Ikings 14:21–15:24. The First Three Kings of Judah.
Key Notes: Seek the Lord; He will help you. Ignore the Lord; He will ignore you. We go back and forth.
This lesson should be read first in Kings and then supplemented with IIChron.12–16. Each of the three kings faced at least one major war. Their strategies and God's role are the subject we will look at. Most of the spiritual lessons are in II Chronicles.
IK.14:21–24 Rehoboam was 41 when he took the throne and reigned 17 years as king. His mother was Naamah of Ammon, mentioned again (14:31) as if her influence may have contributed to Rehoboam's evil ways: she was an Ammonite. Judah was also doing evil, to the point of supporting sacred prostitution.
IK.14:25–28 Shishak, King of Egypt attacked Judah--and Israel. His invasion was extensive, and confirmed by archaeology. A fragment of a triumphal stele from Shishak has been found by archaeologists at Megiddo (near Galilee). Egyptian engravings at Karnak describe the capture of 150 Israelite cities. He did not conquer Jerusalem, but confiscated Solomon's gold shields, and treasures from the temple and palace.
IIChron.1–12 Shemaiah the prophet spoke for God, telling Rehoboam's administration "You have abandoned me so I have abandoned you to Shishak." Then they humbled themselves and God gave them partial deliverance but they would be servants of Shishak. Eventually the Egyptians drifted away, because Israelites did not have to recapture their territory, but the invasion left evidences which can be seen to this day.
At this time Rehoboam was still worshiping regularly at the temple, because bronze shields were brought out each time he visited.
IK.15:1–8 Rehoboam's son, Abijah, by Maachah of Abishalom, reigned only three years. He had a divided heart toward the Lord. God gave mercy to Judah on the merits of David.
IIChron.13:1–22 describes a war between Abijah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel, 400,000 against 800,000. Abijah stood atop a high hill and preached to Jeroboam and the northern troops:
God gave the kingdom of Israel to David.
Jeroboam rebelled and captured the northern tribes.
Do you think you can withstand Judah, with your vast army and your golden calves? Your priests are for hire. Our priests are the sons of Levi and keep the charge of God which you have forsaken.
God is at our head. Do not fight against the LORD.
Jeroboam ambushed Abijah but God gave the northern tribes into the hand of Judah and they took 500,000 men and several border towns.
For all of his short reign, Abijah had 14 wives and‘ children. He may have come to the kingdom in his 40's as Rehoboam had.
IK.15:9–24. Asa, a good man, was king for 41 years. His mother also was Maacah of Abishalom. Abijah did much reform, getting rid of idols and sacred prostitutes. He deposed his mother from being queen-mother because she had an abominable idol.
IIChron.14:7–8 He fortified Judah and developed his army.
IIChron.14:9–15 He was attacked by Zerah, and a Sudan / Somali / Libyan army of a million men. He cried to God for help: "let not man prevail against Thee." So God defeated this multitude until the north African army was completely broken up and plundered.
IIChron.15:1–7 Azariah, a prophet, son of Oded, met him on his return from battle and encouraged him.
"If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you".
For a long while the Israelites had had no law or teaching priest and there was no peace; all the inhabitants were afflicted. God had troubled them. Now Asa was encouraged to go to work.
IIChron.15:8–19. Asa gathered the multitude, including many who had deserted the northern tribes and they celebrated Pentecost and covenanted to serve the Lord with all their hearts. They intended to purge the land of idolators as if they were first coming into the Promised Land. Deut.13:6–10
IK.15:16–24. Asa was now troubled by Baasha and the tribes of Israel. Baasha had made a fort at Ramah, just south of the border between Israel and Judah, intending to block Judah from the trade routes.
Asa induced Benhadad of Syria to break his alliance with Baasha and help him. He bought Benhadad off with temple and palace gold.
That worked. Benhadad occupied Naphtali, the Galilee district and Baasha gave up fortifying Ramah. Asa got all his people to move the building materials from Ramah and to build two other border towns. IIChron. 16:7–14.
But Hanani the Prophet denounced Asa for relying on the king of Syria instead of the Lord.
"The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through out the whole earth, to show His might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward Him. ...from now on you will have wars." (IIChron.16:9)
Asa was furious and put Hanani to torture in prison, and oppressed some of his people--presumably those who supported the prophet.
At the end of his life Asa was affected by vascular disease of his feet. He did not consult the Lord and died miserably. He probably had wet gangrene, because special perfumes were used at his burial.
These three kings of Judah had four wars: two were successes and two were failures.
*Rehoboam's war with Shishak was plainly a punishment for Judah's sins. He and his princes humbled themselves and gradually the attackers faded away.
*Abijah had a divided heart, but under the stress of combat against superior numbers from the northern tribes, he sounded the right note and God gave him the victory.
*Asa had an encounter with a vastly superior force of North-Africans and won with God's help.
*However, with a much smaller challenge, a border war with Baasha, Asa forgot to consult the Lord, and made a damaging alliance with Syria. That would cost him the peace of his kingdom. Further, Syria would plague the northern tribes for years to come.
The lesson is plain and is repeated 8 times. If you seek the Lord, He will be with you. If you desert the Lord, He will desert you. Dare we use the word "reciprocity"?
"You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak." (IIChron.12:5)
"O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord...for you cannot succeed." (IIChron.13:12)
"...they cried to the Lord and...God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah."
"..we have sought Him and He has given us peace on every side." (IIChron.14:7)
"...'let not man prevail against Thee'. So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa...." (IIChron.14:11–12)
"The Lord is with you, while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." (IIChron.15:2)
"...for they had sworn with all their heart, and had sought Him with their whole desire, and He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest round about." (IIChron.15:15)
"Because you relied on the king of Syria and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you." "You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars." (IIChron.16:7,8)
Is God unreliable? Does He not keep His Covenant? Obviously He is faithful. He remains constant. People turn away and sometimes turn back again.
As in the case of Rehoboam and Jeroboam in a previous lesson, an initial encounter with God was later forgotten or discounted and human will and logic intervened. We are the same. We depend on the Lord, but not always. "I can do it myself", the announcement of every two-year-old, is a recurring theme throughout life. We have a see-saw contest between our way and God's way, losing and winning, winning and losing.
P.S. For those who care about the details, the genealogy of Rehoboam needs some explanation.
On his paternal side, Rehoboam is the son of Naamah the Ammonitess (IK.14:21) by Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba.
On his maternal side, Maacah (I) of Talmai, an Ammonitess , was another of David's wives and the mother of Absalom (also called Abishalom; IK.15:2).Maacah /Micaiah is the mother of both Abijah (IK. 15:2) and Asa (IK.15:10) by Rehoboam.