Why Two Books of Kings?
In the original Hebrew the two books of Kings are really one, (which is also the case for the books of Samuel and Chronicles). The division of Kings which appeared in the Greek Septuagint in the third century BC is artificial, as illustrated in the fact that the break between the books intervenes the full biography of Elijah and is in the middle of the reign of Ahaziah. They were split for technical reasons, probably because of the length of parchment available.
The Historical Context of the Two Books of Kings
The narrative of the books of Kings, covers a period of more than four centuries. Having recounted the reign of Solomon and the schism which resulted, these two books briefly recollect the 19 kings of the monarchy of Israel (the 10 tribes of the north with their capital in Samaria) and extends, sometimes with more detail, to the 19 kings who occupied the throne of David in Jerusalem.
The reigns of these very diverse kings are recorded according to the criteria of: he did that which was evil… or he did that which is right… in the eyes of the LORD. Interestingly, the only kings that did right, were kings of Judah.
The Author of the Two Books of Kings
The repetition of the words until this day indicates that these books were written after the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (586BC), during their period of captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30). The similarity of style between 2 Kings 25 and Jeremiah 52 leads us to possibly attribute the writing of the books of Kings to the prophet Jeremiah. However, as Jeremiah died in Egypt, it is suggested that a scribe may have completed the text during the Babylonian captivity.
The General Theme of 1 Kings
The text evokes the wisdom and glory of King Solomon (cp Matthew 6:29; 12:42) along with his major achievement in the construction of the Temple. It shows also his decline, his immorality and his worship of false gods, a grave situation which became the motivation for divine judgment on all Israel.
Chapter 12 is the turning point of this book, with the kingdom being divided into two. From the first days of the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, Jeroboam revolted and led the northern ten tribes (“Israel”) into a schism with the two southern tribes (“Judah”).
The kingdom of Israel in the north sinks quickly into more gross idolatry, which the prophet Elijah denounces and warns them of the consequences on behalf of God (chapters 17-18). During this time the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (the kingdom of Judah in the south), remain faithful to the house of David and continue to worship God in Jerusalem.
Section 1 Chapters 1–11 A united kingdom in relative quietude.
- The ascension of King Solomon (ch 1–8)
- The decline of King Solomon (ch 9–11)
Section 2 Chapters 12–22 Two kingdoms separated in great wickedness.
- 80 years of decline of the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel, with the intervention of the prophet Elijah, a giant of faith.