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AZARIAH'S REIGN IN JUDAH
The reign of Azariah began after Jereboam had reigned 27 years in Samaria. We have seen Azariah (Uzziah) was only 16 years old when he began to reign, and reigned 52 years in Jerusalem (v.2). His mother (Jecholiah) must have been a believer, for Uzziah's reign generally was honouring to the Lord (v.3). It is noted, however, that he did not remove the high places of worship, where the people burned incense (v.4).
Nothing more is said here of Azariah's reign, though we are told that the Lord struck him with leprosy, so that he was kept in isolation till he died. But 2 Chronicles 26:1-14.26.23 tells us he prospered greatly in ruling Judah, but his greatness became an object of pride to him and he dared to assume the place of a priest by entering the temple to burn incense. When resisted by the priests in this action, he became very angry and immediately God struck him with leprosy in his forehead (1 Chronicles 26:16-13.26.20). Thus Azariah's good reign was spoiled by the pride of disobedience to God.
Having leprosy, Azariah was no longer fit to reign over Judah, so that his son Jotham was given this authority. We are not told how long a time Azariah had leprosy, but when he died, Jotham was inaugurated as king (v.7). He did not reign one-third as long as his father did (only 16 years), nor did his reign end as sadly. No doubt it was as well that he died when he did, before he had time to spoil his reign by disobedience.
ZECHARIAH REIGNS IN ISRAEL
Zechariah was the son of the second Jereboam and he reigned only six months in Israel. He was the fourth in the line of Jehu to reign, and the last, as the Lord had told Jehu (ch.10:30). He continued the evil ways of the kings of Israel before him, and nothing is said in his favour before another Israelite, Shallum, conspired against him and killed him publicly (v.10). Thus Shallum seized the throne for himself.
SHALLUM, A USURPER, REIGNS
But if Zechariah's reign was short (6 months), that of Shallum was much shorter - only one month! Those who grasp after power are very soon left powerless. Menahem, the son of Gadi decided to show Shallum that two could play the game of murdering a king. Menahem went to Samaria, killed Shallum and took the throne of Israel (v.14). Notice, that in both of these cases there was no spiritual power among the elders of Israel to choose a man for a king who might be a capable and faithful ruler, therefore a man of violence could seize power for himself. Of course Israel was in such a state of disobedience to God that they would not even consider asking God who should be king. The Book of Chronicles does not even mention the reign of Shallum, nor in fact the reign of Zechariah in Israel, so that verse 15 does not refer to the scriptural Book of Chronicles, but to another book that is not scripture.
MENAHEM'S WICKED REIGN
Though Israel never possessed all the land on the west side of the Euphrates River, Menahem attacked Tiphsah, on the west bank of the Euphrates, and because the inhabitants did not surrender he treated them with cruel violence. It is specially noted that he ripped open all the pregnant women, evidently causing death to both mother and child. Though the Lord had before ordered the destruction of all the Canaanites, yet He certainly did not suggest any such cruelty as this.
Menahem reigned ten years (v.17). We may wonder why he was allowed this long a reign when he was just as bad a king as Zechariah and Shallum had been. But God does not always explain His reasons for such things, and we are wise to simply give Him credit for knowing well what He is doing. Menahem was guilty of the same evils as the kings before him, still embracing the gross idolatry of the first Jereboam, "who made Israel sin."
When Pul, the Assyrian king, came against the land at this time, Menahem bribed him with a thousand talents of silver to refrain from attacking Israel. In these histories of the kings, this is the first we read of the king of Assyria but not many years later the King of Assyria, Tiglath Pileser, took some of Israel captive (2 Kings 15:29), and a few years later (ch.17:5-6) the rest of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians.
Menahem's bribe to the Assyrian king, was of money exacted from the people of Israel, specially from the wealthy, who would no doubt rather give this than to have Assyria reduce the whole nation to poverty. At the death of Menahem, his son Pekahiah became king of Israel (v.22).
THE REIGN OF PEKAHIAH
Pekahiah continued the wearying list of ungodly kings in Israel, reigning only two years and persisting in the idolatry introduced by Jereboam the son of Nebat (vv.23-24). Nothing is recorded as a credit to him, and one of his officers, Pekah the son of Remaliah conspired with others to kill Pekahiah. Two of his accomplices are named, and 50 others, not named, were included in the conspiracy (v.25). Pekah then took the throne of Israel.
Verse 26 announces that the rest of the acts of Pekahiah are recorded in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel, but again it is not the scriptural Book of Chronicles, for Pekahiah is not even mentioned there.
PEKAH'S REIGN IN ISRAEL
Just at the end of Azariah's reign in Judah, Pekah began to reign in Israel, continuing his reign for 20 years (v.27). His life too was evil, for he clung to the idolatrous worship of Jereboam the son of Nebat. who made Israel sin (v.28). He was not able to resist the attack of Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria, who captured the inhabitants of many Israelite cities and took them to Assyria. Thus Israel was gradually being tom from their land, and Chapter 17:5-6 shows their complete captivity.
Though Pekah was unable to resist Assyria, he did have the more dubious distinction of killing 123,000 men of Judah in one day! (2 Chronicles 27:6). How often it seems we do more damage to our own brethren than we do to the power of our enemies! Thus there was nothing in the reign of Pekah that relieved the picture of dark ignoring of the God of Israel. As he had conspired against Pekahiah, so his servant Hoshea conspired against him and killed him. How sad and tragic is the history of the kings of Israel! Hoshea took the throne of Israel then, and as we shall find in Chapter 17:1, he reigned only nine years before Israel was taken captive by Assyria.
JOTHAM KING IN JUDAH
Jotham stands in refreshing contrast to the kings of Israel. Beginning at age 25 years, he reigned 16 years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jerusha, likely a godly woman (v.33), for his reign was consistently good, according to the ways of Uzziah. In verse 35 we are told that, though Jotham failed to remove the high places from Judah, yet he did build the upper Gate of the house of the Lord. Thus, in spite of his lack of faith in getting rid of the high places of worship, he did have serious respect for the house of the Lord, God's only centre of worship. 2 Chronicles 27:1-14.27.9 tells us also that he built extensively on the wall of Ophel - the wall speaking of godly separation, - and he built cities, fortresses and towers. Such building for the Lord is something we too should be concerned about. Also, Jotham defeated the Ammonites (2 Chronicles 27:5). The original king of Ammon was Nahash (2 Samuel 10:2), which means "a serpent," so Ammon stands for religion that harbours "doctrines of demons," which must be totally refused by Christians. In spite of the comparatively good reign of Jotham, the condition of Judah remained low enough that the Lord began to send enemies against Judah, - Rezin king of Syria and Pekah king of Israel, - so that when Ahaz son of Jotham reigned, Pekah killed 120,000 men of Judah in one day. Jotham died at age 41 and was buried in Jerusalem. Ahaz his son then took Judah's throne.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 15". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany