Ministry Resources

Tents, Temples, and Palaces

In this course you will study the Old Testament, the first part of the most important book in the world- the Holy Bible. The Old Testament tells about the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It is the account of His dealings with the people he chose to use as an instrument through whom to bless the world. Series written by Rick C. Howard.

A Kingdom Divided

In Lesson 7 we paused in our study of the history of Israel to consider the writings of the kingdom age—the marvelous books of poetry and wisdom. Now we will return to the reign of king Solomon and follow the events of its last days and the years afterward.

Unlike the struggling tribes described in Judges, God’s people in the days of the united kingdom were glorious. They subdued others. But during their days of blessing and prosperity they became careless. Idolatry increased, and they forgot the principle of success which Samuel had told them: “‘Fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart’” (1 Samuel 12:24). Solomon turned aside to false gods, and the Lord brought judgment upon him.

Soon the old tribal jealousies appeared. The shadows of division and destruction loomed like a storm cloud, blocking the glory of Israel’s achievements. And worse, the division brought dishonor on the Lord’s name among the nations. But God did not abandon His people. As you study this era of their history you will become acquainted with the messages He gave them through His prophets. You will learn many lessons to apply to your own life today.

 Division of the United Kingdom

God had warned His people through Moses, Joshua, and Samuel that sin would bring destruction. It was not an outside force which defeated them, but the fact that they themselves forsook God. They were not spared from God’s judgment on their sin.

Solomon’s Idolatry

God warned Solomon twice about worshipping foreign gods. Yet “Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command” (1 Kings 11:10). For this reason the Lord told him the kingdom would be taken away from him, though not in his lifetime. God said that He would give one tribe to Solomon’s son “‘for the sake of David . . . and for the sake of Jerusalem’” (1 Kings 11:13).

The sin of Solomon and of the people in forsaking God and turning to abominable idolatry was the main reason why the kingdom was divided.

Rehoboam’s Attitude

A second reason for the division of the kingdom was the attitude of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, who became king after Solomon. The people had become restless under the heavy taxes and burdens of Solomon’s latter days. They asked their new king to give them relief. But Rehoboam ignored the wise counsel of the elders and consulted his young friends. He answered after three days: “‘My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions’” (1 Kings 12:14). Thereafter, the people rebelled and set up a northern kingdom under Jeroboam, a former official in Solomon’s government.

Tribal Jealousy

A third reason for the division was the ancient jealousy between the tribe of Judah and the great tribe of Ephraim to the north. You will remember that Joshua had been an Ephraimite. Saul, on the other hand, was chosen from the tribe of Benjamin and David from the tribe of Judah. The sharp rivalry between Judah and Ephraim is seen in the biblical account. While they obeyed God there was unity. But when they did not the division seemed unavoidable.

When the kingdom was divided into two rival states, the entire political structure collapsed. The Philistines, Syrians, Ammonites, and Moabites—nations whom Israel had subdued—regained their freedom. The economic disturbance was serious. These nations no longer paid tribute, and it was impossible for the divided tribes to keep control of the major trade routes. A great kingdom literally fell apart overnight, leaving two weak, second-rate powers.

Description of the Divided Kingdom

Their Names

We have seen that up to this time the name “Israel” has been used to refer to Jacob himself and all of his descendants (Genesis 32:22–32; 49:2; Joshua 1:2). After the kingdom was divided, however, the Bible uses “Israel” to refer to the northern kingdom of ten tribes whose first ruler was Jeroboam. At times the northern kingdom is also called “Ephraim,” the name of its most influential tribe.

On the other hand, the southern kingdom of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin is called “Judah.” It is important to keep these facts in mind when reading the different books of the Old Testament.

Their Contrasts

The northern kingdom (Israel) had many advantages over the southern kingdom (Judah). It possessed ten strong tribes whereas the southern kingdom had only two. (Sometimes, however, Judah and Benjamin are counted as one tribe.) As you will see by looking at this map of the two kingdoms, the northern one had a much larger area. It also had the best farming land—the fertile Jordan valley. Its population outnumbered that of Judah by three to one. In addition, the major military centers built by Solomon and David were there. So were the schools of the prophets in Bethel, Gilgal, and Ramah. The reasons for its existence was that God had allowed the kingdom to be divided in this way in judgment because of the people’s sins.

But the southern kingdom, though smaller in land and population, possessed Jerusalem, the political and religious center of the nation. It was fear of the influence of Jerusalem which caused Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom, to make a fatal error. This act brought God’s immediate wrath and judgment upon him.

After this act by Jeroboam, the priests, Levites, and many others from each tribe who were strong in loyalty to the Lord forsook the northern kingdom and transferred their allegiance to Judah. Judah was greatly strengthened by their addition. This meant that remnants of all the tribes were then found within Judah’s borders (2 Chronicles 11:13–17).

The southern kingdom enjoyed one even greater advantage. It had only one family of kings, all from the descendants of David. God kept His promise to David, His servant! In contrast, the northern kingdom had nine separate dynasties or families of kings with nineteen wicked rulers. These dynasties followed one another by assassination, bloodshed, and revolution. Perhaps for this reason the southern kingdom outlasted the northern kingdom by 130 years. Below is a chart which summarizes the differences between these two kingdoms and a diagram which shows the length of time each one lasted.

Their Relationship

You are aware of what civil war does in a nation. It leaves families divided. It leaves business, transportation, and social life destroyed. Israel had been one family, one language, and one nation. Now they were, as Ahijah had prophesied, like a garment torn into twelve pieces; ten pieces now united against two. The relationship between the two kingdoms went through four clearly-marked periods:

  1. Mutual hostility. During this time the kings of Judah continued to try to regain authority over the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. There were about 60 years of constant warfare.
  2. Close ties against a mutual enemy. Syria threatened the two kingdoms. King Ahab of Israel tried to form an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, through the intermarriage of the royal families. The purpose was to unite against the increasing powers of Syria.
  3. A period of fresh mutual hostility. When Jehu came to the throne in the northern kingdom he killed all the remaining people of the family of Ahab. This shattered the alliance which had been made by Ahab with the southern kingdom. The wound was never healed. The northern kingdom fell more and more into idolatry. There were a number of prophetic warnings, but the northern kingdom was finally carried away into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.
  4. The southern kingdom alone. Assyria, Egypt, and finally the Chaldeans came to try to conquer Judah. The struggle went on for about 130 years until 586 B.C. when Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

History of the Divided Kingdom

The Records

The history of the united and divided kingdom is recorded in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Together these books make up about one-fifth (20%) of the Old Testament. It is important to remember that this history is written from God’s point of view.

For example, consider one of the kings of the northern kingdom named Omri. His family reigned for 44 years, the second longest dynasty of all of Israel. We learn from nonbiblical records that Omri founded the most powerful ruling family in the northern kingdom. He moved the capital to Samaria, where he began a great city, and he regained territory from the Moabites. In fact, the Assyrians, who later conquered the northern kingdom, called it the land of Omri. Yet the Bible gives the actual events of Omri’s reign in only two verses—1 Kings 16:23–24! It is important to keep this point of view in mind when studying these historical records.

These books differ from each other regarding the importance they place on different aspects of the history they deal with. Let us consider the emphasis of each one.

  1. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel show us the principles upon which God wanted the kingdom to be established. It was to be founded on the spiritual values taught by Samuel and ruled by kings who followed the example of David’s submissive leadership.
  2. The books of 1 and 2 Kings describe how the kingdom actually developed. We see how the prophecy given by Nathan to David (2 Samuel 7:12–16) was fulfilled. This prophecy said that David would always have descendants. First and Second Kings tell about both the northern and southern kingdom. They give much attention to the prophets such as Elijah and Elisha.
  3. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles emphasize the temple: its ceremonies of worship and official figures. With the priesthood and the temple as their main theme, these books recount the history of the united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon. Then they deal mainly with the history of Judah, the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom of Israel is mentioned only when its events are related to those in the southern.

Following are two illustrations. The first shows the time span covered by these books. The second shows the differences in the themes of Kings and Chronicles.

The Kings

The character of Israel and Judah, in one sense, was seen in their kings, because the role of the king in the spiritual destiny of the nation was crucial. What the king was, the people eventually became. This was true both for the good, or, as was usually the case, for the bad.

After Solomon the story of kings gives a sad picture of decline and backsliding. In the northern kingdom Jeroboam had set up the worship of golden bulls. As the first king, his example corrupted the nation and ultimately led to its destruction (1 Kings 16:7; 22:52; 2 Kings 10:31). In the southern kingdom Rehoboam permitted the Israelites to build places in which to worship false gods. They followed the wicked practices of the people that God had ordered them to drive out of Palestine (1 Kings 14:22–24).

But though most of the kings were bad, there were some that were good. The reign of Hezekiah in Judah, for example, was a wonderful time of faith and glory (2 Kings 18:1–20:21).

In the appendix at the end of this book you will find a chart entitled “Kings and Prophets of the Divided Kingdom.” This chart gives the following information about each of the kings of Israel and Judah:

  1. The year the king came to power, his name, and the Bible references telling where information concerning his reign is recorded. In the northern kingdom, kings who began dynasties are printed like this: JEROBOAM. The names of some of the kings are the same. This is because the royal families of both kingdoms intermarried and used the same names.
  2. How the king gained his throne (by inheritance, assassination, or other means) and about how long he ruled. In some cases, two kings reigned at the same time, so the years do not always add up exactly.
  3. A short description of his spiritual character.
  4. The names of any prophets who were active during his reign. Prophets who have a book in the Bible by their name are printed in full capitalization; they are also called “writing prophets.” Some prophets, like Amos, had a ministry in both kingdoms.

Now turn to the chart and find the name BAASHA in the list of the northern kingdom. As you will notice, the chart tells us: a) that Baasha came to power in the year 909, b) that he began a dynasty, c) that information about his reign is found in 1 Kings 15:32–16:7, d) that he gained his throne by assassination, e) that he ruled for 24 years, f) that he was a bad king, and g) that Jehu prophesied during the reign. (Remember that the years numbered before Christ count backwards, or become smaller, until the time of Christ which is numbered 0. The years before Christ are usually marked with the letters “B.C.” meaning “before Christ.” All the years in this chart are B.C.)

You may want to study the lives of each of these kings in greater detail. If so, use the chart to help you in your study. The evil ways of the kings and the people ultimately brought destruction to both kingdoms. The northern kingdom fell in 722 B.C. and the southern in 586 B.C. God had foretold this 800 years earlier through Moses. Captivity and brokenness became the payment for rebellion and idolatry.

The Prophets

During the dark days of the northern and southern kingdoms God raised up many prophets to warn His people. Of these, twelve have books by their names in the Old Testament. As prophets, their messages were not only about the events of the future but also about God’s will for the present. They often had insight into the current affairs of their nation. In 2 Kings 17:13 we read that God sent His prophets to warn Israel and Judah: “‘Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’ ” These men were fearless in speaking to kings and people alike about their sins and the coming judgment.

The prophet was a specially-chosen man. He did not inherit his position as did the king or priest. God’s choice of him was not influenced by his family, tribe, or intellectual training. The prophet had two major responsibilities. He was called upon to 1) receive something from God and to 2) produce or speak on behalf of God. The prophet’s message thus came from God, not from his own thoughts. Only the false prophets announced what they thought. As God’s messenger speaking on His behalf, the prophet was to fearlessly bring God’s word to the people.

The prophet’s message was received and given out under God’s inspiration. But at the same time his own mental ability, personality, and way of speaking were not lost. He was an instrument in God’s hand, not a machine. This is a most important distinction, for the results of God’s inspiration were in no way like the results of the influence of evil spirits who actually control people.

The source of the prophet’s message was important, and so was the message itself. The message of the prophets had three parts:

  1. A message to their own age or generation directly from God.
  2. A message of predicted future events such as the following: a) the failure of God’s chosen people and God’s judgment on them and the nations around them; b) the coming of the Messiah and His rejection and final glory; and c) the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom here on earth.
  3. A living message to us who live today containing principles of right and wrong.

The message the prophet gave to his own generation was often a combination of predictions of future events and principles of right and wrong. We can learn much from these messages, both about the Messiah and His kingdom and about the principles of right and wrong which we can apply to our lives today. Habakkuk 1:6, for example, is a prediction of a future event, whereas 2:4 and 2:18 contain principles of right and wrong. Take a moment now to read and consider the meaning of these verses of Scripture.

Their Ministries

To the Northern Kingdom

The writing prophets to the northern kingdom during the time before the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C. were Jonah, Amos, and Micah. In addition, the northern kingdom was ministered to by Elijah, Elisha, Ahijah, Jehu, Micaiah, and Oded. Each prophet had a special ministry given to him by the Lord. Elijah and Elisha, for example, performed many miracles (see 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4). Jonah was sent to a foreign city, Nineveh, to warn its people of the coming judgment. Read Jonah 1–4 before continuing.

The following is a brief summary of the messages God gave the northern kingdom through the writing prophets. Each would be a wonderful subject for you to study on your own.

Hosea: Hosea’s love for and restoration of his own sinful, adulterous wife was a picture of God’s forgiving love for sinful Israel. Chapters 1–3 are the account of Hosea’s personal experience which are like God’s dealings with spiritually adulterous Israel. Chapters 4–14 are the same message given in greater detail. Read Hosea 1–14 before continuing.

Amos: Amos preached that a nation is responsible for its national sins. The heathen nations surrounding God’s people were condemned to experience judgment for their national sins. Israel, however, received a more severe condemnation for its sins since Israel had greater light.

Micah: Micah preached to both the northern and southern kingdoms regarding the coming judgment and future restoration and blessing. Chapters 1–3 show a dark picture, chapters 4–5 a bright one, and chapter 6 more judgment. Then from 7:7 on, the book gives a glorious picture of Israel’s future. Read Micah 1–7 before continuing.

To the Southern Kingdom

The writing prophets to the southern kingdom during this time were Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. In addition, Shemaiah, Iddo, Azariah, Hanani, Eliezer, and Huldah gave God’s messages to the people. Following is a brief summary of the messages of the writing prophets.

Joel: The country had been threatened with destruction because of devastating swarms of locusts and excessive drought. Though the plague was removed through fasting and prayer, Joel’s prophecy used it as a picture of the terrible day of final judgment for all nations. The faithful will be rewarded while evil doers will be punished. Read Joel 1–3 before continuing.

Isaiah: Isaiah was a nobleman and prophet of king Hezekiah’s day who warned, comforted, and advised his rulers. He prophesied the captivity of Judah’s kingdom but foretold the dawn of the new kingdom. He prophesied both the sufferings and the glory of the coming Messiah. Read Isaiah 1, 6–7, 39–44, 52–66 before continuing.

Micah: Micah prophesied to both kingdoms. Review his message in the previous section.

Nahum: The foreign nation of Assyria was the subject of Nahum’s prophecy. Assyria had oppressed Judah for a century: the doom of Nineveh, Assyria’s capital, was pronounced, explained, and described by Nahum.

Zephaniah: The “Day of the Lord” was stressed by Zephaniah. This day brings destruction to the false remnant who worship Baal (Chapter 1), and it brings purification and blessing to the true remnant of God’s people. Read Zephaniah 1–3 before continuing.

Jeremiah: Many have named him “the weeping prophet.” He was from a priestly family. While still a boy he was called to be a prophet. For his loyalty to the preaching of God’s word for half a century he was despised, feared, hated, and persecuted. Because he predicted the overthrow of Jerusalem and seventy years of captivity he was called a traitor and suffered much cruel treatment. Read Jeremiah 1–9, 18–19, 36–39, 52 before continuing.

Lamentations: This book records Jeremiah’s poetic expression of his grief at the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem and the temple and at the captivity and miseries of the people. Read Lamentations 1–5 before continuing.

Habakkuk: Habakkuk’s message was that right would win. Judah was being punished by the wicked Babylonians, but the Babylonians would in turn be punished. Read Habakkuk 1–3 before continuing.

Obadiah: The land of Edom would be judged for its mistreatment of God’s people. Israel would be blessed. Read Obadiah 1 before continuing.

Our study of the divided kingdom has helped us to see the decline of God’s people. Finally, as the prophets had warned, first Israel and then Judah collapsed and were led into captivity. Yet, God revealed through the prophets a glorious future when the Prince of Peace will rule (Isaiah 9:6–7) and the nations will seek the Lord (Micah 4:2).

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