupied in building was seven years. The work being completed, with filial and godly care the king carried into the sacred enclosure all that his father had collected and dedicated to the purpose. Thus, nearly half a millennium after the Exodus, the chosen people were found in the land, having a king on the throne, and a Temple in the midst of the chief city at the centre of the national life. The only principles of permanence, however, are faithfulness and purity, and already the elements of decay were at work in the heart of the king and among the people.
The work of construction being completed, there followed the glad and solemn ceremony of dedication by the people, and consecration by God. With awe-inspiring dignity the ark of God was carried to its resting-place. As at the erection of the Tabernacle of old, so now in the new Tabernacle God answered the work of man as the cloud of glory possessed and filled the sacred place, so that the ministrations of the priests had to cease. In the presence of that manifestation the king pronounced a blessing on the people which merged into a blessing offered to God. After praise the king offered his prayer, which was great in its comprehensiveness and in its understanding of the heart of God. As the ceremonies had begun with sacrifice and song, so they closed, and it is quite easy to realize how joyful and glad of heart the people were as they dispersed.
The greatest work of Solomon's life being now completed, God appeared to him in a second vision, in which lie first declared that the work done was accepted, and the prayer offered heard and answered. Then, with the tenderness and faithfulness of infinite love, He restated for the king the conditions of his safety.
Then follows the record of certain doings of the king in matters of administration. He consolidated the internal strength of the nation by building cities. He organized the labour of the conquered peoples within his dominions. He set in order the Temple worship. He enlarged his commercial activities.
The fame of Solomon's wisdom attracted the queen of Sheba, who came principally to discuss with him certain problems on her mind. He welcomed her with fine courtesy, and answered her questions to her satisfaction. The chronicler ends the story with the account of the wealth Solomon gathered, and the magnificence which characterized his reign. No account of his failure and fall is given. The purpose of the writer was served when he had made clear the relationship existing between loyalty to the Temple of God, with its worship and success, and the greatness of king and people.
The Kings of Judah
Despotism is seldom transmissible. That Solomon had been an autocrat, and had ruled with a hand of iron under the glove of velvet, is evidenced by the words of the men of Israel: "Thy father made our yoke grievous." With his death men breathed anew, and discovered their chains. As a result of the quarrel between Jeroboam and Rehoboam, the nation was rent in twain. Ten tribes revolted, and the history of the book gathers round the kings of Judah, beginning with Rehoboam. Throughout his reign, and that of Abijah, there was war between Israel and Judah, and a process of corruption in the kingdom. Asa reigned for a long period, and in the earlier years gave the nation some gleams of a better order. In the latter years, however, he sadly failed, turning to Syria for help.
With the accession of Jehoshaphat, a period of definite reformation opened for Judah. He commenced by organizing what in these days would be called special missions conducted through the cities of Judah by representative princes, the Levites, and the priests. Coincident wuth this activity within, a remarkable fear of the Lord fell upon the peoples without, so that they ceased to make war upon Jehoshaphat. Economically he strengthened his kingdom by the building of castles and cities, by commerce, and by the carrying out of many works. After a while he had a strange lapse in his loyalty to God, in that he made affinity with Ahab, perhaps the most evil king that ever sat upon the throne of Israel. His repentance, however, was manifest in the new mission which he presently undertook throughout the land, to bring his people back to the Lord, and to consolidate the internal administration in righteousness.
He was undoubtedly a man of simple and yet splendid faith. This is seen in the story of how, when his kingdom was threatened with powerful and terrible invasion, he gathered his people about him and prayed. The answer was not delayed. It was a moment bright with light amid the darkness. Once more in the history of His own people the arm of the Lord was seen acting in strength, as when in the ancient days it broke the power of Egypt. The story of Jehoshaphat's life and reign concludes with a brief statement of yet another lapse, in that he made commercial alliances with Ahaziah, the king of Israel. His enterprises were unsuccessful, because God broke his ships in pieces.
With the passing of Jehoshaphat another period of degeneracy and darkness set in over the kingdom of Judah. He was succeeded by his firstborn, Jehoram, a man of utterly evil nature, who attempted to make his throne secure by the murder of his brothers. In the midst of his wickedness a message came to him by writing from Elijah. It was a terrible sentence of judgment, which was fully carried out after eight years of reign. He was immediately succeeded by Ahaziah, his youngest son, whose brief reign of one year was influenced for evil by Athaliah, his mother. Dark and terrible days followed his death, during which this woman, Athaliah, reigned over the land. Her first act was that of the destruction of all the seed royal of the house of Judah, except Joash, who was rescued, and for six years preserved within the temple by Jehoshabeath, and the high priest, Jehoiada.
The reform under Joash was really due to the influence of this man Jehoiada. It centres, as always in this book, around the Temple. While Jehoiada lived, worship was maintained, but after his death the king who had been zealous in reform became determined in wickedness.
The account of the reign of Amaziah opens with a remarkable statement: "He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart." Notwithstanding the general direction of his life, either through personal indulgence or ambition or carelessness, the whole heart was not set upon doing the will of God, and consequently the reign was characterized by failure. Uzziah, who succeeded him, and reigned fifty-two years, was a man of strong character, and the early part of his occupancy of the throne was characterized by true prosperity. The last years of his reign were full of suffering and sadness. In an evil moment of pride he entered into the sacred courts, and violated the ancient order of God concerning the offering of sacrifices. He was smitten with leprosy, and lived for the latter part of his life a prisoner, isolated from his fellow-men. He was succeeded by Jotham, who reigned in equity, and refrained from his father's sin. During the whole of this period, however, the corruption of Judah went forward, and the great ministry of Isaiah commenced. The reign of Ahaz was marked by terrible and rapid degeneracy. With appalling fearlessness he restored all the evils of idolatry, even including the terrible offering of children to Moloch. The evil of his character is manifest in the fact that calamities did not seem to have the effect of rousing him to consciousness of his sin. "In the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord, this same king Ahaz."
With the accession of Hezekiah a great change came over the life of Judah. Among all the reforming kings he was undoubtedly the most remarkable. This was in all probability due to the influence of Isaiah. His reformation commenced in his own deep consciousness of the wretched condition of the people, and the reason thereof. His first reforming act was that of cleansing the house of God, and restoring it as the place of worship. He then made arrangements for the keeping of the Passover, and with a largeness of heart sent messengers throughout Israel, inviting them to come and take part therein. Only a remnant responded. The observance of the feast was followed by the work of reorganization in tlio nation. The story is told in general terms, and special note is made of the thoroughness with which the king carried out the work. "In every work that he began to do in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek liis God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered." Then came a trial of his faith in the invasion of Sennacherib. In the presence of the peril his heart did not fail. He acted with promptitude by stopping the supply of water, by strengthening the fortifications, by mobilizing his army, and then sought refuge in prayer and in fellowship with the prophet Isaiah. The chronicler then briefly relates the story of his illness, and of that failure which characterized his last days.
Manasseh the son of Hezekiah seems to have set himself to the most wilful and persistent form of every abomination. The strong hand of God was stretched out against him, and he was carried away in irons, broken and defeated. In his distress he cried out for help to God. His repentance was evidently the chief subject in the mind of the chronicler, and constitutes a wonderful picture of the readiness of God to pardon. Amon, on coming to the throne, followed the earlier example of his father, and was so utterly corrupt that his own servants conspired against him and slew him.
The story of the reign of Josiah is full of brightness. Ascending the throne when eight years old, at the age of sixteen he began to seek after God. Four years later he set himself to the actual work of reformation. It was during the cleansing of the Temple that the book of the law was discovered, the result of which was a still greater determination on his part to reform the nation. He observed the Passover. Following the story of his death, we read of the lamentation of the people. The reformation under him was due entirely to their love for him, and not to any return on their part to God.
The story of final movements in the downward course of the nation concludes the book. Jehoahaz reigned for three months. He was deposed by the king of Egypt, who appointed Jehoiakim. After eleven years of evil courses he was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. He was succeeded by Jehoiachin, who also was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to the succession, rebelled against him, and continued his evil courses for eleven years. The Chaldeans carried the remnant away to Babylon. The book closes with the statement of the proclamation of Cyrus, which also opens the book of Ezra.
Part A: SOLOMON - 2 Chronicles 1:1-9:31
A.1. The First Vision and Things Following - 2Chro. 1:1-7:10
- The Vision - 1:1-1:13
- National Prosperity - 1:14-2:18
- The Temple - 3:1-5:1
- Ceremonies of Consecration - 5:2-7:10
A.2. Second Vision and Things Following - 2Chro. 7:11-9:31
- The Second Vision - 7:11-7:22
- Various Acts of the King - 8:1-8:18
- The Queen of Sheba - 9:1-9:28
- Epilogue - 9:29-9:31
Part B: THE KINGS OF JUDAH - 2 Chronicles 10:1-36:23
B.1. The Revolt of the Ten Tribes - 2Chro. 10:1-11:4
B.2. Period of Degeneracy - 2Chro. 11:5-16:14
- Rehoboam - 11:5-12:16
- Abijah - 13:1-13:22
- Asa - 14:1-16:14
B.3. Reform under Jehosaphat - 2Chro. 17:1-20:37
- Reform - 17:1-17:19
- Lapse and Restoration - 18:1-19:11
- Prevailing Prayer - 20:1-20:37
B.4. Period of Degeneracy - 2Chro. 21:1-23:21
- Jehoram - 21:1-21:20
- Ahaziah - 22:1-22:9
- Athaliah - 22:10-23:21
B.5. Reform under Joash - 2Chro. 24:1-24:27
- Influence of Jehoida - 24:1-24:15
- Failure of Joash - 24:16-24:27
B.6. Period of Degeneracy - 2Chro. 25:1-28:27
- Amaziah - 25:1-25:28
- Uzziah - 26:1-26:23
- Jotham - 27:1-27:9
- Ahaz - 28:1-28:27
B.7. Reform under Hezekiah - 2Chro. 29:1-32:33
- Consciousness of Sin and consequent Cleansing - 29:1-29:36
- The Passover - 30:1-30:27
- Practical Reforms - 31:1-31:21
- The Trial of Faith: Sennacherib - 32:1-32:33
B.8. Period of Degeneracy - 2Chro. 33:1-33:25
- Manasseh - 33:1-33:20
- Amon - 33:21-33:25
B.9. Reform under Josiah - 2Chro. 34:1-35:27
- Josiah's first Reforms - 34:1-34:13
- The Finding of the Book of the Law - 34:14-34:33
- The Passover - 35:1-35:27
B.10. Period of Degeneracy - 2Chro. 36:1-36:10
- Jehoahaz - 36:1-36:4
- Jehoiakim - 36:5-36:8
- Jehoiachin - 36:9-36:10
B.11. Captivity - 2Chro. 36:11-36:23
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