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Books of Kings

Books of Kings

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The Book of Kings ( - the two books were originally one) presents a narrative history of ancient Israel and Judah
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

 from the death of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 to the release of his successor Jehoiachin from imprisonment in Babylon, a period of some 400 years (c.960-560 BCE). It concludes a series of historical books running from Joshua
Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land....

 through Judges
Book of Judges
The Book of Judges is the seventh book of the Hebrew bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its title describes its contents: it contains the history of Biblical judges, divinely inspired prophets whose direct knowledge of Yahweh allows them to act as decision-makers for the Israelites, as...

 and Samuel
Books of Samuel
The Books of Samuel in the Jewish bible are part of the Former Prophets, , a theological history of the Israelites affirming and explaining the Torah under the guidance of the prophets.Samuel begins by telling how the prophet Samuel is chosen by...

, the overall purpose which is to provide a theological explanation for the destruction of the Jewish kingdom by Babylon in 586 BCE and a foundation for a return from exile.

Kings begins with the death of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

, to whom YHWH, the god of Israel, has promised an eternal dynasty, and the succession of his son Solomon. Solomon is praised for his wisdom and wealth, but he offends Yahweh by allowing other gods to be worshiped in Jerusalem. God therefore breaks the kingdom in two, with David's line reigning in the southern kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

 with a separate kingdom of Israel
Kingdom of Israel
The Kingdom of Israel was, according to the Bible, one of the successor states to the older United Monarchy . It was thought to exist roughly from the 930s BCE until about the 720s BCE, when the kingdom was conquered by the Assyrian Empire...

 in the north. The kings of Israel are uniformly evil, allowing gods other than Yahweh to be worshiped, and eventually God brings about the destruction of the kingdom. A few of the kings of Judah are good, but most are evil, and eventually God destroys this kingdom also.

Contents



See 1 Kings and 2 Kings at Bible Gateway

David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 dies and Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 comes to the throne. At the beginning of his reign he assumes God's promises to David and brings splendour to Israel and peace and prosperity to his people. The centrepiece of Solomon's reign is the building of the First Temple: the claim that this took place 480 years after the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 from Egypt marks it as a key event in Israel's history. At the end, however, he follows other gods and oppresses Israel.

As a consequence of Solomon's failure to stamp out the worship of gods other than Yahweh, the kingdom of David is split in two in the reign of his own son Rehoboam
Rehoboam
Rehoboam was initially king of the United Monarchy of Israel but after the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled in 932/931 BC to form the independent Kingdom of Israel he was king of the Kingdom of Judah, or southern kingdom. He was a son of Solomon and a grandson of David...

, who becomes the first to reign over the kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

. The kings who follow Rehoboam in Jerusalem continue the royal line of David (i.e., they inherit the promise to David); in the north, however, dynasties follow each other in rapid succession, and the kings are uniformly bad (meaning that they fail to follow Yahweh alone). At length God brings the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns to destroy the northern kingdom, leaving Judah as the sole custodian of the promise.

Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

, the first king since David to be called "good," institutes a far reaching religious reform, centralising sacrifice at the temple at Jerusalem and destroying the images of other gods, and Yahweh saves Jerusalem and the kingdom from an invasion by Assyria. But Manasseh
Manasseh of Judah
Manasseh was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the only son of Hezekiah with Hephzi-bah. He became king at an age 12 years and reigned for 55 years. Edwin Thiele has concluded that he commenced his reign as co-regent with his father Hezekiah in 697/696 BC, with his sole reign beginning in...

, the next king, reverses the reforms, and God announces that he will destroy Jerusalem because of this apostasy by the king. Mannasah's righteous grandson Josiah
Josiah
Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

 reinstitutes the reforms of Hezekiah, but it is too late: God, speaking through the prophetess Huldah
Huldah
Huldah was a prophetess mentioned briefly in , and . After the discovery of a book of the Law during renovations at Solomon's Temple, on the order of King Josiah, Hilkiah together with Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah approach her to get the Lord's opinion....

, affirms that Jerusalem is to be destroyed. God brings the Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

ians, Jerusalem is razed and the Temple destroyed, and the priests, prophets and royal court are led into captivity. (The final verses record how Jehoiachin, the last king, is set free and given honour by the king of Babylon).

Composition



Textual history


In the original Hebrew bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 (the bible used by Jews) First and Second Kings were a single book, as were First and Second Samuel. When this was translated into Greek in the last few centuries (with some notable differences from the Hebrew text), Kings was joined with Samuel in a four-part work called the Book of Kingdoms. The Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity continues to use the Septuagint, but when a Latin translation of the Bible from the original languages (called the Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

) was made for the Western church, Kingdoms was first retitled the Book of Kings, parts One to Four, and eventually Kings and Samuel were separated, but as two books each.

The Deuteronomistic history


According to Jewish tradition the author of Kings was Jeremiah
Jeremiah
Jeremiah Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה , Modern Hebrew:Yirməyāhū, IPA: jirməˈjaːhu, Tiberian:Yirmĭyahu, Greek:Ἰερεμίας), meaning "Yahweh exalts", or called the "Weeping prophet" was one of the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible...

, whose life overlapped the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The most common view today accepts Martin Noth
Martin Noth
Martin Noth was a German scholar of the Hebrew Bible who specialized in the pre-Exilic history of the Hebrews. With Gerhard von Rad he pioneered the traditional-historical approach to biblical studies, emphasising the role of oral traditions in the formation of the biblical texts.-Life:Noth was...

's thesis that Kings concludes a unified series of books which reflect the language and theology of the Book of Deuteronomy, and which biblical scholars therefore call the Deuteronomistic history. Noth argued that the History was the work of a single individual living in the 6th century, but scholars today tend to treat it as made up of at least two layers, a first edition from the time of Josiah
Josiah
Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

 (late 7th century), promoting Josiah's religious reforms and the need for repentance, and (2) a second and final edition from the mid 6th century. Further levels of editing have also been proposed, including: a late 8th century edition pointing to Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

 of Judah as the model for kingship; an earlier 8th century version with a similar message but identifying Jehu
Jehu
Jehu was a king of Israel. He was the son of Jehoshaphat, and grandson of Nimshi.William F. Albright has dated his reign to 842-815 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 841-814 BC...

 of Israel as the ideal king; and an even earlier version promoting the House of David as the key to national well-being.

Sources


The editors/authors of the Deuteronomistic history cite a number of sources, including (for example) a "Book of the Acts of Solomon" and, frequently, the "Annals of the Kings of Judah" and a separate annal of the kings of Israel. The "Deuteronomic" perspective (that of the book of Deuteronomy) is particularly evident in prayers and speeches spoken by key figures at major transition points: Solomon's speech at the dedication of the Temple is a key example. The sources have been heavily edited to meet the Deuteronomistic agenda, but in the broadest sense they appear to have been:
  • 1 Kings 1-2: The end of the "court history of David
    Court History of David
    The Court History of David is one of the two hypothetical main source documents of the Books of Samuel . The text is believed to cover most of 2 Samuel except for the first few chapters and a few more minor parts...

    " (also called the Succession Narrative), which also constitutes most of 2 Samuel 9-20. The redactor has added notes at 1 Kings 2:2-4 and 2:10-12.
  • For the rest of Solomon's reign the text names its source as "the book of the acts of Solomon", but other sources were employed, and much was added by the redactor.
  • Israel and Judah: The two "chronicles" of Israel and Judah provided the chronological framework, but few details apart from the succession of monarchs and the account of how the Temple of Solomon was progressively stripped as true religion declined. A third source, or set of sources, were cycles of stories about various prophets (Elijah and Elisha
    Elisha
    Elisha is a prophet mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an. His name is commonly transliterated into English as Elisha via Hebrew, Eliseus via Greek and Latin, or Alyasa via Arabic.-Biblical biography:...

    , Isaiah
    Isaiah
    Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

    , Ahjah and Micaiah
    Micaiah
    Micaiah son of Imlah is a prophet in the Hebrew Bible. He is not the same as the titular prophet of the Book of Micah, also called "The Morasthite" to distinguish him from Micaiah. Today Micaiah is a rare name and it is still debated if it is unisex or for men only.-Micaiah's prophecy:The events...

    ), plus a few smaller miscellaneous traditions. The conclusion of the book (2 Kings 25:18-21 and 27:30) was probably based on personal knowledge.
  • A few sections were editorial additions not based on sources. These include various predictions of the downfall of the northern kingdom, the equivalent prediction of the downfall of Judah following the reign of Manasseh
    Manasseh
    Manasseh is an ancient Hebrew male name, meaning "causing to forget". Manasseh may refer to:-Given name:*Manasseh of Judah, a king of the kingdom of Judah*Manasseh , a son of Joseph, according to the Torah...

    , the extension of Josiah
    Josiah
    Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

    's reforms in accordance with the laws of Deuteronomy
    Deuteronomy
    The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

    , and the revision of the narrative from Jeremiah
    Book of Jeremiah
    The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve....

     concerning Judah's last days.

Themes and genre


Kings is "history-like," but it mixes legends, folktales, and miracle stories in with the annals, and its primary explanation for all that happens is God's broken heart; it is therefore more fruitful to read it as theological literature in the form of history. The theological bias is seen in the way it judges each king of Israel on the basis of whether he recognises the authority of God's law in Jerusalem (most don't, and therefore all are "evil"), and each king of Judah on the basis of whether he destroys the "high places" (rivals to the Temple in Jerusalem); it gives only passing mention to important and successful kings like Omri
Omri
Omri was a king of Israel, successful military campaigner and first in the line of Omride kings that included Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram.He was "commander of the army" of king Elah when Zimri murdered Elah and made himself king. Instead, the troops at Gibbethon chose Omri as king, and he led them to...

 and Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II was the son and successor of Jehoash, , and the fourteenth king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, over which he ruled for forty-one years according to 2 Kings . His reign was contemporary with those of Amaziah and Uzziah , kings of Judah...

 and totally ignores one of the most significant events in ancient Israel's history, the battle of Qarqar
Battle of Qarqar
The Battle of Qarqar was fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria led by king Shalmaneser III encountered an allied army of 12 kings at Qarqar led by Hadadezer of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel...

.

The major themes of Kings are God's promise, the recurrent apostasy of the kings, and the judgement this brings on Israel:
  • Promise: In return for Israel's promise to worship Yahweh alone, Yahweh makes promises to David and to Israel - to David, the promise that his line will rule Israel forever, to Israel, the promise of the land they will possess.
  • Apostasy: the great tragedy of Israel's history, meaning the destruction of the kingdom and the Temple, is due to the failure of the people, but more especially the kings, to worship Yahweh alone (Yahweh being the god of Israel).
  • Judgement: Apostasy leads to judgement. Judgement is not punishment, but simply the natural (or rather, God-ordained) consequence of Israel's failure to worship Yahweh alone.


Another and related theme is that of prophesy. The main point of the prophetic stories is that God's prophesies are always fulfilled, so that any not yet fulfilled will be so in the future. The implication, seen in the closing scenes of the book, with the release of Jehoiachin and his restoration to a place of honour in Babylon, is the promise to David of an eternal dynasty is still in effect, and the Davidic line will be restored.

Textual features



Chronology


The chronology of Kings makes no sense at several points. The duration of reigns for the kings of Judah does not correspond correctly to their supposed times of accession compared to the reigns of the kings of Israel. Assigning the number of years after Solomon that each king of Judah reigned, by comparing the figure for their predecessor and the length of their predecessor's reign, simply does not equal the figure that you would obtain by comparing the figures for the kings of Israel and which year the king of Judah began to rule compared to the reign of the contemporary king of Israel. The same issue applies to the kings of Israel. There are also external difficulties: Ahaz, according to Kings, reigned for only 16 years, but some of the events of his reign are recorded elsewhere and require Ahaz to have ruled at least between 735 BCE and 715 BCE, a period of 20 years. Conservative scholars such as Edwin Thiele have put forward detailed proposals for overcoming the difficulties, but there is no consensus.

Kings and 2 Chronicles


2 Chronicles covers much the same time-period as Kings, but with significant differences: Chronicles ignores the northern kingdom of Israel
Kingdom of Israel
The Kingdom of Israel was, according to the Bible, one of the successor states to the older United Monarchy . It was thought to exist roughly from the 930s BCE until about the 720s BCE, when the kingdom was conquered by the Assyrian Empire...

 almost completely, David is given a major role in planning the Temple, Hezekiah is given a much more far-reaching program of reform, and Manasseh is given an opportunity to repent of his sins, apparently to account for his long reign). It is usually assumed that the author of Chronicles used Kings as a source and re-wrote history as he would have liked it to have been, but it has been suggested that Chronicles may have used an early version of Kings which he reproduces faithfully.

Problems of names


The name Hadad and compounds of it occur at several locations within the text. Hadad is the name of the Canaanite deity that is often who the term Ba'al (which means lord) refers to. Consequently many kings from the region surrounding Israel and Judah would take throne names that were theophory in Hadad (or Ba'al), which has led to much confusion in the text, and some difficulty in identifying which people are the same individuals and which are different:
  • Hadadezer (Hadad+ezer) is an Assyrian king
  • Hadad is the name of a king of Edom
  • Ben-hadad is the name of one or more kings of Aram. Although this name simply means son of Hadad it does not necessarily mean that Hadad was the name of the king's father, but simply that the king was a king (i.e. a son of Hadad - the god)
  • King Hadad is the name of a god (according to the text), i.e. Hadad


In addition, while Ba'al is usually used to refer to Hadad, the term Baalzebub also appears as the name of a deity. Ba'alzebub, meaning lord of the flies, is most likely to be a deliberate pun
Pun
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

, by the anti-Hadad writer, on the term Ba'alzebul, meaning prince Ba'al, i.e. Hadad. Even more confusing is the fact that some passages refer to a single king of Assyria by two different names, whereas others refer simply to the king of Assyria in several places but are actually talking about two separate historically attested kings, not the same individual.

This problem is compounded in the names of Israelite and Judahite kings, where theophoric suffixes and prefixes exist in El and Yah/Yahweh, namely Ja...., Jeho..., ....iah, ...el, and El..... It was common to drop the theophory in ordinary day-to-day life, so that, for example, Daniel becomes simply Dan. In some cases double theophory occurred, as for example in the name of the king of Judah that contemporary cuneiform inscriptions record as Jeconiah (Je+Con+Iah), which the Book of Jeremiah
Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve....

 drops one of the theophories to make the name simply Choniah (Chon+Iah), while the Book of Kings moves both theophories next to each other making his name Jehoiachin (Jeho+Iah+chon). Similarly, theophory was often flexible as to which end of names it occurred for a single individual, so that the king of Judah which the Book of Kings names as Ahaziah (Ahaz + iah) is named by the Book of Chronicles as Jehoahaz (Jeho + ahaz) – ultimately this is the same name as had by the later king referred to as Ahaz.

See also

  • History of ancient Israel and Judah
    History of ancient Israel and Judah
    Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

  • Kingdom of Judah
    Kingdom of Judah
    The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

  • Kingdom of Israel
    Kingdom of Israel
    The Kingdom of Israel was, according to the Bible, one of the successor states to the older United Monarchy . It was thought to exist roughly from the 930s BCE until about the 720s BCE, when the kingdom was conquered by the Assyrian Empire...

  • The Bible and history
    The Bible and history
    The Bible from a historical perspective, includes numerous fields of study, ranging from archeology and astronomy to linguistics and methods of comparative literature. The Bible may provide insight into pursuits, including but not limited to; our understanding of ancient and modern culture,...


Translations of 1 and 2 Kings


External links


Original text
  • מלכים א Melachim Aleph - Kings A (Hebrew
    Hebrew language
    Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

     - English at Mechon-Mamre.org)
  • מלכים ב Melachim Bet - Kings B (Hebrew
    Hebrew language
    Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

     - English at Mechon-Mamre.org)


Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 translations
Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 translations

Other links