1 Kings 15:1–8 (NIV)✞: Adijah King of Judah
Most readers of the Old Testament will be familiar with the pattern we’re in now: the author(s) will talk about one or more rulers of Judah, then switch over to talk about one or more rulers of Israel, and so on. Because of this back-and-forth the author(s) sometimes have to backtrack chronologically, but it’s not hard to follow along since the timeline is always being called out.
For example, when Adijah is covered here it says that his reign began in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign, up in Israel. Then when Asa is covered in the next passage it says his reign started in the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s reign, and in the passage after that, when we switch to Israel, we’ll see that the next king there is Nadab, who will become king of Israel in the second year of Asa’s reign.
There are a number of resources online that show overlapping timelines of the different kings in Israel and Judah, many of which also overlay the prophets who were active at any given time. For those who really want to go deep Bible Hub has a timeline that maps back to [approximate] dates. For example, it seems that the events in this passage happen somewhere in the 913–909B.C. timeframe.
As for how I’ll blog through it… we’ll see. I’m guessing I’ll probably do a lot of what I did here: start to write passages that combine various rulers—I was about to combine Adijah and Asa together, then realized I had too much to say about Adijah—then if the posts get too long I’ll break them up.
Adijah’s reign is pretty well summarized by the following section:
3 [Adijah] committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. 4 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. 5 For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD'S commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.
It is also mentioned that there continued to be war with Jeroboam, king of Israel, for Abijah’s entire reign.
At first glance Adijah just seems to fit into the “bad kings” category that we’ll see over and over again in this book, but upon second read it seems a bit more nuanced than that. There is a common refrain in 1&2 Kings that, “So-and-so did evil in the sight of the LORD ,” but that precise phrase isn’t used here; it just says that, “his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God” (verse 3 (NIV)✞, emphasis added), which is less harsh to my eyes. So as much as I keep mentioning the patterns found in 1&2 Kings (and 1&2 Chronicles), sometimes the alterations to the pattern are also important.
Other than that, I have some other thoughts, but they’re both about David, not Adijah.
For the Sake of King David
As much as I can fall into reading through this book ruler-by-ruler and looking at their individual lives and reigns, the author(s) of 1&2 Kings like to remind me that there’s a larger story going on. Part of that story is that God has made a promise to King David that he would always have someone in his line on the throne, forever. There are times when a king doesn’t live up to God’s expectations—in fact that’s more the rule than the exception!—and God could simply tear the kingdom away from that person, but He doesn’t because He made a promise to King David.
Didn’t He also make a promise to Jeroboam? Yes he did! In 1 Kings 11:29–39 (NIV)✞ we read about the prophecy that was delivered to him; key to the point I’m making now are these verses:
37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 39 I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.
1 Kings 11:37–39 (NIV)✞, God speaking, emphasis added
There’s a definite condition placed on God’s promise to Jeroboam: If you follow My commands, then I will establish your kingdom. On the other hand, we read about God’s promise to King David in 1 Samuel 7 (NIV)✞—which many call God’s covenant with David—and, although I’m not quoting it here, there are no conditions placed on that promise! The summary of the promise is in 7:16 (NIV)✞: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
One might ask why God would place restrictions on His promise to Jeroboam but not His promise to David, which is a valid question. As we try to answer it, however, we must not fall into the trap of thinking it’s because David obeyed God and Jeroboam didn’t! There’s an easy—I would even say facile1—approach to the Scriptures whereby we look at David’s life, see that he had a heart for God, and therefore conclude that God rewarded him by giving him an everlasting kingdom, whereas Jeroboam didn’t obey God the way he should, and therefore God tore the kingdom away from him. And it’s true, there is a contrast to be made: despite David’s sin we’d characterize him as being mostly faithful to God with some notable exceptions, whereas Jeroboam immediately fell into sin and doesn’t seem to ever have even repented of it.
But that line of reasoning ignores the eventual outcome, however, which is Jesus, the ultimate king in the line of David, who rules now and forever. God’s promise to David wasn’t for David’s sake—or rather, wasn’t just for David’s sake—it was for the sake of all humanity. It was for me!
Through God’s promise to David—a continuation of His promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 (NIV)✞, which was a continuation of His promise to Satan regarding Eve’s descendent in Genesis 3:15 (NIV)✞—He is bringing His people—all of His people—salvation from their sins. David was a good king, it’s true, and a man after God’s own heart, but David was also a sinner. Even in this passage, when verse 5 (NIV)✞ is mentioning that God is keeping Judah in the hands of the line of David, it can’t help but insert the fact that yes, David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD … except when he didn’t.
Using David as a role model can be helpful but we shouldn’t forget that he was also a sinner, and needed salvation just as much as everyone else. As faithful as David usually was, he wouldn’t be with God right now if it wasn’t for God’s promise to him to maintain the kingdom forever, which was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.
If David were to come back to Earth now I’m sure he wouldn’t be saying, “God extended my kingdom because I was so righteous and He rewarded that,” he’d be saying, “God extended my kingdom because neither I nor anyone else who ever lived has been righteous enough to meet His standards, to have a face-to-face relationship with Him, so He used my life as a stepping stone in His plan to provide the salvation we all needed.”
“… except in the case of Uriah”
It was alluded to above, but there’s a further point to make on this.
In verse 5 (NIV)✞ we read why God is leaving the kingdom of Judah in the hands of David’s descendents:
For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD'S commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.
I have two thoughts on that. Firstly, as mentioned above, the author(s) seem to feel honour-bound to prevent us from ever putting King David on a pedestal. He was a good king, he was a man after God’s own heart, and he was also a sinner who failed God on multiple occasions. Again, treating David simply as an example to follow is overly simplistic, and not faithful to our understanding of God’s plan as outlined in the New Testament.
But secondly, it’s also true that David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and subsequent murder of her husband Uriah, was not his only sinful act! I’m reading this side note as being a shorthand meaning, “David was mostly faithful but also had his faults,” as opposed to reading this as the author(s) wiping away all of David’s other sins and saying that only the sin with Uriah is being counted against him.
- A Google search turned up the definition of facile from Oxford Languages: (especially of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial. ↩