3 Great Kings – and Their Evil Children!

Posted on February 11, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Sinful Offspring
Israel’s three greatest kings – David, Hezekiah, and Josiah – make for a fascinating study of parents and children. All three of these extraordinary men were fully devoted to God,[i] and brought great religious reform to the land.[ii] Amazingly, two of the monarchs – Hezekiah and Josiah – were the sons of terribly sinful fathers. Even more astonishing is that all three kings, though wonderfully God-fearing and unyielding in their faith, produced sinful and unfaithful sons who brought shame and judgment to the nation.

Since I have already written studies on several of David’s sons – Amnon, Adonijah, and Solomon – I’ll focus on the families of Hezekiah and Josiah.

hezekiah

King Hezekiah
Hezekiah, who ruled 715-686 B.C. (29 years), was the son of Ahaz (not to be confused with Ahab), who reigned for 16 years. Except for Manasseh, Ahaz was Judah’s – the Southern Kingdom’s –most vile monarch. Ahaz, himself the son of a godly king named Jotham, spiritually abused the nation as he “sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree” (2 Kings 16:3-4).

Ahaz also formed an alliance with Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser, resulting in Ahaz building an Assyrian altar and erecting it in the Temple in Jerusalem,[iii] a despicable act that corrupted God’s holy house. Ahaz’s 16-year reign was heinous, but somehow, someway, his successor, Hezekiah, would become among Judah’s greatest kings.

The Bible speaks glowingly about the great Hezekiah, who “trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he understood” (2 Kings 18:5-7).

Amazing! How Hezekiah turned out the way he did is anyone’s guess, but kings such as him were rare in Israel. For 29 years he brought reform to his nation while endeavoring to lead his people in the worship of Israel’s only true God, Yahweh.

However, Hezekiah was unable to pass along his great faith to his son. To make matters worse, that son would become Judah’s most wicked and hated monarch. How Manasseh (697-642, he co-reigned 11 years with Hezekiah) could have become what he did – considering who his father was – is one of the Bible’s great mysteries. During Manasseh’s 55-year reign, he “led [Israel] astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Kings 21:9).

When alas he died at age 67, Manasseh gave way to his son Amon, who carried on his father’s destructive practices. However, Amon was slain by his officials,[iv] paving the way for his son, Josiah.

josiah

Josiah
Simply put, Josiah was a marvel. He came to the throne at the tender age of 8,[v] and by age 16, “began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 24:3). His succeeding years were characterized by amazing reforms to the nation as he doggedly followed his great-grandfather Hezekiah’s efforts to turn the hearts of Israel back to God.[vi]

With Manasseh as a grandfather and Amon as a father, how in the world did Josiah turn out so good? We are not sure, but perhaps one verse holds the key. At Amon’s death, scripture tells us, “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath” (2 Kings 22:1, italic added). Though we are told nothing about Jedidah – whose name means “darling of Jehovah” – it is possible she was a godly woman who, with her wicked husband suddenly removed from the scene, was free to raise her son to worship God. It could well be that this “darling” woman strongly influenced Josiah’s faith.

Unfortunately, Josiah could not do the same for his three sons who reigned a combined 22 years following his death. Jehoahaz (609 B.C., 3 months), Jehoiakim (609-598 B.C., 11 years) and Zedekiah (597-586 B.C., 11 years), all turned out to be evil men.

How David, Hezekiah, and Josiah produced such spiritually bereft children is an enigma, but should not tarnish the legacy of the three greatest monarchs the nation of Israel has ever known.

For Christian parents, the example of these three kings is a sober reminder that our children cannot be saved through our salvation, but that we must be in persistent prayer for them.