The Story – Week 14
Kings on Parade
I Kings 15:1-16:28 (2 Chronicles 13-16)
Were it not for the overruling hand of a sovereign God, the Jewish nation could never have accomplished what God called them to do: bearing witness of the one true and living God, writing the Scriptures, and bringing the Savior into the world. There were now two kingdoms instead of one, and leaders and common people in both kingdoms had departed from the Lord to serve idols. The priests still carried on the temple ministry in Judah, but during the 345 years from Rehoboam to Zedekiah, only eight of Judah’s nineteen kings were classified as “good.” As for Israel’s twenty kings, for the most part they were all self-seeking men who were classified as “evil.” Some were better than others, but none was compared with David.
Keep in mind that the books of Kings and Chronicles don’t record history from exactly the same perspective. The focus in 1 and 2 Kings is on the kings of Israel, but in 1 and 2 Chronicles, the emphasis is on David’s dynasty in Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel, later called Samaria, is mentioned in Chronicles only when it had dealings with Judah. Another thing to remember is that the two kingdoms used different systems in keeping official records. In Judah, the king’s reign was counted from the beginning of the next calendar year after he began his reign, while in Israel, the count began with the year the king actually ascended the throne. Also, some kings had their sons as co-regents during the closing years of their reign. These factors complicate calculating how long some kings reigned, and this helps us understand why biblical chronologists don’t always agree.
A dynasty continues (15:1-24; 2 Chronicles 13-16)
The northern kingdom of Israel had nine dynasties in about 250 years while the Southern kingdom faithfully maintained the Davidic dynasty for 350 years, and that was the dynasty from which the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David, would come (Matthew 1:1). With all of its faults, the kingdom of Judah was identified with the true and living God, practiced authorized worship in the temple, and had kings who came from David’s family. Two of these kings are named in these chapters – Abijah and Asa.
Abijah (vv. 1-8; 2 Chronicles 13)
This son of Rehoboam was handpicked by his father because of his proven ability but he wasn’t a godly man. He reigned only three years (913-910). He was from David’s line through both parents, for David’s son Absalom was Abijah’s paternal grandfather. Abijah may have had David’s blood flowing in his veins, but he didn’t have David’s perfect heart beating in his breast. Abijah’s father, Rehoboam, had kept up a running war with Jeroboam, and Abijah carried on the tradition.
However, Abijah knew his history and had faith in what God said to Moses and David. He had the courage to preach a sermon to Jeroboam and his army of 800,000 men, twice as large as Judah’s army, reminding them of the true foundation for the Jewish faith (2 Chron. 12:4dd.). For his platform, he used Mount Zemaraim, a prominent place located on the border between Benjamin and Israel (Joshua 18:22). He opened his sermon by reminding Jeroboam that the line of David was the true royal dynasty as stated in God’s unchanging covenant with David (vv. 4-5; 2 Samuel 7). The phrase “covenant of salt” means “a perpetual covenant” (Numbers 18:19).
Asa (vv. 9-24; 2 Chron. 14-16)
Abijah’s son Asa ruled for forty-one years (910-869). He began his reign with a heart like that of David (I Kings 15:11; 2 Chron. 14:2), but though a good king for most of his life, during the last five years of his reign, he rebelled against the Lord. The word “mother” in 15:10 should be “grandmother” for it refers to the same person mentioned in v. 2l. The Jewish people didn’t identify relatives with the same precision we do today.
Unlike David, whose heart was sincere before the Lord, Asa’s heart was divided – one day trusting the Lord and the next day trusting in the arm of flesh. A perfect heart isn’t a sinless heart but a heart wholly yielded to the Lord and fully trusting Him. King Asa revealed the wickedness of his heart by becoming angry, rejecting the prophet’s message, and putting him in prison. Apparently some of the people opposed Asa’s foreign policy and his mistreatment of God’s servant, so the king brutally oppressed them.
God gave Asa time to repent, but he refused to do so. Asa was a man who made a good beginning and lived a life of faith, but when it came to his final years, rebelled against the Lord. The people made a very great bonfire in his honor, but in God’s sight, the last years of Asa went up in smoke (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
A dynasty concludes (15:25-16:22)
At this point, the historian turns to the account of the kings of Israel and will remain there until the end of the book. The story of the kings of Judah is found primarily in 2 Chronicles. David’s dynasty is mentioned in 1 and 2 Kings only where there is some interaction between Judah and Israel. The dynasty that began with Jeroboam is now about to end.