First and Second Kings constitute a single book, just as 1 and 2 Samuel are a single unit. Their division into four books traces back to the translation of Hebrew Scriptures into Greek in the Septuagint, which designated the books as the four books of Kingdoms. The currently accepted designations are attributed to Daniel Bomberg’s printed edition of the Hebrew Scriptures in 1518. The different titles used to designate the books have no bearing on the content. But since 1 and 2 Kings are a single unit, their introductory matters are treated together.
The author of Kings was a prophet from the kingdom of Judah who lived through the first part of the Babylonian exile. His historical narrative ends with the lifting up of Jehoiachin from the Babylonian prison at the beginning of the reign of King Evil-merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor. The book is anonymous, but both the Jewish and Christian traditions identify Jeremiah as the author. Nothing in the book would prevent Jeremiah’s authorship, and it would be fitting for this prophet, whose ministry focused on the events and causes leading to the Babylonian exile, to have been the inspired chronicler.
The composition of 1 and 2 Kings would have been between 586 BC and 561 BC. These dates mark the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of Nebuchadnezzar, who was succeeded by Evil-merodach. These dates do not preclude Jeremiah’s authorship, since he records the same events in his prophecy (Jer. 52:31).
The books’ canonical context (the time of their composition) dates to the sixth century BC, but the historical context (the events detailed) is more extensive. There are inherent difficulties in determining an absolute chronology because of different ways of reckoning the reigns of kings, as well as periods of co-regencies, but the following provides a general chronology of key events and a chart with pertinent data for each king.
|Dates (BC)||Key Events|
|1050-1010||Reign of King Saul|
|1010– 970||Reign of King David|
|970-931||Reign of King Solomon|
|931||Division of the Kingdom between Rehoboam and Jeroboam|
|722||Israel’s Exile by Assyria|
|606||Judah’s First Partial Exile by Babylon|
|597||Judah’s Second Partial Exile by Babylon|
|586||Jerusalem’s Destruction and Judah’s Exile by Babylon|
The Kings of Israel
|Jeroboam 1||931-910||22||1 Kings 12:25-14:20||Ahijah|
|Nadab||910-909||2||1 Kings 15:25-32|
|Baasha||909-886||24||1 Kings 15:33-16:7||Jehu|
|Elah||886-885||2||1 Kings 16:8-14|
|Zimri||885||7 days||1 Kings 16:15-20|
|Omri||885-874||12||1 Kings 16:21-28|
|Ahab||874-853||22||1 Kings 16:29-22:40||Elijah, Micaiah|
|Ahaziah||853-852||2||1 Kings 22:51-2 Kings 1:18||Elijah|
|Jehoram||852-841||12||2 Kings 3:1-9:24||Elijah, Elisha|
|Jehu||842-814||28||2 Kings 9:1-10:36||Elisha|
|Table cell||Jehoahaz||814-798||2 Kings 13:1-9||Elisha|
|Jehoash||798-782||16||2 Kings 13:10-25||Elisha|
|Jeroboam II||793-753||41||2 Kings 14:23-29||Jonah, Hosea, Amos|
|Zechariah||753-752||6 months||2 Kings 15:8-12||Hosea|
|Shallum||752||1 month||2 Kings 15:13-16||Hosea|
|Menahem||752-742||10||2 Kings 15:17-22||Hosea|
|Pekahiah||742-740||2||2 Kings 15:23-26||Hosea|
|Pekah||752-732||20||2 Kings 15:27-31||Hosea, Oded|
|Hoshea||732-722||9||2 Kings 17:1-6||Hosea|
The Kings of Judah
|King (Queen)||Dates (BC)||Years||Scripture||Prophets|
|Rehoboam||931-913||17||1 Kings 14:21-31||Shemiah|
|Abijam||913-911||3||1 Kings 15:1-8|
|Asa||911-870||41||1 Kings 15:9-24||Azariah|
|Jehoshaphat||873-848||25||1 Kings 22:41-50; 2 Kings 3||Jehu, Jehaziel, Eliezer|
|Jehoram||848-841||8||2 Kings 8:16-24||Elijah|
|Ahaziah||841||1||2 Kings 8:25-29|
|(Athaliah)||841-835||6||2 Kings 11:1-21|
|Jehoash||835-796||40||2 Kings 12:1-21||Zechariah|
|Amaziah||796-767||29||2 Kings 14:1-22|
|Azariah||791-740||52||2 Kings 15:1-7||Zechariah, Isaiah|
|Jotham||750-734||16||2 Kings 15:32-38||Isaiah, Micah|
|Ahaz||734-716||16||2 Kings 16:1-20||Isaiah, Micah|
|Hezekiah||716-687||29||2 Kings 18:1-20:21||Isaiah, Micah|
|Manasseh||696-642||55||2 Kings 21:1-18|
|Amon||642-640||2||2 Kings 21:19-26|
|Josiah||640-609||31||2 Kings 22:1-23:30||Huldah, Jeremiah|
|Jehoahaz||609||3 months||2 Kings 23:31-34||Jeremiah|
|Jehoiakim||609-598||11||2 Kings 23:25-24:7||Jeremiah|
|Jehoiachin||598-597||3 months||2 Kings 24:8-16||Jeremiah|
|Zedekiah||597-586||11||2 Kings 24:17-20||Jeremiah|
The development, disruption, division, decline, and dispersion of the kingdom of God through the sons of David.
To demonstrate that apostasy leads to judgment even as God remains faithful to His covenant promises.
The Contribution of 1 and 2 Kings to Redemptive Revelation
The book is in part a theodicy, a defense of divine justice. The nation had done that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and in anger the Lord cast them out from His presence (2 Kings 24:19-20). The exile of Israel and later of Judah was not evidence of God’s inability or failure to protect His covenant people, but rather the means He used to progress the promise and keep His covenant word. The purpose of the book is directly linked to the theology of Deuteronomy and its covenant warnings that possession of the land depended on covenant obedience (Deut. 27-28). By focusing on the religious history more than the civil, the book of Kings makes it undeniably clear that the Lord cast the people out from His presence because of their sins against Him. The Assyrians and Babylonians were the weapons in God’s hand to accomplish His covenant purpose. God’s faithfulness to the covenant promise to David is also in focus as David’s dynasty continues, even though many of the kings failed terribly. But even the failure of Judah’s kings served the purpose of increasing the desire and expectation of David’s greater son, Jesus Christ, who would establish a perfect kingdom of righteousness and peace.
First Kings overviews Israel’s history from David’s death to Ahab’s death, a period of approximately 120 years. This period was marked by God’s continuing and unfailing covenant faithfulness, in contrast to the nation’s checkered history of covenant obedience and covenant transgression. Kings were evaluated not according to their military or civil feats but on how they conformed to God’s law, with Deuteronomy in the background. The focus on sins and failures serves an important redemptive function by highlighting the human condition that has no remedy apart from the King who was coming in fulfillment of God’s covenant promise. The worst of kings, whether from Judah or from Israel, contributed to messianic theology and expectation. Understanding the need for Christ is a crucial component of understanding the gospel.
There were, as well, some high points that in a positive way pointed to the Messiah. The early days of Solomon highlighting his wisdom, his wealth, and his works are certainly typical (as in representative) of Christ, though they pale before Jesus, who said of Himself, “behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). Likewise, the construction of the temple with all of its ornate beauty and ceremonial rituals points directly to Jesus, who said, “in this place is one greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:6).
Second Kings overviews the history of the divided monarchy from the reign of the northern king Ahaziah, Ahab’s successor, to the favorable treatment of the southern king Jehoichin while he was a captive in Babylon, a period of approximately 290 years. This period was marked by spiritual darkness and decline in both kingdoms, apart from glimmers of light coming from the south (Judah), particularly during the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah.
The special attention of Kings to the prophetic word also has redemptive significance since faith comes by hearing the Word of God. The kings of Judah and Israel were subject to the prophetic office. God sent His prophets to bring His authoritative Word, threatening these kings with punishment, calling them to repentance, and announcing deliverance. Most significant were Elijah and Elisha, whom God raised up at a crucial moment when the existence of true religion was under threat. Due to their preaching and miracles, the uniqueness of the one true and living God became indisputable. No matter how dark the day, God has a word that sheds light on the darkness.
Although not all of the writing prophets are mentioned in Kings, the fact that all of them (except the postexilic prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) ministered and wrote during the timeframe of 2 Kings testifies to God’s grace in sending preachers to warn of judgment, to command repentance, and to announce the gospel of the Messiah as the only hope for sinners. The intensity of prophetic activity during this period, categorically rejected as it was by most who heard, heightens the sense of human depravity that makes the gospel so necessary. Even sin contributes to the redemptive message; apart from sin the need for the gospel would not exist.
God’s covenant faithfulness in ensuring the coming of Christ is most vividly displayed in the treason of the wicked queen Athaliah (2 Kings 11), a seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Had she succeeded in destroying the royal house, which was her intention, the promise of Messiah as the son of David would have been nullified. But God providentially secured Joash from her scheme, thus guaranteeing the line of David into which Christ would come. Nothing can frustrate God’s unfailing redemptive purpose to send His Son as the Redeemer. As the book of Kings testifies, the rise and fall of various human kingdoms is all under the sovereign control of the one divine King, and He will establish the kingdom of His Son without fail.
Rather than repeating the list of kings presented earlier in this Introduction, the following outline will be briefer and more thematic.
- The Development and Decline of the Kingdom under Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-11:43)
- Solomon’s Coronation and Consolidation of the Kingdom (1 Kings 1:1-4:34)
- Solomon’s Construction of the Temple by God’s Covenant (1 Kings 5:1-9:9)
- Solomon’s Wisdom and Wealth from the Lord (1 Kings 9:10-10:29)
- Solomon’s Breaking the Covenant (1 Kings 11:1-43)
- The Disruption and Division of the Kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-16:28)
- The Splitting of the Kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-24)
- The Apostasy of Israel and Discipline of Judah (1 Kings 12:25-14:31)
- Two Kingdoms in Conflict (1 Kings 15:1-16:28)
- The Dispute of Elijah and Elisha for the Lord (1 Kings 16:29-2 Kings 13:25)
- The Ministry of Elijah against Ahab’s House (1 Kings 16:29-2 Kings 1:18)
- The Glorification of Elijah and Empowerment of Elisha (2 Kings 2:1-25)
- The Ministry of Elisha against Ahab’s House (2 Kings 3:1-10:36)
- The Deliverance of the Line of David in Judah (2 Kings 11:1-12:21)
- God’s Patient Mercies toward Israel (2 Kings 13:1-25)
- The Dispersion of the Kingdom (2 Kings 14:1-25:30)
- The Downward Spiral of Israel and Judah (2 Kings 14:1-16:20)
- The Spiritual Revival of Judah under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-20:21)
- The Spiritual Ruin of Judah by Manasseh and Amon (2 Kings 21:1-26)
- Another Revival of Judah under Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-23:30)
- The End of the Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 23:31-25:30)
Extracted from: Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes(Beeke, Joel R. 2015. Reformation Heritage Books).