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1st and 2nd Kings gives us the record of the affairs of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel. However this is not just a mere history of a nation, but with it’s special regards to the Kingdom of God. We will see how God orchestrates the Kingdom purposes through this history of Israel. Hence it is a sacred history. So, this must interest us more than any other history in the world.
Since 1 & 2 Kings were originally one book like 1 & 2 Samuel, it is understood that this book was compiled some time after the capture of Judah into exile by Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 kings 25). A careful and series of studies by Scholars got the impression that either final Compiler or Author was an eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem. So, the authorship can’t be derived with certainty. However there are suggestions and traditions ascribe the authorship or editorship to various people. Some voted Ezra to be the compiler and some says Isaiah to be the editor. But, many scholars attribute this book to an unknown prophet. The most probable position which goes in line with The Ancient Jewish Tradition that Jeremiah wrote the book of Kings, as he was the most prominent prophet preached in Jerusalem before, during and after the fall of Judah. We can see 2 kings chapters 24 & 25 in Jeremiah chapters 39-42 & 52. So we may say that Jeremiah could have written this book except 2 Kings 25:27-30, which was probably added by one of his disciples.
We can’t derive a certain date for this book. But it could not have been written or complied to it’s present stage until after 560 B.C. for 2 Kings 24:8-17 talks about King Jehoiachin’s imprisonment (597 B.C.) and 1 & 2 Kings covers the period of 2 Kings 25:27 talks about his release after 37 years (560 B.C.). On the other hand, there is no mention of the significant event which is fall of Babylon to Persia in 538 B.C. So, the most probable date of this book is between 560 and 538 B.C.
Background: monarchy in Israel from 970- – 586 B.C.: 1–2 Kings describe the 380 years period of the monarchy in ancient Israel (970–586 B.C.), excluding Saul and David.
1 Kings covers the span of 120 years. It records the troubled time of God’s nation from the death of David (971 B.C.), until Jehoshaphat who was the fourth king in the divided Southern kingdom of Judah and on the other hand, the reign of Ahaziah, the ninth king of Northern Kingdom of Israel (853 B.C.). 1 Kings talks about the time of great change and upheaval. Israel faced both internal struggle and external pressure, including the dark time in which the Stable and United Kingdom under strong leaderships divided into two.
The united book of 1 and 2 kings divides into 3 main sections.
1. The United Kingdom under Solomon (1 Kings 1-11).
2. The Divided Kingdom (1 kings 12 – 2kings 17).
3. The Kingdom of Judah, Davidic descent (2 Kings 18-25) till it’s temporary exile.
Influence of Deuteronomy: (from ESV Study Bible)
Internal evidence, however, does establish that the author or authors were deeply influenced by the book of Deuteronomy and sought to provide Israel with an explanation of its past in terms of the theological program outlined in that book. This is clearly signaled, for example, in…
The opening section of David’s parting speech to Solomon (1 Kings 2:1–4), where the language closely parallels the following phrases from Deuteronomy:
1. “keep the charge of the Lord your God” (Deut. 11:1);
2. “walking in his ways” (Deut. 8:6);
3. “keeping all his statutes and his commandments” (Deut. 6:2);
4. “that you may prosper in all you do” (Deut. 29:9);
5. “that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers” (Deut. 9:5);
6. “with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).
“Deuteronomic” language such as this appears again and again in 1–2 Kings, as first Solomon himself (1 Kings 11), and then almost all the succeeding kings of Israel and Judah, are weighed in relation to the Mosaic law code and found wanting (e.g., Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:25–33; 14:1–16; Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:1–4). For this reason, the authors of 1–2 Kings have often been referred to in recent biblical scholarship as “Deuteronomists.”
(The following is again taken from ESV study Bible – Introduction to Kings)
1. Yahweh is the only true God. There is only one living God, and he is the Lord (1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 5:15). This Lord is not to be confused with the various so-called gods worshiped in Israel and other nations, for these are simply human creations (1 Kings 12:25–30; 2 Kings 17:16; 19:14–19). They are part of the created order, like the people who worship them; and they are powerless, futile entities (1 Kings 16:13; 18:22–40; 2 Kings 17:15; 18:33–35). The Lord, by contrast, is the incomparable Creator of heaven and earth (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Kings 19:15). He is utterly distinct from the world that he has created (cf. 1 Kings 8:9, 14–21, 27–30, where he is neither truly “in” the ark nor “in” the temple; and 18:26–38, where the antics of the Baal priests apparently imply belief in an intrinsic connection between their actions and divine action, while Elijah’s behavior implies quite the reverse). At the same time, the Lord is powerfully active within his world. It is he, and no one else, who controls nature (1 Kings 17–19; 2 Kings 1:2–17; 4:8–37; 5:1–18; 6:1–7, 27).
2. Yahweh controls history. The Lord, and neither an idol god, nor king, nor prophet, controls history (1 Kings 11:14, 23; 14:1–18; 22:1–38; 2 Kings 5:1–18; 10:32–33; 18:17–19:37). This is perhaps illustrated most clearly in the way in which prophets function within 1–2 Kings, describing the future before God brings it about (1 Kings 11:29–39; 13:1–32; 16:1–4; 20:13–34; 2 Kings 19:6–7, 20–34). Nothing can hinder the fulfillment of this prophetic word, although God himself, in his freedom, can override its fulfillment for his own purposes (cf. 1 Kings 21:17–29; 2 Kings 3:15–27, where the ending to the story is somewhat unexpected).
3. Yahweh demands exclusive worship. As the only God there is, the Lord demands exclusive worship. He will not take his place alongside the gods, nor is he willing to be displaced by them. He refuses to be confused with any part of the created order. He alone will be worshiped, by Israelite and foreigner alike (1 Kings 8:41–43, 60; 2 Kings 5:15–18; 17:24–41).
4. The content and place of true worship. Much of 1–2 Kings is therefore concerned to describe what is illegitimate in terms of worship. The main interest is in the content of this worship, which must neither involve idols or images nor reflect any aspect of the fertility and other cults of “the nations” (1 Kings 11:1–40; 12:25–13:34; 14:22–24; 16:29–33; 2 Kings 16:1–4; 17:7–23; 21:1–9). There is a subsidiary concern about the place of worship, which is ideally the Jerusalem temple, and not the local “high places” (1 Kings 3:2; 5:1–9:9; 15:14; 22:43; 2 Kings 18:4; 23:1–20).
5. The consequences of false worship. The books of 1–2 Kings also describe the moral wrongs that inevitably accompany false worship. They claim that true worship of God is always bound up with obedience to the law of God, and that the worship of something other than Godinevitably leads to some kind of mistreatment of fellow mortals in the eyes of God; see 1 Kings 21, where the kind of abandonment of God envisaged in Exodus 20 leads to wholesale breach of the other commandments described there (2 Kings 16:1–4, esp. v. 3; 2 Kings 21:1–16, esp. vv. 6, 16). By the same token, true wisdom is defined in 1–2 Kings in terms of true worship and wholehearted obedience. It cannot be divorced from either (see 1 Kings 1–11, where much can be learned about the nature of true wisdom).
6. Yahweh as just and gracious Lawgiver. As the Giver of the law, which defines true worship and right thinking and behavior generally, the Lord is also the one who executes justice on wrongdoers. The world of 1–2 Kings is a moral world in which wrongdoing is punished, whether the sinner be king (Solomon in 1 Kings 11:9–13; Jeroboam in 1 Kings 14:1–18), or prophet (the unnamed Judean in 1 Kings 13:7–25; the disobedient man in 1 Kings 20:35–43), or ordinary Israelite (Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:19–27; the Israelite officer in 2 Kings 7:17–20). It is not a vending-machine world, however, in which every coin of sin that is inserted results in individually packaged retribution. There is no neat correlation between sin and judgment in Kings, even though people are told that they must obey God if they are to be blessed by him (e.g., Solomon in 1 Kings 2:1–4; Jeroboam in 1 Kings 11:38). This is largely because of the compassionate character of the Judge, who does not desire final judgment to fall on his creatures (2 Kings 13:23; 14:27) and who often delays or mitigates such judgment (1 Kings 21:25–29; 2 Kings 22:15–20). God’s grace is to be found everywhere in 1–2 Kings (1 Kings 11:9–13; 15:1–5; 2 Kings 8:19), confounding expectations that the reader might have formed on the basis of an oversimplified understanding of law. Sin can, nevertheless, accumulate to such an extent that judgment falls, not only on individuals but on whole cultures, sweeping the relatively innocent away with the guilty (2 Kings 17:1–23; 23:29–25:26).
7. Yahweh as promise-giver. Israel’s God is not only a lawgiver, however, but also a promise-giver. In 1–2 Kings it is a promise usually to be found at the heart of the Lord’s gracious behavior toward his people.
The two most important divine promises referred to are those given to the patriarchs on the one hand, and to David on the other.
The patriarchal promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—descendants and everlasting possession of the land of Canaan—clearly influences God’s treatment of his people at various points in the story (2 Kings 13:23, and implicitly in 1 Kings 4:20–21, 24; 18:36). That promise also lies in the background of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:22–53, as Solomon looks forward to the possibility of forgiveness after judgment. The future-oriented aspect of the promise in this passage is interesting because it is a promise in clear tension with the story’s ending in 2 Kings 25, where disobedience has led to expulsion from the land and exile in a foreign empire. It seems that the true fulfillment of the promise is thought still to be in the future, even though it has also played its part in the past.
The promise given to David, that he should have an eternal dynasty, shares in the same kind of tension, and indeed appears in 1–2 Kings in a curiously paradoxical form. In much of the narrative it provides an explanation for why the Davidic dynasty survives when other dynasties do not, in spite of the disobedience of David’s successors (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19). It is viewed, in other words, as unconditional in one aspect. Judah’s fate is not to be the same as Israel’s and Jerusalem’s fate is to be different from Samaria’s, because God has promised David a “lamp,” a descendant who will always sit on his throne. So when Solomon sins, the Davidic line does not lose the throne entirely, but retains “one tribe” (1 Kings 11:36) in the meantime, with the prospect of restoring its dominion at some time in the future (1 Kings 11:39). When Abijam sins, likewise, his son still retains the Judean throne (1 Ki 15:4).