Study Sixteen - The Crumbling South
Old Testament - 1 Kings 12:1 - 2 Kings 25:29, 2 Chronicles 10:1 - 36:21

With the Northern Kingdom destroyed and dispersed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., the lot now fell to the Southern Kingdom. The books of Kings and Chronicles record twenty sovereigns in Judah's house. All but Athaliah were of the Davidic line.

Judean history falls into six eras:

  1. The Period of Civil Strife - When King Rehoboam was denied his desire to attack the Northern revolutionaries, he fortified Judah by building great military cities throughout the land and staffed each with members of his own household to ensure these fortress cities would not be used against him. Once his position was established and his kingdom secure, Rehoboam "forsook the law of the Lord." Judgement followed!
    • Egypt plunders Judah - Egyptian Shisak pillage the Southern Kingdom in 918 B.C. Judah's proud military cities were crushed, its treasury depleted, and the rich treasures of the king's house were carried away. The prophet interpreted this deluge as God's judgement upon a disobedient people. Judah repented and was spared.
    • Civil War Raged - Abijah, who ascended the throne after Rehoboam's death, tried vainly to end the civil war by an appeal to reason but the Northern apostates would not listen. A massacre followed and the blood of brothers drenched the land. The crown then went to Asa, a good king, and the land had rest for ten years. Civil war broke out again, though not desired by Asa, into Jehoshaphat's rule who followed his father's good ways and arranged a peace alliance with the North.
    • Alliance sealed with ill-fated marriage - The royal marriage between Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, and Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, produced bitter fruit. Athaliah, deeply influenced by her pagan mother, Jezebel, brought the hated Baal cult into the South. The pagan convictions of this evil woman paved the way for an era of degeneracy in Judah.

  2. The Period of Baalism - Jehoram, succeeded his father as sovereign, and, influenced by his wicked wife, Athaliah, led Judah to the brink of disaster. He kept company with the demons of darkness, murdered his brothers, desecrated the holiness of God, and led his subjects into the wastelands. When he died, he departed with no one's regret.
    • Ahaziah, son of Jehoram - Ahaziah, succeeded Jehoram, was spineless and morally destitute. He did the bidding of his mother, Athaliah, and took his orders from the house of Ahab in the north. He was assassinated while visiting his pagan cousin Joram in Israel during the purge brought against Ahab's house by Jehu.
    • Queen mother, Athaliah - When the news of the purge came back to Athaliah, she appointed herself ruler over Judah and promptly massacred all the members of the royal household, save one, Joash. Six years later, Athaliah's decadent rule came to its bitter end and the era of Baalism passed.

  3. The Golden Age - Forty years under Joash were mostly fruitful for the Southern Kingdom. Influenced by devout priest, Jehoiada, Joash grew in righteousness and turned his attention toward restoring the Lord's house which had been desecrated under Athaliah's rule. When Johoiada died, Joash changed and the goodness of his rule was marred by apostasy. Judgement came through Syria and Joash met his fate at the hands of conspirators.
    • Amaziah - Amaziah's rule oscillated between good and evil. Obedient to God and then disobedient, this Judean monarch wavered between two standards of value and then, like his father, died at the hands of conspirators.
    • Uzziah brings wealth to Judah - Joash and Amaziah made some contributions to Judah's age of gold but it was Uzziah who brought wealth to the Kingdom. A military man of renown, he conquered the political states around him and exacted tribute from them. Uzziah began his reign well but later defected and the kingdom passed to Jotham.
    • Jotham maintains - Jotham carried on the traditions of his father and the period of prosperity maintained but there was an enemy loose in the land. The crack in Judah's moral fiber which appeared in Uzziah's day and persisted during Jotham's, widened under Ahaz.

  4. The Period of Decline - Alienated again from the giver of gifts, Judah stood under the rebuke of the prophets. This time Isaiah and Micah warned the kingdom against the effects of spiritual lethargy. God had been good but Judah was an ungrateful child who wanted privileges without responsibility. Richly blessed, Judah was a failure at being a blessing. A hideous misuse of civil office; moral degeneracy in high places; commericial dishonesty; religious ritual, void of meaning; social injustice; dissipation; skepticism; sophistry; and a hollow confidence hung over the nation like a dark cloud. These circumstances led the prophet to declare that judgement was inevitable unless the "chosen ones" hearkened again to God!
    • Ahaz - But Ahaz stuffed his ears. He saw the prophet as a bothersome noisemaker who knew little about running a government and keeping it free from its political enemies. He saw strength in military alliances, not moral integrity or in righteousness. Judah became the target of every land-and-loot hungry nation. Judah was attacked by Syria, humiliated by Israel, shamed by the Edomites, and plundered by the Philistines. Ahaz then called Assyria into the fracas and traded what little freedom Judah had left for vassalage. The sick king then died and left a beaten kingdom behind him.
    • Good King Hezekiah - The sharp decline was halted by Hezekiah who analyzed Judah's sickness as one that had been born out of spiritual malnutrition. Hezekiah rallied the people around him, called for repentance and rededication to the God of Abraham, of Jacob, and of Isaac. Judah's respite for cleanup and gathering of spiritual strength had been afforded by the emergence of new world power Babylon. Assyria had to take care of domestic problems and defend its borders from Babylonian hordes. Judah, wanting freedom from Assyria, considered military alliances with Egypt and Babylon. Isaiah counseled Hezekiah to be faithful to God and depend on him for deliverance. Hezekiah heeded the prophet's advice and the capital was saved.
    • Manasseh and Amon - Hezekiah's son, Manasseh, and grandson, Amon, were the next two monarchs. Both were of an evil mold and their reigns were characterized by apostasy. Manasseh, prior to his demise, regained some stature in the house of Judah through a repentance experience. No such legacy awaited his successor, Amon, who was slain by servants of his own household. Upon Amon's death, the people of the land made Josiah king in his stead.

  5. The Period of Reform - Josiah attempted to pick up the pieces of the shattered kingdom by introducing a law reform that saved Judah a little longer. The law reform and a sharp turn of political events gave Judah the right to hope that the nation might capture its glory of old. Assyria, its arch-enemy, was engaged with a death struggle with new world powers. If that contemptible country could be vanquished, what could prevent the Southern Kingdom from the promise of a bright future? Babylon emerged as the new world power of the day after crushing Assyria but Judah's law reform was interrupted when Joshiah, its exponent, was killed in the Battle of Megiddo. With the passing of Josiah, Judah's revisionist dreams withered on the vine. The prophet of the day, Jeremiah, carried on the tradition of Josiah, but his words went unheeded and the proud Southern Kingdom took the final steps toward its appointment with death.

  6. The Period of Destruction - Jehoahaz, successor to Josiah, reigned three months and was then deposed by the King of Egypt.
    • Jehoiakim - Jehoahaz' brother, Jehoiakim, was made a puppet king and Judah became a vassal of Egypt. In 605 B.C. in the Battle of Carchemish, Babylon turned against Egypt and Egypt was crushed. Judah changed masters and now became a vassal to Babylon. The puppet king, Jehoiakim, paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar until he tired of it and revolted. The Babylonian king sent troops to bring his vassal into line but before they arrived, the defector had died.
    • Jehoiachim - Jehoiachim, who succeeded Jehoiakim, offered feeble resistance and surrendered. He, his family and court, and the flower of Jewish nobility were carried off into exile and none remained except the poorest people of the land.
    • Zedekiah - With Judah but a shell of its former self, Zedekiah was appointed by Nebuchadnezzer to rule the peasantry that remained. But he too revolted and the end came swiftly. Enraged by the obstinacy of his puppet, the Babylonian monarch ravaged Jerusalem, broke down its wall, burned the temple, and carried the remaining subjects off into exile. The Southern Kingdom came to an end.

Lesson 16 and its symbolism:

The six eras of Southern Kingdom history and the kings in each era:

  1. The Period of Civil Strife - Kings: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, and Jehoshaphat.
  2. The Period of Baalism - Kings: Jehoram and Ahaziah, Queen: Athaliah.
  3. The Golden Age of the South - Kings: Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham.
  4. The Period of decline - Kings: Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Amon.
  5. The Age of Reform - King: Josiah.
  6. The Period of Destruction - Kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekaih.
Significant events identified with various kings' reigns:

  1. Volcano on Rehoboam segment - Egypt becomes political threat to the South during Rehoboam's reign.
  2. Peace Flag on Jehoshaphat segment - Civil war between North and South ends under Jehoshaphat's rule.
  3. Wedding ring at base of peace flag - Peace is brought about by marriage between Northern and Southern royalty.
  4. Smudge on wedding ring - Marriage is instrumental in bringing Baalism to the South.
  5. Snake on Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah segments - Baalism characterizes era in which these three monarchs reign.
  6. Golden color of Uzziah segment - Period of wealth and prosperity reaches height under Uzziah's rule.
  7. Isaiah and Micah banners on Uzziah segment - These prophets speak to historical circumstances from age of Uzziah through age of Hezekiah.
  8. Manuscript peg on Ahaz segment - Ahaz forms alliance with Assyria to ward off threats from Syria and north Israel.
  9. Coins on Ahaz segment - Alliance with Assyria ends in Judah becoming vassal of Assyria.
  10. Three volcanoes on Hezekiah segment - Judah seeks freedom from Assyrian bondage and entertains hopes for military alliances with Egypt and Babylon.
  11. Volcano on Josiah segment - Babylon replaces Assyria as major world power.
  12. Prophet banner on Josiah segment - Jeremiah speaks to historical circumstances from era of Josiah through period of exile.
  13. "E" coin on Jehoiakim segment - Judah becomes vassal of Egypt.
  14. "B" coin on Jehoiakim segment - In Battle of Carchemish, Babylon defeats Egypt, and Judah becomes a vassal of Babylon.
  15. Battered sword on Jehoiachin segment - Jehoiachin surrenders to Babylon after a revolt led by his father. The king and important subjects are carried off in first exile (597 B.C.).
  16. Deep red color on Zedekiah segment - Final captivity takes place in 586 B.C. when Zedekiah revolts.
  17. Great hands crush the kingdom - Southern Kingdom is destroyed by Babylonian hordes.