Backstory of the Kings 20: Zechariah through Pekah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 2, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

I am going to hit five kings in one go here. Early in the history of the Northern Kingdom when Baasha died, the kings Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Tibni ruled in a span of 12 years, about half of which was Omri alone. Now we get to another moment of violent turbulence for the throne. Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, lasted six months before being assassinated. His killer, Shallum, lasted one month before being assassinated. His killer, Menahem, lasted ten years before dying. Menahem’s son Pekahiah lasted two years before being assassinated by Pekah. Pekah began his reign when Uzziah died. So in Uzziah’s 52-year reign, he out-lived five kings from Jeroboam II to Pekahiah. Pekah was the second to last king of Israel, and I’ll focus on him more than the others.

Of the five kings we will examine (Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah) only one, Shallum, is not marked for not departing from the sins of Jeroboam. Zimri who only had a seven-day reign was marked as such. Shallum was not identified as such, but he was no godly man. Shallum’s one-month reign is summarized in just four total verses, including his assassination of Zechariah.

During the political turmoil of Israel, another power came into play: Assyria. Menahem paid off Assyria to not completely capture them and thus became a vassal, a servant state of Assyria. Israel was allowed its independence, but it was ultimately under the thumb of Assyria. Pekah eventually came into the picture and Assyria began to take the towns and cities of Israel. At the end of Pekah’s reign, he joined up with Syria, which had not been completely conquered yet, and advanced upon Judah. Ahaz, the grandson of Uzziah, was ruling at this time, a new king with only a few years under his belt, and he paid off Assyria to help him. The prophet Isaiah spent quite a bit of his early ministry warning Ahaz to follow the Lord and not to turn to idols or other nations.

As I have mentioned in the past two weeks, the background for these kings is hardly given. There is not much to say. God had sent his prophets to warn Israel against turning from idolatry, yet those golden calves remained standing. That false representation of Jehovah remained, and God was tired of it. He let the kingdom of Israel stand for two reasons: 1) He did not want to break His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and 2) He fulfilled His promise to Jehu for his wiping out of Ahab’s line and the Baal worship. But once Jehu’s line met that promise, the bottom fell out, just as it did for Judah several generations later.

None of these kings took any regard for God, and the only king that God ever seemed to take notice of was Pekah – and that, only in the context of telling Ahaz that he was nothing, a dying tree, and a fading vapor. Just a few years after Ahaz’s death, the entire nation of Israel would be consumed by Assyria. And none of these kings seemed to learn from the kings who went before them or even from their brothers in Judah. In all the political turmoil of three assassinations (there would be a fourth when Hosea murders Pekah), Pekah seems to be the one to bring stability. It was not a healthy stability, but for 20 years, there was political stability. Assyria still controlled Israel at this point as tributes were demanded, and Hosea would try to rebel against them. Menahem had little stability because of Assyria swooping in; he had no power to do anything about it other than to bribe his way out and tax his people to the point of shattering their economy.

Everything in these kings’ reigns has nothing to do with God. They did not seek God. Jeroboam II set no principles or guidelines for what would follow. He just built up his political power, strengthened his army, and retook cities, but it was all political and not at all in any regard towards God. Jehu gave Israel a chance to turn to God. Elijah and Elisha were in active ministry, and Baal worship was out. But Jehu and those who followed gave little more than lip service to the true God. Those idols still stood and kept drawing people away from the true faith. Hosea was ministering during this time, and his message was a picture of a prostitute who kept going back and forth between her husband and other lovers. When we look at the history of the kings of Israel, we see them going back and forth between God and the idols. But the last one to turn towards God was Jehoash when he sought the advice of Elisha. There is no indication of anyone from Jeroboam II all the way through Hosea ever seeking the Lord even for a moment.

What can we learn from these kings? Jeroboam II was perhaps the strongest king of Israel politically. As soon as he died, the bottom fell out. It does not matter how strong of an economy or how strong politically a nation is; if God chooses to judge a nation, nothing man does to support it is going to stand. In the 41 years between Jeroboam II’s death and the formal fall of Israel to Assyria, it went from the strongest economy and military they had to total non-existence. There was some brief stability with Pekah, who kept things going the longest, but it was like the Great Depression between the two huge drops where there was momentary stability before everything crashed. God would judge Israel for its idolatry, and in two weeks when we examine Hosea to see how and why it all happened.

Next week, we’ll look at Jotham and Ahaz who sat under Isaiah’s ministry and witnessed what was going on with Israel.

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