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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Prophets Priests and Kings

1. Why did the kingdoms of Judah and Israel split?
2. Did either, both or neither kingdom follow God?
3. Did either, both or neither kingdom maintain the lines of priests and Levites?
4. Why are the stories of the kings different in Kings and in Chronicles?
5. What is the significance of Jeroboam’s golden calves, and how do they relate to oxen?
6. Who was killed by a lion?
7. What’s the connection between King Nadab and the next king Baasha?
8. What happened to Jeroboam’s family under Baasha, and Baasha’s (Elah’s) under Zimri?
9. How did Zimri die?
10. Who were Tibni and Omri and why is Omri famous?

The second half of 1 Kings, together with 2 Kings (2 books since they wouldn’t fit in one scroll) tells the story of God’s people from the time of Solomon to the captivity in Babylon. The two books of Chronicles tell the (much longer) story from Genesis to the return from exile. The books are probably compiled and written from combinations of the same and different source materials, and there are strong arguments (language, phrasing, references to Shiloh as a center of worship, importance of kings, concern for wandering Levites rather than just centralized religion, etc.) for suggesting the prophet Jeremiah compiled the books from Deuteronomy to Kings, as well as Jeremiah and Lamentations, emphasizing God’s covenant with His people and His king and frequently using terms such as “to this day.” (The final passages of Kings may have been amended later when Judah fell.) Chronicles were more likely compiled later, most probably by priests since the role of organized, priestly religion is emphasized much more. Having two versions of the same story tends to validate the underlying facts and is really no different than having several versions of the Gospel accounts.

The kingdoms of Israel and Judah split fairly quickly after Solomon’s son Rehoboam ascends to the throne. Jeroboam, Solomon’s former servant, returns from Egypt to lead a delegation asking favors of the new king.  The young king prefers the advice of his friends to that of his elders and stirs up trouble, leading to rebellion (1 Kings 11). The two kingdoms were both supplied with priests and Levites and God continued to send prophets in both kingdoms, so it’s clear that neither completely rejected or was rejected by God. The fact that the Temple was in Jerusalem—the southern kingdom—posed a problem of course, which Jeroboam may have resolved by symbolically turning his whole kingdom into a temple. The oxen carrying the circular sea of Jerusalem’s temple are replaced by golden calves at the outermost parts of the kingdom, but memories of Aaron’s golden calf in Exodus make this somewhat heretical, even without Jeroboam’s calling them gods (12:28). The book of Kings records a prophet declaring that one day a descendant of David called Josiah will break down Jeroboam’s foreign altars, and the rest of the book leads up to Josiah’s shortlived triumph, changing tone after his death. (The prophet was tricked into eating food in Israel after promising not to and so is killed by a lion (1 Kings 12); the fact that the lion eats neither prophet nor donkey proves the prophet to have been true and leads other to believe God has spoken against Jeroboam.) Jeroboam’s son Nadab ascends to the throne after his father but is killed two years later by Baasha who wipes out his whole family (1 Kings 15:27-29). Baasha rules for 24 years, followed by his son Elah. But again the family is wiped out after a military coup (16). The military leader Zimri becomes king for seven days but Omri leads the army to Tirzah in rebellion; Zimri burns his house down, killing himself. Omri fought Tibni for the kingdom, winning four years later; Omri’s fame spread beyond Israel and he is mentioned on a Moabite monument.

The book of Chronicles records (1 Chron 11:13) the priests and Levites leaving Israel for Judah, but priests are still mentioned in Israel afterwards so it seems more likely that at least some stayed. When the kingdom divided there were probably portions of historical documents held in both archives, resulting in slightly different versions of the same historical stories—different versions of Noah’s ark for example… that were later combined when the northern country fell and its religious leaders fled south.

1 comment:

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