2 Chronicles

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Introductory Material


Originally, 1 and 2 Chronicles were a single scroll, so the distinction we make between the two is merely one of convenience. 2 Chronicles picks up the story where the first volume left off. The book was most likely written by Ezra, the priest, who had headed up a delegation returning from exile in Babylon. A previous group of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem had not made much headway in reinstituting the proper worship in the temple, nor were they also were following God’s Law conscientiously. Ezra wrote his account in order to bring the people back to their awareness of their being God’s choses people and the privileges and demands this identity entailed. 1 Chronicles gave us detailed information on the backgrounds of the twelve tribes of Israel, their locations, and various genealogies connected to them. There was a very a short account of the reign of Saul over the kingdom. The largest part of the book focused on King David. In particular, Ezra emphasized David’s preparation for building a temple in Jerusalem and establishing regulations for its administration. Here in 2 Chronicles we begin the story of David’s son Solomon, who brought David’s vision to reality, along with observations concerning the subsequent kings of Judah and their degrees of obedience to God.

Why and by Whom Were 1–2 Chronicles Written?

First and Second Chronicles provide the spiritual and historical DNA of the Jewish people at a time when such deep ancestral and genealogical information was more than just a fascinating discovery or an interesting hobby, but an essential aspect of survival. These books were written to a nation whose people had mostly been deported to a distant location for a cumulative 70 years. During that time, they worked as slaves under an oppressive regime. Previous social standing and calling, though not forgotten, did not mean much. Now they are back home, and they must reestablish who they are as a nation and its citizens. Also, they need to re-implement the rules for their religion—a slow process. Between constantly having to guard themselves against their neighbors, a sagging economy, and a generally cynical attitude, many decades later things are still not what they should be. Such was the status of the Hebrew people upon their release from captivity in Babylonia as they began to assimilate back into what had been the kingdom of Judah.

Prospects finally look up when a new group of people comes back to their homeland under the leadership of a priest named Ezra. But as he gets acquainted with the circumstances, he becomes distraught. The temple is functional, but still not complete. Men are marrying women who practice idolatry. A general malaise is besetting the population. Clearly, they have not been taught God’s Law, as revealed to Moses.

Among various measures, Ezra holds a public reading of the Law. He persuades the people to break their social ties with their pagan neighbors. And, in order to remind the people of who they are, he writes a lengthy book that details their heritage as God’s chosen people and its implications for how they should live. In doing so, he describes the ups and downs of the ancient kingdom, first unified under Saul, David, and Solomon, then split into two domains for about two centuries, each one ending by a siege and deportation, the northern one (Israel) by Assyria in 722 BC and the southern one (Judah) by Babylon in 586 BC. Ezra focuses almost entirely on Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple. He brings up Israel only insofar as it impinges on what happens in the south.

How Did Ezra Recount Events before His Lifetime?

Some chapters in Chronicles and Samuel/Kings (e.g., 1Kgs 222Chr 18) are virtually identical, so Ezra must have used them or a common source. A non-biblical text (2Mac 2:13) tells us that Ezra’s friend, Nehemiah, had a large library, making it possible for Ezra to research his subject. He refers to some authors whose writings we know (e.g., Isaiah), some by people who appear in the stories (e.g., Nathan), and some of whom we know nothing else (e.g., Iddo).

What Are the Events and Dates Covered in 1–2 Chronicles?

The same timeframe is also covered by the books of Samuel and Kings. Here is how they roughly parallel each other on events they share.


Kingdom of Saul 1Chr 10 1Sam 13–31
Kingdom of David 1Chr 11–29 2Sam 1–1Kgs 2
Kingdom of Solomon 2Chr 1–11 1Kgs 2–11
Divided Kingdom 2Chr 1–28 1Kgs 12–2Kgs 17
Remaining Kingdom 2Chr 29–39 2Kgs 18–25


Readers should be aware of two important observations surrounding these timeframes and dates:

1. The word “son” may be ambiguous. It can refer to someone’s direct offspring or cover numerous generations, as exemplified by 2 Chronicles 34:2–3.

2. The actual dates of many of the kings have not been settled with finality, and so, for the most part, we will give only approximate figures when we do so at all.


2 Chronicles helps the people of Judah see the difference between godly and ungodly kings and encourages them to concentrate on God’s relationship to them, as expressed with the temple.

Key Verse

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

— 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV


I. The Reign of Solomon (1:1–9:31)

A. Solomon’s Inauguration (1:1–17)

B. Solomon’s Preparations for the Temple (2:1–18)

C. Building the Temple (3:1–4:22)

D. Dedication of the Temple and Commitment (5:1–7:22)

E. Solomon as King and Emperor (8:1–9:31)

II. The Kings of Judah before Hezekiah (10:1–28:27)

A. Rehoboam (10:1–12:16)

B. Abijah (13:1–22)

C. Asa (14:1–16:14)

D. Jehoshaphat (17:1–20:37)

E. Jehoram of Judah (21:1–20)

F. Ahaziah of Judah (22:1–12)

G. Joash (23:1–24:27)

H. Amaziah (25:1–28)

I. Uzziah (26:1–23)

J. Jotham (27:1–9)

K. Ahaz (28:1–27)

III. The Remaining Kingdom from Hezekiah to the End (29:1–36:21)

A. Hezekiah (29:1–32:33)

B. Manasseh (33:1–20)

C. Ammon (33:21–25)

D. Josiah (34:1–35:27)

E. Jehoahaz (36:1–4)

F. Jehoiakim (36:5–8)

G. Jehoiachin (36:9–10)

H. Zedekiah (36:11–21)

IV. The Decree to Return (36:22–23)

The Reign of Solomon (1:1–9:31)

Solomon’s Inauguration (1:1–17)

i. Solomon’s Dedication (1:1–6)

1:1 As mentioned in the comments on 1 Chronicles 22:2, Solomon was young when he came to the throne. Some ancient sources (e.g., Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 8:1) put his age at a barely pubescent twelve–fourteen years old. Since, however, his son Rehoboam had already been born by the time of his coronation, he had to have been around twenty years old. Still, he was young, and controlling an empire is a daunting task for anyone at any age. To his credit, Solomon was aware of his inadequacy, and, thus, he began his reign by worshiping God, the only source that could provide him with all he needed.

1:2–6 The main center of worship, the sacred tent, was still at Gibeon with Zadok as the priest in charge, while the ark of the covenant had taken an odyssey, ending up in Jerusalem. It was still permissible to carry out sacrifices in other places, and the old tent was still the focal point of worship. It must have undergone repairs and some replacements, but one item, the brass altar made by Bezalel during the Exodus (Exod 31:1–11) was still there. Solomon made a thousand burnt offerings.

ii. Solomon’s Gift from God (1:7–13)

1:7–12 The night after the festivities God communicated with the undoubtedly exhausted young man. He inquired what gift Solomon would like to receive from him. Solomon knew exactly what he needed. He thanked God for the favor he had shown to his father David and to him and then asked God for wisdom and knowledge so as to be able to govern his people properly. The Lord lauded Solomon for this choice; he could have asked for material wealth, the death of his enemies, honor, or a long life. Instead, he requested the most important thing for a good ruler, and God rewarded his humility by granting him all of the other boons that he had not requested.

1:13 Solomon returned from the “high place” at Gibeon to Jerusalem. This term will come up many more times from now on. It is not so much about geographical elevation as places of worship that have been placed on hilltops. Many of them were pagan shrines to Canaanite deities that were, of course, not acceptable. Others were places where people had sacrificed to the true God, but they would no longer be allowed either once the temple was opened (Deut 12:13–14).

iii. Solomon’s Wealth (1:14–17)

God did, indeed, bless Solomon abundantly with material wealth. His army was sizeable by the standards of any kingdom of his day, particularly the 1,200 chariots and their drivers (1:14). Solomon made precious metals as common as rocks, and the cedar wood he imported was as widely distributed as common trees (1:15). Solomon increased his wealth by engaging in the trade of horses and chariots. He procured them at wholesale rates from Egypt and Kue, a horse-trading center in Asia Minor, and then resold them to some of the surrounding nations (1:16–17).

As profitable as this horse-trading business may have been, however, it was contrary to God’s will. The defining moment for the identity of Israel had been the Exodus from their slave masters in Egypt, and God did not want his people to do anything that would involve restoring contact with them. Deuteronomy 17:16–17, which also says that the eventual king should not be greedy for wealth or keep many wives, specifically forbids importing horses from Egypt. And, despite the fact that Solomon kept his first wife outside of Jerusalem to prevent defiling the sacred place of the ark (2Chr 8:11), it still was problematic that she was a daughter of a Pharaoh. We must add, though that, as helpful as these complications are for our understanding of the events, Ezra is not all that interested in them. For him Solomon is the man of the temple.

Solomon’s Preparations for the Temple (2:1–18)

i. Conscripting Slave Labor (2:1–2, 17–18)

David’s census revealed that there were 153,600 foreigners living in Israel. Presumably, many of them were prisoners of war, but there may have been many different reasons for them to be expatriates. For Solomon they became free labor to build the temple. He divided them up into two large groups, those (8,000) who would be sent to quarries in order to dig out big blocks of stone and those (7,000) whose assignment it was to transport them and other huge burdens. An additional smaller number (3,600) was installed to watch over those two groups and make sure they did not slough off.

Building became Solomon’s passion. It was not just confined to his own palace and the temple in Jerusalem. He rebuilt and fortified cities in various parts of the kingdom (1Kgs 9:15). In his wisdom, Solomon knew that large building projects in a period of peace were a useful means of keeping his subjects under control; however, although he did not enslave any Hebrews, eventually numerous Israelites were forced to into heavy labor every third month (1Kgs 5:13). This fact explains the unrest among the people that is mentioned later in the book (2Chr 10:4) without going into details.

ii. The Letter to Hiram (2:3–10)

2:3–4 Both David and Solomon got along well with King Hiram of Tyre. He had a nose for making a financial profit, and so did Solomon, as exemplified by his trade in horses and chariots (1:16–17). Solomon’s ideas went far beyond David’s lavish dreams for the temple. He sent a business letter to Hiram. The objective was to trade grain for lumber, but Solomon wanted to make sure that Hiram understood what was needed. First, he reminded Hiram of his cordial relationship with David. Then he specified that he was about to build a house for Yahweh, his God, and that it would be a site for many sacrifices and offerings on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, as well as at the annual festivals.

2:5–6 Solomon went on to stress to Hiram that this temple would be different from other temples he would know. The common understanding in the ancient Near East was that each people had their own god who would live in their temples (as idols) and have power within the people’s boundaries. Thus, for example, the gods of the Syrians in Damascus would be expected to live in their temple of that city, and their authority would be limited to the Syrians who worshiped them. So, Solomon clarified to Hiram that God was greater than the gods others worshiped, that he could not actually be confined to any spatial boundaries, let alone the temple, and that the temple was merely the place for worship activities, not God’s residence.

2:7–10 Solomon raised another point. He asked Hiram if he could send down anyone who would be skilled in creating the various decorations that would be a part of the temple. Furthermore, he asked for large shipments of wood from various trees, most notably cedar. In return Solomon would send him 120,000 bushels or 4,200 cubic meters of wheat and barley as well as 120,000 gallons or 454,000 liters of wine and oil. Where would Solomon get those resources? This payment could only have come from heavy taxation on the people of Israel, contributing to their eventual hostility toward him (10:4).

iii. Hiram’s Response (2:11–16)

It appears that Hiram enjoined doing business with Solomon. In his answer he began by praising Yahweh, Israel’s God, for having installed someone as wise as Solomon on the throne of the kingdom (2:11–12). In addition, he had two surprises for Solomon. For one, he had just the right person to supervise the constructions and decorations, a man named Huram-abi, whose mother had been an Israelite from the tribe of Dan. He had all of the needed skill, and he would be familiar with Solomon’s religion, an added benefit. What is more, rather than having that wood transported on land via the coastal highway, he would have his men make big rafts out of the timbers and send them to a convenient harbor from where Solomon’s slave labor could then move them inland and up the hill to Jerusalem. The fact that Hiram gladly accepted Solomon’s payments would not have qualified as a surprise.

Building the Temple (3:1–4:22)

Figure 6 – Basic diagram of Solomon’s Temple

i. The Buildings (3:1–23)

Only priests were allowed inside of the actual building of the temple. Most regular proceedings took place out in the open air. So, when we talk about Solomon building a temple, we do not just mean that he built a big house. In fact, the edifice was not all that huge. The floor plan of the innermost sanctuary (“the Most Holy Place”) was a square 30 feet by 30 feet or 9 meters by 9 meters, the size of a spacious living room in an American home. The nave (“the Holy Place”) was twice as long, but no wider. Then the vestibule was again of the same dimensions as the Most Holy Place. The point is that it was not a place for assembling a congregation. Some of the most important locations were outside of the building.

Solomon’s temple was calling attention to God, his people, and not in a small part to himself. It was a display of gold, prestigious woods, and more gold, decorated with glittering precious stones. Of course, we know that gold by itself is a rather soft and malleable metal, and so did everyone back then. Thus, when we read of such things as golden nails, we are obviously looking at an alloy because purely golden nails would not fasten anything.

The Most Holy Place was dominated by sculptures of two cherubim (3:10–13). The word “cherub” encompasses a number of different meanings. For example, we may say that a rosy-cheeked child has a “cherubic appearance.” Huram Abi’s intentions were of a different sort. Cherubim are in the category of angels, and they were typically pictured with wings; other than that, we really do not know how they were imagined in Solomon’s day. One possibility is that they were following the motif of winged lions with a human face that had become quite popular in the area.1

Figure 7 – Possible appearance of a cherub
(Drawing by the author)

Together the two cherubim spanned the entire width of the inner sanctuary with their wings. Eventually the Ark of the Covenant would be housed underneath them. The Most Holy Place was separated from the nave by a curtain in two parts that overlapped sufficiently to allow the High Priest to enter without exposing the chamber to anyone else’s view. The curtain also showed Phoenician influence with its distinctive colors, particularly the use of purple, which was the Phoenician specialty.

Also following Phoenician architectural styles, Solomon had two columns installed at the front of the temple. He named them Jachin (“He Will Establish”) and Boaz (“Strength is in Him”), referring, of course, to God. Then he had mesh work placed on their capitals and decorated them with 100 pomegranates. These decorations had a special meaning insofar as pomegranates were a distinctive symbol for the priesthood. Aaron and his successors wore robes whose bottom hems were decorated by alternating bells and stitchery of pomegranates (Exod 28:33).

The temple was surrounded by a large number of rooms that could be used for storage, record keeping, and scheduling.

ii. The Fixtures and Tools (4:1–22)

See the diagram in Figure 6 above for the following descriptions. One of the most important items was outside and in front of the building, the main altar for offerings. It was the same size as the inner sanctuary and 15-feet—or 4.5 meters—tall, so the priests and assistants would have needed steps to do their work.

Then there was the “sea,” a large basin made of brass. It had a circumference of about forty-five feet or fourteen meters and a diameter of approximately fifteen feet or four-and-a-half meters. Its bottom was cast as two rows of gourds, and the whole piece was supported by the sculptures of a dozen oxen with four groups of three facing the cardinal directions. This huge tank was intended for the priests to wash themselves because, after performing animal sacrifices, they would most definitely be covered with blood and other animal tissue. Solomon also provided smaller portable basins for the other priests and Levites. There were five on each side.

Following David’s directions, he placed the required objects into the Holy Place. The sides were lined alternating with seven-branched candle holders (menorahs) and tables, ten of each.

Somewhere in the center, close to the inner sanctum, was an altar for incense offerings. Every morning and every evening, the priests whose shift it was would determine by a lottery which one of them would have the privilege of entering the temple and offering incense to God. The process has been described in detail by the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides.

There also needed to be various utensils, bowls, knives, trident forks, baking equipment, and so forth. All of these were made under the supervision of Huram Abi, who carried out Solomon’s wishes. The Phoenician influence was so powerful that at one point Ezra actually mentions Hiram as the builder (4:11). Solomon wanted to compete with other temples in the area on their rules, and it appears that he was the winner. The appearance of the temple became world-famous as we shall see shortly.

Dedication of the Temple and Commitment (5:1–7:22)

i. Homecoming for the Ark (5:1–14)

5:1–5 When the building was complete, it was time to fill the storage areas. There was the huge amount of valuable materials that David and the people had contributed over the years and at David’s last assembly. A large part of that treasure would have been used earlier for the temple, but quite a bit was still left. The worship tent in Gibeon was about to be decommissioned, and valuable or sacred items from there were brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

5:6–10 Now it was time to move in the ark of the covenant, and—just like his father David—Solomon created a memorable spectacle out of the occasion. A potentially short walk turned into an extremely slow-moving parade. Every few minutes it stopped so that sacrifices could be made, and then it would move a little further to stop for more sacrifices. Finally, it arrived at the temple, and the priests who had been carrying the ark deposited it in the inner sanctum under the protective wings of the cherubim. They left the carry poles in their rings just in case the ark should need moving again. As it turned out, the poles were longer than the allocated 30 feet or 9 meters, and anyone in the Holy Place could see their ends poking out of the dividing curtain.

5:11–14 A musical interlude followed, led by Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun and their sons and colleagues. The high point came when the trumpets were playing fortississimo and the singers were at their loudest volume chanting “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Suddenly a cloud showed up and filled the temple so that all proceedings had to come to a halt for a short while. The cloud, of course, represented God’s glory and his delight in the temple as well as the people connected to it.

ii. Solomon’s Address to the People (6:1–11)

As the cloud dissipated, a handful of Levites dragged a 5-foot- or 1.5-meter-tall bronze platform into the court of the temple and placed it right in front of the main altar. King Solomon mounted it, and now he could see more of the people, and they could see him. Picture him as a young man in his late twenties, tall, handsome, and impressive in all the ways we like to think of royalty. The clamor died down, and, as silence descended, Solomon started to speak. His voice was full and carried far enough that what he said could be heard and written down.

The event of a few minutes ago illustrated his starting point. God is shrouded in darkness in the sense that human eyes cannot behold him. He had just hidden himself in a dark cloud, and now his special presence was represented in the inner sanctum, which had no windows. The new temple, however, represents the fact that we can always communicate with God, and from here-on out, the temple serves as a special communication hub.

Solomon recounted God’s surprising ways in the past. He led his people out of Egypt, but some 400 years later he had still not designated a permanent place of worship, as he had promised (Deut 10–14). Then David learned that Jerusalem would be the unique location, but God did not want him to build him a temple. That privilege would go to his young son, Solomon, and he had now completed the task with thanks to the Lord in his heart and his voice.

iii. Solomon’s Prayer (6:12–42)

6:12–17 Solomon lifted his arms high and knelt down on the platform. He began to pray openly with his voice still audible for the crowd to hear his words. First, he thanked God for having fulfilled his promises to David and then entreated him to keep his promise of granting David’s descendants to continue on the throne.

6:18–21 Obviously, a building cannot confine God. He is greater than the entire universe. Still, now that the temple stands, Solomon asks God to let it remind him to listen to his people’s prayers day and night. The idea that the temple should also remind the people to pray to God was implicit.

6:22–39 Now Solomon brought before God a number of scenarios in which people might turn to God by focusing on the temple, and he asked God to respond to each of them with his mercy and forgiveness.

a. If a man is accused of a crime and he swears his innocence before the altar, may God grant insight into who is the guilty party (6:22–23).

b. If the people have sinned and are defeated by their enemies as punishment, if they pray to him in the temple, may God liberate them (6:24–25).

c If there is a drought because the people have sinned, if they pray in the direction of the temple, may God hear them, may they learn to live righteously, and may God send rain (6:26–27).

d. If there is a catastrophe in the land, such as a plague, a famine, the destruction of crops, or an enemy’s invasion, may God respond to any prayers, whether from a single person or from the people as a whole (6:28–31).

e. If a non-Israelite comes and sincerely prays toward the temple to know God, may God stretch out his hand to him, so that the whole world will know about God (6:32–33).

f. If God’s people are caught up in a military conflict and they pray in the direction of Jerusalem and the temple, may God grant them victory (6:34–35).

g. If because of sin, an enemy has conquered the land and has carried the people into captivity, and they repent of their sin and pray in the direction of the land, Jerusalem, and the temple, may God hear their pleas and allow them to return to the Promised Land (6:36–39).

6:40–42 Solomon closed this public prayer by once more asking God to listen to all prayers that were offered to him in the temple.

iv. God’s Dramatic Response (7:1–3)

All the sacrifices and other activities had to stop because God’s cloud of glory had descended on the premises and, as soon as it had disappeared, Solomon had made his speech and public prayer. Consequently, numerous slaughtered animals were lying on the altars, ready to be turned into burnt offerings. All it needed was for the fires to be relit. God took care of that by sending fire from heaven, so that all the sacrifices were completed, and then, once again, the cloud of his glory descended, thus once again halting all activities in the temple.

v. The Continuing Celebration (7:4–10)

Now that the formalities had been done, it was time for the Levites and priests to start their new careers at the temple. For the first time, they were doing their jobs in the new facility, and they did so under difficult circumstances. Solomon sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep, and this number could not be taken care of on the main altar alone. So, Solomon had the entire area between the altar and the temple entrance sanctified, and sacrifices were made on make-shift altars there.

The entire celebration took two weeks because the seven-day celebration of the temple dedication was followed by another week of celebrating the feast of booths (Tabernacles). Finally, Solomon called an end to the festivities and sent everyone home. Those who left were pleased about the temple, the king, and the hope of a prosperous future.

vi. God’s Answer to Solomon’s Prayer (7:11–22)

7:11–18 Once things had settled down, God appeared to Solomon again, just as he had some twenty years ago at Gibeon. He reassured the king that his prayers would be answered and that he approved of the temple as a place for sacrifice and prayer. God confirmed to Solomon that he would, indeed, honor the prayers of his people in all of the scenarios Solomon had brought up, for example in times of drought, crop failure, or plague. When his people were in trouble because of their sin and humbled themselves and sought repentance, then God would forgive their sin and take care of whatever burden the land was under. God will pay attention to his people’s needs and, furthermore, if Solomon walked with God as David had done, God would continue to allow Solomon’s descendants to be kings of Israel.

7:19–22 The promises, however, were conditional upon Solomon and his successors living under the rules that God had given. If they should not abide by God’s Law or, worse yet, start worshiping other gods, then they would forfeit the land; the temple, such as remained of it, would become a joke for other people. They would laugh at the ruins and tell each other that it had been destroyed because the Israelites had abandoned their God.

Solomon as King and Emperor (8:1–9:31)

The final two chapters devoted to Solomon describe his successes, culminating with the visit of the Queen of Sheba.

i. Solomon, Hiram, and the Twenty Cities (8:1–2)

Ezra casually mentions that Solomon renovated 20 cities he had received from King Hiram of Tyre, but there was a story behind them (1Kgs 9:11–13). Not too long ago, those cities had belonged to Solomon, and he had given them to Hiram; perhaps they were to be considered a part of Solomon’s payment for Hiram’s lumber and physical help. Cities have value for a ruler because they increase his base for revenue and potentially add more soldiers to his army. When Hiram made a trip to Galilee where these so-called cities were located, however, it appeared to him that they would do neither. In general, we should only think of these “cities” as little villages anyway, but in this case, they must have been nothing but a collection of hovels that provided dwelling for a number of unproductive people. So, Hiram exclaimed, “What kind of cities are these supposed to be?” and returned them to Solomon. He took them back, settled more Israelites in them, and watched them flourish.

ii. Building Projects (8:3–10)

Once more we read about some of Solomon’s penchant for building or renovating cities. In one of the few military episodes of his life, he claimed Hamat-zobah (1Chr 18:3–11), which David had already defeated (2Chr 8:3). Then he built a new city, called Tadmor, and other “store cities” (8:4). The same term comes up again in 8:6. Along with locations where horses and chariots were kept, these storage places were an important part of trying to keep the nation safe from enemy attacks. An army on the march needs supplies, and if there are cities that already hold provisions, the soldiers can proceed with filled stomachs. Similarly, given the number of chariots that Solomon owned (1:14), if he left them all in one place, they would all be simultaneously at risk. So, having them distributed was a good way to prepare for any possible invasion.

Ezra once more repeats that Solomon did not enslave any Israelites for his work, only non-Israelites who happened to find themselves in the land. And once more, we may remind ourselves that, given what we shall see in chapter 10, this statement is true, but that he conscripted Israelites to work one month out of every three, and that they found this obligation to be onerous.

iii. Solomon’s Piety (8:11–16)

8:11 As mentioned earlier, for Ezra, Solomon is the temple-builder more than anything else, and he respected the sanctity of the premises and the rituals. He built a separate house for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, so that her presence would not contaminate the vicinity of the ark. In fact, traditionally he had all of his foreign pagan wives reside outside of Jerusalem on a hill called “The Mount of Scandal” to this day.

8:12–16 Solomon was punctilious about observing all the required sacrifices every morning and evening along with the rituals required on special days. He also implemented the schedules for priests and Levites as David had drawn them up (1Chr 23–27). And the system worked smoothly without flaws. Ezra files all of these matters under the heading of Solomon’s faithfulness with regard to the temple.

iv. Solomon and Hiram’s Fleet (8:18–19)

The final episode of this chapter is significant insofar as it provides a link to the events of the next chapter. Hiram of Tyre and Solomon enjoyed their wealth and did not squander any opportunity to increase it. The Phoenicians had been a seafaring people, whereas the Hebrews were content to stay on dry land. They were both aware of untold riches at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and points east. For example, there was supposed to be a city called Ophir somewhere in the East (whose exact location is unknown to us), which was famous for its gold. But how to get there?

Hiram had the ships, but in order to sail there one would have needed to cross the Mediterranean Sea lengthwise, round Africa, find profitable places for trade, and then sail the same long and perilous route home. Making the trip by land was uncertain and long. Solomon had no ships, but he had the city of Eloth at the tip of the Gulf of Aqabah, with access to the Red Sea, and from there to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. So, Solomon and Hiram made yet another deal. Hiram would provide sailors who would carry ships overland from Tyre to Eloth. From there, Solomon’s people would join the Phoenician crews and set out in quest of treasure. This venture became a profitable investment; the ships returned with almost 17 US tons or 15 metric tons of gold from Ophir. The voyages also served to spread the news about Solomon, his wealth, and his wisdom.

This simplified map shows the advantage of having a seaport at Eloth.

v. The Queen of Sheba (9:1–12)

The visit of the Queen of Sheba has given rise to countless claims, myths, and speculations. Most modern scholars believe that she was the queen of Saba, a kingdom in the area that is now Yemen, which flourished around the same time as Solomon. Folk beliefs and ethnic traditions have appropriated her for patriotic purposes as far distant as sub-Saharan West Africa. Even if we had more factual information concerning her, it is still a little bit of an enigma why she chose to pay Solomon a state visit. The biblical account tells us that she had heard of Solomon and wanted to check out for herself if he really was as wise as people said. Perhaps she also had in mind setting up a regular trade relationship and maybe even a politically motivated marriage alliance.

9:1–4 The queen came to Jerusalem with a large retinue and a long line of camels bearing treasures. It appears that— to the notwithstanding—the questions she asked Solomon were not just clever riddles but serious questions about life. She spent much time observing the luxury in which Solomon lived, including his palace, meals, staff, and the offerings he made at the temple. Everything she saw took her breath away.

9:5–8 After the queen had made a thorough study of all she had seen, expressed her admiration for Solomon. Before coming, she had trouble believing all that she had heard about the king. Now, however, she realized that actually things were twice as impressive as she had expected. She praised his wisdom and was happy for his wives and attendants who had the opportunity to benefit from it all day every day. The queen applauded the God of Israel, who had seen to it that someone as fabulous as Solomon should be the king. Note that she spoke of “your” God, the God of Israel, so she probably bought into the widespread notion of the geographical limits for each deity. There is no plausible evidence for her conversion to Solomon’s religion or for a romantic entanglement between the two, let alone that she had a son by Solomon who later came to Jerusalem to steal the ark and install it at his home, as promoted by the Ethiopian national myth.

9:9–12 The queen made a present to Solomon of 4.5 US tons or 4 metric tons of gold and an enormous amount of spices and precious stones. We are not told specifically what Solomon gave in exchange other than all that she asked for. After a timespan of unspecified duration, she made the long trek back to her home (9:9, 12). Solomon had established himself as the most admired monarch in his part of the world.

Interspersed, maybe because the queen was witness to it, Ezra tells us about more valuable materials supplied by Hiram (9:10–11).

vi. Solomon’s Riches (9:13–28)

Solomon’s annual intake of gold was just about 25 US tons or 23 metric tons. We must join the Queen of Sheba in being totally overwhelmed at this amount of wealth. And that amount left out a number of other sources, including tributes he received from the princes of Arabia. Everything he looked at or used, from foot stools to drinking cups, was made of gold. Much of it just had to be stored, and Solomon did so by making shields of gold which he hung from the wall of his palace. His throne was made of ivory, a luxury item by itself, but it, too, had to be covered with gold. Furthermore, his quest for more and more treasure was never-ending. His maritime expeditions now included the Mediterranean Sea. Every three years he and Hiram would procure a ship load of “gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.”

Twice in this section, we read that silver had become virtually worthless in light of the gold that the king had at hand to spend. Ezra reminds us of the extent of Solomon’s empire and once again brings up the trade with horses from Egypt. The lesson we are intended to learn from these descriptions is that God blessed Solomon, the temple builder, in extraordinary ways.

And yet, as we shall see presently, not all was well in Solomon’s life or in the kingdom. Ezra’s epitaph of Solomon is surprisingly short and sober. He gives his sources of information, the length of his reign, and the fact that his son Rehoboam succeeded him. What Ezra does not mention because it is not relevant for his purposes is that—temple or no temple—Solomon did not abide by God’s Law. He married Pharaoh’s daughter; he had horses sent up from Egypt; he had an excessive number of wives; many of them non-Israelites; he was obsessed with increasing his wealth; and, in his last years he actually built idol temples for his wives and worshiped there as well (1Kgs 11:1–8).

The Kings of Judah before Hezekiah (10:1–28:27)

For the next eighteen chapters, covering a little more than two centuries, there are two separate kingdoms. The northern kingdom, called “Israel,” and the southern kingdom of “Judah.” Ezra’s focus is on Judah, and he only mentions Israel when the two kingdoms interacted. From the time of Hezekiah, the northern kingdom ceased to exist as the people were captured by the Assyrians and led into captivity.

Rehoboam (10:1–12:16)

i. Division into two Kingdoms (10:1–19)

We already alluded to the fact that kings can make some rather questionable decisions (1Chr 19:4) and that princes may come to the throne not properly prepared (1Chr 18:17). Such was evidently the case with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, who became the next king. We must keep in mind, however, that the next events were brought about by God due to Solomon’s apostasy (2Chr 10:15).

Solomon was a great monarch. His displays of wisdom and unimaginable wealth awed everyone with whom he came in contact. But he earned his stature on the backs of his subjects. The “resident aliens” became slaves, and common people were drafted to work on his projects four months a year. We can be quite sure that Solomon did not distribute the gold, ivory, apes, and peacocks around the land. It is all very well to boast that silver was as common as dirt, but that means that the purchasing power of silver also threatened to be on the level with dirt. So, when Solomon died, the people appealed to the new king to cut back on their obligations to the crown.

10:1–5 God had already appointed Jeroboam to be the leader of this group of dissidents. (1Kgs 11:26–12:3). He had been in exile in Egypt, but now he came out and spoke for the people of the northern tribes, viz., everyone except Judah, Benjamin, and—of course—Levi. Their request was straightforward: “Under your father we have been under a heavy yoke, please lighten it now that you are going to be the new king.” Rehoboam was 41 years old at that time (2Chr 12:13), hardly a youngster, but clearly not wise in the ways of politics. A simple “Yes, let’s get together and see what we can do to reduce your burden,” might have taken care of things, but he did not see it because God had other plans in mind (10:15). Instead, he asked for three days to consider the matter.

10:6–15 First Jeroboam talked to Solomon’s aged advisors, and they counselled him to listen to the people. The advisors of his own generation told him that this was his chance right at the beginning to show who was the boss. It was their advice that Rehoboam followed, and after the three-day period was over, he told the assembled people that, if anything, he would add weight to their yokes, and he would punish them with scorpions (leather strips with metal barbs) rather than plain whips.

10:16–19 At that point, it occurred to Jeroboam and his followers that there was no necessity for them to remain subjects of the king of Judah. Just as the various tribes had voluntarily joined David (1Chr 11), they could also secede from the unified kingdom, and they went back to their own homes. Rehoboam was non-plussed and withdrew, but he also sent his supervisor of forced labor, Hadoram, to persuade them to return. Sadly, Rehoboam had still not caught-on to the seriousness of the situation. Hadoram was stoned to death by the disgruntled Israelites, who then acclaimed Jeroboam as their king. The empire built by David and reinforced by Solomon over 80 years was dissolved within a few days. Rehoboam made a hasty dash back to Jerusalem.

ii. Setting up Defenses (11:1–12)

Rehoboam reacted in the manner that one might expect from someone who still had an inflated view of his power. He quickly mobilized 180,000 fighters from Judah and Benjamin with an eye toward recovering the northern tribes. From a human point of view, it is hard to imagine how he could have brought it about, but God stopped him. The prophet Shemaiah visited the king and told him that he should not make war on his relatives because ultimately God was behind these events. Rehoboam heeded the injunction, but he spent a lot of time and effort on shoring up the defenses of Jerusalem and what was left of his kingdom.

iii. The Priesthood (11:13–17)

Jeroboam had a serious issue to deal with if he wanted to hold his new kingdom together. The temple was in Jerusalem. Devout people would want to go to Jerusalem in order to worship and make offerings, and while there, they could be persuaded to side with Judah against him. His solution was to supplant the worship of God with a religion he invented himself. He expelled priests and Levites and created two new sanctuaries at the cities of Bethel, close to the southern border, and Dan, way up north. Each of them was outfitted with a golden calf and several statues of goats. Anyone who could come up with the fee of one young bull or seven rams (13:9) could become a priest at one of the shrines. On the other side of the border the influx of priests and Levites into Jerusalem was a good thing. Rehoboam had leanings toward idolatry, but for three years these refugee spiritual leaders managed to keep Rehoboam’s tendencies in check.

iv. Wives and Sons (11:18–23)

Rehoboam’s harem was not nearly as large as that of Solomon. He “only” had 18 wives and 60 concubines, who altogether gave him 28 sons. Of those, his favorite was Abijah, the first-born of Maacah, who was the daughter of the ill-fated Absalom. He designated Abijah as his heir apparent, so there would be no immediate question of succession. Furthermore, having learned from the experience of David and probably his own first 40 years, he gave each of his sons responsibility over one of the cities he had newly fortified, so they would hopefully have picked-up some skill in administration. At the same time, he made sure that they were provided for in all areas, including making sure that they had wives (11:23).

v. Invasion by Pharaoh Shishak (12:1–12)

It did not take Rehoboam long to leave the worship of God behind and start practicing Canaanite religions. At least by implication, the strongest impulse on him in that direction was his mother, Naamah the Ammonite, one of Solomon’s many pagan wives (12:13). For three years he had been faithful to the Lord; by the fifth year his idolatry had taken over to the point that God saw to it that he would be punished. The scourge was a Pharaoh named Shishak, who had initiated a new dynasty and attempted to make Egypt a strong power again. As he moved north, he destroyed city after city, fortified or not. All the arrangements that Solomon had made and all the reinforcements that Rehoboam installed—gone. The supply stores, the chariot depots, the stables—all gone. Just to make sure that the king understood what was behind this disaster, the prophet Shemaiah told him: “You have brought this on yourself because you have departed from the Lord.” The message sunk in and Rehoboam and his sons repented of their sins. As a consequence, Shemaiah informed him that Shishak would not destroy Jerusalem, though Rehoboam would become his vassal.

Shishak did come up to Jerusalem, but only to plunder the treasures of the palace and the temple. Think back of all that was there: the gold and jewels collected by David, the contributions made by David’s officials, the riches of the temple, the treasures of Solomon, the shields that were Solomon’s handy way of storing excess gold—all gone into the hands of the king of Egypt. A bare five years after Solomon had been the wealthiest, most adored ruler of the ancient Near East, all of the items that he had loved and the Queen of Sheba had marveled at, were stripped and taken by Shishak and his men. In a truly pitiful move, Rehoboam replaced the golden shields with bronze ones, perhaps because he was so used to seeing shields on the wall. At that, he made sure that they would be safely locked up at night. And, despite all that had happened, Ezra reports that on the whole things were good in Judah. Shishak’s Blitzkrieg was devastating, but it was short, and the people recovered from it. Shishak died shortly after returning home.

vi. Rehoboam’s Epitaph (12:13–16)

We do not know how Rehoboam acted after the Shishak-invasion crisis. One might assume that he had learned a lesson and remained true to God, but the account of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 14:21–31 confines itself entirely to a lurid recital of the king’s apostasy, and Chronicles does not even drop a hint about the last twelve years of the king’s life. Rehoboam reigned for a total of 17 years, and he became a strong king (2Chr 12:13). There was no out-and-out warfare between Judah and Israel, but hostilities at the border between the two never ceased either. Ezra’s final evaluation is that “he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” That description may remind us of King Saul, who, regardless of what he did, never was fully committed to God’s sovereignty.

Abijah (13:1–22)

There is a marked difference between the treatments of Abijah in Kings and Chronicles. The best that 1 Kings can say about him is that for David’s sake God allowed him to have a son who would become his successor. Once again, Ezra has a different aim. He picks out one particular event in the three-year reign of Abijah and does not go into anything else. Unsurprisingly, this event has to do with the temple and priests.

While Jeroboam was still king of Israel, Abijah set out with an army against him, and by the time the story begins Abijah is already in the hills of Ephraim. His army consisted of 400,000 men, an impressive number. Vastly and surprisingly outnumbered, he found himself countered by Jeroboam and 800,000 soldiers. Before the battle began, Abijah raised his voice and addressed the army of Israel. His speech made the following points:

i. God has given the crown of Israel to the house of David in perpetuity. It is a “covenant of salt,” which means an agreement that can never be broken.

ii. When Rehoboam was young and unable to stand up for himself, treason was committed by a group of worthless people, led by Jeroboam.

iii. Now Jeroboam and his cohorts are making war, not only on the king, but on God himself.

iv. You, the Israelites under Jeroboam, think that because you outnumber us and are carrying the golden calves along, you can win this battle.

v. But think: the golden calves are just objects that Jeroboam made, and he invented a religion to go with it. For a small fee anybody can buy himself a priesthood. What kind of religion is that?

vi. We, the Judahites, still practice the religion of the true God. We have the priests and Levites and offer the prescribed sacrifices in the correct manner within the right temple.

vii. So, do not think that you are able to fight God. He is with us, as are his priests who will sound the trumpet, and you cannot possibly win.

We can only speculate about how many of the 800,000 Jeroboamites could hear Abijah’s speech, but it is unlikely that too many of them cared. As Abijah was soaring in rhetoric, Jeroboam had quietly sent a part of his army around the army of Judah, so that he could crush them from both front and behind. Suddenly Abijah and his troops realized that they had been trapped. They gave a desperate shout, perhaps even a scream, and the priests blasted their trumpets at full volume.

Now, note what the next sentence said. Here is a hint: It does not say that Abijah and his men fought and defeated the enemy. It says that “God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah” (13:15b). Abijah’s diagnosis had been correct: The Israelite army had chosen to fight against God himself, and they never had a chance. From a merely human perspective, all that anyone could see would have been the Judahite army routing the Israelites, as the latter tried to escape the massacre. The number of 500,000 casualties sounds very high, but 400,000 motivated soldiers relying on God (13:18) can inflict that kind of damage on a fleeing mob. It was the end of Jeroboam’s career as royalty. God had promised him that he would establish him if he stuck to God’s Law, but Jeroboam thought he knew better. The Judahites captured a part of southern Ephraim, including Bethel, the site of the golden calf temple, but as mentioned, the calves were with the army.

Abijah’s reign lasted three years, and, on the whole, it was characterized by idolatry. His speech before that battle is the only really good thing we know about him. He became a strong ruler, with multiple wives and much offspring. As has been true so far for all kings of Judah, when he died, he was buried alongside the tomb of David.

Asa (14:1–16:14)

The story of Asa is a sad one. Throughout most of his reign, his actions were of positive value to the country, but later on his personal issues subtracted from his overall success.

i. Back to Yahweh (14:1–8)

Asa began his reign with ten years of peace. The surrounding kingdoms had internal issues to deal with, which gave Judah some breathing room. Asa used this time of peace in order to rectify the religious situation in Judah. He purged the country of all idol worship, and God allowed him to have peace. He may have had childhood memories of Shishak’s invasion, and he took steps to fortify Judah against a repeat. A large army of well-trained and well-equipped Judahites and Benjamites was prepared in case of hostilities. Asa attributed this time of peace and prosperity directly to the fact that he and the nation he led were committed to the Lord.

ii. A Glorious Victory (14:9–15)

It was too good to last. Zerah the Ethiopian, possibly a general in the Egyptian army, came up with “a million men and 300 chariots.” Asa’s 580,00 were outnumbered, and he knew that he was in trouble. The two armies met in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah, which was Philistine territory. Asa desperately cried out to God for help.

Once again, pay close attention to 14:12: It was the Lord who defeated this huge army. Yes, Asa’s army fought and won, but the victory was God’s. The Lord gave Asa a huge victory. Before the Judahite army went home they destroyed villages and confiscated livestock in the area. Ezra tells us that the purpose was looting; however, these actions also would make it harder for any invasion from that area since there would be no sources of supplies at hand, at least for a while.

iii. Details on Asa’s Reform (15:1–19)

15:1–7 After this amazing victory, there appeared to be a whole new feeling of commitment to the Lord in Judah. Ezra may be pointing back to some of the measures Asa took prior to the encounter with Zerah, and some of what he is telling us about here is clearly after that battle.

The Chronicles are filled with the names of prophets who appear on the scene once or twice, as they are sent from God, make a significant statement to a king, and then vanish from the scene again. Frequently they issue a warning, but sometimes they have good news. In this case, Azariah son of Obed paid Asa a visit with a word of promise.

Azariah announced to Asa that the Lord approved of his abiding by God’s will. He reminded him of past times, such as those recorded in Judges, in which the people had abandoned God to their detriment and then, when they were in trouble, they called out to God to help them out of it, and God let himself be found by them. If Asa will continue to do his work of reform, he can count on God’s blessings.

15:8–15 It is not easy, even for a king, to engage in actions that a sizeable number of his subjects will resent. Still, on the basis of Azariah’s words, Asa “took courage,” continued his large-scale project of ridding his kingdom and southern Ephraim of idolatry. The altar in the court of the temple needed repair, and he took care of that. Then he gathered as many people as he could from his own area as well as from the northern tribes who had sought refuge in Judah. Together these thousands of people resolved under oath that they would be true to God and if there was anyone who would engage in idolatry, that person would have forfeited his life. A drastic measure, to be sure, but the rules had to be strict for those people who belong to God.

15:16–19 Asa was even willing to fire his own grandmother, Maacah, the wife of Rehoboam who had deeply immersed herself in the worship of the goddess Asherah. He cut down her worship pole and destroyed it. Subsequently he must have kept her from any personal appearances. Still, the “high places” remained. Even if the king destroyed them, in all probability five, ten, or maybe twenty years later, people would make use of them again. They would be conveniently placed, and their mythology, as told by their pagan neighbors, might sound quite attractive.

iv. Diplomacy rather than God (16:1–14)

Things were changing in the northern kingdom. Jeroboam had died, and his son Nadab became king of Israel. Nadab’s reign lasted a short two years, at which point a general named Baasha assassinated him in what looks like nothing more than a grab for power, and he proclaimed himself king. This act was God’s punishment on the house of Jeroboam, but Baasha was not any better. He built a fortification against Judah at Ramah to guard against people crossing the border between the two kingdoms, and—after feeling secure thanks to an alliance with Ben-hadad, king of Syria, at Damascus—made plans to invade Judah.

Asa was not interested in a war with Israel, and so he tried to use diplomacy to end this crisis. He sent a great amount of treasure to Ben-hadad and reminded him of a heretofore undisclosed alliance between him and Abijah. Ben-hadad was happy to accept the tribute and sent his soldiers, who were in the mood to fight, to cause trouble in Baasha’s kingdom. Asa undid Baasha’s fortifications and made free use of the building materials for his own purposes. Diplomacy had triumphed over war! Or had it?

Asa found out soon enough what God had thought of his foreign policy. The prophet Hanani visited and scolded him. “Don’t you remember what happened with that huge army under Zerah? You trusted God, and he gave you a miraculous victory. This time you have put your trust in a pagan ruler—Ben-hadad—rather than God. Consequently, the peace that you have enjoyed so far will cease, and you will have war on your hands from now on.” Obviously, this message did not please Asa, and he took out his rage on the prophet whom he sent to jail. Around that time, Asa was apparently going downhill, both physically and spiritually. He also inflicted some unnamed cruelty on certain people. Then, when he had a bad disease on his feet, he turned to the physicians, rather than to God. This statement can be seriously misinterpreted. These so-called physicians were nothing like contemporary medical doctors; they were sorcerers and spiritists who attempted to cure people with magical powers. When Asa died in his forty-first year on the throne, the people decorated his corpse with spices and perfumes, held a big fire in his honor, and buried him in the same vicinity as his predecessors. Asa made some serious errors in his life, not unlike other human beings, but on the whole, he was a good king, living righteously for the most part and motivating his subjects to do the same.

Jehoshaphat (17:1–20:37)

i. Greatness Recovered (17:1–19)

Though making some serious mistakes at some points, we can count Jehoshaphat among the outstanding kings of Judah, both from a temporal and spiritual point of view. He emulated David in his desire to follow God. He once again sought to remove the idolatrous shrines. Then he started up a new program: teaching the people about the Law. He sent out a number of his officials, along with a group of Levites, to inform the people and let them learn about God and his expectations of them. Undoubtedly, doing so contributed to the success of his reform.

The effectiveness of Jehoshaphat’s rule can be measured by the fact that surrounding nations feared, not him, but the Lord. They recognized in Jehoshaphat a man who was going to rely on a strong God, with whom they best not take up a quarrel. Even some Philistines came and brought tribute to the king. Jehoshaphat used this time of peace and prosperity to continue building up the defenses of Judah and to train a huge army totaling almost twelve million troops.

ii. A Disastrous Alliance (18:1–34)

Chapter 18 begins with the simple observation that Jehoshaphat had made a marriage alliance with Ahab, the king of Israel. To understand the implications, we need to take another quick look at what had been happening in the northern kingdom. By this time, Israel was already on its seventh king, three of whom had been assassinated and none of whom had worshiped the true God. Ahab had married into Phoenician royalty when he married Princess Jezebel, the headstrong daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon. The Phoenicians worshiped Baal, and at Jezebel’s insistence, Ahab declared Baal worship the official religion of the kingdom and made the worship of the true God a capital offense. Ahab and Jezebel had two sons and a daughter. The daughter, named Athaliah, grew up with the same devotion to Baal and hatred of Yahweh as her mother (see Figure 9 for clarification).

It is difficult to fathom, but Jehoshaphat, who was so punctilious about following God, arranged a marriage between his older son Jehoram and Athaliah, undoubtedly in the hope of re-unifying the kingdom, but he seems to have underestimated the grip that the Baal religion had on the northern kingdom and its royal family.

In order to strengthen the alliance, Jehoshaphat paid Ahab a visit. Ahab, who had been at war with the Syrians for quite a while, asked him if he would accompany him on a military mission against Ben-hadad II of Syria to recover the town Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed but insisted that they should consult the Lord first. So, Ahab brought out his official 400 prophets of Baal, and they went through their theatrical gyrations confirming Ahab’s intent. The leader of their number, Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, placed a set of horns on his head and proclaimed that Ahab would win as though he was piercing the enemy with such horns. But that was not what Jehoshaphat had wanted. Was there not a prophet of Yahweh somewhere? Indeed, there was. He was named Micaiah, and he had avoided Jezebel’s persecution. Ahab did not like to consult him, though, because he always came out with something negative.

Still, at Jehoshaphat’s insistence, Micaiah was brought before the two kings, and the first few words out of his mouth agreed with the other prophets. Ahab, however, knew him too well and detected insincerity in his declaration. So, then Micaiah stated what God had actually told him, which was the opposite, namely that Ahab would be killed in the upcoming battle. The message was not well received by either Ahab or his prophets, and Micaiah was put in jail on bread and water.

Despite his drastic actions against Micaiah, Ahab was not entirely sure that the prophet was wrong, and thus, as a precaution, disguised himself as a rank-and-file charioteer while Jehoshaphat wore his regal battle outfit. Ben-hadad had issued the command to his troops not to waste their efforts on the common soldiers, but to kill King Ahab in the battle. When they saw Jehoshaphat, they thought for a moment that they had achieved their goal, but a closer look revealed that he was not Ahab, and so Jehoshaphat went unscathed. As the fighting went on, a Syrian soldier shot his bow randomly at one of the chariot warriors. The arrow pierced a vulnerable section in his armor, and he bled to death. That unfortunate man was, of course, Ahab.

Jehoshaphat had probably meant well. He wanted to bring both Judah and Israel together again. Nevertheless, just as his father Asa had done, he had allied himself with the enemies of God, which would continue to bring evil consequences to his kingdom long after he was dead.

Figure 9 – The potentially confusing relationships between the two royal families.
  • Asa, Omri, and Ethbaal of Sidon were respectively the fathers of Jehoshaphat, Ahab, and Jezebel.
  • Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram became king after Jehoshaphath died, and he was succeeded by his son Ahaziah.
  • Ahab and Jezebel had one daughter and two sons. The daughter, Athaliah, married Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat.
  • The sons of Ahab and Jezebel were named Ahaziah and Jehoram, the same names as Jehoshaphat’s son and they succeeded each other, Ahaziah first, followed by Jehoram.
  • During Jehu’s revolution all people related to Ahab were killed, except for Athaliah who declared herself Queen of Judah.

iii. Establishing Teaching Centers (19:1–11)

19:1–3 It had been the job of the prophet Hanani to take Asa to task for his alliance with the Syrians. Now it was up to his son, Jehu son of Hanani, to rebuke Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, for allying himself with the ungodly king of Israel. The warning also contained the acknowledgement of Jehoshaphat’s rigor in cleansing the land of idols and his righteousness.

19:4–7 An aspect of David’s blueprint for the nation was that many Levites would serve as officers and judges (1Chr 23:4). Whether that plan was ever implemented or slowly dissolved over the years, it needed fixing. Jehoshaphat toured through the entire country south to north—Beersheba to the hills of Ephraim—and installed judges where they were lacking. The king gave them a stern admonition to be fair and to remember that they were representing God as they passed judgment.

19:8–11 Jehoshaphat also revived the idea of designated Levites in Jerusalem serving as a court of final appeal. Again, he admonished the judges, but this time it was to make sure that they had warned the petitioners on both sides of a case to be completely truthful. Once they had issued that caution, then the court had done all it could to rely on their assertions; if the litigants were to commit perjury, the judges would not be accountable for a decision based on what they had been told. Of course, if it came out that a person falsely accused someone, then he would receive the punishment that the alleged law breaker would have deserved (Deut 19:16–19). In addition to the many Levites who would assist each other, they could also count on the support from the high priest and from the secular governor of Judah.

iv. God Defends the Kingdom (20:1–30)

20:1–4 Jehoshaphat, like his father Asa, had his faith tested by the invasion of a large army. The very fact that this could happen shows that the surrounding nations who existed as tribute vassals a century ago had regained their independence and once again had their own military forces. Specifically, a coalition of Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites (here identified as the subtribe Meunites), was invading Judah. By the time that Jehoshaphat heard of it, they were already at Engedi, an area on the western side of the Dead Sea, where once David had hidden from Saul. With this army so close, there was little time for any preparation. The news was devastating, but the king’s first reaction was not to seek help from allies, which would come too late anyway, but to turn to God. He proclaimed a fast throughout Judah, which many people took as a signal to come to the temple in Jerusalem.

20:5–12 Before the assembled people, Jehoshaphat spoke a public prayer asking God for help. He thanked and praised God for being the ruler of all nations and for giving his people the land in all perpetuity as well as the temple. Then he referred back to Solomon’s prayer at the temple dedication (6:28–31), that if there were a national disaster, such as an invasion by an enemy, and if the people would pray before God at the temple, he would save them. And now, he informed God, was exactly such a case in point. He skipped over the wars by David and Solomon and reminded God that during the Exodus, God’s people had not destroyed the three countries involved.

20:13–17 While many of Jehoshaphat’s subjects were standing in and around the temple courtyard, another prophet, Jahazael of the clan of Asaph, rose to the occasion and declared that God would defend them. This battle would not be theirs to fight. He gave them the exact location of where the enemies would be and told the people that they would not even need to fight at all. All they needed to do was to be there and observe what would be happening.

20:18–19 Jehoshaphat and the people believed him. A more expected reaction might have been to plan to fight, and then, if God wanted to intervene, they would appreciate his assistance. But to go out there and not raise a weapon, that might be asking for a little much to accept on blind faith. Still, Jehoshaphat’s reaction demonstrated exactly that kind of faith in God. He bowed down to show his obedience to God, and inspired by his confidence, the Levites who were priests and doorkeepers started to praise God.

20:20–23 The next morning, Jehoshaphat and his crowd, which could hardly be called an army, set out to see what God would do. The king placed the priests and musicians in their sacred robes into the vanguard and asked them to sing God’s praises, a very unusual military tactic. He reminded the people to trust God, and they set out singing the familiar refrain, “Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love lasts forever.” As this parade set out, God took care of the invaders.

20:24–28 A human observer would probably have seen tens of thousands of warriors navigating the rocky Judean wilderness, where there was no way that an army could march in formation. Everyone was fired up to do battle, ready to take on the enemy, though not knowing what the enemy would look like. Suddenly they saw the Edomites as they were joining the Ammonites and Moabites. “There they are!” they may have shouted, mistaking the Edomite army for the Judahites and started to attack. Once they had decimated the Edomite army, they just kept on fighting, Moabites against Ammonites, presumably each thinking that the other was the enemy they were supposed to go against. What the observer’s eyes would not necessarily register was that God had brought this blindness on the people.

Thus, when Jehoshaphat and his army of noncombatants arrived at the spot to which they had been directed, they saw thousands of corpses. Since all sides had pretty much killed each other, no one had been able to loot the remains, thus Jehoshaphat’s people were able to take their pick of all the valuable things that were left behind. It took three days to finish appropriating everything there. Afterwards they assembled in the Kidron Valley, which they called the “Valley of Blessing (Berakah).” There they gathered to praise God for the miraculous way in which he had saved them, and then they proceeded to Jerusalem, once again with musical accompaniment.

20:29–30 Word of what had happened spread around all the neighboring nations. If anyone had aggressive intentions, they did not carry them out because they realized that taking on the God of the Judahites was too dangerous. Consequently, once again peace reigned in the area for a while.

v. Jehoshaphat’s Last Days (20:31–37)

20:31–34 Ezra gives his standard epitaph for Jehoshaphat and then, unexpectedly, adds one more anecdote. Jehoshaphat came to the throne when he was thirty-five years old, and he ruled until he was sixty. He was definitely a good king, and it would be quite a while before anyone would be as devoted to God again.

20:35–37 Still, there is one last episode tacked on that reveals Jehoshaphat’s weakness. Apparently, he could never get over the idea of trying to join the two kingdoms again. By this time, the king of Israel was Ahaziah. Jehoshaphat, whose son Jehoram had already married into the Ahab family, decided to go into the oversea trade with Ahaziah of Israel, just as Solomon had with Hiram of Tyre. So, they built some ships at Eloth (also called Ezion-geber). Another prophet, named Eliezer, popped up at that time and upbraided Jehoshaphat for once again joining up with an unbeliever. Because of that alliance, the Lord would see to it that the venture would be a failure, and that is what happened. While the boats were moored at Eloth, God sent a mighty storm that destroyed all the vessels.

Jehoram of Judah (21:1–20)

Two Jehorams ruled their kingdoms almost simultaneously. The one in this text is “Jehoram of Judah.” He was the son of Jehoshaphat, and he was married to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. The other one was “Jehoram of Israel,” the younger son of Ahab, and, thus, the two were brothers-in-law.

21:1–7 Jehoram, though king of Judah, had very clearly been brought up in the religion of Baal, which had been enforced by Jezebel and Athaliah with their brutal opposition to God. We have mentioned before the ambivalent position in which younger princes found themselves. Jehoshaphat had made sure that all of his sons had wealth and responsibility, but for Jehoram that meant that they could become rivals, and he killed them, a drastic measure not unknown in various pagan cultures, but certainly evil in the sight of God. Again, the only positive thing that Ezra can find to say about him is that God provided him with an heir so that the kingdom of Judah would remain in the line of David.  if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

21:8–11 Recognizing his incompetence, the Edomites decided to rebel against whatever power Judah still had over them. Jehoram and his army went to subdue them, but surrounded by Edomites, they got away with the dubious victory of having escaped from their trap. Edom established its own king, and never became dependent on Judah again. In addition, the city of Libnah rebelled against Jehoram because they were fed up with his idolatry. Still the king continued his policy of promoting idolatry, including reestablishing all of the pagan altars of the high places.

21:12–17 Jehoram received a letter from the prophet Elijah, Ahab’s old nemesis (1Kgs 17–2Kgs 2). The prophet had no kind words to say. Because the king had led the people into idolatry, copying his wife and in-laws, he would see his relatives killed, and he would die from a very painful intestinal disease. These things came about. The Philistines once again showed up, and this time they did not have presents for the king, but they brought along some warriors from southern Arabia. Together, they plundered Jehoram’s palace and took the valuable materials he owned. Before they left, they captured his wives and sons, except for the youngest one, who is called Jehoahaz in this context, but who usually went by the name Ahaziah.

21:18–20 Elijah’s prediction of Jehoram’s disease also came through. He came down with what may have been colon cancer and died a horrible death with protruding intestines. Ezra’s obituary is highly uncomplimentary. He was buried on Mt. Zion, but not in the area reserved for other kings. No one missed him, and it would appear that we can include his wife Athaliah among that group. She probably had little use for this diseased failure of a husband.

i. Ahaziah of Judah (22:1–12)

22:1–5a Ahaziah was Jehoram’s youngest son, who had been spared by the invading Philistines. He reigned over the kingdom, but, as the expression goes, he never ruled it. His mother, Athaliah, must have been directing the affairs of state. Ahaziah spent much of his short time as king with his uncle, Jehoram of Israel. We have seen above how Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in a misguided attack on the Syrians under Ben-hadad II at Ramoth-gilead. Now, all we need to do is to change the names, and we are looking at a similar fiasco. Ahaziah of Judah and Jehoram of Israel went to Ramoth-gilead to make war on the Syrian king Hazael.

22:5b–9 Jehoram was severely wounded and had to stay in the town of Jezreel to recover. Ahaziah returned to Jerusalem for a short time and then went back to the northern kingdom to see how Jehoram was coming along. What neither king could know what that God had called a general in the northern army to eradicate the house of Ahab (2Kgs 9:14–28). His name was Jehu, and he had been anointed as king by the young servant of an unnamed prophet. When Jehu found both Ahaziah and Jehoram together, his work was made fairly easy. He killed Jehoram, and even though Ahaziah tried to escape, Jehu killed him as well.

22:10–12 Jehu was now the monarch of the northern kingdom, and he had just shown that he did not hesitate to kill a king of Judah related to the family of Ahab. Athaliah, widow of Jehoram of Judah and mother of the now-late Ahaziah, found herself in a pickle. Undoubtedly, she was on Jehu’s list to be killed, and, if there were any legitimate claimants to the throne of Judah, they would undoubtedly kill her as well. So, she did the only thing that might save her neck. She eliminated all possible rivals and declared herself to be the Queen of Judah. But she overlooked one person, Ahaziah’s youngest son, Joash, a mere infant at the time. Jehosheba, Ahaziah’s sister (2Kgs 11:2) and wife of the high priest Jehoiada rescued and concealed him for the next six years in the temple of the Lord, the last place that the Baal-worshiping Athaliah would frequent.

Joash (23:1–24:27)

i. The Coup (23:1–15)

23:1–3 Athaliah had no legitimacy for governing Judah. She had no connection to the line of David, and her parents were idol worshipers, as she was. Nor can we assume that she was well-liked, given the massacre with which she took the throne. It would only be a matter of waiting for the right moment when Jehoiada would confront her with Joash, the true heir-apparent, and her time would be up. The priest waited until Joash was seven years old, and then he carefully implemented a plan. He called together the priests, Levites, and heads of clans scattered around the land for a meeting at the temple. They all agreed that the moment had come to install little Joash as king.

23:4–11 Jehoiada did all he could to make this revolution as secure as possible. When the day shift on the agreed-upon Sabbath was over, they would not go home, but remain and take up positions guarding the temple. The new shift would surround the boy king to protect him, and all others should be ready for whatever might happen by waiting in the outer court. There were some ancient weapons in the temple, and Jehoiada distributed them among the Levites, who positioned themselves around the place where Joash would stand. Jehoiada had young Joash stand next to a column and set a crown on his head. Then he put into Joash’s hand the “testimony,” which is a scroll of the law that a king should always have on his person and study thoroughly (Deut 17:18–19). Now everyone began to shout, “Long Live the King!” The musical division got into the act with trumpets, string instruments, and vociferous singing.

23:12–15 Athaliah was obviously taken by surprise when she heard all of that noise. But that was nothing compared to her shock when she walked into the temple area and saw little Joash standing there looking as regal as would be possible for a seven-year-old. “Treason!” shouted Athaliah, repeating the word several times, but nobody came to her aid. Jehoiada gave instructions to the officers not to kill her within the temple premises, so they escorted her out and executed her in front of the royal palace, her residence ever since her marriage to Jehoram.

ii. Fervor and Return to Normality (23:16–21)

While everyone was in a spirit of enthusiasm, Jehoiada proposed that they commit themselves to the worship of God alone. The crowd agreed joyfully and immediately put that idea into action. They rushed to the Baal temple and demolished it and its content, after which they killed its priest. Jehoiada was wise enough that he could not allow chaos to continue. So, he immediately organized the Levites and priests that were there along the lines of David’s directions, and then he and the various officials held a triumphal march to enthrone Joash.

iii. Temple Repairs (24:1–19)

Ezra’s introduction to Joash’s reign already foreshadows what will eventually become a reality. We read that Joash did everything right as long as the priest Jehoiada was alive. Furthermore, it was Jehoiada who found him two wives. Joash clearly was dependent on Jehoiada, whether he was incapable of governing without his uncle by marriage, or whether the uncle simply would not give Joash the chance to make independent decisions is hard to say, but the attachment was there. Joash’s actions after Jehoiada died may incline us to favor the view that Joash had a difficult time taking charge of his own life.

By now the temple had stood for two centuries, and even if it had seen less activity than its daily usage and the occasional looting by invading armies, it needed a good overhaul. But the renovation required money; neither building materials nor workers came free. The temple should have had a fund for its upkeep, but Athaliah had removed anything of value to the Baal sanctuary. So, Joash commanded the priests and Levites to travel throughout the country and raise money, primarily by collecting the half-shekels that had been the standard tax from the time of Moses on (Exod 30:11–16). But the priests and Levites were overworked and did not have the time or energy to canvas the villages and countryside to collect the money from all of the residents. They had to look after their own households when they did not serve in the temple.

So, in consultation with Jehoiada, Joash took a different approach. Rather than making the priests go out to the people, the people should come to the temple and deposit their contributions as long as they were there. So, they set up a big wooden box, and the visitors to the temple could just drop their money into it. The box was guarded conscientiously and emptied whenever there was a large amount inside of it. Then officials representing both the king and the priests would count the money and keep meticulous records. Everyone liked that system, and enough donations came in so that competent workers could be hired in order to restore the temple to its original glory. In fact, when the work on the buildings was finished, there was money left over for Joash to have the necessary utensils made.

iv. Jehoiada’s Death and the Aftermath (24:15–19)

Jehoiada lived to be 130 years old, but the inevitable had to happen, and he passed away. He received the kind of burial usually reserved for kings. Now Joash had the chance to carry on in the spirit of Jehoiada and continue to support the worship of God. But Joash apparently could not rule his kingdom without somebody giving him directions. In the absence of Jehoiada, the so-called princes of Judah got the king’s ear. These were men who had flourished under Athaliah, and they persuaded Joash to abandon God in favor of Canaanite religions. And Joash was completely convinced by them, turning 180-degrees from what he had been taught by Jehoiada and even becoming hostile towards God. We do not know in what form wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem (24:18b), but he ignored it as well as the words of prophets warning him and his new associates.

v. The Death of Zechariah (24:20–22)

Jehoiada had protected Joash from Athaliah, but now he displayed Athaliah-like behavior. Jehoiada had a son of his own named Zechariah. He called for a public meeting in which he informed the public that whatever bad things were happening at the time were a result of their having forsaken the Lord once again. Joash was very disgruntled with that kind of commentary and arranged for the son of the man who had saved his life to be stoned to death within the temple court.

vi. The End of Joash (24:23–27)

Apparently, there had been little military activity involving Judah for quite a while. But now a relatively small army from Syria showed up at Joash’s doorstep sent there by God. They overcame the much larger army of Joash and got rid of the apparently self-designated noblemen who had been advising Joash. They found many valuable items, which they exported back to Damascus. In the struggle, Joash received a serious wound which may have been life-threatening, and it confined him to his bed in his chamber. Guards around the king were usually foreigners on the assumption that they would have less interest vested in plotting against the king, but in this case, Zebad of Ammon and Jehozabad of Moab made sure that Joash would not recover from his injury. Joash had reigned for about thirty-nine years and died around forty-six years old. A life with much potential had been wasted.

Amaziah (25:1–28)

25:1–4 Apparently, there may have been some question of who would succeed Joash because Amaziah son of Joash needed to wait to make sure that the throne was really his. Once he was safely in place, he had his father’s assassins executed.

25:5–10 Oblivious to the role God had played in the defeat by the Syrians, he reorganized his army. As we are told in a moment, his aim was to defeat the Edomites who were making themselves at home in Judahite territory. He managed to amass 300,000 trained men, and—just to be sure—he also recruited 100,000 mercenaries from the northern kingdom, which cost him a whopping 100 talents of silver, which was more than three tons or 2,700 kilograms of the precious metal. But then another prophet called on him and told him that he should not employ soldiers of Israel because God would not support them (due to their idolatry). Amaziah was open to that idea, but what about the money he had already paid? The prophet told him not to worry about that silver because he could earn so much more if he stuck with God; Amaziah gave in. He informed the Israelites that they could go home, which meant that they could not get any spoils in the upcoming action. Their adrenaline level had been set on “war,” and if they could not go to fight any Edomites, they would let their anger out on the land of Judah.

25:11–13 Amaziah did not pay attention to them at first but set out with his army to repel the Edomite invasion, and he succeeded, resulting in 10,000 Edomite deaths in the battle and, subsequently, the same amount when he slaughtered his prisoners of war. However, the king returned to find that the soldiers from Israel were still venting their anger by despoiling Judah and killing people as they saw fit.

25:14 Before continuing with the conflict between the northern and southern kingdoms, Ezra relates a fact that is difficult to comprehend. The conventional wisdom among ancient rulers was that when they defeated an enemy, their own gods would also have defeated the gods of the enemies. No one would worship gods who had just let down their people—until, that is, Amaziah came along. He took a fancy to the Edomite idols and carried them off for his own use.

25:15–16 And so, another prophet showed up and rebuked the king for embracing idolatry, particularly since God had just given him such a sound victory. Amaziah responded by playing the “authority game,” as practiced world-wide by guilty politicians, teachers, parents, spouses, and so many others who believe that their position puts them beyond censure. To paraphrase, “What gives you the right to question what I’m doing? Have I asked for your advice or approval? If you don’t shut your mouth right now, I’m going to have to do something about it.” In this case the threatened consequence was the prophet’s death. As the prophet left the royal presence, he muttered something like, “Have it your way then if you don’t want to listen to me. But I know that God is going to destroy you.”

25:17–19 Amaziah needed to put a stop to the looting and killing by the Israelite soldiers. He reached out to the king of Israel, whose name was also Joash, just like Amaziah’s father, in order to set up a face-to-face summit conference between the two. But Joash of Israel was not interested and turned down the offer by creating an offensive parable. “A mere thistle wanted to engage in marital negotiations with a beautiful cedar tree of Lebanon. Unfortunately, things never got any further because that puny thistle got trampled on by a passing animal. You are letting your victory over Edom go to your head. Back off before you hurt yourself and others.”

25:20–24 Needless to say, Amaziah did not enjoy the witticism, and he did not allow it to dissuade him from his plans. He marched out with his army, and a battle occurred before he even got out of his territory of Judah. Joash of Israel won a big victory over the Judahite army; he even captured Amaziah and had him taken to Jerusalem. There the king of Israel created a wide breach in the city wall so that it was easy to go in and out, carrying spoils from the temple and the king’s own palace.

25:25–28 Amaziah reigned another fifteen years, but apparently not much worth noting happened. Mediocrity continued to hold sway until a number of his own people got tired of their king’s idolatry and general incompetence. Amaziah got wind of a conspiracy against him, and he fled to the town of Lachish. There he was assassinated. Still, he did get buried in a tomb alongside the other kings.

Uzziah (26:1–23)

26:1–5 One gets the impression that the people of Judah were resolved to get a king who worshiped the true God, and there does not seem to have been any question of who that would be: Uzziah who would follow the true way. He was sixteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for fifty-one years. We must add, however, that the last few years may have been a time of coregency with his son Jotham.

26:6–15 The reign of Uzziah was a time of internal peace and prosperity. Uzziah had a sizeable army at his disposal that was equipped with weaponry directly from him. He built new fortifications for Jerusalem and established watch towers throughout the kingdom. Agriculture was flourishing, which meant that there would be provisions for the army in times of war. The limited warfare in which he engaged was to secure the southern area, subduing once again the Edomite tribes and toppling two Philistine cities, Gath and Ashdod. He brought the Ammonites to their knees and received tribute from them. His defenses for Jerusalem included some new inventions to hurl arrows and boulders at a possible besieging army. King Uzziah made Judah be an influential power once again. A similar time of well-being was occurring at roughly the same time in the northern kingdom under Jeroboam II (2Kgs 14:23–27).

26:16–23 Apparently, Uzziah understood full-well that his success was due to God’s blessings, but that thought metamorphosed into the idea that he had a unique relationship with God, and he overstepped the bounds of what God permitted. One day it occurred to him to enter the temple and offer incense, a task that was reserved for priests only. But he boldly entered the sanctuary, censer in hand, followed by the high priest Azariah and 80 others, not all of whom could have fit into the premises. Azariah scolded Uzziah for violating God’s directions, and Uzziah got angry. We can imagine the exchange getting more and more heated, and then, all of a sudden, everyone stopped speaking. Uzziah’s forehead had broken out with the tell-tale marks of leprosy. The startled king was ushered out by the priests, bearing a life-long stigma that kept him confined to a special residence. He could no longer show himself in public or worship in the temple (cf. Isaiah’s vision in that same location upon Uzziah’s death, Isa 6:1). The glory of Uzziah’s reign had given way to shame because he saw himself as above God’s Law.

Jotham (27:1–9)

Jotham may have served as regent for his father before he actually became king. He continued Uzziah’s policies of leading the country in observing God’s rules and of building fortifications. The Assyrians, however, were beginning their conquests, though they had not yet molested Judah. The king of Ammon thought that perhaps he could wiggle out of Jotham’s control but wound up having to deliver treasures to Jerusalem. Jotham was a good king who did his job well. Still, he did not have the power to keep the country from slowly sliding away from God.

Ahaz (28:1–27)

i. General Evaluation (28:1–4)

For reasons that the Bible does not tell us, Ahaz made an about-face from his father and grandfather and became a full-fledged Baal worshiper. He went about as far as anyone could, not merely erecting metal idols, but even sacrificing some of his children to them. He did not shy away from any form of idolatry.

ii. Wars with Syria and Israel (28:5–8)

Unsurprisingly, the Lord was displeased with Ahaz, and so he punished him with defeats at the hands of Syria and Israel.

We know from extra-biblical literature that Syria and Israel (here referred to as Ephraim) had made an alliance against Assyria and its king, Tiglath-Pileser III, but that Judah had attempted to stay out of it.2 King Rezin of Syria considered this supposed neutrality treacherous, and made war on Ahaz, which ended up with a large number of Judahites getting deported to Damascus. Then Pekah, king of Israel, joined in, killing 120,000 men in Ahaz’s army and taking 200,000 people—men, women, and children—captive.

The large train of Judahite captives and the army guarding them was already on its way to Samaria, the capital of Israel, when another prophet showed up. This man, Oded, denounced Pekah and this deportation. It was God’s will that Israel should punish Judah for its idolatry, but Israel was giving itself too much credit and going far beyond what was acceptable. God will punish Israel for enslaving these people. Oded was joined by a number of the officers and leaders, who said that Israel was already under a curse (the Assyrian menace) and could not afford to bring another curse on itself. As a result, all these prisoners were given clothes, sandals, food, drink, and a bath (“anointing”). Then they were sent back to Judah as comfortably as possible, with old and infirm people even supplied with donkeys to ride on.

iii. A Bad Alliance with Assyria (28:16–21)

In the meantime, things were not getting any better for Ahaz. Given the weakening of Judah, the Edomites and Philistines figured that they could emancipate themselves and enrich themselves with whatever was available in southern Judah, including people as slaves. But Ahaz calculated that he could undo this damage because the king of Assyria would think well of him; after all, had he not refused to join the anti-Assyria league of Syria and Israel? He even went so far as to send some treasures from the temple, the royal palace, and out of the possessions of the princes of Judah. Tiglath-Pileser was happy to receive the tribute; he subdued Syria and Israel but did not raise a finger to come to Judah’s aid.

iv. The Gods of Damascus (28:21–27)

Ahaz did not heed the message that God was punishing him for his faithlessness, and he rationalized that since the gods of Syria had first defeated him, he would be best off worshiping them. The fact that Assyria had just trounced Syria did not seem to matter to him. He damaged the temple by bashing the “sea,” moving the main altar to the side, and installing a pagan altar for his private use (2Kgs 16:10–16). Then he closed the temple doors to the general public. Furthermore, he erected pagan shrines throughout Jerusalem and Judah. Ahaz should have realized that the pagan gods would not rescue him, as Isaiah had warned him (Isa 7). Surprisingly, he was spared from seeing Jerusalem conquered. Neither Israel nor Syria were successful in their attempts (2Kgs 16:5), and the Assyrians had not yet come calling. Regardless, Ahaz was sufficiently unpopular among the people that when he died, he was not accorded a burial place with the former kings.

The Remaining Kingdom from Hezekiah to the End (29:1–36:21)

In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, and led the people of Israel into captivity into the northeast area of Mesopotamia. Not every single person was taken, and the few remaining ones would be displaced by the people imported by the Assyrians, whom we are used to calling “Samaritans.” As we shall see, a number of the people from the kingdom of Israel wound up linking up with Judah.

Hezekiah (29:1–32:33)

i. Temple Clean-up (29:1–19)

29:1–2 Ezra’s depiction of Hezekiah begins with the highest praise imaginable: He was a righteous man, following in the footsteps of the exemplary David himself.

As soon as he came to the throne, he began to undo the harm done by Ahaz, his father, who had turned the temple into a pagan shrine before closing it altogether. The first step was to fix the gate so that people could even enter, and then there was a huge pile of pagan clutter to remove. The original equipment needed not only to be restored but also cleansed. During the reign of Ahaz, once the temple had been closed, there was little choice for the priests and Levites but to leave Jerusalem and return to their home places in order to support themselves. Now Hezekiah sent a messenger around informing them that they had their jobs again. Judging by the speed with which some of them showed up and did the necessary work, they must have been quite eager to return to their calling.

29:3–11 When a sufficient number of priests and Levites had shown up, Hezekiah gave them a pep talk. He reminded them of the unfaithfulness of some of his predecessors (intimating particularly his father’s) and asserted that the present state of turmoil had come about as a result of God’s judgment, even to the point where soldiers had been killed, and their wives and daughters were in captivity (29:9), possibly referring to the deportees from the northern kingdom, but more likely to those who had been carried off to Damascus (28:5). He challenged his audience to restore things to where they should be, which was a two-step process. First, they had to cleanse themselves so as to be in a state of ritual purity, and then they would need to clean the temple, both in terms of simply removing the filth and pagan equipment and of purifying it so that it could once again be a proper place to worship God.

29:12–19 Ezra tells us by name the people who threw themselves into this project. When it came to cleaning up the sanctuary, only the priests could enter, but the Levites would wait outside, and the priests would hand them the defiled objects, which were then disposed of in the Kidron Valley. It took them only a little more than two weeks to get the job done, as they joyfully reported to Hezekiah. They had even found enough of the utensils that Ahaz had discarded, repaired them, and sanctified them.

ii. Rededication of the Temple (29:20–36)

29:20–30 When Hezekiah received word that the temple was ready, he and a number of city officials procured seven each of bulls, rams, lambs, and goats, which were then used as sin offerings. The king was acknowledging the sins of the past and making atonement for them. Furthermore, he re-instituted the musical part of worship following the rules laid down by David. Once again, the sounds of cymbals, lyres, and trumpets could be heard accompanying the offerings.

29:30–36 Now Hezekiah declared the temple open for regular use, and there was no shortage of sacrifices to be made. First came burnt offerings in which the animals are completely burned on the altar, which signifies complete devotion to the Lord. 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs were offered up. Then followed the thank offerings with 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. After dedicating them and burning the entrails, the animals would be distributed and eaten. The number of animals gives us an idea of the size of the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem. It also turned out that there were not enough priests to do all that was necessary because some of them had procrastinated in their personal cleansing ceremonies. Thus, there was more work for the Levites to do.

iii. A Nation-wide Passover (30:1–27)

30:1–4 Passover had traditionally been held during the first month of the year. Hezekiah wanted to reinstitute the festival, but the purification and dedication ceremonies had taken up most of that month, and not enough priests had consecrated themselves if there should be a lot of participants. So, the leaders availed themselves of the provision granted by the law (Num 9:10–11) to hold it in the second month. Hezekiah wanted it to include all of the Hebrew people, so he not only invited everyone from Judah to participate, but also those in the now-defunct northern kingdom of Israel.

30:5–9 Hezekiah’s couriers went throughout the regions of the northern kingdom conveying the king’s message to the few people who had not been taken to Assyria. He asked them to return to Yahweh, their true God, and to his temple. There was a clear reference here to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (2Chr 6:24–25) that the people who had been conquered by an enemy for their sins might be rescued if they truly repented and prayed toward the temple.

30:10–12 The results were mixed. The first people the couriers encountered laughed at them. Apparently, it was ridiculous for them, who may have spent their entire lives worshiping idols that did nothing to rescue them, to think that Yahweh could somehow be any different. But then began a slow trickle of Israelites from further north, e.g., from Zebulun and Asher, to accept the invitation and travel down to Jerusalem. After a while, the trickle became a stream as more and more people realized that they needed to return to the ways of their forefathers.

30:13–27 As the feast began, a sizeable number of participants had not yet had the opportunity to cleanse themselves and so should not yet have eaten the Passover lamb, but Hezekiah interceded with God that they would not be punished for doing so. Priests who had been watching from the sidelines finally went through the ritual of consecration and carried out their responsibilities. And the crowds grew. By mutual agreement, the week-long celebration of Passover was extended to two weeks. Everyone who was there rejoiced, including the non-Israelites (the “sojourners”) who happened to be there and who would not have been prohibited from participating.

iv. Renewal for the Levites (31:1–21)

31:1 The dedication to the Lord led to an explosion of ridding the country of pagan worship, both in Israel and in Judah, followed by a time when it seemed that the kingdom was experiencing some internal rest. Of course, that state would not last very long in view of the Assyrians’ advances.

31:2–4 In the meantime, Hezekiah went about reorganizing the priests and Levites along the lines that David had established. In order for the priests to function properly, however, they also needed animals as sacrificial victims. How can you perform the morning and evening sacrifices if you do not have anything to place on the altar? Furthermore, the priests’ sustenance depended on their portion of those animals that were to be eaten after they had been dedicated to God, and without that resource they had to spend time procuring food for themselves. For a while Hezekiah supplied the necessities from his own assets, he also appealed to the people in Jerusalem to start contributing their share according to God’s Law.

31:5–10 Once the people had caught-on to that obligation, they happily complied, and the enthusiasm spread throughout Judah, catching on with both the original population and those who had moved down from the remnants of the northern kingdom Israel. They freely gave tithes of all they produced. The collections began in the third month and were finally considered complete by the seventh. Apparently, the storerooms surrounding the temple sanctuary were unusable. So, when Hezekiah and his officials came to inspect the contributions, they saw a number of huge piles of food stuff. The priests explained that the people had been very generous with their donations, so that not only was there enough to fill the needs on a daily basis, but there was a whole lot left over.

31:11–19 An overabundance of supplies was a good problem to have, and Hezekiah told the temple crew to renovate the storage areas to make them usable. Then they set up a long list of everyone who might be entitled to partake of all of that food. The list did not just include those who were actively working in the temple right then and there, but also those who were Levites by ancestry, including women and children. The program was carried out conscientiously both as to authorization and the actual distribution.

31:20–21 The last two verses of this chapter are important to understand the events of the next chapter. Hezekiah had shown himself to be righteous before God and for his people. If he had not demonstrated such reliability, he could not have proceeded with such confidence when Sennacherib of Assyria sent his army to Jerusalem.

v. The Assyrian Invasion (32:1–23)

Two other biblical passages (2Kgs 18–19; Isa 36–37) as well as Sennacherib’s own account give more details of this event, and we will use some of their information to provide a little more context.

The Assyrians were ruthless in their conquests. Anyone who resisted them could count on torture and a painful death, and anyone who did not resist was not necessarily exempt from the same fate. Conquest of other lands was an end in itself for the Assyrians. Among their many weapons was spreading fear of them ahead of the army. When King Sennacherib of Assyria started to conquer the land of Judah town-by-town, Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem, shielded the water supply, and paid Sennacherib the tribute he demanded for not attacking Jerusalem. Simultaneously he engaged in hostilities toward some of Assyria’s vassal states.3

When he received the treasure, Sennacherib’s eyes must have bulged and his mouth watered at the prospect of how much more valuable material could be found in Jerusalem. At this time, he was engaged in a difficult siege, trying to take down the city of Lachish, but he sent a sizeable number of troops and an emissary to Jerusalem. According to his own account, he erected earthworks around the city to protect his army, though the siege was still in its first stage, trying to talk the people into surrendering without the effort of armed conflict. Unsurprisingly, the people were frightened, and Hezekiah was disturbed by the events as well. Nevertheless, he did his best to set an example for his people to remain calm and trust in the Lord.

As we have seen on other occasions, this was not a battle of Sennacherib versus the king of Judah, but of Sennacherib versus God. Sennacherib’s spokesman, called “the Rabshakeh” (2Kgs 18:17), also saw it that way. Deliberately speaking in Hebrew so that everyone could understand him, he called on the people not to trust Hezekiah or the God in whom they were supposed to have faith. After all, had he not destroyed the shrines and high places? Furthermore, whatever made the people think that their God was any different from all of the other gods of conquered territories? They could not protect them because the Assyrian gods were stronger than any others, and the same was true for the God of the Jews, he claimed.

But God showed himself, and he did so in a drastic way. He sent an angel who annihilated the entire Assyrian army overnight. Sennacherib was done with Judah; after this disaster he hightailed it home. There is a gap of a few years between this event and his assassination, but the Assyrian record concurs that he was killed by two of his sons in a dispute over who would be his successor. In his own record, Sennacherib boasts that he had trapped Hezekiah like a bird in a cage, which is all very well, but he gives neither an explanation why Jerusalem did not receive the same demolition as all of the other cities that rebelled against him nor the reason for his sudden exit.

vi. Sickness, Water, and Treasures (32:22–34)

Again, Ezra only gives us as short version of what happened with Hezekiah in his last years. More details are given in 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38–39.

a. Hezekiah came down with a mortal illness, and he knew right where to go with his troubles—to God himself. He prayed to God and was healed, and God, speaking through Isaiah, even gave him a sign that he could know that he would live another 15 years. Normally a shadow gets longer as the afternoon wears on, but God shortened a shadow for his benefit (Isa 38:7–8). Something that only Ezra tells us is that after his miraculous healing, Hezekiah started to act proudly, which earned him a reproof from God, though the punishment would come later (32:24–26).

b. Hezekiah became an extremely wealthy man, reminiscent of Solomon. He also undertook an ingenious plan to make sure that Jerusalem would not run out of water during a possible siege. Before, the springs of Gihon were outside of the city walls, so that an enemy could have access to them. Hezekiah built a long tunnel that redirected the water to the pool of Siloah where it was protected from possible enemies (32:27–30).

c. Ezra barely mentions the messengers from Babylon who were curious about the sign that God had given Hezekiah. He leaves it simply with the fact that God was testing him. In 2 Kings 20:12 we learn that he failed the test. In his pride he had shown the Babylonian delegation all of his treasures, which would eventually entice their kings to conquer and despoil Jerusalem (32:31).

Manasseh (33:1–20)

i. Idolatry (33:1–9)

Manasseh was born three years after Hezekiah’s illness. He came to the throne when he was only twelve years old. He was as bad as Hezekiah had been good. The list of all of the practices that he pursued and advocated, including sacrificing several of his sons to Baal, seems to be all-inclusive of every possible evil. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather Ahaz (28:24), he converted the temple into a pagan worship center housing the various local idols and their altars. Ezra goes so far as to say that Manasseh’s idolatry was worse than that of the Canaanites whom the Hebrews had initially displaced (33:9).

ii. Miraculous Conversion (33:10–20)

All conversions are miraculous because only God can take someone who is dead in their sins to a new and eternal life. Whether someone as ostentatiously pagan as Manasseh or proud of his own religiosity and virtue makes no difference if that person does not know Christ. Still, it is surely surprising to see Manasseh come to the recognition that he had been wrong and repent. Without fanfare, Ezra gives us the facts of the king’s life-change. Manasseh was captured by the Assyrian army—nothing is said about a siege of Jerusalem—and dragged to Babylon with hooks and chains. While there, at the lowest point of his life, he cried to God for help, and God allowed him to return. Thus, Manasseh recognized Yahweh as the true God and attempted to undo all the harm he had done earlier.

Once again, we are reminded of Solomon’s prayer (1Chr 6:36–39) that God would hear his people in captivity and return them to their homeland if they repented sincerely and prayed toward the temple. Manasseh purged the temple of all the idols and their accompanying paraphernalia. He removed the pagan shrines throughout the land. The high places, formerly used for the worship of Canaanite deities, were converted into shrines of Yahweh, a rather superficial corrective that probably did not go beyond mere appearances. In short, it was too late for Manasseh to return the people to the authentic worship of God, but he made serious attempts to do so after his own conversion.

Ammon (33:21–25)

Whereas it is puzzling why Manasseh, son of the righteous Hezekiah, turned to idol worship, Ammon obviously grew up with his father’s idols and did not experience a conversion as Manasseh had. His reign was apparently a complete disaster, and his servants put a quick end to it by assassinating him after just two years. The common people called the murderers to account and then decided that they wanted young Josiah, Ammon’s eight-year-old son, to be the next king.

Josiah (34:1–35:27)

i. Cleansing the Land (34:1–7)

Undoubtedly someone must have functioned as regent for Josiah, but Ezra does not tell us who. He would have known of his grandfather’s repentance and experienced for himself as a six-year-old child the failure of his father Ammon. As a teenager he began to seek the God of David. So, he came to the realization that only God should be worshipped, and by the time he was twenty, he began a purge of idolatry throughout the kingdom. And when we say kingdom, note that it incorporates the northern tribes as well (Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, and Simeon). The purge was brutal since it not only included the buildings and altars, but also the priests were in charge of them.

ii. Finding the Torah Scroll (34:8–21)

In contrast to Hezekiah, whose reform began with the temple, Josiah first removed the pagan shrines and then turned to restoring the temple. As always, such work requires money for materials and workers, and they found quite a bit of it in the storage areas of the temple, probably going back to Hezekiah’s reign when so many people came who needed to pay their temple taxes. Once again, the work of moving out the pagan accoutrements began.

As Hilkiah, the high priest, was clearing out an area—possibly his office—he found a large scroll. A closer look revealed that it was the Torah, the book of God’s Law. Hilkiah handed it to the king’s secretary Saphan, who already had an appointment with Josiah.

The main reason for Saphan’s meeting with Josiah was to report on the state of the finances, which were in order. Then, as a last-minute addition he mentioned that Hilkiah had run across a book. Saphan read a few passages out loud to the king, apparently including the list of curses in Deuteronomy 28:15–68. Josiah reacted with terror. He recognized how far the kingdom had strayed from God’s intent, and that God would punish the nation for all the violations of the laws and commandments. So, he designated a committee, headed up by Hilkiah, to find out from the Lord what might happen.

iii. Huldah, the Prophetess (34:22–33)

The delegation sought out a woman named Huldah, one of the few women in the Bible given the title of “prophetess.” She spoke for God, and her answer to the delegation was a sobering one. Yes, the time of reckoning was real, and the nation would be punished by exile and slavery, but because of Josiah’s efforts to cleanse the country and return it to the Lord, the national disaster would not come until after his reign.

Upon receiving this report, the king convened a national assembly of elders and any other office holders, sacred or secular. When they had gathered, he held a public reading of the “book of the covenant,” which may have been the book of Deuteronomy. Josiah vowed that he would do everything in his power to live by the Law, and everyone present made the same pledge.

iv. The Passover (35:1–19)

Like Hezekiah, Josiah brought the nation together for a Passover celebration. Ezra describes it as the greatest Passover since the time of Samuel (35:18). Because the temple had already been cleansed and enough priests and Levites seemed to be ready, the festival could be held on the traditional date. Before anything else could transpire, however, it was time to put the ark of the covenant back where it belonged. It must have been taken out during the reign of one of the idolatrous kings, and apparently it had been carried around by Levites to different places to keep it safe. Those days were over now, and it could return to its intended place in the temple. Josiah revived the cohorts of priests and Levites as they had been established by David (1Chr 23–26). Insofar as was possible centuries after David’s time, everyone was placed back into their proper positions.

There were a lot of people at this Passover celebration, and if everyone was supposed to partake of a Passover lamb, a lot of livestock was needed. In addition, many bulls were offered up for consumption by the priests and others. After all, you only have one Passover celebration per family, but you still have to eat some other food for the rest of the time you are in Jerusalem. Josiah made the greatest contribution, and given the largesse of other high-ranking people, the total provided for everyone came to 32,700 lambs and goats and 3,800 bulls.

Needless to say, this celebration entailed a lot of hard work for the temple personnel. The priests officiated at the altars and kept on performing their rituals from early morning until late at night. The Levites did everything else, beginning with skinning the animals and ending with taking the roasted animals off the altar and handing it to the next lay person in line to consume. When the masses had been served, the Levites prepared meals for the hard-working priests and for themselves.

The descendants of David’s three music directors (Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun) provided music, and—just as David had envisioned it—gatekeepers guarded the premises. Ezra stresses once more that people who had been reckoned with the former northern kingdom of Israel were participating, and he states that no king of Israel had ever staged such a Passover, presumably referring to the entire kingdom since the kings of the North did not even practice the Yahwist religion.

v. Josiah’s Death (35:20–27)

World history was in the making. Assyria’s power was on the wane, and Babylon’s star was rising. The pharaoh of Egypt, Necho II (called Neco in our translation) was actually fighting alongside former arch-enemy Assyria against Babylon and its supporters. Necho was in a hurry, and his priority was to stop Babylon from becoming the dominant power. We find him on his first expedition into Mesopotamia travelling north along the Mediterranean coast and then turning east to cut through Israelite territory. When reached the vicinity of the town of Megiddo, however, he encountered a blockade set up by Josiah and his troops.

Josiah’s motivation is unclear here, but it seems that any effort to stop Necho would be a lost cause. The pharaoh was not in the least interested in tangling with Josiah; he had bigger Babylonian fish to fry. He even called out in the name of God for Josiah to stop bugging him; there was no need for any hostility between the two. Josiah just would not listen, and, disguising himself, he tried to attack the Egyptian army. As a result, Josiah was seriously injured and transported to Jerusalem, where he died. The people, including Jeremiah, who is often called the “weeping prophet,” deeply mourned his passing, as was most appropriate; Josiah was the last good king of Judah.

Necho’s first attempt to contain Babylon was unsuccessful, as was his second attempt four years later, when Babylon’s dominance was established.

Jehoahaz (36:1–4)

The people decided to crown Josiah’s son, but he turned out to be an idol worshiper, as did the next three kings. Perhaps the best thing about his reign was its brevity, lasting only three months. Necho’s army and the pitiful remnant of the Assyrian forces had been overwhelmed by the Babylonians and their allies. On his return, he did what Josiah may have tried to avert; he made Judah a vassal state of Egypt. In addition to requiring a tribute of silver and gold, he deposed of Jehoahaz and deported him to Egypt where he died. Instead, he installed his brother Eliakim as king after he had changed his name to Jehoiakim.

Jehoiakim (36:5–8)

Jehoiakim was no better than his brother. During his reign, Babylonia relieved Egypt of its possessions in Palestine. The king had to switch paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, the young king of Babylon. Jehoiakim did so for three years, after which he rebelled (2Kgs 24:1). Nebuchadnezzar obviously did not approve. He sent his army to Jerusalem and brought back a substantial part of the temple treasure as well as King Jehoiakim, and a group of promising young men, including Daniel (Dan 1:1). Jehoiakim died in Babylon, and his son Jehoiachin came to the throne of Judah.

Jehoiachin (36:9–10)

Jehoiachin’s reign was only ten days longer than that of his uncle Jehoahaz. He continued the pagan practices of his father, and God kept warning that he would punish the people for abandoning him. Nebuchadnezzar again showed up at the gates of Jerusalem, helped himself to more treasure, and brought the king and his family to Babylon along with a large number of skilled laborers. The Babylonian ruler installed yet another son of Josiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah, as king.

Zedekiah (36:11–21)

Zedekiah had no intention of doing the right thing. He continued to support idolatry right in the temple of Jerusalem. He tried to rebel against Babylonia with the self-delusion that Egypt would somehow come to his aid. Along with his predecessors, he ignored the words of Jeremiah whose message from God was that he needed to submit to Babylon. God decreed that the land should rest for seventy years to make up for all the mandatory sabbaths of the land that neither kingdom had kept (36:21; Lev 25:1–7; Jer 25:9–12).

The third time that Nebuchadnezzar and his troops showed up, they razed all of Jerusalem from the temple to the palaces to the residences to the city walls. Everyone, except the poorest of the poor in the countryside was marched to Babylon. The obstinacy of the people in holding on to their pagan worship and defying God finally received its ultimate consequence. Ezekiel, who had been deported to Babylon under Jehoiachin had a vision of the temple, showing how it had become a gathering point for all sorts of idolatry and pagan religions (Ezek 8). God was tired of dealing with his people’s disobedience, and the mass deportation was its result.

The Decree to Return (36:21–22)

Seventy years have passed, and, once again, we are looking at a part of world history in the pages of the Bible. Babylon had become weak, partially because its king, Nabonidus was not very ambitious and spent much of his time abroad, leaving his duties to his son Belshazzar, famous for his drunken parties. In the East a new king was establishing himself as an empire builder, the Persian Cyrus, who was moving west with his army. When Cyrus was getting close, Nabonidus rushed home, but not before he had transferred the idols of various cities to Babylon, presumably to aid him against a potential conquest. It did not work.

Cyrus took Babylon. Belshazzar died on the very night this conquest occurred. Ancient extra-biblical writings give varying accounts of the whereabouts of Nabonidus; none of them assign him a significant role at the end. Cyrus claimed he was a true devotee of Marduk, the main god of Babylon, whom Nabonidus had neglected. But he was plagued by anxiety that the gods who had been moved to Babylon would be homesick for their places of origin, or that Marduk would be offended by their presence. Either way, he needed to send those idols back to their original places, along with the people who served them. So, he commanded each ethnic group in Babylon to go home with their gods and rebuild their temples. The Jews were included.

Note that the proclamation in 36:22 is not just a general release for the people to go home, but a very specific order to rebuild the temple. The fact that Cyrus gave other groups a similar command does not take away from the fact that he was unwittingly being used by God to send his people back to the land God had given them. Still, as we mentioned at the outset, when Ezra and his entourage came to Jerusalem, they saw that progress was extremely slow, partially because of interference by their neighbors, partially because of a low level of morale.

Ezra realized that he needed to retell the story of God’s relationship to his chosen people. And so, he sat down at his writing desk and began to put ink on the blank piece of scroll before him:

“Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, . . .”


Archer, Gleason. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. 3rd Edition. Chicago: Moody Press, 2007.

Braun, Roddy. 1 Chronicles. Word Bible Commentary. Vol. 14. Waco: Word Press, 1986.

Coggins, R. J. The First and Second Books of the Chronicles. New York: Cambridge, 1976.

Corduan, Winfried. Shepherd’s Notes: I, II Chronicles. Nashville: B & H, 1996.

–––. I & II Chronicles. Holman Old Testament Commentary. Vol 8. Nashville: B & H, 2004.

Dillard, Raymond D. 2 Chronicles. Word Bible Commentary. Waco: Word Press, 1987.

Hercus, John. Out of the Miry Clay. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1965.

Japhet, Sara. I and II Chronicles. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993.

Josephus, Titus Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Book 8. Chapter 1. URL: https://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-8.html#b1

Moses Maimonides. Temidin uMusafim. Chapter 4. URL: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1013256/jewish/Temidin-uMusafim-Chapter-4.htm

Myers, Jacob M. I Chronicles. Anchor Bible. Garden City: Doubleday, 1965.

–––. II Chronicles. Anchor Bible. Garden City: Doubleday, 1965.

Payne, J. Barton. “I and II Chronicles.” In Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, eds. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.

Pritchard, James B. Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969. Abbreviated in the text as ANET.

Selman, Martin. 1 Chronicles. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

–––. 2 Chronicles. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Thiele, Edwin R. The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1955.

Thompson, J. A. 1, 2 Chronicles. New American Bible Commentary. Vol 9. Nashville: B & H, 1994.

Unger, Merrill F. Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.

Wilson, Charles R. “First Chronicles” and “Second Chronicles.” In Wesleyan Bible Commentary. Vol 1:2. Charles Carter, ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967.

Endnotes & Permissions

1. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Cherub,” p. 92.

2. ANET, 283.

3. Ibid., 287–88.

The text of 2 Chronicles, excluding all Bible quotations, is © 2022 by The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition (TGC) gives you permission to reproduce this work in its entirety, without any changes, in English for noncommercial distribution throughout the world. Crossway, the holder of the copyright to the ESV Bible text, grants permission to include the ESV quotations within this work, in English.

In addition, TGC gives you permission to faithfully translate the work into any other language, but you may not translate the English ESV Bible into another language. If you wish to include Bible quotations with the translated work, you will need to obtain permission from a publisher of a Bible translation in the same language.

All scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV Text Edition: 2016. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated into any other language. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

2 Chronicles 1


Solomon Worships at Gibeon

1:1 Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.

Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges, and to all the leaders in all Israel, the heads of fathers’ houses. And Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon, for the tent of meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness, was there. (But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the LORD. And Solomon and the assembly sought it1 out. And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.

Solomon Prays for Wisdom

In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” 11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 13 So Solomon came from2 the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel.

Solomon Given Wealth

14 Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 15 And the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 16 And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders would buy them from Kue for a price. 17 They imported a chariot from Egypt for 600 shekels3 of silver, and a horse for 150. Likewise through them these were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.


[1] 1:5 Or him

[2] 1:13 Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew to

[3] 1:17 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams