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Politics and religion;- The apostasy of kingdom Judah

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posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 05:01 PM
We don’t know much about the internal politics of the kingdom of Judah.
For David’s reign, there’s a wealth of circumstantial detail which I’ve used in the past.
Otherwise we must wait until the later kingdom for chances to read between the lines.
Then we can see some of the effects of religious tensions upon political life.

Or course the king will be at the centre of politics.
But the histories also speak of the “princes” of the land.
The king’s secretaries and the men working in the same office are called “princes” in Jeremiah ch36. It is probably a term covering all those who have wealth and power or influence. Not necessarily hereditary, except to the degree that wealth and power can be inherited.
“Politics”, for the princes, would normally be about competing for the king’s attention, as in any royal court.
But no man can govern a society entirely single-handed. The king could not rule without the support of his princes, any more than a mediaeval European king could rule without the support of the landed aristocracy.

The other chief power must be the Temple in Jerusalem.
The high priest and his priesthood are concerned to defend their status not only against the other gods of the land and the religious system of the northern kingdom, but also against the more local shrines where the Lord is worshipped.
Meanwhile, an unknown proportion of the population, including some of the princes, are attached to the worship of other gods, which has to be taken into consideration as a political factor.
There would be scope for shifting alliances in the triangular relationship between kings, priests, and idolaters.
So we find information in Chronicles that we don’t find in Kings, partly because the Chronicler has an interest in tracking this political problem.

The overthrow of Athaliah was achieved by the power of the Temple.
For the rest of his life (at least twenty-three years) the priest Jehoiada was the most powerful man in the kingdom.
He had educated and crowned and now guided the child-king.
We can understand his power by two telling details.
He is the first man to be called “High Priest” in the histories (2 Kings ch12 v10).
Evidently this elevation in the status of the former “priests of the Ark” or “priests of the Temple” was one of the side-effects of the Athaliah crisis.
And when he finally died, “the princes of Judah came and did obeisance to the king”, showing that they had not done so as long as Jehoiada was alive (2 Chronicles ch24 v17).

According to Chronicles, the effect of the king “hearkening” to the princes was a revival of idolatry (combined, perhaps, with a reaction against priestly authority).
Zechariah son of Jehoiada, moved by the Spirit of God, rebuked the people for forsaking the Lord. But they stoned him to death, on the king’s command, in the courtyard of the Temple.
At the end of the same year, an army of Syrians came to Jerusalem and inflicted a heavy defeat, leaving the king badly wounded. Then two of his servants conspired against him “because of the blood of Zechariah” and killed him on his bed. Evidently they felt no inhibitions about killing the Lord’s anointed, perhaps because they were both sons of foreign women. (2 Chronicles ch24 vv20-26).

Amaziah succeeded to the throne and executed the two assassins.
His own downfall came when he upset the people of Jerusalem in some way. They conspired against him and he fled to Lachish, but they pursued him there and killed him (2 Chronicles ch25 v27).
He may have backed the wrong side in the friction between the Temple and the idolaters.

In his place they enthroned his son Azariah or Uzziah.
Uzziah clashed with the priesthood, a story covered in a previous thread.
His son Jotham avoided that mistake.

Then we come to Ahaz.
When Pekah the son of Remaliah invaded the kingdom of Judah in conjunction with the king of Syria, their intention was to place “the son of Tabeel” on the throne (Isaiah ch7 v6). Perhaps this man was one of their own people, but he may
have had some history among the princes of Judah which would have made him a plausible candidate.
Ahaz escaped this crisis by calling in the Assyrians.
At a later stage, the example of his new allies inspired him to assert himself in matters of worship.
Kings describes events which would have provoked hostility from the priesthood.
The account in Chronicles (in consequence) makes the story much worse.
According to the version found in Kings, he was in Damascus for a meeting with Tiglath-Pilezer.
He liked the altar he found there enough to send a model of it back to Jerusalem, with instructions that a copy of it should be erected outside the house of the Lord.
When he got back, he began offering his own sacrifices there. He also took charge of an existing bronze altar, moved it close to his own, and began using it to “make inquiries”.
Presumably this means divination through sacrifice, an operation not condoned in the religion of the Lord.
He removed the bronze “sea” from the bronze oxen which had been supporting it, and transferred it to a stone pediment.
And he removed “the covered way for the Sabbath”, and the kings’ private entrance to the house of the Lord (2 Kings ch16 vv10-16).
However, he left the “great altar” alone, allowing the priests to continue offering all the traditional sacrifices.
In Chronicles, though, “He sacrificed at his own private altars” has been aggravated into “He was sacrificing to the gods of Damascus, and made high places to sacrifice to other gods in every corner of Jerusalem and every city of Judah”.
While his structural tinkering has become “He gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut them in pieces, and he shut up the doors of the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles ch29 vv22-25).

Hezekiah chose to revert to the old alliance of kings and priesthood, and move against the idolaters. He removed the shrines of other gods, their “high places” and their pillars and Asherah, and even the serpent of bronze. For this last was an image, strictly speaking, like the others, although it had been assimilated into the cult and given a place in the story of Moses.

But Manasseh and his son Amon reversed this policy. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, and did not walk in his way.
Manasseh rebuilt the high places, the shrines for Baal, the Asherah. He worshipped “all the host of heaven” and built altars for them even in the house of the Lord.
He dealt with mediums, practised augury, and burned his own son as an offering.

We need to be aware that Manasseh was not doing these things single-handed.
He was evidently conforming to the religious preferences of a large portion of the population, which otherwise has no voice in the surviving histories.
That is why Manasseh’s reign persuaded the Lord to allow the kingdom to fall.

“Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these things… and has made Judah also to sin with his idols… Behold I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears it will tingle… And I will cast off the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hands of their enemies” (2 Kings ch21 vv10-15).

This was the outcome of the kingdom’s neglect of their God. As a people, the kingdom had been moving away from him, and he would have to consider making new arrangements.

posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 05:03 PM
There was no space in the OP to comment on the 2 Chronicles version of the reforms of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles chs29-31), which has substantial additions to the Kings account.
There is a great cleansing of the Temple.
There is a re-organisation of the tithing system and a restructuring of the priesthood and Levites.
There is a renewal of the celebration of the Passover, “nothing like it since the time of Solomon”.
This pre-empts the great Passover of Josiah’s time, described in both Kings and Chronicles as “no such Passover since the time of the judges” or “since Samuel”.

I have a suspicion that all these Chronicles reforms are an idealised version of plans to restore forms of worship after the return from exile in Babylon. They would have been projected back into the time of Hezekiah in order to establish suitable precedents.
Indeed the letters of invitation to the northern tribes and the sometimes hostile reactions (“they laughed the couriers to scorn and mocked them”) may well reflect the same conditions that we find described in Nehemiah.

Nor will I spend time on the alleged repentance of Manasseh (ch33), which certainly had no effect on the conduct of his son. I wonder if this story was designed to encourage the repentance of Manasseh the tribe?

posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 05:05 PM
The original thread title was "... from Athaliah to Manasseh".
The associated joke was that the sequel would be "... from Manasseh to Appommatox" (but I'm not sure how many people would have picked up the allusion).

posted on Oct, 14 2016 @ 07:20 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I got it.

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