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In this chapter, the author lets the history of seven kings pass us by at a rapid pace: beginning and ending with a king of Judah – Azariah at the beginning, 2Kgs 15:1-7, and Jotham at the end, 2Kgs 15:32-38 – and five kings of Israel in between (2Kgs 15:8-31).
Azariah King of Judah
The reign of Azariah is described in the usual terms, with the exception of 2Kgs 15:5. Azariah ruled for a long time. That indicates a certain stability in Judah. This contrasts sharply with the disorder prevailing in Israel. The five kings mentioned below succeeded each other during his reign.
The spiritual level of Azariah was like that of his father but not like that of David. Also during his life, people still brought their sacrifices to the high places. Only when Hezekiah ruled were these high places removed.
Azariah had also become unfaithful after a good start. How difficult it is to remain faithful while having a lot of power and good deeds. When he was mighty, he became proud (2Chr 26:17-21). He forgot that he owed his power to the LORD. He raised himself to a position that the LORD had not given him. He wanted to sacrifice, something he was not allowed. When he was warned, he became angry. Then he was smitten with leprosy. Azariah then had to live apart from people. That was his destiny until the day of his death. His son was in charge of the royal house.
Leprosy is a picture of sin breaking out. We also saw this with Miriam (Num 12:10) and Gehazi (2Kgs 5:27). Suddenly, others see sin revealing itself in a believer. Primal sin is pride, the sin of Satan (1Tim 3:6b) and of Adam, who both wanted to be like God. This sin is in the heart of each of us. We must remember that we are not too good for sinning (cf. Gal 6:1). We need to question ourselves about how we react when others address us.
Zechariah King Over Israel
After the death of Jeroboam II his son Zechariah became king of Israel. He was the last king of the house of Jehu. Then the reign of the house of Jehu is over. The last king ruled only six months. Yet it was long enough to reveal himself as a king who had not departed from the sins of the first king of Israel.
His reign was so short because he was murdered after only six months. After this the kings follow each other regularly because each reigning king is murdered by his successor. The prophet Hosea spoke about it. Hosea began to prophesy in the days of Jeroboam II (Hos 1:1). In the first chapter of his prophecy the LORD spoke of punishing the house of Jehu for the bloodshed (Hos 1:4). That time had come.
That the kings succeeded each other by killing the ruling king, says Hosea sharply: “bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hos 4:2). This seems to indicate that from Hosea chapter 4 onwards, he describes the situation as it started with Shallum. The statement “they have set up kings, but not by Me; they have appointed princes, but I did not know [it]” (Hos 8:4a) seems to confirm this. They appointed kings, but without the LORD.
That Shallum, by the murder of Zechariah, fulfilled the word of the LORD (2Kgs 10:30; Amos 7:9), did not diminish his own responsibility. Here again we see the two sides: the side of man’s responsibility and the side of God’s counsel. Shallum could have said with a pious appeal to what God had said, that he had done the will of God. But it was not like that. He had acted out of his own will and must bear the punishment for his sin.
At the same time God had fulfilled His counsel through this action. The last part of 2Kgs 15:12 emphasizes that: “And so it was.” It happened exactly as the LORD said and not otherwise. In Hebrew they are the same words as those used in Genesis 1, always after God had spoken, and in that passage translated “and it was so” (Gen 1:7; 9; 11; 15; 24; 31).
Shallum King Over Israel
Shallum had not been in power for long, only one month. His reign was so short that he was unable to lead the people. As the only king of the five mentioned here, his name does not include the refrain that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. When he had ruled for a one month, he was murdered by Menahem, after which Menahem himself sat on the throne.
What an anti-testimony the people present here of the LORD. As people they should have witnessed the great goodness of the LORD. Instead, they slaughter each other. It is a warning to us that we must be careful not to live dishonorably with other members of God’s people, wherever they may be.
A special atrocity is mentioned of Menahem. Because a gate had not been opened for him, he was severely offended in his pride. He was king! How dare they shut him out instead of receiving him as king with all the honor that a king is worth! He made them pay for that with extra-ordinary cruelty. He cut open the belly of all pregnant women. Menahem lacked all respect for life. This atrocity was committed here by someone who belonged to God’s people (2Kgs 8:12; Hos 14:1; Amos 1:13).
The barbaric cruelty he committed and the lack of respect for life he showed are today found in cultivated form in the abortion clinics.
Menahem King Over Israel
Menahem, who came to power by murder, was king over Israel for a period of ten years. During his reign, “Pul, king of Assyria” came against him. This is the first time we read of the king of Assyria in the Bible. Menahem prevented a confrontation by paying a large sum of money. He took that money away from a number of wealthy people. It is quite probable that these people became so wealthy in the time of economic prosperity under Jeroboam II. Here, however, they were obliged to cede a considerable part of their fortune to Menahem.
Here we see how relative wealth is. Today we are also reminded of this when we see how banks can no longer meet their obligations. Then all the savings suddenly disappear.
But Menahem did not only buy off an attack by Pul with this money. He gave so much money that he could negotiate an extra advantage. That extra advantage was getting Pul on his side. The king of Assyria was bought over as an ally, someone who would support him when facing an enemy. He sought support from someone who first had sought his downfall and in essence still did. How can anyone be so blind to the real nature of a sworn enemy? This is only possible if there is no trust in the LORD.
Remarkably enough Menahem dies a natural death. He was not killed by the next one who wanted to be king, but is succeeded by his son Pekahiah. Pekahiah was murdered again.
Pekahiah King Over Israel
Pekahiah reigned two years. That relatively short period was long enough to make the refrain sound over the whole of his reign that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. He is succeeded by the man who, by killing him, put an end to his reign. That man was Pekah, his officer.
Pekah was helped in his murder of Pekahiah by the Gileadites, a people who live on the wilderness side of the Jordan. This may be an indication that political interests played a role in the murder of this king – as may be the case with other murders of kings. We also saw these political interests when kings requested the support of neighboring peoples, sometimes of Assyria and sometimes of Egypt.
The formation of cliques within the present people of God, the church, is unfortunately also now not a strange phenomenon (1Cor 1:11-12). Cliques always bring division and dissatisfaction.
Pekah King Over Israel
Pekah was in power for a longer period of time. He reigned over Israel for twenty years, doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD, like all the kings of Israel. In his days, Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, came against Israel and conquered a number of cities and territories. He took their inhabitants to Assyria. Thus he broke their power. He took “Gilead” away, the part of Israel on the wilderness side of the Jordan, the area of the two and a half tribes, and “Galilee, all the land of Naphtali”, that is the whole north of Israel; nothing remained of it.
Pekah not only lost a lot of territory and subjects but also his life. He was murdered by Hoshea, who became king in his place. Hoshea was a pro-Assyrian king. There was not much left for him, as king, to rule over. Only in 2 Kings 17 we find out more about king Hoshea.
Jotham King of Judah
With the arrival of Jotham, the son of Uzziah or Azariah, as king of Judah, we are back in the realm of the two tribes. It is said of him, as of eight other kings who ruled after Solomon, that he did what was right in the sight of the LORD. Of those eight, Jotham was the only one of whom it is not said that he became unfaithful at a later age. He followed his father in doing well. He did not follow the evil his father did. However, the people he ruled, continued their pernicious practices (2Chr 27:1-2).
In his days Micah began to prophesy (Mic 1:1). The prophet Isaiah began his service in the last years of his father Uzziah (Isa 1:1). Isaiah described the evil deeds in detail in his book. Kings can be used by the LORD for a revival. Revivals, however, have little real and lasting results because of the fact that under the surface people’s desire for idolatry in whatever form is always present.
In the history of Israel and Judah, all went further and further downhill. In Israel, the last king, Hoshea, was ruling. In Judah it would take a while, but also for that kingdom the curtain was about to fall because of their stubborn departure from the LORD. It was the end-time of God’s people, just as in this day. Where can true love for, and faithfulness to the Lord be found? Church history is often made and written by the great men, but what did it really look like among the people? The masses often follow superficially, while only a few go into the depths.
Jotham was also interested in the temple. This is evident from the only act that was mentioned of him. It is noted of him that he “built the upper gate of the house of the LORD”.
Because of the constant unfaithfulness of the people, the LORD had to send enemies against Judah. The new enemy was “Rezin king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah”. Pekah was the king of Israel who, in an ungodly covenant with Rezin, the wicked king of Syria, stood up against his brothers. The fact that the LORD did this did not diminish the responsibility of Pekah to do this evil work.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13