Temple Harmony Disturbed and Restored
Judah’s kings – Rehoboam, Abijah (Abijam), Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah (Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz (Jehoahaz), Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz II (Shallum), Jehoiakim (Eliakim), Jehoiachin (Jeconiah), and Zedekiah (Mattaniah) – were mostly individuals who lived out their own self-centered and personally-ambitious lives in indifference to the calling of the God of Israel. A few wonderful exceptions stand out. Some few of these rulers are noteworthy for their influence on the temple, for good or for ill.
King Asa, placed in the Temple the spoils of his father:
He also brought into the house of the Lord the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which he himself had dedicated: silver and gold utensils (1 Kings 15:15).
In his earlier years Asa followed the ways of the Lord and renewed the altar in the inner court. However, when Baasha, King of Israel made war against Judah, Asa collected all the treasures and sent them to Ben-hadad of Damascus. By sending the treasures of the Temple this sealed an alliance with him against Israel (1 Kings 15:18-20.). Asa was rebuked by God’s prophet Hanani for his alliance with Syria (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Since the temple vessels were all precisely specified by the Lord for purposes of teaching Israel about themselves and their personal relationship with their God the contents of the temple were not to be altered or modified.
Queen Athaliah, daughter of Ahaziah, was a notorious wicked woman. She went so far as to murder the royal sons who were heirs of the throne, and had she succeeded, the line of promise to the Messiah would have been broken. Fortunately God preserved the boy Joash who would live to sit on his father’s throne. It fell to Joash, a good king because of the godly influence of Jehoida the priest, to restore the house of the Lord from predations of Athaliah,
…Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD. And he gathered the priests and the Levites, and said to them, “Go out to the cities of Judah, and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year; and see that you hasten the matter.” But the Levites did not hasten it. So the king summoned Jehoiada the chief, and said to him, “Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax levied by Moses, the servant of the LORD, on the congregation of Israel for the tent of testimony?” For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God; and had also used all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD for the Baals.
So the king commanded, and they made a chest, and set it outside the gate of the house of the LORD. And proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in for the LORD the tax that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness. And all the princes and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until they had finished. And whenever the chest was brought to the king’s officers by the Levites, when they saw that there was much money in it, the king’s secretary and the officer of the chief priest would come and empty the chest and take it and return it to its place. Thus they did day after day, and collected money in abundance.
And the king and Jehoiada gave it to those who had charge of the work of the house of the LORD, and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the LORD. So those who were engaged in the work labored and the repairing went forward in their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it. And when they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada, and with it were made utensils for the house of the LORD, both for the service and for the burnt offerings, and dishes for incense, and vessels of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada. (2 Chronicles 24:4-14)
Amaziah did what was right before the Lord, “but not with a blameless heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2). During a civil war with Joash, King of Israel, Amaziah ignored the advice of God’s prophet.
But Amaziah would not listen – for it was of God in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom. So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. And Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Comer Gate. And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of Cod, and Obed-edom with them; he seized also the treasuries of the king’s house, and hostages, and he returned to Samaria (2 Chronicles 25:20-24)
Uzziah (Azariah) enjoyed a long and peaceful reign of 52 years in Jerusalem. He is described as a king who “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah (the priest) who instructed him in the fear of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.” (2 Chronicles 26:4,5) But power and success ruined this man, as it does many in positions of power,
But when he was strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was false to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong, and it will win you no honor from the LORD God.”
Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests leprosy broke out on his forehead, in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they thrust him out quickly, and he himself hastened to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper dwelt in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21)
What is interesting about Uzziah’s illegal entry into the temple in 750 BC to burn incense, is that significant tradition claims that an extraordinarily powerful earthquake occurred at that very time.
One of the worst kings of Judah was Ahaz. He desecrated the Temple and robbed it of its treasures. He sent the Temple treasures along with his own to the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-Pileser III to secure his aid in an alliance against Israel and Syria. Ahaz went to Damascus and had a copy of their altar made and brought to Jerusalem. There he placed it before the altar of the Lord and made a sacrifice on this pagan replica. He also closed the Temple and broke up the vessels. These actions represented a terrible profanation of God’s holy temple.
Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree…
Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria hearkened to him; the king of Assyria marched up against Damascus, and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin. When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king carne from Damascus, the king viewed the altar.
Then the king drew near to the altar, and went up on it, and burned his burnt offering and his cereal offering, and poured his drink offering, and threw the blood of his peace offerings upon the altar. And the bronze altar which was before the LORD he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening cereal offering, and the king’s burnt offering, and his cereal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their cereal offering, and their drink offering; and throw upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice; but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded. And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands, and removed the laver from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pediment of stone. And the covered way for the sabbath which had been built inside the palace, and the outer entrance for the king he removed from the house of the LORD, because of the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 16:2-18)
And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the LORD; and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, provoking to anger the LORD, the God of his fathers. (2 Chronicles 28:24, 25)
It fell to good King Hezekiah, who succeeded Ahaz, to restore the desecrations of the temple done by Ahaz:
Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the Lord; let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work, to repair the damages of the house. (2 Kings 22:4, 5).
Hezekiah opened the doors and restored the vessels which Ahaz had put away. Unfortunately Hezekiah was limited up with pride and made alliances with foreign nationsand he unwisely showed the treasures of the temple to the Babylonians. His careless actions assured the eventual downfall of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 32:24).
Manasseh built idolatrous altars in the Temple Courts and placed a graven image in the Temple (2 Kings 21:3-9, 2 Chronicles 33:2-9). God punished him by sending him to Babylon as a prisoner in chains. Though he was the most evil of all the kings amazingly he repented while in Babylon and turned to God after which he returned to Jerusalem where he repaired the altar (2 Chronicles 33:14-17). His son Amon followed in the idolatrous example of his father. He worshiped an image of his father. After two years his servants assassinated him. The people then killed the assassins and made Josiah king.
Josiah took the throne at the age of 8 and at 16 years of age he set out to bring spiritual reform to the whole land. A significant reformation took place under his rule. Josiah ordered the Temple repaired. The stone work was repaired and certain timbers replaced. Josiah removed the idols from the Temple and restored two of the temples courts. He also had the Ark of the Covenant put back into the Holy of Holies (2 Chronicles 35:3). The people, however, did not truly turn to the Lord in repentance in spite of the thirty-one year reign of this vigorous and godly reformer.
The reign of Jehoiakim was the beginning of the end for the Southern Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made this man a vassal king. After three years Jehoiakim rebelled and Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city. (2 Kings 24:1).
Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin (Coniah) also did evil. The Temple vessels were taken to Babylon while Jehoiachin and his family were taken prisoner along with the thousand captives including the skilled craftsmen. Only the poorest of the poor remained in the land.