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God’s House - Vacated

The Book of Kings

After King David’s death his son Solomon accedes to the throne. Solomon was known for his great wisdom. He reigned during a time of relative peace, and so was able to fulfill his father’s great desire to build a symbolic dwelling place for the Lord, the Temple in Jerusalem.

It was a magnificent structure. It consisted of a main chamber, an entrance hall, and two side chambers. The main chamber itself was the Temple proper, and in it was the Holy of Holies - the repository for the Ark of the Covenant containing the stone tablets upon which Moses had inscribed God’s word. Only the High Priest could enter this most sacred location, and only on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement.

When all construction is finally completed Solomon leads the people in a ceremony not just dedicating the Temple but rededicating their faith. Once more the Covenant is renewed: God’s promise to remain present with the people as long as they remain faithful.

This religious renewal is not to last. Towards the end of his reign, after Solomon has married many foreign women, he begins to adopt their religions and to worship their gods. He builds new sites dedicated to this worship. Because of this, God tears the kingdom away from him. After Solomon’s death tribal tensions resurface and the kingdom splits. The northern ten tribes secede and form their own Kingdom of Israel. The southern two tribes continue the tradition of keeping a descendant of David on the throne and become known as the Kingdom of Judah, after the larger of the two.

Most of the kings who follow Solomon are corrupt. There are a few exceptions, notably King Hezekiah and King Josiah, who try to bring about a religious reformation and return to the original faith. But for the most part, in both Israel and Judah, the trend is toward increasing moral and spiritual deterioration. Some great prophets - Elijah, Elisha, and others - arise to counter this trend and bring the people back to worshiping the true God, but the movement of history is against them.

Weakened by social decay and a series of bad foreign policy decisions, both kingdoms eventually come to an end. The northern kingdom, Israel, is destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. Its people are taken into exile, where they are mixed with other conquered nations and eventually lose their identity. The southern kingdom, Judah, is able to hold on for a while, but when Babylon becomes the dominant power in the region its king Nebuchadnezzar destroys it in 586 B.C.E.

He also destroys the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the end of God’s symbolic presence with the people in the land of promise.

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