I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on Ezekiel, Daniel, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy. This post is continued from 1 Kings 1-11.
12:1-14:31: Jeroboam and Rehoboam
We’re introduced to Jeroboam (“the people contend”) in chapter 11. He too is called to obedience, but he would go down in history for his sin. The Lord sent an unnamed prophet and Ahijah—the same prophet who’d told him he would be king—to Jeroboam, but he didn’t change his evil ways. The word of God was very clear, but he chose to ignore it.
Less is told of Rehoboam (“enlarger of the people”). He was an evil king in the Lord’s eyes and wasn’t militarily great either. The king of Egypt attacked and carried off a number of temple treasures, just one generation after they’d been installed by Solomon.
15:1-16:34: Many kings
In Judah, there’s Abijah and his son Asa. Abijah (“my father is Yahweh”) was a wicked king; Asa (“physician/ healer”) wasn’t.
In Israel, there’s a succession of leaders. First is Nadab (“generous”), with whom Jeroboam’s dynasty ended. He was killed by Baasha (“wicked” or “boldness”), whose dynasty likewise ended after his son Elah (“oak” or “terebinth”) was killed by Zimri. Zimri (“my gift” or “my music”) reigned seven days before committing suicide. A four-year power vacuum followed in which Tibni and Omri fought for control. Omri (“pupil/servant of Yahweh”) won.
Historical records from neighbouring nations tell us that Omri was politically and militarily strong, ushering in a period of prosperity that continued under his son Ahab (“the father is my brother”). However, they both failed where it mattered: obedience to God.
He appears out of the blue and pronounces a covenant curse, a direct affront to Baal, god of fertility. The Lord provides unclean ravens to feed Elijah, and follows this with provision via a non-Israelite widow. She was from Sidon, Jezebel’s homeland. (The Lord Jesus would later point this out.) The Lord can raise worshippers for Himself in the unlikeliest of places!
God sustains the lives of the widow and her son, only to take away the boy’s life. Why? Why afflict this pain on a new convert? Elijah cries out to the Lord, and the Lord heard his cry. This raising of the dead is a foretaste of both Jesus’ ministry and of the resurrection at the end of the age!
Next we meet Obadiah, an official in Ahab’s palace—another believer in an unlikely place. He was faithful where God placed him, even though it wasn’t on the front lines like Elijah. Some in the body of Christ may be called to be Elijahs, others may be called to be Obadiahs.
Elijah calls the nation to a confrontation on Mt Carmel. They are given a choice of following either Baal or Yahweh, whoever proves to be the true God. Elijah lets the 450 prophets of Baal go first. From them we learn that depth and sincerity of religious activity aren’t reliable indices of true worship. Elijah prays a simple prayer, and fire falls from heaven. The people present proclaim that Yahweh is God and slay the prophets of Baal. Later that day, it rains.
Elijah may have expected that mass repentance would follow the show of Yahweh’s might, but it didn’t come. He became despondent and begged God to take his life, the very thing Jezebel had offered to do. The Lord knew what His prophet needed, and gave him rest and sustenance. Elijah journeyed to Mt Horeb, where Moses had met with God. Had he been running from Jezebel, travelling this far would have been excessive. No, he had covenant business with Yahweh.
God invites him twice to cast his burden on Him, in verses 9b and 13b. Elijah’s response shows his distress over the apostasy of the people of God. May we ask for hearts like Elijah’s that weep over the church for God’s sake. In the Lord’s instructions is the reply to Elijah’s grief. Yahweh has seen and is going to do something about it. He has also preserved for Himself a remnant—you can’t destroy God’s covenant people!
In this section, we see Ahab’s repeated failure to obey God’s word. He fails to kill Ben-Hadad king of Aram, he kills Naboth and is killed in battle by an arrow shot at random. In each case, the Lord speaks to him through a prophet. May we always submit to God’s word—even those parts we don’t like.
22:41-22:53: Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah
Jehoshaphat (“whom Yahweh judges” or “Yahweh has judged”) succeeded Asa as king of Judah and followed in the righteous ways of his father. Ahaziah (“Yahweh holds/sustains”) succeeded Ahab as king of Israel and followed in the wicked ways of his father.
One thing that’s easily overlooked is the phrase ‘as for the other events’ in the closing formula of each king’s reign. The narrator isn’t interested in telling us about Asa’s fortified cities or of Ahab’s ivory-inlaid palace, impressive as those achievements may be. The Bible’s focus is solidly on whether these kings loved and served the Lord or not.Thirty centuries later, the criteria hasn’t changed.
Sources: D. A. Carson, Dale Ralph Davis, Bob Fyall.