In this article, we will be exploring the good and bad kings of the Bible and their effect on their kingdoms. So, grab your Bible and let’s dig in…
The books in the Old Testament that tell us the history of the kings of Israel and Judah make for some exciting but painful reading. We can see how God raised chosen kings, how they served Him, and, often, how they fell. You would think their offspring would do better, but in some cases, they were even worse.
These books tell us how well the good kings ruled and how the people prospered because of them. But we can also see the corruption of bad and evil kings. Let’s study the good and bad kings of the Bible to see what we can learn from their examples.
Table of Contents
Types Of Kings: The Good And Bad Kings Of The Bible
There were as many types of kings as there were kings in the Bible. We will look at them as “good” and “bad,” but it’s essential to notice that many of these kings were righteous and good, and the nation prospered under their rule, but they all failed in some way.
So, we must keep the balance and realize that God’s grace and providence were (and still are) great enough to cover any unrighteous ruler and all our sins and failings.
Not all kings were anointed to be kings. In the beginning, we can see that God called certain people kings, and as time progressed, a few others were anointed, nine in total. God appointed these kings to rule His people and instructed prophets or priests to do the anointing. But some became kings purely because they were the descendants of the previous king.
Of course, the Bible doesn’t tell us this specifically, but it’s possible that anointing became part of the formal ordination for new kings. However, these were likely anointed with oil purely out of habit or ritual.
The two most well-known examples of anointed kings were Saul and David.
Kings Over All God’s People
The first three kings ruled over the entire nation. For the most part, these were times of prosperity for the people of God.
- Saul: (1051–1011 BCE)
- David: (1011–971 BCE)
- Solomon: (971-931 BCE)
Kings Of Israel (After The Split)
During the rule of King Rehoboam, Israel was split into two separate kingdoms: Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom). At this point, the kings of Israel became evil for the most part. Here is a list of Israel’s kings in chronological:
|Kings Of Israel
|Good or Bad?
Kings Of Judah
The kings of Judah were the leaders of the southern kingdom of Judah, which emerged after the division of the united monarchy of Israel. Here is a chronological list of the kings of Judah:
|Kings Of Judah
|Good or Bad?
What Makes A King In The Bible Good or Bad (Evil)?
In the Bible, a king is considered good or bad based on how well he follows God’s commands and leads his people. A good king is faithful to God, obeys His laws, and leads his people in righteousness. He cares for the poor, upholds justice, and protects the weak. He is also a wise leader who makes good decisions and seeks counsel from God.
On the other hand, a bad king is disobedient to God, leads his people astray, and promotes wickedness. He oppresses the poor, shows favoritism, and engages in idolatry. He is also a foolish leader who makes bad decisions and ignores the counsel of wise advisors.
At the end of the day, the Bible is clear a good king in the Bible is one who leads his people in righteousness and obedience to God, while a bad king is one who leads his people astray and promotes wickedness.
Good And Bad Kings Of Israel
When we count the kings of Israel, we count those who ruled over Israel before and after the split. So, you will see in this list the Kings from the very start of the kingdom of Israel.
I won’t be going over every single king but highlighting specific ones.
Good Kings Of Israel
Let’s start with the good kings of Israel! These kings followed God and His ways. These are the dudes you would want to lead if you were alive during this time in history.
I like to call King Saul the combo king. This is because people tend to view Saul in a bad light because of his later life, but for most of his rule, we can see that Saul sought God and the good of the kingdom.
Saul was the first king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel. We can see that he did many great things:
- He united the tribes of Israel, especially when the Ammonites threatened the nation (1 Samuel 11:1-15).
- Saul showed mercy to his enemies. Look at 1 Samuel 24 to see how he spared David’s life, even though David was anointed to be the next king and the greatest threat to his royal lineage.
- King Saul was a great warrior who fought and defeated many of Israel’s enemies at the time.
- Saul sought guidance from God, like in 1 Samuel 28:6-14.
Even though Saul later turned to witchcraft, he was still a good king of Israel for most of his life.
How can we not mention King David in a study of the good kings in the Bible? David was a righteous and humble king for most of his life, and God said that David was a man after His own heart.
But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” – 1 Samuel 13:14
Even after David was anointed king, he refused to challenge King Saul because Saul was also God’s anointed.
David was a warrior at heart and fought numerous battles to ensure peace for the kingdom. The peace that David earned confirmed that Solomon, his son, could rule in prosperity. David wasn’t perfect by any means. His list of failures is pretty bad but the key thing is when he failed, he sought the heart of God and repented.
There’s little wonder that David is often regarded as Israel’s greatest king, and through his line, we now have our King of kings, Jesus!
Solomon’s rule was one of peace, prosperity, and wealth. David’s son ruled with wisdom and strong character, and we have three books of the Bible thanks to him.
Yes, Solomon also fell in various ways, notably how he started worshiping idols with his many wives. A weakness we also see with one of the judges of Israel, Samson, as he also pursued foreign women, which led to his downfall.
But Solomon was richly blessed by God, and his rule was perhaps Israel’s most prosperous period.
Evil Kings Of Israel
Israel had no shortage of evil kings, like literally every single one of them, which is so sad and dishearting. These kings were arrogant, leading the people to worship idols and do many terrible things.
Here are three Kings knowns for being evil…
Ahab was perhaps the most well-known evil king of Israel. Together with his wife, the wicked Queen Jezebel, they led Israel to worship Baal, sacrifice their children to idols, and even kill God’s prophets to eradicate God’s presence from the nation—just a horrible couple.
Of course, because of this, we have the spectacular victory of Elijah on Mount Carmel over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:20-40. It’s an amazing story and teaches us so much!
Jeroboam was the first king of Israel’s Northern Kingdom after the split. He led the people of Israel to rebel against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and king of Judah. So, crazy to see nations divide like this and even fight each other. They are basically family.
Jeroboam also feared that the people would turn back if they went to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, so he built golden calves (Baal) for the Northern Kingdom to worship. This sent the people into apostasy that would lead to their eventual downfall, scattering them throughout the world, from where they have never returned.
Omri was a great leader by all standards. He established Samaria as the new capital of the Northern Kingdom, its own Jerusalem. He also fought and won many battles for Israel. However, he was also the father of King Ahab, and Israel’s fall into Baal worship was mainly due to Omri’s efforts to drive the people into doing so. So, much potential is wasted…
Good And Bad Kings Of Judah
After the split, Judah carried forth the lineage of David that would result in the birth of Jesus Christ. You would think that Judah’s kings were all righteous because of that, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
But they sure were better than the kings of Israel, as Judah had some kings that really stood up for God.
Good Kings Of Judah
Judah had several good kings, more than in Israel after the split. Some of the notable ones include:
King Asa was the third king of Judah after the split but was also the first king of Judah who did not worship idols!
He destroyed the idols and made many attempts to bring reform. Under his rule, Judah became a military force, and he made the nation prosperous and peaceful. Asa’s rule was similar to that of David and Solomon (2 Chronicles 14:2-7).
Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around. – 2 Chronicles 20:30
Jehoshaphat was the son of King Asa. He carried on his father’s legacy of religious reform and establishing Judah as a powerful kingdom.
He took it even further by appointing judges to oversee the law and sending Levites and Priests throughout the kingdom to teach the people about God.
Josiah was the 16th king of Judah and, once again, followed after two evil kings. 2 Kings 21-23 tells us how he restored the Temple in Jerusalem and led the people back to God after discovering the book of the Law. His reign was marked by religious reform and renewed commitment to God.
I also love the fact that his name means God supports and heals. That’s what his reign did; it brought God back into the nation to bring healing.
Evil Kings Of Judah
Unfortunately, Judah also had its fair share of wicked kings like Israel. Let’s look at three of them.
2 Kings 21 tells us of Manasseh, one of the kings of Judah, who led the people into idolatry and apostasy. He set up altars to the idols in the Temple in Jerusalem and even sacrificed his son to one of these idols.
You have gone really far when you are willing to give up your child to a demonic entity.
King Ahaz is recognized as one of the weakest kings that Judah has ever had. Not only did he lead the people to worship idols, but he also allied with the king of Assyria and paid tribute to him, which weakened Judah’s independence. His reign was full of political and spiritual unrest.
Jehoiakim was a rebellious king of Judah who went so far as to kill God’s prophets, and he even burnt the scroll with the words of the prophet Jeremiah. His reign was as close as Judah got to King Ahab of Israel, full of oppression and rebellion.
Though Israel and Judah both had good and bad kings, the one aspect that stands out is that the reign of an idolatrous king was always associated with suffering, while God blessed the people when they were under the rule of a righteous king.
If there are two things we can take from this, it’s that God blesses those who seek His righteousness and that His grace is enough to cover all our failings.
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Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…