Before Israel had even entered the promised land, Moses prophetically counseled them about establishing kings to rule over them. The instructions were clear: if the people ever chose to have a king, they must select someone who met certain criteria.
A king had to be—
One chosen by the Lord.
A member of the house of Israel and not a Gentile.
One who did not seek to “multiply horses” (a Hebrew idiom meaning to make extensive preparations for aggressive warfare).
One who would not lead Israel back to Egypt (back to their worldly ways).
One who would not multiply wives and wealth unto himself.
One who followed the law of God in ruling the people.
In the days of the prophet Samuel, the people rejected the rule of the judges and sought for a king to be their ruler. They forgot, however, what the Lord had directed them centuries before. They wanted a king such as other nations had so “that [Israel] also may be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:20). Samuel warned them of the consequences of having a king such as this. He warned of military and civil service to the monarch and of the burden of taxation. (see 1 Samuel 8:9–18; Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel [religion 301, 2003], p. 271; Mosiah 29:21–23.) Nevertheless, Israel rejected the Lord as their rightful king (see 1 Samuel 8:7); so the Lord directed His prophet to provide them a king.
Saul was chosen as the first king, and under his leadership the foundations of the kingdom were laid. The land was united and greatly strengthened under the kingship of David. Finally, under Solomon, Israel reached its greatest glory and its greatest expansion. The first three kings of Israel achieved many significant things, but their worldly government cultivated the seeds of the destruction that was to come upon the nation. (See chapter 1 of this manual, “Solomon: Man of Wisdom, Man of Foolishness.”)
After the death of Solomon, a schism over taxation divided the nation into two kingdoms. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and anointed successor, ruled over the Southern Kingdom, which was composed of the territory belonging to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The house of David continued to govern this nation until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. A newly proclaimed king, Jeroboam, ruled over the Northern Kingdom, called the kingdom of Israel, which was composed of the territory of the remaining ten tribes. Jeroboam was followed by a series of kings for the next two hundred years. In both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms, the criteria established by the Lord was largely ignored, and both Israel and Judah reaped the sad results.
(A-2) Overview of the Kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom)
Jeroboam, an Ephraimite who had been a military leader in the army of Israel during Solomon’s reign, was rewarded for his accomplishments with a building project in the city of David. He was made an administrator over all the house of Joseph, that is, over the territorial districts of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, two of the most powerful tribes in Israel (see 1 Kings 11:26–28). Later, Ahijah, a prophet of that day, revealed to Jeroboam that he, Jeroboam, would become the ruler of the northern ten tribes (see 1 Kings 11:29–39).
Solomon, fearful of Jeroboam, sought his life. Jeroboam fled to Egypt, where he lived in exile until after Solomon’s death (see 1 Kings 11:40; 12:2–3). The people of the north called Jeroboam out of Egypt to lead their confrontation with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son (see 1 Kings 12).
As part of this rebellion, the northern people seceded from Judah and made Jeroboam their king. They became known as the kingdom of Israel, or the Northern Kingdom. This kingdom was often referred to as Ephraim, particularly by the prophets, because the tribe of Ephraim was a dominant power from the days of Joshua to the time of Jeroboam (see Numbers 13:3, 8; 14:6).
The capital of the Northern Kingdom was established first in Shechem and later in Samaria, both of which cities were located in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. Sometimes the names of these cities were used to mean the whole of the Northern Kingdom. (see Isaiah 7:1–9; Jeremiah 7:15; 31:9; Ezekiel 37:16–19; Hosea 4:17.)
With the power of kingship, Jeroboam established a state religion of idolatrous worship (see 1 Kings 12:25–33). The new nation never repented of this wickedness, which contributed to its downfall.
Twenty monarchs ruled the Northern Kingdom from its beginning until its destruction by the Assyrians. Five different family dynasties were set up in the Northern Kingdom, but all were short-lived, and all were ended by assassination or violence. Seven monarchs were murdered, and one committed suicide.
The scriptural record characterizes every ruler of the northern tribes as evil or wicked. Such prophets as Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea ministered in the Northern Kingdom during this period, calling on the kings and the people to repent. At the same time, the prophets of Judah, including Isaiah and Micah, also warned the people of the Northern Kingdom of their coming destruction if they did not repent.
The following list of the kings of Israel gives notes on their reigns and the prophets who were contemporary with them. The dates used are those generally accepted. They were adapted from Edwin R. Thiele, A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings. Other chronologies may vary slightly from the one used here. The chronologies of the kings of both kingdoms and the correspondence between the reigns of the monarchs and the ministries of the prophets is shown in Maps.
Dynasty of Jeroboam
Jeroboam I (931–909 B.C.). see 1 Kings 12:25–14:20. Introduced worship of idols. Corrupted the priestly offices for his new religion. The curse of idolatry remained with the Northern Kingdom until its fall (see 2 Kings 17:21–22).
Before Solomon’s death, Ahijah, the prophet from Shiloh, prophesied the coming division of the kingdom, stating that the Lord would give ten of the tribes to Jeroboam to rule over (see 1 Kings 11:28–40). Later, when Jeroboam became king, Ahijah prophesied that the king’s house would become extinct because Jeroboam encouraged idolatry (see 1 Kings 14:6–16).
Nadab (909–908 B.C.). see 1 Kings 15:25–31. Son of Jeroboam I. Assassinated by Baasha in a military revolt during an engagement with the Philistines.
Dynasty of Baasha
Baasha (908–886 B.C.). see 1 Kings 15:32–16:7. Executed all the descendants of Jeroboam. Defeated by Asa, king of Judah, and by the Syrians.
The prophets Havani and Jehu prophesied during his reign.
Elah (886–885 B.C.). see 1 Kings 16:8–14. Son of Baasha. Assassinated by Zimri, one of his high military officers, who assumed the throne.
Zimri (885 B.C.). see 1 Kings 16:15–20. Ruled only seven days. Executed all the descendants of Baasha. Besieged by Omri, chief officer of the military. Committed suicide to avoid being captured alive.
Tibni (885 B.C.). see 1 Kings 16:21–22. Led part of the people against Omri. Was defeated by Omri, who gained control of the entire Northern Kingdom.
Dynasty of Omri
Omri (885–874 B.C.). see 1 Kings 16:23–28. Moved the capital to Samaria. Conquered the land of Moab and placed it under tribute.
Ahab (874–853 B.C.). see 1 Kings 16:29–22:40. Son of Omri. Married the Zidonian princess Jezebel and worshiped the idols of pagan neighbors. Joined as an ally with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, against the Syrians. Rejected the prophet Elijah. (During Ahab’s reign Elijah had the contest with the priests of Baal.) Finally entered an alliance with Syria against the invading Assyrians. Returned in league with Judah to fight Syria, who had rebelled against Israel. Was killed just as the battle was lost.
The prophet Elijah’s prophecy of Ahaziah’s death was fulfilled. There were, evidently, numerous other prophets in the Northern Kingdom at the time. Jahaziel and Eliezer are two who are named (see 2 Chronicles 20:14, 37).
Joram/Jehoram (852–841 B.C.). see 2 Kings 3:1–8:15. Brother of Ahaziah. Forbade the worship of foreign gods but retained the idol worship instituted by Jeroboam. Joined in an alliance with Judah against Moab. Successfully held off Syrian attacks on the people of Israel. Was killed by Jehu in a bloody purge of the Omri dynasty.
Elisha received the mantle of the prophetic ministry from Elijah during this time (see 2 Kings 2:9–15).
Dynasty of Jehu
Jehu (841–814 B.C.). see 2 Kings 9:1–10:36. Anointed king over Israel by a young prophet who acted under the direction of Elisha. Killed King Joram and mortally wounded King Ahaziah of Judah, Israel’s ally. Destroyed the descendants of Ahab and the remnants of foreign idol worship. Since there is no record of his violent death, it is assumed he was one of the few to die of natural causes.
Jehoahaz (814–798 B.C.). see 2 Kings 13:1–9. Son of Jehu. Surrendered the kingdom of Israel to the Syrian conquerors and paid tribute to them. Saw much of the nation’s military power destroyed.
Elisha’s ministry of about fifty years, begun in Joram’s reign, continued through the reign of Jehoahaz’s son Jehoash. Some scholars believe Joel’s ministry was also about this time.
Jehoash (798–782 B.C.). see 2 Kings 13:10–25. Son of Jehoahaz. Continued paying tribute to Syria. Freed Israel from tributary status and defeated the Syrians three times when a change of leadership in Syria and conquest there by the Assyrians brought war again between Syria and Israel.
Jeroboam II (792–753 B.C.). see 2 Kings 14:23–29. Son of Jehoash. Maintained Israel’s independence from Syrian control. Took part of the kingdom of Judah.
The ministry of Amos, who called on the kingdom of Israel to repent or face destruction, began about this time .
Zachariah (753 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:8–12. Son of Jeroboam II. Was the last king of the lengthy dynasty of Jehu . Assassinated by his successor after only six months on the throne.
The ministry of Hosea began about this time and continued until the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 721 B.C.
Shallum (752 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:13–15. Assassinated by Menahem, his successor, after only one month as king.
Dynasty of Menahem
Menahem (752–742 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:16–22. Brutally murdered the pregnant women in the cities that refused to support him as king. Controlled by the Assyrians under Pul (Tiglath-pileser IV), who placed Israel under heavy tribute.
Pekahiah (742–740 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:23–26. Son of Menahem. Was assassinated by Pekah, a military leader. About this time Isaiah began his ministry in the kingdom of Judah, although much of what he said was directed at Israel as well.
Pekah (740–732 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:27–31. Formed an alliance with Syria against Assyria. Threatened and, with Syria, finally attacked Judah but with limited success. Attacked by the Assyrians. Lost all of Galilee, whose inhabitants were exiled to Assyria. Was assassinated by Hoshea, his successor.
Hoshea (732–722 B.C.). see 2 Kings 17:1–23. Surrendered to the Assyrians and agreed to pay heavy tribute. Sought the aid of Egypt against the Assyrians to relieve the heavy burden. This intrigue resulted in a three year siege of the Northern Kingdom and the collapse of Israel. The Assyrians sent into exile most of the people of Israel.
The captivity of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom eventually ended in their escape into the north countries and their becoming known as the lost tribes (see Enrichment D).
(A-3) Overview of the Kingdom of Judah (Southern Kingdom)
When Rehoboam was anointed king to succeed his father Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:43), a political crisis was developing because of severe economic problems caused by excessive government building, particularly for the military but also for the royal household. Rehoboam had to go to Shechem, the power center of the north, to attempt to obtain the support of the northern tribes. The leaders of the people sought for assurance that relief from heavy taxation would be forthcoming. Being ill-advised by inexperienced, power-seeking aides, King Rehoboam refused any relief and even threatened further increases. (see 1 Kings 12:1–11.) The northern tribes then refused to uphold him as king. They revolted against the attempted enforcement of the king’s decrees and formed their own nation with Jeroboam as their new king. (see 1 Kings 12:12–20.)
The tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest and weakest tribe, as well as the closest territorial neighbor to the capital, Jerusalem, supported Rehoboam and together formed the kingdom of Judah (see 1 Kings 12:21–24; 2 Chronicles 11:1–4, 12, 23). Through the years that followed, many members of other tribes migrated to the Southern Kingdom and became a part of the nation of Judah. Specific mention is made of Levi (see 2 Chronicles 11:13–17), Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon (see 2 Chronicles 15:9).
It had been prophetically declared that Judah would remain under the control of the house of David (see 1 Kings 11:13, 32). The prophecy was fulfilled, for David’s royal line retained the throne throughout Judah’s existence as a nation. One attempt to move the kingship to another family through the actions of the wife of one of the kings was thwarted, and the family rule was preserved. (The genealogy of the kings of Judah is shown in the chart at the end of this enrichment section.)
Of the twenty rulers who reigned over Judah from the death of Solomon to the fall of Jerusalem and the Jews’ captivity and exile at the hands of the Babylonians, twelve are characterized in the scriptural record as evil or wicked. Only four advanced their nation economically and religiously. As in the north, numerous prophets were called to cry repentance to Judah, including Micaiah, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Lehi, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
The Kings of Judah
Rehoboam (931–913 B.C.). see 1 Kings 12:1–24; 14:21–31; 2 Chronicles 9:31–12:16. Permitted idolatrous practices to be established in the land. Was defeated by Shishak (Sheshonk I of the Twenty-second Dynasty of the Pharaohs of Egypt), who pillaged the temple and palaces of Judah. Fought with Israel throughout his reign.
Abijam/Abijah (913–910 B.C.). see 1 Kings 15:1–8; 2 Chronicles 13:1–22. Son of Rehoboam. Warred against Israel. Defeated a number of cities of the Northern Kingdom and brought them under the control of Judah.
Asa (911–869 B.C.). see 1 Kings 15:9–24; 2 Chronicles 14:1–16:14. Son of Abijam. Began religious reform in the nation with the encouragement of Ahijah the prophet. Destroyed the idols of the people of Judah and banned idolatrous worship. Was attacked by Baasha of Israel but defeated him. Withstood the attack of an Ethiopian force. Allied with Syria late in his reign against further attacks from Israel. Because of his sickness, three years before his death he appointed his son Jehoshaphat to reign jointly with him.
Jehoshaphat (870–848 B.C.). see 1 Kings 22:41–50; 2 Chronicles 17:1–20:37. Son of Asa. Ruled jointly with his father for three years before becoming king. Strengthened military fortifications in the kingdom and promoted further religious reform. Established instructional programs directed by the priesthood. Received tribute from the Philistines and Arabians as a guarantee of peace because of Judah’s great military presence as a nation. Joined in an alliance with King Ahab of Israel against the Syrians. King Ahab was killed in the war, but the Syrians were defeated. The marriage of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram to Ahab’s daughter Athaliah promoted idolatrous worship and eventually threatened the continuation of David’s line on the throne of Judah. Established a system of religious and civil courts. Miraculously withstood an attack from the Ammonites and their allies. Continued the alliance with Israel in an attempt to jointly establish ships for trade, but the venture failed.
Elijah’s ministry, though primarily in the Northern Kingdom, took place during Jehoshaphat’s reign.
Jehoram (848–841 B.C.). see 2 Kings 8:16–24; 2 Chronicles 21. Firstborn of Jehoshaphat. Became king and ruled jointly during his father’s last years as king. Killed his brothers to obtain their wealth and secure the throne after he became the sole ruler. Allowed his idolatrous wife to promote the evil religious practices of Israel in Judah. Withstood a rebellion by the Edomites, who had been a tributary state since the days of David and Solomon. Prevented an Edomite attack on Judah but could not regain control of Edom. Attacked by the Philistines and Arabians, who sacked the capital and destroyed the king’s house and family. His people refused him a royal burial.
Ahaziah (841 B.C.). see 2 Kings 8:25–29; 9:27–29; 2 Chronicles 22:1–9. Son of Jehoram. Influenced by his mother, Athaliah, daughter of Ahab of Israel, to follow the idol worship of the north. Allied with Jehoram, his cousin, the king of Israel, against the Syrians. Visited Jehoram of Israel at his palace in Samaria when Jehoram was wounded in the war with Syria. Killed while in Samaria during the coup executed by Jehu, a military leader in Israel who had been anointed king by Elisha the prophet. Jehoram of Israel was assassinated in the same coup.
Athaliah (841–835 B.C.). see 2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 22:10–23:21. Mother of Ahaziah and daughter of Ahab of Israel. Sought to establish the house of Ahab (of the Northern Kingdom) on the throne of Judah. Ordered her own grandchildren killed to seize the throne for herself. A righteous priest rescued the youngest heir, however, and hid him in the temple. After a number of years this religious leader organized a revolt. Queen Athaliah was put to death, and her grandson Joash was upheld as king of Judah.
Joash/Jehoash (835–796 B.C.). see 2 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 24. Son of Ahaziah. Supported the priesthood and renewed the worship of Jehovah. Repaired the temple. Turned to idolatrous worship after the death of the leading priest, who had saved his life and his throne. Murdered his cousin Zechariah, who was a prophet raised up by God to call the people to repentance (see 2 Chronicles 22:10–11; 24:20–21). Was severely wounded in an attack on Judah by the Syrians. Gave tribute from the treasures and sacred furnishings of the temple to the Syrians to secure the safety of his people. Was assassinated by his own servants for his wicked deeds, especially those against the priestly family that had preserved his life.
Amaziah (796–767 B.C.). see 2 Kings 14:1–22; 2 Chronicles 25. Son of Joash. Prepared his people and led them victoriously against their long-time enemies, the Edomites, who had been weakened by Assyrian attacks. Reestablished the worship of idols among the people of Judah. Challenged the kingdom of Israel for power and was defeated. As had been prophesied, Jerusalem’s walls were partially destroyed and the temple ransacked. Because of that destruction, an insurrection arose against Amaziah. Fled to Lachish for safety but was discovered and put to death.
Azariah/Uzziah (767–740 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:1–7; 2 Chronicles 26. Son of Amaziah. Became king at the age of sixteen and reigned for a total of fifty-two years, jointly occupying the throne with his father for over twenty years. Strengthened the nation of Judah. Sought to obey God in his early years but could not purge the land of idolatry. Destroyed the Philistine strongholds and controlled the Philistines and the Arabians. Received tribute from the country of Ammon, which recognized Judah’s strength. Built up the defenses of Jerusalem and established a large military force. Unlawfully entered the sanctuary of the temple to officiate in priestly rites and was afflicted of the Lord with leprosy for his presumptuous act. Lived in isolation until his death. Ruled jointly with his son Jotham for the last ten years of his life.
Jotham (740–732 B.C.). see 2 Kings 15:32–38; 2 Chronicles 27. Son of Azariah. Continued to strengthen the fortifications of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. Constructed an addition to the temple complex. Put down a rebellion of the Ammonites when they attempted to free themselves from being a tribute state. Ruled in righteousness all his days, but idolatry continued among the people.
Ahaz (732–715 B.C.). see 2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28. Son of Jotham. Ruled jointly with his father for four years. Encouraged Judah to engage in idolatrous worship after the death of his father. Even offered human sacrifice by burning his own children. Warned by the prophet Isaiah of the consequences of doing this evil deed, but refused to follow Isaiah’s counsel. Defeated by the alliance of Israel under King Pekah and Syria. Thousands of his people were taken captive into the Northern Kingdom, though they were later released at the request of the prophet Oded. Attacked by the Edomites and Philistines, who gained control of some villages. Finally sought aid from Assyria. Became an Assyrian vassal, paying high tribute. Sacrificed to the Assyrian gods, desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, and gave of its sacred treasures to the Assyrians. Established places of idol worship throughout Judah. Was refused a royal burial by the people at the time of his death.
The prophet Micah’s ministry continued through Ahaz’s reign and into the reign of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah (715–686 B.C.). see 2 Kings 18:1–20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1–32:33. Instituted religious reforms and restored the temple to the worship of Jehovah. Destroyed the brazen serpent Moses had made because the people misused it as an object to be worshiped. Besieged in the fourteenth year of his reign by the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib, the successor of Sargon II. Repaired Jerusalem’s defenses and constructed a water tunnel for the security of the city. Sought help from the Lord on this occasion, and Judah was miraculously delivered from the invading Assyrians as Isaiah had predicted. Became very sick, but his pleading with the Lord brought him a blessing through Isaiah that lengthened his days of kingship. Ruled in goodness until his death.
Manasseh (686–642 B.C.). see 2 Kings 21:1–18; 2 Chronicles 33:1–20. Son of Hezekiah. Ruled jointly with his father for eleven years because of his father’s illness and to prepare himself to govern the people. Continued Judah’s tributary status with Assyria. Rebuilt all the idolatrous places his father had destroyed. Placed idols in the temple in Jerusalem and offered his children in human sacrifice. Was responsible for the shedding of much innocent blood.
Numerous prophets labored with this wicked king to no avail, and he killed several of them. Tradition says he martyred Isaiah. The Assyrians took Manasseh hostage for a time. Upon his return he restored the temple and repaired the city walls.
It was probably during this time that Nahum prophesied.
Josiah (640–609 B.C.). see 2 Kings 22–23:30; 2 Chronicles 33:25–35:27. Son of Amon. Was upheld by the people as king at the age of eight years. Turned his heart continually to the Lord as he grew. Purged the land of idolatrous practices and sanctuaries. Renovated and restored the temple. Discovered sacred records in the temple during its renovation. Established religious reform and administered by covenant to the people.
Although outward changes came to the kingdom, it was prophesied that Judah would be spared until after Josiah’s day. Assyria fell to Babylonia, and Judah was freed from tribute. The Egyptians, however, were allied with Babylonia and marched through Judah to assist with the conquest. Josiah attempted to stop the Egyptians but was defeated in the process and died of wounds received in the battle at Megiddo. Judah then became a vassal of Egypt.
Zephaniah, and probably Nahum, prophesied during the early years of Josiah’s reign. Lehi was living in the land of Jerusalem about that time. Jeremiah’s ministry began in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (see Jeremiah 1:1–2), and Habakkuk seems to have prophesied shortly after Josiah’s reign ended.
Jehoahaz (609 B.C.). see 2 Kings 23:31–33; 2 Chronicles 36:1–4. Son of Josiah. Reigned only three months. Removed from office and exiled to Egypt where he later died. His half brother was made the new ruler.
Eliakim/Jehoiakim (609–597 B.C.). see 2 Kings 23:34–24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5–8. Son of Josiah. Chosen by the Egyptians to replace his half brother as king. Was forced to change his name to Jehoiakim and pay tribute to Egypt. Taxed the people very heavily to fulfill this obligation. Was attacked by the Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites. Was as wicked as Manasseh, his great-grandfather, and was responsible for the shedding of much innocent blood. Became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. when the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians. Gave the vessels from the temple as tribute to the conquering Babylonians, and sent a group of royal and noble families as exiles to the master nation. (Daniel was among that group.) Rebelled against Babylonia after three years of vassalage, and was taken captive by the Babylonians. Apparently killed while on his way to Babylon (see reading block 19-16).
Jehoiachin (597 B.C.). see 2 Kings 24:8–17; 2 Chronicles 36:9–10. Son of Eliakim/Jehoiakim. Continued to resist the Babylonians but surrendered within months of his ascension. Went to Babylon as a hostage together with political and religious leaders, skilled craftsmen, and educated people, as well as the treasure of the temple. Among those exiled were many of the Levites. Ezekiel was a part of this group. This was the first major deportation of Judah into Babylon.
Zedekiah/Mattaniah (597–587 B.C.). see 2 Kings 24:18through 25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11–21. Brother of Jehoahaz and half brother of Eliakim/Jehoiakim. Established as king by the Babylonians, who changed his name to Zedekiah. Showed loyalty at first to Babylonia, but later rebelled at the encouragement of those who preferred an alliance with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar finally sent his forces against Judah, destroying the temples, palaces, and city proper of Jerusalem. Most of the people were then exiled to Babylon, and the kingdom of Judah became only a memory. During the first year of Zedekiah’s reign Lehi prophesied and was then told to flee from Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 1:4, 2:2). During the terrible times at the end of his reign, Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah for prophesying of the impending destruction of Judah.
The fall of Judah and the exile in Babylon began another era in the history of the Lord’s people. For a more complete historical view of this captivity, see Enrichment G. The period of exile and the experiences of Judah during this period of time are treated in Enrichment H.