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Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Kings 11 to 2 Kings 20

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleSo much of what was in these chapters was similar to previous chapters. A king would take the throne, and either do good or evil in the eyes of the Lord. There were wars and battles between Israel, Judah, and their neighbors. And kings would die and their sons would take the throne. It actually became very tedious. So, in an effort to keep this review from getting too boring, I'm going to try to focus on just the unique aspects from each chapter. Rest assured that the Bible was a bit more thorough in its coverage, though still fairly superficial, and still often ending the description of a king with a reference to the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah or the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel.

There was one event of particular importance in these chapters - the collapse of Israel when it was conquered by Assyria.

2 Kings, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 contains something unusual for either of the books of Kings - a queen. When Ahaziah died, his mother, Athaliah, took the throne. But this wasn't just declaring herself queen and everyone saying 'okay'. Rather, she had to "set about to destroy all the royal family" - her own grandchildren - to make sure she had no competitors. But one of her grandsons, Joash, was saved by her daughter (I think), and hidden for six years "in the house of the Lord". Once Joash was old enough to rule, apparently 7 years old, the priest, Jehoiada led a revolt in his name. Athaliah was found in the house of the Lord, but rather than spill her blood there, she was drug out and executed in the king's house.

To make Joash's reign official, especially since the line of descent from David had been broken, Jehoiada made a new "covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord's people; also between the king and the people."

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) pointed out that since the redactors of Kings considered Athaliah to be an illegitimate ruler, they didn't give her the same full treatment as all the other kings.

2 Kings, Chapter 12

After mentioning that Jehoash was a decent if not perfect ruler, chapter 12 began a story on repairing the house of the Lord. Apparently, the priests hadn't been using the offerings to maintain the house. So, Jehoash had them start setting aside all the money from offerings to be put towards repairing the building.

King Hazael of Aram set his sights on attacking Jerusalem, so Jehoash appeased him with all the votive gifts from his ancestors, "as well as his own votive gifts, all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king's house".

The NOAB has been pointing out many inconsistencies and contradictions between Kings and Chronicles. I haven't been including all of those in these entries, but the end of Chapter 12 contains one to use as an example. In fact, this one also illustrates a problem in determining the 'original' version of the stories. The NRSV comittee chose to translate verse 21 as saying that "Jozacar son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer" were the two servants who killed Joash, and presented it as a conspiracy. According to the NOAB, two different early copies of this book conflict on the names of the conspirators - the LXX uses the names that were given here, while the MT gave the name Johazabad for both conspirators. 2 Chronicles 24 gives a slightly different account of Joash's death. It lists the killers as "Zabad son of Shimeath the Ammonite, and Jehozabad son of Shimrith the Moabite", giving yet a third name for the first killer, and also claiming that they killed him in retaliation for the death of one of the sons of Jehoiada.

2 Kings, Chapter 13

King Jehoahaz became king of Israel. And while he originally angered God into causing Israel to fall into the hands of invading kings, King Jehoahaz finally "entreated the Lord", and once God "saw the oppression of Israel", he finally rescued them from Aram. But, since they continued to sin, God let the King of Aram destroy the remnant of Jehoahaz's army. This whole story is just odd - from punishing to saving to punishing again. God's not very consistent.

Next came a story I found amusing. When Elisha was about to die, the latest King Joash of Israel went to visit him on his deathbed. He was worried about the strength of Israel's army, so Elisha told him to take a bow and arrow and to shoot an arrow out the window, at which point Elisha said, "The Lord's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!" Next, he told Joash to strike the ground with some arrows. Joash did this three times then stopped, which was apparently the wrong thing to do, "Then the man of God was angry with him, and said, 'You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Aram until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Aram only three times.' " What if he had struck the ground 100 times? Would Israel have become invulnerable?

After Elisha died and was buried, a bizarre miracle occurred. Another dead man was thrown into Elisha's grave, and upon touching Elisha's bones, the man came back to life. It seems much more like magic than any type of intentional power.

2 Kings, Chapter 14

After Joash of Judah had been killed, his son, Amaziah took the throne. And the first thing he did was to kill the men who had killed his father. But, in a rare bit of restraint thus far, "he did not put to death the children of the murderers; according to what is written in the book of the law of Moses, where the Lord commanded, 'The parents shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the parents; but all shall be put to death for their own sins.' " It was a bit incongruous, though, to see this here when so many other places in this book children were being punished for their parents, even by God himself.

The remainder of the chapter was more of the same that I described in the introduction to this week's entry.

2 Kings, Chapter 15

Chapter 15 was yet more of the same - fighting, conspiring, assassinations, plundering, etc.

2 Kings, Chapter 16

King Ahaz son of Jotham of Judah became king, but did evil. This chapter did mention an interesting practice, "He even made his son pass through fire, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel."

Upon return from a visit to Damascus, Ahaz directed the priest, Uriah, to copy the altar he'd seen there, and had the original bronze altar moved. Of course, he performed all manner of offerings on the new altar, including dashing blood on it. He intended to use the new altar for offerings, while the old "bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by." He further remodeled the house of the Lord, changing many of the objects that God himself had given exact directions on how to make. I can very easily imagine something like this happening in reality, and the priests being very upset at the lack of respect for tradition, and writing a bad role for Ahaz in the history books.

2 Kings, Chapter 17

Chapter 17 actually contained a very big event - the fall of Israel. King Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel, and while he did evil in the sight of the Lord, it was "yet not like the kings of Israel who were before him." King Shalmaneser of Assyria forced Hoshea to become a vassal, but Hoshea tried to contact King So of Egypt for help. When Shalmaneser learned of Hoshea's treachery, he captured and imprisoned him. Then, he invaded Israel, eventually conquered it, and "carried the Israelites away to Assyria."

Next came a long list of all the sins committed by Israel, and why God had allowed them to be conquered. It all came down to not staying faithful to God's commandments and worshiping other gods.

The king of Assyria sent settlers to colonize the newly conquered land, but they didn't worship Yahweh, so "the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them." When the king learned that his people were being attacked because "they do not know the law of the god of the land", he sent an Israelite priest to teach them the law. But they didn't completely abandon their old practices, "they worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. To this day they continue to practice their former customs." There was a bit of repetition (perhaps a remnant from combining multiple sources), with the end of the chapter closing similarly, "So these nations worshiped the Lord, but also served their carved images; to this day their children and their children's children continue to do as their ancestors did."

This particular passage probably presents God in the smallest role of any passage I've read so far. For supposedly being the creator of the entire universe, he's awfully concerned about one particular plot of land. Why was God not concerned about how the Assyrians worshiped until they moved into the promised land? It seems to be presenting Yahweh as a local god ruling over that region, not a universal god ruling over everything. Tied in with the end of Chapter 3, where a sacrifice to Chemosh was enough to stop an Israelite invasion, this really does seem to indicate that the writers of Kings were henotheistic rather than monotheistic.

2 Kings, Chapter 18

Chapter 18 started off with King Hezekiah of Judah beginning his reign. He was described as doing "right in the sight of the Lord", finally taking down the high places, breaking down pillars and sacred poles, and even cutting up the bronze snake Moses had made since people had even been making offerings to it.

After a brief digression into describing the fall of Israel (perhaps yet another remnant from combining sources), the chapter described how King Sennacherib of Assyria began capturing cities of Judah. Hezekiah tried to appease Sennacherib by sending him gold and silver, even using the gold that overlaid various objects in the temple. But Sennacherib still sent emissaries to Jerusalem to deliver a message that he was planning to attack. It seems that the purpose of the emissaries was to scare the people of Jerusalem, possibly so that they'd surrender or dessert. The threat was of the sort you'd expect - look how powerful the king is, none of the other nations' gods have saved them, don't listen to your own king, etc.

2 Kings, Chapter 19

When the threats from Sennacherib's emissaries were relayed to Hezekia, "he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord." Then, he prayed to God and sent for the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah relayed a message from God that everything would turn out okay for Judah.

After a mention of some fighting between the king of Assyria and Libnah, Hezekiah again sent messengers to Hezekiah, with a shorter version of the message his emissaries had delivered in person in the previous chapter. Again, Hezekiah prayed to God, though a longer prayer this time, and again Isaiah responded with a message from God assuring Hezekiah that Judah would be victorious, only it was a much longer response this time, and in verse. If I had to guess, I'd wager that these are really two different versions of the same story but from different sources being combined into one story here, depicting it as two separate events.

God fulfilled his promise, "That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies." Sennacherib went back to Nineveh, and was later murdered "as he was worshiping in the house of his god Nisroch".

2 Kings, Chapter 20

Hezekiah was on his deathbed, and Isaiah visited him to deliver a message from God,"Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover." But Hezekiah wept and pled with the Lord, and so God changed his mind. He sent Isaiah back to deliver a new message, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord." God also promised an additional 15 years of life for Hezekiah, and deliverance from the King of Assyria. When Hezekiah asked Isaiah for a sign that this was true, Isaiah told him to watch the shadows, "the shadow has now advanced ten intervals; shall it retreat ten intervals?" When Isaiah cried out to the Lord, the shadow miraculously retreated.

The king of Babylon sent envoys to Hezekiah, and Hezekiah showed them all that he had. Isaiah relayed another prophecy, that the Babylonians would eventually carry everything from Hezekiah's house, but Hezekiah was relieved that it wouldn't happen in his lifetime.


I don't have anything new to say in this conclusion that I haven't already said in my conclusions to my previous entries on both books of Kings. It is interesting to think that these stories may be based on real events, but there's also the inevitable embellishment you have to look past to try to imagine what the reality might have been.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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