Joshua, Judges, and the Kings of Israel
April 21, 2011 Length: 47:18
Fr. Thomas shows us the patterns of obedience and disobedience in the Old Testament rulers and how that relates to worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
We have been reflecting on the Old Testament preparations and prefigurations of worship in spirit and truth that come to the world in Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. So far we have meditated about how human beings were created for worship, how the apostasy of humanity against God is a failure of worship, a failure of being doxological and eucharistic, giving glory and gratitude. We reflected on the sacrificial worship of Cain and Abel and that whole story in Genesis, and then we spoke about Noah and worship in Noah’s time. Then we spoke about Abraham and the worship of God after the calling of the quintessential believer, the patriarch of all patriarchs, Abraham, the father of all the faithful. Then we spoke about Moses and worship of God in the Passover exodus, as the great quintessential prefiguration of the death and resurrection of Christ and the worship of God through the broken body and spilled blood of Christ as the Lamb of God and the bread of life and the word of life in the New Testament by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
Now what we’d like to do today is to follow on in the Old Testament, according to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, to see what we can learn, what we should learn and know, when we finally are going to get to make the commentary, line by line, on the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, what we should have in mind from the time of Joshua and the judges and then the time of the kings of Israel. And, of course, the kings, at the time of the kings, we find that in the holy Scriptures, if we’re using the titles in the Hebrew Bible, it would be the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, and the two books of Chronicles. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, called the Septuagint, you don’t have Samuel; you have four books of Kings: 1 and 2 Kings, in the Hebrew is 1 and 2 Samuel, and then 1 and 2 Kings in the Hebrew becomes 3 and 4 Kings in the Septuagint.
In any case, we have Joshua, we have the judges, we have four books that have to do with the kings (Samuel and Kings), and then of course we have Chronicles, which kind of retells the stories of the kings of Israel and then Judah and Israel in the divided kingdom. Then it brings us down in the Scripture to the time of the prophets, and we will discuss, of course, finally, the vision of worship that we find in the prophets: what the prophets are telling us about the worship of God and what we really must know about it.
Here we could say, right from the very beginning, if you take all these Scriptures, all of the Scriptures of the post-Mosaic time, beginning with Joshua and then the Judges and then Samuel and then the Kings and then the Prophets, you have two main issues that have to do with worship. If you summarize it as simply as you possibly could summarize it, we would say, number one, you have the perennial problem of worshiping idols, worshiping gods that we have made, worshiping gods that are the product of man’s imagination, man’s creation, man’s creativity, and not the one, true, living God. So you have this whole issue of idolatry: setting up altars to the Ba’alim and the Ashtoreth and the gods of Canaan and then the gods that one’s own hands have made.
Then the other issue, dominating issue, has to do with the worship of God, the worship of the true God that you find in these writings at these times, but two problems there: one is sometime you have the worship of the true God together with idols; they’re all mixed together. Yahweh, the God of Moses, the Most High God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the patriarchs, is worshiped together with the other gods, the local gods, the idols. So that’s a huge thing. And then you have the alleged worship of God, but a worship that just becomes legalistic, ritualistic; it’s disconnected from the works of justice and mercy and care for the poor and the needy, and the prophets will tell us that God rejects that kind of worship. It may be the right worship in form, but it’s not the right worship in spirit. It’s not worship in spirit and truth.
So you have the regulations [which] are all kept, and the people honor the true God with their mouth and they offer their animals to the true God, but their hearts, their behavior, is very far from God. We will see that this will be an issue also in the Christian Church, where we can offer liturgies and do everything according to the rule, the typikon and so on, but it’s not acceptable to God.
And then you could have this other problem also, that the worship is according to the rules, so to speak—in the Old Testament, according to the Law and the laws of Moses—but it’s done in a slip-shod manner, it’s done perfunctorily, it’s done where the priests just get what they want from it and they make money and they offer defiled animals and unclean beasts. In other words, you have the priests—wicked priests, unbelieving priests, corrupted priests—offering corrupted, perverted, and defiled sacrifices to God.
So you have all these issues in the old covenant. Now, in the midst of all of that, however, you do have worship, prefigurative worship, in spirit and truth as far as was possible before the coming of Jesus Christ. So there were those who offered sacrifices to the living God and offered them properly, decently, in the right spirit, for the right way. But, as we will see, this was very rare! It is extremely rare. Most of the writings have to do with apostasy and idolatry and profligacy and corruption and perversion and all kinds of horrible things that the people of God—Israel, Judah, and so on—were actually doing.
Let’s take a look a little bit today, very briefly and very superficially, as usual. Here on Ancient Faith Radio we are usually quite superficial. We don’t go into great depth and detail in all these things. Right now, as a matter of fact, what we’re trying to do is to get a kind of general vision of things so that once we get to the new covenant, once we get to the worship in spirit and truth that God wants from us, that Jesus Christ brings to the world, about which he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, the worship that the holy apostles were offering and is offered by the saints of the Christian Church through the centuries, once we get to that, we have to see what this preparation really was and how we got to that point, and then what is expected of Christians and what is expected of us, today in the 21st century, when we celebrate the Divine Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.
As I have mentioned on every podcast having to do with worship in spirit and truth, we will do that in some great detail once we begin that particular process. But we have today’s reflection and one more to go as preparation, and then we’ll start moving closer to reflecting on what we are doing today in the Divine Liturgies in our Church. Let’s take a look at Joshua.
Joshua, of course, means Jesus. That’s what his name is: that he is the successor of Moses. And it says very simply in Joshua, right in the middle, eleventh chapter. It said: Joshua left nothing undone of what the Lord had commanded Moses. So the claim here is that Joshua is faithful to what he had received and that the Lord God, according to the Book of Joshua, was with Joshua and Caleb exactly the same way that he was with Moses. So Joshua is this great replacement of Moses, and that’s a kind of symbolic thing for us also, because it shows that Jesus—Iēsous: that’s Joshua’s name in Greek—is the successor of Moses and that he carries on. And, of course, Moses does not cross the Jordan River. Moses dies; he’s buried in Goshen. No one who came out of Egypt crosses the Jordan, only those born in the desert. And the leader of the crossing of the Jordan is Joshua.
Right in the beginning of the Book of Joshua, it says very clearly how Joshua crossed the River Jordan, how the priests were carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of the Covenant that had the tables of the Law in, and how they went through the Jordan River, and it’s very similar to the crossing of the Red Sea, that the waters part and the strong and courageous Joshua who does everything carefully according to all the Law which Moses commanded—he did not turn to the right or turn to the left, and he took the book of the Law and it never departed from his mouth and he meditated on it day and night, and he was not frightened, he was not dismayed, and, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, he crosses the Jordan River into the promised land. He’s helped there by Rahab the [harlot], by the way, and the scarlet cord that she uses to signal them. The Fathers say that this was a kind of symbol of the blood of Christ that would lead Jesus—by his blood we would enter into the kingdom of heaven, the same way that Joshua crossed the Jordan and entered the land of the promise with the Ark of the Covenant going and working wonders and the Lord saying, “I will be with you. I will exalt you, that you may know and that all the people may know that as I was with Moses, so I will be with you as well.”
Then when they go through the Jordan, the water stands still. The Ark of the Covenant goes through; the Jordan stopped its flow. We’ll see that this will be connected with the baptism of Jesus in that same Jordan River. Elijah and Elisha will also separate the waters of the Jordan River. Elisha will cure Naaman the Syrian in the waters of the Jordan River. So the Jordan River also has that symbolic, theological function in the holy Scripture.
Then when Joshua goes through, they put the twelve stones on the bed of the river, and when the people, the children ask, “What do these stones mean?” the answer is: You shall tell your children, “Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground, and the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you, and you passed over as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty and that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” So those twelve stones are put in there not only for the twelve tribes of Israel, the children of Jacob, but also for the twelve apostles of the Lord; that’s a prefiguration.
Then you have the Levitical priests. You have the circumcisions of the people there in the fifth chapter. The manna from heaven is no longer given; they have to now eat from the land in Canaan. So you have this fulfillment of the Passover exodus as they go into the land flowing with the milk and honey, entering into that place. Then, of course, Joshua has an encounter with the angel who tells him not to be afraid, that God is with him, that the place where they stand is holy. It’s the same as [God] said to Moses in the burning bush there, before he brought the people out of Egypt.
So now you have the Ark of the Covenant. You have the priesthood. You have Joshua there in the land that God had promised. And everything seems to go well until, of course, it already starts… It already starts that there were, from among the people of Israel who were brought out, those who began already to worship the false gods. So you have the story in Joshua about how the Reubenites, and with the Reubenites were also those with him: the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, because there was Manasseh, the half-tribe with Ephraim—they built an altar by the Jordan, an altar of very great size—this is in the end of Joshua—but they are not walking in the commandments that Moses, the servant of the Lord, received. They did not keep them. And it says they built this altar to the local gods, not to the God who had saved them. And then it says when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel—the qahal Israel, the church of Israel—gathered at Shiloh—and that’s where the Ark is going to be kept—to make war against these people who apostatized.
Then it says that the people of Israel sent to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead, Phineas, the son of Eleazar the priest, and with him ten chiefs from the tribes of the people, and they went there and they [the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh] were chastised. “What is this treachery you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away this day from following the Lord, building yourself an altar this day in rebellion against the Lord?” So there was a rebellion. “As rebels, building yourself an altar other than the altar to the Lord God.” And then they are slain; they are defeated. And then it is said that the Mighty One—God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord, he knows—and let Israel itself know that if there was a rebellion or a breach in the faith for the Lord that it would not last, that God would act against it.
So you have Joshua and those with him keeping the worship that was according to the Mosaic law, and not ceasing [worshiping God] to worship any other god. This is what is written there in Joshua:
And we thought: If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say: Behold, the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us. Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord by building an altar for burnt offerings, cereal offering, or sacrifice other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before this temple.
So you have this action of God, Phineas, and making this the son of Eleazar, to go against these apostates who worship the false god. And then the word is given: When you worship the other gods, things will go badly for you. The Lord will bring upon you all the evil things until you have [been] destroyed from off the good land which the Lord God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God which he commanded you and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you will perish quickly from off the land which God has given to you.
And then the Book of Joshua ends, where it says that Joshua himself remains faithful. They serve no other gods. They fear the Lord, and they served him in sincerity and truthfulness. They put away all the other gods. And then you have those words of Joshua that you can often find on plaques in Christian bookstores nowadays. If you go in Christian bookstores you can buy a little plaque or a little kind of something to hang on your wall that will say: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”—Joshua 24:15. “As for me and my house,” says Joshua and the people, “we will serve the Lord and only the Lord. We also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” And then Joshua says to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins if you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods; then he will turn and do you harm and consume you after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “Nay, but we will serve the Lord.” And they have the altar of the witness claiming that they will serve the Lord.
So that’s Joshua. Then you come into the time of… And I should have mentioned, by the way, that this beginning… You already have those rebellions and so on going, but then when it comes to Judges, which follows next in the scriptural books—the readings, as they’re called among the Jews… You have among the Jews the Tanakh, which means the Torah (the five books), then you have the readings, and then you have the Nevi’im, the prophets. So these are the books of the readings, the kind of historical chronicle-type books.
Joshua is followed by the time of the judges, and this is probably the low point and the lowest of the low that you get in the holy Scriptures. In the Book of Joshua, you have such faithful people like Gideon, who destroys all the altars to all of the idols, and Gideon is against those who play the harlot with the Ba’alim and the Ashtoreth; and then you have Jephthah who was faithful, Samson—primitive guys, but still somehow faithful to God.
But generally speaking, the Book of Judges is nothing but a story of massive apostasy, one after the other. I mean, just read it: you’re not into the second chapter of Judges yet, where you have the idolatry and the evil. The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord: they served the Ba’als. The Ba’als are the local Canaanite fertility gods. They went after other gods from among the gods of the people who were round about them. They bowed down to them; the provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord; they served the Ba’alim and the Ashtoreth. The Ashtoreth were also fertility gods, feminine-type gods, by the way.
The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. He gave them over to plunderers who plundered them. He sold them into the power of their enemies round about. They could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had warned and as the Lord had sworn to them, and they were in sore, dire straits.
The Lord raises up judges. There’s faithful ones; I mentioned already Gideon. There’s Deborah, who remained faithful to God. And [they] are fighting against these Canaanites. However, the story—we won’t get into all of this; it’s a gory book, a bloody book, the Book of Judges—but we just want to say that, again with little exception, the story of Judges is a story of pretty massive apostasy, just massive apostasy on the part of the people, that all of the leaders were going after the false gods, that it was just a tragedy.
The tenth chapter, for example: the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and again they served the Ba’als and the Ashtoreth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, the gods of the Philistines. They forsook the Lord; they did not serve him. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites. And they crushed and oppressed the children of Israel that year, and 18 years they oppressed all the people of Israel—“Because they have forsaken me,” says the Lord God, “and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more.”
So that’s basically what we have in Judges. We don’t have to go into it in much more detail than that, because that’s basically what we find there in the Book of the Judges. Now, however, we want to get into the Book of Samuel, which is 1 Kings in the Septuagint, where we see what happened in the time of the kings. It begins where there are judges in the land, but then we know in Samuel, the seventh and eighth chapters, the people want a king; they want to be like everybody else. God says, “No, no, no: I’m your king. You don’t need a human king. I, the Lord, Yahweh, am your king,” but they want to be like everybody else and then God relents, according to whatever he can do, dealing with these people. Then, of course, the kingship itself is used as a prefiguration of the ultimate kingship of Jesus Christ, who is the Lord and King over all creation, God’s own Son who was crucified and glorified.
When we begin with the Book of Samuel, we begin with Hannah’s prayer in secret. There’s Eli the priest. They offer the yearly sacrifices; they’re worshiping God. Hannah prays in her old age; God gives her a son, she names the son Samuel, and they are basically faithful to God. She calls the boy’s name Samuel because, she said, “I have asked him of the Lord,” and that’s what “Samuel” means. So they offer the sacrifice; they keep the Law. Hannah sings the canticle that becomes the prefiguration of the Magnificat of Mary. The worship of God is kept intact. The Lord God is there, and Samuel grows up both in stature and favor with the Lord and with men, just like it’s spoken about John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus himself in the New Testament, in the New Testament chronicles, the Book of Luke, the Gospel according to St. Luke.
Then there are also [in] these times the two sons of the priest Eli, Hophni and Phineas, and they are also beginning to rebel already. There’s troubles coming up already among the people, but Samuel, with Eli, remains faithful. The Lord is there, and Samuel is established as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord appears in Shiloh, and he is still worshiped there. That’s where the Ark of the Covenant is still kept, in Shiloh. Then they build for the Ark of the Covenant the tabernacle, enthroned on the side with the cherubim and the mercy-seat. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were there with the Ark of the Covenant of God.
This Ark of the Covenant remains with the people, and it is there kept at Shiloh, and then, of course, there’s fighting again with the Philistines, and they have to do battle, and the Philistines capture the ark, and they capture the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, with them, and they slay them. Now the Philistines, the enemy, are holding the Ark of the Covenant, and Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli, are dead. So here we go again. Then there again is the god of the Philistines, Dagon, and then there’s a contest between Dagon and the true God, Yahweh. Then, of course, in the Ark of the Covenant, the people get fearful, because the false god, Dagon, keeps falling down and bowing over in the Ark of the Covenant, and the people are stricken in terror; they don’t know what to do.
Finally, the Israelites get back the Ark of the Covenant and the Lord, with the tables in it, and they continue to make sacrifices on [the] Lord’s day and to offer and to worship God in the proper way according to the Mosaic law. So it says that when the Lord delivered them from the hands of the Philistines and they recovered the ark of the Lord, it says Israel put away the Ba’als and the Ashtoreth, and they served the Lord only. So there still is this problem, back and forth, with these local gods.
Then as the Book of Samuel continues, which as I said, in Greek is the first Book of Kings, you have the teaching there about the glory of God departing from Israel, the foreign gods being served. Ichabod says that the glory of God departed from Israel when all of this was being done.
Then finally you have Samuel anointing Saul as the first king of Israel. God relents and lets them have their king, and then Saul builds altars to the Lord, and he offers the gifts to them, the proper offerings to them, but at the same time, you already begin having difficulties again, because Saul himself becomes wicked. He’s fighting with David. Jonathan his son is with David. It becomes very bad. Then you do have, though, in Saul, at the time of Saul, that he builds an altar to the Lord, and it was the first altar that Saul himself builds. So Saul does build an altar to the Lord, and then the sacrifices are going to be offered.
However, here we have again the problem, a very great problem, because Samuel says to Saul: “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over his people. Now therefore hearken to the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will punish what Amalek did to Israel on the way when they came up out of Egypt. So you now go and smite Amalek, and you have to do this and perform the commandments and be the anointed king.” However, Samuel also says to Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and in sacrifice as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, it’s better to obey than sacrifice. It is better to hearken, and the hearkening to God is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Here you have that point that we already mentioned in the intro today. It’s not enough to offer sacrifices to the Lord. It’s not enough to set an altar just to the Lord. What the Lord wants in addition to burnt offerings and sacrifices is the obeying of his voice and hearkening to his word. He does not want… He says stubbornness in keeping the Law is the same as iniquity and idolatry. If you have rejected the word of the Lord, you have done bad worship even if formally your sacrifices are somehow still acceptable and somehow offered to God. We saw this already when we spoke about Cain and Abel and so on. You have to do well in order for the sacrifice to be accepted. The sacrifice in and of itself is not a guarantee. It does not assuage the wrath of God or win his aid when the life itself is sinful and iniquitous and not according to the commandments of God. This is the point that the prophets will be stressing again and again and again.
Now, poor old Saul, the spirit of the Lord is taken from him; an evil spirit overcomes him. Then David sings for him, and the evil spirit goes out again. It’s incredible drama. But then what finally happens, of course, is that David becomes the king in the place of Saul. David then emerges as the king, and he becomes the quintessential prefigurative king of Jesus himself. Jesus will be the son of David, as it will say in the psalms, “One of the sons of your body I will set upon the throne, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” So David, Bethlehem, and then the building of the temple in Jerusalem, [which] David begins, and then it’s completed by his son Solomon. This is what you also have in the Book of Kings, which is very, very important when we are considering the whole issue of worship in the Old Covenant.
What is said here in the writings of Samuel, you have it in the second book of Samuel where it’s very specifically said that the Lord needs and the Ark of the Lord needs a house. It can’t just be carried around and stolen and kept in Shiloh; there has to be the Ark of the Lord in front of which David dances in a kind of an ecstasy in the second book of Samuel (which is the second book of Kings in the Greek Bible). You have the Ark of the Lord there, and they’re leaping and dancing and singing before God, making merry. But then the teaching is said: Nathan the prophet comes, and he speaks to David, and he says, “Would you build me a house to dwell in? the Lord says. I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. A tabernacle. In all places where I have moved with the people of Israel did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
“ ‘Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following sheep, that you should be the prince over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went. I have cut off all your enemies from before you. I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth, and I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, and they will dwell in their own place, and they will be disturbed no more. And violent man shall afflict them no more as they formerly did, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies.’ ”
“Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up from your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your own body; I will establish his kingdom.” Christians see that as referring to Jesus. And then he says, “And he”—and then Solomon first—“and he shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father and he shall be my son.’ ” So what is written there is that there will now be a permanent house, a temple, to be built where the worship will take place.
It’s very interesting, by the way, that there is a theory that says that this house will be built at a very particular place. It will be built at a place where there was this threshing floor, and some people think that that is where, in fact, Solomon did build the temple.
So you have in Samuel this promise that there will be this building of this temple, the house made of wood that will be there. Now, of course, a lot of things happen there in that book that we cannot mention now: David and Bathsheba and the murders and Achitophel’s advice and Absalom’s murder and all these kinds of things are going, but when it comes to worship, it does really seem that David still was always faithful to God. He did not worship the idols. He did not go after the false gods. In spite of all his sins, his adulteries, his murder or whatever, he did not do it.
Then, of course, it says in the first book of Kings, which is the third in the Septuagint, that Solomon then, the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon. Now, Solomon, David’s son, born of Bathsheba, the second son—the one of the adultery died and then they had Solomon—he began very well, but he ended very badly. This poor Solomon. He began very well: he was known for his wisdom; his name was given to the wisdom literature: the Psalms, the Prophets, David, Solomon, the Proverbs, David, the Psalms, and so on. Probably, of course, we know they didn’t write all of them, and some are even attributed to others, but you have these two figures, these two great figures, David and Solomon. David, although he had concubines and everything else, he still never rejected God, but as we will see, Solomon will reject God.
But before he does that, he builds this temple, and he builds it according to the instructions of the Lord. It’s very detailed in the Book of Kings. Solomon built the house, and he finished it, and it tells everything that he did: the inner sanctuary, where the Ark of the Covenant was, the altar of cedar, the mercy-seat, the cherubim put over the seat. It tells how big they have to be, and how the cherubs’ wings touch each other and how everything is in there just exactly the way it should be. Of course, we cannot read it here, but all of this prefigures the coming of Christ and prefigures, according to the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, the temple not made by hands in the heavens in which the Lord Jesus Christ will take his people, and the temple on the earth will ultimately be destroyed forever.
So you have this in the sixth, seventh, eighth chapter: Hiram and the others that are hired to build this marvelous temple with all the details in it and all the vessels. Then in the eighth chapter you have this long prayer of Solomon, when he dedicates the temple. Solomon says, “The Lord has set the sun in the heavens, but he has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built thee an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” He says, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, and with his hand has fulfilled his promise, with his mouth to David my father,” and then he continues telling about how there was no place for God to dwell and he was carried around and he went in this tent and in this tabernacle and then finally Solomon stands before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and he spreads forth his hands to heaven, and he says, “Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in heaven or above the earth or beneath it, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love”—hesed, that mercy of God—“to the servants who walk before thee with all their hearts. Now it’s kept with thy servant David.”
So then you have this house being built and the name being there and the festivals being there and the law of Moses being kept there, and it just this marvelous story in the middle of the first book of Kings. But then it goes south, as they say. It turns bad again. Samson is keeping everything, doing the annual offerings, the burning of the incense, keeping the sabbath, doing all that should be done, but then he also apostatizes. He also apostatizes. So then finally you get to the eleventh chapter in 1 Kings where it says:
King Solomon loved many foreign women, and he went after the daughter of Pharaoh and the Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn you away, your heart from after their own gods,” and Solomon clung to these women in love. He had 700 wives, princesses; 300 concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. [Women!]
And when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father, for Solomon went after the Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not follow wholly the Lord as David his father had done. Then he built high places for Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites, and Molech, the abomination of the Ammonites. He did all [for] his foreign wives, burned incense and sacrificed to their gods, and the Lord was very angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from him.
So you have this apostasy. And then to go very quickly: After Solomon you have Rehoboam, you have Jeroboam, you have the splitting of the kingdom between Judah and Israel, and then what do you have? What do you have? You have practically nothing at all but apostasy and rebellion all the way to the end of the kingship as told in the Book of Kings and in the Chronicles of Israel.
There are very few kings who did what was right in the eyes of God. One of the first ones was Assa—A-s-a, Asa. He definitely did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He did what was true in God’s eyes, it says about this Asa or Assa. He put away all the male prostitutes. He removed all the idols that his father had made. He tore down all the shrines in the high places, and he was totally faithful to the Lord. But then it continues again, even though Asa is true to God, as it says, the heart of Asa was true to the Lord all the days of his life, and he brought into the house of the Lord the votive gifts of his father, his own gifts of silver, gold, and vessels, and tore down all of the images and broke away all the homes of the prostitutes of the temple cults and so on.
Then you have Elijah and Elisha appearing in these books, in these writings. Poor Elijah says he’s the only one left who hasn’t worshiped the idols. The Lord tells him, “Listen, cool it, Elijah. There are 7,000 who have not bowed their knee or kissed the feet of the Ba’alim,” but still it’s very bad. With Elisha also, the successor of Elijah, who gets a double portion of the Holy Spirit, it’s also very bad. You have that king after Asa, Jehoshaphat, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Jehoshaphat was, again, a righteous king.
Ahab was one of the most horrible kings. Ahab did practically nothing right, and did every awful thing that could possibly be done, and he, Ahab, and Ahaz, and all these people were even burning their own children. They were offering their own children. Manasseh, he served for 55 years, was a total idolater and burned his sons. Another one of the holy kings was Hezekiah. So you have Asa, you have Jehoshaphat, you have Hezekiah, and then there will be also Josiah. But these four are practically the only ones who were really worshiping God in the proper way; all of the rest of them were terrible.
Then we know, also, in the Book of Kings and in the Chronicles, that some of these terrible kings not only were sheer idolaters, but some of them mixed the worship of the Canaanite gods with the God of Israel as well. They would do both, so their heart was not single; they were not pure. They did not do it. Now, Hezekiah and Josiah, they really did it well. Again, they did exactly what Asa and Jehoshaphat did. They knocked down the idol temples, the did apart the shrines, they removed all of the false gods from among them, but again—and Isaiah the prophet was there with Hezekiah, and he kept him alive 15 more years so that he could serve the God and do God’s will—but we can see here very much about this apostasy that was reigning again and again and again.
This Manasseh, for example, 55 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hepzibah. He rebuilt all the high places that Hezekiah destroyed. He erected altars to Ba’al and to Ashtoreth, as Ahab the king did. He built altars in the house of the Lord. They built altars to the idols inside the temple that Solomon had built, in the very city of Jerusalem. He built altars for all the hosts of heavens, all these demon-angelic gods. He burned his own son as an offering; he practiced sooth-saying and augury. He dealt with mediums and wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to great anger. He had the graven image of the Ashtoreth that he had made, and he set it right in the house of the Lord, the house that God said he would live in forever.
Now, the Book of Kings and Chronicles ends with Josiah, who began to reign when he was eight years old; he reigned for 31 years. His mother’s name was Jedidah, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He walked in all of the ways of David his father; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. And, the important thing about this Josiah is: he found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. Many of the scholars think that this book of the Law is our present Deuteronomy. It was crafted to be a part of the Torah that was considered as the law of Moses, and he had this book read.
And he wanted to make sure that it really was the Mosaic book, so what he did was Hilkiah, the priest who had found the book and gave it to Josiah, they went to a woman prophet, a prophetess whose name was Huldah, and this Huldah looked at the book and said that this is indeed the very law of Moses. She says, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me: Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon its inhabitants all the words of the book, which the king of Judah has read, because they have forsaken me, burned incense to other gods, and provoked me to anger.” So she affirmed that this book indeed was the law of God that the people had been sinning against. Then Josiah, he again brings back the worship of the true God.
The descriptions there at the end of the second book of Kings is how he had done. He went against all of the Moloch-worshipers, the Ashtoreth, the Ba’alim. He removed the altar in Bethel, the high places that Jeroboam had built. He cleansed the whole land of these high places and the places where they were worshiping the local idols, and he took down all the abominations that Solomon himself had built for the Ashteroth of the Sidonians and Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. So Josiah cleans up the land; he cleans up the land, and he is the greatest of these kings. He put away all the mediums and the wizards and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations and then led people back to the truth faith.
But then what happens again is that after he dies the people apostatize again. They did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that their fathers had done. Joachim, 25 years, he did the same thing. Just terrible. And then finally what happens to end this particular part and this particular podcast: in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, finally, the temple itself is destroyed and the people are taken into the Babylonian captivity. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, comes into Jerusalem. He besieges it. Jehoaichin of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, and he takes all of the peoples prisoners and carries them all off into exile.
Then the people are in exile at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and it says that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the most wicked king who ever lived, that he burns the house of the Lord, and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burns to the ground. As Jeremiah himself predicted, and the prophets, God razes his own city of Jerusalem because of the idolatry and apostasy of his people, and they carry away all the gold and all the appointments of the temple into exile, and then you have the 70 years of the Babylonian exile.
So this is how it looks in the time of Joshua, the judges, the kings, and the Chronicles. It’s a sorry, sad picture, but it prefigures what we have to come to see and to know in the New Covenant. Now, what will happen in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah: the temple will be rebuilt, so the temple will be there when Christ is there and Jesus, but then it will get destroyed in the year 70, never to be rebuilt again. Then we will see in the prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all of the other 12 prophets: Hosea and Amos, Malachi and Micah, Jonah and [Joel], Zephaniah, Zechariah, Haggai, Nahum, Obadiah, Habakkuk—how the prophets again must rail against the people for their apostasy, their idolatry, their moral corruption, and their defilement of the proper worship of God. We will see that next time.
"I have really enjoyed AFR. The podcasts are very helpful and I listen to them all the time. I like the variety and have learned a tremendous amount about Orthodoxy from listening to them. Thanks!"