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ISRAEL BIBLICAL HISTORY
Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this Israel Biblical History book with Israel Biblical History lesson. This Israel Biblical History study and Israel Biblical History story with Israel Biblical History lesson looks at the Israel Biblical History message and asks what is the Israel Biblical History, what is Israel Biblical History purpose, why is the Israel Biblical History important, what is the Israel Biblical History message and how does the Israel Biblical History affect you. Knowing about the Israel Biblical History is essential in the Christian walk. Understanding the Israel Biblical History message is very important and learning about the Israel Biblical History can help you to overcome the worldly whirlwinds. Let us delve into this Israel Biblical History lesson with Israel Biblical History message in this Israel Biblical History book, shall we?


 

CHRISTIANITY OASIS
PRESENTS
PURITY PUBLICATIONS

ISRAEL’S BIBLICAL HISTORY

FROM CONQUEST TO EXILE


BY Kenneth B. Alexander, j.d., Minister

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


PREFACE

INTRODUCTION
 

CONQUERING THE PROMISED LAND

THE BOOK OF JOSHUA

A NEW NATION IS BORN
 

JUDGES-RULERS OF ISRAEL

THE BOOK OF JUDGES

FROM JOSHUA TO SAMUEL
 

FAITHFULNESS & REDEMPTION

THE BOOK OF RUTH

RUTH AS ANCESTOR OF CHRIST
 

SAMUEL THE FIRST PROPHET JUDGES ISRAEL

THE BOOK OF FIRST SAMUEL - PART ONE

ISRAEL’S FIRST KINGS

 

GOD REJECTS SAUL - DAVID IS ANOINTED KING

THE BOOK OF FIRST SAMUEL - PART TWO

DAVID’S STRUGGLE WITH SAUL

 

DAVID AS KING-MAN AFTER GOD’S HEART

THE BOOK OF SECOND SAMUEL

HIS SUCCESSES AND SHORTCOMINGS

 

THE TEMPLE IS BUILT

THE BOOK OF FIRST KINGS - PART ONE

SOLOMON AND HIS GLORIOUS REIGN

 

THE KINGDOM IS DIVIDED

THE BOOK OF FIRST KINGS - PART TWO

SOLOMON TURNS FROM GOD-GOOD AND BAD KINGS RULE

 

FURTHER HISTORY ISRAEL AND JUDAH

THE BOOK OF SECOND KINGS - PART ONE

ELISHA; BAAL REMOVED

 

FURTHER HISTORY ISRAEL AND JUDAH

THE BOOK OF SECOND KINGS - PART TWO

ELISHA; ISRAEL AND JUDAH EXILED

 

HISTORY OF JUDAH AFTER EXILE

THE BOOK OF EZRA

ISRAEL RELEASED-TEMPLE REBUILT

 

HISTORY OF JUDAH AFTER EXILE

THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH

JUDAH FULLY RESTORED TO THEIR LAND

 

HISTORY OF JUDAH AFTER EXILE

THE BOOK OF ESTHER

ESTHER SAVES THE JEWS FROM DESTRUCTION

 

EPILOG

   

 

ISRAEL’S BIBLICAL HISTORY


PREFACE

Compiled with the help of: John Robert Stevens, Minister deceased; The Living Word, a California non-profit Corp. (thelivingword.org); Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985; Libronix Digital Library System
References: New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995 unless otherwise referenced
Biblical References in Italics
Bold text used, authors discretion
Kenneth B. Alexander, BSL, JD, Minister
enoch1122@yahoo.com

 
 
INTRODUCTION

 
This Book examines the entire Biblical history of the nations of Israel and Judah from the Time of Joshua’s conquering of the Promises Land, through the time of the destruction of Israel and Judah to the rebuilding of the temple of God during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The word “Israel” means in Hebrew “struggle” or “contend with” God. The history contained herein is a story of the struggle of a people to remain true to God’s Words and Laws as revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

God wanted Israel to be a people for his own possession, who were different from the surrounding pagan nations ruled by Satan. “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2). “But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of  the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today” (Deut 4:20).

So God delivered them from Egypt and covered them during their time in the wilderness and led them through the conquest of some 20 nations greater than themselves in order to give them a country flowing with milk and honey where He would bless them in every way. His only requirement was that they follow His Laws and His ways. Unfortunately, even from the start, Israel turned away from God and choose their own ways over His. As a result, Israel was constantly at war with surrounding nations with the end result that Israel was ultimately conquered by the Assyrians and Judah was destroyed and exiled by Babylon.

David was the only king who remained true to God and he was in the direct lineage to Jesus Christ the Messiah. Israel had many Kings during those years, good and bad, and they were all measured against David “the man after God’s own heart” the only King who unified all the 12 tribes of Israel under one rule. There were times of great rejoicing when Israel did well and great distress and heartache when God disciplined them for their own disobedience. When Israel obeyed God there was peace and prosperity. When they went against his will there was battle, famine and all manner of evil that came their way. Israel and Judah were finally completely sacked by the Romans in 70 C.E. (A.D.) and did not become a nation again until 1948.

However in all their missteps, Israel cleared the way for the Messiah Jesus Christ who not only forgave Israel but extended His salvation to all peoples on the earth. The Old Testament, and all you read in this Book (derived from only one source the Bible) were but a type and shadow of the Kingdom of God that will be initiated by Jesus Chris in this age. The Old Testament actually records the Old covenant that God made with His people. Jesus Christ initiated the New Covenant where man was no longer bound by the Law but was only required to believe that Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf. He opened the door to a new spiritual covenant where the true Israel is comprised only of those who believe.

“Now the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary” (Hebrews 9:1). Sins were forgiven by animal sacrifice. But according to the New Covenant: “He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying:
 
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
And on their mind I will write them,”
He then says,
“And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.”
Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:12-18).

Examination of the Old Testament and Israel’s struggles with God are not irrelevant history. The Old Covenant allowed man to see his sin and realize he could not fulfill it on his own. It led us to the place where we could now see the need for Christ. The entire Old Testament speaks of Christ. Just as Christ told the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (John 5:39).

Much of what you read in these pages is ugly. It is filled with murder and betrayal. But it is filled with God who would not, and has not, given up on His vision to have a people He can call His own, His heavenly family.
 

CONQUERING THE PROMISED LAND
THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
A NEW NATION IS BORN


One cannot discuss the Book of Joshua before analyzing Joshua the man. He was the Son of Nun, a leader of the tribe of Ephraim, which you remember was the premier tribe of Joseph’s younger son. Joshua is mentioned frequently in the Books of Moses during various times during the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness. Perhaps the most telling scripture comes from Exodus 33:10-11: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent”.  

The Bible portrays many instances where men of God had servants that would follow them, learn from them and not depart from them. By doing so they absorbed everything their master knew and often later engaged in greater ministries than their master. One such example is Elisha. He was the servant to the man of God Elijah. Elisha was known as the man “who poured water on the hands of Elijah” (2 Kings 3:11). As a result of staying so close to Elijah, Elisha obtained a double portion of Elijah’s ministry when Elijah was translated to heaven (2 Kings 2:9).

John the Beloved was the disciple who “leaned on the breast of the Lord” (John 13:25). Ruth refused to depart from Naomi and received a reward as being part of the lineage of Christ (see book of Ruth). The prophet Samuel did not leave the temple, learning to be a prophet from the Priest Eli (Book of 1 Samuel). Paul the Apostle said to his closest followers “be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 11:1; 4:16). As a result ministries such as Timothy became Paul’s most trusted (see 1&2 Timothy). By not leaving Moses’ side Joshua became the leader of the army that would fulfill Moses’ dream of inheriting the Promised Land.

Joshua played an important role in Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Joshua is the first mentioned warrior in Israel’s victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). When Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the Law only Joshua accompanied him part of the way and was first to greet him on his way down (Exodus 32:17). After the incident with the golden calf Moses moved the Tabernacle out of the camp and put Joshua in charge of it (Ex. 33:1). When spies were sent to access the land of the Canaanites Joshua (along with Caleb) were the only ones to give a good report on whether the land could be conquered (Numbers 13:8, 16-17; 14:6-9). When the forty years of wandering had almost passed all of the original Israeli warriors had died except Joshua (and Caleb) and Joshua was put in charge of the people in place of Moses (Deut. 3:28). Moses himself commissioned Joshua in the taking of the Promised Land: “Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you” Deut. 31:23).

Thus Joshua had absorbed all that Moses knew and walked in and was chosen to take the people into the Promised Land. That is reaffirmed in the first few words of the Book of Joshua: “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. “From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Jos. 1:1-9).  

The task before Joshua was literally impossible. The peoples that inhabited Canaan were numerous and were greater and mightier than the Israelites. As God had said through Moses previously: “Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess  nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” (Deut. 9:1-2). The sons of Anak, as you recall, were the descendents of the Neplilim, the fallen ones, who had caused the destruction of the world in the days of Noah. Yet God said that if Joshua followed Moses’ law and was of good courage God would defeat the nations; all 22 of them. He told Joshua that everywhere he stepped was his to possess.

The first objective was the City of Jericho. Joshua prepared the people to cross the Jordon River into the land of Canaan (Jos. 1:10-18). Then Joshua sent two spies to Jericho to search out the land. They ended up staying at the home of Rahab, a harlot. The King of Jericho found out and sent word to Rahab to produce the men. She ended up hiding them on her roof. Rahab told the spies that Jericho feared the Israelites. She said: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away [became demoralized] before you. “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Jos. 2:9-11).  

Rehab asked the spies to spare her and her family when they conquered the city since she had treated them kindly. The spies agreed. They told Rahab to hang a scarlet cord of thread from her window when they attacked and she would be spared (Rahab’s dwelling was on the city wall). So she let the spies down the wall on a rope. Pursuers from Jericho searched for the spies for three days but they hid in the hill country and went free. They returned to camp and told Joshua “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us” (Jos. 2:24).

Rahab and her family were saved when Israel conquered Jericho. Her faith in God, over obligation to her doomed community, is praised even by New Testament writers. Hebrews 11:31 says: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace”. Also: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:24-25). Rahab lived with Israel from that time Salmon who was the father of Boaz (see Ruth). So this good hearted harlot was in the lineage of David and Jesus Christ.

In preparation for the taking of Jericho Joshua commanded Israel to do the following:
· Israel crossed the Jordon (Jos. 3). “Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people” (Jos. 3:5-6). The Ark of the Covenant housed the presence of the Lord.
· Memorial Stones (Jos. 4). “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’ ”…. “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” (Jos. 4:2-3, 4:6-7).  
· The Crossing of the Jordon on Dry Ground (Josh 4). “Now the people came up from the Jordan on the  tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ “For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed;  that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear [reverence] the Lord your God forever” (Jos. 4:19-24).  
· Israel Circumcised (Jos. 5). All the men of Israel were circumcised because they were the children of those who had left Egypt and had not yet been circumcised. Circumcision means “cutting around”. This rite was appointed by God to be the special badge of his chosen people, an abiding sign of their consecration to Him. It was established as a national ordinance (Gen. 17:10, 11). The Lord said: “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal [rolling] to this day. While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho” (Jos. 5:9-10).
· The Manna Ceases. (Jos. 5:10-11). “On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they [the Israelites] ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year” (Jos. 5:11-12).  
· The Captain of the Lord of Hosts. “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so” (5:12-6:1). This captain is a representation of a heavenly being who was to take charge of the battle ahead. It is from this being (an angel or a type of Christ) that Joshua will take orders as he proceeds into Canaan. Since the being would not commit whether he was for or against Israel Joshua correctly asked what he had to speak to Him. The being simply said take off your shoes as this is holy ground. Since they were in Canaan the being was saying that instead of pagan territory this was now hallowed ground.

The next step was the conquering of Jericho. Joshua’s battle plan was unique to say the least. “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. “Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. “It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead”  (Jos. 6;3-5). So Israel encircled the walled city six times.

On the seventh time: “Then on the seventh day they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times. At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city” (Jos. 6:15-16). “So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword” (Jos. 6:20-21).  They took no spoil save gold and precious stones for the treasury. Everything else was under the ban (prohibited from being bounty). The City was burned.

However Israel sinned against the Lord and certain persons from the family of Achan took things under the ban for themselves. Joshua sent a small force to the next target the City of Ai. The force fled from the men of Ai and Israel was defeated. Joshua was astounded about the defeat and he prayed feverishly to the Lord about it. The Lord told him that someone in the camp had taken things under the ban at Jericho. Joshua found the culprit Achan and confronted him. “Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it." So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it” (Jos. 7:19-23). So Joshua brought Achan to the Valley of Achor [meaning trouble] and Israel stoned to death both he and his family and the Lord turned away his anger. Later the prophet Hosea would turn the incident as a proclamation of hope and a memorial to God as the first time God disciplined Israel in the promised land: Hosea said: “Then I will give her [Israel] vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:15).

The Lord’s anger quelled, Joshua set about to conquer Ai again. Again his battle plan was unorthodox. He split his army in two. One army would approach Ai from the front and the other part from the rear. When Ai would go out to fight the army coming from the front the Israeli army in the front would flee from them. As Ai was giving chase, the army from the rear would take possession of the city. As they set fire to the city, Joshua ambushed the men of Ai who had left the city and Ai was trapped between the burning city and Joshua’s army and were slain. “All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai” (Jos. 8:25). “He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day” (Jos. 8:29). Then Joshua made an altar to the Lord and ascribed on them the Law of the Lord which was also read to the people that day.

“Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowland and on all the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it, that they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel” (Jos. 9:1-20. However the inhabitants Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai so they acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled all in order to look poor in the eyes of Israel. They went to Israel so disguised and begged Israel to make a covenant with them. This Israel did without consulting the Lord. When they discovered their true identity, they were bound by the covenant made to the Gibeonites, and they were no killed but became Israel’s slaves (Jos. 9:3-6). Israel inhabited the Gibeonite cities which were great cities larger than Ai or Jericho.

“Now it came about when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, that he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty” (Jos. 10:1-2). So Adoni-zedek formed an alignment between his nation and four other Canaanite tribes to collectively fight Israel. But first they decided to engage Gibeon because they had made a truce with Israel. They camped near Gibeon preparing to invade. Gibeon sent word to Israel about this. So Joshua, feeling obligated to Gibeon because of the covenant, dispatched to Gibeon to engage the five Kings and their armies.

“The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you.” So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal". And the Lord confounded them before Israel, and He slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and pursued them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword” (Jos. 10:8-12). So even though Israel had technically sinned before the Lord by making peace with an enemy without consulting God, He turned the situation into a slaughter anyway.

Then came one of the greatest miracles ever performed before or after by Joshua. Scripture records the event: “Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies…. And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for  the Lord fought for Israel. Then Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp to Gilgal” (Joshua 10:12-15). Of all the miracles done by Joshua or Moses this is the greatest. The implications of such an event are mind boggling! It confirms what Jesus told us time and again: “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23, 10:27, 14:36; Matthew 19:26). After defeating the armies Joshua captured the five Kings of the defeated nations. He slew them, hung their bodies from trees, and threw their carcasses into a cave (Jos. 10:16-28).

In rapid succession Joshua defeated the cities in southern Palestine of Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon and, Debir (Jos. 10:29-39). “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea even as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen even as far as Gibeon. Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. So Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal” (Jos.  10:40-43).

Joshua turned his attention to northern Palestine. All the Kings in the north banded together to fight Israel. “They came out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. So all of these kings having agreed to meet, came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel” (Jos. 11:4-5).

“So Joshua and all the people of war with him came upon them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and attacked them. The Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh to the east; and they struck them until no survivor was left to them. Joshua did to them as the Lord had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire. Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all these kingdoms. They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. Joshua captured all the cities of these kings, and all their kings, and he struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed them; just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded” (Jos. 11:8-12). Joshua’s method of attack always seemed to be a surprise attach, catching the enemy off guard.

“Joshua made war with all the nations of the highlands just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant. So Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. Thus Joshua took all that land:  the hill country and all the Negev [south country] , all that land of Goshen, the lowland,  the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland  from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death. Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings” (Jos. 11:15-18).  

Joshua then made war with the Anakim, the sons of Anak. You will recall that the Anakim were relatives of the Nephilim and were the giants that terrified the 12 spies (Numbers). “There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in  Ashdod some remained” (Jos. 11:22). Later in History we learn that Goliath was from Gath, the giant David destroyed with the slingshot.

In Chapter 12 Joshua listed all the Kings he had conquered in Canaan-31 of them.

“Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed” (Jos. 13:1). The Lord proceeded to list the nations that had not been conquered including the land of the Philistines. It would not be until the time of David that all those nations would be fully conquered. Caleb, one of the spies who had given a favorable report of the land (Numbers) wanted to take the hill country of Hebron for him and his family. That was one of the remaining lands of the Anakim, the giants. “Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the Lord God of Israel fully. Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba; [the city of Arba] for Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. Caleb conquered the hill country, Then the land had rest from war. (Jos. 14:14-15).

Joshua went on to apportion the land among the twelve tribes of Israel as follows:
· Judah (Chapter 15 for a full description). “Now  the lot for the tribe of the sons of Judah according to their families reached the border of Edom, southward to the wilderness of Zin at the extreme south” (Jos. 15:1). “Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak: Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the children of Anak” (Jos. 15:14). Those names were important-they were the last of the sons Of Anak, the Nephilim. However the Judahites were unable to dispossess the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem. It was left to David to conquer that city and make it his capitol, sometimes called the City of David.  
· Ephraim (Chapter 16). “Then the lot for the sons of Joseph went from the Jordan at Jericho to the waters of Jericho on the east into the wilderness, going up from Jericho through the hill country to Bethel” (Jos. 16:1). “But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and they became forced laborers” (Jos. 16:10).  
· Manasseh (Chapter 17). “The border of Manasseh ran from Asher to Michmethath which was east of Shechem; then the border went southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the sons of Ephraim” (Jos. 17:7-8).
· Benjamin (Jos. 18:11-28). “Now the lot of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the territory of their lot lay between the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph” (18:11).
· Simeon (Jos. 19:1-9). “The inheritance of the sons of Simeon was taken from the portion of the sons of Judah, for the share of the sons of Judah was too large for them; so the sons of Simeon received an inheritance in the midst of Judah’s inheritance” (19:9).
· Zebulon (Jos. 19:10-16).
· Issachar (Jos. (19:17-23).
· Asher (Jos. 19:24-31).
· Naphtali (Jos. 19:32-39).
· Dan (Jos. 19:40-48). “The territory of the sons of Dan proceeded beyond them; for the sons of Dan went up and fought with Leshem and captured it. Then they struck it with the edge of the sword and possessed it and settled in it; and they called Leshem Dan after the name of Dan their father” (19:47).
· Joshua “When they finished apportioning the land for inheritance by its borders, the sons of Israel gave an inheritance in their midst to Joshua the son of Nun. In accordance with the command of the Lord they gave him the city for which he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. So he built the city and settled in it” (Jos. 19:49-50).  
· Cities of Refuge (Chapter 20). “Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying,  “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood. ‘He shall flee to one of these cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city; and they shall take him into the city to them and give him a place, so that he may dwell among them. ‘Now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand. ‘He shall dwell in that city  until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled.’ ” (20:1-6).
· Forty-eight Cities of the Levites (Jos. 21:1-45). All of the tribes contributed land and/or cities to the Levites who were keepers of the Tabernacle and temple of God.
· Tribes beyond the Jordan River (Jos. 22:1-9). “Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.  “You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God. “And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan” (22:1-4
· The Offensive Altar (22:10-34). “When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance” (22:10). The rest of Israel heard about it and considering it idolatry, they formed ranks and went to have war with the tribes. They felt that there was only tabernacle where worship should be performed, the one brought up out of the wilderness. However the tribes convinced the rest of Israel that the altar was built for the worship of the Lord and was just more convenient for them to have an altar close to their land, since the Jordon River separated their land from that of the other tribes. So the rest of Israel relented and were assured the acts were not rebellion.

In Chapter 23 Joshua made a farewell address to the people. He advised them: “Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. “But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day” (23:6-8). Of course history would show that Israel was never able to follow this advice and many times turned to other gods, and made altars to them. They would be punished by God each time they did this. Israel was never able to keep God’s Law and thus never became the special people for God’s own possession that He desired. At the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ they forever lost their favored status with God, and salvation was opened to everyone including the Gentiles (see Romans 9-11).

In Chapter 24 Joshua reviewed the history of Israel as Moses had done before he died. He warned again as follows: “Now, therefore, fear [reverence] the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24:14-15).  

“It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash” (Jos. 24:20-30).

Author Observations on the Book of Joshua:

· Joshua fought a battle against flesh and blood nations that inhabited the land God had promised to His people. Today, in Christ, our warfare is not against flesh and blood. As Paul said: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

· Today we fight wicked Satanic spiritual forces set against the manifestation of the Sons of God. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the  world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:5).  

· Joshua’s victory over the pagan Canaanite nations was symbolic of Christ’s victory on the cross.

· Upon His death Christ went to the Father to rule until all His enemies are defeated and made a footstool for His feet. “but He, [Christ] having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward  until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet” (Heb. 10:12-13; Psalm 110:1).  

· Those who went before us in serving God in their generations (such as Moses and Joshua) are not made perfect or do not see their complete release apart from us in this age. “And all these, [the men included in the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11:1-37] having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:38-39).  

· Our victory over the powers and principalities of Satan results in us possessing our Promised Land, the Kingdom of God.


JUDGES-RULERS OF ISRAEL
THE BOOK OF JUDGES
FROM JOSHUA TO SAMUEL


The Book of Judges covers the period of Israel’s history from the death of Joshua (1375 B.C.) to the era of Samuel the Prophet (1075 B.C.) a period of about three centuries. The generally accepted theory is that Samuel wrote the Book. This era was before Israel had Kings. However, during this period, certain men and women rose up to rule Israel called Judges. Their primary purpose was to act as deliverers as Israel constantly chose to go after other gods of the surrounding cultures and God constantly brought other nations to war against them. Israel did not have a King until Saul who ruled during the time of Samuel (see 1 & 2 Samuel).

There are 13 Judges mentioned in the book commencing with Othniel and ending with Samson. For reference by the reader, the 13 Judges mentioned in the Book are as follows:

1. Othniel ( Jd. 3:7-16:31).
2. Ehud (3:12-30).
3. Shamgar (3:31).
4. Deborah and Barak (4:1-5:31).
5. Gideon (6:1-9:57).
6. Tola (10:1-2).
7. Jair (10:3-50.
8. Jephthah (10:6-12:7).
9. Ibzan (12:8-10).
10. Elon (12:11-12).
11. Abdon (12:13-15).
12. Samson (13:1-16:310.

Joshua had said before his death that there was yet much land to be possessed (Jos. 13:1). After the death of Joshua Israel set out to conquer land still held by the Canaanites. Some of this land had already been apportioned to certain tribes but they had not yet possessed it. “Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?" The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you.” So Simeon went with him. Judah went up, and  the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands, and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek” [means lightning, inhabited by Adoni-bezek] (Jd. 1:1-4). They also captured King  of the Canaanites and cut off his thumbs and big toes. The thumbs and big toes represented authority to symbolically they were removing the King’s authority. Adoni-bezek said:  “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to gather up scraps under my table;  as I have done, so God has repaid me.” So they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there” (Jd. 1:7). In other words the King had won many battles but he was no match for the Lord God of Israel.

Israel went on to conquer Jerusalem, the Canaanites in the hill country (by Caleb) and Hebron [means community or alliance] where the ancestors of the Nephilim (Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai) lived (Jd. 1:8-10). [This is important in that the spirits of these Nephilim oppose the coming of Christ in this day]. Israel went on to conquer: Debir, [a highland city of Judah], Kiriath-sepher [another name for Debir], Zephath [beacon, watchtower], Gaza [stronghold, one of the oldest cities before Abraham] with its territory and Ashkelon [a major city of the Philistines] with its territory and Ekron [most northerly of the five towns belonging to the Philistines, about 11 miles north of Gath assigned to Judah] with its territory (Jd. 1:11-18). “Likewise the house of Joseph went up against Bethel, [house of God] and the Lord was with them. The house of Joseph spied out Bethel (now the name of the city was formerly Luz). The spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Please show us the entrance to the city and we will treat you kindly." So he showed them the entrance to the city, and they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go free. The man went into the land of the Hittites and built a city and named it Luz which is its name to this day” (Jd. 1:22-26). This is reminiscent of Rahab in Jericho.  

However, various tribes left some of their inherited land unconquered and made peace with the pagan inhabitants (Jd. 1:21, 27:36). This made the Lord angry. “Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal [rolling] to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.  And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?  Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ ” So it was, when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept. Then they called the name of that place Bochim [weeping]; and they sacrificed there to the Lord” (Jd. 2:1-5).

Almost immediately Israel began worshipping other Gods (Jd. 2:11-13). Because of this: “The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed” (Jd. 2:14-15).

Following this the Lord raised up Judges over the house of Israel but they did not listen to the judges. “When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,  in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not” (Jd. 2:18-22).

“Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them… This shows that what we consider evil may be God testing our faith. “These nations are: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians [inhabitants of Sidon with Gaza extreme cities of Canaanites]  and the Hivites [tent village a Canaanite city]…They were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses” (Jd. 3:1-40. So the people of Israel lived among these nations, worshipped their gods and took wives from among them. So the Lord gave Israel into the hands of  Cushan-rishathaim [a Hittite conqueror] king of Mesopotamia; and they served that Canaanite nation for eight hard years (Jd. 3:7-8).

When the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord He raised up Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, to deliver Israel. “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. Then the land had rest forty years” (Jd. 3:10-11).

After Othniel’s death Israel again sinned against the Lord and God raised up Moab and their King Eglon to conquer Israel. So the Lord sent Ehud to deliver Israel. The following occurred: “Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man….[He said]  “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he said, “Keep silence.” And all who attended him left him…And he arose from his seat. Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly” (Jd. 3:16-22). Ehud escaped and returned to Seirah. While there he blew the trumpet and all Israel attacked Moab and defeated them. “So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land was undisturbed for eighty years” (Jd. 3:13-30).

“After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel” (Jd. 3:31).  

“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord,…And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, [he (God) understands] king of Canaan who reigned in Hazor; [northern Palestine City] and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim” [north Palestine City] “The sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he had nine hundred  iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years” (Jd. 4:2-3).

Deborah was judging Israel at this time. She would sit on a hill in Ephraim and judge disputes of the people. Deborah sent for Barak, an Israeli warrior, and formed a plan to defeat Sisera and his army. Barak gathered 10,000 men and attacked Sisera and his iron chariots. It is told that Sisera’s chariots got caught in the muddy conditions present at the time and were rendered ineffective. “The Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot” (Jd. 14:15).

Now Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite [Kenites were traveling coppersmiths]. Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.” And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug….But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died” (Jd. 4:17-21). So Jael, a humble woman, killed the great King Sisera that day.

Chapter 5 consists of the victory song of Deborah and Barak over their victory. And the land lay undisturbed 40 years. Deborah was a prophetess (Jd. 4:1) and additionally she proclaimed herself “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Oh that we had in this day a woman like Deborah who moved both as a prophetess and a nurturing Mother.

Once again the Israelites displeased the Lord and the Lord sent Midian against them. You will recall that Moses fled to Midian from Egypt and resided there 40 years. However this Midian had become a powerful conquering nation. Midian, united with the Amalekites [an ancient race, see Numbers 24:20] would wait for Israeli crops to grow and then would steal them. “So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it” (Jd. 6:4-5). The Israelites again cried out to the Lord. The Lord sent an angel and again told Israel that this calamity was because they had once again displeased the Lord (Jd. 6:1-10).

Once again the Lord was forced to raise up a deliverer. He found Gideon who was engaged in harvesting his grain, hiding from the Midianites. As were most of the deliverers Gideon was reluctant to do what the Lord required of him. Gideon told the Lord “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house” (Jd. 6:15). But the Lord, ignoring all Gideon’s self-perceived limitations, told him: “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man” (Jd. 6:16). Gideon demanded a sign from the Lord that all this was true. “The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight” (Jd 6:20-21). Thus Gideon was convinced that the Angel had spoken to him and he proceeded to build two altars to the Lord at that place.

The first thing Gideon did was to tear down altars to Baal and Asherah who were pagan gods. Asherah was a Canaanite goddess “ Lady of the Sea”.  Baal was what the Philistines called God and he was the god of crops and fruitfulness generally. Israel would be tormented by the worship of this false god Baal for centuries. When the Israelites found it was Gideon who had done this they sought to kill him. But Josiah interceded for Gideon and he was spared. Meanwhile the forces of Midian gathered against Israel. Gideon’s response was to gather an army to stand up to the Midianites.

But Gideon required yet another sign from God before he would go up against them. Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken." And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water” (Jd. 6:36-38). Then Gideon wanted another sigh this time a dry, instead of wet, fleece, which the Lord performed.  

Gideon had acquired an army of 22,000 warriors. But the Lord said to Gideon: “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ “Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’ ” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained” (Jd. 7:2-3). “Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there…. So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink." Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water” The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home” (Jd. 7:4-8).

“Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. When Gideon came, [to spy] behold, a [Midian] man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand” (Jd 7:12-14).  

When Gideon heard this he rejoiced and knew Midian would be defeated at his hand. He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the “hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.  “When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ ” (Jd. 7:16-18). “When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath” (Jd. 7:22).

Then all the rest of the Israelites, who had been sent home, joined in chasing the Midanites. “They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb  [a raven] and Zeeb [wolf], and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan” (Jd. 7:25). The Midianites were totally defeated and they never bothered Israel again.

Consider what Gideon did in defeating the Medians. God chose him to be the deliverer even though he was from the lowly tribe of Manasseh. When God called him he was essentially hiding from the Midianites, trying to eek out a living in a secret location. Since he was from the least family, of the least tribe in Israel, he still responded to God’s call. The Lord saw Gideon differently than he saw himself. The Lord proclaimed: “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior” (Jd. 7:126-18). This was the exact opposite of what Gideon thought about himself. Yet, reluctantly he came to trust the Lord and His evaluation and accomplished the deliverance. He did it with 300 men against thousands of the enemy. His battle devices were pitchers and torches making Midian believe, in the confusion of the night, that a great army was attacking them. They fled, were chased and annihilated by all the Israelites who joined in the fray. God did not use a great army to conquer them so that He, not Israel, would get the glory.

This is a great example to us. Often we feel like we are too few and lack what is necessary to fight the spiritual battles we face. But we remember Gideon, who had nothing, and the Lord went before Him to obtain the victory. “So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon” (Jd. 8:28).

Next came the saga of Abimelech [my father is king or royal father] (Judges 9). Abimelech was an illegitimate son of Gideon by a concubine of his. Gideon, for whatever reason, is called Jerubbaal in Judges Chapter 9. Abimelech conspired with his mother who had some influence in the city of Shechem and she arranged to transfer money to him from the community treasury. Shechem means “shoulder or ridge” as it is in the high country claimed by Ephraim and Caleb specifically. It is probably named after the man Shechem a Hevite prince (Genesis 33:18). Shechim was an important Palestine city.

Abimelech had 70 brothers (half-brothers) who were engaged in ruling Shechem. Abimelech had his brothers killed except the youngest Jotham. Abimelech made himself King of Shechem and later attempted to rule Israel. However when the young Jotham found out he went upon a mountain and exposed Abimelech as the evil traitor he was, using a parable to do so (Jd. 9:7-15). His words were evidently not well received and Jotham fled from Shechem.

Abimelech “ruled” Israel for three years until the Lord sent an evil spirit to divide the men of Shechem from him. The men of Shechem dealt “treachously" with Abimelech presumably to avenge the true words of Jotham condemning Abimelech. Gaul, a leader of the city, incited the people against Abimelech and they prepared an ambush. However Abimemech heard of it and defeated the people of Shechem, destroyed the city and sowed salt on it. The survivors went into hiding in the city, pursued by Abimelech. However a woman threw a large millstone down from a tower and killed Abimelech. “When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his home. Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers. Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them” (Jd. 9:55-57).  
 
Now after Abimelech died, Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, arose to save Israel; “…he lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. He judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried in Shamir” (Jd. 10:1-2). “After him, Jair the Gileadite arose and judged Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are called Havvoth-jair [huts or hamlets of jair] to this day. And Jair died and was buried in Kamon” (Jd. 10:3-5).
 
“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the sons of Ammon. The Ammonites were descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. “They afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in Gilead in the land of the Amorites. The sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed” (Jd. 10:6-9). Of course Israel again cried out to the Lord because of their distress.

“Then the angel of the Lord appeared to a woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son” (Jd. 1 3:3).  The angel said the child would be a Nazarite (Numbers 6:1) and that a razor would never touch his head. “Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him” (Jd. 13:24-25).

Samson desired a Philistine woman to be his wife which caused his parents great consternation. Samson persisted in his desire for her saying “…she looks good to me” (Jd. 14:3). As Samson went to fetch her with his parents “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore a lion as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done” (Jd. 14:6). “When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion” (Jd. 14:8-9). Samson prepared a great wedding feast for his bride.

At the feast Samson proposed a riddle. It was common at feasts in ancient times to propose riddles for entertainment. His riddle was: “Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet” (Jd. 14:14). The obvious answer had to do with the killer lion he had slain and eaten the honey from its carcass, but no one knew that but him. The wife knew the answer and the Philistine men pressured her to give them the answer because Samson had offered prizes for the winner. This she did by deceiving Samson. 70 men answered the correctly: “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” “Samson knew his wife had given them the answer and he said “If you had not plowed with my heifer [symbolic for his wife], You would not have found out my riddle” (Jd. 14:18). Samson became very irate at the entire situation. So “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle". And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house” (Jd. 15:2). He dumped his new wife and gave her to a friend.

Samson was still irate over this. But he went into Philistine country to recover his wife, still incenses, he did the following: “Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves” (Jd. 15:4-5).  

“Then the Philistines said, “Who did this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite [Samson’s wife], because he took his wife and gave her to his companion.” So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. Samson said to them, “Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit.” He struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter” (Jd. 15:6-8).  

For revenge the Philistines encamped against Judah where Samson was staying. Judah wanted no part of the fight so they bound Samson with strong ropes in order to turn him over to the Philistines. When the Philistines saw Samson they shouted in triumph. However the Spirit of the Lord came on him and he broke the ropes as if they were nothing. He then grabbed a jawbone of an ass (donkey) and slew the Philistines (Jd. 15:9-15). Samson sang a victory song:
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
Heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of a donkey
I have killed a thousand men” (Jd. 15:16).

Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived. Therefore he named it En-hakkore, [the spring of him who called] which is in Lehi to this day. So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines” (Jd. 15:18-20).

Samson got himself in trouble. He went to Gaza and loved a harlot there. The people of Gaza (Philistines) laid a trap for him. “…they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.” Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron” (Jd. 16:2-3) foiling the attempt on his life.  

After this he fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The Lords of the Philistines came to her and asked her to discover the source of Samson’s great strength for a price of 1100 pieces of silver. So she asked Samson for the source. Three times Samson deceived her. He told her if he was bound with different types of rope his strength would be taken away and told her if his hair was tied a certain way he would lose his strength. When it was revealed Samson had lied to her, she tried one more time. This time Samson told her the secret: “she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man” (Jd. 16:16-17).

When she told the Philistines “[they] seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison” (Jd. 16:21). “Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to  Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hands, Even the destroyer of our country, Who has slain many of us.” It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars” (Jd. 16:23-25).

However during the time he was in prison his hair had grown back. The temple was filled with hundreds of people. Samson prayed to the Lord and pushed against the two pillars. He said: “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life” (Jd. 16:30).

Following the death of Samson there was no ruler in Israel and so the tribes did what was right in their sight including worshiping idols of foreign Gods (Jd. 17:6). The remainder of the history of Israel until the time of Samuel is fraught with deception, useless battles, betrayal and idolatry.

There was a man from the hill country of Ephraim who took 1100 pieces of silver from his mother, with her permission, and built idols. “And the man Micah had a shrine [house of gods] and he made an ephod and household idols [terephim] and consecrated one of his sons,  that he might become his [idolatress] priest (Jd. 17:5). Presently a young man from Judah, a Levite, came to Micah’s dwelling in Ephraim. Micah asked the Levite to stay with him and be his priest, which the man did.

“In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites [tribe of Dan] was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel” (Jd. 18:1). They decided on the hill country in Ephraim where Micah lived. They consulted the “priest” living with Micah who told them whatever they were prepared to do would be fruitful. While residing with Micah they spied out a piece of land called Laish where the inhabitants lived in peace. In the meantime 600 Danite soldiers stood near the gate of Micah’s dwelling. “Now the five men who went to spy out the land went up and entered there, and took the graven image and the ephod and household idols and the molten image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war” (Jd. 18:17) . Micah and the priest objected to the taking of the pagan idols but the Danites convinced the priest to come with them and be priest over their entire tribe. Micah objected strongly to the taking of his idols but the Danites were too strong for him. Then “Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and secure, and struck them with the edge of the sword; and they burned the city with fire” (Jd. 18:20).  

“The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of  Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh” (Jd. 18:30-31). This story shows how far Israel had strayed from the God who had delivered them from Egypt and had given them this land through Joshua in battle. Left to their own devices all they could do was sin and turn to idolatry the very thing the Lord hated.  

Another story of depravity follows. “Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah” (Jd. 19:1). But the concubine was unfaithful to him and fled to her father’s house. The man went to the Father’s house to try and woo her back. The Father received him and the man stayed there for a number of days. The girl, the man and his servant, finally left the Father’s house and headed to Jebus (Jerusalem) on the way to his home in Bethlehem. Remember at this time Jerusalem was not completely part of Israel.

They finally found lodging at Gibeah with a kind stranger after planning on spending the night in the dangerous city square. “While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain  worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him” Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. “Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn” (Jd. 19:22-25). The territory within which this happened was the land of Benjamin.

It turned out the poor girl was dead. The man placed her on his donkey and when he got home cut her body into 12 pieces and sent the pieces throughout Israel hoping to incite a response. The men of Israel rallied around this man in great numbers, They sent word to the Tribe of Benjamin to produce the men who did this rape and killing. Benjamin refused and a civil war developed between Benjamin and Israel. “And the Lord struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who draw the sword. So the sons of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. When the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin because they relied on the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah, the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush also deployed and struck all the city with the edge of the sword” (Jd. 20:35-37).

Benjamin was so totally devastated that few men remained of the tribe. Israel mourned the loss of one of their tribes. So they made provision for the “lost tribe. They asked: “What one is there of the tribes of Israel who did not come up to the Lord at Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. For when the people were numbered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there” (Jd. 21:8-9). So Israel devised a plan whereby men of Benjamin could secretly marry some of the women of that tribe and preserve the Tribe (Jd. 21:8-25).  

What we can take away from the Book of Judges is a ringing example of human nature. Besides being given so much by the Lord Israel could never walk in His laws. God had warned them of the consequences of straying from Him and Israel certainly experienced them. Yet God, in His infinite mercy, was always there to deliver them time and again. This pattern will continue throughout the history of Israel until the climax is reached as they crucified the Lord of glory. After that Rome completely destroyed the nation in 70 C.E. God is accurately portrayed in this Book in all His glory and mercy and in the devastations of His jealous anger. Yet there was always a man he could turn to, to be a minister of deliverance and reconciliation. Finally Christ performed all these functions by His one sacrifice on the cross. Let us be true to Him and inherit God’s promises for God’s glory.


FAITHFULNESS & REDEMPTION
THE BOOK OF RUTH
RUTH AS ANCESTOR OF CHRIST


The book of Ruth is the story of a heathen woman from Moab who later became part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. It illustrates how God put together the lineage of David and Christ using a pagan and a prostitute as part of the family tree, due to their faithfulness and willingness to abandon their own cultures and accept Jehovah (YHWH) as the one true God. The exact date of the book is unknown but it was in the time of the Judges. Samuel is generally considered to be the author.

The Book of Ruth begins as follows: “Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1). The husband Elimelech was an Israelite as was his wife Naomi. It is unknown why, as Israelites, they decided to move to the foreign land of Moab although with a famine in the land one can surmise it was to obtain food. Elimelech died in Moab. The sons, both Israelites, took Moabite wives. The name of the one was wife was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived in Moab for about ten years. Later, both of their husbands died leaving widows of Ruth and Orpah.

Naomi heard that there was food in her homeland Israel so she chose to leave Moab and travel to Bethlehem. She advised her two daughters-in- law to remain in Moab. Orpah remained but Ruth, because of her love for Naomi, refused to leave her side. Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).  

So they both traveled to Bethlehem where Naomi had previously resided.  When they arrived the entire city was stirred because of them, and one woman said, “Is this Naomi?" She [Naomi] said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; [pleasant] call me Mara, [bitter] for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:19-21). Naomi had lost her husband and two sons in Moab and her devastation from these events was evident.

Naomi had a relative in Bethlehem, a man of great wealth, whose name was Boaz  (Ruth 2:1). Boaz’s father was Salmon who had been married to Rahab the harlot the one who had hidden the spies sent by Joshua to spy out Jericho (Joshua 2). Naomi told Ruth to glean grain in local fields to obtain food. In those days the harvesters of the field would leave some of the harvest behind for the poor people to glean. This was a Law of Moses (Lev. 19:9-10).

Eventually Ruth reached the field of Boaz. Boaz saw young Ruth gleaning in his field. Boaz was taken by the girl and made her a part of the main harvesters. “Ruth fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know” (Ruth 2:10-11).

When Ruth brought gleanings from the field back to Naomi, Naomi told her that the man who had treated her so well was Boaz a close relative of the family. (Ruth 2:20). Knowing the implications of Ruth being the widow of one of Naomi’s sons, i.e. the redemption laws see below), she gave strict instructions to Ruth on how to relate to Boaz. She told Ruth to go to the thrashing floor where Boaz was winnowing the barley (winnowing is the process by which threshed grain is separated from chaff, the non-edible part of the grain).
 
She told Ruth:  “Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. “It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do” (Ruth 3:2-4).   

Now in the Mosaic Law there was what is called the Law of Redemption (Deut. 25:5-10). It stipulates that when two brothers live together, and one of them dies, the surviving brother must redeem (marry) the widow of the deceased brother in order to redeem (carry on) the family name. The firstborn of the widow will than bear the deceased brother’s name. However in this case there was no surviving brother to take the widow (Ruth) so the right of redemption fell upon the next of kin.

Ruth did what Naomi told her. And: “When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative” (Ruth 3:7-9). Ruth made it known to him that she was a relative of his by marriage.

As it turned out Boaz was not the next closest relative of Ruth’s deceased husband but there was one ahead of him. Boaz said he would contact the primary relative and give him first chance at redemption. Now Ruth had acquired rights to the piece of property Boaz was working as an inheritance from her deceased husband. The property could be sold to anyone but Boaz acted quickly so the property could remain in the family. So the next day Boaz contacted the closest relative and gathered 10 elders of the city as witnesses.

Boaz explained to the relative that Naomi, had come back from Moab and for financial reasons has to sell the piece of land which belonged to the brother Elimelech [Ruth’s deceased husband]. Boaz informed the relative that he [the relative] had first rights of redemption to buy and thereby redeem the property. However, he explained, if he exercised his right of redemption he must also redeem (marry) Ruth in order to preserve the name of the deceased brother’s inheritance.

So Boaz, who probably was in love with Ruth, told the relative “If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.’ ” … [The relative said] “I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it." Now this was  the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself” And he removed his sandal”  (Ruth 4:3-8).  

So Boaz married Ruth and Ruth gave birth to Obed who was the Father of Jesse who was the Father of David, who became King of Israel. Therefore, as strange as it may seem, the physical lineage of Christ was composed of the two women, Rahab and Ruth, who were not even born of Israel; one a pagan the other an alleged harlot. The Lord is glorified in moving in ways that may seem unacceptable to man as he did in this instance. It is true of the Lord that, while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:17).

 
SAMUEL THE FIRST PROPHET JUDGES ISRAEL
THE BOOK OF FIRST SAMUEL
PART ONE

ISRAEL’S FIRST KINGS


Samuel was the first prophet to rule Israel. He had the unique ministry of being a prophet, a judge and a priest. He established schools of prophets, training for young prophets, for the purpose of guiding Israel. He, and his prophets, controlled the spiritual realm in Israel and no major decisions were made except by his consultation. When Israel clamored for a King to lead them Samuel anointed the first two Kings of Israel being Saul and David. When Saul proved to be a rebellious King, he anointed David while Saul was still reigning. When Saul proved unworthily to be King Samuel befriended and protected David as Saul sought to kill him. He was a great man of God who lived his life in constant communication with the Lord and doing what was best for the nation.

The author of the Books of Samuel (1 & 2) is unknown. However the author had to be someone contemporary with Samuel as the deeds of Samuel are scrupulously recorded. A main point of the Book is the unwise decision, according to Samuel, of Israel to desire a King instead of allowing God to lead them. However God turned this unwise decision to His glory by anointing David as King, the man after God’s heart. During the time of Samuel the Kingdom of Israel began to become united after a period when the nation was reduced to people doing what was right in their own sight without consulting God. The unifying of the nation was accomplished finally by David the King when he took the throne.

Prophet (Heb. Nabi) comes from a root meaning “to bubble forth, as from a fountain,” hence “to utter”. This is reminiscent of Jesus words: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37-38). This Hebrew word is the first and the most generally used for a prophet. In the time of Samuel another word, ro<eh, “seer”, began to be used (1Sam. 9:9). It occurs seven times in reference to Samuel. Afterwards another word, hozeh, “seer” (2 Sam. 24:11), was employed.

The “prophet” proclaimed the message given to him, as the “seer” beheld the vision of God although the words can be interchanged as the :seer” can prophesy into existence what he “sees”. This creative aspect of a prophet’s ministry is the most important. A prophet moves as God moved by creating something out of nothing by a word (Genesis 1:1-3). Hebrews says: “By faith we understand that the worlds [ages] were prepared [framed, KJV]  by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (11:3). A prophet has the ability, by speaking God’s word, to create, or bring into being, that which heretofore didn’t exist. The prophet was a spokesman for God; he spoke in God’s name and by his authority (Ex. 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to men (Jer. 1:9; Isa. 51:16), and hence what the prophet says is not of man but of God (2 Pet. 1:20, 21). The Bible is composed of the writings of men speaking by a revelation from God.  

But while the prophetic gift was exercised from the beginning, the prophetical order as such began with Samuel. Colleges, “schools of the prophets”, were instituted for the training of prophets, who were constituted, a distinct order (1 Sam. 19:18–24; 2 Kings 2:3, 15; 4:38), which continued to the close of the Old Testament. Such “schools” were established at Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal, Gibeah, and Jericho. The “sons” or “disciples” of the prophets were young men (2 Kings 5:22; 9:1, 4) who lived together at these different “schools” (4:38–41). These young men were taught not only the rudiments of secular knowledge, but they were brought up to exercise the office of prophet, “to preach true righteousness correct worship of Jehovah. As such they represented a spiritual force that actually controlled the atmosphere. To come into their presence was to come into the presence of the Lord. Even the angriest of men would speak the word of the Lord in their presence. When Saul was very angry at David he went to Ramah in search of him. At Ramah, in the presence of the prophet, “the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah. He also stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1Sa 19:23-24).

Samuel was born and became a prophet as follows. “Eelkanaha had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children… When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival [Peninnah], however, would provoke Hannah bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1Sa 1:2, 4-6). Hannah was greatly distressed by this and would continually cry out in the temple in her agony. The priest Eli thought she was drunk and tried to get her to leave the temple. Hannah explained the problem and Eli blessed her. She made a vow to the Lord: “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head [the vow of a Nazerite]” (1 Sa 1:9-11).

“It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel [asked of God], saying, “Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1 Sa 1:20).  She followed her vow and after the child was weaned she presented him to Eli the priest to bring him up in the Lord. She looked after him. “Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice” (1Sa 2:18-19).  

Eli’s sons were very disobedient to the Lord. “Now Eli was very old; and he heard  all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (1Sa 2:22). Eli rebuked them but it had no effect as they continued to defile the Lord’s temple.

In this time there were no judges in Israel and the word of the Lord was infrequent. However the Lord spoke to Samuel, the boy prophet. He was in bed one night and he heard his name called. Thinking it was Eli the priest, Samuel went to him. However Eli said he had not called for Samuel. This happened twice more. On the third time Eli surmised that the Lord was speaking to Samuel. Eli told the boy to go back and if he heard the voice again to say: “Speak Lord for your servant if listening” 1Sa 3:9).
 
Then the Lord spoke to Samuel that He was going to judge the house of Eli because he did not control his sons. “In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because  his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. “Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that  the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever” (1Sa 3:12-14). In the morning Samuel, with a little coaxing, told Eli what the Lord had spoken.
 
“Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail.   All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1Sa 3:19-21). The word Shiloh denotes a place in this context but the word actually means a person, most commonly associated with the Messiah, “the peaceful one,” (Gen. 49:10). The Vulgate Version of the Bible translates the word, “he who is to be sent,” in allusion to the Messiah; the Revised Version, “till he come to Shiloh;” and the Septuagint (LXX) Greek version “until that which is his shall come to Shiloh.” It is most simple and natural to render the expression, as in the Authorized Version, “till Shiloh come,” interpreting it as a proper name (comp. Isa. 9:6) (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

Israel went out to battle against the Philistines and lost the battle badly, one more indication that the Lord was not with Israel at this time. The Israelis figured out that the reason they lost was that they hadn’t taken the Ark of the Lord into battle. So Israel attacked again with the Ark which they had retrieved from Shiloh. Seeing the ark the Philistines became afraid and proclaimed “God has come into our camp” (1Sa 4:8). However they regrouped and they said: “Take courage and be men, O Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight." So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (1Sa 4:9-11). When Eli the priest heard that the Ark of the Lord was taken he fell off his stool, broke his neck and died” (1Sa 4:18).  

Now Eli’s daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth. She named her child Ichabod [no glory], saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband had died (1Sa 4:19-22).

The Philistines took the Ark of the Lord to their city Ashdod and put it near the likeness of their god Dagon. The statute of Dagon fell over. This happened again so that the priests would not go near the Ark or Dagon again. God smote the residents of Ashdod with boils and tremors. The Philistines took the Ark to Gath and the same thing happened. Finally they took it to Elkon; even as the residents of Elkon objected strongly to its presence. Again the Lord smote the residents of Elkon with plague and boils (1Sa 5:1-10. “They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven” (1Sa 5:11-12).  

The Philistine lords got together and tried to figure out how to return the Ark to Israel. “They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but you shall surely  return to Him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you." Then they said, “What shall be the guilt offering which we shall return to Him?” And they said, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for one plague was on all of you and on your lords. “So you shall make likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will ease His hand from you, your gods, and your land” (1Sa 6:3-5).  So the Philistines commenced to take the Ark back accompanied with the golden representations of mice and tumors. The Ark stopped at Beth-shemesh and because the residents of that field looked at the Ark the Lord smote 50,070 men there. Finally they got it to Israel at Kiriath-jearim, where it stayed for 20 years (1Sa 6:21-7:1-2).

Following this Samuel took control. He told the people that “If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth [female goddess]  from among you and  direct your hearts to the Lord and  serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”  So the sons of Israel removed the Baals [pagan god] and the Ashtaroth and served the Lord alone” (1Sa 7:3-4).

Lo and behold the Philistines gathered against Israel at Mizpah (meaning “watchtower”). The Israelites were afraid of the Philistines because they had taken heavy losses from them previously. They cried to Samuel to pray for them. Samuel made a burnt offering for the Lord. This time there was a different outcome in the battle. “…the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car [sheep house]. Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer [the stone of help], saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. So there was peace between Israel and the Amorites” (1Sa 7:10-14). One more time, when Israel got rid of the pagan idols in their land, and served the Lord, they were delivered from a formidable enemy.

“Now Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He used to go annually on circuit to  Bethel and  Gilgal and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all these places. Then his return was to  Ramah, for his house was there, and there he judged Israel; and he built there an altar to the Lord” (1Sa 7:15-17). Ramah means “height”. It is coupled in the scriptures with other cities built on hills and high places easily defended from the enemy. At Ramah, Samuel gathered a company of young men around him and established a school of the prophets. The schools of the prophets, thus originated, and afterwards established also at Gibeah, Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, exercised an important spiritual influence in Israel. The school of prophets under Samuel, and after, had spiritual oversight over Israel even up to and including the time of Elijah and Elisha. It maintained the purity of God in the midst of growing corruption.

As Samuel grew older he established his sons as judges of Israel. However his sons did not walk in the ways of the Lord. So the people implored Samuel to appoint a King to judge them. “But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. “Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them” (1Sa 8:6-9).  

Samuel’s warning to the people regarding a King is worth noting here in its entirety from the scriptures. He said: “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. “He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. “He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. “He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. “He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. “He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. “He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. “Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (1Sa 8:11-19).  

But the people would not listen to Samuel’s warnings. They wanted a King like the surrounding nations had. So the Lord told Samuel to appoint them a King as they wanted (1Sa 8:19-22). There was a man in Israel named Saul, a Benjamite. He was a “choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people” (1Sa 9:2). Through a chain of circumstances Saul heard of Samuel and needed his help recovering some lost livestock. Before Saul came to Samuel the Lord spoke to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over My people Israel; and he will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have regarded My people, because their cry has come to Me." When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people” (1Sa 9:16-17).

Samuel brought Saul to the school of prophets and Saul prophesied with them (1Sa 10:1-16). Then Samuel brought him before the people. “Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him  whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” (1Sa 10:24).

After being enthroned Saul was immediately thrown into battle. The Ammonites confronted Israel and offered them slavery instead of death. The slavery was conditioned upon the Ammonites blinding one eye of each Israelite. Israel stalled them and sent messengers to Saul. Saul’s response was: “What is the matter with the people that they weep?” So they related to him the words of the men of Jabesh. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” Then the dread of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out as one man [to fight]” (1Sa 11:5-7). Israel won this battle. “The next morning Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp at the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together” (1Sa 11:11).

In Chapter 12 Samuel addressed the people. He confirmed to them they now had the King they wanted. But he warned them: “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. “But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away” ( 1Sa 12:24-25). How many times had Israel previously heard this warning in various forms? Yet, as history shows, they never heeded it for any appreciable amount of time.

Chapter 13 records King Saul’s first significant mistake. As Israel readied for yet another battle with the Philistines, Samuel told Saul to wait until he arrived before attacking so that Samuel could prepare a sacrifice to the Lord to ensure Israel’s victory. Samuel said he would arrive in seven days but he was delayed in his coming. The people were restless, and in order to quiet them, Saul went ahead, against the will of the Lord, and made the sacrifice himself. When Samuel arrived right at the time Saul finished the sacrifice he was angry and told Saul: “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1Sa 13:13-14). This is the first indication that Samuel would be seeking someone other than Saul to rule Israel. Eventually it would be David “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who would replace King Saul.

Saul camped near the capital Gibeah (1Sa 14:2) with about 600 men waiting for the Philistines to attack. Israel was greatly outnumbered and were frightened. However Jonathan, Saul’s son, undertook a secret mission into the enemy camp itself. On the way Jonathan and his armor-bearer (14:4). came through the narrow crevice when they were spotted by the Philistines, who challenged them to a contest (v. 12). Having undertaken his mission with confidence in the Lord (vv. 6, 10), Jonathan knew that he and his servant would prevail. Together they killed some 20 of the enemy.

Jonathan’s heroic encounter shocked and frightened the Philistines. From where he was Saul could see the enemy’s confusion. He realized that the cause of this was some Israelite involvement. He discovered Jonathan and his armor-bearer were missing. Meanwhile Ahijah the priest came bearing the Ark of the Lord (v. 18-19. When Saul saw that the Philistines were in total disarray, he realized that Jonathan and his armor bearer had achieved a great triumph (v. 20-23).

Saul was intent of pursuing the Philistines. Thinking he would incur the Lord’s favor he gave his battle weary and hungry troops an order to fast, which was a foolish order. Jonathan had not heard the order and he ate some honey in the woods and was rejuvenated by the food. “Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today.’ ” And the people were weary. Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See now, how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. “How much more, if only the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great” (1Sa 14:28-30.

The people attacked the Philistines. They were so hungry they devoured the spoil in a ravenous fashion. Then Saul decided to go against the Philistines at night and gather more spoil. He inquired of the Lord if that was a good idea. The Lord did not answer. Because of this Saul thought someone had violated the fast he had proclaimed. It was found out that Jonathan had violated the fast by eating the honey he found. Saul sought to kill him (his own son) but the people would not carry it out. It was Jonathan had been the one who had brought them victory that day. “the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die” (1Sa. 14:45). So both Saul and the Philistines withdrew.

Saul continued to conquer and fight against all the surrounding nations. Israel was constantly at war. The nations he engaged were: Moab, the sons of Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines and “wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment”. He acted valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them” (1Sa. 14:47-48).

Saul fought a battle, and so disobeyed the Lord, he lost his Kingdom. Samuel instructed him to attack the Amalekites and to completely destroy them, man, women, child, infant and livestock. God wanted to punish the Amalekites to settle an old score with them dating back to how they treated the Israelites when they were coming out of the wilderness. Saul was ordered to take no spoil whatsoever (1Sa 15:1-3).

Saul gathered his army and attacked the Amalekites however he disobeyed the Lord. “So  Saul defeated the Amalekites,… but He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and  utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly” (1Sa 15:7-9). Because they saved the livestock and the King, God was extremely displeased.

The Lord spoke to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands” (1Sa 15”11). Samuel was distressed and wept all night. Samuel confronted Saul the next morning. Samuel came to Saul, and Saul, in good spirits proudly proclaimed he had carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel heard the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle indication that Saul had not followed the Lord’s instructions and had in fact kept the livestock as spoil. Saul defended himself by saying that the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed” (1Sa 15:13-15). This was a lie; he planned on consuming the best livestock for himself and his people.

Then Samuel said to Saul, Is it not true that the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but [took] the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?" Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal” (1 Sa 15:16-21). (a lie because they intended on keeping the choicer livestock for themselves and the Lord had spoken to spare no one but Saul saved the King).  

Samuel said (in a discourse that has lived forever in describing the personality of the Lord:
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
“For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has also rejected you from being king” (1Sa 22-23).

Saul begged Samuel for forgiveness but Samuel turned to leave. .”As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you” (1Sa 15:25-28).

“Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past." But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal” (1Sa 15:32-33). Samuel went home to Ramah and never saw Saul again until his death. “Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty two years over Israel” (1Sa 13:1).

Samuel went to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse to find another King among Jesse’s many sons. Jesse paraded seven of his sons before Samuel, all fine young, strong, God fearing men. Yet the Lord told Samuel that none of these would be a candidate for King. Samuel had been sure that one of these would have been God’s chosen vessel. However the Lord told Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Sa 16:7). Samuel inquired if Jesse had any more sons and he replied there was only the young man David who was tending the sheep. Samuel had David brought before him and the Lord indicated that this was the one. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1Sa 16:13).

“Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him” (1Sa 16:14). Saul sought a musician who could play for him and placate the evil spirit. Eventually David, who played the harp, was chosen to play for Saul. Saul loved David, not knowing David was his successor. “So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (1Sa 16:23).  

Not the Philistines and Israel were again locked in battle. “Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, [remember Gath was the home of the Nephilim descendents, giants] whose height was six cubits and a span” (1Sa 17:4). He was wearing heavy armor and he towered over the men of Israel. Goliath instituted a challenge that if anyone could defeat him that the Philistines would concede victory to Israel (1Sa 17:5-10). The Israelites pulled back in fear and no one came forward to battle the giant.

Jesse’s sons were in battle with Saul against the Philistines. David was going back and forth from home to the battle bringing his brothers provisions. On one occasion David was delivering supplies, and greeting his brothers, when Goliath appeared and again gave his challenge to Israel. “Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”  (1Sa 17:26). After David spoke these words he was taken to Saul. David convinced Saul he was able to go up against Saul as he had fought wild animals with his bare hands while protecting his flock of sheep. Saul clothed David with heavy armor but David rejected it saying it was too cumbersome for him (1Sa 17:31-39).

“[David] took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine” (1Sa 17:40). Goliath insulted David and laughed at him. David replied” “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands” (1Sa 17:45-47).

David faced the Philistine. Using his sling, he selected a stone from his bag and slung it at Goliath striking him in the forehead and killing him. David approached the dead Philistine and with the Philistine’s own sword cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead they fled pursued by the Israeli army (1Sa 17:48-53). David returned to Jerusalem and brought the head to Saul. Israel rejoiced.

 
END PART ONE
 
  
GOD REJECTS SAUL
DAVID IS ANOINTED KING
THE BOOK OF FIRST SAMUEL
PART TWO

DAVID’S STRUGGLE WITH SAUL


Part Two is comprised of the epic struggle between David, the anointed King, and the current King Saul to claim the throne of Israel. Following David’s killing of Goliath, Saul made him a commander in the Israeli army and David did well in battle; so well that when David returned from a battle God and the people favored him over Saul. The women of Israel composed a song:

“Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands” 1Sa 18:7). Saul was upset with the song ascribing more killing to David and was suspicious of David from that day on (v 18:9). The drama in Part Two plays out Saul’s many attempts on David’s life in order to keep the throne for himself.

Saul turned against David. As David was playing his harp for Saul, the King grabbed a spear and hurled it at David, narrowly missing him. Saul was afraid of David for he could sense the spirit of the Lord was on him and no longer on Saul. Nevertheless, probably to keep control over David and/or to have the Philistines kill him, he gave him a promotion in the military and arranged a marriage between David and his daughter Merab. But Merab married someone else. Michal [who is like God] was in love with David so Saul gave her to David as a wife. Saul reasoned: “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him” (1Sa 18:21).

To show the extent of Saul’s deceit he said to David he required no dowry only if David would bring him 100 foreskins of Philistines. By this he thought that the Philistines would probably kill David in battle (1Sa 18:25). “When Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, then Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually” (1Sa 18:28-29).

Saul told Jonathan, his son, and his servants to kill David. However Jonathan was close to David and he convinced his Father to drop the plot. For the time being David was allowed in the King’s chamber to play the harp for him. David won a great battle against the Philistines. After that, while he was playing the harp for Saul, the King again tried to kill David by a spear. David fled and hid with his wife’s help. Saul actually pursued David to kill him but David escaped and fled to Samuel at Ramah (1Sa 19:1-18). Saul sent three sets of messengers to Ramah to capture David but the spiritual atmosphere there was so strong that they could do was prophesy the word of the Lord. Finally Saul himself went to Ramah but as he approached the place he also was caught up by the Spirit of the Lord and he also prophesied (1Sa 19:19-24 also see (1Sa 19:23-24).

Now David was afraid for his life. He and Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a strong bond together. A feast was approaching which David was to attend but he was cautious to go because he didn’t know what Saul would do. Since Saul usually did nothing without disclosing it to Jonathan, David devised a plan so he could know Saul’s mood and intentions. The plan was for Jonathan to tell the King that David could not attend the feast as had important family business in Bethlehem. If Saul reacted negatively to this David would know not to attend the feast. Actually David was going to hide out in the wilderness. Jonathan would inform David of the King’s intentions by shooting arrows in David’s directions. If the arrows went over David’s head the news was bad and David should not come to the feast. If they were short then all was well (1Sa 20-29). .

Jonathan attended the feast. When David hadn’t appeared by the second day Saul asked after him. When Jonathan said David had gone to Bethlehem, Saul suspected Jonathan was colluding with David and told Jonathan to find David and bring him to Saul so he could be killed. Jonathan fired the arrows over David’s head and thus David knew it was not safe (1Sa 30:41). Jonathan and David met “Jonathan said to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’ ” Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city” (1Sa 20-42).

Now David was living like a nomad, hiding in the wilderness, with Saul on his tail. He became hungry along with his companions. He came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. David lied to the priest and told him he was on a secret mission from the King and needed bread for him and his companions. The only bread Ahimelech had was the consecrated bread of the temple. Of course it was against the Mosaic Law to give away that bread but Ahimelech said if the men to whom it was going had remained celibate it was all right to part with the bread. Jesus noted this incident when teaching the Pharisees about the Sabbath: “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?” (Matthew 12:3-4). Knowing this David took the bread.

He also asked the priest for a sword, again lying that it was important to the King’s mission. The priest said: “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, behold, it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you would take it for yourself, take it. For there is no other except it here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me” (1Sa 21:8-9). David had no right either to the bread or the sword but he obtained what he needed by being deceitful. Yet God was with him.

David fled to Gath, the former hometown of Goliath. However the King of Gath recognized him and David had to act as if he were insane in order to keep from getting killed (1Sa 21:10-15). “So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him” (1Sa 22:1-2). So David’s “army” consisted basically of criminals and discontents. Many of them would later be called “mighty men”.

David was still fleeing from Saul and looking for any safe place to hide. He went to Moab but was advised by a prophet there to go to Judah. So David fled to a forest in Judah (Hereth). Saul, at Gilead, heard that David had been seen at Nob and had obtained bread and a sword. Saul summoned Ahimelech, the priest, and inquired if this was true. The priest answered Saul truthfully: “who among all your servants is as faithful as David, even the king’s son-in-law, who is captain over your guard, and is honored in your house? “Did I just begin to inquire of God for him today? Far be it from me! Do not let the king impute anything to his servant or to any of the household of my father, for your servant knows nothing at all of this whole affair” (1Sa 22-14-15). Saul had the priest and his family executed anyway and in addition had 85 other priests killed. One son of Ahimelech escaped and reported to David what had happened. David told the son to stay with him because Saul sought his life as well. (1Sa 22:20-23).

The Philistines were battling against Keliah, a city in the plains of Judah. The Lord told David to fight the Philistines which he did and delivered Keliah and took spoil of the Philistines; livestock and other spoils. Saul found out that David was at Keliah. The men of Keliah planned to give David over to Saul when he arrived. So David and his 600 men left Keliah and hid in the wilderness. “David stayed in the wilderness in the strongholds, and remained in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand” (1Sa 23:14).

Saul found out that David was in the wilderness of Ziph. The residents of Ziph promised Saul they would find David and surrender him to Saul. David found out and moved to another area. There came a time when Saul was on one side of a mountain and David, fleeing, on the other side as Saul’s army was surrounding him. However Saul was called away to fight the Philistines and he abandoned the pursuit. So Saul returned from pursuing David and went to meet the Philistines; therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape. David went up from there and stayed in the strongholds of Engedi [meaning “fountain of the wild goat”] where there were many rocks and caves (1Sa 23:15-29).  

When Saul was finished with the Philistine uprising he again pursued David at Engedi. David and his men were hiding in caves. When David went into a nearby cave to relieve himself he found the cave full of Saul’s men asleep. Saul was among the men. David ended up not killing Saul showing his Godly quality, mercy and respect for the Lord’s anointed. “The men of David said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’ ” Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed” (1Sa 24:4-6). So David had the chance to kill his enemy Saul but did not take it since Saul was still the Lord’s anointed in his [David’s] eyes despite what Saul had done to David.

“Now afterward David arose and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and prostrated himself. David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’? “Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the Lord had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ “Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it….“ The Lord therefore be judge and decide between you and me; and may He see and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand” (1Sa 24:8-15).  

“When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Then Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you. “You have declared today that you have done good to me, that the Lord delivered me into your hand and yet you did not kill me….  “Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. “So now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household.” David swore to Saul. And Saul went to his home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold” (1Sa 24:16-24).

“Samuel died; and all Israel gathered together and mourned for him, and buried him at his house in Ramah. And David arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran” (1Sa 25:1).  

David’s army was hungry and in need of supplies. He stopped at a sheep man’s house named Nabal to ask for help. Nabal [translated foolish] was a very rich man but refused to give David and his men any provisions. He was a very harsh man and evil in his dealings. On the other hand his wife Abigail was intelligent and beautiful in appearance. Abigail emplored Nabal to give David provisions but Nabal refused. “But Nabal answered David’s servants and said, “Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master. “Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?” (1Sa 25:1-11).

David’s men prepared to fight Nabil but Abigail intervened. She baked 200 loaves of bread,   two jugs of wine, five sheep already prepared, five measures of roasted grain a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys (1Sa 25:18). David was still intent on destroying Nabal but Abigail humbled herself and interceded for Nabal, essentially saying he didn’t know what he was doing. So David granted her request and did not attack Nabal. However ten days later the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has  pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal and  has kept back His servant from evil. The Lord has also returned the evildoing of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent a proposal to Abigail, to take her as his wife (1Sa 25:39), which she accepted. David had also taken Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both became his wives. Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s now former wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was from Gallim (1Sa 25:43-44).  
David saved Saul’s life one more time. Saul heard that David was hiding on the hill of Hachilah in Ziph. Saul sent 3000 men to capture him. David sent out spies who found where Saul was located. David and Abishai went into the camp and found Saul asleep. Abishai wanted to kill Saul where he slept but David restrained his hand and let Saul live. They took Saul’s spear and a jug of water and left. David said again: “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt?” David also said, “As the Lord lives,  surely the Lord will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down into battle and perish” (1Sa 26:9-10). What David was speaking of was that even though he was anointed to be King God had not recalled Saul’s commission to be King. Until David took the throne Saul was still King and his commission remained. God does not give or take away a commission lightly and David would be sinning to kill Saul while he was still God’s King.

A perfect example of this principle is found in the Book of Esther. The King of Persia issued an order that all Jews be executed. Even though Esther had appeared before the King, and the King had dealt with those responsible for deceiving him into giving that order, the King could not revoke his order once given. Even though Esther appeared again before the King and obtained an order that the Jews could defend themselves, the original order for their execution remained in effect. The Jews had to fight to maintain their freedom. The new order did not abrogate the first (Esther 8).

With hope fading David decided the only safe place for him would be among the Philistines. “David said to himself, “Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines. Saul then will despair of searching for me anymore in all the territory of Israel, and I will escape from his hand” (1Sa 27:1). Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath gave David a house to live in inside Philistia. David told the Philistines he was going up to fight Israel. Instead David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites, enemies of Israel. David slaughtered them and came back and told the Philistines he had fought against Negev of Judah and against the Negev of the Jerahmeelites and against the Negev of the Kenites, who were part of Israel. “So Achish believed David, saying, “He has surely made himself odious among his people Israel; therefore he will become my servant forever” (1Sa 27). David lived with the Philistines for a year and 4 months.

Once again the Philistines gathered a great army and sought to attack Israel. Saul was very afraid. He sought the Lord as to what to do but the Lord would not speak to him. So he sought out a medium (witch, fortune teller) to tell him what the results of the battle would be. So he found a witch from Endor, and, although divination was against the law, asked her to bring Samuel from the dead so he could answer his question. Events developed as follows: “Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul." The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage. Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do." Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? “The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. “As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. “Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (1Sa 28:11-19). Samuel became very afraid after hearing these words.

In Chapter 29 it is recorded that the Lords of the Philistines began to mistrust David. They were afraid he would turn on them at the right moment. Therefore, although he was still supported by the King’s son, David was asked to leave Philistia, which he did (1Sa 29).

David and his men came to Ziklag and found out that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire. They also took captive the women of the village including David’s two wives. (1Sa 30:1-2). David sought the Lord as to whether he should pursue the enemy who had done this. The Lord said: “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all” (Sa 30:8). “David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives” (1Sa 30:17-18).

The Philistines were again in battle against Saul and Israel. The battle was going badly for Israel. The Israelites fled from the Philistines and many were killed. Saul and his son Jonathan were among those killed. Saul was badly injured by an archer. He told his armor to kill him but he couldn’t. Therefore Saul fell on his own sword and died. “Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together” (1Sa 31:16). On the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head, stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people (1Sa 31:8-9). All Israel wept and fasted for seven days.  

With Saul dead David was free to claim what was rightfully his-the throne of Israel. The Book of Second Samuel chronicles the life of David as King, his successes and his failures.
 

DAVID AS KING-MAN AFTER GOD’S HEART
THE BOOK OF SECOND SAMUEL
HIS SUCCESSES AND SHORTCOMINGS


Second Samuel is the story of David, the most powerful King of Biblical Israel. David ruled from 1010 to 970 b.c. The entire story of David is recorded in 1 Sam. 16:13 through 1 Kings 2:12. David belonged to the tribe of Judah and was born in Bethlehem as youngest son of Jesse. He started his career at a young age after being anointed by Samuel as King. However former King Saul did not easily give up the throne. It took David several years to take the throne for himself. Even after becoming King of Judah, he had to fight remaining tribes in order to unify the nation under him. There were challenges to David’s throne even while he was King. David was a man of war, conquering surrounding tribes throughout his reign. He expanded Israel’s empire, removing nations remaining after Joshua’s conquest. David was a warrior, a general, a prophet and a poet. His Psalms contain numerous references to the coming Christ as well as being guides for us today on how to walk blameless before the Lord. He was called “the man after God’s heart” and despite his many mistakes that is how God saw him until his death. He left his son Solomon a unified and peaceful nation at his death. He remained in the direct physical lineage that led to Jesus Christ.

David was a violent man. After Saul’s death a young man approached him and told him of Saul’s death. He further told David that Saul had fallen on his and called out to the young man to “finish him off” because he was in such pain. The man brought Saul’s crown to David. David asked the man where he was from and he answered he was an Amalekite whom Saul had been fighting. David responded: “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” And David called one of the young men and said, “Go, cut him down.” So he struck him and he died. David said to him, “Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed” (2Sa 1:14-16). David was very much grieved at the death of Saul and Jonathan and composed a lament “The Song of the Bow” recorded in 2Sa 1:10-27

David went to Hebron, Judah. He was soon made King of Judah, the southern kingdom. However Abner the head of Saul’s army made Ish-bosheth [man of shame] the son of  Saul, King of the remaining tribes of Israel. Saul’s son, was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he was king for two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David. The time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months (2Sa 2:8-11).

There was a long civil war between the followers of Saul and the followers of David over the legitimate heir to the throne. Abner, the leader of Saul’s army, united with the “King” Ish-bosheth. A bloody battle was fought and the followers of David prevailed. Abner was pursued by Joab and Abishai but he escaped. Abner killed Abishai in the flight. Another battle was fought against Benjamin and David prevailed there also ((2Sa 2:12-32).

The civil war continued but David grew stronger and stronger. Then Abner, commander of Saul’s army, had a dispute with Ish-bosheth over a concubine and eventually joined David’s army. Murder and intrigue continued. Joab was upset that David had made peace with Abner, who had killed his brother Abishai. So Joab secretly found Abner, after David had told him to go in peace, and killed him without David knowing. When David found out he washed his hands of the entire matter. David mourned Abner. (2Sa 3).

Next Ish-bosheth was murdered in his own house by men from Saul’s own army: Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah. They brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David. Bloodthirsty David’s response was: “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, when one told me, saying, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. “How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood from your hand and destroy you from the earth?” Then David commanded the young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hung them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron” (2Sa 4:9-12).

Was this killing with honor or was David simply exacting revenge on those who offended his godly conscience? David’s entire career is permeated with violence yet God never failed to be with him and call him a man after His own heart. It was the intensity that attracted David to God. John the Baptist, who carried the spirit of Elijah, reflected the same spirit: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force….  “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11:12-14).  God loves intensity of spirit. So he loved Elijah, John the Baptist and evidently David who was set to do God’s will above all else despite the cost in human life.

David became King of all Israel thereby unifying the nation as it had not been since Joshua. “Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. “Previously, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel.’ ”So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David  made a covenant with them before the Lord at Hebron; then they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years” (2Sa 5:1-4). The man Samuel and the Lord had chosen years ago came to his rightful place despite years of being made a criminal and a nomad in the wilderness. .  

The first thing David did was to go to Jerusalem and make it the capitol city in Israel. It was centrally located to all the tribes. The city was occupied with Jebusites and at first they denied him entrance. However David defeated them and established the city. “So David lived in the stronghold and called it  the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo [citadel] and inward. David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him. Then Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David with cedar trees and carpenters and stonemasons; and they built a house for David. And David realized that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel. Meanwhile David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron; and more sons and daughters were born to David” (2Sa 5:9-13).  

When the Philistines heard David was King over all Israel they gathered in the valley of Rephaim [Valley of the giants] on the northern edge of Judah. David inquired of the Lord if he should go against them in battle. The Lord said He would give them into David’s hand. So David came to Baal-perazim [possessor of breeches] and defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim [the master of breakthrough] (2Sa 5:20).

So sooner than that battle had concluded the Philistines came up again in the same valley. The Lord told David not to go directly at them but to circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. “It shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines." Then David did so, just as the Lord had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer” (2Sa 5:24-25). The sound from the balsam trees was the marching of the heavenly hosts of the Lord, assuring David of victory.

David decided it was time to move the Ark of the Lord from where it was to the new City of David, Jerusalem. They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. The anger of the Lord killed Uzzah on the spot. After that David was angry at the Lord and afraid of him at the same time. He refused to move the ark any further (2Sa 6:1-11).

It seems as if Uzzah was doing the right thing by steadying the ark when the oxen stumbled and it appeared the ark would fall off the cart. Yet God taught us a valuable lesson in this incident. When we men, in our own efforts, attempt to do the Lord’s work it many times causes what God intended to fail. A similar principle occurred with Moses when God told him to speak to the rock and instead he struck it. It cost him a trip to the Promised Land. God wanted to demonstrate to Moses the principle of speaking the word as having the same significance as drawing water from the rock using some other method. We too keep our hands off the Lord’s work as his work must be done only by His anointing.

The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his entire household. It was told King David, saying, that the Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom on account of the ark of God. David brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David “with gladness” (2Sa 6:11-12). There was wild celebration in Israel as the ark arrived. David was overjoyed. At one point he stripped himself naked and danced before the Lord and his wife Michal saw it from a window. When David came home Michal said: “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. “I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished." Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death” because of this. (2Sa 6:20-23).

David made preparations to build a temple to the Lord. However God had other plans. David’s reign was one of constant battle and Israel was never free of conflict. God told David, through Nathan the prophet, that when God decided to have His temple built it would be at a time when Israel dwelt in peace from conflicts with the surrounding nations. It was David who would bring about this peace but another descendent would enjoy it. And that other descendent would build the temple to the Lord that David imagined. God said: “I will appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2Sa 7:10-13). Of course the descendent was Solomon whose long reign was undisturbed by war. In verses 7:18-29 David gives thanks to the Lord for his success and the glorification of God’s name in his life.

Chapter 8 is a review of the battles won by David. It is an amazing list. Israel was positioned was a long and narrow country with the sea on the west and pagan nations on the north, west and south. As Moses had indicated they were not the most numerous people and in most of the battles Israel was mismatched numerically. God said he did not choose Israel because they were the best or greatest but because they were the least of all peoples. But they were a people for His own possession. God fought the battles for David. Similarly today we let God fight our battles for us. The odds were always against David and in some cases impossible on the human realm. David’s triumphed over surrounding nations that Israel had been fighting for many years.  So too we prevail against impossible circumstances by our trust in the Lord.

David defeated the Philistines and David took control of their chief city. He also defeated Moab. Making sure this nation would never again rise up and trouble Israel he made them lie down on the ground. He measured two lines. Those on one side of the line were spared and those on the other side were killed. The remaining Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute. Then David defeated Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah,, as he restored his rule at the River Euphrates. David captured from him 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; David hamstrung [disabled] the chariot horses, but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots.

When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, king of Zobah, David killed 22,000 Arameans. Then David put garrisons among the Arameans of Damascus, and the Arameans became servants to David, bringing tribute. The Lord helped David wherever he went. David took the shields of gold which were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. From Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took a very large amount of bronze. When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer,  Toi sent Joram his son to King David to greet him and bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him; for Hadadezer had been at war with Toi. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze. King David also dedicated these gifts to the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued: from Aram and Moab and the sons of Ammon and the Philistines and Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah. David made a name for himself when he returned from killing 18,000 Arameans in the Valley of Salt. He put garrisons in Edom and all the Edomites became servants to David. So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. The gold, silver and bronze collected would be used later by Solomon to build the temple.

David showed kindness to those left from the clan of Saul. Jonathan’s son was crippled and David brought him into the palace where he often dined with David. David arranged for the man’s crops to be cultivated and included him in his immediate family. (2Sa 9).

“The king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son became king in his place. Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent some of his servants to console him concerning his father. But when David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites, the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you?  Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?” So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips to humiliate them and sent them away” (2Sa 10:1-4). When David heard of this he sent his army after the Ammonites. The Ammonites hired the army of the Arameans to help them.

In 2 Samuel 10 Joab, leader of David’s army, split his men in two groups, one group to attack the Ammonites the other to attack the Arameans. He reasoned that if one group needed help that the other group would come to their aid. The result was that both armies fled and were pursued by Israel. Ammon apparently got away but not the Arameans who made peace with Israel and served them. “When all the kings, servants of Hadadezer, [King of the Arameans] saw that they were defeated by Israel,  they made peace with Israel and served them. So the Arameans feared to help the sons of Ammon anymore” (2Sa 10:19).

Chapter 11 records David’s great sin. It begins this way: “Then it happened  in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem” (2Sa 11:1). The idea being that David should have been with his troops in battle but by staying home he let his guard down. While walking on his roof one evening he saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite a soldier in David’s army. David had the woman brought to him and he lay with her. The woman conceived; and she told David, and said she was pregnant. Then David sent a message to his general Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing. He had the same spirit of the Lord that David had, putting the Lord first.

Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you go.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. Then David called him, and he ate and drank before him, and he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with his lord’s servants, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. The letter said: “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” Joab did as he was told and Uriah was killed (2Sa 11:2:21). Obviously David did this to cover the fact he was the Father of her baby. “Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2Sa 11:26-27).  

The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David. The Lord had told Nathan what had happened. Nathan rebuked David with a parable:

“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.
“The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.
“But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb
Which he bought and nourished;
And it grew up together with him and his children.
It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom,
And was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man,
And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd,
To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him;
Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him”
(2Sa 12:1-4)

After hearing this  David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this  deserves to die. “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!”… ‘Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. ‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. ‘Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun’ ” (2Sa 12:9-12). This was fulfilled by the rebellion of Absalom which almost cost David the throne.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. “However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die” (2Sa 12:13-14).  Indeed the child of Uriah’s widow became sick and died. David lay on the floor and fasted for 7 days until he was told the child was dead. He then arose and went about his business. Sometimes we can grieve only so much and then realize the time for grieving is over and we get up and continue life as it comes.
 
“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and  he named him Solomon. Now the Lord loved him and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah [beloved of the Lord]  for the Lord’s sake” (2Sa 12:24-25).  

Joab fought against a defeated Rabbah of the sons of Ammon and captured the royal city (2Sa 12:26-31). He said for David to gather the rest of the people and camp against the city and capture it, or I [Joab] will capture the city myself and it will be named after me. David came to the city and: “took the crown of their king from his head; and its weight was a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone; and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city in great amounts” (2Sa 12:30).

Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her (presumably the sons and Tamar were from different mothers). 2Sa 13:1). Ammon desired Tamar but he could not get close to her. Absalom devised a plan whereby Ammon would fake being sick and get David to allow Tamar to take care of him. While she was attending to him Ammon raped her. After he had raped her his feelings changed toward her and he threw her out of his room. Tamar’s attitude was that throwing her out was worse than the rape. When King David was told of the matter he was angry but did nothing. So Absalom planned revenge against Ammon because he now hated him for what he did to Tamar (2Sa 13:2-23). Absalom prepared a sheep-shearing event and manipulated David to allow Ammon to attend. When Ammon was drunk Absalom and his servants slew Ammon. Absalom fled into the mountains after the act and stayed there three years. David mourned for him those years but was comforted that Ammon the rapist was killed (2Sa 13:24-39).

Joab knew that David was grieving over not seeing Absalom so Joab arranged a deception that could prompt reconciliation between David and his son. He hired a wise woman of Tekoa [trumpet clang, a town in Judah] to act like a grieving mother who had lost a son and feared for her other son. David believed the tale and granted her protection. The woman then told David that if he was willing to protect her son why wasn’t he willing to protect his own son Absalom, even though he had killed his other son Ammon. “So the king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” [Deception] And the woman replied, “... Indeed, it was your servant Joab who commanded me, and it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your maidservant; in order to change the appearance of things your servant Joab has done this thing” (2Sa 14:1-20).

“Then the king said to Joab, “Behold now, I will surely do this thing; go therefore, bring back the young man Absalom” (2Sa 14:21). So Joab retrieved Absalom and brought him to Jerusalem. But David told Joab to take Absalom to his house and the King would not even look at him. It remained that way for two years. Absalom asked Joab two times to bring him before the King but Joab refused. So finally Absalom burned down Joab’s barley fields to get his attention. Joab finally brought Absalom to David; “So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom” (2Sa 14:21-33).

“Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him” (2Sa 14:25) and the people loved him. Absalom began a campaign to take away the throne from David and take it for himself. This was fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy to David after he had taken Bathsheba and had her husband killed. Absalom sat himself at the gates of the city and let it be known that he, not David was able to judge their disputes. Gradually he began to win the hearts of the people over to him as he represented that the King was not interested in their problems but he was. He obtained permission to go to Hebron and there have himself proclaimed King (2Sa 15:1-12).

“Then a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom” David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise and let us flee, for otherwise none of us will escape from Absalom. Go in haste, or he will overtake us quickly and bring down calamity on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” (2Sa 15:13-14). The people attempted to take with them the Ark of the Lord but David ordered that it remain in Jerusalem. “And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot. Then all the people who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping as they went” (2Sa 15:30).

David found out that the counselor Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, “O Lord, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness. Ahithophel was a counselor of David whose wisdom was very highly regarded by David. His support of Absalom was indeed bad news as he gave good advice which was taken almost as if the Lord himself had given it. However, David met Hushai the Archite who was also a wise counselor. Hushai was loyal to David so David formed a plan to have him neutralize any advice  Ahithophel might give to Absalom. So Hushai returned to Jerusalem and pretended to be loyal to Absalom.

Then Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, entered Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. When Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” Absalom responded “Is this your loyalty to your friend? [meaning David] Why did you not go with your friend?" Then Hushai said to Absalom, “No! For whom the Lord, this people, and all the men of Israel have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain” (2 Sa 16:15-19).

Next Absalom asked his advisor Ahithophel what the next move should be and what his advice was. Ahithophel said “I will come upon him while he is weary and exhausted and terrify him, so that all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will strike down the king alone, and I will bring back all the people to you. The return of everyone depends on the man you seek; then all the people will be at peace”. So the plan pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel” (2Sa 17:2-4).  

However Absalom then sought a second opinion from Hushai who told Absalom: “This time the advice that Ahithophel has given is not good." Moreover, Hushai said, “You know your father and his men, that they are mighty men and they are fierce, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field and your father is an expert in warfare, and will not spend the night with the people. He has now hidden himself in one of the caves or in another place; and it will be when he falls on them at the first attack, that whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ “And even the one who is valiant, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will completely lose heart; for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man and those who are with him are valiant men. “But I counsel that all Israel be surely gathered to you, from Dan even to Beersheba and that you personally go into battle. “So we shall come to him in one of the places where he can be found, and we will fall on him as the dew falls on the ground; and of him and of all the men who are with him, not even one will be left. “If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel shall bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it into the valley until not even a small stone is found there” (2Sa 17:7-13). The effect of what Hushai was saying would cause a delay while more troops were gathered to Absalom. This would give David more time to prepare for an attack and all Israel would be present to witness Absalom’s defeat.

Absalom accepted Hushai’s advice over that of Ahithophel. Hushai sent word to David not to camp where he was but to cross over the Jordon River. This David did and in friendly territory he received fresh provisions for his troops. He camped at the fortified town of Mahanaim and prepared his army for war. “Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father” (2Sa 17:23).

The battle took place in the  forest of Ephraim, a deserted place near Mahanaim. David divided his army into three companies. As Hushai had said David’s army was fierce and angry and inflicted great losses on Absalom’s armies. As terrible as Absalom’s losses were by the swords of David’s heroes (18:7); they were even greater from the elements of that inhospitable terrain (v. 8). Absalom himself, in a frantic attempt to escape on his mule, rode beneath a large oak tree and became tangled in its branches. He was suspended in midair. A soldier of David found him in this predicament but because David had ordered his men not to hurt Absalom, the soldier refused to harm him further. Bloodthirsty Joab was not so reluctant, however, and thrust Absalom in the heart with three javelins. Immediately 10 of his attendants struck Absalom to make sure he died (2Sa 18:1-18).

Joab sent messengers to David that he had won the battle but that his son Absalom was dead. “The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2Sa 18:33). All Israel joined in his grief. However Joab saw the grief another way. He said: “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. “Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now” (2Sa 19:5-7).

So since many people had taken Absalom as their King David began a process of restoration of the torn Kingdom. He sought no revenge for those who had followed Absalom. One by one he reconnected with his spiritual brothers who had taken the other side. Even Shimei who had cursed the King to his face was allowed to live. So reconciliation was accomplished.

However a man named Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite tried to take control of the 10 northern tribes proclaiming: “We have no portion in David, Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel!” (2Sa 20:1). So the tribes stopped following David; Judah stayed loyal to him. Amasa was cousin to David had been put in charge of his armies instead of Joab since David was angry at Joab’s involvement in the killing of Absalom. David sent Amasa to quell the rebellion of Sheba but Amasa delayed in confronting Sheba so long that David sent Abishai to Sheba. Amasa’s delay was likely because of David’s army’s reluctance to follow him since he had been with Absalom in his rebellion. Joab went along with Abishai as a volunteer. “David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom; take your lord’s servants and pursue him, so that he does not find for himself fortified cities and escape from our sight” (2Sa 20:6). The first thing Joab did was to kill Amasa by the sword. Joab regained control of David’s armies.

Joab, with Israel’s armies behind him, besieged Sheba until he was shut up in Abel Beth-maacah [brook] an important city in north Palestine also called Abel. A woman from there called out to Joab: “I am of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You are seeking to destroy a city, even a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?” Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy! “Such is not the case. But,… Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against King David. Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall." Then the woman  wisely came to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they were dispersed from the city, each to his tent. Joab also returned to the king at Jerusalem” (2Sa 20:19-22).  The rebellion of Sheba had been quashed and all Israel was again united and apparently Joab was again head of the armies.

Toward the end of David’s reign Israel was afflicted by a three-year drought. When David inquired of the Lord as to its cause, the Lord revealed that it came as punishment for Saul’s violation of the covenant made with the Gibeonites back in the days of Joshua (Josh. 9:15-21). At that time Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, had just destroyed Jericho and Ai and was about to attack the Amorites of the Canaanite hill country. The people of Gibeon pretended to be faraway aliens and so escaped annihilation by making a covenant with Israel. Though the covenant was made deceitfully, its binding nature was recognized by both the Israelites and the Gibeonites.

Saul, in an action not recorded in the biblical account, had slain some Gibeonites during his tenure (2 Sa. 21:1). When David learned that the famine had come on Israel as punishment for that covenant violation, he asked the Gibeonite leaders what he should do for them. They asked that seven male descendants of Saul be given over to them so that they could practice the age-old tradition of lex talionis—eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life (Ex. 21:23-25).

David recognized the legitimacy of their demand, but he also had to balance against it the pledge he had made to Jonathan that he would forever preserve his seed (1 Sa. 20:15-16). So David spared Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, but singled out others of Saul’s offspring for execution. These included Armoni, and another Mephibosheth, sons of Saul’s concubine Rizpah (2 Sa. 3:7). The other five were all sons of Merab, daughter of Saul, by her husband Adriel (1Sa 18:19). These seven sons and grandsons of Saul were publicly executed by the Gibeonites. As their bodies hung suspended from their places of exposure, Rizpah, mother of the first two, (v. 8) refused to take them down and bury them. In great grief she lamented for them on a rocky ledge until the coming of the drought-breaking rains. The coming of the rain meant that the curse was ended and the corpses could be taken down and buried. Though the Law stated that a body hung from a tree must be removed by sundown (Deut. 21:23), it implied punishment of an individual for his personal crime. This case had nothing to do with any personal act of murder but rather with violation of a covenant, the results of which brought God’s displeasure on the whole nation and required vengeance of a public and extended nature.
 
The chapter concludes with a final word about David’s hostility toward the Philistines. No longer was the robust young warrior of former days, David was now old and weak. A Philistine giant, Ishbi-Benob, advanced on David with a spear and a new sword threatening to kill him. Just in time Abishai came to David’s aid and killed the giant. David’s warriors advised him never again to take to the field of battle. His death would mean the end of his leadership, a tragedy synonymous with the snuffing out of Israel’s illumination (the lamp of Israel) for in and through David were God’s covenant blessings to be accomplished (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19).

Other Philistine encounters, at Gob and Gathe, were recorded. At Gob Sibbecai, a heroic Israelite, slew Saph and another Philistine giant Rapha from ”Rephaim,“ a race of giants. Again at Gob, Elhanan felled a giant, Goliath, not the Goliath killed by David. A conflict at Gath involved a giant descended from Rapha; (v. 21:16, 18) with six digits on each hand and foot. The genetic strains which produced gigantism must also have caused this malformity. He was slain by David’s nephew Jonathan, named, of course, for David’s dear friend. With this giant’s death the conflicts caused by the Philistine giants came to an end.

In Chapter 22 David speaks a Psalm of deliverance for all his victories especially the recent attacks of the remaining giants. “And David spoke the words of this song to the Lord in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (2Sa 22:1). Most of this Psalm is also recorded as Psalm 18, in the Book of Psalms.

In Chapter 23:1-7 David’s last Psalm is recorded:
Now these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares,
The man who was raised on high declares, (Psalm 78:70-71)
The anointed of the God of Jacob, (Psalm 89:20)
And the sweet psalmist of Israel,
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
“The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me,
‘He who rules over men righteously, (Psalm 72:1-3).
Who rules in the fear of God,
Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, (Psalm 72:6)
A morning without clouds,
When the tender grass springs out of the earth,
Through sunshine after rain.’
“Truly is not my house so with God?
For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, (Psalm 89:29)
Ordered in all things, and secured;
For all my salvation and all my desire,
Will He not indeed make it grow?
“But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns,
Because they cannot be taken in hand;
But the man who touches them
Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear,
And they will be completely burned with fire in their place.”

In Chapter 23:8-39 David names all his mighty men most of who were with him from the time of Saul to the end of his reign. He lists their exploits. Of particular interest is v. 14-17: “David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. David had a craving and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord;  and he said, “Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did”. Other similar exploits are extolled. The list includes Uriah the Hittite whom David had killed to cover his sin with Bathsheba.

Chapter 24 records David’s final mistake. The Lord was angry at Israel which prompted David to take a census of all Israel. Joab warned David against doing this since David was correctly to have relied on the Lord not the numbers of Israel. However the census was taken which greatly angered the Lord. After the census the prophet Gad came to David with the word of the Lord: “Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.” ’ ”So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall  seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me” (2Sa 24:10-13). “So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died” (2Sa 24:15). “David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the Lord was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel” (v. 24:25).

The further story of David, and his demise, is included in the Book of First Kings to follow.
 

THE TEMPLE IS BUILT
THE BOOK OF FIRST KINGS
PART ONE

SOLOMON AND HIS GLORIOUS REIGN


David became old and bedridden. He was continually cold so a woman named Abishag the Shunammite stayed with him, using her body to keep the King warm. A controversy began as to who would become King after David. Adonijah, one of David’s sons, exalted himself saying, “I will be king.” So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him. Adjonijah prepared many gatherings and sacrifices and invited all his brothers but did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, David’s mighty men, or Solomon his brother. Then Nathan spoke to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, “Have you not heard that Adonijah has become king, and David our lord does not know it?” He told her to consult the king about the matter. So Bathsheba and Nathan explained the situation to the King and he responded: “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, surely as I vowed to you by the Lord the God of Israel, saying, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place’; I will indeed do so this day” (1Ki 1:1-30). He called together all the priests and had Solomon seated on his donkey and on his throne.

As Solomon was being named King, Adonijah became afraid of his brother since he knew he had attempted to take the throne that belonged to Solomon. He clung to the horns of the altar of sacrifice in the court of the temple [known as a place of safety]. Solomon had him brought to him to decide if he should live or die. As it turned out Solomon let him live and he went to his house (1Ki 1:31-53). .

David made a final charge to Solomon before he died (1Ki 2:1-9) saying: “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. “Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

He also told Solomon to kill Joab the leader of his army for reason of his deeds of killing Abner and Amasa when it was not necessary. He also told Solomon: “there is with you Shimei. It was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ “Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood” (1Ki 2:5-9). So David on his deathbed charged Solomon to carry out David’s vengeance from the grave.

“Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem. And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established” (1Ki 2:10-12)

Adonijah came to Bathsheba to ask her to ask Solomon if he could marry the woman Abishag the Shunammite. David told her to have him killed because he dared challenge the throne (1Ki 2:13-25). He told Abiathar the priest to go home to his field and that he would die soon there (1Ki 2:26-27). He died later in an accident. News came to Joab that David had wanted him dead  because Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and  took hold of the horns of the altar. However Solomon had him killed anyway (1Ki 2:28-35). Shimei, who had led the revolution against Solomon, was killed by Solomon’s men even though David had promised him safety by his own hand (1Ki 2:36-46).  The revenge of King David was complete.

“Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her to the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem” (1Ki 3:1). While Solomon was sacrificing in Gibeon the Lord spoke to him as follows: “Ask what you wish me to give you.” Solomon replied to the Lord: “Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. “Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1Ki 3:6-9). Even though he could have asked for anything Solomon asked for wisdom.

“It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. “I have also given you what you have not asked, both  riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days” (1Ki 3:10-14). Then Solomon awoke, and it had been a dream. He came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Solomon demonstrated his wisdom soon after in the famous story of the two women and one baby. The scriptures record the incident as follows: “Two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. “On the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child. “This woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on it. “She arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom. “When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne." Then the other woman said, “No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” But the first woman said, “No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son." The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!" Then the king said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother” (1Ki 3:16-27). All Israel marveled at the King’s wisdom.  

Solomon was King over all twelve tribes of Israel. Chapter 4:1-19 names all his officials and their areas of responsibility. Chapter 4:20-24 records all his many possessions, wealth and wisdom including:
· Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty kors [300 bushels] of fine flour and sixty kors [600 bushels] of meal,
· ten fat oxen, twenty pasture-fed oxen, a hundred sheep besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl.
· He had dominion over everything west of the River, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings west of the River; and he had peace on all sides around about him.
· Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen.
· Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.
· Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
· For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; [all known as very wise men and composers of music] and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations.
· He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.
· He had trees from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.
Men and Kings came from all peoples to hear the Wisdom of Solomon.

Solomon set about to build the Temple of the Lord. He contacted with Hiram King of Tyre for wood with which to build the temple. Hiram brought an unlimited amount of word from the cedars of Lebanon and cypress wood as well. They were floated by rafts down the Mediterranean Sea from Tyre (a great seaport) to Israel. King Solomon levied forced laborers from all Israel; and the forced laborers numbered 30,000 men. He sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in relays; they were in Lebanon a month and two months at home. Now Solomon had 70,000 transporters and 80,000 hewers of stone in the mountains, besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief deputies who were over the project and who ruled over the people who were doing the work. Then the king commanded and they quarried great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with cut stones. Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites cut them, and prepared the timbers and the stones to build the house (1Ki 5:13-18).

Chapter 6 covers the building of the temple, chapter 7 Solomon’s palace and Chapter 8 the placing of the Ark of the Covenant. The scriptures are a detailed rendering of the precise way the temple was constructed. Every detail was ordered by the Lord, just as was true with Moses tabernacle in the wilderness.

1 Kings 6:1 is an important verse in the Old Testament chronology because it establishes the dates of Solomon’s reign and other dates in Israeli history. Solomon’s reign was from 971-931 b.c. According to this verse, in the fourth year of his reign Solomon began to build the temple. That was in 966 b.c. The Exodus took place 480 years earlier (1446 b.c.). The temple took seven years to complete. Craftsman from all over the known world participated in the building thereof.

The illustration below is an artist’s rendering of Solomon’s Temple as it appeared after construction.

The temple consisted of three areas. The Holies of Holies or the most holy place where God resided (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6) also called the “inner house” (6:27), and the “holiest of all” (Heb. 9:3). It was 20 cubits in length, breadth, and 40 cu. In height. It was floored and paneled with cedar (1 Kings 6:16), and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold (6:20, 21, 30). There was a two-leaved door between it and the holy place overlaid with gold (2 Chr. 4:22); also a veil of blue purple and crimson and fine linen (2 Chr. 3:14). It had no windows (1 Kings 8:12). It was indeed the dwelling-place of God.

The second area was The Holy place (1 Kings 8:8–10), called also the “greater house” (2 Chr. 3:5) and the “temple” (1 Kings 6:17). The porch or entrance stood before the temple on the east (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chr. 3:4; 29:7). In the porch stood the two pillars Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3). (4.) Chambers, which were built about the temple on the southern, western, and northern sides (1 Kings 6:5–10). These formed a part of the building. Round about the building were, the court of the priests (2 Chr. 4:9), called the “inner court” (1 Kings 6:36). It contained the altar of burnt-offering (2 Chr. 15:8), the brazen sea (4:2–5, 10), and ten lavers (1 Kings 7:38, 39). The great court surrounded the whole temple (2 Chr. 4:9). This was where the people came to worship and offer sacrifices.

The finer details of the building of the temple are as follows. This should be read in connection with the applicable scriptures in order to understand the entire picture.
 
6:2-3. A cubit was about 18 inches so the temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high. The temple was not large; it had only 2,700 square feet of floor space.

6:4-6. The narrow windows were high on the walls above the three stories of side rooms that surrounded the temple. The temple’s main hall and the inner sanctuary were the holy place and the most holy place, respectively.

6:7. All the building parts were cut and fitted at the quarry so that they could be assembled quietly and more reverently than building them on site.  
 
6:8-10. The temple faced east, but the entrance to the surrounding structure (v. 5) was on the south.
 
6:11-13. During the temple construction God reaffirmed to Solomon the promise He had previously made to David. “The promise” given David to which God referred (v. 12) was that He would “establish the throne of [David’s] kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:13). God would do this through Solomon if Solomon would obey Him (1 Kings 6:12). Later Solomon’s disobedience resulted in God’s removing part of the nation from the control of his son.
 
6:14-18. The entire interior of the temple was covered with cedar boards (on the walls) and with pine boards (on the floor), all overlaid with gold (vv. 22, 30). The main hall in front of the inner sanctuary (the most holy place) was the holy place. The main hall was 60 feet long, twice the length of the most holy place. The interior was decorated with carved gourds and flowers.
 
6:19-22. Inside the most holy place (a 30-foot cube, all overlaid with gold) was the Ark of the Covenant. The altar of cedar was the altar of incense located in the holy place. Solomon’s incense altar was made of cedar and overlaid with gold; it was also called “the golden altar” (7:48). Gold chains were hung in the holy place across the doors that led into the most holy place. The altar (v. 22) is the incense altar located in the holy place.
 
6:23-28. The cherubim were sculptured angels, carved from olive wood. Their wings were spread out so that side by side they extended 30 feet (from the north to the south walls of the most holy place; Gold covered the cherubim too.
 
6:29-35. The walls of the inner and outer rooms, the most holy place and the holy place, respectively, were decorated with carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. The olive wood doors leading from the holy place were framed with five-sided jambs (frames). The doors leading from the porch into the main hall (the holy place) were made of pine (v. 34).
 
6:36. The inner courtyard was an open plaza surrounding the temple. This inner courtyard (also called the "courtyard of the priests" was separated from the outer (great) court by the wall described here. This wall consisted of rows cut limestone and one row of cedar beams. (The outer courtyard was also surrounded by a wall.) The size of the inner courtyard is not given, but if the dimensions of the courtyards of the temple are proportionate to those of the tabernacle courtyard, as the dimensions of the temple and tabernacle structures are, the inner courtyard was about 150 feet wide and 400 feet long.

Chapter 7:1-12 concerns Solomon’s palace. The details of its construction and furnishings were (an artist’s rendering of the floor plan follows):

The palace took longer to build than the temple (13 years compared with 7 1/2; cf. 6:37-38) because it was larger. The Palace of the Forest of Lebanon (cf. 10:17, 21; Isa. 22:8) was probably given its name because of the extensive use of Lebanese cedar throughout (1 Kings 7:2-3). It measured 150 feet by 75 feet and was 45 feet high. The floor space was 11,250 square feet; more than four times the 2,700 square feet of the temple floor (cf. 6:2).
Apparently next to it was a pillared colonnade (a covered walkway surrounding a patio) that had a front portico (porch) with a roof and supporting pillars.

7:7-11. Solomon’s throne hall, the Hall of Justice, was attached to the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, as were his own residence (v. 8a) and a separate residence (palace) for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had married (v. 8b), all of harmonious design. A great courtyard (v. 9) united all these buildings into one palace complex. The structures were all built of stone (except the roofs) and they rested on stone foundations. Each stone was cut to size with a saw. Palestinian limestone can be cut with a saw when freshly quarried, but hardens when exposed to the elements.

7:12. The great palace courtyard was protected by a wall similar in design to that around the inner courtyard of the temple (cf. 6:36). The palace was probably built close to (perhaps south of) the temple, though none of its remains have been found by archeologists (See artist’s rendering of the floor plan below).

The next scriptures deal with the fine work done by Hiram the master craftsman from Tyre who was a Hebrew (not Hiram the King of Tyre). Huram or in Hebrew Hiram) should not be confused with Hiram, the king of Tyre (5:1). Huram’s special talent was working with bronze.
 
7:15-22. Huram cast two huge bronze pillars, each 27 feet high and 18 feet in circumference. With their caps the pillars were over 34 feet high. The pillars were erected on either side of the temple portico (the roofless front porch). Jakin, the name of the south pillar, means "He [Yahweh] establishes" and Boaz, the name of the north pillar, means "In Him [Yahweh] is strength." These stood as a testimony to God’s security and strength available to the nation as she obeyed Him.
 
7:23-26. The Sea looked like a huge basin resting on the backs of the 12 sculptured bulls that supported it, and it could contain 2,000 baths of water. This basin served as a reservoir for the temple courtyard.

7:27-40a. The 10 bronze movable stands were used for butchering sacrificial animals. Each was six feet square and five and one-half feet high at its highest point. On the surface of each stand was a basin (v. 38) that held about 230 gallons (40 baths) of water. Another basin (v. 30) drained into a circular frame (perhaps a tank) below through an opening. Each stand had decorated panels on each side, and four bronze wheels. These 10 identical work tables could be wheeled around the inner courtyard as needed for sacrifices.

Verses 7:48-50 deal with the elaborate furnishings and accessories of the temple and palace. Bronze was used outside but inside was gold including the golden altar, the table for the bread of the Presence (showbread) and the golden lampstands. They also included furnishings King David had prepared and dedicated (Thanks to: Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1Ki 7:1–12). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books; for assistance in explaining details of the temple and palace.).

“Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ households of the sons of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the city of David, which is Zion” (1Ki 8:1). “Then  the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim made a covering over the ark and its poles from above” (8:6-7). The Ark of the Covenant, containing the two stone tablets obtained by Moses on the mountain inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was placed into the Holies of Holies between the wings of the cherubim (angels). There was only one problem. The poles inserted into the rings that carried the ark were too long. Someone had measured incorrectly (8:8). But instead of remaking the poles they were left as they were even though they protruded from the holiest place and could be seen from the inner court, The Holy place. They could not be seen from outside the court. When the ark was completely installed: “It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord (8:10-11).

The Temple would be rebuilt on subsequent occasions (by Zerubbabel and by Harrod) yet the glory of the Lord did not ever manifest in the temple as it did on this occasion. Yet the promise of the Lord remains: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts:” (Haggai 2:9). That is because the latter house is not a physical temple built by hands but an eternal spiritual temple where God will tabernacle with His chosen people forever. Peter said: “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”(1 Peter 2:5).

The eternal house of God is comprised of “His people”. They created a spiritual place for God to dwell, just as Solomon built a physical temple for God. In Ezekiel 40-48 the prophet describes the spiritual temple of the latter house which will be more glorious than the former. However there is one notable omission from his description than the description of all other physical temples-there is no outer court yard separated from the Most Holy Place. This is symbolic of the fact that the Lord will be seen from anywhere in the temple, not just the Holy of Holies.

When the Lord was crucified he rent the veil that separated the most Holy place from the rest of the temple. A curtain used to separate the Holy Place from the rest of the temple. “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38; Luke 23:45; Matthew 27:51). The veil that formerly separated us from the presence of God was done away with so that now there is no separation.

In 8:12-31 Solomon addressed the people and explained how his Father David had wanted to build the temple but how task fell to Solomon. “Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. “But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. ‘Nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will be born to you, he will build the house for My name” (8:17-29). Solomon went on to acknowledge that this temple was the fulfillment of David’s dream. “There I have set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with our fathers when He brought them from the land of Egypt” (8:21).

In 1Ki 8:22-53 Solomon dedicated the temple. Noteable among his comments were: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!” (8:27). Solomon was looking to the day of the eternal spiritual temple. He prayed that if Israel fell short and sinned against the Lord that He promised to restore them as before. “For You have separated them from all the peoples of the earth as Your inheritance, as You spoke through Moses Your servant, when You brought our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord God” (8:53). Solomon was looking toward the day of the Lord Jesus Christ and the permanent temple. Hebrews says: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the  good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, [temple, sacred tent]  not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained  eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12). Solomon, just like all the ancient men of God, realized there was something better coming. “And all these, [men of faith] having  gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39-40).  

Solomon’s benediction is contained in 1Ki 8:54-61. He said in part: “May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers” (8:57-58). Of course Israel never walked in these words and in a matter of a few hundred years this great temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and Israel never returned to the level of glory present at the time of the benediction.  

After all the festivities were over God made yet another solemn warning to the people. He said in part: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and  My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. “As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. “And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ “And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the Lord has brought all this adversity on them.’ “(1Ki 9:3-9). As we will find out even Solomon was not able to keep the Lord’s commandments which resulted ultimately in a divided Kingdom that has never been fully reunited.

As goodwill gesture to Hiram King of Tyre Solomon built him two houses but Hiram did not like them. So they were called Cabul (good as nothing). Solomon kept the forced laborers from surrounding countries but no Israelite was ever a forced laborer. Solomon built a house for his Egyptian wife. “King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon. They went to  Ophir and took four hundred and twenty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon” (1Ki 9:26-28).  

“Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with difficult questions. So she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and very much gold and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart” (1Ki 10:1-2). Sheba was Queen of the Sabiens a rich nation that occupied what is Yemen today. Solomon answered all her questions and she was much impressed.  “Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. “Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard. “How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. “Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel;  because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness” (10:6-9).

She gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great amount of spices and precious stones. Also the ships of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a very great number of almug trees and precious stones. The king made of the almug trees supports for the house of the Lord and for the king’s house, also lyres and harps for the singers. Almug trees are very rare. Some suppose it to have been the white sandal-wood of India, the Santalum album of botanists, a native of the mountainous parts of the Malabar coasts. It is a fragrant wood, and is used in China for incense in idol-worship. Others, with some probability, think that it was the Indian red sandal-wood, the pterocarpus santalinus, a heavy, fine-grained wood, the Sanscrit name of which is valguka. It is found on the Coromandel Coast and in Ceylon. King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire which she requested, besides what he gave her according to his royal bounty. Then she turned and went to her own land together with her servants (1Ki 10:1-13). Many scholars believe he also gave her a son.  

1Ki 10:14-29 describes the enormous wealth of gold and precious stones amassed by Solomon during his reign. “So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. They brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year” (10:23-25).  

Solomon’s fall from grace, the separation of the Kingdom, chronicles of wicked and good Kings and Elijah the prophet are covered in Part Two following.  
 

THE KINGDOM IS DIVIDED
THE BOOK OF FIRST KINGS
PART TWO

SOLOMON TURNS FROM GOD-GOOD AND BAD KINGS RULE


Chapter 11 sadly recounts Solomon turning away from God. King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” (1Ki 11:2). Solomon held fast to these women in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. Solomon went after Ashtoreth [a fertility goddess, god of sensual love associated with Venus] the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built altars for  Chemosh, the detestable idol of Moab, and Moloch, God of Ammon [both involved the sacrifice of live children] Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, and burned incense and sacrificed to their gods (1Ki 11:1-8).

“The Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. “However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (1Ki 11:9-13).

Enemies rose up against Solomon. Haddad had gone to Egypt as a boy but when he grew up he found great favor with the Egyptians. But there came a time when he moved back to Israel and was an enemy of Solomon. God also raised up another adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah. He gathered men to himself and became leader of a marauding band, after David slew them of Zobah; and they went to Damascus and stayed there, and reigned in Damascus. So he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, along with the evil that Hadad did. He abhorred Israel and reigned over Aram (1Ki 11:14-27).

Jeroboam was a valiant warrior, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of in Israel. Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, and the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field. Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him and tore it into twelve pieces. He said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel. God said that this was because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did. Nevertheless He said this wouldn’t happen until Solomon died. But he would give Judah, the remaining tribe to Solomon’s son so that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name. He said to Jeroboam that if he did right before the Lord he could rule Israel (1Ki 11:28-39).

The lamp in Israel is an important concept indentified with God.  In the days of the temple of the wilderness the lamp in the temple was to burn continuously. “You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. “In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel” (Exodus 27:20-21; Lev. 24:2). Further references to the lamp include: “You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel” (2Sa 21:17). “For You are my lamp, O Lord; And the Lord illumines my darkness” (2Sa 22:29). Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? (Mark 4:21). “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for  the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:23-24). “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5). “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Just as the lamp/light always burned in the temple God there must always be a lamp/light burning in our hearts to dispel the darkness.

Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; [because he sought the throne] but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon. And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David, and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place” (11:40, 43).  

Solomon had used forced labor in the construction of the temple, palace and other projects. All Israel came to Rehoboam and said: “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you”(1Ki 12:4). The elders counseled him to listen to the people and lighten their load. But Rehoboam’s response was: “Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (1Ki 12:11).  Rehoboam responded thus on another occasion. “So the king did not listen to the people;  for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam” (see above)(1Ki 12:15).

When Israel saw how Rehoboam would treat them they rebelled and went home. Only Judah remained and Rehoboam ruled over them as King. “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. It came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David” (1Ki 12:19-20). Rehoboam assembled a great army to fight against Israel and regain the throne over all Israel including Judah. But the Lord said: “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.” ’ ” So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord” (1Ki 12:24).

Jeroboam, now King of the northern ten tribes of Israel, feared that if the people of Israel went to Jerusalem, they might decide to worship the true God of the house of David. So he erected and consulted a calf god and called it the true God. He made it a sin to go to Judah to worship. He instituted pagan feasts to the false god. “Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense” (1Ki 12:23).  

As Jeroboam was worshipping at one of his pagan altars a man of God (a prophet) approached. The prophet prophesied against the altar and prophesied the coming of Josiah who would “sacrifice the priests of the high places [pagan altars] who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’ ” (1Ki 13:2). He also said the altar where they were would split in half and ashes would pour out. Jeroboam got angry and reached out his hand to seize the man of God but the hand withered. Then the altar split just as the prophet had said. Jeroboam prayed to the Lord that his hand be restored and the man of God restored it. Jeroboam invited the man of God to come with him to receive a reward. The man of God said: “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place” (13:8). The man of God left a different way than he came leaving Jeroboam with his broken altar.

On his way back the prophet who caused the cracking of the altar met a man on the road, who said he was also a prophet. He invited the prophet to come and eat and drink with him. Now the Lord had told the prophet not to eat or drink while returning home. However the prophet accepted the invitation when the man he met on the road said an angel had spoken to him that the prophet was to return with him and eat. That was a lie. The prophet ate and drank at the man’s house but that angered the Lord because he had not done what God commanded. God said that because of this he would die and not be buried with his fathers in Judah. When the prophet left a lion attacked him and killed him. The man in whose house he had ate and drank recovered the prophet’s body and buried him in Israel. “After he had buried him, he spoke to his sons, saying, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. “For the thing shall surely come to pass which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places [pagan worshipping sites] which are in the cities of Samaria” [the capitol of Israel] (1Ki 13:31-32). Even after these events Jeroboam did not turn from his idol worshipping ways and ordained more priests to minister on behalf of the pagan gods. “This event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth” (13:34).

At that time Abijah, the son of Jeroboam, became sick. Jeroboam told his wife to disguise herself and go to Ahijah the prophet, the prophet who had anointed Jeroboam as King of Israel previously. However the Lord told Ahijah the wife was coming in disguise. When she arrived the prophet said he had bad news for her from the Lord. He said: “Go, say to Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel,  and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you—yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight;  you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have  cast Me behind your back—therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. “Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the Lord has spoken it.” ’ “Now you, arise, go to your house. When your feet enter the city the child will die….“Moreover,  the Lord will raise up for Himself a king over Israel who will cut off the house of Jeroboam this day and from now on. “For the Lord will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they have made their Asherim, [false god] provoking the Lord to anger. “He will give up Israel on account of the sins of Jeroboam, which he committed and with which he made Israel to sin” (1Ki 14:7-17). “The time that Jeroboam reigned was twenty-two years; and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his place” (1Ki 14:20).

Now it was Judah’s turn to turn to idols and pagan gods. “Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed. For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim [wooden symbols of a female deity] on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel” (1Ki 14:22-24). As punishment the King of Egypt raided Judah of its treasures of the house of the Lord and the King’s house including the shields of gold Solomon had built. King Rehoboam replaced them with bronze shields. “There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David; and his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess [a foreign concubine or wife of Solomon]. And Abijam his son became king in his place” (1Ki 14:30-31).

Abijam reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom [Absalom]. He walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David. But for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem in honor of David (1Ki 15:1-5). “And Abijam slept with his fathers and they buried him in the city of David; and Asa his son became king in his place” (1Ki 15:8).

Asa reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father. He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made. He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away; nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days” (1Ki 15:10-15).

There was continual war between Asa and Baasha, King of Israel. Baasha fortified Ramah blocking anyone from coming to see King Asa. Asa forged a treaty with one Ben-Hadad, the son of Hezion, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus. Ben Hadad agreed to break his treaty with Baasha and conquered cities near Ramah. When Baasha found out about the conquered cities he ceased fortifying Ramah. So Asa claimed victory in this undertaking (1Ki 15:8-22).

Baasha had replaced Nahab the son of Jeroboam as King of Israel. He did evil deeds before the Lord. Baasha had killed Nahab and took the throne. Then he purged all of Jeroboam’s family by killing them all. The Lord was angered at the cruelty he showed against the family of Jeroboam. (1Ki 15:25-34). The Lord prophesied against him the destruction of his kingdom and Baasha died (1 Ki 16:1-7). Elah became King for only two years. His servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. Elah was at Tirzah drinking himself drunk. Zimri went in and struck him and put him to death and became king in his place (1Ki 16:9-10). Zimri did what Baasha had done and purged the entirety of Baasha’s family this time according to a word from God through the prophet Jehu (16:11-13).

Israel was encamped against the Philistines. The people heard that Zimri had killed the King and ravished his family. Therefore they made Omri, the commander of the army, King. Then Omri and all Israel with him went up from Gibbethon and besieged Tirzah. When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire and  died. His suicide was because of his sins which he sinned, doing evil in the sight of the Lord and walking in the way of Jeroboam (1Ki 16:17-19).  The people of Israel were divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; the other half followed Omri. The people who followed Omri prevailed over the people who followed Tibni and Tibni died and Omri became king (1Ki 16:21-22). However Omri did evil against the Lord like Jeroboam and Baasha. He ruled six years and died and Ahab became King.

Ahab became King of Israel and did more evil than all the Kings of Israel before him. He married Jezebel, daughter of a Sidonian King who worshipped Baal, and set up an altar to Baal in the capitol city of Samaria. Baal meant “lord possessor” and was the chief god of many pagan nations including Phoenicia.

Elijah the Tisbite, from that town in Gilead, arrived on the scene. This is the first mention of this great prophet of God and how he became the prophet he was is unknown. But he is quoted as saying: “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1Ki 17:1). He became known as the prophet who “stands in the presence of the Lord”. He probably caused the drought to frustrate the followers of Baal since Baal was known as the almighty god who ruled over fruitfulness and crops. As we shall see the drought forced a confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

According to the word of the Lord, Elijah set up residence by a brook (Cherith) where he drank water from the brook and ravens brought him food and meat morning and night. He was probably in hiding from Ahab and Jezebel. When the brook dried up because of the drought God sent him to a widow’s home (possibly a widow of a prophet of God who had died). Elijah told the widow “Please get me a little water in a jar that I may drink." As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand." But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die." Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. “For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’ ”So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah” (1Ki 17:10-16).

Later the son of the widow became sick to the point of death. She sought out Elijah. Elijah called to the Lord:  “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived” (17:20-22).  

When the famine became very severe Elijah set out to present himself to King Ahab to tell him it would rain in Israel. Ahab had been searching all Israel for Elijah on penalty of death if the cities harbored Elijah and did not tell him. On the road Elijah he met Obadiah who was a prophet of God who lived in Ahab’s household. Obadiah had hid a hundred prophets from a death decree by Jezebel. Elijah told Obadiah to announce to Ahab that Elijah was here. Obadiah was fearful to do this since he was sure Ahab would believe he knew all along where Elijah was and that Ahab would kill him. “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals. “Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1Ki 18:17-19).  

So Elijah set up a showdown between himself and the false prophets that Ahab brought to Mt. Carmel. Elijah said to the people: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men” (1Ki 18:20-22).  So Elijah set up a sacrifices consisting of two oxen prepared in two sacrifices one for Baal and one for Elijah. “So [the Baal prophets] took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention” (1Ki 18:26-29).  

Elijah then took 12 stones, one for each house of Israel and made an altar with them. He then built a trench around the altar and filled it with water three times. Elijah then prayed: “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1Ki 18:36-38). Then Elijah told the people to slay the false prophets and they were slain at the Brook of Kishon, also known as the waters of Megiddo.

Elijah told Ahab it was going to rain. Elijah himself went to the top of Mt. Carmel and crouched there. He said to his servant to go and look to the sea and the servant saw nothing. Elijah had the servant repeat this seven times. On the seventh time the servant reported seeing a small cloud the size of a man’s hand. This was the sign Elijah had been waiting for. Elijah said: “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel” (1Ki 18:44-46).  

When Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done Jezebel responded: “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your [Elijah’s] life as the life of one of them [the dead prophets of Baal] by tomorrow about this time” (1Ki 19:2). Elijah’s response was an unusual one-he became afraid of Jezebel’s threat and ran for his life. He went a days journey into the wilderness and requested that he may die. He came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers”.

One may wonder what engendered such a response from Elijah after he had shown up and then killed the Baal prophets and made it rain after three years. The answer is that Ahab and Jezebel were very wicked people and possessed great devil power. Elijah was exhausted from all he had done that day and being in that state he was defenseless against the demonic tirade of Jezebel directed at him. He felt no better than his Fathers because he was so affected by this power to the extent he wanted no more than to die (1Ki 19:1-5)

But the Lord was with him. He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and an angel came and told him to “Arise, eat.” This happened twice as he ate the cakes and drank the water brought by the angel. The Lord rejuvenated him. So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God (1Ki 19:3-8).

Elijah arrived at Mt. Horeb in much the same frame of mind. He felt isolated and alone which is another device used effectively by Satan. “He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1Ki 19:10). The Lord told him to go stand on the mountain. And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks but Elijah knew the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Then Elijah heard a still small voice like a gentle blowing. And, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah repeated his fears that he was all alone and isolated. So it had come to pass that the voice of the Lord was not in the great wind, the earthquake or the fire but in the still small voice [or delicate whispering voice] (1Ki 19:12, KJV). Anyone who knows the voice of the Lord knows it is often a small voice that can be heard, despite the clatter around us and the other noises of our minds. This voice was not in the great disasters but God spoke to Elijah in a whisper.

God spoke to Elijah that he was not alone and isolated. He said: “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him” 1Ki 19:18). From this point Elijah’s ministry changed. In quick succession he went to Damascus and anointed Hazael king over Aram. Then he did the same with a prophet named Jehu as King over Israel. And the Lord told him to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place. The Lord said: “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death” (1Ki 19:15-17). With the prophets of Baal largely done away with Elijah had appointed a network of authority to deal with any further apostasy. He was the first prophet since Samuel given the authority to anoint Kings.

So he departed from there and found Elisha plowing a field with twelve pairs of oxen before him. Elijah went to him and threw his mantle on him. Elisha left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And Elijah responded “Go back again, for what I have done to you?” [in other words it is no business of mine what you do]. So Elisha returned from following Elijah and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to [became a servant of] him (1Ki 19:19-21). Elisha became his servant and successor.  

Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army along with thirty-two other kings with him and many and horses and chariots. And he besieged Samaria, the capitol of Israel. The King sent a message to Ahab that he would relent his attack if Ahab gave him all his silver and gold and his most beautiful wives. Ahab, severely outnumbered, agreed. However, Ben-hadad sent another messenger and said he would cease hostilities if I will send my servants to you, and they will search your house and the houses of your servants; and whatever is desirable in your eyes, they will take (1Ki 20:1-6). Ahab took counsel and the elders decided not to give the king all he asked. So the Aramian King prepared for battle (1Ki 20:7-12).

“Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” (1Ki 20:13). So Ahab gathered all the young men of the Kingdom and together. They went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk with the thirty-two kings who were with him. As the Israelis approached, Ben-hadad was told “Men have come out from Samaria.” Ben-hadad, apparently very arrogant, said: “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; or if they have come out for war, take them alive.” So these went out from the city, the young men of the rulers of the provinces, and the army which followed them. They killed each his man; and the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, but Ben-hadad escaped (1Ki 20:16-20). Thus the word of the prophet was fulfilled, and victory went to Ahab, despite his wickedness.

The prophet told Ahab that Ben-hadad would return in the spring and attack. The rulers of Aram mistakenly believed that the gods of Israel lived in the mountains. So they decided to fight them in the open plains. At the turn of the year Ben-hadad mustered his forces. The Lord was mad at Aram by this time for minimizing Him to a God of the mountains only. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give this entire great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord’ ” (1Ki 20:28). So they camped one over against the other seven days. And on the seventh day the battle began and the sons of Israel killed 100,000 soldiers of the Arameans. The rest fled to Aphek into the city, and the city wall fell on 27,000 men who were left.

Ben-hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber. His servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings, please let us put sackcloth on our loins and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will save your life.” Ben-hadad made a deal with Ahab promising that “The cities which my father took from your father I will restore, and you shall make streets for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria.” So Ahab accepted the offer and let him go (1Ki 20:29-34).

Ahab, when a man named Naboth wouldn’t sell him his vineyard, formed a deceitful plot to take the vineyard which ended by the killing of Jabot. Word of this reached Elijah who confronted Ahab. “Ahab [arrogantly] said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he [Elijah] answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. “Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. “Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ “The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat.” Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel (1Ki 21:20-26).

“It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah saying, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days” (1Ki 21:27-29).

Three years passed without war between Aram and Israel. In the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah [he had replaced Asa] came down to Ahab king of Israel. The king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?” Ramoth-gilead [heights of Gilead] was an important piece of land. It was a chief city of Gad on the east side of the Jordon River. Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if he would join him in battle at Ramoth-gilead currently held by the Aramites. Jehoshaphat said to Ahab that they should inquire of the Lord first. So the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”(1Ki 22:1-6)

But Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied with the verdict of the prophets of Israel and asked if there was another prophet he could consult. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah. Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.” Meanwhile the prophets of Israel were working themselves into a frenzy at the coming victory they were contemplating. Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, “Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king [of Israel]. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah predicted defeat for the venture. Ahab was mad.  Then the king said to him, “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” So Micaiah said:

“I saw all Israel
Scattered on the mountains,
Like sheep which have no shepherd.
And the Lord said, ‘These have no master.
Let each of them return to his house in peace.’ ”
     
Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and  all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. “The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ “Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you." Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?” Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself.” Then the king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah and return him to Amon and put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.” ’ ”Micaiah said, “If you indeed return safely the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Listen, all you people.” (1Ki 22:1-28).

So  the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. However Ahab went in disguise and Jehoshaphat went in his robes. The Aramites decided only to attack the Kings of Israel and no one else. When they saw Jehoshaphat in his robes they went after him but soon discovered he was not the King of Israel. Now a certain Aramite drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel [Ahab] in a joint of his armor. So Ahab said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded." The battle raged that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot in front of the Arameans, and died at evening, and the blood from the wound ran into the bottom of the chariot. The Israelites retreated. They washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood (now the harlots bathed themselves there), according to the word of the Lord which He spoke. So Ahab slept with his fathers, and Ahaziah his son became king in his place (1Ki 22:34-40)

Jehoshaphat the son of Asa became king over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. He walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing right in the sight of the Lord. However, the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places. Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel. The remnant of the sodomites who remained in the days of his father Asa, he expelled from the land. And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of his father David, and Jehoram his son became king in his place. Ahaziah the son of Ahab  became king over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel. He did evil in the sight of the Lord and  walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger, according to all that his father had done (1Ki 22:41-53).
 

FURTHER HISTORY ISRAEL AND JUDAH
THE BOOK OF SECOND KINGS
PART ONE

ELISHA; BAAL REMOVED


2 Kings encompasses the time of the reigning of the prophet Elisha who was the successor of Elijah after Elijah was translated to heaven. Generally, chapters 8:16-17:41 recount the history of the northern tribes of Israel to the time of their being exiled by the Assyrians. Chapters 18-25 record the history of Judah until the time of their exile by Babylon. God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and gave them a promised land where they could dwell in His presence as His chosen people. However, due to the continuing sin of the people against the Lord that vision was never realized. However what began as a pure vision of the Lord ended in abject failure.

Actually God was not surprised by what transpired in Israel and Judah. He predicted it to Moses. “The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. “Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ “But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods “Deuteronomy 31:16-18).

Because of the apostasy of Israel in not being to follow the Law of God, God had to bring His Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the Law for all mankind. Because of Christ man no longer had to obey the Law in their own efforts because faith by grace in Christ became the path to fulfillment (Hebrews 7-10). However one cannot read this history of Israel without feeling God’s grief for a people who could have had everything but were unable because of their evil human natures, inherited from Adam and Eve in their fall from paradise so many years ago (see Romans 7). Therefore the promise originally made to Israel was opened up to all humanity who, through Christ, have the opportunity to fulfill God’s dream of having a people, unrealized in ancient Israel (see Romans 9-11). So we read of the failure of Physical Israel with hope of the Messiah that was to come.  

2 Kings 1 starts as follows: Ahaziah, king of Israel, fell and injured himself. He sent his servants to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron [a pagan god] whether he would recover from this sickness. On the road they met Elijah the prophet.  Elijah said: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of  Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ [Baal-zedub, a form of Baal, was known as the lord of the flies since he controlled the pesky flies that inhabited the land of the Philistines. Christ was once called Baalzebub by the Pharisees]. “Now therefore thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” When the messengers returned, and described the man they had met [a hairy with a belt around his middle] the King knew it was Elijah. He sent 50 men to find and kill Elijah. The messengers found Elijah and begged him to “Come down”. “Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God,  let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty” (2Ki 1:10). This happened again. The King sent 50 more men who begged Elijah to spare their lives. So Elijah went with them to the King and Elijah spoke to him thus: “Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’ ” (2Ki 1:16). So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place (2Ki 1:17).

“And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2Ki 2:1). The next portion of scripture paints a vivid picture of those who really know the Lord and those who just know His acts. At the time of 2 Kings Chapter 2 there were many prophets of God in the land. Many of them were perceptive enough to know that Elijah was going to be taken to heaven by God. But Elijah did everything he could to discourage the prophets, including his servant Elisha, from following him to the place where he was to be taken. In a sense he was testing the prophets to see who was the most persistent and had the most intense vision.

First Elijah left Gigal and told Elisha to remain there. Elisha refused and followed Elijah against his orders (remember Elisha was Elijah’s servant). Elisha followed Elijah to Bethel and the perceptive prophets at Bethel told Elisha what he already knew i.e. that Elijah was going to be taken by God. Again Elijah commanded his servant Elisha to remain at Bethel but again Elisha disobeyed his master and followed Elijah to Jericho. At Jericho the same thing happened. The prophets at Jericho told Elisha what he already knew, that Elijah was going to be taken. Elisha told the prophets again to “be still” (shut up) because Elisha refused to be distracted by the information he already knew. He wanted something more and refused to be deterred.

Elijah, in one last ditch attempt to deter Elisha and the other prophets, Elijah said he was going to the Jordon River and commanded Elisha to remain at Jericho. However Elisha and 50 prophets followed Elijah to the area of the Jordon River. 50 of the prophets stood at a distance but 2 of them actually went with Elijah and Elisha to the banks of the river. Elijah then took his mantle and parted the Jordon River but only he and Elisha crossed the river-everyone else remained behind.

On the other side of the Jordon Elijah calmly folded his mantle and, realizing that he had been unable to shake Elisha off his trail, and realizing that Elisha was probably going to see him be taken to heaven, he asked Elisha what he wanted before he was taken. Being found at the very spot where his master was to be taken up, Elisha told Elijah he wanted a double-portion of the spirit that was on Elijah. Remember Elijah was the prophet who defeated the 600 prophets of the god Baal in Israel, caused a drought, caused it to rain, anointed kings and was known as the prophet who “stood in the presence of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:15). How audacious was it for Elisha to ask for a DOUBLE-PORTION of that? Yet that is what he asked for. Elijah finally told Elisha that if he actually saw him, Elijah, being taken to the heavens he could have his double portion. “Elijah said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces” (2Ki 2:1-12).

Elisha immediately began to move in the double portion. “He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over” (2Ki 2:14). When Elisha returned to Jericho the prophets could see that the spirit of Elijah was on Elisha. However they did not believe that Elijah had been taken by God.  Against Elisha’s word the prophets sent 50 men to look for Elijah. The 50 men did not find him and Elisha essentially said “I told you so”.

Then the men of the city said to Elisha that the land was unfruitful and the water was bad as well. Elijah said: “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. He went out to the spring of water and  threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or barrenness any longer.’ ”So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke. Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up, young lads came out from the city and  mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!" When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to  Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria (2Ki 2:19-25).  

Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, though not like his father and his mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam which caused Israel to sin.  

Moab, who had paid tribute to Israel since the days of Joshua, rebelled against Israel. The King of Moab was a sheep breeder and did not pay to Israel his tribute of 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. Jehoram joined with Jehoshaphat King of Judah and set out against Moab with armies. However after a seven day march they could find no drinking water. They came to the prophet Elisha. Elisha first insulted Jehoram. “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you” (2Ki 3:14). Nevertheless Elisha instructed them to bring a minstrel to him. As the minstrel played the Spirit of the Lord came upon Elisha. He told the Kings to “Make this valley full of trenches." “For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts. ‘This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also give the Moabites into your hand” (2Ki 3:16-18).
  
The Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them. They rose early in the morning, and the sun shone on the water, and the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood. Then they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. “Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!” But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites arose and struck the Moabites, so that they fled. Israel pursued them, went forward into their land and slaughtered the Moabites, and destroying their cities. They stopped all the springs of water and felled all the good trees as well. When the King of Moab saw the battle going against him he and 700 men tried to break through the Israeli’ lines but could not. Then the King sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering. After that desperate act, great wrath came against the Israelites and they fled (2Ki 3:21-27).

“Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves” (2Ki 4:1). “What shall I do?” Elisha asked her what she had in the house and the woman responded “a jar of oil”. Elisha told her to get as many jars as she could from the neighbors and pour oil into all of them until they are filled, which she did. When all the jars had been filled Elisha asked her if there were more jars and she said no. The flow of oil stopped and Elisha told her to go sell the oil and pay her debt (2Ki 4:2-7). One wonders if the oil would ever have stopped if she had been more diligent to obtain more jars. God’s provision is unlimited and sometimes we limit it by our actions or what is in our heart of perceived limitations.

“Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat” (2Ki 4:8). Later they prepared an upper room for Elisha to use when he needed. Elisha was moved by her kindness and told her that she could have anything she ask Elisha for. She said she wanted a son. Elijah said: “At this season next year you will embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant." The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her” (2Ki 4:16-17).  

When he had grown the Shunemite son died in the field. The woman rushed to find Elisha. She found him at Mt. Carmel. When she came to the man of God she told him that her son had died. Elisha sent his servant Gehazi with Elisha’s staff and told him to lay it on the boy. That did not work. So the man of God came to the boy himself. “When Elisha came into the house he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes. He called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Take up your son.” Then she went in and fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground, and she took up her son and went out” (2Ki 4:31-37).

Elisha continued to perform miracles. As he and some prophets were getting ready to eat stew, someone threw a wild poisonous gourd in the stew and the men became sick. Elisha poured some meal in the pot it became edible (2Ki 4:38-41). This incident contains symbolism applicable to today in a spiritual sense. A group of believers can be flowing in the Lord together but sometimes one or another breaks the flow and thrown into the group a “wild gourd” and it affects everyone’s communion with the Lord.

Elisha performed another miracle similar to Jesus feeding the multitudes with just a few loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:17). A man brought Elisha twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain. And he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat." His attendant said, “What,  will I set this before a hundred men?” But Elisha said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ ” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord (2ki 4:42-44).  

Elisha even healed the enemy. Naaman was a captain of the army of the king of Aram and a great and respected warrior but he was a leper. An Israeli servant to Naaman’s wife told them of a prophet in Samaria who could do miracle healings. Naaman sent a letter to the King of Israel seeking to be cured of his leprosy. The King laughed and said “How am I going to cure this man?” When Elisha heard that the king of Israel was in distress because of this letter he sent word to the king, saying, “Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." But Naaman was furious and went away. He had thought that Elisha will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure me.’ “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. Now the River Jordon was a muddy undesirable place, certainly no place for a great man like Naaman to be washing. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean
?’” So Naanam went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean (2Ki 5:1-14).  

Naaman was so grateful he returned to Elisha with gifts in appreciation. Elisha said: “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused” (2Ki 5:16). Elisha told him to go in peace. But Elisha’s servant Gehezi ran after Naaman thinking “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought". I will run after him and take something from him.” (2Ki 5:20). So he approached Naaman and cunningly said” All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘two young men have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.’ ”Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes and gave them to [Gehazi].

Gehazi returned and stood before Elisha and the following occurred: “Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” Then he said to him, “Did not my heart [spirit] go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? “Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So Gehazi went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2Ki 5:20-27). This illustrates a spiritual principle. When you receive something from someone that is not the will of the Lord you from an improper bond with that person and that person then, however subtle, has a bit of control over your life that can rise up and defeat your spiritual walk with God.  
Elisha continued to perform miracles. Now the sons of the prophets decided to build new quarters for their meetings. “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us” (2Ki 6:1). So they went to the Jordon and cut down trees for the building. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head [made of iron, a rare implement in those days] fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.” Elisha said “Where did it fall?” And when he showed him the place, Elisha cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron float” (2Ki 6:2-7).  

Probably the most prolific of Elisha’s miracles involved the army of Aram. The king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants revealing his battle plans." Elisha sent word to the king of Israel saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.” This happened a couple of more times so that Elijah seemed to know the plans of the King of Aram in advance. Each time Israel took his advice and avoided those places. The heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?” [in other words is there a spy in our midst]. One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” So the King ascertained where Elisha was and sent his entire army to kill him.

Now when Elisha’s attendant had risen early and saw the entire army with horses and chariots circling the city. And his servant said to Elisha “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elisha answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open the young man’s eyes that he may see.” The Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of  horses and chariots of fire from the Lord all around Elisha. Elijah had been able to see in the spirit realm the reality of the situation that the young man could not see.

When the army came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike the enemy with blindness”. So the Lord struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Then, while they were in a confused state, Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria, right into the capitol city of Israel. When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O  Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. One can imagine their shock of being led right into the enemies’ camp! “When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” Elisha answered “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel” (entire story 2Ki 6:8-23).

This story illustrates that a walk with God is all a matter of perception. Elisha’s perception was so keen he could discern the King’s battle plans while the King was in his bedroom. Even though the King sent an entire army after this one man Elisha saw that the hosts of the Lord greatly outnumbered the forces in the natural realm. Elisha was able to open his servant’s eyes so he could also see. Then Elisha entirely confused the enemy with blindness and was able to lead them into Israel’s capitol city. They were duped so entirely that they never came near Israel again. The victory was obtained without a drop of blood being shed.

Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and besieged Samaria. There was a great  famine in Samaria. The enemy besieged it, cutting off all food, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab [kab, one quart] of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. Finally the people resorted to cannibalism. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” And the king said to her, “What is the matter with you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ “So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” The King was very upset but could do nothing (2Ki 6:24-33).

Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Then Elisha said, “Listen to the word of the Lord; thus says the Lord, ‘Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.’ ” In other words the siege will be over. The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God stating that this result is impossible essentially expressing his unbelief. Elisha responded to the man’s negativity by saying “Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it.” (2Ki 7:1-2).

Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate of the city, subject to the same siege condition as everyone in the city. They said to one another, “Why do we sit here until we die? They said we should enter the city,’ then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.” So they proceeded to go to the camp of the Arameans but when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans there was no one there. For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses that sounded like a great army so that the Arameans believed the king of Israel had hired against them us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon them. Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses as they were and fled for their life (2Ki 7:3-8).

When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them. Then they decided what they were doing was wrong and that they should notify the King that the enemy was gone. So they called to the gatekeepers of the city, and they told them what they had discovered. The gatekeepers told it within the king’s household. But the King was suspicious that the Arameans had left the camp to hide somewhere else and ambush the Israelites if they came into camp. So the King sent spies to the enemy camp to assess the situation (2Ki 7:9-14).
     
So they went to the camp and found the clothes and equipment which the Arameans had thrown away in their haste, as related by the four lepers. Then the messengers returned and told the king. So the people plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord by Elisha. The king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said previously. The man’s unbelief had condemned him to death because he did not believe the word of Elisha (2Ki 7:15-20).

Elisha came to Damascus. Ben-hadad king of Aram was sick, and it was told him “The man of God has come here.” The king said to Hazael his servant to take a gift and go to meet the man of God, and inquire whether “I will I recover from this sickness?’ ”So Hazael went to meet Elisha with lavish gifts including every kind of good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ loads; and he said, “Your son Ben-hadad king of Aram has sent me to you, saying, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’ ”Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You [Hazael] will surely recover,’ but the  Lord has shown me that he [Ben-haddad] will certainly die." Elisha fixed his gaze steadily on Hazael and  the man of God wept. Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” Elisha answered “Because  I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up." Then Hazael said, “But what is your servant,  who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” And Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you will be king over Aram." So he departed from Elisha and returned to his master the King who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he lied to him and said “He told me that  you would surely recover." On the following day, Hazael took a cloth and smothered the King and thus Hazael became king in his place (2Ki 8:7-15).

Joram the son of Ahab became king of Israel and Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat became ruler of Judah, congruent with his father Jehoshaphat. Jehoram reigned five years with Jehoshaphat and eight years on his own. He walked in the way of Ahab, and the other wicked Kings of Israel, even taking the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel for his wife. Jehoram’s ungodly wife, Ahab’s daughter, had a greater influence that his father in causing Israel to do wickedness. However, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a LAMP to him through his sons always. Under Jehoram’s reign Edom, who had been conquered by Jehoshapat, revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves. Judah’s King attacked them but his army fled before the Edomites who remained free. Then Joram crossed over to Zair, and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck the Edomites who had surrounded him and the captains of the chariots; but his army fled to their tents. So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah [a station of the Israelites] revolted at the same time (2Ki 8:16-23).

In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. ( 2Ki 8:25). Then he went with Joram the son of Ahab to war against  Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth-gilead, and the Arameans wounded Joram. So King Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which had been inflicted on him.

Elisha set about to anoint Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat as King of Israel. His purpose was to strike and eliminate the wicked house of Ahab. So he sent a servant with a flask of oil for which to anoint Jehu. His instructions to Jehu were: “You shall strike the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel. ‘For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and  I will cut off from Ahab every male person both bond and free in Israel. ‘I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.’ ” (2Ki 9:7-10). So the servant did as Elisha said and anointed Jehu King (2Ki 9:1-13).

So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. Now Joram with all Israel was defending Ramoth-gilead against Hazael king of Aram, but  King Joram [Jehoram] had returned to Jezreel to be healed of the wounds afflicted by the Arameans. Then Jehu rode in a chariot and went to Jezreel, for Joram was lying there wounded. Ahaziah king of Judah had come down to see Joram. The watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel and he saw the company of Jehu as he came, and said, “I see a company.” And Joram said, “Take a horseman and send him to meet them and let him say, ‘Is it peace?’ ”So a horseman went to meet him and said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?’ ” And Jehu said, “What have you to do with peace? Turn behind me. This again Jehu rejected any peace with the house of Ahab.  The watchman reported to Joam “He [Jehu] came even to them, and he did not return; and  the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously” (2Ki 9:14-26)

Jehu, who was a mighty warrior before the Lord, made his chariot ready and went to meet Joram. When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And he answered, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” As Joram tried to flee Jehu, he drew his bow with his full strength and shot Joram between his arms; and the arrow went through his heart and he sank in his chariot dead. Jehu had his body cast on a field named Naboth which settled an old feud between Jehu, God and Joram in that God had promised Joriam this land. (2Ki 21:1, 19). When Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled. And Jehu pursued him and said, “Shoot him too, in the chariot.” So they shot him at the ascent of Gur, which is at Ibleam, a town of Manassah. But he fled to Har-Megiddo and died there (2Ki 9:27-32)

When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window. As Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?" Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” And two or three officials looked down at him. He [Jehu] said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot. When he came in, he ate and drank he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Jehu said “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; (2Ki 9:21:23) and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.” (2Ki 9:33-37)

After Jehu killed Jezebel he set his sights on the remainder of Ahab’s family, 70 sons in all. Jehu sent letters to the rulers, elders and guardians of Ahab’s sons in Samaria. The letter told the elders to gather together each of the sons and fight for the throne. However, the elders were afraid of Jehu and sent back letters saying they would be Jehu’s servants. Jehu wrote back that if they were with him, to bring him the heads of Ahab’s sons. So the men of Samaria slaughtered the 70 sons and sent them in baskets to Jehu at Jezreel. “Now in the morning he went out and stood and said to all the people, “You are innocent; behold, I conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? “Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what He spoke through His servant Elijah." So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in  Jezreel, and all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests, until he left him without a survivor” (2Ki 10:9-11). Jehu went on to kill everyone associated with Ahab in Samaria as well.  

“Then Jehu gathered all the people and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. “Now, summon all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests; let no one be missing, for I have a great sacrifice for Baal; whoever is missing shall not live.” But Jehu did it in cunning, so that he might destroy the worshipers of Baal” (2Ki 10:18-19).  So he gathered all the prophets of Baal into their temple but had 80 of his men stationed outside. Those men then slaughtered all the prophets of Baal, leaving none alive. Following that they broke down the altars to Baal and thus eradicated them from the land.

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel” (2Ki 10:30). However Jehu did not completely follow the word of the Lord in that he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. He continued his idolatrous policies with the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. God’s discipline for that disobedience was that Israel/Jehu suffered territorial loses. “In those days the Lord began to cut off portions from Israel; and Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites and the Reubenites and the Manassites, from  Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan” (2Ki 10:32-33).

And Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son became king in his place. Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria for twenty-eight years.

 
END-PART ONE

 

FURTHER HISTORY ISRAEL AND JUDAH
THE BOOK OF SECOND KINGS
PART TWO

ELISHA; ISRAEL AND JUDAH EXILED


 2 Kings covers the time of the reigning of the prophet Elisha, the successor of Elijah after Elijah is translated up to heaven. Chapters 8:16-17:41 recount the history of the northern tribes of Israel to the time of their exile. Chapters 18-25 record the history of Judah until the time of their exile. What started as such a pristine vision of the Lord to have a people all His own that He could rule in righteousness ended in abject failure, at least until the time of the rebuilding of the temple by Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubabel due to the humanity of Cyrus King of Persia. Originally the Books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles were one long work. In the Greek Septuagint, the Books of Samuel and Kings are broken up as 1, 2, 3 &4 Kings. In any event they convey the same story of the ancient history of the nation known collectively as Israel.  

Ahaziah, king of Israel, fell and injured himself. He sent his servants to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether he would recover from this sickness. On the road they met Elijah the prophet.  Elijah said: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of  Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ [Baal-zedub, a form of Baal, was known as the lord of the flies since he controlled the pesky flies that inhabited the land of the Philistines. Christ was once called Baalzebub by the Pharisees]. “Now therefore thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” When the messengers returned, and described the man they had met [a hairy with a belt around his middle] the King knew it was Elijah. He sent 50 men to find and kill Elijah. The messengers found Elijah and begged him to “Come down”. “Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God,  let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty” (2Ki 1:10). This happened again. The King sent 50 more men who begged Elijah to spare their lives. So Elijah went with them to the King and Elijah spoke to him thus: “Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’ ” (2Ki 1:16). So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place (2Ki 1:17).

“And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2Ki 2:1). The next portion of scripture paints a vivid picture of those who know the Lord and those who just know His acts. At the time of 2 Kings Chapter 2 there were many prophets of God in the land. Many of them were perceptive enough to know that Elijah was going to be taken to heaven by God. But Elijah did everything he could to discourage the prophets, including his servant Elisha, from following him to the place where he was to be taken. In a sense he was testring the prophets to see who was the most persistent. First Elijah left Gigal and told Elisha to remain there. Elisha refused and followed Elijah against his orders (remember Elisha was Elijah’s servant).

So Elisha followed Elijah to Bethel and the perceptive prophets at Bethel told Elisha what he already knew i.e. that Elijah was going to be taken by God. Again Elijah commanded his servant Elisha to remain at Bethel but again Elisha disobeyed his master and followed Elijah to Jericho. Ate Jericho the same thing happened. The prophets at Jericho told Elisha what he already knew, that Elijah was going to be taken. Elisha told the prophets again to “be still” (shut up) because Elisha refused to be distracted with the information he already knew. He wanted something more and refused to be deterred.

Elijah, in one last ditch attempt to deter Elisha and the other prophets, Elijah said he was going to the Jordon River and commanded Elisha to remain at Jericho. However Elisha and 50 prophets followed Elijah to the area of the Jordon River. 50 of them stood at a distance but 2 of them actually went with Elijah and Elisha to the banks of the river. Elijah then took his mantle and parted the Jordon river but only he and Elisha crossed the river-everyone else remained behind.

On the other side of the Jordon Elijah calmly folded his mantle and, realizing that he had been unable to shake Elisha off his trail, and realizing that Elisha was probably going to see him be taken to heaven, he asked Elisha what he wanted before he was taken. Remember Elijah had managed to elude prophets of God, seers, men of God, at Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the vicinity of the Jordon River. He had even eluded the last 2 prophets who went with him to the actual bank of the river. But only Elisha had followed him across the Jordon to the place where Elijah was to be taken by God.

Being found at the very spot where his master was to be taken up, Elisha told Elijah he wanted a double-portion of the spirit that was on Elijah. Remember Elijah was the prophet who defeated the 600 prophets of the God Baal in Israel, caused a drought, caused it to rain, anointed kings and was known as the prophet who “stood in the presence of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:15). How audacious was it for Elisha to ask for a DOUBLE-PORTION of that? Yet that is what he asked for. Elijah finally gave in told Elisha that if he actually saw him, Elijah, being taken to the heavens he could have his double portion. “Elijah said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces” (2Ki 2:1-12).

Elisha immediately began to move in the double portion. “He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over” (2Ki 2:14). When Elisha returned to Jericho the prophets could see that the spirit of Elijah was on Elisha. However they did not believe that Elijah had been taken by God.  Against Elisha’s word the prophets sent 50 men to look for Elijah. The 50 men did not find him and Elisha essentially said “I told you so”.

Then the men of the city said to Elisha that the land was unfruitful and the water was bad as well. Elijah said: “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. He went out to the spring of water and  threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or barrenness any longer.’ ”So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke. Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and  mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!" When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to  Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria (2Ki 2:19-25).  

Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, though not like his father and his mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam which he made Israel sin.  

Moab, who had paid tribute to Israel since the days of Joshua, rebelled against Israel. The King of Moab was a sheep breeder and did not pay his tribute of 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. Jehoram joined with Jehoshaphat King of Judah and set out against Moab with armies, However after a seven day march they could find no drinking water. They came to the prophet Elisha. Elisha first insulted Jehoram. “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you” (2Ki 3:14). Nevertheless Elisha instructed them to bring a minstrel to him. As the minstrel played the spirit of the Lord came upon Elisha. He told the Kings to “Make this valley full of trenches.’ “For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts. ‘This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also give the Moabites into your hand” (2Ki 3:16-18).
  
The Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them. They rose early in the morning, and the sun shone on the water, and the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood. Then they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. “Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!” But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites arose and struck the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they went forward into the land, slaughtering the Moabites and destroying their cities. They stopped all the springs of water and felled all the good trees as well. When the King of Moab saw the battle going against him he and 700 men tried to break through the Israeli’ lines but could not. Then the King sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering. After that desperate act, great wrath came against the Israelites and they fled (2Ki 3:21-27).

“Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves” (2Ki 4:1). “What shall I do?” Elisha asked her what she had in the house and the woman responded a jar of oil. Elisha told her to get as many jars as she could from the neighbors and pour oil into all of them until they are filled, which she did. When all the jars had been filled Elisha asked her if there were more jars and she said no. The flow of oil stopped and Elisha told her to go sell the oil and pay her debt (2Ki 4:2-7). One wonders if the oil would ever have stopped if she had been more diligent to get more jars. God’s provision is unlimited and sometimes we limit it by our actions or what is in our heart of perceived limitations.

“Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat” (2Ki 4:8). Later they prepared an upper room for Elisha to use when he needed. Elisha was moved by her kindness and told her that she could have anything she ask Elisha for. She said she wanted a son. Elijah said: “Then he said, “At this season next year you will embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant." The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her” (2Ki 4:16-17).  

When he had grown the Shunemite son died in the field. The woman rushed to find Elisha. She found him at Mt. Carmel. When she came to the man of God she told him that her son had died. Elisha sent his servant Gehazi with Elisha’s staff and told him to lay it on the boy, That did not work. So the man of God came to the boy himself. “When Elisha came into the house he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes. He called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Take up your son.” Then she went in and fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground, and she took up her son and went out” (2Ki 4:31-37).

Elisha continued to perform miracles. As he and some prophets were getting ready to eat stew, someone threw a wild poisonous gourd in the stew and the men became sick. Elisha poured some meal in the pot it became edible (2Ki 4:38-41). This incident contains symbolism applicable to today in a spiritual sense. A group of believers can be flowing in the Lord together but sometimes one or another breaks the flow and it effects everyone.

Elisha performed another miracle similar to Jesus feeding the multitudes with just a few loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:17). A man brought Elisha twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain. And he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat." His attendant said, “What,  will I set this before a hundred men?” But Elisha said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ ” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord (2ki 4:42-44).  

Elisha even healed the enemy. Naaman was a captain of the army of the king of Aram and a great and respected warrior but he was a leper. An Israeli servant to Naaman’s wife told them of a prophet in Samaria who could do miracle healings. Naaman sent a letter to the King of Israel seeking to be cured of his leprosy. The King laughed and said “How am I going to cure this man?” When Elisha heard that the king of Israel was in distress because of this letter he sent word to the king, saying, “Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. Now the River Jordon was a muddy undesirable place, certainly no place for a great man like Naaman to be washing. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So Naanam went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean (2Ki 5:1-14).  

Naaman was so grateful he returned to Elisha with gifts in appreciation. Elisha said: “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused” (2Ki 5:16). Elisha told him to go in peace. But Elisha’s servant Gehezi ran after Naaman thinking “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. I will run after him and take something from him.” (2Ki 5:20). So he approached Naaman and cunningly said” All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘two young men have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.’ ”Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes and gave them to [Gehazi].

He returned and stood before Elisha and the following occurred: “Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” Then he said to him, “Did not my heart [spirit] go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? “Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So Gehazi went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2Ki 5:20-27). This illustrates a spiritual principle. When you receive something from someone that is not the will of the Lord you from an improper bond with that person and that person then, however subtle, has a bit of control over your life that can rise up and defeat your spiritual walk with God.  
Elisha continued to perform miracles. Now the sons of the prophets decided to build new quarters for their meetings. “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us” (2Ki 6:1). So they went to the Jordon and cut down trees for the building. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head [made of iron] fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.” Elisha said “Where did it fall?” And when he showed him the place, Elisha cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron float” (2Ki 6:2-7).  

Probably the most prolific of Elisha’s miracles involved the army of Aram. The king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, “In such and such a place shall be my camp." Elisha sent word to the king of Israel saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.” This happened a couple of more times that Elijah seemed to know the plans of the King of Aram. Each time Israel took his advice and avoided those places. The heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?” [in other words is there a spy in our midst]. One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” So the King ascertained where Elisha was and sent his entire army after him to kill him.
 
Now when Elisha’s attendant had risen early and gone out he saw an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to Elisha “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elisha answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” The Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of  horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Elijah had been able to see in the spirit realm the reality of the situation that the young man could not see.

When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike the enemy with blindness. So the Lord struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Then, while they were in a confused state, Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria, right into the capitol city of Israel. When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O  Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. One can imagine their shock of being led right into the enemies camp! “When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” Elisha answered “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel” (entire story 2Ki 6:8-23).

This story illustrates that it is all a matter of perception. Elisha’s perception was so keen he could discern the King’s battle plans while the King was in his bedroom. Even though the King sent an entire army after this one man Elisha saw that the hosts of the Lord greatly outnumbered the forces in the natural realm. Elisha was able to open his servant’s eyes so he could also see. They Elisha entirely confused the enemy with blindness and was able to lead them into Israel’s capitol city. They were duped so entirely that they never came near Israel again without a drop of blood being spilled.

Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and besieged Samaria. There was a great famine in Samaria; they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab [kab, one quart] of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. Finally the people resorted to cannibalism. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” And the king said to her, “What is the matter with you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ “So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” The King was very upset but could do nothing (2Ki 6:24-33).

Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Then Elisha said, “Listen to the word of the Lord; thus says the Lord, ‘Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.’ ” In other words the siege will be over. The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God stating that this result is impossible essentially expressing his unbelief. Elisha responded to the man’s negativity by saying “Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it.” (2Ki 7:1-2).

Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate of the city, subject to the same siege condition as everyone in the city. They said to one another, “Why do we sit here until we die? They said we should enter the city,’ then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.” So they proceeded to go to the camp of the Arameans but when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans there was no one there. For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses that sounded like a great army so that the Arameans believed the king of Israel had hired against them us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon them. Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses as they were and fled for their life (2Ki 7:3-8).
   
When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them. Then they decided what they were doing was wrong and that they should notify the King that the enemy was gone. So they called to the gatekeepers of the city, and they told them what they had discovered. The gatekeepers told it within the king’s household. But the King was suspicious that the Arameans had left the camp to hide somewhere else and ambush the Israelites if they came into camp. So the King sent spies to the enemy camp to assess the situation (2Ki 7:9-14).     

So they went to the camp and found the clothes and equipment which the Arameans had thrown away in their haste, as related by the four lepers. Then the messengers returned and told the king. So the people plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord by Elisha. The king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said. previously. The man’s unbelief had condemned him to death because he did not believe the word of Elisha (2Ki 7:15-20).

Elisha came to Damascus. Ben-hadad king of Aram was sick, and it was told him “The man of God has come here.” The king said to Hazael his servant to take a gift and go to meet the man of God, and inquire whether ‘I will I recover from this sickness?’ ”So Hazael went to meet Elisha with lavish gifts including every kind of good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ loads; and he said, “Your son Ben-hadad king of Aram has sent me to you, saying, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’ ”Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You [Hazael] will surely recover,’ but the  Lord has shown me that he [Ben-haddad] will certainly die." Elisha fixed his gaze steadily on Hazael and  the man of God wept. Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” Elisha answered “Because  I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up." Then Hazael said, “But what is your servant,  who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” And Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you will be king over Aram." So he departed from Elisha and returned to his master the King who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he lied to him and said “He told me that  you would surely recover." On the following day, Hazael took a cloth and smothered the King and thus Hazael became king in his place (2Ki 8:7-15).

Joram the son of Ahab became king of Israel and Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat became ruler of  Judah, congruent with his father Jehoshaphat. Jehoram  reigned five years with Jehoshaphat and eight years on his own. He walked in the way of Ahab, and the other wicked Kings of Israel, even taking the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel for his wife. Jehoram’s ungodly wife Ahab’s daughter had a greater influence that his righteous father causing to do wickedness. However, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a LAMP to him through his sons always. Under Jehoram’s reign Edom, who had been conquered by Jehoshapat, revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves. Judah’s King attacked them but his army fled before the Edomites who remained free. Then Joram crossed over to Zair, and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck the Edomites who had surrounded him and the captains of the chariots; but his army fled to their tents. So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah [a station of the Israelites revolted at the same time (Ki 8:16-23).

In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. ( 2Ki 8:25). Then he went with Joram the son of Ahab to war against  Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth-gilead, and the Arameans wounded Joram. So King Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which had been inflicted on him.

Elisha set about to anoint Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat as King of Israel. His purpose was to strike and eliminate the wicked house of Ahab. So he sent a servant with a flask of oil for which to anoint Jehu. His instructions to Jehu were: “You shall strike the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel. ‘For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and  I will cut off from Ahab every male person both bond and free in Israel. ‘I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.’ ” (2Ki 9:7-10). So the servant did as Elisha said and anointed Jehu King (2Ki 9:1-13).

So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. Now Joram with all Israel was defending Ramoth-gilead against Hazael king of Aram, but  King Joram [Jehoram] had returned to Jezreel to be healed of the wounds afflicted by the Arameans. Then Jehu rode in a chariot and went to Jezreel, for Joram was lying there wounded. Ahaziah king of Judah had come down to see Joram. The watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel and he saw the company of Jehu as he came, and said, “I see a company.” And Joram said, “Take a horseman and send him to meet them and let him say, ‘Is it peace?’ ”So a horseman went to meet him and said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?’ ” And Jehu said, “What have you to do with peace? Turn behind me. This again Jehu rejected any peace with the house of Ahab.  The watchman reported to Joam “He [Jehu] came even to them, and he did not return; and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously” (2Ki 9:14-26)

Jehu, who was a mighty warrior before the Lord, made his chariot ready and went to meet Joram. When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And he answered, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” As Joram tried to flee Jehu drew his bow with his full strength and shot Joram between his arms; and the arrow went through his heart and he sank in his chariot dead Jehu had his body cast on a field named Naboth which settled an old feud between Jehu, God and Joram in that God had promised Joriam this land [God didn’t say dead or alive] (2Ki 21:1, 19). When Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled. And Jehu pursued him and said, “Shoot him too, in the chariot.” So they shot him at the ascent of Gur, which is at Ibleam, a town of Manassah. But he fled to Har-Megiddo and died there (2Ki 9:27-32)

When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window. As Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?" Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” And two or three officials looked down at him. He [Jehu] said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot. When he came in, he ate and drank he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Jehu said “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; (1Ki 21:23) and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.” (2Ki 9:33-37)
 

HISTORY OF JUDAH AFTER EXILE
THE BOOK OF EZRA
ISRAEL RELEASED-TEMPLE REBUILT

 

As previously noted, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah. He carried away the people into exile in Babylon. He took all of the treasures of the temple and burned the temple. He completely laid waste the land of Judah. He captured the Kings and priests and brought them to Babylon along with the valuable articles of Judah and the house of the Lord. The people were then subjected to harsh exile in Babylon for the next seventy years.

God had previously promised through the prophet Jeremiah that Judah’s exile in Babylon would last 70 years. Jeremiah said: “This whole land [Judah] will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the Lord, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation. “I will bring upon that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations” (Jeremiah 25:11-13). “For thus says the Lord, ‘When  seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10). “Those who had escaped from the sword he  carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete” (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).

It came about that the Kingdom of Persia’ through Cyrus their King, conquered Babylon. God said he used Cyrus to do His will in order to restore Judah to the people. The Lord called Cyrus His servant. The Lord said this about Cyrus through Isaiah the prophet: “Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:… “For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;” (Isaiah 45:1, 4-5).

The nation of Persia conquered most of the known world at that time. It was the policy of King Cyrus to preserve the cultures of the nations he conquered and many times he conquered without bloodshed. Thus when Cyrus became King in Babylon his first proclamation was to restore the Israelites (Judeans) to their land as follows: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and  He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. ‘Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. ‘Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:1-4).  

God stirred the spirits of the heads of households of Judah and Benjamin [Benjamin was also exiled along with Judah by Babylon] and the priests and the Levites to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. The house had been destroyed by Babylon. King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put it in a safe place. The articles included articles of silver, gold, cattle and other goods and valuables.  All the articles of gold and silver numbered 5,400. Sheshbazzar brought them all up with the exiles who went up from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:5-11).

Chapter 2  lists the people who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city (Ezra 2:2-35). Verses 36-60 lists the priests and Levites returning to Judah. Some priests were not allowed to return to full priesthood unless and until they could prove their genealogy. They were not considered full priests until they could wear the full priestly garments which included the Urim and Thummim (a device used in some cases to determine the will of the Lord). The whole assembly numbered 42,360, besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337; and they had 200 singing men and women (Ezra 2:64-65). The herds, flocks and all animals were counted as well (Ezra 2:66-67).

In Chapter 3 animal sacrifices were restored. The Israelites built an altar for that purpose and for the first time in 70 years the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) was celebrated complete with sacrifices. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid. Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and food, drink and oil to the Sidonians and to the Tyrians, to bring cedar wood from Lebanon to the sea at Joppa, [for the temple] according to the permission they had from Cyrus king of Persia.

The restoration of the temple began in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month. Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the Lord (Ezra 3:8). When the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel. They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid (Ezra 3:8-11).

Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy. They wept because the glory of the Lord that was present in the first temple was inferior to the glory present in this second temple. They were anticipating the glory of this house to exceed the former as Haggai had prophesied: “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give  peace,’ declares the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9). But the glory of this latter house did not do so (Ezra 3:12-13). Haggai was actually speaking of the great spiritual temple to be brought forth in the Kingdom of God to come.

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God;  and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” (Ezra 4:1-20. The enemies of Judah and Benjamin refer to the people living in what were formerly the 10 northern tribes of Israel [Palestine] since the time of the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 b.c. The Assyrian Empire, which conquered the 10 Northern tribes, deported some of the people away to Assyria and brought in other peoples to that area to intermarry (2 Kings 17:23-24). This tactic prevented strong nationalistic uprisings in the conquered lands.

These enemies used two methods of opposition to try to keep the temple from being built. First they offered to help in the construction process, thereby hoping to infiltrate the ranks and sidetrack the building project. When that did not work, they frightened the builders (perhaps with threats on their lives) and even hired counselors to frustrate them (vv. 4-5). The ”enemies“ (called ”the peoples around them,“ Ezra 4:4) were the descendants of these mixed peoples and the forefathers of the New Testament Samaritans. These people in Ezra’s day claimed that they worshiped the same God, that is, Yahweh, the God of Israel. But they had a syncretistic form of worship; they worshiped both Yahweh and other gods (2 Kings 17:29, 32-34, 41). Therefore their statement (Ezra 4:2) was not fully accurate and was apparently made to mislead the leadership of the returned band. In verse 2, the reference to “Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who brought us here”, was the Assyrian monarch who aggressively pursued the policy of partial deportation and to whose reign these enemies could trace their ancestry in Palestine. Judah and Benjamin’s enemies were also appealing on the basis of the fact that they, like the Jews, were a ”displaced people,“ having been brought in from the outside. In a sense they were downplaying the nation of Israel’s ”roots“ in the land.

Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.” Then the “enemies” discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia (Ezra 4:3-5). Now in the reign of Ahasuerus [Xerxes], in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes, they wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter said: “To King Artaxerxes: Your servants, the men in the region beyond the River, and now let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem; they are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. “Now let it be known to the king, that if that city is rebuilt and the walls are finished, they will not pay tribute, custom or toll, and it will damage the revenue of the kings. “Now because we are in the service of the palace, and it is not fitting for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore we have sent and informed the king, so that a search may be made in the record books of your fathers. And you will discover in the record books and learn that that city is a rebellious city and damaging to kings and provinces, and that they have incited revolt within it in past days; therefore that city was laid waste. “We inform the king that if that city is rebuilt and the walls finished, as a result you will have no possession in the province beyond the River” (Ezra 4:11-16).

Upon receipt of the letter the King issued a decree that all work stop on the temple. As soon as the “enemies” received the decree they traveled to Jerusalem and physically stopped the work on the temple by force. The work officially ceased until the reign of Darius King of Persia. (Ezra 4:17-44). The priests however continued the work until they had heard from Darius himself. At that time Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, [Euphrates] and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them and demanded to know “Who issued you a decree to rebuild this temple and to finish this structure?” (Ezra 5:3). The priests told the governor that they had received permission from Cyrus to rebuild the temple. They asked the authorities to search the official records and find the decree of Cyrus authorizing the work (Ezra 5:17).

Darius searched the records and found Cyrus’ decree and made the following proclamation: “Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. “Moreover, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of this house of God: the full cost is to be paid to these people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the River [the enemies], and that without delay. “Whatever is needed, both young bulls, rams, and lambs for a burnt offering to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and anointing oil, as the priests in Jerusalem request, it is to be given to them daily without fail, that they may offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. “And I issued a decree that any man who violates this edict, a timber shall be drawn from his house and he shall be impaled on it and his house shall be made a refuse heap on account of this. “May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempt to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!” (Ezra 6:7-12).

Then Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues [the enemies] carried out the decree with all diligence, just as King Darius had sent. And the elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 6:13-14).  The temple was completed and all Israel celebrated. They observed the Passover and the Feast of unleavened Bread as commanded them by the Law of Moses (Ezra 6:19-22).

Ezra himself then journey from former Babylon to Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a decree that any of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my kingdom who are willing to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. “Forasmuch as you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God which is in your hand, and to bring the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, with all the silver and gold which you find in the whole province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and of the priests, who offered willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem; with this money, therefore, you shall diligently buy bulls, rams and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings and offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem”. “Whatever seems good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do according to the will of your God (Ezra 7:11-26). He also ordered the northern kingdom to give them what they needed. He ordered that no tax be imposed on the house of God or any of the workers there. He closed with: “You, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God which is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges that they may judge all the people who are in the province beyond the River, even all those who know the laws of your God; and you may teach anyone who is ignorant of them. “Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed upon him strictly, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of goods or for imprisonment.” (Ezra 7:25-26). Ezra thanks the Lord for the King’s kindness (v. 27-28).

Ezra set out for Jerusalem with many of the families who had remained in Babylon. They are listed in Ezra 8:1-14). Ezra also sent for the Levites, priests and temple servants for the operation of the temple (Ezra 8:15-20). Ezra then proclaimed a fast there that all might humble themselves before God to seek from Him a safe journey for the contingent. The group was also carrying valuable temple treasures with them. Instead of asking for military support for the journey Ezra choose to rely on the protection of the Lord (vs. 8:21-22). Then, in Ezra’s words: “Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way. Thus we came to Jerusalem and remained there three days” (Ezra 8:31-32). On the fourth day the treasures of the Lord were counted and placed in the temple (vs. 8:33-36).

The priests reported to Ezra that the people of Israel and the priests and the Levites had not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, [pagan nations] those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites. “For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness” (Ezra 9:1-2). Of course this was strictly against the Laws of God spoken through Moses as God had originally prohibited any contact with the surrounding nations in order to keep the Israelites a pure people.

Ezra was devastated by this revelation and cried out to the Lord for forgiveness for the people. He said: “Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt, and on account of our iniquities we, our kings and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity and to plunder and to open shame, as it is this day. “But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. “For we are slaves; yet in our bondage our God has not forsaken us, but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. “Now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments” (Ezra 9:7-10).  

“Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself  before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly. Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. “So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of  those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act” (Ezra 10:1-4).  

So Ezra assembled all the Israelites together and said: “You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel. “Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” Then all the assembly replied with a loud voice, “That’s right! As you have said, so it is our duty to do” (Ezra 10:10-12). So one by one the interracially married couples appeared before the priests and made themselves right before the Lord by separating from their intermingling as Ezra had commanded. The list of offenders who put away their foreign wives are listed in Ezra 10:18-44).

So as God had promised their exile had been 70 years and after that time they were restored to their land the pure people God had envisioned from the start. Yet they did not always remain the free people they were on that day and were subsequently conquered by the Macedonians under Alexander, his sons and eventually the Romans wiped out the entire civilization in 70 C.E. (A.D.)
 


HISTORY OF JUDAH AFTER EXILE
THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH
JUDAH FULLY RESTORED TO THEIR LAND

 

Nehemiah was one of the exiles taken by Babylon. When Persia conquered Babylon he became the cupbearer to the King of Persia Artaxerxes. Nehemiah heard from some of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem that “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” (Neh 1:3). Nehemiah was greatly distressed by this news and sought the Lord earnestly about this condition (Neh 1:4-11). The King noticed that Nehemiah was downcast and asked him what was wrong and what he wanted. Nehemiah said to the king, “Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” Nehemiah said to the King “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it” (Neh 2:5). So the King gave Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem to fulfill his wishes so long as he gave the King a certain date to return. The King prepared the necessary transport papers and an escort to accompany him to the Jerusalem (Neh 2:1-9).

When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah an Ammonite official heard about Nehemiah’s vision it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel (Neh 2:10). These were officials from cities (Beth-Horon and Ammon) which were near Jerusalem. Perhaps they had planned to take control of Judah and Jerusalem themselves and thought it to be an easy job with the City walls torn down. Sanballet was called the governor of Samaria and these men were among the people who originally tried to prevent the rebuilding of the temple.

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and secretly performed a careful inspection of the walls to determine what was needed for the task. He told the officials of Jerusalem the extent of the situation: “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach." I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work” (Neh 2:17-18). But when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked and said, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Nehemiah answered them and said to them, “The God of Heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem” (Neh  2:19-20).

Chapter 3 names the persons who set about to rebuild the walls and their areas of responsibility. When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews saying things like “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” Tobiah said, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!” (Neh 4:1-3). And  when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in the building of the city wall (Neh 4:7-8). Yet the threats and ridicule did not stop the work on the walls because Nehemiah knew he had a word from God to do this as well as the permission of the King of Persia.

Israel became discouraged when they heard the threats of the enemies and saw the great amount of work that remained to be done. They feared being attacked by the enemy, who could come up from all sides at any time. So Nehemiah stationed guards at the likely points of enemy attack. Seeing the people were still afraid he said to them: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses” (Neh 4:14). When our enemies heard that, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all the men returned to the wall, each one to his work. From that day on, half of the servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood by.  Nehemiah said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. “At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” So they carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. Nehemiah also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” (Neh 4:15-23). So the people built and battled, as the need be, and the wall slowly became adequately repaired, spurred on by Nehemiah and the Word of the Lord.
 
For Nehemiah, in addition to the opposition from those outside the Jewish camp, had to deal with an internal problem concerning the Jewish people. First, the people face a food shortage as they needed  grain for food to keep themselves and their families alive (v. 2). The work on the wall hindered their tending their crops with the result being crop failure, the same as in a famine. If they needed grain they had to mortgage their fields and homes to borrow money from others to obtain it. (v. 3). Those who did not want to mortgage their farms, had to borrow money from their Jewish brothers to pay property taxes to King Artaxerxes (v. 4). This problem was compounded by the fact that they were charged exorbitant interest rates by their own Jewish brothers on the loans. Also in some cases families had to sell their children into slavery to pay their debts. Nehemiah was deeply angered that some Jews were taking advantage of other Jews, especially the nobles and officials who had the most to give. Nehemiah had to quell his anger and take action with regard to this serious problem (Neh 5:1-6).

Nehemiah  consulted with the nobles and the rulers and accused them of exacting too much interest on their loans to the needy Jewish (called usury). He said to them, “We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations and now you are putting them back into slavery again”.  Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. “The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? “And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury. “Please, give back to them [the Jewish people] this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them” (Neh 5:7-11). The people responded they would do everything Nehemiah said (Neh 5:12-13).

Nehemiah was a man of God and so conducted himself in all his affairs. He gave food and money to people who needed it and demanded nothing back. He was made Governor of Judah, the capacity in which he now served. He refused to take his rightly benefit of a food allowance from Persia. He fed his quests from the available food in Judah. Other Governors had taken the food allowance and actually charged the Jewish people for it. Nehemiah’s reverence for God kept him from placing any heartless burdens on his fellow Jews. The cost to supply one ox, six sheep, and some poultry daily was no doubt great. Even so, Nehemiah willingly bore the cost “out of his own pocket“ rather than place heavy demands on the people (Neh 5:14-19).

When it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that Nehemiah had rebuilt the wall, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to him, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were secretly planning to harm him. So he sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Four more similar messages were sent and ignored. Then Sanballat sent his servant to Nehemiah me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. “You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.” Nehemiah sent back a message that the accusations were false and an “invention of their mind”. Nehemiah realized these were empty threats and despite false counsel by others to hide in the temple, he continued as he had before the letters. Nehemiah said “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” He trusted God. He prayed: “Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me” (Neh 6:1-14).

The walls were completed  in 52 days. The project began in the last few days of July and continued through August and into September. The previous November-December (Kislev) was when Nehemiah first heard about the problem (1:1), and in March-April (Nisan) he presented his plan to the king (2:1). As stated earlier, the trip to Jerusalem took two or three months (April or May to June or July), as long as or longer than the building program itself. The enemies’ self-confidence dissipated as they saw that the work was done with God’s help. They realized that by opposing Nehemiah they were opposing God and were fighting a losing battle (Neh 6:15-19).

By Chapter Seven the walls were totally rebuilt and the doors (gates) installed. Nehemiah said to the guards stationed at the gates: “Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot, and while they are standing guard, let them shut and bolt the doors. Also appoint guards from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, each at his post, and each in front of his own house.” (v. 7:3). Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few and the houses were not built. The rest of Chapter 7 is a genealogy of all the people who had come up from Babylon after being liberated by Persia and had helped build the temple and the wall. (Neh 7:5-73). This list also contained the material goods brought back from captivity.

“And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law” (Neh 8:1-3). It had apparently been centuries since the Law of God had been presented to the people as it was now, after all the trials and tribulations.  

They also celebrated the Feast of Booths as set forth by Moses in the Law (Leviticus 23). They all collected branches and made booths and lived in them seven days as set forth therein. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. Ezra continued reading and teaching the Law to the people during this time. (Neh 8:13-18). “On the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While  they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God” (Neh 9:1-3). Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah, said, “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever!” And they made a long praise of thanksgiving to the Lord (Neh 9:5-37).

Because of all this the people made a covenant in writing to the Lord  and on the sealed document are the names of the leaders, Levites and priests.” The signers are identified in Chapter 10:1-27). The obligations of the covenant were lengthy but began as follows: “Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding, are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of God our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; (Neh 10:28-29; see vs. 30-39 for the rest of the covenant promised by the people).  

The leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities. And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem (Neh 11:1-2). The Chapter goes on to name those who remained in Jerusalem (Neh 11:3-19).  Neh 10:20-36 gives the names of those who lived outside. Chapter 12 names those the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra (Neh 12:2-21).  The Levites, the heads of fathers’ households were registered in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan and Jaddua were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian (Neh 12:22-26). The people celebrated the dedication of the completed wall (Neh 12:27-30). The people and priests set the worship procedures for the temple (Neh 12:31-47).

“On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, because they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam" (Numbers 22:3-11) against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. So when they heard the law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel” (Neh 13:1-3).   Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to  Tobiah, [the former enemy of Judah] had prepared a large room for him to live (Neh 13:4-5). When Nehemiah returned from Persia and found out about this evil done he threw Tobiah, his family and his belongings out of the temple.

Nehemiah also discovered that the support was not being provided to the Levites [as required by the Law; Deut. 12:19] so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field leaving the temple unattended.  Nehemiah  reprimanded the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” Then I gathered them [the Levites] together and restored them to their posts and set up procedures for them to be paid. Remember the Law of Moses left the Levites without land of their own as they were to be supported by the other tribes. All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses of the temple for the Levites priests of the temple (Neh 13:10-14).  

In those days in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and doing other work on the Sabbath prohibited by the Law of Moses. Nehemiah reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the Sabbath day? “Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath” Nehemiah instituted procedures wherein the Sabbath would be observed correctly (Neh 13:15-22).

The problem of mixed marriages with surrounding nations reared its head again, even after Ezra had prohibited such conduct when he arrived in Jerusalem. So Nehemiah contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves." Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? [1 Kings 11:1] Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and  he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin. “Do we then hear about you that you have committed all this great evil by acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign women?” So Nehemiah drove away the transgressors from their midst (Neh 13:23-31).

What you have just read is no less than a miracle of God. It was the fulfillment of His promise that He would restore Israel (Judah) to their land after the 70 year exile had passed. He did more than restore them. He reintroduced them to the Law of Moses to which they had not been exposed for centuries. Through Nehemiah and Ezra the Law was restored to the land and once again the people were shown God’s favor.


HISTORY OF JUDAH AFTER EXILE
THE BOOK OF ESTHER
ESTHER SAVES THE JEWS FROM DESTRUCTION


The events described in Esther took place in the days of the Persian King Ahasuerus, who reigned from Persian provinces in India and Ethiopia, over 127 provinces in all. King Ahasuerus is better known as King Xerxes (the Greek form of his name). He was the third King to rule Persia after Cyrus and Darius. In those days he sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in Susa, known as the city of lilies. The city was known for its expansive gardens and other architecture constructed by the Persians during their world domination.  

In the third year of his reign Xerxes he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces. Persia had developed magnificent architectural achievements and Xerxes wanted to show off the magnificent gardens and structures in Susa. He displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for 180 days. In the castle there were hangings of fine white and violet linen held by cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns, and couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels of various kinds, and the royal wine was plentiful according to the king’s bounty (Es 1:1-8). Queen Vasthi also held her own celebration during this time.

The King ordered Queen Vasthi to come to his celebration but she refused. This angered the King and the result was he set about to find a Queen to replace her. The King ordered all the suitable virgins in the province to be brought before him so he could choose a queen from among them. There was a colony of Jews who lived near Susa. Their leader was a Benjamite, from the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai. Mordecai suggested that Esther, a young virgin, who he considered to be his daughter (her Father and Mother had died) to join in the competition for Queen (Es 1:10-22, 2:1-7).

 It came about when the command and decree of the king was heard many young ladies gathered to the citadel of Susa. Esther was taken to the king’s palace in the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. Esther pleased the King and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king’s palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known since it was not clear how the people would regard her position, her being a Jew.  She was taken to the primary harem and prepared for a meeting with the King. When months had passed she met the King and he was pleased with her. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti (Es. 2:17).  

Mordecai, though a Jew, was respected by the King and had access to the King’s courts. While in that position he was able to observe Esther to see that no harm come to her. While Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s officials from those who guarded the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). But the plot became known to Mordecai and he told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. Now when the plot was investigated and found to be so, both men were both hanged on a gallows (Es. 2:21-23). So Mordecai saved the King’s life.

After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha an Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him (Es 3:1). Haman was an Agagite and in his heritage there was a hatred of the Jews. This hatred goes back to the days of Samuel. Agag was a King of the Amalekites whom Saul defeated in battle. King Agag was captured alive, contrary to the orders of Samuel to leave no one alive and take no spoil from the battle. When Samuel found out Saul had allowed Agag to live, he hacked Agag to pieces in front of the people (1Sa 15:8-33). It can be assumed that this resentment carried down through the ages and engendered the hate in Haman for Jews.

 All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage (Es 3:2). This caused consternation among the Persian peoples including Haman and Haman plotted to do harm to the Jews. Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom;  their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. “If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.” Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. Letters were sent by  couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder (Es 3:8-10, 13).

When Mordecai and the Jews found out about this plan, they were much distressed and went about in sackcloth and ashes. When Esther found out, she fully investigated the matter and learned all that had happened. She realized she was the only one who could remedy the situation, although it would put her in great personal jeopardy. At this time Queen Esther resided in the harem and did not see the King unless she was called for. She was not allowed to see him at her own initiative. If she desired to see the King without being called she faced death. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live” (Es 4:11). “Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Es 4:13-14).

Then Esther replied to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Es 4:15-16). So Esther appeared before the King and the King extended his scepter indicating Esther had found his favor.  “Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request?  Esther said, “If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.” So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared”. As they drank their wine at the banquet, the King said to Esther, “What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you". And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” So Esther replied, “My petition and my request is: if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says” (Es 5:3-8).

Haman left the banquet and went home and bragged about his new position and all the riches that would come his way because of this. He even bragged that he had been invited to the banquet by the Queen herself. Then he said: “Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully with the king to the banquet.” And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made” (Es 5:13-14).

The King was troubled that night and he had books of records brought to him and discovered that Mordecai had not been honored for revealing and thwarting the plot on the King’s life. The King decided to honor Mordecai. So the King called Haman to him and instructed him  “let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and  the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.’ ” (Es 6:4-9). So the King ordered Haman to do all these things for Mordecai, which he did. With his head held low, Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.” (Es 6:10-14). Haman returned to the banquet.

The king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. The King again inquired of Esther what her petition and request was. Then Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we [ the Jews] have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?” Esther said, “A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!” Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen” (Es 7:3-6).  

The king arose in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm had been determined against him by the king. Now when the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they were drinking wine, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. Then the King said, “Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?” As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who were before the king said, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” And the king said, “Hang him on it.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai,  and the king’s anger subsided” (Es 7:7-10).

After the hanging of Haman, the King promoted Mordecai. The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman (Es 8:2). The signet ring represented the authority of the King wherever it was used.

Then Esther appeared before the King again with a request. She implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews to destroy them. The King told Esther that he could not revoke the previous order he made at the behest of Haman because any order sealed with the signet ring could not be abrogated. However he said the following: “Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring”. In it the Jews were given the right to defend themselves if and whenever they were attacked. The letter was sent to all 127 provinces and it: granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil”, (Es 8:8-17).

So the Jews went through all the provinces and confronted all those who meant them harm. Most of the provinces did not fight them because the King had shown favor to Mordecai and to the Jews and great dread fell on them toward the Jews. However the Jews conquered all the men who meant them harm in the provinces but took no spoil. They also captured Haman’s 10 sons and hung them on gallows. The rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces  assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.  

Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies. He said it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor (Es 9:20-23).

Haman in his scheme to destroy the Jews had cast “pur” against them. “Pur” involved the casting of lots and consultation with astrologers to determine the best time to annihilate the Jews. But the Jews turned the “pur” into a perpetual celebration which they called Pur-im (Purim). It is to this day a day of rejoicing for the Jews (9:20-32). Queen Esther established the customs of the feasts and notified Jews everywhere. Mordecai the Jew was made second only to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen. He was one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation (Es 10:1-3). But it was Esther who risked her life twice by appearing uninvited before the King who had the power to kill her for this illegal action. Once again God had intervened on behalf of His people.
  

EPILOG
 
BRIEF HISTORY OF JUDAH FOLLOWING PERSIA


The history of Judah following the rule of Persia is not contained in the widely accepted versions of the Bible although books of the Apocrypha, mainly 1 & 2 Maccabees record Judah’s revolt against the Seleucids (Syria). The period of time between Nehemiah and Roman occupation portrays Judah being ruled by several countries, finally the Romans who totally destroyed the Jews in 70 A.D.

Alexander conquered Persia and most of the known world including Egypt and Judah in 330 B.C. This introduced Greek culture to Judah. When Alexander died the land he had conquered was divided between his 4 sons. The two sons of whom we are concerned are Ptolemy and Seleucid. Ptolemy ruled Egypt and Seleucid ruled Syria. This is called the Hellenistic period, the time when the Greek culture influenced Judah. For the years ahead, Israel's rule would go back and forth between the battling Ptolemy’s (Egypt) and the Seleucids (Syria). Finally, the battle between the Ptolemy’s and the Seleucids started to be resolved. About the year 200 B.C., a Seleucid king, Antiochus III, came to power in Syria. He conquered Jerusalem from the Ptolemy’s. The Ptolemy family continued to rule Egypt, Cleopatra being the last “Pharaoh” of Egypt, which was eventually conquered by the Romans.

Antiochus III, a Seleucid King ruled Judah. When he died his son, Antiochus IV became King and took control of Jerusalem. The first thing he did was to depose the Jewish high priest. That action broke the line of royal priestly succession that had begun with Aaron (Moses' brother) and had continued for 1,200 years. Antiochus appointed a high priest based on the highest bidder. Antiochus essentially abolished practice of the Jewish religion at that time.

Mattathias (descendent of the high priest Aaron) and his five sons refused Antiochus' officers to forsake the law and they openly resisted. After escaping to the mountains, they gathered a band of patriots who also were willing to wage a revolt against the occupying power, the Seleucids (Syria). After the death of Mattathias, his son, Judas Maccabaeus [who was in line to be the next high priest] became the leader. Though the Maccabees (meaning, "hammer") were a small, untrained army that was always outnumbered by superior occupation troops, they crushed Syria. The Maccabees captured and liberated Jerusalem and the Temple; their aim of the Jewish rebellion had been achieved.

The Maccabees cleansed and repaired the Temple. They built a new altar and restored the furnishings. The incense burner was filled with incense, and they attempted to light the menorah (a seven-branched lamp stand) but the priests had only enough oil to burn in the lamps for one day, and it would take another eight days before new oil could be readied for use. Though they only had one day's worth of oil, they distributed it and lit the menorah lamps. Amazingly enough, the lamps burned for an additional seven days until the new oil was prepared. This was considered a miracle of God. The Temple functions were restored and the sons of Israel had an eight-day rededication of the Temple, called the Feast of Dedication on December 25, 165 B.C. This Feast became known as Hanukkah meaning dedication, still celebrated by Jews today.

Even though the Maccabees had endured a time of great warfare, and had conquered the Seleucids (Syria) and driven out Antiochus and restored the Temple, there was still war, or a continual threat of war, with the Seleucids. The Maccabees recognized their need for some kind of security, because they knew they could not sustain the fighting. After reviewing their situation, they looked to the western horizon at a new, non-allying power in Europe, the Romans. The Maccabees approached the Romans and signed a treaty with them that Rome was to come into the Land if Syria attacked Judah. This so much as guaranteed Roman occupation of Judah which they accomplished by deception.
 
Judah of course chaffed under the rulership of Rome and revolted continually. They were governed by Herrod and his son, tyrannical leaders. It was into this Roman leadership that Jesus Christ was born and ministered. Finally, in 70 A.D. Rome sent a division and sacked Judah completely, burning the temple and scattering the survivors. Israel was not a nation again until 1048.

 

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