The Kingdom Books of the Bible – Joshua through 2 Kings - are fascinating to read! Lots of action and drama. Mighty battles. Deception. Gory deaths. Great obedience. Humongous sins. Lots of second chances for the people. And human nature at its finest and at its worst.
These books are historical books and cover 3 historical periods of Conquest, Judges, and Kingdoms. As always we can learn a lot from history.
Here’s a rundown of them:
God gave the Promised Land to His people. The conquering of the Promised Land is recorded in the book of Joshua. This is one of my favorite Old Testament books because of the concepts it introduces us to and the concepts it expands upon that we will see over and over in the New Testament. Covenant. Inheritance. Rest. Redemption. Warfare. The Kingdom of God. Building monuments in remembrance of God’s mighty deeds. God fights our battles.
Then comes the book of Judges where for 400 years the different sections of Israel had different judges. God is King. His Law is legislative. The judges are civil leaders. The period of the Judges was one of spiraling downward into anarchy until the people asked God for a king. They wanted to be like the other nations. God had intended for them to be a theocracy – ruled by God, but they wanted a monarchy. God permitted it and the people asked for Saul to be their king.
Then comes the sweet book of Ruth where we are introduced to the concept of kinsman redeemer. We connect that Jesus is our Redeemer. And we learn about Ruth marrying Boaz and King David being a descendant of theirs. Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David. God made a covenant with David - the Messiah was to come not only from the tribe of Judah, but to be a direct descendant of King David’s. The genealogy given at the beginning of the New Testament in Matthew 1 was written to show the Jewish people Jesus is the Messiah. Note Ruth’s name in that genealogy.
The books of 1 Samuel through 2 Kings tell us about the kings of Israel. God permitted the people to select their king. They chose Saul and he ruled for 40 years. Saul didn’t work out too great so God chose David to be the next king. David ruled for 40 years. Then David’s son, Solomon, became king and ruled for 40 years. This period of time when Saul, David, and Solomon reigned was called The United Kingdom because all 12 tribes of Israel were ruled by one king. They were one united nation.
Upon Solomon’s death, his son, Rehoboam, became king in 931 B.C. (before Christ.) The people were oppressed with high taxes and forced labor. They asked King Rehoboam to ease up. Instead of taking the counsel of the elders who said to give the people a break; Rehoboam decided to listen to his friends who agreed with him. He said “no” to the people. (It’s always best to seek wise counsel instead of people who are going to agree with you.) The 10 tribes of the North revolted, broke away and formed the Northern Kingdom. The other 2 tribes in the area around Jerusalem were called the Southern Kingdom and were ruled by King Rehoboam. This time period of history is called The Divided Kingdom.
The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and had a series of 20 kings all of whom were bad kings. By “bad “I mean they “did evil in the sight of the LORD.” Their religion was idol worship with some traditions and ceremonial rites of Judaism. They built their own temple and performed sacrifices to idols! (Some lists of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel list 18-19 kings. This is because a couple kings overlapped and one was only king for a little while.)
Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines, Rose Publishing, 2011, page 66 (affiliate link)
The Southern Kingdom was called Judah and had a series of 20 kings. Some were good rulers and some were bad rulers. (Some did “good” in God’s sight and obeyed Him. The “bad” kings did evil and started worshipping idols.)
God sent prophets during The Divided Kingdom time period to both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. Prophets were spokesmen of God. People think prophets gave predictions for the future. They did. But they also were sent to call the people to repentance. They told the people, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants and prophets.” (2 Kings 17:13b) And the prophets predicted the consequences if the people did not turn back to God. And they weren't pretty.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel, to their demise, ignored these prophets and continued to do evil in the sight of God. And just as the prophets had predicted God judged the nation of Israel in 722 B.C. with the brutal Assyrians.
The Assyrian Empire at that time covered the area of modern day Syria and Iraq. Assyria invades and besieged the capital for three years. They conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel and round up the people and take them back to Assyria, to what is now Iraq.
The account of this is found in 2 Kings 17:6 and 18:11 and in 1 Chronicles 5:26. It really doesn’t say much. Just that Israel was carried away to Assyria. Those 10 tribes were lost forever. We don’t hear of them again in world history.
The Bible doesn’t give us much detail on this major historical event. But we know the Assyrians were excessively cruel. They would skin their enemies alive and decorate their city walls with human skin. One Assyrian king bragged about cutting off the feet and hands of prisoners. They reportedly would also cut off noses, ears, and lips on others. They would put their enemies heads on spikes and line the roads to their cities. They not only conquered; they did it in a brutal, vicious, inhumane way so as to install fear into the people and the nations around them.
The Bible doesn’t tell us if this is what the Assyrians did to the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. But we have no reason to believe they didn’t. That was their standard operating procedure. After they conquer Israel, the Assyrians send their own people into the land. The people from the 10 tribes who survived the conquest were assimilated into the Assyrian culture and intermarried with the Assyrians. This region of the world was Samaria and this new race of people were called Samaritans. In the New Testament we read about the Samaritan women at the well in John 4 and the Good Samaritan. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were considered racial half-breeds and they followed a distorted faith which was not Jewish.
The fall of the Northern Kingdom was all God’s doing. The prophets warned. They predicted what would happen. The people wouldn’t listen.
Later God judges the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C. with the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar. God had sent many prophets to Judah. Occasionally one of their kings would listen and the people would turn back to God. And then they would sink back to their evil ways. God out of His great mercy gave Judah many chances to turn back to Him. They decided to do their own thing. The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem starving the people, conquered it, destroyed the temple and carried the survivors to Babylon. Another brutal judgment. (Later Persia conquers Babylon and permits a small remnant of Jewish people to go back to rebuild Jerusalem and the second temple.)
When Judah is judged in 586 B.C. for the first time in 600 years there is no Jewish nation on the world map. From this point on in history the Jewish people were ruled by other nations. They were no longer their own nation. (Except for a brief 70 year Maccabean Period during the time between the Old Testament and New Testament and we know in modern history what happened in 1948 A.D. to form Israel.)
In both these instances of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, they did evil in God's sight and He used brutal pagan world powers to judge them.
The nation of Israel had gone from being His people to doing their own thing and rejecting God. He finally had enough and the second chances ran out. He judged them.
Key Teaching about God:
God’s presence is conditional.
God controls the fate of nations.
God is slow to anger.
God is sovereign.
2 Kings 17:18-23 (NASB)
So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah. Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced. The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight. When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin. The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.
Second Chronicles 20:6 (NASB)
And he said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.
Psalm 22:28 (NASB)
For the kingdom is the LORD'S and He rules over the nations.
Psalm 47:8 (NASB)
God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.
Psalm 66:7 (NASB)
He rules by His might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations; Let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
I think we have a valuable lesson to learn here.
If we reject God, He will leave our nation to our own demise.
And it appears that is what is happening.
I hear many Christians pointing to what is going on in our country and saying, “This is the beginning of the End Times.” I think things will get a lot worse before the End Times come. Perhaps though we are in for a horrible judgment from God before then. What if it is His purpose to bring in a foreign power to rule us? We can’t even fathom that happening. I’m sure Israel and Judah didn’t see their fates coming. We are ignorant to reject God and then expect Him to bless us.
God uses the histories of nations to bring about His plans. Perhaps our nation will turn back to God and He will fight our battles, protect us, and bless us. Or perhaps we won’t and He will judge us. Whatever happens, God is always just with us. We will get what we deserve.
Be courageous. Be calm and pray for our nation.
Christians should fight the battle on our knees.
In witnessing all of the horror in the world today;
I think of the historical past.
I think of the nature of God.
I think of the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
I think on redeeming grace.
And I have hope.
A just, merciful, loving God is in control. He has not called us to waste time worrying about the future. He has called us to trust Him and to be salt and light to those in our sphere right now.
He has it covered. He always has.