Lesson 6: Chapters 14:-16:28
Part II: The Divided Kingdom
A  Summary of the Reigns of Jeroboam of Israel and Rehoboam of Judah
The Reigns of Bad King Abijam and Good King Asa of Judah
The Reigns of Five Bad Kings of Israel

Almighty and Eternal Father,
Give us righteous leaders to guide our nation who are not swayed by the praise of those with self-seeking agendas or by the corrupting influence of material benefit.  The covenant people of Israel suffered under failed leaders who rejected Your commandments and relied on their own understanding and desires.  Therefore, You withdrew Your protection from the leaders and their nations.  We will suffer in the same way if we cannot discern between righteous men and women and those who seduce us with sugar-coated words and lead us into sin in the same way Jeroboam misled the people of the northern tribes.  Give us wisdom, Lord, that is based on a good understanding of Your commandments—commandments that are as relevant for us today as they were for the people of the covenant in the 10th century BC.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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St. Jerome, quoting from Ps 103:8; 145:9-10; and 1 Kings 14:7b-8: "'The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy ... The Lord is sweet to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.'  You hear that his mercies are so great, and do you dare to put your trust in your own virtue?  'Let all your works, O Lord, confess to you.'  If people are also part of his works, then all people should confess their sins ... Jeroboam, who caused Israel to sin, is reproved for having neglected the commandments of the Lord, and it is said to him, 'I gave you the kingdom of the house of David, and you have not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing that which was well pleasing in my sight.'"
Jerome, Against the Pelagians, 2.20

The northern tribes of Israel became dissatisfied with Solomon's oppressive forced labor policy (1 Kng 5:13-18; 12:4).  Therefore, when Rehoboam succeeded his father, before they would agree to acknowledge his kingship over them, the northern tribes asked him to reduce their burden of forced labor which they described as "slavery."  Rehoboam, however, instead of following the wise counsel of the elders who had served his father, listened to his peers and told the elders of the northern tribes that he intended to intensify their burden of labor and torture them if they resisted (1 King 12:6-14).  His unwillingness to compromise caused ten of the northern tribes to secede.  In an effort to resolve the conflict, Rehoboam sent his minister of forced labor, Adoram (Adoniram) to the northern tribes.(1)  Perhaps he was hoping to negotiate a settlement through an experienced senior minister who had served his father (2 Sam 20:24).  But the northern tribes were in no mood to negotiate, and when they stoned to death Rehoboam's minister, it was necessary for Rehoboam to escape in his chariot to avoid a similar fate (1 Kng 12:18).

The ten northern tribes chose as their new king Jeroboam of Ephraim.  Ironically, Jeroboam had been a former overseer of forced labor for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh during the reign of King Solomon.  He had rebelled against King Solomon years earlier and had been living in exile in Egypt (1 Kng 11:28; 12:20).  To humble the Davidic successors of Solomon, a king who had failed to be obedient to God's commandments unlike his father David (1 Kng 11:9-13), Yahweh had promised this Ephraimite prince kingship over Israel and a dynasty of his own but only if he remained loyal to all Yahweh's commandments like David (1 Kng 11:37-39).  This is in fulfillment to what Yahweh told David concerning the Davidic heirs when He made the eternal covenant with David: I shall be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does wrong, I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives.  But my faithful love will never be withdrawn from him as I withdrew it from Saul ... (2 Sam 7:14-15a).  Jeroboam was a "rod" used to punish the House of David.

Obedient to Yahweh's command, King Rehoboam did not resist the northern session by going to war (1 Kng 12:22-24).  The people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (tribes of Judah and Benjamin) continued to worship at the Jerusalem Temple, but King Jeroboam reintroduced pagan idol worship into the Northern Kingdom; he expelled the ordained priests of Yahweh and the Levites, and he created his own priesthood and his own feast day (1 Kng 12:28-33).  Jeroboam was condemned by Yahweh's prophet for his apostasy, and he was told his dynasty was to be destroyed just like his pagan altar at Bethel (1 Kng 13:1-3, 33).  Despite seeing the "sign" from God in the fulfillment of the oracle of the prophet of Judah, Jeroboam did not repent and persisted in his sinful conduct.  The terrible outcome of his dynasty should make us ponder the grave consequences of persisting in sin, because as Scripture frequently reminds us and as St. John Chrysostom explains, "what angers and offends God more than sin itself, is that sinners show no sorrow for their sins" (Homiliae in Matthaeus, 14.4).

Chapter 14:  Summary of the Reigns of King Jeroboam of Israel and King Rehoboam of Judah

When Ephraim used to speak, all trembled; he was a power in Israel; but once he had incurred guilt with Baal, he died.  And now they compound their sins by casting images for themselves out of their silver, idols of their own invention, the work of craftsmen, all of it! 
"Sacrifice to them," they say!  Men bestow kisses to calves!  That is why they will be like morning mist, like the dew that quickly disappears, like the chaff whirled from the threshing-floor, like smoke escaping through the window.

Hosea 13:1-3

In the Old Testament, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is variously called "Ephraim" (after its dominant tribe), or "Samaria" (after its capital city), or Israel.  Nineteen kings reigned over the Northern Kingdom of Israel from nine different families for a combined period of 208 years.  In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, only one family reigned—the heirs of the House of David to whom God had promised an everlasting dynasty (2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5; 2 Chr 31:5; Ps 89:36-37; 132:11-12; Sir 45:25).  Davidic kings ruled over Judah from c. 1010 until the Babylonian conquest in 587/6 BC.

1 Kings 14:1-3 ~ Jeroboam sends his wife to the prophet Abijah
1 At that time Abijah, Jeroboam's son, fell sick, 2 and Jeroboam said to his wife, "Come, please disguise yourself so that no one will recognize you as Jeroboam's wife, and go to Shiloh; the prophet Ahijah is there.  The man who said I was to be king of this people.  3 Go to him, and take ten loaves and some savory food and a jar of honey; he will tell you what will happen to the child." 

Jeroboam is desperate.  His son is ill and he knows that there is no legitimate prophet left in the Northern Kingdom, so he sends his wife to Ahijah of Shiloh, the prophet who foretold his rise to kingship (1 Kng 11:29-39).  Shiloh was located about ten miles north of Bethel and was at one time the administrative and religious center for the Israelite tribes.  The distribution of the land by lot to the twelve tribes took place there (Josh chp. 18-19), and the desert Tabernacle and the seat of the priesthood was at one time established there during Joshua's time under the leadership of the High Priest Eleazar, son and successor of Aaron (Josh 18:1).  Shiloh continued to be the site of the Sanctuary in the era of the Judges of Israel and in the years just prior to the beginning of the monarchy when Eli, the adopted father of the prophet Samuel, was high priest (1 Sam 1:3, 9, 24).  After Eli's death, Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines in the 11th century BC and never returned to prominence as the center of worship.

Jeroboam tells his wife to disguise herself and to 3 "Go to him, and take ten loaves and some savory food and a jar of honey; he will tell you what will happen to the child." 
It was the practice to take a gift to a prophet from whom one was seeking advice or intercession (c.f., Num 22:7; 1 Sam 9:7; 2 Kng 5:15).  It was the way a prophet was able to meet his needs and to sustain his prophetic ministry.

1 Kings 14:4-16 ~ The prophecy of Ahijah the prophet
4 Jeroboam's wife did this: she set out, went to Shiloh and came to Ahijah's house.  5 Now Ahijah could not see, his eyes were fixed with age, but Yahweh had told him, "Jeroboam's wife is now on her way to ask you for a prophecy about her son, as he is sick.  You will tell her such and such.  When she comes, she will pretend to be some other woman."  6 So when Ahijah heard her footsteps at the door, he called, "Come in, wife of Jeroboam; why pretend to be someone else?  I have bad news for you.  7 Go and tell Jeroboam, 'Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: I raised you from the people and made you leader of my people Israel; 8 I tore the kingdom from the House of David and gave it to you.  But you have not been like my servant David who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only what I regard as right; 9 you have done more evil than all your predecessors, you have gone and made yourself other gods, idols of cast metal, provoking my anger, and you have turned your back on me.  10 For this I shall bring disaster on the House of Jeroboam.  I will shall wipe out every manjack of the family of Jerobaom, fettered or free in Israel, I shall sweep away the House of Jeroboam as a man sweeps dung away till none is left.  11 Those of Jeroboam's family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat, for Yahweh has spoken.'  12 Now get up and go home; at the moment your feet enter the town, the child will die.  13 All Israel will mourn for him, and bury him; and he alone of Jeroboam's family will have a proper burial, for in him alone of the House of Jeroboam can Yahweh, God of Israel, find anything good.  14 Yahweh will set a king over Israel, who will put an end to the House of Jeroboam.  15 Yahweh will make Israel shake, till it quivers like a reed in the water; he will uproot Israel from the prosperous land which he gave to their ancestors and scatter them beyond the River for provoking Yahweh to anger by making their sacred poles.  16 He will abandon Israel for the sins which Jeroboam has committed and made Israel commit." 

Question: The tragedy of his son's illness (who is probably his heir) should have elicited what kind of response in the king?
Answer: His misfortune was an opportunity for the king's repentance and conversion, but instead he chose to hide from God and to deceive His prophet.

Jeroboam sent his wife in disguise to seek the counsel of Ahijah the prophet, but Jeroboam should have known that a disguise cannot fool a true prophet of Yahweh.  Despite his blindness, God's word of knowledge gave Abijah the ability to recognize the queen.  She must have been shocked when he heard her footsteps and greeted her, not only knowing her true identity but her mission.  The prophet not only gives the queen the verdict of her son's death but condemns Jeroboam for his apostasy, comparing him unfavorable with God's servant, King David, who will be the ideal model of a king to whom all the kings of Israel and Judah will be compared.

Question: In addition to the announcement of the death of the child, what is Yahweh's condemnation of Jeroboam and His judgments against him and the Northern Kingdom delivered by the prophet?  See verses 9-16.

Denial of a proper burial in verse 11 underlines the severity of God's judgment and was regarded as the worst disgrace possible.

10 For this I shall bring disaster on the House of Jeroboam.  I will shall wipe out every manjack of the family of Jerobaom, fettered or free in Israel, I shall sweep away the House of Jeroboam as a man sweeps dung away till none is left. 
Scholars have long debated the meaning of the words "fettered or free," referring to Jeroboam's family.  The majority of scholars assume it means that Jeroboam's family line will not survive either as free men or as men who have been taken into bondage.  In other words, no descendant of Jeroboam's will survive.  It is an interesting prediction in light of the fact that when King Jechoniah of Judah is bound and taken away in "fetters" by the Babylonians, his line will survive and will reach its climax in Joseph, the husband of Mary of Nazareth and the legal father of Jesus (Mt 1:11-16).

14 Yahweh will set a king over Israel, who will put an end to the House of Jeroboam.
This part of the prophecy is fulfilled in 909 BC by Baasha of the tribe of Issachar who will butcher the entire House of Jeroboam "not sparing a soul" (1 Kng 15:27-30).

The evil committed by Jeroboam in introducing idol worship into Israel is greater than any others who held positions of leadership in Israel before him and would include bad men during the era of the Judges (like Abimelech) and the failures of kings Saul and his son Ishbaal.  The judgment of exile will be fulfilled by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC (2 Kng 17:5-6).  The prophecy is a sharp contrast to the blessings God had promised Jeroboam in exchange for his obedience in 1 Kings 11:37-39.

The prophet's words to the grieving mother seem especially harsh: 12 Now get up and go home; at the moment your feet enter the town, the child will die.  13 All Israel will mourn for him, and bury him; and he alone of Jeroboam's family will have a proper burial, for in him alone of the House of Jeroboam can Yahweh, God of Israel, find anything good.  If God is merciful, how can He take the life of an innocent child who alone of the family has any good in him even if his father is evil?
Question: What does the inspired writer of the Book of Wisdom write about the premature death of the good and how does this apply to Jeroboam's son?  See Wis 4:7-14.
Answer: The writer says that the length of years are not the true measure of one's life and sometimes God's calls the upright home to Him before they can be corrupted by sin. 

To take home to heaven the righteous is an act of God's love and grace:  Having won God's favor, he has been loved and, as he was living among sinners, has been taken away.  He has been carried off so that evil may not warp his understanding or deceitfulness seduce his soul... (Wis 4:10-11).  In the case of Jeroboam's young son, he was certainly surrounded by evil.

The "sacred poles" in verse 15 refer to wooden cult objects and rituals in worshiping the fertility goddess Asherah, the consort of the Canaanite chief deity, Baal (Judg 3:7; 2 Kng 23:4).

Question: What message is there for us in this part of Jeroboam's story?
Answer: Jeroboam's actions and their consequences demonstrated how absurd and futile it is to try to deceive God and His representatives.   It is a reminder for us that there is nothing to be gained by making an insincere or incomplete confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, because while the priest may not have the ability read your heart and mind, God the Son can!

St. Augustine wrote that a person who tries to hide his sins from God "... is like one who goes to the doctor's clinic and shows only the healthy parts of his body, covering up the wounds.  Let God bandage your wounds, not you yourself, because if you are ashamed and try to bind up your own wounds, the doctor will not be able to cure you.  Allow the doctor to bandage and to heal; he will apply the right medicine to the injuries.  The bandage that the doctor puts on cures the wounds; the bandage that the wounded man uses to cover himself hides them.  And whom are you hiding them from?  From He who knows everything." (Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 31.2.12).

1 Kings 14:17-20 ~ The prophecy is fulfilled and the summary statement of Jeroboam's reign
17Jeroboam's wife rose and left.  She arrived at Tirzah, and when she crossed the threshold of the palace, the child was already dead.  They buried him and all Israel mourned for him, just as Yahweh had foretold through his servant Ahijah the prophet.  19 The rest of the history of Jeroboam, what wars he waged, how he governed, this is recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel.  Jeroboam's reign lasted twenty-two years.  Then he fell asleep with his ancestors; his son Nadab succeeded him.

Jeroboam made Tirzah, a city about 7 miles northeast of Shechem, the capital city of his kingdom.(2)

19 The rest of the history of Jeroboam, what wars he waged, how he governed, this is recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel.
The Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel has never been recovered and is lost to history.  It was probably kept in the royal achieves of the kings of Israel.(3)  However, an account of the wars fought between Israel and Judah is found in 2 Chronicles 13:1-23.  Rehoboam's son fought Jeroboam and succeeded in taking territory away from the Northern Kingdom: ... taking from him the towns of Bethel with its dependencies, Jeshanah with its dependencies and Ephron with its dependencies (2 Chronicles 13:19).  Jeroboam died in c. 910 BC after ruling for 22 years and was succeeded by his son Nadab.  The 22 years of Jeroboam's reign overlapped the reigns of Judahite kings Rehoboam (c. 930-913 BC), Abijam/Abijah (c. 913 BC-911), and Asa (c. 911-870 BC).

1 Kings 14:21-24 ~ Sins during the reign of Rehoboam
21 In Judah, Rehoboam son of Solomon became king; he was forty-one years old when he came to the throne and he reigned for seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which Yahweh had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to give his name a home there.  His mother's name was Naamah, the Ammonite.  22 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, arousing his resentment more than his ancestors by all the sins which they had committed; 23 they had built themselves high places, and had set up pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree.  24 There were even male sacred prostitutes in the country.  He copied all the shameful practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites. 

Solomon reigned for forty years and Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king.  This means that he was born the year before Solomon was anointed king when, according to Jewish tradition, Solomon was still in his teen years and before his marriage to the pharaoh's daughter (Antiquities of the Jews, 7.14.1-2; 8.1.1).

The name of Rehoboam's mother was Naamah.  As the list of the kings continues, notice that only the names of the mothers of the kings of Judah will be recorded.  See the chart in handout 1 or the Chart of the Kings of Judah.    The name of the mother of the kings of the Davidic kings is not just to provide information concerning her identity, but the inspired writer includes those names to stress the importance and dignity of the mother in the dynasty of the House of David into which the Messiah will be born.  In the Davidic Kingdom of Judah, the mothers of the kings filled the office of the Queen Mother, called the Gebirah in Hebrew.  The Gebirah heard the petitions of the people and carried worthy petitions to the attention of her son, asking for his intervention, as in the case of Solomon's mother Bathsheba (1 Kng 2:13-20). 

Question: In listing all the mothers of the Davidic Kings, what preparation are the inspired writers making to increase the understanding of the covenant people in the New Covenant of David's heir, Jesus of Nazareth?
Answer: In listing all the mothers of the Davidic kings, the Old Testament prepares the reader to understand the importance of the Virgin Mary in the New Covenant Kingdom of her Son, Christ Jesus.

The office of the Gebirah in the Kingdom of the Davidic kings is the same role the Virgin Mary fulfills; she held this office as intercessor during Jesus' ministry and holds the same office today as intercessor for ... her children, who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus (Rev 12:17b).
Question: When did Mary first intercede with her Son on behalf of someone in need?  See Jn 2:1-10.
Answer: In the story of the wedding at Cana, Mary interceded with her Son on behalf of the wedding couple when the wine for the wedding banquet ran out.  Because of her intercession, Jesus made His first miracle in turning the water in stone vessels into wine.

Note: water kept in stone vessels was ritually pure and was necessary for hand washing before taking food (Jn 2:6).  It was the outward sign of an inward condition of cleanliness/holiness in receiving God's gifts.  See the document concerning Mary's role as the Gebirah of the New Davidic Kingdom of the Church.  She is the mother of the King of kings, the son of David, to whom the people of His kingdom of the Church can go to for intercession with her Son.

It is unclear if Rehoboam built and encouraged pagan shrines like Jeroboam, but he did not prevent the people from worshiping at such sites.  The pillars (massebot) and poles (asherot) in verse 23 were tall, tapering stones pillars and wooden poles consecrated to Canaanite deities (see Dt 7:1-6).  Even the abhorrent Canaanite practice of ritual prostitution of both males and females was practiced in Judah.  2 Chronicles 12:1-2 accuses Rehoboam of abandoning the Law of Yahweh, and therefore, God withdrew His protection and as a judgment allowed Judah to be invaded by the Egyptians.

1 Kings 14:25-28 ~ Invasion by the Egyptians
25 And so it happened that in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt advanced on Jerusalem 26 and carried off all the treasures of the Temple of Yahweh and the treasures of the royal palace; he took everything away, including all the golden shields which Solomon had made.  27 To replace those King Rehoboam made bronze shields, entrusting them to the commanders of the guard who guarded the king's palace gate.  28 Whenever the king went to the Temple of Yahweh, the guards would carry them, returning them to the guardroom afterwards.  .

In the fifth year of King Rehoboam (c. 926 BC with year 930 BC counting as the first year of his reign), Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt invaded Judah and Israel.  Shishak is the Hebrew name for this pharaoh, but he is listed as Pharaoh Shoshenq I in Egyptian documents.  He was the first pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty and what is recorded in the Bible concerning him is confirmed in Egyptian inscriptions.  According to the list of cities Pharaoh Shishak sacked that are inscribed on walls of the Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak in Egypt, the Egyptians only attacked cities in Israel.  Jerusalem and other Judean cities are not listed as conquered cities.  It is presumed that Jerusalem and Judah were spared because Rehoboam paid the Egyptians tribute which included gold vessels from the Temple and the palace, including Solomon's golden shields from the magnificent reception hall known as the House of Lebanon (1 Kng 10:16).  See the description of the Egyptian invasion in 2 Chronicles 12:2-11.(4)

Question: Why did Rehoboam replace the golden shields with bronze?  See verse 27.
Answer: Paying the Egyptian tribute deprived Rehoboam of the great wealth his father had accumulated.  He was not wealthy enough to replace Solomon's golden shields that decorated the walls of the building in the palace complex called the House of Lebanon.  He had bronze shields made to replace the gold shields that his personal guard carried when they accompanied him in royal processions to the Temple.

1 Kings 14:29-31 ~ Summary statement of Rehoboam's reign
29 The rest of the history of Rehoboam, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the annals of the Kings of Judah?  Warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam went on throughout the period.  When Rehoboam fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in the City of David; his son Abijam succeeded him.

Rehoboam was the first king of the divided Southern Kingdom of Judah.  Rehoboam's reign lasted seventeen years from c. 930-913 BC (1 Kng 14:21- 2 Chr 12:13).  When he died, his favorite son Abijam/Abijah, the fourth son in birth order but the son of his favorite wife (2 Chr 11:18-21), succeeded him: Rehoboam named Abijah son of Maacah as head, hence leader, of his brothers, with a view to making him king, and acted wisely by distributing his sons throughout the territories of Judah and Benjamin, some in each fortified town, where he provided plenty of food for them and found them wives (2 Chr 11:22-23).

Like the Annals of Solomon (1 Kng 11:41), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah mentioned in verse 29 was probably an official history of the reigns of the kings of Judah in the same way the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel was the official record of the reigns of the kings of Israel.  Another missing history, written during the reign of Rehoboam's son and mentioned in in 2 Chronicles, are the stories by the prophet Iddo (2 Chr 13:22).  The books were probably kept in the royal archives of the capital cities of both kingdoms and were certainly well known as the time of the inspired writers of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  The inspired writer mentions those records as proof that what he has written is historically accurate.  They have, unfortunately, been lost to history, probably at the time the two capital cities were destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

Chapters 15-16: The Reigns of the Kings of Israel and Judah from 913-853 BC

King Abijah/Abijam, son of Rehoboam and David's great-grandson, addressed the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom from Mt. Zemariam, in the highlands of Ephraim, when war broke out between the two kingdoms:

Abijah took position on Mount Zemaraim, in the highlands of Ephraim.  "Jeroboam and all Israel," he cried, "listen to me!  Do you not know that Yahweh, God of Israel has given eternal sovereignty of Israel to David and his sons by an inviolable covenant?  Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, the slave of Solomon son of David, rose in revolt against his master.  Worthless men, scoundrels, rallied to him. Proving too strong for Rehoboam son of Solomon, as Rehoboam was then inexperienced and timid and unable to resist them.  And now you propose to resist Yahweh's sovereignty as exercised by the sons of David because there is a great number of you and you have the golden calves that Jeroboam made for you gods!  Have you not driven out the priests of Yahweh, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, to make priests of your own like the peoples of foreign countries?  Anyone who comes with a bull and seven rams to get himself consecrated can become priest of theses gods that are no gods.  But for our part, our God is Yahweh, and we have not abandoned him; our priests are sons of Aaron who minister to Yahweh, and those who serve are Levites; morning after morning, evening after evening, they present burnt offerings and perfumed incense to Yahweh, they present the bread of permanent offerings and perfumed incense to Yahweh, they put the bread of permanent offering on the clean table and nightly light the lamps on the golden lampstand; for we keep the decree of Yahweh our God, although you have abandoned him.  See how God is with us, at our head, and his priests with trumpets to sound the alarm against you!  Israelites, do not make war on Yahweh, God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed."
2 Chronicles 13:4-12

Rehoboam's son and successor is called Abijam in 2 Kings, but he is called Abijah in 1 Chronicles 3:8; 2 Chronicles 13:1-23 and in St. Matthew's genealogy in Matthew 1:7.  Abijah was a common name in this period and means "Yahweh is my father."  It was the name of a prophet (1 Kng 11:29-39; 14:1-18), the name of Rehoboam's successor (2 Chr 13:1), and the name of a leader of the tribe of Issachar (1 Kng 15:27).  This king may be called Abijam in 1 Kings to avoid confusion with the prophet Abijah who figures prominently in the Book of 1 Kings.

The next two chapters cover and parallel two kings of Judah and four kings of Israel over a period of thirty years (911-883 BC).  Their reigns are presented in a formula that is the same as that which summed up the reigns of Rehoboam and Jeroboam:

In each account of the kings of Israel and Judah, the inspired writer is concerned with the moral and religious condition of these kings and their nations.  He compares the kings of Judah with David and the kings of Israel with Jeroboam.

1 Kings 15:1-8 ~ The reign of King Abijam/Abijah in Judah (c. 913-911)
1 In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijam became king of Judah 2 and reigned for three years in Jerusalem.  His mother's name was Maacah descendant of Absalom.  3 In everything he followed the sinful example of his father before him; his heart was not wholly with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his ancestor had been.  4 However, for David's sake, Yahweh his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, with a son to succeed him, so keeping Jerusalem secure; 5 for David had done what Yahweh regarded as right and had never in all his life disobeyed whatever he commanded him (except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite).  6 The rest of the history of Abijam, his entire career, 7 is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?  Abijam and Jeroboam made war on each other.  8 When Abijam fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in the City of David; his son Asa succeeded him.

The Absalom referred to in verse 2 is probably King David's handsome, favorite son (2 Sam 14:25-27).
Question: What happened to Absalom?  See 2 Sam 15:10-14; 18:9-15.
Answer: In his ambition to be king, he led a revolt against his father and was killed by his cousin, Joab, the commander of David's army. 

Rehoboam was married to Absalom's grand-daughter or great-granddaughter (15:10).  In Hebrew the words to define family relationships are very limited and "daughter" or "son" can also mean descendant (c.f., Mt 1:1) just as "brother" can mean full sibling, half-brother, or even kinsman or countryman.  Abijam's mother is named after her ancestress, Absalom's mother, who was the daughter of the king of Geshur (2 Sam 3:3).  2 Chronicles 11:20 records that Rehoboam loved her more than all his other wives; a marriage between cousins was common.  This woman was the new king's mother and therefore, she is the Kingdom of Judah's official "Queen Mother," in Hebrew, the Gebirah.

3 In everything he followed the sinful example of his father before him; his heart was not wholly with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his ancestor had been. 
King Abijah/Abijam apparently did not live up to the stirring speech he gave to the Israelites from Mt. Zemaraim in support of Yahweh and His commandments; he too fell into sin, failing both God and his people.
Question: But why was God merciful to King Abijam?  See verses 4-5.
Answer: The inspired writer notes that God was merciful toward him because of David, his ancestor.

4 However, for David's sake, Yahweh his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, with a son to succeed him, so keeping Jerusalem secure; 5 for David had done what Yahweh regarded as right and had never in all his life disobeyed whatever he commanded him (except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite). 
David is again presented as a model king because of his fidelity to God alone.  His sin in regard to his adultery with Bathsheba and the death of Uriah, her husband, is mentioned, but it is a sin that David repented, accepted God's judgment, and for which he was forgiven (2 Sam 12:13-15).

The "lamp" in Jerusalem is the continuing Davidic line in fulfillment of God's covenant promise to David that his royal line will endure forever (2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5; Sir 45:25; 47:11/13).  In Scripture, David is continually held up as the model king because of his love for Yahweh and his obedience to his God's commandments, just as Jeroboam will be held up as an example of a bad king for his failures in obedience to the Law of Yahweh, especially the introduction of idol worship. 

1 Kings 15:9-15 ~ The reign of King Asa in Judah (c. 911-870)
9 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah 10 and reigned for forty-one years in Jerusalem.  His mother's name was Maacah descendant of Absalom.  11 Asa did what Yahweh regards as right, as his ancestor David had done.  12 He drove the male prostitutes out of the country and got rid of all the idols which his ancestors had made.  13 He even deprived his grandmother Maacah of the dignity of Great Lady [Gebirah] for having made an obscenity for Asherah; Asa cut down her obscenity and burnt it in the ravine of the Kidron.  14 Though the high places were not abolished, Asa's heart was loyal to Yahweh throughout his life.  15 He deposited his father's and his own dedicated gifts of silver, gold and sacred vessels in the Temple of Yahweh.

The parallel account of Asa's reign is found in 2 Chronicles chapters 14-16.  He is named in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 3:10 and Matthew 1:8.  There is controversy concerning the names of several of the Davidic queens between Rehoboam and Asa:

Maacah became a name that was passed down for the daughters of the descendants of Absalom.  The only way to explain the seeming contradiction between 2 Chronicles 11:20 which agrees with 1 Kings 15:10 but not with 2 Chronicles 13:2 is that Maacah was her Geshurite name and she was also known by the Hebrew name Micaiah; and her ancestral link to Absalom was through her mother and not her father.  The woman who is listed as the "mother" of Asa in 1 Kings 15:10 and 2 Chronicles 15:15 either had the same name as his grandmother, being from the same family line, or his mother died when he was very young and he was raised by his grandmother who continued as Judah's Gebirah.  The second explanation is favored by most Biblical scholars.  It is also possible that his grandmother refused to give up her title as Gebirah when Asa came to the throne as a very young child.

Question: How does Asa stand out in the Davidic family line?
Answer: He is the first righteous king of Judah since David.

Asa's stand against pagan worship came about after an encounter with the prophet Azariah who told Asa: "Listen to me, Asa, and all you in Judah and in Benjamin: Yahweh will be with you so long as your are with him.  If you seek him, he will let you find him; but if you desert him, he will desert you ..." (see 2 Chr 15:1-7).  Asa believed the words of the prophet; he took courage and began a series of religious reforms.

Question: What were his accomplishments?

  1. He drove out the male cult prostitutes.
  2. He destroyed the idols of false gods in Judah.
  3. He deposed his mother/grandmother from her role as the Gebirah because she promoted idol worship.
  4. He made gifts of silver and gold to the Temple of Yahweh.

Question: What is significant about what Asa did in verse 13?  What does it indicate concerning the position of the Gebirah?

  1. He didn't let family loyalties prevent him from exercising his fidelity to the commandments of Yahweh.
  2. That he removed his mother/grandmother from her role as Gebirah shows that it was an office of influence in the kingdom and not just an honorary title.

The Kidron Valley where Asa destroyed the cult objects (verse 13) is to the east of the city of Jerusalem and west of the Mt. of Olives.  It is the valley Jesus will cross every afternoon/evening of His last week in Jerusalem on His way to the Mt. of Olives to spend the night.

Asa prospered and the country was at peace.  He rebuilt towns in Judah and surrounded them will walls, towers, and gates.  He built up a professional army, and the country was at peace for many years (2 Chr 14:6-7).

1 Kings 15:16-22 ~ The wars and accomplishments of King Asa of Judah
16 Asa and Baasha king of Israel were at war with each other throughout their reigns.  17 Baasha king of Israel marched on Judah and fortified Ramah to blockade the king of Judah.  18 Asa then took all the remaining silver and gold left in the treasuries of the Temple of Yahweh and the royal palace.  Entrusting this to his servants, King Asa sent them with the following message to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, son of Hezion, the king of Aram who lived in Damascus, 19 "Let us make an alliance between myself and yourself, between my father and your father!  Look, I have sent you a gift of silver and gold.  Come, break off your alliance with Baasha king of Israel, which will make him withdraw from me."  20 Ben-Hadad listened favorably to King Asa, and sent the generals of his armies to attack the towns of Israel; he ravaged Ijon, Dan, Abel-Beth-Maacah, all Chinneroth, and the whole territory of Naphtali.  21 When Baasha heard this he gave up fortifying Ramah and retired to Tirzah.  22 King Asa then summoned all Judah, no one was exempt; they took away the stones and timbers with which Baasha had been fortifying Ramah, and King Asa used them to fortify Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah. 

Baasha, king of Israel, became a serious threat to Jerusalem when he captured and fortified Ramah, a Benjaminite city in Judahite territory about 5 miles north of Jerusalem on the border between Israel and Judah.
Question: What desperate measure did King Asa of Judah take to save his kingdom?
Answer: He paid tribute to the Aramean king of Damascus in order to form an alliance with him and gain the support of his army to break the blockade on Jerusalem and the power of Baasha's army.

Aram was a powerful confederation of states that rose to power during the early first millennium BC.  King Saul of Israel was the first Israelite king to go to war against the Aramaeans (1 Sam 14:47).  King David defeated the Aramaeans and made the Aramaean kingdom of Zobah a vassal state, gaining control of Aramaean territory from Damascus to Hammath in modern day Syria (2 Sam 8:5-12).  Solomon crushed a revolt in Israelite controlled Aramaean territory early in his reign (2 Chr 8:3-4), but in the later part of his reign Rezon gained control of Damascus and established an Aramaean kingdom (1 Kng 11:23-25).  When Rezon died, Hezion seized the throne of Aram and established a dynasty that lasted a century.  The Ben-Hadad, the king who formed an alliance with Judah's King Asa, was his grandson.   Ben-Hadad ("son of Hadad") was the name of several Aramaean kings of Damascus. Hadad was a semetic storm god worshipped by both Araramaeans and Assyrians. The name of the god appears in the Bible in several personal names (Gen 36:35, 39; 1 Kng 11:14-22; 1 Chr 1:30).

King Asa's plan worked.  With the Aramaeans taking several towns in the northeast, all the Galilee and the territory of Naphtali, King Baasha broke off his blockade of Jerusalem and rushed to defend his own kingdom.  Asa then mobilized his people, and using the materials Baasha collected at Ramah, he built fortifications at Geba, a town located to the northwest of the Dead Sea that guarded the strategic Michmash pass seven miles from Jerusalem.  Michmash was almost 2,000 feet above sea level opposite Geba and together they guarded the pass to the Jordan Valley.  He also fortified Mizpah.  There are several towns named Mizpah (a word meaning "watchtower"), but this town is probably the one in Benjamite territory on the border with the Northern Kingdom.  However, Asa's policy of foreign alliances, adopted by future kings of Judah, was condemned by the prophets (for example see Is 7:4-9; 8:6-8)

Asa did what Yahweh his God regards as good and right ... because of this God protected the kingdom and it prospered (2 Chr 14:1, 6b).  When Zerah the Cushite waged war with an army that vastly outnumbered the army of Judah, Asa prayed to God and said: "Yahweh, numbers and strength make no difference to you when you give your help.  Help us, Yahweh our God, for, relying on you, we are confronting this horde in your name.  Yahweh, you are our God.  Human strength cannot prevail against you!" God gave Asa and the army of Judah victory (2 Chr 14:10/11).  Read more about the successes of his reign in 2 Chronicles 14:1-15:14.

1 Kings 15:23-24 ~ Summary statement of King Asa's reign
23 The rest of the history of Asa, all his valor, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?  In his old age, however, he contracted a disease of his feet.  24 When Asa fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of his ancestor David; his son Jehoshaphat succeeded him.

Asa died in c. 870 BC after ruling for 41 years.  The disease of his feet may have been a circulation problem or nerve damage caused by diabetics.  "The City" in verse 24 is Jerusalem.  The three times repeat of the word "ancestors" emphasizes that Asa had an honorable death and received an honorable burial.  He was succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat, whose name means "Yahweh establishes justice."  Jehoshaphat is named in the genealogy of David's descendants in 1 Chronicles 3:10 and St. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:8.

1 Kings 15:25-32 ~ The reign of King Nadab in Israel (c. 910-909)
25 Nadab son of Jerobaom became king of Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel for two years.  26 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh; he copied his father's example and the sin into which he had let Israel.  27 Baasha son of Ahijah, of the House of Issachar, plotted against him and murdered him at Gibbethon, a Philistine town which Nadab and all Israel were besieging.  28 Baasha killed Nadab and succeeded him in the third year of Asa king of Judah.  29 No sooner was he king than he butchered the entire House of Jeroboam, not sparing a soul, and put an end to it, just as Yahweh had foretold through his servant Ahijah of Shiloh, 30 because of the sins which he had committed and into which he had led Israel, and because he had provoked the anger of Yahweh, God of Israel.  31 The rest of the history of Nadab, his entire career, is this not recorded in 32 the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel?

Question: How is the direction of Nadab's life in verse 26 a warning to parents today?
Answer: It is a warning that the sins of parents and other family members can influence the lives of children.  The parental example for good or for evil can become a blueprint for the direction of the lives of their offspring.  In the case of Nadab, he followed his father's evil example of promoting idol worship in Israel.

Baasha, a member of the northern tribe of Issachar, assassinated King Nadab during the siege of a Philistine city.
Question: What prophecy of Abijah of Shiloh is fulfilled by Baasha and why?  See verse 29 and 2 Kng 14:14.
Answer:  To assure that there is no heir of King Jeroboam to become a rallying point against him, Baasha murdered the entire family of Jeroboam. The House of Jeroboam is annihilated just as Ahijah foretold.  It is Yahweh's judgment for introducing and promoting idol worship in Israel.

Notice that there is no mention of the body of Nadab and his kinsmen being buried with their ancestors, perhaps another fulfillment of Abijah of Shiloh's prophecy (1 Kng 14:11).

1 Kings 15:33-16:7 ~ The reign of Baasha in Israel (c. 909-886)
33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king of Israel at Tirzah for twenty-four years.  34 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh; he copied the example of Jeroboam and the sin into which he had led Israel.  16:1 The word of Yahweh came to Jehu son of Hanani against Baasha: 2 "I raised you from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you have followed Jeroboam's example and led my people Israel into sins which provoke my anger.  3 Now I shall sweep away Baasha and his House; I shall make your House like the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat.  4 Those of Baasha's family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat."

Baasha is now the third king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  He continues the evil practices of his predecessors in promoting idol worship.  In response, God sent His prophet Jehu to warn the king of God's divine judgment against him.
Question: Verse 3 is a curse judgment against the House of Baasha; what is Yahweh's two part judgment?

  1. Baasha's family will suffer the same fate as that to which he condemned Jeroboam's family—to be annihilated.
  2. The dead of his family will be denied a proper burial.

To be denied a proper burial was one of the greatest disasters for a person and his family.
Question: How is the judgment of the prophet Jehu on Baasha's family in verse 4 related to the prophet Abijah's judgment on Jeroboam's family in 1 Kings 14:11?
Answer: It is the same judgment worded in exactly the same way.

1 Kings 16:5-7 ~ Summary statement of Baasha's reign
5 The rest of the history of Baasha, his career, his valor, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel?  6 When Baasha fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in Tirzah; his son Elah succeeded him.  7 Furthermore, the word of Yahweh was delivered through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani against Baasha and his House, first because of the many ways in which he had displeased Yahweh, provoking him to anger by his actions and becoming like the House of Jeroboam; secondly because he had destroyed that House.

God will use people and nations in delivering His judgments against sinners and evil nations who commit crimes against the innocent and oppressed, but when the instrument of His justice commits the same or greater unjust and evil acts, the instrument of His divine judgment will also fall under His judgment.  The children of Israel were God's instrument of justice against the Canaanites for their evil acts, but God warned them that they must only participate in holy war and must not repeat the sins of the people they were sent to conquer.  If they did, they were doomed to suffer the same fate (Lev 18:26-30; Dt 6:14-19; 7:1-6; Josh 2:1-5; also see Is 13-21 for the prophecy of the judgment against Babylon and the pagan nations).  God is merciful but He is also just. 

1 Kings 16:8-14 ~ The reign of Elah in Israel (c. 886-885)
8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel at Tirzah, for two years.  9 Zimri, one of his officers, captain of half his chariotry, plotted against him.  While he was at Tirzah, drinking himself senseless in the house of Arza who was master of the palace in Tirzah, 10 Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and succeeded him.  11 On his accession, as soon as he was seated on the throne, he butchered Baasha's entire family, not leaving him one manjack of them alive, neither relative nor friend.  12 Zimri destroyed the whole House of Baasha, in accordance with the word which Yahweh had spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu, 13 because of all the sins of Baasha and his son Elah into which they had led Israel, provoking the anger of Yahweh, God of Israel, with their worthless idols.  14 The history of Elah, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel?

Question: What is ironic concerning the end of Baasha's dynasty?
Answer: His son and his dynasty suffered the same fate as what Baasha had done to the previous ruling family:

  1. His son was killed by a treacherous servant
  2. His family was destroyed by his killer

1 Kings 16:15-20 ~ The reign of Zimri in Israel (c. 885)
15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri became king for several days at Tirzah.  The people were then encamped in front of Gibbethon, a Philistine town.  16 When news reached the camp of how Zimri had not only plotted against but actually killed the king, all Israel proclaimed the army commander Omri as king of Israel in the camp that very day.  17 Omri, and all Israel with him, raised the siege of Gibbethlon and laid siege to Tirzah.  18 When Zimri saw that the town had been captured, he went into the keep of the royal palace, burned the palace over his own head, and died.  19 This was because of the sin which he had committed in doing what is displeasing to Yahweh, by copying the example of Jeroboam and the sin into which he had led Israel.  20 The rest of the history of Zimri and of his conspiracy, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 

Zimri's act of betrayal and his brutality in murdering the royal family initiates a counter revolt.  The people immediately proclaim the army commander, Omri, king of Israel.  When Omri and the army marched on the capital city and captured it, Zimri committed suicide.  Once again, his fate is described as Yahweh's divine punishment for his sins and he is also compared to Jeroboam, the image of a sinful king who brought a cascading cycle of sin to his people.

1 Kings 16:21-28 ~ The reign of Omri in Israel (c. 885-874)
21 The people of Israel then split into two factions: one half following Tibni son of Ginath to make him king, the other half following Omri.  22 But the faction of Omri proved stronger than that of Tibni son of Ginath; thus Tibni lost his life and Omri became king.  23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel and reigned for twelve years.  He reigned for six years at Tirzah.  24 Then for two talents of silver he bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer and on it built a town which he named Samaria after Shemer who had owned the hill.  25 Omri did what is displeasing to Yahweh, and was worse than all his predecessors.  26 In every way he copied the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the sins into which he had led Israel, provoking the anger of Yahweh, God of Israel, with their worthless idols.  27 The rest of the history of Omri, his career, his valor, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel?  28 When Omri fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in Samaria; his son Ahab succeeded him.

The revolt of Zimri and the counter revolt of Omri threw the nation into a state of civil war as rival factions attempted to gain the throne.  Omri was able to conquer the competition, and he became the sixth king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the founder of the kingdom's third dynasty.  He ruled for six years from Tirzah and then moved the nation's capital to a new city he founded which he named "Samaria," ruling the Northern Kingdom for a total of twelve years.  Although Omri is only mentioned in this passage from 1 Kings, we know from ancient secular documents that he was a very successful ruler.  He brought political stability and prosperity to Israel.  He normalized relations to some extent with the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and he made alliances with neighboring states; for example, he married his son and heir, Ahab, to the daughter of the Phoenician King of Sidon, the infamous Jezebel. 

Omri is one of the few ancient kings of Israel for which we have documented historical evidence.  The name "Omri" became an established term in Assyrian documents to indicate the Israelite kings even after his death, and tablets discovered in the Assyrian archives continued to refer to Israel as the "land of Omri" a hundred years after the end of his dynasty.  For example, Shalmanesar III, king of Assyria, in a royal document referred to Jehu, who founded a new dynasty in Israel, as "the son of Omri."  The stele of Mesha, king of Moab, names Omri as gaining possession of Madaba in Transjordan.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: How does the Virgin Mary fulfill her role as the Gebirah of Jesus' Kingdom of the Church?  How do we cooperate in Question: Do we have a duty to confront corrupt leaders?  Why?  What does our resistance or complacency have to do with our duty to raise righteous Christian children?

1. A seal of an overseer of forced labor from a later period serves as verification of the administrative policies of the early monarchy in Israel as described in the Bible.  One side of the seal was for personal use and reads "[Belonging] to Pelayahu [son of] Mattityahu," while the other side specifies his designated official title: "[Belonging] to Pelayahu overseer of the forced labor."  The name Pelayahu means "Yahweh is wondrous." 
2. Later the capital city of the Northern Kingdom will be moved from Tirzah to the new city of Samaria in the early 9th century BC (1 Kng 16:24).
3. All ancient kingdoms kept royal archives that contained clay tablets or papyrus and animal skin scrolls of the nation's history, laws and the diplomatic correspondence with foreign governments.  When ancient cities were destroyed, the papyrus or animal skin scrolls were destroyed, but the clay tablets were hardened by the fire and were preserved.  In 1974-5, during the excavations of the city of Ebla (in modern Syria), a collection of 1,800 complete clay tablets and 4,700 fragments were found in the palace archives.  The tablets were found on collapsed shelves and even retained many of their clay reference tags.  The documents in the archive dated from a period between c. 2500 BC and the destruction of the city in c. 2250 BC.  Picture of clay tablet from the royal archive discovered at Ebla (from Wikipedia "Ebla Archive").

4. The walls of the Bubastite Portal, the entrance gate to the Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak, has a commemorative relief of Pharaoh Shishak/Sheshonk's expedition into the Levant where he threatened the Kingdom of Judah and attacked the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  On one side of the entry, Pharaoh Sheshonk is depicted as about to club a group of foreigners and on the other is pictured the Egyptian god Amun leading off captive cities with ropes.  Each city is represented by an oval cartouche containing the name of the city, with a bound prisoner on top.  The list contains place-names in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  One thing that is not explained is why the pharaoh who was formerly Jeroboam's patron should turn against him.  It may be that Jeroboam refused to submit as a vassal to the Pharaoh by paying a tribute and paid the price in destroyed and looted cities.  The temple inscription confirms the Biblical account (Archaeological Study Bible page 635; and Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2012, pages 43-52, 66).

Picture of the Bubastite Portal from Wikipedia.

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