II Kings 18: Judah perseveres

Hezekiah became king of Judah just six years before Israel was enslaved and exiled. Hezekiah brought back the old-time religion, outlawing the worship of all other gods and even tearing down the high places and Asherim that had quietly sprung up over the past 250 years, probably even longer. He even went so far as to destroy the Nehushtan, the fierce serpent designed by Moses. Perhaps it was his newfound fanaticism that encouraged him to pick fights with Philistia like David of old and to defy his Assyrian overlords–even though Assyria was busily consuming ancestral enemy and frenemy alike.

Eight years after the consumption of Israel, King Sennacherb’s forces were back in the Promised Land to feast on Judah. Hezekiah begged to be spared, promised to do anything required of his most honorable majesty, and would his magnificence would please accept this 11 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold as token of our submission?  Continue reading “II Kings 18: Judah perseveres”

II Kings 17: Israel in Exile

In the twelfth year of Ahaz’s reign in Judah, King Pekah of Israel was assassinated by Hoshea. I’m sure the crushing defeat by the Assyrians and Judeans had something to do with the unrest and coup. Anyway, Hoshea ruled Israel 9 years.

Hoshea finally made peace with Assyria by becoming a tribute kingdom, but then Hoshea threw in with King So of Egypt and paid him tribute instead. Unfortunately, the maneuver didn’t work–Assyrian forces decimated Israel for three years, eventually sacking Samaria and enslaving Hoshea and all the Israelites and selling them along the river Habor and Gozan and to the Halah and Medes.   Continue reading “II Kings 17: Israel in Exile”

II Kings 16

Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king of Judah, and he reigned 16 years. He was a polytheist who honored every god, holy place, and custom among his people. He even offered one of his surely numerous sons as a burnt sacrifice.

The major war in this reign was when the Syrian king Rezim made pact with Israelite king Pekah and together they besieged Jerusalem. They conquered some cities, but couldn’t defeat Judah because Ahaz made pact with King Tigleth-pilesar of Assyria and sent him tribute to entreat his aid for Judah. For good measure, Tigleth-pilesar also sacked Damascus and killed King Rezim.

While looting Damascus, King Ahaz saw this totally rad altar to some Syrian god–Dagon, Baal, El, doesn’t matter. This thing was killer with its cornices and bas relief. Ahaz had plans for it drawn up and sent to the high priest, Urich, with instructions to have one built up ASAP. Urich dutifully complied. Ahaz check it out when he got back into town, inspecting round and round. With a satisfied grunt, he snapped his fingers and ordered that all that beautiful gold and gilded  furniture and treasure be removed from that drab old Temple and placed around this, his new beautiful altar, and that from now upon it only all the daily ritual sacrifices would be offered. But still, the dank temple had its uses. For cleromancy, the priests would still use the bronze altar.

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah  became king.

II Kings 15: Game of thrones, the Divided Kingdom

Zechariah, the fourth generation of Jehu’s line, only reigned in Israel 6 months before Shallum murdered him and usurped the throne. Shallum only held the throne one month before Menahem murdered him and usurped the throne. Menahem was a brutal dude and not the sort to be murdered and usurped upon. He even sacked Israelite cities and murdered pregnant women by ripping open their bellies in his bid for power. Despite his penchant for violence, he avoided war with Assyria by levying a steep tax in the amount of 37.5 tons of silver, which he paid as tribute to the Assyrian king. He only lived ten years, however, and his son Pekahiah became king. He only ruled Israel 2 years before his general Pekah murdered him and usurped the throne. Pekah reigned 20 years; however he lost a lot of territory to King Tiglath-pilesar of Assyria. He, too, was murdered, by a follower named Hoshea, who then usurped the Israelite throne.

In Judah, things were a bit more stable. Azariah reigned 52 years. At some point, however, he was stricken with leprosy, so he had to live in isolation and confinement. His son Jothan acted as regent. Jothan became king of Judah in his own right during the second year of Pekah’s reign in Israel. Jothan ruled Israel 16 years, and his son Ahaz inherited the throne.

 

I’m out of town for a few days, so the exciting parade of kings will pick back up next week! 

II Kings 14

In Judah, Amaziah reigned 29 years. He executed his father’s murderers as soon as he consolidated his power. He also soundly defeated Edom in the Valley of Salt. Feeling confident, he sent a challenge of war to King Jehoash in Israel. Jehoash was all, Come on bro, let’s be friends. But Amaziah insisted, so they battled and Israel creamed Judah, sacked Jerusalem and destroyed a large section of the city’s wall.

Amaziah’s reign also came to a violent end, when he too was murdered by conspirators. His 16-year old son Azariah was crowned king.

In Israel, in the fifteenth year of Amaziah’s reign, Jehoash’s son Jeroboam inherited the throne. He successfully regained a lot of the territory lost to Syria. He reigned for 41 years and when he died, his son Zechariah became king.

II Kings 13: Elisha dies

Back in Israel, about twenty years later, Jehu’s son Jehoahaz inherited the throne. He was a good follower of God and God helped him fend off Hazael’s son, whom he named Ben-hadad after the man he murdered. Unfortunately his reign was short, and in seven years Jehoash was king.

In the meantime, Elisha fell sick and Johoash of Israel went to mourn at his sickbed. Elisha told him to shoot the arrow of victory and then to bang the quiver on the ground. Jehu only struck the ground three times, which disappointed Elisha because he said that would be the number of victories over Syria.

Then Elisha died and was buried. Later, when the grave was going to be reused, when the dead body was thrown on top of Elisha’s bones, it came back to life.

II Kings 12

Early in Joash’s reign, he ordered the Temple to be repaired, but after 23 years, nothing had been done. So he reformed Temple donations by having them place the money directly into a locked box, and the money to repair the Temple was collected in no time.

Joash also paid tribute to Hazael of Syria to keep him from raiding Jerusalem.

He reigned for 40 years and then two of his servants murdered him. His son Amaziah became king.

II Kings 11: Murderous grandmother

When Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw he was dead, she saw her chance to consolidate her own power and become queen. She murdered all of her grandkids as well as all of her late husband’s other male children–except for the infant Joash, whose sister Jehosheba smuggled him out of the palace and hid him in the home of the high priest Jehoida.

When Joash was 7, Jehoida conspired with all the soldiers. He had them guard the boy at the Temple and crowned him king. Then he had the soldiers kill Athaliah and all her followers. He also roused the people to rise up and destroy all the temples of Baal and murder Mattan, high priest of Baal.

II Kings 10: Jehu consolidates power

Ahab had 70 sons, so Jehu sent letters to their schoolmasters and butlers and guardians and ordered that they choose the most likely son to send against him to fight for claim to the kingdom. But the masters and guardians were all, Uh, we’d rather not. So Jehu sent another message saying, If you want to show your loyalty to me and save your own lives, send me the heads of Ahab’s sons. So they did, which Jehu took as a sign from God he was meant to be king.

Then Jehu issued a proclamation that he was going to hold a festival for Baal and that all the followers and priests of Baal needed to attend. When everybody was squeezed into the temple, he locked the doors and ordered his men to kill all inside. Then they burned the temple. God was pleased with Jehu’s initiative that It sent him a message that It would guarantee Jehu and his progeny would rule in Israel for at least four generations.

For the most part, times were peaceful, but unfortunately, King Hazael of Syria started capturing and conquering the edges of Israelite territory.

II Kings 9: Israel gets a new dynasty

Elisha sent one of the prophet trainees to Ramah to anoint a general named Jehu as king of Israel. The guy found Jehu in the officers’ tent and asked to speak to him privately. When the were alone, the prophet trainee dumped some oil on Jehu’s head and was all, God has decreed you to be the next king of Israel and that you will carry out Its curse on Ahab’s family, killing them all, as well as Jezebel! Then he ran away.

Bemused, Jehu went back into the officers’ tent. The other guys were all, what did that crazy dude want? At first Jehu was all, nothing, but they pressed him, so he was all, Well, he poured oil on my head and said I was king of Israel. The room got really quiet for a minute. Then as a body, the men rose to their feet and shouted, All hail King Jehu!  Continue reading “II Kings 9: Israel gets a new dynasty”