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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Kings, Books of
2. Character of Data
1. Treatment of Historical Data
3. Value of Assyrian Records
1. Nature of the Books
3. Kent's Scheme
4. The Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E)
The Hebrew title reads, מלכים ,
The Books of Kings contain 47 chapters (I, 22 chs; II, 25 chs), and cover the period from the conspiracy of Adonijah and the accession of Solomon (975 BC) to the liberation of Jehoiachin after the beginning of the Exile (561 BC). The subject-matter may be grouped under certain heads, as the last days of David (1 Kings 1 through 2:11); Solomon and his times ( 1 Kings 2:12 through 11:43); the Northern Kingdom to the coming of Assyria ( 1 Kings 12:16 through 2 Kings 17:41 ) (937-722 BC), including 9 dynastic changes; the Southern Kingdom to the coming of Babylon (1 Kings 12:1 through 2 Kings 25:21 , the annals of the two kingdoms being given as parallel records until the fall of Israel) (937-586 BC), during which time but one dynasty, that of David, occupied the throne; the period of exile to 561
"Above all, there are three features in the history, which, in the mind of the author, are of prime importance as shown by the prominence he gives them in his narrative. (1) The dynasty of David is invested with peculiar dignity. This had two aspects. It pointed back to the Divine election of the nation in the past, and gave the guaranty of indefinite national perpetuity in the future. The promise of the 'sure mercies of David' was a powerful uniting influence in the Exile. (2) The Temple and its service, for which the writer had such special regard, contributed greatly to the phase of national character of subsequent times. With all the drawbacks and defacements of pure worship here was the stated regular performance of sacred rites, the development and regulation of priestly order and ritual law, which stamped themselves so firmly on later Judaism. (3) Above all, this was the period of bloom of Old Testament prophecy. Though more is said of men like Elijah and Elisha, who have left no written words, we must not forget the desires of pre-exilic prophets, whose writings have come down to us - men who, against the opposition of rulers and the indifference of the people, testified to the moral foundation on which the nation was constituted, vindicated Divine righteousness, rebuked sin, and held up the ideal to which the nation was called."
III. Character of Books and Position in Hebrew Canon.
The Books of Kings contain much historical material, yet the historical is not their primary purpose. What in our English Bibles pass for historical books are in the Hebrew Canon prophetic books, the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings being classed as the "Earlier Prophets."
The chief aim of these books is didactic, the imparting of great moral lessons backed up by well-known illustrations from the nation's history and from the lives of its heroes and leaders. Accordingly, we have here a sort of historical archipelago, more continuous than in the Pentateuch, yet requiring much bridging over and conjecture in the details.
2. Character of Data:
The historical matter includes, in the case of the kings of Israel, the length of the reign and the death; in the case of the kings of Judah there are included also the age at the date of accession, the name of the mother, and mention of the burial. The beginnings of the reigns in each case are dated from a point in the reign of the contemporary ruler, e.g. 1 Kings 15:1 : "Now in the 18th year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat began Abijam to reign over Judah."
IV. Historical Value.
1. Treatment of Historical Data:
These books contain a large amount of authentic data, and, along with the other books of this group which constitute a contemporaneous narrative, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, must be accorded high rank among ancient documents. To be sure the ethical and religious value is first and highest, nevertheless the historical facts must be reckoned at their true worth. Discrepancies and contradictions are to be explained by the subordination of historical details to the moral and religious purpose of the books, and to the diversity of sources whence these data are taken, that is, the compilers and editors of the Books of Kings as they now stand were working not for a consistent, continuous historical narrative, but for a great ethical and religious treatise. The historical material is only incidental and introduced by way of illustration and confirmation. For the oriental mind these historical examples rather than the rigor of modern logic constitute the unanswerable argument.
There cannot be as much said relative to the chronological value of the books. Thus, e.g., there is a question as to the date of the close of Ahaz' reign. According to 2 Kings 18:10 , Samaria fell in the 6th year of Hezekiah's reign. The kings who followed Hezekiah aggregate 110 years; 586 plus 110 plus 29 (Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18:2 ) = 725. But in 2 Kings 18:13 we learn that Sennacherib's invasion came in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign. Then 701 plus 14 = 715. With this last agrees the account of Hezekiah's sickness (2 Ki 20). In explanation of 2 Kings 18:13 , however, it is urged by some that the writer has subtracted the 15 years of 2 Kings 20:6 from the 29 years of Hezekiah's reign. Again, e.g. in 1 Kings 6:1 , we learn that Solomon began to build the temple 480 years "after the children of Israel were come out of the Land of Egypt" Septuagint here reads 440 years). This would make between Moses and David 12 generations of 40 years each. But counting the Exodus in the reign of Merenptah, 1225-1215 BC, and the beginning of the erection of the temple 975 BC, or after, we could not make out more than (1225-975) 250 years. Further, if the total length of reigns in Israel and Judah as recorded in the parallel accounts of Kings be added for the two kingdoms, the two amounts do not agree. And, again, it is not certain whether in their annals the Hebrews predated or post-dated the reigns of their kings, i.e. whether the year of a king's death was counted his last year and the first year of his successor's reign, or whether the following year was counted the first year of the succeeding king (compare Curtis in HDB , I, 400, 1, f; Martin EB , I, coll. 777 ff).
3. Value of Assyrian Records:
The Babylonians and Assyrians were more skilled and more careful chronologers, and it is by reference to their accounts of the same or of contemporary events that a sure footing is found. Hence, the value of such monuments as those of Shalmaneser 4 and Sennacherib - and here mention should be made also of the Moabite Stone.
The plan of the books is prevailingly chronological, although at times the material is arranged in groups (e.g. 2 Kings 2:1 through 8:15, the Elisha stories).
1. Nature of the Books:
The Books of Kings are of the nature of a compilation. The compiler has furnished a framework into which he has arranged the historical matter drawn from other sources. There are chronological data, citations of authorities, judgments on the character and deeds of the several rulers, and moral and religious teachings drawn from the attitude of the rulers in matters of religion, especially toward heathen cults. The point of view is that of the prophets of the national party as one against foreign influence. "Both in point of view and in phraseology the compiler shows himself to be strongly influenced by Deuteronomy." (The principal editor is styled RD, i.e. Deuteronomic Redactor.) The Deuteronomic law was the touchstone, and by his loyalty to, or apostasy from, that standard, each king stands approved or condemned. This influence also appears in passages where the editor takes liberties in the expansion and adaptation of material. There is marked recurrence of phrases occurring elsewhere chiefly or even wholly in Deuteronomy, or in books showing Deuteronomic influence (Burney in
In numerous instances the sources are indicated, as "the book of the acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41 ), "the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (1 Kings 14:29 ), "the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (1 Kings 15:31 ). A score or more of these sources are mentioned by title in the several books of the Old Testament. Thus "the history of Samuel the seer," "the history of Nathan the prophet." "the history of Gad the seer" (1 Chronicles 29:29 ); "the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite," "the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (2 Chronicles 9:29; compare 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22; 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 32:32 ). Thus the "book of the kings of Israel" is mentioned 17 times (for all kings except Jehoram and Hoshea); the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" is mentioned 15 times (for all except Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah). Whether the compiler had recourse to the archives themselves or to a work based on the archives is still a question.
3. Kent's Scheme:
Kent, Student's Old Testament (II, chart, and pp. ix-xxvi), gives the following scheme for showing the sources:
(1) Early stories about the Ark (circa 950
(2) Annals of Solomon (circa 950 BC), early temple records (950-900 BC), were united (circa 800 BC) with popular Solomon traditions (850-800 BC) in a "Book of the Acts of Solomon."
(3) The first edition of Samuel, the first edition of Kings and Isaiah stories (before 550 BC) were united (circa 550 BC) in a final revision of Samuel and Kings.
(4) From "annals of Judah" (before 900 to 650
(5) From this last work and the final revision of Samuel and Kings was taken material for a "
4. The Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E):
The distinctions between the great documents of the Pentateuch do not appear so clearly here. The summary, "epitome") is the work of a Jewish redactor; the longer narratives (e.g. 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 13:14-21 ) "are written in a bright and chaste Hebrew style, though some of them exhibit slight peculiarities of diction, due, doubtless (in part), to their North Israelite origin" (E). The writers of these narratives are thought to have been prophets, in most cases from the Northern Kingdom.
There are numerous data bearing on the date of Kings, and indications of different dates appear in the books. The closing verses bring down the history to the 37th year of the Captivity (2 Kings 25:27 ); yet the author, incorporating his materials, was apparently not careful to adjust the dates to his own time, as in 1 Kings 8:8; 1 Kings 12:19; 2 Kings 8:22; 2 Kings 16:6 , which refer to conditions that passed away with the Exile. The work was probably composed before the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC), and was revised during or shortly after the Exile, and also supplemented by the addition of the account of the downfall of the Judean kingdom. There are traces of a post-exilic hand, as, e.g., the mention of "the cities of Samaria" (1 Kings 13:32 ), implying that Samaria was a province, which was not the case until after the Exile. The existence of altars over the land (1 Kings 19:10 ), and the sanctuary at Carmel, were illegal according to the Deuteronomic law, as also was the advice given to Elisha (2 Kings 3:19 ) to cut down the fruit trees in time of war; (Deuteronomy 20:19 ).
K. Budde, Das Buch der Richter , Mohr, Leipzig; John Skinner, "Kings," in New Century Bible , Frowde, New York; C.F. Burney, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Kings , Clarendon Press, Oxford; 1903; R. Kittel, Die Bucher der Konige , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Leipzig, 1900; I. Benzinger, Die Bucher der Konige , Mohr, 1899; C.F. Kent, Student's Old Testament , Scribner, 1905; S.R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament , Scribner, new revised edition, 1910; J.E. McFadyen, Introduction to the Old Testament , Armstrong, New York, 1906; Carl H. Cornill, Einleitung in die kanonischen Bucher Altes Testament , Mohr, 6th edition, 1908; A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Divine Library of the Old Testament , Macmillan, 1891.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Kings, Books of'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/k/kings-books-of.html. 1915.
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