Background

Like the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings (1 Kings and 2 Kings) were originally one book. The Septuagint and the Vulgate divided this into two sections. Our modern Hebrew Bible arrangement follows the Bombergiana (a printed Hebrew edition of the sixteenth century). The position in the Hebrew text is among the Former Prophets.1The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission.

See also the Chronology of the Old Testament Kings.

Authorship

The Talmud names Jeremiah as author, no doubt because of what Hummel refers to as the book’s “strongly deuteronomic diction” which is “so much like the prose of Jeremiah.”2Hummel, Horace. The Word Becoming Flesh. United States: Concordia Publishing House, 1985. 148. Other than this there is no evidence for Jeremiah’s authorship.

The books of Kings could not have been completed before Jehoiachin’s release from prison, since this is reported in 2 Kings (approximately 560 BC), neither could they have been completed after the return of the exiles from Babylon (537 BC), since this is not reported in the books. We conclude, therefore, that they were completed sometime during Judah’s captivity in Babylon.

Because of the unity of the books we conclude that they were composed by one person, a person with the language, style, and viewpoint of a prophet. Perhaps he was a product of a school of the prophets, from Ramah, Shiloh, Gilgal, or more likely Jerusalem.

It is apparent that the writer used written sources which he often quoted verbatim.  This is seen in the different systems of chronology that are preserved in the text and in such passages as 1 Kings 8:8 which could no longer have been true at the time of the writing of the book.  The Kings account of Hezekiah and Sennacherib appears to be the account of Isaiah.

The author refers to the following sources of information:

  • The Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Ki 11:41)
  • The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (1 Ki 15:23)
  • The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (1 Ki 14:19)

(The latter two are not to be identified with 1 and 2 Chronicles, which were written later.)

Whether these chronicles were the work of the official court recorders is in dispute, at least in the Northern Kingdom, where frequent dynastic changes may have interfered with their continuity.

Purpose for Writing

The purpose of 1 Kings and 2 Kings is to show that the fall of Israel and Judah is due to their unfaithfulness to Yahweh, but that the Lord still faithfully upheld the promise of “the sure mercies of David” (Is 55:3; 2 Sa 7:13-14). This is the purpose for the note at the end of the books about the elevation of Jehoiachin to the king’s table (2 Kings 25:29).

This contrasts 1 and 2 Chronicles, which focus more on the good actions of the kings of Judah (the southern kingdom) and pay little attention to Israel (the northern kingdom).

Content

The contents of 1 and 2 Kings deal with the history of Israel from the beginning of Solomon’s reign until shortly after the beginning of the Exile (970-586 BC: 384 years). The history is treated from a theocratic point of view and presents the various persons according to the manner in which their piety or wickedness had an effect on the preservation or the corruption of the people of God.

The principal factors on the one hand are the kings as leaders of the people, and on the other hand the prophets as teachers. The former generally (always in the Northern Kingdom) were destructive in their influence. In the case of Judah several kings served to preserve the realm (only two, Hezekiah and Josiah receive unconditional praise, and five others receive conditional approval).

The Northern Kingdom has nine changes of the royal line.  Only five of these met even the minimal standard for a dynasty, two kings in succession. Judah has only the House of David. Elijah and Elisha, the great prophets of Israel, play a prominent role in Kings.  The major writing prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah appear very little in Kings.

Christ Connection

1 and 2 Kings continues the history of Israel, the nation God chose to bring forth the Savior. One of the most prominent people featured in Kings is Solomon, who himself is an intermediate fulfillment of God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-14. Solomon builds a temple for the Lord, which serves as God’s dwelling place among his people. The ultimate temple would eventually be the body of Jesus, who is God incarnate (Jn 2:19-22; Col 2:9).

We also see a connection to Jesus through the lives and ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah’s ministry stresses law, judgment and repentance just as John the Baptist did before Christ (Is 40:3; Mal 4:5; 2 Ki 1:8; Mt 3:1-4; 17:10-13). Elijah was also present at Jesus’ transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8). Elisha’s ministry was highlighted by many miracles, the likes of which would not be seen until Christ himself, which emphatically showed that a prophet had once again come to God’s people (e.g., 2 Ki 4:42-44; Mt 14:13-21; 15:29-38).

Notable Passages

  • 1 Kings 3:1-15
  • 1 Kings 6:1,38
  • 1 Kings 8:10-13,20-21
  • 1 Kings 17:24
  • 1 Kings 18:25-29
  • 1 Kings 18:30-39
  • 1 Kings 19:11-13,18
  • 2 Kings 2:11-12
  • 2 Kings 17:7-23
  • 2 Kings 22:18-20
  • 2 Kings 23:1-3
  • 2 Kings 24:10-14

Outline (with dates)

The period covered by 1 Kings and 2 Kings can be divided into three parts:

  1. The reign of Solomon (970 to 930 BC) – 1 Kings 1-11
  2. The Divided Kingdoms of Judah and Israel (930 to 722 BC) – 1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17
  3. Judah alone up to the Babylonian Exile (722 to 586 BC) – 2 Kings 18-25

References   [ + ]

1. The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission.
2. Hummel, Horace. The Word Becoming Flesh. United States: Concordia Publishing House, 1985. 148.