We have finished the book of Kings and the bulk of the great Covenant King narrative. But before we turn to Mark, the next book in our daily reading plan, I want to say one more thing about this book and this narrative. I want to talk about the two “breaks” we see in the narrative, the two “big breaks” in Israelite history which the book records.
I want to do this because I find these breaks interesting. I want to do this because I’m not sure many people know about these breaks (I didn’t know about them until I went to Bible college). But most of all, I want to do this because these breaks reveal truth about the main idea of Kings (which, again, is one of the main ideas of the entire Old Testament), the submitting to or not submitting to the Covenant King.
The Big Break Up
The first big break is the breaking up of the kingdom. This break up was foreshadowed in Samuel when Sheba the troublemaker tried to pull the nation away from David’s rule (2 Kings 20). But it actually happened in Kings. After Solomon’s death, the people asked for relief from the taxes and forced labor his building projects brought upon them. His son/successor, Rehoboam, refused, and so the northern tribes (that is, just about every tribe but Judah) turned from him to Jeroboam, a non-Davidic king. With that, the one nation became two: the northern nation of Israel and the southern nation of Judah.
This break is what makes Kings so difficult to read. As a result of this break, we have two Israelite monarchies operating at the same time and thus two simultaneously-occurring narratives to cover. We spend a little time with the king of Israel, then the king of Judah, then the king of Israel again. What makes it even worse is that the names of these kings can be similar or even the same. At one point, we have two kings named Jehoram. It can get very confusing.
Beyond that confusion, though, is this tragic reality: God’s people split in two. And not only did they split in two, but they often antagonized or even warred with each other. Beyond that, one side of the split fell out of the life of God almost entirely. This side left the monarchy of the Covenant King for monarchies (plural; there were several) that were not of the Covenant King and were most often the exact opposite of the monarchy of the Covenant King.
The Big Break Down
The second big break is the breaking down of the kingdom itself, what is commonly called The Exile or The Babylonian Exile. It is the kingdoms falling under the control of foreign nations and ultimately being destroyed by those nations.
This break down happened in stages. First, the northern kingdom Israel fell to the Assyrians. The Assyrians obliterated the northern kingdom, carrying the Israelites away and replacing them with a new group of people (this new group, by the way, eventually becomes the Samaritans). The northern kingdom never recovered from this fall. They never returned to or retook the land, and thus they are known today as “the ten lost tribes”.
After that, the southern kingdom Judah fell to the Babylonians. Babylon attacked Judah’s capital Jerusalem on three occasions (605, 597, and 586 BC). After the last attack, they leveled the city, destroying the Temple in the process and deporting the people to Babylon. Unlike the northern tribes, Judah recovered from this fall. The Persians eventually defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
But that did not happen for 70 years. There was still a large amount of time during which the kingdom of Israel simply did not exist in the way it had before.
What the Breaks Mean to the Rest of the Bible
These breaks are more than just incidents in Israelite history and/or Bible facts. They are significant movements in both the Covenant King narrative and the larger Old Testament narrative. They are massive developments in the story God was (and still is) telling.
The Exile, in my opinion, is one of the most massive developments in this story. I consider it one of the “great three” developments of this story, alongside the call of Abraham and the Exodus. There are certainly other high points in this story, but these three are the ones that major parts of the story revolve around. The prophets, for example, are always either prophesying or responding to The Exile. It is the big event that drives their prophecies.
But the breaking up of the kingdom is massive, too. In fact, it is this event which gives rise to the writing prophets. While there were always prophets in Israel, there were not always “writing prophets”, that is, prophets who wrote books. These prophets did not come onto the stage until after the kingdom split. I think they came onto the stage because the kingdom split, that is, they went into high gear and started writing after half the country turned away from the Covenant King. That being the case, an entire section of the Old Testament exists because of this break up.
What the Breaks Mean to Us
These breaks are fairly massive for us as well. For one thing, they are obviously massive to our understanding of the Old Testament and all of Scripture. As the basis for so much of the Old Testament, they couldn’t be any less.
But for another thing, they are massive to the decisions we are making today. God is telling a story with us just as He was telling a story with these people. In fact, God is telling the same story with us. What is happening today is the Covenant King narrative, just as it was then. That being the case, we have to decide to and how to submit to the Covenant King. We have to decide if we will split from the Covenant King and His people. We have to decide if we will antagonize and war with His people. We have to decide if we will submit to other, non-Covenant King monarchies.These are serious decisions with serious implications. Seeing these big breaks and their massive implications helps me make those decisions. Both these breaks are parts of history I don’t want to repeat. And I know the only way not to repeat them is to do the opposite of what the people who originally experienced them did. It is to submit fully to the Covenant King Jesus.