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King Huram of Tyre answered in a letter that he sent to Solomon, "Because the Lord loves his people he has made you king over them." (2 Chronicles 2:11, NRSV)
Huram the king of Tyre answered in writing, which he sent to Solomon, Because the Lord hath loved his people, he hath made thee king over them. (2 Chronicles 2:11, KJV)
Huram knows how to cement an alliance. Not only has he given Solomon materials and men to build the Temple, he tells him that his success is due to God's blessings.
Solomon went to Hamath-zobah, and captured it. He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the storage towns that he built in Hamath. He also built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, fortified cities, with walls, gates, and bars, and Baalath, as well as all Solomon's storage towns, and all the towns for his chariots, the towns for his cavalry, and whatever Solomon desired to build, in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. All the people who were left of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of Israel, from their descendants who were still left in the land, whom the people of Israel had not destroyed—these Solomon conscripted for forced labor, as is still the case today. But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves for his work; they were soldiers, and his officers, the commanders of his chariotry and cavalry. (2 Chronicles 8:3-9, NRSV)
Solomon went to Hamathzobah, and prevailed against it. And he built Tadmor in the wilderness, and all the store cities, which he built in Hamath. Also he built Bethhoron the upper, and Bethhoron the nether, fenced cities, with walls, gates, and bars; And Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had, and all the chariot cities, and the cities of the horsemen, and all that Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and throughout all the land of his dominion. As for all the people that were left of the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not of Israel, But of their children, who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel consumed not, them did Solomon make to pay tribute until this day. But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no servants for his work; but they were men of war, and chief of his captains, and captains of his chariots and horsemen. (2 Chronicles 8:3-9, KJV)
Solomon increases defense spending and manages to find some low cost (or should we say "no cost") labor. The people of Israel get all the benefit and none of the hardship. Way to take care of your constituents… at the expense of foreigners. Compassionate treatment of conquered peoples was not the custom in those days. They were lucky not to be butchered on the spot.
When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions, having a very great retinue and camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she discussed with him all that was on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from Solomon that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba had observed the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, his valets, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit left in her. So she said to the king, "The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes saw it. Not even half of the greatness of your wisdom had been told to me; you far surpass the report that I had heard. Happy are your people! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the Lord your God. Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness." Then she gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones: there were no spices such as those that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. (2 Chronicles 9:1-9, NRSV)
When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a very great company, and camels that bare spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions: and there was nothing hid from Solomon which he told her not. And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cupbearers also and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord; there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom: Howbeit I believed not their words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard. Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee on his throne, to be king for the Lord thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he thee king over them, to do judgment and justice. And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices great abundance, and precious stones: neither was there any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon. (2 Chronicles 9:1-9, KJV)
The rich and sophisticated Queen travels from afar to meet this famously wise king. After he manages to answer all her hardest questions, she's so impressed she gives him even more riches. She also mentions the divine angle in all of Solomon's success. Sheba's visit may not have been a necessary political move (she lived pretty far away for Solomon to be a threat), but it's still always a good idea to impress those people who've managed to get God on their side. Wonder what all that "spice" referred to?
Jeroboam and all Israel came and said to Rehoboam, "Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he placed on us, and we will serve you." […] Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the older men who had attended his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, "How do you advise me to answer this people?" They answered him, "If you will be kind to this people and please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever." But he rejected the advice that the older men gave him […] The young men who had grown up with him said to him, "Thus should you speak to the people who said to you, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but you must lighten it for us'; tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's loins. Now whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'" So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day […] he spoke to them in accordance with the advice of the young men, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions." So the king did not listen to the people. (2 Chronicles 10:3-4, 6-8, 10-12, 14-15, NRSV)
Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore ease thou somewhat the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us, and we will serve thee […] King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men that had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, What counsel give ye me to return answer to this people? And they spake unto him, saying, If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever. But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him […] The young men that were brought up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou answer the people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it somewhat lighter for us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. For whereas my father put a heavy yoke upon you, I will put more to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day […] And answered them after the advice of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add thereto: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. So the king hearkened not unto the people. (2 Chronicles 10:3-15, KJV)
As soon as Rehoboam gets the throne, he decides to establish his reputation by coming down hard on the workers and taxpayers. When the people protest, he ignores the advice of his father's experienced advisers and makes things even harder for the people. Our guess is that Rehoboam's pretty insecure—he's got a hard act to follow. So he has to be a tyrant to convince the people to respect his authoritah.
In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, King Baasha of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, to prevent anyone from going out or coming into the territory of King Asa of Judah. Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king's house, and sent them to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who resided in Damascus, saying, "Let there be an alliance between me and you, like that between my father and your father; I am sending to you silver and gold; go, break your alliance with King Baasha of Israel, so that he may withdraw from me." Ben-hadad listened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtali. When Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and let his work cease. Then King Asa brought all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built up Geba and Mizpah. (2 Chronicles 16:1-6, NRSV)
In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, to the intent that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of the Lord and of the king's house, and sent to Benhadad king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, There is a league between me and thee, as there was between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent thee silver and gold; go, break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. And Benhadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel; and they smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abelmaim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. And it came to pass, when Baasha heard it, that he left off building of Ramah, and let his work cease. Then Asa the king took all Judah; and they carried away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha was building; and he built therewith Geba and Mizpah. (2 Chronicles 16:1-6, KJV)
Now this seems like some smart political maneuvering. King Baasha has basically blocked off roads going in and out of Judah. Asa realizes he can't defeat Israel alone, so he makes a strategic alliance with their neighbors in Aram. Lucky for him, Aram is willing to turn its back on one of its political allies. What he neglected to take into consideration was how God might feel about all this. Yahweh didn't appreciate that Asa relied on the King of Aram instead of him, so he made other nations attack Asa.
The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands around Judah, and they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute; and the Arabs also brought him seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. (2 Chronicles 17:10-12, NRSV)
The fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat. Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats. And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly. (2 Chronicles 17:10-12, KJV)
Even the Philistines, those constant thorns in Judah's side, paid tribute to Judah. In the preceding verses, we learn that Jehoshaphat had just finished a nationwide crash course in God's laws when he sent messengers all over Judah instructing the people about the laws of Moses. This evidently made a huge impression on the surrounding tribes. Politics and religion were always a single package in these stories. Today, that same mix can be pretty dangerous.
When Athaliah, Ahaziah's mother, saw that her son was dead, she set about to destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the king's daughter, took Joash son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king's children who were about to be killed; she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada—because she was a sister of Ahaziah—hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not kill him; he remained with them six years, hidden in the house of God, while Athaliah reigned over the land. (2 Chronicles 22:10-12, NRSV)
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of king Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest (for she was the sister of Ahaziah), hid him from Athaliah, so that she slew him not. And he was with them hid in the house of God six years: and Athaliah reigned over the land. (2 Chronicles 22:10-12, KJV)
Like mother, like daughter. Athaliah inherited her mother Jezebel's murderous ways and slaughtered all her grandchildren who might inherit the throne. This put a descendant of the Kings of Israel in charge of the throne of Judah, which we know is not part of the plan. Unfortunately for her, she missed one of the boys. This lady makes Queen Cersei look like a Girl Scout.
But In the seventh year Jehoiada took courage, and entered into a compact with the commanders of the hundreds […] They went around through Judah and gathered the Levites from all the towns of Judah, and the heads of families of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. Then the whole assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. Jehoiada said to them, "Here is the king's son! Let him reign, as the Lord promised concerning the sons of David. This is what you are to do […] The Levites shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand; and whoever enters the house shall be killed. Stay with the king in his comings and goings." […] Then he brought out the king's son, put the crown on him, and gave him the covenant; they proclaimed him king, and Jehoiada and his sons anointed him; and they shouted, "Long live the king!" (2 Chronicles 23:1-4, 7, 11, NRSV)
In the seventh year Jehoiada strengthened himself, and took the captains of hundreds […] They went about in Judah, and gathered the Levites out of all the cities of Judah, and the chief of the fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. And all the congregation made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he said unto them, Behold, the king's son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David. This is the thing that ye shall do […] the Levites shall compass the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand; and whosoever else cometh into the house, he shall be put to death: but be ye with the king when he cometh in, and when he goeth out […] Then they brought out the king's son, and put upon him the crown, and gave him the testimony, and made him king. And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, God save the king. (2 Chronicles 23:1-4, 7, 11, KJV)
Remember that one baby that Queen Athaliah didn't manage to kill? Well, it turns out he's been hiding out just waiting to claim the throne of Judah with the help of Jehoiada the priest. Jehoiada's timing is perfect here. He waits 7 years and gradually builds up a collation of warriors willing to help him overthrow the queen and swear their allegiance to the new king. Seriously, this could totally be on an episode of Game of Thrones.
When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of the Lord to the people; and when she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebration. Athaliah tore her clothes, and cried, "Treason! Treason!" Then the priest Jehoiada brought out the captains who were set over the army, saying to them, "Bring her out between the ranks; anyone who follows her is to be put to the sword." For the priest said, "Do not put her to death in the house of the Lord." So they laid hands on her; she went into the entrance of the Horse Gate of the king's house, and there they put her to death. (2 Chronicles 23:12-15, NRSV)
When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came to the people into the house of the Lord: And she looked, and, behold, the king stood at his pillar at the entering in, and the princes and the trumpets by the king: and all the people of the land rejoiced, and sounded with trumpets, also the singers with instruments of musick, and such as taught to sing praise. Then Athaliah rent her clothes, and said, Treason, Treason. Then Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains of hundreds that were set over the host, and said unto them, Have her forth of the ranges: and whoso followeth her, let him be slain with the sword. For the priest said, Slay her not in the house of the Lord. So they laid hands on her; and when she was come to the entering of the horse gate by the king's house, they slew her there. (2 Chronicles 23:12-15, KJV)
If Athaliah had taken the political pulse in Judah she might have known something was up. As it was, she was so accustomed to having idol worship be the new normal that she was blindsided by the coup and saw Yahweh-worshippers as traitors.
Joash was seven years old when he began to reign; he reigned forty years in Jerusalem; his mother's name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba. Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of the priest Jehoiada. Jehoiada got two wives for him, and he became the father of sons and daughters. (2 Chronicles 24:1-3, NRSV)
Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. And Jehoiada took for him two wives; and he begat sons and daughters. (2 Chronicles 24:1-3, KJV)
King Joash's reign begins when he's 7 years old. Wait, what? Isn't that a little young? Jehoiada, who raised the kid and orchestrated his return to the throne, is probably pulling the strings. This is what's called a regent. This is a pretty common situation in dynasties, when the rulership is determined by royal DNA (and in this case, strictly Davidic DNA). In ancient times, when the lifespan of kings could be cut short by war or illness, heirs were often pretty young. But a child heir was still the rightful heir. As a regent, Jehoiada did the right thing. Lots of them were pretty self-serving, though.
"Thus says King Sennacherib of Assyria: On what are you relying, that you undergo the siege of Jerusalem? Is not Hezekiah misleading you, handing you over to die by famine and by thirst, when he tells you, 'The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria'? Was it not this same Hezekiah who took away his high places and his altars and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, 'Before one altar you shall worship, and upon it you shall make your offerings'? Do you not know what I and my ancestors have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to save their lands out of my hand? Who among all the gods of those nations that my ancestors utterly destroyed was able to save his people from my hand, that your God should be able to save you from my hand? Now therefore do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to save his people from my hand or from the hand of my ancestors. How much less will your God save you out of my hand!" (2 Chronicles 32:10-15, NRSV)
Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem? Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The Lord our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it? Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand? Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand? Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand? (2 Chronicles 32:10-15, KJV)
This is the speech that King Sennacherib of Assyria delivers to the people of Judah before attacking them. It's actually a really masterful political speech. King Hezekiah has assured the people that everything is good—God will help them, not to worry. But Sennacherib undercuts the king's argument with a pretty common sense line of reasoning. No god has ever defeated us—what makes you think your God is any different? We can see where this is heading even though he can't. The Chronicler throws in a little dramatic irony.
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