Kings of Judah

[1Kings 12-2Kings 25; 2Chr 10-36]


[1Kings 12-14; 2Chr 10-12] It is a sad reflection of Rehoboam’s kingship that, despite it being just the northern kingdom that initially had an idolatrous system of worship, after only five years into his reign Rehoboam and all Judah begin to disregard God’s laws. In the fifth year of his reign, God permits Shishak, king of Egypt, to invade Judah, taking the fenced cities. God sends a prophet to tell Rehoboam and his princes the cause of the invasion, and they consequently humble themselves before God, but they are reduced to servitude and their riches taken by Shishak. Rehoboam reigns for seventeen years in Jerusalem but has continuous conflicts with Jeroboam. He dies at the age of fifty eight and is buried with David and Solomon.

Kings Abijam (Abijah) and Asa

[1 Kings 15:1-24; 2 Chr 13-16] [The name Abijam is primarily used in Kings and Abijah in Chronicles] Abijam succeeds Rehoboam and reigns for just three years. His character is more like that of his father than David. During his reign there is a war between Abijah and Jeroboam at the beginning of which Abijah warns the Israel army of there separation from God, reminding them of Judah’s faithfulness which would ensure their victory. In the meantime, Jereboam sends troops around to Abijah’s rear as an ambush but to no avail, as Abijah is successful and Jereboam is defeated. Asa succeeds Abijam and is of much better character with a heart towards God throughout his reign. He begins a process of reformation in Judah. An army of Ethiopians comes against him, but his trust in God gives him victory over them, after which he is encouraged by a prophet to continue with the work of reformation. He removes all the idols and restores dedicated things to the temple, although he fails to get rid of some of the other places where idols are worshipped. Peace follows until the thirty sixth year of Judah when Baasha, now king of Israel, takes Ramah and begins to build it as a fortification. Asa makes a league with the king of Syria to create a diversion in Israel, causing Baasha to leave off building. Asa’s reliance on Syria rather than God provokes God’s wrath, and he is reproved through the prophet Hanani. This angers Asa, and so he imprisons Hanani and oppresses some of the people. Three years on, Asa has heavily diseased feet and dies two years later. He is buried in a sepulchre he had made for himself in the city of David.

King Jehoshaphat

[1Kings 22:41-50; 2 Chr 17:1-20:37] Jehoshaphat has been a good king in Judah, walking in the ways of the Lord, bringing about a reformation of their religion and arranging for instruction for his people in God’s law. Neighbouring nations show him respect, his kingdom is fortified and his army strengthened. But when Jehoshaphat returns from a battle at Ramothgilead, he is reproved by a prophet for aligning himself with the ungodly Ahab. After this reproach, he increases his acts of reformation, appoints judges throughout Judah, and appoints priests and Levites in Jerusalem for the same purpose, charging them to perform their duties faithfully. Having been told of an army coming against Judah, consisting of Moabites, Ammonites and others, Jehoshaphat proclaims a fast throughout Judah and prays before his people for God’s deliverance. They are immediately assured of victory by a prophet, bringing about much worship and praise. God causes their enemies to destroy one another, and the people of Judah are able to recover much spoil. Jehoshaphat and his people return to Jerusalem to rejoice and praise God for delivering them. Jehoshaphat later joins with Ahaziah, a wicked king of Israel, to build ships, but is reproved by a prophet. The ships are damaged and not able to be used. Apart from the two episodes with Ahab and Ahaziah, Jehoshaphat has been a godly king who reigned for twenty five years in Jerusalem. He is buried with his fathers in the city of David, and is succeeded by his son Jehoram.

King Jehoram (Joram)

[2Kings 8:16-24; 2Chr 21] At the age of thirty two, Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son, begins an eight year reign over Judah. His wife is the daughter of Ahab, king of Israel, influencing him such that his reign is more like that of Ahab’s, being evil in God’s sight. He murders his brethren and some princes he thought might oppose him. But God does not bring punishment on Judah because of his promise to David. During his reign, the Edomites, who had been a tributary to Judah since the times of David, revolt and make a king for themselves. They are subdued by Jehoram, but he is distracted when the city of Libnah, a Levitical city, revolts against him because of his idolatrous practices. Jehoram receives a prophecy written by Elijah before his ascension, in which punishment for his idolatrous and ungodly ways in the form of a great plague is pronounced on him and his household, and the nature of his death is given. The Philistines and Arabians invade Judah taking all that is in the king’s house, including his wives and sons, except for Ahaziah, his youngest son. Jehoram’s bowels are then inflicted with an incurable disease for two years, from which he dies.

King Ahaziah

[2Kings 8:25-29; 2Chr 22:1-9] As Ahaziah is now the only remaining son of Jehoram, he is made king of Judah, but only reigns for one year, during which he is an idolatrous king, encouraged by his mother. He aligns himself with King Ahab and goes to war with Ahab’s son Joram against Hazael, king of Syria. During this war he is wounded. He seeks refuge but is later found and executed by Jehu.

Athaliah and Joash (Jehoash)

[2Kings 11-12; 2Chr 22:1-24:27] To save him from being0 slain, Ahaziah’s sister takes one of Ahaziah’s sons, Joash, and hides him for six years. Meanwhile, Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah reigns over Israel as a usurper (women were not permitted to rule). In the seventh year, Jehoiada the priest arranges for a guard to be put around Joash, now just seven years old, and anoints him king. When Athaliah becomes aware that Joash is made king, she claims it is treason, but the priest orders her execution. Now Joash is a good king, worshipping the only true God, ruling and walking according to the law of God with Jehoiada the priest instructing him. However, it is noted he did not remove the high places of worship that still exist outside the temple. Joash arranges for the temple to be repaired, funded by the people’s offerings. After the death of Jehoiada at the age of 130, princes of Judah, who had been secretly inclined to idolatry, make obeisance to Joash, who takes notice of them and also slips into idolatry. Jehoiada’s son Zechariah testifies against them but is killed by Joash. Following Zechariah’s death, a small company of Syrians come against Judah and Jerusalem and the princes of Judah, and all the princes are killed and the spoil taken to the king of Syria at Damascus. This was God’s means of Judgement over Joash who is left by the Syrians wounded and diseased. Joash’s own servants conspire against him and he is killed in his bed. Joash is buried in David’s city, but not in the king’s sepulchre. He had reigned in Jerusalem for forty years, the first twenty one or two years being contemporary with Jehu, king of Israel. Joel possibly prophesied during Joash’s reign, with the message for the people is to turn the nation back to God in preparation of the great day of the Lord.

King Amaziah

[2Kings 14:1-22; 2Chr 25] Amaziah, son of Joash king of Judah, is made king at the age of twenty five and reigns in Judah for twenty nine years. He is a good king who follows God’s laws, but his heart is not perfect. Amaziah slays his servants who had killed his father but, in accordance with Moses’ law, left their children unharmed. In preparation for war with the Edomites, he raises a large army from his own kingdom, to which he adds 100,000 hired out of Israel, but then sends them home on the advice of a prophet. Whilst Amaziah is at war with the Edomites, the Israelite army he sent home attacks some cities of Judah, killing three thousand and taking much spoil. From his war with the Edomites, Amaziah brings back some of the their gods amongst the spoil and begins to worship them, for which he is reproved by a prophet. He then sends a challenge to Joash, king of Israel, which is accepted and a battle follows in which Amaziah is defeated. Treasure is taken from the temple and the king’s house before Joash returns to Samaria with some hostages. Amaziah lives another fifteen years after the death of Joash of Israel, but he turns away from following God and is killed by his own people. Nevertheless, he is still buried with his fathers in the City of David.

King Uzziah (Azariah)

[2Kings 15:1-7; 2Chr 26] [The name Uzziah is used in Chronicles and Azariah is used in Kings] Azariah is made king of Judah at the age of sixteen. He grows to be a good king, seeking God and following his laws. He prospers and is successful in wars and in building projects, his name becoming known by surrounding nations. But his successes eventually leads to pride and he takes it upon himself to burn incense on the altar of incense in the temple, an act only permitted by priests. When he is challenged by a company of priests he defies them and is struck with leprosy, which stays with him until his death. Azariah reigns in Jerusalem for a total of fifty two years. It is during the last year of Uzziah’s (Azariah’s ) reign that Isaiah begins to prophesy and continues through to Hezehiah’s reign; Micah is contemporary with Isaiah; and Jeremiah prophesies from Josiah to Zedekiah.

King Jotham

[2Kings 15:32-38; 2Chr 27] It is in the second year of Pekah’s reign that Jotham begins his reign in Judah, at the age of twenty five. He is a God fearing king, yet still does not have the high places of worship outside the temple removed. He is responsible for much building work and defeats the Ammonites from whom he receives tribute for three years. Jotham reigns for sixteen years in Jerusalem and is buried with the other kings of Judah in the city of David.

King Ahaz

[2Kings 16; 2Chr 28] Jotham’s son Ahaz now begins to reign in Judah at the age of twenty. Unlike his father, he is not a God fearing man and follows Israel’s ways, even sacrificing his own son as the Canaanites did. Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah king of Israel rise against Ahaz at Jerusalem. They are not able to take the city, but Israel takes many captives from Judah, and Rezin recaptures Elath, driving the Jews out. Ahaz pays the king of Assyria to assist him against the kings of Syria and Israel, using his own funds and treasures from the temple. The king of Assyria goes against Damascus and Rezin is killed in the process . Ahaz goes to Damascus to meet with the king of Assyria where he sees an altar of an idol which he then has replicated in the temple. He also defaces and removes items from the temple. His idolatrous acts and calamities faced by Judah continue to his death, sixteen years after his reign began.

King Hezekiah

[2Kings 18-20; 2Chr 29-32; Isa 36-39] Hezekiah is the twelfth king of Judah, succeeding his apostate father Ahaz at the age of twenty five. He is to be a great and good king following the example of his great-grandfather Uzziah. His first act upon accession to the throne is to open the doors of the temple, to summon the priests and Levites to purge it, cleanse it and re-establish the sacrifices and ceremonies, of which the first are to be a splendid example. He abolishes idolatry and destroys the ‘brazen serpent’, said to have been the one used by Moses in the miraculous healing of the Israelites, because it had become an object of idolatrous worship. In all, a great reformation is brought about in Judah during his reign. On the death of Sargon and the accession to the Assyrian throne of his son Sennacherib, Hezekiah refuses to continue to pay tribute to the king of Assyria and enters into a league with Egypt. This leads to an invasion of Judah by Sennacherib who takes fortified cities and besieges Jerusalem. Hezekiah yields to Sennacherib’s demands and agrees to pay him three hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold, some of which has to be made up from silver and gold from the temple. Nevertheless, Sennacherib invades Judah for a second time in two years when Rabshakeh, one of Sennacherib’s generals, using blasphemous and insulting language, urges the Jews to revolt against their king. Hezekiah sends messages to Isaiah and prays to God for deliverance, a prayer that is answered when most of the Assyrian army (185,000 men) are destroyed by an angel in one night. Sennacherib flees to Nineveh with the remnant of his forces, where seventeen years later he is assassinated by his sons. Hezekiah falls sick and prays to God, who speaks to him through Isaiah, providing a means and miraculous sign of his recovering, and a promise of another fifteen years of life. The king of Babylon sends messengers to Hezekiah with a present and congratulations for his recovery. Hezekiah receives the message with joy, and in his vanity shows the messengers all his treasures. He is reproved by Isaiah and the fate of his people, their capture and exile in Babylon, is foretold and humbly accepted. Hezekiah reigns a total of twenty nine years before he dies and is buried with his fathers.

Kings Manasseh and Amon

[2Kings 21; 2Chr 33] Hezekiah’s son Manasseh succeeds him at the tender age of twelve years. He is heavily influenced by the nations around him and leads Judah into idolatry, to do more evil than the nations that were before them in Canaan. Nevertheless, God reaches out to Judah, but the people do not listen. Manasseh is captured by the Assyrians and imprisoned. His imprisonment causes him to reflect and he repents of his ways and is restored to Jerusalem. He begins to undo the evil he had brought upon Judah and encourages his people to return to worshipping God, but the reformation is incomplete. After a lengthy reign of fifty five years, Manasseh dies and is buried in his own garden. Manasseh’s son Amon succeeds him at the age of twenty two. He reigns for just two years, during which short time his idolatrous acts are like those of his father. He is assassinated by his servants, who in turn are killed by the people. Amon is buried in the garden where his father was buried.

King Josiah, Judah’s last and greatest reformer

[2Kings 22:1-23:30; 2Chr 34-35] Amon is succeeded by his son Josiah at the age of eight, but he does not seek God until eight years later when he devotes himself to Him and begins a campaign of exterminating the prevailing idolatry from Judah. At the age of twenty six, he begins to repair and restore the temple, which is by now in very poor condition. During this restoration, the book of the law is discovered and given to Josiah, who is alarmed by the things it contains and sends for the prophetess Huldah for her counsel. She tells of the destruction of Jerusalem to come, but assures him it will not be during his lifetime. Josiah then gathers his people and reads the book of the law to them, after which a renewal of the ancient covenant is made. Idolatry in all its forms is then systematically removed from Judah, including the final destruction of the ‘high places’. A great Passover is celebrated, after which Josiah continues with his work of cleansing Judah of idolatry. Back in 612 B.C. when the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, was overrun by the Medes, Scythians, Babylonians and their allies, the Assyrians moved their capital to Harran. When Harran was captured by the alliance in 609 BC, remnants of the Assyrian army joined Carchemish, a city under Egyptian rule, on the Euphrates. Egypt, a former vassal of Assyria, was allied with Assyrian King Ashur-uballit II and marched in 609 BC to join him at Carchemish. From there they would attempt to retake Harran from the Babylonians. Pharaoh Necho is passing through Judea with his army to go and assist Assyria in their attempt to retake Harran, when Josiah rashly decides to go into battle against him, despite a warning from Necho that God had told him to make haste. Josiah is fatally wounded and carried back to Jerusalem. Here he is mourned by all Judea and lamented for by Jeremiah. Josiah had reigned for a total of thirty one years, but his death from battle means that Judah will now become a vassal state. It was during Josiah’s reign that Jeremiah began to prophesy, and continued until Jerusalem’s fall in the reign of Zedekiah and some time after during the captivity. Zephaniah also prophesied at this time, but only during the early part of Josiah’s reign. Contemporary with Zephaniah was Nahum, whose sole subject was the coming destruction of Ninevah.

Josiah’s successors: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah

[2Kings 23:31-24:20; 2Chr 36:2-16] Jehoahaz, Josiah’s son, is not the eldest but is anointed by the people as king. However, after just three months, Pharaoh Necho returns from battle and deposes Jehoahaz, makes his brother Eliakim king renaming him Jehoiakim, and imposes a tribute on Judah. Jehoahaz is taken prisoner to Egypt where he later dies. Jehoiakim does not pay the tribute from his own money but taxes the people. After serving Nebuchadnezzar for three years, the Assyrians are totally destroyed at the battle of Cardichemish by an alliance led by the Babylonians. With the Babylonians now the dominant power, Jehoiakim changes his allegiance to them. Some time later, Jehoiakim changes his mind, provoking Nebuchadnezzar to besiege Jerusalem. Jehoiakim is taken to Babylon along with other captives and articles from the temple of the Lord. (It is at this time that Daniel and his companions are taken captive [Daniel 1:1-4] .) He reigns for eleven years doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. It was during Josiah’s reign that Jeremiah began to prophesy, and continued until Jerusalem’s fall in the reign of Zedekiah and some time after during the captivity. Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son, now reigns in his place at the age of eighteen, but his reign only lasts for three months and ten days before Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem and he is carried off to Babylon, along with all his household and its treasures, as well as treasures from the temple. He also takes ten thousand men into exile, leaving only the poorest people in the land. The prophet Ezekiel is included amongst those taken. Despite his short reign Jehoiachin was also said to have done all that was evil in the sight of the Lord. The king of Babylon now makes Mattaniah (Josiah’s third son and Jehoiachin’s uncle) king and renames him Zedekiah. Zedekiah is twenty one when he becomes king and reigns for eleven years in Jerusalem. He too does all that was evil in the sight of the Lord, despite having the prophet Jeremiah as his counsellor.

The fall of Jerusalem

[2Kings 25; 2Chr 36:17-23; Jer 52] Zedekiah rebels against Babylon resulting in a siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, lasting for eighteen months and causing a great famine in the city. The city is overcome and Zedekiah and his household try to escape, but are captured and taken prisoner. He is made to witness the killing of his sons then his eyes are gouged out. He is then 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 had been taken, and the people taken captive in a total of three waves over a period of several years. And so Jerusalem falls and the exile of the Jews begins. When Nebuchadnezzar is succeeded by Evilmerodach, Jehoiachin is released from prison and made king above the lesser kings in Babylon, a position he holds until his death.
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