The God who established the kings of Judah—both good and evil—also worked providentially through them to accomplish His purposes. One of those purposes was to teach us important truths and principles revealed in the lives of these men.
Someone once said, “If you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it.” That’s often true. History can be a wonderful teacher, so long as we pay attention and learn its lessons.
Now we are about to literally cover more than 120 years of history. In just a few chapters here in the book of 2 Kings, we are going to watch a parade of royal heirs—six kings of Judah and eight kings in the northern kingdom of Israel. Today, I want to focus on the southern kings of Judah.
This same period of history is covered in chapters 22–28 of the book of 2 Chronicles, and I will refer at times to that passage. By the way, 2 Chronicles traces only the history of the kingdom of Judah.
You might remember from our last study that Jehu was God’s instrument to bring the wicked dynasty of King Ahab to an end. Jehu not only killed King Joram and established himself as king over Israel, but he also killed Judah’s king, Ahaziah.
Now the focus of Scripture turns to Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah. She is the wicked daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. And she immediately takes the throne after her son Ahaziah is killed by Jehu.
And that’s not all. Second Kings chapter 11 opens with a bloodbath. Verse 1 says of Athaliah, “She arose and destroyed all the royal family.”
In other words, to secure power for herself, she actually murders her own grandchildren! And let me tell you, this is more than a vicious power grab. It is actually the devil’s attempt to wipe out any descendant from the line of David, the line God has promised will endure.
Athaliah succeeds in seizing the throne of Judah, but she is not completely successful in eliminating all her potential rivals. King Ahaziah’s sister is able to hide her infant nephew, Joash. Verse 3 tells us Joash “remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.” So, the last of David’s descendants is protected by the Lord’s providence.
Now the plot thickens. When Joash turns seven years old, a godly priest named Jehoiada secretly gathers support and then anoints Joash as Judah’s king. Athaliah finds out and screams “Treason!” But she is quickly executed, and Jehoiada calls the nation to renew their covenant with the Lord. We are told in the parallel account over in 2 Chronicles 23:17, “All the people went to the house of Baal and tore it down.”
Here’s the lesson from history: *The plans of God are never crushed by the plans of Satan.
Then we are given some wonderful news: Joash, who is also known as Jehoash, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” according to 2 Kings 12:2. But there’s a hint of a problem over in 2 Chronicles 24:2, which adds a qualifier, saying he did what was right “all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”
And that is going to spell trouble later on. Even though Joash raises funds to repair the temple and restores proper worship, when that old priest Jehoiada dies, Joash begins to follow the advice of others and actually permits idolatrous worship to resume.
Jehoida’s son comes along and rebukes the king for this, but instead of repenting, Joash has that godly son stoned to death. God then moves in judgment, and King Joash is assassinated.
What can we learn from history here? Well, we’ve got a clear warning: *Be careful who you listen to for advice. Don’t listen to ungodly counselors.
And with that, the son of Joash, Amaziah, takes the throne of Judah. He too starts out well, but he’s not really sold out to the Lord. In 2 Kings 14:4, we read, “The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.” Over in the parallel account in 2 Chronicles 25:14, after Amaziah defeats the nation of Edom, he took their idols and “set them up as his gods and worshiped them.”
Imagine, defeating a pagan nation in battle and then choosing to worship their false gods. Frankly, that is about as idiotic a thing as you could ever do. So, at the end of his life, we are told here in verse 27, he “turned away from the Lord” just like his father did; and tragically, just like his father, he is assassinated.
And here is the lesson to learn from history: *Half-hearted commitment in the present just might become wholehearted corruption in the future.
Amaziah’s son Azariah, better known as Uzziah, succeeds his father as Judah’s king. The book of 2 Kings gives us a brief overview of his reign. Over in 2 Chronicles 26 we are given more information and told that he also begins his reign well. Verse 5 says, “He set himself to seek God . . . and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.”
Uzziah will reign for fifty-two years and experience one military victory after another, but here in verse 16 we read this:
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
Here’s what is happening. He is victorious and proud of it. And he assumes that he can do anything he wants—even take on the role of a priest, in defiance of God’s law.
God strikes him with leprosy till the day he dies, and this uncleanness kept him from ever entering the temple again.
Uzziah had it all, but he was not content. And here is a lesson from history for all of us to learn: *It’s possible to so want something we don’t have that we lose the ability to enjoy what we do have.
Well, in this parade of kings, the next man to sit on the throne is Jotham, Uzziah’s son. The accounts we have of him in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 27 are brief, but they commend this king as a godly ruler.
Verse 6 of 2 Chronicles chapter 27 sums up his reign by recording: “Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.” Jotham’s life gives us yet another lesson from history: *It’s possible to live an obedient life for God even though your parents lived in disobedience to God.
Finally, both 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 recount the reign of Judah’s King Ahaz, the son of Jotham. Neither book has anything good to say about this man. In 2 Kings 16:2, we read, “He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” And that is an understatement.
In 2 Chronicles 28:2-3 we read that Ahaz “made metal images for the Baals, and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering.” It’s hard to imagine that a descendant of King David would sacrifice some of his own sons to a pagan god.
Ahaz’s reign is marked by military defeat. God graciously attempts to get his attention, but Ahaz isn’t interested in any warning or message from God.
And here’s a lesson from history: *To ignore God’s warning is to guarantee even greater wandering in life.
Ahaz’s reign ends after sixteen years. And in God’s providence and grace, his death brings to the throne one of Judah’s godliest kings. We will have to wait for another time to meet him