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Passage: 1 Kings 14:21-15:24

1 Kings 14:21-15:24 – Early Kings of Judah

Summary

From this point on, the books of Kings present evaluations of the kings of Judah and Israel. First we hear about the early kings of Judah: Rehoboam (924-907), Abijam (907-906), and Asa (905-874).

Analysis

The early kings of Judah provide a convenient grouping of monarchs evaluated by the Deuteronomistic editors. Abijam and Asa will become patterns for the subsequent Judean kings.

Rehoboam, Solomon's son whose foolish decisions had triggered the secession of the north, reappears in the text (14:21-31). He is negatively evaluated for cultic sins:
•    Judah (only here is Judah, rather than the king, the subject) constructs high places, pillars, and sacred poles throughout the land ("on every high hill and under every green tree" [vv. 22-23]).
•    The Egyptian invasion under Shishak resulted in the loss of the shields of gold that Solomon had made (1 Kings 10:17); Rehoboam replaced the golden shields with bronze ones (vv. 25-28).
•    Side references to warfare with the north despite the warning of Shemaiah (12:22-24) and aspersions cast upon Rehoboam's Ammonite mother (vv. 21, 30-31) frame the account.

Rehoboam's son, Abijam (15:1-8), becomes the prototypical "bad" Judean king, falling into the apostasy of his father and grandfather. His name in Kings probably means "My father is Yamm" (the Canaanite sea god); in Chronicles, it is Abijah, "My father is the LORD." Ironically, this stereotypically bad king in Kings is evaluated as one of the good kings in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 13).

Asa (1 Kings 15:9-24), on the other hand, is the first of the Judean kings involved in cultic reform, including removal of his own mother (possibly "grandmother" as in NAB, NIV) for her idolatrous practices. He receives qualified approval from the editors for his reforming work, though they would have preferred him to go farther and remove the high places and avoid foreign alliances. Between them, Abijam and Asa will set the pattern for all the following kings of Judah. Those who are "like David" (for example, Asa) will be positively evaluated, while those who are not (for example, Abijam) will be denounced.