Old Testament Survey - Lesson 18

1 and 2 Kings (Part 1)

Through this lesson on the books of Kings and Chronicles you will discover that these texts not only recount the deeds and reigns of Israel’s kings but also emphasize their theological significance, underlining how historical events align with divine purposes. The lesson speaks of the role of various scribes and secretaries like Sariah, Elichoreph, and Ahijah, who meticulously documented the affairs of state under different reigns. It explores the nature of these records, noting that they include both factual accounts and theological commentary. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 18
Watching Now
1 and 2 Kings (Part 1)

I. Introduction to the Books of Kings and Chronicles

A. Purpose and Approach of the Books

1. Theological rather than purely historical focus

2. Description of sources acknowledged within the texts

B. The Role of Official Records and Chronicles

1. References to various chronicles not included in the biblical text

2. Discussion of the types of records: daily notes, court records, genealogies, prophetic records

II. The Function and Importance of Scribes

A. Historical Role of Scribes

1. Mention of various scribes across different reigns and kingdoms

2. Specific functions and responsibilities in recording events

B. Mention of Specific Scribes and their Contributions

1. Examples of scribes like Shevna and Elishamah

2. The significance of their work in preserving history

III. Theological Implications and Interpretations

A. Theological Orientation of Historical Records

1. Integration of theological purpose in historiography

2. Role of prophetic insights in historical documentation

B. Prophetic Records and their Impact

1. The recording and impact of prophetic messages

2. Specific examples of prophetic records influencing kings and events

IV. The Historical and Theological Integration in Chronicles

A. Use of Various Sources by the Chronicler

1. Discussion on the integration of different historical and prophetic sources

2. Examples of sources used by the Chronicler

B. Theological Themes Highlighted by the Chronicler

1. Emphasis on covenant faithfulness and the prophetic role

2. The role of divine providence in preserving records during and after the exile

V. Conclusion and Synthesis

A. Summation of the Historical-Theological Narrative

1. The overarching theological themes across the books

2. The role of divine guidance in the historiographic process

B. Implications for Understanding Biblical Historiography

1. The realistic portrayal of historical figures and events

2. The unique approach of biblical authors to historiography compared to other ancient texts

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
1 and 2 Kings (Part 1)
Lesson Transcript


Witnessing the Eclipse of God's Grace and Glory Between King David and the Exile. In this lesson, I will offer an introduction to the books of Kings and, to a lesser extent, the books of Chronicles. When we read these books, we are often curious, where did the authors of the historiographic books get their information? Well, these books give us some clues to that.

When we read the books of Kings, for instance, we recognize that they acknowledge all sorts of sources, that is, the authors of the books recognize sources. When we read the historiographic books, we usually call them historical books, but that creates the impression that the primary function of these books was to give us details of events so that we can reconstruct what happens. Well, yes, they are describing events, but they are describing them with theological purpose, and so I prefer to call them historiography rather than historie or geschichte.

They are historical, but the point is always theological. When we read books like the books of Kings, we are helped considerably by the author who tells us that if you would like more information on some of these characters in the book, he will say something like, if you want to know the rest of the deeds of this king, how he fought and how he lived, go look in the written record of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel or in the Kings of Judah. There are lots of these kinds of footnotes in these books to the written record of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah.

These references are not to the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles. They are references to Chronicles, daily notes in the king's palace by a secretary who is keeping track of the significant events in a king's reign. We have these kind of notes for Solomon and Jeroboam and Ahab and Joash and Hezekiah and Manasseh and Josiah.

They're scattered throughout. Well, it appears that the important affairs of state were carefully chronicled, probably by an official secretary of the court, a Sefer. This office was introduced already by David, who had Sariah as his secretary, 2 Samuel 8, 17.

Solomon had two secretaries, one of whom was an Egyptian, Elichoreph, the other a native Israelite, Ahijah. Hezekiah had Shevna, and in Jeremiah's time, the scribe Shaphan was the leader of a very prominent household, and he was the secretary. But at this time, there were other scribes as well.

In Jeremiah 36, 12, we read of Elishamah, the scribe. In fact, inside the palace, the scribes had their own special chambers. We read about this in Jeremiah 36, 12, 20, and 21.

In Persia, the secretaries wrote out the king's decrees. We have a reference to this in Esther 3, 12, and 8, 9. For some kings, no reference is made to this record. We have no reference to a record for Saul.

Is this because the bureaucracy had not yet been developed, and that no records were being kept? Or Hoshea of Israel, 2 Kings 17, he was forcefully deposed and exiled. There's no record to refer to. Jehoahaz, he was deposed and replaced by Jehoiakim and deported to Egypt by Pharaoh, Necho.

Jehoiakim, he was deposed and replaced by Zedekiah and then deported by Nebuchadnezzar. And finally, Zedekiah, he was forcefully deposed and carried off into exile. It's remarkable.

For these people who were forcefully deposed, who didn't go to the grave in peace, like Josiah did, there is no reference to any court records about them. Are they dismissed as non-persons? Don't they count? Well, although such documents are attested for victims of assassins, 1 Kings 15, 2 Kings 15, there is no mention of those who were ignominiously removed from the throne and carried off into exile. In the book of Chronicles, we have many references to official records, like the account of the Chronicles of the King of David, 1 Chronicles 27-24.

The narrator, in this case, acknowledges that that source is incomplete. It doesn't contain all the information. We also have references to, this is in Chronicles, the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, 2 Chronicles 27.

Seven about Jotham, the contents are the rest of the deeds of Jotham, all his wars and his ways. Or 2 Chronicles 35, 26-27. This is about Josiah.

This source talked about the rest of the deeds of Josiah, the deeds of covenant faithfulness written in the Torah of Yahweh, his first and last deeds. That's a wonderful epitaph for King Josiah. He was faithful to the covenant and to the Torah.

Elsewhere, we have references to the book of the kings of Israel by themselves. In 1 Chronicles 9-1, all Israel was enrolled by genealogies, or compare this with Nehemiah 7-5, a safer document of the genealogy. So genealogies were written records to which they could appeal.

Sometimes they are called the record of the words, actions, divrei, that means words, but it's the events of the kings of Israel's life. There is one interesting one in 2 Chronicles 24-27 speaking of Joash. This is the interpretation of the book of the kings.

That's not the biblical book of kings, but the record in the royal palace, the Midrash Sefer HaMelechim, the interpretation. So apparently, sometimes these official records came not just with the facts. They also must have come with some commentary on the significance of the facts.

In one instance, 2 Chronicles 35 verse 4, we have a reference to the decree of David and the decree of Solomon. This is obviously a written document which they could check. We may compare these sources with those identified in Kings, that is, those were all chronicles, where the reference is always to the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel.

What the difference between these forms of expression are, we don't know. It's not clear. But most concede that the chronicler, the author of chronicles, which was written much later than Kings, had access to official records, but that he also used the present book of Samuel and Kings.

Sometimes you put the decks side by side, and they are very close. It looks like the chronicler was using the biblical, or the book that became the biblical book of Kings. This, but all of this would have meant that the court records had been stashed away when Jerusalem fell, the fact that the chronicler could refer to official records, that they had been safely preserved somewhere during the exile, and that they had been returned when the exiles came.

It might suggest that that really seems far-fetched because writing materials in Israel would have been disposable, would have burnt whatever else on parchment, whatever. They are not clay tablets like you have in Babylon. When you burn a city that has in its library clay tablets, the tablets are preserved, not destroyed.

But we don't know the background to all of this. But 1 Chronicles 9.1 might suggest that these sources were somehow at the chronicler's disposal. We don't know how that would have worked.   

Sometimes the sources include simply official genealogical lists, and when you read the first five or six chapters of Chronicles, it's all about genealogies, tracing the family lines. Sometimes they refer to prophetic records. In 1 Chronicles 29.29, these are the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet, the records of Gad the visionary.

And what are these records? The text tells us, the first and last deeds of David the king. Oh really? Now we learn that while Samuel was functioning as advisor to David, he was writing down stuff, and Nathan the prophet was writing down stuff, and Gad the prophet. So there are prophetic records.

They had their own libraries too, apparently. And then there's 2 Chronicles 9.29, the records of Nathan the prophet, the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, the vision of Edo the visionary. These contents are, the contents of these records are the last deeds of Solomon and the takeover of Jeroboam the son of Nebat as king over the northern kingdom.

There are many other references to prophetic records like this. We needn't bore you with the rest of the details. But they carry all the way through to 2 Chronicles 32.32, where the title is, the vision of Isaiah, the document of the kings of Judah and Israel.

And what are the contents of this document? The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah, his acts of covenant faithfulness, the visions of Isaiah son of Amos, the prophet. From that little note in Chronicles, we recognize that Isaiah was keeping records, not only of the prophecies he was delivering, but also of the affairs of court when Hezekiah was king. In 2 Chronicles 33.19, we have an interesting one.

The records of Hosei, or visionary. Greek translates this as the seers. This is an interesting one because it notes Manasseh's prayer.

That's in the contents here. The prayer of Manasseh, how God permitted himself to be entreated by him, and all his sin, his infidelity, the sites on which he constructed high places, and he erected the Asherah poles and the carved images before he humbled himself. This is in Chronicles.

He makes reference to this little document about Manasseh, the details of which actually aren't developed in the biblical record. Conclusion. God had his man in the courts, not only to deliver oracles, but also to record the events of the nation's history.

We find some of these, for example, in the book of Isaiah, the middle section, chapter 36 to 39, which is almost verbatim quotation of what we find in 2 Kings with reference to the reign of Hezekiah. Now it raises the question, who borrowed from whom? My hunch is that Isaiah wrote the original record and that the author of Kings had access to Isaiah's record, and he cut and pasted it into the book of Kings. Well, the prophecies and official records may have been kept in separate or in the same documents or the same locations as the official royal ones.

Then we have other official documents. While no direct citation of written source is given, the verbatim quotation of official royal messages at least gives the appearance of sources. 2 Chronicles 32 10 to 15, the message of Sennacherib to Hezekiah, and then he quotes a letter.

The letter of Sennacherib, 2 Chronicles 32 17, the decree of Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 30 verse 5. And there are other works referred to like the words of David and Asaph, the visionary. These may have been psalms attributed to David and to Asaph. We don't know, but this is very intriguing to me as we look for the sources behind our biblical books.

A conclusion concerning the Chronicler. The Chronicler admits to having used many and varied sources. Robert Pfeiffer suggested long ago that one half of Chronicles is drawn from earlier books, Kings.

Benjamin Mazar suggests both Kings and Chronicles were dependent upon a common source, the words of the prophets, important personalities, temple chronicles, and official records. But the Chronicler seems to have used material from the present books of Genesis, Samuel, Kings. You see this in the genealogies at the front where the Genesis genealogies are repeated.

These sources were used and adapted, arranged to suit the author's purposes. Were those original sources inspired texts? Well, the interpretation that lands up in the Bible was certainly inspired. Israel appears to have had a continuous succession of prophets whose writings, both oracular and historical, were recognized as having special authority.

How, where, and how long these writings were preserved as separate documents, we may only speculate. Well, that's a long discussion about how we might have received the books of Kings and Chronicles. But let's turn now to more loftier themes like, what are these books actually about? And I begin with the purpose, the theme and purpose of I and II Kings.

Here is my understanding of the theme. This is a mosaic analysis, and by mosaic I mean it's based upon the vision of Moses for his people in the theology of Deuteronomy. That's why this is called the Deuteronomistic History.

It's a Mosaic lens in the historian's glasses, a Mosaic analysis of the decline and collapse of the nation of Israel in general and the kingdom of David, in particular the references to crime and punishment in the courts of Israel. That's what we are witnessing here. It's the theology of Deuteronomy providing the lens through which to assess Israel's history.

What else can we say? Well, the overtly theological nature of the narrative is most obvious from the prominence given to the prophets who, if they do not actually play the key roles in the accounts, they are certainly the most important members of the supporting cast. The prophets' role, we see prophets involved at every stage in the book of Kings, from all the way from Solomon at the beginning and then the divided kings, Elijah and Elisha in the northern kingdom, all the way down to the end of these nations' history. The prophets are there, and the prominence of the prophets is probably why in the Hebrew canon this whole section Samuel-Kings is called the Former Prophets.

We need to hear in these books the prophetic message that is being proclaimed. On the one hand, these prophets in the courts served as the spiritual conscience of the nation in pre-monarchic times. This is the prophet Samuel, and in particular of the kings after the establishment of the kingdom.

We read about Nathan, Ahijah, Elijah, who are dealing with the kings and serving as the conscience of God on God's behalf. These prophets appear on the scene at critical moments of the nation's history. When the monarchy is established, 1 Samuel, with the announcement of the Davidic covenant, 2 Samuel 7, the moral lapse of David, 2 Samuel 12, the division of the kingdom, 1 Kings 11 to 12, the Baalistic challenge under the Omride kings, 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 6. That's a long section where the main characters are Elijah and his successor, Elisha, and also the threat of Sennacherib, 2 Kings 19.

In fact, when the northern kingdom falls in 722 BC, this is attributed directly to the refusal of the people and its kings to heed the warnings of the prophets. 2 Kings 17 is a very important chapter explaining why the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians, and it has actually little to do with an inferior army, inferior administration, inferior culture. No.

It's all because they refused to listen to the prophets, which is why, as I said in the Hebrew canon, this is called the former prophets. The prophets here served as the spiritual conscience of the nation during these times, but through the prophets, their attention to the prophets, the narrators also emphasize the power of the prophetic word. What the prophets predict happens.

The most dramatic example is the prediction of Josiah by name in 1 Kings 13 to 2, centuries before Josiah ever comes. But there the prophet mentions Josiah. In his day, something critical will happen.

Compare that with 2 Kings 23, 15 to 16, where there's an acknowledged fulfillment of the earlier prophecy. In the final analysis, the demise of the northern kingdom itself represents the fulfillment not only of the covenant curses, but also of the words of the prophets who have shown up after Moses. These prophets are all in Moses' train, trying to keep the people on track with the teaching of Moses in Deuteronomy, which leads to a final comment.

Underlying the narrative throughout is the covenant that Yahweh had established with the people. The prophets don't come with a new message. Theirs was simply an appeal to respond to the grace of a covenant Lord with wholehearted obedience.

The language and goals are clearly Deuteronomic. This is evident in the speeches of Samuel, but it's especially critical in Elijah and Elisha's confrontation with the forces of Baal. In the final analysis, if the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians, it was because they have not only rejected the appeals of the prophets, they have rejected their status as Yahweh's covenant people.

And actually, the same will apply to the southern kingdom 136 years later. Well, it's for this reason that the northern kingdom is treated as sinful from the beginning because of its violation of the principle of exclusive allegiance to Yahweh. You look already at Jeroboam's calves that he sets up at Bethel and Dan as alternatives to the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem.

See your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Well, that is brilliant syncretism. The form of Jeroboam's religion is totally pagan, but he tries to baptize that form with an orthodox theological statement, Yahweh, behold your gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

But of course, he's attributing that great act to the wrong gods. It's interesting that in the northern kingdom from 931 BC to 722, not a single northern king receives a favorable evaluation from the prophets or the author of the book of Kings. Not even Jehu, who is especially appointed to get rid of the wicked Omride dynasty.

He is a failure, a disappointment, 2 Kings 9 1 to 10. Thus, immediately after noting that Jehu eradicated Baal from Israel, it's observed that he didn't destroy Jeroboam's calves at Bethel and Dan. This is the problem in the northern kingdom, and by the time we get to the end of 2 Kings, it's exactly the same problem in the southern kingdom.

This whole business, the kingdoms both are rotten to the core when the stories end. So, when we're talking about source documents and how they're collated and presented and used, that looking at the information, the source documents, that the authors put those in a theological context to be able to understand that, that was common in that era, wasn't it? Where we depend on historical documents from other countries as being accounts of things that actually happened. Well, we have this very, shall I say, spiritual notion of how inspiration works.

We assume simply that God puts, I have a cartoon somewhere that I've composed, God pours an idea into the biblical author's mind, and that idea flows from his mind into the veins and comes out the pen onto the page. No. Inspiration is the process whereby God gets written what God wants written, and in this case, it's very clear these authors are doing homework, and they're footnoting their homework.

It's a very realistic picture. In fact, the whole picture of what is written is realistic. They don't idealize.

They tell all the gory stories. This never happens in extra biblical texts. They always whitewash their heroes.

They never make mistakes. They never lose a battle. They always win, whereas in this book, the negative images themselves point to the veracity of the record, but they were doing their homework.

God, by his Holy Spirit, was guiding the authors who were his prophetic scribes doing his work, getting his message across.