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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 15

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-7

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An era of prosperity (14:23-15:7)

During the long reigns of Jeroboam II in the north and Azariah (or Uzziah) in the south, Israel and Judah experienced political stability and economic development such as they had not known since the days of David and Solomon. This was possible partly because political conditions in the region were favourable to Israel and Judah.
Syria had been used by God to punish Israel for its sins in following Baal. With the death of Hazael, Syrian power declined and Israel regained lost territory (see 13:24-25). Events further favoured Israel when Assyria, the rising power in the region, became involved with enemies to its north and for forty years did not bother Israel and Judah.

Under these conditions Jeroboam II expanded his kingdom from Hamath in the north to the Dead Sea in the south, as foretold by the prophet Jonah. This gave him control over many trade routes, which further helped Israel’s economy. But religiously he was a failure, and the evils of his reign were condemned by the prophets Amos and Hosea (23-29; cf. Amos 1:1; Amos 7:10-11; Hosea 1:1; Hosea 7:1-3).

Azariah (or Uzziah) in Judah began his reign well, mainly because of the godly instruction that he received from his teacher Zechariah (15:1-3; 2 Chronicles 26:1-5). He spread his rule west to the Mediterranean Sea, east over Ammonite territory, and south as far as the Red Sea and Egypt. This gave him control over important land and sea trade routes (see 14:22; 2 Chronicles 26:6-8). He fortified the capital city Jerusalem, improved agricultural and pastoral conditions in every region of the country, built up the armed forces and equipped his troops with the most modern weapons (2 Chronicles 26:9-15). His big mistake was to think that he could become religious head of the nation as well. God punished him with leprosy, and his son Jotham acted as joint ruler till Uzziah’s death (4-7; 2 Chronicles 26:16-23).

Jonah and the Assyrians

Israel’s prosperity during the era produced within many Israelites, even the prophet Jonah, a selfish, nationalistic spirit. Jonah had already successfully predicted Jeroboam II’s victories over a number of enemies (see 14:25), and no doubt he would have liked to see the downfall of Assyria. The capital of Assyria, Nineveh, was already threatened by an enemy from the north. But God told Jonah to go and warn Nineveh of the coming attack, and urge the people to repent of their sins so that they might avoid destruction (Jonah 3:4-5,Jonah 3:10).

At first Jonah refused to go, for he preferred to see Nineveh overthrown. He had to learn that God was the controller of all nations, and he would have mercy on any who turned from their sins, regardless of nationality. This was of particular importance in the case of the Assyrians, for God was preserving them to be his instrument to punish Israel.

The fiery preaching of Amos

Two hundred years earlier, in the time of Solomon, a distinct merchant class had begun to appear in Israel (see notes on 1 Kings 9:26-29). During the time of Jeroboam II and Uzziah (the eighth century BC), the merchants grew into a powerful group. Society was no longer built around the simple agricultural life. As commerce and trade developed, so did city life. This brought with it greed and oppression, as the upper classes exploited the poorer classes. Bribery was widespread, the courts were corrupt, and the poor were left with no way of obtaining justice.

Amos was the first of several prophets to speak out against these evils. He was a shepherd-farmer who knew how the poor suffered, because he himself had to deal with ruthless merchants and corrupt officials in selling his produce. In his fiery preaching he condemned the greed and luxury of the rich. He knew they had gained their wealth by cheating and injustice (Amos 2:6-7; Amos 3:10,Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4-6; Amos 8:4-6). They still carried out their religious exercises, but these were worthless in God’s sight as long as the worshippers persisted in wrongdoing (Amos 5:21-24; Amos 8:10).

Most of Amos’s attacks were directed against the northern kingdom (Amos 2:6; Amos 4:1; Amos 6:1; Amos 7:10). The people, it seems, took little notice. Amos clearly saw what Israel’s upper classes failed to see, namely, that the nation was heading for a terrible judgment from God (Amos 3:12; Amos 6:14; Amos 7:11).

Hosea’s experiences

Despite Amos’s accusations and warnings, social conditions in Israel worsened. This is seen from the writings of Hosea, who began to preach late in the reigns of Jeroboam II and Uzziah, and continued through the reigns of succeeding kings (Hosea 1:1). Like Amos, Hosea was concerned chiefly with Israel, though he referred also to Judah.

Hosea saw that Israel’s society was corrupt because its religion was corrupt. The priests were as bad as the merchants and officials. Baal worship, complete with its fertility rites and prostitution, was widely practised. Israel did not know the character of Yahweh (Hosea 4:1-6,17-19; 5:4,15; 6:6-10; 7:2-4; 9:15; 13:16; cf. Amos 2:7-8).

Since Israel’s covenant bond with Yahweh was likened to the marriage bond, Israel’s association with other gods was really spiritual adultery. Hosea began to understand what this meant to God when his own wife left him for other lovers. But her pleasures did not last and she was sold as a slave. All this time Hosea remained faithful to his marriage covenant, and when he found his wife a slave, he bought her back. It was a picture of the covenant love of God for his unfaithful people. They too would go into captivity, but after cleansing from the filth of their adulterous association with the Canaanite gods, God would bring them back to live in their land again (Hosea 2:5-10; Hosea 3:1-5).

Verses 8-26

Chaos in Israel (15:8-26)

The long and prosperous reign of Jeroboam II brought political as well as social and religious troubles. When Jeroboam died, Israel entered a time of political chaos, as ambitious men fought to seize power. The nation lost its stability, and Assyria soon began to show interest in adding Israel to its rapidly expanding empire.

Jehu’s dynasty, which began bloodily, ended bloodily when its fifth king was murdered after a reign of only six months (8-12; cf. 10:30; Hosea 1:4; Amos 7:9). The assassin, Shallum, reigned only one month before he was murdered by Menahem, who then seized the throne (13-16). Menahem survived ten years, but only by buying the protection of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (also known as Pul). This policy damaged Israel’s economy, weakened its independence and opened the way for eventual conquest by Assyria (17-22).

Israel’s army commander Pekah was opposed to this pro-Assyrian policy. After Menahem died and was succeeded by his son Pekahiah, Pekah murdered Pekahiah and made himself king (23-26). The plots, assassinations and repeated changes in foreign policy were condemned by God’s prophets (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:3,Hosea 7:7,Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:4; Hosea 10:3-4; Hosea 12:1).

Isaiah and Ahaz

Meanwhile Tiglath-pileser III was working towards a complete military conquest of Israel. (The prophets had already predicted such a conquest; see Hosea 10:5-8; Amos 7:17.) Realizing this, the Syrian king Rezin and the Israelite king Pekah formed a defence alliance to resist Assyria. They tried to persuade Judah’s king Jotham and the succeeding king Ahaz to join them, but the kings of Judah refused. Rezin and Pekah then attacked Ahaz, with the aim of conquering Judah, putting their own king on the throne, then forcing Judah to join their anti-Assyrian alliance (see 15:37; 16:5; Isaiah 7:1-2,Isaiah 7:6).

As the Israel-Syrian invasion force approached, Ahaz panicked. But one man among his advisers, the prophet Isaiah, remained calm and urged the king to trust in God. Isaiah assured Ahaz that he need not fear, for Israel-Syria would not defeat Judah, but would themselves be conquered by Assyria. Ahaz had only to trust in God (Isaiah 7:2-9; Isaiah 8:4). However, Ahaz neither trusted in God nor believed Isaiah. Instead he asked Assyria to come and help him. Isaiah warned that this was foolish, for it would put Judah under Assyria’s control (Isaiah 8:5-8). Again Ahaz ignored the advice (see 16:7-8).

Assyria then attacked Syria and Israel. Assyria’s policy was to carry off the people of a conquered country into other countries of the Assyrian Empire (to prevent rebellion breaking out in the conquered territory) and replace them with settlers from elsewhere. Therefore, when Tiglath-pileser conquered Syria, he transported the people into captivity in Assyria (732 BC). This brought the kingdom of Syria to an end, as foretold by God’s prophets (see 16:9; Isaiah 17:1; Amos 1:4-5). Tiglath-pileser attacked Israel also, overrunning its eastern and northern territory and taking the inhabitants into captivity (see 15:29). This was the beginning of the end for Israel.

Verses 27-38

Judah’s decline under Ahaz (15:27-16:20)

The writer of Kings records the Assyrian attack mentioned above. Pekah’s policy had proved fatal and he was assassinated by Hoshea, a sympathizer with Assyria. Hoshea then became king and won temporary relief for Israel by submitting to Assyria’s control (27-31).

Before speaking further of Hoshea, the writer returns to the time before Pekah was assassinated. Pekah’s program for the conquest of Judah had begun during the reign of Jotham, but reached its climax in the reign of Jotham’s successor Ahaz. The aggression of Israel-Syria and the constant threat from Assyria prompted Jotham to build defence fortifications throughout Judah. He also made his borders secure by taking control of neighbouring Ammon (32-38; 2 Chronicles 27:3-6).

Because of his lack of faith in God, Ahaz had a disastrous reign. Apart from the damage he did to Judah by following other gods, he almost ruined the nation’s economy by his policies in the war with Israel and Syria. Buying Assyrian aid did not save him from heavy losses in the war, and he would have suffered even more had not Israel released the war prisoners taken from Judah. His weakened country suffered further at the hands of invading Edomites from the south and Philistines from the west. He also lost the Red Sea port of Elath (Ezion-geber) (16:1-9; 2 Chronicles 28:5-18).

Earlier, after losing a battle with Syria, Ahaz had turned from Yahweh to worship the ‘victorious’ Syrian gods. He closed the temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem and built altars to foreign gods throughout Judah (2 Chronicles 28:22-25). But Assyria, acting on Ahaz’s request, had now conquered Syria (see v. 9) and established its religion and its administration in Damascus. Ahaz now replaced the Syrians’ religion with the Assyrians’, and built a copy of their altar in Jerusalem (10-16). Ahaz’s hiring of Assyria was so costly that he removed valuable metal from the temple to pay Tiglath-pileser (17-20). (It was after this conquest of Syria that Tiglath-pileser overran eastern and northern Israel; see 15:29.)

The importance of Isaiah

There was great variety in the kinds of people God chose to be his prophets. Whereas Amos was a poor farmer, Isaiah was a person of high social standing, an adviser to the king who was able to influence national policy. His ministry had begun long before the time of Ahaz. It began in the year of Uzziah’s death and continued through the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 6:1). The traditional belief is that he was executed during the reign of the wicked Manasseh by being sawn in two (cf. 21:1-2,16; Hebrews 11:37).

In the early part of the book of Isaiah, the prophet records his attempts to persuade Ahaz to trust in God, not in Assyria, to save Judah from the Israel-Syrian invasion. In the next part of the book he records his attempts to control the zeal of the good king Hezekiah, who was rather too keen to rely on help from Egypt in revolting against Assyria (see notes on 18:1-20:21). Isaiah shows that all these nations, and others as well, were under God’s judgment. Judah too would be punished for its sin, and its people taken into captivity.
The final section of the book of Isaiah shows that God would not cast off his people for ever. He would preserve that minority of people who had always remained faithful to him, and through them he would rebuild the nation. God’s people would return to their land and enjoy peace and prosperity once more. The Messiah-king would come, and his kingdom would spread to all nations.

Micah accuses the rich landowners

No doubt one man who cooperated with Isaiah was Micah, who prophesied during the same period of Judah’s history (Isaiah 1:1; Micah 1:1). While Isaiah was using his influence at Jerusalem’s royal court, Micah was coming to the aid of the small farmers. (He came from a farming village and was probably a farmer himself; Micah 1:1,Micah 1:14.) As Amos and Hosea had done before him, he condemned the injustice, greed and false religion that were widespread in Judah, especially among the upper class people of Jerusalem (Micah 3:1-3,Micah 3:9-11; Micah 6:9-12; Micah 7:3).

Micah was particularly concerned at how the rich ruthlessly gained possession of the land of the small farmers. They lent money to the farmers at high interest, then, when the farmers found it impossible to pay their debts, seized the farmers’ houses and land as payment (Micah 2:1-3,Micah 2:9). The farmers then were required to rent their land from their new masters, which increased their burden even more. The state of affairs showed no thought for the rights of others, no understanding of true religion, and no knowledge of the character of God. It was a sure indication that Judah was heading for judgment (Micah 3:12; Micah 6:16).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 15". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/2-kings-15.html. 2005.
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