In the books of 1-2 Kings, the author provides alternating accounts of the leadership and political developments in Israel and Judah. On the heels of division between Jeroboam and Rehoboam, one wonders if the kingdom could be reunited under their descendants. Sadly, the sins of the fathers would dominate the lives of their sons. At times, a light would emerge—as was the case with Solomon’s great-grandson Asa. Asa’s lengthy reign fortified Judah for more than 100 years after Israel was exiled by Assyria (2 Kgs 17:6-23; 24:10-20).
Jeroboam outlasted Rehoboam to the extent that two other kings, Abijam and his son Asa, reigned in Judah during Jeroboam’s lifetime (1 Kgs 15:1-24). Abijam was king just three years, enough time for him to walk “in the sins his father had done before him” (1 Kgs 15:3). However, the author noted, “Because of David, the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem to raise up his son after him and to establish Jerusalem because David did what was right in the LORD’s eyes” (1 Kgs 15:4-5a).
Thus, the Lord was gracious to Judah, and the nation enjoyed the reign of Asa for 41 years (1 Kgs 15:9-31). Asa “did what was right in the LORD’s eyes, as his ancestor David had done” (1 Kgs 15:11). Although the high places remained, “Asa’s heart was completely with the LORD his entire life” (1 Kgs 15:14). Asa’s success included the ability to protect Judah from the aggression of Baasha, king of Israel (1 Kgs 15:16-24)—quite an accomplishment considering Baasha overthrew his successor Nadab and destroyed the house of Jeroboam (1 Kgs 15:29). The author saw Jeroboam’s decline as a teachable moment. Baasha’s success against Jeroboam “was because of Jeroboam’s sins he had committed and had caused Israel to commit in the provocation he had provoked the LORD God of Israel with” (1 Kgs 15:30). The Lord’s dealings with Jeroboam illustrate Solomon’s instructions in Prov 11:21, “Be assured that the wicked will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will escape.”
Baasha was morally identical to Jeroboam, doing evil in the sight of the Lord (1 Kgs 15:34). The Lord likewise dealt with Baasha severely (1 Kgs 16:1-7). Besides Nadab and Baasha, four other kings reigned in Israel during Asa’s long reign in Judah. With increasing levels of unfaithfulness, Elah (1 Kgs 16:8-14), Zimri (1 Kgs 16:15-22), Omri (1 Kgs 16:23-28), and Ahab (1 Kgs 16:29-34) turned from the Lord to worship idols.
The sin of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, was so notorious that Jesus commented on it when addressing the church in Thyatira in Rev 2:20-22. Jesus rebuked the church in Thyatira because they tolerated the kinds of sin that characterized Jezebel.
After Jezebel conspired to murder Naboth so that her husband King Ahab could own Naboth’s vineyard, the author commented, “There was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the LORD’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him” (1 Kgs 21:25). When Jesus evaluated the church of Thyatira, He thus saw among them a timid spirit that allowed congregants to compromise orthodoxy in order to accommodate pagan culture. In the flow of the storyline of Scripture, Jezebel’s idolatry incited the Lord’s jealousy and the Thyatirans’ idolatry incited the jealousy of the risen Christ. The Thyatirans’ devotion to Christ had waned—a sin no less severe than that of Jezebel.