Many of us would have read in the Old testament about Abraham and how the kingdom of Israel started. God made a covenant with Abraham and from there history starts. God says your people will be my people, your descendants will be a nation, I will bless them and with that covenant Moses brings Jacob's children - they were all slaves in Egypt - out of slavery into the Promised Land. During Moses' time God makes a covenant again with the nation Israel and gives them all the commandments. What is a covenant?
It is an agreement between two parties and God here is like a King and Israel is like the subject. There were lot of conditions to that agreement - if you obey all that it says I will bless you, if you don't then you will have my curses. Then we see that after Moses died Joshua took over and after Joshua died there was a time when judges were ruling over Israel. After that all of Israel demanded a king and that was the time when the reign of kings started in Israel.
Saul was the first king of Israel. I would encourage us to go through the first sheet. Saul was the first king of Israel but he failed to be the king that God wanted him to be. God then chose David and called him a man after his own heart because he had the heart of pleasing God and doing his will. It was around 1000 B.C. that David was the king of Israel and David was one of the best kings of Israel and he took the whole of Israel to its greatest heights.
It was during that time that Israel became the most powerful nation in the Palestine region and spiritually also they were at the peak. Then after David, Solomon was king. He was the wisest king and he organized Israel. There was political stability and administration was awesome but spiritually Israel started declining. After the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam was supposed to be king and that is when the nation of Israel was split into two - the Northern kingdom and the Southern kingdom.
This was around 922 B.C. when Jeroboam and his team of people said they did not want to be part of the kingdom of David and they took the northern region ( 10 tribes) which was known as Israel and the Southern kingdom, where Rehoboam the son of Solomon was ruling, became known as Judah. The Northern kingdom had around 19 kings and for around 2 centuries they were intact ( having their own struggles with the neighboring kingdoms) but after that, around 722 B.C., the Assyrians one of the powerful neighboring countries, came and conquered Israel and deported the Israelites to Assyria. This was the destruction of Samaria.
The Southern kingdom i.e. Judah, the descendants of David, were in the scene for a little longer, around 150 more years, had 21 kings and were not that prosperous but spiritually they were better than the Israelites. But in 586 B.C. the Babylonians came and took over Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, destroyed the wall of Jerusalem, took lot of people as exiles to Babylon and Judah was destroyed there. This is all there in the Bible and sometimes we find it difficult to understand but if we try to understand history a little bit, get into the flow of things, understand the major events, names of the countries and different things, it will help us to understand the scriptures better. Around 538 B.C. the first return of the exiles started when Ezra and Jerubabel brought the exiles back to Jerusalem and started rebuilding the temple - it took a while but then the temple was built, Judah was restored after that the priests started reigning in Isarel.
Before and during the time of Israel, Egypt was one of the most powerful nations. Then the Assyrians became more and more powerful and were responsible for the destruction of Samaria i.e. the Northern kingdom. They were the ones who deported the people to Assyria, mixed all the people and sent a few mixed foreign people back to Samaria and that is how the 10 tribes of Israel got scattered and they almost got nullified. That is why in the New Testament the Jews never mixed with the Samaritans because they believed the Samaritans were not truly Jews and that they were a mixed race.
After the Assyrians came the Babylonians and they were the ones responsible for the destruction of Judah. After the Babylonian reign came the Persian reign. The Persians were very lenient and they sent many of the Jews back to Jerusalem and they got a chance to rebuild their temple and the wall. After the Persians came the Greek kingdom and after the Greeks it was the Roman kingdom and that is when Jesus was born.
So now we'll go to the kings and we'll briefly go through the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah and we'll see this destruction happened and what was God's plan through all this. As I said, Solomon was a very wise king, he ruled very wisely and there was peace during his 40 years of reign in Israel but unfortunately his heart was not fully dedicated to the Lord.
1 Kings 11:4
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.
The Bible says that as Solomon grew older, his wives turned his heart away to other gods and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord. This was the time that Solomon started drifting away from God. So after his death, Rehoboam his son, was supposed to become king. We'll read the passage and then we'll understand how and why the kingdom divided.
1 Kings 12:1-17
1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king.
2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt.
3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him:
4 "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."
5 Rehoboam answered, "Go away for three days and then come back to me." So the people went away.
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. "How would you advise me to answer these people?" he asked.
7 They replied, "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."
8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
9 He asked them, "What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?"
10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, "Tell these people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'--tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist.
11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'"
12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, "Come back to me in three days."
13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders,
14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, "My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions."
15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: "What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse's son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!" So the Israelites went home.
17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
During the reign of Solomon though everything was stable there was a lot of bitterness growing in the hearts of people because Solomon introduced very high taxes. So when his son Rehoboam became king, the people said, "Please lighten the tax - the yoke that your father laid on us is too heavy." So Rehoboam called all his father's advisors, the elders, and asked them what to do and they told him that he should listen to the people and reduce their burden. But the king was not satisfied so he called his friends, the young people, and asked their advice as well.
So the young ones advised him to tell the people that he would be harsher than his father would. That is when the kingdom cracked and Jeroboam, who was only a servant, said that they would not listen to the king and the 10 tribes broke away and Rehoboam was left with only one tribe i.e. Judah. To gain strength, Rehoboam did a very foolish thing.
1 Kings 12:28-30
28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.
30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.
What had kept Israel united was the worship of God. Once a year all the Israelites used to gather in Jerusalem to worship at the temple and celebrate all the festivals. But when the kingdom split, Rehoboam set up idols (so that Judah would not have to go to Jerusalem to worship) in Bethel and Dan, which are places with spiritual significance, and told his people to worship them because they were the gods that brought them out of Egypt. That was the falling away of the Northern kingdom. He ruled from 931 B.C. to 910 B.C. By the way all these dates are not exact - they are approximate and have been fixed by scholars.
- After Jeroboam his son Nadab became king - 910 -909 B.C.
- Then one of the royal officials, Baasha, assassinated Nadab and took over the throne. Basha was a very wicked and ruthless king.
- After him, his son Elah became king and he was also a very wicked king.
- One night when he was drunk one of the army officers, Zimri, came and killed him and took over the throne. But Zimri was not king for a long time - he reigned for just 7 days. Zimri burnt the city and his palace and killed himself.
- Then Omri became king. Omri was politically a very good king. One of the best things he did was to make Samaria the capital of Israel. That brought a lot of stability because Samaria was a good choice as capital city. Spiritually he was not that good. He got his son Ahab married to Jezabel daughter of the King of Tyre. Just think of how Israel kept falling away from God. They started worshipping idols, paganism started growing all over Israel and now they start marrying foreigners. The Queen herself was the princess of Tyre.
- After Omri his son Ahab was king from 874 - 853 B.C. and his reign was responsible for a lot of Israel's sin - the Bible says Ahab provoked the Lord like no other king had done before him. Jezabel's favorite god was Baal and she introduced Baal worship in Israel. That is why God sent Elijah the prophet to deal with Jezabel.
- After Ahab, his son Ahaziah became king for just for a few months.
- After Ahaziah, Jeoram became king.
- After Joram, Jehu who was a very wild man became king. This is all in the Bible in the books of 2Kings and Chronicles.
- After Jehu, his son Jehoahaz became king.
- He was succeeded by his son Jehoash.
- After Jehoash his son Jeroboam II became king.
- Then came Zechariah. These were the days when Isarel was declining spiritually. Unfortunately we dont have time to go through each king but if you read your Bible you will be able to see the history of each king and how apalling was the fall of God's once favored nation.
- After Zechariah, Shallum became king and was followed by Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah and finally , the last king of Israel, Hoshea. It was at this time that the powerful Assyrians conquered Israel and totally destroyed the whole of Israel. 2Kings17 talks about this. The Assyrians were very cruel people and they would take people into exile by chaining them with hooks on their buttocks and chaining them together like fish and take them to Assyria. They would make other nations to come and live in Samaria so that the Israelites' identity, their religion, their future was lost. That is how the Samaritans came into being.
The amazing thing is that through all this God was constantly reaching out to Israel. That is how we have the voice of the prophets in the Bible. Each prophet is addressing a situation and a nation and a time and calling the people back to God. We'll quickly look at Hosea, a minor prophet, and see what his perspective is of Israel's destruction.
The first reason that Israel was destroyed - idolatry
5 Throw out your calf-idol, O Samaria! My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of purity?
6 They are from Israel! This calf--a craftsman has made it; it is not God. It will be broken in pieces, that calf of Samaria.
Here we see how God's heart is broken by the idolatry that is committed in Israel. Hosea 13: 1-2- God's heart is filled with anger and wrath.
The second reason is materialism
They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me.
Here God talks of how He is feeling and these people no longer cry to God but they gather together for new wine and grain and they have turned from Him. In their heart they had become very rich and very stable - they had everything they needed in life and they forgot God.
Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones.
Israel was prospering materially but their hearts were going away and away from God. Here we see a principle - material blessing need not be spiritual blessing. As a nation Israel was much richer than Judah but they forgot God. So many times in this world we think if we are rich everything will be better. We may think why God is not blessing me. We should be careful to take warning from the Bible that if we are blessed materially it does not mean that we are spiritually blessed all the time.
That doesn't mean God doesn't bless us materially - the Bible also talks how God is the one who provides everything, He makes our land fertile, He is the one who brought the Israelites to the Promised Land. So God is the Provider but it is left to us to be grateful. When we are ungrateful we drift away from God.
The third reason is reliance on alliances
"When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores.
Here Ephraim, symbolically Israel, was in sickness and were struggling but instead of turning to God they went to Assyria, Egypt and other nations asking for help. If we rely on man we are not going God's way. God allows us to go through pain but that is the time we need to run to God, to get on our knees and beg God, "Please help me to face this, please help me to understand what you are teaching me through this". This is not the time to go to a super power and say, " If Assyria is on my side, if this person is on my side, if I had money, then things will be fine".
"Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.
God goes on to say how disappointed He is with Israel because they failed to turn to Him and cry out to Him and pray to Him. We need to watch out, brothers and sisters, are we relying on man, on our own flesh or are we relying on God. Everything other than God will be taken and that is why we need to learn to rely on God. As David said " You are my fortress, you are my strength, you are my horn, you are my salvation". We need to rely 100% on God alone. I'll tell you a few other
scriptures but we don't have time to turn to them.
But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,
Ephraim feeds on the wind; he pursues the east wind all day and multiplies lies and violence. He makes a treaty with Assyria and sends olive oil to Egypt.
When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.
These all talk about relying on humans and on other alliances.
The fourth reason - Lack of knowledge
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.
7 The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.
8 They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.
9 And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.
10 "They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the LORD to give themselves
11 to prostitution, to old wine and new, which take away the understanding
How is our knowlege of God and the scriptures? How is our Bible study? Are we eager to understand God and His ways - how He deals with us? Are we eager to learn from the scriptures. Our ignorance cannot save us. Our feelings cannot save us. It is only the Truth that can save us. The truth is already stated in the scriptures and we need to go and understand who is God and what are His ways and we need to submit to our Almighty God.
The Southern Kingdom
We'll quickly go through the kings of Judah.
- Rehoboam - the son of Solomon- was king.
- After him came Abijah, Asa ( who was dedicated to God), Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah.
- After Ahaziah, the Queen Athaliah - Ahaziah's mother- took the throne for a few years. That is the time she tried to destroy all David's descendants, all the kings but God had declared that only David's line would be king. That's where we see the amazing hand of God - Jehoiada the priest takes one of the small babies, Joash the son of Ahaziah, and hid him so Athaliah was not able to kill him.
- Then the priest killed the queen so Joash became king when he was 7 years old. Joash was dedicated to God when he was a child but when he grew up his heart turned away from God.
- Then his son Amaziah became king and after him Uzziah. Uzziah was the king who died of leprosy because his heart was not dedicated to God.
- After him his son Jotham became king and then Ahaz.
- Then Ahaz's son Hezekiah became king and Hezekiah was one of the best kings of Judah. He brought Judah back to serving God as had never happened before. We all would have read the history of Hezekiah - he was a man fully devoted to the Lord and God even extended the years of his life - 15 years more- because he pleaded with the Lord.
- But after Hezekiah, his son Manasseh was one of the worst and most wicked kings of Judah. He reigned for 55 years - the longest of any of the kings of Judah - and even sacrificed his own son to different gods and called the nation to worship other gods.
- After him, his son Amon became king and he was just like his father.
- But Amon's son Josiah became king after him and Josiah was one of the best kings of Judah. Josiah was a great king and it was during his reign that the Book of the Law was found and he called the people back to obedience to the law. He was king for a short time and was killed during a war with Egypt.
- Then Jehoahaz became king and after him Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin and finally Zedekiah was the last king of Judah.
It was around 597 B.C. that king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and put a siege on Jerusalem and took away a lot of slaves to Babylon. In 587 B.C. Jerusalem falls down, the temple is burnt, all the treasures in the temple is taken away, the wall is burnt and destroyed and the people are scattered or taken into exile and only the poor people are left behind.
Why did Judah fall? Even during the time of Judah's decline God consistently sent prophets to call them back, to warn them but Judah failed to listen. We'll look at one of the prophets who addressed this situation.
1 The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah:
2 "I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD.
3 "I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth," declares the LORD.
4 "I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal, the names of the pagan and the idolatrous priests--
5 those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molech,
6 those who turn back from following the LORD and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him.
7 Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.
8 On the day of the Lord's sacrifice I will punish the princes and the king's sons and all those clad in foreign clothes.
9 On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit.
10 "On that day," declares the LORD, "a cry will go up from the Fish Gate, wailing from the New Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.
11 Wail, you who live in the market district ; all your merchants will be wiped out, all who trade with silver will be ruined.
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'
13 Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. They will build houses but not live in them; they will plant vineyards but not drink the wine.
Here God is prophesying the fall of Jerusalem and he talks about "that day" meaning the day of destruction.
The main reason was idolatry
This is because they had stopped seeking God and inquiring of God. The people had become complacent, had turned to paganism and all kinds of idol worship. What we see is that though God gives us freedom, He is still the Judge and judgement is coming. It talks of the Day of the Lord -Zephaniah 1:14 -18. Here we see another side to our gracious and loving God - He is the judge and we should never take his wrath lightly. Why people were not able to see and understand that judgement was coming? Because they had false prophets and teachers who kept prophesying that everything is okay, "peace, peace" Jerusalem is fine , "our God is gracious". That's why we need to be careful to whom and what we are listening.
The Word of God is serious and the Word of God is a warning. We may say "peace, peace" and think everything is okay but is truly everything going to be okay? It is better for us to turn to God and seek His help and be humble before God. Beware of people who tell us to take the Word of God lightly. The Great Day of the Lord is coming. For us the Judgement Day is coming. But God also gives a solution.
1 Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation,
2 before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's wrath comes upon you.
3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger.
The wrath of God is coming but God is saying you seek God, you seek humility and He will shelter you. Even though Judah and Israel were completely being destroyed, there were many people who consistently turned to God and they continued to be humble and righteous. That's how we have Daniel who was an exile to Babylon but remained righteous and refused to compromise. In Israel during the time of decline nobody knew him but in Babylon he was known as a wise and righteous man and his friends were also known as being righteous. Ezekiel was a priest and taken to exile and there he continued to prophesy about God's wrath and called people to repentance and promising the future restoration of Judah.
So we need to be careful which voice we are listening to.
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
7 Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. "Tear it down," they cried, "tear it down to its foundations!"
8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us--
9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
This is a song sung by the exiles to Babylon. In conclusion, we learnt what happened in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. History continues to repeat itself. Let us really fear God, seek Him and obey Him. And the grace of God will continue to save us.