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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Rise of Isaiah

  1. When was Judah ruled by a queen?
  2. Did kingly succession always proceed in an orderly manner in King David’s house?
  3. Was Baal ever worshiped in Jerusalem?
  4. What are the first known collection boxes in church?
  5. Did Israel ever conquer Judah?
  6. What sickness did Uzziah suffer from?
  7. Who invented machines of war in the Old Testament?
  8. Who redesigned the Temple at Jerusalem?
  9. Who lived in Israel after it was conquered?
  10. How did the Babylonians discover

When the newly anointed Jehu kills King Jehoram of Israel in Jezreel, Jehoram's ally King Ahaziah of Judah flees. Shot in the back, Ahaziah dies at Megiddo. His mother Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel, tries to kill all the heirs and take Judah's throne but Ahaziah’s sister saves the youngest son, Joash. Six years later Jehoida the priest commands the army to make 7-year-old Joash king of Judah. Athaliah is killed (2 Chron 23, 24), the temple is repaired, Baal worship (encouraged by Athaliah) ceases, and peace reigns for a while. Jehoida even institutes collection boxes to raise money for God’s work (2 Kings 12, 2 Chron 24), though Joash ends up handing over temple gold in tribute to Hazael of Damascus to avert a war. Joash is murdered by his servants (2 Kings 12) after a falling-out with the priests (2 Chron 24). His son Amaziah kills the servants but surprisingly refrains from a bloodbath by sparing their children (2 Kings 14). Amaziah takes an army against Edomite rebels, hiring, then firing help from Israel. He takes the Edomite “gods” or statues as spoil (2 Chron 25). Pride leads him to fight Israel but he loses to Jehoash. Azariah (Uzziah), son of Amaziah, succeeds as king (2 Kings 15), and the prophet Isaiah appears (Isaiah 6).

Isaiah encounters the angelic seraphim (also translated as fiery serpents—a popular contemporary symbol of heavenly guardians). Isaiah, preaching in Judah, echoes the calls of Amos and Hosea in Israel, to repent of foolish worship and reject opulent oppression. Meanwhile King Uzziah successfully fights Philistines on the Western coast, using new weapons with longer range invented by “skillful men” in Jerusalem, but when he burns incense on God’s altar instead of waiting for priests, he becomes leprous (2 Chon 26), leading to his son Jothan ruling as co-regent. (Judah’s avoidance of king-priests is in contrast to surrounding cultures which combined the offices.) Israel allies with Syria against Assyria, but Judah's Jothan allies with Assyria. After Jothan’s death, Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel come to force Judah into joining them, but Jothan’s son Ahaz buys Assyria’s assistance with temple gold (2 Kings 16). Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign, and prophesies a “virgin shall conceive…” (Isaiah 7). By the time a newborn comes of age, God promises the threat will be gone, but in the meantime, Syria sends Jewish captives to Israel, where the prophet Oded calls for their release (2 Chron 27). After visiting Assyria, Ahaz makes major changes to God’s temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 16) and the prophet Micah is inspired to mourn for Jerusalem’s impending destruction—like Amos, he’s an “ecstatic prophet” speaking because God demands it rather than because he holds office in the court of the king.

Israel’s flower fades (Isaiah 28:1) and Isaiah continues to warn Jerusalem’s leaders, but Ahaz turns to Israel’s gods instead of listening (2 Chron 28). Meanwhile  Assyria pursues its custom of relocating tribes and peoples, filling Israel with foreigners, and sending a Jewish priest to keep the god of the region placated (and kill lions, 2 Kings 17). Hezekiah succeeds his father Ahaz in Jerusalem, and adds to Solomon’s book of proverbs (Prov 25), even trying to unite Israelite and Judahites at Passover (1 Chron 30), and opposing Assyria's rule (2 Ki 18). When Hezekiah falls ill, God heals him with Isaiah’s figs and extends his life (2 Kings 20, Is 38). The King of Babylon sends envoys to inquire after his health and spy on his wealth, and Isaiah prophesies that Babylon will steal it all after Hezekiah’s death.

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