2 Kings 17 The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
This is a key chapter in the Old Testament, for it relates the tragic downfall of Israel as they became subject to the powerful Assyrians who came from the east (some 700 miles away). Some background helps:
- In 2 Kings 15:29 it is recorded that the Assyrians took a great deal of the people of the northern kingdom away as captives (in about 738 BC). Then in 2 Kings 17:6 it states: “In the ninth year of Hoshea [king of Israel,] the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria” (see also verses 18, 20, 23, 34-40; 18:11-12).
- The foregoing occurred in about 721 BC, and had been forewarned by the Lord and His prophets (see, for example, Deuteronomy 4:25-28 and Moses’s discourse to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 28).
- This conquer and captivity came upon the “ten tribes,” which included Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon, Gad, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Ephraim, and Manasseh (plus part of Levi).
Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah—despite their own wickedness (see 2 Kings 17:19)—remained marginally intact until being conquered some 130 years later (in about 586 BC) by the Babylonians, who had overthrown the Assyrians. The kingdom of Judah was comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, plus parts of Levi and other tribes (including the Book of Mormon’s family of Lehi, who were of the tribe of Manasseh).
- Find in 2 Kings 17:7-17 the many things the children of Israel did that led to their collapse.
- What things on this list do you see happening today? Read the Lord’s declarations in D&C 1:11-16.
2 Kings 17:24 relates that the Assyrians brought other people to the land of Israel, “who dwelt in the cities,” presumably to build up the depleted population and to keep up the farms, vineyards, flocks, herds, and so forth. This led to a mixture of people and their worship, some of whom became the Samaritans, who 700 years later figured importantly into numerous settings of Jesus’s ministry in the New Testament.
2 Kings 18 The Righteous Reign of Hezekiah
Meanwhile, in the south, Hezekiah became king of Judah at age 25 (verses 1-2) and provided spiritual relief for his people:
- What do verses 3, 6 say about Hezekiah?
- Verse 4 lists some of the things Hezekiah did to help reform his people. Surprisingly, this included the destruction of the 600-year-old brass serpent that Moses had fashioned in the episode of the fiery flying serpents (see Numbers 21), because the people in Hezekiah’s day had been using it as an object of false worship.
- Hezekiah, on the other hand, called the brass serpent “Nehushtan,” which means, “a brass thing.”
- Really, that’s all it was. Even though it once symbolized Jesus Christ, it was still just a thing made of brass. Let us carefully devote all our worship and obedience to God Himself, avoiding all else that could represent worthless devotion or a false god.
Unfortunately, the Assyrians—under their king, Sennacherib—invaded Judah, resulting in Hezekiah being required to pay tribute in return for Sennacherib’s withdrawal, including silver and gold from the temple (verses 13-16):
- Find in verses 17-20, 29-36 what subsequently was said and what happened when King Sennacherib sent Rab-shakeh to Jerusalem.
- Note that the promises made by the king of Assyria to the people of Israel in verse 32 can be compared to what Satan seeks to offer us—and it’s all a lie!
- What was the response of the people of Israel, in verse 36?
2 Kings 19-20 The Lord’s Intervention
King Hezekiah lived during the time of the prophet Isaiah—who was laboring among the people of Judah—and in chapter 19 Hezekiah does the right thing: he went to the prophet! He then has a wondrous interaction with Isaiah and with the Lord:
- What did Hezekiah and his servants do and say in response to Rab-shakeh’s threat? (19:1-5).
- What was Isaiah’s reply? (verses 6-7).
- What happened when Rab-shakeh returned to Assyria? (verses 8-12).
- What did Hezekiah do next? (verses 14-19; read Hezekiah’s prayer carefully, noting his faith and humility).
- What was Isaiah’s next step? (verse 20). What did the Lord tell Isaiah about Assyria? (verses 21-22, 28, 32-34).
- What happened that very night and in the following days? (verses 35-37).
- Remember Mormon’s conclusion in Alma 30:60, saying “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”
- King Hezekiah was a most inspiring leader in a time of great trouble and distress. Read the sweet story of Hezekiah, Isaiah, and the Lord in chapter 20, verses 1-7.
- After a visit from representatives of Babylon (verses 12-13), Isaiah told Hezekiah of the terrible things that would happen to Jerusalem and to his people (verses 14-18).
2 Kings 21 Unrighteous Manasseh and Amon
After Hezekiah’s death, he was replaced as king of Judah by his son Manasseh, who did not follow his father’s example:
- Read verses 1-7, 16 for a long list of Manasseh’s evil and idolatrous behaviors.
- According to Jewish tradition, Manasseh killed not only “innocent blood” (as mentioned in verse 16), but also killed prophets, including Isaiah (see also 2 Kings 24:3-4).
- Find the Lord’s reaction to Manasseh’s wickedness, in verses 10-15.
- Manasseh was succeeded by his son Amon, who was equally wicked and was killed by his own servants (verses 19-23).
2 Kings 22-23 Righteous Josiah
It’s time for another spiritual reformation, and Amon’s son Josiah is the one to lead the way:
- What inspired idea did Josiah have in 22:3-6?
- What amazing discovery was made in the temple by the high priest Hilkiah? (verses 8, 10).
- What was King Josiah’s reaction to this discovery? (verse 11).
- Apparently, during the 57 years of rule by the wicked kings Manasseh and Amon, the high priest’s copy of the scriptures (likely the five books of Moses, or perhaps just Deuteronomy) had been misplaced or hidden.
- After the scriptures were found, king Josiah “heard the words of the book of the law” and realized how far his people had wandered from the true worship of Jehovah.
- What could happen in your life if you became distanced from the scriptures?
- In verses 12-14, Josiah sent the high priest and others to consult with the prophetess Huldah. What did she tell them? (verses 15-20). Note how the Lord responds to Josiah’s tender, humble heart.
- After the temple repairs, in chapter 23 Josiah leads his people in spiritually repairing themselves and their society. What momentous thing did Josiah do in 23:1-3?
- What things did Josiah do next, in verses 4-7? (These actions continue in verses 8-15, 19-20, 24.)
- Finally, what great event did Josiah carry out for all the people, in verses 21-22?
- Read verse 25, noting the four occurrences of the word “all.”
- Remembering that God does only that which will ultimately benefit and bless His children (see 2 Nephi 26:24), the Lord still determined to inflict consequences upon the people of Judah (2 Kings 23:26-27).
- The pharaoh/king of Egypt attacked the Assyrians, and Josiah became involved, losing his life in the process (verses 29-30).
- Josiah is replaced by his son Jehoahaz—who did evil—then by Eliakim/Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah who also did evil (verses 34, 37).
- Verses 33-35 tell us that Egypt took control of the land of Judah and exacted a heavy tribute tax.
2 Kings 24-25 The Fall of Jerusalem
As we saw in 2 Kings 17, in 721 BC Assyria captured and enslaved the northern kingdom of Israel. About one hundred years later, the Assyrians in turn were conquered by the Babylonians (also sometimes called the “Chaldeans”).
Now, 2 Kings 24-25 detail another major turning point in the Old Testament, describing the fall of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians, in 586 BC (much of Judah’s land outside Jerusalem had been taken previously):
- 2 Kings 24:2 says that “the Lord sent” the invaders against king Jehoiakim, to destroy Judah, “according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servants the prophets.”
- The rulers and people of Judah had more-than-sufficient warning, beginning with Moses who received the commandments and the law many hundreds of years earlier. In D&C 1:37-38 the Lord says that His prophecies and promises “shall all be fulfilled,” and that His word “shall not pass away.” Let us pay close attention to the words of our living prophets, which are God’s words.
- For a time, Judah’s kings remained in place (under Babylon), thus Jehoiakim was replaced by his son Jehoiachin (verses 6-8), who also “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” (verse 9).
- But things got worse. What happened in verses 10-16?
- We learn later in the Old Testament that those carried away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar at this time included the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, plus Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and others.
- According to verses 17-20, who became the next king in Jerusalem, as appointed by Nebuchadnezzar? What was this new king like?
Zedekiah’s placement on the throne of Judah in about 600 BC is another pivotal event, for we learn in the Book of Mormon that Nephi’s written history begins “in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah” (1 Nephi 1:4). This is the same time and place of the ministry of Nephi’s father, Lehi. Read 1 Nephi 1:18-20, noting the similar descriptions of the spiritual atmosphere in Jerusalem at this time. The prophet Jeremiah was a contemporary with Lehi, also warning and prophesying to the people of Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 5:13; 7:14; see also Jeremiah 1:1-3).
2 Kings 25 reveals the final disastrous blows against Jerusalem and the House of Israel:
- The Babylonians blockaded Jerusalem in about 591 BC, hindering the production and delivery of food and thus creating a famine (verses 1-3).
- King Zedekiah attempted to flee but was captured and taken to Babylon (verses 4-7).
- Zedekiah’s sons were put to death (verse 7)—although the Bible text fails to note what we know from the Book of Mormon; that Zedekiah’s son Mulek survived and journeyed to the Americas (see Helaman 6:10; 8:21).
- The walls of Jerusalem were broken down and many buildings and houses were burnt, including the 400-year-old temple of Solomon (verses 9-10). Also, the temple’s treasures were stolen and taken to Babylon (verses 13-17).
- Most of the remaining inhabitants of Jerusalem were taken as captives to Babylon, leaving behind only “the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen” (verses 11-12).
- The temple priests, along with the military and civil officers were taken and put to death (verses 19-21).
- The remaining people of Jerusalem fled to Egypt (verses 22-26).
- Read Exodus 19:3-6 and consider “what might have been” for the children of Israel. What can you improve in your life in order to be found worthy before the Lord?
Two additional points to consider:
- The importance of righteous leaders—in 1 and 2 Kings we have seen that the people mostly follow the behavior of their kings.
- The mostly sad history of the House of Israel in the Old Testament is contrasted by the great latter-day gathering of Israel, which President Russell M. Nelson has called “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth” (see New Era, March 2019). Let us engage in this work!
A Word About 1 and 2 Chronicles
The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles cover roughly the same time period, people, and events as 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings. They add some additional detail, but at least half the material in Chronicles is also found in other parts of the Old Testament, and many students of the Bible feel that the superior versions are those in 2 Samuel and the Kings. If you wish to read and ponder meaningful passages that are unique to the Chronicles, consider:
- David’s psalm of thanksgiving; 1 Chronicles 16:7-36.
- David’s prayer of thanksgiving for the temple; 1 Chronicles 29:10-19.
- Judah’s miraculous victory over the Ammonites; 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.
- More details about Hezekiah’s righteous reign and restoration of temple service; 2 Chronicles 29:1-36.
- More details about Hezekiah’s restoration of the Passover; 2 Chronicles 30:1-27.
- In about 539 BC, King Cyrus of Persia declares his intent to re-build the temple in Jerusalem; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.