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Contrasting Regions: Northern Israel vs. Southern Judah
When all Israel saw that [King Rehoboam] would not listen to them, the people answered the king, "What share do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Each of you to your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, O David." So all Israel departed to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who were living in the cities of Judah. When King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, the people of Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam hurriedly mounted his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. (2 Chronicles 10:16-19, NRSV)
When all Israel saw that [King Rehoboam] would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and Now David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents. But as for the children of Israel that dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. Then king Rehoboam sent Hadoram that was over the tribute; and the children of Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. But king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. And Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. (2 Chronicles 10:16-19, KJV)
The northern tribes may have resented the favor shown to the tribe of David—they don't get no respect. Is secession really such a bad idea under these circumstances, especially when Rehoboam is working and taxing them to death? Poor Hadaram; nobody loves the tax man.
When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled one hundred eighty thousand chosen troops of the house of Judah and Benjamin to fight against Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam. But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah the man of God: Say to King Rehoboam of Judah, son of Solomon, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, "Thus says the Lord: You shall not go up or fight against your kindred. Let everyone return home, for this thing is from me." So they heeded the word of the Lord and turned back from the expedition against Jeroboam. (2 Chronicles 11:1-4, NRSV)
When Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he gathered of the house of Judah and Benjamin an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against Israel, that he might bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam. But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of me. And they obeyed the words of the Lord, and returned from going against Jeroboam. (2 Chronicles 11:1-4, KJV)
This passage is the Chronicler's way of telling us that the division of the kingdom was God's plan all along. This is one of those rare instances when someone actually listened to a prophet.
There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. Abijah engaged in battle, having an army of valiant warriors, four hundred thousand picked men; and Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with eight hundred thousand picked mighty warriors [… Abjiah] said, "Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel! Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? […] See, God is with us at our head […] O Israelites, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors; for you cannot succeed." […] The Israelites fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hands. Abijah and his army defeated them with great slaughter; five hundred thousand picked men of Israel fell slain. Thus the Israelites were subdued at that time, and the people of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors. (2 Chronicles 13:2-5, 12, 16-18, NRSV)
There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men [… Abjiah] said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel; Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? […] Behold, God himself is with us for our captain […] O children of Israel, fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper […] The children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand. And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men. Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 13:1-5, 12, 16-18, KJV)
We guess God reversed his "you shall not go up or fight against your kindred" stance from two chapters ago. Now it's pretty clear he sides with Judah. After all, they've got the House of David and the Temple in their territory.
Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor; and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab. After some years he went down to Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered an abundance of sheep and oxen for him and for the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. King Ahab of Israel said to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, "Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?" He answered him, "I am with you, my people are your people. We will be with you in the war." (2 Chronicles 18:1-3, NRSV)
Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramothgilead. And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramothgilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war. (2 Chronicles 18:1-3, KJV)
Israel and Judah are finally getting along. They're allies. Their kids have even gotten married. It's all good, right?
Jehu son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord." (2 Chronicles 19:2, NRSV)
Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord. (2 Chronicles 19:2, KJV)
It's not all good. Rehoboam's alliance with Ahab is trumped by God's nixing of the arrangement. God's angry at Rehoboam for forgiving the wickedness of the Northern Kingdom and letting the need for military alliances make him turn a blind eye to all the idolatry up north. But he's not punished this time because of the effort he makes to rid Judah of idolatry. We see God's compassion in the midst of all this punishment.
After this King Jehoshaphat of Judah joined with King Ahaziah of Israel, who did wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish; they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, "Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made." And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish. (2 Chronicles 20:35-37, NRSV)
After this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongaber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish. (2 Chronicles 20:35-37, KJV)
Jehoshaphat isn't learning from experience. He repeats the ill-fated alliance with the Kingdom of Israel. This time God can't let it slide without consequences.
A letter came to him from the prophet Elijah, saying: "Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or in the ways of King Asa of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into unfaithfulness, as the house of Ahab led Israel into unfaithfulness […] the Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions." (2 Chronicles 21:12-14, NRSV)
There came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab […] with a great plague will the Lord smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods. (2 Chronicles 21:12-14, KJV)
King Jehoram started following the idolatrous practices of the northern kingdom, likely because he married another daughter of King Ahab of Israel. Marriages to foreign women even caused trouble for Solomon, although we don't hear too much about it in 1 Chronicles. The Israelite daughters were especially bad influences, apparently.
Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done; for after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his ruin. He even followed their advice, and went with Jehoram son of King Ahab of Israel to make war against King Hazael of Aram at Ramoth-gilead. (2 Chronicles 22:2-5, NRSV)
Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction. He walked also after their counsel, and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramothgilead. (2 Chronicles 22:2-5, KJV)
Remember that marriage pact between Jehoshaphat and Ahab? Here's where it all goes wrong. Ahab's daughter grew up in Israel, so naturally, she's wicked to her core. Now she's in Judah influencing the kings there to turn away from God. Ahab is the poster child for idolatry; his whole family's tainted.
King Joash of Israel went up; he and King Amaziah of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. Judah was defeated by Israel; everyone fled home. King Joash of Israel captured King Amaziah of Judah, son of Joash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh; he brought him to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate, a distance of four hundred cubits. He seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God, and Obed-edom with them; he seized also the treasuries of the king's house, also hostages; then he returned to Samaria. (2 Chronicles 25:21-24, NRSV)
Joash the king of Israel went up; and they saw one another in the face, both he and Amaziah king of Judah, at Bethshemesh, which belongeth to Judah. And Judah was put to the worse before Israel, and they fled every man to his tent. And Joash the king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, at Bethshemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate, four hundred cubits. And he took all the gold and the silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God with Obededom, and the treasures of the king's house, the hostages also and returned to Samaria. (2 Chronicles 25:21-24, KJV)
It's explained in an earlier verse that it was God's doing to have Joash defeat Amaziah because of Amaziah's decision to build altars to pagan gods. You have to wonder about the appeal of these other gods to kings who've been given their throne by Yahweh and still can't stay away from Baal and company. Better parties, maybe?
They decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the passover to the Lord the God of Israel, at Jerusalem; for they had not kept it in great numbers as prescribed. So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his officials, as the king had commanded, saying, "O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria […] For as you return to the Lord, your kindred and your children will find compassion with their captors, and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him." So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun; but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Only a few from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the officials commanded by the word of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 30:5-6, 9-12, NRSV)
So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written. So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria […] For if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him. So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 30:5-6, 9-12, KJV)
This is how far gone the Northern tribes are. Even after being sacked by Assyria, they refuse Hezekiah's peace offering and a chance to get right with God by observing the passover in Judah. To be fair, though, we did hear that Hezekiah's wife's matzah-ball soup was pretty awful.
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