1 - 7 Azariah King of Judah
1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah became king. 2 He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 3 He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 4 Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. 5 The LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death. And he lived in a separate house, while Jotham the king’s son was over the household, judging the people of the land. 6 Now the rest of the acts of Azariah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 7 And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son became king in his place.
The description of the reign of Azariah is done in the usual terms, with the exception of verse 5. Azariah has ruled for a long time. That indicates a certain stability in Juda. This contrasts sharply with the disorder prevailing in Israel. The five kings mentioned below succeed each other during his reign.
The spiritual level of Azariah is like that of his father and not like that of David. Also during his life the high places remain and the people there bring their sacrifices. Only when Hezekiah rules will these high places be removed.
Azariah has also become unfaithful after a good start. How difficult it is to remain faithful while having a lot of power and good deeds. When he is mighty, he becomes proud (2Chr 26:17-21). He forgets that he owes his power to the LORD. He moderates himself to a position that the LORD has not given him. He wants to sacrifice, something he is not allowed to do. When he is warned, he gets angry. Then the leprosy breaks out. Azariah must live separately from the people. That is until the day of his death his destiny. His son is in charge of the royal house.
Leprosy is a picture of sin breaking out. We also see this with Miriam (Num 12:10) and Gehazi (2Kgs 5:27). Suddenly, others see that in a believer a sin reveals itself. Primal sin is pride, the sin of Satan (1Tim 3:6b) and of Adam, who both wanted to be like God. This sin is in the heart of each of us. We must remember that we are not too good for sinning (cf. Gal 6:1). We may ask ourselves how we react when someone says something to us.
8 - 12 Zechariah King over Israel
8 In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam became king over Israel in Samaria [for] six months. 9 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 10 Then Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him before the people and killed him, and reigned in his place. 11 Now the rest of the acts of Zechariah, behold they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 12 This is the word of the LORD which He spoke to Jehu, saying, “Your sons to the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” And so it was.
After the death of Jeroboam II his son Zechariah becomes king of Israel. He is the last king of the house of Jehu. Then the house of Jehu is over. The last king rules only six months. Yet it is long enough to reveal himself as a king who has not depart from the sins of the first king of Israel.
His reign is so short because he is murdered after only six months. After this the kings follow each other regularly because the reigning king is murdered by his successor. The prophet Hoshea speaks about it. Hoshea begins to prophesy in the days of Jeroboam II (Hos 1:1). In the first chapter of his prophecy the LORD speaks of punishing the house of Jehu for the bloodshed (Hos 1:4). That time has come.
That the kings succeed each other by killing the ruling king, says Hoshea sharply: “bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hos 4:2). This seems to indicate that from Hoshea 4 onwards he describes the situation as it starts with Shallum. The statement “They have set up kings, but not by Me; They have appointed princes, but I did not know i[t]” (Hos 8:4a) seems to confirm this. They have made kings, but not from the LORD.
That Shallum by the murder of Zechariah fulfills the word of the LORD (2Kgs 10:30; Amos 7:9), does not diminish his own responsibility. Here again we see the two sides: the side of man’s responsibility and the side of God’s counsel. Shallum could have said with a pious appeal to what God had said that he had done the will of God. But it is not like that. He has acted out of his own will and must bear the punishment for his sin.
At the same time God has fulfilled His counsel through this action. The last part of verse 12 emphasizes that: “And so it was.” It happened exactly as the LORD said and not otherwise. In Hebrew they are the same words as those used in Genesis 1, always after God has spoken, and there are translated with “and it was so” (Gen 1:7,9,11,15,24,31).
13 - 16 Shallum King over Israel
13 Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned one month in Samaria. 14 Then Menahem son of Gadi went up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and struck Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, and killed him and became king in his place. 15 Now the rest of the acts of Shallum and his conspiracy which he made, behold they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 16 Then Menahem struck Tiphsah and all who were in it and its borders from Tirzah, because they did not open [to him]; therefore he struck [it] and ripped up all its women who were with child.
Shallum has not been in power for long, only one month. His reign is so short that he was unable to lead the people. As the only king of the five mentioned here, his name does not include the refrain that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. When he has ruled for a one month, he is murdered by Menahem, after which Menahem himself sits on the throne.
What an anti-testimony the people gives here of the LORD. As people they should have witnessed the great goodness of the LORD. Instead, they slaughter each other. It is a warning to us that we must be careful not to live in disgrace with other members of God’s people, wherever they may be.
A special atrocity is mentioned of Menahem. Because the gate has not been opened for him, he is severely offended in his pride. He is the king! How do they dare to shut him out instead of receiving him as king with all the honor that a king is worth? This insult he makes them paid for that with an extra-ordinary cruelty. He cuts open the belly of all pregnant women. Menahem lacked all respect for life. This atrocity is committed here by someone who belongs to God’s people (2Kgs 8:12; Hos 14:1; Amos 1:13).
The barbaric cruelty he commits and the lack of respect for life he shows are today found in cultivated form in the abortion clinics.
17 - 22 Menahem King over Israel
17 In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king over Israel [and reigned] ten years in Samaria. 18 He did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 19 Pul, king of Assyria, came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver so that his hand might be with him to strengthen the kingdom under his rule. 20 Then Menahem exacted the money from Israel, even from all the mighty men of wealth, from each man fifty shekels of silver to pay the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned and did not remain there in the land. 21 Now the rest of the acts of Menahem and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 22 And Menahem slept with his fathers, and Pekahiah his son became king in his place.
Menahem, who came to power by murder, is king over Israel for a period of ten years. During his reign, “Pul, king of Assyria” comes against him. Here we hear for the first time in the Bible of the king of Assyria. Menahem prevents a confrontation by paying a large sum of money. He takes that money away from a number of wealthy people. It is not inconceivable that these people became so wealthy in the time of economic prosperity under Jeroboam II. Here, however, they are obliged to cede a considerable part of their fortune to Menahem.
Here we see how relatively wealth is. Today we are also reminded of this when we see how banks can no longer meet their obligations. Then all the savings have suddenly disappeared.
But Menahem does not only buy off an attack by Pul with this money. He has given so much money that he can negotiate an extra advantage. That extra advantage is that Pul is now on his hand. The king of Assyria was bought into an ally, someone who will support him when enemies come. He seeks support from someone who first sought his downfall and in essence still does so. How can anyone be so blind to the real nature of a sworn enemy? This is only possible if there is no trust in the LORD.
Remarkably enough Menahem dies a natural death. He is not killed by the next one who wants to be king, but is succeeded by his son Pekahiah. Pekahiah is murdered again.
23 - 26 Pekahiah King over Israel
23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king over Israel in Samaria, [and reigned] two years. 24 He did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 25 Then Pekah son of Remaliah, his officer, conspired against him and struck him in Samaria, in the castle of the king’s house with Argob and Arieh; and with him were fifty men of the Gileadites, and he killed him and became king in his place. 26 Now the rest of the acts of Pekahiah and all that he did, behold they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.
Pekahia reigns two years. That relatively short period is long enough to make the refrain sound over the whole of his reign that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. He is succeeded by the man who, by killing him, puts an end to his reign. That man is his officer Pekah.
Pekah is helped in his murder of Pekahia by the Gileadites, people who live on wilderness side of the Jordan. This may be an indication that political interests play a role in this murder of king – as may be the case with other murders of kings. We also see these political interests in the searching for the support of neighboring peoples, sometimes of Assyria and sometimes of Egypt.
In any case, party formation within the present people of God, the church, is unfortunately also now not a strange phenomenon (1Cor 1:11-12). Party formation always brings division and dissatisfaction.
27 - 31 Pekah King over Israel
27 In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah became king over Israel in Samaria, [and reigned] twenty years. 28 He did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria. 30 And Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and struck him and put him to death and became king in his place, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah. 31 Now the rest of the acts of Pekah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.
Pekah is in power for a longer period of time. He reigns over Israel for twenty years, doing like all the kings of Israel what is evil in the sight of the LORD. In his days, Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, comes against Israel and conquers a number of cities and territories. He takes the inhabitants of it to Assyria. Thus he breaks their power. He takes “Gilead” away, that is part of Israel on the wilderness side of the Jordan, the area of the two and a half tribe, and he takes “Galilee, all the land of Naphtali” away, that is the whole north of Israel; nothing remains of it.
Pekah not only loses a lot of territory and subjects but also his life. He is murdered by Hoshea, who becomes king in his place. Hoshea is a pro-Assyrian king. There is not much left for him as king to rule over. Only in 2 Kings 17 we hear more about king Hoshea.
32 - 38 Jotham King of Judah
32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah became king. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name [was] Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. 34 He did what was right in the sight of the LORD; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. 35 Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD. 36 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 37 In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah. 38 And Jotham slept with his fathers, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father; and Ahaz his son became king in his place.
With the arrival of Jotham, the son of Uzziah or Azariah, as king of Judah, we are back in the realm of the two tribes. It is said of him, as of eight other kings who ruled after Solomon, that he does what is right in the sight of the LORD. Of those eight, Jotham is the only one of whom is not said to have become unfaithful at a later age. He follows his father in the good. He does not follow the evil his father did. However, the people he rules continue their pernicious practices (2Chr 27:1-2).
In his days Micah begins to prophesy (Mic 1:1). The prophet Isaiah began his service in the last years of his father Uzziah (Isa 1:1). Isaiah describes the evil deeds in detail in his book. Kings can be used by the LORD for a revival. Revivals, however, have little real and lasting result because of the fact that under the surface the desire of the people for idolatry in whatever form is always present.
In the history of Israel and Judah it goes further and further downhill. In Israel, the last king, Hoshea, is in government. In Judah it will take a while, but then also for that kingdom the curtain will fall because of their stubborn deviations from the LORD. It is the end-time of God’s people, just as we live in it. Where is true love for and faithfulness to the Lord found? Church history is often made and written by the great men, but what did it really look like among the people? The mass often goes with in the width, while only a few go into the depths.
Jotham is also interested in the temple. This is evident from the only act that is mentioned of him. It is noted of him that he “built the upper gate of the house of the LORD”.
Because of the constant unfaithfulness of the people, the LORD must send enemies against Judah. The new enemy is “Rezin king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah”. Pekah is the king of Israel who here, in an ungodly covenant with Rezin, the ungodly king of Syria, stands up against his brothers. The fact that the LORD does this does not diminish the responsibility of Pekah to do this evil work.