Story of the Old Testament - Lesson 12

By Glen Pemberton

Title: The Story of South Judah

Text: I Kings 13 - II Kings 25

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. To help the student grasp the basic story of South Judah as it develops in I Kings 13; II Kings 25.
  2. To help the student understand why South Judah was sent into exile and that we must be faithful to the Lord alone (or we too will be punished).
  3. To introduce the kings and prophets that attempted to lead Judah to the Lord.


  1. A Bible for each student.
  2. A chalkboard or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #12 (“The Story of South Judah”)


Like the previous lesson (“The Story of North Israel”), this lesson attempts to summarize the story of South Judah from her beginning in c. 930 BCE to the exile of 587 BCE. The scope of this lesson requires an extreme limitation of focus. Here, the politics of the nation are largely bypassed in favor of attention to two reformers (Hezekiah and Josiah) and two prophets (Isaiah and Jeremiah). Hopefully, this lesson will help the student grasp the essence of Judah’s history: Will Judah be faithful to the Lord or not? In turn, this lesson poses a major question for the student’s life: Will he/she be faithful to Lord?

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class:

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors. Make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Review and set the stage for today’s study.
    1. Q. Does anyone remember what happened to the nation of Israel after the death of Solomon? A. The nation divided into North Israel and South Judah (about 930 BCE).
    2. Q. What happened to North Israel? A. After being plagued by political instability, immorality and a refusal to listen to the prophets, Assyria destroyed North Israel (722 BCE).
    3. The question today: What happened to South Judah?
      1. To start, Judah lasts longer than Israel.
        1. United Israel began in approximately 1,050 BCE under Saul and then divided in roughly 930 BCE.
        2. N. Israel was destroyed in 722 by the Assyrians (˜208 years as an independent nation)
        3. Judah was conquered in 587 BCE by the Babylonians (˜343 years as an independent nation, approximately 135 years longer than N. Israel).
      2. Obviously, we cannot cover 343 years of history in any detail in this class today.
      3. Instead, much like our last class, we will cover this era in the Story of the Old Testament by making three general observations about the nation’s political and spiritual life.
  2. Three observations regarding the story of South Judah
    1. For the most part, Judah maintained political stability.
      1. South Judah was committed to the reign of the family of David.
        1. There were conspiracies and assassinations but with only one exception (Queen Athaliah; II Kgs 11:1-21; 8:26), the replacement was always from the family of David.
        2. This stability came from God’s promise to David (II Sam 7) that one of his descendants would always be on the throne and from the people’s acceptance of the family of David as their rulers.
    2. Several kings of Judah led remarkable religious and moral reform movements (revivals). Look briefly at two of these kings and their actions.
      1. Turn to II Kings 18 (Hezekiah). Read II Kgs 18:1-5.
        1. Q. Describe what kind of person Hezekiah was? A. He trusted the Lord; there was no one like him up to this time.
        2. Q. Compare Hezekiah to what you remember about the kings of N. Israel. A. None of those kings are described in such terms.
      2. A second example: Josiah (II Kgs 22-23). Josiah is famous for several things:
        1. The boy king ? only 8 when he began to reign
        2. He repaired the temple (II Kgs 22:3-7)
        3. In the process of repair, workers found “the book of the Law” (II Kgs 22:8-10)
        4. More important, after reading the Law, Josiah applies the law and begins drastic reforms in Judah! (Read II Kgs 23:1-3,24-25)
    3. In addition to some exceptional kings, God sent many prophets to Judah.
      1. Q. What is a prophet? A. A spokesperson for God. A person who delivered messages from God to the people.
      2. Judah had many prophets.
        1. We find stories and the messages of prophets such as Nathan (II Sam 12:1-15) and Huldah (II Kgs 22:14-20) in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.
        2. Many of the messages from such prophets as Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk may be found in books that bear their names. Special Note to the Teacher: Emphasize that these prophets lived and worked in Judah during this era (i.e., their location near the end of the Old Testament does not mean that they came later in the story).
      3. Glance at two prophets and get a feel for the messages they proclaimed.
        1. Isaiah
          1. Read Isa 1:1. Isaiah was a prophet God sent to Judah in roughly 742-701 BCE.
          2. Read part of one message to get a feel for Isaiah’s message. Read 1:10-17
            1. Q. How does God feel about these people and their worship (sacrifices, assemblies, prayers)? A. God is sick of it! Angry!
            2. Q. Why is God upset with their worship? A. Because of their sin (1:13e), their violence (1:15e, “hands filled with blood”), and their evil (1:16).
            3. Q. What does God really want from these people? A. First, do good ? seek justice ? especially for the weak (oppressed, orphan and widow). Then, worship.
        2. Jeremiah
          1. Read Jer 1:1-2. Jeremiah comes later in Judah’s history (c. 630-585 BCE). He is in Jerusalem when Babylon conquers it in 587!
          2. Look at a sample of what he is saying: Read Jer 7:1-10
            1. Q. What does Jeremiah say about what is happening at the temple? A. They think that just because they have the temple and go to worship at the temple they are safe from any punishment. They are living sinful lifestyles and using the temple as “fire insurance” (Thinking: God would never destroy his own temple?)
            2. Q. What does Jeremiah tell them to do? A. Change! Do not oppress the weak (7:6) and do not follow other gods (7:6). Then God will dwell with you in the temple. But do not think that just because you have the temple that God will be with you and protect you!
      4. These prophets and others pronounced ominous warnings that Judah was headed for disaster unless she turned back to the Lord. Read one or two:
        1. Read II Kgs 21:10-15 (the message of the prophets in general)
        2. Read II Kgs 22:14-17 (the message of Huldah)
        3. Q. What is about to happen unless Judah changes? A. Destruction and captivity.
  3. A series of events began in roughly 605 BCE that led to the destruction of Judah.
    1. In 605 the balance of power swings from Egypt to Babylon at the battle of Carchemish. At this time Babylon deported many leading citizens of Judah, including Daniel.
    2. In 598 Babylon invades Judah and king Jehoiachin surrenders. A second deportation of citizens occurs at this time.
    3. In 588, after a rebellion by the Judean king Zedekiah, Babylon sets siege to Jerusalem. In July of 587 Jerusale m falls to Babylon. In August the Babylonians burn the temple and destroy the city walls. A third major deportation of citizens occurs. The Babylonian Captivity begins! Why?
      1. Certainly a variety of political and social forces
      2. Despite the efforts of such kings as Hezekiah and Josiah, and prophets such as Huldah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, the people and their kings refused to honor the Lord as their God. Their lives and nation became corrupt to point that God kicked them out of the land in an attempt to teach them a lesson.


(about 5 minutes; discuss one or more of the following topics)

  1. How does the story of South Judah fit into the story of the Old Testament? What has happened to God’s promises to Abraham? Do you think the failure of the people to be a conduit of God’s blessing to the other nations has anything to do with their demise?
  2. Why do you think the efforts of good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah and prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah ultimately failed? Why do people refuse to listen to those who proclaim God’s word? Do you ever find yourself doing this? Why?
  3. Isaiah and Jeremiah were very concerned about the worship practices of their day. What was the problem? (Corrupt lives; a belief that one could live as he pleased and still be acceptable to God as long as they “went to church”.) Do you see the same problem today? Explain. What do you think Isaiah and Jeremiah would say to you? To your church?


Read Ezra 1, 3-6; Nehemiah 1-2,4-6, 12:27-43


Prayer that:

  1. Thanks God for his faithfulness to his people.
  2. Thanks God for raising up people like Hezekiah, Josiah, Isaiah and Jeremiah.
  3. Asks God to help us not be like the people of Judah, but that we will listen and obey his word.

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