Short Intro to 1 and 2 Kings

We’re starting our series in 1 Kings in the New Year and so I thought it would be helpful to give a little bit of background and help highlight the main themes of 1 and 2 Kings – since they come as a package and God willing, we’ll be looking at 2 Kings next year too.


1 and 2 Kings was originally one book and likely divided because of its scroll size. The events of 1 Kings start in or around 970BC with Solomon succeeding King David to the throne. To put that in Biblical context – Abraham lived around 2000BC, and the book nicely follows on from the events of 1 and 2 Samuel which are largely about the twin reigns of Saul and David.

For a little historical context, it would be over 200 years before even the founding of Rome – so this was a long time ago! 2 Kings ends with the fall of Jerusalem in 586BC and events after that. So there’s a 400 year history of the kings of Israel and Judah compressed into what was the Book of Kings.


We don’t know who the author is (some Jewish tradition advocates Jeremiah) but the completion of 1 and 2 Kings in its final form was likely written and edited between the release of King Jehoiachin from prison around 561BC and the return from exile in 538BC. This is because the writer ends with the fall of Jerusalem and exile and Jehoiachin’s release but does not mention the return from exile. It is doubtful such a significant event would have been omitted, therefore the dating of the book likely sits around 560-540BC.[1]

The writer was clearly using various sources throughout to compile his history like ‘the book of the annals of Solomon’ mentioned in 1 Kings 11:41. Often he would ‘copy and paste’ these sources unedited, meaning phrases such as ‘this is still the case to this day’ often refer to the time of the source and not the time of completion during the exile. We can see examples of these passages in 1 Kings 8:8; 9:13; 9:21; 10:12; 12:19; 2 Kings 2:22 etc.[2]


Though we do not have the express purpose of the book written down,[3] the dating of when the book was written helps us see a twin purpose. One was to show the people of God in exile that there is a long and messy history of why they are in exile. This is because of the sins of the people of God. God was entirely just in judging the sins of his people and sending them into exile, as was warned in the Mosaic Covenant.

With this we see particularly how the writer is influenced by Deuteronomy and the curses of Deuteronomy 28 that speak of exile if the people continue to sin. Deuteronomy also helps frame the judgement and three main sub themes in the book of Kings.

The Covenant in Deuteronomy:

1: The temple and centralised worship of the one true God is the outworking prescribed in Deuteronomy 12 where God through Moses tells the people of God there will be one place of worship. And all other places and all other gods need to be abandoned to worship the LORD God at the temple in Jerusalem. This is why the building of the temple and the blessing of the temple by Solomon is given several chapters (1 Kings 5:1-9:9) and why worship in the high places or other gods is condemned throughout the book of Kings.

2: The actions of the kings of Israel and Judah are judged in line with Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 – which details what the ideal king is. Throughout 1 and 2 Kings we see how the rule of kings falls short of these ideals. In 1 Kings the book is bookended by two kings. Solomon the Wise and Ahab the Foolish.[4] And yet even one of the greatest kings of Israel in Solomon, at the zenith of Israel’s power, is going to fall short. And from then on it is going to continue to regress, with some exceptions. 1 Kings ends with an extended narrative of Ahab and exposes how far the kings have fallen. It makes us long for a better king – a true king more like David who will rescue his people from their sin.

3: The role of God’s prophets is brought into focus. Deuteronomy 18:14-22 highlights the need for a prophet like Moses to come and what false and true prophets are. Enter Elijah and Elisha, whose stories are perhaps the most well-known parts of 1 and 2 Kings. We’ll see Elijah battle Baal and Elisha calling down fire from heaven. In them, and particularly in Elisha, we see the shadow of a greater prophet to come.

The Davidic Covenant:

The judgement of the people’s sins via the influence of Deuteronomy is tempered with the second reason for writing the book: the hope of a future king to rescue God’s people, largely because of the Davidic Covenant and the promises made by God in 2 Samuel 7:8-16.[5] Throughout The Book of Kings, references to this covenant are alluded to (see for example 1 Kings 2:2-4; 9:3-8). These provide signs and pillars of light in the darkness. That despite judgement, there is hope. Hope of a king that will sit on the throne forever.

We get a preview of this in 1 Kings 13:2 when the man of God states: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David’. This hope of a son of David who will restore the kingdom and bring revival is used as a teaser to anticipate this future king. A king who does not appear until 2 Kings 22! And yes, he is a great king who brings in sweeping reforms and restores the correct and proper worship of God. But unfortunately, the reform comes too late for the rot – for true worship does not continue after his untimely death at the Battle of Megiddo in 609BC.

But despite the rot of sin, there is still hope of a future and even greater king. For the line of David is not broken, despite the destruction of Jerusalem and exile at the hands of the Babylonians. For 2 Kings ends with Jehoiachin, who had been imprisoned, and then released to sit at the king’s table in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30). There is still hope that a true son of David will come to rescue his people from exile and their sin.


This is something I read somewhere![6]

When reading OT narrative look out for four anchors that spell ACTS and then ask four questions:

A – action. Find the crisis and resolution points in the action that help frame the story

C – characters. Pay special attention to the characters named or mentioned in the story.

T – talking. Note any dialogue in the story and how it helps our understanding of the story.

S – look at the cultural and literary context and how that helps us understand the story.

Then ask these four questions:

1: What’s the theological message in the story?

2: What’s the moral message in the story?

3: Is there any commentary from the author that explains the events?

4: Where do we see Jesus in the story?

May God bless us as we dive into this rich and wonderful book!

[1] There’s some evidence a few final edits of the book took place (perhaps when it was copied) in the Persian period due to the references ‘the kings of the west’ and ‘governors of the land’ in 1 Kings 10:15 which indicate a possible Persian perspective. See ESV study Bible.

[2] Alternatively, one theory indicates there was various versions of the book that kept on being added to as history unfolded.

[3] We do see this in other books of the Bible. See for example Luke 1:1-4.

[4] 1 Kings dedicates 11 chapters to Solomon’s reign and six and a bit chapters at the end to Ahab’s reign – although Ahab is not always the main character during this time. His nemesis Elijah is introduced at the time of Ahab’s ascension to the throne and is the main focus in 1 Kings 17-19.

[5] We also see hope of God’s faithfulness and mercy by remembering his promise and covenant with Abraham too – see for example 2 Kings 13:23.

[6] I think it is this book but don’t have it to verify: The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative by Steven D. Mathewson.

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