The Bloody Kings of Israel

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The Kings of Israel and Judah are, collectively, a fascinating group of individuals. Among their number is arguably the most righteous human ruler of God's people (David), the wisest man who would ever live (Solomon) and some of the most bloody rulers to walk planet earth. It is this last category of people that this article will discuss.

We will briefly review several examples of mass murder (the taking of more than two lives not during a time of war) committed by those who were allowed to govern all or part of the children of Israel. It should be noted that these bloody, heinous acts carried out by these kings (and one queen) were not approved of by God and did not fulfill his will.

Saul was the first of three kings to reign over a united Israel. Because of his disobedience, however, God anoints David as the future ruler of his people. Viewing him as a threat, Saul seeks every opportunity to kill him. One day, he is told that David travelled to the priestly city of Nob and received assistance from Ahimelech the High Priest. Angered that Ahimelech aided someone he believed a traitor, he summons him and other Nob priests to meet him. When they arrive he accuses them of knowingly committing treason, even though he is told that they were unaware of his disagreements with his son-in-law (Samuel 22:12 - 15).

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Saul, wanting the priests put to death, is unable to get any of his Israel born servants to do the task. He then commands Doeg, an Edomite, to carry out the bloody task of mass murder. Doeg kills all eighty-five priests in attendance. Not content with such mass carnage, he zealously travels to Nob and slaughters most of its innocent inhabitants, including women, babies and even animals (see 1Samuel 22).

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The Gibeonites were a people living in Canaan long before the kings of Israel existed. They secured with Joshua an agreement that insured their survival and that they could continue living in the land in spite of it being part of Israel's inheritance (Joshua 9:3 - 15). Years later Saul, for unknown reasons, slaughters many of them (2Samuel 21:1). God considers these killings as a great sin and tells King David he must rectify the situation in order to stop a three-year famine that was ravaging Israel (verses 2 - 9).

Prophesied deaths

Baasha was the third ruler over the Kingdom of Israel after it broke away from the Kingdom of Judah in 930 B.C. He assumed the throne after murdering Nadab (the son of Jeroboam) in the Philistine city of Gibbethon (1 Kings 15:27). Soon after coming into power, he murders anyone else who was of the royal family (verses 27 - 29), a bloody act which was prophesied to occur. Ultimately, Baasha was condemned for his many sins by the prophet Jehu, who foretold of the total destruction of HIS house just like the havoc he wrecked on Nadab's family (1 Kings 16:1 - 5).

The bloody queen of Judah

Athaliah was the daughter of wicked Ahab and Jezebel who had ruled Israel for twenty-two years. She married Jehoram who was in Judah's royal lineage. After her husband's death their son Ahaziah ruled Judah for only one year. The queen, immediately after her son died, quickly moved to assure that she, alone, would rule over the Kingdom. She initiates a mass murder against ALL of King David's male descendants, killing all those of royal blood except one baby who is secretly hidden (Joash, see 2 Kings 11:1 - 2, 2Chronicles 22:10 - 11). Her bloody seven-year rule ends when she is slain by the palace guard and Joash is placed on the throne (2 Kings 11:3 - 16).

The most brutal

Menahem was one of the most brutal and bloody kings of Israel. Soon after taking over the reins of power, through his murder of Shallum, he sought to enter into the border town of Tiphsah. Angered that he is refused entry into the city, he lays siege to it and kills anyone he finds. His murderous spree is uniquely brutal and unprecedented, even among other unrighteous rulers of Israel, as his anger at being snubbed drives him to violently rip open pregnant women (2 Kings 15:16).

King Manasseh reigned over the Kingdom of Judah for 55 years, the longest of any king who ruled solely the Jews or northern Israel. During his rule he slaughtered so many innocent people that the Bible states, "(he) shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another" (2 Kings 21:16). Another Judean king, Jehoiakim, who ruled more than thirty years later, would also fill this capital with his bloody murders (2 Kings 24:4).

Interesting facts

The united kingdom of Israel officially began with the anointing of Saul as ruler in 1050 B.C. (see our list of the Kings of Israel). It lasted only 120 years and ended when the nation split in 930 B.C. The northern ten tribes, because of their almost constant disobedience against God, lasted only 207 years. The southern part of the old kingdom hung around a bit longer at 344 years.

God labeled Jerusalem, after Israel split, a "bloody city" through the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 22:2, 24:6, 9). Why was it called this? It was because of the city's many crimes and that Judah's kings frequently indulged in murder, which included sacrificing some of their children to a pagan god!

Articles in this Series

Mass Murder in the Bible  -  Israel's Bloody Kings

The Wrath of God  -  War in the Bible

New Testament Homicides

Saved by Grace

Series Bibliography
Complete Book of Who's Who
Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings
Willmington's Complete Guide to Bible Knowledge


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