Kings of Israel and Judah

Discovery for Teachers

Kings of Israel and Judah

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
2 Kings 8:16 through 17:41

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. But the Lord your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” (2 Kings 17:38-39)

BACKGROUND

These chapters in the Book of 2 Kings cover a span of about 135 years (approximately 850 B.C. to 715 B.C.). The nation of Israel had been divided around 931 B.C. into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah), and the narrative moves back and forth between the history of these two fragmented nations, recording the kings of both.

A total of twenty-one rulers are mentioned in these chapters: twelve kings of Israel and nine of Judah. Along with listing some of the exploits of the kings, an assessment of their devotion to God is given. They were described as righteous kings (in terms of religious leadership or reforms), evil kings (either as political or religious leaders), and kings who were overthrown or assassinated. The designation of “righteous” or “evil” was very important, for as the king went, so did the nation.

This was a tumultuous time for the divided kingdom, with many political conspiracies taking place. Yet, even in a time laced with violence, chaos, and selfish ambitions, the Lord was faithful to His people. He providentially raised up individuals to accomplish His purpose, while reminding the people that His promises to them were still valid if they would only choose to follow His statutes.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. After co-reigning for a number of years with his father Jehoshaphat, Jehoram assumed full leadership of the nation of Judah when his father died. Who was Jehoram’s wife? What affect did her background have upon Jehoram, and thus upon the nation? 2 Kings 8:18

    Jehoram’s wife was daughter of the wicked King Ahab of Israel; her name was Athaliah. Likely King Jehoshaphat had negotiated this marital alliance for the sake of peace with Israel. Jehoram was affected by his wife’s idolatrous background, for verse 18 says, “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab.” It was at this time that the worship of Baal was instituted in Judah, which began the Southern Kingdom’s decline into idolatry. As a supplemental resource, you may wish to direct your students to 2 Chronicles 21:4 and 13, which reveal that Jehoram murdered his brothers and some of the princes of Judah, and led the people of Judah and Jerusalem into unfaithfulness.

    The point should be made that those with whom we choose to closely associate have a great influence upon our behavior.

  2. In 2 Kings 9:30-37, we find the fulfillment of a prophecy that was given to Elijah twenty years earlier (1 Kings 21:17-24) when Jezebel had Naboth the Jezreelite murdered so that Ahab could acquire his vineyard for a garden. Name at least one spiritual truth that can be derived from this account.

    Class discussion could bring out any number of important Biblical truths. For example, it could be noted that God’s Word will always be fulfilled. The death of Jezebel occurred exactly as had been prophesied, ending with the bloody account of her being eaten by dogs.

    Another spiritual truth portrayed here is that eventually sin will be judged. Though in this case it took many years for justice to be completed, it did occur, just as it had been foretold
    .
  3. In chapter 10, Jehu was commended for his obedience to God in destroying the worship of Baal in Israel (see verses 28, 30). However, in spite of his apparent zeal to wipe out the worship of Baal, he allowed the Israelites to continue the worship of the golden calves in the cities of Bethel and Dan. How does verse 31 describe his spiritual condition?

    This verse tells us that Jehu “took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart.” Some commentators suggest that Jehu’s allowance of the worship of the golden calves in Bethel and Dan may have been based on political expediency. If Jehu had destroyed the golden calves, the people would have traveled to the Southern Kingdom to worship God in Jerusalem. The point is, while Jehu did much of what the Lord commanded as God’s instrument of justice, he did not make a wholehearted commitment of obedience and faithfulness to God.

    As a follow-up question, ask your class: What evidence might we expect to see today in the lives of those who are wholeheartedly dedicated to God?

  4. Jehoram’s son Ahaziah succeeded his father on the throne of Judah, but he was soon killed by Jehu, king of Israel. Ahaziah’s son Joash, the next true heir to the throne, was then hidden for his safety as Jehoram’s wife Athaliah attempted to destroy all the royal seed so she could usurp the government and rule Judah. At the age of seven, Joash was brought out of hiding and placed on the throne. Given his young age, to what can we attribute his commitment to God? 2 Kings 11:4, 17-18

    The fact that Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord must be largely attributed to the influence of the priest Jehoiada. Because of Joash’s young age when he assumed the throne, he needed guidance in order to make wise decisions in civil matters as well as spiritual. The priest would have been the one to help the young king, and he began his positive influence by making a covenant with the people of allegiance to the king and to the Lord.

    How important it is to have guidance of godly people in our lives! Discuss with your class the value of correct guidance when we are young. Perhaps some of your students could share an incident of spiritual nurturing they had in their lives. If your class consists of older adults, you may wish to point out the importance of treating those under our influence with greatest care and with thought of the future.

  5. In chapter 13, the focus again is on the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Lord delivered the people of Israel into the hand of the Syrians because of their wickedness. When King Jehoash (also referred to as Joash, but not to be confused with the good King Joash who ruled in Judah at the same time) sought advice from Elisha the prophet, what did Elisha tell him to do? What was Elisha’s reaction to the manner in which Jehoash followed through? 2 Kings 13:14-19

    Elisha instructed Joash to open a window eastward, toward the area where Syria occupied land belonging to Israel, and to shoot an arrow. It was a sign of war to shoot an arrow toward or into the enemy’s country. Elisha’s placing his hands upon the king’s hands was an indication of direction from God.

    Elisha then instructed the king to take the arrows and smite them on the ground. Verse 18 says, “And he smote thrice, and stayed.” Elisha was angry because he stopped so soon, and told him that had he smitten five or six times, it would have indicated a full victory over Syria. His half-hearted response meant he would have only three victories over the Syrians. We are not told that Joash was instructed to smite a particular number of times, but it seems that he was aware of the importance of his action.

    The point should be made that if we want to receive God’s full blessing upon our lives, we must obey God’s commands fully and wholeheartedly.

  6. Chapters 14-17 of 2 Kings provide a list and an assessment of a number of kings of Israel and Judah. Some of them did right, but most of them did evil before God. It was noted in the lesson introduction that as the king went, so went the nation. How is this fact significant to us?

    The concept of our influence on others is a reality, even though we may not be in a position of political importance. Most of us probably assume that our impact on others is fairly insignificant. However, our actions can certainly influence others to model after our behavior. And our attitude alone can strongly impact someone else’s outlook. We are ultimately responsible for our own actions, but our choices will always affect someone else.
  7. Because of the sin of the Israelites, the Lord allowed them to be taken captive by the Assyrians. What specific sins are mentioned in 2 Kings 17:7-12? In what way did God show mercy to the Israelites, and what was their reaction? 2 Kings 17:13-17

    The people of Israel walked in the statutes (customs or manners) of the nations they had initially cast out of Canaan (verse 8). They secretly did wrong before God “from the tower of the watchmen, to the fenced city,” meaning it was universal (verse 9). They built places for idol worship that included licentious activity (verses 9-12). They rejected God’s statutes, testimonies, and promises, but sought out heathen practices, worshiped images, Baal, stars, and planets (verses 15-16). They committed child sacrifice, and engaged in sorceries and witchcraft (verse 17).

    In spite of this list of transgressions, the Lord repeatedly called the Israelites, warning them in every generation by prophets, and reminding them of His love and care for them (verses 12-14).“They would not hear” must be one of the most grievous statements in all Scripture. They brought tragic consequences upon themselves, because of their determination to ignore God and follow their own ways.

  8. What spiritual lessons stand out to you as you review these chapters?

    Class discussion may bring out several lessons that we can learn through these chapters. Some thoughts to cover are: 1) We can please God if we want to, regardless of surroundings. 2) Our lives affect others on a daily basis. 3) Sin will not go unpunished. 4) We serve a merciful God, who offers us every opportunity to come to Him in repentance. 5) It will all come down to one thing when we stand before God: did we listen and obey, or reserve admiration and worship for other things?

CONCLUSION

Although human acts may not reap immediate retribution, these chapters in 2 Kings clearly point out that whatever a man sows, he will also reap. God is merciful, but divine justice will ultimately be satisfied. As we study these Scriptures, may we learn from Israel’s hard lessons!