2 Kings 15 (NIV)✞: Azariah King of Judah, Zechariah King of Israel, Shallum King of Israel, Menahem King of Israel, Pekahiah King of Israel, Pekah King of Israel, Jotham King of Judah
This is a fairly confusing passage; not because of the succession of kings of Judah and Israel being discussed but because the author(s) use two different names for one of them, and switch back and forth between these names!
In verses 1–7✞ we read about Azariah the king of Judah, and then we read about a succession of kings in Israel, each of which is mentioned in reference to Azariah (e.g. Zechariah becomes king of Israel in Azariah’s thirty-eighth year, Shallum in Azariah’s thirty-ninth, etc.) However, the author(s) sometimes call him “Azariah” (verses 1✞, 6–7✞, 8✞, 17✞, 23✞, and 27✞), but other times call him “Uzziah” (verses 13✞, 30✞, 32✞, and 34✞). (At least, that’s how the names are handled in the NIV; I didn’t cross-check with the ESV to see if they use the same names in the same verses, though I did see that both names are used.)
As I was getting started on this passage I started skimming through it, noticing references to someone named “Uzziah,” and wasted a bit of time trying to figure out if Uzziah was king before or after Azariah before [finally] reading the NIV footnote on verse 1✞: “Also called Uzziah; also in verses 6, 7, 8, 17, 23 and 27.”
I’ll go through the kings in order and try to be quick about it, though I’ll give the author(s)’ usual summary of each king (except for Shallum, who doesn’t get one – perhaps because his reign was too short).
|Azariah / Uzziah||Judah||He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.||The LORD afflicts him with leprosy (the passage doesn’t say how late in his kingship this happens), and he has to live out the end of his reign in isolation with his son Jotham taking on the duties of king.|
|Zechariah||Israel||He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his predecessors had done. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.||Only reigns six months before Shallum publicly assassinates him. The author(s) point back to a prophecy delivered to Jehu in 10:30 that, “Your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”|
|Shallum||Israel||N/A||Only reigns for one month before he is assassinated by Menahem.|
|Menahem||Israel||He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.||Reigns ten years. Begins his reign by attacking a city called Tirzah in a very violent manner. Invaded by Assyria and has to pay them tribute, which he exacts from the wealthy people of Israel. Is not assassinated; is succeeded by his son Pekahiah.|
|Pekahiah||Israel||Pekahiah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.||Reigns two years before being assassinated by one of his chief officers, Pekah.|
|Pekah||Israel||He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.||Reigns twenty years, and it seems like the beginning of Assyria taking Israel bit by bit. They had been given tribute by Menahem, but in the time of Pekah’s reign Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria takes a bunch of territory from Israel and deporting a number of people.|
|Jotham||Judah||He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.||Reigns sixteen years, though I’m not sure if that counts the time he was running the country while his father Azariah / Uzziah was down with leprosy. The main thing mentioned about his reign is that he makes some repairs on the Temple.|
Yet again we seem to have an example of a good king, Azariah / Uzziah, who doesn’t seem to be treated that way, living out the end of his reign with leprosy. However, when we compare this passage to 2 Chronicles 26 (NIV)✞ we get more detail about him and see that the leprosy was actually a judgement from God because Azariah/Uzziah becomes full of pride in his later years.
We are then shown a succession of kings in Israel in what feels to me like the beginning of the end of the nation, and we’ll see Israel being conquered by Assyria in Chapter 17✞ so we really aren’t far from the end. In fact, in a sense it has already begun, since Assyria deported a number of people during Pekah’s reign – when the “end” finally comes a couple of chapters from now, it’s actually more of a continuation of what was begun here.
The ESV Study Bible includes some interesting notes on the historical events, from a political perspective, but from a spiritual perspective the author(s) seem to be driving home a point: by the end of the nation of Israel its kings are getting pretty brutal. In the last passage the author(s) made a point of mentioning that the LORD chose to save Israel because He had not said He would “blot out” the name of Israel, but nothing like that is said in this passage; when God said He wouldn’t blot out the name of Israel in the last chapter He didn’t mean forever, He just meant at that time; He had always told His people that He would let them fall into captivity if they didn’t obey Him, and that’s exactly what Israel’s further downslide is leading to.
I’m sure I probably say this all the time, but when the modern-day Christian reads the Old Testament we should be seeing the futility of trying to come to God on terms of obedience, since nobody in history has ever gotten that right. Some came closer than others, but nobody has ever properly obeyed Him. I definitely haven’t! It’s the whole reason Jesus came: to do what we couldn’t do, take the punishment we deserved, and provide the means for us to obey God – not out of an attempt to “curry favour” with Him, but because we actually want to be like Him. Still not perfectly, not even close, but with a knowledge that we are accepted by Him (on account of His Son) which brings us joy even when we fail.