An Overview of 2 Kings

Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Human Author: Jeremiah, Based on 2 Chronicles 32:32 it is possible that Isaiah wrote the book of Kings up to the time of Hezekiah (1 Kings 11 – 2 Kings 20:21), and Jeremiah completed the narrative leading up to the Babylonian Captivity (2 Kings 21 – 25).

Date of Writing: c. 560 – 540 BC

Setting: In Israel and Judah, The narrative takes place c. 850 BC, when King Ahab died, to c. 550 BC, when Judah is exiled to Babylon.

Key Verse: 2 Kings 17:7-8,“For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods,”8 And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.”

Theme : Israel, Divided, The history of the kings of Israel and Judah is and Disciplined recorded from the time of Solomon to the Babylonian Captivity.

General Facts: 12th Book of the Bible; 25 Chapters; 719 verses    

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Introduction

The Book of 1 Kings told the story of Israel as a United Kingdom under Solomon through the division of the nation after the king’s death, and the events that occurred in the first 80 years that followed.

The Book of 2 Kings continues with a parallel account of the divided kingdom, the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Tragically, the Northern Kingdom of Israel would fall to the Assyrian Empire within 130 years. Many leading citizens would be deported to a foreign land. Collectively, those descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Northern Kingdom of Israel would be absorbed forever into the annals of history, and become known as the Ten Lost Tribes. In the 19th century, speculation would consider if the Lost Tribes of Israel were the American Indians. In the 20th century, speculation would have the Lost Tribes being the ancestors of Britain. British Israelism would find a following within the Church of England in the 1870s, and then decline rapidly after 1945.

After the fall of the northern Kingdom to the Assyrians in 722 BC, the Southern Kingdom of Judah would continue until its own conquest by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

The Book of 2 Kings covers the lives of the last 12 kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the last 16 kings of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, a period of about 250 years, c. 850 BC – 586 BC.

A large part of this history is associated with the ministries of two major prophets, Elijah and Elisha whose combined ministry to the Northern Kingdom of Israel lasted about 75 years, through the reigns of six kings: Ahab, Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash.

The End of an Era 2 Kings 1

In the opening chapter of 2 Kings, the ministry of Elijah, comes to a conclusion with the story of fire falling from heaven to consume his enemies who were determined to arrest him in order to compel him to appear in court before Ahaziah, king of Israel who was sick due to a great fall. Realizing the seriousness of his injuries, initially, Ahaziah inquired of the false god of Ekron whether he was to live or die. For this Satanic inquiry, Ahaziah was severely rebuked. The Angel of the Lord let Elijah know the king would die a sin unto death (1:1-4).

When Ahaziah was informed of this, the king ordered the arrest of the prophet.  A band of fifty soldiers led by a military commander was sent to apprehend Elijah, only to be destroyed (1:5-10). A second band of fifty soldiers was sent to arrest Elijah with the same results. Fire fell from heaven and consumed the men (1:11-12).

Persistently a third band of soldiers were sent to bring Elijah to the royal court, but with this difference. The captain of the third band of brothers fell on his knees before Elijah, and pleaded for his life, and the lives of his men to be spared (1:13-14).

Mercy was shown, Elijah acquiesced, and went with the guard and the third band of soldier to see the king, not by human compulsion, but by divine command (1:15). God had a message he wanted Elijah to personally give to King Ahaziah. Because the king had sought out a false god for healing, and not Jehovah – Rapha (“the Lord who heals”), Ahaziah was going to die the sin unto death. Study 1 John 5:16

Moving from Time into Eternity 2 Kings 2

With his prophet ministry to Israel coming to a conclusion, the Lord prepared Elijah to be taken up by a whirlwind. How the arrangements were made is not known. What is certain is that Elijah’s departure was a very sad occasion, especially to Elisha, who loved his teacher so much (2:1-11).

Other sons of the prophets were equally distraught. They could not believe that Elijah was really gone, and so, for three days, 50 grieving souls went in search of Elijah, or at least, his body. It was to no avail. Elijah was gone (2:15-17).

A Sanctified Desire for a Double Portion of Spiritual Power

When the moment passed, and Elijah was gone, the Bible says that Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him (2:12). Elisha had asked for a double portion of blessing from Elijah. The name Elisha means, “God is salvation”. Now, he would see if a double portion of spiritual power had been given. It was given, indicated by the miracle of the parted water (2:13-14). This miracle was followed by some young people who mocked Elisha. “And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord” (2:23). The judgment came on forty-two delinquents, and they died in the paws of two bears out of the woods (2:24).

The Miracles of Elisha

  • Divided the waters of the Jordan River, 2 Kings 2:14
  • Cured a bad water supply, 2 Kings 2:19 – 22
  • Destroyed mocking delinquents, 2 Kings 2:23 – 24
  • Supplied an army with water, 2 Kings 3:16 – 26
  • Renewed a widow’s oil supply, 2 Kings 4:1 – 7
  • Assured a woman would conceive, 2 Kings 4:8 – 17
  • Raised a child from the dead, 2 Kings 4:17 – 37
  • Made a poisonous stew edible, 2 Kings 4:38 – 41
  • Feed 100 men with 20 loaves of bread, 2 Kings 4:42 – 44
  • Healed Naaman of his leprosy, 2 Kings 5:1 – 14
  • Cause Gehazi to have leprosy, 2 Kings 5:24 – 27
  • Made an ax-head float, 2 Kings 6:5 – 7
  • Caused human eyes to see spiritual realities, 2 Kings 6:15 – 17
  • Struck the Syrian army with blindness, 2 Kings 6:18
  • Restored the sight of the Syrian army, 2 Kings 6:19 – 23
  • Restored a dead man to life, 2 Kings 13:20 – 21  

Depending on how a miraculous event is understood, it is possible that Elisha performed no less than twice as many miracles as Elijah. Study 1 Kings 19:16, 21; 2 Kings 2:14 – 13:21

The Miracles of Elijah

  • Stopped the rain for three years, 1 Kings 17:1
  • Increased oil, and grain for a widow, 1 Kings 17:2
  • Raised a son from the dead, 1 Kings 17:22, 23
  • Prayed fire down from heaven, 1 Kings 18:38
  • Started the rain to drop again, 1 Kings 18:45
  • Destroyed 51 soldiers with fire from heaven, 2 Kings 1:10
  • Destroyed 51 solider with fire from heaven, 2 Kings 1:12
  • Parted the Joran River, 2 Kings 2:8

The Moabite Rebellion 2 Kings 3

Soon after Elisha succeeded and assumed the prophetic role to Northern Israel, Jehoram, the son of King Ahab, tried to subdue the Moabites. Uniting with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, the allied forces made their way through the wilderness of Edom. After encountering some strategic supply problems, Elijah was called for to give his counsel in the name of the Lord. A miracle took place. Much needed water was given to the exhausted army, and a prediction was made. The Lord was going to deliver the Moabites into the hands of the allied forces. The events of the day went as foretold. A great victory was given to Israel (3:4-25).

Consider

At least two miracles took place during Johoram’s campaign against the Moabites. The first miracle was physical. Desperate for water, the Lord provided a valley to be filled with water. It was considered to be “but a light thing in the sight of the Lord” (3:17-20). The second miracle was psychological. When the Edomites went to engage the army of Israel, they “saw the water on the other side as red as blood, and wrongly assumed the army of Israel, and the army of Judah had turned on each other in a terrible bloodbath. There was nothing left to do for the Moabites but to take whatever possessions were on the field of battle. “On to the spoil!” was the command. Because of this mistake, the Moabites rode into a death trap (3:21-25). Only too late did the king of Moab realize his mistake. Foolishly, and without mercy, he took his eldest son, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall (3:26-27).

The Wonderful Miracles of Elisha 2 Kings 4 – 6

In chapters 4 – 6, many important miracles of Elisha are recorded. The poor were taken care of, (4:1-7), hope was given, and a woman was assured she would conceive (4:8-17), a child was raised from the dead (4:17-37), poisonous food was made edible (4:38 – 41, men were fed with little resources (4:42 – 44), Naaman was healed of his leprosy (5:1 – 14), and the judgment of leprosy fell on Gehazi (5:24 – 27). A borrowed ax-head floated (6:5 – 7), spiritual eyes were made to see (6:15 – 17), and an army was struck with blindness (6:18), only to have sight restored (6:19 – 23).

The Horror of Being Hungry

Jesus said the poor would always be with us (John 12:8). Being poor is not a sin, but being poor can lead to unimaginable acts of wrongdoing. In 2 Kings 6:26-29, the story is told of two women who cannibalized a child. Rather than put babies to death, let people address their own sins. “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you” (John Owen).

A Flight into Darkness 2 Kings 7

In chapter 7, the story is told of four lepers who made a fantastic discovery, and was able to bring joyful news to the Jews. The hostile Syrian army had fled into the night leaving everything behind.

The good news of the lepers was difficult to believe. It was suggested that the Syrians had simply withdrawn their previous position to lure the Hebrews into a trap (7:

The army of the Syrians had fled into the night, being confused in their minds by astonishing noises in the middle of the night (7:11). The Lord knows how to terrorize the hearts of individuals to the point they think and act in a self-destructive way. 

A Terrible Form of Judgment Fulfilled 2 Kings 8

In this chapter the wickedness of Israel is punished. The Land of Milk and Honey was made barren. There was famine in the land for seven years (8:1). If less judgments do not prevail to bring men to repentance, God will send greater and longer; they are at His beck, and will come when He calls for them (Matthew Henry). However, in the midst of judgment, there is mercy. The Lord will protect His own illustrated in the woman who was told to go and reside in the land of the Philistines until the storm of God’s wrath ended. The woman did as she was instructed, and lived to share her story (8:2-6).

Death of a Wicked Royal Couple 2 Kings 9

When the sins of Ahab and Jezebel saturated their souls, the Lord sent Elijah, and then Micaiah, to predict Ahab’s death (21:19; 22:28). The word of the Lord came to pass. Ahab was killed in battle with Syria. Later, Jezebel was thrown, without mercy, from a tower. Her blood splattered on the wall, and on the horses, which trampled on her. Dogs came and licked her bones. Study 2 Kings 9:22-35).

A Terrible Prophesy Fulfilled 2 Kings 10

The judgment of God pronounced against Ahab by Elijah came to pass. The seventy sons of Ahab were collectively put to death by having their heads cut off, put in a basket, and put on public display (10:1-11).

The reign of Jehu (Heb. Yah is he”), the son of Jehoshaphat and king of Israel (841 – 814 BC) is recorded (10:1-31).  Jehu was the commander of the army when Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophet to Ramoth-Gilead to anoint him as king. To secure the throne, Jehu killed Joram, king of Israel, Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jezebel, and the surviving members of the house of King Ahab. On the positive side, Jehu destroyed the worshippers of Baal (10:28). The dynasty he established ruled for almost a century (10:34-36).

Athaliah, Queen of Judah 2 Kings 11

Athaliah (Heb. “Yahweh is righteous”) was the daughter of Jezebel, the wife of Jehoram, king of Judah, and the mother of Ahaziah, king of Judah. When her son Ahaziah died in battle, Athaliah found a way to rule Judah for six years (841 – 835 BC). Her story is told in 1 Kings 8:27-28, and 2 Kings 11:1-4.

Peace at any Price 2 Kings 12

Because it was a military stronghold, the seat of power, and contained the nation’s treasury, Jerusalem was a prime target to be attacked. From 930 – 722 BC, the Holy City was attacked by the Egyptian pharaoh Shishak during the reign of Rehoboam (925 BC; 1 Kings 14:22–28; 2 Chronicles 12:2–4), and by Hazael of Aram Damascus during the reign of Joash (ca. 813 BC; 2 Kings 12:17–18; 2 Chronicles 24: 17–24). Desiring peace at any price, the rulers of Jerusalem took the lavish gifts from the Temple treasury to appease the aggressors. Because the Temple was neglected, it had to be repaired during the days of Joash, king of Judah (2 Kings 12:1-16).

The attempts to appease foreign nations at God’s expense, mingled with blood and violence, political assassinations and rebellion, idolatry and social injustice, finally led to 2 Kings 17.

The Assault of the Assyrians 2 Kings 17

Throughout her struggle for national survival, Israel has known many enemies, many of them well deserved. Historically, one of Israel’s greatest opponents for three hundred years was Assyria. In 2 Kings 17, Assyria invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel and deported many citizens. The capital of Samaria is conquered and the people were scattered throughout the ancient world.

The Kings of Assyrian

Shalmaneser III: 858 – 824 BC, Began to “cut off Israel”, 2 Kings 17: 3 – 4
Samsi-Adad V: 823 – 811
Adad-Nirari III: 810 – 783, Took tribute from Israel
Shalmaneser IV: 782 – 773
Assur-dan III: 772 – 755
Assur-nirari V: 754 – 745
Tiglath-pileser III: 745 – 727, Deported most of the northern part of the northern kingdom, Israel
Shalmaneser V: 727 – 722, Besieged Samaria
Sargon II: 721 – 705, Deported the rest of northern Israel (Study Isaiah)
Sennacherib: 704 – 681, Invaded Judah (Study Isaiah)
Esar-Haddon: 681 – 669, A very powerful ruler
Ashurbanipal: 668 – 626, The most brutal ruler (Study Nahum)
Ashur-etil-ilani: 626 – 623
Sin-shariskun: 623 – 612
Assur-uballit: 611 – 609, The Assyrian Empire fell during his reign

It was a time for reflection (17:7-12). It was also a time for hope, based upon authentic repentance (17:13). If Israel would turn from their rebellion, idolatry, injustice, and covenant unfaithfulness, God would forgive the people, and heal the land.  But the people did not repent (17:14-23). The Lord allowed the nation to receive the just discipline for their many sins (17:24-31). Finally, for just a little while, the Divine desire of heaven was honored. The people began to fear the Lord and keep covenant (17:32-41).

When Kings Ruled the Land: 2 Kings 13 – 25

Chapter / King / Nation / Reign / Verses

13 / Jehoahaz / Israel / 814 – 798 BC / 13:1 – 9
13 / Jehoash (Joash) / Israel / 798 – 782 BC / 13:10 – 25
14 / Amaziah / Judah / 14:1 – 22
14 / Jeroboam II / Israel / 793 – 753 BC / 14:23 – 29
15 / Azariah / Judah / 15:1 – 7
15 / Zechariah / Israel / 753 – 752 BC / 15:8 – 12
15 / Shallum /  Israel / 752 BC / 15:13 – 15
15 / Menahem / Israel / 752 – 742 BC / 15:16 – 22
15 / Pekahiah / Israel / 742 – 740 BC / 15:23 – 26
15 /Pekah / Israel / 752 – 732 BC / 15:27 – 31
16 / Ahaz / Judah / 735 – 716 BC
16 / Manasseh / 16:10 – 18
17 / Hoshea / Israel / 730 – 722 BC (Last king)

The Fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Exile 2 Kings 18–25

In this last section of the book, the history of the last eight kings of Judah, from Hezekiah to Zedekiah, (716–586 BC) is briefly told, culminating with the Fall of Jerusalem in 596 BC. According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, the captivity of Judah was accomplished in four phases. 

Phase I.

In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeated Jehoiakim and took temple treasures as well as the sons of prominent families, including Daniel, to Babylon ( 2 Chronicles 36:6–7 ;  Daniel 1:1–3 ).

Phase II.

In 597 BC Nebuchadnezzar came again and took the rest of the treasures, as well as King Jehoiachin and 10,000 of the princes, officers, and prominent citizens to Babylon (2 Kings 24:14–16). Among those taken captive was the prophet, Ezekiel. 

Phase III.

In 586 BC the Babylonians came again. They burned Jerusalem, tore down its walls, put out the eyes of King Zedekiah, and carried him in chains to Babylon, with 832 captives. All that was left in the land was a remnant of the poorest class of people (2 Kings 25:8–12; Jeremiah 52:28–30). 

 It took the Babylonians a year and a half to subdue Jerusalem. They besieged it in the tenth month of the ninth year of Zedekiah, and the city fell in the fourth month of the eleventh year of his reign. A month later the city was burned. 

Thus, Nebuchadnezzar was 20 years in the process of destroying Jerusalem. He could have done it at first, had he wanted to. But he only wanted tribute. Daniel, whom he took to Babylon at the beginning of the 20 years, soon became Nebuchadnezzar’s friend and adviser, and may have had a restraining influence on him. In the end, it was Judah’s persistence in making an alliance with Egypt that forced Nebuchadnezzar to wipe Jerusalem off the map.

Phase IV.

In 581 BC, five years after the burning of Jerusalem, the Babylonians came again and took 745 more captives (Jeremiah 52:30), even after a considerable group, including Jeremiah, had fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 43). The fall of Jerusalem was accompanied by the ministry of three great prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

Some Men of Courage and Grace 2 Kings 17 – 25

Though the Southern Kingdom of Israel eventually fell to the Babylonians through military conquest, there were some important individuals numbered among the last eight kings of Judah.

Hezekiah was a good king, who did what was good and right before the LORD his God. Study 2 Kings 16:20 – 20:21; 2 Chronicles 31:20.

Manasseh was only 12 years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem for 25 years. Manasseh was not a good king. In fact, he was an evil man who introduced false worship to Baal, made an Asherah pole, and offered child sacrifice to the gods. Study 2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 32:33- 33:20; Jeremiah 15:4

Josiah was the king of Judah (c. 640 – 609 BC), the son of Amon, and the grandson of Manasseh. Despite his ungodly heritage, Josiah was a godly king. His reign began when he was just 8 years old. It was during his reign that the Law of the Lord was rediscovered, and read to the people, which led to a time of spiritual renewal.  Study 2 Kings 22 – 23; 2 Chronicles 34 – 35

However, sin has saturated Judah to the point there is no turning back the judgment of God. The people would not give up their rebellion, idolatry, acts of social injustice, or failure to keep covenant. They would not even help themselves by letting the land rest to replenish itself, as the Law required. Study Leviticus 25:2-4; 26:33-35; Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-14, and 2 Chronicles 36:21; Daniel 9:1-2

Because of these actions, and more, the Lord sent prophets to His people to pronounce their certain judgment, but then, to give them hope for the future.

The Matchless Grace of God 2 Kings 24 – 25

The final two chapters of 2 Kings, tell the story of the Babylonian conquest. The Temple was destroyed and the royal families of Judah were carried into exile.

Many people would wonder whether or not God was through with David, and reversed His covenant promises for a Messiah-King.

The last paragraph provides the answer. God turned the heart of Evil-Merodach, king of Babylon, to show mercy to Jehoiachin, king of Judah. He was released from prison. He was spoken kindly to, and exalted to his throne. Jehoiachin was given new garments, and enjoyed a banquet for the rest of his life. As a representative of God’s infinite grace and mercy to Israel, there was hope for the future.

Lessons to Learn from 2 Kings: Every Ministry Has an End

The translation of Elijah from earth to heaven is a reminder that every person, and every ministry, has a beginning, and an end, even when that ministry is a reflection of the person and work of Jesus. It is the Lord who decides these matters. There is a general guiding principle that should be kept in mind during the work of ministry. “God’s work, done God’s way, will be blessed.” Whatever the form of blessing is manifested, it is certain that God will honor those who honor Him.

It is Good to Cry Over Loved Ones

God has given people tears to use to express love and grief when someone is gone away. There is no place for Christian stoicism in the hour of death. Jesus wept over the grave of Lazarus. Elisha wept over the loss of Elijah crying out in anguish, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” Then, Elijah was gone (2:1-12).

The Problem with Relative Righteousness

The Bible recognizes there are degrees of human depravity in individuals. It is said in Scripture that Jehoram, the son of Ahab, was an evil person, but he was not as evil as his parents, for he destroyed the worship of Baal (1 Kings 3:2). Unfortunately, an unconverted person will look at someone else and believe they are righteous compared to others. In this way, the Enemy uses the idea of relative righteousness to arrest individuals from calling on the name of the Lord. Such sad souls sincerely believe they are good. In fact, they think they are good enough to go to heaven.

Let the Old Testament Help Understand the New Testament

After reading in 2 Kings 3 of a valley filled with blood and armies around it, attention is turned to Revelation 14:20. In his vision, John saw a winepress being trodden without the city of Jerusalem. Instead of grape juice coming forth, “blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” Normally, a winepress does not produce blood, so the imagery of John is a mixture of familiar sights to convey a greater spiritual truth. It is irresponsible for prophetic pundits to use Revelation 14:20 to speak of a future literal event whereby blood will fill a ravine outside of Jerusalem for about 200 miles. There is not enough blood on planet earth to cause this to happen even if every man, woman, and child were slaughtered. Study Genesis 49:11; Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 1:15; Ezekiel 32:6; Hebrews 13:12

Do Not Lose Hope

As long as the Lord tarries, and the earth is not destroyed by fire, there is hope for the future in every nation. God’s people should never cease to be patriotic, or indifferent to the society in which God has placed them. Though Josiah came from a godless heritage, the Lord came into his heart and used him to promote national repentance and spiritual renewal. There is always hope for the future for the Church.

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