The books which we know as First and Second Kings record the history of Israel from the death of David to the Babylonian Captivity.  But they are much more than a mere history of Israel.  They are primarily theological in nature in that they trace God’s relationship with His Covenant people through their breaking of His covenant and their resulting punishment at the hands of their enemies.  In particular, we see God’s dealing with the leaders of the nation - her prophets, priests and kings.





1.         Hebrew Title:   Meleckim (“Kings”).


It was a single book.  The division was simply for the sake of convenience.  Even the location for the division is somewhat arbitrary as it divides in the middle of the ministry of Elijah.


Josephus says that in his day it was understood that there were 24 books in the Old Testament.

a.         The Minor Prophets counted as a single book.

b.         Lamentations was a single book.

c.         Ruth was been with Judges

d.         Samuel and Kings were each a single book.


Though they are counted differently, these are the same books that constitute our Old Testament.  Note that the Apocrypha was not considered to be a part of the Hebrew canon, even though the Jews possessed these additional books and accorded them with being worthy of study.


2.         Greek Title:    Basileion (“Kingdoms”).


Kings appears in the Septuagint as part of a 4-part set.


Greek Title

English Equivalent

1st Book of Kingdoms

1st Samuel

2nd Book of Kingdoms

2nd Samuel

3rd Book of Kingdoms

1st Kings

4th Book of Kingdoms

2nd Kings


3.         Latin Vulgate:   Liber Regum Tertius et Quartus.


Our English Bibles have the fourfold division of Samuel and Kings found in the Septuagint, but with the Hebrew titles.





The books which we know as 1st and 2nd Kings were originally written to be a single work.  The author is unnamed in the book, as is the case with most Old Testament historical narrative.  He mentions using several source documents, three specifically:


1.         The book of the annals of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41).


2.         The book of the annals of the kings of Israel - mentioned some seventeen times in 1 Kings 14:29 - 2 Kings 15:31 (2 Sam 8:16; 20:24; 1 Kings 4:3; 2 Kings 18:18, 37; 2 Chronicles 34:8)


3.         The book of the annals of the kings of Judah - mentioned fifteen times in 1 Kings 14:29 - 2 Kings 24:5.


There is also an obvious quotation from three chapters of Isaiah (Isaiah 37-39) which appear verbatim in 2 Kings 19:1 - 20:19.





The author of the book is nowhere named in Scripture.  Jewish tradition had it that Jeremiah was the author.


1.         There is a similarity of Jeremiah 52 with 2 Kings 24‑25.


2.         The writer seems to have been an eye witness to the fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.).


3.         There is a similarity of writing styles, as well as the same air of despondency and hopelessness.


4.         It is noteworthy that there is no mention of Jeremiah within the books of Kings.


5.         If Jeremiah is the author, then the historical abstracts at the end of 2 Kings (Gedaliah, governor of Judah in 2 Kings 25:22‑26 and Jehoiachin's release in Babylon in 2 Kings 25:27‑30) are latter additions.


6.         The author of Kings does not use the familiar names for the kings of Judah as Jeremiah did (Jehoiachin versus Coniah).





Textual criticism is the study of the ancient manuscripts to learn which is the true text.  It asks the question:   “What did the original text say?”  There are two primary textual sources for the Books of the Kings.


a.         The Massoretic Text.


The Massoretes were Jewish scholars who worked at preserving the Hebrew Bible.  They passed on a system of vowel pointing that was not found in the original text.  The text that they have preserved dates to around 1000 A.D.


b.         The Septuagint.


This was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.  According to tradition, it was the work of 72 men translating in the days of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-247 B.C.).  Our earliest copies of the Septuagint date to the 4th or 5th centuries A.D.


The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has uncovered manuscript fragments of a Hebrew text which often follows the Septuagint reading rather than that of the Massoretic Text.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were penned prior to A.D. 70.  It should be noted that, while there are variations between the Massoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls, these are relatively few and tend to be in the area of numbers and occasionally in the spelling of names.





The books of Samuel and Kings cover the historical period from Samuel to the Exile into Babylon.


1st Samuel

2nd Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

Samuel & Saul

Saul & David

Solomon & Divided Kingdom

Fall of the Divided Kingdoms


The narrative runs smoothly in 1 Kings 1-11 because we are following the history of only one kingdom.  But from 1 Kings 12 - 2 Kings 17 the author deals with both the Northern Kingdom of Samaria and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, shifting back and forth between these two.  After 2 Kings 17 and the fall of the Northern Kingdom, the flow of history is again smooth as we read only of the Southern Kingdom.


1 Kings 1-11

1 Kings 12  -  2 Kings 17

2 Kings 18-25

United Kingdom under Solomon

Northern Kingdom


Southern Kingdom of Judah


1.         Old Testament writers did not use a universal reference point in establishing dates.  Instead, they used various sorts of regnal dating methods (“In the 4th year of Hezekiah...”).  This makes it difficult to be exact in establishing dates for Old Testament events.


2.         Regnal Reckoning.


The first year of a king might refer to the first year in which he served as regent or it might refer to his first year upon the throne.  This leads to the possibility of differing dates when we try to calculate the length of the reigns of the various kings of Judah and Israel.


3.         Accession versus Non-accession Year Reckoning.


Accession Year Reckoning

Accession Year

1st Year

2nd Year

Non-Accession Year Reckoning

1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year


Both types of reckoning were used in ancient times to determine which year it might be.  Furthermore, in the Non-Accession Method, the last year of one ruler would be the same as the first official year of his successor.  Such a year would count twice.


Edwin Thiele (“A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings”) suggests that these two differing systems were used at different times in Israel’s history.



Accession Year Dating

Non-Accession Year Dating

Accession Year Dating


Rehoboam to Jehoshophat

Jehoram to Joash

Amaziah to Zedekiah



Jeroboam to Jehoahaz

Jehoash to Hoshea


4.         The Assyrian Eponym List.


It was the custom in Assyria to name each year after one of the officers of the state - an eponym.  We have records of a consecutive list of Assyrian eponyms from 853 to 703 B.C.  This has been invaluable for historians who try to piece together the dates of the reigns of those kings and their interactions with the Bible.


The Assyrians also included records of solar eclipses - Total eclipses were visible in Nineveh in 832, 763 and 585 B.C.  By correlating the eclipses with the Eponym Lists, we can have reliable dates for the years from 892 to 648 B.C.





The relationship of Kings to Chronicles is similar to the relationship of the Synoptic Gospels to the Gospel of John.



Relates historical fact with little commentary

Synoptic Gospels


Tells meaning of the fact



Kings relates the political and royal fortunes of the nation while Chronicles focuses upon the sacred and ecclesiastical aspects of the nation.




Prophetic Perspective: Judgments

Priestly Perspective: Hope

Wars are prominent

Temple is prominent

History of the thrones

Continuity of the Davidic line

Record of both Israel & Judah

Mostly Judah




There is also a difference in the historical scope of what is covered in each of these two books.  Chronicles begins by going all the way back to Adam and giving the genealogy of the line of Israel from that point.  By contrast, the books of Kings begin where 2nd Samuel left off with the life of David.



1st Chronicles

1   Adam



United Kingdom


10  Reign of David

1st Kings

1  Reign of Solomon

2nd Chronicles

1  Reign of Solomon


12  Jeroboam

Divided Kingdom


10  Focus on the Southern Kingdom of Judah to the Captivity


17  Elijah & Ahab


2nd Kings

1   Elijah & Ahaziah



2  Elisha



17  Fall of Samaria



18   Hezekiah

Judah Alone



25   Babylonian Captivity





36:22   Return from Babylon




To understand the purpose of this book, one must first understand the date and circumstances of its writing.


  • The last event recorded in 2 Kings 25:27‑30 is the release of Jehoiachin from prison during the 37th year of his imprisonment in 560 B.C. [597 B.C. minus 37 years of captivity = 560 B.C.].  This marks the earliest date that Kings could have been completed in its present form.


  • Since there is no mention of a return to Jerusalem after the captivity, it seems probable that the book was written before that event in 538/539 B.C. This marks the latest date that Kings could have been written.


It is written in the Captivity.  The author has just seen the final remnant of the nation of Israel destroyed.  He sits down to relate the account of how that took place.  The purpose is two-fold:


1.         To Answer the Question:   “How did we get here?”


The Northern Kingdom of Israel has long ago been taken into captivity.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah is now in its own captivity.  It seems as though the promises of God have failed.  What went wrong?  This book answers that question.


2.         To Give a Warning of the Consequences of Sin.


This book tells of the disastrous consequences of Israel’s love affair with idolatry.  The Jews learned their lesson from this experience.  Though they struggled with other problems, idolatry was never again an issue among the Jews.


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