II. The Divided Kingdom and the Kings of Judah (2 Chronicles 10:1–36:23)
II. The Divided Kingdom and the Kings of Judah (10:1–36:23)
After a period of having a united Israel ruled by Saul, David, and then Solomon, the Israelites would split their tribes into two kingdoms. Israel would be the name of the kingdom of the north, spanning ten tribes, and Judah would be the name of the southern kingdom, which would include the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam would be the first king of the new Israel, and Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) would be the first king of Judah. Importantly, the northern kingdom would be ruled entirely by evil kings for more than two hundred years; it would fall to the Assyrians in 722 BC. The southern kingdom of Judah, based in Jerusalem, would be ruled by a mixture of good and evil kings before finally falling to the Babylonians in 587–586 BC.
A. Rehoboam (10:1–12:16)
10:1-3 Solomon’s death brought Rehoboam to the throne—ironically, he was the only one of what must have been the many sons of Solomon to be named in Scripture. Clearly, Rehoboam was his father’s choice. The chronicler also introduces Jeroboam, an influential man and one of Solomon’s officials (10:1-2; see 1 Kgs 11:26-28). Previously, Jeroboam had rebelled against Solomon, possibly over the king’s harsh labor practices and heavy taxation. Solomon had tried to kill Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt (see 1 Kgs 11:40). But, with Solomon dead, Jeroboam felt it was safe to return to Israel (10:2).
Jeroboam’s stature among the people is obvious from the fact that they summoned him to lead them in bringing their complaints to Rehoboam (10:3). And, as a result of that encounter, what was meant to be Rehoboam’s coronation quickly turned into a confrontation in which the people made it inextricably clear to Rehoboam that he could not simply continue the policies of his father without making some major concessions.
10:4-14 Lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you (10:4). The statement sounds very much like a loyalty oath conditioned on Rehoboam’s willingness to act on their concerns. But, rather than taking immediate, decisive action on the matter, the king asked for three days to consult his advisors—both the wise elders inherited from his father and his homeys, a group of young men like him who were feeling their new power and were itching for a fight (10:5-11).
The elders’ advice isn’t surprising, given that they had served under Solomon and could see the handwriting on the wall in terms of the trouble Rehoboam was facing if he did not lighten the people’s heavy workload. It didn’t take a prophet to see that “all Israel” (10:3) had more than the celebration of Rehoboam’s assumption of the throne on their minds. The kind words the elders advised the king to give may have indicated something stronger than mere gentle comments; it may have suggested that they wanted him to make an alliance with the people in which Rehoboam would commit himself to the asked-for reforms (10:7).
Rehoboam, though, was in no mood for concessions, so he rejected the elders’ advice and turned to his boys (10:8-9). Their counsel, by contrast, was designed not only to reject the people’s demands, but also to serve notice that Rehoboam and his men were clearly in charge (10:10). The barbed whips (10:11) with which they threatened the people were particularly vicious whips, something like those used to flog Jesus before his crucifixion. Rehoboam foolishly embraced the advice of fools (10:12-14).
10:15 You might wonder how Rehoboam could be such a fool as to follow advice destined to split the kingdom. However, “destined” is an appropriate word here because the chronicler put all these events in perspective when he said the turn of events came from God, who had sovereignly decreed that judgment was to fall on Solomon’s house because of his departure from the Lord (see 1 Kgs 11:26-40).
10:16-19 In order to fulfill his promise to David, God allowed Solomon’s descendants to hold on to the southern kingdom. Rehoboam’s harsh answer, however, infuriated the people from the northern part of Israel. They made their discontent known in a deadly way by stoning the king’s labor overseer and almost killing Rehoboam himself (10:18). The rebellion was on, and from this point until the fall of the southern kingdom many years later, the name “Israel” would no longer designate the chosen nation; it referred only to the northern kingdom consisting of ten tribes (10:19).
It’s helpful to recall at this point that the chronicler is not interested in the events or kings of Israel because his focus is on Jerusalem, the temple, and the Davidic kingdom. Even the key prophecy, in which God promised the ten tribes to Jeroboam and offered him an enduring kingdom if he would be faithful to the Lord (see 1 Kgs 11:29-39), does not merit a mention in 2 Chronicles. (And, for the record, Jeroboam would not follow the Lord.)
11:1-12 As the northern tribes stormed off to their homes in anger, Rehoboam returned to Jerusalem and mustered his army from the two tribes left to him, Judah and Benjamin (11:1). In the years ahead, there would be many bloody conflicts between Israel and Judah—but not this time. God intervened, sending the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam with this message: You are not to march up and fight against your brothers. Each of you must return home, for this incident has come from me (11:2-4). To his credit, the king obeyed the Lord and sent his troops home. But, Rehoboam fortified his kingdom, making his defensive perimeter very strong (11:5-12).
11:13-16 Another development that strengthened Judah was the defection of the priests and Levites from the northern kingdom to Jerusalem because they wanted to worship the Lord in the true way (11:13-14). Jeroboam, meanwhile, appointed his own priests and made idols for the people of the northern kingdom to worship in an attempt to keep them from going south to Jerusalem (11:15). Jeroboam feared that pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem would give the northern tribes incentive to go back to King Rehoboam. As a result, Those from every tribe of Israel who had determined in their hearts to seek the Lord moved to Judah (11:16).
11:17-23 The chronicler says the refugees added to Judah’s strength, both by their numbers (presumably) and because they walked in the ways of David and Solomon. Unfortunately, though, Rehoboam’s good situation only lasted three years (11:17). Like his father, he had many wives and children (11:18-21), among whom was Abijah, Rehoboam’s choice to succeed him as king (11:22). While Rehoboam showed some initial discernment in his rule (11:23), it didn’t last long.
12:1-4 Once Rehoboam had established his sovereignty and royal power, he led the people in apostasy and abandoned the law of the Lord (12:1). In other words, with his throne secure and his military position strong, Rehoboam became spiritually careless. Yet, when God brought the pharaoh Shishak against Judah, Rehoboam’s fortified cities in which he had come to trust were overrun and the Egyptians were soon at the gates of Jerusalem (12:2-4).
12:5-11 God sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam again with a message: You have abandoned me; therefore, I have abandoned you to Shishak (12:5). Now, at this word, Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves before God and instead of begging God to turn the Egyptians back and spare Jerusalem, they acknowledged their sin and declared, The Lord is righteous (12:6). Thus, God relented from pouring out his wrath on Judah (12:7); nevertheless, Shishak plundered the temple and the palace before he withdrew (12:9). Moreover, Judah became Shishak’s servant. This was God’s punishment intended to help Rehoboam and Judah recognize the difference between serving [God] and serving the kingdoms of other lands (11:8). It was a hard lesson.
12:12-16 Rehoboam’s reign was a sad mixture of good and evil—of what might have been and what actually was. There was some good in Judah (12:12), and Rehoboam rallied after the invasion by the Egyptians to regain some of his former power. But, the summary of his reign was that Rehoboam did what was evil, because he did not determine in his heart to seek the Lord (12:14). That is a tragic way to be remembered.
B. Abijah and Asa (13:1–16:14)
13:1-12 The chronicler’s report of the brief reign of Abijah is dominated by the account of his war with Jeroboam (13:1-2). Israel’s forces outnumbered Judah’s two-to-one (13:3). Abijah made a remarkable effort to avoid bloodshed between brothers with his speech to Jeroboam and Israel’s forces. In it, he reviewed the events that had brought the two sides into conflict (13:4-12).
Abijah reminded Israel’s army that the kingdom rightly belonged to David and his descendants, by virtue of God’s eternal covenant (13:5). The king also revealed his disdain for Jeroboam’s followers, calling them worthless and wicked men. According to Abijah, Jeroboam had confronted Rehoboam when the latter was young, inexperienced, and unable to assert himself against Jeroboam and his band of rebels (13:7). (Whether this was partially true or just a son’s defense of his father, however, Rehoboam had still been responsible for his actions.)
More important, Abijah pointed out that Israel’s army was being led by the golden calves Jeroboam had made and the false priests he had ordained (13:8-9). By contrast, Abijah declared, As for us, the Lord is our God (13:10). In other words, he said, his nation of Judah was still faithfully led in worship by the priests and Levites offering sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem as instructed long ago (13:11). Abijah ended his speech with a plea to Jeroboam not to attack Judah—which he equated to a fight against the Lord God. He warned, you will not succeed (13:12).
13:13-18 Yet, even as Abijah spoke, Jeroboam’s army rose up in ambush (13:13). Judah was outnumbered and surrounded, but they responded with worship and cried out to the Lord (13:14). As the priests blew the trumpets, Judah’s soldiers met the men of Israel in battle. Clearly, God heard Judah’s cry for help because, according to the chronicler, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel (13:14-15). The forces of Judah were victorious because they depended on the Lord, the God of their ancestors (13:18).
13:19–14:1 After this event, Jeroboam lost power . . . the Lord struck him and he died (13:20). Meanwhile, Abijah grew strong (13:21). When he died, his son Asa became king in Judah (14:1).
14:2-7 Asa was a faithful king who began well, doing what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God (14:2). He was deliberate about destroying idol worship in Judah and fortifying his territory against future attack (14:3-5). Asa was able to build defenses and his army without interference. We are told plainly that No one made war with him in those days because the Lord gave him rest (14:6). This is a reminder that while erecting defensive fortifications against enemy attack is good and wise, peace and safety ultimately come from the Lord. Asa acknowledged this. He said, The land is still ours because we sought . . . our God (14:7).
14:8-15 In God’s timing, however, Asa’s years of peace came to an end when a huge army led by Zerah the Cushite attacked Judah at Mareshah, located about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem (14:9). Again, Judah led the battle with worship and prayer. Asa called on the Lord, expressing his people’s dependence on him and asking God to give them victory. Though the enemy had a large army, Asa knew they were like a mere mortal compared to the Lord (14:11). And, again, God answered prayer in a big way. He routed the Cushites on Judah’s behalf, and the people of Judah carried off a great supply of loot back to Jerusalem (14:12-15).
15:1-6 The next recorded event of Asa’s reign was his visit from the prophet Azariah, who had been led to him by the Spirit of God. Azariah urged the king and the people of Judah and Benjamin to continue seeking the Lord (15:1-2). The prophet reinforced his message by reminding Asa of the sad condition God’s people had experienced during an earlier age, which many Bible commentators believe to be a reference to the period of the judges (15:3-6). If so, Azariah was speaking of Israel’s lowest spiritual point.
Several things from these verses are worth noting. For instance, the description of a society in which there was no peace for those who went about their daily activities because the residents of the lands had many conflicts (15:5) sounds much like what we see in our world today. Our culture, too, is experiencing chaos and confusion. But, what ought to grab our attention here is the statement that Judah’s situation came about because God troubled the people (15:6). God was the author of their lack of peace, although he was not in any way the author of their sin that had provoked his judgment. What was it about this period of Israel’s history that caused God to deliver distress? For many years Israel [had] been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without instruction (15:3).
The first problem referenced is the lack of “the true God.” This does not mean that God had withdrawn himself from Israel. Even in the days of the judges, there was religious activity happening there. But, while people were offering sacrifices to God, they were not practicing the kind of authentic religion that pleased him or produced the right kind of response from him.
So, what could have caused such ineffectiveness? The answer is suggested in the second problem, that “Israel was without a teaching priest.” Without a faithful teacher of spiritual truth, God’s people became confused about the nature of God and mixed their true beliefs with the false ones of the surrounding peoples. The priests, then, were doing an inadequate job of providing a divine viewpoint through which the people could interpret all of life and make God-honoring decisions. There was a systemic spiritual failure at the heart of Israel’s spiritual leadership that kept the people ill-informed about their responsibility before God and the consequences of failing to meet his demands.
The third problem follows as a natural consequence of the first two. Because the people lacked faithful teaching about the one true God, they were essentially left “without instruction.” They didn’t know how to apply God’s Word to the situations they faced. And, because the divine rules weren’t being applied, the people made up their own. One repeated phrase from the book of Judges illustrates this problem perfectly: “Everyone did whatever seemed right to him” (Judg 17:6; 21:25).
Because the basic realities of spiritual conflict and the superior power of the spiritual world haven’t changed since the days of the judges in ancient Israel, we can still see the same principle of the visible world being controlled by the invisible world at work today. For God’s kingdom people to experience lives that please him and demonstrate his glory in the world, they need knowledge of his kingdom agenda as expressed through his Word. Today, the vehicle on earth through which God teaches his Word and builds up his people is the church of Jesus Christ. Through Christ, believers may know “the only true God” (John 17:3) and “be sanctified by the truth” for earthly living (John 17:18-19).
15:7 As for you, be strong; don’t give up, for your work has a reward. These words recall the Lord’s admonition to Joshua to be courageous in taking the promised land (see Josh 1:6-9). In light of Israel’s prior spiritual degradation, Azariah encouraged Asa to take courage and remember that doing God’s work never goes unseen or unrewarded in the long run. As Paul would tell the church in Corinth many years later, “Be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
15:8-19 God’s words through the prophet didn’t fall on deaf ears. Asa took the admonition to heart in a dramatic way. He took courage and pushed ahead with his reforms, removing the abhorrent idols from the land and renovating the altar in the Lord’s temple (15:8). When they saw that the Lord his God was with Asa, many people from the idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel defected to him (15:9). This suggests that those whose hearts are devoted to the Lord recognize godly spiritual leadership and initiative when they see it.
A day came when the king gathered his subjects together for a service of sacrifice and worship (15:9-15). They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their ancestors with all their heart (15:12). The people took this so seriously, in fact, that anyone who failed to pledge faithfulness to Asa’s covenant was put to death (15:13). The chronicler even records how loudly and enthusiastically the people vowed to follow the Lord; they rejoiced (15:14-15). For seeking God wholeheartedly, the people received God’s blessing: He was found by them. Moreover, he gave them protection from their enemies, rest on every side (15:15; see 15:19).
16:1-6 Within these chapters is an important lesson: past spiritual victory does not guarantee future spiritual success. Committing oneself to God’s agenda is a day-by-day experience.
Things changed for Asa in the final years of his reign—or, more precisely, he changed in his attitudes and actions during those last years. Despite having sought God’s deliverance from the Cushite forces years earlier, Asa panicked and failed to rely on the Lord when Israel’s King Baasha went to war against Judah (16:1). Perhaps Asa had become complacent during those two decades of peace and spiritual prosperity. But, whatever the reason for Asa’s lack of trust, he bribed the pagan king Ben-hadad of Aram (which is modern-day Syria) to break his treaty with Israel and attack them so that Baasha would withdraw from threatening Judah (16:2-5). Asa used silver and gold from the temple’s treasuries to pay the bribe, which must have been offensive to the Lord (16:2).
16:7-10 Asa’s scheme was a military success but a spiritual failure, a reminder that earthly victory is worthless when it comes at the expense of divine favor. God sent the seer Hanani to deliver the news to Asa (16:7). He pointed out that when Asa had depended on the Lord in the past, God had come through (16:8). He said God’s eyes are always watching; he knows those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him (16:9). Yet, instead of falling on his face in repentance before the Lord at this word, Asa reacted like a typical ancient ruler whose actions were called into question. He became enraged at Hanani and put him in prison. Then, he took out the rest of his rage on his own people and mistreated them (16:10).
16:11-12 An event at the end of Asa’s life further marred his early legacy as a godly king. He contracted a disease in his feet—probably gout, that left him with severe pain. But, apparently, Asa had become so hardened by that time that he didn’t seek the Lord for healing but only the physicians (16:12). Doing the same is a temptation for us today. We should be grateful for the blessings of doctors and modern medicine. But, ultimately, all healing comes from the Lord. So, visit your physician and take your medication. But, first, pray.
16:13-14 Asa’s death provides a good place to remind ourselves of those to whom the chronicler was writing in his day. His audience lived a generation or so after Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity, which had been a crushing blow that fell because the people and their leaders failed to seek the Lord’s agenda. The chronicler’s choice of events to record from the lives of kings like Asa (who often got things right, though not always) was done purposefully. It reminded God’s people of the importance of complete faithfulness to him.
C. Jehoshaphat (17:1–20:37)
17:1-6 Asa’s son Jehoshaphat began his twenty-five-year reign in a strong position, both spiritually and militarily (17:1-2). The Lord was with him because he walked in the former ways of . . . David (17:3). Jehoshaphat rejected idolatry and followed God’s commands (17:3-4, 6). The king’s mind rejoiced in the Lord’s ways (17:6). He believed the words written by his great-great-great-grandfather David: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Ps 37:4). Therefore, the Lord established the kingdom in his hand (17:5).
17:7-9 One significant detail of this king’s reign was the fact that he sent a group of his officials, along with Levites and priests, throughout Judah to teach the people the Lord’s instruction. This tells us that Jehoshaphat took steps to ensure that God’s people did not flounder in ignorance of God’s Word; he essentially protected them from confusion and idolatry. Today, this same responsibility is laid on church leaders for the good of their congregations and on parents for the good of their children.
17:10-19 Jehoshaphat had a clear sense of his kingdom priorities. It’s why he created an environment in which the ministry of God’s Word could flourish. And, as a result of God’s Word being honored among the people, God honored Jehoshaphat’s kingdom. The terror of the Lord fell on the surrounding nations, and they paid tribute to Jehoshaphat (17:10-11). This testified to what God told his people in an earlier generation: “I will honor those who honor me” (1 Sam 2:30). Therefore, Judah became strong and fortified (17:12-19).
18:1-4 Jehoshaphat did make some questionable choices. He made alliances—marital, military, and commercial—with the northern kingdom of Israel, one of which almost cost him his life. Possibly the most glaring was an alliance he made with wicked King Ahab of Israel through marriage when his son married Ahab’s daughter (18:1; see 21:6).
Another time, Ahab was engaged in fierce warfare with the Arameans (Syrians) and needed Jehoshaphat’s help to take the strategic city of Ramoth-gilead (18:2-3), situated about fifty miles northeast of Jerusalem on the east side of the Jordan River. Ahab won Jehoshaphat’s pledge to fight alongside Israel. But, to his credit, Jehoshaphat had enough spiritual sensitivity to insist on asking the Lord’s will first (18:4).
18:5-27 Here is an amazing picture of what it’s like to teach and uphold God’s Word in a nation lacking spiritual guidance or commitment to truth at any official level. Ahab’s four hundred false prophets desired only to flatter their master, predicting a favorable outcome for an upcoming battle (18:5, 9-11). But, the faithful prophet Micaiah stood alone against the idea. Ahab complained that Mica-iah never prophesied good about him but only disaster (18:16-17), suggesting that king wanted “yes men” not “truth-tellers” to counsel him. In any event, when asked to speak favorably about the matter at hand, Micaiah declared, As the Lord lives, I will say whatever my God says (18:12-13). He spoke about Israel’s apostasy and prophesied King Ahab’s downfall in battle (18:16, 22, 27).
Micaiah also explained why Ahab’s four hundred prophets were wrong. Ahab was under God’s judgment, and God was planning his defeat. Amazingly, a lying spirit volunteered to entice Ahab to attack the Arameans. Though God was not the author of the lie, he permitted the lying spirit to do his work to bring about Ahab’s disaster (18:18-22). Later, in a similar way, God would permit a “messenger of Satan” to torment Paul in order to humble the apostle and cause him to depend more on the Lord (2 Cor 12:7-10). The main difference between the two instances is that Paul learned from the experience, but Ahab pressed on in his arrogance—even when he was told that his prophets were deceived.
18:28-34 Ahab was unfazed by Micaiah’s prophecy of disaster and went up to Ramoth-gilead for war (18:28). But, apparently, Ahab decided a little precaution couldn’t hurt. He planned to disguise himself in battle while Jehoshaphat wore his royal attire (18:29). (Surprisingly, Jehoshaphat agreed to the scheme.) Ahab may have thought he could fool God and prevent the prophecy’s fulfillment. But, it didn’t work. The disguised king was killed when an enemy archer drew his bow without taking special aim. Of course, nothing is random in a universe governed by an omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) God. The divinely directed arrow struck Ahab at a weak point in his armor, and he died (18:33-34). Meanwhile, Jehoshaphat escaped only because God helped him (18:31).
19:1-3 Importantly, Jehoshaphat did not escape a stern rebuke from the Lord through Jehu son of the seer for his foolish decision to side with Ahab (19:2). Though the prophet praised the king for opposing idolatry in the land (19:3), he chastised him for helping wicked Ahab and loving those who hate the Lord (19:2).
19:4-11 Instead of throwing Jehu in prison, as Ahab had done to Micaiah for his rebuke (18:26), Jehoshaphat took God’s message to heart. He responded in faith and obedience by launching a new series of reforms throughout the land. Jehoshaphat appointed judges and priests to render judgments and hear disputes in the fear of the Lord, with integrity, and wholeheartedly (19:5, 8-9).
Though we do not live in Old Testament Israel, our civil government today is accountable to God to do good, too—to act with justice and righteousness (see Rom 13:3-4). The church’s responsibility with regard to civil government is to make sure that the state doesn’t lose sight of the truth that God rules and that there is a moral standard by which the political realm must operate. The church is to exercise a prophetic role of being a voice for God and his righteous standards. Our government is in desperate need of leaders who can inject righteousness and justice into our political bloodstream, for a society can never rise above the quality of its leadership.
20:1-12 God had one more great test of faith for Jehoshaphat. Word arrived that the Moabites and Ammonites were preparing to attack (20:1). Jehoshaphat was afraid, but he called a nationwide fast and held a service to seek the Lord (20:3-4). When all the people had assembled, Jehoshaphat offered a powerful prayer (20:6-12).
He acknowledged that their God ruled over all nations and none could stand against him (20:6). He professed that Abraham’s descendants were his people, lived in the land he gave them, and built a sanctuary for his name (20:7-8). They trusted in the Lord’s promise to deliver them when they called to him (20:9). Finally, he surveyed the current threat from an unjust nation and implored God to intervene (20:10-12).
Jehoshaphat knew what to do because he was familiar with King Solomon’s prayer given over a century earlier at the temple dedication (see 6:28-30). He even referred to that prayer in his own intercession (20:8-9) because his crisis was exactly the kind of disaster Solomon had prayed about. Solomon had talked about the Lord going out from his temple and fighting the battles for his people. Jehoshaphat spoke to the Lord about the same thing and in the same terms. God’s people were under attack, and the promised land was being threatened. But, Jehoshaphat knew that victory by God’s hand had been promised long ago. And, Jehoshaphat knew that God keeps his promises.
This is a powerful example for Christians of how to respond to crises and prevail in God’s strength. Though Christians can still be overwhelmed by a crisis situation just like people of the world can, we have the option of looking to the Lord for his intervention and deliverance when we don’t know what to do—as Jehoshaphat did when he faced his enemies.
20:13-19 God answered the king’s prayer through a man named Jahaziel, through whom the Spirit of the Lord encouraged the king and the people. Note Jahaziel’s declaration: the battle is not yours, but God’s (20:14-15). In other words, the Lord was telling his people, “I’ve got this.” In fact, even though the king’s forces would have to face the enemy, they wouldn’t have to fire a single arrow (20:16-17). At this news, Jehoshaphat and all the people fell down in worship, while the Levites stood up to sing praises to God (20:18-19). Notice: Jehoshaphat and his people won this battle on their faces before him.
20:20-30 The next morning was a continuation of worship. Jehoshaphat urged the people of Judah to believe in the Lord, and then he stationed the praise team in front of the armed forces to sing of God’s faithful love (20:20-21). What was the result of this unorthodox battle plan? God caused the enemy forces to turn on each other (20:22-23), and soon all Judah could find on the battlefield were enemy corpses (20:24). Jehoshaphat and the people gathered the plunder and returned to the temple with rejoicing (20:25-28). As a result, the terror of God—not the terror of Jehoshaphat—fell on the surrounding lands, and God gave rest to Jehoshaphat’s kingdom (20:29-30).
Jehoshaphat trusted in his divine King for a supernatural deliverance. You may not be a king facing a national military crisis, but you are just as dependent on spiritual intervention for earthly living as he was. Will you look to the Lord as your deliverer when you don’t know what to do? Or, will you trust in your own ingenuity and in human strength? Don’t forget: a key lesson in this story is the power of praise.
20:31-37 According to the chronicler, Jehoshaphat did what was right in the Lord’s sight (20:32). The final incident in Jehoshaphat’s reign is recorded briefly, reminding us that this good king still made mistakes. It involved his final alliance with the northern kingdom. The king of Israel by this time was Ahaziah, who was guilty of wrongdoing (20:35). The two kings joined together in a commercial venture involving a fleet of ships sailing to Tarshish (20:36). Eliezer the prophet rebuked Jehoshaphat for the alliance, and the ships were wrecked by the hand of the Lord. This effort was another case of light trying to join forces with darkness (20:37).
D. Jehoram, Ahaziah, Queen Athaliah, and Jehoiada (21:1–23:21)
21:1-6 Judah’s spiritual and military fortunes took a steep nosedive during the eight-year reign of Jehoshaphat’s firstborn son, Jehoram (21:1-3). His biography reads like those of the evil kings of Israel, and that is not by coincidence. Jehoram not only married King Ahab’s daughter, but the chronicler says he also walked in the way of the kings of Israel and did what was evil (21:6). His treachery was plain from the outset, and before he was done, he’d murdered his six younger brothers and other members of the royal family whom he considered a threat to his throne (21:4).
21:7 In spite of Jehoram’s wickedness, God’s promise to the house of David remained. Because of the Lord’s covenant with David, he was unwilling to cast aside the house of David. So, although this particular king was faithless, God would remain faithful to his promise to keep a son of David on the throne forever (see 1 Chr 17). God allowed Jehoram to retain his throne, but that didn’t mean things would go well for him—just the opposite, in fact. And a day is coming when the perfect son of David—Jesus Christ—will inherit the throne and reign forever.
21:8-11 Jehoram’s troubles started when Edom rebelled after being under Judah’s control for years (21:8). Jehoram led his army to bring the rebels back into the fold but found himself surrounded by the Edomites (21:9). Then, the people of Libnah also revolted against Judah.
The chronicler doesn’t leave us to guess at the reason Jehoram was plagued with rebellions during his reign. It was because he had abandoned the Lord, the God of his ancestors (21:10). Jehoram built high places—locations on top of hills or mountains for worshiping pagan gods—and led Judah astray (21:11). This is a sobering reminder that we should never underestimate the power of a leader to take people into ungodliness.
21:12-15 The national mess came to the attention of the prophet Elijah, who wrote Jehoram a letter outlining his doom (21:12). This famous man of God—the same one who stared down King Ahab, faced off against 450 false prophets, and called down fire on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kgs 18:20-40)—delivered a chilling message to the king of Judah. Jehoram had led the nation into idolatry and killed his own brothers (21:13), so God would strike Jehoram’s family and possessions with a horrible affliction (21:14). Moreover, the king himself would be personally struck by painful and grotesque illness (21:15).
21:16-20 The word of the Lord through Elijah came true. The Philistines and the Arabs went to war against Judah, carrying off Jehoram’s wives . . . sons, and possessions (21:16-17). The king was also afflicted with the foretold excruciating illness for two years before his death (21:18-19).
After such a reign of sin, it comes as no surprise that the people of Judah did not honor Jehoram at his end (21:19). Rather, he died to no one’s regret—was buried and forgotten (21:20). What a tragic legacy to leave behind.
22:1-4 Ahaziah was Jehoram’s youngest and only surviving son (22:1). Importantly, he was part of the house of Ahab, and the curse on that wicked family continued as Ahaziah followed evil advice from his mother and did what was evil in the Lord’s sight like the house of Ahab (22:3-4).
22:5-9 Ahaziah followed the king of Israel into a disastrous battle that ultimately cost Ahaziah his life—but not from battle wounds (22:5-6). As a grandson of Ahab, Ahaziah was under God’s judgment that decreed the eradication of Ahab’s entire line. Therefore, he was killed by Jehu . . . whom the Lord had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab (22:7; see 2 Kgs 9:1–10:17).
22:10-12 The evil queen mother Athaliah (daughter of Ahab, wife of Jehoram, and mother of Ahaziah) flew into action when she heard her son Ahaziah was dead. She proceeded to annihilate all the royal heirs of the house of Judah so she could usurp the throne (22:10). Yet, God still had some faithful people in Judah, even during this brutal period. Two of these people were Jehoshabeath (Ahaziah’s sister) and her husband, the priest Jehoiada. Jehoshabeath rescued her infant nephew Joash from Athaliah’s murderous rampage and hid him in the temple for six years while Athaliah reigned (22:11-12). Jehoiada bided his time and waited for an opportunity to oppose Athaliah effectively.
23:1-11 In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada made his move. He gathered the priests, Levites, and troops and stationed them in and around the temple to stop any attempt to prevent the coronation of the rightful king, Joash (23:1-7). The plan worked. Soon, Joash was seated on the throne to shouts of Long live the king! (23:11).
23:12-15 When Athaliah heard the commotion and realized she was being deposed in a coup, she screamed, Treason! (23:12-13), which must have sounded ridiculous to those who remembered how she had murdered her way to the throne. Wasting no time, Jehoiada had the queen executed (22:14-15). In his ironic providence, then, the Lord saw to it that Athaliah’s life fulfilled the spiritual principle of “sowing and reaping.” What she had sown, she reaped. We do well to remember that “God is not mocked” (Gal 6:7).
23:16-21 Jehoiada set about restoring the proper worship of God in Judah (23:16-19). Under the previous idolatrous rulers, a temple of Baal had actually been erected! This was quickly smashed to pieces (23:17). Then, Jehoiada and all the officials held a proper coronation for young King Joash, and all the people . . . rejoiced (23:21).
E. Joash and Amaziah (24:1–25:28)
24:1-3 Joash’s forty-year reign is a good illustration of the stranglehold that idolatry had on the Lord’s people generation after generation. Throughout the time of the priest Jehoiada, Joash did what was right in the Lord’s sight (24:2). Unfortunately, that state of affairs would not last.
24:4-14 For the first part of Joash’s reign, Jehoiada apparently provided godly influence. Joash commanded the renovation of the Lord’s temple (24:4), which had fallen to disrepair. Queen Athaliah had even had the sacred things of the temple used to worship false gods (24:7). But, when Joash got serious about restoring the temple, the people of Judah paid the temple tax that Moses had required and gave generously on top of that (24:8-11). These funds provided for the temple to be fully renovated and for articles to be made for worship (24:12-14).
24:15-19 Joash’s reign and the worship of God stayed on course as long as Jehoiada lived. But, when Jehoiada died (at the ripe age of 130), Joash did a spiritual 180. He abandoned the temple of the Lord and worshiped idols instead (24:17-18). So, even though Joash had witnessed the devastation and judgment that false worship had brought on Judah, his heart was obviously never fully devoted to the Lord. And, unfortunately, with Jehoiada gone, the vacuum of influence over him was filled by men who steered Joash toward idolatry. Although God sent prophets to warn them, the people of Judah would not listen (24:19)
24:20-22 Joash’s spiritual betrayal was bad enough. But, when God sent Zechariah son of Jehoiada to announce his judgment on Judah, Joash coldly ordered Zechariah to be killed by stoning (24:20-21). The chronicler poignantly observes that King Joash didn’t remember the kindness that Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had extended to him (24:22). Instead, he put to death the son of the faithful priest who had preserved Joash’s own life as a helpless boy and later placed him on the throne (22:11–23:21).
24:23-27 Silencing the Lord’s prophet wouldn’t prevent the fulfillment of his words. Within the year, the Lord handed over Judah to the invading Aramean army because Judah had abandoned the Lord (24:23-24). The devastation left Joash wounded, and in the end, his servants killed him on his bed because of his treachery against the family of Jehoiada (24:25). Once again, then, the Bible shows that what goes around comes around.
25:1-4 The tragic pattern of early faithfulness followed by later apostasy was repeated by Joash’s son Amaziah. He began well, doing what was right in the Lord’s sight—but (the chronicler quickly adds) not wholeheartedly (25:1-2). An unusual example of Amaziah’s obedience to the law was the way he handled the execution of his father’s assassins. He put the conspirators to death, but not their children, because that’s what the Mosaic law had stipulated (25:3-4).
25:5-8 Amaziah raised a large army from the men of Judah for battle (25:5). But, he wanted even more troops. So, he hired one hundred thousand Israelite warriors for 7,500 pounds of silver (25:6). But, this move displeased God, who had rejected the idolatrous northern kingdom and sent an unnamed prophet to Amaziah, declaring, the Lord is not with Israel—all the Ephraimites (25:7). “Ephraim” was a leading tribe of the northern kingdom, so the name was often used to speak of Israel as a whole. The prophet warned the king that if the warriors of Israel joined them, God would cause his forces to stumble (25:8).
25:9 To his credit, Amaziah believed the prophet’s warning. The king also followed the prophet’s instructions not to worry about recouping the money he had paid for the services of the Israelite warriors. The Lord is able to give you much more than this, the prophet said. That’s a good promise to remember. God doesn’t need Satan’s help to bless you.
25:10-14 Amaziah released the Israelites and had success against his enemies (25:10-12). But, the Israelite soldiers were so ticked off at not getting a crack at some serious plunder that they ransacked several towns in Judah and slaughtered three thousand people (25:13). Inexplicably, when Amaziah returned from battle, he brought his enemies’ false gods back to Jerusalem and set them up as his gods and worshiped before them (25:14).
25:15-16 Amaziah’s idolatry aroused the Lord’s anger. So, he sent another prophet to call the king back to his senses. The utter absurdity of Amaziah’s actions is evident in the stinging logic of the prophet’s question: Why have you sought a people’s gods that could not rescue their own people from you? (25:15). His question reveals the stark truth about idolatry: It’s insanity. But, by this time, Amaziah was feeling his power and warned the prophet to be quiet or die. The prophet’s parting words foretold the king’s doom (25:16).
25:17-19 Amaziah apparently traded the wise counsel of God’s prophets for foolish counsel that advised him to challenge Israel to a fight (25:17). King Jehoash of Israel tried to warn Amaziah to back off for his own good. While Amaziah had defeated Edom, he had become too big for his britches. Jehoash urged the upstart king of Judah to stay at home (25:18-19).
25:20-24 In verse 20, the God-inspired chronicler tells the reader of the spiritual reality that was working the downfall of the king in his earthly stupidity. God was planning Amaziah’s defeat because of his idolatry. In other words, the Lord let the stubborn and overconfident king of Judah go into battle and get thrashed (25:21-24).
25:25-28 After forsaking the Lord, Amaziah became very unpopular in Judah, and a conspiracy was formed against him. When the king fled, the assassins hunted him down and executed him (25:27). His reign had followed the pattern of his father, Joash, who also had turned away from God in his later years and was assassinated. Theirs is an unfortunate example of the adage, “Like father, like son.”
F. Uzziah and Jotham (26:1–27:9)
26:1-4 Uzziah was just a teenager when he became king. The reference to his installation on the throne is a little unusual. Apparently, his father, Amaziah, was not involved in naming his successor. Instead, all the people of Judah took Uzziah . . . and made him king (26:1). And, like previous kings of Judah, Uzziah began well: He did what was right in the Lord’s sight (26:4).
26:5 Uzziah had an older, godly mentor—a man named Zechariah, whom the chronicler described as the teacher of the fear of God. Like his grandfather Joash (who’d been counseled by Jehoiada), Uzziah followed the Lord as long as his mentor Zechariah was alive. In fact, as long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. It’s not certain that Uzziah’s pride and punishment coincided exactly with Zechariah’s death, but that may have been the case.
26:6-15 Uzziah enjoyed a number of successes during his fifty-two-year reign. He was successful in battle against the Philistines, the longtime enemies of God’s people (26:6-7). He became so powerful that another old enemy, the Ammonites, paid him tribute in submission as the king’s fame spread as far as Egypt (26:8). He also built defensive towers at several places along the walls of Jerusalem and was extensively engaged in agriculture (26:9-10). Uzziah was a great military leader, too, and even designed military devices to shoot arrows and catapult large stones from the Jerusalem towers (26:11-15). Therefore, it is no surprise that his fame spread wide (26:15).
26:16-18 Uzziah’s story took a wrong turn when he allowed his power, fame, and prosperity to make him arrogant. At first glance, his sin may seem relatively minor compared to the murders, idolatry, and gross immorality of which several other kings of Judah were guilty. However, by usurping the role of the priest to burn incense in the temple, Uzziah committed an act of great unfaithfulness to the Lord (26:16). A huge cadre of brave priests sought to stop the king before he went too far. They took their stand against King Uzziah (26:17-18) and called him out on his foolishness. This took tremendous courage considering that the king could have executed them with a word. They urged him to realize that he would not receive honor from the Lord (26:18).
26:19-23 Through the intervention of the priests, the Lord gave Uzziah a chance to repent. He could have humbled himself, honored God, and won the respect of the priests. Instead, he became enraged. But, before the king could unleash his anger, God afflicted him with a skin disease (26:19). This required that he live in quarantine until the day of his death (26:21). In other words, because of his arrogant violation of God’s law, Uzziah spent the rest of his days in isolation. (Keep yourself humble before the Lord. Pride will be your undoing.)
27:1-2 Uzziah’s son Jotham got a head start on ruling because he had to assume the reins of leadership during the years his father was unable to govern (27:1). The chronicler gives Jotham this commendation: He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his father Uzziah had done. In addition, he didn’t enter the Lord’s sanctuary (27:2). The statement about the temple is an obvious reference to Uzziah’s sin, but it appears that Jotham learned from his dad’s error. This is another instance of the chronicler using a historical incident to emphasize his message that faithful kings (and the nation under them) would prosper while faithless kings would lead the people into ruin.
Nevertheless, Jotham’s reign had its shortcoming. Apparently, though he himself was faithful, he was unable to rid Judah of the idolatry and spiritual unfaithfulness that had plagued God’s people for so long. So, while Jotham was following the Lord, the people still behaved corruptly (27:2).
27:3-9 Jotham accomplished significant construction projects (27:3-4) and was successful in battle (27:5) because he did not waver in obeying the Lord his God (27:6). After a reign of sixteen years, Jotham died and left the kingdom to his son Ahaz (27:8-9).
Not only did Jotham fail to influence the people to obey the Lord (even though he personally obeyed), but it also seems he failed to influence his son, as well.
G. Ahaz (28:1-27)
28:1-4 Ahaz did not follow in the obedient footsteps of his father. In fact, he was so thoroughly corrupted by defection from the Lord and idolatry (28:2, 4) that he actually sacrificed his children by burning them in the detestable practices of the nations (28:3). This sad story highlights where idolatry leads. As we’ve seen throughout 2 Chronicles, the worship of false gods leads to godless living: wickedness, treachery, and violence. Ahaz’s actions demonstrated idolatry at its worst: it led to the murder of his innocent children.
King Ahaz was notable for another reason, too. About midway through his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC. God had given Israel over to its sin until, finally, his judgment fell on the nation. Ominously, one of the indictments issued against Ahaz was that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel (28:2). Israel was punished soundly for their idolatry with conquest and exile. It was a lesson that Ahaz should have taken to heart—but didn’t.
28:5-8 The chronicler doesn’t mention the fall of Israel because his focus was on Judah, Jerusalem, and the Davidic kings. Instead, he points out that Israel was one of the nations the Lord used in the earlier part of Ahaz’s reign to punish him for his sinfulness. And, as Judah’s king committed himself to idol worship, God handed Ahaz over to the king of Aram. The Arameans began the onslaught by inflicting a crushing defeat on Ahaz and taking hostages back to their capital of Damascus (28:5). Then, Israel came against Ahaz, resulting in the death of the king’s son and the capture of two hundred thousand people from Judah (28:7-8).
28:9-11 Here, the story takes an unusual turn. Not everyone in the northern kingdom had turned away from the Lord, because a prophet of the Lord named Oded met the Israelite army returning from its victory over Ahaz (28:9). When Oded saw all the captives straggling along behind the troops, he raised a strong protest. His speech (28:9-12) was a passionate plea not to make the suffering of Judah worse by reducing the people of Judah and Jerusalem . . . to slavery (28:10). He commanded them to release the captives to avoid the Lord’s burning anger (28:11).
28:12-15 Oded’s warning of God’s wrath on Israel for taking their brothers and sisters into captivity fell on the receptive ears of a group of leaders who insisted that the army do the right thing and release the people (28:12-13). To their credit, the soldiers obeyed and even took some of their plunder to clothe, feed, and otherwise care for the captives. Then, the designated soldiers took them to Jericho so they could be reunited with their families (28:14-15). Within this turn of events is the ultimate irony: unfaithful Israel listened to the voice of the Lord, while Judah did not—even though their kings were in the line of faithful David.
28:16-21 Ahaz didn’t seem to be moved by any of this. Instead of turning to the Lord when his kingdom was under attack by the Philistines and the Edomites, Ahaz turned to Assyria for help (28:16-18). But, this decision was doomed. The Lord brought havoc on Judah because Ahaz was unfaithful to the Lord (28:19). Rather than offering military assistance, the Assyrians oppressed Ahaz (28:20). Did that cause Ahaz to turn to God in repentance? No. He stripped the temple and the palace of their treasures and attempted to pay off the Assyrian king instead. But even this, the chronicler tells us, did not help him (28:21).
28:22-23 Idolatry is blinding, a fact highlighted in the next moves of Ahaz. The more he was plagued with trouble, the worse he became spiritually. He became more unfaithful to the Lord and sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him (28:22-23). Ahaz rationalized that because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, these same gods would also help him if he worshiped them. He didn’t understand that each catastrophe he suffered was punishment from the hand of his own God as a result of his disobedience. The idols that he looked to for deliverance were his downfall (28:23).
28:24-27 Ahaz locked up the temple and established idol worship stations on every street corner in Jerusalem (28:24). All of this, of course, only stoked the Lord’s anger against him (28:25). In the end, he was refused burial with the other kings in a final statement of his complete unfitness to be identified with the Davidic kings before him (28:27).
H. Hezekiah (29:1–32:33)
29:1-2 Had the man’s son followed in his footsteps, Ahaz could have served as the poster boy for bad fathers. But, remarkably, his son pulled off one of the greatest revivals in Judah’s history. The most important thing that the chronicler could say about Hezekiah was that he did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestor David had done (29:1-2). This king was worthy of comparison to David!
29:3-7 Hezekiah’s revival began in the first month of his reign, when he opened and repaired the temple doors (29:3). Having witnessed firsthand his father’s reign, Hezekiah acknowledged the wickedness done by past kings who’d committed evil in God’s sight and turned their backs on him (28:6-7). And so, his reforms began in the house of the Lord. He commanded the Levites to consecrate themselves and the temple (29:4-5). He realized that if Judah was going to turn around, it would have to start by worshiping God as he had commanded.
29:8-9 As a teenager and young adult, Hezekiah must have watched in horror as Judah’s enemies battered the nation in wars while unspeakable idolatries were practiced in Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew the reason for these disasters: The wrath of the Lord was on his nation. Therefore, God made Judah an object of terror, horror, and mockery (29:8). The king had also seen thousands of his fellow Judahites—sons . . . daughters . . . wives—carried off into captivity (29:9).
29:10-11 Hezekiah determined to do something about the sorry situation. Reopening the temple had been a good start, but Judah also needed a king whose heart was devoted to the Lord. Hezekiah, determined to be that king, set about making a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel to turn his anger away (29:10). He even challenged the Levites: don’t be negligent now. God had chosen them for their tasks, and they had an opportunity to reverse the damage done in the past (29:11).
29:12-19 The Levites and priests responded readily. They gathered their brothers together, consecrated themselves, and went to work cleansing the temple (29:15). The priests also went to the entrance of the Lord’s temple to cleanse it (29:16). For sixteen days, in fact, they purified the temple and everything associated with it. When they were done, they were able to report to Hezekiah that they had cleansed the whole temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the rows of the Bread of the Presence and all its utensils (29:18). In other words, everything was ready for the service of re-consecration and worship.
29:20-30 This service included two parts. First, Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went up to the Lord’s temple (29:20). These leaders held a great convocation of sacrifices and music in a joyful experience of worshiping the Lord and seeking his favor on his people once again (29:21-29). This ceremony ended with the king and his officials bowing their heads in worship as the music rang out (20:30).
29:31-36 What followed was apparently a broader service in which the entire congregation of Judah was invited to come and share in the worship. The people responded by bringing sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those with willing hearts brought burnt offerings (29:31). The response was so great that it overwhelmed the ability of the few priests to prepare all the sacrifices; thus, the Levites helped until the work was done (29:32-35). The conclusion of this glorious restoration of faithful worship was joy and satisfaction all around: Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced . . . for it had come about suddenly (29:36). Incredibly, Hezekiah accomplished all of this in just one month, after the temple had been padlocked for years.
30:1-5 The restoration of proper worship in the temple led to bigger things for Hezekiah and the people of Judah: the celebration of the Passover, which had fallen into neglect for many years (30:1). The date was set for the second month on the religious calendar, a month late (30:2), but the reasons were valid. There weren’t enough consecrated priests to celebrate the festival, and the people from the far regions needed time to get there (30:3). The invitation went out not only to Judah, the southern kingdom, but also to those in the northern kingdom of Israel, referred to here as Ephraim and Manasseh (30:1). This is a reference to those who had not been taken captive by the Assyrians.
30:6-12 Hezekiah’s invitation warmly asked those in the north to come to Jerusalem for a united celebration (30:6-7). It even contained a promise—return in service to the Lord, and he will return your fellow Israelites who have been taken away into captivity (30:8-9). (Now, that is a promise for the ages: return to God, and he will return to you; see Zech 1:3). But, the people of Israel, except for a few who humbled themselves, rejected the invite and mocked them (30:10-11), which confirms Gods judgment of them with captivity for their rebellion.
30:13-20 It’s obvious from the rest of the chapter that those who didn’t come to the Passover were the losers. A very large assembly of people was gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread (30:13), the seven-day celebration that immediately followed the Passover. The people’s hearts were so tuned to the Lord, in fact, that they undertook another purge of the altars where false gods were worshiped (30:14)! They celebrated the Passover with such enthusiasm that some of the people who participated were still ritually unclean (30:18), a violation that would normally have brought severe judgment. But, because they were doing so with a heart to seek the Lord, Hezekiah interceded for them and the Lord forgave them (30:18-20).
30:21-25 The Festival of Unleavened Bread that followed the Passover was such a big event in Judah that it took many thousands of animals to provide for all the worshipers (30:22-24). They even took the unprecedented step of extending the festival for another seven days (30:23). Through their enthusiasm the people were saying, in effect, “We haven’t worshiped like this in our whole lives. This is tremendous!”
30:26-27 The chronicler notes that, indeed, nothing like this had been experienced in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon son of David (30:26), which is a clear reference to the importance of the Davidic king’s faithfulness to the Lord. The long celebration ended on the best of all possible high points: the priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, and their prayer came into his holy dwelling place in heaven (30:27).
31:1-8 All of this was followed by the best of all outcomes in Judah—a spiritual revival that included still another purge of false worship, restoration of the giving of the people (chapter 31), and a miraculous deliverance from the armies of the dreaded Assyrians (chapter 32). Hezekiah reestablished the divisions of the priests and Le-vites that had been set in place to divide the workload in the various aspects of temple worship (31:2). Then came the people’s tithes and freewill offerings to support the priests and Levites as they served the Lord (31:4).
Hezekiah set the example by first giving generously and then calling on the people to give (31:3-4). They answered, bringing the best of the grain, new wine, fresh oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field . . . in an abundance (31:5). These offerings began to accumulate into large piles as the people spent four months bringing their tithes and gifts to the Lord’s house (31:6-7). Then, the Lord received all the praise (31:8).
31:9-21 The rest of this chapter describes how King Hezekiah provided for the proper oversight and use of the people’s gifts, making sure that the priests, Levites, and their families were provided for. It concludes with another ringing endorsement of Hezekiah’s faithfulness to the Lord in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple (31:21). The man was doing things right, and the Lord took careful notice.
32:1-8 The events of chapter 31 are intimately linked with what happened next in Hezekiah’s reign because the threat from Assyria came after these faithful deeds on Hezekiah’s part (32:1). The army of the Assyrian king Sennacherib invaded Judah and proceeded to conquer a number of towns on its march toward Jerusalem. Hezekiah did the wisest things he could do in the face of this terrifying threat: he prepared to defend the city (32:2-6) while hoping in the Lord (32:7-8).
Hezekiah worked hard to weaken the enemy, shore up Jerusalem’s defenses, and arm his troops, but his ultimate trust was in God. His statement to the people was a ringing declaration of Hezekiah’s faith and courage: Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. He has only human strength, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles (32:7-8).
32:9-19 The army of Assyria showed up, and its spokesman went to great lengths to dishearten the people by mocking and insulting the true God. He explained what the Assyrians had done to the other nations, whose gods had failed to protect them. Why should the God of puny Judah be any different (32:13-15)? Sennacherib’s servants even shouted to the people of Jerusalem, who were on the wall, to frighten and discourage them (32:18).
32:20-23 Hezekiah wisely sought the counsel and support of the great prophet Isaiah, and together these godly men prayed . . . and cried out to heaven (32:20). The Lord took note of the insults of a pagan king and the prayers of his humble people, and he responded. The Lord sent an angel who annihilated every valiant warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria (32:21). Sennacherib went home in disgrace and was assassinated by his own children (32:21). Hezekiah was exalted in the eyes of all the nations after that (32:23). This story is a beautiful reminder that God is sovereign. Fortunes can be reversed in a heartbeat.
32:24-33 Unfortunately, when Hezekiah was exalted, it became a source of temptation to succumb to pride. In the midst of an illness, Hezekiah prayed and received a miraculous sign from the Lord (32:24). But, Hezekiah then became proud and didn’t respond according to the benefit that had come to him. This means that while God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer, Hezekiah was ungrateful. He thought more highly of himself than he should have. So, the Lord disciplined him and the people (32:25). Thankfully, Hezekiah got the message and humbled himself. As a result, the Lord’s wrath didn’t come . . . during Hezekiah’s lifetime (30:26), which is an ominous note that bad times were still coming.
Even in light of his failures, Hezekiah was a great king who died with great honor. But, another hint of the bad times ahead is found in the note that his son Manasseh succeeded him (32:33).
I. Manasseh and Amon (33:1-25)
33:1-3 The ultimate low point of Judah’s kings who departed from the Lord seems to have been reached with the long reign of Manasseh. And, it is evident from the beginning that Manasseh either learned nothing from his godly father, or quickly rejected it once he became king (33:1-2). His actions were a complete reversal of Hezekiah’s reforms. In fact, the chronicler reports that Manasseh rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had torn down and reestablished the altars for the Baals (33:3). The familiar formula, he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight (33:2), summarizes all but the last few years of Manasseh’s kingship.
33:4-8 It seems there was no form of degrading worship that Manasseh did not embrace and promote. He even built altars to all the stars in the sky (33:5). In other words, he worshiped the heavenly bodies rather than the God who created them. He also practiced child sacrifice, using his own sons as offerings to pagan gods in Ben Hinnom Valley. Additionally, he practiced witchcraft, divination, and sorcery, and consulted mediums (33:6).
But, these abominations weren’t enough for Manasseh. He also desecrated God’s temple. The king built altars in the Lord’s temple, where the Lord had said, “Jerusalem is where my name will remain forever” (33:4). Then, he committed the ultimate sin of erecting a carved image of the idol, which he had made, right there in God’s temple (33:7).
33:9 The catalog of evil that Manasseh practiced seemed to include every form of idolatry and abomination he could find. The chronicler’s conclusion of Manasseh’s sin was that he led Judah to commit worse evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed when he gave Israel the promised land. God had kicked the Canaanites out of the land because of their wickedness. Now, his people, recipients of that land, were worse than the Canaanites!
33:10-13 God could not allow this situation to go unchecked, so he spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen (33:10). Rather than allowing Manasseh to remain on his throne and afflict the nation further, God disciplined this wicked king. Manasseh was captured by the Assyrians and taken like an animal with hooks and shackles to Babylon (33:11). Finally, in great distress, Manasseh sought the Lord’s favor and humbled himself before the God of his ancestors (33:12). The Lord was moved by Manasseh’s humility, answered his prayer, and returned him to Jerusalem. So Manasseh came to know that the Lord is God (33:13).
33:14-17 Upon his restoration, Manasseh tried to undo all of the evils he had done. First, he fortified the city against attack (33:14). Then he removed all of the idols and pagan altars that he had erected and reinstituted true worship of the God of Israel (33:15-16). In the end, his reforms were limited because the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God (33:17).
33:18-25 Manasseh’s death set the stage for the brief and unhappy reign of his son Amon (33:18-20). The key to Amon’s reign is found in the report that, despite all the evil he did, repeating many of the sins of his father, Amon did not humble himself before the Lord like his father Manasseh (33:22-23). On the contrary, Amon increased his guilt (33:23). In the end, the king was assassinated, the common people executed his killers, and Josiah became Judah’s child king (33:24-25).
J. Josiah (34:1–35:27)
34:1-2 At the age of eight, Josiah could hardly be ready to rule. But, he obviously had a heart for the Lord, a key fact with which the chronicler sought to encourage his readers after the Babylonian captivity. Josiah did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in the ways of his ancestor David. He also merited this praise, which could be said about few other kings of Judah: He did not turn aside to the right or the left (34:2).
34:3-7 Josiah’s heart for the Lord manifested itself at the age of sixteen when he began to seek the Lord in earnest (34:3). And, when he was just twenty, he undertook a purge of all false worship and false worshipers that extended all the way north into the territory of Israel (34:3-7; see 1 Kgs 13:1-3).
34:8-18 It was during extensive and much-needed renovations to the temple (34:8-13) that the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord written by the hand of Moses (34:14). What happened next is famous in biblical history: Hilkiah told the court secretary Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law in the Lord’s temple,” and he gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan took the book to the king (34:15-16).
Just imagine it. The book of God’s law, “written by the hand of Moses,” had been tossed aside in some closet in the temple! Imagine Josiah’s shock when Shaphan told him, “Guess what we found.”
34:19-28 When he heard the law being read, Josiah tore his clothes—a symbolic act indicating great grief and mourning (34:19). He realized how far God’s people had fallen from him and how much God’s wrath was against them for their sin (34:21). The king’s men took the book to the prophetess Huldah, who confirmed God’s intent to bring disaster upon Judah for abandoning the Lord. His wrath would be poured out and would not be quenched (34:22-25) However, because Josiah had a tender heart and humbled himself, God promised that he would not see the disaster when it came (34:26-28).
34:29-33 How would you have responded to Huldah’s dire predictions (34:22-28)? Would you have been relieved? Would you have thought, “At least I won’t have to live through it?” Nothing like that was on Josiah’s mind. The king read the book of the covenant in the hearing of all the people (34:30). Then, he led a covenant renewal ceremony in which the king and the people pledged themselves to follow the Lord (34:31). Josiah made everyone agree to the covenant, removed the detestable things from the land, and required the people to serve the Lord their God (34:32-33). And, this wasn’t a mere ceremony that was later forgotten. During Josiah’s reign, Judah did not turn aside from following the Lord (34:33).
35:1-9 The temple wasn’t the only thing that had fallen into neglect when Josiah came to the throne. It had been many years since Judah had observed the Passover (35:1). Josiah made elaborate preparations to correct this problem, including his order to replace the ark in the holy of holies (35:3) after it had obviously been removed from the temple again. The king and his officials . . . donated extravagantly in preparation for this celebration (35:7-9).
35:10-19 The priests and the Levites faithfully accomplished their duties and the people celebrated (35:10-17). The event was so incredible that the chronicler confessed, No Passover had been observed like it in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel. None of the kings of Israel ever observed a Passover like the one that Josiah observed (35:18). This evaluation is at once both wonderful and tragic. It is wonderful because it demonstrates the intense repentance and devotion to the Lord of this young king. He was going to ensure that God was honored by the nation on his watch. But, it is also tragic that the worship of God had been so neglected.
35:20-27 Although Josiah was a godly king, God’s plan to spare him from seeing the destruction of Judah involved his death. Josiah went out to confront King Neco of Egypt (35:20). Neco warned Josiah that he did not want to fight him, but Josiah did not listen (35:21-22). According to the chronicler, Neco’s words were from the mouth of God (35:22). As a result, Josiah was slain by Neco’s archers (35:23-24). And, with the death of Judah’s last great king, the nation’s demise began to unfold quickly.
K. The Final Kings, Exile, and the Decree of Cyrus (36:1-23)
36:1-3 Jehoahaz became king in place of his father Josiah. The text does not explain why Neco came to Jerusalem and deposed the king after only three months on the throne, but Neco’s control was obvious in that he imposed taxes on the land and installed another son of Josiah as king.
36:4-8 When he placed Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim on Judah’s throne, Neco changed the new king’s name to Jehoiakim, perhaps to demonstrate again that Egypt was now in charge in Judah. Jehoahaz was carried off to Egypt, no doubt to be paraded as Neco’s prize and then either imprisoned or worse (36:4). Eliakim would be the first of four puppet kings who reigned in Judah before the exile to Babylon.
Like so many wicked kings before him, Jehoiakim didn’t learn anything from God’s judgment on his people. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (36:5). Throughout his reign, Jehoiakim was a puppet whose strings were being pulled by Judah’s oppressors—first Egypt, and then Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar drove out the Egyptians in 605 BC and took control of Judah. We learn in 2 Kings 24:1 that Jehoiakim rebelled against the king of Babylon. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim to Babylon in bronze shackles and also carried off articles from the temple (36:6-7). The detestable reign of Jehoiakim was over (36:8).
36:9-10 Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin did not fare well at all, due to the evil he did in the Lord’s sight (36:9). Nebuchadnezzar carried him off to Babylon, too, and made his brother Zedekiah king (36:10).
36:11-14 Judah’s royal puppet show had one final act, and it lasted a long time. Zedekiah was the fourth and last of the pitiful puppet kings who did their part to lead Judah into destruction (36:11-12). He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah at the Lord’s command and decided to rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar (36:12-13).
36:15-20 The grace of God is truly amazing. In spite of their centuries of unfaithfulness, the Lord time and time again sent messengers to warn both the king and the people to repent. Why? Because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place (36:15). God’s love for his people is unfathomable.
Sadly, when God’s kings and people continued to reject his word, there was no remedy (36:16). God handed them over to the Babylonians or Chaldeans. They killed many of God’s people, burned the temple of the Lord, tore down Jerusalem’s wall, and deported many to Babylon (36:17-20).
36:21 The chronicler adds a final comment regarding God’s judgment. The people had failed to observe the Sabbath rest of the land. The law had commanded that the land must lie fallow every seventh year (see Lev 25:1-7). Thus, God added one year of captivity for every Sabbath rest the land had missed. The people would be exiled for seventy years.
36:22-23 The story of Judah would have closed on this tragic note were it not for this very important word of hope and future restoration. (The chronicler’s readers had already witnessed the fulfillment of the promise that God would raise up King Cyrus of Persia—the Persians eventually defeated the Babylonians). Cyrus would have mercy on his people and be the human instrument of their restoration to the land of Israel (36:22). In 539 BC, he issued a decree that said the Lord had appointed him to build [God] a temple at Jerusalem in Judah. Moreover, God’s people were free to return to their land (36:23).