September 19, 2014

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Old Testament: The fall of the Kingdom of Israel

John F. Fink(Thirty-seventh in a series of columns)

There might be a couple biblical experts who can keep the history of Israel and Judah straight, but it’s surely impossible for most of us. From the middle of Chapter 8 through Chapter 17, when the Kingdom of Israel is destroyed, the Second Book of Kings tells us about the reigns of 20 kings and one queen. They reigned from 849 B.C. to 722 B.C.

To make it even more complicated, there are two kings named Joash, one in Judah and one in Israel, and there are similar names like Ahaziah, Azariah and Amaziah, to say nothing about Joash, Jehoash and Jehoahaz. I won’t try to straighten them out, but do read those chapters to see what was happening during those 127 years.

This was a particularly bloody period in Israel’s history. For example, Jehu, who had been anointed on orders from the prophet Elisha, killed both King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah. Then he ordered the murder of Jezebel, who had been the wife of King Ahab, and allowed dogs to devour her body. Then he ordered the killing of all 70 of Ahab’s descendants in Judah, followed by the same thing in Samaria.

Jehu, though, was considered one of the good guys because he destroyed the temple of Baal and rooted out the worship of Baal in Israel.

The one queen in this history was no better than the men. Athaliah learned that her son, Ahaziah, had been killed, so she killed off the whole royal family in Judah, except for Joash who was saved by his nurse. When Joash was 7, his supporters put him on the throne and killed Athaliah. Joash then reigned in Jerusalem for 40 years.

While the kings were fighting against each other, they also had to fight against other countries, so we learn that Amaziah slew 10,000 Edomites.

There’s nothing very religious in these stories except that the authors constantly let us know that the kings, especially those in Israel, “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kgs 23:37).

King Jeroboam II of Israel reigned from 786 B.C. to 746 B.C. Surprisingly, it was a time of peace and prosperity for Israel. It was also when two of the minor prophets, Amos and Hosea, arrived on the scene. Amos railed against the injustice and idolatry he found in Israel and prophesied the overthrow of the country and the captivity of the people.

Hosea, who was married to a prostitute, described the relation between God and Israel in terms of marriage and prophesied the punishment of Israel for its infidelity and idolatry.

The prophecies came true in Chapter 17 when Assyria conquered Israel and deported the Israelites to Assyria. Then people from other countries settled in Israel and began to worship their gods.

This came about, the author wrote, because the Israelites sinned against the Lord and because they venerated other gods. They did not listen to the prophets and rejected the covenant that God had made with their fathers. The authors also warned Judah that the same thing could happen there. †

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