I AND II KINGS - THE DUAL MONARCHY
The title of these books is appropriate since they give the history of the kings from Solomon to the captivity. I Kings opens with the waning days of David. Then we have the history of Solomon's reign, and so on to the end of the divided kingdoms.
David's great work for his kingdom paved the way for the peaceful reign of Solomon. His reign was one of war, conquest, setting up the foundation stones of the kingdom. This is the state of things that awaits Solomon as he succeeds to the throne upon the death of David. For this period there are no wars to wage, no foes to subdue. It is Israel's great age of peace, prosperity, and promise.
With the apostasy of the king also passed away the greatness of the kingdom. As with the first seven years of David, the kingdom is again divided, but never to be united again. This division of the kingdom followed immediately after the death of Solomon. It is the beginning of a period of about 210 years for Israel and about 325 years for Judah. For Israel it was a full-blown apostasy. For Judah, apostasy, yes, but a number of godly kings did reign there. Not so in the northern kingdom of Israel.
It is at this juncture of the nation's history that the prophets begin to appear. They perform a most prominent and important part in Jewish history, particularly in that of Israel, where, the Levites having been expelled and the priesthood degraded, they remained the only defenders of the law and religion of the Lord. They are the voice of Jehovah to His people. But even setting aside their divine commission, they were patriots of the state; the champions of virtue, liberty, justice, and the strict observance of the civil and religious law. They are always on the side of the oppressed. They boldly rebuke the king. Never did one abuse his popular influence for his own personal reward.
Here we see Elijah and Elisha prophesying against Israel. Ahab and Jezebel stand out as real villains of Israel. Joash, Jehoida, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah were good kings of Judah. We cannot pass on without remembering Elijah's great victory over Baal on Mount Carmel, or the healing of Naaman by the instructions of Elisha. It is in the midst of depravity that the work of these men stands out as beacons of light in the midst of moral darkness. (Note: Long before this time another light shined in darkness - Enoch. His translation that he should not taste of death was the expression of God's commendation of holiness. And now, in the prophetic age is this repetition of that great truth. As the mantle was being passed on to Elisha, even so Elijah took his flight in the flaming chariot into the heavens never to taste of death.) As the greatest of the prophets during this time, what an honor it was to be with Moses and Christ at the transfiguration (Matt. 17). Against such light the two kingdoms continued to sin, even though the light was there. The kingdoms defied and cast aside the voice of God, but that voice ceased not to speak.
Where did the responsibility lie for the dividing of the kingdom? Was it with Rehoboam? Yes, through his mistaken policy recorded in the early verses of chapter 12. Was it Solomon? Yes, through his apostasy (Ch. 11:9-13). From the time of Samuel to the late years of Solomon, idolatry was non-existent in the land. The influence of David was great in keeping the mind of the nation fixed on Jehovah and theocratic ideals. The apostasy of Solomon was the beginning of the decline, which began to appear suddenly by the idolatry of Rehoboam and filled the land.
The early years of Judah were a period of spiritual decline. Things seemed to get better with the reign of Asa. The early years were devoted to reforming Judah. But Asa's faith seemed to suffer a decline when he entered into a league with Syria against Israel. Judah's history was like a "roller-coaster" effect. Some ups and some downs. In the end, though, the "roller-coaster" hit the bottom and did not rise again. Judah had run her course. Following the reign of Josiah, it speedily met its doom. Judah took the final plunge in attempting to make alliances with other nations in hopes of saving itself from destruction. By this time Assyria was no more, and Egypt was reduced to nearly nothing. There was nowhere to turn. The waves of mighty forces were quickly approaching from the east. Babylon, acting as agent for God, was the final ruin of Judah, bringing an end to the monarchy.
During the reformation of Josiah, a book of the law was found in the temple. It was such a momentous find, that Josiah immediately called the people together for a solemn renewal of the covenant with Jehovah. The finding and reading of the law made the deepest impression, caused the greatest concern, and resulted in a religious reformation.
(The Bible is a "lost" book to the masses of peoples, even in the church. How wonderful it would be if they would be moved to a deeper spiritual life, to more effective spiritual service, if they would but "find" the Bible by earnest, prayerful, and intelligent study of its divine truths.)
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