Jerusalem, once a heathen enclave of the Jebusites, now has become the holy city and royal city. As we walk through the Bible and read the fascinating history of the kings, it points to the need for the perfect king – the coming return of Messiah to the ‘city of the great king (Psalm 48:2).
Its transformation was breathtaking. From an obscure Jebusite walled village, perched on the Ophel hill, it became the capital of the united kingdom of Israel. The arrival of the ark of the covenant, symbolising the presence of Almighty God, made it a holy city. And God’s promise to give David a son and heir who would rule from his throne forever made it the city of the great king. To seal its special nature, God Himself said that the city was the place where His name would dwell (1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 21:4; 7; 2 Chronicles 6:6; 33:4; 7; Revelation 3:12).
This is Jerusalem, the city of David and the city of God. It was already a thousand years old when David took over. Now that his kingdom was established, Jerusalem became the royal city. In this article, we will see how the sons of David fared while ruling and reigning from there.
Temple of Solomon (963 BC)
David, as a worshipper of God, had a passionate desire to build Him a house in Jerusalem. After all, David lived in a king’s palace while God’s earthly abode was a glorified tent called the tabernacle. God declined David’s offer because as a warrior-king he had shed too much blood. Yet, it was at this point that God made the famous Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17, promising the coming son of David, King-Messiah.
The job of building the temple was left to David’s successor and son, Solomon (Hebrew: shlomo), whose name means ‘peace.’ When God offered the young king in a dream to ask for whatever he wanted, Solomon requested a wise and understanding heart to lead the nation of Israel. The Lord was pleased with his answer and gave it to him on the spot. As bonuses, Solomon was given that which he had not asked for: riches and acclaim.
Solomon commenced the building of the temple according to the plans and material resources left by his father David. No expense was spared; it had to be exceedingly magnificent. Some estimate that it would have cost in the billions by today’s dollar. The dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8 was one of the pinnacles of Israel’s Old Testament history. Now God had a stable local earthly address; Israel had a meeting place for the three pilgrimage feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; and the Gentiles had a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).
In the natural, Solomon lived an enviable life. He had large, secure borders, and peace on every side, a rarity in centrally located Canaan. Riches, honour, respect, material comforts, and a reputation for being a wise monarch were Solomon’s lot. His reputation attracted the visit of a faraway oriental queen.
Solomon never had to fight the battles, indignities, and persecution his father David fought. Yet his love of many strange foreign women who worshipped false gods (1 Kings 11:1-2) contributed to his personal undoing and the rupture of David’s kingdom.
An Avoidable Split
The twelve tribes of Israel, under one crown from the House of David, were about to experience a rupture. Solomon’s backsliding led to that point. He was succeeded to the throne by his son Rehoboam, who seriously lacked his father’s wisdom. He was the ‘son’ addressed in the Book of Proverbs (3:1) who did not accept wisdom’s invitation and he and Jerusalem suffered because of it.
The battle lines were drawn: King Rehoboam, the grandson of David, ruling from his throne in Jerusalem, was confronted by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who represented the ten tribes of the north. ‘Lighten our burden that Solomon your father put on us,’ said Jeroboam, ‘and we will serve you’ (1 Kings 12:4). Solomon’s advisors urged Rehoboam to agree to their reasonable demand. However, he foolishly rejected their advice and listened to his mates who told him to ‘add to their yoke’ and ‘whip them with scorpions.’ It was the height of arrogance and folly, and it cost the king the bulk of his kingdom.
Jeroboam led the ten tribes from the kingdom of David. All Rehoboam was left with was Judah, the holy city and holy temple. Jeroboam and the northern tribes were called ‘Israel’ and Rehoboam and the house of David became the kingdom of Judah.
Give Us A King
God’s plan from Day One was His Kingdom and it still is. God’s Kingdom and His forever king are His first priority. Everything else flows from that. Yet, the free will that God gave us has resulted in some terrible decisions and outcomes. The first couple, Adam and Eve, rejected God’s rule and their disobedience introduced sin and death into the world. Centuries later the people of Israel rejected God as king by demanding that the prophet Samuel give them a human king. Why? So they could be like all the other nations of the earth (1 Samuel 8:20). Samuel warned them that a human king, even an Israelite one, would use and abuse them; all pain and no gain. Unmoved by this grim prospect, Israel still clamoured for a king. They ended up with Saul and he was a disaster.
After the division of the house of David into Israel and Judah, there was a succession of kings on both sides. Many were bad (they did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord) and some were catastrophic. Out of thirty-nine monarchs in Israel and Judah, only eight of them were good and all of them were from Judah. Some of the notable good ones were Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah yet even they made their foolish mistakes; Josiah’s cost him his life.
Jerusalem witnessed all this and more. The lesson: even the best of earthly kings is no match for the King of kings and Lord of lords. Centuries later, that perfect king did come to Jerusalem and it responded by hanging Him on a tree. He rose from the dead and is coming back, but not before they say, ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord’ – Matthew 23:39.