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Welcome to Period 5! This is the largest and least understood period of the Bible and we have a lot of books to cover:
In this period, we’re going to learn about 41 kings and 12 prophets. Sound overwhelming? It won’t be by the time we break it down into friendly chunks. When we’re done with this period, you’re going to have a better understanding of the kings and prophets of Israel than most Christians—and that includes pastors and Sunday School teachers. Why? Because this is a section that just doesn’t get out much in the modern Church. When’s the last time you went to a Bible study class where everyone was jazzed about going through 2 Kings or Obadiah? We really cheat ourselves out of some thrilling reading material by skipping this whole midsection of the Bible.
It’s during Period 5 that the struggle between Yahweh and Israel reaches three shocking climaxes: the fracture of Israel, the fall of the north, and the fall of the south. We’re going to lay the groundwork for the first one of these three epic events in this lesson.
Now that we’re this far into our study, we need to start talking about dates so that you can understand how far away we are from the coming of Christ, and so that you can get a feel for how often Yahweh prophesies specific events far in advance of when they actually happen. It’s impossible to be exact when dating ancient events, and if you compare various Bible study resources online, you’ll find a lot of disagreement about what happened when. The further back in history we go, the more uncertainty there is, and right now we are many centuries before the coming of Christ.
A long time ago, certain God fearing people decided to make the birth of Christ the turning point of human history. So they said that Jesus was born in the year 0. Everything that happened Before Christ (BC) was given a number that counted down towards His birth with anticipation. So when we’re talking about events that happened before the birth of Christ, then as we move forward through time, the BC years count backwards: 100, 99, 98, etc. BC dating feels weird at first, but we actually do it all the time in life. Whenever we’re looking forward to some event, we often say, “It’s just two weeks to go.” And then later, “Just ten days left.” The BC dating system is particularly useful in a study like ours because it means we don’t need to think very hard to figure out how long an event happened before Christ. For example, Saul became king in 1043 BC. So Saul reigned just over a thousand years before Christ came. The BC dates give us an instant sense of time. So as you look over the dating charts that we’ve made for this period, remember that those dates are all counting down to Christ.
Now after Christ is born, we start counting back up from 0: 1 AD, 2 AD, 3 AD. For example, if someone was born in 2016 AD, then we could say that they were born 2,016 years after Christ was born on earth. AD stands for the Latin phrase “Anno Domini” which means “Year of our Lord.” Isn’t it nice how our historical dating system was designed to praise God?
Well, since the majority of the world hates God, today many anti-Christian folks are trying hard to change the “offensive” BC/AD dating system. So now in some places on the internet, you’ll see BC being changed to BCE (Before the Common Era), while AD is changed to CE (the Common Era). Yet with so many people used to the BC/AD system, the new system is taking a while to catch on, so now there is a confusing mix. In all of our material, we use BC/AD dating.
Now just to get an idea of how much time the Bible covers, let’s get an overview of the dates of each period. Remember that the specific dates are just estimates–the important part is how much time is being covered.
As you can see, the Old Testament covers a lot more time than the New Testament does. This is another reason why it is so important to study the Old Testament, for it’s the only part of the Bible which gives us a clear perspective of how God responds to human choices over long periods of time. If you want to learn how patient someone is, will you learn more watching him being tried for a few consecutive minutes or a few consecutive weeks? It’s in the Old Testament that we gain key insights about God’s patience and mercy. It’s also in the Old Testament that we learn about God’s wrath—what triggers it, what forms it takes, and what kinds of cues God gives us to let us know His patience is wearing thin. The New Testament is simply too brief to give us good insight into any of these critical characteristics of God.
While we’re used to associating God’s love with the New Testament, it’s really the Old Testament that provides us with the better education on that love. We can’t possibly appreciate the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament unless we understand all the pain and strain that happened thousands of years before He came. As we’ve been learning in our previous lessons, God’s grace is one of the central themes in the Old Testament. So if you’ve been taught that the New Testament is more relevant for Christians than the Old Testament, then you’ve been taught wrong. The entire Bible is relevant to Christians, and if we don’t know our Old Testament, then we’re going to end up with a lot of wrong assumptions about our Gods.
According to our chart above, we’re now about 900 years before the birth of Jesus. In our last lesson, we learned about how Israel became a monarchy. We also learned about the reigns of her first two kings (Saul & David). Now as we enter into Period 5, David dies and his son Solomon inherits the throne. Solomon isn’t the firstborn, but he’s the favorite, which is why he gets the crown.
Changing rulers is often a rocky transition. Someone always feels that he would make a better king, and that someone has to be killed. In this case, it’s Solomon’s older brother Adonijah [add-doh-NYE-juh] who is threatening to try to seize the crown by force. Of course no one can hope to succeed at overthrowing the new king without military backing, but Adonijah had won support from some of David’s officers. This means that to fully stomp out this rebellion, Solomon needs to kill his older brother and all of Adonijah’s supporters.
Once Solomon finishes murdering all of his adversaries, the rebellious spirit dies out and the people accept him as their new king. Then we’re told that Solomon does the classic marry-to-keep-the-peace routine with the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh. The idea here is that Egypt and Israel won’t want to attack each other when their rulers are in-laws. It’s a strategic military move on Solomon’s part, but it’s a very foolish spiritual move. What are the chances that the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter happens to be a devout Yahweh worshiper? The woman is naturally going to be worshiping the many gods of Egypt, and when she moves in with Solomon, she’ll be bringing idols of her gods with her. So right from the start, we see idolatrous influences creeping into our new king’s bedchamber. This is not a good thing, for already in Period 2, we’ve seen a pattern of men worshiping the gods of the women they sleep with.
Whenever a father passes a crown to his son, he often passes along a few unfinished projects with it. The biggest project David has left for Solomon is to construct a magnificent Temple for Yahweh. David has already had architects work out the plans, and he’s also gathered together a lot of material to get started. Now it’s up to Solomon to make it all come together, and Solomon does. But before construction begins, our young king has a vivid dream in which Yahweh appears and invites Solomon to ask for something (see 1 Kings 3). It’s a “make a wish” kind of invitation, and Solomon replies by asking for wisdom. Solomon feels very young and inexperienced for the task ahead of him. No one knows for certain how old Solomon was–the theories range from early teens to thirty. But trying to fill the shoes of the super popular King David is enough to make any man feel small.
Being God, Yahweh is used to greedy people pleading for Him to rain down meaningless material blessings. Solomon’s request for wisdom shows he is interested in more important things than rolling in gold. Yahweh is so pleased that He decides to give Solomon what he’s asked for plus a bunch of material blessings on the side. Solomon will be the richest king in Israel’s history. He’ll have so much wealth and splendor that both of our authors will try to impress us with some detailed descriptions in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Thanks to all the new territory his father David had secured, Solomon’s empire is huge and he is reigning during Israel’s peak period. But when he dies, Israel’s glorious age will die with him forever.
Now once the gold encrusted Temple is completed, Solomon gives a long dedication prayer and Yahweh shows up in a literal blaze of glory (called the Shekinah [shuh-KINE-uh] glory) and moves into His new House. Now of course Yahweh isn’t literally sitting in this manmade building, but He put on the grand light show to convince the people that He approves of the Temple as His new dwelling place. Everyone’s excited, and we’re feeling good as we listen to Solomon give a very long and reverent speech about who God is and of the importance of staying fully devoted to Him.
After these early focused years, Solomon goes on to collect 700 wives and 300 mistresses (concubines). Not only is this a major violation of Yahweh’s Laws, but it’s also a public flaunting of spiritual rebellion, because all of these women were worshiping idols. Not only that, but many of them were from ethnicities that God specifically told His people to stay away from due to the fact that those people groups were so fully devoted to worshiping demons.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. Yahweh had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from Yahweh. (1 Kings 11:1-3)
The word “love” is being used very loosely here. It isn’t love when you’re rolling in the sack with 1,000 different women. This is pure lust. Obviously Solomon only cares about looks, not character, which is why references to character are so conspicuously absent from his famous Song of Songs. Song of Songs (also called the Song of Solomon) is an eight chapter poetic dialogue in which a man and woman go on and on about how attracted they are to each other and how they just can’t wait to make out. While we hear all about breasts, hair, eyes, and physical build, we don’t find one word about righteous character or a love for God. Instead, the poem is filled with tense anticipation as each partner counts down the seconds to the moment when they can throw their clothes off and get it on. So, really? This is all our wise king has to offer us on the topic of love? It’s a pretty pathetic showing, but when we consider what we know about Solomon’s personal sex life, we can understand why Song of Songs is so disturbingly shallow.
Now to get a full picture of just how completely Solomon turned his back on Yahweh, we need to understand what it was he started worshiping in Yahweh’s place. Our author of Kings gives us insights here.
Solomon worshiped Asherah [ASH-er-uh], the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek [MO-leck], the detestable god of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight; he refused to follow Yahweh completely, as his father, David, had done.
On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh [CHEE-mosh], the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molek, the detestable god of the Ammonites. Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods. (1 Ki. 11:5-8)
Notice the use of the term “detestable.” This adjective pops up to describe things that Yahweh particularly hates. In this list, Chemosh and Molek get the detestable label. This is because the worship of these gods included child sacrifice. Often the children were infants who were burned alive on super heated metal idol arms. However you look at it, burning humans alive for any reason is sick, and Yahweh emphasizes His personal revulsion towards this practice throughout the Old Testament. He specifically outlaws child sacrifice in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), and yet here we find our “wise” king not only participating in such loathsome practices, but constructing official worship shrines to these gods in the land of Israel. Wow. And once the land starts getting peppered with fancy temples, the common people are going to want to join in the fun, because everyone wants to be like the rich and famous king.
Through his actions, Solomon not only encouraged whatever idolatry was already happening in the land, but he also enticed many others to follow his lead and turn their backs on Yahweh. Here we see Solomon throwing Israel into a drastic spiritual decline. Now let’s be fair—she was already in trouble, because the people have never fully committed themselves to Yahweh. But at least under David’s reign, idolatry was being shunned by the palace. With Solomon, it’s being exalted, and Yahweh is seething over this betrayal.
So Yahweh said to Solomon, “Since you have not kept My Covenant and have disobeyed My decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, My chosen city.” (1 Ki. 11:11-13)
When Israel’s first king (Saul) turned his back on Yahweh, Yahweh tore the crown away from him and chose a different Israelite tribe to be the royal line in Israel. Now as Israel’s third king betrays Yahweh and encourages the people to worship other gods, Yahweh’s response is more severe. He announces that He is going to tear the royal tribe of Judah away from the rest of Israel, thus reducing the empire of the royal family down to a pathetically small chunk of territory. Since Yahweh promised David that David would always have a descendant on the throne, Yahweh is going to allow the crown to keep passing down David’s line. Solomon’s son Rehoboam will take the throne after his father, but it’s at the beginning of his reign that Yahweh will fracture the nation.
THE WRITINGS OF SOLOMON
Before we leave the subject of Solomon, let’s take note of two other books from the wisdom section of the Bible. Along with Song of Songs, Solomon also wrote Ecclesiastes, and he was the main contributor to Proverbs. After the happy (albeit carnal) mood of Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes is a pessimistic downer. Solomon wrote it later in life after he had milked sex, money, and fame for all they were worth only to realize how empty it all was. It’s in Ecclesiastes that a very depressed and deluded king spins his warped logic about the way the world works. Included among the “wisdom books” of the Bible, Ecclesiastes offers us a lot of bad advice, so we must read with caution. After worshiping demonic idols most of his life, Solomon’s faith has become so weak it can hardly stand up. In his diary of Ecclesiastes, we find him doubting the reality of an afterlife, and toying with the idea that life is just one long, meaningless expenditure of energy. At the end of the book he concludes that revering Yahweh is the only thing that matters, but we can’t help wondering if he’s learned his lesson too late.
The book of Proverbs is better because it is a collection of sayings which Solomon wrote earlier in his life before he turned away from Yahweh. Proverbs has 31 chapters. The first 29 are attributed to Solomon, and you’ll find him warning people over and over again not to stray from a reverential fear of Yahweh. If Solomon had lived by his own proverbs, he would have done much better in life. In the last two chapters of Proverbs, we find the contributions from other speakers. Interestingly, the famous description of the ideal wife which is found in Proverbs 31 was not written by Solomon, but by the mother of one King Lemuel.
So far in this lesson we’ve covered three books in this period, plus the first chapters in our two historical books (1 Kings & 2 Chronicles). We can now include a fourth book: Psalms. Psalms includes the poetry of David, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, other Levites. The Psalms discuss not only the highs and lows of a believer’s life, but they also reflect back on many significant points in Israel’s history. Some of the Psalms were even written from exile (Period 6), but the bulk of them were compiled during Periods 4 & 5. Contrary to what you’re told by Christian leaders today, the psalms are not prophetic, nor do they predict a coming Messiah. They are emotive poetry. We only think that some of them are prophetic because they are so badly misapplied by New Testament writers. When we get into Period 8, we’ll be discussing the misapplication of various psalms in more detail. But for now, let’s take a look at the books and chapters we’ve covered so far in this lesson: A RIVAL KING
Now if Yahweh is going to split Israel into two warring kingdoms so that Solomon’s descendants will only have a small portion of the country left to rule over, who will He get to rule that other kingdom? It turns out Yahweh has already chosen His man—and He even tells him the happy news while Solomon is still on the throne. Of course Solomon is less than thrilled by this and when he learns the identity of his rival, he tries to kill him, just as Saul tried to kill David. In our next lesson, we’ll learn how this works out and find out who this mysterious rival king is going to be.
UP NEXT: Know Your Bible Lesson 12: Civil War in Israel
Click here to see all the lessons in this series.