KINGS, BOOKS OF THE
Books of the Holy Scriptures relating the history of Israel from the last days of King David until the release of King Jehoiachin from prison in Babylon.
Originally the two books of Kings comprised one roll called “Kings” (Heb., Mela·khimʹ), and in the Hebrew Bible today they are still counted as one book, the fourth in the section known as the “Former Prophets.” In the Septuagint the Books of the Kings were called Third and Fourth Kingdoms, the Books of Samuel having been designated First and Second Kingdoms. In the Latin Vulgate these books were together known as the four books of ‘Kings’ because Jerome preferred the name Regum (“Kings”), in harmony with the Hebrew title, to the literal translation of the Septuagint title Regnorum (“Kingdoms”). Division into two books in the Septuagint became expedient because the Greek translation with vowels required almost twice as much space as did Hebrew in which no vowels were used until the Common Era. The division between Second Samuel and First Kings has not always been at the same place in the Greek versions. Lucian, for one, in his recension of the Septuagint, made the division so that First Kings commenced with what is 1 Kings 2:12 in our present-day Bibles.
WRITING OF THE BOOKS
Although the name of the writer of the Books of the Kings is not given in the two accounts, Scriptural inferences and Jewish tradition point to Jeremiah. Many Hebrew words and expressions found in these two books appear elsewhere in the Bible only in Jeremiah’s prophecy. The Books of the Kings and the book of Jeremiah complement each other, events, as a rule, being briefly covered in one if fully described in the other. Absence of any mention of Jeremiah in the Books of the Kings, although he was a very prominent prophet, could be expected if Jeremiah was the writer because his activities were detailed in the book bearing his name. The Books of the Kings tell of conditions in Jerusalem after the captivity had begun, indicating that the writer had not been taken to Babylon, even as Jeremiah was not.—Jer. 40:5, 6.
Some scholars see in the Books of the Kings what they consider to be evidence of the work of more than one writer or compiler. However, except for variation because of the sources used, it must be observed that the language, style, vocabulary and grammar are uniform throughout.
First Kings covers a period of about 129 years, commencing with the final days of King David, about 1040 B.C.E., and running through to the death of Judean King Jehoshaphat in 911 B.C.E. (1 Ki. 22:50) Second Kings begins with Ahaziah’s reign (or about 920/919 B.C.E.) and carries through to at least the thirty-seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile, 580 B.C.E., a period of about 340 years. (2 Ki. 1:1, 2; 25:27-30) Hence the combined accounts of the Books of the Kings cover about four and a half centuries of Hebrew history. As the events recorded therein include those up to 580 B.C.E., these books could not have been completed before this date, and because there is no mention of the termination of the Babylonian exile, they, as one roll, undoubtedly were finished before that time.
The place of writing for both books appears to have been, for the most part, Jerusalem and Judah, because most of the source material would be available there. However, Second Kings was logically completed in Egypt, where Jeremiah was taken after the assassination of Gedaliah at Mizpah.—Jer. 41:1-3; 43:5-8.
The Books of the Kings have always had a place in the Jewish canon and are accepted as canonical by all authorities. There is good reason for this, because these books carry forward the development of the foremost Bible theme, the Kingdom of the promised Seed. Moreover, three leading prophets, Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah, are given prominence and their prophecies are shown to have had unerring fulfillments. Events recorded in the Books of the Kings are referred to and elucidated elsewhere in the Scriptures. Jesus refers to what is written in these books three times—regarding Solomon (Matt. 6:29), the queen of the south (Matt. 12:42; compare 1 Kings 10:1-9), the widow of Zarephath and Naaman. (Luke 4:25-27; compare 1 Kings 17:8-10; 2 Kings 5:8-14.) Paul mentions the account concerning Elijah and the 7,000 men who did not bend the knee to Baal. (Rom. 11:2-4; compare 1 Kings 19:14, 18.) James speaks of Elijah’s prayers for drought and rain. (Jas. 5:17, 18; compare 1 Kings 17:1; 18:45.) These references to the actions of individuals described in the Books of the Kings vouch for the canonicity of these writings.
The Books of the Kings were largely compiled from written sources and the writer shows clearly that he referred to these outside sources for some of his information. He refers to “the book of the affairs of Solomon” (1 Ki. 11:41), “the book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Judah” (1 Ki. 15:7, 23) and “the book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Israel.”—1 Ki. 14:19; 16:14.
One of the oldest extant Hebrew manuscripts containing the Books of the Kings in full is dated 1008 C.E. The Vatican No. 1209 and Alexandrine Manuscripts contain the Books of the Kings (in Greek), but the Sinaitic Manuscript does not. Fragments of the Books of the Kings evidently dating from the B.C.E. period have been found in the Qumran caves and these show only minor variations when compared with later texts.
The framework of these books shows that the writer or compiler gave pertinent facts about each king for the purpose of chronology and to reveal God’s estimate, favorable or unfavorable, of each one. The relationship of their reigns to the worship of Jehovah stands out as the most important factor. After considering the reign of Solomon, there is, with some exceptions, a general set pattern for describing each reign, as two parallel lines of history are interwoven. For the kings of Judah there is usually first given an introductory synchronism with the contemporaneous king of Israel, then the age of the king, the length of his reign, the place of rule and the name and home of his mother, the latter being an item of interest and importance because at least some of the kings of Judah were polygamous. In concluding the account for each king the source of the information, the burial of the king and the name of his successor are given. Some of the same details are provided for each king of Israel, but the king’s age at the time of his accession and the name and home of his mother are not given. Data supplied in First and Second Kings have been very useful in the study of Bible chronology.—See CHRONOLOGY.
The Books of the Kings are more than just annals or a recital of events as in a chronicle. They report the facts of history with an explanation of their significance. Eliminated from the account, it seems, is that which does not have direct bearing on the developing purpose of God and that which does not illustrate the principles by which Jehovah deals with his people. The faults of Solomon and the other kings of Judah and Israel are not disguised but are related with the utmost candor.
The discovery of numerous artifacts has furnished certain confirmation that the Books of the Kings are historically and geographically accurate. Archaeology, as well as living proof today, confirms the existence of the cedar forests of Lebanon, from which Solomon obtained timbers for his building projects in Jerusalem. (1 Ki. 5:6; 7:2) Evidence of industrial activity has been found in the basin of the Jordan N of the Jabbok River, where Succoth and Zarethan once stood.—1 Ki. 7:45, 46.
Secular history confirms the dealings between an Egyptian Pharaoh (Psinaches) and Hadad the Edomite (1 Ki. 11:19, 20), and Shishak’s becoming king of Egypt toward the end of Solomon’s reign. (1 Ki. 11:40) Shishak’s invasion of Judah in Rehoboam’s time (1 Ki. 14:25, 26) is confirmed by the Pharaoh’s own record on the walls of the Temple of Karnak in Egypt.
A black limestone obelisk of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III found at Nimrud in 1846 apparently depicts an emissary of Jehu bowing before Shalmaneser, an incident which, though not mentioned in the Books of the Kings, adds testimony to the historicity of Israel’s King Jehu. The extensive building works of Ahab, including “the house of ivory that he built” (1 Ki. 22:39), are well attested by the ruins found at Samaria, Hazor and Megiddo.
The Moabite Stone relates some of the events involved in King Mesha’s revolt against Israel, giving the Moabite monarch’s version of what took place. (2 Ki. 3:4, 5) This alphabetic inscription also contains the Tetragrammaton.
The name “Pekah” is on a jar found in Hazor at the level evidently destroyed by Tiglath-pileser. (2 Ki. 15:27) The campaign of Tiglath-pileser III against Israel is mentioned in his royal annals and in an Assyrian building inscription. (2 Ki. 15:29) The name “Hoshea” has also been deciphered from inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser’s campaign.—2 Ki. 15:30.
Some of Assyrian King Sennacherib’s engagements are mentioned in his annals, but not the angelic destruction of his army of 185,000 as it camped against Jerusalem (2 Ki. 19:35), nor should we expect to find in his boastful records an account of this overwhelming setback. Notable archaeological confirmation of the last statement in the Books of the Kings has been found in cuneiform tablets excavated at Babylon. These indicate that Jehoiachin was imprisoned in Babylon and mention that he was provided rations from the royal treasury.—2 Ki. 25:30.
FULFILLMENTS OF PROPHECY
The Books of the Kings contain various prophecies and point to striking fulfillments. For example, 1 Kings 2:27 shows the fulfillment of Jehovah’s word against the house of Eli. (1 Sam. 2:31-36; 3:11-14) Prophecies regarding Ahab and his house were fulfilled. (Compare 1 Kings 21:19-21 with 1 Kings 22:38 and 2 Kings 10:17.) What was foretold concerning Jezebel and her remains came true. (Compare 1 Kings 21:23 with 2 Kings 9:30-36.) And the facts of history confirm the veracity of the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem.—2 Ki. 21:13.
Among the many points highlighted in the Books of the Kings is the importance of adherence to Jehovah’s requirements and the dire consequences of ignoring his just laws. The two Books of the Kings forcefully verify the predicted consequences of both obedience and disobedience to Jehovah God.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. David’s son Adonijah seeks throne but his efforts are thwarted by anointing of Solomon as king (1:1-53)
II. David’s final instructions to Solomon and their execution following David’s death (2:1-46)
III. Solomon’s reign; his activities and accomplishments (3:1–11:43)
A. Solomon forms marriage alliance with Egypt’s Pharaoh but continues to love Jehovah (3:1-3)
B. He requests wisdom on occasion of Jehovah’s appearing to him at Gibeon in a dream; request granted and evidence seen in Solomon’s judgment of two prostitutes (3:4-28)
C. Solomon’s officials and their functions; his power, fame and wisdom (4:1-34)
D. His dealings with Hiram for building materials (5:1-18)
E. Construction of temple and its utensils and furnishings; also erection of other structures (6:1–7:51)
F. Israel assembled for dedication of temple (8:1-66)
1. Ark brought into temple by priests; Jehovah’s acceptance of temple manifest by filling it with cloud after priests leave (8:1-13)
2. Solomon addresses people, prays for God’s favor, blesses people, offers sacrifices and finally dismisses assembly on eighth day (8:14-66)
G. Jehovah appears to Solomon a second time, assuring him that obedience will bring blessing, disobedience will lead to national disaster (9:1-9)
H. Solomon’s further dealings with Hiram (9:10-14)
I. Solomon’s conscription of forced labor; his shipping and commercial interests, wealth, wisdom and impression made on visiting queen of Sheba (9:15–10:29)
J. Solomon’s apostasy through marriage to foreign women and resultant difficulties toward close of reign (11:1-25)
K. Jehovah makes known purpose to rip ten tribes away from Solomon and give them to Jeroboam; Solomon dies and is succeeded by Rehoboam (11:26-43)
IV. Beginning of Rehoboam’s reign and the division of the kingdom (12:1-24)
V. Jeroboam rules as king over ten tribes, faithlessly introduces calf worship and has Jehovah’s adverse judgment pronounced against him and his house (12:25–14:20)
VI. Judean King Rehoboam’s rule marked by idolatry, and, in his fifth year, Egypt’s King Shishak invades Judah (14:21-31)
VII. Abijam of Judah rules three years while Jeroboam reigns over Israel (15:1-8)
VIII. Judean King Asa’s rule witnesses campaign against idolatry and continual warfare between Israel and Judah during reign of Baasha, third king of ten-tribe kingdom (15:1-24)
IX. Nadab’s two-year reign as king of Israel and Baasha’s conspiracy (15:25-31)
X. Baasha’s rule and Jehovah’s judgment against him (15:32–16:7)
XI. Reign of Israelite King Elah and conspiracy and reign of his successor Zimri (16:8-15)
XII. Omri gains throne by successfully warring against Zimri and, with aid of his supporters, overcoming his rival Tibni; exceeds wickedness of predecessors (16:16-28)
XIII. Events of Israelite King Ahab’s reign starting with thirty-eighth year of Asa (16:29–22:40)
A. Ahab marries Jezebel and becomes Baal worshiper (16:29-33)
B. Hiel the Bethelite rebuilds Jericho (16:34)
C. Elijah’s prophetic activity, his miracles, confrontation with Ahab, execution of Baal worshipers, flight from Jezebel’s wrath and commission to anoint Hazael, Jehu and Elisha (17:1–19:21)
D. Ahab’s conflicts with Syrian King Ben-hadad; his God-given victory followed by rebuke for failing to devote Ben-hadad to destruction (20:1-43)
E. Ahab covets Naboth’s vineyard; Jezebel maneuvers Naboth’s murder and Ahab takes possession of vineyard; for this vile deed Jehovah, through Elijah, pronounces doom for Ahab and his house (21:1-29)
F. Ahab and Judean King Jehoshaphat join in an effort to wrest Ramoth-gilead from Syrians; attack fails, with Ahab being mortally wounded in battle (22:1-40)
XIV. Reigns of Judean King Jehoshaphat and Israelite King Ahaziah (22:41-53)
I. Closing period of Elijah’s prophetic work in Israel (1:1–2:13)
A. Elijah announces death for injured King Ahaziah (1:1-18)
B. Elijah taken away in windstorm while in Elisha’s company (2:1-13)
II. Elisha’s service as prophet spans reigns of Israelite Kings Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jehoash (2:14–13:21)
A. Jordan’s waters part for Elisha; he heals water at Jericho and, on way to Mount Carmel, calls down evil on jeering children, forty-two of whom are subsequently torn in pieces by two she-bears (2:14-25)
B. During military expedition against Moab, allied armies of Jehoram of Israel, Jehoshaphat of Judah and king of Edom become trapped in waterless region; Elisha’s inspired advice given for Jehoshaphat’s sake saves them and results in defeat for Moabites (3:1-27)
C. Elisha miraculously increases oil of widow, enabling her to pay off debts (4:1-7)
D. Hospitably received by a couple at Shunem, Elisha promises son to Shunammite woman; son born, later dies and is resurrected by Elisha (4:8-37)
E. Elisha renders poisonous stew harmless, multiplies provision of bread, heals Naaman of leprosy and causes axhead to float (4:38–6:7)
F. During Israel’s warfare with Syria, Elisha alerts king of Israel about Syrian moves; Syrians unsuccessfully try to capture Elisha (6:8-23)
G. Syrian King Ben-hadad invades in force and besieges Samaria, causing extreme famine in city; Israel’s king blames Elisha for this and purposes to kill prophet (6:24-33)
H. Elisha predicts end of famine brought by siege; prediction fulfilled (7:1-20)
I. Elisha’s further dealings with Shunammite woman, and events in her life (8:1-6)
J. Elisha goes to Damascus and there makes known that Hazael would become king of Syria; his words are fulfilled (8:7-15)
K. Relationship between ruling families of Judah and Israel in Elisha’s time (8:16-29)
L. Elisha sends attendant to anoint Jehu as king; Jehu conspires against Israel’s King Jehoram, proceeds against house of Ahab and destroys Baal worshipers (9:1–10:36)
M. Jehu’s executional work also brings death to Judean King Ahaziah (9:27, 28), enabling the queen mother Athaliah to seize throne and rule until anointing of Jehoash as king and her execution; Jehoash’s reign starts out well but ends in failure (11:1–12:21)
N. Israel under Syrian oppression during Jehoahaz’ reign, but later there is some relief; his successor Jehoash (of Israel) visits Elisha and receives indication of victory over Syrians; Elisha dies (13:1-21)
III. Israelite King Jehoash strikes down Syrians three times (13:22-25)
IV. Reigns of Judean King Amaziah and Israelite King Jehoash and the defeat of Judah at hands of Israel (14:1-22)
V. Jeroboam (II) rules over Israel and restores lost territory (14:23-29)
VI. Reigns of Judean Kings Azariah and Jotham and Israelite Kings Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah and Pekah (15:1-37)
VII. Reign of Judean King Ahaz, his idolatry and dealings with Assyria (16:1-20)
VIII. Reign of Israelite King Hoshea; Israel, having made bad record before God, taken into Assyrian exile and other peoples settled by Assyrian monarch in cities of Samaria (17:1-41)
IX. Reign of Judean King Hezekiah (18:1–20:21)
A. Hezekiah’s campaign against idolatry, his rebellion against Assyria and war against Philistines; northern kingdom taken into Assyrian exile during his reign (18:1-12)
B. Assyrian King Sennacherib invades Judah; Jerusalem, though threatened, is saved in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jehovah’s angel destroying 185,000 of the Assyrian host and thus causing Sennacherib to return to his land (18:13–19:37)
C. Hezekiah’s sickness, recovery, reception of Babylonian messengers and death (20:1-21)
X. Reigns of Manasseh and Amon (21:1-26)
XI. Josiah’s reign (22:1–23:30)
A. Temple repair work undertaken; book of law found, prompting extensive religious reforms and destruction of appendages of idolatry (22:1–23:27)
B. Josiah’s death in battle with Pharaoh Nechoh (23:28-30)
XII. Reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim (23:31–24:7)
XIII. Jehoiachin’s rule and first Babylonian exile (24:8-17)
XIV. Zedekiah’s reign; destruction of Jerusalem and temple by Babylonians and subsequent exile (24:18–25:21)
XV. Gedaliah appointed governor over people not taken into exile; after his assassination people go to Egypt (25:22-26)
XVI. Babylonian King Evil-merodach elevates exiled King Jehoiachin (25:27-30)