What is in 2 Kings?
2 Kings is the twelfth book of the Bible, which continues the history of Israel and Judah given in 1 Kings. In 1 Kings, the kingdom of Israel was split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. 1 and 2 Kings then follows the succession of rulers in both kingdoms. God eventually appointed the prophet Elisha, and one of the things he did was declare the destruction of Ahab’s house, but Ahab repented, causing God to delay His punishment to Ahab’s son’s days, bringing us to 2 Kings.
Elijah, Elisha’s predecessor, is taken up directly to heaven in 2 Kings 2 once they both reach the area of Bethel. Elisha continues on, prophesizing during the reign of Jehoram (of Israel), working miracles not only in Israel, but outside it too (such as the healing of Naaman, a Syrian commander, in 2 Kings 5). Some time passes, and accounts of the next few Israelite and Judahite kings are given. God’s warning from 1 Kings 19:15-18, however, still looms large over Israel, and it is in 2 Kings 8:7 that we begin to see it realized. The kingdom suffers deaths and assassinations, most by the Israelite king Jehu. While Jehu did do at least some good by removing the worship of Baal (a false god) in Israel, his others sins continued to weigh heavy on Israel.
More time passes, and more kings are named in both kingdoms. Occasionally the kings do good and try to correct the spiritually crooked kingdoms, but sin overturns the benefits. In Israel, Assyria captured and exiled the Israelites, having walked among other gods for too long. Judah still lives, but only for another century. Hezekiah is noted to be a long-reigning king faithful to the true God and succeeds in sparking spiritual reforms in Judah. Because of this, Assyria is stopped from taking over Judah as well. Hezekiah is not a perfect king, however, displaying some pride and self-centeredness. Near the end of Hezekiah’s reign, the prophet Isaiah tells Hezekiah that Judah will soon be exiled to Babylon. Hezekiah, surprisingly, is simply glad it will happen in his children’s age instead of his.
Hezekiah’s positive religious reforms are not repeated in Judah with his successors for some time. In fact, the very next king of Judah, Manasseh, is described as the most evil king who ever reigned up to that point, bringing idols and the shedding of very much innocent blood to Judah. So radical are these changes that when Josiah, a future king (2 Kings 22), finds the lost Book of the Law (the books of Genesis-Deuteronomy) in the temple, he realizes that Judah has gone in a very bad direction indeed. Josiah’s reforms are enough to guarantee that God’s judgment does not befall Judah in his generation, but after three more kings in Judah (all described as evil), Jerusalem is captured by the Babylonians/Chaldeans, and the people of Judah go into exile.
2 Kings ends with something resembling a postscript. Jehoiachin, who would have been king of Judah had the Babylonians not invaded, was freed from prison and given high status in Babylon. Jehoiachin is a descendant of the Davidic line, the line God promised that salvation would arrive through. Jehoiachin (as Jeconiah) is a name given in Matthew’s line of ancestry for Jesus Christ in Matthew 1.
Who wrote it?
The book is anonymous. Jewish tradition names the prophet Jeremiah as the author. The author is apparently concerned with linking the events in Kings to how well the kings fulfilled the law of Moses (increasing the likelihood of a prophet writer). But aside from that, the writer of 1 and 2 Kings remains unknown.
When was it written?
1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. 2 Kings 25 mentions King Jehoiachin’s release from prison, an event from 561 B.C. There may have been some editing afterward.
When does it take place?
2 Kings continues Ahaziah’s rule, which began in 853 B.C., and ends with the exile of Judah to Babylon and king Jehoiachin’s release in 561 B.C.
Why was it written?
The book of 2 Kings chronicles the history of the people of Israel. In particular, it records the slow and prolonged downfall of both Israel and Judah to idolatry and other sins. The writer places a clear distinction between those who were good in the sight of the Lord, enacting policies observant of the Lord and the law of Moses, and those who were not. Under the control of one of the kings from the latter group, Israel and Judah gradually turned to the false gods of the day.
Who is in 2 Kings?
The book of 2 Kings covers many generations of rulers. Some kings are mentioned in a few chapters, like Hezekiah and Josiah, while others only have a short paragraph about them. Many of the kings walked against the ways of the Lord, bringing spiritual decline to the areas they ruled. In addition to the rulers, the prophet Elisha also plays a role in prophesying for the Lord in the first half of 2 Kings.
How does 2 Kings apply to me today?
2 Kings is rather similar to 1 Kings in that we see the dangers of sin and the benefits of following God in yet another period of Israelite history. This time, however, Israel is on a larger decline which culminates in this book. We see how sin affects not only ourselves but entire countries, as well as future generations. While David’s descendants are sinning, God still keeps His word to David by keeping the family line alive that will one day culminate with Jesus and His salvation for all.
As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project video on 1-2 Kings
Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0