Archive for January, 2011

2 Chronicles 1 (Day 368)

            1: Solomon’s reign begins. God is with him and he prospers.

            2-6: He assembles the leaders of the nation at Gibeon where the tabernacle is located. Remarkably, even the altar that Bezalel had made in the time of Moses is still in use, but the ark of the covenant has been removed to Jerusalem. Solomon offers a thousand burnt offerings on it. It sounds like an impressive beginning, doesn’t it?

            7-13: Solomon’s dream at Gibeon is also recorded in 1 Kings 3:3-15. In that account Solomon has been king for several years and has married the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Gibeon is only one of the “high places” on which the people sacrifice, and no mention is made that the tabernacle and the bronze altar are there. The chronicler seems to be interested in cutting Solomon a little slack as had been done for David in 1 Chronicles. Another difference: in the former account Solomon asks for “an understanding mind,” “able to discern between good and evil.” In the present account he asks for “wisdom and knowledge.” The basic story is the same, though: Solomon is at Gibeon making sacrifices; he dreams that God asks him what he wants; he replies that he wants the ability to rule well; God is pleased with his request and grants it, and also promises him material and other worldly success; Solomon returns to Jerusalem and settles into the task of ruling the country.

            14-17: Solomon builds up the military by adding significant numbers of chariots, the ancient counterpart to today’s mechanized cavalry. He buys from Egypt and sells to Aram and to the Hittites in Asia Minor. Jerusalem is in an economic boom.

2 Chronicles 2 (Day 369)

            1-2: Solomon decides to build a temple. I find this to be curiously at odds with the account given of David’s final days in 1 Chronicles. Here the narrative reads as if the temple is Solomon’s idea. Solomon begins by conscripting a massive labor force. Although David apparently did use forced labor (see 2 Samuel 20:24 where there is a cryptic remark that Adoram was over the forced labor, but no further details are given about David’s use of a draft) Solomon makes it a centerpiece of his governmental policies. 150,000 citizens are forced to work as stonecutters and laborers in the hill country, and 3600 are conscripted to be foremen. This is very much like the arrangement in Egypt where Hebrew supervisors were put over the Hebrew slaves.

            3-10: Solomon offers a business deal to King Huram of Tyre (Hiram elsewhere) whereby Huram will supply timber and workers and Solomon will pay in shipments of grain, wine and oil (see 2 Samuel 5).

            11-12: Huram’s gushing response is perhaps to be expected from the chronicler, who wants to paint the early kings of Israel in a positive light.

            13-16: Huram tells Solomon that he is sending one Huram-abi, who is a skilled artisan, to work with Solomon’s craftsmen on the temple. Compare this to 2 Samuel 7:13, where Solomon invites one Hiram of Tyre (not the king of Tyre) to be in charge of all the work. This Hiram, who lived in Tyre, was described as a son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali. Here, however, King Huram sends the master craftsman to Solomon, and he is described as a son of a Tyrean citizen and a mother from the tribe of Dan. Clearly, this Huram-abi is the same person as the Hiram of Tyre in 2 Samuel. But here he is sent instead of sent for, and his impressive credentials are enumerated. It is apparent that the chronicler is once again drawing a connection between the building of the temple and the construction of the tabernacle in the time of Moses, where God sends Bezalel whose credentials are very much like those described here for Huram-abi (see Exodus 35:30-35).

            17-18: Now we are told that Solomon only uses foreigners for the forced labor, based on a census he has taken for the purpose. 150,000 are laborers, 3600 are “overseers to make the people work.” This echoes the Hebrew “supervisors” who were set over the Hebrew slaves in Egypt (Exodus 5:13-14). The chronicler is again drawing parallels between the time of Solomon and the time of Moses. However, Solomon seems to be playing the role of Pharaoh!

2 Chronicles 3 (Day 370)

            1-7: The description of Solomon’s temple here differs in some respects from the description given in 1 Kings 6. The overall dimensions are 90 feet long by 45 feet wide. The height of the vestibule, or entry hall, is the most questionable part of the information given here. The earlier account in 1 Kings does not give its height; here it is said to be 180 feet tall! Considering that it is only 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep, the height is really not believable, especially since the main part of the temple, the nave, is only 45 feet tall (1 Kings 6:2).

            8-9: The most holy place is built within the nave, 30 feet by 30 feet, completely covered in gold.

            10-14: The giant cherubim are really remarkable. They are made of olive wood, 15 feet tall (according to 1 Kings 6:23), and overlaid with gold. Their wings stretch from one wall to the other. The curtains separating the most holy place from the nave is made of blue, purple and crimson yarn woven together with fine linen, with images of cherubim woven into it.

            15-17: Two massive pillars are erected in front of the temple, each one 60 feet high (see 1 Kings 7:15-21 where they are cast in bronze, but are only about 35 feet tall altogether). The chronicler’s dimension have them standing 15 feet taller than the nave and they seem to serve the same purpose as the steeples of today; as a visible locator so the temple can be spotted from a distance. They are named Jachin and Boaz, though no explanation is given for the names. Jachin is on the right, or south, side and Boaz on the left, or north side of the entrance (1 Kings 7:21). Thus the entrance to the temple is facing to the west, with the most holy place and the ark of the covenant in the extreme eastern end, an arrangement that is still often followed in the construction of churches today.

2 Chronicles 4 (Day 371)

            1-6: Next the great altar is cast, a massive slab of bronze 30 feet across and 15 feet high. The “molten sea,” or bronze water basin, is also massive; 15 feet in diameter and 4 inches thick. It is mounted on a platform of 12 bronze cast oxen, and stands over 7 feet high. The sea is the bath for the priests. On each side of the great altar are placed 5 basins in which the meat of the offerings is washed before it is burned.

            7-10: 10 Golden lamp stands, 10 tables, 100 golden basins are fabricated. The courtyard is walled in and the huge gates are plated with bronze.

            11-18: Pots, shovels and basins complete the inventory. A list is given of all the things Huram-abi makes for the temple. Solomon has large furnaces in the clay floor of the Jordan valley to melt the copper and tin to make the bronze, so much of it that the total weight of it is never determined.

            19-22: Further descriptions are given of all the paraphernalia Solomon orders Huram-abi to make, with special mention of the huge quantities of gold involved. Solomon’s temple is to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

2 Chronicles 5 (Day 372)

            1: The temple is completed and Solomon stores what is left of the gold and silver that David had accumulated in the temple treasuries.

            2-10: The ark is brought into the temple and placed in the most holy place, the inner sanctuary, beneath the wings of the giant cherubim. The Levites carry the ark while Solomon and the people sacrifice countless sheep and oxen to consecrate the way. The poles used to carry it are said to be so long that they can be seen from inside the outer part of the sanctuary “to this day,” which may be an indication that the chronicles are written before the Babylonian captivity when the temple is destroyed. (This passage is an almost verbatim copy of 1 Kings 8:1-11.)

            11-14: The priests who carry the ark come out of the most holy place and take up their station with the other priests who are singing praise to God and playing various musical instruments. Once again, to draw a parallel to the wilderness experience, the chronicler tells us that the temple is filled with a cloud such that the priests cannot stand in it (see Exodus 40:34-35).

2 Chronicles 6 (Day 373)

            1-2: Chapter 6 is essentially the same as 1 Kings 8:12-49. Significant differences will be noted. Solomon declares that he has built a house for God to dwell in forever. We almost get the impression that he thinks he is controlling God.

            3-11: For the dedication Solomon speaks first to the people, recounting the events that led to his building of the temple.

            12-17: Then he addresses the LORD, reminding God that he has promised that David’s dynasty will last forever and asks God to confirm that promise.

            18-21: Solomon asks that God hear the prayers that are prayed toward the temple.

            22-23: Then he addresses a number of specific issues that might be brought before the LORD in prayer. This first one has to do with disputes between neighbors when one wrongs the other.

            24-25: This part of the prayer seems to anticipate the Babylonian exile that is still hundreds of years in the future, but could just as well refer to prisoners of war being returned home after any battle.

            26-27: Drought is a constant worry in a climate that does not produce a great deal of rain even in normal years. The interesting thing is that Solomon assumes that if there is a drought it must be the result of some sin of the people.

            28-31: Other perils are enumerated. Again, the main emphasis is on confession and forgiveness. I wonder how often we, in praying for our own troubles, stop to consider that perhaps we should confess our sins and ask to be forgiven before we ask that our troubles be taken away.

            32-33: Solomon even asks that the prayers of foreigners be heard if they pray toward the temple to the LORD. The purpose of God answering such prayers is so that God (and Solomon’s temple) will become famous beyond the borders of Israel.

            34-35: He prays that God will hear the prayers of the army as they prepare for battle.

            36-42: This part of the prayer certainly applies to the Babylonian exile. 1 Kings 8:50-51 are a few verses that would come after verse 39 here, and serve the purpose of fleshing out how it happens that they are allowed to return from their time of exile. Verse 40 here is then the same as 1 Kings 8:52. Verses 41-42 are unique to 2 Chronicles. It is a prayer psalm invoking God’s presence, God’s special care for the priests, and a remembrance of David. It is, in fact, Psalm 132:8-10. Quoting a psalm and asking for a blessing for the priests is certainly in keeping with the tenor of the chronicler’s account of Israel’s history.

2 Chronicles 7 (Day 374)

            1-3: At this point Chronicles differs from the account given in 1 Kings. There (1 Kings 8:54-61) Solomon arises from his prayer and gives a lengthy blessing for the people. Here, however, it is God who momentarily takes center stage. The chronicler reports that fire comes down from heaven and consumes the sacrifices (although there has been as yet no description of sacrifices made at the temple, just the ones offered on the way as the ark was brought up), and the priests are not able to enter the sanctuary because the “glory of the LORD” is there. The people bow and worship on the spot and bless God with another line from the Psalms.

            4-6: Extravagant numbers of animals are offered for sacrifice. The chronicler also notes that the priests are where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing – this detail is missing from the 1 Kings account.

            7: Solomon also consecrates the central area of the temple compound because that immense bronze altar is much too small to accommodate the sacrificing of 142,000 animals.

            8-10: 1 Kings 8:65-66 told us that Solomon sent the people away on the eighth day. The chronicler, however, knowing that would be improper, tells us that on the eighth day a solemn assembly is held. Only then does he send them home, “joyful and in good spirits.”

            11: So the temple is finished and consecrated and ready for use.

            12-18: (Reference to 1 Kings 9:1-5.) The LORD appears to Solomon a second time, again in the night (a detail missing in 1 Kings), presumably again in a dream, to assure Solomon that God has accepted the temple as a place for sacrifice. Referencing Solomon’s earlier prayer from 6:26 and 6:28, God assures him that “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.” This promise in not in the 1 Kings account. You may also want to note that the promise is specifically in response to drought, locust and pestilence; attempts to relate verse 14 to America’s changing political scenarios are misplaced.

            19-22: Solomon is warned, however, that if the people turn aside (the “you” in verse 19 is plural and refers to Israel collectively, unlike the “you” in 1 Kings 9:6 which is singular and refers to Solomon only) from following God, they will be exiled and the temple destroyed, and everyone will know it happens because they have abandoned the “God of their ancestors.”

2 Chronicles 8 (Day 375)

            1-2: After all the building Solomon does in Jerusalem, he begins to rebuild the cities King Huram has given him and settles Israelite citizens there. This is completely different from the report in 1 Kings 9:10-14 where it is said that Solomon gave King Hiram twenty cities in Galilee, and Hiram was not impressed with them.

            3-10: 1 Kings does not mention the capture of Beth-Zobah and this, in fact, is the only military action ascribed anywhere to Solomon. Solomon engages in extensive building projects all over the country, including Lebanon, which is apparently part of Israel during his reign. He uses forced labor, but the chronicler (and the earlier account in 1 Kings) claims that he does not draft Israelites, only other people.

            11: 1 Kings 9:24 reports that Solomon built a house for Pharaoh’s daughter, but here we are also told the reason: she worships the gods of Egypt, and thus cannot be allowed to live in David’s quarters where the ark of God has been kept.

            12-15: 1 Kings 9:25 reports that Solomon brought offerings three times a year. The chronicler, however, expands Solomon’s religious involvement considerably, having him doing so every day, with double offerings on Sabbaths and at New Moon observances as well as the three annual festivals. And here the festivals are named – the festival of unleavened bread (Passover), the festival of weeks, and the festival of booths (Succoth) – whereas in 1 Kings they are not. The chronicler also reports that Solomon appoints priests according to David’s commands. The priesthood and the worship life of Israel are, as we have already noted, are of primary interest to the chronicler.

            16: In summary, the chronicler brackets everything Solomon does within the time of the building of the temple.

            17-18: Interesting: In 1 Kings (9:26-28), Solomon is said to have built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber. The chronicler, however, reports that King Huram supplies the ships and the sailors, sails them down the Red Sea to Ophir, and brings back gold for Solomon. The relationship between Solomon and Huram (Hiram) is a complicated one and there are implications that Huram was in some way subservient to Solomon. If Lebanon is part of Israel at the time, logically Tyre may be as well since it is located on the Mediterranean Sea in present-day Lebanon. It makes more sense also that the ships at Ezion-geber should belong to Huram rather than Solomon because the Tyreans are a sea-faring people.

2 Chronicles 9 (Day 376)

            (See 1 Kings 10)

1-4: The location of Sheba has never been satisfactorily identified, though most scholars place it on the Red Sea around what is today Yemen. The Queen of Sheba is one of history’s mysteries. Nothing is known of her outside the Bible, the Quran and one other Near Middle Eastern source. We don’t know if she is a queen regnant (ruler in her own right) or a queen consort (wife of a king). She has lots of wealth, whichever she is, and the text seems to want to present her as being somewhat haughty, but Solomon’s magnificence humbles her.

            5-9: She is impressed by all she sees, and pronounces Solomon to be even more wise and wealthy than she had heard. More importantly she now has respect for Israel’s God. She gives Solomon gold, spices and precious stones.

            10-11: The insertion of this verse prompts some scholars to speculate that Sheba may be identified with Ophir; but we don’t know for sure where that was, either.

            12: A tantalizing verse, leading us to speculate about the extent of her desires. In any case it appears that she returns home with more than she brought.

            13-21: Solomon’s wealth is enormous by any standards. His kingdom is largely at peace during his reign so the golden shields mentioned here are decorative. I don’t know why anyone would go to the trouble of making an ivory throne and then overlay it with gold, but then I don’t know anybody who has as much gold as Solomon. The ships of Tarshish are another mystery. The best guess is that Tarshish was on the Atlantic coast of Spain. In route the ships could stop at ports on the North African coast as well as Italy and southern France, bringing a wide variety of goods to Solomon.

            22-28: For all his pomp, Solomon is regarded for his scholarship as much as for his wealth. Still, his kingdom is large and he maintains a large military machine to keep it together.

            The Chronicles leaves out the report in 1 Kings about the mistakes Solomon made and the enemies he had (1 Kings 11:1-40).

            29-31: Solomon’s rule, according to the chronicler, is peaceful and long. It is interesting that the sources cite – Nathan and Ahijah and Iddo – are not the sources claimed in 1 Kings 11:41. Perhaps that accounts for some of the differences. Solomon dies and is buried beside his father David. He is succeeded by his son Rehoboam.

2 Chronicles 10 (Day 377)

            (See 1 Kings 12:1-19)

1-5: Rehoboam goes to Shechem to be crowned by the northern tribes, and there, of all people, we find Jeroboam. Jeroboam, a leader of the tribe of Ephraim who attempted a coup against during Solomon’s reign, has been cooling his heels in Egypt all this time, but obviously has maintained contact with folks back home and has been waiting for this opportunity to return. The northern tribes challenge Rehoboam to relax the policies of his father Solomon. Solomon, you recall, had levied heavy taxes and labor requirements on the northern tribes, but not on Judah (1 Kings 4:7-19). Rehoboam asks for 3 days to consider the request.

            6-11: Rehoboam hears the advice of his father Solomon’s advisors that he should accede to the request of the northern tribes. However, his own cadre of young ambitious courtiers thinks he should drop the hammer on them.

            12-15: So, Rehoboam summons Jeroboam and the representatives from the northern tribes and lays down the law. This rather near-sighted decision on his part plays right into God’s plans, however. Interesting, isn’t it, how God can use our folly and stupidity to bring about his will?

            16-19: The northern tribes understandably see this as evidence that they will never be accorded an equal status with the tribe of Judah as long as they are ruled by a descendant of David, and they refuse to accept Rehoboam as their king. Rehoboam is unbelievably dense; he actually sends somebody to order them to get back to work, and they stone the poor fellow to death.

2 Chronicles 11 (Day 378)

            1-4 (see 1 Kings 12:21-24): Rehoboam musters an army to try to subdue Israel by force, but is advised by Shemaiah that the division of the kingdom is God’s doing. Rehoboam sends his troops home.

            5-12: Rehoboam gets busy fortifying his territory – Judah and Benjamin. He turns a number of cities into fortresses as a line of defense.

            13-17: The priests and Levites in the north abandon Jeroboam and his administration and come to Jerusalem in support of Rehoboam. Jeroboam has instituted a rival cult in Samaria so his people won’t have to go to Jerusalem for the festivals.

            18-23: Jeroboam marries within the royal family, but has children by many concubines. He wisely gives some of his sons their own responsibilities around the country which serves the double purpose of training them to be useful and getting them out of Jerusalem. He finds wives for them and keeps them happy as well as busy. He has learned from his ancestors that the old saying, “idle hands are the devils workshop,” is twice as applicable to the royal family.

2 Chronicles 12 (Day 379)

            1-8: Egypt’s invasion of Judah was reported in 1 Kings 14:25-28, but the narrative here is much more extensive. Rehoboam turns away from the Law of the LORD, we are told. In 1 Kings 14:22-24 there is a list of things that were done: worship places in the hills, male temple prostitutes and other abominations. It is because of this apostasy King Shishak of Egypt seizes the opportunity to attack Jerusalem with a huge army. Shemaiah the prophet, the one who counseled Rehoboam not to attack Jeroboam (11:2), comes to the king and tells him it is because they have turned away from God that God has turned away from them. The King and his officials “humble themselves” and repent, and God relents and does not allow Jerusalem to be utterly destroyed. However, Shemaiah says that God will allow Shishak to render Rehoboam and his court into servitude so they can learn the difference between serving God and serving other kings. I think this is very clever on God’s part; the punishment befits the crime.

            9-12: Shishak sacks the city and the temple, but apparently leaves satisfied that he has gotten what he wanted. Rehoboam, for his part, returns to the worship of the LORD, but under armed guard.

            13-14: Rehoboam’s reign is summarized; seventeen years, from age 41 to 58, and not very good.

            15-16: Shemaiah and Iddo are cited as the sources of information for the account of Rehoboam’s reign. Upon his death he is succeeded by his son Abijah, an arrangement Rehoboam had made some time back (see 11:22).

2 Chronicles 13 (Day 380)
             1-2: Abijah’s reign only lasts three years. After you’ve read the account of his reign you’ll wonder how all that could have happened in such a short span of time.
             3-7: The wars between Rehoboam of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel continue with Abijah now on Judah’s throne. Abijah’s 400,000 troops align themselves against Jeroboam’s 800,000 troops, and Abijah takes up a position on a hill overlooking the battlefield and issues a challenge. He announces that God has given the throne to David and his ancestors and that Jeroboam is an imposter.
             8-12: Abijah continues his taunt. The Israelites have abandoned the LORD, he says, and the fact that they have a lot of soldiers and two golden calves with them is no guarantee of their success. Just the opposite, in fact, because Israel under Jeroboam has driven out the established priesthood of Aaron’s descendants and the Levites (who deserted to Judah when the secession took place – see 11:13-17). Anybody can buy the priesthood in Israel, he says, just by bringing a bull or seven rams, but he is a priest of no god. In Judah, he says, they have real priests who offer proper sacrifices in the right times and in the right place. Indeed, the priests are with us right now, he says, and they’re going to blow their trumpets to send us into battle against you. You’d better not try to fight against the LORD, he says. What a speech!
             13-22: Jeroboam, meanwhile, has snuck some troops around behind the army of Judah for an ambush. But when the priests blow the trumpets and the battle begins, Judah, having the high ground, prevails and the Israelite army is utterly defeated. Abijah pursues Jeroboam north and captures several major cities of Israel. Israel is weakened and Jeroboam never recovers from the defeat. He dies (but according to 1 Kings 15:8-9 he outlives Abijah). Abijah grows stronger and stronger, marries 14 women and fathers 22 sons and 16 daughters, all in three years! This view of Abijah and his reign is in stark contrast to the summary presented in 1 Kings, which declares Abijah (Abijam in 1 Kings) to have been a wicked king, and his battle with Jeroboam gets only a passing comment without mentioning who is victorious (1 Kings 15:1-8)!

2 Chronicles from now on will deal almost entirely with the reigns of the kings of Judah, and will mention of the kings of Israel only when they fight the kings of Judah.

2 Chronicles 14 (Day 381)

            1-8: Asa assumes the crown upon the death of his father Abijah. The record of his reign will take up the next 3 chapters (in 1 Kings Asa’s reign is summarized in 15 verses – 1 Kings 15:9-24). He will rule Judah and Benjamin for 41 years. He is judged to have been a good king who returns Judah to the worship of the LORD. During the first 10 years there is peace in the region and he devotes himself to building up the country’s defenses, walling in a number of cities and equipping an army of 580,000.
             9-15: Zerah the Ethiopian is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. He brings a massive army into southern Judah and a battle takes shape at Mareshah, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Asa puts his army’s fate in the hands of the LORD and the LORD grants them victory over the Ethiopians, routing and utterly destroying them. They pursue the Ethiopian army as far south as Gerar, one of the principal Philistine cities about 15 miles inland from Gaza. Asa’s forces ravage the whole region around Gerar, including non-combatants who are living peacefully in tents, and carry off great quantities of booty from the enemy and from the countryside.

2 Chronicles 15 (day 382)

            1-7: Every now and then someone will pop up as God’s mouthpiece to advise the king. For David it was Nathan (1 Chronicles 17:3), for Rehoboam it was Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 12:5), for Abijah it was Iddo (2 Chronicles 13:22). Now comes Azariah son of Oded to confront Asa as he returns from his successful campaign against the Ethiopians. His message is a reassuring one, but is very similar to the damning pronouncement of Shemaiah against Rehoboam. Rehoboam suffered defeat at the hands of the Egyptians and was told it was because he had abandoned the LORD. Now Asa, having successfully repelled the Ethiopians, is told by Azariah that if he, too, ever abandons the LORD, the LORD will abandon him. Azariah encourages him to continue faithful and to be strong.

            8-15: It is a wonderful thing what a little positive reinforcement can do for a man. Azariah’s pat on the back turns Asa into a sterling reformer. He orders the removal of idols all over Judah and the Israelite cities he has captured. He repairs the altar in Jerusalem and summons the people to a huge ceremony to renew their covenant with the LORD. This is a bold move, and a stroke of genius. The country has been inundated with refugees from Israel and the rituals in Jerusalem help assimilate them into Judah; they are told to repudiate the no-gods of Israel and resubmit themselves to the LORD, or die.

            16-19: Even the queen mother, Maacah, is made to toe the line. Asa removes her (she may actually have been his grandmother – see the note on 1 Kings 15:9-15) from her exalted position in the royal court because she has an idol made of the Aramean deities, Asherah. As a result of all these reforms, his kingdom enjoys a long period of peace. But their cousins to the north aren’t going away just yet.

2 Chronicles 16 (day 383)

            1-6: Judah is left in peace until the 36th year of Asa’s reign, and then the Israelites can’t stand it any longer. Their people have been defecting to Judah for years, and King Baasha decides to do something about it. He builds a fortress near the border at Ramah to try to block traffic in and out of Judah. Asa responds by hiring Ben-hadad from Damascus to forsake his alliance with Baasha and pressure Israel’s northern border. Ben-hadad agrees, and annexes some of Israel’s territory, mostly the part that was once considered the territory of the tribe of Naphtali. Baasha is forced to turn his attention in that direction, and Asa seizes the opportunity to go and dismantle what Baasha has built at Ramah and use the stones to erect his own outposts at Mizpah and Geba. Mizpah and Geba are on the frontier boundary between Israel and Judah about 10 miles north/northeast of Jerusalem. Ramah would have been located between them. (It is interesting that the account in 1 Kings has Asa compelling the people of Judah by force to carry the stones from Ramah – see 1 Kings 15:22.)

            7-10: Hanani the seer shows up from time to time as he does now. He tells Asa that relying on Ben-hadad is a sin. He should have relied on the LORD, he says. This sends Asa into a rage. He locks Hanani up in prison. His anger spills over into his dealings with the people as well (which is more in keeping with what we read about Asa in 1 Kings).

            11-14: Asa’s health is failing. It is near the end of his long reign and he may be quite old by now, although we are not told at what age he took the throne which makes it impossible to compute how old he is when he dies. He is diseased in his feet, which indicates circulatory problems caused by atherosclerosis or perhaps diabetes. Such conditions can eventually result in gangrene and lead to a painful death, and that may be what happens to Asa. He is judged harshly for relying on physicians instead of relying on the LORD, and that seems to be a judgment that applies generally to the last five years of his reign, for he has relied also on Ben-hadad for help against King Baasha instead of relying on the LORD. His funeral is a curious affair: his body is laid in his tomb on a platform of spices and perfumes. Then a great fire is made in his honor, an unusual ritual for a king’s burial – I don’t think any other king is honored in such a way – and the text leaves open the possibility that his body is immolated or cremated in the fire.

2 Chronicles 17 (day 384)

            1-6: Jehoshaphat’s reign begins as had his father Asa’s, with the building up of fortifications on the frontier against Israel. He returns to the worship of the LORD and avoids the pitfall of worshiping other gods like Asa had done. The chronicler thus judges him to have been a good king.

            7-9: He institutes reform measures designed to educate the population about their history as God’s people and about the laws that God had given Moses.

            10-19: Asa’s military machinery is truly impressive, enough so that even the Philistines and Arabs pay him to be their allies. He has a standing army of 1,160,000 men.

2 Chronicles 18 (day 385)

The story of the battle alliance between Jehoshaphat of Judah and Ahab of Israel to make war against the Arameans at Ramoth-Gilead is told in 1 Kings 22. The two accounts are very similar.

            1-3: Jehoshaphat makes an alliance with King Ahab of Israel by marrying one of his daughters, a detail not mentioned in 1 Kings. He goes to visit Ahab in Samaria. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat if he will be an ally in a war against Aram and go with him to try and recapture Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat says he will.

            4-11: But Jehoshaphat insists that they first seek guidance from the LORD. Ahab gathers his royal prophets and they make a big show of support for the endeavor, which is what they are paid to do. We notice that they are referred to simply as “prophets.” Jehoshaphat wants to hear from a “prophet of the LORD.” Ahab says that there is one, Micaiah son of Imlah, but he never has anything good to say concerning the king of Israel. Jehoshaphat insists on calling him, which gives you the impression that Jehoshaphat might be looking for a way out of his commitment. While they’re waiting for Micaiah, one of Ahab’s prophets, one Zedekiah, puts on a demonstration to show how they will win the battle.

            12-13: The messenger sent to summon Micaiah warns him to go along with the others, but Micaiah insists he will only speak what the LORD tells him.

            14-17: Still, he gives an enthusiastic endorsement of the plan. But Ahab knows better and insists that Micaiah tell them what he really thinks God’s counsel to be. Now Micaiah paints a bleak picture of defeated, scattered and leaderless troops. Ahab says to Jehoshaphat, “I told you he wouldn’t have anything good to say!”

            18-22: Micaiah, though, continues to tell them how the LORD has gone about seeing to it that Ahab gets bad advice from his “prophets” so that he will be killed in battle.

            23-27: Zedekiah, the guy who charged around with iron horns a little while ago, slaps Micaiah and claims that he is the one who has the spirit of the LORD. Micaiah calmly replies that the day will come soon when Zedekiah will find it necessary to hide in an inner chamber. At this point Ahab steps between them and orders Micaiah be placed under arrest and fed bread and water until the battle is won and he returns victorious. Micaiah replies that if that actually happens, he has not spoken the word of the LORD.

            28-34: For some reason Jehoshaphat, after all that has happened, decides to go into battle with Ahab. Not only that, but Ahab tells him that he is going to wear common clothes, but Jehoshaphat is to wear his royal garb, and Jehoshaphat agrees! The only plausible explanation is that Jehoshaphat is subordinate to Ahab in a way that has not been explained to us, and yet the whole sense of his reign from the chronicler’s account seems to lean in the other direction, unlike the narrative in 1 Kings. The king of Aram, of course, tells his soldiers to gun for his primary enemy, the king of Israel, Ahab. Naturally, they mistake Jehoshaphat for the king of Israel and come after him. Jehoshaphat cries out and they leave off the pursuit, but in the mayhem an Aramean archer shoots an arrow, and it mortally wounds Ahab. Ahab tells his chariot driver to take him out of the battle. He watches from a safe vantage point until evening, and then dies.

2 Chronicles 19 (day 386)

            1-3: Ahab is killed, but Jehoshaphat is not harmed and returns safely to Jerusalem. He is met by the seer Jehu ben-Hanani, who lets Jehoshaphat know that God is not pleased that he went to help Ahab King of Israel. We met this Jehu in 1 Kings 16, where he prophesies against King Baasha of Israel, who ruled some decades before Ahab.

            4-7: Jehoshaphat again undertakes a reform by putting judges in all the cities who will teach the people the ways of the LORD (see 17:7-9).

            8-11: He reorganizes the judicial system in Jerusalem, placing it under the direction of the chief priest Amariah and a government official named Zebadiah.

2 Chronicles 20 (day 387)

            1-4: The battle described in this chapter is not covered in 1 Kings. Moab and Ammon we’ve heard of before, but the Meunites are a new group. They are mentioned here and at 26:1 and nowhere else in the Bible. They join with the others and assemble their invasion force across the Jordan from Israel in Edom. Jehoshaphat is alarmed, and calls for a national day of fasting to seek help from the LORD.

            5-12: Jehoshaphat stands before the temple and begs God’s help, invoking Solomon’s prayer from the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:44-45).

            13-17: The whole citizenry is gathered in the temple court. One Jahaziel calls out from the middle of the crowd that the LORD will be victorious and all they will have to do is watch. He gives some details about where the battle will occur. How he would know such a thing is not revealed: the “ascent of Ziz” is probably a common approach from Edom, though.

            18-19: Everybody says “Hallelujah!”

            20-23: Jehoshaphat leads his troops toward the encounter, with priests and Levites at the head of the column to sing and praise God. As they approach the battle zone, the alliance of Ammonites, Moabites and Meunites falls apart and they begin to fight among themselves.

            24-30: When the army of Judah arrives at the lookout point they see what has happened, and spend three days gathering all the spoils of their enemies. This is presented as the last major threat to Judah during Jehoshaphat’s reign.

            31-34: Jehoshaphat’s rule is summarized and he is judged to have been a good king. The common peoples’ worship at the hilltop shrines, however, is persistent.

            35-37: At the end of his reign Jehoshaphat enters into a joint venture with King Ahaziah of Israel to build ships to sail down the arms of the Red Sea and establish trade routes in that direction. In 1 Kings 22:48-49 it was said that the ships were of the “Tarshish type,” that is, designed for the high seas, and were to go to Ophir some 500 miles south of Ezion-geber, but the ships are destroyed in a storm, and the venture fails. According to 1 Kings Jehoshaphat refuses the proffered alliance with Ahaziah, but here he is condemned for accepting the alliance. Curious.

2 Chronicles 21 (day 388)

            1-7: Jehoshaphat dies and is succeeded by his son Jehoram (see 1 Kings 8:16-24). He is the eldest of the seven sons of Jehoshaphat and thus is chosen to succeed his father, but he is not a good man. Even though Jehoshaphat makes provisions for all his sons, Jehoram apparently believes they are, or will be, threats to his authority, and he has all of them put to death. This action is not reported in the 1 Kings account. Jehoram is 32 years old when he begins his reign and he rules until he is forty. He marries Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (see 22:2), and proves to be an evil king, but because of God’s promise to David the kingdom is allowed to continue.

            8-10: Jehoram is also weaker than his father, and the Edomites seize the opportunity to gain their independence and have their own king. Jehoram attempts to squelch the rebellion but is unsuccessful. Libnah also successfully regains their independence from Judah.

            11-15: Jehoram receives a letter from none other than Elijah, the famous prophet in Israel. This is the only place in 2 Chronicles in which Elijah is mentioned, and the only place in the Bible where this letter is mentioned. Elijah pronounces God’s judgment on Jehoram, prophesying that he will die of gastric distress.

            16-17: The Philistines also take the opportunity to invade Judah and plunder the king’s possessions. They carry away all of Jehoram’s sons except his youngest. What goes around comes around.

            18-20: Jehoram contracts an intestinal disease that cannot be cured and that slowly and painfully kills him over the course of two years. When he dies they bury him in the city, but not in the tombs of the kings. They do not make a funeral pyre in his honor, and a singular judgment is rendered for his reign: “He departed with no one’s regret.” I can think of no sadder epithet.

Day 389: 2 Chronicles 22
             1-6: We learn now that the raid on Jerusalem in which Jehoram’s sons were carried away actually resulted in their deaths. Only the youngest son is left, Ahaziah. (He is called Jehoahaz in 21:17. Ahaziah is a form of the same name – JehoAHAZ = AHAZiah – or perhaps Ahaziah is the name he assumes at his coronation.) He cannot have been 42 years old when he came to the throne, as that would make him older than his father! The earlier account (2 Kings 8:26) says that he is 22 years old at the time of his coronation, which is more likely. In any case, both accounts have him ruling but a single year. His mother Athaliah is the daughter of King Ahab of Israel and wields a heavy influence over Ahaziah. He follows the counsel of her connections in Samaria, and his rule is therefore judged to be an evil one. He is persuaded to go with Ahab’s son Joram (Jehoram) to fight against the Arameans at Ramoth-gilead. This is the same battleground in which Ahab had been killed (18:28-34). Joram is wounded and withdraws to Jezreel to recover, and Ahaziah goes to visit him. Apparently this second attempt to retake Ramoth-gilead is also a failure.
             7-9: Ahaziah’s visit to Jezreel proves to be his downfall. This story is told more colorfully in 2 Kings 9:17-28, how Jehu charges madly toward Jezreel, kills Joram and chases Ahaziah until he wounds him, too. Ahaziah escapes to Megiddo but dies from his wounds. Officials from Jerusalem come and recover his body and give him a state burial as an honor to his grandfather, Jehoshaphat. Being only 23 years old (following the 2 Kings reckoning of his age), he has no son able to take the throne. Who will rule over Judah?
             10-12: Why, Athaliah, of course, the Queen Mother. She moves quickly to get rid of the entire royal family of Judah, the house of David. She is, remember, a daughter of King Ahab of Israel. Ahaziah’s sister (and thus Athaliah’s daughter?) rescues his son Joash and hides him away. She herself is apparently under no threat because she cannot be considered an heir to the throne, and perhaps also because she is the wife of the chief priest Jehoiada. They manage to hide Joash for six years. The priest Jehoida will turn out to be the real power in the kingdom.

 

Day 390: 2 Chronicles 23

            1-7: After 6 years Jehoida decides it is time to act along with some of the army commanders with whom I am sure he has been plotting for some time. He arms the Levites, makes them swear allegiance to Joash, stations them at strategic points around the temple compound, and orders them to protect the king at all costs.

            8-11: Jehoida does not dismiss the Levites and priests who are coming off duty, but arms them, too. They provide a shield of protection around Joash as Jehoida brings him out, puts the crown on his head, and hands him a scroll containing the covenant, the Law of Moses (only a priest would have thought of that). They all holler, “Long live the king!”

            12-15: They holler loud enough for Athaliah to hear. When she comes out to see what’s happening she realizes the plot and screams “Treason!” Jehoida has her promptly put to death, but is careful not to do it in the temple itself.

            16-21: Jehoida leads the people in making a covenant to be the LORD’s people, and they all go to the temple of Baal and tear it apart with their bare hands. Did you know there was a temple of Baal in Jerusalem? It hasn’t been mentioned before, but then Athaliah, being Ahab’s and Jezebel’s daughter, is a worshiper of Baal, and she undoubtedly is the one responsible for the building of it during her six years of reigning Judah. Jehoida reinstitutes the proper worship of the LORD in the temple. Then he installs Joash on the throne in the palace. And all the people say, “Hurrah,” and nobody makes any noise at all over the death of Athaliah. She must have been some piece of work.

 

Day 391: 2 Chronicles 24

            1-3: Under the tutelage of Jehoida, Joash begins his reign which will last for 40 years, the same as David and Solomon. Jehoida even chooses his wives.

            4-7: Joash decides to repair the temple. He assembles the priests and Levites and tells them to go through the country and collect money for the project. He may still have been pretty young at the time; in any case, since they don’t get the order from Jehoida, they don’t act. Joash finally catches on and summons Jehoida and asks him why nothing is happening. (We learn here the extent of Athaliah’s influence in turning the country to Baal worship.)

            8-14: Joash is a quick study. In partnership with Jehoida things begin to happen. The king’s initial plan is modified. Instead of sending the priests into the countryside to take up collections they decide to put an offering chest in the temple and let the people bring in their offerings. Who do you think came up with this idea – Joash or Jehoida? The money comes in and the king and the high priest together oversee the repairs.

            15-16: Jehoida dies at the age of 130, and is buried with honors. Judah is about to enter a new era.

            17-19: This cursory note tells us a lot. Without Jehoida, Joash gives in to popular demands and allows the people to return to practicing their version of religion. As a result, God’s wrath falls upon Judah, although the form it takes is not specified here. In 2 Kings 12:17-18, however, we read that King Hazael of Aram invades Judah and threatens Jerusalem. Joash gives him much of the wealth of the temple to buy him off.

            20-22: Jehoida’s son Zechariah publicly denounces the way the king has allowed things to be. Joash has him stoned to death. His last words are, “May the LORD see and avenge!” When prophets say stuff like that, you’d better watch out.

            23-24: Now the chronicler reports the invasion of the Arameans, but without mentioning Hazael, and we now have additional details about the invasion: The Aramean army is small, but the army of Judah has come under such poor leadership that they cannot withstand them and are thus defeated; and many of the officials of the government are put to death by the Arameans.

            25-27: Some further details emerge that are not reported in 2 Kings. We learn here that Joash has been severely wounded during the Aramean invasion. He is assassinated in his bed, and we learn that the reason his servants kill him is specifically because of the murder of Zechariah. The warnings of a prophet of God are not to be taken lightly.

 

Day 392: 2 Chronicles 25

            1-4: Upon the death of Joash, his son Amaziah comes to the throne at the age of 25. He is deemed a good man, but not perfect. He shows some savvy, however, in restraining himself until he is certain his authority is unquestioned, and then he puts to death the two men who assassinated his father. Remember that the assassination had been a reaction to the murder of the son of the high priest Jehoida (24:25), and it is likely that the priesthood has been heavily involved in affairs of state since Joash was a child. Amaziah therefore waits until his authority is secure (but we will learn that it really is not). Being a sort of good man, though, he doesn’t kill the children of the assassins because the Law says you’re not supposed to hold children responsible for their parents’ mistakes. (Thank goodness.)

            5-10: The record of the campaign against Edom is given in great detail here, where in 2 Kings it receives exactly one verse (2 Kings 14:7). The Edomites had been subjects of Judah but had rebelled during the reign of Amaziah’s great-grandfather Jehoram (21:8-10). Amaziah decides to regain control of them and raises a large standing army. Not being satisfied with his numbers, however, he uses the common expedient of hiring a mercenary force, in this case 100,000 troops from Israel. An unnamed “man of God” tells Amaziah that the LORD will have nothing to do with him if he uses Israelite soldiers, and advises him to send them back home and forget about the wages he has already paid them. The Israelites leave, but they’re not happy about losing the promise of looting the Edomites, and they will have their revenge.

            11-13: Amaziah is victorious in the battle, but while he is murdering the Edomite captives, the angry Israelite mercenaries are sacking some of his cities on their way back home.

            14-16: Amaziah is attracted to the religion of the Edomites, much as Christians today are often enamored of eastern religions when they visit that part of the world, and brings back to Jerusalem some of their idols and begins practicing the faith of his enemies. Another prophet confronts him with a logical argument: if this religion couldn’t help the Edomites, why do you think it’s good for you? Amaziah shuts him up with a threat, but not before the prophet informs him that his days are numbered.

            17-19: The campaign against Israel is covered in 2 Kings 14:8-14. Amaziah, flushed with his victory over the Edomites, now challenges King Joash of Israel (whose mercenaries plundered several towns of Judah). Joash waves him off, comparing Judah and Israel to a thorn bush and a cedar.

            20-24: Amaziah refuses to back down, just as God knows he will. The battle takes place on Judean soil at Beth-shemesh. Israel is victorious. Amaziah is captured and taken back to Jerusalem as a prisoner. A chunk of the city’s wall is demolished. The palace and the temple are sacked and hostages are taken back to Samaria.

            25-28: Nevertheless, Amaziah outlives Joash by fifteen years, but we now learn that a conspiracy to get rid of him has been brewing since the time he brought the Edomite idols into Jerusalem. “They” pursue him to Lachish and put him to death, then bring him back to Jerusalem and bury him with the kings of Judah.

There is much speculation as to the identity of the conspirators. During much of the reign of Amaziah’s father Joash, Jehoida the high priest had been the real power behind the throne, and Jehoida had lived a long time. During those years the priesthood in Jerusalem certainly became more and more powerful in affairs of state. It is not outside the realm of imagination that the priests, threatened by Amaziah’s turn to the religion of Edom, are the ones behind the plot to get rid of him. A proper burial – conducted by the priests, of course – would help draw attention away from them. Another surprising element is that, in the next chapter, all seems forgiven and Amaziah is judged as having done right “in the sight of the LORD” (26:4). Chronicles, you will recall, is believed to be a product of the priesthood in Jerusalem.

 

Day 393: 2 Chronicles 26

            1-5: Uzziah (an alternate form of the name Azariah – see 2 Kings 14:21 and 1 Chronicles 3:12) comes to the throne at age 16 and rules for 52 years. Here is another example of a reign that receives a lot of attention in 2 Chronicles (the whole of chapter 26) but little attention in 2 Kings (2 Kings 15:1-7). Early on he reestablishes control over the seaport of Eloth (or Elath) on the Red Sea. The priest Zechariah (not to be confused with the prophet by the same name) is his spiritual tutor, and Uzziah makes a good start.

            6-15: Uzziah’s faith is judged to play a large part in his considerable successes – military victories over the Philistines, Arabs and Meunites; impressive building projects; the strength of his armies; and technological developments for the defense of Jerusalem. Verse 15, however, signals a turning point: “he was marvelously helped until he became strong.” Why do people so often forsake their faith when they become prosperous and powerful, when it was their faith that gave them the qualities to become prosperous and powerful in the first place?

            16-21: Then one day, being the powerful, successful, prosperous King of Judah, he decides that he is at least as special as the high priest and so he enters the most holy place in the temple to burn incense before the LORD. The priest Azariah and 80 other priests (wow!) charge in after him and hustle him out. The king is at first angry, but then feels something on his forehead that frightens him and so he does not try to resist them. He is diagnosed with leprosy and has to live in isolation the rest of his life, although we are not told how long this is. His son Jotham becomes the acting regent.

            22-23: It is said that Uzziah’s reign is recorded by the prophet Isaiah, but that record is lost except for a couple of references (Isaiah 1:1, 6:1). Uzziah is also mentioned by three other prophets: Hosea (1:1), Amos (1:1), and Zechariah, who lived much later but refers to a great earthquake that occurred during the reign of Uzziah, an event that is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (Zechariah 14:5). Uzziah is buried in a field owned by the royal family but not with the other kings because of his leprosy.

 

Day 394: 2 Chronicles 27

            1-9: Jotham’s reign is less remarkable. He rules for 16 years, but his actual term may be somewhat longer because he assumes the duties of the kingdom before his father Uzziah dies. He is judged to be a good king like his Daddy and to have done everything his Daddy did – except he doesn’t violate the most holy place in the temple and come down with leprosy. He is given credit for a number of building projects and for successfully subduing the Ammonites, none of which is mentioned in the earlier account (2 Kings 15:32-38). The earlier account, however, tells us things that are not mentioned here – that during his reign the Arameans and the Israelites carry out a number of successful raids into his territory.

 

Day 395: 2 Chronicles 28

            1-4: (The reign of Ahaz is also covered in 2 Kings 16, where there are significant differences.) Ahaz, son of Jotham, comes to the throne at the age of 20. By all accounts he is a very religious man – he worships every god he has ever heard of except the LORD. He even makes “his sons pass through the fire,” and although there is wide speculation about what passing his sons through the fire means it is certain that it is a religious ritual connected with a cult other than the faith of the God of Abraham.

            5-7: Because Ahaz has forsaken the worship of the LORD, his authority is no longer respected or respectable and the country is weakened so that the kings of Aram (Damascus) and Israel (Samaria) invade Judah and kill thousands and capture carry off numbers of others as slaves.

            8-15: Here is a tale not told in 2 Kings. The Israelite army carries away thousands of the people of Judah as captives to Samaria. But there is strong opposition to keeping the captives, particularly from a prophet named Oded, but from some of the tribal chieftains as well. The captives are clothed and fed and taken back to Judah and left at Jericho.

            16-21: Judah is so weakened that the Edomites and Philistines also make successful forays into the land and carry off captives. Tiglath-pilneser, emperor of Assyria, threatens Judah as well, and Ahaz plunders the temple in order to get together enough of a bribe to pay him off. (This is completely different from the viewpoint in 2 Kings.)

            22-27: Ahaz figures that the gods Tiglath-pilneser worships are more powerful than the gods of Judah (the ones he’s been worshiping), so he brings in idols and statues and sets up altars all over the country to worship the gods of Damascus. He never figures out that his turning away from the LORD presents a crisis of leadership that is the cause of the decline of his nation. He is not given an honorable burial in the tombs of his predecessors. Do tell.

 

Day 396: 2 Chronicles 29

            1-2: Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, comes to the throne at the age of 25, and rules for 29 years. Finally, a king like David!

            4-11: His first order of business is to restore the worship of the LORD. He gathers the priests and Levites together and tells them that the reason Judah has been defeated, ransacked and carried away as captives by the Israelite, Arameans, Philistines and Edomites is because the people in charge of things defiled the temple and forsook the LORD. He therefore orders them to get to work restoring the temple and reinstituting the daily offices of worship.

            12-19: The Levites get to work. They gather up all the junk Ahaz had allowed to accumulate in the temple precincts and haul it to the public landfill in the Kidron valley outside the city. They carry out purification rituals for the temple for eight days, and report back to Hezekiah that all is restored.

            20-24: Hezekiah accompanies the priests to the temple and they make appropriate sin offerings for the whole nation.

            25-30: Hezekiah organizes the musicians and reinstitutes the practice of offering burnt offerings to the LORD. The burnt offerings are given as acknowledgments of God’s sovereignty and Israel’s servanthood. They have a great service of worship with music and songs. This is the first time in the Bible the use of the songs of David is mentioned with regards to public worship at the temple.

            31-36: Now the people bring their sacrifices of thanksgiving – hundreds of animals are slaughtered, so many that the priests can’t keep up with it. So the Levites take part in the ritual butchering of bulls and rams and lambs and sheep. (Priests are Levites, too, but are of that part of the tribe of Levi that is descended from Moses’ brother Aaron.) It is interesting that the judgment given by the chronicler is that the Levites are more conscientious in carrying out the rituals of sanctification than the priests, and that small detail may explain a lot about how Ahaz was able to corrupt the worship of Judah without significant opposition – the days of Jehoida have indeed passed!

            CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE COMPLETED 1/3 OF THE BIBLE.

Day 397: 2 Chronicles 30

            1-9: 1 and 2 Chronicles is the record of the reigns of the kings of Judah as recorded by the religious establishment, the priests. It is therefore deeply concerned with the ways in which the kings strengthened or weakened the religious life of the nation from the standpoint of faith in the LORD. Hezekiah undertakes sweeping reforms and thus his reign is given a lot of attention, more than any of the other kings except David, who was responsible for establishing the worship of the LORD as the central religion of the nation.

            The temple has been restored and purified and now Hezekiah calls for the people to observe the Passover. It should have been kept in the first month of the year but the reorganization of the priests has not yet been accomplished, so the king decrees that it be kept in the second month as a special observance to help turn the people back to the LORD. Couriers are sent throughout the nation and even into all of Israel as well. We might wonder if Hezekiah is using religious reform as a platform from which to attempt the reunification of Judah and Israel.

Curiously, the chronicler does not mention that Israel has been destroyed by the Assyrians and much of the population resettled elsewhere (see 2 Kings 17), because this has created a situation in which Hezekiah might well hope for the two nations to be joined together again. What better way to begin than to remind the people of their common heritage with the God of Abraham? The couriers even tell them that if they return to the worship of the LORD their children “will find compassion with their captors and return to this land.”

            10-12: The couriers are largely rejected throughout Israel, though, and only a handful of the folks up north answer the summons.

            13-22: Well, it isn’t a perfect Passover. They are keeping it on the 14th day of the second month instead of the 14th day of the first month. There aren’t enough priests consecrated to do the work of offering the sacrifices, so some of the Levites step in to do the priests’ part. (This elevation of the role of the Levites is an interesting side stage.) Some of the people have not properly cleansed themselves, mostly those northerners from the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Issachar and Zebulun who haven’t worshiped the LORD in so long they don’t even know how to do it right anymore. But it’s all okay, because Hezekiah, God bless him, prays for them and asks God to forgive their mistakes and accept their good intentions. Hezekiah also pats the Levites on the back and tells them what a good job they have done filling in for the priests who have been slack about keeping their credentials up to date. After the Passover they keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for 7 days.

            23-27: They are so caught up in the movement that they decide, in a rare show of consensus, to keep the festival for another week. Priests who have been lax in their duties are undergoing the purification rituals left and right. Hezekiah gives them another 1000 bulls and the VIPs give them another 1000 bulls to keep the party going. And the people are all of one mind and heart – folks from Judah and Israel, even foreigners who have settled in Judah and Israel, all feel like they are one big family again. They have never seen anything like it. Surely God must be pleased!

Day 398: 2 Chronicles 31

            1: After the double Festival of Unleavened Bread the people go on a rampage as they return to their cities and towns throughout Judah and Israel, destroying all the pagan idols and hilltop shrines.

            2-10: Hezekiah re-organizes the Department of Religion. He orders that the daily, weekly, monthly and festival burnt offerings be taken from the royal holdings. He commands the people to provide grain and meat for the priests and Levites so that they can dedicate themselves to studying and teaching the law. A wave of reform and religious fervor sweeps through the country and the people bring so much for the priests that piles of supplies accumulate in Jerusalem.

            11-19: Hezekiah continues his reforms by having store rooms added to the temple precincts, and organizing the priests and Levites into units to be in charge of each area of work. The priests and Levites are suddenly completely dedicated to their responsibilities. Dedication is a contagious virtue.

            20-21: Hezekiah is quite the guy. Under his leadership and authority informed by his faith, the whole country flourishes.

Day 399: 2 Chronicles 32

            1-8: The Assyrians, having conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, see an opportunity to extend their influence further south and move their armies down the coast along the western flank of Judah. Hezekiah and his military leaders prepare for an attack on Jerusalem. In the earlier account (2 Kings 18:13-19), Hezekiah sues for peace and strips the gold from the doors of the temple to pay a bribe to Sennacherib. The chronicler sees no reason to report this attempted capitulation, perhaps to preserve Hezekiah’s reputation as the great reformer. Hezekiah takes steps to keep fresh water inside the city and hide the sources of water outside so as to hamper the Assyrian army in its approach to Jerusalem. Then he undertakes to rebuild the portions of the city wall that had been destroyed years before during the reign of his great-great grandfather Amaziah (see 25:23).

            9-15: Sennacherib is in Lachish, some 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem – one of the old Philistine royal strongholds. He sends “his servants” to Jerusalem to demand their surrender. (In 2 Kings 18:17, the “servants” consist of the Tartan, the Rabsaris, the Rabshakeh – all Assyrian titles – along with an entire army.) Their message to the people of Jerusalem is that the other nations’ gods couldn’t save them, so don’t think for a minute your god can do any better.

            16-19: The Assyrians do a good job of weakening the morale of the people in the city, but they make the mistake of heaping ridicule on the God of Jerusalem.

            20-23: Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah (yes, that Isaiah) pray for the God of Jerusalem to come to their aid. (2 Kings 19:20-28 provides God’s reply.) A brief summary is given of what happens next. The Assyrian army, as they camp before the walls of Jerusalem, is stricken with a plague that decimates their ranks. Sennecharib withdraws and returns home where he is assassinated by two of his sons while he is worshiping his god (see 2 Kings 19:37). Other surrounding nations hear about the miraculous delivery of Jerusalem and clamor to bring gifts and become best friends with Hezekiah.

            24-26: Hezekiah is struck with an illness. He prays and recovers but is somehow not appreciative enough. (2 Kings 20:8-11 records the famous story of the sun dial reflecting the sun’s backward movement as a sign that God would allow him to recover.) The text is obscure at this point about some “wrath” that befalls him and Jerusalem, but again he prays and he and the city are spared destruction.

            27-31: Hezekiah prospers greatly in the latter years of his reign. He engages in building projects throughout the land. One of the most significant engineering feats of the ancient world is the tunnel that he has carved out of the rocks to divert the flow of springs outside the city walls of Jerusalem to a pool inside the walls. Officials from Babylon come to find out about the defeat of the Assyrian army (“the sign that had been done in the land”). The Babylonians, of course, will be the next great power in the region. In 2 Kings 20:16-19 Isaiah warns Hezekiah that these same Babylonians will be the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem one day.

            32-33: Hezekiah’s 29 years of rule finally ends and he is buried with honors in the tombs of the kings of Judah.

Day 400: 2 Chronicles 33:

            1-9: What goes around comes around. Hezekiah’s reforms are not complete, for there are many left in Judah who worship other things as gods. Hezekiah’s young son Manasseh, only 12 years old, assumes the throne and holds it for 55 years, longest of all the reigns of the kings of Judah. But he is not old enough when he comes to power to wield much authority. Apparently he comes under the influence of some of the very people his father spent a lifetime keeping out of power, and he reinstitutes every pagan religious ritual and rebuilds every shrine his father destroyed, and adds even more.

            10-13: The King of Assyria captures Manasseh and carries him off to Babylon. This is not recorded anywhere else in the Bible, and is a curious tale since Babylon is not the capital of the Assyrian empire. Ashurbanipal is the Assyrian emperor at the time, and has a reputation for leniency toward his conquered leaders, so the story is in keeping with other historical sources in that regard. The chronicler’s interest is in showing how, on the one hand, Manasseh’s sins result in his exile and, on the other hand, how his repentance results in his being returned. This will be Judah’s future, of course.

            14-17: Upon his return Manasseh undertakes reforms as had his father Hezekiah. They are not as sweeping, but significant still.

            17-20: Manasseh dies at the age of 67 and is buried “in his house.” A summary of his reign is given, focusing on the spiritual highlights of his apostasy and repentance.

            21-25: Amon succeeds his father Manasseh and is just as wicked as his father had been in the early years of his reign. His leadership is so bad that he is assassinated, only the second king of Judah to suffer such a fate. (The other was Joash – see 24:25.) Killing a descendant of David is not looked upon with favor in the land of Judah (it is much more common up in Israel), and his murderers are themselves put to death.

Day 401: 2 Chronicles 34

            1-7. Amon only reigns two years and dies at the age of 24, so he is only 16 when his son Josiah is born. Josiah, now 8 years old, becomes king of Judah. When he is 16, unlike his father he begins to “seek the God of his ancestor David;” I wish we were given more information on how this came about. 4 years later, when he is 20, he undertakes a rather violent and sweeping religious reform, destroying all the altars, idols and shrines dedicated to Baal and other pagan deities, grinding the idols to dust and scattering the dust over the graves of their worshipers (meaning, of course, that they have been put to death), and burning the bones of the priests of Baal on the altar of Baal prior to demolishing that altar. He carries his reform measures into Israel as well. Since the death of Sennacherib of Assyria the whole of Israel seems to have entered a time in which there is little foreign influence.

            8-13: Such is the nature of Josiah’s reforms that the people, even the folks up north in Israel, give generously (and perhaps under royal pressure) to the temple funds. The money is taken to the high priest Hilkiah who undertakes the needed repairs. Hilkiah organizes the Levites to oversee the rather extensive restoration.

            14-18: Hilkiah finds the book of the “law of the LORD” – the Torah – and gives it to Shaphan the secretary to give to the king. Shaphan reports on the repairs to Josiah, then says, “Hilkiah has given me this book,” and proceeds to read it to the king. (By the way, some scholars think Hilkiah may be the one who is responsible for the final form of the Torah. In other words, they think he didn’t just find the book; he pretty much wrote it based on records that were available to him.)

            19-21: When people in the Old Testament are deeply affected they tear their clothes to pieces. We don’t do that today because of notions of decency and such. King Josiah is deeply affected by the reading of the law. He orders Hilkiah and some other leaders to go to the LORD and find out what they are to do now that they know they have offended God by not keeping the law.

            22-28: We are perhaps surprised that 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. She tells them that Josiah will go to his grave in peace, but that part of her prophecy does not take place – see 35:23-24. They take this message back to the king.

            29-33: Josiah leads a procession of the priests, Levites and people to the temple where he reads to them the words of the book of the law. He rededicates himself to the LORD and the people do the same. Josiah’s reform is extended to the whole land of Israel, and for the remainder of his reign it almost seems that the land is reunited under Josiah and the LORD.

Day 402: 2 Chronicles 35

            1-6: Josiah’s father Amon had only reigned two years, but apparently does a lot in those two years to nullify many of the reforms instituted by his father Manasseh and his grandfather Hezekiah. Josiah summons the priests and instructs them to replace the ark in the temple of Solomon. In some unknown ritual change we are not told about, the ark has been carried around on their shoulders, probably to be regularly included in some processional ritual at the temple. Josiah orders that the Passover be observed on its proper day, the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish year. He also orders them to organize themselves according to the instructions of David and Solomon.

            7-9: The king, along with all his officials and the most prominent Levites, donates thousands of animals for the observance of the Passover

            10-15: The Levites again play a key role in keeping everything in proper order, and the Passover sacrifices are made.

            16-19: The observance of the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened bread is such as none of the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom now defunct, has ever kept, and the clear implication is that this is the reason that kingdom has failed and Judah still stands. Indeed, many people from Israel are taking part in it along with the people of Judah. Josiah is only 26 years old.

            20-27: A dozen years or so later war is raging between the major empires of the day. In 612 B.C. the Babylonians conquer the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh, forcing the Assyrians to move their capital to Harran. (Harran is the city of Abraham’s people.) Harran is captured in 610 B.C., and the capital is moved again, this time to Carchemish on the Euphrates River near what is now the southern border of Turkey. The Assyrians form an alliance with Egypt, and the deciding battle, one of the most famous in all history, is fought at Carchemish.

            However, before Pharaoh Neco II and his army can join forces with the Assyrians they are delayed by the army of Josiah who meets them in battle at Megiddo (later called Armageddon). Neco tries to dissuade Josiah from the battle, telling him that he has no designs on Josiah’s territory but is off to fight the Babylonians. Josiah, however, is determined to fight. Verse 22 says that Josiah “disguised himself” in order to fight with Neco, which recalls the battle years before in which Ahab of Israel did the same so that the Aramean leaders wouldn’t recognize him (see 18:29). However, in this case the text hints that Josiah’s disguise is a ruse to entice Neco to commit his army to a battle, and makes us wonder if perhaps he disguised himself in Babylonian garb.

            In any case, Josiah is mortally wounded at Megiddo and is carried back to Jerusalem where he dies of his wounds. He is buried along with the other kings of Judah. His is eulogized by no lesser personage than the prophet Jeremiah, who makes lamentations for the king. (Our book of Lamentations, however, makes no mention of Josiah and is therefore not the record referred to here. Jeremiah did prophesy during Josiah’s reign, and Jeremiah 26-27 contains a number of references to Josiah.)

And so ends the record and the rule of Judah’s last great king.

 

Day 403: 2 Chronicles 36

            1-4: Josiah’s son Jehoahaz is made king to succeed his father. Jehoahaz is not the oldest son, so some details of the succession have not been supplied. However, Pharaoh Neco has no intention of letting Judah recover, having shown themselves to be a problem for him. He deposes Jehoahaz and carries him in captivity to Egypt and makes his older brother Eliakim king in his place, changing his name to Jehoiakim as a way of exercising his authority over the country. Neco levies a tax on the people of Judah but it isn’t much of a tax, which tells us that the fortunes of Jerusalem and Judah have been in decline for some time.

            5-8: Jehoiakim manages to stay in power for 11 years under Egyptian authority. The judgment on his reign, that “he did what was evil” is largely due to foreign influences which he could not afford to ignore. But Egyptian influence in the region is waning and eventually the Babylonians begin to flex their muscles. Nebuchadnezzar takes Jehoiakim into custody and carries him away, the first of the exiles to Babylon. He is succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.

            9-10: Jehoiachin, however, is only 8 years old. Why he is placed on the throne is a puzzle, since he too has an older brother. And what the poor child did to earn the judgment, “he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD,” is unimaginable. In any case it only takes three months for Nebuchadnezzar to make a change. Jehoiachin is taken away to Babylon and his older brother Zedekiah is named king.

            11-14: Zedekiah is 21 years old and holds office for 11 years. Jeremiah warns him about the coming wrath of God (see Jeremiah 32, 34 and 37 in particular) but Zedekiah pays him no heed. He finally has the gall, or perhaps the stupidity, to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. He and his officials do seem to have a good time, though, desecrating the house of the LORD. That’s not a smart move, either.

            15-16: God is patient to the nth degree, sending messenger after messenger in an effort to draw his people back to his covenant. Finally, even God gives up.

            17-21: The chronicler describes the sacking and subjection of Jerusalem in cryptic terms. (See 2 Kings 25 for a more detailed and complete account.) The Babylonians allow no quarter to young or old, man or woman. The wealth of the temple and of the city is taken away. The temple is burned down along with the royal palaces. The city wall is broken down. The people that are left alive are taken into exile to Babylon and the city is left in ruin. 70 years, a Sabbath of years, will pass before God will allow a restoration. By then Babylon will be displaced by Persia.

            22-23: The chronicler jumps ahead those seventy years and ends his history with a summary of the decree of King Cyrus, the Persian general who conquers the Babylonian empire. He allows the Jews to return to their homeland (as well as other peoples the Babylonians have displaced) and rebuild their temple. That will be the subject of the next book of the Bible, Ezra.