Introduction to the Books of Kings


The Books of 1 and 2 Kings were so named because they record and interpret the reigns of all the kings of Israel and Judah except Saul. 1

In the Hebrew Old Testament, 1 and 2 Kings were one book and were regarded as a continuation of the historical narrative begun in 1 and 2 Samuel. The Septuagint divided Kings into the two parts that constitute 1 and 2 Kings in English Bibles, though the Septuagint calls those two books “3 and 4 Kingdoms” (and calls 1 and 2 Samuel “1 and 2 Kingdoms”). The title “Kings” came from Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate), which was made about six centuries after the Septuagint; Jerome called the two books “The Book of the Kings.”

1 and 2 Kings provide a record of Israel’s history from the beginning of the movement to place Solomon on David’s throne through the end of the reign of Zedekiah, Judah’s last king. Zedekiah ruled until the surviving Southern Kingdom was taken captive and Babylonian governors were placed in charge of affairs in Palestine.

Three major periods of Israel’s history can be distinguished in Kings:

  1. the united monarchy (during which time Israel and Judah remained united under Solomon as they had been under Saul and David);
  2. the divided monarchy (from the rebellion of Israel against the rulership of Judean kings until Israel was carried off into captivity by the Assyrians); and
  3. the surviving kingdom (the record of Judah’s affairs from the deportation of Israel to Judah’s own defeat and exile by the Babylonians).

1 and 2 Kings were not divided as they are because a natural break occurs in the narrative, but because the large scroll of 1 and 2 Kings needed to be divided into two smaller, more easily manageable units. The result was two books that are almost equal in length. 2 Chronicles records the history of almost the same period as 1 and 2 Kings.2

The purposes and emphases of these two histories differ significantly. The kings of Judah were of more interest to the author of Chronicles, whereas both the Israelite and Judean monarchs occupied the interest of the author of 1 and 2 Kings. The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles emphasize especially the priestly elements in the nation’s history, such as the temple and worship, while 1 and 2 Kings give attention to the royal and prophetic elements. In 2 Chronicles, the kings of Judah after David are evaluated in reference to David and the worship of Yahweh; in 1 and 2 Kings, the rulers of both kingdoms are evaluated in reference to the Mosiac Law.


The major problem facing students of 1 and 2 Kings is the chronology of the rulers, especially those of Judah. In some cases, the answer can be found in a co-regency or vice-regency, periods during which two kings ruled.

In other cases, the problem can be solved after one establishes when a king began counting the years of his reign. Judah and Israel used two different methods to determine when a king’s reign began, and each nation switched methods at least once during the period of history recorded in 1 and 2 Kings. A third factor complicates the chronological problems further. Judah and Israel began their calendar years at different times.

Though exact dates are a problem, several different chronologies, worked out by conservative scholars, harmonize the narratives. In most cases, these systems vary from each other by only one or two years.

The major dates for this period are:

931 B.C.—the division of the kingdom;

722 B.C.—the fall of Israel;

586 B.C.—the fall of Judah.

Geopolitical Horizon

In David’s day, Egypt’s power had waned, and Assyria was weak; hence there were impotent nations on both of Israel’s frontiers. However, Assyria soon awakened under Tiglath-pileser III (also called Pul, 2 Kgs 15:19; 745 B.C.). In 721 B.C. Samaria fell under the attack of Shalmaneser and Sargon. Later, under Sennacherib, Assyria invaded Judah and took many cities but failed to take Jerusalem because of the rear-guard threat of Egypt. Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal extended Assyrian hegemony to Egypt. In Josiah’s time, Pharaoh Necho went up to help Assyria against Babylon at Carchemish, but the two allies were defeated. Shortly, the victorious Nebuchadrezzar invaded Palestine, and on his third attack against Jerusalem, plundered and destroyed the city, carrying the people off to final captivity (586 B.C.).


With that introduction, I thought I’d now share just a few interesting tidbits from the 16 hour study that I hope encourages you into a deeper study of 1st and 2nd Kings.


And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

1 Kings 7:23

In Hebrew, it reads:

ויעש את־הים מוצק עשר באמה משפתו עד־שפתו עגל ׀ סביב וחמש באמה קומתו [וקוה כ] (וקו ק) שלשים באמה יסב אתו סביב׃

This would seem to be an “error:” the “line of 30 cubits compassing it round about,” that is, the circumference, is not three times the diameter, but 3.14159265358979, commonly known as pi, π However, in the Masoretic text, the term is misspelled (known as a kethiv) with an extra heh, קוה. The marginal correction (known as a qere) is spelled correctly, קו. The gematrical value, as recorded is 111; the correct value would be 106. When this correction, 111/106, is applied to three times the diameter of 10 cubits, the circumference would be 31.41509433962 cubits: in a circumference of over 46 feet, an error of less than 15 thousandths of an inch!

Solomon’s Apostasy

But King Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.

1 Kings 11:1-2

Solomon disobeyed the Mosaic regulations for the king prophetically viewed in the Deuteronomic code in regard to the multiplication of horses (Deut 17:16), of foreign women (17:17), and of gold (17:17). Although the three sins of this monarch, taken separately or even weighed together, may not be nearly as glaring as the one great sin of his father, yet they were sins that drew his heart away from the living God. Furthermore, there is no written indication that he ever repented of them.

This is precisely what happened to Solomon. His palace apparently included a harem; he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Solomon’s pagan wives led him into idolatry just as God had warned (Ex 23:31-33; 34:15-16; Deut 7:1-4). Solomon did not abandon Yahweh, but he worshiped other gods as well. His heart was not fully devoted to the LORD; he compromised his affections. Apparently, he concluded that since he was a great king, he should live like the other great kings of the world, even though it meant disobeying God’s Word. As Solomon grew older, he got farther away from God (cf. 1 Kgs 11:33).

Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, a Canaanite deity connected with the fertility cult. The name is cognate with the Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of sexual love, maternity, and fertility. This goddess is among the best-known of the fertility cult goddesses.

Milcom is another form of Malcham, sometimes identified with Molech or Moloch, the chief god of Moab and Ammon, to whom some Israelites sacrificed their infants in the valley of Hinnom. So ensnared in the practice of idolatry did Solomon become that he built a high place for this evil deity. The worship of Molech was stringently prohibited by law (Lev 18:21; 20:1-5). Molech demanded the rite of human sacrifice, especially of little children. His worship was utterly desecrated by the good King Josiah.

The reason for God’s judgment of Solomon is clear: his heart had turned away from the LORD (cf. v. 4). Solomon’s great sin was a change in his attitude toward God (v. 11). This happened despite the two times God had revealed Himself to Solomon, making promises to him (3:5; 9:2).

Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.

1 Kings 11:33

This portrayal by Ahijah demonstrated what God had said earlier to Solomon (vv. 11-13). Not only Solomon but also the people of Israel (“they”) had forsaken Yahweh by worshiping idols.

Solomon reigned for 40 years (971-931 B.C.). His life ended in tragedy. He was greatly blessed by God, but he allowed God’s gifts to dominate his affections. The fault lay not with God for giving Solomon so much but with Solomon, who, though he had the wisdom to deal with such temptations, chose to set his affections on the gifts and not on the Giver. The man best qualified to live life successfully chose not to do so. How are you doing? Success in life in the eyes of God does not come automatically with the possession of wisdom but with the application of wisdom to one’s life. Spiritual success depends not only on insight but also on choices.

The Myth of the “Ten Lost Tribes”

There are many groups that believe the northern tribes, separated during the rift between Rehoboam and Jeroboam after the death of Solomon (and subsequently taken captive by Assyria in 722 B.C.), later migrated to Europe and elsewhere. The myth of the “Ten Lost Tribes” is the basis for “British-Israelism” and other colorful legends, but these stories have no real Biblical basis. They are based upon misconceptions derived from the misreading of various Bible passages (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23, 2 Chr 6:6-11, etc.)


Accompanying some of the legends of the so-called “Ten Lost Tribes” are aspersions on the present State of Israel and the people being regathered in the Land. These various theories, such as “British Israelism” are by their nature anti-Semitic because they deny the Jewish people their proper place in the plan of God. Let’s remember that Genesis 12:3 has never been repealed!

Israel is being regathered in the land just as God has announced (Ezek 36, 37; Isa 11:11, et al.). There is yet to come an event which will awaken them to realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob once again has His hand upon them (Ezek 38, 39). The Throne of David was promised to the Son of Mary (Lk 1:32). I believe His taking possession of it is on the near horizon.

Hosea’s Message

Hosea was a prophet (or seer) who was called out of Judah to declare God’s indictment against the Northern Kingdom. (Almost a century later, Jeremiah would be called to render a similar service to the Southern Kingdom.) This is the burden of Hosea: that although a loving and caring God had provided their abundance and prosperity, their sin, disloyalty and abandonment of Him will force Him to vindicate His justice with judgment. After detailing the indictments against the nation, Hosea then declares that God is going to use their enemies as His instrument of judgment. Shortly they would be history...

An Uncomfortable Parallel?

The parallels with America are very, very disturbing. We, too, have been experiencing unprecedented prosperity. People are purchasing their third and fourth cars. Almost every home has at least one computer. It’s difficult to find a pedestrian without a cellular phone in his ear or on his belt. Fuel for our cars costs less than the bottle of water we drink. It is, indeed, “the best of times.” Or so it seems.

And yet we have sunk to moral depths lower than could have been imagined only a generation ago.

Jonah, Amos, and Hosea

During Jeroboam II’s reign, the Prophets Amos and Hosea ministered in Israel (Amos 1:1; Hosea 1:1). Their prophecies give additional insights into life in Israel during Jeroboam’s reign. Jeroboam II died in 753 B.C., and his son Zechariah succeeded him (cf. 2 Kgs 15:8-12).

Three of the prophets spoke out during the time of Jeroboam II. Each of their messages constituted both a warning and a promise to the people of Israel. And each prophecy contains warnings and promises for us, who in many respects live in a time of prosperity much like that of Jeroboam’s.


Jonah is not only known from his book: He is also mentioned in the section of 2 Kings that traces the decline and fall of Israel in the North. Jonah was somewhat unusual. He was a popular prophet. The reason was seen in this text (v.25). Jonah was popular because he foretold good things for Israel. And Jonah was also a patriot. This is why it was particularly difficult than when Jonah was sent to Nineveh to warn that city of coming judgment. Jonah was reluctant. Jonah 4:2 explains that Jonah was afraid that the people of Nineveh might heed him and repent, and that the Lord would withhold judgment. Jonah didn’t want that!

Nineveh was the capital of mighty Assyria, which had raided Israel before and which would later be the agent of Israel’s destruction. So rather than going overland to Nineveh, Jonah found a ship going in the opposite direction! We all know the story of Jonah’s repentance in the belly of the great fish. And we remember that he finally did go to Nineveh and deliver his message. We also remember the results: the people of Nineveh repented, and God withheld His judgment. The last we see of Jonah is the angry and discouraged prophet slumped on a hill overlooking the city, deaf to God’s explanation of His concern for the children and even the dumb animals who would have perished with the responsible adults. But if we are to understand the impact of Jonah’s ministry in Israel, we need to see his adventure as God’s object lesson. Soon Amos and Hosea would appear. They would detail the sins of Israel and call the people to return to the Lord. The mission of Jonah to Nineveh provided proof that if only a people would repent, they could be saved. But despite the example of Nineveh, the people of Israel simply would not respond to the prophets of the Lord. It was their failure to repent that made judgment inevitable!


Amos was one of the poor that the wealthy in Israel despised. He was a citizen of neighboring Judah, where he worked caring for sheep and a stand of sycamore trees. We know that Amos was poor, for sycamores were to the poor what figs were to the rich. Though neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, Amos responded to God’s call and trudged in his rags across the border into Israel. There he must have visited the cities that had grown up around the worship centers at Bethel and Dan. He must have walked past the great houses and seen the luxury goods in stores outside of which the poor crouched. Walking through the market, he must have noticed merchants mix chaff with the grain they sold or slyly exchange honest weights for lighter ones when they measured out the purchases of the poor. Angered by the heartlessness and materialism, Amos boldly identified the sins for which God was about to judge the Northern society. In his rebuke, we can hear God’s evaluation of man’s greed and a powerful expression of the divine values that had been expressed for centuries in the Law.

For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back My wrath. They sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane My holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.

Amos 2:6–8

You hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth. You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. … You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.

Amos 5:11–13

Based on this indictment, Amos announced the sure approach of divine judgment. Yet, the example of God’s gracious dealing with Nineveh, not even His own people, should have offered hope! And Amos made this hope plain in a clear, well-defined promise.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Amos 5:14–15


We know little about the prophet. What we do know is heartrending. Hosea was called to suffer the pain of commitment to a faithless wife—a prostitute. His experience graphically reveals the meaning of Israel’s religious apostasy. Just as Hosea’s wife would not remain faithful to her marriage covenant, so God’s people had abandoned Him. The imagery of sexual unfaithfulness is appropriate in this case. The religions which the Israelites followed were nature faiths. They sought to influence fertility in lands and animals as well as humans by sexually stimulating the gods, whose passions were thought to overflow as fertility on earth. So the pagans of Palestine engaged in all sorts of sensual excess in an effort to arouse their gods. So idolatry and sexual promiscuity were closely linked in Hosea’s day. And God, through the anguished prophet, communicated something of His own anguish at His rejection by an Israel that ran after pagan, sensual faiths. Hosea announced proof upon proof of Israel’s abandonment of God and His Law.

There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying, and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

Hosea 4:1–2

Despite all this, God continued to pour out His love on Israel. In a beautiful passage Hosea describes God’s loving care.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from Me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with the cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

Hosea 11:1–4

Even so, God was anguished at the thought of giving Israel up and handing His people over to her enemies (11:8–11). Though Israel’s sin demanded punishment, ultimately this people would return to Him and beg forgiveness. Then, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (14:4). But Israel was as unmoved by the pleas and the pain of Hosea as the nation had been by the angry denunciations of Amos. And Israel remained blind to the promise implicit in God’s gracious treatment of Nineveh. The prophets spoke. But Israel would not hear.3

The Mystery of the Ark of the Covenant

There are many theories concerning the destiny of the Ark of the Covenant. But many have overlooked this portion of the Biblical text that points to the only living tradition that still continues to this day. Although the judgment earned by Manasseh would come, Josiah personally would be spared witnessing it. (But why was Josiah obtaining the Word of the Lord through Huldah, the prophetess, rather than through the Levites and the Ark of the Covenant?) The Levites had removed the Ark from the jurisdiction of Manasseh for safe-keeping. .

And [Josiah] said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the LORD, “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God, and his people Israel…

2 Chronicles 35:3

It doesn’t say that they complied. They had taken the Ark (and the Mercy Seat): Out of the Temple; Out of Jerusalem; Out of the jurisdiction of Manasseh…

After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him. But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, “What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.” Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.

2 Chronicles 35:20-23

Why did Josiah persist in attacking Pharaoh Necho? Why did Pharaoh Necho feel that he had God on his side? How could Pharaoh Necho have had instructions “from the mouth of God”? (Pharaoh Necho wasn’t Egyptian: He was Ethiopian).

A Continuing Trust?

There is a 2400-year history of a sacred relic, guarded by the Ethiopians, from its tenure at Elephantine Island in Upper Egypt (642 B.C.); Tana Qirqos Island on Lake Tana (470 B.C.); to its present location in its compound at Axum. Protected until they deliver it to the Messiah when He rules at Mt. Zion…

A Documented Tradition

642 B.C. Elephantine Island, Egypt (Temple to YHWH served Jewish colony prior to Persian occupations of 525-404 B.C.); 470 B.C. Tana Kirkos Island, Lake Tana, Ethiopia; A.D. 330 Axum; Presently at St Mary’s of Zion church. A sacred trust, destined to be presented to the Messiah when He rules on Mt. Zion.4, 5


The positive note on which 2 Kings ends reveals again the Lord’s mercy, which stands out repeatedly in 1 and 2 Kings. This notation also points to the continuation of the Davidic dynasty, which God had promised would lead His people forever (2 Sam 7:16).

This article has been exceprted from Chuck Missler’s I & II Kings: Commentary Handbook, which is also included as an ebook with any purchase of the Kings commentary DVD, Video/Audio Download or MP3 CD-Rom.

See also, Chuck Missler’s I & II Kings: An Expositional Commentary.


1 David’s last days are mentioned (1 Kgs 1:1 - 2:12), but the events in most of his reign are recorded in 2 Sam 2 - 24 and 1 Chr 11 - 29.

2 First Chronicles includes the genealogies leading up to David [Chapters 1-9], Saul’s death [Chapter 10], and David’s reign and death [Chapters 11-29].

3 The apparent parallel with America should arrest our attention as well. Will we hear? See Topical Study, Hosea, Can You See? Hosea's Challenge to America.

4 Cf. Isa 18, Zeph 3:10, et al. See our briefing, The Seat of Mercy for a detailed discussion.