1 & 2 Kings Summary

1 & 2 Kings

Author: Deuteronomist theologian trying to make sense of their nations history through God’s view. Prominent voice in condemning many kings. The time of the kings from Solomon on is the most likely period for the development of the early traditions (J,E, and D) now woven together with the post-exilic priestly traditions (P) in our Torah or Pentateuch.


  • Two editions: (1) DTR1 – from the era of Josiah’s reform (622-609 BC) (2) DTR2 – from the period immediately after the exile (539-525 BC).
  • Last event – release of Jehoaichin from prison
  • Final edition before 538 BC when Cyrus liberated them.

Literary Form: illustration of Deuteronmic standards at work in history. Writing in Babylon for disillusioned exiles. Emphasis on ugliness of story. Theological history of the kingdoms.

  • Deuteronomistic emphasis =  from Solomon onwards, observance of 1st commandment determines course of Israel’s history – idolatry causes division; unalloyed allegiance to YHWH preserves unity.
  • 3 ways the Deut. writers voice comes through to interpret history as theological history: (1) evaluation of 3 great disasters, (2) prophets, (3) judgments on individual kings.

Overall: From Solomon to the exile –> Kings depicts the rueful story of Israel’s decline from the height of magnificence under Solomon to the depths of ruin in the exile. Starts where 2 Samuel 20 left off.

General Outline:

  1. 1 Kings 1-11: The reign of Solomon (961 BC).
      • Well-crafted literary unit on Solomon –> Chiastic structure (balanced literary unit, articulte, beautiful, superimposed arrangement of tradition, author wants to please the ear along with informing the mind… Deut editor remembers the past with David’s everlasting dynasty + warns about future for Solomon… 3 times God warns Solomon directly).
            • (A) prophetic intervention – Nathan gets Solomon the crown (Bathesheba appeals to Davids affections, Nathan to his custom)
              • (B) security – Solomon’s ruthless killing to the throne (Joab, Abiathar, Shimei)
                • (C) promise – positive view of Solomon = wisdom + glory of Solomon as king with conditional promise
                  • (D) Temple and dedication – key event (chiastic structure in this as well) – build temple, palace, then furnish temple.
                • (‘C) disappointment – negative view of Solomon = problem with wives + debt of Temple…
              • (‘B) insecurity – God raises up Hadad & Rezone to fight against Solomon.
            • (‘A) prophetic intervention – Ahijah, a prophet from Shiloh, instigates Jeroboam to begin undoing the kingdom (tearing cloak prophecy).
  1. 1 Kings 12 – 2 Kings 17: The Kingdom divided into Judah and Israel –> “The Synoptic History of the Kings”
        • Formula for each reign: synchronization of beginning of reign under consideration with that of the other kingdom, the length of the reign, the judgment on how the king observed the covenant and the unity of sanctuary, the citation of the writers’ sources, something about the death of the king, and the name of his successor (southern kings add age & name of mother too).
            • Presents history synchronically –> north & south in parallel
        • Distinguishing features between monarchy in Israel than in ancient near east: Israel: king under God as His servant VS. divinized king in ancient near east. Prophets help to keep this in line by following the 1st commandment + promise of everlasting dynasty of David (another difference… divine underwriting & tremendous guarantee, David as model king – undivided loyalty to the Lord). Prophets focus on idolatry, sanctuary in Jerusalem, no foreign marriages.
        • Stories of Elijah and Elisha –> focus on ACTIONS of prophets (rather than words).
  1. 2 Kings 18 – 25: The Kingdom of Judah (until its downfall in 586 BC).
      • Hezekiah = 1st king after David to earn unqualified praise. Destroys idolatry.
      • 3 invasions of Sennacherib = (1) humiliating tribute paid off, (2 & 3) God’s last minute rescue of holy city from Hezekiah’s fidelity to God & prayerful trust.
      • Josiah = 2nd king to after David to earn unqualified praise. Reforms in 622 after finding book of law. Renews covenant + purifies temple + destroys high places & shrines & kills priests + reinstates passover –> centralization of cult = key Deut. focus.
      • Bleak ending –> God always there even in His condemnation + DTR2 bringing DTR1 up to date = courageous step b/c taking positive ending of DTR1 and reconciling with mess they were in.
      • Anchor of Hope –> David’s everlasting promise + Solomon’s 7 part prayer of God hearing them (1 of those was in exile) + hesed (fidelity of God to himself b/c of His mercy).

3 pivotal dates of disaster mark the books:

  1. 932 BC – Northern tribes seceded from the tribal union established under Saul & David, setting up a new dynasty and a new rival to that of Judah.
  2. 722 BC – The Assyrian siege and destruction of Samaria under Shalmaneser V and Sargon II.
  3. 587 BC – Temple, the exile of the people of Judah, and the end of the Davidic kingdom.


  • the city & temple of Jerusalem as the place of God’s glorious “house”
  • national destruction & exile as the consequence of the kings’ failures.
  • the sins of the kings = kings judged through lens of 1st commandment. Prophets helped to keep King in line (unique).
  • the key role of prophets = DTR1 arranged text to make missions of Elijah & Elisha central to 1-2 Kings. Prophets focus on idolatry, sanctuary in Jerusalem, no foreign marriages. Prophets helped to keep King in line (unique).
  • the power of prophets’ words & touch
  • the evil of false prophets
  • the written Law: Deuteronomist history beings with the Law (Joshua) and ends with it too (Josiah). Observance of 1st commandment determines Israel’s history.


  1. The Kings
      1. Overall = Divinely appointed monarch represents the institutionalized promise of divine protection – represented paradox of sacred/sinful institution.
      2. Figure of David – still provides hope for people.
      3. Solomon – original “son of David” who fulfilled the promises contained in Nathan’s oracle + shows Davidic lines greatness in the Temple + experienced intimacy with God (appeared to him twice) + wise man + skilled administrator & diplomat (turned Jerusalem into cosmopolitan centre for trading & culture & established academy) + human imperfections.
      4. Kings judged through lens of 1st commandment (faithful or idolatrous) – Alternation between northern & southern kings serves a theological purpose of considering Israel & Judah as 1 people.
        1. Good kings = ONLY from the South (Hezekiah, Asa, Josiah – energetic reform to rid land of idolatry) – compared against David as good example
        2. Bad kings = from the North (Ahaz & Mannaseh) – they failed 1st commandment & established a king outside line of David – compared against Jeroboam as bad example.
  1. The Temple – Defines the boundaries of Kings (open = construction + closing = destruction). Paradox of permanence & mystery also appear in temple.
      • Temple =
          • (1) house of God = place of His divine presence (“the name” to dwell there).
          • (2) sign of God’s election of Israel = grace from God that He chose only this place to offer sacrifices to Him.
          • (3)
      • Temple = David’s foremost preoccupation, centrepiece of Solomon’s reign, focus of Josiah’s reform. Davidic line  & Temple had same lifespan.
      • Temple = place where YHWH made himself known to Israel & Judah.
          • DTR1 = dwelling place of YHWH’s name.
          • DTR2 = sadness of destruction of Temple (lists what was taken).
  1. The Prophets – DTR1 arranged text to make missions of Elijah & Elisha central to 1-2 Kings. The prophetic word propels the history of Israel and Judah. DTR1 explains why YHWH allowed the Assyrians to destroy Israel. DTR2 explains why YHWH permitted Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and Temple. Appearance of prophets reminds us of God’s presence in this discouraging history. Prophets focus on idolatry, sanctuary in Jerusalem, no foreign marriages. Prophets helped to keep King in line (unique).
      • Elijah and Elisha –> illustrate how YHWH works through his prophets to open up the future by healing & caring for his people when they suffer from the oppressive effects of idolatry –> YHWH is active among the faithful even in their darkest days. “Legendary accounts” –> Elijah & Elisha = only OT figures who perform hearings.
          • Elijah = 9th ce BC (874-852 mission) prophet in north during reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah. Fought against pagan cult of baal. Was a miracle worker to convince Israel that YHWH is true God. Paragon of the monk (virgin – gives him purity to encounter God & be taken up into heaven + silent in speech – power & authority from solitude + prayer – boldness in prayer + poverty – lives in wilderness / fleeing for life + fasting + zeal + spiritual fatherhood). Like a new Moses (parts Jordan + relates to Elisha like Moses to Joshua + cannot be found by a human when he departs from earth). Solo wanderer in wilderness (favourite place to encounter God) + deals with Kings in friendly sense + St. Anthony parallel mocking demons VS. Elijah mocking prophets of Ba’al.
          • Elisha = heir & successor of Elijah (double portion of spirit) + miracle worker through many small stories + gift of foresight + active in political and dynastic events (encouraged Jehu to exterminate line of Omri) + shows YHWH’s compassion for poor and needy. Family man in city of Samaria + wealthy farmer + deals with kings across nations. Legendary stories – 17 short episodes that have little connection with each other (disconnect with flow of political narrative + reluctance to name kings when they appear = passed down stories & elaborated in prophetic circles + stress on wonder & miracle = typical of folklore –> purpose to show prophet’s closeness with God that God’s power flows through prophet = immediate and earthly punishment & salvation NOT eschatological.
      • Two marks of genuine prophet:
          • (1) prophetic word propels history – shapes future more than predicts it –> Ahijah’s prophetic word (1 Kgs 11) comes true as punishment of Solomon’s idolatry when Jeroboam moves to separate north & south. (2) insistence that only the Lord is God, so they oppose ALL idolatry.
  1. Faith in a Time of Disaster – Most absolute of promises are STILL conditioned on fidelity to God, especially on the part of leaders. Defeat, disaster, death, and destruction in Kings describe God’s way of dealing with the sin of his people and their king. In exile and stripped of all worldly trappings and glory, Israel will be able to understand itself only as God’s people. Prophetic word will continue. Post exilic Israel will focus on the Law and the covenant with its principles of social care and justice.

Author’s Purpose: Show how Israel came into exile = from infidelity.

  1. Failure of kings to observe Sinai covenant’s monotheism.
  2. Nonobservance of unity of sanctuary in Jerusalem, especially for northern kingdom (an institutional sin).

Hope = (1) Solomon’s long intercessory prayer 1Kg8 – “if they sin against you…” (2) prophetic word – Lord’s word will always come to pass, (3) figure of David – hoped for intervention of God.

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