Bible Overview
Exodus and Conquest The Patriarchs The Beginnings Israel’s Exile A Divided Kingdom The Monarchy The Early Church The Story of Jesus The ‘Silent’ Years Judges and Ruth Israel’s Return Revelation

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. A fter 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. Another of his captains is Omri, whose 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. He then demonstrates by a sacrifice, first soaked with water then 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. (The anointing of Jehu was executed later by a prophet assigned by Elisha). 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 of Israel, an office he holds for around sixty years. It is thought that Obadiah might also have prophesied during Joram’s reign, but simply focusing on Edom. Jehu is anointed king of Israel by a prophet under Elisha’s instruction. 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. 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’s possibly around this time, during Jeroboam’s reign, that the prophet Jonah reluctantly warns the Ninevites to repent. Also in Jeroboam’s reign, after Jonah, Amos prophesies for over a period of eight years. Amos is followed by 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, who 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. Despite a good start, after only five years into his reign, Rehoboam and all Judah begin to disregard God’s laws. Consequently, God permits Shishak, king of Egypt, to invade Judah. They are later reproved and 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. Abijah succeeds Rehoboam and reigns for just three years, during which time there is a war with Jeroboam in which 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, removing all the idols and restoring dedicated things to the temple, although he fails to get rid of some of the other places where idols are worshipped. After a peaceful thirty six years, there is conflict with Baasha, now king of Israel, in which Asa relies on help from the king of Syria, provoking God’s wrath. He is reproved through the prophet Hanani, but reacts by imprisoning Hanani and oppressing 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. Asa’s son Jehoshaphat succeeds him and is a good king in Judah, bringing about a reformation and arranging for instruction for his people in God’s law. He later aligns himself with the ungodly Israelite king Ahab, at Ahab’s request, and goes into battle with him. For this he is reproved by a prophet and consequently increases his acts of reformation. Jehoshaphat later joins with Ahaziah, another wicked king of Israel, to build ships. He is again reproved by a prophet, his ships then become damaged and unusable. 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. At the age of thirty two, Jehoram 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. 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. 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. Ahaziah’s son, Joash, is a mere child. To save him from being slain, Ahaziah’s sister takes 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, but 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. However, Joash later slips into idolatry, encouraged by some idolatrous princes of Judah. God punishes Joash by allowing a small company of Syrians to come against Judah and Jerusalem, killing all the princes and taking spoil back to the king of Syria. Joash is left by the Syrians wounded and diseased, then his own servants conspire against him and he is killed in his bed. Joash reigned in Jerusalem for forty years and is buried in David’s city, but not in the king’s sepulchre. 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. Amaziah, son of Joash, 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. Over a period of time, his inappropriate dealings with Israel concerning conflicts, and his slipping into idolatry, leads to his demise and he is killed by his own people. Nevertheless, he is still buried with his fathers in the City of David. Amaziah’s son Azariah (Uzziah) 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. Azariah’s son 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. 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. He has conflicts with the kings of Syria and Israel and solicits help from the king of Assyria, payment for which includes treasures from the temple. At some time, 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. His idolatrous acts and calamities faced by Judah continue to his death, sixteen years after his reign began. Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, 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, bringing about a great reformation in Judah during his reign. With the accession to the Assyrian throne of Sennacherib, Hezekiah refuses to continue to pay tribute to the king of Assyria, leading to an invasion of Judah and Hezekiah paying him tribute, some of which has to be made up from silver and gold from the temple. Nevertheless, Sennacherib again invades Judah with one of Sennacherib’s generals urging 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 son Jehoahaz, although not the eldest, is anointed by the people as their king. After just three months, he is deposed by the returning 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 now 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 of Judah and renames him Zedekiah. He later rebels against Babylon resulting in 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 remaining people taken captive. And so Jerusalem falls and the exile of the Jews begins.