Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, began his reign as king of all 12 tribes of Israel in 930 BC after the death of his father. He was king of the united kingdom of Israel for three days until the 10 tribes of the north, led by Jeroboam, rebelled against him and started their own kingdom (Israel) with Jeroboam as their king (1 Kings 12:5-20). The northern kingdom of Israel was in existence for 207 years, from 930 BC to 723 BC (note: this is a correction from my previous article which I stated was for 186 years). Rehoboam (1) then became the first king of the southern kingdom of Judah. There were a total of 19 kings and 1 queen of Judah, and the kingdom was in existence for 344 years (930 to 586 BC).
After the separation of the tribes, the Levites who were living in the north left their homes and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the Lord. “Jeroboam had ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, strong three years; for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chronicles 11:15-17).
After three years had passed, Rehoboam forsook the law of the Lord and transgressed against Him. In Rehoboam’s fifth year, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with a vast army and hundreds of chariots, and he took the fenced cities of Judah and then Jerusalem. He also took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, the treasures of the king’s house, and the shields of gold which Solomon had made. Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, and said unto them, “Thus says the Lord, You have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak” (2 Chronicles 12:5). After hearing this message from the Lord, the king and his princes humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.”
Because the rulers of Judah humbled themselves, the Lord said he would not destroy them. However, Judah did become Egypt’s servants for a short time and had to pay tribute to them. Rehoboam ruled Judah for 17 years and died at the age of 58. His mother was from Ammon and was one of the many pagan wives of Solomon. Rehoboam did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord (2 Chronicles 12:14). There must have been too much ungodly influence coming from his parents for Rehoboam to seek the Lord.
Abijam or Abijah (2), the son of Rehoboam, reigned as king of Judah after the death of his father. He ruled for only three years. “He walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father [actually great grandfather]” (1 Kings 15:3). For David’s sake, the Lord allowed his rule to continue and to establish Jerusalem as his capital. There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. Abijah had 400,000 valiant men of war from Judah, and Jeroboam had 800,000 mighty men of valor from the northern kingdom. To Abijah’s credit, he called out Jeroboam for rebelling against Rehoboam and making golden calves for gods. He also criticized him for making priests out of non-Levites.
At first, it looked like Israel was winning, but then the men of Judah gave a shout, and the priests sounded with their trumpets. At this time, God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah, and the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand. 500,000 men of Israel were slaughtered on this day. It reminds me of the story of Joshua and the slaughter of the citizens of Jericho with the shouting and the trumpets sounding, which occurred about 500 years earlier.
After the death of Abijam in 910 BC, his son Asa (3) became king of Judah. “Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God: for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and broke down the images, and cut down the groves, and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandments. Asa abolished the male cult prostitution that was taking place when the people worshiped the Canaanite goddess Asherah and removed all the idols his predecessors had made.
For Asa’s faith in the Lord, God gave Asa a great victory over an Ethiopian army of one million men who attacked Judah. Asa was wise in that he did not depend on his military might and his army but instead depended on the Lord. This was his prayer before the battle: “Lord, it is nothing with your help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on you, and in your name we go against this multitude: O Lord, you are our God, let not man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11).
Many true believers of Yahweh defected from Israel to Judah when they realized that God was with Asa. Because of Asa’s righteousness and mentoring of the people, God allowed Judah to be at peace for many decades. They even celebrated the feast of Pentecost (in the third month, in the 15th year of Asa’s rule), which hadn’t been done in a long time. They sacrificed 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep (seven being a perfect and complete number of God). They even entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul. “They sought Him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about” (2 Chronicles 15:12,15).
Asa reigned 41 years as king of Judah. Eight kings reigned in Israel during Asa’s 41-year rule, and they were all evil. However, when Asa was old, he made the mistake of depending on another country (Aram/Syria) for assistance against Israel instead of the Lord. God forgave him because in God’s eyes, the heart of Asa was perfect all his days (2 Chronicles 15:17).
Jehoshaphat (4) became king of Judah after the death of Asa in 869 BC. Jehoshaphat was one of the best kings of Judah regarding his love of the Lord. “And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord; moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6). He also sent out traveling teachers of the law of Moses and reorganized Judah’s justice system by placing judges in key cities and a high court in Jerusalem, with Levites and priests as judges.
The evil King Ahab of Israel reigned in the time of Jehoshaphat. There couldn’t have been more of a contrast between the two kings. About this time, Ahab was at war with Syria, and so he called a meeting with Jehoshaphat to see if he would join forces with him against Syria. Jehoshaphat answered him, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; and we will be with you in the war” (2 Chronicles 18:3). This is the war where Ahab is struck with an arrow as he is riding in his chariot and dies shortly afterward. Jehoshaphat gets in trouble as he is surrounded by enemy forces but cries out to the Lord, who helps him to escape.
When Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem, a prophet by the name of Jehu gave him this message from the Lord: “Should you help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord [Israel/Ahab]? Therefore is wrath upon you from before the Lord, Nevertheless there are good things found in you, in that you have taken away the groves out of the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 18:2-3).
It came to pass after this that the nations of Moab and Ammon (and others) were marching towards Jerusalem. “And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4). Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, and spoke to the Lord, asking for his help. 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 is one of the greatest prayers recorded in the Old Testament. It is too lengthy to repeat here, but I highly recommend you read it for yourselves.
After this petition to the Lord, a Levite of the sons of Asaph came forward with the mighty Spirit of the Lord upon him and said, “Hearken you, all Judah and Jerusalem, and you king Jehoshaphat, Thus says the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand you still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem; fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17).
The Lord God used one of his greatest tricks to destroy the enemies of Judah. He got the different armies to fight against one another. It must have been sheer madness. “And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:24). “And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about” (2 Chronicles 20:29-30).
Jehoshaphat reigned in Jerusalem for 25 years. Upon his death in 848 BC, his eldest son Jehoram (5) ruled Judah. When Jehoram became king, he strengthened himself (or so he thought) by killing all his six brothers; so he was the only heir to the kingdom. “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab (Athaliah) to wife: and he did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 21:6). Jehoshaphat had foolishly arranged this marriage, before his death, as a sort of peace treaty between the two kingdoms. Jehoram also made high places in the mountains of Judah and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication in their rituals of Baal worship, and compelled Judah in this regard.
There came a writing to Jehoram from Elijah the prophet, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of David your father, Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also have slain your brothers of your father’s house, which were better than yourself: behold, with a great plague will the Lord smite your people, and your children, and your wives, and all your goods: and you shall have great sickness by disease of your bowels, until your bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day” (2 Chronicles 21:12-15).
The plague came in the way of the Philistines and the Arabians. They came into Judah and broke into the king’s house and carried away all the substance and valuables that were in it. This was probably very substantial as Jehoram probably inherited all the riches from his father and grandfather. The raiders also carried away all of Jehoram’s wives and sons except Ahaziah, the youngest of his sons.
After the end of two years, Elijah’s prophecy came true as Jehoram’s bowels fell out by reason of his sickness, and he died in 841 BC. The people made no burning for him as they did for his fathers. He only lived to be 40 years old, and it is said he departed without being desired. The people buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. It makes you wonder why a man that had such a good influence on his life as his father did would turn out so evil. After all, he was coregent with Jehoshaphat for five years before he became the actual king of Judah. I believe it was because of the evil influence he had with his wife, Athaliah, who was a Baal worshiper like her parents, Ahab and Jezebel.
You either seek the Lord God or you seek after vain things that lead to destruction. These are the two choices each of us has to make in this life.
Ahaziah (6) was 42 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother was Athaliah, who was a wicked woman. The only woman that was probably more wicked than her was Jezebel, her mother. Ahaziah walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly. “Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counsellors after the death of his father to his destruction” (2 Chronicles 22:4).
As mentioned in my previous article, Jehu, the captain of Israel’s army, killed king Joram of Israel and all of Ahab’s descendants; he also killed king Ahaziah of Judah and all of the sons of the brethren of Ahaziah. The people buried him because they said he is the son (grandson) of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart.
When Athaliah saw that her son was dead, she murdered all the seed royal of the house of Judah. “But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of king Jehoram (and sister of Ahaziah), took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber. So Jehoshabeath (who was also the wife of Jehoiada the priest) hid him from Athaliah, so that she slew him not. And he was with them hid in the house of God six years: and Athaliah (7) reigned over the land” (2 Chronicles 22:11-12). Athaliah, the queen mother, was the only ruler of Judah who wasn’t a direct descendant of King David.
In the seventh (number of completion) year of Joash, the priest Jehoiada strengthened himself and made a covenant with the captains (of the army of Judah) of hundreds, the Levites out of all the cities of Judah, and the chief of the fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem to make Joash king. Jehoiada gave all the men weapons and surrounded the young Joash. “Then they brought out the king’s son, and put upon him the crown, and gave him the testimony, and made him king. And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, God save the king” (2 Chronicles 23:11).
Athaliah heard the noise of the people who were running and praising the king and came to the temple to see what was going on. She saw the ‘true’ king, Joash (8), standing with the princes and all the people who were rejoicing and singing, and the trumpeters sounding; so Athaliah rent her clothes, and said, “Treason, Treason “(2 Corinthians 23:13). Jehoiada the priest told the captains of the host to kill her, but not in the house of the Lord. So Athaliah died after a six-year stint as ruler of Israel. The year was 835 BC.
Jehoiada made a covenant between him and the people and the king, that they should be the Lord’s people. “Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and broke it down, and broke his altars and his images in pieces, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses” (2 Chronicles 23:17-18). Joash and Jehoiada also repaired the temple in Jerusalem and offered burnt offerings there continually all the days of Jehoiada.
Jehoiada died at the age of 130 (which was very old for this time period), and they buried him in Jerusalem because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and toward his house. (2 Chronicles 24:16). After Jehoiada’s death, Joash listened to the princes (elites) of Judah. “And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear” (2 Chronicles 24:18-19). Joel may have been one of these prophets.
The Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest and Jehoshabeath (Joash’s aunt), and he said unto them, “Thus says God, Why transgress you the commandments of the Lord, that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you” (2 Chronicles 24:20). Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada and Jeshoshabeath had done for him but had Zechariah stoned to death. For Joash’s transgressions, the Lord sent Syria against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. With just a small company of men, the army of the Syrians destroyed all the princes of the people and spoiled Judah because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. So they executed judgment against Joash. When they had departed, several men conspired against the king and murdered him on his bed.
Joash’s son, Amaziah (9), began to reign in 796 BC when he was 25 years old. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart. (2 Chronicles 25:2). His first act as king was to kill the men who had murdered his father. Amaziah went to war against Edom, which had previously won its independence from Judah, and was victorious over them. Amaziah set up idols he had brought back from Edom and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them. This greatly angered the Lord; however, he sent a prophet to warn him of his foolishness. Amaziah arrogantly rebuked the prophet, who then told him that God had determined to destroy the king because he did not hearken to the word of the Lord.
After Amaziah’s victory over Edom, he next went to war against King Jehoash of Israel. Amaziah was captured, and his army was overwhelmingly defeated. Part of the walls and gates of Jerusalem were destroyed, and the temple and palace were plundered of their gold and silver. Amaziah was released from Israel but was eventually assassinated by his own people in 767 BC.
The people of Judah then took Amaziah’s 16-year-old son, Uzziah/Azariah (10), and made him king. He actually became coregent with his father for 25 years while Amaziah was in prison in Samaria. “Uzziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord and he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5).
Uzziah had many successful military campaigns against the Philistines, Arabians, and the Mehunims. He also fortified the defenses of Jerusalem, dug many wells in the desert, and loved husbandry. “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:15-16).
This was a job that only the priests (sons of Aaron) were allowed to do. For this sin, Uzziah was struck with leprosy, and he remained a leper until the day he died. Uzziah ruled Judah for 52 years and died at the age of 68. The year was 740 BC.
Jotham, a son of Uzziah, was coregent with his father for 10 years. After Uzziah’s death, Jotham (11) began his official reign of Judah. This was the year that the great prophet Isaiah was commissioned as a prophet and had his vison of God on His throne as described in Isaiah 6:1. “Jotham did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did: however he entered not into the temple of the Lord. And the people did yet corruptly” (2 Chronicles 27:2). Jotham built up the defenses of Judah and built cities, castles, and towers. He defeated the Ammonites, who became a vassal kingdom of Judah, which had to pay annual tributes in the form of much silver and wheat and barley to King Jotham. “So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 27:6).
Jotham reigned until 732 BC, but three years earlier, in 735 BC, his son Ahaz co-ruled with him. They probably had a contentious relationship as some scholars believe that Ahaz was raised to the throne with the aid of a pro-Assyrian faction. Ahaz was more conciliatory to Assyria than was Jotham.
Ahaz (12) became sole ruler/king of Judah after the death of Jotham in 735 BC. “He did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father: for he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree” (2 Chronicles 28:1-4). Micah was a prophet during this period and spoke regarding a future judgment against Israel and Judah.
Early in Ahaz’s reign, Israel’s King Pekah and the king of Syria asked him to join them in an alliance against Assyria. When he refused, Israel and Syria invaded Judah, inflicting heavy casualties. Syria also carried away a great multitude of them captive and brought them to Damascus.
King Pekah of Israel slaughtered 120,000 men of Judah in one day and carried away captive of their brethren 200,000 women, sons, and daughters, and took also away much spoil from them, and brought them back to Samaria. A prophet of the Lord named Oded had to be dispatched there to confront the tribes of Israel. These were his words from the Lord: “Behold, because the Lord God of your fathers was angry with Judah, he has delivered them into your hand, and you have slain them in a rage that reaches up unto heaven. And now you purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you; but are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God: Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which you have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you” (2 Chronicles 28:9-11).
The leaders of Israel relented and returned the captives back to Judah.
Isaiah the prophet encouraged Ahaz to put his trust in God, but the king turned to Assyria instead. As a result, Judah became a vassal of Assyria for the next century, and the tribute they were forced to pay depleted the country’s resources. Ahaz’s wickedness consumed him to the point that he burned his own son as a sacrifice to the Assyrian gods, ordered an Assyrian-style altar built in the temple, and used the bronze altar for divination.
King Ahaz was so wicked that he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which devastated Judah. He foolishly reasoned that since the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, therefore he would sacrifice to them, that they help him. This was the ruin of Ahaz and the beginning of the ruin of Judah. “And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made them altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers” (2 Chronicles 28:24-25).
Ahaz died in 715 BC, and the people buried him in Jerusalem, but not into the tombs of the kings of Israel.
As you can see, the sins of Judah are becoming quite full just as Israel’s had. The evil Ahaz was king of Judah at the same time the last evil king of Israel, Hoshea, was on the throne. Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC after a three-year siege. Judah still has 136 more years until God’s judgment and punishment finally catches up with their “fullness of sin” against the Lord, as we will see in part 5.