Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem (2 Kings 18-19)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.  Early the next morning, there they were, all the corpses of the dead."  (2 Kings 19:35 NAB)

            This passage is part of a larger story, concerning King Hezekiah's conflict with King Sennacherib of Assyria.  You can read the full story here:

            King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned circa 716-687 BCE), witnessed the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the kingdom of Assyria in 722 BCE.  In 701 BCE, after capturing all the fortified cities of Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria sent messengers to Hezekiah to threaten Jerusalem.  The field commander threatened Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem publicly, in their language, in front of the city walls (2 Kings 18:17-37, NIV).  It was Sennacherib's intention to destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity, as the Israelites had been conquered.  Among other things, the Assyrian field commander told the people of Jerusalem: “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” (2 Kings 18:27, NIV).  The field commander urged the people to betray their king and surrender to Sennacherib, or face destruction.  Worst of all, he repeated Sennacherib's message of blasphemy, insulting not only Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem, but God himself.  “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?" (2 Kings 18:32-33, NIV).  In saying such things, Sennacherib and his men were openly mocking the God who created them, and falsely boasting that they were more powerful.
            In response to these threats and insults, King Hezekiah prayed for God to deliver them: "Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 'Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.  It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.  Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.'” (2 Kings 19:14-19, NIV). 
            God heard Sennacherib's insults and Hezekiah's prayer for deliverance, and he responded through the prophet Isaiah with a message to Sennacherib: "Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride?  Against the Holy One of Israel!... Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: 'He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.  He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’” (2 Kings 19:22, 32-34, NIV).  That very night, God sent his angel, who took the lives of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, sending a powerful message not only to Sennacherib, but to people of all nations: God does not tolerate threats and abuse against his people, nor does he tolerate being mocked. 
            After this incident, Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem and returned to Nineveh.  20 years later, in 681 BCE, he was murdered by two of his sons, Adrammelek (aka Ardi-Mulishi) and Sharezer (2 Kings 19:36-37).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jeroboam's Sin (1 Kings 11-15)

The following quote is taken from

"God Kills An Extended Family - "You have done more evil than all who lived before you.  You have made other gods and have made me furious with your gold calves.  And since you have turned your back on me, I will bring disaster on your dynasty and kill all your sons, slave or free alike.  I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone.  I, the LORD, vow that the members of your family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.'"  Then Ahijah said to Jeroboam's wife, "Go on home, and when you enter the city, the child will die.  All Israel will mourn for him and bury him.  He is the only member of your family who will have a proper burial, for this child is the only good thing that the LORD, the God of Israel, sees in the entire family of Jeroboam.  And the LORD will raise up a king over Israel who will destroy the family of Jeroboam.  This will happen today, even now!  Then the LORD will shake Israel like a reed whipped about in a stream.  He will uproot the people of Israel from this good land that he gave their ancestors and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, for they have angered the LORD by worshiping Asherah poles.  He will abandon Israel because Jeroboam sinned and made all of Israel sin along with him."  (1 Kings 14:9-16 NLT)

You can read the entire story of King Jeroboam here:

            King Jeroboam I of Israel (reigned circa 931-910 BCE) was the first king of Israel during the time period of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  He became king because of the actions of King Solomon (reigned circa 970-931 BCE), who angered God by taking multiple wives and following them in committing idolatry, which was a violation of the covenant with God (1 Kings 11:1-13).  Because of Solomon's sin, God determined to take ten tribes of his kingdom away from his son and give them to another king.
            God chose Jeroboam, one of Solomon's officials, to become the king of ten tribes of Israel.  He sent Ahijah the prophet to deliver the message to Jeroboam: "However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel.  If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you" (1 Kings 11:37-38, NIV). 
            Israel rebelled against King Rehoboam after King Solomon's death, and made Jeroboam their king.  However, after accepting God's gift of the kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam treated God contemptuously by immediately setting up idols in his kingdom for his subjects to worship, rebelling against God's command against idolatry and causing the entire nation to sin: "After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.  And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.  Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.  He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made" (1 Kings 12:28-32, NIV).
            The charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            What King Jeroboam did was a very serious sin.  Not only did he bring destruction on himself and his family by committing the very same sin that caused King Solomon to lose his kingdom, but he betrayed God and rebelled against him after God had given him a kingdom.  On top of that, he led the entire nation of Israel into sin against God, and his poor example continued among the Israelites for hundreds of years, until they were conquered by Assyria and exiled circa 722 BCE.  "When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the Lord and caused them to commit a great sin.  The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there" (2 Kings 17:21-23, NIV).  Jeroboam completely mismanaged his position as ruler of Israel and taught his son and heir Nadab to do the same, and his rebellious choice led to the nation's destruction.  This is why God pronounced a sentence of death on his family.