Introduction to 1–2 Kings
Author and Date
The author or authors of these two books is unknown. As the titles of the books indicate, 1–2 Kings describe the period of the monarchy in ancient Israel (970–586 b.c.), concentrating on the kings who ruled after David.
The books show that Israel suffers again and again because of its great sinfulness (2 Kings 17:7–23; 24:1–4). Yet there is still hope for the nation, because God’s chosen family of kings has not come to an end (2 Kings 25:27–30), and God remains ready to forgive those who repent (1 Kings 8:22–61).
Purpose, Occasion, and Background
The fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 b.c. raised several questions: Was Israel’s God not in fact in control of history, as Moses had claimed? If the God of Moses did exist, and was good and all-powerful, how was it that God’s chosen city and temple had been destroyed, and his chosen royal family had all but come to its end?
The books of Kings respond to such questions, explaining why Israel was defeated. Israel’s God is indeed in control of nature and history. There are no other true gods anywhere. It is this good and all-powerful God who has overseen the destruction of his chosen city and his temple, and Israel’s exile to Babylon. Israel’s sin has caused these punishments.
After the division of the kingdom, the northern kingdom of Israel lasted slightly more than 200 years (931–722 b.c.), with 19 different kings, all of whom were wicked. The southern kingdom of Judah had the same number of kings, but many of them were good, and Judah lasted almost 150 years longer (931–586 b.c.). Toward the end of Judah’s monarchy came two of its best kings: Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1–20:21) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:1–23:30). Yet the people still rebelled against the Lord, and Judah, like Israel, eventually went into exile as punishment for its sin. But hope remained, for God’s chosen royal line had not come to a complete end (2 Kings 25:27–30), and God remained ready to forgive those who repented.
- Yahweh is the only true God, and he controls nature. There is only one living God, and he is the Lord. He alone controls the natural order (1 Kings 17–19; 2 Kings 1:2–17; 4:8–37; 5:1–18; 6:1–7, 27).
- Yahweh controls history. The Lord rules over the past, present, and future. He alone controls the historical process (1 Kings 11:14, 23; 14:1–18; 22:1–38; 2 Kings 5:1–18; 10:32–33; 18:17–19:37).
- Yahweh demands exclusive worship. As the only God, the Lord demands exclusive worship. He alone will be worshiped, by Israelite and foreigner alike (1 Kings 8:41–43, 60; 2 Kings 5:15–18; 17:24–41).
- The content and place of true worship. Much of 1–2 Kings is concerned with exposing false religion. It speaks out against the content of false worship (1 Kings 11:1–40; 12:25–13:34; 14:22–24; 16:29–33; 2 Kings 16:1–4; 17:7–23; 21:1–9). It also exposes the wrongful place of such false worship (1 Kings 3:2; 5:1–9:9; 15:14; 22:43; 2 Kings 18:4; 23:1–20).
- The consequences of false worship. True worship of God includes obedience to the law of God. The worship of something other than God always leads to mistreating other people.
- Yahweh is the just and gracious Lawgiver. The Lord gave the law, which defines true worship, right thinking, and correct behavior. The Lord is also the one who punishes wrongdoers.
- Yahweh is the promise-giver. Israel’s God is a promise-giver. The divine promises given to the patriarchs and to David are an important theme in 1–2 Kings.
1 Kings Outline
- The Reign of King Solomon (1:1–11:43)
- The Kingdom Is Divided (12:1–14:31)
- Abijam and Asa (15:1–24)
- From Nadab to Ahab (15:25–16:34)
- Elijah and Ahab (17:1–22:40)
- Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah (22:41–53)
2 Kings Outline
- The Death of Ahaziah (1:1–18)
- Elisha and Israel (2:1–10:36)
- Joash (11:1–12:21)
- Jehoahaz and Jehoash (13:1–25)
- Amaziah, Jeroboam II, and Azariah (14:1–15:7)
- Israel’s Last Days (15:8–31)
- Jotham and Ahaz (15:32–16:20)
- The End of Israel (17:1–41)
- Hezekiah (18:1–20:21)
- Manasseh and Amon (21:1–26)
- Josiah (22:1–23:30)
- The End of Judah (23:31–25:30)
The Extent of Solomon’s Kingdom
c. 971–931 b.c.
Solomon’s reign marked the high point of Israel’s power and wealth in biblical times. Solomon’s father, David, had given him a kingdom that included Edom, Moab, Ammon, Syria, and Zobah. Solomon would later rule over the kingdom of Hamath as well, and his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter resulted in an alliance with Egypt. Solomon controlled important trade routes between several major world powers, including Egypt, Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia (Asia Minor).
Israel and Judah in 2 Kings
c. 853 b.c.
The book of 2 Kings tells of events in Israel and Judah from the death of Ahab to the exile of Israel and Judah. The story involves Israel, Judah, Syria, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia, as well as Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and other kingdoms far beyond Israel’s borders.