First and Second Kings record the failure of the theocracy under monarchy. The kings of Israel and Judah could not righteously rule themselves and the nation.
First and Second Kings trace the covenant history of the nation of Israel from the death of David and the succession of Solomon through the demise of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The occupation of the land depended on faithfulness to the covenant.
Some commentators think that Jeremiah is the writer of 1 and 2 Kings. Others suggest that the writer was an anonymous Jewish captive in Babylon who used official court accounts in his writings (1 Kings 11:41; 15:7).
Literary Structure and Content
United Kingdom – Solomon’s Rise and Decline (1 Kings 1—11)
Division of Kingdom – Rehoboam and Jeroboam (1 Kings 12—14)
Kings of Judah and Israel (1 Kings 15—16)
Elijah’s Ministry (1 Kings 17—2 Kings 1)
Elisha’s Ministry (2 Kings 2—14)
Kings of Judah and Israel (2 Kings 15—16)
Fall of Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17)
Judah’s Reformation, Decline and Exile (2 Kings 18—25)
I. United Kingdom under David and Solomon (1 Kings 1—11:25)
A. Transfer of Power from David to Solomon (1:1—2:11)
B. The Good and Bad Rule of Solomon (2:12—11:25)
1. Solomon builds the kingdom (2:12—4:34).
Solomon destroys his enemies. He asks and receives wisdom from God. He organizes and administers effectively.
2. Solomon builds the temple (5:1—9:9).
3. Solomon’s kingdom expands under God’s blessing (9:10—10:29).
4. Solomon’s kingdom begins to crumble because of his failure to keep the Covenant (11:1-25).
Solomon allows pagan worship inside his kingdom. God begins to take the kingdom away from him because of his unfaithfulness. The king with a divided heart will leave behind a divided kingdom.
Solomon is the prototypical king in both a positive and negative sense. Three themes begin with Solomon and continue through the book: faithfulness to the Covenant, concern for the Temple, and response to God’s prophets.
Solomon is the Bible’s wisest fool. He began with great promise. But a great beginning does not guarantee a good finish. Compromise led to his demise. He intermarried with unbelieving wives who worshiped idols. His 700 wives and 300 concubines turned his heart away from God. Our prayer should be, “Help me God not only to start well, but to finish well.”
II. Division of the Kingdom – Jeroboam and Rehoboam (1 Kings 11:26—14)
A. Northern Ten Tribes Rebel against Jeroboam (11:26—12:24)
Jeroboam from Ephraim rebels against Solomon because of the words of Ahijah the prophet and is driven into exile in Egypt. Solomon dies and his kingdom passes to his son Rehoboam.
The people assemble at Shechem to make Rehoboam king and ask him to lighten their burden. Jeroboam was the major force in asking for a lighter burden. Rehoboam decides to be harder on the people than Solomon was. The northern ten tribes rebel against Rehoboam and make Jeroboam king in the northern tribes.
B. Wicked Rule of Jeroboam in Israel (12:25—14:20)
Jeroboam sets up an alternate system of worship in the north so that the people will not be drawn to the south. A prophet from God tells Jeroboam that God will eventually destroy the religious system he was setting up. The prophet fails to fully obey the instruction of God and suffers the consequences. Jeroboam persists in the false religious system he had set up. Ahijah the prophet pronounces God’s judgment against Jeroboam’s line. Jeroboam’s 22 year reign ends and Nadab his son reigns in his place.
C. Wicked Rule of Rehoboam in Judah (14:21-31)
Rehoboam reigns for 17 years in Jerusalem and leads Judah in evil against God by engaging in all the abominations of the nations God had dispossessed before Israel. Shishak from Egypt is able to plunder Judah. There is constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Rehoboam dies and his son Abijam becomes king.
III. Kings of Israel & Judah (1 Kings 15—16:22)
A. Unfaithfulness and Reformation in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (15:1-24)
1. Wicked Rule of Abijam (15:1-8)
Abijam rules wickedly like Rehoboam for 3 years. The northern and southern kingdoms are constantly at war under his rule. Abijam dies and his son Asa becomes king. Note the typical account of a king’s reign:
Timeline (vs. 1)
Length of reign (vs. 2a)
Matriarchal reference (vs. 2b)
Evaluation of reign (vs. 3-6)
Historical Source (vs. 7)
Death and Successor (vs. 8)
2. Righteous Rule of Asa (15:9-24)
Asa reigns 41 years in Judah. A reformation in Judah takes place during Asa’s rule. He does right in God’s eyes and compares favorably with David. He makes a treaty with a foreign power against the northern kingdom. Asa dies and his son Jehoshaphat becomes king.
B. Wickedness Rules in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (15:25—16:34)
1. Wicked Rule of Nadab (15:25-32)
Nadab reigns wickedly in Israel for 2 years. Baasha conspires against him and kills him and all the house of Jeroboam as Ahijah had prophesied.
2. Wicked Rule of Baasha (15:33—16:7)
Baasha rules wickedly in Israel for 22 years. Jehu the prophet proclaims God’s word that Baasha’s line will be completely cut off. Baasha dies and his son Elah becomes king.
3. Wicked Rule of Elah (16:8-14)
Elah reigns for two years. Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspires against him and kills him while he is drunk. Zimri also kills his whole line just as Jehu had prophesied.
4. Wicked Rule of Zimri (16:15-20)
Zimri rules for seven days. Israel makes Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel. Zimri takes his own life.
5. Wicked Rule of Omri (16:21-28)
Omri becomes king when he defeats Tibni and rules for 12 years. He makes Samaria his capital. He is evil in his rule and dies in Samaria. His son Ahab becomes king.
6. Wicked Rule of Ahab (16:29-34)
In the 38th year of Asa’s rule in Judah, Ahab begins his rule of 22 years in Samaria. He is the most evil of the northern kings up to this time. He marries Jezebel who leads him into Baal worship. He sets up Baal worship in Samaria and also sets up the Asherah. In his days Jericho is rebuilt with the loss of the builder’s firstborn son as Joshua had foretold. God will now send Elijah the prophet to proclaim and carry out God’s judgment against Baalism and Ahab.
IV. Prophets Elijah & Elisha and the Kings of Israel, Judah, and Other Nations (1 Kings 17—2 Kings 13)
A. Israel and Judah during the Time of Elijah (1 Kings 17—2 Kings 1)
1. Through the word of Elijah God withholds the rain (17:1-7).
2. God gives grain and oil for Elijah, a woman and her son (17:8-16).
3. God gives life and restores the boy to his mother (17:17-24).
4. In the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal God sends fire from heaven (18:1-40). The
people acknowledge that Yahweh is God and kill the false prophets of Baal.
5. God gives rain (18:41-46).
6. God ministers to Elijah after he flees from Jezebel and gives him the task to anoint Hazael to be king over
Syria and anoint Elisha as a prophet who will take his place (19:1-21).
7. God shows his power in the battle between Israel and Syria (20:1-43). Ahab foolishly makes a covenant with
Ben-hadad and God through a prophet pronounces that Ahab will die because he allowed Ben-hadad to live.
8. Through Elijah God pronounces destruction on Ahab for his evil actions exemplified in how he obtained
Naboth’s vineyard (21:1-29). Ahab’s line will be cut off and Jezebel will also die. When Ahab humbles
himself before God, God declares that the destruction of his line will occur during his son’s days and not
during his days.
9. God’s word through the prophet Micaiah comes true and Ahab dies from a battle wound (22:1-40). Ahab and
Jehoshaphat king of Judah make a pact to fight against Syria. Micaiah prophesies that the alliance will be
defeated and that Ahab will be killed. The alliance is defeated and Ahab is killed and buried. Ahab’s son
Azariah becomes king in his place.
10. Jehoshaphat the son of Asa became king over Judah in the 4th year of Ahab’s reign in Israel and reigned 25
years in Jerusalem (22:41-50). He was a partial reformer who made an alliance with Israel. He lost the navy
that Judah possessed. He died and his son Jehoram became king.
11. Ahaziah wickedly rules over Israel in Samaria for two years (22:51-53).
12. Through the word of Elijah God brings fire from heaven upon the emissaries of Ahaziah and pronounces
God’s judgment upon Azariah for inquiring of Baal-zebub instead of the God of Israel (2 Kings 1:1-18).
Ahaziah dies and because he has no son, Jehoram becomes king in his place.
B. Israel and Judah during the Time of Elisha (2 Kings 2—14)
1, God transfers Elijah’s power to Elisha and catches Elijah up to heaven on a chariot of fire (2:1-18).
2. Elisha demonstrates God’s power in providing life-giving water and enacting judgment (2:19-25).
3. Through the counsel of Elisha, God delivers Jehoram from Moab 3:1-27).
4. Through his acts Elisha demonstrates that God provides for life, restores life and health, and protects his
prophet and the nation (4:1—6:23).
5. During the siege of Samaria by the Syrians, God speaks through Elijah of the eventual outcome which comes
to pass (6:24—7:20).
6. Elisha’s ministry brings blessing (8:1-6).
7. Elisha goes to Damascus and tells Hazael that he would replace Ben-Hadad as king and that he would be an
enemy of Israel (8:7-15).
8. Another Jehoram reigns wickedly in Judah (8:16-24).
9. Ahaziah succeeds his father Jehoram in Judah and reigns wickedly (8:25-29).
10. Jehu revolts and becomes king of Israel in Samaria (9:1—10:36). Through a servant, Elisha anoints Jehu
king over Israel. Jehu kills Jehoram of Israel, Ahaziah of Judah, Jezebel, seventy sons of Ahab, 42 relatives of
Ahaziah, and Baal worshipers. Jehu eradicates Baal out of Israel but is only a partial reformer who does not
depart from the sin of Jeroboam and the golden calves. Because of his partial reforms, God promises Jehu
that 4 generations of his sons will be on the throne of Israel. God begins to cut off portions of the land from
Israel. Jehu reigns 28 years over Israel and his son Jehoahaz becomes king in his place.
11. Athalia the mother of Ahaziah becomes queen and kills all the other contenders for the throne except Joash
who is saved by his aunt and protected by Jehoida the priest who proclaims him to be king and then helps
bring about the death of Athalia and spiritual reform in the nation (11:1-21).
12. Joash (Jehoash) reigns 40 years in Judah and does right all the days of Jehoida who instructs him (12:1-21).
He repairs the temple so that temple worship could be reestablished. He keeps Hazael from capturing
Jerusalem by paying tribute. He is killed by a conspiracy and Amaziah his son becomes king.
13. Jehoahaz wickedly rules over Israel for 17 years (13:1-9). He entreats God and receives deliverance from
Syria but does not turn Israel back to God. Jehoahaz dies and his son Joash becomes king.
14. Joash wickedly rules over Israel for 16 years. He dies and Jeroboam II sits on his throne (13:10-13).
15. Elisha dies after prophesying that Joash would defeat the Syrians (13:14-25). God spared Israel until then
because of the Abrahamic covenant.
V. Kings of Judah & Israel (2 Kings 14—16)
A. Good Rule of Amaziah in Judah (14:1-22)
Amaziah was a partial reformer who lived partially according to the Law of Moses. He gained victory over Edom but was defeated by Israel under Joash. Joash dies during the rule of Amaziah and his son Jeroboam II becomes king over Israel. Amaziah is killed by a conspiracy. His son Azariah (Uzziah) becomes king in Judah.
B. Wicked Rule of Jeroboam II in Israel (14:23-29)
Jeroboam II rules for 41 years in Samaria. His rule was evil but God graciously restores the borders of Israel in accordance with the word of Jonah the prophet. He dies and his son Zechariah becomes king.
C. Good Rule of Uzziah in Judah (15:1-7)
Azariah (Uzziah) rules for 52 years in Jerusalem. He was a partial reformer. God struck him with leprosy and he had to live separately from other people. He dies and Jotham becomes king in his place.
D. Wicked Rules of Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah in Israel (15:8-31)
Zechariah wickedly rules for 6 month in Samaria and is killed in a conspiracy by Shallum. Shallum wickedly rules for 1 month and is kiiled in a conspiracy by Menahem. Menahem wickedly rules for 10 years and is followed by Pekahiah. Pekahiah rules wickedly for 2 years and is killed in a conspiracy by Pekah. Pekah rules wickedly for 20 years and is killed in a conspiracy by Hoshea.
E. Good Rule of Jotham in Judah (15:32-38)
Jotham was a partial reformer like Uzziah. He had to battle Syria and Israel to maintain his territory.
F. Evil Rule of Ahaz in Judah (16:1-20)
Ahaz rules wickedly like the kings of Israel. He forms an alliance with Assyria against Israel and Syria. He builds an altar in the temple like one he had seen in Damascus. Ahaz dies and his son Hezekiah becomes king.
VI. Fall of Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17)
Hoshea wickedly rules for 9 years in Samaria. Assyria carries Israel into captivity under Hoshea’s reign. Assyria besieges Samaria for 3 years. Captivity comes to Israel because of her sins.
Assyria populates Israel with peoples from other locations. Because these people did not fear Yahweh he sends lions to kill some of them. The people recognize that the God of the land has sent lions upon them. Priests of Israel are brought back to Bethel to instruct the people. A syncretism develops. The people continue to worship a mixture of gods and goddesses.
The captivity brought upon Israel is a warning to Judah where the line of David still rules. Will they turn back to God?
VII. Fall and Captivity of Judah (2 Kings 18—25)
A. The Reforming Reign of Hezekiah and the Following Decline (18:—21)
1. The Reforming Reign of Hezekiah (18—20)
Hezekiah reigns 29 years in Jerusalem. He is the best of the kings in the time of the divided kingdom. It was during his time that Assyria invaded and carried off the people of Israel into captivity.
God delivers Judah from the attack of Assyria as a result of the intercession of Hezekiah and Isaiah. After a miraculous recovery from an illness and a divinely given extension of life, Hezekiah shows Berodach-baladan of Babylon the treasures of the kingdom. Hezekiah’s folly brings on the prophecy from Isaiah of the Babylonian captivity. Hezekiah dies and Manasseh becomes king.
2. The Decline under Manasseh and Amon (21:1-26)
Manasseh reigns for 55 years. Great evil and false worship characterize his reign. Through prophets God declares destruction and captivity on Jerusalem. Manasseh dies and Amon becomes king.
Amon reigns for 2 years. He rules wickedly like his father Manasseh. He is killed in a conspiracy and Josiah becomes the king when the people put the conspirators to death.
B. The Reforming Reign of Josiah and the Following Decline (22:1—25:21)
1. The Reforming Reign of Josiah (22:1—23:30)
Josiah rules for 31 years. He issues a decree to repair the temple. The Law is found in the course of the repairs of the temple. When the Law is read to him, Josiah mourns because he realizes that the nation has not been faithful to the words contained in it. Huldah the prophetess declares that the nation will be punished but that it will be after the time of Josiah. Josiah institutes reforms in the nation. Josiah is killed in a battle when he tries to join the Assyrians against Egypt. Jehoahaz becomes king.
2. The Decline in Judah under Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (23:31—25:21)
Jehoahaz reigns for only 3 months. His reign was evil before God. He is put into prison and then taken to Egypt where he dies.
Jehoiakim reigns for 11 years. He enters into a relationship with Babylon and rebels against them. He dies and is replaced by Jehoiachin during a time in which Babylon was more powerful than Egypt.
Jehoiachin reigns for only 3 months in Jerusalem. He gives up when Babylon besieges the city and is taken along with a number of other people as captives to Babylon. Zedekiah is made king.
Zedekiah rules for 11 years. He rebels against Babylon which results in a siege of Jerusalem. Babylon breaks into the city, kills the sons of Zedekiah, takes Zedekiah captive, burns the city and the temple which signals the beginning of the exile for Judah (586—516).
C. Judah in Exile (25:22-30)
Gedaliah is appointed to be the governor of the area. He exhorts that people that are left to live at peace in the land and not to fight against the Babylonians. Gedaliah is assassinated and most of the remaining people are led to Egypt because of fear of the Babylonians. Evil-merodach releases Jehoiachin from prison and shows him kindness in exile. The Davidic line continues. God has not forsaken Israel.
Kings – Good and Evil: 1 and 2 Kings trace the history of the united and divided monarchies in regards to covenant faithfulness and covenant failure. The account is tragic. From it we learn the importance of faithfulness and obedience to God. “Irresponsible leadership destroys nations” (Warren Wiersbe).
Prophets: The prophets and prophetesses are the divinely appointed messengers of God calling the kings and the people to covenant faithfulness and warning of judgment and exile for covenant unfaithfulness. From them we learn the importance of paying much closer attention to the word of God so that we do not drift away from it (Heb. 2:1).
Solomon typifies Jesus in some ways. The initial wisdom and glory of his kingdom foreshadows the kingdom of Christ. Jesus points out concerning himself: “something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42).
Elijah typifies John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12). The prophetic ministries and miraculous works of Elijah and Elisha typify those of Christ.
Nine different dynasties rule in the Northern Kingdom while one continuous dynasty of David rules in Judah. God remains faithful to his covenant with David and preserves his lineage which will lead to Jesus the Messiah (Matt. 1:1). 1 and 2 Kings present the failure of the monarchy and reveal the need for the righteous everlasting Kingdom of Christ, the greater Son of David.