In continuation of the tale of the first two biblical royals, with this context center more around their humanness, are the two books entitled Kings. The nation’s stabilization is retold after the death ofKing David to the nation’s glorification during Solomon’s reign. Then what follows is the great divorce of the nation (1Kgs. 12) into the northern Kingdom made up of 10 tribes (Israel) and the two southern tribes (Judah). Solomon’s sons, Rehoboam and Jeroboam are responsible for dissolving the kingdoms from a unified monarchy to a divided one after the death of their father. Jeroboam started the northern tribe, Rehoboam the southern. Originally the books of Kings were one large book (to include the Samuels) but was divided up later into four separate books.
The Samuels and Kings narratives, to be followed by the Chronicles, all intertwine and harmonize with each other. These books reflect history from a different viewpoint. In Kings, the prophet Elijah and his successor, Elisha enter the narrative. Who John was to Peter, Mary to Martha, Melanchthon to Luther, that was Elisha the Prophet of Peace to Elijah the Desert or Fire Prophet. Elisha can be compared to the gentler John, the beloved, with Elijah as John the Baptist. There is no record of Elijah dying, him soaring to heaven in a fiery chariot (Enoch in the book of Genesis is the only other one who did not leave this earth by death). Both are compared to be taken up like described in rapture after Jesus second coming (1Thes. 4:13-18) to God.
None of the 20 kings of the northern tribe (aka Israel) turned out well. At. All. The nineteen kings of the southern tribe (Judah) can’t boast any better except for about five who were godly kings (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah). Judah’s last leader wasn’t a king but rather a puppet governor. The tales of the two kingdoms span over roughly 416 years. The books of Kings ends with Israel taken into Assyrian exile and Judah’s exile following about 125 years later to Babylon. About twelve of the prophets (who have books in the Bible) forewarned these Kings. There were three prophets during the exile (with some overlapping in pre-exile) and three prophets in the post-exile. To say the least reading from here on out, the rest of the O.T. books overlap. Each fill in on how God worked in many ways to redeem his people. It was through the 16 Judges (counting Samuel), 42 Kings (counting Saul, David and Solomon), over 26 prophets (counting Joshua, Enoch, Nathan, Samuel, Moses plus the 70 Mosses appointed in Numbers 11:17) through an exile to the return to Jerusalem. It wouldn’t be until prophet, priest and king Jesus when humanities anointment of sin would finally be achieved.
When David dies (1Kgs. 2:10), Solomon ascends to the throne. The early years of his reign are considered the Israelites “glory days.” Its influence, economy and military power enjoyed little opposition with the neighboring countries, posing no substantial military threat.
Solomon is renowned as the wisest man of his day. It should be noted he asked for wisdom and by all accounts is granted extraordinary administrative wisdom. The guy could run a prosperous country thanks be to God. He enjoys God’s favor, God fulfills his promises to David through Solomon, yet this most recent king tarnishes his legacy by his faithlessness by contradicting God’s commands not for a king not to take so many multiple wives (Dt. 17:17) much less certain foreign ones. His numerous marriages (700) and large harem (300) are the stuff of historical legends. His matrimonies were one of the ancient ways to increase dominance over kingdoms and land. The 1 Kings verse laments: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” (11:4). He relies on his fortune, his military might, and his political alliances at the end instead of God. I read once he had profit but not a prophet. Solomon had no human accountability prophet during his reign to help keep him in check.
The trappings of the world are viewed as a measure of success. At the end of my marriage, I, unfortunately, came across a document showing a life insurance of the children’s father changed to only his new prospective wife. In my brooding, I felt everything I had worked toward in life, contributing to his and others success was at the expense of my own and was being given away to someone else. I ashamedly and almost hesitantly share this same self-serving tightfistedness also extends to the instant bequeathing of family ties minus the history and labor of love, of being called mom, grandmother, grandfather, auntie or uncle in a blended family of second, third or fourth marriages.
In remorse about such thoughts, I am reminded of the poem by Rev. Bill Britton:
Dying to Self
When you feel forgotten, neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting or hurt with the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ;
That is dying to self.
When your good is spoken as evil when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend you, but take it all in patience, and loving silence;
That is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and look it as Jesus did;
That is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, and offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God;
That is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown;
That is dying to self.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, then can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your needs are far greater and you are in desperate circumstances;
That is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit, inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising in your heart;
That is dying to self.”
The poem doesn’t dishearten me as an impossible ideal. It does set the bar though on if whether selfishness is at the root of my thoughts or not. It is a paradox that life is hidden in dying, a common motif in the Bible.
Author Donald Miller, in his book Blue Like Jazz, rephrases the scripture meaning “…to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) with “There is an art to dying to self without giving death to your soul as well. Dying for something is easy because it is associated with glory. Living for something extends beyond fashion, fame, or recognition. We live for what we believe.”
Slowly I die to self. I, fortunately, hit the nadir when recognizing seeds of bitterness developing within me; when realizing I was doing was getting caught up in measuring my life’s value against a temporal and shallow caste system of the greater income or higher-ranking position. Creator and host for 33 years of an educational preschool television series and an ordained minister, Fred Rogers said, “deep and simple is better than shallow and complex.” Psalm 127:3 says children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. There is the measure of the best gift I have when all said and done.
In the second book of Kings, the Jews are taken captive by the Babylonians. Ironically Abraham was born in the same area that was to be the destination of the exile. It suggests a form of reverse migration for the Jewish people who would be in 70 years of captivity.
Biblically, the number seventy consists of the factors of two perfect numbers, with seven meaning perfection, and ten representing completeness through God’s law. As such, it symbolizes perfect spiritual order carried out with all power. It can also denote a period of judgment.
Two hundred years after a national division of Kingdoms, the northern ten tribes were in a terminal state of widespread idolatry and pagan religious practices derived from living in the surrounding cultures. God’s prophets warned of Israel’s destruction and subjugation but were ignored, mocked, or killed. Second Kings shows a case of willful sin to a woeful end.
For historical context, after the death of Solomon, with splitting off into two separate kingdoms; the northern ten tribes retained the name Israel, establishing their capital at Samaria. The southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, along with part of the tribe of Levi, became known as Judah. This tribe continues the royal line of David with Jerusalem as their capital city.
I happened upon a book’s title The Necessity of an Enemy by Ron Carpenter intrigued me. Who wants to seek out or confront enemies or in this case our personal demons? Can’t we just hide from them, ignore them or deal with them it our own discretion and time? I preferred to shy away from pain. Perhaps it’s because daily I contend with a syndrome causing me to deal with pain management, almost to the point of accepting it as part of my daily norm. In in my mental weariness, I find I subconsciously avoid taken on additional types of pain. A doctor once told me my adrenal gland was almost exhausted by the constant shoring up against the muscular pain. I will tackle the confrontation of life demands, but the best I can do with my ongoing physical pain is endure it. It wasn’t until another physical ailment crept up (a shoulder muscle impingement) that some insight came. Through the encouragement of my bonus daughter, a physical therapist, I began to see the advantages of how to use pain as a signal when stretching my muscles. I was directed to push little by little more each day into the pain when exercising through it, to minimize its effects.
Previously I had the attitude that when I go into stretching and exercising, I come out hurting worse. I was impatient for results. Medication can take away the pain, but then I would inevitably get caught up in my day forgetting to exercise through it to make myself stronger. This applies to both physical and emotional pain. If I don’t work through pain, it doesn’t get better. Reading then blogging on this book, I discovered the necessity of adversary to achieve a benefit. I have embraced the irony of making pain my frenemy; one that is trying to inform me.
Often “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.” A current song by the band Passenger captures it in the song Let Her Go:“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low. Only miss the sun when it starts to snow. Only know you love her when you let her go. Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low. Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home. Only know you love her when you let her go”
Writer J. B. Tidwell summarizes what the Jews learned during their exile, and in some case from what they didn’t want:
“A people who became separated from what they knew and didn’t want to become like their neighbors ever again.
They became pure monotheistic, giving up idolatry.
They developed theological literature and renewed interest in the Law of Moses.
They repented of their sins against God.
The synagogues were established during this time as a place of worship centered on God’s Word, prayer, and praise (minus the sacrifices).
Their Judaism (extending later to our Christian beliefs) became personal rather than a formal ritualism of temple worship.
During this time, God placed a longing for the coming of the Messiah in their hearts.
God did not forget his promise to David. God had a remnant of the people and kept the royal line intact so that one day His people could return to their land to await the promised Redeemer .”