In complying with the request of the writer of this series of papers for an introduction to his truly practical opening up of the major part of the books of Kings and Chronicles, I shall but attempt to go briefly over the histories of the three kings of the undivided monarchy, and that only so far as they are set before us in these particular portions of Scripture. The lives of Saul and David are much more fully dwelt upon in the books of Samuel, but others have written at length upon them as there portrayed, and their writings are still available.
Chronicles opens with the genealogies of the children of Israel, tracing the chosen race right back to Adam. With his name the record begins, and, so far as nature is concerned, every name that follows is but another addition of the first man. “The second man is the Lord from heaven.” For His coming the world was yet waiting. Man according to God had never been seen upon earth all through the centuries covered by the history and the genealogies of these books, and indeed of the entire Old Testament. God was indeed quickening souls from the first. There can be no manner of doubt that Adam himself had thus obtained divine life when he took God at His word; and, receiving the declaration made to the serpent as to the Seed of the woman, as the first preached gospel, he called his wife’s name Eve, “Living”; believing that God had found a way to avert the terrible doom their sin had justly deserved. Faith was in exercise; and where there is faith, there is of necessity eternal life, and thus a new nature. In many of his offspring, therefore, the same blessed truth is manifested; and so, throughout these lists which God has seen fit to preserve, and which will be forever kept on high, we see in one and another the fruit of the new life manifested to the glory of Him who gave it.
There is something intensely solemnizing to the soul in thus being permitted to go over such a record of names long since forgotten by man, but every one of which God has remembered, with every detail of their pathway through this world. Some day
our names likewise will be lost to mankind, but neither we nor our ways will be forgotten by God.
Esau’s race, as well as that of Israel, is kept in mind; a race from which came mighty kings and princes before any king reigned over Israel; for “that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual.” Then, too, some in Israel are only remembered, one might say, because of some fearful sin that was the ruin of themselves, and often of those associated with them; such as Er, and Achan the troubler of Israel (called here Achar); Reuben, who defiled his father’s bed; and the heads of the half tribe of Manasseh, who “went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land.”
On the other hand, it is sweet and edifying to the soul to trace out the brief notices (which, if this were but a human book, would seem so out of place in the midst of long lists of names) of what divine grace had wrought in one and another as they trod their oftentimes lowly ways, with faith in exercise and the conscience active. Of this character is the lovely passage as to Jabez, who was more honorable than his brethren because he set the Lord before him. His prayer, “Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” tells of the longings of his soul; and we do not wonder when we read that “God granted him that which he requested” (1 Chron. 4:9, 10). The sons of Reuben, too, with their allies who overcame the Hagarites when “they cried to God in the battle, and He was entreated of them,
because they put their trust in Him”
are cited as another instance of the power of faith (chap. 5:18-20). Nor does God forget Zelophe-had, the man who had no sons to inherit after him, but who claimed a portion for his daughters, and learned that the strength of the Lord is made perfect in weakness (chap. 7:15).
There are precious lessons too of a typical character that become manifest as we patiently search this portion of the word of the Lord, which, like all other Scripture, was written for our learning. Who can fail to see the lesson of “the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges:there they dwelt with the king for his work”? Surely it has a voice for all who seek to care for the tender plants of the Lord’s garden, as also for those who minister to the hardier ones that constitute the hedges, and who are set for the marking of the boundaries in divine things. It is only as the servants dwell
with the King that they are fit to carry on His work (chap. 4:23). The lesson of chap. 9:26-34 is similar.
Saul’s genealogy is given in chap. 8, beginning with verse 33; but his whole life is passed over in silence, and only his lamentable end recorded in the 10th chapter. He it was of whom God said, “I gave them a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath.” It was a desire to be like the nations that led Israel to ask for a king; and in giving them their request the Lord sent leanness into their souls. Saul was the man of the people’s choice, but he was a dreadful disappointment. His dishonored death is on a par with his unhappy life, which is only hinted at in the closing verses of the chapter, as all the sorrowful details have been left on record in the books bearing Samuel’s name—the prophet who loved him so dearly, but who could not lead him in the ways of God. As another has well described him, he was “the man after the flesh.” This tells the whole story. In all his life he seems never to have truly been brought into the presence of God. His activities were all of the flesh, and his way of looking at things was only according to man, and the garish light of man’s day. Defeated on Mount Gilboa, he is a suicide at last, and after his death becomes the sport of the enemies of the Lord. “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; and inquired not of the Lord:therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse” (chap. 10:13, 14).
Upon the fall of the people’s choice, God’s man appears upon the scene. There is no word here of the early experiences of David, save that the mighty men are those who went down to the rock to him when he was in the cave of Adullam, and others also who came to him when he was at Ziklag, and kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish.
The account here given begins with the coming of all Israel to David unto Hebron to make him king. The seven years’ reign over Judah is not mentioned. Owned of the whole nation as the ruler of God’s appointment, he begins at once the work of enlarging their borders and delivering them from their enemies. Jebus, the fortress of the Jebusites, is taken and converted into the city of David, where he reigns in power, waxing greater and greater; thus manifesting the fact that the Lord of hosts was with him. The mighty men who had shared his rejection are now the sharers of his power, and the glory pertaining thereto. It is a picture of the true David, God’s “Beloved,” who is yet to be manifested in authority over all the earth, when those who now cleave to Him when set at naught will have their part with Him when He takes His great power and reigns.
The ark is brought up to the city of David, but only after the lesson has been learned that God will be sanctified in them that come nigh Him, and that, though Philistine carts may do for those who know not the mind of God, where His word is given it must be inquired of and obeyed. Great are the rejoicings of the people when the symbol of the covenant of the Lord is installed in the place prepared for it, and burnt sacrifices and peace offerings ascend in a cloud of fragrance to God. But when the king would build a house for the God of Israel, though encouraged by the prophet Nathan in his pious purpose, both king and prophet have to learn that the thoughts of God are above the thoughts of the best and most devoted men. Nathan has to inform him that it cannot be for him to build the house, because he has been a man of blood:when, however, his son is established in peace upon the throne, he shall build the house, and all will be in keeping with the times. David thus is seen to picture the establishment of the kingdom in the destruction of the enemies of the Lord, while Solomon sets forth the reign of peace that is to follow for the thousand years. Bowing in obedience to the word of the Lord, David begins to prepare for the work of the temple by gathering in abundance all the materials that he is able to obtain.
But it is made evident that the ideal King has not yet come, for even in the man after God’s own heart is found failure ere he resigns his crown to his son. His personal sin, that left so dreadful a blot upon his character, is here omitted, as befits the character of the book. But his official failure in numbering the people is told in all faithfulness, as also the fact that it was Satan who provoked him to act as he did. But in amazing grace God overrules all to make David’s very sin the means of manifesting the site for the future temple of the Lord. Finally, having set all in order, and arranged even the courses of the priests and Levites who are to officiate in the glorious house of Jehovah, the aged monarch appoints Solomon his son and the son of Bathsheba to be king in his stead; and after solemnly charging him both as to the kingdom and the house that is to be built, “he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor:and Solomon his son reigned in his stead.”
In the opening chapters of 1 Kings we see that his last days were not all bright. His failure to properly control his household brought him much sorrow, and embittered his cup when he was too feeble to exert himself as he would have desired. Adonijah’s effort, however, to secure the crown for himself results in disaster, and eventually in his own death, and Solomon’s, title is indisputably established.
Solomon’s reign begins most auspiciously. Having gone to Gibeon, where the altar still remained with the tabernacle, to offer sacrifice, God appeared to him in the night with the wondrous message, “Ask what I shall give thee.” It was as though He placed all His resources at the disposal of faith. The young king prays for wisdom and knowledge in order that he may care for the flock committed to him. It was a most remarkable prayer for one placed in his position, and the Lord manifests His pleasure in it by conferring upon him exceeding abundantly above all that he asked or thought. His wisdom is celebrated to this day, and in his own times was the admiration of his people and the surrounding nations wherever his fame was carried.
The main part of the chapters devoted to Solomon, in both Kings and Chronicles, is occupied with the ac- count of the temple, every whit of which was to utter the glory of the “Greater than Solomon” who was yet to come. The symbolism of this magnificent structure has been gone into at length by others, and would not properly belong to this introductory notice. At the dedication of the temple, which had gone up so silently, Jehovah came in a manner that none might misunderstand, and took possession of the house as His own. Solomon’s prayer on that occasion is prophetic of the sad history that these books record as to later years. He seems to see all that his people would yet have to pass through.
But light and gift are not sufficient of themselves to keep one in the path with God. For a time all goes well with Solomon. His power is unprecedented. His fame is carried into all lands penetrated by the trader’s caravan or touched by the ship of the voyager. The queen of Sheba comes from the uttermost parts of the earth to prove him with hard questions concerning the name of the Lord, and goes away with every question answered and her heart swelling with the glorious things that she has both seen and heard. The king’s knowledge in all matters seems to be limitless. “And all the earth sought to Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his heart” (1 Kings 10:24). Sad it is that so glorious a record has to be blotted by the tale of failure that the book of Kings records, but which is passed over in Chronicles.
Solomon loved many strange women…and when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart.” Such is the terrible fall of the man who was most privileged of all the rulers that history, sacred or profane, tells us of. He failed to keep his own heart. The Lord lost the place He had once had, and the result was that Solomon sinned grievously after all that he had known and enjoyed of the things of God. Idolatry was established in the very sight of the holy temple of the Lord. God was dishonored by the very man who, of all others, had received the most from Him. What a warning to every subject of His grace! May reader and writer lay it to heart!
As a result of his sins the Lord stirred up adversaries against him, and in the days of his son rent the kingdom from the house of David, with the exception of the two tribes. But of all this the following pages will treat.
We would only add a few remarks to trace the roots of the division that took place at the death of Solomon, rending the kingdom in twain, never to be reunited till that day of Israel’s regeneration yet to come, when “the envy also of Ephraim shall depart,…Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13).
As descendants of Joseph, who (in Jacob’s and Moses’ blessings) was exalted above and “separate from his brethren,” Ephraim seems ever to have aspired to leadership in the nation. Already, in the time of the Judges, that pride had twice broken out in haughty demeanor. After the mighty victory of Gideon’s little band over the Midianites that had invaded and ravaged the land, the men of Ephraim sharply chided Gideon because he had not called
them to the war—envying the fame of such a victory. Gideon’s most gracious answer to their haughty chiding averted a catastrophe (Judg. 8:1-3); but their still more haughty chiding of Jephthah on a later occasion brought upon Ephraim a terrible, though deserved, retribution (chap. 12:1-6).
When the Theocracy (God’s direct rule in Israel) gave place to the kingdom by Israel’s impious request, Saul, taken from “little Benjamin,” is acclaimed by all Israel. Benjamin having been nearly annihilated for their sin some time before, and being Joseph’s full brother, may on that account have been more welcome to Ephraim. But when David, of the tribe of Judah, is manifested as God’s anointed in the place of rejected Saul, and at Saul’s death is made king in Hebron
by Judah, he is not acclaimed, but opposed, by the other tribes, of whom Ephraim was chief, and a seven-years’ war ensues, until the weak pretender of Saul’s house gives way before the rising power of David and Judah, and Israel is reunited in one kingdom under David’s godly and righteous rule. The jealousy and strife that broke out on previous occasions is for the time forgotten and out of sight.
But as David’s sin, and his son’s wicked conduct, brought about upheavals in the kingdom, so, later on, through Solomon’s departure from God and oppression of His people, occasion is found at his death to make demands upon the new king coming to his father’s throne. His insolent and foolish answer brings about the crisis in which the unthankful and heartless cry is heard, “What portion have we in
David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse:to your tents, O Israel! now see to thine own house, David” (1 Kings 12:16). Ephraim, headed by Jeroboam—an Ephraimite—then takes leadership of the ten tribes revolted from the house of David, and a new kingdom is formed, in which
every one in the line of their nineteen kings is an apostate from Jehovah.
I now leave the reader with what my beloved fellow-servant has penned, praying that as he passes on he may have the hearing ear, the anointed eye, and the subject heart that alone makes the truth living and real in the soul.
H. A. Ironside.