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THE PHANTOM KINGS OF GOD'S REBELLIOUS PEOPLE
The Biblical author here crowds into this single chapter the events of seventy years, dismissing the long half-century reign of Azariah (Uzziah) in Judah with a mere seven verses and compressing the five reigns of phantom kings of Israel in the remaining space. It would be difficult any more emphatically to declare the relative unimportance of the kings mentioned here. "The lack of information given here is intentional to show how their despising the sacred covenant hastened the fall of Samaria, now in its final dissolution."
THE REIGN OF AZARIAH AND JOTHAM OVER JUDAH
"In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign. Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. And Jehovah smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house. And Jotham the king's son was over the household, judging the people of the land. Now the rest of the acts of Azariah (Uzziah), and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And Azariah slept with his fathers; and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead."
"Azariah ... reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem" (2 Kings 15:2). This king was frequently referred to as Uzziah. "Azariah was the throne name, and Uzziah was an adopted name." Martin expressed an opposite view, supposing that, "Azariah was his birth name and that Uzziah was his coronation name." The year of his death is mentioned in Isaiah 6 as the time of a special vision that was seen by Isaiah.
"The fifty-two years of this reign included 24 years as co-regent and 28 years as sole ruler." See our introduction for an explanation of the chronological difficulties and discrepancies here. For those who wish to date the reign of Uzziah, LaSor gave it as circa 790-740 B.C.
"Jehovah smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death" (2 Kings 15:5). The reason for this divine judgment against Uzziah is given in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21. It was due to his presumption in usurping religious functions that belonged to the priesthood of God's people, and not to the kings.
"(He) dwelt in a separate house" (2 Kings 15:5). Here again there is solid evidence of the existence of the Torah, or Pentateuch, long prior to the times when radical critics would like to date it. Leviticus 13:46 was honored as God's law by those who segregated the king in a separate building "without the camp." The rebellion of the king by his presumptive intrusion into the function of the priests shows that his life was not totally right with God.
Of course, critics are embarrassed by such evidence as this and quickly move to show their disapproval of the passage. "Whether this intrusion by Uzziah into the sacred duties of the priests was such a great sin in his time as the later priestly writers would have us believe is open to question." Indeed, such a suggestion is not true at all. The intrusion of a king into the sacred sphere reserved for the priests was a sin in Saul's day (1 Samuel 13:13), just as it was in the days of Uzziah.
"The rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did" (2 Kings 15:6). Actually, the achievements of this monarch were rather extensive; and a full chapter is given over to the relation of his deeds in 2 Chronicles 26. (For a discussion of these, see our commentary on 2Chronicles.)
"Azariah (Uzziah) slept with his fathers; and they buried him ... in the city of David; and Jotham his son reigned in his stead." (2 Kings 15:7). From 2 Chronicles 26:23, we learn that he was not buried in the same rock sepulchre which contained the bodies of the other kings, but in another part of the field. "This was quite consonant with the Jewish feelings with respect to the uncleanness of lepers."
THE END OF JEHU'S DYNASTY IN ZECHARIAH'S SIX-MONTH REIGN
"In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, as his fathers had done; he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and smote him before the people, and slew him, and reigned in his stead. Now the rest of the acts of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel. This was the word of Jehovah which he spake unto Jehu, saying, thy sons to the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel. And so it came to pass."
LaSor dated this brief reign in 753 B.C., only about thirty one years before the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. The most important thing about this man was the fact of his terminating the dynasty of Jehu as related in 2 Kings 15:12. This, of course, had been prophesied by the Lord in 2 Kings 10:30. His violent overthrow also fulfilled the prophecy given by Hosea in which God promised that, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu" (Hosea 1:4).
SHALLUM; THE SON OF A NOBODY; REIGNED FOR A MONTH
"Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the nine and thirtieth year of Uzziah king of Judah; and he reigned the space of a month in Samaria. And Menahem the son of Gadi went up from Tirzah, and came to Samaria, and smote Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria, and slew him, and reigned in his stead. Now the rest of the acts of Shallum, and his conspiracy which he made, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel. Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the borders thereof, from Tirzah: because they opened not to him, therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up."
"Menahem ... went up from Tirzah" (2 Kings 15:14). Tirzah once served as a capital of the Northern Kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 14:17). From Josephus, it appears that Menahem was commander of the army; and he took advantage of his power to destroy Shallum. Menahem was a brutal, vicious and unprincipled scoundrel who perpetrated an atrocious outrage upon the women of Tiphsah.
In the title we have given this section, Shallum is called "the son of a nobody," a title given to him, "In the Assyrian inscriptions, which means that he was a usurper."
"There is every indication that at this time Israel had almost totally collapsed as a nation. Four kings occupied the throne and two were murdered during the years 753-752 B.C. Jeroboam died, Zechariah and Shallum were both murdered, and during the alleged reign of Menahem, Pekah was also a rival claimant of the throne."
THE TEN-YEAR REIGN OF MENAHEM OVER ISRAEL
"In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel in Samaria. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. There came against the land Pul the king of Assyria; and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land. Now the rest of the acts of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Menahem slept with his fathers; and Pekahiah his son reigned in his stead."
It is clear enough from this record that Menahem was only nominally the king of Israel during a large part of his so-called ten-year reign. He was tributary to Pul the king of Assyria upon whom he depended to keep him in power.
"Pul and Tiglath-pileser are one and the same ruler, Tiglath-pileser being the title that Pul took when he became king of Babylon." This is the first appearance of Assyria as an aggressive opponent of God's people; but it was indeed a sinister note in the record. The four following chapters will unfold the full meaning of what is first mentioned here. There will be a series of aggressions against God's people, culminating in the removal of the Northern Israel from history, the destruction of its capital and the deportation of its population. Also there will appear before the gates of Jerusalem the threatening army of Sennacherib and the dramatic supernatural delivery of Judah.
The two things of importance in Menahem's reign are (1) his brutal atrocity against the pregnant women of Tiphsah, and (2) his becoming tributary to Tiglath-pileser. In this latter event, there appeared before the gates of Israel the great Assyrian power that would soon destroy the Northern Israel forever.
Regarding that brutal slaughter of the women, Montgomery wrote that, "Such savage cruelty was typical of those days of the Assyrian terror. It was expected of Hazael (2 Kings 8:12), perpetrated against Israel by Ammon (Amos 1:13), and was to be part of Israel's final tragedy (Hosea 14:1)."
"Of each man fifty shekels of silver" (2 Kings 15:20). "A talent of silver contained three thousand shekels; and a levy of fifty shekels each exacted from the wealthy indicates that 60,000 persons were required to meet the payment to Pul." LaSor estimated the actual value of such a tax as merely $25 each. This gives us an important insight into the size of the wealthy class who controlled most of the resources of Israel and who were so severely denounced by the great O.T. prophets: Isaiah, Hosea and Amos.
THE SHORT; UNDISTINGUISHED REIGN OF PEKAHIAH
"In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned two years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him, and smote him in Samaria, in the castle of the king's house, with Argob and Arieh; and with him were fifty men of the Gileadites: and he slew him, and reigned in his stead. Now the rest of the acts of Pekahiah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel."
"Pekahiah ... reigned two years" (2 Kings 15:23). "The sacred author knew nothing important to write concerning this evil ruler other than the circumstances of his death (2 Kings 15:25)." Josephus wrote concerning him that, "He followed the barbarity of his father, and so ruled but two years only, after which he was slain by his friends at a feast, by the treachery of one Pekah, the general of his horse, and the son of Remaliah who laid snares for him."
PEKAH'S EVIL REIGN OVER ISRAEL FOR TWENTY YEARS
"In the two and fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria. And Hoshea the son of Elath made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah. Now the rest of the acts of Pekah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel."
(See our comments in Isaiah 7:1-9 and in Isaiah 8:1-8 regarding the plot in which Pekah was ambitious to replace Ahaz king of Judah with a puppet who was favorable to Pekah's plans. The prophet Isaiah frustrated his efforts.)
The shameful condition of affairs in Israel are highlighted by the fact that a man like Pekah, without the advantage of having some dissident faction in the kingdom to aid him, but merely through his evil ambition to take the throne, was able to do so. How pitiful is the state of any nation when any ambitious freebooter may simply lay a plot, kill the king, and take over the kingdom!
During the evil reign of Pekah, the first deportation of citizens of the Northern kingdom to Assyria took place under Tiglath-pileser who took over all of the Trans-jordan territory of Israel as well as Galilee. With this tragic episode, the doom of Northern Israel was sealed.
Hammond reports the following from the Assyrian records of Tiglath-pileser:
"The goods of its (Israel's) people and their furniture I sent to Assyria. Pekah their king (I caused to be put to death?), and Hoshea I appointed to the kingdom over them; their tribute I received, and their treasures to Assyria I sent."
"And Hoshea the son of Elath made a conspiracy against him" (2 Kings 15:30). The Assyrian records just quoted shed light on that conspiracy which was no doubt initiated and supported by Tiglath-pileser. That, of course, accounts for its success.
THE REIGN OF JOTHAM; SON OF AZARIAH; KING OF JUDAH
"In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign. Five and twenty years was he when he began to reign; and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. And he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit, the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of Jehovah. Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? In those days Jehovah began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah. And Jotham slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Ahaz his son reigned in his stead."
One is aware of the chronological difficulties with some of the statements regarding all these kings; but, as LaSor said, "Jotham not only had twelve years of co-regency with Uzziah; but Ahaz also was co-regent with Jotham during Jotham's last four years." The purpose of the sacred writer in these chapters was that of outlining the final destruction of the "sinful kingdom" (Amos 9:8) of God's apostate chosen people; and, quite frankly, the exact length of the reign of "King X" or "King Y" actually has little or no importance whatever.
Evidently, the purpose of Pekah's campaign against Judah was to put a king in Jerusalem in place of Ahaz who would join Pekah in his alliance with Syria. See Isaiah 7:1-8. Of course, Syria aided Pekah in that vain endeavor.
In this chapter the stage was set for the final destruction of Samaria and the deportation of Northern Israel to Assyria; but also, there would be grave danger to Jerusalem and Judah. Only the providence of God spared the Southern Israel awhile longer. However, they would not give up their idolatry; so, after an extended day of grace reaching down to the times of Zedekiah, God executed the same punishment upon Judah and Jerusalem that befell Samaria and Northern Israel.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 15". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany