Lucia's Blog: THE KINGDOM DIVIDES, ELIJAH THE PROPHET
Google Logo
Image Caption goes here.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

THE KINGDOM DIVIDES, ELIJAH THE PROPHET

"Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded. So the Lord said to Solomon, 'Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen."'
I Kings 11:9-13


THE KINGDOM DIVIDES  (I KINGS 11-16)

Solomon turned away from the LORD in his later years, worshiping the gods that his many wives had brought with them into the kingdom.  The kingdom of Israel divided in 975 B.C. because Solomon began to serve idols toward the end of his reign.  Rehoboam, his son, likewise made many mistakes that provoked the division.  Considering how much God had blessed him, it is sad that Solomon failed to remain faithful to his beloved Jehovah.  God had made him famously wise and wealthy, yet he strayed from the One he once said he loved.  Because of his unfaithfulness, God was angry with him.  He promised Solomon that after his death, his kingdom was going to be divided, torn in two because of his disobedience.  God kept His promise!  Israel remained a split nation, split because of the king's apostasy.  Do you remember the warning that God gave Israel through the Prophet Samuel about having a king?  God said that an earthly king would bring hardship.  And indeed, this was happening.  Indeed, very few of Israel's later kings honored the LORD as David and Solomon had done in the early years of their reigns.  Because of this unfaithfulness and disobedience to God, Israel paid a terrible price: they lost God's protection and eventually lost their kingdom.


I.   I Kings 11:26-43

As God had promised, He raised up a subordinate against Solomon.  His name was Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, who was the son of Solomon's servant Nebat.  He was chosen to be the leader, and head of Solomon's northern tribes referred to as the Northern Kingdom because of their geographical location in the northern end of Israel.  Jeroboam was approached by a prophet named Ahijah the Shilonite, who told him that he would become king of the ten tribes of Israel since Solomon had sinned.  Moreover, he also learned that his kingdom would be equal to David's, giving all of Israel to him.  But there was one condition.  He was to obey God's commands, walking in His ways and doing what was right in His sight.  When Solomon heard this, he sought to put Jeroboam to death, but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt for safety where he was welcomed.  He remained in Egypt until Solomon died.  Solomon reigned a total of forty years and was buried with his fathers.  His son Rehoboam then ascended the throne.  Soon Jeroboam returned to Israel to claim his place as king of the northern tribes.


II.   Egyptian King Shishak or Sheshong (935-914 BC)

Sheshong was a Lybian warrior who most likely was the pharaoh who befriended Jeroboam when he fled to Egypt for security.  Remember, Solomon wanted to kill him. Sheshong married one of the old pharaoh's daughters.  Then claimed the throne when the pharaoh died.  This was the beginning of Egypt's 22nd Dynasty.  Sheshong is well known for his military campaigns against the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.  He attacked Jerusalem stripping the Temple of its treasures.  He even took the beautiful golden shields that Solomon had made.  Later he went north attacking Jeroboam's forces at Megiddo.  There he built a stele with his name on it to commemorate his victory.


KINGS OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM, ISRAEL 

The following dates were taken from A History of Israel by John Bright.  There are several possible sets of dates.  The dates will vary according to the scholars, but most of them mark the date of the divided kingdom as 931 BC.


KINGS OF ISRAEL

Jeroboam 
922-901 BC       
Bad
Chosen by God.  
Reigned for 22 years.  
I Kings 14:19-20
When Solomon died, the kingdom's support was divided between Rehoboam, Solomon's son and successor, and Jeroboam, whom the LORD had chosen as king.  Rehoboam increased the burdens of forced labor and high taxes, which had already grown heavy under Solomon's reign.  The northern tribes rebelled.  When they complained to Rehoboam seeking more lenient treatment, he took it as an insult to kingship.  Moreover, he threatened to impose twice the burden that his father had.  

They revolted.  The ten northern tribes left the kingdom and followed Jeroboam, forming a new nation with the same name as the old one, Israel.  Only two tribes remained faithful to the house of David:  Judah and Benjamin along with some Levites.  The southern kingdom became known as Judah.  They were all that was left to Rehoboam.  It is sad that the great kingdom that had taken David and Solomon 80 years to build was diminished in such a short time after Solomon's death.  Without a doubt, this division of the kingdom made it more vulnerable, making it easier for their foreign enemies to attack both kingdoms. 

Jeroboam made a disastrous mistake at the beginning of his reign.  In attempting to resolve a place to worship, Jeroboam created two places of worship since Israel did not include Jerusalem where the LORD'S Temple was located.  In these new places of worship, he put two golden calf idols:   one in Dan on the northern border and another one in Bethel on the southern border.  His second mistake was to appoint non-Levite priests.  Moreover, he also changed the holidays that God had ordained.  To make things worse, Jeroboam refused to receive the counsel of the prophet sent by God.  As a consequence of this, Jeroboam lost favor with God.  God cut off his line, his dynasty.  

When Jeroboam died, his son also did evil before God.  From then on, none of the kings of Israel obeyed or followed God, I Kings 12-14.
Nadab
901-900 BC
Bad
He reigned
For two years.
He was assassinated.  
I Kings 15:25
Nadab was the son of Jeroboam.  He did evil before the LORD.  Judah captured the Southernmost part of Israel’s region after he took the throne.  This left the kingdom weak allowing the Philistines to take advantage of Nadab’s weaknesses.  Baasha killed him and his entire family at Gibbethon, taking the throne.  I Kings 15:25-31
Baasha 
900-877 BC
Bad
Reigned for 24 years.  
I Kings 15:33
He did not follow the LORD and did evil in His sight.  He smote all the house of Jeroboam, fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy, I Kings 5:29-30.  He surely had a brutal beginning.  Military losses marked his reign.  He fought with Asa, king of Judah.  
I Kings 15:29-16:5-6
Elah 
877-876 BC
Bad
Reigned seven years.
Assassinated.  
I Kings 16:8
One of his army officers named Zimri killed him when was drunk.  Zimri then proceeded to kill everyone in Elah’s line to claim the throne.  
I Kings 16:8-14
Zimri
876 BC
Bad.
Reigned seven days.
Assassinated.  
I Kings 6:15
His savage brutality did not help him at all.  He only reigned for seven days.  The Israelites refused to validate his kingship, and instead, they claimed Omri, the second commander of the army as king.  When Zimri realized that he had lost all support, he set fire to the palace and died in the same fire.  
I Kings 16:11-20
Omri
 876 – 869 BC
Very Bad.
Chosen by army.
He reigned 12 years.  
I Kings 16:23
He did not follow the LORD but did evil.  He was considered to be more evil than the other kings.  He obtained Samaria, this being one of his biggest accomplishments.  He also built its capital there.  
I Kings 16:23-28
Ahab 
869-850 BC
The Worst
Inherited throne.
He reigned in Samaria for 22 years.  
I Kings 16:29
He did evil.  He is considered the worst of all of Israel’s kings.  He married Jezebel, a Phoenician woman, to make an alliance with the king of Tyre.  Jezebel was a devoted Baal worshiper who brought with her hundreds of Baal prophets.  Ahab tolerated and worshiped them.  He also took part in their ceremonies.  

In the days of Ahab, Hiel built Jericho with the loss of his first born as well as his youngest son, fulfilling the prophecy of Joshua, Joshua 6:26. The LORD raised up a great prophet named Elijah, who confronted the king, Ahab. 
I Kings 16:29-17:24




GIANTS OF THE FAITH:  ELIJAH, THE FIERY PROPHET (I KINGS 17-22 & 
II KINGS 1)

The Bible is full of extraordinary people, and the prophet Elijah is certainly one of them.  He is called the "fiery prophet." He lived during the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram, kings of the Northern tribes of Israel.  Elijah (meaning "my God is Jehovah") is one of the Old Testament’s greatest prophets.  He performed many miracles from God such as:

  • He defeated the prophets of Baal. (Called fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice)
  • He raised a boy from the dead.
  • He predicted the fates of Ahab and Jezebel.
  • Finally, he ascended to heaven in a chariot when his time came. 

Because of Ahab’s sin, Elijah proclaimed under God’s instructions that it would not rain until Elijah said so.  When he announced this prophecy, Ahab and his wife Jezebel sought to kill him.  He fled for his life.  For three years, God took care of Elijah hiding him in the wilderness.  Elijah camped beside a brook where ravens fed him with bread and meat every day.  Notice that Elijah hid even in Jezebel’s former country, a Baal worshipping country.  Perhaps, God protected him there to demonstrate that He was LORD of Baal’s territory as well as Israel.  When the drought dried up the brook, God sent Elijah to the house of a widow in Sidon, a Phoenician city.  That widow sustained him.

Elijah’s first miracle:  When the Prophet met this poor widow she was down to her last portions of food.  She planned to feed herself and her son one last time and then wait to die.  When Elijah first met her, he asked her to share her last meal with him.  He even asked her to feed him first but reassured her that God was going to provide.  In return, trusting Elijah, God provided her with enough to make what they needed.  Isn't it amazing that our God has such power over the forces of nature?

Elijah’s second miracle:  The widow’s son suddenly became ill and died.  She cried out to Elijah believing that this was happening because of her past sins, Elijah took her son and cried to the LORD.  He stretched himself upon the child three times.  He asked the LORD each time to restore the life of the child.  Miraculously, the boy’s life returned to his body and Elijah carried him back to his mother.  After seeing this, the widow placed her faith in the God of Elijah.  Again, isn’t it something that God had power over life and death even in Baal’s territory?

Elijah’s third miracle:  After three years of drought, the LORD spoke to Elijah again telling him to return to Ahab.  When Elijah saw Ahab, he challenged him to a duel of deities.  Elijah proposed to Ahab that he bring all of the 450 prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel to represent their god.  Elijah, on the other hand, would represent the LORD all by himself.  Once there, Elijah told the prophets of Baal to lay out a bull as a sacrifice to their god.  He told them to call on their god to ignite the fire.  After their altar had been built, they began to call on the name of their false gods.  When nothing happened, they began to dance.  Elijah mocked them asking if perhaps Baal might be sleeping or traveling or perhaps too busy.   They began to cry out with a loud voice and cut themselves, offering their blood in an effort to attract Baal’s attention.  To their surprise, nothing happened.  By evening, it was evident that their altar would remain unlit.    When it was Elijah’s turn, he used twelve stones, one for each tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel and rebuilt the altar on Mt. Carmel that was torn down by their false prophets.  Although there were only ten tribes after the kingdom was divided, all twelve tribes were still God’s people.  Do you remember other times when God’s people built 12 stone altars or monuments?  How about Moses in Exodus 24 and Joshua in Joshua 4 There on Mt. Carmel, Elijah asked the people to drench the sacrifice three times with water and to fill a trench all the way around the altar with more water.  They did as he requested.  When it was the usual time for the evening sacrificial offering, Elijah prayed for God to make Himself known.  He prayed, and the LORD answered decisively:
"At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, 'O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.' Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.'"  I Kings 18:36-39.
Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel accentuates a beautiful contrast between false gods like Baal and the only True God.  Consider this contrast:

  • The only True God provides what His people need without the need for rituals such as dancing and bloodletting such as is done in many forms of idolatry and false religions.
  • The only True God does not demand that His people cut and hurt themselves that God might hear them.
  • The only True God does not sleep or need rest and is never far away.  God is always present, and He is never too busy for those who love Him, unlike the false gods who seem to be sleeping when their prophets call on them.
  • Unlike the false gods, the one True God is Master of all creation.  Everything is under His control.
  • The one True God cares graciously for His people providing what they need even when they fall short.   The false gods cannot do this.
  • Unlike false gods, God has all power to withhold the rain, as in this drought or to send the rain as He did when Elijah prayed on Mt. Carmel.  He does all this whenever He chooses to do so.

Elijah killed all of the prophets of Baal.  As Elijah ran back to Ahab’s capital, it began to rain.  The drought was over!  Elijah had proven once again that God alone has power over all the natural forces such as fire and rain.

When Ahab returned to his wife Jezebel and told her all that had happened, she immediately plotted to kill Elijah.  She sent a message to let him know that she was going to kill him.  Elijah fled for his life.  He was so disturbed by Jezebel’s evil plan that he pleaded with God to take his life.  The LORD, however, had other plans for him.  God sent an angel to nourish Elijah with a jar of water and cake, baked over hot coals.  He sent an angel twice to provide nourishment to prepare him for a 40-day journey to Mt. Horeb/Sinai, with no food at all.  Can you imagine that?   Nourished but deeply depressed, Elijah walked to Mt. Horeb.  He felt that he was completely alone and that no one else served God in all of Israel.

Notice Elijah’s encounter with God on Mt. Horeb after the events of Mt. Carmel:

Alone in his cave, he waited to hear from the LORD. And while he was waiting, a windy storm arose, but God was not in the storm.  An earthquake shook the cave, but God was not in the earthquake. A fire passed by, but God was not in the fire.  Finally, Elijah heard a still small voice, and he went out of the cave to hear God speak.  What is the lesson here?  That God is not Baal. That God is the Creator of all the earth along with the elements that are in it.  But He is not the elements themselves.  He is a personal God, who desires a relationship with His creation.  This still small voice comes with encouraging words and a reminder that He alone is Sovereign.

So important was Elijah as a prophet of God, that the Messianic prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6, invokes his name to foresee the work of John the Baptist.

"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.  He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."
Fascinating Facts:  Baal Worship

The Israelites learned Baal worship from the Canaanites as well as from the Phoenicians like Jezebel.  Baal worship focused mainly on fertility and the cycles of nature:  growing crops, raising livestock and having children.  Baal worshipers also believed that their storm god Baal caused life-giving rain since rain happened only during the rainy season, once a year.  The story developed that Baal had to struggle each year with Mot, the god of death, to break the drought and cause the rains to come. Moreover, the rituals performed by the Baal worshipers such as body cutting, frenzied dancing, human sacrifice and acts of prostitution in the temple encouraged fertility and gave Baal the energy he needed to defeat Mot.

The Israelites were continually drawn into Baal worship.  Their failure was that they wanted to serve two gods:  the God of their fathers who brought them out of slavery in Egypt and Baal who according to what they believed and assumed brought life to their crops and livestock.

Elisha’s Call (I Kings 19:19-21)

When Elijah left Mount Horeb, he found Elisha, who was plowing the fields with his oxen.  Elijah passed by and threw his cloak over him.  In this symbolic act, Elijah indicated that Elisha was chosen to take up Elijah’s ministry.  In an agrarian society, oxen are a crucial possession.  When Elisha took his pair of oxen and sacrificed them and gave it to the people to eat, it indicated a full break from his past.  Now Elisha was ready and willing to leave everything to follow Elijah and minister to him.

Naboth’s Vineyard (I Kings 21)

Ahab had fallen in love with Naboth’s vineyard that happened to be located next to his palace.  Ahab offered to buy that land from Naboth, but he refused.  When Jezebel heard of this and saw how gloomy her husband was and that he was not eating, she immediately began to plot against Naboth.  She wanted him dead!   When her wicked plan worked, she told her husband Ahab to take possession of the land he had coveted so badly.  Now it was time for Elijah to have one last encounter with Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel.   When Elijah confronted Ahab with this horrendous crime, he answered, "Have you found me, O my enemy?'  Elijah answered, 'I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel;  and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin.  Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, 'The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.' The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat.'"

Indeed, Jezebel was a wicked woman.  Because of all this evil, God decreed that dogs would eat her body.  God was going to destroy his line.  And when Ahab heard these words of judgment, he tore his clothes, putting on sackcloth and fasted.  When the LORD saw that Ahab had humbled himself before Him, He decided to postpone the evil He promised until after Ahab’s death.  What a merciful God that He would be moved even by such a wicked man when he humbled himself before His mighty throne!

Ahab is Attacked by the Aramean King (I Kings 20 & 22)

Ben-Hadad, king of Aram (Damascus, in modern day Syria) got together his forces and left to attack Ahab in Samaria.  Ahab had defeated Ben-Hadad’s army twice with the LORD’S help.  Afterward, the two nations had made a treaty.   After three years, Ahab and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah joined forces to defeat Ben-Hadad's army.  Ahab, being a Baal worshiper sought counsel from his false prophets who all told him what he wanted to hear.  They predicted a victory.   Jehoshaphat insisted that they also seek the counsel of a prophet of the LORD.  When Micaiah arrived, he anticipated defeat for both Israel and Judah.   He also predicted the death of Ahab.  Ahab refused to believe this prophecy.

Now Ahab and Jehoshaphat waged war at Ramoth-Gilead, against the king of Syria.  Ahab worried about the prophecy, so he disguised himself before he went into battle.  Unfortunately, his disguise did not protect him.  He died in combat and was brought to Samaria where they buried him.  Ahaziah, his son, became king over Israel in his place.


Ahaziah 
850-849 BC
Bad
Inherited the throne.
He reigned two years
II Kings 1:17-18
Ahaziah worshiped Baal and did evil before the LORD.  He walked in the way of his father.  This angered the LORD.  When Ahaziah injured himself by falling through the lattice of an upstairs room, he sent messengers to the shrine of Baal to find out if he would live or die. Elijah intercepted the messengers and told them to tell Ahaziah that he would not leave his bed but would die. In anger, he sent fifty soldiers to capture Elijah. The prophet said to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty." Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.  A second group of soldiers met the same fate. When the third group arrived, the captain begged Elijah to spare their lives.

Then the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, "Go down with him; do not be afraid of him." So he arose and went down with him to the king. Then he said to him, "Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.'" Ahaziah died as the LORD had prophesied.  Since he had no heir, Jehoram, his brother became king in his place.  II Kings 1
Jehoram
949-843 BC
Bad
Inherited the throne. He
Reigned 12 years.
Assassinated.  II Kings 3:2-3
Jehoram (Joram) did evil; however, he did put away Baal and discouraged its worship.  His reign coincided with the ministry of Elisha, the prophet. The two had many encounters.  Elisha warned him each time the king of Aram tried to move against Israel.  When Elisha provided water in the desert, he witnessed the miracle.  On one occasion, Elisha delivered the Arameans into Jehoram’s hands but did not allow him to kill them.  On another occasion, Elisha also predicted the day when the Aramean siege was going to be broken.  The Aramean soldiers fled because they thought they had heard the sound of mercenary chariots.

When Jehoram was in the midst of the battle against the Arameans, Elisha anointed his army commander Jehu king of Israel.  He gave Jehu the charge of eliminating Jehoram and his family since Jehoram came from the line of Ahab.  When Jehoram was wounded in battle, he returned to his palace.  Jehu then chased him in a chariot.  He killed him on the same property or land that Ahab coveted and stole from Naboth.  Notice that this is what Elijah had prophesied before.  Afterward, Jehu hunted down and killed everyone in Ahab’s line, all of his seventy children.  Jezebel’s eunuchs threw her down from an upper story window of her palace.  There she died, and her broken body was eaten by dogs as prophesied by Elijah.  Jehu also killed all of the prophets of Baal.   II Kings 2-3:3


CONCLUSION:  It has been a joy for me to learn more about the division of the kingdom and the great work of the prophet Elijah.  Our next study will acquaint us with the great work of the prophet Elisha and the Kings that he worked with.

Luci