Thursday, May 12, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 95. Menahem, Pekahiah And Pekah Kings Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 95
Menahem, Pekahiah And Pekah
Kings Of Israel

Today we looks at more short-term kings of Israel.

2 KINGS 23-31
Yesterday we learned that Menahem, the man who assassinated King Shallum of Israel, was especially brutal. Today we finish our look at his reign and we study two more kings of Israel who followed after him. 

"In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit." (2 Kings 15:17-18) Menahem is like the kings before him, continuing the state worship of the golden calves instead of the worship of the living God. The author points out that he did not stop this practice "during his entire reign". The last two kings before him reigned only a very short time but Menahem had ten years to think about his actions, to hear the warnings of Israel's prophets, and to repent. But he didn't.

"Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy person had to contribute fifty shekels of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer." (2 Kings 15:19-20) Some commentators point out that it is believed King Pul is the man reigning over Nineveh when the prophet Jonah is sent by God to preach to them. We saw this prophet mentioned earlier in Chapter 14. 

Becoming subject to Assyria is more evidence that the Lord is allowing the northern kingdom to collapse because of her idolatry. During the reigns of these short-term kings the nation isn't mighty enough to defend herself and so she ends up paying tribute to a foreign king.

"As for the other events of Menahem's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Menahem rested with his ancestors. And Pekahiah his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 15:21-22) This king was allowed to reign longer than the two before him even though he was also a wicked man. Maybe this is because he at least kept Israel from being invaded and destroyed by the Assyrians, although there was a better way to ensure the nation's safety than paying tribute to a foreign king. He could have turned to the God of Israel for help. He could have repented and brought about a national revival. I believe had he done so, the Lord would have built up a protective hedge about the nation, protecting her from her enemies.

"In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years. Pekahiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. One of his chief officers, Pekah son of Remaliah, conspired against him. Taking fifty men of Gilead with him, he assassinated Pekahiah, along with Argob and Arieh, in the citadel of the royal palace at Samaria. So Pekah killed Pekahiah and succeeded him as king. The other events of Pekahiah's reign, and all he did, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel." (2 Kings 15:23-26) Again the throne changes hands. During the years we are studying, there is no consistent royal line in Israel. We don't know much about Pekah's reign because the annals of the kings of Israel is missing. The books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles are the annals of the kings of Judah but we don't have all the books that the Bible mentions. Perhaps they were stolen by the Babylonians when King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, destroyed the temple, and took many people and many precious objects captive. We don't even know who Argob and Arieh are but they must have been well known during Pekahiah's time. They may have been his two closest advisers or top officials.

"In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit." (2 Kings 15:27-18) Even though the kings change rapidly during these years, none of them brings any relief or revival to Israel. The people endure one bad king after another.

"In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria." (2 Kings 15:29) There has also been a change of regime in Assyria. There is a new king on the throne and he isn't interested in merely receiving tribute from Israel. Jeroboam II previously took back these territories from the Arameans who captured them during the time of King Ben-Hadad of Aram. Now the new king of Assyria captures these territories and even takes the people of the territories back to his own land, probably as slave labor. The loss of so much land reduced the northern kingdom to an area of about thirty miles by forty miles.

A man named Hoshea evidently blames the king for the nation's current troubles, for the author tells us, "Then Hoshea son of Elah conspired against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked and assassinated him, and then succeeded him as king in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah." (2 Kings 15:30) We will look at King Jotham of Judah in tomorrow's study. Jotham is the son of King Azariah, also known as Uzziah. We will also learn more later on about Hoshea king of Israel.

"As for the other events of Pekah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?" (2 Kings 15:31) The nation is under divine discipline for idolatry but we can't point the finger at them or shake our heads over their sins without taking a good long look at the sins of our own nation. What seems to be worshiped most these days in the USA? I am forty-six years old and can tell you things have certainly changed in my lifetime. Christians and the church used to be highly respected. The name of the Lord was revered. Actors and actresses had to abide by morality clauses and there was a time when even married people couldn't be shown in the same bed on TV. Instead of feeling judgmental about ancient Israel's downfall, we need to take what happened to her as a lesson. God slowly but surely tore down His protective hedge around her because she abandoned Him and refused to turn back. What discipline might He administer to us in our times? I am frightened for America. I am afraid a time of trouble and persecution is coming. And if we escape such discipline it will only be because God protects those who are called by the name of His precious Son. 

When we celebrated the National Day of Prayer last week, our pastor pointed out something in a very familiar passage. You will likely recognize this passage, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14) The pastor pointed out that God isn't calling on the godless in the nation to repent and seek Him. He's putting the responsibility on the people who are already His. That means you and me! We who are part of the body of Christ, sanctified by Him, of the family of God, are to humble ourselves and pray and seek His face. We are to turn from any wickedness we have allowed to creep into our lives. We live in a prosperous nation and prosperity tends to make us soft and lazy. It makes us comfortable. We don't have to fight for our right to go to church or pray over our dinner in a restaurant or possess a copy of the Bible. Being in a free nation means I don't have to fear imprisonment or death for writing this blog and proclaiming the name of Christ. But because we have been given so much, much is required of us. God has blessed America because we have always had a large number of citizens who hold fast to His holy word, but we should never take His blessings for granted. He can remove His hedge from around our nation just as easily as He removed it from around Israel. 

The Lord promises if we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our sins, then He will hear us from heaven. He will forgive us and will heal our land. More than ever before, I feel an urgent need to pray for America. And it's up to us, the people of God, to lead the way. Who knows what might happen if we get on our knees every day to pray for our country? A revival might break out the likes of which we have never seen. The heavens might open to pour out blessings we never imagined. The Lord might answer by building a hedge so tall and so strong that we need never fear any enemy. But it begins with us. 

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