A Divided Kingdom
Now Rehoboam refuses to reduce the burden of taxes on the people. As a consequence, the northern tribes rebel and make Jeroboam their king. Rehoboam takes refuge in Jerusalem and fortifies several cities in the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin for his defence. Jeroboam creates a system of idolatrous worship which causes Levites, priests, and others seeking to worship God to go to Jerusalem. It is by this migration of peoples that the northern tribes are preserved.
The northern tribes are referred to collectively as Israel, and the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin as Judah.
The history of the northern kings of Israel
In the northern kingdom, most kings are sinful and succession by murder is not uncommon.
After twenty two years, Jeroboam is succeeded by his son Nadab who is sinful like his father. Nadab is killed by Baasha who reigns in his place and destroys the house of Jeroboam. He is then succeeded by his son Elah who reigns for two years before being killed by Zimri, one of his captains, who then reigns for only seven days. Omri’s supporters prevail and make him king, but Omri is worse than all the kings that preceded him. Omri is then succeeded by his son Ahab who reigns for twenty two years, but is more evil in God’s sight than all the Israeli kings before him.
It is during Ahab’s reign that Elijah arrives on the scene and prophesies to Ahab that it will not rain for three years. After surviving miraculously with little sustenance, first at the brook Cherith then at Zarephat with a widow and her son, and later restoring her son to life, Elijah returns to Ahab and demonstrates by a sacrifice burnt by fire from heaven, that Jehovah, not Baal, is the true God. In response to Elijah’s prayer, rain follows a few days later. Elijah is instructed by God to later anoint Hazael king over Syria, Jehu king over Israel and Elisha to be a prophet in his place.
For his ungodly acts, judgement is pronounced on Ahab, but after he humbles himself before God, judgement is deferred to his son’s days.
Ahaziah succeeds his father Ahab, is no better than him and dies from sickness after reigning for just two years. Joram also a son of Ahab, succeeds Ahaziah.
After Elijah is taken to heaven by God, his authority passes to Elisha, who had previously requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha prophesies from the reign of Joram. He performs significantly more miracles than Elijah (the ‘double portion’) but is different to him in that he mixes more with people, with most of his acts being those of healing. Elisha becomes known as the prophet in Israel, an office he holds for around sixty years.
Jehu is anointed king of Israel. He kills and destroys the whole house of Ahab and reigns over Israel from Samaria for twenty eight years.
Jehu is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz. He is a wicked king, bringing the wrath of God upon Israel through the oppression of the Syrians. Jehoahaz dies after reigning seventeen years.
Jehoahaz’s son Jehoash now reigns in Israel. He is another wicked king. During his reign he fights with Amaziah, king of Judah.
Jehoash visits Elisha on his deathbed and later defeats the Syrians three times as Elisha had prophesied to him. Jehoash reigns for sixteen years.
It’s possibly around this time that the prophet Jonah foretells the relief of the Israelites. Unwilling to follow God’s instruction to warn Nineveh of coming judgment, Jonah flees by ship to Tarshish. Being blamed for a tempest, Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale. After three days, the whale casts him out upon dry land. Jonah then concedes and warns the Ninevites; they repent, and are spared.
Jehoash is succeeded by his son Jeroboam, the second king to have that name. He is yet another evil king in God’s eyes. Nevertheless, God uses him to restore lands bordering Syria that had previously been taken by Israel’s enemies.
It is during Jeroboam II’s reign that Amos prophesies. Amos is contemporary with Hosea, but Hosea prophesies for around forty years. They both reprove the Israelites for their sins and foretell their approaching judgements.
Zechariah succeeds his father Jeroboam as king of Israel. He too is an ungodly king and only reigns for six months before Shallum, son of Jabesh, conspires against him, kills him and reigns in his place. Shallum only lasts a single month as king in Samaria as Menahem, the son of Gadi, comes to Samaria and kills him, then reigns in his place. There are people from his own city, and those nearby, that do not accept Menahem as king, so he deals harshly with them, including the barbaric slaughter of all pregnant women. Menahem reigns for ten years in Samaria before his death. His son Pekahiah succeeds him but he is another godless king and reigns just two years before one of his captains, Pekah, conspires against him, assassinates him and takes over the kingship. Pekah reigns over Israel for twenty years as another godless king. During his reign, the Assyrians invade much of Israel and take captive around half of the Israelites. Hoshea then conspires against Pekah, kills him, and reigns in his place.
Hoshea is the last king of Israel, not a God fearing man, but said to be not as bad as his predecessors. The king of Assyria rises against Hoshea, prevails and makes Hoshea his tributary. When Hoshea stops paying him taxes, the king of Assyria invades Israel and lays siege to Samaria for three years, imprisoning Hoshea. After three years, all the Israelites are taken captive and are resettled in various cities in Assyria and Medes, ending Hoshea’s nine year reign.
And so it is, after many years of idolatry from the first Jerobaom’s reign, God allows Israel to be taken away captive.
The southern kings of Judah
The southern kingdom had 20 kings covering around 370 years, but unlike the northern kingdom, there was only one dynasty: the Davidic line. The southern kings were not much better than the northern kings, however, there were some good kings who, from time to time, brought about a reformation. They were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Azariah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah, Josiah being the last and greatest reformer.
It is during Azariah’s reign that Isaiah begins to prophesy and continues through to Hezehiah’s reign; Micah is contemporary with Jotham; and Jeremiah prophesies from Josiah to Zedekiah
Josiah’s son Jehoahaz is not the eldest, but is anointed by the people as king. After just three months, he is deposed by the king of Egypt who makes Jehoiakim king and takes tribute from Judea. In the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem and Jehoiakim serves him for three years before rebelling. Troops are later sent to Judah and Jehoiakim is taken to Babylon along with other captives, including Daniel and his companions.
Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son, now reigns in his place, but after just three months and ten days Nebuchadnezzar again lays siege to Jerusalem and he is carried off to Babylon, along with all his household and its treasures, as well as treasures from the temple.
The king of Babylon now makes Mattaniah king and renames him Zedekiah. He rebels against Babylon resulting in a another siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which lasts for eighteen months and causes a great famine in the city. The city is overcome and Zedekiah and his household are captured and taken prisoner. Zedekiah is put in chains and thrown in prison where he stays for the rest of his life. The city is later burned, including the temple. All the temple furniture is taken, and the people taken captive in a total of three waves over a period of several years.
And so the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews begins.