Kings, The Books of
|RELATED: Bathsheba, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jerusalem, Jezebel, Joab, Nathan, Obadiah, Queen of Sheba, Solomon
| AUTHOR: unknown
LIST OF KINGS / RULERS: Kingdom
of Israel, Kingdom
READ: American Standard Version, King James Version,
New American Standard Bible,
Easton's Bible Dictionary
The two books of Kings formed originally but one book in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The present division into two books was first made by the LXX., which now, with
the Vulgate, numbers them as the third and fourth books of Kings, the two books
of Samuel being the first and second books of Kings.
They contain the annals of the Jewish commonwealth from the accession of Solomon
till the subjugation of the kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (apparently
a period of about four hundred and fifty-three years). The books of Chronicles
(q.v.) are more comprehensive in their contents than those of Kings. The latter
synchronize with 1 Chronicles 28:2 - 2 Chronicles 36:21 . While in the Chronicles
greater prominence is given to the priestly or Levitical office, in the Kings
greater prominence is given to the kingly.
The authorship of these books is uncertain. There are some portions of them and
of Jeremiah that are almost identical, e.g., 2 Kings 24:18 - 25 and Jeremiah 52
; 39:1 - 10 ; 40:7 - 41:10. . There are also many undesigned coincidences between
Jeremiah and Kings ( 2 Kings 21 - 23 and Jeremiah 7:15 ; 15:4 ; 19:3 , etc.),
and events recorded in Kings of which Jeremiah had personal knowledge. These facts
countenance in some degree the tradition that Jeremiah was the author of the books
of Kings. But the more probable supposition is that Ezra, after the Captivity,
compiled them from documents written perhaps by David, Solomon, Nathan, Gad, and
Iddo, and that he arranged them in the order in which they now exist.
In the threefold division of the Scriptures by the Jews, these books are ranked
among the "Prophets." They are frequently quoted or alluded to by our Lord and
his apostles ( Matthew 6:29 ; 12:42 ; Luke 4:25, Luke 4:26 ; 10:4 ; Compare 2
Kings 4:29 ; Mark 1:6 ; Compare 2 Kings 1:8 ; Matthew 3:4 , etc.).
The sources of the narrative are referred to
|(1) "the book of the acts of Solomon"
( 1 Kings 11:41 );
(2) the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" ( 1 Kings 14:29 ; 15:7,
15:23 , etc.);
(3) the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" ( 1 Kings 14:19 ; 15:31
; 16:14, 16:20, 16:27 , etc.).
The date of its composition was some time between B.C. 561, the date of the last
chapter ( 2 Kings 25 ), when Jehoiachin was released from captivity by Evil-merodach,
and B.C. 538, the date of the decree of deliverance by Cyrus.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Originally only one book in the Hebrew canon, from in the LXX. and the Vulgate
the third and fourth books of Kings (the books of Samuel being the first and second).
It must be remembered that the division between the books of Kings and Samuel
is equally artificial, and that in point of fact the historical books commencing
with Judges and ending with 2 Kings present the appearance of one work, giving
a continuous history of Israel from the time of Joshua to the death of jehoiachin.
The books of Kings contain the history from Davids death and Solomons accession
to the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and the desolation of Jerusalem, with
a supplemental notice of an event that occurred after an interval of twenty-six
years --viz., the liberation of Jehoiachin from his prison at Babylon --and a
still further extension to Jehoiachins death, the time of which is not known,
but which was probably not long after his liberation. The history therefore comprehends
the whole time of the Israelitish monarchy, exclusive of the reigns of Saul and
David. As regards the affairs of foreign nations and the relation of Israel to
them, the historical notices in these books, though in the earlier times scanty,
are most valuable, and in striking accord with the latest additions to our knowledge
of contemporary profane history. A most important aid to a right understanding
of the history in these books, and to the filling up of its outline, is to be
found in the prophets, and especially in Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Time when written. --
They were undoubtedly written during the period of the captivity, probably after
the twenty-sixth year.
As regards the authorship of the books, but little difficulty presents itself.
The Jewish tradition which ascribes them to Jeremiah is borne out by the strongest
internal evidence, in addition to that of the language.
Sources of information. --
There was a regular series of state annals for both the kingdom of Judah and that
of Israel, which embraced the whole time comprehended in the books of Kings, or
at least to the end of the reign of Jehoiakim. ( 2 Kings 24:5 ) These annals are
constantly cited by name as "the book of the acts of Solomon," ( 1 Kings 11:41
) and after Solomon "the book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah" or "Israel,"
e.g. ( 1 Kings 14:29 ; 15:7 ; 16:5 , 16:14 , 16:20 ; 2 Kings 10:34 ; 24:5 ) etc.;
and it is manifest that the author of Kings had them both before him while he
drew up his history, in which the reigns of the two kingdoms are harmonized and
these annals constantly appealed to. But in addition to these national annals,
there, were also extant, at the time that the books of Kings were compiled, separate
works of the several prophets who had lived in Judah and Israel.
Their canonical authority having never been disputed, it is needless to bring
forward the testimonies to their authenticity which may be found in Josephus,
Eusebius, jerome, Augustine, etc. They are reckoned among the prophets, in the
threefold division of the Holy Scriptures; a position in accordance with the supposition
that they were compiled by Jeremiah, and contain the narratives of the different
prophets in succession. They are frequently cited by our Lord and by the apostles.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The Hebrew title reads, melakhim, "kings," the division into books being based
on the Septuagint where the Books of Kings are numbered 3rd and 4th, the Books
of Kingdoms (Basileion), the Books of Samuel being numbered respectively 1st and
2nd. The separation in the Hebrew into 2 Books of Kings dates to the rabbinic
Bible of Daniel Bomberg (Venice, 1516-17), who adds in a footnote, "Here the non-Jews
(i.e. Christians) begin the 4th Book of Kings." The Hebrew Canon treats the 2
Books of Samuel as one book, and the 2 Books of Kings as one. Hence, both the
King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) read incorrectly,
"The First Book of Kings," even the use of the article being superfluous.gs (stadia)
from Jerusalem, which he named Absalom's Hand." In all probability this "pillar"
was a rough upright stone--a matstsebhah--but its site is lost. The traditional
Greek-Egyptian tomb of perhaps 100-200 years BC which has been hewn out of the
rock on the eastern side of the Kidron valley is manifestly misnamed "Absalom's
pillar," and the Kidron ravine (nachal) cannot be the King's Vale ('emeq).
The Books of Kings contain 47 chapters (I, 22 chs; II, 25 chs), and cover the
period from the conspiracy of Adonijah and the accession of Solomon (975 BC) to
the liberation of Jehoiachin after the beginning of the Exile (561 BC). The subject-matter
may be grouped under certain heads, as the last days of David (1 Kings 1:1 - 2:11);
Solomon and his times (1 Kings 2:12 - 11:43); the Northern Kingdom to the coming
of Assyria (1 Kings 12:16 - 2 Kings) (937-722 BC), including 9 dynastic changes;
the Southern Kingdom to the coming of Babylon (1 Kings 12:1 - 2 Kings, the annals
of the two kingdoms being given as parallel records until the fall of Israel)
(937-586 BC), during which time but one dynasty, that of David, occupied the throne;
the period of exile to 561 BC (2 Kings 25:22 - 30). A simpler outline, that of
Driver, would be:
|(1) Solomon and his times (1 Kings 1 - 11);
(2) Israel and Judah to the fall of Israel (1 Kings 12 - 2 Kings 17); Judah to
the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC), and the captivity to the liberation of Jehoiachin
(561 BC) (2 Kings 18 - 25).
"Above all, there are three features in the history, which, in the mind of the
author, are of prime importance as shown by the prominence he gives them in his
|(1) The dynasty of David is invested with peculiar dignity.
This had two aspects. It pointed back to the Divine election of the nation in
the past, and gave the guaranty of indefinite national perpetuity in the future.
The promise of the 'sure mercies of David' was a powerful uniting influence in
(2) The Temple and its service, for which the writer had such special regard,
contributed greatly to the phase of national character of subsequent times. With
all the drawbacks and defacements of pure worship here was the stated regular
performance of sacred rites, the development and regulation of priestly order
and ritual law, which stamped themselves so firmly on later Judaism.
(3) Above all, this was the period of bloom of Old Testament prophecy. Though
more is said of men like Elijah and Elisha, who have left no written words, we
must not forget the desires of pre-exilic prophets, whose writings have come down
to us--men who, against the opposition of rulers and the indifference of the people,
testified to the moral foundation on which the nation was constituted, vindicated
Divine righteousness, rebuked sin, and held up the ideal to which the nation was
called."--Robertson, Temple B D, 369 f.
III. CHARACTER OF BOOKS AND POSITION IN THE HEBREW CANON
The Books of Kings contain much historical material, yet the historical is not
their primary purpose. What in our English Bibles pass for historical books are
in the Hebrew Canon prophetic books, the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2
Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings being classed as the "Earlier Prophets."
The chief aim of these books is didactic, the imparting of great moral lessons
backed up by well-known illustrations from the nation's history and from the lives
of its heroes and leaders. Accordingly, we have here a sort of historical archipelago,
more continuous than in the Pentateuch, yet requiring much bridging over and conjecture
in the details.
2. Character of Data:
The historical matter includes, in the case of the kings of Israel, the length
of the reign and the death; in the case of the kings of Judah there are included
also the age at the date of accession, the name of the mother, and mention of
the burial. The beginnings of the reigns in each case are dated from a point in
the reign of the contemporary ruler, e.g. 1 Kings 15:1: "Now in the 18th year
of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat began Abijam to reign over Judah."
IV. HISTORICAL VALUE
1. Treatment of Historical Data:
These books contain a large amount of authentic data, and, along with the other
books of this group which constitute a contemporaneous narrative, Joshua, Judges,
1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, must be accorded high rank among ancient documents. To be
sure the ethical and religious value is first and highest, nevertheless the historical
facts must be reckoned at their true worth. Discrepancies and contradictions are
to be explained by the subordination of historical details to the moral and religious
purpose of the books, and to the diversity of sources whence these data are taken,
that is, the compilers and editors of the Books of Kings as they now stand were
working not for a consistent, continuous historical narrative, but for a great
ethical and religious treatise. The historical material is only incidental and
introduced by way of illustration and confirmation. For the oriental mind these
historical examples rather than the rigor of modern logic constitute the unanswerable
There cannot be as much said relative to the chronological value of the books.
Thus, e.g., there is a question as to the date of the close of Ahaz' reign. According
to 2 Kings 18:10, Samaria fell in the 6th year of Hezekiah's reign. The kings
who followed Hezekiah aggregate 110 years; 586 plus 110 plus 29 (Hezekiah, 2 Kings
18:2) = 725. But in 2 Kings 18:13 we learn that Sennacherib's invasion came in
the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign. Then 701 plus 14 = 715. With this last agrees
the account of Hezekiah's sickness (2 Kings 20). In explanation of 2 Kings 18:13,
however, it is urged by some that the writer has subtracted the 15 years of 2
Kings 20:6 from the 29 years of Hezekiah's reign. Again, e.g. in 1 Kings 6:1,
we learn that Solomon began to build the temple 480 years "after the children
of Israel were come out of the Land of Egypt" Septuagint here reads 440 years).
This would make between Moses and David 12 generations of 40 years each. But counting
the Exodus in the reign of Merenptah, 1225-1215 BC, and the beginning of the erection
of the temple 975 BC, or after, we could not make out more than (1225-975) 250
years. Further, if the total length of reigns in Israel and Judah as recorded
in the parallel accounts of Kings be added for the two kingdoms, the two amounts
do not agree. And, again, it is not certain whether in their annals the Hebrews
predated or post-dated the reigns of their kings, i.e. whether the year of a king's
death was counted his last year and the first year of his successor's reign, or
whether the following year was counted the first year of the succeeding king (compare
Curtis in H D B, I, 400, 1,; Marti in E B, I, coll. 777).
3. Value of Assyrian Records:
The Babylonians and Assyrians were more skilled and more careful chronologers,
and it is by reference to their accounts of the same or of contemporary events
that a sure footing is found. Hence, the value of such monuments as those of Shalmaneser
IV and Sennacherib--and here mention should be made also of the Moabite Stone.
The plan of the books is prevailingly chronological, although at times the material
is arranged in groups (e.g. 2 Kings 2:1 - 8:15, the Elisha stories).
1. Nature of the Books:
The Books of Kings are of the nature of a compilation. The compiler has furnished
a framework into which he has arranged the historical matter drawn from other
sources. There are chronological data, citations of authorities, judgments on
the character and deeds of the several rulers, and moral and religious teachings
drawn from the attitude of the rulers in matters of religion, especially toward
heathen cults. The point of view is that of the prophets of the national party
as one against foreign influence. "Both in point of view and in phraseology the
compiler shows himself to be strongly influenced by Deuteronomy." (The principal
editor is styled RD, i.e. Deuteronomic Redactor.) The Deuteronomic law was the
touchstone, and by his loyalty to, or apostasy from, that standard, each king
stands approved or condemned. This influence also appears in passages where the
editor takes liberties in the expansion and adaptation of material. There is marked
recurrence of phrases occurring elsewhere chiefly or even wholly in Deuteronomy,
or in books showing Deuteronomic influence (Burney in H D B, II, 859 f). In 2
Kings 17 we have a test of the nation on the same standards; compare also 1 Kings
2:3 ; 9:1 - 9 ; 2 Kings 14:6 ; Deuteronomy 24:16.
In numerous instances the sources are indicated, as "the book of the acts of Solomon"
(1 Kings 11:41), "the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (1 Kings 14:29), "the
chronicles of the kings of Israel" (1 Kings 15:31). A score or more of these sources
are mentioned by title in the several books of the Old Testament. Thus "the history
of Samuel the seer," "the history of Nathan the prophet." "the history of Gad
the seer" (1 Chronicles 29:29); "the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite," "the visions
of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (2 Chronicles 9:29 ; compare
2 Chronicles 12:15 ; 13:22 ; 20:34 ; 32:32). Thus the "book of the kings of Israel"
is mentioned 17 times (for all kings except Jehoram and Hoshea); the "book of
the chronicles of the kings of Judah" is mentioned 15 times (for all except Ahaziah,
Athaliah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah). Whether the compiler had recourse
to the archives themselves or to a work based on the archives is still a question.
3. Kent's Scheme:
Kent, Student's Old Testament (II, chart, and pp. ix-xxvi), gives the following
scheme for showing the sources:
|(1) Early stories about the Ark (circa 950 BC or earlier),
Saul stories and David stories (950-900 BC) were united (circa 850 BC) to make
early Judean Saul and David stories. With these last were combined (circa 600
BC) popular Judean David stories (circa 700 BC) later Ephraimite Samuel narratives
(circa 650 BC), and very late popular prophetic traditions (650-600 BC) in a first
edition of the Books of Samuel.
(2) Annals of Solomon (circa 950 BC), early temple records (950-900 BC), were
united (circa 800 BC) with popular Solomon traditions (850-800 BC) in a "Book
of the Acts of Solomon." A Jeroboam history (900-850 BC), an Ahab history (circa
800 BC), and a Jehu history (circa 750 BC) were united with the annals of Israel
(after 950 to circa 700 BC) in the "Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" (700 or
after). Early Ephraimite Elisha narratives (800-750 BC), influenced by a Samaria
cycle of Elisha stories (750-700 BC) and a Gilgal cycle of Elisha stories (700-650
BC), were joined about 600 BC with the "Book of the Acts of Solomon" and the "Chronicles
of the Kings of Israel" in a "first edition of the Books of Kings."
(3) The first edition of Samuel, the first edition of Kings and Isaiah stories
(before 550 BC) were united (circa 550 BC) in a final revision of Samuel and Kings.
(4) From "annals of Judah" (before 900 to 650 BC or after), temple records (before
850 to after 650 BC), and a Hezekiah history (circa 650 BC), was drawn material
for the "Chronicles of the kings of Judah" (circa 600 BC).
(5) From this last work and the final revision of Samuel and Kings was taken material
for a "Midhrash of the Book of the kings of Israel and Judah" (circa 300 BC),
and from this work, the final revision of Samuel and Kings, and a possible temple
history (after 400)--itself from the final revision of Samuel and Kings--came
the Books of Chronciles (circa 250 BC).
4. The Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E):
The distinctions between the great documents of the Pentateuch do not appear so
clearly here. The summary, "epitome") is the work of a Jewish redactor; the longer
narratives (e.g. 1 Kings 17 - 2 Kings 8 ; 13:14 - 21) "are written in a bright
and chaste Hebrew style, though some of them exhibit slight peculiarities of diction,
due, doubtless (in part), to their North Israelite origin" (E). The writers of
these narratives are thought to have been prophets, in most cases from the Northern
There are numerous data bearing on the date of Kings, and indications of different
dates appear in the books. The closing verses bring down the history to the 37th
year of the Captivity (2 Kings 25:27); yet the author, incorporating his materials,
was apparently not careful to adjust the dates to his own time, as in 1 Kings
8:8 ; 12:19 ; 2 Kings 8:22 ; 16:6, which refer to conditions that passed away
with the Exile. The work was probably composed before the fall of Jerusalem (586
BC), and was revised during or shortly after the Exile, and also supplemented
by the addition of the account of the downfall of the Judean kingdom. There are
traces of a post-exilic hand, as, e.g., the mention of "the cities of Samaria"
(1 Kings 13:32), implying that Samaria was a province, which was not the case
until after the Exile. The existence of altars over the land (1 Kings 19:10),
and the sanctuary at Carmel, were illegal according to the Deuteronomic law, as
also was the advice given to Elisha (2 Kings 3:19) to cut down the fruit trees
in time of war; (Deuteronomy 20:19).
K. Budde, Das Buch der Richter, Mohr, Leipzig; John Skinner, "Kings," in New Century
Bible, Frowde, New York; C.F. Burney, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of
Kings, Clarendon Press, Oxford; 1903; R. Kittel, Die Bucher der Konige, Vandenhoeck
and Ruprecht, Leipzig, 1900; I. Benzinger, Die Bucher der Konige, Mohr, 1899;
C.F. Kent, Student's Old Testament, Scribner, 1905; S.R. Driver, Introduction
to the Literature of the Old Testament, Scribner, new revised edition, 1910; J.E.
McFadyen, Introduction to the Old Testament, Armstrong, New York, 1906; Carl H.
Cornill, Einleitung in die kanonischen Bucher Altes Testament, Mohr, 6th edition,
1908; A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Divine Library of the Old Testament, Macmillan, 1891.
Wallace N. Stearns
1 kings, 2 kings, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of kings, define, old testament