Kings Fly Over
The focus of the books of Kings is primarily on the north. There is more detail about the northern kings of Israel than on the southern kings. The real focal point is the reign of Ahab. Ahab is the son of Omri, so this is called the Omride dynasty, and it is during the reign of Ahab that Elijah come up and starts presenting God's challenge to Ahab. Ahab is so important because he marries Jezebel. She is Phoenician from Tyre. Her father is one of the great kings of Tyre and also the high priest of Baal and she brings Baal worship and the whole fertility worship cult with her into the northern kingdom. The first stage of deterioration was when they went into idolatry under Jeroboam I, and then when Ahab marries Jezebel she brings in the fertility worship and things really get bad in the north.
In 2 Kings, the first eight chapters, the focus is on Elisha under two kings, Ahaziah and Jehorum. Then 816-620 BC we have the reigns of various kings in the north. Elisha is still prevalent at the beginning. Ten kings of Israel are described, eight kings of Judah described, and there is a return to a period of antagonism between the north and the south. Antagonism started from 1 Kings 12-16. Then there is a period of alliance until we get to the point of 2 Kings 8:16 and then back to a period of antagonism between the two kingdoms. Four key kings are discussed. Jehu in the north in Israel, Athalia the evil queen, the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab, and she marries the king in the south and then tries to kill all the heirs. Then Joash in the south and Judah and Ahaz. Chapters 17:1-41 describes the fall of Israel to the Assyrian invasion.
In 2 Kings 18:1 – 21:26 Hezekiah is the primary force. He is a good king. He initiates various reforms. He is guilty of arrogance and God is about to take him out under the sin unto death and he repents. There is recovery but the evil that has been done is so great that God is not going to forestall the discipline on Israel. He is followed by Manasseh who is one of the most evil kings in all of history and Amon, his son, who was also an evil king. Then there is a period of grace before judgment with the godly king Josiah, followed by the last four evil kings.
The Omride dynasty from 1 Kings 16:23-2 Kings 12 is a major chunk right out of the centre. That tell us that the focal point from God's perspective on all of this history is what happens in the northern kingdom under Ahab. They really tells us why the introduction of the fertility cult, rampant idolatry and the hostility to the Mosaic law and religion and its rejection.
Characteristics of Kings
1. There is a movement from empire status to two weaker kingdoms in 1 Kings. We move from the glory of Solomon to the destruction of the nation.
2. In 2 Kings the movement is from two weak kingdoms to one weak kingdom. We see this deterioration all the way through.
3. Israel has nineteen kings in seven different dynasties for a period of 250 years.
4. Judah has twenty kings in one dynasty, the house of David. That covers a period of 390 years.
5. David is the standard by which all subsequent kings in Judah are judged. 2 Kings 14:3; 15:2, 18:3; 22:2.
6. In contrast, in the northern kingdom of Israel Jeroboam I is the king by which the other kings are judged. Again and again is says that so and so followed in the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. None of the kings in the north are given a positive evaluation report, but there are four of five in the south that are.
7. The preservation of the Davidic line, 2 Kings 8:19.
Critical to understanding both these books is going to be understanding the Mosaic law and understanding the Davidic covenant.
We are going to deal with several kingdoms. The Assyrian kingdom under Tiglath-pileser I begins to dominate about the same time that David becomes king. Under Shalmaneser III about the middle of the 9th century it began to rise in ascendancy and to dominate middle eastern politics. Then there is a period from 823 BC through 755 which was a dark period we don't know a lot about. Then under Ashurnirari V a new ascendancy of Assyrian politics which really culminates in Sargon II and Senacherib. It is during the time of Shalmaneser V that the northern kingdom is taken out. Later on under Sargon Babylon starts to rear its head but doesn't quite pull things together yet. Then we have Senacherib who invades down to Judah and outside the walls of Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah. That is followed by Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, then the Assyrian empire goes out.
Then there are the Babylonian kings. Nabopolassar from 625-605, his son Nebuchadnezzar II from 605-562, followed by Evil-merodach, Neriglissar, the short reign of Labashi-marduk, Nabonidus and Belshazzar.
We will also see Moab, the Ammonite empire, the Edomites, and Egyptians.
There are a lot of problems in chronology dealing with the kings because of the way people in the ancient world counted time. In some systems of a king became king near the end of a year that would count as year one. If a king died two days after the first year that would be his second year. In other systems year one would not be until the next year, so he reigned for two years. Or, in the northern kingdom they would not count accession year as the first year, only the few days of reign in the second year so that the king reigned for one year. So it is very confusing because they weren't consistent. If we add up all the numbers that are listed going through Kings then the total reign is much greater than the time period from the death of Solomon in 931 to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586.