Israel and the Assyrian Conquest
Just the gist (for small children and others with tiny attention spans):
The Northern Tribes (now called Israel) had a famously bad king named Ahab who chased after idolatry like the captain with the same name chased after his white whale. The prophet Elijah turned the hearts of Israel back to God with a show of God’s power. However, the Northern Kingdom eventually backslid into idolatry again and was conquered by the Assyrians. They were absorbed into the Gentile kingdom and the ten northern tribes are lost.
For those that can handle just a bit more:
All the kings of the Northern Kingdom were unfaithful but the northern tribes of Israel had a particularly notorious king named Ahab with a particularly notorious queen named Jezebel. Jezebel got her husband Ahab to build a temple to the false god Baal and to turn Israel to Baal worship. God did not care for this turn of events, so he sent the prophet Elijah to turn the heart of Ahab back to the worship of the one, true God.
First, God sent a famine. Elijah spent the famine years hanging out with a Gentile widow. Thankful for her hospitality, he made sure her flour and oil never ran out and restored life to her son who had gotten sick and stopped breathing. (1 Kings 17: 8-24)
After three years, God asked Elijah to head back to ol’ Ahab’s castle. Elijah challenged Ahab to bring his pagan prophets to a sacrifice-off on Mount Carmel. The competition would be between the 450 prophets and their pagan god Baal versus Elijah and the one true God. The rules were simple: slaughter a bull, lay it on wood and call their god. Whoever’s sacrifice is consumed by fire has the real god.
The pagan prophets set up their sacrifice and cried out, cut themselves and sent texts for hours, to no avail. Baal ghosted them.
Wanting to really show God’s stuff, Elijah doused his altar and sacrifice with water. Lots and lots of water. So much water that the pagan priests started to wonder if they’d misunderstood the rules to the sacrifice-off. When he prayed to God to send him fire, not only did the fire come and consume the sacrifice, it also consumed all the water, the wood and even the altar of 12 stones to boot. (1 Kings 18:30-39. Line 40 isn’t Christmas talk) #truestory
Elijah and God won the sacrifice-off. The people worshipped the true God and after a prayer from Elijah, rain finally fell in Israel.
Despite all of this, the Northern Kingdom returned to walking in the ways of Jereboam which is Bible talk for: they kept cheating on God with idolatry. This led to their ruin. Israel’s capital city of Samaria was conquered by Assyria, a huge empire at the time, in 722 B.C. In order to deter rebellions, the Assyrians rounded up a portion of the Israelites and relocated them all over the large Assyrian empire. At the same time, they transplanted people from five other pagan tribes to the newly conquered Israel. The pagans and remaining Israelites would eventually intermarry and the resulting peoples will become known as the Samaritans. And that was how the ten northern tribes became lost.
A Christmas for Beginners Extra for those who can handle still more – A little something on the prophet Elisha because he is not nearly as well-known as his predecessor and yet, he should be because Elisha is a type of our Day 25 birthday boy:
Elijah took on a protégé named Elisha in what can only be described as history’s weirdest start to a mentorship. (1 Kings 19-21). The two hung out for a while and then it was time for Elijah to go. “Before I git, is there anything I shall do for you?”
“I beg you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit,” replied Elisha.
“You have asked a hard thing. I’ll tell you what. If you see me leave, the double spirit is yours,” Elijah probably said.
Happily, Elisha did see Elijah’s exit. Happily for two reasons:
- He got a double share of Elijah’s spirit.
- He got to see his mentor picked up by a horse-drawn chariot of fire and ride in it up to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 9-12)
With that, Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen to the ground and started his prophet career by parting the Jordan with his new double-spirit powers.
- Cleaned up undrinkable water. (2 Kings 19-22)
- Got called baldhead and then showed the world why no one calls Elisha baldhead. (2 Kings 23-25) (Passages like this one are why study Bibles with explanations really come in handy.)
- Made a bunch of drinking water in the woods. (2 Kings 17-20)
- Made a roomful of giant storage vessels of oil for a widow to sell so she wouldn’t have to sell her sons into slavery. (2 Kings 4:1-7)
- Enabled the pregnancy of a woman with a really old husband because she had shown Elisha much hospitality (2 Kings 8-17)
- Resurrected a woman’s dead child. Well, at first he tried to send his underling to do it until the mother insisted on Elisha. She wanted the real deal. (2 Kings 18-37)
- De-poisoned a pot of pottage that had been described as “Death in a pot”. (2 Kings 38-41)
- Multiplied loaves to feed 100 men and still had some leftover (2 Kings 4:42-44)
- Cured Na’aman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, of leprosy. He had him dip himself into the Jordan River 7 times and on the 7th, “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a child, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:1-19)
- Gave leprosy to his servant who was greedy and a liar, liar pants of fire. (2 Kings 5:19-27)
- Made an axe head float on the Jordan River. (2 Kings 6:1-7)
- Found out and revealed to the king of Israel the secret plans of the Syrian army. (2 Kings 8:6-10)
- Gave his servant the power to see God’s spiritual army on the battlefield. (2 Kings 6:15-17). How cool would that be?!
- Struck the attacking Syrian army with blindness. (2 Kings 6:18)
- Died and then his bones brought a dead dude back to life. (2 Kings 13:20-21)
Elisha did double the miracles of Elijah (16 versus 8) thanks to his inheritance of the doubled share of spirit.
As encapsulated so well by Dr. Peter Kreeft: Elijah preferred living by himself, Elisha lived amongst the people. Elijah preached law, repentance and judgement, Elisha faith, grace and hope. Elijah was the precursor to John the Baptist and Elisha, the precursor to the Christ.
Christmas for Beginners is now available in book form! Click here to take your Advent readings Old School.