Northern Decline Accelerates
“The LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (14:26–27).- 2 Kings 14:23–29; 15:8–31
Should we ever doubt the Lord’s patience, we should look to the history of the northern kingdom of Israel. Idolatry was prevalent in the north from its founding under King Jeroboam I in about 931 BC (1 Kings 12:25–33). It intensified when King Ahab introduced state-sponsored Baal worship (16:29–34). Later, things improved only to the extent that Israel returned to the Jeroboam I-style worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, via golden calves during the reign of Jehu (2 Kings 10:28–31). By the time of Jeroboam II, whose reign commenced around 793 BC in a co-regency with his father King Jehoash (Joash) of Israel, nearly 150 years of idolatry had passed, and God had not banished Israel from its land.
Not only did the Lord preserve Israel in the promised land, but He also gave them periods of prosperity. We see this in the reign of Jeroboam II. Although he practiced idolatry, he enjoyed the longest reign in the history of northern Israel—forty-one years (2 Kings 14:23–24). Jeroboam II also recaptured territory that had been lost to Syria, extending Israel’s northern border to Lebo-hamath, restoring territory not held securely since the days of Solomon (v. 25; see 1 Kings 8:65). This happened according to the word of the Lord through Jonah the son of Amittai, the same prophet whom the Lord sent to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire (Jonah 1–4). God blessed Israel out of compassion for them due to their suffering at the hands of Syria and other enemies. He had determined not to utterly destroy Israel, even though the people deserved it (2 Kings 14:26–27).
During the reign of Jeroboam II, God sent the prophets Amos and Hosea to Israel to call for repentance. These prophets confirm Israel’s idolatry in that era (Hos. 1:2–3; 2:1–13), and they also tell us that the land enjoyed financial prosperity. But these riches were used for evil. Many wealthy Israelites oppressed the poor, doing such things as keeping their garments as collateral for loans and buying and selling justice (Amos 2:6–8; 4:1–3). These sins of idolatry and mistreatment of the poor are condemned in the law of God and would lead to exile if carried on impenitently (Ex. 22:25–27; Deut. 12:29–31; 16:18–20; 28:15–68). So, the prophetic warnings that exile was on the way for Israel grew more urgent (Hos. 8; Amos 4:2; 9:1–10).
Spiritual decline marked Jeroboam II’s Israel despite the nation’s material prosperity. This decline and consequent political upheaval only increased in the years that followed (2 Kings 15:8–31).
Matthew Henry points to the Lord’s blessing on Israel despite the nation’s wickedness as reason for us to turn to the Lord: “Let those whose case is pitiable take comfort from the divine pity; … [the Lord] is full of compassion.” We dare not take advantage of the Lord’s pity as Israel did, but His willingness to show it reveals that He is eager to bless us when we turn to Him. There is no sin that He will not forgive if we turn to Christ for pardon.
Passages for Further Study