The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Kings, Books of
Fourth book of the second canonical division of the Hebrew Bible, the Prophets (). It contains a history of the kings of Judah and of Israel from the last days of David till the capture of Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar. This work is divided into two books, 1 Kings () and 2 Kings (); the former consisting of twenty-two, the latter of twenty-five, chapters.
The following is a synopsis of their contents:
First Book of Kings:
- Ch. : David having grown old, his son Adonijah forms a plot with Joab and Abiathar to seize the kingdom. But Solomon's mother, Bath-sheba, helped by Nathan the prophet, baffles Adonijah's design, and Solomon is anointed and crowned with great solemnity. Hearing of this, Adonijah and his guests, who are banqueting at the time, retire precipitately.
- Ch. : David's charge to Solomon, whom he enjoins to let neither Joab nor Shimei die a natural death. On the other hand, he is to show kindness to the children of Barzillai the Gileadite. Adonijah asks Solomon for David's concubine Abishag, and pays for his imprudence with his life. Abiathar is deposed from the high-priesthood, and Joab is killed by Benaiah at the command of Solomon. Shimei, ignoring a command of the king, is killed by Benaiah in fulfilment of David's charge to Solomon.
- Ch. : Solomon marries the daughter of the King of Egypt. God appears to him in a vision by night at Gibeon, and promises him extraordinary wisdom and great riches. Solomon's judgment in the case of the two harlots, in which he discovers the real mother of the living child.
- Ch. : Solomon divides his kingdom into twelve commissariat districts, and appoints officers over them; each district being required to support the royal house during one month every year.
- Ch. : Account of Solomon's kingdom, his daily provision, the number of his horses, his great wisdom, the prosperous state of Israel under his rule, his alliance with Hiram, and his preparations for the construction of the Temple.
- Ch. : A full account of the Temple, the construction of which lasted seven years.
- Ch. : Description of Solomon's palace, the erection of which occupied thirteen years, and of the Temple vessels made by Hiram the artificer.
- Ch. : Inauguration of the Temple. After the Ark and the vessels are brought in, Solomon addresses to God a long prayer and blesses the people. He then dedicates the Temple with numerous peace-offerings, and the people hold a feast of fourteen days.
- Ch. : Second appearance of God to Solomon. He admonishes the king to observe His commandments, otherwise the Temple will be of no avail. Solomon makes another treaty with Hiram, builds several cities, and imposes a heavy tribute on the descendants of the former inhabitants of the land. Solomon's navy, under the direction of Tyrians, sails to Ophir for gold.
- Ch. : The Queen of Sheba comes to Jerusalem and admires Solomon's wisdom; she gives him costly presents. A description of his golden targets, his ivory throne, his vessels, the great number of his chariots and horses.
- Ch. : Decline of Solomon; his numerous wives and concubines draw him into idolatry, for which God threatens him with the loss of his kingdom. An account of Solomon's adversaries; namely, Hadad, who flies to Egypt; Rezon and Jeroboam, to the latter of whom Ahijah prophesies that he will become king. Solomon dies after a reign of forty years, and is succeeded by his son Rehoboam.
- Ch. : Division of the kingdom. The Israelites assemble at Shechem for the purpose of crowning Rehoboam. Headed by Jeroboam, they ask the king to relieve them of the burdens placed on them by his father. Rehoboam, refusing the advice of the old men, and following that of the young ones, answers the people roughly. All the tribes of Israel, with the exception of Judah and Benjamin, revolt; they kill Adoram, and cause Rehoboam to flee. The latter is made king over Judah and Benjamin, while the other ten tribes follow Jeroboam, who strengthens himself by building Shechem and Penuel and places therein two golden calves as objects of worship.
Kings and Prophets.
- Ch. : Jeroboam's hand, as he is about to strike a man who has prophesied against the altar, withers, but at the prayer of the prophet is restored. This same prophet, deceived by an old prophet of Beth-el, eats at the latter's house in defiance of God's command and is slain by a lion. He is buried by the old prophet, who directs his children when he himself shall die to bury him by the prophet's side. Jeroboam, in spite of the miraculous restoration of his hand, persists in his idolatry.
- Ch. : Abijah, Jeroboam's son, being sick, Jeroboam sends his wife, disguised, with presents to the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh. The latter, on seeing Jeroboam's wife, announces to her the extermination of Jeroboam's family and the death of Abijah. Jeroboam is succeeded by his son Nadab. Rehoboam, falling into idolatry, is attacked by Shishak, King of Egypt, who despoils the Temple and the royal house. Rehoboam. is succeeded by his son Abijam.
- Ch. : Abijam, during a wicked reign of three years, is continually at war with Jeroboam, He is succeeded by his son Asa. The latter, a worshiper of Yhwh, is forced on account of his war with Baasha, King of Israel, to make a league with Benhadad. He is succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat. Nadab, after a wicked reign of two years, is assassinated by Baasha, who succeeds him and whose reign is an evil one.
- Ch. : Jehu prophesies against Baasha, who after a reign of twenty-four years is succeeded by his son Elah. The latter is assassinated by Zimri, who succeeds him and exterminates the whole family of Baasha, thus carrying out Jehu's prophecy. Seven days later the soldiers make their general Omri king, who forces Zimri to destroy himself by fire. The kingdom of Israel is divided between Omri and Tibni, the former of whom finally becomes sole king. After a sinful reign of twelve years, during which he builds Samaria, Omri is succeeded by his son Ahab, who does "evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him."
- Ch. : Elijah the Tishbite, having foretold a drought, hides himself at Cherith, where he is fed by ravens. He is then sent by God to Zarephath; he sojourns at the house of a widow, whose son he raises from the dead.
- Ch. : Elijah is commanded to go to Ahab to announce that God will send rain; he meets Obadiah, who brings Ahab to him. Elijah, having reproved Ahab for his wickedness, convinces him of the superiority of Yhwh by calling down fire from heaven. Having slain all the prophets of Baal, Elijah obtains rain by prayer and accompanies Ahab to Jezreel.
Elijah and Elisha.
- Ch. : Elijah, threatened by Jezebel, flees to Beer-sheba; he then goes into the wilderness, where, being weary of his life, he is comforted by an angel. At Horeb God appears to him and sends him to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha. The last-named takes leave of his parents and friends and follows Elijah.
- Ch. : Ben-hadad besieges Samaria, demanding of Ahab all that he possesses. Encouraged by a prophet, Ahab is successful in two battles, slaying many Syrians. The Syrians submit to Ahab. Ahab sends Ben-hadad away free with a covenant, and in consequence a prophet pronounces God's judgment against Ahab.
- Ch. : Ahab, demanding Naboth's vineyard, meets with a refusal. At Jezebel's instigation, Naboth is condemned to death for blasphemy, and Ahab takes possession of the vineyard. Elijah foretells God's judgment against Ahab and Jezebel, but as Ahab repents, the punishment is deferred.
- Ch. : Ahab, visited by Jehoshaphat, urges the latter to accompany him to the war with Aram. Encouraged by false prophets, Ahab, contrary to the advice of Micaiah, starts for the war, and is slain at Ramoth-gilead. He is succeeded by his son Ahaziah. A summary of Jehoshaphat's beneficent reign and acts; he is succeeded by his son Jehoram; short account of Ahaziah's evil reign.
Second Book of Kings:
- Ch. : Moab rebels after Ahab's death. Ahaziah, being sick, sends to Baal-zebub; the messengers meet Elijah, who foretells Ahaziah's death. Elijah, sent for by Ahaziah, destroys by fire from heaven two captains of fifty with their men; he spares the third captain and his fifty, and comes to Ahaziah, whose death he foretells.
- Ch. : Account of Elijah's translation. Having divided the Jordan with his mantle, the prophet takes leave of Elisha, granting him his request that a double portion of Elijah's spirit may rest upon him; Elijah is then taken up in a fiery chariot to heaven. Elisha is acknowledged as Elijah's successor; he heals the waters of Jericho, curses children who mock him, and returns to Samaria.
- Ch. : Jehoram, Ahab's second son, succeeds his brother Ahaziah, and, accompanied by Jehoshaphat and the King of Edom, marches against Moab. Being distressed for lack of water, the. allied kings obtain it through the intervention of Elisha, who also promises them victory. The Moabites, deceived by the color of the water, come to plunder the allied armies, and are overcome. The King of Moab, by sacrificing his eldest son, raises the siege.
- Ch. : Account of the miracles performed by Elisha. He multiplies the widow's oil; gives a son to a Shunammite woman; brings to life her dead son; heals at Gilgal the deadly pottage; and satisfies 100 men with twenty loaves.
- Ch. : Naaman, on the advice of a captive maid, asks Elisha to cure him of his leprosy. Elisha sends him to bathe in the Jordan; Naaman does so and iscured. Elisha refuses Naaman's gifts, but his servant Gehazi takes them, for which he is smitten with leprosy.
- Ch. : Elisha, giving leave to the young prophets to build a dwelling, causes the ax of one of them, which has fallen into the Jordan, to float on the surface of the water. He discloses to the King of Israel the Syrian king's secrets; he smites with blindness the army sent to apprehend him, brings it to Samaria, and then dismisses it in peace. Samaria, besieged by Benhadad, suffers from a severe famine in which women eat their children. The king sends a messenger to slay Elisha.
- Ch. : Elisha foretells plenty in Samaria; but announces to an officer, who expresses disbelief in the prophecy, that he shall not participate therein. Four lepers, having visited the camp of the Syrians, bring word of their flight. The King of Israel sends men to spoil the tents of the enemy; abundance of food is secured. The officer who has doubted Elisha's prophecy is trodden to death.
- Ch. : The Shunammite, in order to avoid the predicted famine, leaves her country for seven years; when she returns she finds her land seized by other people. The king, in recognition of Elisha's miracles, orders her land to be restored to her. Benhadad, being sick, sends Hazael with presents to Elisha, who prophesies that Hazael will succeed his master. Hazael kills Ben-hadad and ascends the throne. Short account of the evil reign of Jehoram, King of Judah. Edom and Libneh revolt. Jehoram is succeeded by his son Ahaziah; account of his sinful reign.
- Ch. : Elisha sends a young prophet to anoint Jehu at Ramoth-gilead. Jehu, made king by the soldiers, kills Joram, Ahab's son, in the field of Naboth, and Ahaziah in Gur. Jezebel is thrown out of a window and eaten by dogs.
- Ch. : Jehu exterminates Ahab's family; he causes seventy sons of Ahab to be beheaded, kills forty-two of Ahaziah's brothers, takes up Jehonadab into his chariot with him, and destroys all the worshipers of Baal. Jehu himself follows the sinful practises of Jeroboam, as a punishment for which Israel is oppressed by Hazael. Jehu is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz.
- Ch. : Athaliah destroys all the royal family with the exception of Joash (Jehoash), who is hidden by his aunt Jehosheba in the house of God for six years. In the seventh year Joash is anointed king by Jehoiada, and Athaliah is slain. Jehoiada restores the worship of Yhwh.
- Ch. : Joash is a worshiper of Yhwh all the days of Jehoiada. Account of Joash's activity in repairing the Temple. Hazael is diverted from Jerusalem by a present from the sacred treasury. Joash, after a reign of forty years, is assassinated by his servants and succeeded by his son Amaziah.
- Ch. : Account of Jehoahaz's evil reign. Jehoahaz, oppressed by Hazael, prays to God, who relieves him. He is succeeded by his son Joash, who, after a wicked reign of sixteen years, is followed by his son Jeroboam. Elisha dies; his bones, by the touching of them, bring to life a dead man. Hazael is succeeded by his son Ben-hadad, from whom Joash recovers the cities which his father lost.
- Ch. : Amaziah's reign; his victory over Edom, and his defeat by Joash. Amaziah, slain by conspirators, is succeeded by his son Azariah. Account of Jeroboam's reign; he is succeeded by his son Zechariah.
- Ch. : Short account of Azariah's good reign; he dies a leper, and is succeeded by his son Jotham. Zechariah, the last of Jehu's dynasty and an idolater, is slain by Shallum, who succeeds him and who, after a reign of one month, in turn is slain by Menahem. Account of Menahem's victories; he secures the assistance of Pul, King of Assyria. Menahem, dying, is succeeded by his son Pekahiah. The latter is slain by Pekah, during whose reign Tiglath-pileser seizes a part of the land of Israel. Pekah is slain by Hoshea and is succeeded by him. Jotham after a good reign of sixteen years is succeeded by his son Ahaz.
The Later Kings.
- Ch. : Account of Ahaz's wicked reign. Assailed by Rezin and Pekah, he bribes Tiglath-pileser to help him against them. Account of the altar built by Uriah for Ahaz and of the latter's spoliation of the Temple. Ahaz is succeeded by Hezekiah.
- Ch. : Account of Hoshea's wicked reign. Being subdued by Shalmaneser, he conspires against him, the result of which is the capture of Samaria as a punishment for the sins of Israel. Account of the strange nations transplanted in Samaria by the King of Assyria; lions being sent among them, they make idols and set them in the high places.
- Ch. : Account of Hezekiah's beneficent reign; he destroys idolatry and prospers. Israel is carried away into captivity. Sennacherib, invading Judah, is at first pacified by tribute; but he afterward sends Rab-shakeh, who reviles Hezekiah and incites the people to revolt (see Isaiah 36).
- Ch. : Hezekiah requests Isaiah to pray for his kingdom, and is comforted by the prophet. Sennacherib, obliged to leave Jerusalem in order to encounter Tirhakah, sends a blasphemous letter to Hezekiah. Hezekiah's prayer and Isaiah's prophecy are followed by the annihilation of Sennacherib's army (see Isaiah 37).
- Ch. : Hezekiah, being sick, is told by Isaiah that he will die; in answer to his prayer his life is lengthened. The shadow goes ten degrees backward. Merodach-baladan's embassy to Hezekiah, and Isaiah's prophecy with regard to it (see Isaiah 38-). Hezekiah is succeeded by his son Manasseh.
- Ch. : Account of Manasseh's reign and of his flagrant idolatry. He is succeeded by his son Amon, who, after a reign of two years, is slain by his servants; he is succeeded by his son Josiah.
- Ch. : Josiah during his long and good reign is very active in repairing the Temple. Hilkiah having found a scroll of the Law, Josiah sends to consult Huldah concerning it; she prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem, but not until after Josiah's death.
- Ch. : Josiah, having read the Law in a solemn assembly, renews the covenant of Yhwh. Josiah'sactivity in the destruction of idolatry; he celebrates the Passover. Having provoked Pharaohnechoh, Josiah is slain by him at Megiddo. Jehoahaz, Josiah's son, succeeds to the throne. Pharaoh-nechoh, having imprisoned Jehoahaz, makes Jehoiakim king; the latter reigns indifferently for eleven years.
- Ch. : Jehoiakim, subdued by Nebuchadnezzar, rebels against him. He is succeeded by his son Jehoiachin, during whose wicked reign the King of Egypt is vanquished by the King of Babylon, Jerusalem also is taken, and the royal family, including the king, and most of the inhabitants are carried captive to Babylon. Zedekiah is made king and reigns till the destruction of Judah.
- Ch. : Account of the siege of Jerusalem and of the capture of Zedekiah. Nebuzar-adan destroys the city and the Temple, carries away the Temple vessels, and deports most of the people to Babylon. Gedaliah, who has been made ruler over those who remain in Judah, is slain, and the rest of the people flee into Egypt. Evil-merodach, King of Babylon, releases Jehoiachin from prison; and the latter is honored at court.
A superficial examination of the Books of Kings makes clear the fact that they are a compilation and not an original composition. The compiler, or editor, constantly cites certain of his sources. In the case of Solomon it is "the book of the acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41); for the Northern Kingdom it is "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel," which is cited seventeen times, e., for all the kings except Jehoram and Hoshea (see, e.g., ib. 15:31); and for the kings of Judah it is "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," which is cited fifteen times, e., for all the kings except Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (see, e.g., ib. 15:7). Whether the editor had access to these "chronicles," as they were deposited in the state archives, or simply to a history based upon them, can not with certainty be determined. It is generally assumed that the latter was the case (comp. Kuenen, "Historisch-Kritische Einleitung in die Bücher des Alten Testaments," p. 68, and Cornill, "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," p. 123).
Object and Method of Work.
It was not the purpose of the compiler to give a complete history of the period covered by his work; for he constantly refers to these sources for additional details. He mentions as a rule a few important events which are sufficient to illustrate the attitude of the king toward the Deuteronomic law, or some feature of it, such as the central sanctuary and the "high places," and then proceeds to pronounce judgment upon him accordingly. Each reign is introduced with a regular formula; then follows a short excerpt from one of his sources; after which an estimate of the character of the monarch is given in stereotyped phraseology; and the whole concludes with a statement of the king's death and burial, according to a regular formula (comp., e.g., 1 Kings 15:1-9 for the formula used for the kings of Judah, and ib. 15:25-32 for that used for the kings of Israel).
The standpoint of the judgments passed upon the various kings as well as the vocabulary of the compiler (comp. Driver, "Introduction," 1891, p. 190, for a list of his words) indicates that he lived after the reforms of Josiah (621 B.C.) had brought the Deuteronomic law into prominence. How much later than this the book in its present form was composed, may be inferred from the fact that it concludes with a notice of Jehoiachin's release from prison by Evil-merodach (Amil-Marduk) after the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562. The book must have taken its present form, therefore, during the Exile, and probably in Babylonia. As no mention is made of the hopes of return which are set forth in Isa. -, the work was probably concluded before 550. Besides the concluding chapters there are allusions in the body of the work which imply an exilic date (see, e.g., 1 Kings 8:34, 11:39; 2 Kings 17:19,20; 23:26,27). To these may be added the expression "beyond the river" (1 Kings 5:4), used to designate the country west of the Euphrates, which implies that Babylonia was the home of the writer.
Time of Redaction.
On the other hand, there are indications which imply that the first redaction of Kings must have occurred before the downfall of the Judean monarchy. The phrase "unto this day" occurs in 1 Kings 8:8, 9:21, 12:19; 2 Kings 8:22, 16:6, where it seems to have been added by an editor who was condensing material from older annals, but described conditions still existing when he was writing. Again, in 1 Kings 11:36, 15:4, and 2 Kings 8:19, which come from the hand of a Deuteronomic editor, David has, and is to have, a lamp burning in Jerusalem; e., the Davidic dynasty is still reigning. Finally, 1 Kings 8:29,30,31,33,35,38,42,44,48; 9:3; and 11:36 imply that the Temple is still standing. There was accordingly a pre-exilic Book of Kings. The work in this earlier form must have been composed between 621 and 586. As the glamour of Josiah's reforms was strong upon the compiler, perhaps he wrote before 600. To this original work 2 Kings 24:10-25:30 was added in the Exile, and, perhaps, 23:31-24:9. In addition to the supplement which the exilic editor appended, a comparison of the Masoretic text with the Septuagint as represented in codices B and L shows that the Hebrew text was retouched by another hand after the exemplars which underlie the Alexandrine text had been made. Thus in B and L, 1 Kings 5:7 follows on 4:19; 6:12-14 is omitted; 9:26 follows on 9:14, so that the account of Solomon's dealings with Hiram is continuous, most of the omitted portion being inserted after 10:22. 2 Kings 21, the history of Naboth, precedes ch. , so that and , which are excerpts from the same source, come together. Such discrepancies prove sufficient late editorial work to justify the assumption of two recensions.
In brief outline the sources of the books appear to have been these: 1 Kings 1 and are extracted bodily from an early court history of David's private life, which is largely used in 2 Samuel 9- The editor (Rd) has added notes at 2:2-4 and 10-12. For the reign of Solomon the source is professedly"the book of the acts of Solomon" (11:41); but other sources were employed, and much was added by Rd. Ch. is a prophetic narrative of relatively early origin, worked over by Rd, who added verses 2, 3, and 14, 15. Ch. 4:1-19 is presumably derived from the Chronicle of Solomon. Ch. 4:20-5:14 contains a small kernel of prophetic narrative which has been retouched by many hands, some of them later than the Septuagint. The basis of 5:15-7:51 was apparently a document from the Temple archives; but this was freely expanded by Rd (comp. Stade in his "Zeitschrift," 1883, pp. 129 et seq.), and 6:11-14 also by a later annotator. Ch. 8:1-13, the account of the dedication of the Temple, is from an old narrative, slightly expanded by later hands under the influence of P. Ch. 8:14-66 is in its present form the work of Rd slightly retouched in the Exile. Ch. 9:1-9 is the work of Rd, but whether before the Exile or during it is disputed. Ch. 9:10-10:29 consists of extracts from an old source, presumably "the book of the acts of Solomon," pieced together and expanded by later editors. The order in the Masoretic text differs from that in the Septuagint. For details see Kittel, "Die Königsbücher," in Nowack's "Handkommentar." Ch. 11:1-13 is the work of Rd; 11:14-22 is a confused account, perhaps based on two older narratives (comp. Winckler, "Alttestamentliche Forschungen," pp. 1-6); and 11:26-31 and 39, 40 probably formed a part of a history of Jeroboam from which 12:1-20 and 14:1-18 were also taken. The extracts in ch. have been set and retouched by later editors (comp. Kittel on 1 Kings 11:23-43).
Narratives and Epitomes.
From ch. of the First Book onward these books are characterized by an alternation of short notices which give epitomes of historical events, with longer narratives extracted from various sources. The following sections are short epitomes: 1 Kings 14:21-16:34; 22:41-53; 2 Kings 8:16-29; 10:32-36; 12:18-13:13; and 13:22-17:6. In some cases short extracts are even here made in full, as in 14:8-14 and 16:10-16.
The longer narratives, which are frequently retouched and expanded by Rd, are as follows: 1 Kings 12:1-20, 14:1-18, from an older narrative of Jeroboam, to which 12:21-32 and 14:19,20 are additions; 12:33-13:34, a comparatively late story of a prophet; - and , an early prophetic narrative written in the Northern Kingdom (comp. 19:3); and 22:1-40, an early north-Israelitish history of the Syrian war in which Ahab lost his life; 2 Kings 1-8:15 and 9:1-10:31, north-Israelitish narratives, not all from one hand, which are retouched here and there, as in 3:1-3, by Rd; 11:1-12:17, a Judean narrative of the overthrow of Athaliah and the accession of Joash; 13:14-21 and 14:8-14, two excerpts from material written in the Northern Kingdom (comp. 14:11); 17:7-23 is Rd's commentary on the historical notice with which the chapter opens; 17:24-41 is composite (comp. verses 32, 34, and 41), probably written in the Exile and retouched after the time of Nehemiah; - is compiled by Rd from three sources (comp. Stade, c. 6:174), Rd himself prefixing, inserting, and adding some material; is, throughout, the work of Rd; -23:25 is an extract from the Temple archives with slight editing; and 23:29-25:30, the appendix of the exilic editor, is based on Jer. 7-43:6. From Jeremiah, too, the exilic editor drew his information, which he presented in briefer form.
- Kuenen, Historisch-Kritische Einleitung in die Bücher des Alten Testaments, pp. 62-99, Leipsic, 1890;
- Cornill, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 1891, pp. 120-132;
- Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 1891, pp. 175-193;
- Kittel, Die Königsbücher, 1900, in Nowack's Handkommentar;
- Benzinger, Die Bücher der Könige, 1899, in K. H. C.;
- Silberstein, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 13:1-76.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Kings, Books of'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/k/kings-books-of.html. 1901.