The second book of Kings continues the story of the divided monarchy of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The breakup of the book of Kings into two books by the Septuagint translators is unnecessary as 2 Kings continues straight on from 1 Kings without an obvious break. 1 Kings ends with the death of the wicked king of Israel Ahab in the last chapter, and then 2 Kings opens with the words “Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab”. This would set the time period covered for 2 Kings from about 853 BC until the fall of Jerusalem at 586 BC. 2 Kings covers the last 12 kings of the northern kingdom of Israel and the last 16 kings of the southern kingdom of Judah.

It is important to note when reading the books of the Kings that they were not recorded for their historical details. They are included to provide important understanding concerning the people whom Yahweh had elected to be the channel of His salvation to the world. We are given scant details of many of the kings, but significant details of events in the lives of others. Some significant incidents in the lives of some kings are omitted altogether, or given a brief mention in Kings but described in greater detail in the Chronicles record.

The three major sections of 2 Kings are the history of the northern and southern kingdoms before the Assyrians conquered Israel in the north; the end of the ministry of Elijah and the miracles of Elisha; and the history of the northern kingdom before the Babylonians conquered Judah and Jerusalem in the south.

 2 Kings: Analysis

  •  1:1–18 Elijah twice brought fire from heaven to destroy the armies of King Ahaziah 2:1–25 Elijah is taken by a whirlwind into heaven and is succeeded by Elisha
  • 3:1–27 Moab rebels against Israel and is defeated in war
  • 4:1–8:15 Stories about Elisha
    • 4:1–7 Elisha multiplies the widow’s oil
    • 4:8–37 Elisha raises from the dead the Shunammite woman’s son
    • 4:38–41 A poisonous stew is made edible
    • 4:42–44 Elisha feeds a multitude
    • 5:1–27 Naaman the Syrian is healed of leprosy
    • 6:1–7 Elisha causes the axe head to float
    • 6:8–23 Elisha causes his servant to see that there are ‘more with us than them’
    • 6:24–7:20 The siege of Samaria
    • 8:1–6 The Shunammite woman regains her land
    • 8:7–15 Elisha and Hazael
  • 8:16–17:41 Kings of Israel and Judah prior to the conquering of Israel by the Assyrians
    • 8:16–24 Jehoram of Judah
    • 8:25–29 Ahaziah of Judah
    • 9:1–10:36 Jehu anointed king of Israel; the slaughter of the kings of Israel and Judah, their families and Baal worshippers
    • 11:1–20 Athaliah of Judah
    • 11:21–12:21 Joash of Judah
    • 13:1–17:41 The reign of various kings of Israel and Judah ending with Hoshea king of Israel
  • 18:1–25:30 Kings of Judah until the conquering of Judah by the Babylonians
    • 18:1–20:21 Hezekiah
    • 21:1–18 Manasseh
    • 21:19–26 Amon
    • 22:1–23:30 Josiah
    • 23:31–25:30 The last Kings of Judah and the fall of Jerusalem.

Summary

Final acts of Elijah

The period of Elijah’s ministry was nearing its end at the beginning of 2 Kings. We see the apostasy of the kings of Israel straight after the death of Ahab had not abated in any way with Ahaziah ignoring Yahweh the true God of Israel and seeking help from Baalzebub after he fell from the balcony of his palace. An angel called upon Elijah to meet the messengers of the king to rebuke him. Ahaziah sent three groups of 50 men to capture Elijah who called upon Yahweh to send fire to destroy the first two groups. The third group of 50 were spared when the angel told Elijah to go with their captain to see the king. Later Elijah was spectacularly taken from the earth in a whirlwind. His mantle fell upon Elisha indicating that he was to continue his work as a prophet to the northern 10 tribes of Israel.

Miracles of Elisha

Elisha began his ministry in the reign of Jehoram and continued through the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz. He died during the reign of Joash in about 800 BC. Elisha continued the work of Samuel by running a school of the prophets at Bethel, Jericho, Gilgal and possibly other places (2 Kgs 2:3, 5; 4:38; 6:1). Elisha’s ministry was characterised by many miracles. All have deep spiritual significance as Elisha’s work foreshadowed the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ after the work of John the Baptist as a forerunner.

The last 12 kings of Israel

The most notable of the remaining kings of Israel is the bloodthirsty Jehu (2 Kgs 9,10). He reigned for 28 years, which is a sizeable length of time for the northern Kingdom. His reign began with the destruction of all Ahab’s family, many of the royal house of Judah, and the prophets, priests and worshippers of Baal. God commended Jehu for his destruction of Ahab’s family (2 Kgs 10:30), but it appears that his attitude in serving Yahweh in truth was astray. He claimed to be zealous to serve Yahweh but he seemed to get more satisfaction in murder and carnage, as for example can be seen in his piling up the heads of Ahab’s seventy sons at the gate of Jezreel (2 Kgs 10:8–11). He like all the kings of Israel did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, keeping the golden calves at Dan and Bethel and not following the Law.

 Northern kingdom is taken into captivity by the Assyrians

We read about the northern 10 tribes going into captivity in 2 Kings chapter 17. The last king of Israel was Hoshea who was contemporary with the prophet of the same name. It is also interesting that a man who was born with the same name had led Israel into the land (Num 13:16), and a Hoshea would lead Israel out of the land. This chapter is very sad as it shows that the Israelites could not forsake the idol worship of the nations around them. We read in verses 13 and 14 that Yahweh sent prophets and seers to try to persuade the people to stop serving the idols, but they “would not hear, but hardened their necks”. This chapter is also significant in that it outlines the origin of the Samaritans who inhabited the central part of Israel in our Lord’s time, and the mixed up religion that they had. As verse 33 says, “They feared Yahweh, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations”.

Hezekiah to Josiah

Contemporary with the fall of Israel a king named Hezekiah reigned in Jerusalem. He was the son of Ahaz, one of the worst kings in Judah. He began his reign with Judah steeped in idolatry and destined for the same fate as Israel in the north. However Hezekiah was the greatest king to reign in Judah since David. As soon as he began to reign he opened the doors of the Temple and destroyed all the idols in the land, including the brazen serpent that Moses made in the wilderness, because the Israelites burnt incense to it. It is said of him that “He trusted in Yahweh God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to Yahweh, and departed not from following him ” (2 Kgs 18:5,6). Hezekiah’s reformation reached its peak with the wonderful Passover feast, the greatest since Solomon. However, strangely, nothing is said about this in the Kings record.

Instead we have mentioned that it was the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign that the Assyrians conquered Samaria, and besieged Jerusalem in the fourteenth year of his reign. This was his greatest trial, and showed that when tested he did put his trust in Yahweh, even though he was at the point of death with a sickness (ch 20). God gave Hezekiah the sign of the shadow going back 10 degrees to show that he would heal him and add 15 years to his life; then God smote the Assyrians and 185,000 were killed in a night.

In 2 Kings, only chapter 21 separates the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah, with details of kings Manasseh and Amon. However, this is a very sobering chapter as God says through His prophet that He would “wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down” (v13). Because of the abominations of Manasseh, ‘Judah’s Ahab’, they would surely also go into captivity.

It is then with relief we read about Josiah who “did that which was right in the sight of Yahweh, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left”. Josiah rent his clothes when he found a book of the law and it seems single–handedly destroyed as many idols as he could, and kept the Passover in a desperate bid to turn God’s wrath away from the nation. But the decree of God could not be altered as prophesied by Huldah the prophetess.

The last kings of Israel

After the death of the good king Josiah, his second son Jehoahaz reigned as king of Judah. Little is mentioned of Jehoahaz as he only reigned for three months and was taken captive into Egypt where he died. Next to reign was Josiah’s eldest son Jehoiakim who reigned for 11 years. Strangely he was appointed king of Judah by Pharaoh–Nechoh as it seems the people did not want Josiah’s eldest son to reign as king. 2 Kings records Jehoiakim’s harsh taxation of the people to pay Pharaoh (23:35) and his rebelliousness against Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (24:1). He caused dissatisfaction amongst his own people and his enemies. Next to reign was Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin, who also had a brief reign of three months before being taken captive into Babylon. 37 years later however, he was exalted in Babylon by Evil–merodach. The last king to reign in Judah was another son of Josiah, Zedekiah. He reigned for 11 years and his account in the record is brief. His reign ended tragically with the final overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Zedekiah met a terrible end by having his sons slain before his eyes which were then gouged out before being taken captive to Babylon to die.

2 Kings ends very sadly with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The house of Yahweh was burnt to the ground, and the people, as well as many items from the Temple were carried captive into Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar made Gedaliah ruler over the poorest of the people who were allowed to stay in the land. He wisely counselled the people to serve the Babylonians and not to go into Egypt; however this advice was refused because the people were afraid.

2 Kings begins with Elijah trying to persuade an apostate king to worship Yahweh the true God of Israel, and ends with the destruction of Jerusalem as the whole nation declined to a point where God removed them from the land. In between we read of 28 kings of Israel and Judah, all unaware that 2,500 years later disciples from all nations would be reading about events in their lives and learning how to live lives pleasing to the God of Israel. May we learn from these kings so that when the Kingdom is restored to Israel, with a king reining “whose right it is”, we may all be found worthy to reign with him.