Category: Men of the Bible (I thru P)


One of the often thought of “name changes” in the Bible is that of Saul to Paul. The change is commonly linked to Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, when the Lord Jesus commissioned him to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1–19). However, at the time of Saul’s conversion, Jesus still addressed him as “Saul.” Later, Jesus told Ananias to find “Saul” in Damascus and restore his sight. Acts 9 goes on to describe “Saul” as increasing in spiritual strength and understanding of Jesus as the Messiah. So, it was not Jesus who changed his name on the road to Damascus. If it wasn’t Jesus’ doing, how did the change from Saul to Paul happen, and when?

The answer is that Saul’s name was also Paul. The custom of dual names was common in those days. Acts 13:9 describes the apostle as “Saul, who was also called Paul.” From that verse on, Saul is always referred to in Scripture as “Paul.”

Paul was a Jew, born in the Roman city of Tarsus. He was proud of his Jewish heritage, as he describes in Philippians 3:5: “Circumcised on the eight day, of the race of Israel, or the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee.” So zealous and devout was he that persecuting Christians was the natural way for him to show his devotion. He chose to use his Hebrew name, Saul, until sometime after he began to believe in and preach Christ. After that time, as “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), he used his Roman name, Paul. It would make sense for Paul to use his Roman name as he travelled farther and farther into the Gentile world.

It is interesting that Paul began using his Roman name on Cyprus when the Roman proconsul on that island was converted (Acts 13:12). This was during Paul’s first missionary journey and involved a high-ranking, idolatrous Gentile coming to faith in Christ. The fact that the proconsul’s name was Sergius Paulus has led some to think that Saul took the name Paulus/Paul as a reminder of this event, but the apostle’s name being the same as the proconsul’s is most likely a coincidence.

Using his Roman name was fitting for the man who proclaimed that he would become “all things to all people,” a Jew to the Jews in order to win the Jews, weak to the weak in order to win the weak, etc., all for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19–23). Adopting his Roman name would allow Paul to approach the Gentiles to whom he was sent and speak to them in their own language, becoming as one of them and setting them at ease. It is also possible that Paul gave up the use of his Hebrew name, Saul, with its regal connotation and chose to use his Roman name, Paul, meaning “little” or “small,” because he desired to became smaller in order to present Christ as greater (cf. John 3:30).

Unlike the changing of Simon’s name to Peter (Matthew 16:18–19), which Jesus did for a specific purpose, there is no reference in the Bible to Jesus’ changing Saul’s name to Paul.

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Who was Mordecai in the Bible? Mordecai is first introduced in Esther 2:5–7: “Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

These verses note the following facts about Mordecai: 1) he was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, 2) he lived in Susa, the capital of Persia, 3) he had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and 4) he acted as a father to Esther. When Esther was selected as one of the virgins to possibly be the next queen of King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus), Mordecai advised her not to reveal her Jewish background (Esther 2:10). Esther was crowned queen (verse 17).

In Esther 2:21–23, Mordecai, who worked at the palace gate, hears of an assassination plot against the king. Mordecai reports the plot to Esther, and the queen passes the intelligence on to Xerxes. The would-be assassins are stopped, and Mordecai’s name is recorded in the king’s chronicles as the one who took action to preserve the king’s life.

Mordecai was hated by Haman, an Agagite who held a prominent office in the kingdom. Haman’s hatred was due to Mordecai’s refusal to bow in honor to him (Esther 3:5). As a Jew, Mordecai would only bow to the Lord God of Israel. Haman was not content with simply doing away with Mordecai, however: “Having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes” (verse 6). Haman spoke to the king and secured the king’s permission to annihilate the Jewish people on select date in the future. When Mordecai heard of the decree, he tore his clothing, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes (Esther 4:1).

Mordecai had been checking on Esther each day. When she discovered he was mourning, she inquired of the cause. Mordecai informed Esther of Haman’s plot against the Jews, telling her to go before the king and plead for the Jews’ lives (Esther 4:8). At this, Esther balked—she did not have freedom to enter the king’s presence without a summons; to approach the king uninvited was punishable by death (verses 9–10). Mordecai responded with logic: if she did not go before the king, she was dead anyway, for she herself was endangered by the king’s edict (verse 13). Mordecai ends his message to the queen with this famous statement: “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (verse 14).

Esther agreed that she must break the Persian law that forbade access to the king, saying, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). She fasted for three days and then entered the king’s presence uninvited. Xerxes received her graciously, however, and Esther took the opportunity to invite the king and Haman to a banquet (Esther 5:1–4). At the meal, the king asked Esther if she had a request, and Esther asked for their presence at another banquet the next night.

Haman, who was ignorant of the queen’s ethnicity, was pleased to be honored with not one banquet but two. On the way home, he was “happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai” (verse 9). Once he arrived home, he issued an order to build a 75-foot-high gallows upon which to hang Mordecai (Esther 5:14).

That night after Esther’s first meal, King Xerxes couldn’t sleep. As a sleep-aid, he had his chronicles read to him. It just so happened that the account of Mordecai’s thwarting the assassination was read. The king then discovered that nothing had been done to repay Mordecai for his good deed. At that moment, Haman entered the palace in order to obtain the king’s permission to hang Mordecai—he never got the chance to ask, though, because the king ordered Haman to immediately take Mordecai through the streets of Susa to pay him homage (Esther 6:10–11). Haman was thus humbled before his enemy, and Mordecai received due honor.

After his humiliating experience of honoring Mordecai, Haman returned to the palace for Esther’s second banquet. During the meal, the king again asked Esther if she had a request. This time, she pleaded for the king to rescue her and her people from destruction (Esther 6:3–4), and she pointed out Haman as the one wanting to kill her (verse 6).

Haman was summarily put to death on the very gallows he had erected for Mordecai, and the Jews were given permission to defend themselves. The Jews successfully overcame Haman’s evil plot, and Mordecai was rewarded with a promotion. The final verse of Esther notes, “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews” (Esther 10:3).

The story of Mordecai illustrates the truth of Psalm 75:7, “It is God who judges: / He brings one down, he exalts another,” and Psalm 147:6, “The LORD sustains the humble / but casts the wicked to the ground.” Mordecai’s faithfulness and integrity put him in good stead with the king of Persia, and his concern for his Jewish compatriots brought the blessing of God.

The Moabites were a tribe descended from Moab, the son of Lot, born of an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37). From Zoar, the cradle of this tribe, on the southeastern border of the Dead Sea, they gradually spread over the region on the east of Jordan. Shortly before the Exodus, the warlike Amorites crossed the Jordan under Sihon their king and drove the Moabites out of the region between the Arnon River Valley and the Jabbok River, and occupied it, making Heshbon their capital. The Moabites were then confined to the territory to the south of the Arnon Valley (Numbers 21:26–30).

During the Exodus the Israelites did not pass through Moab, but through the “wilderness” to the east, eventually reaching the country to the north of Arnon. The Moabites were alarmed, and their king, Balak, sought aid from the Midianites (Numbers 22:2–4). This was the occasion when the visit of Balaam to Balak took place (Numbers 22:2–6).

In the Plains of Moab, which was in the possession of the Amorites, the children of Israel had their last encampment before they entered the land of Canaan (Numbers 22:1; Joshua 13:32). If we had nothing else to interest us in the land of Moab, it was from the top of Pisgah that Moses, the mightiest of prophets, looked upon the Promised Land; it was here on Nebo that he died his solitary death; it was here in the valley over against Beth-peor where he was buried (Deuteronomy 34:5–6).

A basalt stone, bearing an inscription by King Mesha, was discovered at Dibon by Klein, a German missionary at Jerusalem, in 1868, consisting of thirty-four lines written in Hebrew-Phoenician characters. The stone was set up by Mesha about 900 BC as a record and memorial of his victories. It records Mesha’s wars with Omri, his public buildings, and his wars against Horonaim. This inscription supplements and corroborates the history of King Mesha recorded in 2 Kings 3:4–27. It is the oldest inscription written in alphabetic characters and, in addition to its value in the domain of Hebrew antiquities, is of great linguistic importance.

Perhaps the most significant Bible character to come from Moab was Ruth, who was “of the women of Moab” but was genetically linked to Israel through Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:31). Ruth is an example of how God can change a life and take it in a direction He has foreordained, and we see God working out His perfect plan in Ruth’s life, just as He does with all His children (Romans 8:28). Although she came from a pagan background in Moab, once she met the God of Israel, Ruth became a living testimony to Him by faith. Ruth, the Moabitess, is one of only three women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Naaman in the Bible was the commander of the Syrian army who was healed of his leprosy by Elisha the prophet. Naaman was highly esteemed by the king of Syria (or Aram) because of the many victories won by the Syrian army. The Bible calls Naaman “a valiant soldier.” His story is recorded in 2 Kings 5:1–19.

It so happened that Naaman’s wife had a servant—a little Israelite girl who had been captured during a Syrian raid. One day the little girl told her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). Naaman relayed this information to the king of Syria, who sent Naaman to Samaria with a letter to the king of Israel regarding the matter and a gift of silver, gold, and clothing. In the letter, the Syrian king asked the king of Israel to cure Naaman’s leprosy.

Upon reading the letter, the king of Israel was frightened, believing the king of Syria was trying to pick a fight with him. He tore his clothes (a sign of grieving) and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy?” (2 Kings 5:7). The king of Israel obviously forgot there was a miracle-working prophet in his kingdom—the Syrians knew more about God’s work in Israel than did Israel’s own king.

Elisha heard about the letter, and he calmed the king’s fear, telling him to send Naaman to him (2 Kings 5:8). When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s home, Elisha sent a messenger to tell him to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and that his flesh would be restored to normal after the seventh wash (verse 10). Naaman’s response to Elisha’s word was not good. The Syrian commander was furious: Elisha had not come out to meet him personally; there had been no incantations, no ceremony, no spectacle at all (verse 11). Also, Naaman disliked the idea of bathing in the Jordan, which he considered inferior to the waters of his homeland (verse 12). He could have stayed home and washed in any one of the rivers near him, and it would have done him more good than the Jordan would ever do.

As the proud Naaman was storming off, his servants spoke to him: “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (2 Kings 5:13). Their logic was solid: Naaman had been prepared to do something monumental—something difficult or expensive or dangerous, even. But the prophet had asked for something simple. Shouldn’t Naaman at least give it a try? Bathing in the Jordan was easy. They persuaded their master that he should try the prescribed cure. So Naaman relented and washed seven times. To his amazement, Elisha’s cure worked—“His flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (verse 14). Naaman was cured of his leprosy.

After this, Naaman and his retinue returned to Elisha and offered a gift— ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, ten sets of clothing—Elisha could take whatever he wanted. But the prophet of God would take nothing, despite Naaman’s urging (2 Kings 5:16). Elisha made it clear that God’s healing was free and that miracles were not for sale (see Acts 8:20).

Before he left for home, Naaman gave evidence that his heart had changed, as well as his body. He said to Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). Naaman gave up his pagan idols then and there. He asked that he be allowed to take back two mule-loads of dirt from Israel on which he could offer sacrifices to Israel’s God, promising that he would “never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord” (verse 17).

One thing still bothered Naaman’s conscience. Part of his responsibility as commander of the Syrian army was to accompany the king to the temple of Rimmon, a pagan god of Syria. As the king worshiped, Naaman was to be at his side (2 Kings 5:18). Naaman asked the Lord for forgiveness in advance, since he now knew that Rimmon was a false god (who could not heal leprosy). Elisha assured Naaman that all would be well and that God saw his heart (verse 19). Naaman returned to Syria rejoicing in his newfound faith and in his restored physical health.

There are two kings with the name Joash (or Jehoash) in the Bible: one a king of Judah (reigned 835–796 BC) and the other a king of Israel (reigned 798–782 BC).

The story of King Joash of Judah starts with that of King Jehu of Israel. Anointed king of Israel by Elisha, Jehu was tasked with destroying King Ahab’s descendants and wiping out Baal worship in the land (2 Kings 9). First Kings 21:25–26 gives the reason for the judgment: “There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.” God had told Ahab, through Elijah, “I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free, . . . because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin” (1 Kings 21:21–22). Ahab responded to the prophecy with mourning and in humility, so God relented, saying that He would not bring the disaster in Ahab’s time but during his son’s reign. Jehu was God’s instrument to fulfill the prophecy.

After Jehu was anointed king over Israel, he set out against Joram, a son of Ahab and the current king of Israel. Ahaziah (different from the other son of Ahab who initially succeeded him) was king of Judah at the time and was with Joram. Judah’s Ahaziah, however, “followed the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was related by marriage to Ahab’s family” (2 Kings 8:27). Jehu killed both Ahaziah and Joram; executed Ahab’s wife, Jezebel; killed Ahab’s descendants; and “wiped out Baal from Israel” (2 Kings 10:28, ESV). Unfortunately, Jehu himself did not walk in the ways of God, but, since he had been faithful to God’s call to rid Israel of Baal worship, God promised that four generations of his line would be king of Israel (2 Kings 10:30).

King Joash of Judah first comes on the scene when Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah, whom Jehu had killed, took charge of Judah. Athaliah killed all of the royal family she could find in Judah in order to secure the throne for herself. However, Ahaziah missed one of her grandsons—the infant Joash. The evil queen’s sister rescued young Joash and his nurse, and the child was hidden for six years in the temple while Athaliah reigned in Judah (2 Kings 11:1–3). In the seventh year, the priest Jehoiada revealed Joash to the captains of the guards. The priest made an agreement with them to provide protection to the temple and the rightful king, and Jehoiada brought Joash out into public and anointed him as king (2 Kings 11:4–12). The people of Judah rejoiced over Joash’s appointment. Upon hearing the noise of the ceremony, Queen Athaliah rushed to the temple, crying, “Treason! Treason!” By Jehoiada’s command, Athaliah was captured by the guards, removed from the temple, and put to death (2 Kings 11:13–16). “Jehoiada then made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people that they would be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17). The people tore down the temple of Baal, watchmen were set over the Lord’s temple, and, at the age of seven, Joash took the throne (2 Kings 11:18–21).

Second Kings 12:1–3 says that Joash “reigned in Jerusalem forty years. . . . Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Second Kings 12 goes on to describe various financial dealings of Joash. King Joash’s main achievement was making repairs to the temple (2 Kings 12:4–16). He also used a monetary gift to dissuade King Hazael of Aram (Syria) from attacking Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:17–18).

The tragedy of King Joash of Judah is that, after his mentor and guardian, Jehoiada, died, he began listening to wicked advisors. Joash revived Baal and Asherah worship in Judah (2 Chronicles 24:17–19). God sent prophets to warn Joash, but he did not listen to them. Finally, the prophet Zechariah, son of the priest Jehoiada, brought God’s word to Joash, but the king callously ordered the son of his old friend to be stoned to death (verses 19–22). Joash’s reign did not end peacefully: “His officials conspired against him and assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla” (2 Kings 12:20). Joash’s son Amaziah took over the throne, and Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” but, the Bible notes, he was more like his father Joash than his ancestor David (2 Kings 14:3–4). Interestingly, Amaziah interacted with the other King Joash in the Bible.

King Joash of Israel began his reign in the thirty-seventh year of the reign of King Joash of Judah, so there was some overlap. King Amaziah started ruling Judah in the second year of King Joash of Israel. Amaziah of Judah battled against the Edomites and then challenged Joash of Israel to battle (2 Kings 14:7–8). Joash refused, essentially telling Amaziah he was needlessly stirring up trouble (2 Kings 14:9–10). Amaziah did not heed the warning, and Joash of Israel defeated Judah in battle. Second Chronicles 25:20 says that Judah’s defeat was “because they sought the gods of Edom.”

Second Kings records another of Joash of Israel’s military victories. When Joash’s father, Jehoahaz, was reigning, King Hazael of Aram (the same king that Joash of Judah had kept from attacking Jerusalem) oppressed Israel (2 Kings 13:22). “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence” (2 Kings 13:23). When the prophet Elisha was sick and near to death, King Joash of Israel visited the prophet, apparently disconcerted over the military situation in Israel (2 Kings 13:14). Elisha instructed Joash to shoot arrows out of the open window. The prophet then proclaimed, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram! . . . You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek” (2 Kings 13:17). Elisha next instructed Joash to strike the ground with the arrows. Joash did so but stopped after three strikes. “The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times’” (2 Kings 13:19). When Hazael died and his son, Ben-hadad, took over, Joash did defeat him three times. Israel was able to recover cities that previously had been taken from them (2 Kings 13:24–25).

King Joash of Israel ruled for sixteen years and “did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them” (2 Kings 13:11). After he died, Joash of Israel was succeeded by his son Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:16).

Before his reign as king, Jehu functioned as a commander in the army of Ahab (2 Kings 9:5, 25) in the northern kingdom of Israel. Jehu was the son of Jehoshaphat, although he is more commonly mentioned as son of Nimshi, his grandfather, perhaps because Nimshi was more well-known. Jehu’s name, meaning “Yahweh is he,” portrays well his future, God-given task: to obliterate the house of Ahab along with the worship of Baal that pervaded Israel at the time.

Jehu was a reformer of sorts who was used by God to clean up the mess that Ahab had made. Of King Ahab it is recorded that he “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Marrying Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians, Ahab was seduced into her idolatrous worship of Baal and Ashtoreth. Although God was patient for a time with Ahab, his many sins eventually brought God’s judgment upon his family line (1 Kings 21:20–22). This judgment first lands upon Ahab’s own head, as he is shot and killed in a battle against the Arameans (1 Kings 22:34–38).

God chose Jehu as one of three men who would enact His judgment upon Ahab’s family. God told the prophet Elijah, “Anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu” (1 Kings 19:15–17). One way or another, Ahab’s dynasty would be destroyed.

God also chose Jehu to be the king of Israel. After he was anointed king, Jehu immediately took steps to secure the throne. Knowing that Joram, son of Ahab, had recently gone to Jezreel to recover from wounds in a battle against the Arameans, Jehu ordered his men to seal the city so that no one could alert Joram of Jehu’s anointing (2 Kings 9:1–16). Jehu made haste to Jezreel and killed two of Ahab’s sons—Joram, king of northern Israel, and Ahaziah, king of Judah (2 Kings 9:14–29). Jehu then proceeded to Jezebel’s palace in Jezreel, where the queen stood watching for him at her window. At Jehu’s command, eunuchs surrounding Jezebel threw her down from the window. Jezebel’s blood splattered over the pavement, and, just as had occurred to Ahab, her blood was licked up by the dogs and her body eaten (2 Kings 9:30–37; cf., 1 Kings 21:20–26; 22:37–38).

Jehu left no man standing who was in alliance with King Ahab, as God had commanded long before through Elijah. Entering the temple of Baal, Jehu slaughtered all the priests of Baal and destroyed the temple and its sacred stone, thus eradicating Baal worship in Israel (2 Kings 10:23–28).

The Lord blessed Jehu for his obedience, granting him a dynasty that would last to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). However, because Jehu continued to hold on to the idolatrous worship of King Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:29, 31; 12:26–30), God began to reduce the size of Israel, gradually giving them over to the power of even Hazael of Syria (2 Kings 10:32–33). Jehu reigned over Israel a total of twenty-eight years and was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:35–36).

Through Jehu we can learn that, although it is true that God blesses and grants success to those who seek to obey Him, God also can and will pull away His blessing from one who willfully chooses to live in sin. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” We cannot serve God while continuing to hold on to false gods. As Joshua said, we must “choose for [ourselves] this day whom [we] will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Where does your allegiance lie?

Naboth’s story in the Bible (1 Kings 21) involves the downfall of the wicked king Ahab of Israel and his infamous wife, Jezebel. Because of their mistreatment of Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel were each promised an untimely and violent demise.

Naboth was a Jezreelite. He had a vineyard in close proximity to Ahab’s palace in Jezreel. Ahab wanted to turn Naboth’s vineyard into a vegetable garden, since it was so near the palace (1 Kings 21:2). So the king offered to pay Naboth for his vineyard or give him a better vineyard someplace else. Naboth, however, was unwilling to give up the land he had inherited from his fathers; it was not for sale at any price (verse 3). Ahab was upset and went home “sullen and angry” because he could not have Naboth’s vineyard. The sulking king refused to eat (1 Kings 21:4).

It may seem strange that Naboth would refuse the king’s offer, but Naboth was doing the right thing. God had commanded that a family’s inheritance not be sold: “The land must not be sold permanently” (Leviticus 25:23); and “No inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors” (Numbers 36:7). Naboth was simply following the Law; it was King Ahab who wanted to ignore the Law, and then he pouted when the righteous Naboth would not agree.

In the palace, Queen Jezebel noticed that her husband was unhappy, so she asked him what was wrong. Ahab told her about his encounter with Naboth. Jezebel told him that, since he was the king, he could have anything he wanted. Then she promised to take action herself: “Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (1 Kings 21:7). Jezebel proceeded to make arrangements to have Naboth disposed of. First, she forged letters from the king (verse 8), directing the noblemen and elders of the city to “proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people” (verse 9). Near Naboth were to be placed two “scoundrels” who would falsely accuse Naboth of cursing both God and the king. On these trumped up charges, Naboth was to be taken outside the city and stoned to death (verse 10). The evil plan against Naboth worked. Jezebel had been careful to plant two false witnesses, since a death sentence could not be carried out on the basis of only one witness (Deuteronomy 17:6). So she followed the Law when it suited her; that is, when she could twist it to facilitate her ability to lie, steal, and murder. An especially heinous part of Jezebel’s plan was her proclamation of a day of fasting—using a religious ceremony to cover her murderous intent and ensure Naboth’s presence was depraved in the extreme. When the queen received word that Naboth was dead, she told Ahab that he could now take possession of Naboth’s vineyard, which Ahab was all too happy to do (1 Kings 21:15).

Because of Ahab and Jezebel’s shocking murder of Naboth, God condemned them both. Elijah the prophet came to the king with a message from God. In fact, Elijah met Ahab while the king was touring his ill-gotten vineyard. The prophet said, “Have you not murdered a man and seized his property? . . . This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!” (1 Kings 21:19). Next, Elijah prophesied that the Lord would bring disaster on the house of Ahab, so that every male in Ahab’s household would die and, rather than receive an honorable burial, they would be eaten by wild animals (verse 21 and 24). Then the prophet foretold the queen’s fate: “Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:23).

After hearing this terrible pronouncement, Ahab repented of his actions toward Naboth; he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and humbled himself before God (1 Kings 21:27). Because of Ahab’s response, the Lord chose not to bring the promised disaster on Ahab during his lifetime but during his son’s days instead (verse 28). Ahab was indeed an evil man. In fact, he “sold himself to do evil” (1 Kings 21:25), and he “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). One of the things the Lord hates is “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17), and Ahab and Jezebel were certainly stained with the innocent blood of Naboth. Yet, even in God’s judgment of Ahab, He showed mercy in response to a humbled heart.

The Lord was true to His word. Ahab was killed in battle; his blood was washed out of the chariot in the same place where Naboth had been stoned to death, and the dogs were there, just as Elijah had said (1 Kings 22:34–38). Jezebel was killed, and her body was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30–37). And Ahab’s family were all killed (2 Kings 10:1–17). Thus Naboth was avenged.

  King Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of Judah under the divided monarchy, the son of Asa. We are first introduced to him in 1 Kings 15:24 but are told nothing more than that he succeeded Asa. Later, 1 Kings 22:42 tells us that he was 35 years old when he began his reign and that he reigned 25 years (from 873 to 848 BC). First Kings 22 gives a brief account of his reign with 2 Chronicles 17–22 giving a more comprehensive account.

Spiritually, Jehoshaphat began his reign in a positive way. Second Chronicles 17:3–6 gives this commendation: “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.” In addition, Jehoshaphat sent men throughout the kingdom to teach the people the Law of God (2 Chronicles 17:7–9).

Militarily, Jehoshaphat fortified his defenses, primarily against the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Chronicles 17:1–3). The surrounding nations feared Judah and brought tribute (2 Chronicles 17:10–19).

After making peace with Israel, Jehoshaphat apparently tried to reach out to Ahab, the king of Israel. Ahab was one of the wickedest kings of Israel, and Jehoshaphat could not have been ignorant of his character. First Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 relate the following account: Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to help him attack Syria. Jehoshaphat wisely requests that they consult the LORD on the matter. Ahab gathers 400 of his prophets who encourage the attack. Jehoshaphat recognizes that these are not genuine prophets of the LORD, and the exchange that follows between Jehoshaphat and Ahab is almost comical: “But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?’ The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’”

So, Micaiah is summoned, and the question is posed. Micaiah responds with high irony: “Attack and be victorious, . . . for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” This answer exasperates King Ahab: “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” Micaiah then tells Ahab the hard truth: “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master’” (1 Kings 22:15–18).

In spite of what seems to be an acknowledgement that Micaiah speaks for the LORD, Jehoshaphat joins Ahab in the attack. Ahab is killed, and Jehoshaphat narrowly escapes. When Jehoshaphat returns home, he is reprimanded by a prophet of the Lord for his collaboration with Ahab: “Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God’” (2 Chronicles 19:2–3).

Jehoshaphat continues to make reforms, appointing judges throughout the land to handle disputes and charging them to make righteous judgments and to fear the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:4–11).

In 2 Chronicles 20, an alliance of nations decides to march against Judah. Jehoshaphat seeks the Lord and asks all Judah to fast (verse 3). Through a man named Jahaziel, the Lord tells Jehoshaphat that He will deliver Judah without a fight (verses 14–17). Jehoshaphat goes out to battle with singers leading the way, singing praise to the Lord. The alliance of nations turn against each other and begin to kill each other (verses 22–23). The men of Judah spend three days collecting the spoils of war that were abandoned by their enemies (verse 25).

Although Jehoshaphat started his reign by removing the idolatrous high places, at the end of his reign, there were still high places that had not been taken away (1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 33). Jehoshaphat started well, but his diligence flagged, and the idol-worship returned. First Kings 22:41–50 and 2 Chronicles 20:35–37 record a joint ship-building venture that Jehoshaphat attempted with the wicked king Ahaziah of Israel. Jehoshaphat, who had already been chastised for an alliance with Ahab, is once again confronted by a prophet with a warning. The fleet of ships got caught in a storm and sank, and Jehoshaphat’s investment with Ahaziah was futile.

Jehoshaphat is still considered a good and godly king, but his reign ended rather badly. He kept trying to build an alliance with Israel, even though the kings of Israel were obviously wicked. Jehoshaphat worshipped the Lord and led his people in seeking the Lord, but the hearts of the people were never fully changed. They reverted to pagan practices. King Jehoshaphat was unable to pass his faith on to his son Jehoram who reigned after him. Jehoram started by killing all of his brothers, and he then made an alliance with Israel by marrying the daughter of Ahab (2 Chronicles 21:4–6).

  Rehoboam and Jeroboam were both kings reigning in Israel’s divided kingdom. Rehoboam was one of Solomon’s sons and king of Judah in the south (1 Kings 11:43). Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s former officials, an Ephraimite, and king of Israel in the north (1 Kings 11:26).

While Solomon was still alive and Jeroboam was working for him, a prophet named Ahijah told Jeroboam that God would take ten of the twelve tribes of Israel away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam and give them to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29–31). This judgment against Solomon’s house came because they had forsaken God and worshiped idols (verse 33). Along with the announcement that Jeroboam would be king, God gave him a conditional promise: “If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you” (verse 38). When Solomon heard that God had chosen Jeroboam to rule, the king tried to kill Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt (verse 40).

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king, and Jeroboam returned from Egypt (1 Kings 12:1–2). But Rehoboam was a vain and foolish man. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valor,” warned Rehoboam not to make the same mistake his father had made by taxing them heavily to finance a luxurious lifestyle (verses 3–4). Rehoboam defied the advice to lighten the yoke of oppression: “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions!” (1 Kings 12:14).

The people responded to Rehoboam’s harshness by rebelling against the new king and making Jeroboam king over Israel (1 Kings 12:16–20). Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin followed Rehoboam, son of Solomon. The other ten tribes sided with Jeroboam. King Rehoboam gathered 180,000 warriors in an attempt to take back the ten tribes, but God prevented it, saying, “This is my doing” (1 Kings 12:24). So King Rehoboam returned to the capital of Jerusalem. Jeroboam reigned from Samaria.

Once established in the northern kingdom, King Jeroboam feared that, if the people traveled to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, they would return to Rehoboam. So he set up centers of worship in Bethel and Dan, building golden calves and telling the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam made shrines on the high places, installed priests who were not of the tribe of Levi, appointed a festival, and sacrificed at the altars (1 Kings 12:31–33). In spite of God’s offer to establish his dynasty in Israel, Jeroboam chose idolatry, and the prophet Ahijah told Jeroboam that his family would not endure (1 Kings 14).

As Jeroboam was turning people away from God in the northern kingdom, Rehoboam was turning people away from God in the southern kingdom. Rehoboam reigned in Jerusalem for seventeen years, but “he did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). After Rehoboam there were good kings and bad kings over Judah. Every other generation or so, a great king stepped forward and turned the people back to the true God. That never happened among the kings of the northern kingdom. They all followed the mold of Jeroboam. Jeroboam reigned over the ten tribes of Israel for twenty-two years and was succeeded by his son Nadab. But then Nadab was murdered after two years on the throne, and the assassin killed all of Jeroboam’s family, fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy (1 Kings 15:25–30). All subsequent monarchs of the kingdom of Israel followed Jeroboam’s lead. Not one of them was faithful to Israel’s God.

The schism that occurred during the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam was the end of a united Israel. This division continued during their reigns: “There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam” (2 Chronicles 12:15) and for centuries afterward.

  Jehoiakim (named Eliakim at birth, 2 Chronicles 36:4) was one of the last kings of Judah before the Babylonian Captivity. Jehoiakim was a son of good King Josiah (Jeremiah 26:1) of Judah. His mother’s name was Zebidah (2 Kings 23:36). Jehoiakim’s father, King Josiah, had returned Judah to the Lord by tearing down idol shrines and restoring obedience to God’s Law (2 Kings 23:19–25). After Josiah’s death, his son Jehoahaz was chosen king by the people. But, as often happened in those days, Jehoahaz did not follow in the footsteps of his father but “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 23:32). Jehoahaz only reigned three months before he was taken into captivity by the king of Egypt, who replaced Jehoahaz with his brother Eliakim (2 Kings 23:26; 2 Chronicles 36:5). The Egyptian king renamed the 25-year-old Eliakim “Jehoiakim.”

Jehoiakim also did evil in the Lord’s sight (2 Kings 23:37). Because of the ongoing, unrepentant sin of the nation of Judah, God sent invading armies to capture and enslave them. Jehoiakim was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, who put him in chains and carted him off to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:6;). It was at this time that Daniel and his three friends were also taken to Babylon (Daniel 1:1–2). Jehoiakim was later returned to Jerusalem, although he had to act as Nebuchadnezzar’s servant for three years and pay tribute to him.

During the time King Jehoiakim reigned as a vassal of Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah preached in Jerusalem. God’s message was that the Babylonian invasion was God’s punishment for Judah’s sin and that the Hebrews should repent. Jehoiakim called for Jeremiah’s scroll to be read in his court. But, as every three or four columns of the scroll were read, “the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes” (Jeremiah 36:23–24). Rather than heed God’s warning, Jehoiakim hardened his heart and tried to destroy God’s Word (see Jeremiah 25:1–4). Earlier, Jehoiakim had murdered the godly prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20–23).

Jehoiakim reigned eleven years (2 Kings 23:36; 2 Chronicles 36:5). Jeremiah rewrote the scroll that Jehoiakim had burned, and God pronounced judgment on the king: “Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night” (Jeremiah 32:30). “He will be buried like a dead donkey—dragged out of Jerusalem and dumped outside the gates!” (Jeremiah 22:19, NLT). This prophecy was fulfilled when, in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim’s reign, he stopped paying tribute to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar responded by besieging Jerusalem. According to Josephus, Jehoiakim was killed during the siege, and his body was thrown over the city wall.

After Jehoiakim’s ignoble death, his son Jehoiachin succeeded him as the new king in Judah. Jehoiachin reigned only three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9) before he, too, was taken to Babylon while the foreign king appointed his successor (2 Chronicles 36:10). This appointment of kings by the people or by invading armies was a far cry from the holy anointing of God’s chosen ones by His prophets in days gone by. The removal of God from Judah’s political process was another indication of just how far the Jewish people had fallen away from their God.

From King Jehoiakim’s life, we can learn that godly parentage does not necessarily guarantee godly children. Many times in Israel’s and Judah’s history, the Bible records that the children of good kings and prophets “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:1–2; 1 Samuel 8:3) and did not follow the paths of their fathers. God holds each individual responsible for his or her obedience to His direction (Deuteronomy 24:16). King Jehoiakim’s willful rejection of God’s Word and his subsequent fate are a perfect illustration of the folly of disobedience. “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).