Book Summaries

The history of the Hebrew nation from the crowning of Solomon and the death of David through Solomon's reign and the period of the divided kingdom, to the Babylonian captivity, and beyond, a period of about 400 years. In the ancient Hebrew canon 1st and 2nd Kings appeared as 1 book, known as Melakim, "Kings." The division into 2 sections goes back to the LXX. In the ancient Hebrew canon the book of Kings stood among the Former Prophets, in the 2nd section of the Hebrew Scriptures, which is known as the Prophets. The Former Prophets--Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings--constitute a continuous narrative covering Israelite history from the death of Moses to the Exile. The literary form of the record contained in the books of Kings indicates that the historical data were selected from other sources by an inspired editor, who brought the materials together and arranged them into a unified framework with a specific pattern, and who added inspired comments on the religious and spiritual significance of the events of Hebrew history. He cites as the sources for his information (1) the "book of the acts of Solomon" (1 Ki 11:41), (2) the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (ch 14:19) for the northern kingdom to the death of Pekah (2 Ki 15:30, 31), and (3) "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (1 Ki 14:29) for the southern kingdom to Jehoiakim's death (2 Ki 24:5, 6). The latter 2 seem at some time, perhaps later, to have been combined into "the book of the kings of Judah and Israel" (cf. 2 Chr. 16:11). The editor of Kings repeatedly refers his readers to these other works for further details (cf. 1 Ki 14:19, 29). The historical accuracy of the account preserved in 1st and 2nd Kings has been attested beyond question by a remarkable series of archaeological discoveries. In accuracy and objectivity this inspired record of the history of God's people is infinitely superior to similar records preserved in Assyria, Babylon, or Egypt. Despite the diversity of the materials brought together from other sources, there is a striking evidence of unity. For instance, a standard formula is used for the beginning and ending of each reign. The reign of each king is evaluated good or evil as compared with previous noteworthy reigns. Characteristic peculiarities of thought and expression that occur throughout point unmistakably to a single person as being responsible for bringing the material together in its present form.

According to Jewish tradition (the Talmud, Baba Bathra 15a), this compiler was Jeremiah. But whoever the editor was, he had true historical perspective and insight, for although the books are essentially historical in nature, their primary purpose is to point out the lesson that righteousness exalts a nation and that wickedness leads to ruin. The inspired editor traces the growth and decay of the Hebrew kingdom, pointing out the causes of prosperity and adversity and drawing attention to the effect of moral and religious character upon national fortunes (cf. 2 Ki 17). The compiler of Kings is concerned chiefly with the history of the southern kingdom of Judah, but incorporates that of the northern kingdom of Israel, partly as background information and partly to preserve a complete record of the entire nation. At times this procedure involves a measure of repetition. For the kings of Israel the basic pattern usually includes the length of the reign and the time of the king's death. For the kings of Judah the formula includes also the age of each at his accession, the name of his mother, and a reference to his burial. In each case the accession of each monarch is dated in terms of a regnal year of the contemporary ruler of the other kingdom. A noteworthy feature is the basic chronological framework of the books, by which the editor synchronises the reigns of the kings in the 2 kingdoms. There are difficulties to be overcome in reconciling the figures, and in harmonising with these non-Biblical chronological data, but the seeming discrepancies are due largely to our lack of information about the technical methods of chronological reckoning in use in Bible times.

The combined record of 1st and 2nd Kings divides logically into 3 major sections: (1) From the death of David to the disruption of the kingdom (1 Ki 1:1 to 11:43). (2) From the disruption to the fall of Samaria and the end of the northern kingdom (Ki 12:1 to 2 Ki 17:41). (3) From Hezekiah to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Ki 18:1 to 25:30). For the most part the narrative proceeds in chronological order, and mentions each king in the order of his accession to the throne. Appended to the record is a brief account of the governorship of Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar left in charge of affairs in Judah after he had destroyed Jerusalem and taken most of the nation into captivity (ch 25:22 ­26). Brief mention is also made of King Jehoiachin's release from prison a number of years later (vs. 27 ­30).

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.