What We Can Learn from the Kings of Israel: Part 2

Posted on November 7, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Note: This is a 4-part series I originally wrote (as one long article) for the magazine Zion’s Fire back in 1998. I have made some slight updates. Read Part 1 here.

JEHOSHAPHAT (873-848 B.C.; co-regency with Jehoram 853-848 B.C.)

Theme: Do not be unequally yoked.

Lesson: Compromise could lead to disastrous effects.

Key verse: “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor; and he allied himself by marriage to Ahab” (2 Chronicles 18:1).

Verse to remember: “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Track record: Among the king’s many accomplishments, Jehoshaphat seeks to follow the Lord (2 Chronicles 17:4); removes the pagan high places (v. 6); has the law of God taught to the towns of Judah (vv. 7-10); and appoints Levites and priests to minister the Law (19:8). However, for unexplained reasons, he aligns himself with vile King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom and his wicked wife Jezebel. This ill-fated union is forged as a result of Jehoshaphat allowing his son and heir to the throne, Jehoram, to marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. This alliance is destined to bring deadly consequences to Judah.

Even though Jehoshaphat serves God to the end of his life, his awful lack of judgment and propensity for compromise stains his otherwise admirable reign.

Application: As Christians, we must bring every area of our lives under God’s control and authority. If we don’t, we can do serious damage to our walk with God and suffer consequences the Lord never intended for us to experience.

Spiritual epitaph: “And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD, and by doing so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD?’ ” (2 Chronicles 19:2).

JEHORAM (848-841 B.C.) and AHAZIAH (841 B.C.)

Theme: The deadly consequences of willful sin.

Lesson: When we set ourselves against God, disaster results.

Key verse: “He [Jehoram] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for Ahab’s daughter was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 21:6).

Verse to remember: “I will bring distress on mankind so that they will walk like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung” (Zephaniah 1:17).

Track record: Jehoram reigns 8 years over Judah and, according to Scripture, not a single good thing comes out of it. He begins his reign heinously – ordering the slaughter of his brothers to prevent them from threatening his authority. Politically, it is during Jehoram’s reign that Edom, a vassal of Israel, breaks away from its subjugation to Judah. Spiritually, Jehoram undoes the good work of his predecessor, making “high places in the mountains of Judah, and caus[ing] the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be unfaithful, and led Judah astray” (2 Chronicles 21:11). Because of his extensive sins, Jehoram is subject to brutal judgment; he is struck with a disease of the bowels, which eventually leads to their removal. Furthermore, God rouses the Philistines, Arabs, and Ethiopians against Judah. Jehoram dies in wretched agony, and leaves his people in wretched condition as they face enemies on every side.

It is evident that Jehoram’s son, Ahaziah, learns nothing from his father’s miserable example. The son of Athaliah (and grandson of Ahab and Jezebel), lasts only 1 year as Judah’s ruler. However, in this short time, he manages to repeat many of his father’s sins. He sides with King Joram of Israel, and is eventually slain by Jehu who is commissioned by God to destroy the family of Ahab. When Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah, sees that her son is dead, she proceeds to destroy all of her grandsons, save one – Joash – and rules the land for the next 6 years.

The lesson from both of these kings is clear: evil is a choice; and those who embrace it will suffer tremendous consequences.

Application: The same holds true for the Christian. The sin we choose to commit is of our own volition. Though God forgives those who confess their sins (1 John 1:9) – and we must never take for granted His gracious mercies in doing so – the consequences often remain long after forgiveness has come.

Spiritual epitaph: “So there was no one of the house of Ahaziah to retain the power of the kingdom” (2 Chronicles 22:9).

JOASH (835-796 B.C.)

Theme: We must live for God and not people.   

Lesson: Though men and women of God can greatly influence us, our faith and devotion must be to God alone.

Key verse: “Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2, italics added).

Verse to remember: “Bless the LORD, my soul, and do not forget any of His benefits” (Psalm 103:2, italics added).

Track record: Joash was rescued from Athaliah’s maniacal wrath by his older sister Jehoshabeath and her husband, Jehoiada the priest. When Joash is 7 years old, he is made king, and Athaliah is executed. Joash would remain king for the next 40 years. So long as Jehoiada lives, Joash is on his best behavior. He sets his heart on repairing the Temple that had long been neglected by his predecessors and accomplishes it. However, the turning point in Joash’ reign – and his life – comes after Jehoiada dies. Without the good priest’s counsel, Joash goes horribly astray: “But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king … And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (2 Chronicles 24:17-18). In fact, so great is Joash’s rebellion that he orders the stoning death of Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, who confronts Joash regarding his sin. Several years later, Joash is slain by his own servants who seek revenge on Zechariah’s behalf.

It is clear that Joash’s heart was devoted more to Jehoiada than to the Lord. When Jehoiada was no longer on the scene, the king’s true nature emerged.

Application: Christians, too, must be careful not to magnify their spiritual leaders, be it pastors, teachers, or those who disciple them. When the people we admire fall morally, we, too, are in danger of falling. To prevent this, our focus must always be on God. God and God alone is to be magnified, revered, and worshiped.

Spiritual epitaph: “Why do you break the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have abandoned the LORD, He has also abandoned you” (2 Chronicles 24:20).

AMAZIAH (796-767 B.C., co-regency with Uzziah 790-767B.C.) and UZZIAH (790-738 B.C., co-regency with Jotham 750-739 B.C.)

Theme: Pride leads to destruction.

Lesson: Whenever we puff ourselves up because of earthly accomplishments, a spiritual fall is almost sure to follow.

Key verse: “He [Amaziah] did what was right in the sight of the LORD, only not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:2, italics added).

Verse to remember: “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).   

Track record: Amaziah, who reigned 25 years, is a good administrator. He strengthens his military and leads it to a rousing victory over renegade Edom. However, it is this very victory which leads to his downfall. His confidence soaring from his victory on the battlefield, Amaziah challenges the Northern Kingdom to a military showdown. Its king, Joash (not the same Joash as Judah’s previous monarch), counsels against it, but Amaziah will not be deterred. Because of Amaziah’s foolish pride, Judah suffers a humiliating defeat as Joash breaks down a large part of the wall of Jerusalem and takes all the gold and silver out of the Temple. However, Amaziah’s downfall had come before his foolish challenge to the Northern Kingdom. We learn that before he challenged the north, Amaziah did this following his victory over Edom: “Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir and set them up as his gods. Then he bowed down before them and burned incense to them” (2 Chronicles 25:14). This is maddening! Why in the world would Amaziah, after doing good, suddenly bow down to the non-gods who could not save the nation that worshiped it?

As if this were not enough, Amaziah’s son Uzziah follows in his father’s nonsensical footsteps. Like his father, Uzziah who reigned for 52 long years, is a great administrator and politician. He defeats the Philistines in battle and subjugates the Ammonites. He fortifies Jerusalem as well as the desert areas. His army is well-trained and well-armed. Above all, “his name spread far abroad” (2 Chronicles 26:15). However, like his father, Uzziah turns prideful: “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (2 Chronicles 26:16). He takes it upon himself to burn incense in the Temple, a privilege reserved solely for the priests. As a result, God afflicts the king with leprosy, and it stays with him for the rest of his life.

Application: As Christians, we must always watch ourselves during times of earthly accomplishment or spiritual victory. The tendency is usually to build ourselves up instead of remembering that without God we are nothing, and it is He who works in us for good.

Spiritual epitaph: “King Uzziah had leprosy to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, afflicted as he was with leprosy, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 26:21).

Up Next: Part 3

Read Part 4 here.