Archive for November, 2010

Day 314: 2 Kings 1 (for 11/10/10

            1: The chapter begins by telling us that Ahab’s death results in Moab’s rebellion. Apparently Moab is controlled by Israel during Ahab’s reign.

            2-4: Now we return to the account of Ahaziah’s rule. He rules only two years over Israel, then has an accident, falling through the attic ceiling of his house. He realizes he is seriously injured and sends messengers to inquire at the temple of Baal-zebub in Ekron. Ekron is one of the Philistine cities on the coastal plain. The name Baal-zebub survives into New Testament times as the name of the prince of demons, Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24). Elijah is inspired to meet the messengers and tell them Ahaziah is going to die because he sent to inquire of Baal-zebub, as if there is no God in Israel.

            5-8: The messengers return to Ahaziah and give him the message. When they describe the man who met them he recognizes that it is Elijah.

            9-10: He sends a squad of 50 soldiers to fetch Elijah. They find him sitting on top of a hill and beg him to come down. Elijah, as we have seen, is quite the expert with fire, and the 50 are burned up.

            11-12: Ahaziah sends another 50, and this captain is more insistent than the first. “Come down right now!” he says. Poor fellow.

            13-16: You have to wonder if Ahaziah will ever get it. Another 50 men are sent, but this commander treats Elijah with the utmost respect, and Elijah agrees to return with them. When he is brought to Ahaziah he gives him the message as before that he is going to die from his injuries.

            17-18: Ahaziah dies just as Elijah said he would. He is succeeded by his brother Jehoram, and we learn that Jehoshaphat’s son, also named Jehoram, has succeeded him in Jerusalem.

 

Day 315: 2 Kings 2

            1-3: The story of Elijah has been nothing short of legendary, and the narrative of his end is suitably dramatic. We are told right out that God is going to take Elijah to heaven by a whirlwind. He and Elisha are together, and as they leave Gilgal Elijah tells Elisha to go back, that he is going on to Bethel where the LORD is sending him. Elisha, however, refuses to leave him. We expect the event to take place in Bethel, then, and when they arrive in Bethel the prophetic community there tells Elisha that his master will be taken by the LORD that very day. Elisha tells them to be quiet, that he already knows it. So begins a curious journey. Elijah is going to be taken by the LORD, and Elisha is determined to be with him when it happens.

            4-5: The same thing happens a second time. Elijah says he’s going to Jericho, Elisha goes with him, the prophets there warn Elisha, and Elisha shushes them.

            6-8: Elijah says he’s going on to the Jordan, Elisha insists on going with him, and this time 50 other prophets follow close behind to see what will happen. Elijah rolls up his mantle and strikes the Jordan River and the two of them walk across on the river bed.

            9-12: Elijah asks what Elisha wants before he is taken away, and Elisha asks for a double share of his spirit. The double share of an estate was given to the eldest son; it appears that Elisha is asking for that status. Elisha is not asking to be twice as powerful as Elijah; he is asking to be the lead prophet in the country after Elijah is gone. Elijah tells him that if he sees him taken away he will receive the double portion. A chariot and horses of fire come between them as they walk along, and Elisha sees Elijah carried away on a whirlwind. Elisha is overcome with emotion. There is no explanation of what “the chariots of Israel and its horsemen” means. Some scholars think it is simply a popular exclamation of the day, something like, “well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!”

            13-14: Elisha picks up Elijah’s mantle, whacks the Jordan with it, and the waters part again, letting him back across.

            15-18: The 50 prophets see that and come and bow down to Elisha – so he has gotten his request to be the leader of the prophets of Israel. They want to go search for Elijah. At first Elisha refuses, but finally relents, and waits at Jericho until they return after searching for three days. He can’t help saying “I told you so.”

            19-22: The people of Jericho complain about the water, and Elisha purifies it. If you’re looking for a Biblical precedent for social works of public heath, here it is.

            23-25: Elisha was a bit self-conscious about his hair, though. Or lack of it. Pretty touchy, too.

 

Day 316: 2 Kings 3

            1-3: These verses seem to be out of step with 1:17, where Jehoshaphat has already died when Jehoram comes to power in Israel. Jehoram is another bad king (all the kings of Israel were judged to have been bad because they had that rival temple in Samaria and the two golden calves). He did take down the pillar of Baal; nice of him, considering that his brother died because he worshiped Baal-zebub.

            4-8: Now we learn the details of the Moabite rebellion mentioned at 1:1. Moab had indeed been required to deliver tribute to King Ahab, but when Ahab died they decided they didn’t have to do that anymore. Their subservience is significant because Moab is located across the Dead Sea from Judah, and so we know that Israel was much more powerful than Judah, at least during these early years of their separation. For two years, during the reign of Ahaziah, the Moabites got away with it. But then Jehoram came to power and decided to restore the relationship. He invites Jehoshaphat of Judah to be an ally, and Jehoshaphat offers his help. They decide to invade Moab by coming up from the south through Edom. This means that Jehoram’s Israelite army will have to march through the territory of Judah. Interesting arrangement.

            9-12: The unnamed king of Edom also takes part in the invasion. They plan poorly, though, and run out of water. But, surprise! Elisha the prophet is there. They go to consult Elisha.

13-20: Elisha is in a grumpy mood and tells Jehoram to go to one of his own prophets. Jehoram insists that it is the LORD, Elisha’s God (and Jehoshaphat’s), who sanctioned the expedition. Elisha has no regard for Jehoram or the king of Edom, but out of respect for Jehoshaphat agrees to help them. We have seen what he can do with water and a little salt. Now he calls for a musician. The music causes him to enter a trance-like state in which he is able to access the LORD’s word. He announces that God will make pools form in the wadis (dry creek beds) without them seeing any rain, and that they will defeat Moab. Next morning water began to flow into the wadis; a phenomenon which can be caused by rainfall a long distance away in the highlands. The miracle, of course, is that Elisha could tell them about it.

            21-27: The Moabites learn of the invasion force and sound the alarm. They gather their forces in the frontier facing to the south. Looking into the rising sun, they see the morning light reflecting off the water-filled wadis and think it is blood. They conclude that the unlikely alliance of Israel, Judah and Edom has fallen apart, and attack. But when they reach the Israelite camp, Jehoram’s forces launch a counterattack and put them to flight. They ravage the country, destroying arable land, filling wells, and cutting the forests. They back the Moabites into Kir-hareseth and lay siege to it. The king of Moab, in desperation, tries to break through the lines where the Edomites are stationed, but is unsuccessful. He then sacrifices his oldest son on top of the wall in sight of the invaders. They are so disgusted with the act that they withdraw back to their own lands.

 

Day 317: 2 Kings 4

            1-7: Now for some Elisha stories. Elisha is now the spiritual head of the religious communities of Israel, the “company of prophets,” or “sons of the prophets.” One of them dies, and his widow comes to Elisha for help with her creditors. All she has, she says, is a jar of oil. He tells her to collect empty vessels from her neighbors, close the door behind her, and start pouring. Of course, her jar of oil doesn’t run out until all the vessels are filled. He then tells her to sell the oil and pay for her debts. This story reminds us of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.

            8-10: Elisha is passing through Shunem where he is invited to dinner. From then on, whenever he is in the area he stops in for a meal. The couple who live in the house outfit a small room on the roof for him to use as a retreat.

            11-17: So, one day while resting in his little room, he sends his servant, Gehazi, to call the wife, and asks her what he can do for her. He offers to intervene for her with the king or the generals, but she replies that she is in a safe place among her own people and needs no protection from the king or the army. She then leaves. Gehazi suggests that the one thing she and her husband are missing is a child, and her husband is old, which implies that she is still a fairly young woman. Elijah calls her back and announces that she will have a son same time next year. She doesn’t quite believe him, but nine months later gives birth to a baby boy.

            18-24: Some years pass, and one day out in the field with his father the boy suddenly has a severe headache. His father sends him home, and he dies in his mother’s lap. She takes him up to Elisha’s room and closes the door. Then she tells her husband to saddle a donkey so she can go to the man of God (Elisha). Curiously, she doesn’t tell him that the child has died. He wonders that she is going to the prophet on a day that is not normally set aside for religious rituals. She replies, “It will be all right,” as if trying to convince herself. She and a servant hurry off to find Elisha.

            25-31: On Mt. Carmel, Elisha sees her coming and senses that something is terribly wrong and sends Gehazi to meet her. She comes with a single-minded purpose to find Elisha and says the same thing to Gehazi as she said to her husband, “It is all right.” Well, no, it is not quite the same thing: before it was in the future tense, now that she in near Elisha it is in the present tense. She bows before him and grabs hold of his feet. Elisha sees that she is in distress and waits to hear what she has to say. She says, in effect, “I didn’t ask for a son. I begged you not to mislead me.” Elisha immediately intuits what has happened. He tells Gehazi to take his staff and lay it over the boy’s face. The woman refuses to leave without Elisha, and he agrees to return with her. Meanwhile Gehazi has completed his errand, but the boy is still lifeless. He returns to tell them.

            32-37: Elisha arrives at the house and enters the room. He stretches himself out over the boy, mouth to mouth. (You have probably realized by now how much this story, too, is very like the one about Elijah and widow of Zarephath – see I Kings 17:8 and following.) The boy’s body is warmed. Elisha paces the floor, and then stretches out over the boy again. This time he is revived in a fit of sneezing. He summons Gehazi, who calls the woman, and he restores her son to her. It is an extraordinary and moving story.

            38-41: Another story about Elisha: Back in Gilgal he is teaching in the religious school, and tells his servant to prepare a pot of stew for them all. Someone goes to gather herbs and comes back with some small gourds which he cuts up and puts in the pot. When the stew is served, the taste frightens them, and they think they have been poisoned. Elisha throws some flour in the pot, and the stew becomes edible. This story is similar to the first miracle Elisha performed (2:19-22).

            42-44: Another Elisha miracle: A man brings him some bread and grain in a sack. Elisha tells his servant to feed the people with it (the school of prophets and their families, presumably). The servant protests that there are a hundred of them, and it is not enough to feed them all. Elisha simply repeats the order and assures him that God says there will be enough and to spare. He feeds the people, and there is some left over. It sounds like a familiar story about Jesus, doesn’t it?

Day 318: 2 Kings 5

            1-5: Another Elisha story: Naaman, the Syrian General, suffers from leprosy. A young Israelite girl who has been captured during a raid and is now slave in Naaman’s household, tells her mistress about a prophet in Israel who can cure leprosy. I find it remarkable that this girl, taken against her will and forced to serve in a strange home, could exhibit such good will for her captors. Naaman takes the information to the king, and the king sends him to Israel with a letter of commendation to the king of Israel. It is fascinating that such conventions are observed between the kings of two countries that have often been at war with each other.

            6-7: Naaman comes to Israel with quite a stash to pay for his cure, and delivers the letter to the king of Israel. Notice that none of the kings’ names are given in these stories; they are superfluous. The king of Israel is horrified that Naaman thinks he can cure leprosy. He is convinced it is entrapment; the king of Aram/Syria is looking to pick a fight.

            8-14: Elisha gets word of the visitors’ errand and tells the king to send Naaman to him. Naaman, with horses and chariots and a large entourage, no doubt an impressive sight, arrives at Elisha’s humble door. Elisha sends a messenger out to tell him to wash in the Jordan 7 times. Naaman is miffed. The man didn’t even grant him the courtesy of coming out himself, he says. Naaman has a very healthy self-image, you see. So, off he goes in a huff, muttering that the rivers of Damascus are better than the Jordan. One of his servants, though, ventures the observation that it really isn’t all that big a deal to go down to the Jordan and bathe, so he does, and is cured of his leprosy.

            15-19: To his eternal credit, Naaman returns to Elisha’s door, and this time he dismounts. He makes a confession of faith in the God of Israel and offers Elisha a gift in return. Elisha refuses. Naaman then asks for a couple of cart loads of dirt to take back with him to Damascus so he can worship the LORD there. He asks to be excused when he escorts his king of Aram into the temple of Rimmon, the chief Syrian deity, and Elisha concedes.

            20-24: Gehazi, though, thinks it is a shame to let the Syrian get away without paying anything, so he runs after Naaman and concocts a story about Elisha asking for money and clothes for two visitors who just arrived. Naaman readily agrees, gives him twice the amount he asks for, and sends two servants to carry the silver and the clothes back to Samaria. Gehazi stashes his loot away in some official building, and then returns to Elisha.

25-27: Elisha asks him where he has been, and Gehazi says, “Who, me? I haven’t been anywhere!”  Elisha recalls the scene in such detail that Gehazi knows Elisha knows what he has done. His accusation seems to indicate that Gehazi got a lot more than some silver and clothing from Naaman – sheep and goats, olive orchards and vineyards, and male and female slaves. Gehazi is then stricken with the leprosy that Naaman is now rid of. If the leprosy was a contagious form, perhaps Gehazi contracted it from handling the goods Naaman brought with him. Or perhaps Elisha was a very remarkable person.

Day 319: 2 Kings 6

            1-7: Another Elisha story: The prophetic school Elisha inherited from Elijah wishes to build new quarters near the Jordan River and ask Elisha’s permission to proceed with the project. He agrees and, at their request, goes with them. One of them loses an ax head in the water, and is distraught because he has borrowed the ax. No problem; Elisha throws a stick in the water and the ax head floats to the surface.

            8-10: Another example of Elisha’s uncanny ability to “see” things a distance away in space and/or time: The Arameans plan to camp at a certain place. Elisha informs the king, who in turn warns the people of that place to be on the alert. This happens “more than once or twice.”

            11-14: The king of Aram senses a security breech, and learns of Elisha’s special gift. He sends an army to capture Elisha at Dothan, and they surround the city by night.

            15-19: Someone comes and warns Elisha of the blockade, but Elisha is not alarmed. He prays that the servant will be allowed to “see” what he “sees,” and when the man looks again he “sees” horses and chariots of fire surrounding the Arameans. Elisha prays again, and the Arameans are struck blind. Elisha goes out and leads their horses and chariots (with the soldiers in them, of course) to Samaria.

            20-23: The enter Samaria, and the king is caught completely by surprise and doesn’t know what to do. Should he kill them? No, instead Elisha tells him to feed them! He does, a great feast, and then lets them go. They return to the king of Aram in Damascus, and Aram ceases its raids into Israel. If only every war could be settled so peaceably.

            24-31: But then another king, Ben-Hadad, comes to rule Aram, and he sends his army to lay siege to Samaria. The people begin to starve; donkey’s heads are being sold for food and dove’s dung for fuel. The king (presumably Jehoram?) is out walking on the wall, surveying the scene. A woman cries for help, but the king is so overwhelmed with concerns that his first response is one of helplessness. Then he demurs and asks her what the problem is. She tells a gruesome story of cannibalism, how she and another woman had eaten her child yesterday, but today the other woman has hidden her child and refuses to give him up. The king is so distraught over her report that he tears his clothes, revealing that he is already wearing sackcloth underneath, a sign of repentance and sorrow. He blames Elisha for the siege, because Elisha had told him to let the enemy soldiers go when he had them in his power within the city walls of Samaria.

            32-33: He sends a man to arrest Elisha, but Elisha senses the danger before the man arrives at his house where he is meeting with the elders of the city. He also senses that the king is right behind his officer. The king, though, does not seem to want to kill Elisha but rather to seek his counsel. He says he has no reason to trust in the LORD anymore. But then, did he ever?

 

Day 320: 2 Kings 7

            1-2: Elisha insists on giving him the word of the LORD whether he trusts in the LORD or not. Tomorrow, he says, prices for food will be even less than normal. We see now that the king is leaning on one of his officers; he has indeed suffered with his people through this ordeal. The officer doesn’t think Elisha’s prediction is possible, and Elisha replies that he would see it but not benefit from in, an ominous saying if I ever heard one.

            3-8: People with leprosy or skin conditions that mimicked leprosy were not permitted in public places, and now we join four of them who are lingering outside the city gates. They reason that their only chance of surviving is to throw themselves on the mercy of the Arameans. But when they arrive at the Aramean camp they find it deserted. In the night the whole camp had heard strange sounds that convinced them Egyptian and Hittite reinforcements were imminent, and they fled in panic. The four lepers have a blast, going into one tent after another, sampling the food, taking the valuables.

            9-15: But they are good men, and decide they really should share the good news. So back to the city they go and call to the gatekeeper news of what they have found. The gatekeeper alerts the king’s guards who arouse the king. The king is convinced it is a trap; you can’t trust those tricky Arameans, can you? One of them suggests they send some men to find out, so two of them take some horses and follow the trail of the Aramean army all the way to the Jordan River and find the way littered with equipment left by the hastily retreating enemy. They return to the city and tell the king.

            16-20: Word is spread and the people swarm out of the city and plunder the enemy camp. True to the word Elisha had given them, food now was available for a song. The officer who had not believed it the night before was trampled to death by the mob rushing to the enemy camp, fulfilling what Elisha had said would happen to him. I think that if I lived in those times I would believe everything Elisha told me.

 

Day 321: 2 Kings 8

            1-6: Elisha’s influence is felt even when he is not present. We return to the story of the Shunammite woman whose son Elisha had resuscitated (see 4:32-35). Elisha, you will recall, is a frequent guest at the house of her and her husband. A famine comes upon the land, and Elisha advises her to go somewhere else to live for awhile. Her husband, who was an old man the first time we met him, has evidently died, for he is not mentioned in this story. She goes and lives for 7 years in Philistine territory and then returns when the famine has ended. She goes to appeal to the king to have her property restored, and it just so happens that at the very moment she arrives Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, is telling the king about the time Elisha brought her son back to life. She walks in and Gehazi says, “Here is the very woman I was telling you about.” The king is impressed, and when he hears her request, orders that not only will her land be restored but the value of the crops it produced for the last seven years (although in a time of famine) are to be paid to her as well.

            7-16: We go now to Damascus, where King Ben-hadad is sick in bed, poor fellow. Elisha, who seems to freely wander all over the Middle East, happens to be in the area, and the king asks his servant Hazael to go find out from Elisha whether his illness is a fatal one. We have not met Hazael before, but we have certainly heard of him, for he is the very one Elijah was to have anointed king over Aram (see I Kings 19:15-17). Hazael takes loads of gifts to Elisha (we can’t escape the impression that Elisha has become a very wealthy as well as very important man in Israel and beyond), and puts the question to him. Elisha tells him that Ben-hadad is going to die, but to tell him that he will live. Then he bursts into tears. Hazael questions him further and Elisha tells him that he is going to do Israel a great deal of harm. Hazael wonders how, and Elisha tells him that he is in fact going to be the next king of Aram. So, Hazael goes back home and tells Ben-hadad the happy but misleading news about his imminent recovery, the king relaxes his security, and Hazael smothers him with a bedspread the next day and assumes the throne.

            16-19: The chronology has gotten a bit mixed up, but now we are told that Jehoram (sometimes called Joram), son of Jehoshaphat, becomes king of Judah in the fifth year of King Joram (sometimes called Jehoram) of Israel. He marries one of Ahab’s daughters, a sister of King Jehoram of Israel therefore, and is influenced by her to “walk in the way of the house of Ahab.” In other words, he was a wicked, wicked man. He began to reign at age 32 and died at age 40. God didn’t destroy Judah in spite of him, though, because he was a descendant of David.

            20-24: We find that now the Edomites are under Judah’s sway whereas before they had been ruled by Israel. They revolt during the time of Joram/Jehoram, and Judah musters an army to go to war against them, but is defeated. Libnah, another vassal state of Judah, also rebels. So, although God will not destroy Judah, he certainly allows Judah’s influence to wane.

            25-27: Now Ahaziah, Joram’s son, comes to the throne at the age of 22, but only lasts a year (we will read of his demise in the next chapter). The Queen mother, his mother Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, will turn out to be the one really in charge. He, too, is a wicked king who is influenced by the religious heresies of Ahab.

            28-29: Ahaziah, in alliance with Jehoram king of Israel, his wife’s brother, goes to war against Hazael at Ramoth-Gilead. They are unsuccessful in retaking Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoram is wounded in the battle and withdraws to recover. King Ahaziah goes to visit him. He will never return to Jerusalem.

 

Day 322: 2 Kings 9

            1-3: We finally come to the fulfillment of Elijah’s mission outlined at I Kings 19:15-16. He appointed Elisha to take his place as head of the prophetic community in Israel. Elisha has announced Hazael to be king over Aram (8:13), and now he will make Jehu king over Israel. Curiously, none of the three are actually anointed with oil by either Elijah or Elisha. Jehu is anointed, but by one of the other members of the prophetic community sent by Elisha.

            4-10: The young prophet goes to Ramoth-gilead where the armies of Israel are trying to retake the territory from the Arameans (now under King Hazael). The army commanders are in council together. The young prophet assumes that, since he is there to anoint Jehu, he must be the only commander of the army, but Jehu has to ask which commander he is looking for. The young prophet indicates it is him, but does not call his name, so I wonder if he knows what Jehu looks like, or if he just assumes that the one to speak up must be the likely one to anoint. They go inside and the young prophet pours the oil over his head and anoints him king of Israel. He fleshes out the purpose of the anointing, telling him that he will carry out God’s will that Ahab’s house (now ruled by Jehoram/Joram)) must be destroyed and Jezebel killed. This is the first we’ve heard of Jezebel since Ahab died; she apparently still holds a great deal of authority in Israel. As soon as he has made the announcement to Jehu, he runs like crazy.

            11-13: Jehu goes back to the other commanders. They ask what the young “madman” wanted – the prophets had quite a reputation, didn’t they? He is reluctant to tell them, but they persist, and he obviously has enough trust in his fellow soldiers to tell them that he has been anointed king over Israel. Their reaction is immediate and perhaps a bit surprising. They spread their cloaks on the steps for him to walk up and take a seat above them; it is a spontaneous act of submission. Jehu has their respect, while Jehoram obviously does not.

            14-16: Jehu tells his fellow commander to make sure no one alarms King J(eh)oram, then climbs into his chariot and dashes off to Jezreel with a cavalry unit where Joram is recovering from his wounds, and where King Ahaziah of Judah is visiting (see 8:28-29).

            17-20: We go to Joram’s enclave at Jezreel. A sentinel in the tower calls out that he has spotted a cohort of chariots approaching. First one messenger is sent and then another to find out if the approaching chariots are friend or foe. Both times Jehu tells the messenger to fall in behind him and continues driving madly toward Jezreel. The sentinel calls out that he thinks it is Jehu coming because he drives like a maniac.

            21-26: Now Joram himself rides out to see why Jehu is coming. Ahaziah accompanies him. He probably assumes there is some news of the battle at Ramoth-gilead because Jehu is, after all, his commander. But when we read that they meet at the property of one Naboth, we know they are in trouble (see I Kings 21). Joram asks Jehu if it is peace; that is, is the battle over? Jehu replies with a slur against Joram’s mother Jezebel, and Joram knows it is not peace. He turns to run, but Jehu strings an arrow and sends it through Joram’s heart. He tells his men to throw his body out on the ground of what was once Naboth’s vineyard because when he was Ahab’s bodyguard he heard Elijah pronounce Jezebel’s fate (I Kings 21:19).

            27-29: Ahaziah flees and he, too, is cut down. He manages to make it to Megiddo before he dies. His officers find him and carry his body back to Jerusalem where he receives a state funeral. Verse 29 is out of place.

            30-37: Jezebel hears of the death of her son, and it appears that she is dressing herself for her funeral. She knows her time is up. Jehu has some servants throw her out of the tower and she falls to a bloody death. Jehu then goes inside the city and has dinner. He gives orders that Jezebel is to be buried, but they come back and tell him they can’t find enough of her to bury. Jehu notes that this, too, is in keeping with Elijah’s prophesy, although the way he describes it here is not exactly the way it was reported in I Kings 21.

 

Day 323: 2 Kings 10

            1-11: In the ancient world, if you stage a successful coup the first thing you must do is get rid of all possible opposition in the form of authentic claims to the crown. So Jehu moves immediately to eliminate members of the king’s family. It appears that King Ahab had seventy-two sons, Ahaziah and Joram plus the seventy others we read about here. When Ahab died he was succeeded by his son Ahaziah, and when Ahaziah died he was succeeded by his brother Joram. Apparently neither Ahaziah nor Joram have sons, so the likeliest successor to the throne is one of the seventy other sons of Ahab and Jezebel. Jehu wastes no time in taking care of that potential threat. He sends a message to the capital to those who are in charge of the other 70 sons of Ahab. Pick one of them, he says, make him the king in place of Joram, and send him out to fight. They say “not on your life!” and send word back that they’re not putting anybody up for king. He sends back that if they want to be in his good graces they should kill those seventy sons and send their heads to him at Jezreel next day. They do just that, believe it or not. Jehu has the 70 heads stacked up at the gates. Next morning he stands before them, points at all the heads they have severed, and tells them that though they are innocent of the blood of Joram and Ahaziah, they certainly do have blood on their hands. He reminds them of God’s curse on Ahab. Then, and thankfully we are spared the gory details for a change, he undertakes to kill everybody in Jezreel who has any connection to the house of Ahab.

            12-14: Jehu heads for Samaria, the capital. On the way he comes across a caravan of 42 relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah who haven’t gotten the word of the coup. He has them put to death as well.

            15-17: We have not met Jehonadab before, but he is apparently an acquaintance of Jehu, probably with military connections. Jehu picks him up on the way to Samaria, and proceeds to execute everyone in the capital city who has any connection to Ahab.

            18-23: Jehu claims to be big on Baal, and orders an assembly of all the Baal-worshipers in the country, and they come. Probably they come gladly, thinking this new king will support them just as the previous king has done. When they have all come together, Jehu orders them to make certain there are no worshipers of the LORD in there.

24-27: Assured of that, he opens the doors and eighty soldiers help Jehu and Jehonadab put every one of the Baal worshipers to death. They demolish the pillar of Baal’s statue, then demolish the entire temple. Well, they didn’t exactly destroy it; they turn it into a bathroom for tourists.

28-31: Jehu pretty much puts an end to Baal worship in Israel, but he still allows the worship of those golden calves that Jeroboam had made as a rival religion to the festivals in Jerusalem. So, history judges him to have been a bad, bad king.

32-36: Jehu reigns for 28 years, but his promising start fizzles and through the years the Syrians under Hazael chip away at his territory until he has nothing left east of the Jordan River. He dies and is succeeded by his son, Jehoahaz.

 

Day 324: 2 Kings 11

1-3: We have seen that in many cases the Queen Mother gets special mention as though she has some authority within her son’s government. When Ahaziah is murdered by Jehu, Athaliah (a granddaughter of former King Omri of Israel – see 8:26) decides it’s time for Judah to have a girl on the throne, and she begins the task of eliminating all rivals. But her granddaughter, Jehosheba, Ahaziah’s sister, hides his year-old son J(eh)oash and keeps him hidden from Athaliah for six years.

4-8: In the seventh year Jehoiada, the head priest, conspires with the temple guard to place J(eh)oash on the throne. He has carefully plotted the coup to take place at the changing of the guard on the Sabbath.

9-12: Jehoida has kept a private armory, bless his heart! The temple guards come to him on the Sabbath and he passes out spears and shields that have been stored away in the temple compound long enough for everybody to forget about them. You know how things get stored in the church and everybody forgets they’re there? Well, that’s what happens in this case, except that Jehoida knows the weapons are there all along; he just keeps that information to himself. They bring out the little boy wearing a crown, anoint him and proclaim him king.

13-16: Athaliah hears the commotion and comes running to the temple. She sees what’s going on and screams, “Treason!” but nobody cares. They grab her and take her out of the temple and put her to death.

17-21: For all practical purposes, Jehoida the priest is now the ruler of Judah. He renews the covenant (presumably the one made when Solomon dedicated the temple) with the people. Then they all go down the street to the Baal temple and tear it down, bust up the idol and kill the priest of Baal. Then they march little seven-year-old J(eh)oash down the street to the king’s compound and put him on the throne. And everybody is happy, and things are kind of quiet now that Athaliah is dead. She remains the only woman ever to rule Judah, but that is not a source of pride for women.

 

Day 325: 2 Kings 12

            1-3: Jehu has been king of Israel for 7 years when Jehoash/Joash takes the throne of Judah at age 7. J(eh)oash reigns for 40 years. His mentor is not his father but rather the priest Jehoida – maybe that’s the kind of arrangement they’ve needed all along. He turns out to be a good king in the judgment of later historians, but the people still have their religious quirks.

            4-8: J(eh)oash orders the priests to repair the temple with the money they have been collecting from the people. We are not told how old the king is at this point, but it is clear that his orders have little force with the priests, headed of course by Jehoida. By the 23rd year of his reign no repairs have been made. So, J(eh)oash has a face-to-face meeting with Jehoida and the other priests and orders them to stop accepting money from their donors and get busy repairing the temple. It appears that they reach a compromise: the priests will accept no more money from their donors, but they will not give up their nest egg for the temple repairs.

            9-16: Instead, Jehoida makes an offering box that is used for collections from the people, and the temple guards watch over it. Whenever the box is full the king’s secretary and the high priest (Jehoida!) count the money. Workers are hired to make the repairs and they are paid out of the funds collected in the offering box. The building is repaired but the utensils of silver and gold are not replaced. Everybody seems satisfied that the money is accounted for honestly, and the priests are still compensated with the guilt and sin offerings (the animals sacrificed on the altar).

            17-18: King Hazael of Aram is making trouble again, capturing the Philistine stronghold of Gath. He has Jerusalem in his sights, but J(eh)oash pays him off and he withdraws. The text says that this took place “at that time,” but does that mean at the beginning of the repairs to the temple or some years into the project? It is an important question because J(eh)oash has just given away a substantial part of the nation’s wealth to Hazael, and that may be the motive behind his assassination that we will read about in the next paragraph.

            19-21: A mysterious death ends the reign of J(eh)oash. His own personal servants assassinate him in the Millo (the original part of the fortress in Jerusalem that was there from before David’s time). No reason is given for this act, and apparently Jozacar and Jehozabad have no ambition for the throne themselves. One possible explanation has to do with the finances of the kingdom. There is a hint in this chapter that the priest Jehoida might have clung to power longer than necessary, and J(eh)oash eventually has to challenge the way the royal treasury and the temple treasury are handled. Jehoida’s actions are suspicious, to say the least, but being the high priest it would have been difficult to put in the official record that the man was crooked. We cannot say for certain, but the assassination of J(eh)oash seems to be related to his having given Hazael “all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the LORD” (verse 18) – in other words, the temple bank account. That suspicion is also raised by the fact that the king’s son, Amaziah, now 25 years old (see 14:1-2), ascends the throne. The assassination is therefore not an attempt at a coup. It may be simply the removal of someone who knows too much!

Day 326: 2 Kings 13

            1-9: We catch up now on what has been happening in Israel during the long 40 year reign of King Joash of Judah. Jehu’s son Johoahaz comes to the throne when he dies, and rules in Samaria for 17 years. He does not undertake the reforms in Israel that Joash has taken in Judah, and as a result Israel is constant prey to their more powerful neighbors to the north and east, the Arameans under King Hazael (whom Elisha had anointed) and his successor Ben-hadad. After suffering a number of defeats that apparently result in part of the population being carried off as captives, Jehoahaz asks the LORD for help, and is answered. An unnamed “savior” comes to their rescue and the people are returned to their homes. But Israel is left with a skeleton army and an almost non-existent cavalry. And, of course Jehoahaz does not eliminate the rival cult in Samaria with its two golden calves, and for this he is judged to be a wicked king. His son Joash succeeds him. There are several cases in which the names of the kings of Israel and Judah are the same or almost so, and it can get rather confusing. Joash of Israel is also called Jehoash, but I’m just going to stick with Joash if you don’t mind.

            10-13: So we have two kings with the same name. Joash of Israel reigns for 16 years. We are told nothing of his reign other than that he was an evil man who didn’t eliminate the rival cult, and that he made war against King Amaziah of Judah (of whom see chapter 14).

            14-19: Elisha is taken ill and King Joash of Samaria goes to visit him. He greets Elisha with the exclamation Elisha uttered when he saw Elijah taken up by the whirlwind. Perhaps he is thinking that he will be able to get a double portion of Elisha’s spirit as Elisha had of Elijah’s. Elisha seems willing to put him to the test and tells him to shoot an arrow out the window. Joash does, and Elisha tells him that the arrow represents a victory over the Arameans. Next, Joash is to take the arrows left in his quiver and strike the ground with them. He strikes the ground three times, and Elisha is angry, saying that he will only defeat the Arameans three times, and that will not be enough to put an end to them.

            20-21: One last Elisha miracle story. They bury him, but then we read that a marauding band of Moabites is spotted in the area and another corpse is thrown in haste into the same grave. Upon coming into contact with Elisha’s bones (it doesn’t say how much time has passed since Elisha’s death) this second corpse is resuscitated and comes back to life and stands up. We don’t know what happened to him next.

            22-23: There is war between Joash of Israel and Hazael of Aram all during the reign of Joash, but God doesn’t allow Hazael to be completely successful.

            24-25: Hazael dies and is succeeded by Ben-hadad, and Joash recovers some of the captured territory. This is perhaps the same events that were reported in verse 5.

 

Day 327: 2 Kings 14

            1-6: We come to the record of the reign of Amaziah king of Judah. He enjoys a fairly long rule of 29 years. His mother is Jehoaddin; the fact that her name is given is another indication that the office of Queen Mother is an important one. He is judged to have been a good king, although not as good as David. Just as all the kings of Israel are judged to be bad because they kept the counter-religious cult instituted by Jeroboam, so the kings of Judah are judged to be good but not as good as David. His father Joash, you will recall, is murdered by a couple of his servants, Jozacar and Jehozabad (12:21). Even though Joash is assassinated, no coup is undertaken and the throne passes smoothly to his son Amaziah, who is only 25 years old at the time. But as time passes and his power solidifies he arrives at the point that he can do as he wishes, and he wishes to punish his father’s assassins. So he does. But, in an act of forbearance rare for a king, he does not wipe out the entire families of the assassins, because he is indeed a man of integrity who takes the law seriously.

            7: He conquers Edom, taking over its capital, Sela, and changing its name to Jokthe-el, but in spite of the author’s claim the original name of Sela is the one that sticks (see, for example, Isaiah 42:11). Jokthe-el is never mentioned again in the Bible.

            8-10: Flushed with his success in Edom, Amaziah summons King Joash of Israel to a contest, but Joash is not impressed and refuses to play.

            11-14: Amaziah doesn’t give it up, though, and Joash has to send his army into Judah to confront Amaziah and his army. Israel is victorious. Amaziah is taken prisoner and Jerusalem is sacked. All the wealth of the temple is confiscated and some of the population is taken hostage. Apparently Joash lets Amaziah go free, but you can bet that every year Amaziah has to pay tribute to his northern counterpart.

            15-16: In the 14th year of Amaziah’s reign, King Joash of Israel dies, leaving his son Jeroboam king in his stead.

            17-22: Again no explanation is given, but Amaziah meets the same fate as his father. Obviously things are going very badly for him in Jerusalem and he has to flee, but he is followed and murdered at Lachish. It would seem that there are powerful forces in Judah (perhaps connected to the priesthood – remember Jehoiada?) who will not allow anything as petty as a king to challenge their powers. Once again, the assassins are not trying to overthrow the government, only to get rid of Amaziah. The people immediately crown his son Azariah king of Judah at the age of 16.

            23-27: Meanwhile, Jeroboam of Israel is establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with. He rules for 41 years, a record so far, and manages to extend his borders to much of their former extent. The prophet Jonah of Amittai, of swallowed-by-a-whale fame, is credited with a prophecy that God would allow Jeroboam to restore Israel’s borders. We won’t find that particular prophesy in the book named for the prophet Jonah, however.

28-29: During the course of his long reign, Jeroboam even manages to regain Damascus and Hamath, a surprising and impressive achievement.

 

Day 328: 2 Kings 15

            1-7: We return now to the reign of Azariah (also known as Uzziah) in Judah. He holds the record for tenure thus far, ruling for 52 years, his early years no doubt under the tutelage of his mother Jecoliah. Although he rules for over five decades his authority is truncated by a skin disease identified as leprosy. We are not told when he contracts the illness or how long it lasts, but we are told that he has to keep separate quarters and that his son Jotham administers the affairs of state. The text says that the LORD struck him with the disease but gives no explanation why. He, too, is a good king; he just can’t quite live up to David.

            8-12: Now back to Samaria. Jeroboam dies and is succeeded by his son Zechariah. His reign only lasts for six months. He is assassinated by Shallum, and the dynasty of Jehu comes to an end as prophesied.

            13-16: Shallum seizes power in Israel, but only lasts a month before he is deposed by a particularly vile man named Menahem. Menahem’s character is demonstrated all too clearly by his treatment of the unfortunate women of Tiphshah. The “Uzziah” in verse 13 is an alternate name for Azariah of Judah.

            17-22: Menahem is able to hold on to power for 10 years. His rule is judged to be wicked, of course, and now we see that the instability created by all the assassinations has weakened the country. Assyria, now a strong and growing empire, puts the squeeze on Menahem and he confiscates the wealth of the country in order to pay off the Assyrians. When he dies his son succeeds him, but his dynasty will be short-lived.

            23-26: Pekahiah succeeds his father Menahem, but his reign is cut short by yet another assassination and coup. This time it is a military coup led by General Pekah, supported by a substantial element in the Israelite army.

            27-31: Pekah manages to hold on to power for 20 years, but his military is no match for Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser conquers half his kingdom and exports the population. Apparently there is not enough wealth in the country to buy off the Assyrians a second time. Pekah’s authority is weakened and a conspiracy successfully unseats him. And kills him, too.

            32-38: Back to Jerusalem. Jotham succeeds his father Uzziah (Azariah – see verse 7). Jotham reigns for 16 years and is judged to have been a good king, but nothing like David. During his reign he has to fend off attacks from the Arameans and the Israelites. His son Ahaz succeeds him.

 

Day 329: 2 Kings 16

            1-4: Ahaz comes to the throne in Jerusalem during the reign of Pekah of Israel. He is a very religious man – he worships every god he can get his hands on. In the eyes of our historian that makes him much, much worse than David. There is wide speculation about what passing his son through the fire means; all that is certain is that it is a religious ritual connected with a cult other than the faith of the God of Abraham.

            5-9: Rezin of Aram (Damascus) and Pekah of Israel (Samaria) form an alliance and attack Jerusalem. The siege is unsuccessful, but it prevents Ahaz from defending his territories and the Edomites take Elath (modern Eilat, at the southern tip of Israel on the Gulf of Aqaba). Ahaz is in dire straits, and resorts to buying help from Tiglath-pileser of Assyria (ruled 745-727 BC). The Assyrian emperor responds by conquering Damascus and killing Rezin. It is the Assyrian practice to deport subject peoples to other locations around the empire, and that is what they do now to the population of Damascus.

            10-16: Ahaz goes up to Damascus to meet with his new boss, Tiglath-pileser. While there he is impressed with the religion of the Arameans and sends drawings of their great altar back to Jerusalem to the priest Uriah with orders to replicate it and place it in front of the temple. Upon his return from Damascus he has the original bronze altar moved to a less prominent site and set aside for his own personal use, and designates the Damascus copy as the altar for public sacrifices.

            17-20: Ahaz makes a number of modifications to the temple, apparently ordered by Tiglath-pileser. In a rule that lasts only 16 years, he seems to have done a lot of damage to the worship of the LORD in Jerusalem. His son Hezekiah, however, will prove to be a better man.

 

Day 330: 2 Kings 17

            1-4: Back to Samaria: Hoshea, who assassinated King Pekah (15:30), rules Israel for 9 years. He is judged to have been a bit less evil than his predecessors. Shalmaneser, Emperor of Assyria, invades Israel and Hoshea capitulates and becomes a vassal of Assyria, paying a heavy tax, or tribute, every year. But he rebels and tries to form an alliance with Egypt, and Shalmaneser puts him in prison.

            5-6: That last verse is fleshed out in more detail here. The Assyrians invade Israel, besiege Samaria and capture the city and Hoshea. The people are also carried away and resettled in other parts of the empire. We learn later that captives from elsewhere are then brought in to settle Israel. The resulting population will come to be referred to as Samaritans.

            7-18: Now the author launches into a lengthy diatribe against the northern kingdom to explain why Israel has failed as a nation. There is a long list of wicked deeds, but the gist of it is that they forsook the faith of Moses and gave in to the cults of the people of the land.

            19-20: Judah is found wanting also and their exile is projected in these verses even though it is still more than 100 years off.

            21-23: Israel’s failure is summed up again: God allowed them to be torn from the house of David (Judah) under Jeroboam, who caused them to commit the great crime of turning away from God by launching a rival cult in Samaria. The later historians never forgive Jeroboam for those two golden calves.

            24-28: The Assyrians repopulate the northern kingdom with conquered peoples from elsewhere in their far-flung empire. Not accustomed to the natural dangers of the land, some of them fall prey to wild animals, especially lions. They complain, and the officials who report to the emperor attribute these killings to a lack of knowledge of the “god of the land.” Shalmaneser’s remedy is to send an Israelite priest back to Samaria to teach the new settlers the “law of the god of the land.”

            29-34: The people of the land continue, however, to worship their own gods, along with the God of Israel. This mixed up religion is one of the things for which the Jews despise the Samaritans.

            35-40: The covenant God made with Israel is recalled, but the foreigners who are brought in to settle the north do not observe it. They persist in their pagan ways.

            41: The people who settle the north worship the LORD along with their pagan deities; their religion is therefore corrupted.

 

Day 331: 2 Kings 18

            1-8: Finally in Judah we have a king like David. His name is Hezekiah, son of Ahaz. Hezekiah removes all the pagan altars and totem poles. He also smashes the bronze serpent Moses had made in the wilderness, a regrettable loss of a valuable artifact, but one which had unfortunately become a false idol. He is faithful to the LORD in every way, and is therefore blessed. He resists the mighty Assyrian Empire. He pushes back the Philistines.

            9-12: The fate of Israel and Samaria is repeated, as it now relates to the reign of Hezekiah.

            13-18: About five years after the fall of Samaria, the new Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib, invades Judah. Hezekiah sues for peace, but the Assyrians demand more than he can pay. He sends them everything he can; he even strips the temple bare, but still it does not satisfy Sennacherib. He sends an army to the walls of Jerusalem. The Assyrian envoys summon Hezekiah and he sends his own envoys – Eliakim, Shebnah and Joah – out to talk to them.

            19-25: The Rabshakeh (chief of the princes of Assyria) speaks to them in Hebrew. He belittles their attempts to resist. He charges that they have made an alliance with Egypt, which alliance is worthless, he says. He even claims to have come at the behest of the LORD, the God of Israel.

            26-27: They beg the Rabshakeh to negotiate in Aramaic but he is interested in intimidating the people listening from the walls. They need to know that they are doomed, he says, and paints a doleful picture of what will become of them.

            28-35: The Rabshakeh now calls out to the people of Jerusalem. He warns them not to let Hezekiah persuade them that they can somehow be victorious over Sennacherib. He invites them to surrender; he will leave them in peace, he says, until he comes and takes them to a wonderful land where they will live happily ever after. He makes a convincing argument: how can they expect their God to rescue them when none of the other gods have helped their lands against the king of Assyria. Remember, Hezekiah has put a stop to their popular but unauthorized worship on the high places, and many of the people no doubt feel a loss.

            36-37: Still, the people for their part remain silent, at the king’s command. Eliakim, Shebnah and Joah return to Hezekiah to relay the Rabshakeh’s message. They are not at all optimistic about the future.

 

Day 332: 2 Kings 19

            1-7: Hezekiah is distressed over the situation and sends for the prophet Isaiah. This is the Isaiah of the Book of Isaiah, and in Isaiah 36 we will read again the story of the siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah. They ask for his prayers, and he tells them to report to Hezekiah that the siege will be lifted because Sennacherib will be recalled to his country and there he will be killed.

            8-13: The chief prince of the Assyrians, the Rabshakeh, finds Sennacherib happily besieging Libnah, having succeeded against Lachish. Sennacherib has received intelligence telling him of the plans of King Tirhakah of Ethiopia to attempt an advance against Assyria, so he redoubles his effort to overthrow Jerusalem quickly. He sends the Rabshakeh back with a letter outlining all his conquests in an effort to impress Hezekiah enough that he will surrender.

            14-19: Hezekiah takes the letter into the temple and spreads it out for God to see. He acknowledges God to be the creator of the world, and the gods of the nations Sennacherib has conquered to be mere carvings of wood and stone, and he begs God to rescue them from the Assyrians.

            20-21: God answers his prayer through Isaiah who sends a letter to Hezekiah which he says is God’s response. Assyria has taunted you, he says.

            22-24: But this time Sennacherib is not toying with a weaker kingdom, but taunting the Holy One of Israel, he says. Sennacherib thinks he is invincible because he has defeated other nations from Lebanon to Egypt.

            25-26: Sennacherib doesn’t realize that his victories have all come about because the Holy One of Israel allowed him to be victorious.

            27-28: God promises to punish Sennacherib’s arrogance by forcing him to return to Nineveh.

            29-31: Isaiah tells Hezekiah that things are about to return to normal after nearly three years of being under siege and unable to plant or harvest the crops and vineyards.

            32-34: God promises that Sennacherib will not breach the walls nor ever enter Jerusalem.

            35-37: That night a plague strikes the Assyrian camp and decimates their army. Sennacherib is forced to withdraw. He returns to Nineveh where he is assassinated by two of his sons. A third son, Esar-haddon, becomes the next Assyrian king. He is a somewhat less ambitious king. The death of Sennacherib marks the end of the Assyrian threat to Judah. Another more powerful empire will arise, however, with its capital at Babylon.

Day 333: 2 Kings 20

            1-7: Hezekiah is suffering from a boil that has made him ill. Isaiah, never one to break bad news gently, comes and tells him that God says he is going to die, then turns and leaves, not bothering to offer condolences to the poor man. Hezekiah prays that God will remember him for good, and grieves his plight deeply. Isaiah, on his way out, receives another word from the LORD that Hezekiah’s prayer has been heard and he will not die but will live fifteen years more and that Assyria will not again threaten Jerusalem. God’s word notwithstanding, Isaiah orders a treatment for Hezekiah’s boil. Perhaps the idea just came to him at that moment.

            8-11: The poultice is applied, and Hezekiah wants some assurance from Isaiah that the LORD will do what Isaiah says the LORD will do. He probably felt a little silly putting a bunch of mashed figs on his boil. There is in the king’s quarters a sun dial that Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, had apparently installed. Ahaz had been a bad king – in the judgment of our historian (see chapter 16) – who had worshiped pagan gods, likely including the sun and moon and planets. Although Hezekiah had undertaken sweeping religious reforms (18:3-6) he obviously left the sun dial in place. He asks that it retreat 10 steps as a sign that what Isaiah says is true, that he will recover. Isaiah cries out to the LORD, and the shadow goes backward. Actually the text says “he” brought the shadow back ten intervals. It is usually assumed that the “he” is the LORD and not Isaiah.

            12-15: Envoys from a new empire called Babylon arrive with gifts from the emperor for Hezekiah upon his recovery. Hezekiah, eager to show these foreigners that he is a player on the world stage, shows off everything he thinks might impress them. The prophet Isaiah, who has really taken a keen interest in national affairs lately, comes to the king and asks him all about those visitors and their visit. Hezekiah brags that he has shown them everything.

            16-19: Isaiah tells him that those Babylonians will one day carry off all the stuff Hezekiah showed them, and that his sons will be castrated and forced to serve in the palace of the king of Babylon. Hezekiah is okay with that as long as it doesn’t bother him personally.

            20-21: Hezekiah’s reign comes to an end after 29 years. One other accomplishment is mentioned: “the pool and the conduit that brought water into the city.” Hezekiah’s conduit was a wonder of engineering (Google “Hezekiah’s tunnel”). It is 1750 feet long, and connects a spring outside the city walls with a pool inside. It is probably the reason Jerusalem was able to withstand Sennacherib’s siege for nearly three years. (see II Chronicles 32:2-4, 30)

 

Day 334: 2 Kings 21

            1-9: Manasseh holds the record for length of rule in Judah; 55 years. Unfortunately he is not the man his father was but takes after his grandfather Ahaz. He apparently wants to make sure he has all the bases covered religious-wise, so he erects altars, poles and shrines to every god he ever heard of, including the host of heaven (sun, moon and stars). He probably has the old sun dial polished. He even builds shrines to pagan gods in the very temple of the LORD. The religious atrocities he commits surpass anything any of the evil kings in Samaria ever did.

            10-15: The prophets, however, know of God’s anger, and through them God makes it known that he has determined to punish Judah just as Israel was punished. But no one heeds their warnings.

            16: And Manasseh piles crime upon crime. The innocent blood that he spills is probably the blood of the prophets who pronounce God’s judgment (see Luke 13:34).

            17-18: Manasseh dies and is succeeded by his son Amon.

            19-26: Amon proves to be just as evil as his father Manasseh, but his reign only lasts 2 years. He is so despicable that his own servants decide enough is enough and assassinate him, but their coup is unsuccessful because the people will not allow the dynasty of David to end. They kill the killers and crown eight-year-old Josiah, Amon’s son, as king. (Amon was therefore only 16 when Josiah was born; a clear indication of character flaws and parental neglect, don’t you think?) Josiah will prove to be a good one, though.

 

Day 335: 2 Kings 22

            1-2: Josiah takes the throne of Judah at the age of eight. We are reminded of Joash, who came to the throne at the age of seven (11:21). And like Joash, Josiah will be a good king.

            3-7: He is also like Joash in his desire to repair the temple of the LORD (see 12:4-8). Josiah sends his secretary, Shaphan, to the high priest Hilkiah to authorize the use of temple funds in carrying out extensive repairs. He is shrewd enough to say that he trusts the priests, and will not require an audit.

            8-10: Hilkiah tells Shaphan that he has found “the book of the law.” This would normally be the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), but we cannot be sure at this point in Israel’s history how much of the Torah has been codified. Shaphan reports to King Josiah about the temple funds, and also tells him about the scrolls Hilkiah has found.

            11-13: Josiah has the book read to him, and is deeply affected because he realizes that God’s law has not been obeyed. He sends Hilkiah the high priest, Shaphan the secretary, and others to go “inquire of the LORD.” We wonder what he means.

            14-20: We find out. They go, not to the temple, but to the house of a woman named Huldah who is a prophet, obviously revered for her wisdom and for her relationship with God. She tells them that the words of the scroll are true, that God is going to destroy Jerusalem because of the sins of the kings and the people who forsook the worship of God and went after pagan deities and their cults. She also tells them that God will reward Josiah’s penitent heart by delaying the inevitable until after his reign is complete. They take this message back to the king.

 

Day 336: 2 Kings 23

            1-3: King Josiah leads all the people of Jerusalem in a national act of repentance and renews their covenant with God

            4-14: Josiah embarks on a systematic plan to eradicate the worship of other gods from the land of Judah. The extent of his reform gives us some idea of the extent to which the pagan religious cults had infiltrated the everyday life of the average Judean. Note also that in verse 4 he is able to travel freely to and from Bethel, one of the cultic centers of the rival religion Jeroboam had started in Israel so the people of the north would not have to come to Jerusalem to worship. It thus appears that after the Assyrians conquered Israel, but had to withdraw from the siege of Jerusalem, some of the territory of the northern kingdom was annexed by Judah.

            15-20: Judah’s control over former Israelite territories as far north as Bethel is secure enough that Josiah is able to go on a rampage to remove every vestige of foreign religions. The “man of God” mentioned in this passage is a reference to the strange story told in I Kings 13 in which a prophet came out of Judah to challenge Jeroboam and was killed by a prophet from the northern kingdom. Both of them were buried in the same grave. Here we learn that grave was at Bethel. Josiah has human bones burned on the pagan altars to defile them so that no one would ever use the altars again – a bit of superstition, perhaps, but effective.

            21-23: Josiah returns to Jerusalem and orders that the Passover be kept. It has not been a regular observance, we are told, since the days of the judges.

            24-27: Josiah, zealous for the law, completely rids Judah and Jerusalem of every vestige of pagan worship, but God still is determined that Judah must be removed because of the abominations committed by Manasseh (21:1-18).

            28-30: And so, Josiah meets with a sudden and surprising end. Pharaoh Neco decides it is time to take on the waning Assyrian Empire. Of course he has to pass through Judah to reach the Euphrates. Josiah thinks he can contest the mighty Egyptian army and engages them at Megiddo, but is killed in the battle. His servants bring his body back to Jerusalem and he is given a state burial. His son Jehoahaz is anointed king in his place.

            31-35: Jehoahaz is judged to have been a bad king, but no reasons are given for such a judgment, and he only rules for 3 months before Pharaoh Neco deposes him and makes his brother Eliakim king in his place. Jehoahaz is taken captive to Egypt and dies there. Neco changes Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim and levies a heavy tribute on Judah. Jehoiakim has to resort to taxing the people in order to pay the tribute, thus tumbling Judah into the same kind of decline that plagued Israel just before their downfall under the evil King Menahem (see 15:17-22).

            36-37: Jehoiakim’s reign is summarized: 11 years of a rule that is judged as being evil (though the nature of his evil is not specified).

Day 337: 2 Kings 24

            1-7: In spite of Josiah’s extensive reforms, Judah is so damaged by the excesses of earlier rulers (especially Menasseh) that the reforms are too late to save them. Babylon has replaced Assyria as the dominant power in the region and is now ruled by Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim is made a servant: that is to say, Babylon annexes Judah and Jehoiakim decides not to contest it for the first three years, and then changes his mind when Nebuchadnezzar is occupied elsewhere. But the Babylonian absence simply leaves a vacuum in which other enemies – Aram, Moab, and Ammon – can operate and Judah finds itself overrun first by one group, then another. When Jehoiakim dies his son Jehoaiachin is elevated to the throne, but it isn’t much of a throne anymore.

            8-12: Nebuchadnezzar is already on the march when Jehoiachin becomes king of Judah, and the poor fellow only lasts 3 months as king. His reign is so brief our historian doesn’t even have time to say he was an evil king. He surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar and he and his wives and his mother and all the other officials of Jerusalem are taken prisoner.

            13-17: Nebuchadnezzar plunders the temple and the palace and carries off all the wealth of the country. He also carries off most of the population of Jerusalem into exile to Babylon. Only the poorest of the people remain behind to pick up the pieces and survive as best they can. Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah, whose name is changed to Zedekiah, is appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to govern what is left of Judah.

            18-20: Zedekiah is only three years older than his nephew Jehoiachin, but manages to hang onto the throne for 11 years. What he did that was so displeasing to God is not described, but our historian makes it clear that God is completely fed up with Jerusalem and Judah.

 

Day 338: 2 Kings 25

            1-7: Eventually Zedekiah becomes convinced that Nebuchadnezzar is no longer able to hang onto his far-flung empire, and decides to declare his independence: a bad idea. Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem, blockades the city and builds siegeworks to use against it. Zedekiah holds out for two whole years. The suffering of the people must be unimaginable, but there is a precedent of God stepping in and making a far superior army retreat overnight (remember Sennacherib? See 19:35-37). And there is Hezekiah’s tunnel (20:20) by which the city’s water supply is assured. Eventually, though, the Babylonians are successful. The wall is breached. Zedekiah flees but is captured. For the trouble he has caused Nebuchadnezzar kills all Zedekiah’s sons in his sight and then puts out his eyes so that the death of his children is the last thing he sees. He is bound and taken off to Babylon.

            It seems, then, that David’s line has finally come to an end. But we haven’t quite reached the end of the chapter.

            8-12: Jerusalem has thus been captured a second time, and this time Nebuchadnezzar is determined to make the victory a permanent one. He sends Nebuzaradan to destroy the city. The walls are torn down, and every prominent building burned to the ground, including the temple. The people are rounded up and driven to exile in Babylon except for a handful of the poorest among them to keep the vineyards and crops producing food and drink – for the Babylonian army and overseers, no doubt.

            13-17: All that remains of the worship of the LORD is either destroyed or carried away as spoil to Babylon. The temple is gone. All the trappings of the religious faith of the people of Judah are hauled away.

            18-21: Nebuzaradan rounds up all the religious officials, chief priest and others, and takes them by force to the camp at Riblah where Nebuchadnezzar waits, and Nebuchadnezzar has all of them put to death.

            And so the worship of the LORD, the God of Israel, has come to an end. But we haven’t quite reached the end of the chapter.

            22-26: Gedaliah is appointed governor of Judah – notice that he is not called king; he is not, after all, a descendant of David. Gedaliah tries to persuade the local warlords scattered around the hills of Judah that being subservient to Babylon isn’t a bad thing. He meets with them at Mizpah, but they aren’t willing to capitulate and Gedaliah is assassinated. The warlords, led by one Ishmael (who shares his name with the first son of Abraham – poetic justice?), gathers many of the people from the countryside and migrate (quickly!) to Egypt to avoid Nebuchadnezzar’s certain retaliation.

            Now all the leaders are gone and Judah is no more. But, we haven’t quite reached the end of the chapter.

            27-30: Our historian decides to end his account with an extraordinary bit of information. Nebuchadnezzar dies and a new king comes to Babylon. And 37 years after he had been hauled away as a captive to Babylon, Jehoiachin, the last true king of Judah – the one who was not appointed by Nebuchadnezzar; the one whose name was not changed by Nebuchadnezzar; the one who ruled only three months before he was taken captive; the last direct descendant of David to sit on the throne in Jerusalem, although his reign only lasted 3 months (see 24:8-17) – this “son of David” is set free from prison and given a place of honor at the table of the new king of Babylon, Evil-Merodach.

            Extraordinary. Maybe there is hope for God’s people after all.