the First Week of Advent
Click to donate today!
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
- 1 Kings
by Editor - Joseph Exell
1. UNITY OF THE WORK
THE Books now known to us as the First and Second Books of the Kings, like 1 and 2 Samuel, were originally and are really but one work, by one writer or compiler, and it is only for convenience of reference and because of long established usage that we here treat them as two. In all Hebrew MSS. down to the time of Jerome certainly, and probably down to A.D. 1518, when the Hebrew text was first printed by D. Bomberg at Venice, the division into two books was unknown. It was first made in the Greek version by the Septuagint translators, who followed a prevailing custom of the Alexandrine Greeks of dividing ancient works for facility of reference. The division thus introduced was perpetuated in the Latin version of Jerome, who took care, however, while following the LXX. usage, to notice the essential unity of the work; and the authority of the Septuagint in the Eastern, and of the Vulgate in the Western Church, has ensured the continuance of this bipartite arrangement in all later time.
That the two books, however, are really one is proved by the strongest internal evidence. Not only is there no break between them — the separation at 1 Kings 22:53 being so purely arbitrary and artificial that it is actually made haphazard in the middle both of the reign of Ahaziah and of the ministry of Elijah — but the unity of purpose is conspicuous throughout. Together they afford us a continuous and complete history of the kings and kingdoms of the chosen people. And the language of the two books points conclusively to a single writer. While there are no indications of the manner of speech of a later period, no contradictions or confusions such as would arise from different writers, there are many phrases and formulae, tricks of expression, and turns of thought, which show the same hand and mind throughout the entire work, and effectually exclude the idea of a divided authorship.
While, however, it is indisputable that we have in these two portions of Holy Scripture the production of a single writer, we have no sufficient warrant for concluding as some (Eichhorn, Jahn, al.) have done, that the division Between them and the Books of Samuel is equally artificial, and that they are parts of a much greater work (called by Ewald "the Great Book of the Kings") — a work which comprised along with them Judges, Ruth, and 1 and 2 Samuel. The arguments in support of this view are stated at considerable length by Lord Arthur Hervey in Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible", but to my thinking they are entirely inconclusive, and have been effectually disposed of by, among others, Bahr, Keil, and Rawlinson, each of whom cites a number of peculiarities not only of diction, but of manner, arrangement, materials, etc., which clearly distinguish the Books of Kings from those which precede them in the sacred Canon.
The name KINGS (מלכים) requires but little notice. Whether these scriptures bore this name from the first or not — and it is hardly likely that they did, the probability being that the Book was originally cited, like those of the Pentateuch, etc., By its initial words, והמלד דיד, and was only called "Kings" from its contents (like the Book of "Samuel") at a later period — this one word aptly describes the character and subject matter of this composition and sufficiently distinguishes it from the rest of its class. It is simply a history of the kings of Israel and Judah, in the order of their reigns. The LXX. Title, Βασιλειῶν γ.δ.. (i.e. "Kingdoms"), expresses the same idea, for in Eastern despotisms, and especially under the Hebrew theocracy, the history of the kingdom was practically that of its kings.
3. CONTENTS AND PURPOSE.
It must be remembered, however, that the history of the kings of the chosen people will necessarily have a different character and a different design from the chronicles of all other reigns and dynasties; it will, in fact, be such history as a pious Jew would naturally write. Such a one, even without the guidance of Inspiration, would inevitably view all the events in the history both of his own and of neighbouring nations, not so much in their secular or purely historical as in their religious aspect. His firm belief in a particular Providence superintending the affairs of men, and requiting them according to their deserts by temporal rewards and punishments, would alone give a stamp and colour to his narrative very different from that of the profane historian. But when we remember that the historians of Israel were in every case prophets; that is, that they were the advocates and spokesmen of the Most High, we may be quite sure that history in their hands will have a "purpose," and that they will write with a distinctly religious aim. Such was assuredly the case with the author of the KINGS. His is an ecclesiastical or theocratic rather than a civil history. Indeed, as Bahr well observes, "Hebrew antiquity does not know the secular. historian." The different kings, consequently, are pourtrayed not so much in their relations to their subjects, or to other nations, as to the Invisible Ruler of Israel, whose representatives they were, whose religion they were charged to uphold, and of whose holy law they were the executors. It is this consideration accounts, as Rawlinson remarks, for the great length at which certain reigns are recorded as compared with others. It is this again, and not any "prophetico-didaetic tendency," or any idea of advancing the prophetic order, accounts for the prominence given to the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and to the interpositions of various prophets at different crises of the nation's life [see 1 Kings 1:45; 1 Kings 11:29-40; 1 Kings 13:12, 1 Kings 13:21-24; 1 Kings 14:5-16; 1 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 19:20; 2 Kings 20:16; 2 Kings 22:14, etc.) It explains too the constant references to the Pentateuch, and to the previous history of the race (1 Kings 2:8; 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 6:11, 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Kings 8:56, etc.; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 17:13, 2 Kings 17:15, 2 Kings 17:37; 2 Kings 18:4-6, etc.), and the constant comparison of the successive monarchs with the king "after God's own heart" (1 Kings 11:4, 1 Kings 11:38; 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 15:3, 1 Kings 15:11, etc.), and their judgment by the standard of the Mosaic law (1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 6:11, 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Kings 8:56, etc.) The object of the historian clearly was, not to chronicle the naked facts of Jewish history, hut to show how the rise, the glories, the decline and the fall of the Hebrew kingdoms were respectively the results of the piety and faithfulness or of the irreligion and idolatry of the different kings and their subjects. Writing during the captivity, he would teach his countrymen how all the miseries which had come upon them, miseries which had culminated in the destruction of their temple, the overthrow of their monarchy, and their own transportation from the land of their forefathers, were the judgments of God upon their sins and the fruits of the national apostasy, He would trace, too, the fulfilment, through successive generations, of the great promise of 2 Samuel 7:12-16, the charter of the house of David, on which promise indeed the history is a continuous and striking commentary. True to his mission as the Divine ambassador, he would teach them everywhere to see the finger of God in their nation's history, and by the record of incontrovertible facts, and especially by showing the fulfilment of the promises and threatenings of the Law, he would preach a return to the faith and morals of a purer age, and would urge "his contemporaries, living in exile with him, to cling faithfully to the covenant made by God through Moses, and to honour steadfastly the one true God."
The two Books embrace a period of four and a half centuries; viz. from the accession of Solomon in B.C. 1015 to the close of the captivity of Jehoiachin in B.C. 562.
The date of the composition of the Kings can be fixed, with much greater facility and certainty than that of many portions of Scripture, from the contents of the Books themselves. It must lie somewhere between B.C. 561 and B.C. 588; that is to say, it must have been in the latter part of the Babylonian captivity. It cannot have been before B.C. 561, for that is the year of the accession of Evil-Merodach, whose kindly treatment of Jehoiachin, "in the year that he began to reign," is the last event mentioned in the history. Assuming that this is not an addition by a later band, which we have no reason to think is the case, we have thus one limit — a maximum of antiquity — fixed with certainty. And it cannot have been after B.C. 538, the date of the return under Zerubbabel, as it is quite inconceivable that the historian should have omitted to notice an event of such profound importance, and one too which had such a direct bearing on the purpose for which the history was penned — which was partly, as we have already remarked, to trace the fulfilment of 2 Samuel 7:12-16, in the fortunes of David's house — had that event occurred at the time when he wrote. We may safely assign this year, consequently, as the minimum date for the composition of the work.
And with this conclusion, that the Books of Kings were written during the captivity, the style and diction of the Books themselves agree. "The language of Kings belongs unmistakably to the period of the captivity". Lord A. Hervey, indeed, contends that "the general character of the language is that of the time before the Babylonish captivity" — elsewhere he mentions "the age of Jeremiah" — but even if we allow this, it does not in the least invalidate the conclusion that the work was given to the world between B.C. 460 and B.C. 440, and probably about B.C. 460.
5. THE AUTHORSHIP
is a question of much greater difficulty. It was long held, and it is still maintained by many scholars, that the Kings are the work of the prophet Jeremiah. And in support of this view may be alleged —
1. Jewish tradition. The Talmud (Baba Bathra, f. 15.1) unhesitatingly ascribes the work to him. Jeremias scripsit librum suum et librum regum et threnos.
2. The last chapter of 2 Kings agrees, except in some few particulars, with Jeremiah 52:0. The spelling in the latter is more archaic and the facts recorded in vers. 28-30 differ from those of 2 Kings 25:22-26, but the general agreement is very striking. It is alleged, accordingly, and not without reason, that the two narratives must have had a common origin, and more, that the final page of Jeremiah's history of the Kings, with a few alterations and additions made by a later hand, was appended to his collection of prophecies, as forming a fitting conclusion to those writings. And certainly this arrangement, though it does not prove Jeremiah's authorship of the KINGS, does afford evidence of a very ancient belief that he was the writer.
3. There is in many cases a marked resemblance between the language of Kings and that of Jeremiah. Havernick, perhaps the most powerful and energetic advocate of this view, has furnished a striking list of phrases and expressions common to both. And so marked are the correspondences between them that even Bahr, who summarily rejects this hypothesis, is constrained to allow that "the mode of thinking and expression resembles that of Jeremiah," and he accounts for the similarity by the conjecture that our author had before him the writings of the prophet or was, perhaps, his pupil, while Stahelin is driven to the conclusion that the writer was an imitator of Jeremiah. But the resemblance is not confined to words and phrases: there is in both writings the same tone, the same air of despondency and hopelessness, while many of the facts and narratives again are more or less common to the history and the prophecy.
4. Another consideration which is equally striking is the omission of all mention of the prophet Jeremiah in the Books of Kings — an omission easily accounted for if he was the author of those Books, but difficult to explain on any other supposition. Modesty would very naturally lead the historian to omit all mention of the share he himself had taken in the transactions of his time, especially as it was recorded at length elsewhere. But the part Jeremiah sustained in the closing scenes of the history of the kingdom of Judah was one of so much importance that it is hard to conceive any impartial, not to say pious or theocratic historian, completely ignoring both his name and his work.
But a string of arguments, equally numerous and equally influential, can be adduced against the authorship of Jeremiah, prominent among which are the following:
1. That if Jeremiah did compile these histories, he must have been at the time about eighty-six or eighty.seven years of age. Bahr regards this one consideration as conclusive. He, like Keil and others, points out that Jeremiah's ministry began in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah (Jeremiah 1:2), when, it is urged, he must have been at least twenty years of age. But the Book of KINGS, as we have just seen, cannot have been penned earlier than B.C. 562; that is to say, at least sixty-six years afterwards. In reply to this, however, it may fairly be remarked
(1) that it is quite possible that Jeremiah's entrance upon the prophetic office took place before he was twenty years old. He calls himself a child (נַעַר Jeremiah 1:6), and though the word is not always to be taken literally, or as furnishing any definite chronological datum, yet the tradition that he was but a boy of fourteen is not wholly irrational or incredible.
(2) It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the work may have been written by an octogenarian. We have had conspicuous instances amongst our own contemporaries of men far advanced in years retaining all their mental vigour and engaging in arduous literary labours. And
(3) it does not absolutely follow, because the last paragraph of the Kings carries us down to B.C. 562 that that is also the date of the composition or compilation of the rest. It is quite obvious that the bulk of the work might have been written by Jeremiah some years before, and that these concluding sentences might have been added by him in extreme old age. There is much greater force, however, in a second objection, viz., that the KINGS must have been written or completed in Babylon, whilst Jeremiah spent the concluding years of his life and died in Egypt. For, though it is not absolutely certain, it is extremely probable that the work was finished and published in Babylon. There is not much weight perhaps in Bahr's remark that it cannot have been composed for the handful of fugitives who accompanied Jeremiah to Egypt, but must have been designed for the kernel of the people in captivity, for the prophet may have composed the work in Tahpenes, and have at the same time hoped, perhaps even provided, for its transmission to Babylon. But it cannot be denied that while the writer was evidently familiar with what transpired in the court of Evil-Merodach, and was acquainted with details which could hardly have been known to a resident in Egypt, there is an absence of all reference to the latter country and the fortunes of the remnant there. The last chapter of the work, that is to say, points to Babylon as the place where it was written. So also, prima facie, does the expression of 1 Kings 4:24, "beyond the river" (Auth. Vers. "on this side the river"). The "region beyond the river" can only mean that west of the Euphrates, and therefore the natural conclusion is that the writer must have dwelt east of the Euphrates, i.e., in Babylon. It is alleged, however, that this expression, which is also found in Ezra and Nehemiah, had come at this time to have a meaning different from its strict geographical signification, and was used by Jews, wherever they might happen to reside, of the provinces of the Babylonian Empire (including Palestine), west of the Great River, just as a Roman, even after residing in the country, might speak of Gallia Transalpina, and it cannot be denied that the expression is used indifferently of either side of the Jordan, and therefore presumably it may designate either side of the Euphrates. But it is to be observed —
1. that in the majority of instances where the expression is used of the Euphrates (Ezra 6:6; Ezra 7:21, Ezra 7:25; Nehemiah 2:7), it is found in the lips of persons residing in Babylonia or Media;
2. that in other instances (Ezra 4:10, Ezra 4:11, Ezra 4:16) it is used in letters of state by Persian officers, who would naturally adapt their language to the usages of the Persian court and of their own country, even when resident abroad, and lastly, that in the one instance (Ezra 8:36) where the words are employed of Jews resident in Palestine, it is by a Jew who had just returned from Persia. While therefore it is perhaps impossible to arrive at any positive conclusion from the use of this formula, it is difficult to resist the impression that on the whole it suggests that the Book was written in Babylon, and therefore not by Jeremiah.
3. A third consideration alleged by Keil in his earlier edition, viz., that the variations of style and diction between 2 Kings 25:0. and Jeremiah 52:0. are such as to negative the supposition of their having proceeded from the same pen, or rather such as to compel the belief that "this section has been extracted by the author or editor in the two cases from a common or more copious source," is too precarious to require much notice, the more so, as
(1) these variations, when carefully examined, prove to be inconsiderable, and
(2) even if the distinct authorship of these two portions, or their having been copied from a common authority, were established, it would by no means necessarily follow that Jeremiah had not copied them, or had had no share in the rest of the work.
It would seem, therefore, that the arguments for and against Jeremiah's authorship of the KINGS are so evenly balanced that it is impossible to speak positively one way or the other. Professor Rawlinson has stated the conclusion to which an impartial survey conducts us with great fairness and caution. "Though Jeremiah's authorship appears, all things considered, to be highly probable, we must admit that it has not been proved, and is, therefore, to some extent, uncertain."
6. SOURCES OF THE WORK.
The Books of Kings being obviously and necessarily, from their historical character, to a very large extent, a compilation from other sources, the question now presents itself, What and of what sort were the records from which this narrative was constructed?
What they were the writer himself informs us. He mentions three "books" from which his information must have been largely derived — "the book of the acts of Solomon "(1 Kings 11:41); "the book of the Chronicles of (lit. of the words [or events] of the days to) the kings of Judah" (1 Kings 14:29; 1 Kings 15:7, 1 Kings 15:22; 1 Kings 22:45; 1 Kings 2:0 Kings passim); and "the book of the Chronicles ("the words of the days") of the kings of Israel" (1 Kings 14:19; 1 Kings 15:31, etc.) That he made abundant use of these authorities is evident from the fact that he refers to them more than thirty times; that he constantly quoted from them verbatim is clear from the fact that passages agreeing almost verbatim with those of the Kings are found in the Books of Chronicles, and also from the use of expressions which manifestly belong, not to our author, but to some document which he cites. It is consequently more than "a reasonable supposition that" this "history was, in part at least, derived from the works in question." And there is a strong presumption that these were his only authorities, with the exception perhaps of a narrative of the ministry of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, for though he refers to them so constantly, he never once refers to any other. What, however, was the precise character of these writings is a matter of considerable uncertainty. We are warranted in the belief, from the way in which they are cited, that they were three separate and independent works, and that they contained fuller and more extended accounts of the reigns of the several kings than any which we now possess, for the invariable formula in which they are referred to is this, "And the rest of the acts of .... are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles," etc. It hardly follows, however, as Bahr thinks, that this formula implies that the works, at the time our history was written, were "in general circulation," or "in the hands of many," for our author surely might reasonably refer to them, even if they were not generally known or readily accessible. But the great question in dispute is this: Were "the books of the words of the days to the kings," as their name at first sight seems to imply, state papers; i.e., public archives prepared by appointed officers, or were they private memoirs of the different prophets. The former opinion has the support of many great names. It is alleged in its favour that there was, at any rate in the kingdom of Judah, a state functionary, "the recorder," whose business it was to chronicle events and prepare memoirs of the different reigns, a "court historian," as he has been called; that such memoirs were certainly prepared in the kingdom of Persia by an authorized officer, and were afterwards preserved as state annals, and, lastly, that such public documents appear to be sufficiently indicated by the very name they bear, "The book of the chronicles to the kings." There is no question, however, despite these allegations, that the second view is the correct one, and that the "Chronicles" were the compilations, not of state officials, but of various members of the schools of the prophets. For, to begin with, the name by which these writings are known, and which has been thought to imply a civil origin, really means no more than this, "the Book of the history of the times of the Kings," etc., as Keil interprets it, and by no means indicates any official archives. And, in the second place, we have no evidence in support of the view that the recorder or any other officer was charged with the preparation of the history of his time. The word מַזְטִיר properly means "remembrancer," and he was no doubt so called, not "because he kept the memory of events alive," but because he reminded the king of the state affairs which required his attention. It is generally admitted that he was "more than an annalist," but is not so well understood that in no case in which he figures in the history is he in any way connected with the public records, but always appears as the king's adviser or chancellor (cf. 2 Kings 18:18, 2 Kings 18:37; 2 Chronicles 34:8). Moreover, there are almost insuperable difficulties in the way of believing that the "books of the Chronicles" can have been compiled by this remembrancer. For example,
(1) there is no trace of the existence of any such functionary in the kingdom of Israel;
(2) David is said to have instituted the office of "court and state scribe," but we find that David's history was recorded, not in any state annals prepared by this functionary, but in "the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer" (1 Chronicles 29:29). Now, surely, if any such officer charged with such a duty had existed, the record of David's life would have been composed by him, and not by unofficial and irresponsible persons. But
(3) the state archives of the two kingdoms, including the memoirs — if such there were — of the different kings, can hardly have escaped the sack of Samaria and the burning of Jerusalem. It has been conjectured, indeed, that the Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs preserved the records of conquered nations in their respective capitals, and permitted such of the exiles as had acquired their favour to have access to them, but this, as Bahr observes, is obviously a supposition "as unfounded as it is arbitrary," and is beset with difficulties. Seeing that not only the royal palace, but also "all the great houses were burned" (2 Kings 25:9), the conclusion is almost inevitable that all the public records must have perished. And such records — in the kingdom of Israel, at least — had also had to run the gauntlet of intestine warfare and dissension. A dynasty cannot be changed nine times, and each time be destroyed, root and branch, without the greatest danger to the archives of sharing the same fate. That amid all the changes and chances of the two kingdoms, changes which culminated in the transportation of the two entire nations to distant lands, the state annals had been preserved and were accessible to a historian of the time of the captivity, seems almost incredible. But our author manifestly refers to the "Books of the Chronicles," etc., as still existent in his time, and, if not generally circulated, yet guarded and accessible somewhere. But a still more conclusive argument against the "state paper" origin of our histories is found in their contents. Their tone and language absolutely forbid the supposition that they were based on the records of any court historiographer. They are to a very large extent histories of the sins, idolatries, and enormities of the respective sovereigns whose reigns they describe. "The history of the reign of each of the nineteen kings of Israel begins with the formula, 'He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.' The same formula occurs again with respect to twelve out of the twenty kings of Judah .... Even of the greatest and most glorious king, Solomon, it is related at length how deeply he fell. 'The sin of Jeroboam who made Israel to sin' is represented as the source of all the evils of the kingdom: the conspiracies and murders of a Baasha, a Shallum, a Menahem; the shameful acts of an Ahab, a Jezebel, and a Manasseh are recorded without any indulgence." And these are the deeds and the reigns with respect to which we are referred for fuller information "to the Books of the Chronicles." For that these "Chronicles" contained accounts of the impieties and abominations of the various kings is clear from 2 Chronicles 36:8, where we read (of Jehoiakim), "His abominations which he did dud that which was found in him, behold they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah." Now, it is altogether out of the question that any court scribe can have described his late master's reign in such terms as these; indeed no one could or would have used such language, but men who lived at a later period, and those, courageous and high-minded prophets, who were perfectly independent of the court and regardless of its favours. And, lastly, the constant change of dynasty on the throne of Israel is fatal to the supposition. We have already mentioned those changes as endangering the preservation of the state papers, but they are equally an argument against the memoirs of the different royal houses having been written by the "recorder," for the object of each successive dynasty would be, not to preserve a faithful record of the reigns of its predecessor, but to stamp them with infamy, or consign them to oblivion.
We find, therefore, that the prevailing opinion as to the character of the "books of the words of the days" is encompassed with difficulties. But these vanish at once, if we see in these records the compilations of the schools of the prophets. We have incontrovertible evidence that prophets did act as historians. Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Iddo, Ahijah, Shemaiah, Jehu the son of Hanani, Isaiah the son of Amoz, are all mentioned by name as the compilers of memoirs. We know, too, that for portions of this very history we must be indebted to members, probably unknown members, of the prophetic order. The histories of Elijah and Elisha never formed part of the "books of the Chronicles," and they contain matters which, in the nature of things, can only have been contributed by these prophets themselves, or by their scholars or servants. The history of Elisha, especially, has several marks of a separate origin. It is distinguished by a number of peculiarities — "provincialisms" they have been called — which betray a different hand, while the narratives are such as can only have proceeded, originally, from an eyewitness. But perhaps it is hardly necessary to mention these particulars, as it is "universally allowed that prophets generally were the historians of the Israelitish people." It was almost as essential a part of their office to trace the hand of God in the past history of the Hebrew race as to predict future visitations, or to promise deliverances. They were preachers of righteousness, spokesmen for God, interpreters of his just laws and dealings, and to be this they only needed to be faithful and impartial historians. It is not without significance, in this connexion, that the historical books of the Old Testament were known to the Jewish fathers by the name נְבִיאִים "and are distinguished from the books strictly prophetical only in this, that the adjective ראשׂונים priores, is applied to them, and to the latter אחרונים posteriores."
But we have evidence of the most positive and conclusive kind, evidence almost amounting to demonstration, that the three authorities to which our historian so repeatedly refers, were in their original form the works of different prophets, and not of the public annalist. For we find that where the author of Kudos, after transcribing a string of passages, which agree almost word for word with a series in the Books of Chronicles, and which must therefore have been derived from a common source, refers to" the book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), the chronicler indicates as the documents upon which he has drawn, "the book of Nathan the prophet, and the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the visions of Iddo the seer. The conclusion, therefore, is irresistible (2 Chronicles 9:29), that the "book of the words of the days to Solomon," if not identical with the writings of the three prophets who were the historians of that reign, was nevertheless based on those writings, and to a large extent composed of extracts from them. It is possible, and indeed probable, that in the one "book of the Chronicles," the memoirs of the three historians had been condensed, arranged, and harmonized; but it hardly admits of doubt that the latter were the originals of the former. And the same remarks apply, mutatis mutandis, to the "book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah." The history of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12:1-19 is identical with the account of that monarch in 2 Chronicles 10:1-4; the words of 1 Kings 12:20-24 are the same that are found in 2 Chronicles 11:1-4; while 2 Chronicles 12:13 is practically a repetition of 1 Kings 14:21. But the authority to which our author refers is the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," whereas that mentioned by the Chronicler is "the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the seer." Now it is clear that these parallel passages are derived from the same source, and that source must be the book or books of these two prophets.
Nor does it invalidate this contention that the Chronicler, in addition to the prophetic writings just named, also cites occasionally the "book of the kings of Israel and Judah" (2 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 25:26; 2 Chronicles 27:7; 2 Chronicles 28:26; 2 Chronicles 32:32; 2 Chronicles 35:27, etc.); in one place apparently called "the book of the kings of Israel" (2 Chronicles 20:34), together with a "Midrash of the book of the Kings" (2 Chronicles 24:27). For we have no evidence whatsoever that any of these authorities were of a public and civil character. On the contrary, we have ground for believing that they were composed of the memoirs of the prophets. It is not quite clear what the Midrash just referred to was, but the two works first cited were probably identical with "the Books of the Chronicles" so often mentioned by our historian. And in one case (2 Chronicles 20:34), we have distinct mention of a prophetic book or writing — that of Jehu, the son of Hanani — which was embodied in the book of the kings of Israel.
We can hardly be mistaken, therefore, in concluding from these data that the prime "sources of this work" were really the prophetic memoirs mentioned by the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22; 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 24:27; 2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 32:32; 2 Chronicles 33:18) which, together, perhaps, with other writings, the authors of which are unknown to us, furnish the materials for the "Books of the Words of the Days," etc.
The relation of the KINGS to the Books of the CHRONICLES will be more appropriately discussed in the Introduction to that volume.
But the question may possibly arise, Are these writings, whatever their origin, to be accepted as authentic, sober history?
It is a question, happily, which may be dismissed with few words, for their veracity has never been seriously doubted. If we except the miraculous portions of the history — to which the only serious objection is that they are miraculous, and therefore in the nature of things must be mythical there is absolutely no reason for challenging the veracity and honesty of the narrative. Not only has it throughout the air of sober history; not only is it accepted as such including the supernatural portions — by our Lord and His apostles, but it is everywhere confirmed by the monuments of antiquity and the records of profane historians, whensoever it and they happen to have points of contact. The reign of Solomon, for example, his friendly relations with Hiram, his Temple, and his wisdom are mentioned by the Tyrian historians, from whom Dius and Menander of Ephesus derived their information (Jos., Contra Apion. 1. sect. 17, 18). The proficiency of the Zidonians in the mechanical arts and their knowledge of the sea is attested both by Homer and Herodotus. The invasion of Judah by Shishak in the reign of Rehoboam, and the conquest of many of the cities of Palestine, is proved by the inscription of Karnak. The name and the importance of Omri are proclaimed by the inscriptions of Assyria, which also tell of the defeat of "Ahab of Jezreel" by the Assyrian armies, of the defeat of Azariah, and the conquest of Samaria and Damascus by Tiglath Pileser. And, to pass by later matters and points of less moment, the recently discovered Moabite stone bears its silent but most striking witness to the conquest of Moab by Omri, and its oppression by him, and by his son and successor, for forty years, and to the successful rebellion of Moab against Israel, and also mentions by name Mesha, Omri, Chemosh, and Jehovah. In the face of such remarkable and minute corroborations of the statements of our historian, and in the absence of any well-founded instances of misstatement on his part, and, indeed, of any solid grounds for impeaching his historical accuracy, it would be the very wantonness of criticism to deny the credibility and truthfulness of these records.
There is one particular, however, in which our text, as it now stands, is open to some suspicion, and that is the matter of dates. Some of these, it would appear, have been accidentally altered in the course of transcription — a result which need cause us no surprise, if we remember that anciently numbers were represented by letters, and that the Assyrian, or square characters, in which the Scriptures of the Old Testament have been handed down to us, are extremely liable to be confounded. The reader will see at a glance that the difference between ב and כ (which represent respectively two and twenty), between ד and ר (four and two hundred), between ח and ת (eight and four hundred), is extremely slight. But other dates would appear to have been altered, or inserted — probably from the margin — by some reviser of the text. We have nothing more than what we find elsewhere in Scripture, and even in the text of the New Testament — the marginal gloss finding its way, almost unconsciously, into the body of the work. It will be sufficient to mention here as instances of such imperfect or erroneous chronologies, 1 Kings 6:1; 1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 16:23; 2 Kings 1:17 (cf. 3:1); 13:10 (cf. 13:1); 15:1 (cf. 14:28); 17:1 (cf. 15:30, 33). But this fact, though it has occasioned no little difficulty to the commentator, in no way detracts, it need hardly be said, from the value of our history. And it does this less because these corrections or interpolations are as a rule sufficiently conspicuous, and because, as has been justly remarked, "the chief difficulties of the chronology and almost all the actual contradictions disappear, if we subtract from the work those portions which are generally parenthetic."
Amongst the works available for the exposition and illustration of the text, and to which reference is most frequently made in this Commentary, are the following: —
1. Commentar uber der Bucher der Konige. Von Dr. Karl Fried. Kiel. Moskau, 1846.
2. Biblischer Commentar uber die prophetischen-Geschichts-bucher des A. T. Dritter Band: Die Bircher der Konige. Leipzig, 1874. By the same author. Both these works are accessible to the English reader in translations published by Messrs. Clark of Edinburgh. I have thought it well to refer to both volumes, as though the latter, no doubt, represents Keil's matured judgment, still the former occasionally contains valuable materials not included in the latter work.
3. Die Bucher der Konige. Yon Dr. Karl C. W. F. Bahr. Bielefeld, 1873. This is one of the most valuable volumes of Lange's Theologisch Homiletisches Bibelwerk. It has been translated, under the editorship of Dr. Philip Schaff, by Dr. Harwood, of New Haven, Conn. (Edinb., Clark); and as the translation, especially in its "Textual and Grammatical" section, contains additional and occasionally useful matter, I have referred both to it and to the original.
4. Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus. By the same author. Heidelberg, 1837. For all that concerns the Temple and its ritual, this work is indispensable, and though occasionally somewhat fanciful, is a monument of Bahr's profound and varied learning.
5. Die Bucher der Konige. Von Otto Thenius. Leipzig, 1849. This work, I regret to say, I only know indirectly. But some proofs of its suggestiveness, and some of its destructive tendencies, will be found in the Exposition.
6. Holy Bible with Commentary. ("Speaker's Commentary.") The Books of Kings, by the Rev. Canon Rawlinson. London, 1872. This, though perhaps somewhat meagre in its textual criticism and exegesis, is especially rich, as might be expected from the well-known learning of its author, in historical references. I have also occasionally cited his "Historical Illustrations of the Old Testament" (S. P. C. K.), and his "Bampton Lectures."
7. The History of Israel. By Heinrich Ewald. English Translation. London, 1878. Vols. III. and IV.
8. Syntax of the Hebrew Language. By the same author. London, 1879. The citations from this latter work are distinguished from those from the "History of Israel" by the sectional number and letter, thus: 280 b.
9. The Holy Bible. Vol. III. By Bishop Wordsworth. Oxford, 1877. The great feature of this commentary, it is hardly necessary to say, in addition to the patristic learning which it reveals, and the piety which breathes through it, is the moral and spiritual teaching which the author never fails to draw from the text. There is perhaps a tendency to over spiritualize, and I have been unable to follow the writer in many of his mystical interpretations.
10. Lectures on the Jewish Church. Vol. II. By Dean Stanley. London, 1865. Though differing repeatedly and very widely from his conclusions, I am very sensible of the great charm of picturesqueness and the graphic power which marks everything that this highly gifted author touches.
11. Sinai and Palestine. By the same. Fifth Edition. London, 1858.
12. Biblical Researches in the Holy Land. By the Rev. Dr. Robinson. 3 vols. London, 1856.
13. Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine. By the Rev. J. L. Porter. London, Murray, 1858.
14. The Land and the Book. By the Rev. Dr. Thomson. 2 vols. London, 1859.
15. Tent-work in Palestine. By Lieut. Conder, R.E. This is by far the most readable and valuable work which the recent Exploration of Palestine has produced. New Edition. London, 1880.
16. Handbook to the Bible. By F. R. Conder and C. R. Conder, R.E. London, 1879. This is cited as "Conder, Handbook." "Conder" alone always refers to the "Tent-work."
17. Narrative of a Journey through Syria and Palestine. By Lieut. C.W.M. Van de Velde. 2 vols. Edinburgh and London, 1854.
18. Contemplations on the Historical Passages of the Old Testament. By Bishop Hall. 3 vols. S.P.C.K.
19. Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians. By Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson. New Edition. London, 1880.
20. Elias der Thisbiter. Von F. W. Krummacher. Elberfeld, 1835.
21. Gesenii Thesaurus Philologicus Criticus Linguae Hebraeae Veteris Testamenti. Lipsiae, 1835.
22. Gesenius's Hebrew Grammar. Fourteenth Edition, enlarged and improved by E. Roediger. London, 1846.