Unfortunately, I missed my opportunity to write detailed notes on Kings of Israel, so I’ll have to make notes about this books as a whole.
Israel didn’t fall in one day, or one year, or maybe even a decade. It’s fall to the Assyrians and Babylonians was the culmination of a tragedy that began with Jeroboam. It’s funny how one king setting up two golden calves can have such an impact on a nation. Israel never recovered from the sin of Jeroboam. They weren’t saints, but with Kings like David and Solomon, they could have done a lot better. It would be wrong to lay all blame all Jeroboam’s feet, though. Rehoboam, king of Judah allowed his people to turn to idols as well. This was compounded by successive generations of kings who did not stop the policies instituted by Rehoboam and Jeroboam. By the time good kings such as Josiah and Hezekiah showed up, the damage was probably already done.
The story shows certain aspects of God’s character. For one, it shows his patience. Israel turned to sin soon after the death of Solomon and rather than abandon them, God sent prophet after prophet with warnings. It also shows his faithfulness. He kept his promise to Abraham. No matter how badly Israel sinned, he didn’t completely wipe them out (as a people) like he had done to the Canaanites. He kept his promise to always have one of David’s descendants on the throne, even when they sinned.
Thirdly, the story shows the importance of leadership and an interest in politics. Jeroboam was just a man, but he caused a lot of pain and suffering in Israel. His policies affected the people, even those who were good. When famine and war came, they didn’t leave out the people who had remained faithful to God. Presidents are a lot like kings. Their policies affect people who won’t be born for ages. A bad king, president, mayor, or even senator can lead to untold misery. No one needs to be reminded of dictators long past, elected and otherwise. We like to think of them as bad people, but if we help elect them, we might share their guilt. The Law makes a big deal of fighting for the weak. Sin, in God’s opinion, is not just what you do, but also what you don’t do. It is failing to work against the devastation of your own nation by informed voting.
Lastly, it shows God’s mercy. At any point up till the reign of Manasseh, (and perhaps, even afterwards) Judah could have been spared if they turned away from their sin. God fought long and hard to preserve them. He was willing to forget all wrongs. Perhaps it was the loss of the book of the law, or the long established culture of idolatry, but the people didn’t turn back.