By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: The Books of Kings
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Books of Kings in conjunction with this article.
The Books of Kings
Falling on the heels of the “man after [Jehovah’s] own heart” will be David’s son to build the first Temple for Jehovah, but it will be the exact same son who brings Isra’el into spiritual ruin and division.
For the English Bible, the books of I and II Kings are like I and II Samuel, they began as a combined whole. The Greek Septuagint translators divided Kings into two parts, the Latin Vulgate and English Bibles have followed that Septuagint division.1 The division: I Kings ends with Ahaziah’s Reign in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and II Kings opens with Ahaziah falling through lattice work and his eventual death.
Interestingly enough, Kings covers a time period of 406 years.2 The first part of Kings is estimated to cover 120 years3 and second part 286 years (chapters 1-17 covering 131 years and 18-25 covering 155 years).4 Additionally, Kings can be seen moving in three parts.5 The first part is the beginning and ending of Solomon’s reign, I Kings 1-11. The second part is the Divided Kingdom, from Solomon’s death to the Assyrian Captivity, I Kings 12 through II Kings 17. The final part is Judah, the remaining kingdom, II Kings 18-25.
The Kings collection provides an intriguing record of the rise and fall of the Isra’el nation. When taken in conjunction with the books of Samuel, we see a nation develop from the Judges to a nation lead by kings who aspired and desired to live for Jehovah. Yes, Saul, David, and Solomon all had their failures. Saul lost his dynasty because of moral corruption. However, David’s dynasty was established and maintained because of his moral uprightness. Yet, David’s dynasty fell to the responsibility of his son Solomon (Shlomo), who, like Saul, started in a manner that upheld YHWH, but is brought to an end because of his moral corruption.
Kings reveals Israel’s national success which results from moral direction, and the depths of destruction caused by moral corruption. It is because of Solomon’s moral corruption (his forsaking of covenant) that causes Israel to be bifurcated, split into two. This splitting has tremendous theological application to covenant, but our article does not permit this lengthy discussion. Furthermore, not only is Israel split, but she also losses a majority of her tribes to the world and they are considered lost to history.
As we close, let us consider some tidbits mentioned in the NIV Archeological Study Bible. These provide additional points of interest which can enrich one’s reading of the Books of Kings. Some information regarding I Kings:6
- Most ancient prostitutes were slaves, often daughters who had been sold by their parents or poor women who had never been married or had lost their husbands (3:16).
- Since Solomon had 1,400 chariots (10:26; 2Ch 1:14), his stables included stalls for 2,800 chariot horses (two for each chariot), with additional stalls for 1,200 horses (1Ki 4:26).
- Ancient wisdom included music, poetry, proverbial sayings for wise conduct and what we would now call science (4:29-34).
- It was common during Old Testament times for people of one nation to recognize the deities of another (5:7).
- The Palace of Forest of Lebanon was so named because its many pillars were made from the trunks of cedars of Lebanon, giving the appearance of a massive forest (7:2).
- The “Sea of cast metal” was an enormous reservoir of water, holding about 11,500 gallons… and used by the priests for ritual cleansing (7:23).
Some information regarding II Kings:7
- Ancient pagans thought that the magical power of curses could be nullified either by forcing the pronouncer of a curse to retract the statement or by killing him or her so that the curse would accompany that individual to the netherworld (1:6-15).
- Baldness, uncommon among the ancient Jews, was considered an object for mockery, while luxuriant hair seems to have been viewed as a sign of strength and vigor (2:23).
- It is still common for wadis (dry river beds) in the Arabah to become streams after a cloudburst, leaving behind pools of water. The storm may occur far enough away that no sound of wind or rain can be heard, but the water gathers and rushes down the valleys, often taking travelers by surprise (3:20).
- It was commonly assumed throughout the ancient Near East that a diety could be worshipped only on the soil of the nation to which he or she was bound (5:17).
- Women’s makeup was sophisticated: black kohl to outline the eyes, blue eye shadow from lapis lazuli, crushed cochineal to serve as lipstick and scarlet henna to paint fingernails and toenails. There were also powders and an array of perfumes and ointments (9:30).
- It was common in the ancient Near East to seek omens by examining the entrails of sacrificed animals (16:15).
1. Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, 1 Kings, p. 111, ISBN 0-7852-1154-3.
2. Number of years varies on source. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary claims 410 years; Kings, Books of; p. 989, ISBN-13 978-0-8054-2836-0.
3. Nelson’s, 1 Kings, p. 113.
4. Nelson’s, 2 Kings, p. 124.
5. Nelson’s, 1 Kings, p. 113, II Kings, p. 126.
6. Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 480, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
7. Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 527, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.