Israel at the crossroads
or "The Book of the Kings" was the original title in
Hebrew of the one book that was later divided into
what are now 1 and 2 Kings by the translators of the
Greek Old Testament, Septuagint or LXX.
They trace the history of the kings of Israel and
Judah from the time of Solomon (970-931 B.C.) to the
Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.). The author wrote
the account as one volume, to be read through from
beginning to end in one setting. Clyde T. Francisco
says, "The Jews did not make the division until
controversies with Christians made it necessary for
readiness of reference."
of 1 and 2 Kings is unknown even though the Jewish
Babylonian Talmud attributes Kings to the Hebrew
prophet Jeremiah. However, someone living in Babylon
rather than in Egypt must have written the last
chapter of 2 Kings. The author was likely one of the
exiles who lived in Babylon. S. R. Driver suggested
a "man like minded with Jeremiah and almost
certainly a contemporary who lived and wrote under
the same influences." David Hubbard said, "The God
who shaped the course of history guided the hand
that wrote it."
is a "highly stylized presentation of history and
uniform theological outlook throughout the two books
of Kings." It is a prophetic interpretation of the
history of Israel. There is a general prophetic
tone, with no court apologies glorifying the king.
It holds the kings to an evaluation according to
prophetic standards. The author has weaved prophetic
materials into court journals with dexterity and has
taken great pains to combine the records from both
Northern and Southern Kingdoms into a synchronized
The author makes frequent
reference to his sources which existed in his day:
The Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), The
Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel
(14:19, 29) and The Book of the Chronicles of the
Kings of Judah (15:7, 23, 31) as well as other
sources (16:5, 14, 27).
The formula used to
describe the kings and their reigns is quite
consistent in the books. An example of the formula
used for the Judean kings is found in 1 Kings 14:21,
22, 29-31. The formula the author uses to describe
the kings of Israel is illustrated in 1 Kings 15:33,
34; 16:5, 6. With slight variation this forms the
basic framework for the history of the divided
is to give the reasons for taking away of the
kingdom, captivity and exile. Why and how did it
happen? Why didn’t God keep His promises to David
and his descendants? Can the LORD God be trusted? It
is a history written with a religious and practical
aim to communicate the lesson of God’s discipline of
His chosen people. Kings opens with the stable,
United Kingdom under a strong king and ends with
total collapse and deportation of Judah to Babylon.
The success of the kingdom depended upon the measure
of faithfulness to God’s covenant.
The primary concern of
the author is the worship of Yahweh. The rival
altars with the golden calves at Dan and Bethel in
the northern kingdom led to its downfall. Moreover,
the kings of Judah never removed the high places.
The LORD God has been faithful to His covenant with
David, however the house of David was not faithful.
The problem was not with God, but with the
unfaithfulness of Israel. God remains just even
though his people continue in idolatry. On the other
hand, the end of the state does not equal the end of
the house of David and the people of Israel. God
still has not abandoned His promises to David and
His chosen people.
is Yahweh is Lord of history who is actively
involved in the affairs of men and nations.
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a
disgrace to any people" (Prov. 14:34).
The prophets dominate the
action in the Kings. Elijah’s ministry dominates 1
Kings and the influence of the prophets is seen on
almost every page of the books. The author or
compiler might well have been one of the writing
prophets such as Jeremiah. The author evaluates
incisively each king according to prophetic
standards based on God’s covenant recorded in
The books of kings
divides into three parts: (1) the reign of Solomon
(1 Kings 1-11), (2) the history of the divided
kingdom (1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17), and (3) the history
of the surviving kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18-25).
The total time period covered in the two books is
about 400 years of Hebrew history. A good guess as
to the date of writing is about 550 B.C. because the
book mentions Evil-Merodach who did not begin to
rule until after 561 B.C. The author does not
mention the return of the Jews of Judah from Babylon
to Jerusalem under Cyrus (538 B.C.).
"God’s promise of a
Redeemer becomes still more specific in the covenant
He made with David that his seed would sit upon his
throne forever. The Seed of the Woman is to be the
Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the tribe of
Judah, and of the line of David. David was a type of
the Greater King, the Messiah to come. The Kingdom
of Israel was a type of the Messianic Kingdom to
come," writes Russell B. Jones. The apostle Peter
called attention to the fulfillment of this covenant
in Acts 2:30-36.
King David died c. 970
B.C. and his son Solomon reined from 970-931 B.C. At
first "Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the
statutes of David his father." King Solomon was an
unparalleled architect, songwriter, artist, author
and inventor. However, "Solomon drove too fast and
traveled too far. . . . The monarch became debauched
and effeminate; an egotist and cynic, so satiated
with the sensual and material affairs of life that
he became skeptical of all good." He succumbed to
materialism, polygamy, brutality and idolatry. And
it didn’t happen just suddenly. F. B. Meyers said,
"No man suddenly becomes base." Solomon forgot God’s
law and "loved many strange women" who turned his
heart away from Yahweh to serve other gods (Deut.
17:14-20; 1 Kin. 11:1-13).
Although Solomon was born
with a silver spoon in his mouth he brought Israel
to the verge of bankruptcy. The empire that David
built was already beginning to disintegrate under
Solomon. He was so deeply in debt writes Charles
Pfeiffer, "that the Israelite king ceded twenty
cities of Galilee as a means of repayment (1 Kings
9:10-14). Forced labor, used on Solomon’s building
projects, further added to the discontent (1 Kin.
9:15-22). The orthodox in Jerusalem were scandalized
because of Solomon’s attachment to this foreign
wives and his willingness to worship their gods" (1
"Although Solomon had a
thousand wives and concubines in his harem, we read
of but one child, Rehoboam, who succeeded his father
to the throne. . . . The division of the kingdom
marked the end of the empire which David had built
and Solomon, in part, had dissipated," notes
Leon Wood writes, "The
people had never had such a good life as during the
reigns of both David and Solomon, though taxes
continued to rise, which produced dissatisfaction by
the close of Solomon’s rule. . . . Religiously,
however, Solomon brought the disfavor of God upon
himself. He had started well. Divine approval had
been uniquely signified by Yahweh’s promise of
wisdom, riches, and honor, but Solomon did not
remain faithful to his early religious commitments.
He compromised the convictions he had expressed in
his prayer at the temple dedication. When he
experienced this spiritual decline himself, his
country was influenced as well" (A Survey of
Israel’s History, p. 252).
Upon his death in 931
B.C. the kingdom divided. Solomon forsook the LORD
God for the false gods of his many pagan wives.
Jeroboam led a successful revolt and with the ten
northern tribes established the Northern Kingdom of
Israel. The Levites and others fled from the north
to the Southern Kingdom shortly after the division.
Jones notes, "The doom of
the Northern Kingdom of Israel was sealed at the
very beginning of its history when the first king
undertook to mix idolatry with the worship of the
true God, Jehovah." Shalmaneser, king of Assyria,
laid siege of Israel for three years, and his
successor, Sargon carried the people of the Northern
Kingdom of Israel into captivity in 722 B.C. God
sold the kingdom of Israel into captivity to the
Assyrians because of their sins of idolatry (2 Kin.
17:7-41; 18:12). An Assyrian governor was placed
over the land incorporating all of Israel into
Assyria’s provincial system. Many of the residents
of the Northern Kingdom were taken captive by
Assyria and in their place a foreign upper class of
people was imported to Israel. Thus Tiglath-pileser
III mixed the populations of conquered countries and
reduced the chances of rebellion in the subjugated
nations. Of course, this worked religious havoc for
Israel. The foreigners brought their own false gods
and idols. The mixing of the population resulted in
intermarriage between the poor Israelites who were
left in the land and the new foreign people. These
descendants were called Samaritans.
The Southern Kingdom of
Judah continued in its decline, with the exception
of three revivals, until 586 B.C. The prophets of
Israel insisted that the exile to Babylon in 586
B.C. was Yahweh’s punishment upon His people because
of their idolatry. The walls of Jerusalem were
broken down, her treasures plundered, and the Temple
and all of Jerusalem burned to the ground. The LORD
God who is sovereign over nations permitted
Nebuchadnezzar to gain a temporary victory in order
to chastise idolatrous Israel. King Jehoiachin and
ten thousand leading men were taken into captivity
in Babylon. The remaining nobles of Judah were slain
and the rest of the people carried away captive to
Babylon. Only the poorest were left in the land of
Judah and later many of them fled to Egypt (2 Kin.
25:23-30). The prophets assured Israel that Yahweh
would bring His people back to their own land after
70 years of exile. Some of the Jewish people living
in exile settled permanently and profitably in
Babylon, others longed for the return to Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem lay
in ruins after the Babylonian invasion. The leading
citizens were either killed or deported to Babylon.
The poorer peasants were regarded as too weak to
cause trouble for Babylon (2 Kin. 25:12). The reason
for Judah’s fall is carefully stated in 2 Kings
24-25 and 2 Chronicles 36:14-16.
Silver, sex, sloth and
self will destroy any nation.
But as we shall see even
the captivity was a part of God’s eternal plan of
Title: Introduction to 1
& 2 Kings
Series: Introductions to