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What happened with Judah while Israel rapidly went deeper into idolatry? What brought the royal seed of David to the point two of them were captives in Babylon, one of whom saw his sons killed just before his eyes were put out?

Frankly, Rehoboam’s arrogance at the people’s request for relief from the burdens Solomon imposed on them pointed to a quick loss of his kingdom. Of course, he did lose 10 of the 12 tribes. Had that attitude continued without interruption, Judah would have fallen much sooner. As it was, Judah continued nearly 3 ½ centuries, or more than 100 years after Israel fell.

There were good kings among the 19 descendants of David who served from Rehoboam through Zechariah, their last king. These few good kings of Judah served as sort of a “dam” holding back the flood of idolatry that surrounded both Israel and Judah, a blessing Israel did not share. There was also more stability in Judah, as they had but one dynasty, while in more than 100 fewer years of history, Israel had nine dynasties, two of which lasted three months or less. Toward the end, Judah had two kings that lasted only three months as well, but this was in the time of dissolution when foreign powers set kings on Judah’s throne as they willed.

The “good kings” were Asa, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Each of these destroyed some of the idolatrous shrines. Hezekiah and Josiah each restored the Passover observance. Josiah not only tore down the Baal shrines on the “high places” in Judah, he also went into what had been Israel to destroy the Golden Calf worship (that continued after Israel fell. About the middle of his reign, he began to clear the rubbish from the Temple and found a copy of the Book of the Law. Reading this, he realized they had not been keeping the ordained feast days, and had a great Passover, such as had not been observed since the time of Samuel (2 Chron. 35:18).

After Josiah, though, came the deluge. There was no one after him to point the people in the right way.

Throughout, there were four sources of influence: The Prince (or king), the Priests, the Prophets, and the People themselves. When there was a good Prince, he could influence the Priests and the People. A bad Prince often had bad Prophets, though God sent good Prophets as well. Sometimes, a good Priest would overcome the influence of a bad Prince. When the Prince, the Priests, or the People would listen to the true Prophets of God, the nation could be held back from its evil ways.

Hezekiah listened to Isaiah; his son would not. Jeremiah had almost as long a prophetic career as Isaiah. While Josiah heard him, his successors did not. You may remember the story of King Jehoiakim who cut up the scroll brought to him from Jeremiah with his pen knife, throwing the pieces into the fire (Jeremiah 36). Other prophets to Judah included Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk.

At the end, fear of Babylon led the Princes and the people to trust foreign alliances instead of the Lord. They were not like Hezekiah who prayed to the LORD when the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem and was delivered (2 Kings 19). His descendants from 606–586 BC did not follow his steps – with disastrous results.

Next we look at the Exile and Return as the STORY of God’s faithfulness continues in spite of the nation’s faithlessness.


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