Story One

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
THE FIRST FOUR KINGS OF JUDAH
NOW we turn from the story of the kingdom of Ĭś̝ ra-el in the north to the story of the kingdom of Jū́ dah in the south. You read how the Ten Tribes broke away from the rule of King Rē-ho-bṓ am and set up a kingdom of their own under Jĕr-o-bṓ am. This division left the kingdom of Jū́ dah very small and weak. It reached from the Dead Sea westward to the land of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ on the shore of the Great Sea, and from Bē-er=shḗ bȧ on the south not quite to Bĕth=el on the north; but it held some control over the land of Ḗ dom on the south of the Dead Sea. Its chief city was Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm, where stood the Temple of the Lord and the palace of the king.
After Rē-ho-bṓ am found that he could no more rule over the Ten Tribes he tried to make his own little kingdom strong by building cities and raising an army of soldiers. But he did not look to the Lord, as his grandfather Dā́ vid had looked; he allowed his people to worship idols, so that soon on almost every hill and in almost every grove of trees there was an image of stone or wood. God was not pleased with Rē-ho-bṓ am and his people, because they had forsaken him for idols. He brought upon the land of Jū́ dah a great army from Ḗ ġy̆pt, led by Shī́ shăk, the king of Ḗ ġy̆pt. They marched over all the land of Jū́ dah they took the city of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm and they robbed the Temple of all the great treasure in gold and silver which Sŏĺ o-mon had stored up. This evil came upon Judah because its king and its people had turned away from the Lord their God.
After Jĕr-o-bṓ am had reigned seventeen years he died, and his son Ā̇-bī́ jah became king of Jū́ dah. When Jĕr-o-bṓ am, the king of Ĭś̝ ra-el, made war upon him, Ā̇-bī́ jah led his army into the land of Ĭś̝ ra-el. But Jĕr-o-bó am's army was twice as large as Ā̇-bī́ jah's, and his men stood not only in front of the men of Jū́ dah but also behind them, so that the army of Jū́ dah was in great danger of being destroyed. But Ā̇-bī́ jah told his men to trust in the Lord, and to fight bravely in the Lord's name. And God helped the men of Jū́ dah against Ĭś̝ ra-el, and they won a great victory; so that Jĕr-o-bṓ am never again came against Jū́ dah.
Ā̇-bī́ jah's reign was short, only three years; and after him came Ā́ sa, his son, who was a great warrior, a great builder of cities, and a wise ruler. Against Ā́ sa a great army of enemies came up from Ē-thĭ-ṓ pĭ-a, which was south of Ḗ ġy̆pt. Ā́ sa, drew out his little army against the Ē-thĭ-ṓ pĭ-ans̝ at a place called Mā̇-rḗ shah, in the south of Jū́ dah, near the desert. He had no hope of success in his soldiers, because they were so few and the enemies were so many. But Ā́ sa called upon the Lord, and said:
"O Lord, it makes no difference to thee whether there are few or many. Help us, O Lord, for we trust in thee; and in thy name we fight this vast multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man succeed against thee.”
The Lord heard Ā́ sȧ's prayer, and gave him a great victory over the Ē-thĭ-ṓ pĭ-ans̝ took again the cities in the south which had gone over to the side of the Ē-thĭ-ṓ pĭ-ans̝ and he brought to Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm great riches, and flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle, and camels, which he had taken from his enemies.
Then the Lord sent to Ā́ sȧ a prophet named Az-a-rī́ ah. He said, "Hear me, King Ā́ sȧ, and all Jū́ dah and Bĕń ja-Mĭn. The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him you shall find him; but if you forsake the Lord he will forsake you. Now be strong, and put away the wickedness out of the land, and the Lord shall reward your work.”
Then Ā́ sȧ rebuilt the altar of the Lord which had fallen into decay, and he called upon his people to worship. He went through the land, and broke down the idols, and burned them. He found that his own mother, the queen, had made an idol, and he cut it down and broke it in pieces; and he would not allow her to be queen any longer, because she had worshipped idols.
Until Ā́ sȧ was old he served the Lord; but in his old age he became sick, and in his sickness he did not seek the Lord. He turned to men who called themselves physicians or doctors, but they were men who tried to cure by the power of idols. This led many of Ā́ sȧ's people to worship images, so that when he died there were again idols throughout the land.
Ā́ sȧ's son, Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt, was the next king, and he was the wisest and strongest of all the kings of Jū́ dah, and ruled over the largest realm of any. When he became king Ā́ hăb was king of "Ĭś̝ ra-el. Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt made peace with Ĭś̝ ra-el, and united with the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes against the kingdom of Sy̆ŕ ĭ-ȧ. He fought against the Sy̆ŕ ĭ-ans̝ in the battle at Rā́ moth=ḡĭĺ e-ăd, where King Ā́ hăb was slain, and afterward with Ā́ hăb's son, Jē̇-hṓ ram, he fought against the Mṓ ab-ītes.
Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt served the Lord with all his heart. He took away the idols that had again arisen in the land; he called upon his people to worship the Lord, and he sent princes and priests throughout all Jū́ dah to read to the people the law of the Lord and to teach the people how to serve the Lord.
The Lord gave to Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt great power. He ruled over the land of Ḗ dom, over the wilderness on the south, and over the cities of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭne upon the coast. And Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt chose judges for the cities in all the land, and he said to them:
"Remember that you are not judging for men, but for the Lord; and the Lord is with you, and sees all your acts. Therefore fear the Lord, and do his will. Do not allow men to make you presents, so that you will favor them; but be just toward all, and be strong in doing right.”
At one time news came to King Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt that some of the nations on the east and south and north, Mṓ ab-ītes, Ăḿ mon-ītes, and Sy̆ŕ ĭ-ans̝, had banded together against him, and were encamped with a great army at En=ḡḗ dī, near the Dead Sea. Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt called forth his soldiers, but before they went to battle he led them to the Temple to worship the Lora. And Jē̇-hŏsh́- a-phăt called upon the Lord for help, saying:
"O Lord, the God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? Dost thou not rule over the nations of earth? Is not power thine, so that none can stand against thee? Now, Lord, look upon these hosts who have come against thy people. We have no might against this great company, and we know not what to do; but our eyes look toward thee for help.”
Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the Lḗ vītes, a man named Jā̇-hā́ zĭ-el, and he said:
"Hear, ye men of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm and Jū́ dah, and hear, O King Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt. Thus saith the Lord, 'Fear not this great host of your enemies, for the battle is not yours, but the Lord's. Go out against them; but you will not need to fight. You shall stand still, and see how the Lord will save you. Do not fear, for the Lord is with you Then Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt and all his people worshipped the Lord, bowing with their faces on the ground. And the next day, when they marched against the enemies, the Lḗ vītes walked in front, singing and praising the Lord, while all the people answered:
"Give thanks to the Lord, for his mercy endureth forever.”
When the men of Judah came to the camp of their enemies, they found that a quarrel had risen up among them. The Aḿ mon-ītes and the Mṓ ab-ītes began to fight with the rest of the bands, and soon all the host were fighting and killing each other. And when the men of Jū́ dah came, part of the host were lying dead, and the rest had fled away into the desert, leaving behind them great treasure. So it came to pass as the prophet Az-a-rī́ ah had said, they did not fight, but the Lord fought for them, and saved them from their foes.
The place where this strange battle had taken place they named "the valley of Bĕŕ a-chah," which means "blessing," because there they blessed the Lord for the help that he had given them. And afterward they came back to Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm with songs, and praises, and the great riches which they had taken. And God gave to King Jē̇-hŏsh́ a-phăt peace and rest from his enemies, and great power as long as he lived.