Daily Bible Studies
Series Theme: Studies in 1 & 2 Kings
"The Kings of Israel" (The Northern Kingdom)
Introduction to 1 & 2 Kings -The Kings of 'Israel' (Northern Kingdom)
We are, in these studies, looking specifically at the Kings of Israel, and by that we don't mean all the kings who reigned over Israel as a people as constituted by God, but the kings of the ten tribes after the nation had been split into two, following Solomon's reign.
Up until this point in Israel 's history, there have been just 3 kings – Saul, David and Solomon. Saul had been made a king at the request of the people via Samuel, the last of the judges, but had not turned out very well. David had been God's choice, but even he made serious errors of judgement that brought the strong discipline of the Lord. Solomon, as David's son had also been God's choice and had been blessed with incredible wisdom from God that made his reign possibly the most spectacular of all the many kings of Israel. Yet in his middle age he disregarded God's warnings about having foreign wives, and took many and eventually succumbed to their pressure to worship their foreign idols. For this the Lord said he would split the kingdom and leave Solomon's sons with only two tribes from the south. Thus it was that when we come to Solomon's son, we find a combination of crass stupidity on his behalf plus rebellion by others, which brings the division of the nation into the northern kingdom, known simply as Israel , and the southern kingdom, known simply as Judah .
We will simply be working through the books of 1 & 2 Kings omitting references to the kings of Judah so that we can focus on the kings of Israel . The lessons are clear and painful. Watch for the sin of Jeroboam, who rebelled against Solomon's son, which was repeated by every single one of the kings of Israel ! Watch also for the grace of God that comes and speaks into the situation again and again.
Part 1 : Jeroboam and the Early Kings
In this first part we will observe how God's word to Solomon is exactly fulfilled and the kingdom of Israel is divided into a northern and a southern kingdom just as God said. Watch for Jeroboam's sin which set the scene for the remainder of the kings of Israel , sin that was never dealt with and which, therefore, prevailed and undermined the spiritual life of the northern kingdom and caused its eventual downfall. Watch for God's word that will come again and again – but is not heeded.
Chapter: 1 Kings 11
Passage: 1 Kings 11:26-40
A. Find Out:
1. What are we told of Jeroboam's background? v.26
2. What are we told of his work? v.27,28
3. What message was given, how, from God to him? v.29-32, 34-37
4. What reason was given him? v.33
5. What conditional promise was given him? v.38
6. What happened to Jeroboam? v.40
1. What sort of man is Jeroboam shown to be here?
2. What do you think he should learn from what he is told?
3. How is the Lord helping him?
See, first of all, what we are told about Jeroboam as a person. His mother is a widow. He is an official working in the harsh regime of Solomon. To achieve that position he has had to prove himself and he stands out in his job so well that he is promoted to a major managerial position. He's obviously an industrious and hard worker.
The second thing we see about him is that he is chosen by God. There is no reason given why God chose him particularly, but it may be that the Lord knew that this industrious tough young man, would be the sort who would stand up to Solomon's foolish son in the year ahead. The Lord sends His prophet to speak to Jeroboam and tells him three crucial things. First He tells him what He will do. The division of the kingdom is God's plan. It's not merely men who can't get on with each other. It is expressly God's intent. Second, He tells him why He is going to do this: it is because of Israel 's idolatry. This therefore should come as a strong warning for the years to come to Jeroboam. Third, the Lord promises that if Jeroboam is faithful to Him, He will bless his family and establish them for many years. It is conditional however on Jeroboam's faithfulness. He has been given great insight and he ought to learn from that. Tragically he didn't and the whole future of the northern tribes will be blighted as a result. Remember this in all that follows.
1. God gave Jeroboam all the help he needed for the future.
2. God's help is by providing insight. Do we learn?
Chapter: 1 Kings 12
Passage: 1 Kings 12:1-4,20,23-33
A. Find Out:
1. How did Jeroboam come to be back in Israel ? v.2
2. What was the outcome for Jeroboam? v.20
3. What was Jeroboam's fear? v.26,27
4. So what did he do? v.28-30
5. What more did he do? v.31
6. How further did he create his own religion? v.32,33
1. How had Jeroboam forgotten God's word to him?
2. What was his fear?
3. How did he seek to deal with that?
For the sake of time and space we have omitted Rehoboam's folly from our study – you can read it yourself – we'll pick it up in the series on the kings of Judah . Jeroboam had been in exile in Egypt but when he hears that Solomon is dead he returns to his own land. Immediately he is called by the people, who recognise his leadership qualities, to go to the assembly with the new king. Then follows Rehoboam's folly, stirring up antagonism in the people, and rebellion follows. Jeroboam is a leader in the ten tribes who leave, and so is made king by them. So far this is all as God had said it would be.
At this point Jeroboam SHOULD have directed Israel towards the Lord but he's evidently not a man of faith because he looks at the situation and reasons with limited human intellect and acts accordingly – wrongly! Very wrongly! He reasons that people will still go to Jerusalem to meet with the Lord and if they do that they will turn back to Rehoboam. So he institutes a substitute religion to satisfy the people. He creates an idol at each end of the kingdom for the people to focus on, shrines for them to go locally and a festival annually to gather the people. It all looks all right, it all looks like it is creating spirituality in the land for the people; the only trouble is that it is godless. God has been completely left out of all this. This is just simply pagan idolatry!
1. God alone is to be the focus of our worship.
2. Let there be no substitutes!
Chapter: 1 Kings 13
Passage: 1 Kings 13:1-8,33,34
A. Find Out:
1. What was Jeroboam doing when the man of God came? v.1
2. What word did the man bring? v.2
3. What sign did he give to confirm his word? v.3,5
4. What was Jeroboam's response and what happened? v.4
5. What did he do and what followed? v.6
6. How did all this affect Jeroboam? v.33,34
1. What two signs should have convinced Jeroboam?
2. What do the final verses tell us about Jeroboam?
3. How would you account for his stupidity?
Sin and the enemy blind people to the truth (2 Cor 4:4). That is the only way you can explain this Jeroboam. Earlier in his life the prophetic word was given to him telling him why God was taking and splitting the kingdom, and warning Jeroboam of the life he was to live. That clearly involved avoiding idolatry and yet that is exactly what he has now led the ten tribes into. He's set up a duplicate religion but the Lord is not in it. When the Lord sends him another messenger to confront his sin, he haughtily goes to arrest the man. But this is God's man and as he stretches out his hand it shrivelled up. More than that, the altar before him cracks in two of its own accord, just as the man of God had said. If this isn't enough to convince Jeroboam, what is? Jeroboam's response is illustrative of the unbeliever – help me please, get YOUR God to do something.
Jeroboam reveals himself as a purely self-centred unbeliever with little or no knowledge of the Lord. When the man prays for him, the Lord restores the king's arm. A further sign! By now you would think the message is getting through to Jeroboam, but the record is quite clear: he just carried on as before with his duplicate, counterfeit religion. Verse 34 is a terrible condemnation and explains why it was that years later the Lord completely destroyed these ten tribes. The origin is right back here with Jeroboam. How terrible!
1. God tolerates no substitutes. Be warned.
2. We can lead people towards or away from the Lord. Be warned.
Chapter: 1 Kings 14
Passage: 1 Kings 14:1-20
A. Find Out:
1. What did Jeroboam tell his wife to do and why? v.1-3
2. How was Ahijah prepared? v.4-6
3. What was the 1 st part of his message? v.7-9
4. What was going to happen to Jeroboam's family? v.10-14
5. What was going to happen to Israel and why? v.15-16
6. What followed? v.17-20
1. How does Jeroboam have a half-hearted respect for the Lord?
2. What was the overall message coming from the Lord?
3. What could Jeroboam still have done at that time?
Unbelievers are content to be unbelievers as long as things are going well. Such was Jeroboam. Then his son is taken seriously ill so he sends to the prophet to seek clarity. The prophet is warned by the Lord that Jeroboam's wife is coming, and tells him what to say.
The message of the Lord is clear and unequivocal. There are four parts to this comprehensive message. Part 1 tells off Jeroboam for not having been faithful to God. Part 2 is God's judgement on him because of that. The previous word had said that God would bless his family if he was faithful. He wasn't so the blessing would not continue and, indeed, it would mean that no one from his family would continue, so the reign over Israel would be taken away. Judgement will soon come to destroy this family. Part 3 is a further consequence in line with the judgement of Part 2 – the son will not recover. In fact he will die as soon as she returns. Part 4 is a long-term condemnation of Israel.
Jeroboam has led them astray, but they have allowed themselves to be led astray – they are willing participants. Yes, there will be future kings but the end of Israel will be destruction because they have ceased to live as the covenant people of God. Observe though, that if Jeroboam genuinely repented at this point, he, his family, and possibly Israel could have been saved. Repentance always stays the hand of the Lord.
1. Do we only seek the Lord when things go wrong?
2. God will not turn a blind eye to ongoing sin.
Chapter: 1 Kings 15/16
Passage: 1 Kings 15:26-16:7
A. Find Out:
1. Who followed Jeroboam & what was he like? v.25,26
2. What happened to him? v.27,28
3. What more did Baasha do and why? v.29,30
4. What was Baasha like? v34
5. What did the Lord say about this? v.1-4
6. How was this acknowledged by the writer? v.5-7
1. How did Nadab fail?
2. How did Baasha fail?
3. How was prophecy seen to be fulfilled here?
Jeroboam, the first king of the northern tribes has died and his son succeeds him. Unfortunately it is a case of ‘like father, like son', for Jeroboam had led Israel into idolatry and now Nadab, his son, continues it. His reign is limited to two years! Now we have to note early in these studies that there seems little correlation between how good or bad a king was and how long he reigned. There were times when the Lord specifically moved in and a king died prematurely, but there are other times where the Lord simply seems to have allowed the king's life to run its course.
Baasha assassinates Nadab while they are out at war. Then he goes on to wipe out Jeroboam's entire family, just as the Lord had said would happen ( 14:10 ) so that there are no other claimants to the throne from that family.
It is still a bad time and Baasha does nothing to improve the spiritual state of Israel and even seems to have openly condoned or even encouraged Israel 's idolatry. For this he is held accountable to the Lord and the Lord warns him that his family will also be wiped out. It is interesting to note that the Lord allowed him a 24 year reign and the judgement came on his family after his death, which didn't seem to have been brought on by the Lord.
1. The Lord is slow to anger, allowing much time for repentance.
2. The Lord WILL do what He says, even if it takes years.
Chapter: 1 Kings 16
Passage: 1 Kings 16:8-20
A. Find Out:
1. Who was the next king of Israel ? v.8
2. What happened to him? v.9,10
3. What did Zimri then do? v.11-14
4. How long did he reign and why? v.15-17
5. How did Zimri die? v.18
6. Why did all this happen? v.19
1. What sort of man did Elah seem to be?
2. What sort of man was Zimri?
3. Why were all these things happening?
Let's take the order of the questions. First, Elah. Elah is king simply because he is the son of Baasha who had reigned for 24 years. Little is said about him. In fact he is considered so inconsequential that he's not even given the usual description of not having followed the ways of the Lord. All we know if that he got drunk with another official and it was while he was like that that he was assassinated. What could be your epitaph if you died today?
Then there is Zimri. He lasted even less time! He's an official of the king so this is a palace coup when he kills Elah. Immediately he wipes out all the remaining men of Baasha's family to prevent any comeback, and fulfilling God's word to Baasha (v.3,4). His problem is that he hasn't got the army on his side and so the army commander is proclaimed king and the army besieges the town where he is and he commits suicide rather than fall into their hands, which now leaves Omri – see next study.
Why were all these things happening? TWO reasons! First the sin and stupidity of these kings and second because they are answerable to the Lord. When sin prevails sometimes the Lord intervenes directly and sometimes He just withdraws His hand of protection or restraint and so the sin of others acts as judgement on the main perpetrators - as here!
1. Leaders always have a greater responsibility towards God.
2. The Lord will not sit back and ignore ongoing sin.
A. Find Out:
1. How did Omri become king? v.21-23
2. What sort of king was he? v.25,26
3. Who followed Omri & how was he described? v.29,30
4. How was he worse than previous kings? v.31
5. How did he establish this? v.32,33
1. How is the situation in Israel getting worse with both kings?
2. How are they now far from the people God called them to be?
3. How was Ahab even worse than those before him?
What is amazing about this area of the Bible is that the Lord doesn't step in and intervene with major judgement utterly destroying the northern kingdom. Perhaps the reason is explained by Peter (2 Pet 3:9), God is wanting to give time and space for repentance.
Jeroboam had set up two idols for Israel to worship. Subsequent kings had perpetuated their use. When we come to Omri we find a description previously not seen: “Omri…. sinned more than all those who went before him.” (v.25) Now if the king did, it probably means the people did as well, so this takes Israel to new depths.
Then comes Ahab and a bad situation turns worse. His description says he, “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” (v.30) This must surely bring Israel to an all-time low. Not only did he not worry about the people worshipping the two idols set up by Jeroboam, but he also married a foreign woman and took on board what were probably her worshipping practices. He begins to worship the idol Baal, setting up an altar for this ‘god' in the capital, Samaria , and established an Asherah pole for false worship as well. (Asherah was considered to be the consort goddess of Baal and Asherah poles were possibly like totem poles, carved with images of the goddess who was being worshipped.) We thus have an alien false, substitute religion replacing the relationship with the Lord. What darkness!
1. Making representations of the Lord opens the way for idolatry.
2. Idolatry is superstitious believing in man-made ‘gods'
RECAP - "Jeroboam & the early Kings" - 1 Kings 11-16
In this first group of 7 studies we have seen the following kings :
- Jeroboam (22 yrs) rules after rebellion (as prophesied)
- His son, Nadab (2 yrs) reigns after his death
- Nadab assassinated by Baasha (24 yrs) who then reigns (as prophesied)
- On his death, Baasha's son, Elah (2 yrs) reigns
- Elah assassinated by Zimri (7 days!) (as prophesied)
- Zimri commits suicide and Omri (12 yrs) reigns
COMMENT & LESSONS :
In terms of all the kings of Israel , Ahab has the most written about him, partly perhaps because he is involved with Elijah of whom much is recorded. Thus for convenience we take this first Recap up to the point of Ahab becoming king. What can be learnt from the things observed with these Kings.
First, the length of their reigns seems to have no connection to the sort of kings they were or how they came to power: they were all kings who sinned against the Lord. One king who inherited the throne from his father lasted 2 years (Nadab) as did another (Elah) while another lasted 22 years (Ahab). One who assassinated the previous king lasted 24 years (Baasha), while another who assassinated the king lasted only 7 days (Zimri). Conclusion? It seems that the Lord simply allows the course of events to flow on without interruption - but where He speaks prophetic words they are all fulfilled!
Second, we note that God's eye is on these kings throughout and His prophetic word leaves us in no doubt that HE is reigning over the circumstances. He is the Lord!
Thank the Lord for His mercy and grace that gives opportunity after opportunity for repentance and salvation.
PART 2 : "Ahab"
In this next Part, all of the studies cover the reign of Ahab. We will see a thoroughly weak and wicked king to whom the Lord speaks again and again through His prophet. A remarkable period!