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books of kings Summary and Overview

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books of kings in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Title. In the Septuagint the books are called "the third and fourth of the Kingdoms," in Vulgate "the third and fourth book of Kings." Originally the two were one: Bomberg in his printed editions, 1518,1549, divided them into two. Three periods are included. The first (1 Kings 1-11), 1015-975 B.C., Solomon's ascent of the throne, wisdom, consolidation of his power, erection of the temple, 40 years' reigning over the undivided twelve tribes; the time of Israel's glory, except that toward the close of his reign his polygamy and idolatry caused a decline, and God threatened the disruption of the kingdom (1 Kings 11). The second period, from the division into two kingdoms to the Assyrian captivity of the ten northern tribes, 975-722 B.C. The third period, from thence, in Hezekiah's reign, until Judah's captivity in Babylon, 722-560 B.C., down to the 37th year of Jehoiachin's exile and imprisonment. The second period (1Ki 12:1-2 Kings 10) comprises three stages: (1) the enmity at first between Judah and Israel from Jeroboam to Omri, 1 Kings 12:1-16:28; (2) the intermarriage between the royal houses of Israel and of Judah, under Ahab, down to the destruction of both kings, Joram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah, by Jehu, 1Ki 16:29-2 Kings 10; (3) the renewal of hostilities, from Jehu's accession in Israel and Athaliah's usurpation in Judah to Israel's captivity in Hezekiah's sixth year, 1 Kings 11-17. The book is not a mere chronicle of kings' deeds and fortunes, but of their reigns in their spiritual relation to Jehovah the true, though invisible, King of the theocracy; hence it is ranked in the canon among "the prophets." The prophets therefore as His ministers, guardians of His rights, and interpreters of His counsel and will, come prominently forward in the book to maintain His prerogative before the kings His viceroys, and to counsel, warn, and punish as He who spoke in them deemed necessary, confirming their word by miraculous signs. Thus, Samuel by His direction anointed Saul and David to reign over His people; Nathan announced God's promise that David's throne and seed should be forever (2 Samuel 7); then when he sinned Nathan remounted his punishment, and upon his repentance immediate forgiveness (2 Samuel 12); similarly, Gad (2 Samuel 24). Nathan announced Solomon's appointment as successor (2 Samuel 12:25; 1 Chronicles 22:9); anointed and installed him instead of Adonijah, the older brother (1 Kings 1). Thenceforth, David's seed having been established in Judah in conformity with God's promise (2 Samuel 7), the prophets' agency in Judah was restricted to critical times and special cases requiring the expression of Jehovah's will in the way of either reproof of declension or encouragement of faithfulness. But in Israel their agency was more continuous and prominent, because of the absence of Jehovah's ordinary ministers the priests and Levites, and because of the state idolatry of the calves, to which Ahab added Baal worship. Jehovah appeared to Solomon at Gibeon shortly after his accession, again after his dedication of the temple, finally by a prophet, probably Ahijah, after his declension (1 Kings 3:5, etc.; 1 Kings 9:1, etc.; 1 Kings 11:11, etc., 1 Kings 29). Elijah "the prophet as fire, whose words burned as a torch" (Sirach 48:1), as champion of Jehovah, defeated Baal's and Asherah's prophets at Carmel; and averted utter apostasy front northern Israel by banding God's prophets in schools where Jehovah's worship was maintained, and a substitute supplied for the legal temple worship enjoyed by the godly in Judah. The choice and treatment of materials was determined by the grand theme of the book, namely, the progressive development of the kingdom of God historically, in conformity with the divine promise through Nathan to David which is its germ: "I will set up thy seed after thee, and I will establish his kingdom ... forever. I will be his Father and lie shall be My son; if he commit iniquity I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul" (2 Samuel 7:12-17). This is the guiding clue through the whole history. This book records its fulfillment, Jehovah prospering the pious kings of David's seed, chastising the backsliders, then casting away yet not for ever. Notwithstanding Adonijah's attempt, Solomon is at the outset recorded as receiving David's kingdom as Jehovah had promised; he receives at Gibeon the renewal of the promise, on condition of faithfulness, and in answer to his prayer receives wisdom, and also riches and honour which he had not asked for; then after rearing the temple receives God's confirmation of the promise conditionally, "if there wilt walk before Me as David I will establish thy kingdom forever; but if ye (thou and thy people) shall at all turn from following Me ... then will I cut off Israel out of the land"; then in old age was sentenced for forsaking the covenant to have the kingdom rent from him and given to his servant; yet the grace unchangeably promised in 2 Samuel 7 mitigates the stroke, for David's sake the rending should take place not in Solomon's but in his son's days. Moreover one portion (Judah, also Benjamin, Simeon, and Dan in part Israel and Judah was reserved with Jerusalem for David's seed, and should not go with the other ten tribes to Jeroboam. (See ISRAEL ; JUDAH .)) The reigns of Israel's kings are more elaborately detailed, and previously to those of Judah, because Israel, with its crying evils requiring extraordinary prophetic interposition so frequently, furnished more materials for the theme of the book than Judah of which the development was more equable. All matters of important bearing on the kingdom of God in Judah are described fully. In both alike Jehovah appears as the gracious, long suffering God, yet the just punisher of the reprobate at last, but still for His covenant sake sparing and preserving a remnant, notwithstanding the idolatry of several even of Judah's kings (1 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Kings 11:1-2). Jehovah promised, on condition of faithfulness, to Jeroboam too a sure house and the throne of Israel, but not for ever, only so long as the separate kingdom should last; for He added, "I will for this afflict the seed of David but not for ever" (1 Kings 11:38-39). Judah survived Israel's destruction because of its firm political basis in the continuous succession, of David's line, and its religious basis in the divinely appointed temple and Levitical priesthood. But Ahaz' impiety (though counteracted in part by godly Hezekiah) and especially Manasseh's awful blood. shedding and idolatry (the effects of which on the people the faithful Josiah could only undo externally) at last provoked God to give up Judah too to captivity; so Jehoiachin first and Zedekiah last were led away to Babylon, and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. The book, in happy consonance with its design, closes with Jehoiachin's elevation from the prison to the highest throne of the vassal kings at Babylon, an earnest of brighter days to the covenant people, the first ray of the dawn of God's returning favor, and of His restoring the Jews, and of His fulfilling His promise that the kingdom and seed of David shall be forever. Relationship to 1,2 Samuel. Characteristics. The opening "now" marks that the books of Kings continue the books of Samuel, carrying on the history of the development of the kingdom, as foretold in the fundamental promise (2 Samuel 7). Nevertheless, the uniformity of the treatment of the history, and the unity of the language, mark that the work is independent of 1,2 Samuel. The author quotes from his original sources with standing formulas. He gives chronological notes: 1 Kings 6:1 (See CHRONOLOGY ; JUDGES .)) 1 Kings 6:37-38; 1 Kings 7:1; 1 Kings 9:10; 1 Kings 11:42; 1 Kings 14:20-21; 1 Kings 14:25; 1 Kings 15:1-2; 1 Kings 15:9-10. Moses' law is his standard for judging the kings (1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 17:37; 2 Kings 18:6; 2 Kings 21:8; 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Kings 23:21). He describes in the same phrase the beginning, character, and close of each reign (1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 14:20; 1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:3; 1 Kings 15:8; 1 Kings 15:11-24; 1 Kings 15:26; 1 Kings 15:34; 1 Kings 22:43; 1 Kings 22:51; 1 Kings 22:53; 1 Kings 16:19; 1 Kings 16:26; 1 Kings 16:30; 2 Kings 3:2-3; 2 Kings 8:24; 2 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 13:2; 2 Kings 13:9; 2 Kings 13:11; 2 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 14:29; 2 Kings 15:3, etc.). Except variations occasioned by the difference of the sources employed, the language, style, vocabulary, and grammar are uniform throughout. Assyrian and Chaldee forms occur, found in Jeremiah, but not found in the earlier historical books (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel): eekoh for 'eekow (2 Kings 6:13); 'akilah, "meat" (1 Kings 19:8); 'almugim ((1 Kings 10:11, 12); 'omnowt, "pillars" (2 Kings 18:16); ura'owt, "stalls" (1 Kings 4:26); barbuwrim, "fowls" (1 Kings 4:23); gahar, "stretch" ((1 Kings 18:42); 'apheer for 'eepheer ((1 Kings 20:38, 41); gub, "husbandman" (2 Kings 25:12); galom, "wrap" (2 Kings 2:8); dobrot, "floats" (1 Kings 5:9);Zif (1 Kings 6:1; 1 Kings 6:37); chapha', "act secretly" (2 Kings 17:9); yatsiah, "chamber" (1 Kings 6:5-6; 1 Kings 6:10) ma'abeh, "clay" (1 Kings 7:46); nada', "drive" (2 Kings 17:21); neshiy, "debt" (2 Kings 4:7); sar, "heavy" (1 Kings 20:43; 1 Kings 21:4-5); pharbar, "suburbs" (2 Kings 23:11); qab, "measure" (2 Kings 6:25); qabal, "before" (2 Kings 15:10); tabanowt, "camp" (2 Kings 6:8); kothereth "chaptier", mezammerot "snuffers", both in Kings, Chronicles, and Jeremiah; mekonah, "base", in Ezra also. Reference is made to writings containing further information concerning particular kings, not introduced in Kings because not failing in with its design to set forth the kingdom of God. RELATION TO CHRONICLES. The language of Kings bears traces of an earlier date. Chaldee forms are rare in Kings, numerous in Chronicles, which has also Persianisms not found in Kings. Chronicles is more comprehensive, comprising genealogies from Adam downward, and David's reign; 1 Chronicles 28 -36:22 synchronizes with 1 and 2 Kings. The prophets are prominent in Kings, as Nathan, Abijah, Elijah, Elisha, the prophet against the Bethel altar, Jonah, etc. The priestly and Levitical element is prominent in Chronicles, e.g. Hezekiah's purification of the temple, Josiah's Passover (2 Chronicles 29 -31:35). The Kings books were written while Israel was still fresh in memory; but Chronicles for the Jews only who no longer could have any intercourse with the half-bred Israelites of the N. (compare 2 Chronicles 20:3; 2 Chronicles 20:25) Judah and Jerusalem are the chief subject of Chronicles, Israel is in the background. The reason is frontCHRONICLES), the author (probably Ezra) seeks to encourage the returned exiles to restore the temple service and national polity as they were under the godly kings of David's line in Judah, whereas they had no existence in northern Israel. The idolatries of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Ahaz, etc., are less detailed, because the returned Jews were no longer prone to idolatry. UNITY OF AUTHORSHIP. Nowhere in the books can interpolation or combination of different accounts be detected. The history is brought down to past the middle of the Babylonian captivity; yet no allusion occurs to the deliverance from it. The author was probably living with the Babylonian exiles. The Talmud (Baba Bathra, f. 15, section 1) makes him to be Jeremiah. Probably Jeremiah died in Egypt and hardly lived until 66 years after his call to prophesy, i.e. the 37th year of Jehoiachin. Our author was doubtless acquainted with the prophecies of Jeremiah. The accounts, 2 Kings 24:18, etc., and Jeremiah 52, are both extracts from a fuller account of Jerusalem's fall. Jeremiah 52 was probably written by someone else, as Jeremiah having recorded the history in the proper place (Jeremiah 39:40) was not likely to repeat it over again. But in favor of Jeremiah's authorship is the fact that certain words are used only in Kings and in Jeremiah: baqbuq, "cruse" (1 Kings 14:3; Jeremiah 19:1; Jeremiah 19:10); yagab, "husbandman" (2 Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 52:16); chabah, "hide" (1 Kings 22:25; Jeremiah 49:10); 'awar, "to blind" (2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 39:7). The frequent reference to the Pentateuch accords with the interest Jeremiah was sure to feel in the discovery under Josiah of the temple copy (Jeremiah 11:3-5 compare Deuteronomy 27:26; Jeremiah 32:18-21 compare Exodus 20:6; Exodus 6:6 Jeremiah 34:14 compare Deuteronomy 15:12). Jeremiah's prophecies and Kings shed mutual light on one another and have undesigned coincidences: 2 Kings 25:1-3, compare Jeremiah 38:1-9; Jeremiah 39:1-7; 2 Kings 25:11-12; 2 Kings 25:18-21, compare Jeremiah 39:10-14; Jeremiah 40:1-5; 2 Kings 24:13; 2 Kings 25:13, compare Jeremiah 27:18-20; Jeremiah 28:3-6; 2 Kings 24:14 compare Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 24:2 Kings 21-23; compare Jeremiah 7:15; Jeremiah 15:4; Jeremiah 19:3. The absence of mention of Jeremiah in Kings, though he was so prominent in the reigns of the last four kings, is just what we might expect if Jeremiah be the author of Kings. The mention of Seraiah and Zephaniah as slain by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18) accords with Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 29:25-29, wherein Zephaniah appears as of the faction that opposed Jeremiah and was headed by priests and false prophets. Compare also 2 Kings 24:2; 2 Kings 24:7 with Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 25:20-21; Jeremiah 37:7-8; Jeremiah 46:1-12. SOURCES. For Solomon's acts the author mentions as his authority "the book of the acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41). For the affairs of Judah "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (1 Kings 14:29; 1 Kings 15:7; 1 Kings 15:28; 1 Kings 22:46; 2 Kings 8:23; 2 Kings 12:19). For Israel "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (1 Kings 14:19; 1 Kings 15:31; 1 Kings 16:5; 1 Kings 16:14; 1 Kings 16:20; 1 Kings 16:27; 1 Kings 22:39; 2 Kings 1:18). Not, the national archives kept by the "recorders" or kings' remembrancers; but annals compiled by prophets from the public, yearbooks or national archives, and also from prophets' monographs, and collections of prophecies reaching in Israel to Pekah (2 Kings 15:31), and in Judah to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:5), the collection being worked into a book of the times of each kingdom shortly before the overthrow of Judah. The agreement between the books of Kings and 2 Chronicles is due to both quoting from these same annals. The book of Chronicles embodies also writings of individual prophets, as Isaiah, Iddo, and Jehu, beside the daybooks of the kings (2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 32:32). Some of the prophets' individual writings were received into the annals. No public annalists had place in northern Israel. The formula "to this day" refers to the time of the still existing kingdom of Judah, toward its close, and emanated from the sources employed, not from the author of Kings, for it is common to Kings and Chronicles (1 Kings 8:8, see below, 2 Chronicles 5:9; 1 Kings 9:21 compare 2 Chronicles 8:8; 1 Kings 12:19 compare 2 Chronicles 10:19; 2 Kings 8:22 compare 2 Chronicles 21:10. Also 2 Chronicles 29:29, "the books of Samuel the seer, Nathan the prophet, and Gad the seer," answer to "the book of the acts of Solomon" in 1 Kings 11:41, and 2 Chronicles 9:29, "the book of Nathan the prophet, the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam." "The book of the acts of Solomon" was much earlier than the annals of Israel and Judah. The composition of the annals by prophets accounts for the prominence given to Elijah and Elisha. Impartial candor and reference of all things to the standard of the law characterize the composition. The great Solomon's faults and any grace in northern Israel's kings are undisguisedly narrated; so also the destruction of the very temple where God manifested His glory. Even Elijah's temporary weakness of faith in fleeing from Jezebel is told as candidly and faithfully as his marvelous boldness for God. In 1 Kings 8:8 the staves of the ark in the holy place the author says "are unto this day"; this must be a retention of the words of his source, for he survived the destruction of the temple (2 Kings 25). The repetitions are due to the same cause (1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 14:31; 2 Kings 13:12-13; 2 Kings 14:15-16; 2 Kings 9:14-15; 2 Kings 8:28-29; also 1 Kings 14:30; 1 Kings 15:6). The writer interposes in his quotations his own Spirit-taught reflections (2 Kings 13:28; 2 Kings 21:10-16; 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Kings 17:32-41). Canonical authority. The books have always stood in the second division of the Jewish canon, "the prophets" (nibiyim), being of prophetic composition and theme (see above, the beginning), namely, God's administration through His prophets in developing the theocratic kingdom under kings. Our Lord thrice refers to the book, speaking of Solomon, the queen of Sheba, and the widow of Sarepta and Naaman (Matthew 6:29; Matthew 12:42; Luke 4:25-27). Also Paul refers to Elias' intercession against Israel, and God's answer about the 7,000 who bowed not to Baal (Romans 11:2-4). Also James as to Elias' prayer for drought, then for rain (James 5:17-18; Revelation 11:6). Elisha's charge to Gehazi (2 Kings 4:29) is repeated in our Lord's charge (Luke 10:4); the raising of the Shunammite's son is referred to, Hebrews 11:35; Jezebel is referred to, Revelation 2:20. Confirmation from secular history and monuments. The Egyptian king Psinaches' patronage of Hadad the Edomite (1 Kings 11:19-20): Solomon's alliance with his successor Psusennes who reigned 35 years; Shishak's (Sesonchis I) accession toward the close of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 11:40); his conquest of Judea under Rehoboam, represented on a monument still at Karnak which mentions "the king of Judah," the time of the Ethiopian dynasty of So (Sabak) and Tirhakah, of the 25th dynasty; the rise and speedy fall of Syrian power, Assyria overshadowing it; the account of Mesha harmonizing with the (See DIBON stone; Assyria's struggles with Egypt and Babylon's' sudden supremacy under Nebuchadnezzar over both Assyria and Egypt: all these notices in Kings accord with independent pagan history and inscriptions. The names of Omri, Mesha, Jehu, Menahem, Hoshea, Hezekiah, are deciphered in inscriptions of campaigns of Tiglath Pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. Contemporary prophets, as Isaiah, with Ahaz and Hezekiah, Jeremiah with Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, elucidate the histories of Kings just as the epistles of New Testament are commentaries on Acts.