Study Guide

The Ugly Kings of Judah in 2 Chronicles

The Ugly Kings of Judah

There are 21 rulers of Judah in 2 Chronicles and God's put them all on the throne. In fact, many of them have names that include God's name—"Yah," in Hebrew. All the names that begin with "J" or end in "iah" reflect that, like "Uzziah" ("God is my strength" ) and Abijah ( Yah is my father"). Despite their religiously symbolic names, we're dealing with a pretty mixed bag here. Let's try dividing them up like Clint Eastwood might—into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

These rulers are the worst of the worst. It's a long list.

King Rehoboam

He might be Solomon's son, but he totally mishandles the rebellion in Israel with his heavy-handed rule and causes the 10 tribes to break off and form their own nation. He's unsuccessful in getting them to return to the fold. The Chronicler says, "he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord" (12:14). Slam.

King Jehoram

When this king takes over the throne, he kills his brothers to eliminate any competition. Even though he gets a warning letter from the Prophet Elijah himself, Jehoram ignores God at every turn. Finally, "the Lord struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease" and refused to pay for a colonoscopy (21:18). If that sounds painful, that's because it totally was. His bowels eventually fall out and that's it for him.

King Ahaziah

This king did all kinds of bad stuff under the influence of his idol-worshipping mother. God isn't too amused when he helps out those bad rulers in Israel either, so he "was captured while hiding in Samaria […] and put to death" (22:9).

Queen Athaliah

Our one and only female ruler. She's also the only monarch in Judah who's not descended from David's house. Things do not go well for her. After her son is killed, Athaliah sees a chance to "destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah" (22:10). That means having her grandchildren murdered and taking the crown for herself. Not only is she a worshipper of Baal, she's a terrible person who ruins just about everything. Eventually, her own people rise up against her in a coup and execute her in the streets. We kind of saw that coming even though she didn't.

King Amaziah

God doesn't like it when Amaziah hires soldiers from Israel. (Noticed how we've avoided calling him "The Amazing Amaziah?") Even though he doesn't take them into battle, he turns to the aid of other non-Yahweh deities. When he finds out that "God has determined to destroy [him]" (25:16) he flees Jerusalem, but is hunted down and killed by his own people anyway.

King Ahaz

He worships other gods and pays the price for it when he's defeated in battle after battle. He's the worst of the worst with his idol worship; he even sacrifices his own sons in fire and destroys religious objects in the Temple. He sounds like a real psychopath. When he dies, the people "didn't bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel" (28:27).

King Amon

He isn't sufficiently humble and he also loves idols. Eventually, "his servants conspired against him and killed him in his house" (33:24).

King Jehoahaz

He only reigns for three months before "the king of Egypt deposed him" (36:3). Epic fail.

King Jehoiakim

This guy "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (36:5) and got whisked away to exile in Babylon. We learn in the book of Jeremiah that when Jeremiah tries warning him, he burns all the scrolls of his prophecies, so Jeremiah's scribe has to start over from scratch because Jeremiah neglected to save the files to Dropbox.

King Jehoiachin

Another king who "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (36:9) and earned a one-way ticket to Babylon.

King Zedekiah

The last king of Judah was actually a puppet of Babylon, who, you guessed it, "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (36:11). He probably should have listened to the advice of the Prophet Jeremiah, but he decides to go his own way. Jerusalem is leveled and the people are exiled thanks to his inept efforts.

It's Good to Be the King (Sort Of)

That is one sorry lot. You'll also notice there are 11 of them. That means more than half the kings of Judah since Solomon were disasters. No wonder God has to evict the nation from Jerusalem.

What do these guys have in common? Well, their number one offense is worshipping other gods. For that reason, these guys met with some pretty grisly demises. Either the people killed them or God finished the job with some horrific disease or attack. After death, the people didn't honor many of these rulers, either.

The Chronicler is much more interested in moral lessons than historical facts. All these rulers are both examples and warnings of what can happen when you abandon God's laws. This advice doesn't just apply to kings, even though they have the ability to influence the rest of the people. It goes for everyday folks, too. This was the important message for Chronicler's target audience. They've just returned from exile in Babylon so they need the blueprints for establishing a successful and righteous society that God will approve of. This time they've been given a second chance and need to get it right.