Kings of Israel and Judah & Judah Alone Amid International Powers

There are a lot of wars and a lot of deaths, but it appears that nothing is accomplished.  Again I must say, nothing’s changed. 

If people would stop thinking of themselves and 1 look to You things would be good. 

Azariah
Uzziah, also known as Azariah was a king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, and one of Amaziah’s sons, whom the people appointed to replace his father.

(According to James F. Drsicoll, the second form of his name most likely results from a copyist’s error.)

He is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

Uzziah was sixteen when he became king of Judah and reigned for fifty-two years.

William F. Albright has dated his reign to 783–742 B.C.

Edwin R. Thiele’s chronology has Uzziah becoming coregent with his father Amaziah in 792/791 B.C.

Uzziah was struck with leprosy for disobeying the Lord (2 Kgs 15:5; 2 Chr 26:19-21).

Thiele dates Uzziah’s being struck with leprosy to 751/750 B.C., at which time his son Jotham took over the government, with Uzziah living on until 740/739 B.C.

Pekah became king of Israel in the last year of Uzziah’s reign.

The Catholic Encyclopedia dates his reign from 809-759 B.C.

Kings of Israel and Judah

Azariah, at the age of 16 lived in Jerusalem and began to reign Judah and did so for 52 years, his mother was Jecholia, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, accept he didn’t remove the high places and the people sacrificed and burnt incense there. 

The Lord smote Azariah with leprosy until the day he died, and his son, Jotham, judged the people of the land.  

“And the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kin 15:6).

Azariah was buried in the city of David, and Jothan reigned in his stead.

Zechariah lived in Samaria and reigned for six months, and he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  And Jabesh’s son, Shallum, conspired against and smote him before the people, and then killed him, and reigned instead. 

“And the rest of the acts of Zechariah (not the prophet you will learn about later), and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kin 15:11).

Azariah was buried in the city of David, and Jothan reigned in his stead.

“This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass” (2 Kin 15:12).

Shallum reigned a month in Samaria because Menahem went to Tirzah and then to Samari and killed him and reigned in his stead.

“And the rest of the acts of Shallum, and his conspiracy which he made, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel” (2 Kin 15:15).

Menahem then smote Tiphsah and everyone else that was there and around, and ripped the women that were pregnant.  He reigned for 10 years in Samaria, and was evil in the eyes of God. 

King Pul of Assyria went against Menahem so he gave the king a 1,000 talents of silver.  He also took 50 shekels of silver from all the mighty men to give to the Assyrian king. 

“And the rest of the acts of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” (2 Kin 15:21). 

When Menahem died Pekahiah reigned in his stead and did so for two years, and he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  But Remaliah’s son, Pekah, with Argob, Arieh, and 50 other men of the Gileadites,  conspired against, smote, and killed him in Samaria, and reign in his stead.  

“And the rest of the acts of Pekahiah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israe”l (2 Kin 15:26).

Pekah reigned for 20 years and during this time King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria captured Ijon, Abel-ebth-maachah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali, and took them to Assyria.

Hoshea conspired against Pekah, smote, and killed him, and reigned in his stead. 

“And the rest of the acts of Pekah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel” (2 Kin 1531).

Jotham, at the age of 25, began to reign and he reigned for 16 years in Jerusalem.  His mother was Jerusha.  And he did what was right in the eyes of God, like his father Uzziah had done. 

Menahem, from a Hebrew word meaning “the consoler” or “comforter”, was a king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel.

He was the son of Gadi, and the founder of the dynasty known as the House of Gadi or House of Menahem.

In the Bible
Menahem’s ten year reign is told in 2 Kgs 15:14-22.

When Shallum conspired against and assassinated Zechariah in Samaria, and set himself upon the throne of the northern kingdom, Menahem – who, like Shallum, had served as a captain in Zechariah’s army – refused to recognize the murderous usurper.

Menahem marched from Tirzah to Samaria, about six miles westwards and laid siege to Samaria.

He took the city, murdered Shallum a month into his reign (2 Kgs 15:13), and set himself upon the throne (2 Kgs 15:14).

According to Josephus, he was a general of the army of Israel.

He brutally suppressed a revolt at Tiphsah

He destroyed the city – which has not been located – and put all its inhabitants to death, even ripping open the pregnant women (2 Kgs 15:16).

The Prophet Hosea describes the drunkenness and debauchery implied in the words “he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam.” (2 Kgs 15:18 and Hos 7:1-15).

The author of the Books of Kings describes his rule as one of cruelty and oppression.

The author is apparently synopsizing the “annals of the Kings of Israel”, (2 Kgs 15:21) and gives scant details of Menahem’s reign.

Yet, the high places weren’t torn down and the people sacrificed and burned incense, and he built the higher gate of the house of the Lord.

“Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kin 15:36).  

Eilat (Eloth)
Eilat is the southern resort and port city in Israel.

Nearby, on the Jordanian side, was the location of Eloth, a major ancient city for 3,000 years, which included King Solomon’s sea port of Etzion-Geber.

Jotham died and was buried in the city of David, and his son Ahaz reigned in his stead.

“In those days the LORD began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah” (2 Kin 15:37).

Ahaz, at the age of 20, began to reign and did so for 16 years in Jerusalem, and did evil in the eyes of God, walking in the way of the kings of Israel, and made his son pass through the fire like the heathen’s do. 

He also sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.  Then the king of Syria, Rezin, recovered Elath to Syria and ran the Jews to Elath so the Syrians went to Elath and lived there.

“So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me.

“And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria.

And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.

And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.

And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus.

And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon.

And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar.

And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the Lord, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of the altar.

Andking Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king’s burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire by.

Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded.

Iron Age temple at Arad.
The people had fallen back into idolatry.

A temple at Tel Arad that dates to the time of Hezekiah’s reform .

In the Holy of Holies, they found two incense altars and two tablets, one for Yahweh and the other was for Baal and Asherah.

You can serve only one God – Matt 6:24.

And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon the pavement of stones.

And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king’s entry without, turned he from the house of the Lord for the king of Assyria.

Capital of Moab
Known in the Bible as Kir, Kir Moab, Kir-Heres(eth), and Hereseth, this site (modern Kerak) was the capital city of Moab.

It is situated on an isolated hilltop, with a view in all directions.

The Crusaders recognized the defensible aspect of the site and in 1140 A.D. they made Kerak one of their strongest fortresses in the Middle East.

The remains of the Crusader castle are shown here.

Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?

And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead” (2 Kin 16:7-20).

1 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:25-33).

 

Judah Alone Amid International Powers

King Hezekiah built massive walls around the courtyards.

Hezekiah’s Reform

Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah in these turbulent times.  The date Hezekiah became king is disputed; certain biblical statements permit a date as early as 729 or as late as 715 B.C., the later date is traditionally preferred (715-687 B.C.).

 Unlike his father, Ahaz, Hezekiah steered a course of religious reform and political freedom (2 Chr 29-31). As early as 712 B.C., he contemplated joining a revolt against Assyria led by Ashdod and supported by Shabako of Egypt; however, along with Edom and Moab, Hezekiah pulled back, perhaps cautioned by Isaiah’s warnings against depending upon Egyptian help (Is 20).

Seal of Hezekiah
King Hezekiah owned at least 2 seals, both inscriptions say,

“(Seal) of Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, King (of) Judah” (לחזקיהו אחז מלך יהדה).”

King Hezekiah of Judah is one of the few shining lights in the annals of the kings of Judah and Israel, and one of the most outstanding kings of the tribe of Judah.

He achieved fame both for his exceptional piety and for his vigorous political activities and religious reform (2 Kgs 18-22; Is 36-39; 2 Chr 19-32).

As a result of Ahaz’s abject submission to Assyria, the religious life of the nation had been contaminated by heathen influences.

Isaiah’s early prophecies reveal the superstition, idolatry and spiritual blindness of the people.

From the beginning of his reign Hezekiah sought to put matters right.

The temple was reopened and cleansed from all that made it unfit for use, true worship was re-established, and the ancient covenant between Yahweh and Israel was reaffirmed.

Indeed, numerous Israelites from the north, at the invitation of Hezekiah, attended one of the greatest Pesachs (Passovers) ever since the disruption (2 Chr. 30). Hezekiah’s reformation spread beyond Jerusalem itself and into the countryside of Judah and Benjamin and as far north as Ephraim and Manasseh.

So great was its impact.

He even destroyed the Mosaic bronze serpent that Moses had made because it had become an idolatrous object of veneration.

In spite of all the good he did, Hezekiah had a major weakness, and it was this weakness that caused God to withdraw from him, 2 Chr 32:31.

Gradually Hezekiah strengthened his position by extending his control over cities in the Philistine Plain (2 Kg 18:8).  

Jar handle bearing the Hebrew inscription l’melek (“belonging to the king”).

Next, he carried out a series of religious reforms that eliminate the pagan practices permitted by Ahaz.  

Hezekiah ordered the destruction of high places with their idolatrous symbols (sacred pillars and Asherim [wooden objects sacred to Asherah] cleansed the Jerusalem temple, and celebrated a great Passover (2 Chr 29-31).

Under Hezekiah, Judah became the strongest state in the southern Levant.  

Hezekiah’s Opportunity for Revolt

When Sargon II died in 705 B.C., his successor, Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.), faced revolt in Babylon, once again led by Merodach-baladan.  At some point Hezekiah received in Jerusalem envoys sent from Merodach-baladan, an act intimating an anti-Assyrian conspiracy (2 Kgs 20:12-15).  

That Hezekiah intended rebellion seems clear from the biblical descriptions of the  strengthening of his country’s defenses. 

Hezekiah’s Preparation for War

In Jerusalem, Hezekiah built a massive new wall to fortify the western suburbs of the city, and he secured the city’s water supply by diverting the waters of the Gihon Spring through a 1,700-foot tunnel that led to a pool within the city fortifications (Is 22:8-11; 2 Kgs 20:20; 2 Chr 32:30).  

Hezekiah strengthened the army and apparently provided a supply system of stored goods designed to withstand Assyrian siege. 

N

Nineveh, Iraq
The ancient city of Nineveh is situated just outside Mosul on the east bank of the River Tigris.

Nobody knows exactly when it was inhabited for the first time, but it was a cultural settlement in the 6th millennium B.C., right through Sumerian and Babylonian periods.

In fact, the name of Nineveh is of Sumerian origin.

Nineveh was the 3rd capital of Assyria Empire after Assur and Nimrud, dating from the reign of the great King Sennacherib (704-681 BC) and was one of the most powerful cities of the Middle East: the hub of the civilized ancient World. Its downfall came in 612 BC, when it was sacked by the Medes of Northern Persia whom killed the last great king of Nineveh, Ashurbanipal (669-624 BC).

This city, a beloved of the goddess Ishtar, was ruled by a number of great Assyrian Kings, such as Sargon II (721-705 BC), before he moved to Khorsabad, succeeded by his son Sennacherib who abandoned his father’s new capital and went back to Nineveh, and Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.) and Ashurbanipal, all of whom enlarged and built up the city turning it into a beautiful 700 hectares large city of wide boulevards, large squares, parks, and gardens.

umerous storage-jar fragments stamped with a royal seal, inscribed “belonging (or for) the king” (L’melek in Hebrew), found in excavations in Judah bear four names: Ziph, Socoh, Hebron, and the enigmatic mmsht.  

The first three are Judean towns, while the latter may refer to the governmental offices at Jerusalem.  Perhaps these four names designated regional collection-distribution centers of essential goods – oil, wine, etc.  Goods would be collected in the form of taxes in kind, stored, and then redistributed as needed.

Hezekiah’s Rebellion

With his kingdom properly prepared, Hezekiah rebelled against Sennacherib, provoking an Assyrian response in 701 B.C.  Hezekiah’s actions were part of a larger anti-Assyrian insurrection that included Sidon, Ashkelon, and the citizens of Ekron, who turned their king, Padi, over to Hezekiah.

Sennacherib’s campaign to crush the rebellious vassals is well documented both in biblical and Assyrian texts (2 Kgs 18:13-19:35; Is 36-37; 2 Chr 32:1-23; five whole or fragmentary copies of Sennacherib’s Annals mention the campaign).

Assyrian Attacks on Judah

First, Sennacherib moved against Sidon, replacing its rebellious kings and receiving tribute from subjugated Phoenician cities.  

Next, Sennacherib moved south against Ashkelon and removed its king, Sidqia.  He subdued cities in the northern Philistine Plain (Joppa, Bene-berak, Azor, and Beth-dagon) formerly controlled by Sidqia and then proceeded into the Shephelah. 

Evil Ishtar
The Assyrian and Babylonian counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate northwest Semitic goddess Astarte.

Anunit, Atarsamain and Esther are alternative names for Ishtar.

Ishtar is a goddess of fertility, love, and war.

In the Babylonian pantheon, she “was the divine personification of the planet Venus”.

Ishtar was above all associated with sexuality: her cult involved sacred prostitution; her holy city Erech was called the “town of the sacred courtesans”; and she herself was the “courtesan of the gods”.

Ishtar was the daughter of Sin or Anu.She was particularly worshiped at Nineveh and Arbela (Erbil).

Sennacherib’s annals mention the capture of Ekron and Timnah, both located in the strategic Sorek Valley.  Assyrian pressure forced Hezekiah to release Padi, who was reinstated as king of Ekron.

The villages and towns of the Shephelah were particularly hard hit by the Assyrian invasion. Friezes from Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh depict in graphic detail the siege of Lachish, a key Judean fortress in the Shephelah protecting the approaches to Jerusalem.  

Micah 1:10-16 undoubtedly refers to other towns that suffered a similar fate (Moresheth-gath, Achzib, Gath, and Adullam); Libnah is mentioned in the account of the Rabshakeh’s warnings to the citizens of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 19:8). 

An oracle of Isaiah suggests a northern approach to Jerusalem by elements of the Assyrian army, which threatened the towns and villages of Benjamin (Is 10:28-34). 

Altogether, Sennacherib claims to have destroyed 46 Judean cities, a boast adequately supported by the numerous destruction levels found in the excavation of Judean sites datable close to 700 B.C.