KINGS, 1 AND 2 The eleventh and twelfth books of the Christian Bible interpreting God's direction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Originally, 1 and 2 Kings were one book and formed a part of a larger history of Israel (see below). The first record of the division of the original work into two parts is in the Septuagint or earliest Greek translation, where 1 and 2 Kings were known as 3 and 4 Kings (1 and 2 Samuel were known as 1 and 2 Kings; 1 and 2 Samuel were themselves originally a single work). According to tradition, Jeremiah is the author of 1 and 2 Kings. The last recorded incident in 2 Kings is the release of Jehoiachin from prison by Evil-merodach in about 560 B.C. (2 Kings 25:27-30). While Jeremiah could have still been alive at that time and while there are certain similarities between the theology of the writer of the Books of Kings and Jeremiah, there is no way of knowing for sure who the author is. Most modern scholars do not accept Jeremiah as author. The Books of Kings do not indicate who the author was.
Part of a Larger History of Israel A common position held by many modern scholars is that 1 and 2 Kings are part of a longer history of Israel that begins with Joshua and goes through 2 Kings. Modern Bible scholars refer to this as the Deuteronomic history. The reason for this is that the reigns of the kings and many of the events in the history of Israel are evaluated according to norms set out in Deuteronomy. The Deuteronomic history was likely written shortly after the release of Jehoiachin in 560 B.C. in an attempt to explain to the Jews of the Exile why their nation had been overthrown by foreign powers even though they were the people of God. Many earlier sources were available for the final writer.
A Theological Interpretation of Israel's History This history was not written primarily for historical reasons, though the historical information contained in 1 and 2 Kings provides the basic information in reconstructing the history of the period. A reader need not look at 1 and 2 Kings long before one discovers that much of the information that could have been recorded about the events of Israel's history was not. The writer chose to tell us about some events but ignored others. The recorded events are those essential for understanding what happened to Israel (as well as for understanding how we should relate to God today).
For example, when the author of 1 Kings concludes the discussion of Solomon, we find these words: “The rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?” (1 Kings 11:41; emphasis added). This clearly shows that the author did not give us an exhaustive history of Solomon detailing everything that went on during his reign. Only that which was important to the author's interpretation of Israel's history was included—the primary thing being the building of the Temple.
Similarly, when the reigns of other kings are described, only those things pertinent to the author's purpose are related. Many things which could have been told are not (see 1 Kings 14:19,1 Kings 14:29; 1 Kings 15:7,1 Kings 15:23,1 Kings 15:31; 1 Kings 16:5,1 Kings 16:14,1 Kings 16:20,1 Kings 16:27; 1 Kings 22:39,1 Kings 22:45; 2 Kings 1:18; 2 Kings 8:23; 2 Kings 10:34; 2 Kings 12:19; 2 Kings 13:8,2 Kings 13:12; 2 Kings 14:15,2 Kings 14:18,2 Kings 14:28; 2 Kings 15:6,2 Kings 15:11,2 Kings 15:15,2 Kings 15:21,2 Kings 15:26,2 Kings 15:31,2 Kings 15:36; 2 Kings 16:19; 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Kings 21:17,2 Kings 21:25; 2 Kings 23:28; 2 Kings 24:5).
A study of 1 and 2 Kings—as well as Joshua through 2 Samuel—indicates that the writer's intention was to evaluate Israel's history according to the principles given in the Book of Deuteronomy and in this way explain why the nation divided after the reign of Solomon and why both nations eventually fell victim to foreign invaders. Three concerns are evident in 1 and 2 Kings as the author makes this evaluation.
The Fulfillment of the Word of God The first concern of the author is to show that God's word will be fulfilled. Deuteronomy 28:1 is especially important here. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 describes the blessings that will belong to Israel if they obey God's commandments. Israel would have victory over its enemies (Deuteronomy 28:1,Deuteronomy 28:7,Deuteronomy 28:10) and would prosper in all its undertakings (Deuteronomy 28:3-6,Deuteronomy 28:8,Deuteronomy 28:11-12). Israel would be established as a people holy to God (Deuteronomy 28:9) and would “always be at the top and never at the bottom” when they obeyed the command of the Lord (Deuteronomy 28:13-14 REB).
This word of God's blessing was fulfilled in Israel's history. Especially noteworthy is their success in the conquest of the land under the leadership of Joshua. They were an obedient people, and God blessed their efforts with victory. They secured for themselves a land by the hand of God (see Joshua 11:23).
Deuteronomy 28:15-68 describes in graphic detail what would happen to Israel should they turn from obeying the commandment of the Lord. They would no longer prosper (Deuteronomy 28:15-19) and would be afflicted with all kinds of plagues, pestilence, and sickness (Deuteronomy 28:20-22,Deuteronomy 28:58-61). Rain would be withheld from their land (Deuteronomy 28:23-24). More significantly, they would be defeated by their enemies and suffer all the consequences of defeat (Deuteronomy 28:25-33,Deuteronomy 28:47-57). The most serious of those consequences would be that they would no longer be as numerous as the stars of the heavens (Deuteronomy 28:62-63; see Genesis 13:14-18; Genesis 15:1-6), and they would be lead into exile retracing the route of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 28:32,Deuteronomy 28:36-46,Deuteronomy 28:63-68).
God was faithful to fulfill the word of warning as well. When the people of Israel departed from God's commandment, they suffered defeat, reduction of their population, severe suffering, and exile. The Northern Kingdom of Israel suffered defeat and exile at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:1-41). Judah suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Babylonians between 597 and 586 B.C. (2 Kings 24:1-25:21).
God's promises came to the people not only in Deuteronomy. God's prophets continually proclaimed them to the people: Elijah (1 Kings 17-19; 1 Kings 21:1; 2 Kings 1:1), Elisha (2 Kings 2:1-25; 2 Kings 3:9-20; 2 Kings 4:1-8:15; 2 Kings 9:1-3; 2 Kings 13:14-21), Isaiah (2 Kings 19:1-20:19) and others. The people were without excuse. They had heard God's commandment to be faithful and His warnings of the accompanying blessings and curses.
Insistence on the Worship of the One True God in the Temple of Jerusalem The commandments found in Deuteronomy with which the author of 1 and 2 Kings was especially concerned were the commands that only God be worshiped and that God be worshiped in Jerusalem alone (Deuteronomy 12-13). The reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel were evaluated on the basis of their adherence to these two commands.
Of the kings of Judah, only Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3-7) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:2) were praised without reservation because they adhered to these two principles. Asa (1 Kings 15:11-14), Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:41-43), Jehoash (2 Kings 12:2-3), Azariah (2 Kings 15:3-4), and Jotham (2 Kings 15:34-35) were praised as having done what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but their praise is qualified with the addition that they allowed the worship of foreign gods to continue in Judah. All other kings of Judah are condemned as having done what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Even Solomon was criticized. Although Solomon built the Temple where God was worshiped, he departed from the command of the Lord and worshiped foreign gods. This sin lead to the empire built by David being split in two at the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-12:25; see 1 Kings 3:2-3).
The most notorious king of Judah was Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-18). Manasseh negated the reforms of his father, Hezekiah, and actively promoted the worship of foreign gods. Manasseh even built altars to other gods within the Temple at Jerusalem where only God was to be worshiped. He sacrificed his own son, practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and wizards. Because of the sins of Manasseh and because he caused Israel to sin, the prophet delivered this word of God concerning Manasseh: “Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah that whosoever heareth of it, both of his ears will tingle” (2 Kings 21:12). The prophet went on to speak of the defeat and exile that would eventually come because of the sin of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:13-15; see 2 Kings 23:26-27; 2 Kings 24:1-7; compare 2 Kings 17:19-20).
All the kings of Israel are condemned as having done what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Most of the responsibility for the sins of Israel is placed on Jeroboam, the first king of Israel (2 Kings 17:21-23; see 1 Kings 15:30).
One of Jeroboam's faults lay in instituting the worship in a place other than Jerusalem. After the two kingdoms split, Jeroboam could not maintain the integrity of his own kingdom and allow the people of the Northern Kingdom to worship at the Temple of Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom. As a solution to his problem, Jeroboam established places of worship at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:26-29).
To complicate matters, Jeroboam made two golden calves for the people to worship (1 Kings 12:28). Thus, Jeroboam violated two of the most important principles of Deuteronomy: the worship of God only and only in the Temple of Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12-13). To emphasize the fact that Jeroboam was responsible for Israel's sin and ultimate downfall, many of the subsequent kings of Israel are condemned because they did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam (1 Kings 15:34; 1 Kings 16:2,1 Kings 16:19,1 Kings 16:26,1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 22:52; 2 Kings 3:3; 2 Kings 10:29,2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 13:2,2 Kings 13:6,2 Kings 13:11; 2 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 15:9,2 Kings 15:18,2 Kings 15:24).
Hope for the Future The very fact that the Books of Kings were written indicates that the writer saw that Israel, even though suffering in the Exile, could learn from their past and begin to live in a way more pleasing to God. He could see in Israel's distress evidence of God's continual desire that Israel turn from their sins and return to God as God's people. God had shown grace and mercy when they disobeyed in the wilderness and during the lapses of the time of the judges. God would certainly show them grace and mercy now. The blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 could still be theirs.
This hope is illustrated in 2 Kings 25:27-30 with the release of Jehoiachin from prison. Perhaps the writer was encouraging the exiles with the possibility that God would bless them again and raise Israel above all peoples (Deuteronomy 28:1) just as Jehoiachin was given preference above other prisoners in captivity (2 Kings 25:28).
I. God Works Out His Purposes Even Through Human Revenge and Treachery (1 Kings 1:1-2:46).
II. God Works Through the Wisdom He Gives His Humble Leader (1 Kings 3:1-7:51).
A. God honors His humble leader's request and equips him with divine wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-28).
B. God's leader administers his people wisely (1 Kings 4:1-34).
C. God's leader wisely follows divine directives to build a house of worship (1 Kings 5:1-7:51).
III. God Responds to the Worship and Sin of His People (1 Kings 8:1-11:43).
A. God fulfills His promise to His people and their leaders (1 Kings 8:1-21).
B. The incomparable God of heaven hears the prayers of His repentant people anywhere (1 Kings 8:22-53).
C. The faithful God leads His people to faithfulness and calls the nations to recognize His uniqueness (1 Kings 8:54-61).
D. God's people worship joyfully in His house (1 Kings 8:62-66).
E. God's favor is related to His people's obedience (1 Kings 9:1-9).
F. God blesses the efforts of His faithful leader (1 Kings 9:10-10:29).
G. A leader's unfaithfulness brings divine discipline on His people (1 Kings 11:1-43).
IV. Disobedience Brings Results (1 Kings 12:1-16:34).
A. Leaders who refuse to be servants lose their subjects (1 Kings 12:1-24).
B. False worship leads to doom for God's people and their leader (1 Kings 12:25-13:10).
C. God's prophets must obey God's voice (1 Kings 13:11-25).
D. Disobedience leads a nation to eternal ruin (1 Kings 13:26-14:20).
E. God is faithful to His promises even when a people disobey (1 Kings 14:21-15:8).
F. In the midst of disobedience God honors a faithful leader (1 Kings 15:9-24).
G. God fulfills His threats against evil leaders (1 Kings 15:25-16:34).
V. God Works in History Through His Prophetic Messengers (1 Kings 17:1-22:53).
A. God blesses and brings recognition to His faithful prophet (1 Kings 17:1-24).
B. Yahweh proves His claim to be the only God of Israel through His prophet (1 Kings 18:1-46).
C. God revives His depressed prophet and provides for His purposes to be worked out (1 Kings 19:1-21).
D. God uses a prophet to prove His lordship over history (1 Kings 20:1-30).
E. God sends prophets to condemn His disobedient leaders (1 Kings 20:30-43).
F. God uses His prophets to bring guilty leaders to repentance (1 Kings 21:1-29).
G. God speaks through His chosen prophet, not through those depending on human appointment and provisions (1 Kings 22:1-40).
H. God blesses the faithful but is angry at the disobedient (1 Kings 22:41-53).
1. Through His Prophets God Guides History and Reveals His Will (2 Kings 1:1-8:29).
A. God alone controls the fortunes of His people (2 Kings 1:1-18).
B. God provides spiritual leadership for His people (2 Kings 2:1-25).
C. The prophetic word from God controls history (2 Kings 3:1-27).
D. God's minister helps God's faithful people in their time of need (2 Kings 4:1-44).
E. God's mercy reaches across international lines (2 Kings 5:1-19).
F. Greedy ministers cannot deceive God (2 Kings 5:19-27).
G. God defeats the enemies of His people (2 Kings 6:1-7:20).
H. God does not forget His faithful people (2 Kings 8:1-6).
I. God controls the destiny of all nations (2 Kings 8:7-29).
II. God's Mercy Has Limits (2 Kings 9:1-17:41).
A. God keeps His threats against false worship but honors those who carry out His will (2 Kings 9:1-10:36).
B. God protects His chosen leader (2 Kings 11:1-21).
C. God's people support His house of worship (2 Kings 12:1-16).
D. God's offerings are not to be used for political purposes (2 Kings 12:17-21).
E. God's mercy and faithfulness protect even His disobedient people (2 Kings 13:1-14:29).
F. God works to punish a people who remain disobedient (2 Kings 15:1-16:20).
G. God brings an end to the nation that refuses to follow the prophetic word (2 Kings 17:1-41).
III. God Honors Righteous Rulers but Punishes a Sinful People (2 Kings 18:1-25:30).
A. God rewards those who trust in Him but punishes those who mock Him (2 Kings 18:1-19:37; compare to Isaiah 36:1-37:38)
B. God hears the prayers of His faithful servant (Isaiah 20:1-11; compare to Isaiah 38:1-22).
C. God knows the future of His people (2 Kings 20:12-21; compare to Isaiah 39:1-8).
D. Rebellion against God brings divine rejection (2 Kings 21:1-26).
E. A righteous ruler can delay divine judgment (2 Kings 22:1-20).
F. A righteous ruler cannot avert judgment forever (2 Kings 23:1-30).
G. Deserved punishment comes to God's disobedient people (2 Kings 23:31-25:26).
H. God preserves hope for His people (2 Kings 25:27-30).
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.