2 Kings 15:8-22
In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months.…
With rapid descent the kingdom of Israel, which had risen to great external prosperity under Jeroboam II., hastened to its fall. The prophets give us vivid pictures of the corruption of the times. The bonds of social life were loosened, oppression was rampant, the fear of God seemed to have died out of the land; there was no confidence, peace, or good will among any classes, in the nation. As a consequence, the throne was a prey to any adventurer who had power to seize it.
I. THE FALL OF JEHU'S HOUSE.
1. The shadow of doom. With the accession of Zachariah, Jeroboam's son, the fourth generation of John's dynasty ascended the throne The shadow of doom may thus be said to have rested On this ill-fated king. A prophet had Spoken it to the founder of the house, "Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation." That word had its bright side of reward, but it had also its dark side of penalty, and it is this, which becomes prominent as the predicted term nears its close. Yet, as we can now also see, there is no fate in the matter. The reason why John's sons were only to sit on the throne till the fourth generation lay in their own character and actions. God's decrees do not work against, but in harmony with, the existing nature of things, and the established connection of causes and effects. John's house was about to fall
(1) because John's sons had been ungodly. None of them had sought God's glory or taken any pains to promote godliness in the nation. On the contrary, they had continued sowing the wind of disobedience to God's will, and the nation was now to reap the whirlwind.
(2) Under the rule of these kings, irreligion and immorality had spread fast, and struck their roots deep and wide in the kingdom. This will undermine any dynasty, will overthrow any empire. Rulers make a great mistake when they fix attention solely on external prosperity. If the foundations are rotten, the structure will sooner or later inevitably come down.
(3) Zachariah himself was a feeble king. This is implied even in the brief notice we have of him. It may be he who is referred to by Hosea, "In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine," etc. (Hosea 7:5). In any case, we know that he was not only weak, but wicked - "He did evil in the sight of the Lord."
2. The prophetic word fulfilled. A brief six months of the throne was all that was allowed to Zachariah. He seems to have been held in contempt by the people. His feeble character would appear the more feeble in contrast with that of his energetic and victorious father. We have a similar contrast in English history between Richard Cromwell and his father, Oliver. But Zachariah was more than feeble, he was worthless. Therefore, when the conspirator Shallum smote the king in the light of public day, "before the people," no hand seems to have been raised in his defense. He perished, and the house of Jehu was extinguished with him. Sinners do not live out half their days (Psalm 55:23). In due time the words of God are all fulfilled.
II. THE REIGN OF MENAHEM. We may pass by the brief reign of Shallum, which lasted only a month, and of which no events are recorded. He was slain by Menahem, the son of Gadi, illustrating the truth of which this chapter affords other exemplifications, that they who take the sword shall perish by the sword (Matthew 26:52). In respect of Menahem, we notice:
1. His violent usurpation. He too possessed himself of the throne by violent means. He smote Shallum in Samaria, as Shallum had, a few weeks before, smitten Zachariah. The effect of these revolutions on the morals of the people and the administration of law may be imagined. What respect could be felt for royalty established by such methods? Shallum, indeed, was a murderer, but Menahem was no better. Neither by sanction of God nor by election of the people, but solely by brute force, did he set himself upon the throne. His rule was thus, in its inception and essence, a tyranny. To this had Israel come by rejecting their true Ruler - God. "They have set up kings," said God, "but not by me" (Hosea 8:4). He who rejects God as his Sovereign must bear a heavier yoke.
2. His sickening cruelties. The fact that Menahem kept the throne for ten years shows him to have been a man of no small natural ability. But his disposition was savagely cruel. Not only did ha smite Shallum - a deed which might be pardoned - but in his war with Tiphsah he was guilty of brutal atrocities on those who refused to submit to him (cf. ver. 16). In this he showed himself a man of a fierce and unscrupulous character. The people had become fierce, godless, and violent; and God gave them a king after their own image.
3. His league with Assyria. This is not the first contact of Israel with Assyria, but it is the first mention of that contact in the sacred history, The King of Assyria, here named Pul, came against the land, evidently with hostile intent; but Menahem, by the payment of a huge tribute, bought him off, and secured his sanction to his occupancy of the throne. (On the identification of Pul, see the Exposition.) Israel now came under a foreign yoke, and "sorrowed," as Hosea says, "for the burden of the King of princes" (Hosea 8:10). Sin, which is an effort after emancipation from the Law and authority of God, ends in the sinner being reduced to miserable bondage (Luke 15:15, 16; John 8:34).
4. His oppression of the people. To raise the money for Pul, Menahem was under the necessity of exacting large sums from the men of wealth in the land. From each, we are told, he took fifty shekels of silver. Much of this money had been wrung from the poor, and now it was taken from the rich. In the end, it was probably upon the poor that the burden would come back. Thus the land groaned under tyranny, foreign oppression, robbery, and grinding of class by class. The end was not quite yet, but it was fast approaching. We need not doubt that Menahem's oppressive reign was hateful to the people. He escaped, however, the penalty of his misdeeds in his own person, and "slept with his fathers." It was his son Pekahiah who reaped the harvest he had sown.
III. THE REIGN OF PEKAH. Pekahiah's reign of two years, like that of Shallum, may be passed over. A stronger hand was needed to hold together the warring elements in this distracted kingdom, and such a hand was that of Pekah, the son of Remaliah.
1. Overthrow of the house of Menahem. Menahem had succeeded in handing down the throne to his son, but the latter could not keep it. The bold and ambitious Pekah, one of Pekahiah's captains, having secured the co-operation of fifty Gileadites, smote the king in his palace, and his attendants with him. Thus another violent revolution took place in Israel. It is stated that Pekah kept the throne for twenty years, but there is great difficulty at this point in adjusting the chronology. It seems impossible, on the side of Judah, to shorten the reign of Ahaz, having regard to his own age, and that of his son Hezekiah, at their respective accessions. To bring the Jewish and Assyrian chronologies into accord, we must apparently either
(1) shorten the reign of Pekah by about ten years, and bring down the reign of Ahaz to a date considerably below that usually given, which involves also the abandonment of the biblical date for the commencement of the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1), and of the synchronisms of this period generally; or
(2) suppose some break or hiatus of twenty years or so in the Assyrian lists at the epoch of the accession of Tiglath-pileser, i.e. the commencement of the new Assyrian empire. This view has its difficulties, but is not impossible. Pekah's reign was as evil as that of his predecessors.
2. Invasions of Tiglath-pileser. During this reign began those invasions of the Assyrians, and deportations of the population, which culminated in the fall of Samaria and carrying captive of the whole people, some years later. This expedition, of which mention is made in the Assyrian inscriptions, took place towards the end of Pekah's period of rule, and was a sequel to the events related in 2 Kings 16:5-9. Pekah, in alliance with Rezia of Damascus, had made a plot to depose Ahaz of Judah, and to set a creature of his own upon the throne (Isaiah 7:1-6). To this proposed attack we owe Isaiah's magnificent prophecy of the Child Immanuel.
3. Pekah's death. This intriguing monarch also, as he had climbed to the throne by assassination, fell a victim to assassination. He was slain by Hoshea, the son of Elah, who succeeded him as the last King of Israel. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months.