15. The Divided Kingdom and Exile

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Introduction

With the death of Solomon Israel’s golden age quickly came to an end as the ten northern tribes seceded from Judah. How will Israel fair as a divided nation? Will there remain a remnant faithful to Yahweh? What will become of the promise?

I. The Divided Kingdom

We are given a glimpse of God’s plan in dividing the kingdom in I Kings 11:26-40. This is critical to understanding all that will follow.

Will someone read that for us? What reason is given for Yahweh’s rending the kingdom in two and what is Israel’s future hope?

First, we see that the kingdom is being divided because of Israel’s continued apostasy. Specifically “because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did” (11:33).

Second, there is hope because this is not a permanent situation (11:39) the kingdom will be reunited.
Nevertheless in 931 BC the kingdom was divided with ten tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Manasseh/Ephraim following Jeroboam in the north and the tribes of Judah and the Levites in the south. The tribe of Benjamin was divided between the two kingdoms.

A. Israel ― The Northern Kingdom

For fear that the people will return to Jerusalem to worship and have their hearts turned against him and towards Yahweh and the Davidic king, Rehoboam, Jeroboam quickly establishes new centers of worship for the Northern Kingdom. He crafts two golden calves, places them in Dan and Bethel, and boldly proclaims “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (I Kings 12:28). Furthermore, he even moves to establish a new priesthood and new feasts. There were kings who came after him; however, none of the northern kings followed after God. Even Jehu, who for a while did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, failed to turn from the sins of Jeroboam (II Kings 9:1-10:36). “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” was the resounding refrain used to describe the kings of Israel. Finally, in 722 BC the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians and was carried off into exile because of their idolatry (cf. II Kings 17:6-41).

As the Assyrians are resettling Samaria the king makes a profound observation. Would someone read II Kings 17:25-28?

While the people do not listen and continue to serve both the LORD and carved images the Assyrian king’s recognition of the LORD’s judgment serves as a strong rebuke to Israel who failed to recognize the judgment of the LORD.

B. Judah ― The Southern Kingdom

Israel has several kings who did what “was right in the sight of the LORD” [Asa (I Kings 15:9-24, Jehoshaphat (I Kings 22:41-50), Joash (II Kings 11:1-12:21), Amaziah (II Kings 14:1-22), Azariah (II Kings 15:1-7), Jothan (II Kings 15:32-38), Hezekiah (II Kings 18:1-20:21), and Josiah (22:1-23:30)]; however, few of them lived up to the Davidic ideal. Ultimately, Judah is invaded by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and Jerusalem falls. He installs Zedekiah as king over Judah. Nebuchadnezzar eventually returns to Jerusalem and destroys both the city and the temple and carries a third group into exile in 587/586 BC (cf. II Kings 23:31-25:30).[70]

II. The Destruction of the Temple

To truly grasp the significance of the temple’s destruction we need to turn back to I Kings 8:1-11.

Will someone read that for us? What significant event has happened here?

Prior to this the glory of the LORD has filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and His glory has now filled the temple in Jerusalem. And yet in II Kings 24:20 we read, “For because of the anger of the LORD it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.” The temple would then be destroyed and the LORD would no longer dwell amongst His people as before.

III. The Pre-exilic and Exilic Prophets

A. Introducing the Prophets

We do not have time to cover all of the prophets during this study. Because of this a brief summary of their message as well as a brief chronology will be given.

“The prophets were proclaimers of righteousness, preaching both law and promise, grace and judgment, to motivate the people to repentance and a life of obedience in the will and plan of God. Their predictions were often given as incentives to their contemporaries for holy living in that day, seeing that the future belonged to their God and to his righteous reign.”[71]

B. Israel ― The Northern Kingdom

Pre-exilic Prophets ― Eighth Century BC: Amos, Hosea, and Jonah

C. Judah ― The Southern Kingdom

1. Pre-exilic Prophets ― Eighth Century BC: Isaiah and Micah

2. Exilic Prophets ― Seventh Century BC: Daniel, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Joel, Nahum, Obadiah, and Zephaniah

3. Post-exilic Prophets ― Sixth Century BC: Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah

IV. The Divided Kingdom and Exile as Eschatology

While this period begins with the destruction of the temple, of Jerusalem, and the deportation of God’s people it also begins with a sense of hope and expectation as this situation will not be permanent. God’s people are left to look forward to a time when He will restore Israel under the leadership of an unseen yet future Davidic king. But for now all of the promises appear to be lost; the land has been disinherited, the king dethroned, and Yahweh has removed His protection from them. When will restoration come?

Conclusion

How does Israel’s current situation resemble situations from their past and toward what end is the LORD working in the division of the kingdom and the exile?

[70]The three exiles are 605 BC (Daniel 1:1-7), 597 BC (II Kings 24:10-16), and 587/586 (II Kings 25:1-21).

[71]Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God, 153.

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