Authorship and sources

Jewish tradition ascribes the books of Kings to the authorship of Jeremiah, and the two books are treated as one in the Hebrew Canon but divided in the Septuagint Version. There is no reliable internal evidence that Jeremiah was the author,  and 2 Kings certainly goes too late for Jeremiah. The unity of the work indicates that the books as we have them were probably compiled by one hand  from a variety of earlier sources, a number of which are named. These sources include:

  1. The Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41). – From the extracts of this book used in Kings it would appear that these Acts were more of a biographical nature than historical narrative. The Acts contained  many personal incidents in Solomon’s life and gave  lists of his princes or ministers and his household officers (1 Kings 4:1–19).
  2. The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. – This book is cited seventeen times.
  3. The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. – This book is cited fifteen times. Both of these books are mentioned for the first time in 1  Kings 14:19, 29 when Jeroboam and Rehoboam are spoken of. It is obvious that these two sources  began their separate history after the division of  the kingdom. Neither of these books corresponds to the books of Chronicles in the Old Testament as the Canonical Chronicler makes use of the same sources, showing them to be older than our books of Chronicles.
  4. The Book of Isaiah. – 2 Kings 18:13–20 (excluding verses 14–16) is taken from Isaiah 36–39 and is almost word for word the same.
  5. The Elijah Narratives. – Some scholars claim to be able to distinguish these two sources lying behind our book of Kings. Whilst this remains  possible the evidence is slender and these sources must be regarded as doubtful.
  6. The Elisha Narratives. – Some scholars claim to be able to distinguish these two sources lying behind our book of Kings. Whilst this remains  possible the evidence is slender and these sources must be regarded as doubtful.
  7. The Acts of Ahab. – This source, though recognized by a number of scholars, remains very doubtful.

Date

Most scholars give the end of the seventh century  BC as the date for the compilation of the main body of Kings because the conduct of the kings appears to them to be judged in the light of Josiah’s reform. It is more likely that Kings was the product of a  gradual growth over many years, reaching its final  form some time after 560BC (2 Kings 25:27). The  non-mention of the capture of Babylon in 538BC  and the decree of Cyrus in the year following argues the completion of Kings before this date. It  is probable that much of the book is considerably earlier in view of the passages which imply that  the temple was still standing and that the Jewish  State was still in existence when it was written (1  Kings 8:8; 2 Kings 8:22; 16:6). This requires a date  before 586BC.

Structure

The Books of Kings fall into three main divisions:  1. 1 Kings 1–11: the death of David and the reign of Solomon (970–933BC).

  1. 1 Kings 122 Kings 17: the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the fall of the northern kingdom (933–721BC).
  2. 2 Kings 18–25: _ e history of the kingdom of Judah from the reign of Hezekiah to its fall (721–586BC). (More strictly to the release of Jehoiachin from his prison in Babylon 560 BC).

Contents

No careful reader of the Old Testament can fail to  notice the continuity of the historical books. The Books of Kings are closely linked with the Books of Samuel and continue the record begun there, completing the story of the Hebrew kingdom.

A striking characteristic of Kings is the way in which the events of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah have a stereotyped framework of opening and concluding formulas.

Opening Formula

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Concluding Formula

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The exact wording of these formulas differs but in general they are the same. the records also  contain an estimate of the king in one of three  forms: (a) a whole-hearted condemnation; (b) a  whole-hearted commendation; (c) a qualified form  of either. For the southern kingdom the estimate is  based on the character of David (1 Kings 15:11),  and for the northern kingdom it is based on the  character of Jeroboam the son of Nebat (1 Kings  15:34).

The Book of Kings contains religious history,  that is the religious significance of a series of historical  events. In the Hebrew Canon Kings is classed as  a prophetic book – a fact which aptly illustrates that God’s revelation to men is not confined to prophetic  utterances but also comes through historical events. To quote the New Bible Commentary, “It is spiritual  not political lessons that we are to learn. That is why  the two periods of crisis, the reigns of Ahab for the  north and of Hezekiah for the south, are given at  special length” (page 301). Omri is a most important  king from the point of view of external records, but  Kings dismisses him in half a chapter. This is not to  say that the books are not accurate history or that archaeology has not thrown valuable light upon the records and their historical context. The author or authors are not only profoundly religious but  extremely careful and able historians. The writing  of a parallel history of the divided kingdom with  related dating of both reigns is brilliantly achieved.  The system of cross-reference between the kings  of Israel and Judah is not without its own peculiar difficulties, however. For the most part these arise  from the Jewish method of reckoning part of a year as a whole year and the complications introduced by co-regencies.

(2) The Books of Chronicles

Authorship and sources

About the authorship of the Books of Chronicles we know little or nothing. One view recognizes four groups of compilers as responsible for the work in  its present form, but the majority of scholars incline to two groups of compilers. Jewish tradition ascribes  the final editing of Chronicles to Ezra and this  raises the interesting problem of the relationship between Chronicles and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is thought that these books may have been originally a single work. The chief reasons for this are as follows:

a. The last verses of 2 Chronicles are the same as the opening verses of Ezra.

b. The point of view of the writer in both is similar, showing great interest in the worship and ritual of the temple, and Levites and the observance of the Law.

c.The literary style of these books is the same, and they all contain various genealogies and lists of names.

d. Hebrew tradition assigns this common authorship to Ezra.

This is not by any means conclusive proof that  Ezra was the author of Chronicles, but it remains a  distinct possibility that he was at least the compiler  of much of the material used by the Chronicler.  The sources employed by the author or authors are as follows:

  1. Samuel and Kings. – This is the principal source used by the Chronicler and quoted as “the books of the kings of Israel and Judah”.
  2. Midrash (or commentary on Kings). – “… Behold they are written in the story of the book of the kings” (2 Chron 24:27). the Revised Version has  “commentary” instead of “story”, which is a much  better rendering of the Hebrew midrash.

3. Midrash of Iddo (2 Chron 13:22)

  1. the Book of Isaiah.
  2. Genealogical tables compiled in the reign of Jotham king of Judah and Jeroboam king of Israel (1 Chron 5:17).
  3. Various works such as:

a. the book of Nathan the prophet.

b. the book of Gad the Seer.

c. the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite.

d. the book of Shemaiah the prophet.

e. the book of Jehu the son of Hanani.

f. the history of Hozai.

g. the chronicles of king David.

h. the lamentations for Josiah.

(See 1 Chron 29:29; 2 Chron 9:29, 12:15, 13:22,  20:34, 26: 22, 32: 32, 33:19. See also 1 Chron 5:17,  27: 24, 28:19; 2 Chron 35:25). All these may have  been independent works, but it is possible that they  may have belonged to a large midrash on the Book  of Kings (see 2 Chron 20:34, RV; 32:32, RV). It is  also possible that these writings were included in  a very large early work on the Kings of which our  canonical books are a condensation. This conclusion  is supported by 2 Chron 33:18 where reference is  made to a prayer of Manasseh recorded “in the book  of the kings of Israel”. This prayer is not found in the canonical book of Kings.

Date

If we accept the view that Chronicles and Ezra – Nehemiah were one work, then the earliest date  for Chronicles would be 350BC. The genealogy of  David given in 1 Chron 3:1, 19–24 is brought to six  generations after Zerubbabel. His date is 520BC, so even if we allow only twenty years per generation the book in its present form cannot have been  written until after 400BC.

In 1 Chronicles 29:7 RV mention is made of a daric – a Persian coin named after Darius I who died  486 BC. Its circulation in Palestine points to a time  considerably after it was first issued and suggests a date well on in the Persian period (538–332BC).

Structure

The books can be divided into four main divisions:

  1. 1 Chronicles 1–9: Genealogical tables from Adam.
  2. 1 Chronicles 10–29: the reign of David.
  3. 2 Chronicles 1–9: the reign of Solomon.
  4. 2 Chronicles 10–36: History of the Kingdom of Judah (the northern kingdom being almost wholly ignored).

Contents

In the Hebrew the Books of Chronicles are one, and  with Ezra and Nehemiah stand apart from other  historical books and form a part of the Hagiographa  or “sacred writings”. Chronicles stands at the end  of the Hebrew Bible. the Hebrew title for them,  the “Words of Days” or “Journals”, is an allusion to their annalistic character, whilst the Septuagint  description as “Omissions” suggests the thought  that they supplement Samuel and Kings. The name  Chronicles was given by Jerome.

Their place in the Canon among the “sacred  writings” shows that the standpoint is religious  rather than merely historical. The Chronicler does  not continue the history from the point at which it is left in 2 Kings but covers the same historical  period as 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. There is no  attempt to cover all the ground of these books,  but the Chronicler selects those incidents that are  of significance from a religious and particularly a  priestly point of view. Most of the material concerns the southern kingdom. This is a significant  pointer to the religious purpose behind the book, for the northern kingdom was given over to  idolatry and was in rebellion against both of the  Divine institutions of the Davidic line of kings and the temple.

There are many differences between Kings and  Chronicles so that some scholars regard Chronicles  as an unreliable history. Many of the supposed discrepancies are in figures and dates and may be due to different modes of reckoning. Other differences are  due to a difference of aim and purpose, and this is  further confirmed by the fact that Chronicles, unlike  Kings, does not always follow a chronological order.

(3) Why Two Records?

After the foregoing survey we are now in a position to appreciate why the Spirit has given us two records of the same period of history. The value of these two  different records is more readily appreciated by a series of contrasts.

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Bullinger expresses the matter well in the  Companion Bible (Appendix 56): “The conclusion is that the book of Chronicles is entirely independent  of the books of Samuel and Kings and that the differences between them are independent and designed. The critics create their own difficulties by  first assuming that the books ought to be alike, and then because they are not what they are assumed to be, treating the variations as ‘discrepancies’ or  ‘corruptions of the text’, instead of as being full of  Divine instruction ‘written for our learning’”.

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The most striking illustration of the difference of the treatment of the books of Samuel – Kings  and Chronicles is a detailed comparison of the narratives about the reign of David. Below is a list of events in David’s life which are only described in  either Samuel – Kings or Chronicles. The material common to both works is left out so that the special  interests of each may be brought out more clearly.

Far from these books being a useless duplication it may fairly be said that Kings gives a religious history of the period and Chronicles is a later religious commentary on the period.

Chronicles may be said to stand in the same relationship to Samuel – Kings as John’s Gospel does to the synoptics.