Book of Kings

General Information

The two books of Kings, labeled 1 - 2 Kings in the Hebrew and English versions of the Bible, but 3 - 4 Kings in the Greek and Latin, are so designated because of their contents. They follow and are a continuation of the books of Samuel (1 - 2 Kings in Greek and Latin) and narrate the history of Israel and Judah from Solomon's accession to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah in 587 BC.

The Books of Kings give a detailed account of Solomon's wisdom and wealth and the building of the Temple at Jerusalem. They also narrate the decline that began during his reign and culminated in the exile. These books conclude the Deuteronomistic History, the name given to the books from Deuteronomy to Kings, all of which appear to have been compiled on the same principle. The hand of the Deuteronomistic editor or editors is evident in the stereotyped evaluation of each king by the often anachronistic standards of the Deuteronomic law; the editor(s) also composed the greater part of Solomon's Temple dedication prayer, as well as the long explanation for the fall of Israel. The compiler(s) did use earlier sources, however.

These include lost works called the Acts of Solomon, the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, and the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel; some official lists; an account of the temple construction; and a summary of the official annals of both Israel and Judah. The compiler(s) also incorporated a number of early prophetic legends, including the Elijah - Elisha cycles. The original work dates from c.615 BC, but it was updated and reedited c.550 BC.

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects
J J M Roberts

F M Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (1973); J Gray, 1 - 2 Kings: A Commentary (1970); L B Hinton, First and Second Kings (1988); C Miller, Commentary on First and Second Kings (1991).

Books of Kings

Brief Outline

  1. Solomon's reigh (1Kings 1-11)
  2. Kings of Israel and Judah (1Kings 12-2Kings 18)
  3. Kings of Judah to the Exile (2Kings 18-25)

The Books of Kings

Advanced Information

The two books of Kings formed originally but one book in the Hebrew Scriptures. The present division into two books was first made by the LXX., which now, with the Vulgate, numbers them as the third and fourth books of Kings, the two books of Samuel being the first and second books of Kings. They contain the annals of the Jewish commonwealth from the accession of Solomon till the subjugation of the kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (apparently a period of about four hundred and fifty-three years). The books of Chronicles (q.v.) are more comprehensive in their contents than those of Kings. The latter synchronize with 1 Chr. 28-2 Chr. 36:21. While in the Chronicles greater prominence is given to the priestly or Levitical office, in the Kings greater prominence is given to the kingly. The authorship of these books is uncertain.

There are some portions of them and of Jeremiah that are almost identical, e.g., 2 Kings 24:18-25 and Jer. 52; 39:1-10; 40:7-41:10. There are also many undesigned coincidences between Jeremiah and Kings (2 Kings 21-23 and Jer. 7:15; 15:4; 19:3, etc.), and events recorded in Kings of which Jeremiah had personal knowledge. These facts countenance in some degree the tradition that Jeremiah was the author of the books of Kings. But the more probable supposition is that Ezra, after the Captivity, compiled them from documents written perhaps by David, Solomon, Nathan, Gad, and Iddo, and that he arranged them in the order in which they now exist.

In the threefold division of the Scriptures by the Jews, these books are ranked among the "Prophets." They are frequently quoted or alluded to by our Lord and his apostles (Matt. 6:29; 12:42; Luke 4:25, 26; 10:4; comp. 2 Kings 4:29; Mark 1:6; comp. 2 Kings 1:8; Matt. 3: 4, etc.). The sources of the narrative are referred to (1) "the book of the acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41); (2) the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (14:29; 15:7, 23, etc.); (3) the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (14:19; 15:31; 16:14, 20, 27, etc.). The date of its composition was some time between B.C. 561, the date of the last chapter (2 Kings 25), when Jehoiachin was released from captivity by Evil-merodach, and B.C. 538, the date of the decree of deliverance by Cyrus.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Third and Fourth Books of Kings

Catholic Information

The historical book called in the Hebrew Melakhim, i.e. Kings, is in the Vulgate, in imitation of the Septuagint, styled the Third and Fourth Book of Kings. This designation is justified, inasmuch as the historical narration contained in I and II Kings is herein continued, and, especially, because the history of David's life, begun in I and II, is here concluded. It is, on the other hand, an independent work, distinct from the Books of Samuel (i.e. I and II Kings) in its origin and its style, as well as by reason of the purpose it has in view. Its division into two books--at an awkward place, just in the middle of the history of Ochozias--did not exist in early times, and has only been introduced later into the Hebrew editions from the Septuagint and the Vulgate. A division into three parts would be more in keeping with the contents. The first part (1 Kings 1:11), beginning with David's enactments concerning the succession to the throne and his last instructions, comprises the history of Solomon: his God-given wisdom, the building of the temple and royal palace, the splendour of his reign, his great fall on account of which God announced to him the breaking up of his realm. The second part (1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17) gives an historical survey of the kindred Kingdoms of Juda and Israel: Jeroboam's falling away from God and worship of the golden calf, the continuous wars between the succeeding kings of Israel and Juda up to Achab, the endeavours on the part of Elias to bring back to God the people misled by Achab, the destructive alliances between the house of Achab and the house of David, the miracles, prophecies, and activity of Eliseus, the destruction of the race of Achab by Jehu, Athalia's abortive attempt to destroy the house of David, the further line of contemporaneous kings of Juda and Israel until the end of the last-named kingdom, with an epilogue setting forth the causes of the fall of the latter. The third part (2 Kings 18-25) treats of the history of the Kingdom of Juda after the reign of Ezechias: his miraculous deliverance from the power of the Assyrians, his boastful conniving with the Babylonians, which gave rise to the Babylonian Captivity and Exile, the historical account of the reign of Manasses, whose sins evoked the pronouncement of the ruin of Juda, of Josias, who restored the temple, renewed the covenant with God, and endeavoured to stamp out idolatry, of the last kings up to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, with a short postscript concerning the Judeans who had remained behind, and the delivery of King Joachim from his imprisonment. The Books of Kings were not completed in their present form before the middle of the Exile. Indeed 2 Kings 25:27-30, relates that Joachim was released from bondage (562), and admitted to the court of Babylon for "all the days of his life". According to the Babylonian Talmud (Baba bathra, fol. 15, 1), the Prophet Jeremias is the author. Not a few among both older and more recent exegetes consider this probable. It is indeed remarkable that Jeremias's activity is not alluded to--his name not even being mentioned--although he stood in close relation to the events of the last few years, while everything other prophets (e.g. Elias, Eliseus, Isaias) did for kings and people is carefully noted. In case Jeremias was the author, we have to accept the explanation that he did not consider it suitable to relate here what he had set forth at length in his prophecy. Furthermore, Jer., lii, the narrative of the events in which Jeremias's predictions were fulfilled, is taken almost verbatim from 2 Kings 24:18-25:30. The compiler of the Prophecy of Jeremias felt justified in doing this, inasmuch as, in his opinion, the Books of Kings were by the same author. There is an undoubted resemblance in language and style between this historical book and the Prophecy of Jeremias. The same expressions occur in both writings (compare, for instance, 1 Kings 2:4 with Jeremiah 33:17; 1 Kings 9:8 with Jeremiah 18:16 and 19:8, also Lamentations 2:15; 2 Kings 21:12, with Jeremiah 19:3; 2 Kings 21:13-14, with Jeremiah 30:16 and 22:17, also Lamentations 2:8). If Jeremias be indeed the author, it must be accepted as probable that he wrote the book not long before, or shortly after, the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.); the last verses (xxv, 27-30) have possibly been added by a different hand. The style, especially in the second chapter, is entirely different from that of the Books of Samuel (I and II Kings). The well-developed and comprehensive presentation of those books differs noticeably from the dry and chronicle-like reports about most of the kings. Besides, the Books of Samuel never refer to those lost books which served as sources and which contained fuller particulars, while the Books of Kings are full of such references. In the latter books the chronology is very clearly set down; for instance, as long as the two kingdoms exist simultaneously, in considering the history of one king, the year in which the contemporary king of the other kingdom acceded to the throne and the length of his reign are both indicated. Such notices are entirely absent from the Books of Samuel. From them it is even impossible to discover how long Samuel and Saul governed. Moreover, the historian of 1 and 2 Kings himself passes judgment on every king of Israel and of Juda as to whether he did right or wrong in the eyes of God; whereas the Books of Samuel simply give the judgments of other historians or leave it to the reader to judge for himself.

The Books of Kings cover a period of about four centuries, from the time of the last years of David until the fall of Jerusalem. They do not give the complete history of Israel during this period; such was not the purpose of the writer. He omits many important events or barely alludes to them. For the political history of the two kingdoms, the military exploits of the kings, their public achievements, he constantly refers to three other writings which, at that time, were still in existence. By these references he wishes to indicate that he does not intend to relate everything which may be found in those sources. Whoever wanted information concerning the wars, the treaties, and public acts was to consult the writings referred to. In the Book of Kings, as is shown by its contents, another matter predominates, namely, the relation of each king to revealed religion. For this reason, the narrator judges the conduct of each king, treats more extensively the history of those kings who fostered or brought religion to a flourishing state (such as Solomon, Ezechias, Josias), or who had, on the contrary, wrought it great harm (Jeroboam I, Achab, and Joram); and therefore he relates particularly what the prophets did to bring back the kings and people to the observance of the laws of religion and to spur them on. The object the writer had in view he indicates very clearly in the epilogue which follows the story of the fall of Israel (2 Kings 17:7 sqq.). With emphasis he points out the cause: "They worshipped strange gods . . . and they hearkened not [to the warnings of the prophets] . . . and they rejected the covenant that he [God] made with their fathers . . . And the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from his sight, and there remained only the tribe of Juda. But neither did Juda itself keep the commandments of the Lord their God; but they walked in the errors of Israel . . . And the Lord cast off all the seed of Israel." 1 Kings 2:3-4; 9:3-9; 11:11, 11:33-39; 14:7-11; 16:12 sqq.; 2 Kings 10:30-33; 13:3; 21:11-16; 22:15-17; 24:3-20, bring out the same idea. In this manner the writer teaches that the unlawful cult offered in the high places and the idolatry practised both by kings and people in spite of the admonitions of the prophets were the cause of the downfall of Israel and of Juda. Still this is not the entire purpose of the work. The repeated calling to mind of the promises of the God Who had pledged a permanent reign to David, the acknowledgment of the mercy of the God Who, on account of David, Ezechias, and Josias, had suspended the judgment pronounced upon Juda--all this served to revive the hope and confidence of the remnant of the people. From this they were to learn that God, just in His wrath, was also merciful in His promises to David and would be faithful to His promise of sending the Messias, whose kingdom should endure. Not unappropriately this whole work may be called an historical elucidation and explanation of Nathan's oracle (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

The writings upon which the Books of Kings are based and to which they refer more than thirty times are: the "book of the words of the days of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41), the "book of the words of the days [A. V. book of the chronicles] of the kings of Israel" (xiv, 19; etc.), and the "book of the words of the days of the kings of Juda" (xiv, 29; etc.). In the opinion of many, these "chronicles" are the official annals kept by the chancellors of the different kings. However, it is by no means certain that the office designated by the Hebrew mazkir signifies chancellor (Vulgate a commentariis); still less certain is it that it was part of the duty of the chancellor, who belonged to the king's household, to keep these annals. It is true that David (2 Samuel 8:16), Solomon (1 Kings 4:3), Ezechias (2 Kings 18:18), and Josias (2 Chronicles 34:8) counted among their officials a mazkir, but whether the other kings of Juda and of Israel employed such an officer we find nowhere indicated. Even if it were historically certain that so-called year-books were kept in the two kingdoms by the chancellors, and had been preserved in Israel in spite of so many revolutions and regicides, there remains still the question whether these are really the "chronicles" which serve as a basis for the Books of Kings. The chronicles of other peoples, as far as they have been preserved in cuneiform characters and otherwise, contain exclusively that which contributes to the glory of the kings, their deeds of arms, the edifices they built, etc. Our historical work, however, also relates the sins, prevarications, and other atrocities of the kings, which were not likely to be recorded in the year-books by court officials during the lifetime of their kings. According to 2 Kings 21:17, "The acts of Manasses . . . and his sin which he sinned, are they not written in the book of the words of the days [A. V. book of the chronicles--2 Samuel 21:17] of the kings of Juda?"

We may endeavour to determine the nature of these sources in another way. By comparing the accounts in the Books of Kings and those in II Par., one is immediately struck by two things: With frequent verbal similarity, both works carefully indicate the sources which have been consulted. The history of Solomon's reign, III Kings, i-xi, is told in II Par., i-ix, in almost the same manner, and while III Kings, xi, 41, refers to the "book of the words of the days of Solomon", II Par., ix, 29, refers in the same formula ("The rest of", etc.) to "the words of Nathan the prophet, and the books of Abias the Silonite, and the vision of Addo the seer". The history of Roboam the author of the Books of Kings takes from the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (A. V. 1 Samuel 14:29). The writer of II Par., x-xii, gives an account of the same which in contents and form is almost identical, and refers to "the books of Semeias the prophet, and of Addo the seer" (2 Chronicles 12:15). The same holds for the history of the following kings of Juda. After an account, often in almost the same words, now elaborate and then again more concise, we find in the Book of Kings the "book of the chronicles" and in II Par. the "prophetic writings" given as sources. It must be added that, while in the life story of four of the seven kings in II Par., reference to the source is omitted, these are also absent in the Books of Kings. Is it then not probable that it is one and the same source whence both writers have gathered their information? The "book of the chronicles" quoted in 1 and 2 Kings the writer of 2 Chronicles designates by the then usual appellation, "the book of the kings of Juda and Israel". The prophetic writings referred to by this writer are divisions of the last-named book. This the writer states explicitly (2 Chronicles 20:34) of "the words [or the writings] of Jehu the son of Hanami" (his source for the history of Josaphat): they are "digested into the books of the kings of Israel [and Juda]"; also (2 Chronicles 32:32 -- Vulgate) of "the vision of Isaias, son of Amos": it is embodied in "the book of the kings of Juda and Israel". Consequently, the source utilized by both writers is nothing else but the collection of the writings left behind by the successive prophets.

That the author of the Book of Kings has thoroughly consulted his sources, is constantly evident. Thus he is able to describe the labours and miracles of Elias and Eliseus with such minuteness and in so fresh and vivid a manner as to make it plain that the original narrator was an eyewitness. This is why he consults the sources and refers the reader to them in his account of the life of almost every king; not a few expressions have been taken over verbally (cf. 1 Kings 8:8; 9:21; 12:19; 2 Kings 14:7, etc.). The authenticity of his history is further strengthened by its agreement with the accounts of II Par. The difficulties which appear at the superficial perusal of these Sacred Writings vanish after an attentive study, what seemed contradictory proving to be an amplification or else entirely new matter. In many places the historical reliability of the Books of Kings is confirmed by what the prophetic writings of Isaias, Jeremias, Osee, Amos, Micheas, and Sophonias report concerning the same events, either by direct mention or by allusion. Even profane historians of antiquity, Berosus, Manetho, and Menander, are quoted by Flavius Josephus and Eusebius as witnesses to the reliability of our book of sacred history. Especially notable in this respect are the inscriptions concerning the Oriental races discovered during the last century.

Publication information Written by Jos. Schets. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


NETELER, Das 3 und 4 B. der Könige der Vulg. und des Urtextes übersetzt und erklärt (Münster, 1899); HOLZHEY, Das B. der Könige (Leipzig, 1899); CRAMPON, Les livres des Rois (Paris, 1899); BENZIGER, Die B. der Könige (1899); KITTEL, Die B. der Könige (Göttingen, 1900); CHALLONER AND KENT, Kings III and IV (London, 1904); CROCKETT, Books of the Kings of Judah and Israel. Harmony of the B. of Sam., Kings and Chron. in the version of 1884 (London, 1906); RUBIE, The first Book of Kings (London, 1907); BARNES, I and II Kings (London, 1908); MACLAREN The Books of Kings (London, 1907-08); BURKITT, Fragments of the B. of Kings according to the translation of Aquila (Cambridge, 1897); LAGRANGE, L'Inscription de Mésa, etc., in Revue Biblique (1901), 522-45; PRASEK, Sennacharib's Second Expedition in the West and the Siege of Jerusalem in Expository Times, XII, 225, 405; XIII, 326; STEFFENS, The St;ructure and Purpose of the B. of Kings in The Bible Student, VIII, 153-60; DÖLLER, Geographische und ethnographische Studien zem III und IV Könige (Vienna, 1904); BURNHAM, The Mission and Work of Elijah in Biblical World, XXIV, 180-87; SCHULZ, Die Quellen z. Gesch. des Elias (Braunsberg, 1906); DODDS, Elisha, the Man of God (Chicago, 1904); VON HUMMELAUER, Solomons ehernes Meer in Bibl. Zeitsch., VI, 133- 54; VINCENT, La description du Temple de Salomon, I Rois, vi, in Revue Biblique (1907), 515-42; BREME, Ezechias und Senacherib (Freiburg im Br., 1906); NAGL, Die nachdavidische Königsgeschickhte Israels ethnographisch und geographisch beleuchtet (Vienna, 1905); TOY, The Queen of Sheba in Journal of Am. Folk­Lore, XX, 207-12; CALDECOTT, Solomon's Temple. Its history and its structure (London, 1907).

Books of Kings

Jewish Perspective Information


-Biblical Data:

First Book of Kings:


Kings and Prophets.

Elijah and Elisha.

Second Book of Kings:

Elisha's Career.

Jehu's Iniquities.

The Later Kings.

-Critical View:

Object and Method of Work.

Time of Redaction.


Narratives and Epitomes.

-Biblical Data:

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, I Kings () and II 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. i.: 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. ii.: 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. iii.: 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. iv.: 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. v.: 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. vi.: A full account of the Temple, the construction of which lasted seven years.

Ch. vii.: Description of Solomon's palace, the erection of which occupied thirteen years, and of the Temple vessels made by Hiram the artificer.

Ch. viii.: 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. ix.: 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. x.: 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. xi.: 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. xii.: 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. xiii.: 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. xiv.: 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. xv.: 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. xvi.: 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. xvii.: 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. xviii.: 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. xix.: 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. xx.: 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. xxi.: 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. xxii.: 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. i.: 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. ii.: 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. iii.: 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. iv.: 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. v.: 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.

Elisha's Career.

Ch. vi.: 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. vii.: 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. viii.: 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. ix.: 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.

Jehu's Iniquities.

Ch. x.: 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. xi.: 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. xii.: 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. xiii.: 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. xiv.: 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. xv.: 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. xvi.: 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. xvii.: 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. xviii.: 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 Isa. xxxvi.).

Ch. xix.: 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 Isa. xxxvii.).

Ch. xx.: 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 Isa. xxxviii.-xxxix.). Hezekiah is succeeded by his son Manasseh.

Ch. xxi.: 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. xxii.: 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. xxiii.: 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. xxiv.: 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. xxv.: 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.S. M. Sel.

-Critical View:

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" (I Kings xi. 41); for the Northern Kingdom it is "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel," which is cited seventeen times, i.e., for all the kings except Jehoram and Hoshea (see, e.g., ib. xv. 31); and for the kings of Judah it is "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," which is cited fifteen times, i.e., for all the kings except Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (see, e.g., ib. xv. 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., I Kings xv. 1-9 for the formula used for the kings of Judah, and ib. xv. 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. xl.-lv., 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., I Kings viii. 34, xi. 39; II Kings xvii. 19, 20; xxiii. 26, 27). To these may be added the expression "beyond the river" (I Kings v. 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 I Kings viii. 8, ix. 21, xii. 19; II Kings viii. 22, xvi. 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 I Kings xi. 36, xv. 4, and II Kings viii. 19, which come from the hand of a Deuteronomic editor, David has, and is to have, a lamp burning in Jerusalem; i.e., the Davidic dynasty is still reigning. Finally, I Kings viii. 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, 38, 42, 44, 48; ix. 3; and xi. 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 II Kings xxiv. 10-xxv. 30 was added in the Exile, and, perhaps, xxiii. 31-xxiv. 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, I Kings v. 7 follows on iv. 19; vi. 12-14 is omitted; ix. 26 follows on ix. 14, so that the account of Solomon's dealings with Hiram is continuous, most of the omitted portion being inserted after x. 22. II Kings xxi., the history of Naboth, precedes ch. xx., so that xx. and xxii., 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: I Kings i. and ii. are extracted bodily from an early court history of David's private life, which is largely used in II Sam. ix.-xx. The editor (Rd) has added notes at ii. 2-4 and 10-12. For the reign of Solomon the source is professedly"the book of the acts of Solomon" (xi. 41); but other sources were employed, and much was added by Rd. Ch. iii. is a prophetic narrative of relatively early origin, worked over by Rd, who added verses 2, 3, and 14, 15. Ch. iv. 1-19 is presumably derived from the Chronicle of Solomon. Ch. iv. 20-v. 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 v. 15-vii. 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 vi. 11-14 also by a later annotator. Ch. viii. 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. viii. 14-66 is in its present form the work of Rd slightly retouched in the Exile. Ch. ix. 1-9 is the work of Rd, but whether before the Exile or during it is disputed. Ch. ix. 10-x. 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. xi. 1-13 is the work of Rd; xi. 14-22 is a confused account, perhaps based on two older narratives (comp. Winckler, "Alttestamentliche Forschungen," pp. 1-6); and xi. 26-31 and 39, 40 probably formed a part of a history of Jeroboam from which xii. 1-20 and xiv. 1-18 were also taken. The extracts in ch. xi. have been set and retouched by later editors (comp. Kittel on I Kings xi. 23-43).

Narratives and Epitomes.

From ch. xii. 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: I Kings xiv. 21-xvi. 34; xxii. 41-53; II Kings viii. 16-29; x. 32-36; xii. 18-xiii. 13; and xiii. 22-xvii. 6. In some cases short extracts are even here made in full, as in xiv. 8-14 and xvi. 10-16.

The longer narratives, which are frequently retouched and expanded by Rd, are as follows: I Kings xii. 1-20, xiv. 1-18, from an older narrative of Jeroboam, to which xii. 21-32 and xiv. 19, 20 are additions; xii. 33-xiii. 34, a comparatively late story of a prophet; xvii.-xix. and xxi., an early prophetic narrative written in the Northern Kingdom (comp. xix. 3); xx. and xxii. 1-40, an early north-Israelitish history of the Syrian war in which Ahab lost his life; II Kings i.-viii. 15 and ix. 1-x. 31, north-Israelitish narratives, not all from one hand, which are retouched here and there, as in iii. 1-3, by Rd; xi. 1-xii. 17, a Judean narrative of the overthrow of Athaliah and the accession of Joash; xiii. 14-21 and xiv. 8-14, two excerpts from material written in the Northern Kingdom (comp. xiv. 11); xvii. 7-23 is Rd's commentary on the historical notice with which the chapter opens; xvii. 24-41 is composite (comp. verses 32, 34, and 41), probably written in the Exile and retouched after the time of Nehemiah; xviii.-xx. is compiled by Rd from three sources (comp. Stade, l.c. vi. 174), Rd himself prefixing, inserting, and adding some material; xxi. is, throughout, the work of Rd; xxii.-xxiii. 25 is an extract from the Temple archives with slight editing; and xxiii. 29-xxv. 30, the appendix of the exilic editor, is based on Jer. xl. 7-xliii. 6. From Jeremiah, too, the exilic editor drew his information, which he presented in briefer form.

Isidore Singer, M. Seligsohn, Emil G. Hirsch, George A. Barton

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


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, xiii. 1-76.E. G. H. G. A. B.

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