*Good morning! Thanks for joining me on this beautiful Thursday morning. We have a lot of ground to cover today as we continue our journey through the Bible. Yesterday we looked at the beginning of the ministry of Elisha the prophet. Elisha's ministry was more about miracles than confrontations of kings. (compared to Elijah's) You may read about these miracles beginning with chapter four of II Kings. Early in the Book of II Kings we read of the healing of Naaman (Chapter 5) of leprosy. Naaman was a foreign official who is not only healed, but converted. This story would be particularly meaningful to the Israelites in light of what is to come.

There is a lot that takes place during the remainder of II Kings. I will cover a lot of ground in a short period. What I will share with you today is important in understanding the remainder of the Old Testament. Before I do that, however, I would call your attention to Chapter 9:30-37. Remember Jezebel? Remember what happened to her husband? This passage tells of her demise, and it is not for the faint of heart. Then in the next chapter we read of the massacre of Ahab's descendants. The Bible is sometimes very graphic. Yet, these passages are fulfilments of the word of God spoken through the prophet Elijah.

Chapters 11-15 trace the careers of Kings from both Judah and Israel. (Remember there is a northern section (Israel) and a southern section (Judah)) We are given little information about these kings except for a theological evaluation of the king's faithfulness to Yahweh. Usually, the verdict on the king was: "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord..." (II Kings 13:2, among others) O.K., so this is a pattern throughout the book. Kings come and go doing, for the most part, "evil in the eyes of the Lord." Also, many years pass by. In order to fully understand what is also transpiring in the Book of II Kings we have to have a short history lesson. Now, I remind you to keep in mind that there is Israel to the North and Judah to the South. They were once one kingdom, but divided after the death of Solomon. The capital of Israel is Samaria, while the capital of Judah is Jerusalem. By the eighth century Assyria had formed a great empire. A campaign was waged by Tiglath-Pileser III (known in the Bible as Pul). This put great pressure on Syria and Israel to form an alliance to fend off Assyria. They then put pressure on Judah to join them. Judah stands their own ground.

"In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt..." (II Kings 17:6a,7)

This passage explains God's case against the Israelites. In fact we are told: "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone." (II Kings 17:18) So, Israel has been led away into exile. (722 BC) Much of the Old Testament will now deal with this time period. After the Israelites were led away, "The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria in place of the people of Israel; they took possession of Samaria, and settled in its cities." (II Kings 17:24) So, picture in your mind the new Israel. It is no longer Israel (as far as the king is concerned), it is Samaria. Samaria is now used to refer to the entire region, and not just the city. Also, Samaria (Israel) now consists of a mix of ethnic groups and religions. *By the time we get to the New Testament we will discover that the Samaritans are looked down upon. (Remember the story of the Good Samaritan?) Samaritans are a mixed race, therefore many do not associate with them.

The kingdom of Israel no longer exists (after chapter 18) The remainder of II Kings forms a record of Judean reigns and events that led to the destruction of Jerusalem 130 years later. How is Judah able to hold on for so long if there is this superpower trying to take over? Well, it wasn't because the Assyrians left them alone. In fact, the Assyrians put pressure on them.

One of the "good" kings of Judah was Hezekiah. We are actually told that "he did what was right in the sight of the Lord...He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him." (II Kings 18:3,5) The Assyrians suffer great defeat thanks to an angel of the Lord and leave quickly. (185,000 Assyrians are dead) So, clearly God is on the side of Hezekiah. Hezekiah falls ill and asks God to heal him. This illustrates his dependence upon Yahweh. God does heal Hezekiah and adds years to his life. However, before Hezekiah does die he makes a critical mistake.

"At the time King Merodach-baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah...Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold...there was nothing in his house ...that Hezekiah did not show them." (II Kings 20:12a,13)

Can you say, "Don't do it Hezekiah!?" The Assyrian's time as the superpower was coming to an end. But, when one superpower weakens, what happens? Yes, another rises. Guess who would become the next superpower? Yes...Babylon. The Assyrian capital of Nineveh would fall to the Babylonians in 612BCE.

Tomorrow we will look at one more "good" king of Judah. Then we will discover what lies ahead for the folks down in Judah. I hope you have a great day. -Pastor Rick

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