Nehemiah 10-13: Remember me – the Ancient Reformers

Chapter 10

The covenant briefly described in chapter 9 was sealed by the people listed in this chapter (cf v.20-27, and chapter 3) in v.1-28.  More importantly, these people are described as those “who have knowledge and understanding” – a refrain of what was stated in Nehemiah 8:12.  But for such clear understanding, they would not be able to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD (v.29) and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law.

Note how the law is seen as a curse (c.f. 1 Kings 19:2, Jeremiah 34:18) and an oath, a conveyance of the people’s serious intention to simultaneously to be faithful to the LORD but also understand that such law works to only reveal our sins and is a curse unto us, holding us captive (Romans 7; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 3:23-24).  As Paul states, righteousness is not by the law, for the law did not give life as long as we did not look on Christ (Galatians 3:21).  So the Israelite mentality is not simply that of justifying their walks with God by their own righteousness, but recognising what the purpose of the law is – to point us to Christ the fulfiller. 

Of the law, the following are described, indicating the foci of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day:

  • v.30 – Problems of inter-faith marriage – bringing us back to the precepts of Ezra (Ezra 9-10);
  • v.31 – Crops of seventh year (Leviticus 25:2-7)
  • v.32 – Third part of shekel is a new law (c.f. Exodus 30:11-16).  Service of the house of God.
  • v.33 – Offerings /showbread – Leviticus 24:5-9
  • v.34 – Wood offering (no specific law on this tax, but implied) – Leviticus 6:12-13
  • v.35 – Agricultural offerings re: temple personnel supply (Exodus 23:19, 34:26, Num 18:12-13, Deut 26:1-11).
  • v.36 – Firstborn of sons (Exodus 13:13, 34:20) (redeemed), herds / flocks (Num 18:15-18) and Deut 15:19-23
  • v.37 – First of our dough (Num 15:20-21, Deut 18:4)
  • v.38-39 – Tithes (Num 18:21-24), laity participates in a celebration of the tithe at the sanctuary in Deut 14:22-27, and for Levites as well (Num 18:25-32)

Notably, most of the commandments are in relation to spiritual adultery through inter-marriage, the lack of offerings and the relinquishing of the Levitical practices.  These laws are also noticeably free-will related, indicating that the heaviness of the law has weighed on the hearts of the Israelites to the point where worship and praise has long been forgotten.  It should be a delight then that their rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem shall be coupled not with a re-statement of the entirety of the law, but with acts of worship and praise out of the pure joy that the LORD has been faithful to the Israelites unceasingly.  His cords of love could never be broken even by the Israelites’ and our constant rebellion.

Chapter 11

Just as a tenth was given to Melchizedek the King of Peace (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2-4; c.f. Numbers 28-29), so a tenth of the people were given to the City of Peace.  The opening verses of this chapter touch on the Temple servants who were part of the classes of Levites (Ezra 2:40-43) descendants of Solomon’s servants (Ezra 2:55-58), blessing this free-will offering of the people who lives apart from their towns to be in this city (v.2 – “willingly offered“).

The immediate description of Judah, Benjamin and the Levites which followed (v.4-19) harkens us back to the fact that these were the only three tribes of the Southern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 12:21-23, the Levites having no specific land as inheritance) – now composing the majority of the restored community of the entire nation.  As noted in v.20 – the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his “inheritance” (the ancestral property – Ezra 2:59-63). However, the temple servants lived symbolically on Ophel (v.21), which is the source of water at the Gihon Spring near the Water Gate (Nehemiah 3:26, Ezra 2:43-54).

The places in particular mentioned in v.25-35 are a repeat of the same places of inheritance mentioned in Joshua 15:20-63 and Ezra 2:26-33.  The Levites are now therefore seen more officially as the third tribe in this restored community (v.36), originally to have settlementsthroughoutthe land (Joshua 21).

The fact that the majority of Israel now consists of these Southern tribes and the priesthood is almost a sifting of the wheat from the chaff; a refinement of the spiritual from the nominal (Romans 9-11), that the Root of Jesse and Son of Judah shall be the Incarnate One.  Even the consolidation of the priesthood as an official tribe, and the giving of a 10th of all people to live in Jerusalem sees a type of reformation which is becoming more and more like the Church which the Lord had always envisioned – a Church which is not merely a division of land and spoils, but where the Elect are to live in Jerusalem.  Where the priesthood is at the forefront of this reformation.  Where the entire nation has the law written on their hearts and guarded by the walls of Jerusalem.

Levites effectively a third tribe in the restored community (v.36), originally having settlements throughout the land (Joshua 21).

Chapter 12

This chapter again reinforces the focus on the priesthood and the Levites, relating to the high priesthood from the time of Zerubbabel to Nehemiah.  Zerubbabel was the first leader and Jeshua the high priest who returned with him (which was a century before Nehemiah – see Ezra 2:2a). It would appear in the following verses (v.8-26) that Ezra and Nehemiah lived in the days of Joiakim, the son of Jeshua (c.f. v.13).  The days of Eliashib, Joiakim’s son, until Johanan (Eliashib’s son) was also described at v.22-23.  It is described at v.24 that the divisions were commanded by David (at 2 Chronicles 8:14), for praise and to give thanks – emphasising again the free-will nature at the heart of these Levitical traditions.  This is brought to the fore in v.27-30 by the cymbals, harps and lyres used in thankgivings and with singing by the Levites when the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated with gladness (Ezra 3:10-13).  Thus, the gates themselves were purified, a new start to Jerusalem (v.30; c.f. Exodus 19:10-15).

This free-will worship is emphasised even more in the remainder of this chapter, by way of two choirs (v.31-37, v.38-43 respectively) and the men appointed over the storerooms, contributions, firstfruits, and tithes (v.44-47).  The southern choir is led by Ezra (v.36) to the Dung Gate in the furthest south before moving north through the Fountain Gate to the Water Gate in the east (v.37).

The northern choir is joined by Nehemiah whilst it is led by Jezrahiah (a Levite) to the Gate of Guard (v.39) passing by all the gates from Gate of Ephraim onwards to the Sheep Gate (v.39).  The choirs, jointly offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy (v.43) – the women and children also rejoiced – such is the beauty of the unified Church of no divisions (Galatians 3:28), led by the priesthood to sing such songs of glory!

This glorious worship shapes the ministry of those appointed over the material wealth of the nation apportioning such wealth to the priests and the Levites (v.44-47).  “They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon” (v.45) – though the treasure that we seek is to see the LORD face to face in such free-will rejoicing, we are also given treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20) which such apportionment symbolises.

Chapter 13

In spite of such awesome worship, Israel is still Israel – just as the Church is still filled with sinners to the boot.  It is notable that this book of ancient Reformation should end not on a sweet note of victory, but on a note that until the first coming of the Christ, and until the renewal of New Creation at His second coming, such changes are but external and the sin in us festering in our adamic flesh.  Note the following:

  • the removal of those of foreign descent (v.1-3) which is the first act of cleansing presumably on the basis that the Ammonites / Moabites’ spiritual history could lead the Israelites astray;
  • the corruption of Eliashib in favouring his relative Tobiah and setting for him a large chamber in the house of the LORD where the material wealth for the Levites and the Temple had been kept (v.4-9), desecrating the holiness of the Temple
  • the failure of the proper apportionment of wealth to the Levites (v.10-14), replacing the officials with reliable men who distributed to their brothers (v.13)
  • the profanity of the Sabbath by working and doing business with the Tyrians and lodging all kinds of wares outside Jerusalem around the Sabbath date (v.15-22; c.f. Jeremiah 17:19-27; Amos 8:4-6
  • the intermarriage of Jews to women of Ashdod, Ammon and Moab and the failure to speak in the language of Judah, immediately breaching what Nehemiah had done at Nehemiah 10:30 (c.f. Ezra 9-10; Deuteronomy 7:1-5), quoting the widespread knowledge of the sins of Solomon (v.23-29; c.f. 1 Kings 11), desecrating the spiritual purity of the priesthood

Thus Nehemiah cleansed Israel from everything foreign, and he established the duties of the priests and the Levites, each in his work (v.30) – as a summary of his entire work in this book.  The wood offering thus acts as a fitting bookend to this book (c.f. Nehemiah 10:34, Leviticus 6:12-13) – a reminder that it is the wood-offering which points us to Christ the One who was offered on the Tree, the wood.  All of Nehemiah’s reforms mean nothing if Christ is removed from the picture.

Yet – at the end of all this – Nehemiah pleads a prayer that the LORD remember Him for good (a repeated refrain throughout this book – 1:8, 5:19, 6:14, 13:14, 13:22, 13:30; c.f. Psalm 7, 17).  As Nehemiah and Ezra were both the reformers and typological mediators of Christ, their faithfulness are but shadows of the faithfulness of Christ.  It is Christ’s faithfulness which is remembered by the Father and truly eternal in the sense that Nehemiah and Ezra sought to achieve in the ancient Reformation.  May the Christ reform our hearts so thoroughly and guard us with His Spirit!

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Nehemiah 10-13: Remember me – the Ancient Reformers

2 Chronicles 28-30: Renewing the Kingdom

Chapter 28

The civil unrest in Israel is summed up in the words of prophet Oded – “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven.  And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves.  Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God?  Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” (v.9-11; and see v.19).  Ahaz the son of Jotham walked “in the ways of the kings of Israel” (v.2) – yet, the LORD used Israel to enact judgment on Judah (v.5-8).  It is therefore clear that the covenant made with the house of David, leading Judah, means that the Davidic lineage is held to a higher responsibility for upholding the promise of the Messiah – especially in the actions of the king.  It does not matter in the same way that Israel is making metal images for the Baals; making offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burning one’s sons as an offering; for it is the house of David which should define the whole of Israel.  If the king of Israel falls, the king of Judah should uphold the Christ-like example.  This is why the level of civil unrest in this chapter outweighs all that had gone before it.

In response to Oded’s proclamation, Azariah (whom Jehovah helps), Berechiah (blessed by Jehovah), Jehizkiah (Jehovah strengthens) and Amasa (burden) complied with the words of the prophet (v.12-15), and grace was bestowed on the people of Israel, that they were brought to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees.  What shame, that the house of David forgot the Wisdom by Whom Solomon walked (Proverbs 8), He who upholds the true king of Israel; instead, the chiefs of Ephraim reminded Judah of this fundamental truth.  Neither the king of Israel, nor the king of Judah, are the focus of this chapter – but the followers of Christ, the chiefs and the prophet and those who remember the grace of God. Even Ahaz’s petition to the king of Assyria for help has turned into an opportunity for Tiglath-pileser to exploit Judah’s predicament – all within the LORD’s allowance (v.19), to humble Judah, even so far as to remind Ahaz that he is but a shadow of the Elected King Jesus, and that the house of the LORD (v.21) is also but a shadow of the LORD’s heavenly dwelling, its portion bearing no significance if even the kings of Judah / Israel have forsaken its significance.

Yet, the LORD’s methods of humbling Ahaz have not been received with a circumcised heart, and Ahaz’s idolatry deepens as he sacrifices to the gods of the neighbouring nations – a king who does not even deserve to be buried in the tombs of the kings of Israel (v.27).

Chapter 29

Yet, Hezekiah turned the tide back to Christ (v.2), following Christ the way his forefather David did.  While Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the temple, shutting the doors of the temple and making himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem (chapter 28:22-24) – in blasphemy to the temple’s true purpose, Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them (v.3).  He also re-initiated the Levitical order (v.4-11), re-confirming the role of the king of Judah in keeping this covenant with the LORD, whose steadfast love endures forever.  The very fact that he prioritizes the reparation of the temple and the utter importance of the priests are both indicators that Hezekiah understands fully what Israel, as a nation, is in God’s eye – and their purpose as priesthood to other nations (Exodus 19:6), a role sorely forgotten time and time again.  What the priests have done in v.12-19 are a renewal of what Ahaz the Christless king has done; just as Christ will renew our bodies, the temples of the LORD (1 Corinthians 6:19) through the renewal and resurrection of his own (John 2:21).  The raping of Judah by its own and by the various nations (Edomites, Philistines, Assyrians, etc) is but a shadow of the crucifixion of Christ, before His glorious resurrection and renewal of His body in Hezekiah’s reformation.  The sons of the anointed Kohathites, Merarites, Gershonites and the sons of Elizaphan (whom God protects), and of the sons of Asaph (collector), all special clans of the Levites (c.f. their roles in Numbers).  These chosen Levites therefore cleaned the temple, and taking all uncleanness to the brook Kidron (v.16), the symbolic place of David’s flight (2 Samuel 15:23) and also the place of testing as Christ walked to the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1) – it is here that Christ was truly tested and made his decision to walk in accordance with the Father’s will, where our uncleanness was forever removed.

The beauty continues, as the temple restoration could not be complete without making a sevenfold sin offering for the kingdom, sanctuary and for Judah (v.21); the blood of the bulls, rams, lambs thrown against the altar (v.22) with the goats being the sin offering (in the manner of Leviticus 16:21 – the Day of Atonement).  With sacrifice, comes worship – our first response to Christ’s work on the cross, not being one of working to gain his trust or to gain his love, but a response of His service towards us, His love for us.  Worship (v.25-30) – to sing praises with gladness, the whole assembly worshipping (v.28) until the burnt offering was finished – the entire act edified as the kingdom truly rejoiced despite Ahaz’s idolatry in chapter 28.  This worship in conjunction with the national burnt offering, the effective Day of Atonement, was immediately followed by thank offerings (v.31-36), so much that like the day of Solomon, overflowed beyond all expectations (c.f. 2 Chronicles 7:7).

Chapter 30

Despite Manasseh’s attempt to unite Israel (v.1-9, 12) under the Passover, taking people back to the basics, back to the day when Israel could be called a large nomadic tribe (c.f. Exodus) no longer under the yoke of the Egyptians but now bondservants of the LORD, the invitation to unite was met with scorn (v.10).  However, some humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem (v.11).

Because of the suddenness of the reformation of Hezekiah (chapter 29:36), the priests and the Levites were ashamed at the speed of which the humbled Christians acted (v.15, v.17; c.f. chapter 29:34).  Yet, their consecration was set aside, for many had not cleansed themselves but rushed to be united with the house of David (v.18-19), rushed to set his heart to seek God (v.19).  The people were thus healed (v.20), after a sequence of renewing the temple, of renewing the sacrifice, of renewing the worship, of uniting the circumcised in the heart under the banner of the Passover Lamb – all but a shadow of the unity and renewal we will receive on the day of the Wedding Supper (Revelation 19:6-9).  Such rejoicing, that it extended beyond the 7 days for another 7 days (v.23), such unprecedented worship and healing – an indication of the everlasting healing by the leaves of the tree of life (Revelation 22:2) and such glorious everlasting Sabbath rest, for the first time typified from the time of Solomon (v.26), ending on the positive note:

Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.(v.27)

 

2 Chronicles 28-30: Renewing the Kingdom

2 Chronicles 22-24: Preserving the house of David

Chapter 22

The wicked mother Athaliah is the instigator of the potential destruction of the promise and hope of Israel in her attempt to destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah.  This begins with her son Ahaziah, in her marriage with Jehoram – and unfortunately Ahaziah walked in the ways of the house of Ahab (v.3), in the counsel of those in this wicked house (v.4-5).  Rather than instilling the fear of the LORD, the knowledge of the gospel, into the hearts of the neighbouring nations, he would rather join in alliance with Ahab’s son Jehoram to make war against Syria.  It is therefore righteous and in God’s ordinance that Jehu son of Nimshi should destroy the house of Ahab and Ahaziah alongside with it (v.9).  However, this is not the same as destroying the royal house of David, which was Athaliah’s intent (v.10), for Ahaziah had a son Joash (who was not yet able to rule v.9, v.11).

It is in God’s providence that Joash is protected from the murderous intent of Athaliah and that the lamp in the house of David is not extinguished – and this is done by the hand of Ahaziah’s sister Jehoshabeath (oath of Jehovah), wife of a priest Jehoiada (knowledge of the LORD), again the preservation of the house of David initiated not by mere man, nor by mere king, but by the ordained priesthood.  Joash was therefore hidden in the house of God whilst Athaliah the whore reigned free, just as Christ was hidden in the house of God – known to those faithful to Him – awaiting the day when He would glorify the Father and display the Triune glory in fullness on the cross and destroy the whore once and for all (Revelation 17).

Chapter 23

Just like the scene of the wise men Matthew 2, Jehoiada with Azariah (whom Jehovah helps) (son of Jeroham (cherished)), Ishmael (whom God hears) (son of Jehohanan (whom God gave)), Azariah (son of Obed (serving)), Maaseiah (work of the LORD) (son of Adaiah (adorned by Jehovah)) and Elishaphat (whom God judges) (son of Zichri (memorable)) together gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah and came to Jerusalem to announce the coming of the true king.  These are clearly men who looked forward to the Promised Seed and saw in Joash the need to overthrow Athaliah’s mad rule, Joash being the only hope and lineage from whom the Promised Seed shall come.  This is indeed a literal keeping/guarding of the law and covenant until the day of Christ’s first coming (c.f. Genesis 2:15 original Hebrew interpretation), as we see the synonymous nature of protecting Joash as if protecting the LORD Himself (v.6)!  These were men who understood what the Sabbath truly meant – an act of worship and not a secular piece of work to further one’s own kingdom (c.f. Luke 6:1-5); thus they fulfilled the true meaning of the Sabbath not by taking “rest”, but by achieving the promised rest in protecting the king of the house of David.

It is therefore a beautiful comparison in v.11-15, the imagery of the anointed, protected and elected king Joash from the line of David (with much song and dance!) contrasted to Athaliah’s madness and eventual death (v.13-15).  Therefore Jehoiada, from the protection of the king in his early youth, to the king’s anointing was very much the picture of the John the Baptist was to Christ, making the way straight for the king’s headship over the kingdom.  His covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the LORD’s people (v.16) is a restoration of the status quo set down in David’s and Solomon’s day.  Like the period of Asa, Israel once again went through a reformation of its identity (v.17-18), reminded time and time again the importance of the house of David and the lineage of priests in presenting a multimedia presentation of the true King to come.  They should all know that the peace achieved after Athaliah’s death (v.21) was but a short one, a mere taste of the everlasting peace only achievable by the destroyer of the serpent’s head.

Chapter 24

However, it was foreboding that all the work and the covenant was kept by Jehoiada – but not Joash.  Joash was only a type of the foretold King, but bore hardly any quality similar to that of Christ.  Only during the days of Jehoiada that he worked to restore the house of the LORD and re-introduced the tax initiated by Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 30:12-14) as a reminder of the people’s need to focus on the House of the LORD (which was the tabernacle, the sanctuary, in Moses’ time) which defines the entire nation.  So the national dedication of the LORD’s offering was pleasing (v.8-14) and worked towards the proper reparation of the house of the LORD as well as utensils for serving in the house of the LORD (v.14), with burnt offerings offered in the days of Jehoiada’s leadership.  However, it is apparent that Joash’s heart was merely skin-deep in his love for Jesus; where Jehoiada focused not on the pomp and presentation of the House (possibly a reason why the Levites did not act quickly under Jehoiada’s leadership – v.5-6), he compensated in his spiritual influence over the kingdom that all would offer burnt offerings and provide wise advice to the king to prevent him defecting from his role as king in the house of David.  Yet, his death led to inevitable trouble (v.17) as the heart of the king was not grounded in the Word, nor the true meaning of the glorious physicality of the temple, and instead he was led astray by the princes of Judah to abandon the house of the LORD.

Joash’s eventual murder of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (forgetting the kindness of Jehoiada v.22 who had preserved Joash lest he be murdered by Athaliah) is a picture of the chosen nation Israel crucifying our LORD Jesus, solidifying the truth that Israel is not an elect nation due to its purity or virtue.  Rather, Israel was elected to display itself as a type of the sinner of the world, and Jesus the creator (with the Father and the Spirit) being crucified by the rebellious created.  Thus, the irony that Ahaziah and Jehoram’s invasion of Syria is brought back on its head as the Syrians return to destroy the princes of Judah and execution of Joash despite the Syrians having come with few men (v.24).  Although Jehoiada preserved Joash under the LORD’s direction, it was also His discretion to destroy Joash for not walking with Christ and for walking in the ways of his father Ahaziah and grandmother Athaliah.  However, his destruction now is the the vengeance of the LORD (at the hand of non-Israelites – the Syrians, Ammonites and Moabites c.f. v. 26 – a picture foretelling the Gentiles being led by the LORD instead of the Israelites themselves) and His justice truly served, as the house of David is still preserved in Amaziah (v.27).  The preservation of the house of David would not have been possible had Athaliah murdered Joash at the outset, yet it is in the LORD’s mercy that He should continue his steadfast love for David’s descendants, despite the Israelites’ continual relapses into rebellion.

 

2 Chronicles 22-24: Preserving the house of David

2 Chronicles 13-15: Covenant of Salt

Chapter 13

Here, the rivalry is again described overall as the tension between the house of David and the house of Jeroboam, with the intention of the narrator being very clearly one of “priesthood versus heresy”.  Verses 3-12 is a beautiful proclamation made by Abijah, stating clearly what has been implied in Jeroboam’s removal of the Levitical priests in 2 Chronicles 11 (c.f. v.9-12).  Solomon’s household, as well as Rehoboam’s, were portrayed as the elected household in v.5 – “…the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt“.  This phrase “covenant of salt” is used in two other instances – Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19.  In my commentary of the book of Numbers, the covenant is explained as such:

“Salt is commonly used in two analogies: the covenant between LORD and man; and negative connotations (C.f. Ezekiel 47:11 and Zeph 2:9).  Leviticus 2:13 makes the point that all the grain offerings shall have the covenant of salt.  When placing this covenant alongside Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt, it is simultaneously an imagery of God’s sanctification/separation.  In 2 Kings, the usage of the salt is for purification of the water; in Ezekiel, the imagery of the salt is that of dirt and uncleanness.  The prophecy of Ezekiel 47:8 makes a distinction between fresh and salt water – and no doubt, the salt water being the water of punishment from the deluge from the window above heaven (c.f. Genesis 7 and 2 Peter 3), but the fresh water being the water on earth.

 

To bring these two imageries together, the feeding on the holy flesh (cow/sheep/goat) and the unmistakable “covenant of salt”, the picture is a two-fold manifestation of Christ’s work on the cross.  Through his blood, we can now feed continuously of the flesh represented by the communion bread as sanctified priests, symbolized by the anointing and separation of the covenant of salt.  It is by this covenant of salt that David and his sons were given the kingship over Israel forever?  Undoubtedly this salt-covenant to David and his sons is a conscious foresight of the Son’s eternal kingdom, an act of purification, just as the salt waters burst through the heavens to purify the world of the wicked creatures.”

This covenant of salt is a synonym to the gospel work completed through David’s lineage and not to Jeroboam’s lineage.  Jeroboam’s failure to see the importance of the Temple, of the Levites, of Jesus’ heritage are all the essence of all heresies – the failure to connect the dots in the Old Testament which all point towards the cross and not to oneself’s creation of truth.  “Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed” (v.12).  Indeed, David, Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijah are not the head of Israel – the LORD God Himself is the Head, and Jeroboam is challenging not Judah, nor Abijah, but the LORD Himself.

This explains Jeroboam’s utter debacle and loss in v.13-20, whereas Abijah grew mighty under the wings of the LORD.

Chapter 14

Again, chapter 14 records another victory achieved solely by relying on the LORD, in fulfillment of Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6.  This time, it is not Jeroboam, but the Ethiopians (who have clearly forgotten the blessing of Solomon through their early Queen of Sheba in chapter 9) who challenged Israel with more men than Jeroboam (an army of a million men vs. Jeroboam’s 800,000 men).  Asa’s cry is similar to that of his father’s: “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.  O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.

Chapter 15

Upon the filling of the Holy Spirit, Azariah the son of Oded reminds king Asa of the “Golden Age” of Israel’s rule under David and Solomon, when the gospel was clearly communicated amongst the Israelites, all of whom were looking forward to the day of the Messiah’s first coming.  Azariah’s comment that “For a long time Israel was without the true God” (v.3) is an observation of Israel losing its way in the period since Rehoboam to Asa, due to the removal of the formal priesthood and compliance with the Mosaic statutes under the divided rule of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  The only comfort of the Israelites was through their oral teaching and remembrance of the LORD’s steadfast love in their times of distress (v.4).  However, Azariah wishes for the Christian walk to be filled with peace (v.5), and not to only call upon the LORD in times of brokenness (v.6).  Asa’s subsequent actions and reforms (v.8-15) are indeed the actions of a righteous Christian king, drawing in more and more of those previous defected (those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon v.9) with his testimony of the LORD.  It is with their collective sacrifice (v.11) and the covenant and oath (v.12-14) that the LORD gave them rest all around (v.15-19) between his tenth year (when he defeated the Ethiopians) and 35th year as king.  The LORD’s steadfast love to the house of David means that Asa’s compliance with the Spirit’s prompting is a key step towards ensuring the survival of Israel until the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled.  Although man has forgotten the law and priesthood, the LORD will never forget.  Although man may even forget the promise of the Messiah as their true hope, the LORD will never stop working to ensure the Messiah will come from the line of David and crush the Satan who leads His sheep astray time and time again.

2 Chronicles 13-15: Covenant of Salt

2 Chronicles 10-12: Servant Leadership

Chapter 10

Rehoboam had an opportunity to continue the peace held in the time of his father Solomon; however, he was the offspring of Satan.  He could have turned the heart of Jeroboam and the rest of Israel in refining the kingdom under Solomon’s headship by considering their petition seriously – and on the third day (v.5) he could have given them hope.  His failure to heed the counsel of the old men (v.6) and instead to side with the young men (v.8) (who, although were childhood friends, were not walking in the way nor experience of the LORD) has caused the opposite effect of what Jesus would have done under Luke 11:10-13.  V.15 – “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the LORD might fulfill his word“…

Is this not strange, that the LORD’s “steadfast love” is challenged by his own discretion to turn the affairs of Israel into the eventual division of Israel into two – Judah, and the rest?  The rejection of Judah, the rejection of David’s house (v.16), the rejection of Jerusalem (v.18) – the centre of all attention, the Temple, is no longer accessible.  The centre of all attention, the work of the gospel (as prayed by Solomon in 2 Chronicles 6) is ignored by those under Jeroboam (chapter 11:13-17).  Yet, it is this very turn of events that we see a foreshadowing of the rejection of Christ even by his own kind; however, Rehoboam is an anti-type – where Christ walked in the Father’s bosom, Rehoboam did not.  Rehoboam divided the kingdom in his disobedience, but Christ divided the kingdom by his obedience.

Chapter 11

The steadfast love of the LORD is apparent in v.1-4: He does not want Israel to be divided; yet, Rehoboam’s decision to heed Satan and not Jesus has led to this division, an unsurprising outcome given Jesus’ response to Solomon in chapter 7:12-22.  Rehoboam’s leadership is that of secular might, of secular toughness, of Christless manhood – his intention is pure, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam.  However, the LORD would rather win people over with love rather than with might; with weakness and vulnerability as the defining elements of kingship than oppression.

It is in v.13-17 that we know Israel will survive until the day of the Messiah’s return, and that Jeroboam will be a name despised for generations to come.  For Jeroboam to cast them out from serving as priests of the LORD (v.14), knowing these were the same people appointed by the LORD through David in 1 Chronicles, is nothing short of foolish.  In God’s foresight, the lack of geographical restriction for the tribe of Levites, for this tribe of priests, also means that they are free to move around Israel knowing that the LORD is their portion.  They are living like Abraham, looking forward to the true home in new creation (Hebrews 11) – and it is these very Levites who made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon (v.17).  If only Rehoboam, too, walked in his forefathers’ way.

Chapter 12

Yet, Rehoboam did not walk in his forefathers’ way, despite the Levites’ efforts to maintain Israel’s status as priesthood to all the neighbouring nations, just as the Levites were the priesthood to the widespread heretical leadership of both Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  Hence, in Rehoboam’s fifth year (it is not explained why the Levites did not stay faithful to the LORD from the fourth year onwards), when all of Israel was unfaithful under his rule, the Egyptian king Shishak invaded Israel.  In fulfilment of Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6, the invasion was stayed when the Israelites finally decided to humble themselves, knowing that any righteousness they have could have only been inherited from the LORD Himself (v.6-8).  What is interesting, however, is that the LORD chooses to discipline His children by providing them with works which allow them to see what it is like for the LORD to serve – a reminder once again of the LORD’s steadfast love and His servant-leadership which no other God can provide.  This also hammers another nail into the coffin of Marcionism, should anyone doubt that the gospel of the gracious Lamb of God is a truth inherent in the Old Testament.

And in v.9-12 we see and end to the “Golden Age” of Israel – now degraded to copper; a willing sacrifice the LORD has made in allowing Shishak to enslave Israel.  This house of the LORD has lost its glory for several reasons – yet the primary reason is that of Rehoboam’s sinful life (v.14); secondarily, that the house of the LORD is but a shadow of the LORD’s heavenly dwelling; and thirdly, that we begin to see a foreshadowing of Christ’s incarnation, that he will put on a flesh which is more bronze than gold, more servant than king – the same as Israel’s current predicament.  V.13 ends the chronicling of Rehoboam’s life with his background as a son of Naamah the Ammonite – a Gentile, though called “beautiful”, was likely a cause of Solomon’s own idolatry for beautiful distractions (1 Kings 11:8).

 

2 Chronicles 10-12: Servant Leadership

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

Chapter 7

In response to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel as to why and how the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, the kindling fire of the LORD fills the Temple in v.1-3.  The manifold offerings were accepted (v.4-6), the offering overflowing into the middle of the court before the Temple because the bronze altar was not sufficient!  This is a beautiful time of worship, the type of overflowing love which the Father gives to us through His Son, hence the celebration of the Feast of Booths here between the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month as described in Leviticus 23:

“33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.”  As I have explained here, the Feast of Booths is a feast which reminds us of Hebrews 11:8-10, of Abraham looking forward to the day of meeting the God the Father face to face, starting and ending the festivities with rest, foreshadowing the eternal Sabbath of New Creation.  With this “rest” in mind, Solomon sends the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart (v.10) because of the LORD blessing the Israelites through David and Solomon, symbolic of his actual blessing through his only begotten Son Jesus.

Jesus then appears to Solomon in the evening (v.12), He responds verbally to Solomon’s pleading in chapter 6, essentially stating that He has chosen and consecrated the Temple that His name may be there forever, His eyes and His heart there for all time (v.16).  Yet, again, v.17-22 is a reminder of the demise of Israel as the kings failed to walk with Christ – failing to receive the wisdom, the Spirit, whom Solomon asked for after he was anointed a second time as king.  Yet, the caveat is still v.36-39 in chapter 6 – that even if Israel does become a proverb and a byword among all peoples (v.20-22), a reminder of those who forsake the LORD, He will still forgive so long as Christ is their King – for His steadfast love endures forever.

Chapter 8

Now we turn to the daily life of the Israelite – and here we see Solomon assigning forced labour tasks to the Gentiles, the once-enemies of Israel; rather than destroying them, he extends his hand gracefully to keep them in the land although as bondservants of Solomon.  Contrarily, the Israelite enjoys other positions of work (v.9), a sign again of the “work” in new creation.  This “work” should be placed in the context of the various ministries and delegations in 1 Chronicles 27-29 under the ruling of David (v.14) – and the three annual feasts as described throughout Leviticus as reminders of the Trinity, from the Son (the Passover), to the Spirit (the Pentecost), and to the Father (Sukkot).

Here there is a seemingly strange interjection of Solomon’s visit to Ezion-geber and Eloth in the land of Edom, and together with Hiram, going to Ophir to obtain 450 talents of gold.  Matthew Henry observes it thus:

“He did himself in person visit the sea-port towns of Eloth and Ezion-geber; for those that deal much in the world will find it their interest, as far as they can, to inspect their affairs themselves and to see with their own eyes, Canaan was a rich country, and yet must send to Ophir for gold; the Israelites were a wise and understanding people, and yet must be beholden to the king of Tyre for men that had knowledge of the seas. Yet Canaan was God’s peculiar land, and Israel God’s peculiar people. This teaches us that grace, and not gold, is the best riches, and acquaintance with God and his law, not with arts and sciences, the best knowledge.”

It is indeed true that the Temple is already filled with gold, to convey the majesty of the LORD’s presence through Israel; yet Israel is not rich with gold itself but with other natural resources (Numbers 13:27).  Israel is therefore not a “self-sufficient” nation, but a nation which requires inheritance of resources from neighbouring nations, but not by becoming their allies or assimilating their practices (Deuteronomy 18) – but by preaching the gospel to them (Matthew 5:5) and teaching all to be meek before the LORD.  This is adequately expressed in chapter 9, with the Queen of Sheba’s visit (carrying spices and gold) immediately juxtaposed to Solomon’s expeditions for these resources.  One can presume that Solomon’s dedication to the LORD in the previous chapters, and his voyages to Ezion-geber, Eloth and Ophir have created the impression of a priest-king-evangelist, missional in his outlook and ensuring that other nations are, too, blessed by the gospel.

Chapter 9

See my commentary on the Queen of Sheba’s visit here.  Her contribution to Israel is described to have coincided with Hiram’s contribution – both bringing gold – one from Sheba, the other from Ophir (v.10) and rare elements for the Temple, Solomon’s house, and lyres and harps for the singers.

However, this is but the beginning of the famed “Golden Age” of Israel – and quite literally so.  From v.13-28, we see a variety of gold and silver brought in from explorers, merchants, from the kings of Arabia and governors of the land – used for shields (v.14-16), for overlaying a great ivory throne (v.17-18), for the king’s drinking vessels (v.20) – and the resources kept coming (v.21; making silver as common as stone v.27).  This grand depiction of the LORD’s material and spiritual blessing is summed in v.22-23 – “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind“.  They came not to receive items from Solomon – but simply to learn of the LORD’s wisdom!  Such was the glorious kingdom under the headship of a king who followed, sought, and met with Christ.  Never was the gospel so gloriously communicated in Israel, not until the time of Christ’s first coming.

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

2 Chronicles 4-6: Solomon’s understanding of the gospel

Chapter 4

See my commentary on the making of the temple from here onwards.

Let me re-emphasise the importance of distinguishing between Solomon delegating the work of building the temple and being described as actually, first-hand, building it.  As was the case in 2 Chronicles 3:1 – “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD…”, chapter 3:8 – “And he made the Most Holy Place…”, followed by chapter 4:1, “He made an altar of bronze…”, v.6 – “He also made ten basins…”, v.7-9 – “And he made ten golden lampstands as prescribed… He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple… He made the court of the priests…”.

Compare this immediately with Hiram’s contribution to the temple building – “Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins.  So Hiram finished the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of God” (consisting of the pillars, the latticework on the pillars, the stands, and the equipment – see v.12-16).  This is a firm reminder that the foundation of the temple, just as the foundation of the gospel, was not laid down by an Israelite – but by a person of mixed heritage, perhaps even a non-Israelite – such that Abraham himself was not even an Israelite, a time long before the nation Israel even existed.  However, apart from the materials and a skilled man (see chapter 2:13-16), Hiram’s fundamental contributions are not symbolic to the same extent as Solomon’s role in the temple building which the LORD has clearly reserved for this typological son, more fitting even than David.  Solomon’s contributions and the things he has built (the Holy Place; the temple furniture; priestly court) are of substance to the meaning of the temple, and Hiram’s service is but a setting up of the scene for Solomon and His LORD and Father to receive the first and last credit.

Chapter 5

Finally, the most important furniture of the temple, being the Ark of Covenant, in which are the two tablets of Moses (v.10) and brought to its resting place – symbolically, “Zion” (as opposed to its common name, Jerusalem) – the city of God (Hebrews 12:22) though often referred typologically as the city of David (c.f. 2 Samuel 5:7).  The movement of the Ark to the temple mount at Moriah upon the completion of the Temple, with cherubim spreading out their wings over the place of the ark (v.8) is thus foreshadowing of Christ’s second return and the Father finally coming to meet us face-to-face in New Creation at the end of Christ’s on-going work in the current end-times:

“The “Mercy Seat”, the gold used for the entire structure (made of wood) should also be considered as a throne – in 1 Samuel 4:4 the language used is that the ark of the covenant is enthroned between the cherubim.  No doubt, this ark also symbolised the throne of the Father in heaven – c.f. Daniel 7:9-10 and Revelation 4:1-3.  The former book speaks of the Ancient of Days, whose throne was flaming with fire, and wheels were all ablaze.  The latter letter speaks of the throne in heaven where a rainbow, resembling an emerald encircled the throne.  Although the throne was spoken of in two different manners, the lake of fire coming out from the throne is akin to the lake of fire referred to in Revelation 20:15.  However, the throne of the Father in heaven, if speaking of the covenant rainbow established after the global diluvian punishment, then the message spoken of is that of peace and eternity, rather than contention and eternal hell. Then there is Isaiah 37:16 who speaks of the LORD who dwells between the cherubim; and Ezekiel 1:4-5, 26-28 speaks of four living creatures and the throne of God…” (taken from here)

The whole picture is of the Father meeting us at Moriah from Zion, the city of God, founded on the Son’s sacrifice on the cross as witnessed by the laws and tablets of Moses (John 1:45; Acts 26:22, 28:23) as kept by the Ark of Covenant (c.f. chapter 6:11).  This is indeed the whole gospel – not just that of Christ on the cross, but what the event points towards, which is our fellowship with the Trinity in New Creation.  It is this reason that the Levitical singers praise Him – “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (v.13).  And what is “love” if not Christ the Person (as commonly misunderstood in 1 Corinthians 13!)?

Chapter 6

Hence the beauty that is chapter 6 – Solomon’s actual understanding of what the Temple represents.  This should very much characterise Israel as a nation and whether it fails or continues to act as the ordained national priesthood for other nations (Exodus 19:6) just as the Levites are to Israel.  The LORD would only dwell with us through the Temple, through the various symbolic messages communicated in the Temple furniture, all of which is a “multimedia representation” (stated by Paul Blackham, in his explanation of the tabernacle to a Bible study meeting in All Souls in 2007) of the gospel.  Solomon is writing in a format slightly similar to that of the Book of Proverbs, a question followed by an answer, a statement followed by a seemingly contradictory statement.  See v.5 where he recites that the LORD has brought His people out of Egypt but chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel, and chose no man as prince over Israel; yet He has also chosen Jerusalem (admittedly, not a name of any of the tribes of Israel) and has also chosen a man, David, as prince over Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; and now Solomon – 1 Chronicles 29:22) as described in v.6.

This if followed by a re-statement that the LORD shows steadfast love to His servants who walk before Him with all their heart (v.14), and that Israel will not be without a man on the throne is only the LORD’s sons would pay close attention to their way (v.16).  As revealed by 1 and 2 Kings, such “sons”, princes and kings have failed miserably and have led Israel into captivity, and only the Anointed, Elected and Chosen Son and Prince of the Father could truly walk before the Father and cling onto His bosom tightly (John 1:18).  Almost as if it were a response to this, Solomon declares – “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth?“.  The Hebrew seems to indicate a rhetorical question demanding a “No – God cannot dwell with man on earth surely!”, although Young’s Literal translation assists in rephrasing the sentence as “For is it true? — God dwelleth with man on the earth!“.  The latter translation in fact, even if not entirely accurate, is closer to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel and the workings of the temple, as revealed in the remainder of chapter 6:

v.19-21: Opening:  Solomon opens with pleading the LORD to have regard to the prayer of His servant (Solomon) and to Solomon’s plea, as well as the pleas of the Israelites (v.21) when they pray to the Temple (which is clearly a novel practice given the Temple is a new creation in itself!);

v.22-23: Sinning against neighbour:  the man with the false oath shall be punished, and the righteous vindicated, as exposed before the altar;

v.24-25: Israel’s defeat due to its sins:  turning once again to the LORD at the temple and His house, where He shall hear from heaven (note: not the house) and forgive the people’s sin;

v.26-27: No rain due to Israel’s sin:  will lead to forgiveness if they pray toward the Temple and acknowledge the LORD’s name and turning from their sin;

v.28-31: Famine in the land due to pestilence / blight / mildrew / locust / caterpillar:  whatever prayer / plea made by any man or by the Israelites, knowing their own afflications and sorrows, shall be granted the LORD’s protection;

v.32-33: Foreigners:  should they go to worship the LORD at the Temple, the LORD may fulfill his prayers to expedite the conversation of neighbouring nations;

v.34-35: Battling against enemies:  should Israelites go out to battle against their enemies, the LORD shall have their cause maintained by their prayer to the chosen city and Temple;

v.36-39: Sinning against the LORD: as an umbrella to all that above, if any man sins against the LORD, and the LORD is angry with such a person and gives him/her to the enemy as captive, v.37-39 – “yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly, if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name… maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you“.

The repeated refrain that the LORD hears from heaven His dwelling place is, on the one hand, Solomon’s understanding that the LORD could never see the Temple as His actual shelter; a fitting pretext to the entire chapter’s devotion to people praying towards the Temple for the LORD’s mercy.  In this sense, Solomon is stating time and time again that the Temple is but a shadow to the LORD’s true dwelling place, which is heaven.  Yet, at the same time, the LORD has chosen Jerusalem and David to be the respective city and prince where His Name is sealed – both being “mortal” city and man.  In the various scenarios outlined above, it is the final few verses which hit the heart of Solomon’s message – that the LORD’s steadfast love means no man shall ever fear of being apostate due to their own sin (a fitting interpretation of Hebrews 6), except the unforgiveable sin of continual rejection of Christ, the Person witnessed by Moses’ law in the Ark of Covenant.  Though heaven be the LORD’s dwelling place, His acts are clearly incarnate in His gracious dealings with men in spite of their sin, which could not be possibly dealt with save for the saving work symbolised in the Temple.  Solomon does not even mention the need to go through the offerings detailed in Leviticus, but pleads with the LORD that a proper Christological understanding of the Temple is sufficient for them to see that the object of faith for Old Testament Christians is Christ the Person, not Ark / Altar / Lamb the shadow.  It is only in this sense that the LORD’s “priests… be clothed with salvation… [and the] saints rejoice in [His] goodness” (c.f. language in Isaiah 61:11 – the garment of salvation as a gift from the LORD), undergirded by the LORD’s steadfast love for David as contingent upon him remaining face to face with His anointed one, predominantly Jesus Christ the Anointed One.

Solomon therefore clearly understood the gospel as we understand it today:

1.  The Father shall dwell with us upon the completion of the work of the Son;

2.  His true dwelling place was never in the shadow of old creation, such as the temple, but in his current heavenly dwelling;

3.  No man could have his sins pardoned except by praying to the LORD through the Temple, symbolising the work of Christ on the cross;

4.  God could not possibly forgive any such men without remembering first the steadfast love for David, and remaining face to face with the anointed one.  Or in the better words of Matthew Henry:

“We may plead, as Solomon does here, with an eye to Christ:–“We deserve that God should turn away our face, that he should reject us and our prayers; but we come in the name of the Lord Jesus, thy anointed, thy Messiah (so the word is), thy Christ, so the LXX. Him thou hearest always, and wilt never turn away his face. We have no righteousness of our own to plead, but, Lord, remember the mercies of David thy servant.” Christ is God’s servant (Isa. xlii. 1), and is called David, Hos. iii. 5. “Lord, remember his mercies, and accept us on the account of them. Remember his tender concern for his Father’s honour and man’s salvation, and what he did and suffered from that principle. Remember the promises of the everlasting covenant, which free grace has made to us in Christ, and which are called the sure mercies of David,” Isa. lv. 3 and Acts xiii. 34. This must be all our desire and all our hope, all our prayer and all our plea; for it is all our salvation.”

2 Chronicles 4-6: Solomon’s understanding of the gospel