Sunday, January 16

Book Overview: 2nd Kings

The Book of Kings, which was originally one book and not two separate books, picks up the history of Israel. It begins where 1st Kings ended, and it covers up to the Fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 587/586 BC. The book itself contains 25 Chapters, and includes the many famous historical accounts - such as Elijah's "translation" into Heaven, Elisha and the floating axhead, Naaman and his leprosy, and Hezekiah's reverse day. (Photo credit to: Christian Blessings, Ancient Mesopotamia War Room, Answers In Genesis)

This is the eleventh Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of 2nd Kings.
Title: 2nd Book of Kings (English), Sefer melakhim, ספר מלכים (Hebrew)
Authorship/Written: Traditionally, Jeremiah is credited as the author of 1st and 2nd Kings. There are many similarities in the style of writing used in 1st and 2nd Kings compared to the Book of Jeremiah. The Book of Kings was written while the First Temple still stood. (1st Kings 8)  Jeremiah lived before the Babylonian Captivity of Israel which began in 587 BC, but survived the captivity. (Some say 586 BC)

This is also indicated by the phrase, "to this day." (1st Kings 8:8; 12:19; etc) Kings is written from a prophetic view, putting emphasis on the idolatry and immorality that brought the judgment of God upon Israel. 2nd Kings 24:18-25:30 is the same as Jeremiah 52. Jeremiah, inspired by God the Spirit, who worked in and through him as he did with all authors of his word, was given what we would call "source material." 

2nd Kings 2:1-18
He used the Acts of Solomon (1st Kings 11:41), the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (1st Kings 15:7), and a possible source in Isaiah 36-39, as large portions appear in 2nd Kings 18-20. He also used the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. (1st Kings 14:19) In regard to the date of composition, states the following, "The date of its composition was some time between B.C. 561, the date of the last chapter (2 Kings 25), when Jehoiachin was released from captivity by Evil-merodach, and B.C. 538, the date of the decree of deliverance by Cyrus." The book was written between 561-538 BC.

Summary: "2nd Kings also tells of the kings of Israel, but it focuses more on the prophets sent to warn the kings and people of the impending judgment they faced if they refused to repent of their sins and return to God. 2nd Kings reveals the importance of making God the ultimate leader in our lives. 2nd Kings ends with the nations of Israel and Judah destroyed and led into captivity." (From the NIV)

2nd Kings 2 - Elijah Conveyed into Heaven by a Chariot of Fire (ca. 852 BC) 
2nd Kings 4 - Oil of the Widow and Elisha feeding a hundred people (Elisha performs miracles) 
2nd Kings 5 - Naaman is Healed of Leprosy 
2nd Kings 6:1-23 - Army of God protects Elisha 
2nd Kings 6-7 - The Floating Axhead, Israel's capital under siege 
2nd Kings 8:1-15 - Petition to the King, Elisha's prediction and fulfillment of task 
2nd Kings 12 - The temple repaired by Joash (835 BC) 
2nd Kings 17 - Hoshea, the last king of Israel, the exile of Israel (732 BC) 
2nd Kings 18-20 - Hezekiah's reign, Hezekiah's "reverse day" 
2nd Kings 22 - The Book of the Law is found 
2nd Kings 23 - Josiah renews the covenant with God 
2nd Kings 25 - The Fall of Jerusalem (537/536 BC) 
2nd Kings 1-17 covers the deterioration of Israel and Judah 
2nd Kings 18-25 covers the deportation of the Southern tribes

2nd Kings contains the history of Israel and Judah from Ahab to the Babylonian captivity, which is a period of about 300 years. The first half of the book is largely taken up with Elisha's account, concerning his ministry of 66 years. We find 16 miracles of Elisha's, whereas we find that only eight of Elijah's were recorded. It is interesting to note that Elisha, before Elijah was taken up to Heaven, had asked for a double-portion of Elijah's spirit - and in turn, performed double the amount of miracles. 

2nd Kings also deals with Israel's treatment of God. From ignoring God, to God derided, followed by His anger then compassion - then fierce wrath, for the Israelites continued to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. The reason God was so "strict" with the Mosaic laws was as follows: if the Davidic line was destroyed, Christ would never have been born into it, therefore he never would have been able to come. That is the reason for the wiping out of the surrounding nations during the times of Moses and Joshua - to protect the bloodline of Christ. 

In 2nd Kings, there were 19 kings in Israel, not one good. Judah had 19 kings and one queen, eight of whom were good.

Points: 1st/2nd Samuel and 1st/2nd Kings are sometimes regarded as the "four books of Kingdoms," as they deal with the history of the Jewish monarchy from its beginning with Saul up to the Babylonian captivity of 587 BC. All four books follow the line of the Kings, even with the Northern Kingdom, though the line of kings in the North disappeared in 722 BC. 

Of the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible - the Law, Psalms, and the Prophets, 2nd Kings is generally categorized under the Prophets. In fact, Jesus and his disciples quote the Book of Kings several times. (Matthew 6:29, 12:42; Luke 4:25-26, 10:4; compare 2 Kings 4:29; Mark 1:6; compare 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4)

Some have pointed out that Shakespeare may have found a bit of influence in 2nd Kings 8:7-15. Hazael is sent by Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, to see Elisha, for Ben-Hadad was ill. Hazael inquired as to whether or not the king would get better. Elisha replies, "Go and say to him, 'you will certainly recover.' Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die." Elisha weeps because he knows the pain Hazael will cause, and after Elisha tells him why he is weeping, Hazael asks, "How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?" To which Elisha says, "The Lord has shown me that you will become King of Aram." When Hazael returned, he told Ben-Hadad that he would indeed get better, "but the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king's face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king." In the same way, the Weird (Wyrd) sisters from Macbeth tell Macbeth that he will become King. He does not know how, since his king, Duncan, is honorable, but names his son Malcolm as King. In a chain of events, Macbeth himself kills Duncan in his sleep, and his son(s) flee, so that the blame is kept off of Macbeth until the end, where he "pays." Macbeth fulfilled the witches prophecy, Hazael fulfilled Elisha's prophecy - could Shakespeare have been influenced by this passage?
Babylonian conquest

The account of Elijah's translation into Heaven is found in 2nd Kings 2:1-18. Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elisha, knowing that Elijah will be taken up to Heaven that very day, refuses to leave Elijah. Elijah performed a miracle. As they were walking, "Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground." After crossing the Jordan, Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit. "As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind." Elisha inherited his spirit, and turning back, also divided the Jordan.

One of Elisha's miracles, the floating axhead, can be found in 2nd Kings 6:1-7. "The company of prophets said to Elisha, 'Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.' And he said, 'Go.' Then one of them said, 'Won't you please come with your servants?' 'I will,' Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. 'Oh no, my Lord!' he cried out. 'It was borrowed!' The man of God asked, 'Where did it fall?' When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 'Lift it out,' he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it." Though skeptics may call this account false, it only shows the glory of God: God can use a simple stick, which would have no effect on iron, which does not float, to allow an iron axhead to float, to show His glory to us.

Hezekiah's "reverse day" can be found in 2nd Kings 20:1-11. King Hezekiah of Judah was ill, and was talking to the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah asks for a sign that God would heal him, and Isaiah asked, "Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?" Hezekiah replies, "It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps. Rather, have it go back ten steps." Isaiah called on God, and God made "the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down." God made the moon go backwards in its cycle - and Hezekiah believed.

It is interesting to note Elisha's feeding the hundred. 2nd Kings 4:42-44 says, "A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. 'Give it to the people to eat,' Elisha said. 'How can I set this before a hundred men?' his servant asked. But Elisha answered, 'Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: 'They will eat and have some left over.'' Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord." Compare this event with Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15, where Jesus feeds more than five thousand people on merely five small barley loaves and two small fish - and even after everyone was fed, there were still twelve baskets left. Jesus performed this miracle again with four thousand later on. In all events, God is glorified. 

As pointed out by John R. Kohlenberger III, "The only noteworthy king of the northern kingdom (again noted only in Kings) in the final century of Israel's existence was Jeroboam II. His forty-year reign (793-753 B.C.) brought unparalleled peace and prosperity but also unparalleled greed and idolatry among the upper class. The self-centeredness of that generation spawned the strong prophecies of Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. In Judah, the good kings Joash, Amaiziah, Uzziah (Azariah), Jotham, and even Hezekiah and Josiah could not measure up to the standard set by David. And wicked kings such as Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon pushed Judah over the edge, which led them into Babylonian exile in 586 B.C., following Israel's exile to Assyria in 722 BC."

An archaeological find, the "Black Obelisk" is a fascinating thing. This is the only monument which depicts Israelites bringing tribute to an Assyrian king. The text on the Black Obelisk record the triumph of an Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, and mentions Jehu, the biblical King of Israel. Part of the inscription reads, "Yaua (Jehu) son of Humri (Omri)." The text reads, "The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri. Silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden beaker, golden goblets, golden pitchers, lead, a royal staff, a javelin."

The Babylonian account of the capture of Jerusalem (not destruction, which was 587/586 BC) in March 597 BC seems to confirm biblical events. "In the seventh year, in the month of Kislev, the Babylonian king mustered his troops, and having marched to the land of Hatti, besieged the city of Judah, and on the second day of the month of Adar took the city and captured the king. He appointed therein a king of his own choice, received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to Babylon."

After the days of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:16), the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from history. Most believe that the Babylonians destroyed the Ark when they looted Solomon's Temple in 587/586 BC, as there was no Ark in the later Temples. Jewish tradition, however, says that Jeremiah hid the Ark in a cave on Mt. Nebo, while others say that King Josiah hid the Ark in a cave beneath Jerusalem. Ethiopian legend claims that the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba took the Ark to Ethiopia, where it is allegedly now kept in a church in Aksum. (For more information, see entry, "The Ark of The Covenant")

For years, the historicity of Sennacherib's death was questioned. The death of Sennacherib (recorded in Isaiah 37:38 and 2nd Kings 19:37) was confirmed by the records of Sennacherib's son, Esarhaddon, later added to by his son, Ashur-bani-pal. Dr. Clifford Wilson found part of a pathway between Sennacherib's palace and the temple - where his sons had killed him. Once again archaeology confirmed the Biblical Account. The existence of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was also once questioned by critics. Prophecies regarding Babylon (Jeremiah 51-52) have been fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar wrote that the walls of Babylon would be a eternal memorial to his name, yet Jeremiah said, "The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken. (Jeremiah 51:58) Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar's palace and library were uncovered.  

2nd Kings is indeed an interesting historical document, as it contains the accounts of Elijah, the kings of Israel and Judah, including King Joash, King Hezekiah, King Josiah, it also contains miracles and signs of God's glory, ranging from the division of the Jordan - twice, to Hezekiah's "reverse day" to a floating axhead. 2nd Kings ends with the Fall of Jerusalem, a solemn note - prophecy which Jeremiah had given years before was no fulfilled, and Israel had refused to listen, and were now in Babylonian captivity. 1st and 2nd Chronicles covers the Kings as well, and the events following the Fall of Jerusalem are picked up in the book of Ezra. More and more, the people longed for a Savior... a Messiah. 

Next Book Overview: Book of 1st Chronicles
Previous Book Overview: Book of 1st Kings

Kohlenberger III, John R. "Read Through The Bible In a Year." Moody Publishers, 1986. 27-28. Print.

"Kings, The Books of ". ChristianAnswers.Net. Web. 16 Jan 2011.  

Various. "Zondervan Handbook To The Bible". Zondervan, 1999. 3rd ed. 293-305. Print.

Lee, Robert. "The Outlined Bible." London Pickering & Inglis LTD. 1st ed. 12. Print.

Various. "The Oxford Companion to the Bible". Oxford University Press, 1993. 1st ed. 409-413.

Wilson, Clifford and Ham, Ken. "The New Answers Book 1". 12 ed. Master Books Books, 2006. 313-314. Print.

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