The book of Kings begins with the statement that David was old, cold, and needed to be told what was happening in his kingdom. The introduction of a dying man seems to set the mood for the decline in the nation, which will be traced through the two books. We begin with the temple being built and end with it being burnt.
Those with the time and interest can enter the academic fray as to the authorship of Kings. Most conservative scholars find evidence (added to by a healthy dose of speculation) that Jeremiah wrote the two books of Kings.
In the Hebrew Bible, 1 and 2 Kings were one book until the sixteenth century. They were seen as the continuation of the narrative begun in Samuel. The Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Hebrew text divided Kings into two books. The Septuagint translators, however, called 1 and 2 Samuel the 1st and 2nd Kingdoms (or Reigns). Kings were called 3rd and 4th Kingdoms (or Reigns).
The history of the kings covers a period of about 400 years. In 1 Kings we have the 40 years of Solomon, followed by 80 years of the two kingdoms. In 2 Kings we follow alternately the fortunes of both kingdoms up to the captivity of the Northern Kingdom, Israel (ch17), and then the Babylonish captivity of Judah in 596 B.C.
The Spirit of God had several purposes in the recording of the events in Kings. He has given us the history of how the kingdom was divided. He has traced the government of God in dealing with both parts of the kingdom, vindicating God for the captivity, and has shown His faithfulness to the covenants in preserving the nation even while in captivity. The records highlighted Israel’s failure in light of the warnings of Deuteronomy, and the danger of idolatry. All of this would have been a very eloquent message to the restored nation after their captivity.
Two of Israel’s most famous prophets appear in these two books: Elijah in 1 Kings and Elisha in 2 Kings. Parallels in their lives and ministries can be made to John the Baptist and to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Along with these well-known prophets, the events in Kings are punctuated by the activity of the prophetic voice on many occasions. In fact, it is in Kings that the prophet appears in greater prominence than heretofore.
Ahijah announced the division of the kingdom (1Ki 11:26-39) and the death of Jeroboam’s son (14:4-16). Shemaiah told Rehoboam not to fight against Jeroboam (12:21-24). An unnamed prophet announced the fate of Jeroboam’s altar (13:1-10). Jehu pronounced Baasha’s doom (16:1-4). Elijah boldly spoke up for God in the days of wicked king Ahab (chs17-21). Another unnamed prophet rebuked Ahab for allowing Ben-Hadad to escape (20:35-43). Micaiah foretold Israel’s scattering (22:8-28). One of the themes of Kings is the contrast between the throne of men on earth and God’s throne in the heavens; in mercy He intervened and caused His voice to be heard through the seers.
Throughout the books of Kings, two statements are repeated, establishing the standard against which all the monarchs are judged. First is this statement: “And he did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father David did.” This or a similar statement is made of four of Judah’s kings: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. In contrast, we read of many of the kings of the Northern Kingdom, “And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.” Thus, the examples of David and Jeroboam are used as the standard against which all the kings are assessed.
Another phrase to trace is “the Word of the Lord.” It appears on forty-six occasions in the two books. Of these forty-six occasions, thirty-one of them occur in the first book, which deals predominantly with the wicked and idolatrous kings of Israel.
Rivalry and Rebellion (1:1-2:46)
Rise and Ruin of Solomon (3:1-11:43)
The Rending of the Kingdom: Judah and Israel Divided (12:1-16:34)
The Rebuking Voices of the Prophets – Elijah and Micaiah (17:1-22:53)
The Increasing Evil of the Northern Kingdom (1:1-10:36)
The Interplay of both Kingdoms and the Captivity of Israel (11:1-17:41)
The Inevitable March to Captivity by Judah (18:1-25:30)
In 1 Kings there is a queen who comes to worship (ch10); in 2 Kings there is a queen who almost destroys the royal line (ch11).
In 1 Kings there is a prophet with a call to repentance (Elijah); in 2 Kings there is a prophet who ministers grace to the nation (Elisha).
In 1 Kings there is a poor Gentile woman who is used to preserve Elijah. In 2 Kings there is a wealthy Jewish woman who is blessing in providing for Elisha.
A child is raised from the dead in both books (1Ki 17; 2Ki 4).
Look for other similar events in both books.
The two books record for us the history of the kings of Israel and Judah; they give us the events leading up to the division in the nation and the road to captivity for both. The events in the Kings are told with an emphasis on the prophets and the response of the people, or lack thereof, to the Word of the Lord.