Guests: Dave Thomas and Zdravko Stefanovic
THIS WEEK’S STUDY: 2 Kings 14-17; 2 Chronicles 25-28
MEMORY TEXT: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” Prov. 14:34
EVEN AS JUDGMENT APPROACHES, THE LORD KEEPS PLEADING WITH HIS PEOPLE. Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel fell in 722. Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah lasted until 586. As the story of God’s people edges closer to these ominous dates, the sense of impending doom intensifies. Yet God was there with warnings and heart-rending pleas. Would one more warning have made the difference? One more gracious act? God asked those questions then. He asks them now.
OVERVIEW: THE LONG SLIDE, THE PRECIPICE, THE FALL
I. ERRATIC AMAZIAH: 2 Chron. 25; 2 K. 14:1-20
II. UZZIAH: ONE FOOLISH ACT: 2 Chron. 26; 2 Kings 14:21-22; 15:1-7
III. ISRAEL’S LAST KINGS: 2 Kings 14:23-29; 15:8-31
IV. AHAZ: COMPROMISE MOVES SOUTH: 2 Kings 16; 2 Chron. 28
V. THE FALL OF SAMARIA: 2 Kings 17
WHERE IS GOD AFTER HIS LAST WARNING IS REJECTED? When a threatened judgment finally falls, one might be tempted to see God standing off to the side, saying, “I told you so.” But that is not what happens in the story of the monarchy. Not only do the warnings continue right up to the very end, but even after the disaster, God is there to pick up the pieces and to remind His battered people that He cares for them.
In a sense, God is taking a great risk when He gives multiple warnings and keeps postponing the day of judgment. A second chance gives the impression that there could be yet another and another. Is it never too late? Does the door of mercy never close? Giving that impression is the risk God takes when he holds it open for a final urgent appeal.
In this week’s lesson, we see the fall of Samaria and the end of the northern kingdom. During this period, the lives of the kings from both north and south reveal an uneven pattern: occasional obedience blended with neglect, carelessness, and outright rebellion. Prophetic voices arise, crying out for loyalty to Yahweh, Israel’s God. Kings and people in both north and south sometimes listen and sometimes obey. But the long slide continues, the precipice looms, a kingdom falls.
Does the kingdom of Judah learn a lesson by watching her northern sister Israel? Possibly. But there would be yet another long slide, another precipice, another fall.
Will God’s people today learn from their example? The whole universe is watching to find out.
I. ERRATIC AMAZIAH: 2 Chron. 25; 2 Kings 14:1-20
The life of King Amaziah of Judah painfully illustrates the erratic course of the kings of Judah and Israel. Deeds of faithfulness blend with acts of disobedience and apostasy. The result was a witness which could not be trusted.
- How does Scripture allude to the uneven quality of Amaziah’s life? 2 Kings 14:3; 2 Chron. 25:2.
- What two faithful responses to the divine will are recorded of Amaziah?
2 Chron. 25:3-4 _______________________________________2 Chron. 25:6-10 ______________________________________
- What two major incidents are recorded as blots against Amaziah’s record? 2 Chron. 25:14-16.
vs. 14 ________________________________________________vs. 16 ________________________________________________
As the prophetic messenger reminded Amaziah, not only was the act of worshiping other gods a serious sin, it also defied logic. Why worship the gods of a nation he had just defeated?
On top of the sin of idolatry, Amaziah also refused to heed the voice of rebuke. Perhaps that was why 2 Kings 14:3 records that Amaziah did what was right, but “not like David his father.” David had been a great sinner. But when confronted with his sins, he repented. That kind of integrity made David’s life the standard by which all later kings were measured.
- Because of Amaziah’s stubbornness, what battle erupted and turned against him? 2 Chron. 25:17-24.
Sometimes the kingdoms of Judah and Israel became allies against a common enemy (e.g. 1 Kings 22). That should have been the more normal expectation because of the common lineage going back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But because of Amaziah’s foolish acts, the two sister kingdoms went to war. The results for Judah were disastrous. Although the day of mercy for Israel was much closer to ending than it was for Judah, in this instance, God allowed Israel to administer a rebuke to Judah. The reason? Amaziah had sought the gods of Edom.
Ask yourself: Are there modern examples where God has allowed those who are morally or spiritually inferior to teach his people a painful but necessary lesson?
II. UZZIAH: ONE FOOLISH ACT: 2 Chron. 26; 2 Kings 14:21-22; 15:1-7.
- How do both Kings and Chronicles evaluate Uzziah’s life and reign? 2 Kings 15:3; 2 Chron. 26:4-5.
- How does the Chronicler explain Uzziah’s many successes? 2 Chron. 26:7, 15.
- What was the cause of the king’s failure? 2 Chron. 26:16.
The story of Uzziah illustrates the tendencies of both Kings and Chronicles: Kings does not explain the king’s failure; the details are supplied in Chronicles. That was why the ancient Greek and Latin translations called the books of Chronicles Paralipomenon, a Greek work meaning “that which is left out.”
- To what source does the Chronicler point for the record of the “rest of the acts of Uzziah”? 2 Chron. 26:22
- In the light of Isaiah 8:16 and in view of the fact that our book of Isaiah includes little about the life of Uzziah, how might we view the work of Isaiah’s disciples in preserving and editing Isaiah’s writings?
Just as Jeremiah had Baruch as his faithful secretary (see Jeremiah 36), so Isaiah had his disciples. It is quite likely that our modern “Ellen G. White Estate” had ancient parallels in the “Jeremiah Estate” and the “Isaiah Estate.”
Isaiah was a contemporary of Uzziah. In fact, he received his prophetic calling in the year King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1). But God did not see fit to preserve all of Isaiah’s writings in the sacred canon of Scripture. That does not mean that the portions left out were any less “true.” It simply means that the Spirit did not see fit to include everything Isaiah wrote in that compact collection of sacred books which would become Scripture for God’s people until the end of time.
“The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scripture. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God” (“Introduction” to The Great Controversy, viii).
Many of the prophets mentioned in Kings and Chronicles apparently wrote no books. Yet they spoke for God. Here in 2 Chronicles 26:22 we have evidence that Isaiah wrote additional material which has not come down to us. The messages in the Bible are special, but God speaks through other voices, too. The important thing is to listen whenever He speaks.
Ask yourself: If archaeologists were to uncover an additional scroll written by Isaiah, should such a scroll be included in Scripture? Why?
III. ISRAEL’S LAST KINGS: 2 Kings 14:23-29; 15:8-31.
For the last days of the northern kingdom of Israel, we have only the book of Kings. The Chronicler looks to the kingdom of Judah, the house of David, and the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. For him to tell the story of the fall of Samaria would be simply to narrate wickedness for wickedness’ sake.
By contrast, the fall of the northern kingdom is important to the author of Kings. He traces the decline and fall of both kingdoms. Lessons can be learned from north and south and from the fall of both. Here he describes the last painful stages of Israel’s slide toward the precipice and the fall.
- How is the tension between good and evil reflected in the account of King Jeroboam? 2 Kings 14:24, 26-27.
This Jeroboam of the dynasty of Jehu is often referred to as Jeroboam II to distinguish him from the founder of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam, son of Nebat (1 Kings 11:26).
What clearer evidence can we find of God’s mercy? He even used a wicked king to bring temporary relief to his people. From a worldly perspective, Jeroboam II was highly successful, reigning forty-one years and extending the borders of the kingdom back to the original boundaries set by David and Solomon. “He became the strongest king of the dynasty of Jehu, if not of all the kings who occupied the throne of the northern kingdom” (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, art., “Jeroboam,” p. 572).
But Scripture is not interested in mere worldly glory. Just as Omri’s “successful” reign is dispatched with a few verses in 1 Kings 16, so Jeroboam’s reign is dismissed with a scant seven verses in 2 Kings 14. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The author of Kings wants to teach us that truth. Thus we know very little about Omri and Jeroboam II, two kings of Israel who gained the whole world, so to speak, but lost their souls.
- Based on 2 Kings 15:8-31, what caliber of kings reigned in Israel during the last years of the kingdom?
After Jeroboam II, Israel lacked leadership in both the secular and the sacred realms. The kingdom was at the precipice.
IV. AHAZ: COMPROMISE MOVES SOUTH: 2 Kings 16; 2 Chron. 28
- According to 2 Chron. 28:2-4, what compromises did Ahaz make which ran counter to the pure religion of Yahweh?
While this era of history is dominated by the impending doom of the northern kingdom, certain events are moving the kingdom of Judah toward the precipice as well. In light of the heritage which the line of David was expected to protect, the compromises which Ahaz adopted are shocking indeed.
- What foreign kings did the Lord use in an attempt to jar Ahaz to his senses? 2 Chron. 28:5-7; 2 Kings 16:5.
- When the prophet Oded rebuked Israel’s leaders for taking captives from Judah, what response and from whom indicates that Yahweh still had faithful worshipers even in the north? 2 Chron. 28:8-15.
- Besides Syria and Israel, what other nearby nations made life difficult for Ahaz? 2 Chron. 28:17-20. Note the location of these nations on a Bible-lands map.
- To whom did Ahaz appeal for help against his warring neighbors? 2 Kings 16:7; 2 Chron. 28:16.
In effect, King Ahaz exchanged a near threat for a distant one. But he thereby brought the distant threat to his own door. His invitation provided the excuse for the great Mesopotamian power of Assyria to gain a foothold in Palestine.
- How does the account of King Ahaz in 2 Kings 16:10-18 illustrate the statement: “Political treaties lead to religious compromise”?
- What hopeful note appears in the last words describing Ahaz’s reign? 2 Kings 16:20; 2 Chron. 28:27.
The good news in the last lines about Ahaz may not be evident until one becomes familiar with the story of his son, Hezekiah, one of Judah’s finest kings. How is it that one of Judah’s most inconsistent and compromising kings, Ahaz, was the father of one of Judah’s most consistent and reliable kings? Perhaps it was because of Hezekiah’s mother, Abi, or Abijah, daughter of Zechariah, mentioned both in 2 Kings 18:2 and in 2 Chron. 29:1.
The sobering truth is that a good home does not guarantee good children. But for those who are keenly aware of their shortcomings as parents, the fact that a poor home can still bring forth good, stable children has to be good news.
Ask yourself: Am I inclined to explain the good or bad behavior of the children in the church by the quality of their home and parents? What lessons can we draw from the fact that wicked Ahaz produced a fine son? Is there a danger of concluding that it makes no difference what parents do for their children?
V. FALL OF SAMARIA: 2 Kings 17.
The broad consensus among informed scholars is that when the northern kingdom (the ten tribes) fell, they went into captivity and disappeared from history as an identifiable entity. Some religious groups attempt to trace the history of the “ten lost tribes” to Britain or to America. But those positions find no support whatsoever from the larger religious or scholarly world.
“Little is known of the northern tribes subsequent to their being taken into captivity. Many probably merged with the people among whom they lived, and lost their identity. Others continued the worship of Jehovah and united with the Jews of the Babylonian captivity (see Jer. 50:4, 20, 33). Some returned with the exiles from Judah under Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 8:35; 1 Chron. 9:3)” (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 2:951).
- What stinging indictment against Israel and Judah does the author of Kings produce in his review of Israel’s history? 2 Kings 17:7-23.
- What cruel method did the kings of Assyria use as a means of keeping conquered peoples under Assyrian control? 2 Kings 17:6, 24.
When the non-Israelite captives arrived in Yahweh’s land, they clearly retained a concept of a “national” deity. Only after they had received instruction about Yahweh, the “god of the land,” were they able to settle down to a normal life.
- In religious terms, what resulted from the arrival of non-Yahweh worshipers in Israel? 2 Kings 17:28-41.
“So these nations feared the LORD, and they also served their graven images” (2 Kings 17:41). Here is the foundation of the Samaritan community, a people of mixed blood and mixed religion. In later years, most Jews wanted nothing to do with them. The most famous descendant of this mixed multitude is the “good Samaritan” of Luke 10:29-37.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?
* Have I sometimes carelessly postponed an important decision simply because I know that God is very patient and comes again and again with offers of mercy? What does the fall of Samaria tell me about the dangers of such a course?
* How am I treating the “good Samaritan” whose life and faith may be “contaminated” in some ways, but who comes closer to true religion than many who are “pure”?
FURTHER STUDY AND MEDITATION: Read Prophets and Kings, 279 -300; 322-30.
SUMMARY: Through the reigns of many kings, the messages of warning continued to come to God’s people. Some responded, including some kings. But the threatened judgment drew closer and closer. God’s continued acts of mercy could not reverse the fate which the people’s own decision had sealed.