Week 19: 2 Chronicles 25-35; Ezra 1-10

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

What’s Going On?

The northern kingdom of Israel has already fallen to Assyria and the last ten chapters of 2 Chronicles show us the decline of the nation of Judah and how it eventually was overtaken by the nation of Babylon. What had once been the triumphant Kingdom of Israel has now ceased to exist. We get one final glimpse of the glory days under King Hezekiah, but the nation was too weak to fight off the Babylonians and at the end of 2 Chronicles we see the people of Judah being deported to be resettled in other parts of the Babylonian Kingdom. This is the beginning of the era of EXILE. The very last verses of 2 Chronicles are almost identical to the first verses in Ezra and hint at a time to come when some of the Israelites will be allowed to resettle back in their homeland, a time known as the RETURN, which will not happen all at once, but in waves.

If you remember the “food chain” from middle school science class, you remember the image of a fish being eater by a larger fish, then that fish being eaten by an even larger fish, and so on. We can begin to think of Israel as the smallest fish. The first bigger fish to come along and consume it was Assyria, who conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. Then a bigger fish came along – the Babylonians – and ate the Assyrian fish plus a larger portion of land, including the southern Kingdom of Judah. This week we’ll see a larger fish, Persia, chomp up all of the Babylonian kingdom.

As each new “fish” controls the land, the people who had been living there are removed and replanted in a different area of that fish’s kingdom and new people are carted in to take over the land they left behind. This repopulation was very effective in creating larger and larger kingdoms, each with their own laws, currency, beliefs, language, etc. With each change, which would be every couple of hundred years, new generations were brought up into the new era of that kingdom. At the end of the Chronicles and the beginning of Ezra, the land becomes part of the Persian Empire. This is actually great news for the displaced Israelites because the Persian King Cyrus wants a peaceful empire and begins to allow people to go back to their homelands and areas of their heritage. Each kingdom gets progressively larger and more powerful. And there are more fish out there just waiting for the opportunity to eat up the Persians, who ate the Babylonians, who ate the Assyrians, who ate Israel.

While we don’t read much about the actual time of the Exile here which lasted about seventy years, we’ll get to read more about that time period when we study the Prophets. Here in the book of Ezra we read about two waves of returning exiles and there is another wave which we’ll read about next week in the book of Nehemiah. The first wave will occur under Persia’s King Cyrus and will be led by Zerubbabel (Sheshbazzar). Zerubbabel is the grandson of Jehoiachin, one of the last kings who ruled in Judah before the exile, and is the legitimate heir to the throne. The second wave will happen under Persia’s King Darius and will be led by Ezra the priest who will lead the Israelites in a renewed commitment to their heritage as the People of God.

When and Where Are We?

The Israelites will live in Exile until Cyrus allows the first group to go back and resettle in and around Jerusalem in 538 BC. A second group will join them, including Ezra himself, about 458 BC.

Who’s Who?

  • Amaziah, Azariah/Uzziah, Jotham – Good kings of Judah
  • Ahaz – REALLY bad king who desecrated the Temple and joined forces with Assyria
  • Hezekiah– Great King who rid Judah of the false gods and idols and reinstates Passover celebration
  • Zerubbabel – leader for the first group that returns to Jerusalem, sets up a new Temple
  • Ezra – priest, leader for the second group that returns to Jerusalem

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 2 Chronicles 25-28
  • Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 29-32
  • Wednesday: 2 Chronicles 33-35
  • Thursday: Ezra 1-3
  • Friday: Ezra 4-6
  • Saturday: Ezra 7-10
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Week 18: 2 Chronicles 1-24

“But just when Rehoboam was at the height of his popularity and power  he abandoned the Lord, and the people followed him in this sin.”                                           2 Chronicles 12:1 TLB

What’s Going On?

2 Chronicles begins with King Solomon asking for wisdom and the first few chapters tell of the building and dedication of the Temple. We will see, again, how the kingdom will divide after Solomon’s reign and become two distinct nations; Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Here’s where we start to notice a difference in the way the story unfolds. When we read about the divided kingdom in 1-2 Kings, we had to bounce back and forth between the two kingdoms and try to follow both of their histories in parallel form. This time around we are only going to get the story of the southern kingdom of Judah. While there are some references to what is going on to the north of them in Israel, the author concentrates solely on what happened in Judah.

Remember that the northern kingdom of Israel split from Judah when Jeroboam rebelled against Rehoboam who followed his father, Solomon, as king. The kings in the northern kingdom of Israel will not carry the family line of David and therefore aren’t important in this retelling of the story since it is the lineage of David that will carry on long after the nation of Israel has fallen. We saw time and time again how the kings in Israel became king mostly by killing the previous king, and often his entire family, and claiming the throne for himself. So here in 2 Chronicles, we are going to be following the Davidic lineage and the dynasty will remain with the southern kingdom of Judah. In other words – no more bouncing back and forth between the two kingdoms. Judah’s history is told here as one continuous story. Well, almost. We’ll actually finish the book of 2 Chronicles next week.

When and Where Are We?

In the first chapter we are at about 1000 BC and by the end of the week’s reading we are at about 700 BC, so we cover almost three hundred years of history in this book. The main location is the southern nation of Judah and its capitol, Jerusalem.

Who’s Who?

  • Rehoboam – Solomon’s son. He abandoned the Law and as a result Jerusalem is invaded by Egypt. The prophet Shemaiah delivers an unsettling message and he returns to the Lord
  • Abijah (Abijam) – Good king who leads a revolt against Jeroboam. He is surrounded but calls on the Lord and wins the battle
  • Asa – Great king, Judah’s first Godly king who rid the land of false idols and altars and led a movement to return to the ways of the Lord
  • Jehoshephat – Good king but he made an alliance with Ahab that will cause problems later
  • Jehoram – Terrible king. He kills all of his brothers and marries Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, King and Queen in Israel. He receives a letter from Elijah and is struck ill because of his sin
  • Ahaziah – bad king, his mother was Athaliah who was an evil queen in Israel. He is killed by Jehu
  • Queen Athaliah – had temporary rule in Judah after the death of her son Ahaziah. She has all potential heirs murdered, only Joash survives because he is hidden away as an infant.
  • Joash (Jehoash) – Mostly a Great King, wisely counselled by Jehoida the priest. He was crowned king of Judah at seven years old and ruled for almost forty years. Joash grew up to be a wise king who restored the Temple and the Law, but later blew it when his officials led him astray.

“Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper.                                 Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has forsaken you.”                                                   2 Chronicles 24:20 b

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 2 Chronicles 1-4
  • Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 5-8
  • Wednesday: 2 Chronicles 9-12
  • Thursday: 2 Chronicles 13-16
  • Friday: 2 Chronicles 17-21
  • Saturday: 2 Chronicles 22-24
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Week 17: 1 Chronicles 1-29

“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” 1 Corinthians 10:6

What’s Going On?

We have now entered the “Déjà Vu” section of the Old Testament. When you turn the page from 2 Kings to 1 Chronicles, there is a leap back in time that goes all the way back to Adam. The first ten chapters are mostly family lists and records that are repeated here for the purpose of having all of the genealogies in one place. The author will trace the lines of Abraham’s family and the twelve tribes of Israel all the way up to Saul who was in the tribe of Benjamin. The rest of the book is going to concentrate on David and we’ll learn more about his reign as King over the then United Kingdom of Israel and his plans for building the Temple that will come later when his son Solomon is king. There is enough new information to keep it interesting, but there is also a lot that will sound familiar.

It’s important to know WHY we are going back over all of this again. While 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings were probably written in an effort to record what had happened, the Chronicles seem to be more about WHY these things happened. It is as though Israel is looking back over her life and trying to figure out just where she went wrong. All of the accounts were likely written many years after the events, most likely during the time Israel was in exile which we’ll read about in a few weeks. But Chronicles was likely written much later than Samuel and Kings and utilizes hindsight for reflection and the search to make sense of what has happened and why. The author seems to assume you have read Samuel and Kings and doesn’t go into as much detail but still references the events as though you know them already. This time, however, the focus is on linking the events together to show that the destruction of Israel was justified based on Her actions. We’ll see this contagion pick up speed in 2 Chronicles next week.

We’re only getting half of the repeated story this week as 1 Chronicles coverers the history of Israel up to the time of King David. Don’t get tempted to skip the reading this week because you just read all this a few weeks ago. There are going to be details here that we didn’t get the first time around. Look for those differences and think about why the author felt the need to include them here. We’re going to be watching the story unfold through different eyes and while the information is familiar, the telling of it is different.

When and Where Are We?

The first chapters contain lists of genealogies going back all the way to Adam and brings us up to the life of David and Solomon. So, over three thousand years are summarized very quickly! Remember that we can safely put David’s lifetime about 1,000 BC. 1 Chronicles brings us up to the time Israel was still one kingdom, before it was divided into the two nations of Israel and Judah.

Who’s Who?

The names will be familiar since this is a repeat of information we’ve already covered. Some believe that Ezra, who we’ll meet in a couple of weeks, wrote the next four books as one continuous story, but we really can’t say with any certainty that he was the author here. Whoever the author was, he must have had access to many different previous writings and records as he traces and integrates them to tell the history of Israel.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance. Psalm 33:12 KJV

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 1 Chronicles 1-5
  • Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 6-10
  • Wednesday: 1 Chronicles 11-14
  • Thursday: 1 Chronicles 15-19
  • Friday: 1 Chronicles 20-24
  • Saturday: 1 Chronicles 25-29
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Week 16: 2 Kings 1-25

“Then I will reject even the remnant of My own people who are left, and I will hand them over as plunder for their enemies. For they have done great evil in My sight and have angered Me ever since their ancestors came out of Egypt.” 2 Kings 21:14-15 NLT

What’s Going On?

The kingdoms of Israel and Judah are going to continue to function as two separate nations, each with their own king and each with their own history. Israel will mostly have bad kings that lead the people away from God, while Judah will have some good kings who try desperately to restore the glory that God intended for them. The way the story unfolds can be confusing at times, bouncing from north to south. I suggest that you pay more attention to where something is happening than trying to keep up with the names.

There will be a downward spiral for both nations as foreign kings begin to invade and take over their land. About 725 BC, the northern kingdom of Israel will be completely overtaken by the Assyrians and will cease to exist as a nation. Throughout the rest of the Bible, and for nearly two thousand years after that, Israel will be under the power of another nation. It isn’t until 1948 when Israel is finally reinstated as an independent nation.

The southern kingdom of Judah will continue to function independently for another hundred years or so because of several great kings who honored the Lord and His instruction. The Assyrians will fall to Babylon and eventually Judah will be conquered as well. In 586 BC, Judah will fall to the Babylonians and the end of the book of 2 Kings records how the people are being removed from their homeland and taken away in carts, scattered among the now very large and powerful nation of Babylon.

Elisha followed Elijah as a great prophet and continued to give messages and perform miracles for God’s people in order to show God’s power and draw them closer to God. There is a strong pattern visible as we watch the decline of both Israel and Judah. When the king loves the Lord and serves Him only, the nation prospers. But when a king turns away from the Lord, the nation suffers. Remember back when Israel first conquered the land and God told them to rid the land of its inhabitants lest they get comfortable with worshipping all of their false gods? Well now we see why God was so fiercely protective of His people and His land. He knew how easily swayed His people could be and not only the foreigners from within, but now the nations around them have introduced their gods and their detestable worship practice to God’s people and they were not strong enough to stand against them. Now the punishment for turning away from God reaches its full measure.

When and Where Are We?

This book is going to cover about three hundred years, from 875-561 BC. At the beginning of the book we still have two divided kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. In chapter 17 the northern kingdom will fall to Assyria which lies to the north and east of Israel. The Assyrians will overtake much of the land that we now know as Iraq, Syria, parts of Turkey, and Lebanon. Later, the Babylonians will conquer Assyria and the land of Judah plus new territories to the south reaching into northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait. There will be a series of world powers that will conquer larger and larger territories that I like to visualize as the big fish eats the little fish. So Assyria “eats” Israel, then Babylon “eats” both Assyria and Judah. This pattern will continue with a few more big fish on the horizon.

Who’s Who?

Kings in Israel: Joram, Jehu, Johoahaz, Jehoash, Joroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea

Kings in Judah: Jehoram, Ahaziah, Queen Athaliah, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Joehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 2 Kings 1-4
  • Tuesday; 2 Kings 5-8
  • Wednesday: 2 Kings 9-12
  • Thursday: 2 Kings 13-16
  • Friday: 2 Kings 17-20
  • Saturday: 2 Kings 21-25
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Week 15: 1 Kings 1-22

As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods and he became unfaithful—he didn’t stay true to his God as his father David had done.  1 Kings 11:4 (The Message)

“I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever”  1 Kings 11:39 (NIV)

What’s Going On?

I kings continues the story where 2 Samuel left off. We saw the Nation of Israel established under King Saul, at its height under King David, and here we see David’s son Solomon take the throne. Each of these three kings will reign approximately forty years, so for about 120 years we see Israel as one united nation under one king. In the first half of 1 Kings we are going to see the nation prosper under King Solomon who will be remembered for his wisdom (and his women) and for finally building the Temple, a spectacular dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant and all the ritual and formality that will go with it.

Chapters 11 and 12 are the turning point where we see Solomon’s greatest folly result in Israel being split and becoming two Divided Kingdoms. Solomon’s son Rehoboam is next in line to inherit the throne but a group of rebels in the north choose to split apart and form their own nation. The northern ten tribes will retain the name of Israel under their new king Jeroboam (Jerry) and the southern kingdom will be named after the largest tribe where Jerusalem is located, Judah, and will be led by Solomon’s son Rehoboam (Rey). The kings in Israel will mostly become king by killing the king before him, while the kings in Judah will be passed from father to son and will carry the lineage of David for several hundred years. (hint – the genealogy will appear in Mathew 1 showing the connection from David to Jesus and showing that Jesus was technically in the line of the kings)

We’ll also be introduced to several prophets. While the second half of the Old Testament is filled with stories of different prophets, Elijah’s story is told here. The prophets play a very important role in the Old Testament, speaking God’s will to the people of Israel. They will constantly be calling God’s people to restore their broken relationship with God, reminding them of both God’s love and His demand for faithfulness. God had brought His people out of Egypt in order to be a holy nation, and within just a few generations of the height of the glory of Israel, we will see it begin to spiral out of control, falling further and further away from the Lord. (There is a wonderful oratorio by Mendelssohn called Elijah)

When and Where Are We?

1 Kings covers a little over a hundred years, from about 900-800 BC. The great territory of Israel that David had built up will continue to grow and then split into two distinct nations: Israel in the north will choose Samaria as its capital. Judah in the south with keep Jerusalem as its capital. While we don’t have exact dates, there is a system of stating how many years one king had been on the throne when another king rises to power in the other nation. Pay attention to which kingdom is which as the narrative tends to bounce from north to south but try not to get caught up in the chronology and exact timing of events. There are going to be two parallel stories unfolding during the time of the divided kingdom in 1-2 Kings.

Who’s Who?

  • Northern Kings/Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omni, Ahab, Ahaziah
  • Southern Kings/Judah: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Johoshaphat
  • Prophets: Nathan, Ahijah, Shemaiah, an unnamed prophet, Jehu, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah
  • Foreign Kings: Hiram (Tyre), Hadad (Edom), Rezon (Aram), Shishak (Egypt), Ben-Hadad (Aram)

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:25

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 1 Kings 1-4
  • Tuesday: 1 Kings 5-8
  • Wednesday: 1 Kings 9-12
  • Thursday: 1 Kings 13-16
  • Friday: 1 Kings 17-20
  • Saturday: 1 Kings 21-22
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Week 14: 2 Samuel 1-24

“So here is what you are to tell my servant David: The God-of-the-Angel-Armies has this word for you: I took you from the pasture, tagging along after sheep, and made you prince over My people Israel. I was with you everywhere you went and mowed your enemies down before you. Now I’m making you famous, to be ranked with the great names on earth. And I’m going to set aside a place for My people Israel and plant them there so they’ll have their own home and not be knocked around any more. Nor will evil men afflict you as they always have, even during the days I set judges over My people Israel. Finally, I’m going to give you peace from all your enemies.” 2 Samuel 7:8-11 (The Message)

What’s Going On?

David has become a powerful military leader. After the death of King Saul and his son Jonathon, David will rise to the position of King, first over the southern territory of Judah, and then over all of Israel. Under his leadership, Israel is finally able to defeat the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Arameans. Jerusalem, soon called the City of David, is captured and established as the royal city and capital of Israel. The Ark is moved from Kiriath-Jearim where it has been kept during the reign of Saul to Jerusalem. A royal palace is built for David and the ark is housed inside a special tent that David had constructed. This is truly the golden era in the history of Israel and David is at times depicted as the perfect human king pointing toward a perfect Heavenly King. While the first half of the book concentrates on all the good times, the second half of the book shows us some of the darker times. We see David having an affair and getting a woman pregnant while her husband is out fighting in David’s army. And to top it all off David has the husband killed in the line of duty so he can marry the woman for himself. While the baby they conceived does die, they later will have another son, Solomon, who will follow David as the next king of Israel. David has constant problems with his other sons, one of which will lead a rebellion against his father. 2 Samuel comes to an end when David takes a census of Israel, something that seems harmless enough, but is actually a sign of pride that angers the Lord. In response to the sin, a plague falls on Israel. David purchases the spot where the plague comes to an end and it is on this land that the Temple of the Lord will soon be built.

When and Where Are We?

The time and place of the story of David are literally in the center and the heart of the Old Testament. Abraham lived about 2000 BC and when Jesus becomes a part of our story, the entire timeline changes over from BC to AD. These events of 1-2 Samuel occur right in the center of those two events at about 1000 BC. It is also during this time in Israel’s history that all of Israel is united as one nation. Never before, and not afterwards, will Israel claim so much land, including all of the territories of the twelve tribes and extending beyond that to include many lands that David conquers in battle.

Who’s Who?

  • Ish-Bosheth – Saul’s son who is appointed king when his father dies, reigns in Israel two years
  • Joab – the commander of David’s army
  • Abner – the commander of Saul’s army
  • Bathsheba – the wife of Uriah, who David has killed so he can marry her; mother of Solomon
  • Solomon – one of David’s sons. Solomon will later replace David as King over all Israel
  • Mephibosheth – Jonathon’s son who is crippled; honored by David
  • Absalom – David’s son who kills his brother Amnon when he rapes Tamar; leads a rebellion

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7:16

Weekly Reading Schedule:

  • Monday: 2 Samuel 1-4
  • Tuesday: 2 Samuel 5-8
  • Wednesday: 2 Samuel 9-12
  • Thursday: 2 Samuel 13-16
  • Friday: 2 Samuel 17-20
  • Saturday: 2 Samuel 21-24
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Week 13: 1 Samuel 1-31

“We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20

What’s Going On?

As the period of the Judges comes to an end, the people of Israel decide they want to be like the nations around them and have a king to give them some national security and leadership. They seem to have forgotten that God is the only leader they really need. This is the beginning of the era I call United Israel, when they move from a Theocracy (God-led nation) to a Monarchy (man-led nation). Samuel, a prophet who hears from the Lord from a very young age, will serve both as the final Judge and the High Priest of Israel.

It is Samuel who will anoint the first two kings of the United Kingdom of Israel – first Saul and later, David. While it’s easy to see the importance of these two men as they finally bring all Israel together into one Kingdom, don’t overlook the importance of Samuel as God’s instrument to bring about many changes in the way Israel has functioned for the last four hundred years. Once the Kingdom is established, it is Samuel who will truly be the leader in many ways. Samuel will be the one to call Israel to repentance and turn their hearts back to God.

Saul is chosen by lot and all Israel accepts him to rule over them. Saul’s son Jonathan will lead Israel in an attack against the Philistines, but instead of waiting for the priest Samuel to offer a sacrifice before the battle, Saul will offer it himself and in so doing he will lose God’s favor. David, a young shepherd boy, is then chosen to be the future king over Israel. Even though David is chosen to be Saul’s successor, it will be many years before he actually becomes king.

Saul, who is being tormented by evil spirits, has young David come and play the harp to soothe him. When David bravely stands up against Goliath, he catches the attention of Israel and Saul’s jealousy begins to take root. David soon advances in Saul’s army and becomes close friends with Jonathan, Saul’s son. When Saul tries to kill him, Jonathan helps David escape and he flees Israel. He spends the next few years running from Saul and twice has the opportunity to kill him but spares his life because he respects that Saul is the God-appointed ruler of Israel. The book of 1 Samuel ends when Jonathan is killed in battle and Saul takes his own life before allowing the Philistines to kill him. While we know that God has already appointed David to be the next king and Samuel has already anointed him, the book comes to an end here with no king ruling over Israel.  

When and Where Are We?

It is about 1000 BC and the twelve tribes are combined to form the Nation of Israel.

Who’s Who?

  • Hannah – Samuel’s mother
  • Eli – the High Priest in Israel at the beginning of the book.
  • Samuel – raised by Eli and follows him to become the next High Priest; anoints Saul, and later David, to be king over Israel
  • Saul – first king over the united nation of Israel
  • Jonathan – Saul’s son
  • David – shepherd boy who plays the harp for Saul, kills Goliath, serves in the army of Israel, and will eventually become the second king of Israel after Saul dies.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 1 Samuel 1-5
  • Tuesday: 1 Samuel 6-10
  • Wednesday: 1 Samuel 11-15
  • Thursday: 1 Samuel 16-20
  • Friday: 1 Samuel 21-25
  • Saturday: 1 Samuel 26-31

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