THE KINGS OF ISRAEL
IN OUR schools we have blackboards on which we solve problems. Israel was God's blackboard upon which He worked out some great national and international problems in the past. In this brief study, however, I wish only to call attention to the general characteristics of the kings who sat upon the Davidic throne.
When Saul was rejected on account of disobedience, God chose David, a man after His own heart, who did His willwith the exception of the time when he sinned and remained for a season in an unrepentant state. He is held up in the Scriptures as the ideal ruler, for he was a foreshadowing of the Messiah, who, on account of David's typical character, is also called "David."
Solomon was indeed a wise ruler, but at the same time he did many very foolish things. His reign, though outwardly a success, was in reality a failure.
Rehoboam lacked wisdom and judgment. He refused to listen to the older men who had had experience but chose rather to accept the untried theories of the young and inexperienced. This action brought about the disruption of the kingdoma national calamity. In the fifth year of his reign Pharaoh, king of Egypt, came up and overran the country, which invasion proved to be a national calamity.
Asa was a good king, who reigned for forty-one years. He sought to do that which was right in the sight of God as did his father David. He endeavored to bring the nation back to God. He was measurably successful; nevertheless there were problems which he was unable to solve.
His son, Jehoshaphat, likewise was an excellent ruler, and sought to do the will of God. He likewise brought about reforms and a spiritual awakening.
The next to mount the throne to whom I wish to call attention was Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel. She was indeed a notorious characterruthless and unprincipled like her mother. She came to the throne of David by marriage. It was truly a sad day when she came to power.
On the death at Amaziah, who endeavored to do good but was very weak and yielded to outward pressure, there was an interregnum in the Davidic line. For eleven years the throne was vacant. The Bible is silent as to the conditions that obtained at that time. When the data is studied and the proper calculations are made, we see that there was this period during which the house of David was without a king. God did not see fit to reveal to us the condition of that time. In this connection let me say that there were two interregnums in the northern kingdom. (For a full discussion of the evidence which leads to this conclusion see the volume, Messiah: His First Coming Scheduled)
Uzziah was another great outstanding king on the throne of David. Great prosperity was enjoyed by the southern kingdom during certain portions of his reign. It was at this time that Isaiah came forth with his fiery oratory and great statesmanship. Yet this sovereign's reign was marred by various defects. He was unable to stem the tide of wickedness and corruption, the waves of which beat constantly against the shores of Judah.
Jotham, his successor, in some respects was a good man; but he made no special contribution to the kingdom or the advancement of the cause of the Lord.
Ahaz, a stripling of an upstart, who was wickedness personified, succeeded his father. His foreign policies all but wrecked Judah. He lacked faith and sought to make alliances with the king of Assyria. Isaiah, however, opposed such a policy. Nevertheless, Ahaz had his way.
Hezekiah was a great and a noble king. He was one of the great reformers in Israel and brought about a mighty national revival. It was during his day that the little Passover was observed (see Numbers 9). Although Hezekiah was a great man, he had serious faults and made many mistakes. In the fifteenth year of the reign a major crisis developed. For an account of the times and the conditions, see Isaiah 36-39 and the parallel passages in the Book of II Kings.
Manasseh enjoyed the longest reign in Judah of any of her kings. He was on the throne for fifty-five years. He was one of the most reprobate and wicked kings who ever sat upon that throne. Why he was allowed to reign that long, God has not said. We might guess, but we cannot be dogmatic. God sometimes allows wickedness to hold sway until conditions are ripe for judgment. Hints are not lacking that there was a great crisis in his day. His son, Amon, succeeded him and reigned two years. He was undoubtedly the most wicked monarch who ever sat upon the throne of Judah.
Josiah, who reigned for thirty-one years, was indeed one of Judah's great kings. He fell heir to the wretched conditions which had resulted from fifty-seven years of apostasy from God during the two preceding reigns. Being influenced by the high priest, Hilkiaha very godly and consecrated man the young king set his heart to seek the Lord. In the eighteenth year of his reign, he began to purge the land of all idolatry and to cleanse the Temple from the debris and rubbish that had accumulated during the preceding reigns. While the workmen were engaged at this task, a copy of the Book of the Law was discovered in the Temple. It was brought to the king and read before him. He believed God; he saw the situation and immediately instituted national reforms which resulted in a mighty spiritual awakening and turning to God.
There can be no doubt concerning Jeremiah's taking a prominent part in this reform, because he was very active at the time. Huldah, a prophetess, likewise was a mighty factor in this revival. Hilkiah and certain ones whom the king commanded went to her for advice. She spoke to them the word of the Lord. At this time there was a great observance of the passover. (For a full discussion of the events of those stirring times, see II Chronicles 34 and 35 and the parallel passages in II Kings.)
By the time we reach the reign of Jehoiakim, Judah had plunged on the toboggan of sin and rebellion against God to such an extent that she had gotten beyond all remedy. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, which was 3520 A.H., the king of Babylon came against Jerusalem and carried the outstanding men of the realm into captivity. This was the first deportation of exiles.
Jehoiakim was succeeded by Jehoiachin, who reigned only three months. He, with numbers of captives, was taken to Babylon.
The final overthrow of the Jewish nation occurred in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, which was the year 3539 A.H. Thus ended the Davidic line of actual rulers. Since then the throne has been overturned and will not be set up again until He whose right it is shall come (Ezek. 21:27). When He returns, He will mount the throne of David and will establish His authority from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. Glorious times are yet in the future.