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1st and 2nd Kings – The Kingdom Divided

Key Verse: 1 Kings 12:19                                                                                                                              So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

AUTHORSHIP

As with the Books of Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings were also one book in the original Hebrew manuscripts. They were divided by the translators of Septuagint and called the 3rd and 4th Books of the Kings and are seen as a continuation of Samuel.

There is much internal evidence which suggests that the author drew from various sources in compiling his extensive history of the period. ; “the book of the acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41), “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah (1st Kings 14:29 and a further 14 occurrences), “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel” (1st kings 14:19 and a further 17 occurrences). Regarding the use made of these sources under God Edward J Young wrote:

“These sources, therefore, may be regarded as a part of a prophetic history issued in the form of annals. Under divine inspiration the author of Kings made his choice from these written documents.”

The tradition among the Jews was that Jeremiah was the author of the Books of Kings. Certainly the author was a contemporary of the great prophet as he obviously lived during the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. It is striking that 2nd Kings 24:18-25:30 are virtually identical with Jeremiah 52. If the author was not Jeremiah he obviously used the works of the prophet as another source of information. It is difficult to ascertain where Jeremiah derived his information regarding the Jews in exile as he was carried into Egypt, not to Babylon. Therefore we understand why the Jews identified the Books of the Kings as belonging to the prophets, they were written from the perspective of a man called to present God’s truth to the nation. Indeed Kings is the final book in the section of the Hebrew Bible known as the Former Prophets.

PURPOSE

To sketch the key events in the history of the Jewish people from the final days of David’s reign to the beginning of the Babylonian exile. Fundamental to our understanding of this period is the rebellion of the ten northern tribes against the House of David under the leadership of Jeroboam 1st (1 Kings 12).

KEY PLACES

Jerusalem

The seat of the Kings of Judah and spiritual home of the Hebrew people.

Samaria

Established by Omri as the seat of power for the Kings of Israel.

Dan and Bethel

Golden Calves set up in these two places as idols to prevent the people travelling to Jerusalem to worship God. They represented a religion of convenience used to consolidate the new nation.

KEY CHARACTERS

Gold crown
Gold crown with gems isolated on white background

David

His final act was to declare Solomon as King, against the actions of his Adonijah who had been crowned with the support of Zadok, the High Priest, and Joab, the Commander-in-Chief. Solomon’s accession broke Joab’s mischievous influence and hastened his death. Throughout the Books the Kings of Judah are differentiated between those who walked in the ways of David and those who failed in this regard. In the dark days of spiritual decline, however, it was stressed that God would favour Judah for the sake his servant David (1 Kings 11:36, 2nd Kings 8:10).

Solomon

With a name which is a variant of the Hebrew, Shalom or Peace, Solomon hastened in a long period of peace and prosperity. Renowned for his wisdom and riches he led Israel to her brightest and best days. The erection of the temple and his prayer of dedication is one of the spiritual high water marks in the history of the Jewish people. While he is noted as the writer of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, he sadly and tragically sowed the seeds of future apostasy with his marriage to heathen women for pragmatic political gain.

Rehoboam

Solomon’s son who refused the advice of the older men who cautioned against heavy taxation. The result of the division of the Kingdom.

Jeroboam

A servant of Solomon’s who had obvious talents as a leader and administrator. He used these talents to establish a new Kingdom and a false religion. He is referred to as the man who made Israel to sin.

Asa

A long and prosperous reign with many commendable characteristics.

Omri

Samaria established as the administrative capital of Israel. He brought stability to an unstable and warring people.

Ahab

His reign in the Northern Kingdom is important in that he led the nation to new depths of apostasy as a result of the influence of his heathen Queen, Jezebel. He reared up a temple to Baal with a pagan altar in Samaria and provoked God more than all the Kings which were before him (1 Kings 16:31-33). His life was characterised by idolatry and stained by the murder of Naboth. His death was clearly God’s judgement.

Elijah

1 Kings 17-2nd Kings 2, charter the life of the greatest prophet of the period and one who ranks with Moses as one of the two foremost leaders in Old Testament history. He ministered in a dark time to the northern nation. Yet his prophecy sparked a new awakening among the people as the spiritual battle at Mount Carmel illustrated.

Elisha

2nd Kings 2:-13 charters the career of Elisha as Elijah’s successor. The time is one of three Biblical periods where miracles are the norm (along with Moses and Christ and the Apostles). He led societies known as schools of the prophets who kept God’s truth alive among the people. As he died the King cried out “My Father, my Father the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof” (13:14) indicating the decisive role that the prophet played in the life of the nation.

Jehoshaphat

His reign over Judah is included within the historical scope of 1 Kings 8 – 2nd Kings 8. The writer of Kings focuses upon his political contribution as opposed to his spiritual leadership. He compromised with the House of Ahab for pragmatic reasons (1 Kings 22 and 2nd Kings 3). This unholy alliance led to the marriage between Jehoshaphat’s son and the daughter of Ahab which in turn had a detrimental effect upon the spiritual life of the southern Kingdom (2 Kings 8:18).

Ahaz

A King of Judah who behaved like the Kings of Israel. Devil worship and human sacrifice were introduced to the people (2nd Kings 16:1-4).

Hoshea

Under his reign over Israel the Assyrians conquered the land and carried the people away captive (2nd Kings 17).

Hezekiah

Much space is given to this godly Judean King in 2nd Kings (18-20). He led the people in a spiritual revival and his prayer spared the people the miseries that the Assyrians had meted put upon their northern neighbours.

Manasseh

Ironically the son of Hezekiah proved himself to be an ungodly wretch whose reign cemented the judgemnt that Judah herself would face (21)

Josiah

This great-grandson of Hezekiah reversed the trend set by his grand-father Manasseh and father Amon. The record of his reign sets him above all the Kings post Solomon for piety and revival spirit (22-24).

Nebuchadnezzar

2nd Kings 24:18 – 25 charts the progressive annexation of Judah by Babylon over the period of a decade. This took place during the reigns of Zedekiah, Jehoiakim and Jehoichin. And so this once proud nation fell and became a mere province within the mighty Babylonian Empire.

OUTLINE OF THE BOOKS

1 Kings 1-2:11 The last days of David’s reign.

1 Kings 2:12-11 The Reign of Solomon

1 Kings 12-14 Rehoboam and the Division of the Kingdom

1 Kings 15-16:15 Stability in Judah; Intrigue in Israel.

1 Kings 16:15 – 2nd Kings 10 Omri’s wicked house in Israel

2nd Kings 11-12 The Athaliah conspiracy in Judah

2nd Kings 13 Israel’s war with Syria

2nd Kings 14-15:7 Days of prosperity in both Kingdoms.

2nd Kings  15:8-17 The final years of the Kingdom of Israel

2nd Kings 18-20 The reign of Hezekiah

2nd Kings 21 The wickedness under Manasseh and Amon

2nd Kings 22-23;30 The good reign of Josiah

2nd Kings 23 -25 The final years of the Kingdom of Judah.

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