2 Kings 11–15: Murder & Intrigue

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 29: Tuesday

Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel. Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? They conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there. Then they brought him on horses and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David.”
2 Kings 14:17–20

Tuesday’s Bible reading is 2 Kings 11–15. As the history of Israel and Judah continues, Elisha dies in chapter 12, and the reign and succession of the kings is a grim story of murder and intrigue, and plots and counter-plots to gain power. These chapters cover over 100 years of history from 841 B.C., the beginning of the reign of Athaliah in Judah, a queen who murdered all of her grandchildren save one hidden by his aunt, to about  735 B.C., the beginning of the reign of Ahaz in Judah.1

The narration goes back and forth between Judah and Israel as kings come and go. The line of David continues in Judah, while the kings of Israel change from family to family through conspiracies and murder. In chapter 15, one king of Israel, Zechariah, is king for six months when Shallum conspires against him, kills him and becomes king (15:8–10). Shallum in turn is only king for a month when Menahem kills him and becomes king (15:13–14). Menahem does manage to live out his life without being killed and his son, Pekahiah, becomes king. Pekahiah, however, is killed by one of his officers, Pekah, who then becomes king.

Some kings of Judah do right in the sight of the Lord, but those times of revival and renewal are marred by the repetition of these words:

“Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
2 Kings 12:3

What were these high places? William Sanford LaSor writes:

“The ‘high place’ was a shrine in use in Canaan before the Israelites came into the land. Later the high places were used by the Israelites, often with opposition from the prophets.”2

Israel had been told to destroy them when they entered the land (cf. Deuteronomy 12:1–3), and to bring their offerings only to the place God chose:

“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.”
Deuteronomy 12:1–7

As you read these chapters you just about need a time line in one hand and a genealogy chart in the other hand to keep track of who is who—or a piece of paper to write down who becomes king and how.

This history can be overwhelming. Remember this is decades of time condensed into a few chapters. Gleason Archer writes about the purpose of this history in 1 and 2 Kings:

“The purpose of this record was to set forth those events which were important from the standpoint of God and His program of redemption. The author has no intention of glorifying Israel’s heroes out of nationalistic motives; hence he omitted even those passing achievements which would have assumed great importance in the eyes of a secular historian. His prime concern was to show how in the eyes of each successive ruler dealt with God in his covenant responsibilities.”3

As you read the history of the terrible evils of Israel and Judah, you can begin to comprehend the extent of God’s longsuffering and patience towards His people, and marvel that in His eventual judgment, He still preserves a remnant to whom the Messiah, Jesus Christ, will be born.

UPDATE: This is a chart I found this evening. I haven’t had time yet to check out all of the names but the person who put it together states that it is from 1 and 2 Kings. Click on the image to enlarge.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1, 2William Sanford LaSor, “1 and 2 Kings,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 356, 360; 326.
3Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 287.
Genealogy of the Kings of Israel and Judah, F. Duffy: Public Domain.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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