Success Depends on Faithfulness to God
SECOND CHRONICLES starts with the kingship of Solomon, then traces the reigns of the kings of Judah, making only incidental references to the 10-tribe kingdom of Israel, and concludes with the destruction of Jerusalem and its lying desolate until King Cyrus issued the decree authorizing the rebuilding of Jehovah’s temple there. Repeatedly the account makes it clear that, when the rulers and the people put their trust in Jehovah God, their undertakings were crowned with success. But their unfaithfulness led to loss of divine blessing and protection.
After firmly establishing himself in the kingship, Solomon, together with the nation’s commanders, chieftains, judges and paternal heads, went to the tabernacle at Gibeon to offer sacrifice. Thus the young king petitioned Jehovah’s blessing on his rule. During the night, the Most High revealed himself to Solomon and gave him the opportunity to ask for anything that he might desire. The king humbly asked for the needed wisdom and knowledge to judge his subjects. Because he made such a noble request, Solomon was assured that, in addition to wisdom, he would receive “wealth and riches and honor” greater than what had been enjoyed by David and Saul and, in fact, greater than what future rulers would come to have. (2 Chron. 1:1-12) This was indeed fulfilled, for the account tells us: “The king came to make the silver and the gold in Jerusalem like the stones.”—2 Ch 1:15.
One of the greatest achievements of Solomon’s rule was the building of Jehovah’s temple on Mount Moriah. Most of chapters two through seven deal with his building preparations, the construction of the edifice and its furnishings and the inauguration of the temple.
Again in a vision of the night, Solomon received Jehovah’s answer to the inauguration prayer. This answer revealed that the continued success of his kingship depended on Israel’s faithful adherence to divine law. On the other hand, Israel’s unfaithfulness would spell national disaster. Even the glorious temple would become mere heaps of ruins.—7:11-22.
Chapters eight and nine complete the record about Solomon’s reign. We are told about his building and rebuilding cities, his use of the surviving Canaanites for forced labor, his arrangements regarding temple services, his maritime operations, the notable visit of the queen of Sheba, Solomon’s wealth, his death and his being succeeded as king by his son Rehoboam.
A DIVIDED KINGDOM
Preferring the voice of inexperienced young flatterers to the sound counsel of older men, Rehoboam advised the representatives of the nation that he would impose a heavier yoke on the people than had his father. Since the people had already experienced enough oppression after Solomon departed from Jehovah’s law during the latter part of his reign, 10 tribes revolted, fulfilling Jehovah’s word through Ahijah.—10:1-19.
Mustering an army, Rehoboam sought to bring the rebellious tribes back under his control. But, at the order of Jehovah’s word through the prophet Shemaiah, he abandoned this plan. The rebellious tribes formed an independent kingdom under Jeroboam, who instituted calf worship. As a result, faithful Levites inhabiting cities under Jeroboam’s dominion left for Judah and Jerusalem.—11:1-17.
Because Rehoboam, along with his subjects, also departed from divine law, Jehovah withdrew his protection. Shishak (Sheshonk I) invaded the realm of Judah, capturing one fortified city after another. However, on hearing the divine pronouncement that they would be abandoned to Shishak for their unfaithfulness, Rehoboam and the princes humbled themselves and Jehovah did not permit the Egyptian ruler to bring Jerusalem to ruin. Nevertheless, the city was stripped of its treasures.—12:1-12.
JEHOVAH’S AID TO ABIJAH AND ASA
After the death of Rehoboam, his son Abijah began to reign. Warfare then broke out between Jeroboam and Abijah. On one occasion, Jeroboam’s use of an ambush put the warriors of the kingdom of Judah into an extremely dangerous position. But, because they cried to Jehovah for aid, the Most High granted them the victory.—12:16–13:20.
Similarly, when faced with a force of some one million Ethiopian and Libyan warriors under Zerah, Abijah’s successor, Asa, looked to Jehovah for assistance. He prayed: “O Jehovah, as to helping, it does not matter with you whether there are many or those with no power. Help us, O Jehovah our God, for upon you we do lean, and in your name we have come against this crowd. O Jehovah, you are our God. Do not let mortal man retain strength against you.” Again, Jehovah made his people triumphant.—14:9-15; 16:8.
Commendably, Asa acted on the words of Jehovah’s prophet Oded and took decisive action to destroy places of idolatrous worship. However, despite his having experienced divine help, Asa later made an alliance with Syrian King Ben-hadad to stop Israelite King Baasha from fighting against him. When he was reproved for this faithless action by Hanani the seer, Asa took offense. He had Hanani confined in the house of stocks and also began oppressing other subjects. This led to Jehovah’s withholding his blessing from the king. Stricken with a goutlike affliction in his feet, Asa failed to look to Jehovah for aid but sought the help of healers.—15:1–16:13.
A FINE RECORD MARRED BY A BAD ALLIANCE
Asa’s son Jehoshaphat distinguished himself as a good king and, therefore, experienced Jehovah’s help and protection. He endeavored to clear out idolatry, made arrangements for the people to be taught Jehovah’s law and improved the judicial system. Because of relying on Jehovah, he experienced a grand salvation when the combined enemy forces of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir destroyed one another. However, Jehoshaphat unwisely formed a marriage alliance with idolatrous Israelite King Ahab. Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and his Baal-worshiping queen, Jezebel, became the wife of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram. This led to Jehoshaphat’s becoming involved in a disastrous military venture with King Ahab. Returning to Jerusalem, Jehoshaphat was greeted with the reproof: “Is it to the wicked that help is to be given, and is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love?” Later, however, Jehoshaphat again failed in this respect by becoming a partner to Ahab’s successor, King Ahaziah, in a shipbuilding enterprise. In fulfillment of prophecy, the ships were wrecked.—17:1–20:37.
Judah’s next king, Jehoram, under the influence of his wife Athaliah, followed the bad course of the house of Ahab. To strengthen his position as king, he murdered all his brothers and some of the princes. Without Jehovah’s blessing, his rule proved to be a failure. He was plagued by revolts from the Edomites and from the city of Libnah. In the final two years of his life, he was stricken with a malady in his intestines.—21:1-20.
When Jehoram’s youngest son Ahaziah became king, bad rule continued, for he also was under the influence of Athaliah. While visiting the wounded Israelite king Jehoram, Ahaziah got in the way of Jehu’s punitive action against the house of Ahab and was killed. At that, Athaliah, after murdering the royal offspring, usurped the throne. However, Ahaziah’s son Jehoash had been hidden by the wife of priest Jehoiada. Later Jehoiada had Jehoash proclaimed king and commanded the execution of Athaliah.
Under the guidance of Jehoiada, Jehoash ruled well and arranged for the temple to be renovated. But, after Jehoiada’s death, Jehoash departed from true worship, and even commanded that Jehoiada’s son Zechariah be stoned for reproving him for his faithlessness. Jehovah then permitted the Syrians to administer a humiliating defeat on the kingdom of Judah. Jehoash became diseased and finally was assassinated by his own servants.—22:1–24:27.
FROM THE RULE OF AMAZIAH TO THE DESOLATION OF JUDAH
Jehoash’s son Amaziah started out well but then turned unfaithful. After many years of peaceful coexistence, the two Israelite kingdoms became embroiled in warfare, and the forces of Amaziah suffered defeat. From the time that Amaziah stopped following God’s law, a conspiracy formed against him. Forced to flee to Lachish, he met his death there at the hands of conspirators.—25:1-28.
Uzziah, the next Judean king, ruled well and was favored with many victories over the enemies of the kingdom of Judah. But later he arrogantly took it upon himself to invade the temple and to offer incense like a priest. For this presumptuous action he was stricken with leprosy. His son Jotham then began ruling. Because Jotham followed Jehovah’s law, he prospered, gaining the victory over the Ammonites.—26:1–27:9.
However, Jotham’s successor Ahaz became a notorious idolater, even going to the point of sacrificing his own son(s). As a result, Jehovah withheld his blessing from Ahaz and his idolatrous subjects. The kingdom of Judah suffered from invasions by the Edomites, the Philistines, the Israelites and the Syrians. Fearful of losing his position as king, Ahaz appealed to the Assyrians for military help. But this unwise action brought no relief, only foreign oppression.—28:1-27.
Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, made determined efforts to remove idolatry from his realm and rebelled against the Assyrians. Though Assyrian King Sennacherib invaded the land of Judah, he failed to seize Jerusalem. Hezekiah was rewarded for putting his trust in Jehovah, for in one night an angel destroyed the cream of the Assyrian military force.—29:1–32:22.
The son of Hezekiah, Manasseh, revived idolatry and became guilty of shameful oppression. However, when taken as a captive to Babylon, he came to his senses and repented. Jehovah God had mercy on him, opening the way for Manasseh to return to Jerusalem. The king then instituted religious reforms, but the people had become too steeped in idolatry for Manasseh’s efforts to effect a real change. Even his own son Amon, upon ascending the throne, reverted to idolatry. He perished at the hands of conspirators.—33:1-25.
Judah’s last good king, Josiah, initiated a sweeping campaign against idolatry. But it was too late to bring the people to genuine repentance. Also, a heavy bloodguilt rested on Judah. (2 Ki. 24:3, 4) Sadly, Josiah himself was killed in an attempt to turn the Egyptian forces back at Megiddo when they were on their way to battle with the Chaldeans at Carchemish. The last four kings—Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah proved to be bad rulers. Jehovah abandoned the kingdom of Judah totally, permitting the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar to reduce Jerusalem and its magnificent temple to ruins. Many of the survivors were taken into exile. Finally, in fulfillment of Jehovah’s word through his prophet Jeremiah, Cyrus issued the decree that opened the way for the exiles to return to their desolated homeland.—2 Chron. 34:1–36:23.
How forcefully this historical record demonstrates that, apart from faithfulness to Jehovah God, there can be no real success! As the prophet Hanani told rebellious King Asa, foolish acts that show lack of faith in God can lead only to disaster, whereas, “as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.”—2 Chron. 16:9.