Bad King, Bad King, Good King {Big Word: 2 Kings 21-23}

Second King Bible StudyThis is a continuation of our study of the historical books of the Old Testament. To access past posts, videos and study guides, visit the Big Word Bible Studies tab.

This study of the books of Kings has been fantastic in many ways. We’ve learned so much about God’s faithfulness and patience. We’ve learned that if God can redeem and forgive these blatant idolaters, there is definitely hope for the rest of us.

This study has also grown quite depressing. I mean, we see the same patterns over and over again. Instead of it being a cycle, though, it feels more like a downward cyclone. Each king being worse than the one before him.

Last night we discussed kings Mannasseh, Amon and Josiah. (Stay tuned for a video update. I’ll add that to this post as soon as the editing finishes. I’ll also post it on facebook and twitter.) In the meantime, you can grab the study guide HERE. And below, I want to point out a few important details about this section of Scripture.

Prophetic Symbolism

In the middle of chapter 21 we read of the messages brought to King Mannasseh by the prophets. We don’t know exactly who these prophets were; we can guess Jeremiah and friends. What we know for sure is that their messages held great significance and visual impact. Let me show you.

  • 21:12 — “… ears shall tingle.” — The original text uses a word related to cymbal. The message was a warning to the king and the people of Judah that they need to WAKE UP and PAY ATTENTION. God had already proven faithful to His word with the elimination of the northern kingdom of Israel. He had told the people from the very beginning, from the entrance to the Promised Land, that they would be blessed IF they obeyed and IF they sought after God. If they didn’t … well, they knew the deal from the start. If they obeyed, the would be blessed in the land. If they practiced idolatry, they would be kicked off the land. God was tremendously long-suffering with them (as He is with us!), but time was running out. So, the first symbol was a CYMBAL.
  • 21:13 — “stretch a plumbline” — Plumblines are used to measure and assess. God was going to measure Judah and see if she was straight and secure, devoted to Him. If the nation didn’t measure up, this device that typically is used for building, would be used for judgment and destruction. The second symbol was a PLUMBLINE.
  • 21:13 — “…as one wipes a dish.” — The nation needed to be purified. The land needed a fresh start. Just like when we wash dishes, the nation of Judah would need to be cleansed before it could be used again for its intended and righteous purposes. The third symbol was a DISH.

Since Mannasseh had the longest reign of any king of Judah, he probably heard these messages more than once from more than one prophet. It took a bit of diplomatic pressure and spiritual cajoling, but Mannasseh finally repented and returned to God. However, it appears to have been too late for his son who would next take the throne … too late even for the whole nation. Destruction was sure to come. Again — they knew the deal.

The following is quoted from the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. The nation had been instructed and warned and warned again.

“If my people, who are called by my name,will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’” — 2 Chronicles 7:14, 19–22

“God is always faithful to His covenant, whether to bless obedience or punish disobedience.” — Warren Wiersbe

Bad king, bad king, good king

So Mannasseh was a bad king who tried to become a good king toward the end of his reign. His son Amon was a horrible king who never attempted righteousness. Amon’s son, Josiah, ascended the throne at age 8 and became one of the greatest kings of Judah.

You can read all about his reign and his pursuit of God and of truth in 2 Kings 22–23 and 2 Chronicles 35. When we met last night, we tried to pinpoint the characteristics that made Josiah such a good, godly king.

  • He was COUNTER-CULTURAL. He wasn’t afraid to be different. He was willing to take the risks associated with pursuing righteousness.
  • He was HUMBLE and TEACHABLE. He relentlessly sought truth, trustworthy counsel and wisdom.
  • He had VISION. He knew where he wanted his nation to be and took the necessary steps to get them there.
  • He was HANDS-ON. Josiah wasn’t afraid to get dirty and do the work. Unlike kings before him, he was personally involved in the projects and initiatives he started in Judah. He partnered with his citizens to reach their goals together.
  • He was GENEROUS and FAIR. He paid the workers rather than hoarding wealth. When they re-instituted Passover, he provided all the sacrificial lambs from his own supply.

    “And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

— Micah 6:8

In two weeks we will finish the book of 2 Kings! Grab the homework below.

YOUR TURN: What impacted you most in these chapters and stories?

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