The books of Kings.

Counted among the prophets.


Attributed author(s).
Anonymous.
Jeremiah.

Text(s) available.
None on site.
CCEL: 1 Kings and 2 Kings (Hebrew only).
Swete LXX (Greek only).
Bible Gateway (English only).
HTML Bible:

1 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (Hebrew and English).
2 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 (Hebrew and English).
HTML Bible:
1 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (Latin Vulgate only).
2 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 (Latin Vulgate only).
Zhubert (Greek and English).
Kata Pi BHS:
1 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (Hebrew and English).
2 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 (Hebrew and English).
Kata Pi LXX:
3 Kingdoms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (Greek and English).
4 Kingdoms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts:
1 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (polyglot).
2 Kings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 (polyglot).

Useful links.
1 and 2 Kings at the OT Gateway.
1 and 2 Kings in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
1 and 2 Kings at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
1 Kings and 2 Kings from the Plymouth Brethren.
Introduction to 1 and 2 Kings (David Malick).
Outline of 1 and 2 Kings (David Malick).
New Light on Hezekiah’s Second Prophetic Story (Nadav Na’aman).

The books of Kings are counted as historical books in our English Bibles, but in the Jewish scriptures they are ranked among the former prophets.

The books were originally written in Hebrew, but the ancient Greek translation known as the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX) is also a very important witness to the text. These books in the LXX bear the titles of 3 and 4 Kingdoms (and 1 and 2 Samuel bear the titles of 1 and 2 Kingdoms).


Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).

1 Kings.
2 Kings.

Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of 1 Kings:

Andrew E. Hill writes: "Given the available evidence, we do best to assign the books of Kings to an anonymous compiler-author of the sixth century B.C. Whether he was a prophet or not is uncertain, but he understood the covenantal nature of Israel's relationship to Yahweh and its implications for Hebrew history. The book was probably composed in Palestine sometime between the fall of Jerusalem (587/586 B.C.) and the decree of King Cyrus of Persia that permitted the Hebrews to return to their homeland (539 B.C.). It is possible that the book was composed in two stages. Most of the history of Hebrew kingship could have been completed between the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian reprisal for the assassination of the governor Gedaliah (a third deportation in 582 or 581 B.C., which was described in the first historical appendix, 2 Kings 25:22-26 and Jer. 52:30). The final edition of the work may have been published sometime after the release of King Jehoiachim from prison in Babylon by Nebuchadrezzar's successor, Evil-Merodach (ca. 562/561 B.C., reported in the second historical appendix, 2 Kings 25:27-30). A date of 550 B.C. appears reasonable for the completed Kings record." (A Survey of the Old Testament, p. 204)

Peter F. Ellis writes: "The book was written for the Jews who had witnessed the catastrophe of 587 and for their children whose faith was wavering. It was intended to instruct and encourage them, to elicit from them acts of repentance for their past sins, and to renew their hopes for the future. It was written, in short, to answer the distressing questions raised by the events of 587. Thus, the author instructs the exiles by demonstrating that Israel through her kings had been unfaithful to the covenant, and that God, far from being unfaithful to his part of the covenant, had remained faithful with erring Israel long after Isreal's infidelity had released him from any covenant bonds. He writes, therefore, to convince his people that they and not God have been unfaithful. The author's purpose, however, is not only to instruct but also to encourage. Thus, he returns repeatedly to the promise of perpetuity made to the Davidic dynasty and to the eternal bond between the dynasty, the Temple, and Jerusalem. These promises have never been annulled and it is upon their fulfillment that Israel must place her hopes for the future." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 179)

The work mentions the "Book of the Acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11.41), the "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah" (1 Kings 14:29 and elsewhere), and the "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" (1 Kings 14:19 and elsewhere). J. Alberto Soggin writes: "It is obvious that there is no reference here to the book of Chronicles, which the Hebrew Bible places among the Writings, and which the LXX puts after Kings. There is no reason to suppose, as some writers have in the past, that the Pentateuchal sources J and E appear, at least up to I Kings 12; in fact there is no continuous element in the scattered quotations that we have. The one certain thing is that the Deuteronomists, whose work is generally recognized here, even by those who do not accept a continuous Dtr, have worked (as we have said in the previous section) on what are almost certainly official sources, on which they have made an interpretative commentary. The only fragment of any length which survives from these ancient sources is I Kings 4.7-19, which describes the administrative system introduced by Solomon (or perhaps already by David) in the north. But the Deuteronomistic revision is substantial as early as chs. 6-8, which narrate how the temple came to be built, even if there is no reason to doubt the historicity of the facts related. In any case, the first part of the narrative is extremely favourable to Solomon, at some points amounting to adulation, while in the second part it is strongly critical. It notes the progressive degeneration and decadence of the kingdom, seeing religious syncretism as the primary cause but not concealing other causes: unpopular fiscal policy and even harsher forms of tyrrany." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 202-203)

James King West writes: "The parallel history of the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah) is written after the fashion of a man walking, advancing first one foot and then the other. The writer carries forward the story of one kingdom for a number of years, then turns to the other kingdom and traces its history up to and beyond that point, then returns to the former, and so on. Each monarch is accordingly dated by the regnal years of his royal counterpart in the sister kingdom. Stereotyped opening and closing formulas mark the descriptions of each reign. The opening formula includes (1) the date of the king's accession as synchronized with the reign of the rival monarch, (2) the duration of his administration, and (3) the historian's judgment on his reign. For the southern kings there are additional notations regarding (4) the king's age at his accession and (5) the identification of the queen mother. The closing formula consists of (1) a reference to further sources of information about the king, (2) a notice of his death and burial, and (3) the name of his successor." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 196-197)

Jay G. Williams writes: "The criterion [wherein 'the high places were not taken away'] reflects the influence of Deuteronomy, for of all the books of the law only Deuteronomy emphasizes the importance of one central shrine for all Israel. One might also give a pragmatic justification for this seemingly rather peculiar standard of judgment. The existence of several places of sacrifice symbolized, in effect, the political and religious disunity of Israel and Judah. This lack of unity was one of the primary factors which led to the downfall of both. Although the authors show some sympathy for Israel's initial revolt against Rehoboam (I Kings 12:1-24), they place full responsibility for the continuation of the schism upon the northern kings. This book, unlike Joshua and Judges, is written, then, from a Judaen point of view. The authors attempt to explain the reasons for the decline and fall of the Davidic-Solomonic Empire and find them in the twin sins of disunity and idolatry." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 179)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Yet the Dueteronomist proceeds to pass a negative judgment on Solomon. He loved many foreign women, even of the proscribed nations. His wives numbered seven hundred and his concubines three hundred. Influenced by these wives, Solomon built altars to their deities, provoking Yahve's wrath, so that kingship was to be taken away from his descendants (11:1-13). Yahve stirred up two foreign adversaries—Hadad, an Edomite (14-22), and Rezon of Damascus (23-5)—and one domestic one, Jeroboam ben Nebat. A prophet Ahijah, encountered Jeroboam, who was to usurp the kingship. Ahijah rent Jeroboam's garment into twelve pieces, giving ten of them to Jeroboam as a symbol of his destiny to reign over ten of the tribes of Israel (26-46). Solomon reigned for forty years and then passed away (41-3)." (The Hebrew Scriptures, pp. 455-456)

P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., writes: "In the final analysis, however, the basic source for the history of this period is the biblical record itself. Because of its long and complex literary history, it must be used very cautiously for historical reconstruction, but when critically interpreted, it provides a fairly clear picture of the sequence of events. Solomon's economic successes were not sufficient to eliminate the regional factionalism that had troubled David's reign (cf. 2 Sam. 20:1-22). When Solomon died in about 930 B.C., the northern tribes refused to accept the rule of his son, Rehoboam, and made Jeroboam, an Ephraimite officer in Solomon's labor force, their king (1 Kings 12). The now independent kingdoms of Israel and Judah endured a period of weakness and intermittent civil war that lasted until the reign of Omri (ca. 876-869 B.C.), who seems to have stabilized Israel and established a rapprochement with Judah." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 305)

Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the book of 2 Kings:

Burke O. Long writes: "The Second Book of Kings is part of an editorial unit that begins with the book of Deuteronomy, includes Joshua, Judges, and 1 and 2 Samuel, and concludes with the books og Kings. In this final book, the ancient Deuteronomistic historian continues to evaluate his people's experience with the northern and southern monarchies after the death of Ahab (ca. 851 B.C.). The story moves through the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (ca. 722; 2 Kings 17) and comes to rest in the aftermath of Judah's and Jerusalem's demise in 587 (2 Kings 25)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 323)

Peter F. Ellis identifies three propositions put forward by the author of the books of Kings (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 180):

The first proposition follows: Catastrophe has overtaken Israel because of the infidelity of the kings to covenant and Temple, not because of any lack of covenant fidelity on God's part. This proposition is hammered into the consciousness of his readers by the author's judgments on the kings both of Israel and Judah. All, without exception of the northern kings and the majority of the southern, Davidic, kings (with a few notable exceptions), are adjudged unfaithful to covenant and Temple. The same proposition is even more clearly inculcated in the author's explanatory discourses in 1 Kgs 11 and 2 Kgs 17.

The second proposition may be stated thus: It was the Word of God through Moses that brought Israel into history at Sinai. It is the Word of God through his prophets, continuously intervening and infallibly fulfulled, that has shaped Israel's history through the centuries. This proposition is drilled into the consciousness of his readers by the author's use of sources from the prophetic school. From them he selects stories detailing prophetic predictions and their infallible fulfillment. A total of 45 different prophetic prediction-fulfillment stories are spread over the two books (25 in 1 Kgs; 20 in 2 Kgs), with 15 of the 22 chapters in 1 Kgs and 20 of the 25 chapters in 2 Kgs containing at least one prediction-fulfillment story. The cumulative effect of these stories is such that the reader cannot doubt that once the Word of the Lord has gone forth it will be fulfulled infallibly.

The third proposition may be stated as follows: The promise is made to David in 2 Sm 7, that his dynasty would be eternal, is a promise and a prediction that by its nature must be fulfilled, all things to the contrary notwithstanding. Because of the historical circumstances in the time of the author (the nation destroyed, the citizens in exile, the king deposed), he cannot point, as he does in the case of the other promise predictions he records, to the fulfillment of this promise. For all Israelites, however, as for himself, the fulfillment of this promise must be an aspect of faith.

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Accordingly, the Deuteronomists depict the monarchs as having had the choice of accepting Yahve's way or of rejecting it, and scarcely any generation appears to have been bereft of the possibility of prophetic guidance. So uniformly do the Deuteronomists tell us this that they are occasionally led into certain absurdities. Thus, they have before them a knowledge of the sweep of history, and they know which dynasties did not last, and they know that Israel was exiled in 722/721 and Judah in 586. In the light of their knowledge they portray prophets as predicting these events in advance. Yet they faced the anomaly of long reigns and wicked kings, and short ones by good kings—in their view a miscarriage of justice. They therefore appended to their disapproval of certain wicked kings a statement to justify the delay of the merited punishment. Solomon's misdeeds caused the division of the kingdom, but it was deferred until his son's time (1 Kings 11:11). Jeroboam ben Nebat caused Israel's subjection to Assyria, but an interval of another dynasty was to intervene (1 Kings 14:15ff.). The punishment for Ahab's misdeeds was deferred to the days of his son (1 Kings 21:28-30). The Babylonian exile was caused by Manasseh (II Kings 21:12ff.), even though it did not take place until the time of Manasseh's great-grandsons." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 470)

James King West writes: "Throughout the better part of the period of the dual monarchies, Israel had maintained its ascendancy over Judah. Under the Omrides the southern kings had been little more than vassals of Samaria. Judah, nevertheless, possessed the stability of the unchanging Davidic house. Whereas the northern kingdom produced no fewer than nineteen kings and nine dynasties during its two centuries of existence, Judah, for the same period, was governed by only eleven monarchs—all of them (except for the brief usurpation of Athaliah) descendants of David. For another century and a half after the fall of Samaria, Judah weathered the successive crises brought on by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Eight more successors of David were to rule in Jerusalem before Babylon finally destroyed the city (587 B.C.) and instituted the period of Babylonian captivity." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 213-214)