2 Kings - Introduction
Second Kings, originally joined with 1 Kings as a single work, continues the story of Israel under its monarchy, which was begun in 1–2 Samuel and carried forward in 1 Kings. The book opens during the short reign of Ahaziah king of Israel (mid‐ninth century BCE) with the conclusion of the prophet Elijah's mission (chs 1–2 ). The ministry of Elijah's successor Elisha occupies the bulk of the subsequent seven chapters (chs 3–9 ), woven together with an account of the reign of King Jehoram of Israel, who was ultimately overthrown by his army commander Jehu (chs 9–10 ). This continues a pattern first seen in 1 Kings: Prophets oppose the apostate northern kings walking in Jeroboam's sins (1 Kings 12.25–13.34 ), and their dynasties come to an end, sometimes with great speed, as the judgment of God falls upon them. The prophets Elijah and Elisha in some respects go beyond this judgmental role: They are presented as mitigating the full force of God's wrath, offering the opportunity of repentance leading to reprieve in the midst of judgment. God's promises and his compassion are also presented as reasons for the divine forbearance (e.g., 10.30; 13.23 ). Eventually, however, description of the reigns of Israel's kings gives way to description of severe divine judgment, and the Northern Kingdom is exiled by the Assyrians (ch 17 ). Description of Judah also coheres with what we have previously read in 1 Kings, in which the religious situation is not entirely one of continuous apostasy. Relatively good kings did rule in the gaps between the wicked kings (1 Kings 15.9–22.50 ). This pattern is continued in 2 Kings (e.g., see 8.16–19,25–27; 12.1–15.38). Toward the end of Judah's story, indeed, we are presented with two of the most righteous kings there ever were. Hezekiah and Josiah reformed Israelite worship and obeyed and trusted in God ( 18.1–20.21; 22.1–23.30 ). Yet in the end Judah's sins, and especially the sins of King Manasseh (ch 21 ), which are presented as breaking the divine patience, were also punished. Jerusalem was captured and destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, and many inhabitants of Judah were exiled to Babylon ( chs 24–25 ). The book ends with the future of the dynasty founded by David hanging by the slender thread of a displaced Judean ruler sitting at the table of the king of Babylon ( 25.27–30 ).
For discussion of the composition and character of 1–2 Kings overall, see the Introduction to 1 Kings (pp. 487–89 HB ).