Books Of Kings

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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Kings, Books Of

1. Title , etc. This is the name of two well-known narrative books of the OT. In Heb. MSS and early printed editions they appear as one book, and even to the present day the Massoretic note appears at the end of the second book only. The division into two was made for the convenience of Greek readers, and passed from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] to the Vulgate, and so to the Church. In fact, the division between the parts of the great Biblical narrative which extends from Genesis to 2Kings is more or less arbitrary, there is no clear line of demarcation between 2Samuel and 1Kings, any more than between 1 and 2Kings.

2. Method and sources . What we have just said does not imply that the Books of Kings are exactly like the other historical books. They differ in their method, and in the way in which the narrative is presented. The most striking feature is the attempt to date the events recorded, and to keep two parallel lines of history before the reader. The period of time they cover is something over 400 years, and when it is remembered that these books give us almost the only light we have on events in Israel for this period, their historical value will be evident. At the same time, the light they throw on the method by which the Biblical authors worked is almost equally great. To estimate the historical value, it will be necessary to look at the literary method. The phenomenon which first strikes the reader’s attention is the unevenness of the narrative. In some cases we have an extended and detailed story; in others a long period of time is dismissed in a few words. The reign of Solomon occupies eleven chapters about a fourth part of the work; while the longer reign of Manasseh is disposed of in sixteen verses. From our point of view there is reason to think that the reign of Manasseh was quite as interesting and quite as important as the other.

Still closer examination shows that there are well-marked characteristics of style in certain sections which are replaced by equally marked but totally different ones in other sections. Moreover, there are seemingly contradictory assertions which can hardly have come from the same pen, though they might have occurred in different documents, and have been retained by a compiler who did not fully realize their force. Thus the account of Solomon’s forced labour ‘raised out of all Israel’ seems inconsistent with the other declaration that Solomon made no bond-servants of Israel ( 1 Kings 5:13 ff., cf.   1 Kings 11:28 and   1 Kings 9:22 ). One passage says without qualification that there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days; another tells us how Rehoboam gathered a mighty army, but dismissed it at the word of a prophet without making war (  1 Kings 12:21-24;   1 Kings 14:30 ). These indications of a compilatory activity, such as we find also in other parts of the OT, are confirmed by the author’s reference to some of the books from which he has drawn. Two of these are mentioned so often that they attract the attention of every reader. They are the Books of Annals (in our version ‘books of chronicles’) of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah. To these we may add the references to the Book of the Acts of Solomon. The author had these three books in his hand, and, what is of more importance, he thought his readers were likely to have them at their command. This is the reason why he refers to them that those readers who are curious for further details may find them in these books. It follows that these sources of his are not the archives of the two kingdoms, but regular books circulated and read among the people at large. But it is clear that other sources were drawn upon. Some of the material cannot have come from either of the books named. The description of the Temple might supposedly have been embodied in the Acts of Solomon, though this seems improbable. But it is quite certain that the extended life of Elijah and the equally diffuse life of Elisha never had a place in the history of the kings. There must have been a Life of Elijah circulated by some of his disciples or admirers after his death, and the probability is strong that there was also a separate Life of Elisha. Whether these two may not have been embodied in a general work on the Lives of the Prophets, whence the sections which interested him were taken by our author, we may not be able to determine. That these sections did not come from the source with which they are most nearly combined is evident from the difference in tone and point of view. Ahab appears very differently in the Elijah sections and in the chapters which treat of the Syrian wars.

The narratives which deal with Isaiah suggest reflexions similar to those which come to us in looking at Elijah and Elisha. They look like portions of a biography of Isaiah. This biography was not our Book of Isaiah, in which some sections are duplicates of what we find in the Second Book of Kings. But other portions of the Book of Isaiah seem to have been drawn from the same Life of Isaiah which furnished the duplicate material of which we have spoken.

Although some of the points that have been touched upon are more or less obscure, we are justified in saying that the Books of Kings are a compilation from at least five separate sources three which the author cites by name, a Temple chronicle, and a History of the Prophets. The hypothesis of compilation explains some of the discrepancies already noted, and it also explains some of the violent transitions in the narrative. Ch. 20 of 1Kings is inserted between two passages which belong together, and which were once continuous. This chapter introduces Benhadad as though we knew him, when in fact we have not heard of him. In like manner Elijah appears suddenly in the narrative, without the slightest intimation as to who he is or what he has been doing. These indications confirm the theory of compilation, and they show also that the author has in no case (so far as we can discover) embodied the whole of any one of his sources in his work. He used his freedom according to his main purpose, taking out what suited that purpose and leaving the rest behind.

3. Purpose . The next inquiry is, What was the purpose which explains the book? In answer to this it is at once seen that the purpose was a religious one. The author was not trying to write history; he was trying to enforce a lesson. For those who were interested in the history as history he gave references to the books in which the history could be found. For himself, there was something more important this was to point a moral so plainly that his people would take heed to it and act accordingly. This comes to view plainly in the recurring sentences which make up what has been called the framework of the book. These are not always exactly alike sometimes they are scantier, sometimes they are fuller. But they are the same in purport. A complete example is the following: ‘Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab, king of Israel. Thirty-five years old was Jehoshaphat when he began to reign; and twenty-five years he reigned in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Azubah, daughter of Shilhi. He walked in all the way of Asa, his father; he turned not from it, doing right in the eyes of Jahweh. Only the high places were not removed, the people continued sacrificing and offering at the high places.… And the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat and the mighty deeds which he did are they not written in the Book of Annals of the kings of Judah?… And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David, and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead’ (  1 Kings 22:41-43;   1 Kings 22:45;   1 Kings 22:50 ). The first part of this formula is found at the beginning of a reign, the rest at the end. Sometimes there is so little recorded about a king that the two parts come in immediate sequence. But usually they are separated by a narrative, longer or shorter according to what the author thinks fit to give us. The framework itself shows that the author desires to preserve the name of the king, his age at accession, the length of his reign, the name of his mother, who was of course the first lady of the land. These items he was interested in, just because his work would not have been a history without them. But what most interested him was the judgment which he felt justified in pronouncing on the character of the monarch. The very fact that he gives such a judgment in every case shows that he had before him more material than he has handed down to us, for it would have been obviously unjust to pronounce so positively if he had as little ground for his opinion as in many cases he gives to us.

It is important to notice the reference to the high places which comes in immediate sequence to the judgment on the character of the king. The high places in the opinion of later times were illegitimate places of worship. Their toleration casts a shadow on the piety even of kings otherwise commendable, while their destruction is regarded as a proof of religious zeal. What light this throws on the date of the book will appear later. For the present it is sufficient that the treatment of the high places furnishes the ground on which the kings are graded in excellence. The first place is given to Hezekiah and Josiah (who are classed with David), just because they did away with these ancient sanctuaries. The next rank is accorded to Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoash of Judah, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham, and we notice that they all effected certain reforms in the Temple. With reference to each of these, the commendation is tempered by the statement that the high places were not taken away. In the third class we find the remaining kings of Judah, and all the kings of Israel, who are condemned as bad. The formula for the kings of Israel is not quite the same as the one just noticed. For one thing, the name of the queen-mother is not given whether because the names had not been handed down, or because they were thought to be of minor importance after the destruction of the kingdom, is not clear. The formula may be illustrated by the one used for Baasha, ‘In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king over Israel in Tirzah, (and reigned) twenty-four years. He did evil in the eyes of Jahweh, and he walked in the ways of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he made Israel sin.… And the rest of the affairs of Baasha, and what he did, and his power, are they not written in the Book of Annals of the kings of Israel? And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried in Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned in his stead’ ( 1 Kings 15:33 f.,   1 Kings 16:5 f.). The reason given for the condemnation which is visited on all the kings of the Northern Kingdom is that they walked in the ways of Jeroboam I., that is, they fostered the worship of the golden bulls (calves they are called in derision) at Bethel and Dan. This is, in the eyes of the author, distinct rebellion against the God whose legitimate sanctuary is at Jerusalem.

While the longer quotations from his sources usually show the compiler’s religious intent, yet he often presents us with brief notices for which he is probably indebted to the Books of Annals, but which have no very direct bearing on his main object. Thus in the case of Jehoshaphat he inserts in his framework a brief notice to the effect that this king made peace with Israel. In the three-membered contest between Zimri, Tibni, and Omri ( 1 Kings 16:15-22 ) he compresses the story of a prolonged civil war into a few lines. In the case of Omri we find a brief notice to the effect that this king built the city of Samaria, having bought the land from a man named Shemer (  1 Kings 16:24 ). Such a notice probably compresses a detailed account in which Omri was glorified as the founder of the capital.

As some of these shorter notices duplicate what we find elsewhere, it seems as if the compiler made out his framework or epitome first and filled it in with his excerpts afterwards. In the insertion of these longer passages the religious motive is always apparent. The matter of supreme importance to him is the worship of the God of Israel as carried on at the Temple in Jerusalem. He is under the influence known as Deuteronomistic. This is seen first in the phrases which recur in those sections which we suspect to be his own composition. In many cases it is not possible to say whether these sections come from the hand of the compiler or whether they were inserted by one of his followers. This is, in fact, of minor importance, if various hands have been concerned they worked under the same bias. The attitude taken towards the high places is distinctly Deuteronomistic, for the demand that these sanctuaries should be abolished was first formulated by Deuteronomy. Josiah’s reforms, as is well known, were the direct result of the finding of this book in the Temple. Hence the strong, we might say extravagant, commendation of this king.

Moreover, it was laid down by the writer of Deuteronomy that obedience to the law which he formulates will be followed by temporal well-being, and that disobedience will be punished by calamity. Now, one object of the writer or compiler of the Book of Kings is to show how this has proved true in the past. He is less thorough in the application of this theory than the author of the Book of Chronicles, but that he has it at heart will be evident on examination. The Northern Kingdom had perished why? Because kings and people had from the first been disobedient to Jahweh, revolting from His legitimate sanctuary at Jerusalem, and provoking His wrath by the hulls of Bethel. In Judah the same lesson is taught. David, who laid the foundations of the kingdom, was of unusual piety, and was favoured by unusual prosperity. Solomon was the builder of the Temple, and to this extent an example of piety; his prosperity was in proportion. But there were shadows in the picture of Solomon which our author was too honest to ignore. It had not been forgotten that this king built altars to foreign gods. History also told that he had suffered by the revolt of Edom and Damascus. It was easy to see in this the punishment for the king’s sins. The historic fact seems to be that the revolt preceded the defection, so that the punishment came before the crime. In any case, the compiler has dealt freely with his material, dating both the defection and the revolt late in the king’s reign, at a time when senile weakness would excuse the wise man for yielding to his wives.

The most distinct instance in which the author teaches his lesson is the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. It was the custom with ancient historians, as we know, to compose speeches for their heroes which tell us what ought to have been said rather than what was actually said. Our author makes use of this perfectly legitimate literary device. A reading of the prayer shows that it is Deuteronomistic in word and thought throughout. More than one hand has been concerned in it, but the tone is that of the Deuteronomistic school. It confirms what has been said about the purpose of the book. It follows that the historical value of the work must be estimated with due allowance for this main purpose.

4. Date . The date of the Book of Kings in its present form cannot be earlier than the Babylonian exile. The latest event which it mentions is the release of king Jehoiachin from confinement, which took place in the year b.c. 561; and as the author speaks of the allowance made to the king ‘all his life’ (  2 Kings 25:30 ), we conclude that he wrote after his death. It will not be far out of the way, therefore, to say that the work was completed about b.c. 550. Some minor insertions may have been made later. While this is so, there are some things which point to an earlier date for the greater part of the work. The purpose of the author to keep his people from the mistakes of the past is intelligible only at a time when the avoidance of the mistakes was still possible, that is, before the fall of Jerusalem. We find also some phrases which indicate that the final catastrophe had not yet come. The recurrence of the phrase ‘until this day’ (  1 Kings 8:8; cf.   1 Kings 9:21;   1 Kings 12:19 , 2Ki 2:22;   2 Kings 8:22;   2 Kings 16:6 ) is one of these indications. It is, of course, possible that all these belong to the older sources from which the author drew, but this hardly seems probable. On these grounds it is now generally held that the substance of the book was compiled about b.c. 600, by a writer who was anxious to enforce the lesson of the Deuteronomic reform while there was yet hope. This first edition extended to   2 Kings 23:25 or 28. About fifty years later an author living in the Exile, and who sympathized with the main purpose of the book, completed it in substantially its present form. The theory receives some confirmation from the double scheme of chronology which runs through the book. As has been shown in the formula quoted above, there is a series of data concerning the length of each king’s reign, and also a series of synchronisms, according to which each king’s accession is brought into relation with the era of his contemporary in the other kingdom. The two series are not always consistent a state of things which is best accounted for on the theory that one was the work of one author, the other the work of the other.

5. Text . The text of the Books of Kings has not been transmitted with the care which has been shown in some parts of the OT. The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] shows that early copies did not always agree in their wording or in the order of the paragraphs. In some cases the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] has a better reading. But the differences are not such as to affect the meaning in any essential point.

H. P. Smith.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

The two books of Kings (which were originally one book) trace the history of Israel over approximately four centuries from the end of David’s reign to the beginning of the captivity in Babylon. The books record the division of the Israelite kingdom into two parts, and the history, decline and fall of the separate kingdoms (see Israel; Judah, Tribe And Kingdom )

Characteristics of the books

Although they are based on history, the books of Kings were not written merely as historical records. The ancient Hebrews grouped the books among the prophetical writings. Prophecy is God’s revelation of himself and his purposes, and in these books he reveals himself in the history of Israel and Judah, showing how all affairs are under his control. The story deals with surrounding nations only as those nations are of significance in the divine purposes (see Prophecy ).

The presentation of Israel’s history as prophetic history is partly because many of the historians in Israel were prophets (e.g.  1 Chronicles 29:29;  2 Chronicles 9:29;  2 Chronicles 33:19). The author of Kings (who is not named) most likely used some of the records of the prophets, along with the official records of various kings, in preparing his book ( 1 Kings 11:41;  1 Kings 14:19;  1 Kings 14:29). Large portions of the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah are found also in Kings.

Because the writer of Kings is showing the purpose and meaning of Israel’s history, he does not try to record all the events of any one era. Nor does he always place events in chronological order. Rather he selects and arranges his material according to his prophetic purpose. He deals with kings more in relation to their religious significance than their political achievements. He may record the reign or achievements of a politically important king only briefly (e.g. Omri;  1 Kings 16:21-28), but deal with politically unimportant events in detail (e.g. the ministry of certain prophets; 1 Kings 17; 1 Kings 18; 1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20; 1 Kings 21; 1 Kings 22; 2 Kings 1; 2 Kings 2; 2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4; 2 Kings 5; 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7; 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9). His purpose is to help his readers understand God better as they see him at work in the history of Israel.

Contents of 1 Kings

The opening section of 1 Kings deals with the reign of Solomon. It shows how he became king (1:1-53) and made his throne secure, firstly by removing all possible opponents (2:1-46), then by equipping himself with wisdom (3:1-28) and reorganizing the administration (4:1-34).

Solomon then prepared workers and materials for an extensive national building program (5:1-18). In Jerusalem, the capital, he built a magnificent temple for God (6:1-38), along with many impressive government buildings (7:1-12). Upon completing the temple (7:13-51), he placed in it the ark of the covenant (8:1-21) and dedicated the temple to God (8:22-9:9). He carried out building projects in country regions (9:10-25) and increased his wealth through clever trading activity (9:26-10:29). At the same time he fell into idolatry and brought God’s judgment upon his kingdom (11:1-43).

Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, saw the judgment of God fall when the kingdom split into two. Only the southern tribes remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem. Together they became known as the kingdom of Judah. The ten tribes to the north broke away and formed their own kingdom (still called Israel) under the rebel leader, Jeroboam (12:1-33).

False religion in the north soon brought an announcement of divine punishment (13:1-14:20). The false religion spread to the south (14:21-15:8), though there was a reformation under the king Asa (15:9-24). Meanwhile the northern kingdom suffered from wars and assassinations, till Omri established a new dynasty (15:25-16:28).

When Omri’s son and successor Ahab married Jezebel of Phoenicia, the Baalism of Phoenicia threatened to become Israel’s national religion. The prophet Elijah was God’s servant to help preserve Israel and punish the Baalists (16:29-17:24). Elijah won a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel (18:1-46), but when the people of Israel still did not give up their Baalism, God strengthened and reassured the discouraged Elijah (19:1-21). Through Elijah’s help, Ahab saved Israel from a Syrian attack (20:1-43), but he was doomed to suffer God’s judgment (21:1-29). He was killed in a later battle (22:1-40). Meanwhile in Judah to the south, King Jehoshaphat carried out extensive religious and political reforms (22:41-53).

Contents of 2 Kings

Elijah was succeeded as prophet by Elisha (1:1-2:14), who soon proved that the miraculous power of God worked through him as it had through Elijah (2:15-3:27). He performed a number of miracles to help preserve the faithful minority in Israel who still trusted in God (4:1-6:7). He performed other miracles to warn the unfaithful in Israel of God’s judgment (6:8-8:15). Jezebel’s Baalism, however, continued to flourish, and even spread to Judah (8:16-9:10).

An army commander named Jehu led a revolt against the ruling house of Ahab and Jezebel, which resulted in the removal of Jezebel’s Baalism from Israel (9:11-10:36). Then a priest named Jehoiada led a revolt that wiped out Jezebel’s Baalism from Judah (11:1-21). The true worship of Yahweh was restored in Judah (12:1-21), but no such reformation took place in Israel (13:1-14:22).

With the decline of Syrian power, Israel (under Jeroboam II) and Judah (under Azariah) enjoyed security and prosperity (14:23-15:7). But after Azariah’s death, Judah fell into chaos, which led eventually to the disastrous reign of Ahaz (15:8-16:20). The northern kingdom likewise declined after the death of Jeroboam II. Eventually it was conquered by Assyria and its people taken captive into different parts of the Assyrian Empire (17:1-41). Only Judah remained in the national homeland, and with new policies under the godly Hezekiah the nation freed itself from Assyrian domination (18:1-20:21). But the fifty-five year reign of the evil Manasseh reduced the nation to a condition that made judgment certain (21:1-26).

Josiah repaired the temple and reformed the nation (22:1-23:27), but he could not save Judah from destruction. After his death, Judah lost its independence, first to Egypt and then to Babylon (23:28-37). Babylon conquered Jerusalem, took the best people into captivity, and appointed Zedekiah as king in Jerusalem (24:1-17). After Zedekiah proved treacherous, the Babylonians returned and destroyed Jerusalem. More people were taken into captivity and the nation Judah soon came to an end (24:18-25:30).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [3]

I. Title

II. Scope

III. Character Of Books And Position In The H EBREW Canon

1. Purpose

2. Character of Data

IV. Historical Value

1. Treatment of Historical Data

2. Chronology

3. Value of Assyrian Records

4. Plan

V. Composition

1. Nature of the Books

2. Sources

3. Kent's Scheme

4. The Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E)

VI. Date


I. Title.

The Hebrew title reads, מלכים , melākhı̄m , "kings," the division into books being based on the Septuagint where the Books of Kings are numbered 3and 4th, the Books of Kingdoms ( Βασιλείων , Basileı́ōn ), the Books of Samuel being numbered respectively 1st and 2nd. The separation in the Hebrew into 2 Books of Kings dates to the rabbinic Bible of Daniel Bomberg (Venice, 1516-17), who adds in a footnote, "Here the non-Jews (i.e. Christians) begin the 4th Book of Kings." The Hebrew Canon treats the 2 Books of Samuel as one book, and the 2 Books of Kings as one. Hence, both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) read incorrectly, "The First Book of Kings," even the use of the article being superfluous.

II. Scope.

The Books of Kings contain 47 chapters (I, 22 chs; II, 25 chs), and cover the period from the conspiracy of Adonijah and the accession of Solomon (975 BC) to the liberation of Jehoiachin after the beginning of the Exile (561 BC). The subject-matter may be grouped under certain heads, as the last days of David ( 1 Kings 1 through 2:11); Solomon and his times (  1 Kings 2:12 through 11:43); the Northern Kingdom to the coming of Assyria (  1 Kings 12:16 through   2 Kings 17:41 ) (937-722 BC), including 9 dynastic changes; the Southern Kingdom to the coming of Babylon ( 1 Kings 12:1 through   2 Kings 25:21 , the annals of the two kingdoms being given as parallel records until the fall of Israel) (937-586 BC), during which time but one dynasty, that of David, occupied the throne; the period of exile to 561 Bc ( 2 Kings 25:22-30 ). A simpler outline, that of Driver, would be: (1) Solomon and his times (1 Ki 1 through 11); (2) Israel and Judah to the fall of Israel (1 Ki 12 through 2 Ki 17); Judah to the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC), and the captivity to the liberation of Jehoiachin (561 BC) (2 Ki 18 through 25).

"Above all, there are three features in the history, which, in the mind of the author, are of prime importance as shown by the prominence he gives them in his narrative. (1) The dynasty of David is invested with peculiar dignity. This had two aspects. It pointed back to the Divine election of the nation in the past, and gave the guaranty of indefinite national perpetuity in the future. The promise of the 'sure mercies of David' was a powerful uniting influence in the Exile. (2) The Temple and its service, for which the writer had such special regard, contributed greatly to the phase of national character of subsequent times. With all the drawbacks and defacements of pure worship here was the stated regular performance of sacred rites, the development and regulation of priestly order and ritual law, which stamped themselves so firmly on later Judaism. (3) Above all, this was the period of bloom of Old Testament prophecy. Though more is said of men like Elijah and Elisha, who have left no written words, we must not forget the desires of pre-exilic prophets, whose writings have come down to us - men who, against the opposition of rulers and the indifference of the people, testified to the moral foundation on which the nation was constituted, vindicated Divine righteousness, rebuked sin, and held up the ideal to which the nation was called." - R obertson, Temple Bd , 369 f.

III. Character of Books and Position in Hebrew Canon.

The Books of Kings contain much historical material, yet the historical is not their primary purpose. What in our English Bibles pass for historical books are in the Hebrew Canon prophetic books, the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings being classed as the "Earlier Prophets."

1. Purpose:

The chief aim of these books is didactic, the imparting of great moral lessons backed up by well-known illustrations from the nation's history and from the lives of its heroes and leaders. Accordingly, we have here a sort of historical archipelago, more continuous than in the Pentateuch, yet requiring much bridging over and conjecture in the details.

2. Character of Data:

The historical matter includes, in the case of the kings of Israel, the length of the reign and the death; in the case of the kings of Judah there are included also the age at the date of accession, the name of the mother, and mention of the burial. The beginnings of the reigns in each case are dated from a point in the reign of the contemporary ruler, e.g.  1 Kings 15:1 : "Now in the 18th year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat began Abijam to reign over Judah."

IV. Historical Value.

1. Treatment of Historical Data:

These books contain a large amount of authentic data, and, along with the other books of this group which constitute a contemporaneous narrative, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, must be accorded high rank among ancient documents. To be sure the ethical and religious value is first and highest, nevertheless the historical facts must be reckoned at their true worth. Discrepancies and contradictions are to be explained by the subordination of historical details to the moral and religious purpose of the books, and to the diversity of sources whence these data are taken, that is, the compilers and editors of the Books of Kings as they now stand were working not for a consistent, continuous historical narrative, but for a great ethical and religious treatise. The historical material is only incidental and introduced by way of illustration and confirmation. For the oriental mind these historical examples rather than the rigor of modern logic constitute the unanswerable argument.

2. Chronology:

There cannot be as much said relative to the chronological value of the books. Thus, e.g., there is a question as to the date of the close of Ahaz' reign. According to  2 Kings 18:10 , Samaria fell in the 6th year of Hezekiah's reign. The kings who followed Hezekiah aggregate 110 years; 586 plus 110 plus 29 (Hezekiah,  2 Kings 18:2 ) = 725. But in  2 Kings 18:13 we learn that Sennacherib's invasion came in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign. Then 701 plus 14 = 715. With this last agrees the account of Hezekiah's sickness (2 Ki 20). In explanation of   2 Kings 18:13 , however, it is urged by some that the writer has subtracted the 15 years of  2 Kings 20:6 from the 29 years of Hezekiah's reign. Again, e.g. in   1 Kings 6:1 , we learn that Solomon began to build the temple 480 years "after the children of Israel were come out of the Land of Egypt" Septuagint here reads 440 years). This would make between Moses and David 12 generations of 40 years each. But counting the Exodus in the reign of Merenptah, 1225-1215 BC, and the beginning of the erection of the temple 975 BC, or after, we could not make out more than (1225-975) 250 years. Further, if the total length of reigns in Israel and Judah as recorded in the parallel accounts of Kings be added for the two kingdoms, the two amounts do not agree. And, again, it is not certain whether in their annals the Hebrews predated or post-dated the reigns of their kings, i.e. whether the year of a king's death was counted his last year and the first year of his successor's reign, or whether the following year was counted the first year of the succeeding king (compare Curtis in HDB , I, 400, 1, f; Martin EB , I, coll. 777 ff).

3. Value of Assyrian Records:

The Babylonians and Assyrians were more skilled and more careful chronologers, and it is by reference to their accounts of the same or of contemporary events that a sure footing is found. Hence, the value of such monuments as those of Shalmaneser 4 and Sennacherib - and here mention should be made also of the Moabite Stone.

4. Plan:

The plan of the books is prevailingly chronological, although at times the material is arranged in groups (e.g.  2 Kings 2:1 through 8:15, the Elisha stories).

V. Composition.

1. Nature of the Books:

The Books of Kings are of the nature of a compilation. The compiler has furnished a framework into which he has arranged the historical matter drawn from other sources. There are chronological data, citations of authorities, judgments on the character and deeds of the several rulers, and moral and religious teachings drawn from the attitude of the rulers in matters of religion, especially toward heathen cults. The point of view is that of the prophets of the national party as one against foreign influence. "Both in point of view and in phraseology the compiler shows himself to be strongly influenced by Deuteronomy." (The principal editor is styled RD, i.e. Deuteronomic Redactor.) The Deuteronomic law was the touchstone, and by his loyalty to, or apostasy from, that standard, each king stands approved or condemned. This influence also appears in passages where the editor takes liberties in the expansion and adaptation of material. There is marked recurrence of phrases occurring elsewhere chiefly or even wholly in Deuteronomy, or in books showing Deuteronomic influence (Burney in Hbd , II, 859 f). In  2 Kings 17 we have a test of the nation on the same standards; compare also   1 Kings 2:3 f;   1 Kings 9:1-9;  2 Kings 14:6;  Deuteronomy 24:16 .

2. Sources:

In numerous instances the sources are indicated, as "the book of the acts of Solomon" ( 1 Kings 11:41 ), "the chronicles of the kings of Judah" ( 1 Kings 14:29 ), "the chronicles of the kings of Israel" ( 1 Kings 15:31 ). A score or more of these sources are mentioned by title in the several books of the Old Testament. Thus "the history of Samuel the seer," "the history of Nathan the prophet." "the history of Gad the seer" ( 1 Chronicles 29:29 ); "the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite," "the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat" ( 2 Chronicles 9:29; compare  2 Chronicles 12:15;  2 Chronicles 13:22;  2 Chronicles 20:34;  2 Chronicles 32:32 ). Thus the "book of the kings of Israel" is mentioned 17 times (for all kings except Jehoram and Hoshea); the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" is mentioned 15 times (for all except Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah). Whether the compiler had recourse to the archives themselves or to a work based on the archives is still a question.

3. Kent's Scheme:

Kent, Student's Old Testament (II, chart, and pp. ix-xxvi), gives the following scheme for showing the sources:

(1) Early stories about the Ark (circa 950 Bc or earlier), Saul stories and David stories (950-900 BC) were united (circa 850 BC) to make early Judean Saul and David stories. With these last were combined (circa 600 BC) popular Judean David stories (circa 700 BC) later Ephraimite Samuel narratives (circa 650 BC), and very late popular prophetic traditions (650-600 BC) in a first edition of the Books of Samuel.

(2) Annals of Solomon (circa 950 BC), early temple records (950-900 BC), were united (circa 800 BC) with popular Solomon traditions (850-800 BC) in a "Book of the Acts of Solomon." A J eroboam history (900-850 BC), an Ahab history (circa 800 BC), and a Jehu history (circa 750 BC) were united with the annals of Israel (after 950 to circa 700 BC) in the "Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" (700 or after). Early Ephraimite Elisha narratives (800-750 BC), influenced by a Samaria cycle of Elisha stories (750-700 BC) and a Gilgal cycle of Elisha stories (700-650 BC), were joined about 600 Bc with the "Book of the Acts of Solomon" and the "Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" in a "first edition of the Books of Kings."

(3) The first edition of Samuel, the first edition of Kings and Isaiah stories (before 550 BC) were united (circa 550 BC) in a final revision of Samuel and Kings.

(4) From "annals of Judah" (before 900 to 650 Bc or after), temple records (before 850 to after 650 BC), and a Hezekiah history (circa 650 BC), was drawn material for the "Chronicles of the kings of Judah" (circa 600 BC).

(5) From this last work and the final revision of Samuel and Kings was taken material for a " Midhrash of the Book of the kings of Israel and Judah" (circa 300 BC), and from this work, the final revision of Samuel and Kings, and a possible temple history (after 400) - itself from the final revision of Samuel and Kings - came the Books of Chronciles (circa 250 BC).

4. The Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E):

The distinctions between the great documents of the Pentateuch do not appear so clearly here. The summary, "epitome") is the work of a Jewish redactor; the longer narratives (e.g.  1 Kings 17 through   2 Kings 8;  2 Kings 13:14-21 ) "are written in a bright and chaste Hebrew style, though some of them exhibit slight peculiarities of diction, due, doubtless (in part), to their North Israelite origin" (E). The writers of these narratives are thought to have been prophets, in most cases from the Northern Kingdom.

VI. Date.

There are numerous data bearing on the date of Kings, and indications of different dates appear in the books. The closing verses bring down the history to the 37th year of the Captivity ( 2 Kings 25:27 ); yet the author, incorporating his materials, was apparently not careful to adjust the dates to his own time, as in  1 Kings 8:8;  1 Kings 12:19;  2 Kings 8:22;  2 Kings 16:6 , which refer to conditions that passed away with the Exile. The work was probably composed before the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC), and was revised during or shortly after the Exile, and also supplemented by the addition of the account of the downfall of the Judean kingdom. There are traces of a post-exilic hand, as, e.g., the mention of "the cities of Samaria" ( 1 Kings 13:32 ), implying that Samaria was a province, which was not the case until after the Exile. The existence of altars over the land ( 1 Kings 19:10 ), and the sanctuary at Carmel, were illegal according to the Deuteronomic law, as also was the advice given to Elisha ( 2 Kings 3:19 ) to cut down the fruit trees in time of war; ( Deuteronomy 20:19 ).


K. Budde, Das Buch der Richter , Mohr, Leipzig; John Skinner, "Kings," in New Century Bible , Frowde, New York; C.F. Burney, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Kings , Clarendon Press, Oxford; 1903; R. Kittel, Die Bucher der Konige , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Leipzig, 1900; I. Benzinger, Die Bucher der Konige , Mohr, 1899; C.F. Kent, Student's Old Testament , Scribner, 1905; S.R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament , Scribner, new revised edition, 1910; J.E. McFadyen, Introduction to the Old Testament , Armstrong, New York, 1906; Carl H. Cornill, Einleitung in die kanonischen Bucher Altes Testament , Mohr, 6th edition, 1908; A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Divine Library of the Old Testament , Macmillan, 1891.