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The Books of Kings
1 Kings 2:11 - And
the days that David reigned over Israel [were] forty years: seven years reigned
he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem.
1 Kings 2:12 - Then
sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was established
The Old Testament - A Brief Overview
Summary of The Books of Kings
As was the case
with 1 and 2 Samuel, the books of Kings were originally only one book. When
divided in the Septuagint, they were called the Third and Fourth Books of
Kingdoms, although the Hebrew title is simply "Kings," the same as in our
English Bible. These form an obvious sequel to the books of Samuel.
The period covered extends from the accession of Solomon (c. 975 BC) to the
death of Jehoiachin sometime after his liberation from Babylonian imprisonment
(561 BC). The history contained in the two books covers the entire period of the
Jewish monarchy, except for the reigns of Saul and David, which are treated in 1
and 2 Samuel. Israel is seen in the two extremes of power and weakness; under
Solomon their dominion was extended from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean to
the border of Egypt (I Kin. 4:21); under the last kings they were reduced to a
pitiful remnant, subject alternatively to Egypt and Assyria, until they were
finally uprooted and taken out of their homeland. The cause of this decadence is
seen to have been the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam and the religious
schism and idolatrous worship which was effected by Jeroboam's political
motives. This division led to wars between the two kingdoms which naturally
weakened both. In a desperate effort to maintain their position, they made
foreign alliances, adopting the superstitions and deities of these heathen
nations, thus incurring the wrath of God and forfeiting the benefits of the
divine protection which they had hitherto enjoyed.
Although there is abundant attention given to names and dates, there is still
some difficulty in reconciling apparent chronological discrepancies. This is due
to the reckoning of fractions of years as complete years, the instances in which
a son served as co-regent, sharing as co-regent, sharing the rule with his
father, and probable errors in copying numbers. There is a Hebrew tradition
which states that Jeremiah was the author of the books of Kings. This theory has
much to commend it, but is not without its difficulties. That he could not have
been the author of the entire narrative is indicated by the account of the
deportation, imprisonment and subsequent release of Jehoiachin, whereas Jeremiah
was carried down to Egypt with the fugitives (Jer. 43:1-8). If the author was
not Jeremiah, however, he was in all probability a contemporary of his who held
the same views as the prophet of lamentation.
Many scholars feel that the work was composed before the fall of Jerusalem (586
BC and, during or shortly after the exile, was revised to include the account of
Jehoiachin's liberation from his Babylonian prison and the ultimate complete
downfall of the Judean kingdom. There was a regular series of state annals both
for the kingdom of Judah and that of Israel, which probably embraced the whole
time dealt with in the books of Kings, or at least to the time of Jehoiakim (2
Kin. 24:5). The author, or authors, of Kings made use of these archival sources,
citing them by name. In 1 Kin. 11:41, after the record of Solomon's reign, the
author refers to the "Book of the words of Solomon."
Indebtedness is also acknowledged to the "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of
Judah" (1 Kin. 14:29; 15:7, 23, etc.) and to the "Book of the Chronicles of the
Kings of Israel" (1 Kin. 14:19; 15:31, etc.). These were probably written down
by the prophets. An example of this type of work is seen in the history of
Uzziah which Isaiah compiled (1 Chr. 26:22). There were also extant at the time
of the compilation of the books of Kings, separate works of the various prophets
who had lived in Israel and Judah and which probably bore the same relation to
those Chronicles which the historical parts of Isaiah or Jeremiah bear to those
portions of the annals preserved in the books of Kings; that is, they were, in
some instances at least, more copious accounts of the current events by the same
hand that drew up the concise narrative of the annals, though in other instances
they were mere duplicates. An example of this is seen in the practical identity
between 2 Kin. 19 and Isa. 37. Also, chapter 52 of Jeremiah, relating to the
destruction of the temple, is quite like 2 Kin. 24-25.
The books of Kings may be arranged as follows for ease of study:
Outline of the Books of Kings
I. The Reign of Solomon (1 Kin. 1:1 -14:43)
1) The last days of David (1:1-2:11). Adonijah usurps David's throne, but flees
after the anointing of Solomon. David dies and is buried in Jerusalem.
2) Solomon's formal accession to the throne and the early days of his reign
3) Solomon's request for wisdom and his sagacious decision concerning the
disputed child (ch. 3).
4) A description of Solomon's power, wealth, and wisdom (ch. 4). In this section
we learn that Solomon wrote over 3,000 proverbs and 105 songs. For a further
discussion of this, see the introduction to Proverbs.
5) The erection of Solomon's temple (5-8).
6) A further description of the splendor of Solomon's kingdom (9-10). After
mentioning the stables, the navy and the great riches of the kingdom, the
narrative records the visit of the queen of Sheba, who was so impressed by the
scene that she remarked, "Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and
mine eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and
prosperity exceedeth the fame which heard" (1 Kin. 10:7).
7) Solomon's wives and apostasy (ch. 11). One cannot read this chapter seriously
without being saddened. In his search for wealth and pleasure, Solomon
contracted a large number of foreign wives—many, no doubt, for political
reasons. These women brought their foreign deities with them and eventually
Solomon's heart was turned away from the Lord "and his heart was not perfect
with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father" (11:4). Whether or
not Solomon was "the preacher" of Ecclesiastes cannot be proved beyond doubt. If
he was, however, surely the situation to which this chapter bears witness would
lead him to the statement of cynicism and despair: "Vanity of vanities, all is
vanity, saith the preacher" (Eccl. 1:2).
II. The Divided Kingdom (1 Kin. 12:1-2 Kin. 17:41)
1) The division of the kingdom (ch. 12). After Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam
became king. Instead of lightening the heavy tax burden which Solomon's
extravagances had forced on the people, Rehoboam decided to increase it.
Disgruntled, the ten northern tribes chose Jeroboam as their leader and seceded
from the union with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. In order to keep his
people from returning to worship in Jerusalem, where they might be influenced to
stand with Rehoboam, the king of the North instituted the worship of the golden
calf. This act of political expediency was the major factor in Israel's ultimate
2) The remainder of Jeroboam's reign (13:1-14-20). This section includes a
rebuke to Jeroboam by a man of God which contains an amazing prophecy concerning
the reformation of Josiah (v. 2), which was not to be fulfilled for over 300
years (2 Kin. 23:15-18).
3) Rehoboam, Abijam and Asa, kings of Judah (14:21-15:24).
4) Kings of Israel from Nadab to Omri (14:25-16:28).
5) Ahab, Jezebel and Elijah (16:29-22:40). These three individuals stand out as
among the more memorable in all the history of Israel, the first two for their
consummate wickedness and the latter for his fiery zeal and courageous efforts
in the service of God. Ch. 17 tells of the feeding of Elijah by the ravens and
his boarding at the house of the widow of Zarephath during the three and a half
year drought which was on the land. Ch. 18 informs us that Jezebel's wickedness
prompted her to subsidize Baal worship and a cult of heathen prophets, while she
strove to exterminate the prophets of God (v. 13). Also contained in this
chapter is the magnificent story of Elijah's "duel" with the prophets of Baal
atop Mt. Carmel. Ch. 19 records the anger of Jezebel at Elijah's having slain
her prophets and her threat upon his life. Elijah is reduced to desperation, but
is comforted by the "still, small voice" (v. 11, 12). Chs. 20-22 relate other
incidents concerning Ahab, including his brutal treatment of Naboth and his
death at the hands of the Syrians.
6) Jehoshaphat of Judah (22:41-50).
7) Ahaziah of Israel (22:51-2 Kin. 1:18).
8) Elijah's translation and the imparting of his spirit to Elisha (ch. 2).
9) Jehoram of Israel (ch. 3).
10) The ministry of Elisha the prophet (4-7). Elisha's ministry was
characterized by a considerable number of miracles, including the resurrection
from the dead of the son of the Shunammite woman, the healing of Naaman's
leprosy, and the floating axe head. Ch. 8 records the strange phenomenon of a
prophet's anointing the head of a foreign king to punish the prophet's own
people. Instructions to this effect had been given to Elijah (I Kin. 19:15).
11) Jehoram and Ahaziah of Judah (8:16-29).
12) Jehu, king of Israel (9-10). Having been anointed by Elisha to punish the
house of Ahab for its great wickedness, Jehu set about his task with a
frightening zeal. Everything which is known of him can be characterized by the
statement in 9:20:"he driveth furiously."
13) Miscellaneous kings of Israel and Judah (11-16). During his period Israel
reached a period of great prosperity under Jeroboam II, regaining many of the
areas which she had previously lost.
14) The captivity of Israel by Assyria in 721 BC (ch. 17). The last king of
Israel was Hoshea. He, like the nineteen kings before him, was guilty of
idolatrous worship. Finally, after repeated efforts by the prophets to turn the
people from their idols, God allowed the ten tribes of Israel to be carried out
of their homeland.
III. The Kingdom of Judah Alone (2 Kin. 18-25)
This section contains an account of the last nine kings of Judah and the fall of
Jerusalem. For a better historical perspective and a fuller treatment, the
reader is referred to the introduction to the books of Chronicles. Although the
books of Kings contain a great deal of historical material, history is not their
primary concern. In the Hebrew canon, they are classified, along with Joshua,
Judges and the books of Samuel, as the "earlier prophets." A close inspection of
the books will reveal that the lessons intended to be gained from them are
spiritual and not political. The writers of these books have utilized an
historical framework in an effort to proclaim their message of single-eyed
devotion to God, the factual information being appealed to for illustration and
confirmation. In this connection, it is well to suggest that a valuable aid to a
proper understanding of the history of these two books and to a filling out of
the outline which they provide is to be found in the study of the prophets,
especially Isaiah and Jeremiah. An intimate acquaintance with these prophets is
essential for a clear grasp of the concise narrative of these books.
Back to Bible
The Story of the Bible - Part One - The Old Testament
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)
The Story of the Bible
The Old Testament
Adam and Eve
The Tower of Babel
Abraham the First Hebrew
Isaac, Son of Promise
Jacob and the 12 Tribes
Joseph and Egypt
Moses and the Exodus
The Giving of the Law
The Wilderness Wanderings
Joshua and the Promised Land
Samuel the Prophet
Saul, Israel's First King
The Divided Kingdom
The Northern Kingdom of Israel
The Southern Kingdom of Judah
The Assyrian Captivity
The Babylonian Captivity
The Return From Babylon
Bibliography and Credits
Summary of the Old Testament Books
Song of Solomon