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Old Testament Survey - Lesson 19

2 Kings

This lesson provides an overview of the background and content of 2 Kings.

Douglas Stuart
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 19
Watching Now
2 Kings

Judah:  2 Kings

 

I.  The Assyrian Empire

 

II.  Tiglath-Pileser III

A.  Why Expand?

B.  Tax, Toll and Tribute

 

III.  Overview

A.  Elijah and Elisha

B.  Jehu Massacres Baal / Ashara Worshippers

C.  Focus on Kings of Judah

D.  Destruction of the North

E.  Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah

F.  Fall of Jerusalem to Babylonians


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  • The purpose of this overview of the Old Testament is to focus on the content of each of the Old Testament books, the historical events that give context to the books, and specific questions that help draw out the overarching principles contained in the Old Testament. There is also an emphasis on identifying ways to use this material that can help people in their daily lives.

  • Genesis narrates ten stories that describe origins or beginnings. These include the origin of the “heavens and earth,” and the origin of specific families that are significant in God’s dealings with Israel and the nations.

  • Themes from selected passages in Genesis about which there are interpretations that differ greatly. These include Genesis 2 regarding creation of women and their roles, Genesis 6 about the "Sons of God," and Genesis 9 about the "curse of Ham." Other themes are the story of Abraham, and God as a punisher of evil.

  • The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

  • In this lesson, the concept of a covenant is defined as a legal binding agreement between two parties. In the ancient world there were many covenants. There were covenants between individuals, and even between nations. For example, a superior ruling king would make a covenant with a lesser vassal king. Covenants in the ancient near east contained the following six elements.

  • Does God punish the grandchildren for what the grandparents have done? Some people read these passages (Exodus 20:5, 34:7) and assume that they mean God punishes grandchildren based on their grandparents' sins. Unfortunately, they misinterpret these texts because they fail to understand the phenomena of numerical parallelisms. The Hebrew language favors parallelism, so that numbers which are close to other numbers will often be put in parallel to exhibit literary balance.

  • The historical books--Joshua, Judges, and Ruth--are essential reading for understanding how the bible views the progress of history. These books help us understand what the basic stages are in the progress of God’s relations with humanity. There is development, and progress in history we can refer to as epochs. This lecture provides an overview of redemptive history and a summary of the book of Joshua.

  • When discussing violence in the Old Testament it is important to discuss the concept of Holy War. This lesson does not suggest that Christians are soldiers first and nothing else since Christians are also called to be peacemakers. However, this lesson does put forward the idea that God is fighting a holy war. That is, God is seeking to promote blessing for all people by eliminating evil everywhere. The final enemy is death itself, and God is resolute on destroying evil and death. Holy war is a complex set of ideas that should be interpreted in light of the entire corpus of scripture.

  • In this lesson the extent of the conquest is discussed to frame the book of Judges. The orienting data for the book of Judges helps explain how the book recounts the decline of the people of Israel. Finally, the Dueteronomic cycle which recurs in the book is explained and helps frame Israel’s history up to the time of the exile.

  • After the division of the kingdom, 40 kings reigned during this period of the divided monarchy. Only three Kings reigned during the united monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. We might be able to assume the time period of the united monarch to be something like 120 years with each of the three kings reigning forty years. But the term “forty” in Hebrew means something like the English expression “several dozen.” That’s why we see the idiomatic expression “forty” so often in Hebrew literature.

  • David is a man after God’s own heart. How is this possible when he made so many moral mistakes? Being after God’s own heart does not mean David is morally upright, but that he has unwavering faith in the one true God of Israel. That is unique to David in these narratives. The narratives are clear that both Saul and Solomon conjoined belief in the God of Israel with the worship of other gods. David, however, is never portrayed as worshipping other gods or setting up altars to Idols.

  • In this lesson several key elements from the lives of Saul, David and Solomon are briefly reviewed. The rejection of Saul as King is explained. The rebellions against David are highlighted. And the disobedience of Solomon is described. Although these three kings are imperfect, God keeps the Kingdom of Israel unified throughout their successive reigns.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart provides an overview of the ten types of Psalms found in Scripture, a few suggestions regarding preaching through the Psalms, and addresses how we are to interact with the hystoricizing statements within the Psalms.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the structure of Proverbs, which seems to be the most secular book of the bible. Proverbs is a book of wise memorable sayings collected by Solomon. These sayings are collected from various individuals in Israel and the Ancient Near East and serve to provide wisdom for how to live in the world.

  • There is a chiastic structure to the book of Job that begins with the prologue and ends with the epilogue. In a chiasm, the middle portion is a convenient hinge of the book, it is not necessarily the most important piece of textual material. The main question the book is asking is, where do you find wisdom? The answer is, wisdom is found in the LORD. Proverbs is monological wisdom, whereas Job is dialogical wisdom. People are debating back and forth throughout the book about the nature of wisdom.

  • This lesson briefly describes existentialism as a philosophical movement in order to frame Ecclesiastes as an ancient type of existentialist literature. Existentialism tends to argue that this life is all there is. Ecclesiastes entertains these various perspectives in the first six chapters, which serve as a literary foil, before ending with a surprise for the reader—life does have meaning because there is a God who will judge our actions.

    There is a storyline to the Song. A clue is found in the term Shulamite, which in Hebrew can be translated as Mrs. Solomon. So this is a story about Solomon marrying his wife. It conveys some of the challenges Solomon and his wife face in coming together in covenant marriage. The beginning of the book outlines their engagement. In the middle of the book they get married, and the end discusses their honeymoon. What we see in the Song is the biblical ideal of a monogamous marriage, which, ironically, Solomon failed to live up to.

  • While it is difficult to preach through the prophets it can be done well if some basic views are taken regarding the prophetic books in general.

  • This lesson provide an overview concerning three contemporaries Prophets during the period of the divided monarchy at the end of the 8 th Century BCE.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the background and content of 2 Kings.

  • Historical context is vital when one moves to reading the prophets. After Solomon’s death in 931 BCE, the kingdom of Israel undergoes an extended period of civil war as rivaling leaders take control of the northern and southern regions of the kingdom. Unfortunately, this split eventually becomes permanent. In the north the kings reigned for short periods and when compared with the southern kingdom of Judah this shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. This may have to do with the fact that the north is never ruled by a descendant of David. In addition, the north fails to worship at the Jerusalem temple, and decides instead to worship idols.

  • In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

  • An overview of the revival under King Josiah, the fall of King Josiah, and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Stuart provides an overview of Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and how they each relate to end times and God’s eternal reign.

  • Lamentations is a massive, huge, compound, complex lament that seeks to help God’s people see God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.

  • Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

  • An overview of the background to the post-exilic books including the necessity of the temple and the role of the Persian empire in it’s rebuilding.

  • An overview of Haggai and Zechariah, the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple, the encouragement of God’s people to put the things of God first, God’s sovereignty, the need to be faithful, the nature of God’s covenant, and God’s promises being fulfilled.

  • A look at the latter days, the closing of the prophetic cannon, and the books of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and tells us the stories of people whose lives still affect world events today? Are you familiar with the Old Testament prophets that describe in detail the characteristics of the Messiah and the events that happen when he comes, hundreds of years before they take place? Have you ever read the Old Testament books of poetry and wisdom literature that contain inspirational and instructional passages that we still use today to inspire, comfort and inform our lives during life events, and are ubiquitous in both classic and contemporary literary works?

In Dr. Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, he guides you through each of the Old Testament books by giving you the historical background, major themes and insight into the stories, characters and teaching of the book. In the historical books, you will become familiar with Old Testament Names like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David. In the Old Testament prophets, Dr. Stuart will introduce you to the lives and messages of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others. When you study the Old Testament books of wisdom literature, Dr. Stuart will give you insights into the teachings, structure and creativity in Proverbs, Psalms and other books in the Writings.

From the description of Creation in Genesis, to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the Old Testament contains stories and teachings that can inform, inspire and transform your life. Dr. Stuart’s years of training and his skill in communicating, provides you with this opportunity to study and learn from one of the best. Now it’s up to you!

You may download a syllabus for the class including the Course Outline by clicking on the link in the Downloads section. We do not have access to the notes or the 130 exam questions that he mentions in the lectures. The Syllabus is from the SemLink class that was originally offered online through Gordon-Conwell Seminary so you can see the class outline and suggested readings. The links are not active. If you want to participate in the assignments and tests and earn credit, you may contact Gordon-Conwell Seminary to find out if they still offer this class.

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes. Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Course: Old Testament Survey

Lecture: 2 Kings


Tonight we look at a period of time in which great materials are produced. The whole Book of Isaiah is produced during this time. Such a huge chunk of Isaiah looks forward to the time period after the exile that it is appropriate to look 2 Kings in connection with that time period. It is one of the grandest books of all Scripture and a huge prophetical book. We also look at Micah and Nahum and we are going to take a look at a small portion of 2 Kings and as well a small portion of Chronicles, mainly as a reflex compared to the material that we have in Kings. In so doing we trust that God will be with us. Let’s ask Him to do so by prayer.

Father we would love to have Your word better and clearer in our minds. We know that You know how to help that process. So we pray that you will be with us and that will grow in our ability to appreciate and use Your word for good purposes. We ask for Christ’s sake. Amen.

I. The Assyrian Empire

So there was an extensive Assyrian empire but it gets no further, no closer to Jerusalem and Judah or Israel than Damascus which is southwestern Syria. The empire of the Assyrians is not at first a big problem but in 640 BC, which is where our time period concludes tonight, the empire is across all habitable regions of the great Arabian Desert, fully including all of Syria, Israel, Judah, almost all of Egypt, parts of modern day Turkey, and a huge portion of what today would be Armenia. It is massive. That is a development that we contend with during this time period. A number of references that we make tonight, a number of things you read in the commentaries, things that you read about in the actual books that you look at are dealing with the significance of the rise of the Assyrian Empire.

II. Tiglath-Pileser III

Tiglath-Pileser III’s actual name in Assyrian meant “the Tigress River has provided an heir.” In the Bible he is called by just one syllable out of that name, Pul. It is a nice abbreviation because can you imagine his mother and all the time she would have to spend calling him home, “Tiglath-Pileser III, come for supper,” pretty soon it is cold. The empire is, to a considerable degree, launched into the domain of the Israelites, into the area that the Assyrians called “across the river” meaning across the Euphrates River and what we would call Palestine or Syria, Palestine, by this guy Tiglath-Pileser III.

A. Why Expand?

When he came to power in 748 he said, “We’re going to expand.” Why did people do that? What was going on in the minds of kings that would make them have this lust for land? Why did they want to grab more and more? The answer is, basically, that it was an economic consideration. When a king comes to power, if he wants to build new temples, they are going to be very expensive. If he wants to build new palaces, they are going to cost a lot of money. If he wants to have wealth for his people and do public works projects and dig new canals, all of it is expensive.

B. Tax, Toll and Tribute

Where do you get the money? You get money in the ancient world from tribute, tax, and tolls; the three T’s, tribute, tax and toll. We even have in a number of Biblical texts those three mentioned. They do not all have T’s in the Hebrew. Tribute is what money you can force another country to pay you every year. If you conquer a country you can say, “You’ve got a choice: I’ll kill you all or you can send a payment to my capital every year.” That was very popular. It was a great system. It was a kind of what you might call “protection money”. In American culture we have gangsters who go to a store and they say, “You have a choice, we’ll throw a brick through the window or you can give us thirty dollars a week,” so the store owner pays the thirty dollars a week for protection from the gang. It is like that.

Then also there was a regular taxation system. You know Jesus was born in Bethlehem because the Romans were taxing everybody. Joseph owned some property in Bethlehem because he is a descendent of David and that is David’s family town. They normally would be at home in Nazareth, meet with the tax collectors, and have their property surveyed. In that connection Jesus was born. That is what the Romans did just like everybody else before them had done it.

Then there is also a toll. Troops are garrisoned at key points on the roads. If you want to travel off the roads, good luck. It is very hard to travel in Palestine off the roads. So at narrow points on the roads, between hillsides that make it difficult to go around, military stations like tollbooths would collect money.

Basically what happens is a king wants to have the money for grand things and asks, how am I going to get it? He ends up just taking it from another country. The other countries do not like this. Naturally they want to fight and they will resist in every way that they can. The story of the Assyrian Empire is a story of conquering and then drawing back because you cannot keep enough occupation troops everywhere to do everything you might like and then countries eventually say, “Okay let’s give it a try. Let’s stop paying tribute, tax, and toll and see if we can get away with it.” If the original conquering empire is strong enough, back will come the troops and they will conquer you again. You get lots of these cycles. It is not behind the scenes; it just is not always super-visible unless you realize that it is why the Israelites are threatened by the Assyrians and why some of the events we will talk about tonight even happened. Tiglath-Pileser launches it and by 745 BC, three years into his reign, he already had begun the process of expanding his empire and his first military raids into Palestine, Israel, Judah, and other places as early as 745 BC.

III. Overview

Let’s look at 2 Kings where this kind of thing is described because we have not had a chance yet just to talk about 2 Kings as a book.

A. Elijah and Elisha

The first eight chapters are especially devoted to Elijah and Elisha. Elisha comes into the picture after Elijah who is all alone is very discouraged and Elisha is his first disciple and then gradually the mantel is moved over to Elisha who is his heir. In 2 Kings 2:9, Elisha asks an interesting thing of Elijah. Elijah asks, “what can I do for you before I am taken from you? I know that my life is short and you’re going to be my successor.” Elisha says to him, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.” That is quite a statement to make. How do people get portions of God’s spirit? Could I have a single portion and somebody here have a double portion? Could somebody else have a double portion compared to that person, so it is a four-to-one ratio of that person to me spiritually? Is that the way the Holy Spirit works? Some people have thought so based on this passage. It is really, however, a misunderstanding of an idiomatic way of speaking about something. In ancient Israel the heir that is the heir, the oldest child in a family always got the double portion of whatever the parent was leaving to the children. If there were three children, the oldest would always get double what any of the others would get. The double portion is an idiomatic way of saying “inheritance”. I got my double portion or people might say, “Your dad is pretty old now, I suppose you will be coming into your double portion pretty soon, hey Ralphie?” and Ralphie might say, “Yeah, I’m going to miss my dad but he has put it aside for me.” That would be the way it would be spoken of.

What Elisha is really asking is, “May I inherit your ministry. May I, in fact, carry on your work, not just that I will succeed you as a prophet, but may I really step into your shoes?” Elijah says 2 Kings 2:10, “You’ve asked a difficult thing. Here is how you will know: if you see me when I’m taken from you it will be yours.” He is saying that this will be a sign from God telling you to carry on my ministry directly and unbroken, not just to have your own, but to carry on in my place exactly as my full heir. “If not,” he says, “if you don’t see me, you won’t be my heir. It does not mean you can’t be a prophet you just won’t be my heir.”

He does get to see him. He sees a fabulous thing; he sees a chariot and horses of fire appear and Elijah is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha sees this he cries out, “My father, my father,” that is what the people called any prophet or teacher. He says, “The chariots and the horsemen of Israel.” He is so excited, he gets to see him go and he also gets to see a vision of Israel’s chariot. This is a great thing. It also means that he now will carry on the ministry of Elijah. How does this work? In particular, his ministry is endorsed by miracles. Actually, this is one of the closest parallels to Jesus Himself. If you look at the ministry of the Lord Jesus, all the Gospel writers will point out to you that He did so many miracles that many people said, “You just had to believe.” That happens with Nicodemus in John 3. He comes to Jesus, what does he say? He says, “Teacher we know You are sent from God because nobody could do all these miracles You do and not be sent from God.” That is what he says. So miracles are sometimes used by God to give credentials to somebody. I think this is the way it still works today. You may not need a miracle to convince the first congregation that you take, but some people in some places may. It is very interesting how that works. In some parts of missionary activity and so on, miracles seem to happen in greater numbers. They are things that give credit. They are ways that God shows, in affect, what kind of power He has and therefore uses through an individual.

Miracles are also a reminder of what heaven is like. Do not every forget that. The essence of a miracle is that it is a little bit of a glimpse into the wondrous things of eternal life. If someone is miraculously healed from an illness, everybody in heaven will be healed; there is no illness in heaven. The one sure thing you can say if you are a Christian is that all your illness will one day be healed, but it may not come until death and the transformation into heavenly existence. Once in a while God causes it to come in this time, in this place, and that is very exciting. Elisha can use some of those miracles just like Elijah could because it is a tuff situation they have got. These prophets are preaching to heterodox people who are worshipping idols in northern Israel and that is not easy. They have tons of opposition and are giving stern warnings that are not well-received. The miracles help to convince people: “I don’t like what he says, but how can you deny that he must be someone from God?”

B. Jehu Massacres Baal / Ashara Worshippers

Then a dramatic thing happens in chapter 9 and 10, a Yahwist northern king massacres everyone of the Baal and Ashara worshippers. It is a vast ad wild massacre. This is not necessarily the way to solve problems but he did it. It certainly shook up supporters of Baal and Ashara worship and increased a focus on Yahweh. Sadly it was a kind of brutally produced revival. Although it did not last long, it was certainly evidence of how strongly someone like Jehu felt he had to deal with the dominant Baal and Ashara worship that the government certainly advocated.

C. Focus on Kings of Judah

Then the focus is more on the kings of Judah in chapters 11 to 14.

D. Destruction of the North

In 15 to 17 is recorded the destruction of the north. It is captured by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Its population is partly exiled and partly replaced. You can read in 2 Kings 17 about that replacement, how people from all over other places in the Assyrian Empire were, by a king named Asherbanapal, relocated into what then became known as Samaria. That is, of course, where the issue of the Samaritans and the Jews in New Testament times comes from. These Samaritans living in the north were neither ethnically nor religiously pure Jews. They had many strange notions and doctrines, and they were what we would regard today as a cult. The Judeans, the Jews, regarded the Samaritans as members of a cult and did not even want to associate with them and a lot of what happens in the New Testament relative to the Samaritans is against that background.

E. Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah

The chapters that we partially look at tonight, 18 to 25, is a chunk of material in which Judah continues on for a whole century and a half. Three kings stand out in this century and a half, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Manasseh. What is fascinating is that Manasseh is right in the middle. I listed the two good guys first then Manasseh second. If you think about it, you have a good king Hezekiah and he institutes a number of reforms. Some of that is what Isaiah helps to inspire and encourage. Then a terrible king after him, Manasseh, who has the longest reign of any Israelite or Judean king. He had a fifty-five year reign; so the worst guy reigned the longest. Then you have Josiah, the last good guy in chapters 22 and 23.

F. Fall of Jerusalem to Babylonians

Then comes the story of the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 25 and there it is the Babylonians. It was the Assyrians who captured the north but the Babylonians have taken over the Assyrian Empire and extended it by the time 2 Kings is over. If you have a big enough appetite and a big enough risk-taker you can say, “Let’s not just conquer some small nations, let’s swallow up this huge empire that we’ve been paying tribute, tax, and toll to. That is basically what the Babylonians did. It took years; it was a terrible struggle for almost a whole decade of bitter fighting but they succeeded in capturing that empire. That is a little overview of 2 Kings and what is going on. The northern Israel is gone and there is only one southern tribe, Simian and Judah together had kind of merged but it is all just called Judah after a while, that is the remainder of the still independent, still functioning and worshipping people of God.