The first volume of the Book of Kings begins and ends in disgrace; the second begins in turmoil and ends in disaster. Twelve year old Solomon assumes the throne and makes only one request of God: that he be granted the wisdom to judge the people of Israel in accordance with God’s will. Because Solomon asked for wisdom instead of power, security and wealth, God granted him wisdom beyond precedent and imagination, and gave him great wealth, influence and respect also.
Solomon built the Holy Temple and created a prosperous, righteous realm. However, after his death, the kingdom split. Only Judah and Benjamin, along with much of the Levitical priesthood, remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty, while the other ten land-possessing tribes broke away under King Jeroboam and formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Jeroboam’s wickedness became the book’s standard for measuring his sorry line of successors. Most imitated his evil ways; some even surpassed them. Although the Southern Kingdom of Judah remained relatively loyal to God and kept his laws, although there were frequent lapses, the Northern Kingdom fell into a downward spiritual spiral.
Over the course of the second volume, both competing Jewish kingdoms decline. Wicked King Ahab of Israel is dead, Moab rebels against his successors, and King Ahaziah is badly hurt in an accidental fall, but instead of turning to the prophet Elijah, he asks the god of Ekron whether he will recover! This was typical of the disgraceful apostasy that brought destruction and exile without trace.
Judah had brighter moments. There were such kings as Hezekiah and Josiah, whose righteousness was comparable to that of their ancestors David and Solomon. But increasingly there was deterioration, as some kings tried to institutionalise idolatry. Even the great Hezekiah, of whom the sages say that he was worthy to have been the ultimate Messiah, a view not shared in Christianity for he was only mortal, was succeeded by his son Manasseh, whose wickedness rivalled that of the worst Samaritan kings.
Many of the historic events that took place during the era of Kings are detailed in the Books of Jeremiah and Chronicles. Indeed, the prophecies of such monumental figures as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, who served God during this period, fill over 130 chapters of prophecy and lamentation. Thus, the events of this book can be understood best in the context of the prophets whose messages dominated its spiritual life.
The Introduction covers both books.
There is some supplementary material for the book and a mind map providing the structure for each of the Books of Kings that may prove useful for study: 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Following the division of Israel into two kingdoms, then kings ruled simultaneously in the northern and southern kingdoms. In the north the kings of Israel reigned and in the south it was the kings of Judah. For an evaluation of each king as to whether they were good, evil or a mixture then click here.