INTRODUCTION TO 1 AND 2 KINGS
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey.
- The prophets wrote 1 and 2 Kings to call their nation to God. Especially, they used the books to encourage the Israelites who would soon be brought back from captivity to establish themselves in the land in full obedience to God. The "modern" prophet finds in these books divinely interpreted historical experiences by which to call a nation back to God and encourage wholehearted obedience to God as the only way to build an enduring and blessed nation, societ, hurch, family, and/or individual life.
- There is little conclusive evidence as to the identity of the authors of 1 and 2 Kings. Although Jewish tradition credits Jeremiah, few today accept this as likely. Whoever the authors were, it is clear that they used a variety of sources in compiling this history of the monarchy. Three such souces are named: "the book of the annals of Solomon" (11:41), "the book of the annals of the kings of Israel" (14:19), "the book of the annals of the kings of Judah" (14:29). It is likely that other written sources were also employed (such as those mentioned in 1 and 2 Chronicles).
- Date and Place of Writing
- Some scholars place the date of composition of 1 and 2 Kings in the time subsequent to Jehoiachin's release from prision (562 B.C.; 2 Kings 25:27-30) and prior to the end of the Babylonian exile in 538 B.C. This position is challenged by others on the basis of statements in 1 and 2 Kings that speak of certain things in the preexilic periods that are said to have continued in existence "to this day". From such statements it is argued that the writer must have been a person or persons living in Judah in the preexilic period rather than in Babylon in about the time of the death of Josiah and that the material pertaining to the time subsequent to his reign was added during the exile around 550 B.C. While this "two-edition" viewpoint is possible, it rests largely on the "to this day" statements.
- The book is clearly addressed to the Jews who would return to Palestine as Jeremiah foretold.
- Occasion and Purpose
- Conditions during the more than 400 years of history covered by 1 and 2 Kings were much like those today. God's people were plagued by such problems as false religion (3:3), ramant sex (11:1-8), wickedness in high places (16:30-31), poverty (2 Kings 4:1), death (2 Kings 4:20), and disease (2 Kings 5:1). God's people were constantly urged to forsake the Lord God of Israel to seek refuge in the fertility god Baal who was thought to have power to create new life among animals, crops, and people. Fertility religion was made more popular by its appeal to sensual desires and its easy access in the local high places. God's people were also pressed to adapt their worship to include the religious practices of their conquerors (2 Kings 16:9-18). With the fall of the natin, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of the nation's leading citizens, despair threatened to conquer the people. The God of Israel appeared to be dead. The prophetic authors of Kings saw history from a different perspective. The inspired prophets called upon the people to worship with all their hearts the Lord God of Israel. Their national and individual problems were due to their disobedience to God and their compromise of true worship. God still ruled world history. He had exercised his power to punish his people, just as at other times he had punished foreign nations.
- Form and Style
1 and 2 Kings is actually one scroll (book) divided into two because it is to long to be one scroll.
1 and 2 Kings is historical with a few small instructions and insights.
- Place Among the Old Testament Books
- 1 and 2 Kings is placed amongst the historical books of the Old Testiment.
- The placing is directly after 2 Samuel and it's companion books of 1 and 2 Chronicals.
The Books of 1 and 2 Kings provide a prophetic interpretation of the history of Israel from the reign of Solomon. The reign of Solomon was a time of unprecedented glory. However, Solomon's glory stemmed mainly from the blessings of God upon him for David's sake rather than for Solomon's own personal goodness. Although Solommon loved the Lord (3:3), his devotion was tainted by disobedience (14:21; 3:1,3). In his later life his disobedience lead to his apostasy which caused the kingdom to be divided in the days of his son (11:1-13; 12:16-20). Solomon's sin cast a spell of doom across his wisdom, wealth, and building achievements.
The kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel after Solomon died until the fall of Israel in 722 B.C. Israel (the Northern Kingdom) was born in sin. Its first king, Jereboam, led the people from the true worship of God into a false worship of God under the figure of the fertility calf that involved ritual prostitution (12:28-33). Israel never had a king that did right in the sight of the Lord and never ixperienced a revival of tru religion. In contrast, many kings of Juday (the Southern Kingdom) were devoted to the Lord God of Israel, if not with a perfect heart. Moreover, Judah experienced revivals from time to time by which the people were brought back to God. One ruling house after another arose to fall in Israel. In conract, throught these turbulent years God maintained a son of David upon the throne of Juday in Jerusalem in faithfulness to his promise (2 Sam. 7).
Judah stood alone from 721 B.C. until 587/6 B.C. when they were swept away into the Babylonian captivity. The godly reign of Hezekiah before the exile brought fleeting hope for Judah's salvation, but the unprecedented wichedness of Manasseh's reign led Juday to cross the line of God's mercy; thereafter, he marked Judah for destructin. Even the repentance of Manasseh in his later years and the godly reforms of Josiah could not avert Judah's plunge to destruction. After deportations in 605 B.C. and 597 B.C., the end finally came in 587/6 B.C. with the fall of Jersalem after the combined wicked regns of four kings. The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon did not mark the end of God's people, only his chastisement of them. Significantly, the Book of 2 Kings concluded with Evil-Merodach's gracious care of Jehoiachin. This even foreshadowed the good that God would yet bring upon his people in fulfillment of his promise to David to "establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Sam. 7:13).
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