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Jeroboam II to Hezekiah & Joel to Isaiah

Jeroboam II to Hezekiah & Joel to Isaiah

db’s Bible Study Notes

 

Table of Contents

 

Jeroboam II to Hezekiah & Joel to Isaiah. 1

The Geopolitical Situation. 2

The Assyrian Conquest of the Ten Tribes. 4

Tiglath-pileser (Pul) 4

Syro-Ephraimite war 5

Jerusalem Saved Under King Hezekiah. 6

 

 


The Geopolitical Situation

An understanding of the geopolitical situation faced during the divided monarchy covered by the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament is helpful.  This background was understood by the Old Testament writers and is generally not explained in their writing, as the Old Testament people would not need such an explanation.

 

The history this region is contained in a series of struggles for dominance between Mesopotamian empires (Assyrian, Babylonian, etc.) and Egypt.  For geographic reasons all trade and travel between Mesopotamia and Egypt had to pass through the land of Canaan, thus whoever controlled the land of Palestine had trade and military advantages.

 

If the people of Palestine were neutral then the empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia could trade on an equal basis.  However, whoever controlled the land could collect tolls on commerce giving one empire an advantage over the other in the event the people occupying the land of Canaan were not neutral.

 

Militarily a neutral party occupying Palestine created a buffer or demilitarized zone between the powers of Mesopotamia and Egypt.  The conquest of Palestine was the first step in an attack by Mesopotamia upon Egypt or Egypt on Mesopotamia.  More important, an alliance of Palestine with Egypt would be viewed as threat by Mesopotamia just as Egypt would view an alliance by Palestine with Mesopotamia as a military threat.

 

In general, the Mesopotamian empires were militarily superior to those of Egypt.  The Egyptians tended to field large armies, but their soldiers were not fierce fighters and usually were seriously defeated by the more warlike Mesopotamian armies.

 

The Israelites, had, of course, once lived in Egypt.  It seems that almost universally throughout history once a people are freed from colonial rule they develop strong economic and military ties with their former rules.  (Look at the United States and Great Britain.  Today after the end of England’s colonial rule they are strong trade partners.  In addition, the U.S. entered both World War I and World War II in large measure to support Britain.  Great Britain was the strongest supporter of the United States during the Cold War, the Gulf War, and in other conflicts.)  The Israelites were no exception to this historic trend and formed strong economic, cultural, and military ties to Egypt.

 

Egypt generally was more prosperous than Mesopotamia.  Also the Nile produced more surplus crops than the Tigris -Euphrates river system giving the Mesopotamian empires a greater incentive to conquer Egypt than the Egyptians had to attack Mesopotamia.

 

It is my interpretation of the scriptures that what Lord intended was for Israel that in effect that they be the Switzerland of the Middle East.  The neutrality of Switzerland (together, of course with its geography) has kept it out of world wars and numerous conflicts and because of their neutrality, the people of Switzerland have enjoyed peace and prosperity.  Sitting astride important trade routes the Israelites would have been grown rich in peace by acting as the trade intermediaries between the empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

 

The power of Israel to defend itself, and detour foreign aggression was lessen by the division into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  The history of both kingdoms shows that instead of striving for security through neutrality (and divine protection) they sought security through a series of military alliances.

 

Alliances with Egypt posed a threat to Mesopotamian empires (Assyria and Babylonia) resulting in the invasion of Israel and Judah, and most of the time Egypt would prove unable or willing to assist in the defense of Israel.  Alliances with the northern empires tended to result in an “opening the door” that lead to Israel or Judah becoming a vassal of Assyria or Babylon who then required them to pay heavy tribute to their new master.

 

The people lacked the devotion to the Lord necessary to rely upon him for protection.  This lack of faith resulted in the people being unable to follow a policy of neutrality and resulted what today we would term a series of entangling alliances that ended with disastrous results for the house of Israel.

 

It also led to the persecution and suffering of the many prophet sent by the Lord to give counsel to kings.  Kings, especially unrighteous kings, do not respond kindly to those who oppose their political policies.  In addition to persecuting the prophets, many kings promoted the worship of Baal in part to lessen the influence of the prophets so there would be less opposition from the people to their policies.  An examination of the deaths of the kings of Israel (who especially promoted the worship of Baal) shows they did not escape the judgments of God when following such policies.

 


The Assyrian Conquest of the Ten Tribes

The period of roughly 790 B.C. to the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 721 B.C. saw some of the greatest historical events recorded in the Old Testament.  The period can be considered beginning with the reigns of Amaziah and Jeroboam II.  Jeroboam II (790-753 B.C.) ruled the northern kingdom of Israel while Amaziah (796-767 B.C.) ruled in Judah.   In 792 B.C. Azariah/Uzziah, the son of Amaziah, became king at the age of 16 and co-ruled with his father until the death of Amaziah.

 

This period begins with a time of prosperity in both kingdoms.  Militarily the Assyrians were dormant and neither kingdom faced military a threat from a foreign power.  The northern kingdom of Israel reaching its military apex under Jeroboam II who took territory away from Judah and maintained Israel’s independence from Syrian control.

 

2 Chronicles 25:22 Chronicles 25:2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart.  

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states that Amaziah’s heart was not perfect in what he did, an indication that today we would call him a political moderate in that he tried to please both those who worshiped Jehovah and idols.  While apparently favoring the worship of Jehovah he failed to eliminate the “high places” where idols were worshiped, made war with the help of enemies, and worshiped the idols of Edom.  He also failed to heed the warning Joash, king of Israel, with disastrous results.

 

David had conquered Edom forcing Edom to pay tribute until it successfully revolted during the reign in Israel of Joram, 852-841 B.C.  Amaziah, of Judah, raised an army to conquer Edom and in the process hired mercenaries from the northern kingdom of Israel.  An unnamed prophet (2 Chronicles 2:72 Chronicles 2:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Send me now therefore a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that are with me in Judah and in Jerusalem, whom David my father did provide. to grave: Heb. to grave gravings  

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) warned Amaziah that because Israel was in such disfavor with the Lord the use of mercenaries from Israel would cause him to lose the war.  Consequently he dismissed the mercenaries.  Amaziah then successfully conquered Edom; however, he brought back Edom’s idols and worshiped them.  (It was common to believe that each land had its own gods, and the LORD was the god of the land of Israel, but not all the earth.  Worshiping the gods of a foreign land would seem a prudent act to a man, such as Amaziah, who was not fully committed to the LORD.)

 

Retuning to their home in Israel the mercenaries sacked several towns in Judah.  Amaziah made belligerent remarks to King Joash of Israel and demanded an apology that included marriage of his son with a daughter of Joash.  Amaziah failed to heed Joash’s warning and in the ensuing war Amaziah was badly beaten.  (2 Chronicles 25:14-202 Chronicles 25:14-20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them. 15 Wherefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand? 16 And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king's counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel. determined: Heb. counselled 17 Then Amaziah king of Judah took advice, and sent to Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let us see one another in the face. 18 And Joash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle. thistle: or, furze bush, or, thorn a wild...: Heb. a beast of the field 19 Thou sayest, Lo, thou hast smitten the Edomites; and thine heart lifteth thee up to boast: abide now at home; why shouldest thou meddle to thine hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee? 20 But Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom.  

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explains this was a punishment for worshiping Edom’s idols.)

 

Some notes on Old Testament wording:  To “look one another in the face” is an idiom for making war.  In Joash’s response he compares Amaziah and Judah to a dried up thistle weed and himself and Israel to Cedar trees.  Joash states he will tromp the thistle like a wild beast.  Elath was also known as Ezion-Geber, and was an area that served as Solomon’s homeport for trading with Ophir and Arabia.  Azariah and Uzziah were the same person.  It is unclear why the Old Testament uses multiple names for Elath/Ezion-Geber and Azariah/Uzziah.  (Uzziah was basically a righteous king, however, he burned incense in the temple—a right reserved for the priesthood—and was punished with leprosy.  See 2 Chron. 26:16-212 Chron. 26:16-21
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. 17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. 21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land. several: Heb. free  

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.)  The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (2 Kings 15:112 Kings 15:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 And the rest of the acts of Zachariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.  

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) is not the same as the Book of Chronicles that appears in the Old Testament.  The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel is a missing historical record.

 

 

Tiglath-pileser (Pul)

Under the reign of Tiglath-pileser (744-727 B.C.) Assyria ceased being dormant and began to expand.  (Tiglath-pileser is referred to by his personal name Pul in 2 Kings 15:112 Kings 15:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 And the rest of the acts of Zachariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.  

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.)  The Assyrians were an extremely war-like people and often were exceedingly cruel to their captives.  Tiglath-pileser demanded tribute from Syria and Israel.  Menahem (752-742 B.C.), king of Israel paid Assyria tribute for protection against Egypt and other enemies.  Two Syrian provinces rebelled against Assyria.  In 738 B.C. the Assyrians invaded Syria and Israel capturing Damascus and several towns in northern Israel.

 

It appears that Tiglath-pileser began the practice of massive deportations and forced relocation of conquered peoples.  His very capable successors–Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.), Sargon II (721-705 B.C.), Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.), Esarhaddon (680-669 B.C), and Ashurbanipal (668-627 B.C.)–followed his example as did the Babylonians and other empires throughout history thereafter.  The Assyrian practice was to settle various peoples from different nations among each other in small villages in the hope of breaking the unity of the displaced people making it impossible for them to unite in revolt.  The practical result was that the various peoples were so distrustful of each other and so busy fighting among themselves that they were unable to unite and revolt against the Assyrians.  (The Ottoman Turks employed the same policy in the Balkans and centuries later the various people of the Balkans are still unable to form a cohesive unit.)

 

The kings of Israel and Syria desired intemperance from Assyria and formed plans to revolt knowing that separately they were too weak to fight Assyria.  To increase their chance of success they tried to get the king of Judah to join they in revolting against Assyria.  It is possible, but by no means certain, that they three kingdoms together would have been strong enough to oppose the Assyrians.  Judah refused, this resulted in the Syro-Eprraimite war in which Syria and Israel attached Judah in the hope they could replace the king of Judah with a new king that would join their them in revolting against Assyria.

 

 

Syro-Ephraimite war

Sometime around 733 B.C. Pekah (740-732 B.C.) king of Israel, together with Rezin, king of Syria, attacked Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite war with limited success.  One of their objectives was to replace Ahaz of Judah with a king more to their liking as Ahaz had refused to join their alliance against Assyria.  Ahaz ignored the advice of the prophet Isaiah to put his faith in the Lord God instead of foreign princes and became a vassal of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, to maintain his kingship.

 

Israel also rebelled against Assyria with disastrous results.  The Galilean region of Israel was lost to Assyria and all the inhabitants forcibly relocated.  Pekah was assassinated by Hoshea (732-722 B.C.) who surrendered to the Assyrians agreeing to pay them heavy tribute.  Hoshea sought aid from Egypt in a plan to revolt because of the burden on the people the payment of tribute created.  The result was a three-year siege of the northern kingdom, which ended with most of the people of Israel being taken captive by Sargon II, king of Assyria, in 721 B.C.

 

These captives became known to history as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.  There is no doubt that they were originally taken north for forced relocation.  What happened next to them is the subject of much debate and speculation.  In the Apocrypha, Esdras describes a vision in which the Lord told him:

 

“But they took counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land.  And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river.  For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over.  For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth.  Then dwelt they there until the latter time.  (2 Esdras 13:41-462 Esdras 13:41-46
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

41 But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, 42 That they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land. 43 And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow places of the river. 44 For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. 45 For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. 46 Then dwelt they there until the latter time; and now when they shall begin to come,  

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.)

 

It should be noted that some of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were left behind when the majority were taken captive.  Those left behind tended to be the elderly, the poor, and the farmers.  In time other conquered peoples were settled in this area.  Because the area did not prosper the Assyrians sent a priest from among the captives to restore the worship of Jehovah.  Eventually the people adopted a worship of Jehovah that was mixed with various idolatrous practices and beliefs.  As the various people intermingled and married they become the known to the Jews as the Samaritans.  The Samaritans considered themselves to be of the House of Israel; however, the Jews, who considered them an inferior people, rejected their claim.  This lead to much animosity between the Samaritans and Jews, who went to great pains to avoid contact with the Samaritans.

 

 

Jerusalem Saved Under King Hezekiah

Around 714 B.C., during the reign of Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.) the Assyrians invaded Israel who refused to continue paying tribute to Sennacherib, the successor of Sargon.  Hezekiah, one of the righteous kings of Judah, listened to counsel of Isaiah who promised the Lord would preserve them.  By 701 B.C. Assyria had overrun most of the kingdom and Jerusalem was besieged.  It was only through a hastily constructed water tunnel, which Hezekiah had ordered built, that Jerusalem was able endure siege.  Just as it appeared Jerusalem have to surrender the city was saved by a miracle, described in the scriptures as “a blast from the LORD” killing 185,000 Assyrian solders.  Modern scholars studying ancient records feel that an epidemic (possibly typhus) broke out in the camp of the Assyrians who hastily retreated back to Assyria in defeat.  Jerusalem was saved as Isaiah had prophesied.

 

 

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