The Good, the Bad, and the Complacent

Every society includes the good, the bad, and the complacent. Isaiah shows us what to be, and how. 

A small, fractious, religiously dominated country was paying tribute to a rich empire with an advanced military. In a fit of hubris, the oppressed people stopped sending their wagonloads of gold, hoping that a neighboring nation would come to their aid. The empire mobilized its forces and defeated the weak intervening armies of the neighboring nation. It then turned its greedy eyes and vengeful hands on the rebels.

This is a common story, recurring in every age and on every continent. In this case, the rebellious country was Judah, the empire was Assyria, and the intervening nation was Egypt. In 722 BC, the Assyrian king Sargon II invaded Israel, the northern kingdom of the Hebrew people, conquered it, and carried its inhabitants away. He continued south, forcing the remaining Hebrew kingdom, Judah, under King Ahaz, to pay heavy tribute. Ahaz died in 715 BC and his son, Hezekiah, reigned in his stead. In 703 BC, Hezekiah stopped the tribute payments, hoping that Egypt would guarantee Judah’s safety. The new Assyrian king, Sennacherib, invaded Judah, defeated a small Egyptian force, and began reducing the fortress cities of Judah.

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Timeline of Events in the Iron Age

What happened in the Iron Age? Which empires rose and fell? How do these events interact with Bible events? Look here for answers. 

This morning in Sunday School I was describing the background of the feast of Belshazzar in Daniel 5. In order to fully understand what this story, and what all Bible stories mean, we must understand the social, political, and cultural context. However it was hard for many in my class to remember and properly order each event so that they could grasp the full meaning of the passage. As a result, I promised to write and post a timeline of people and events that pertain to the eight centuries before Christ.

Keep in mind that these dates, specifically the dates of the reigns of kings, are approximate. Ancient chroniclers reckoned events by when they occurred in a sovereign’s reign (cf. Isaiah 6:1).

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Hezekiah – an Example of Crisis Leadership

Hezekiah had the same foibles and failings as the rest of us, and that is why his example is worth studying. 

After the golden age of Israel, during the reigns of David and his son Solomon, Israel split apart.  The tribes of Judah and Benjamin kept Rehoboam, grandson of David as their king, but the northern ten tribes chose Jeroboam, an Ephraimite.  The subsequent history of Israel is a sad tale of uniformly evil rulers, people unfaithful to the Lord, and near extermination by the Assyrians two hundred years later (721 BC).  The history of Judah is little better, with a few good kings, including Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah and Jotham interspersed with many evil ones.  Judah lasted 135 years longer than Israel but became progressively more wicked and was finally overwhelmed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

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