“Introduction to 2 Kings,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“2 Kings,” Old Testament Study Guide
The book of 2 Kings describes the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, focusing on the spiritual successes and failures of each kingdom. The book also explains why the kingdoms of Israel and Judah lost the Lord’s protection and were conquered. Studying 1 and 2 Kings can help you understand the history that forms the background for many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. You can liken the lessons recorded by the authors of 2 Kings to your own life and learn how to live in a way that allows you to receive the Lord’s protection and avoid succumbing to temptations.
“The books [1 and 2 Kings] were compiled by some unknown writer from a variety of written documents, including the state chronicles” (Bible Dictionary, “Kings, books of”). The state chronicles were not the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles but rather a collection of records maintained under the direction of the kings of Israel.
It is unclear when and where the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings were written. At one time, 1 and 2 Kings were a single book called Kings. The division that created the current books of 1 and 2 Kings took place when the Bible was translated into Greek. (See Bible Dictionary, “Kings, books of.”)
The books of 1 and 2 Kings cover more than 400 years of Israelite history, starting with the death of King David (approximately 1015 B.C.) and concluding with the death of King Jehoiachin (sometime after approximately 561 B.C.). The book of 2 Kings outlines the causes of the scattering of the Israelites. Because of the wickedness of the people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they were conquered by Assyria around 721 B.C. Unfortunately, the people in Judah did not learn from the mistakes of the people in Israel. Even though some of the kings of Judah mentioned in 2 Kings were faithful and obedient, there were many who were wicked. One of these kings was King Manasseh, whose wickedness caused the kingdom of Judah to lose its divine protection. Babylon crushed the Southern Kingdom and carried its people into captivity (587 B.C.), fulfilling Lehi’s prophecy that Jerusalem would be destroyed (see 1 Nephi 1:13, 18).
The miracles recorded in 2 Kings are memorable examples of the Lord’s power. The book records that the prophet Elijah divided the Jordan River and was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire. Elijah’s successor, Elisha, likewise divided the Jordan River. Elisha also raised the dead, instructed Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan River in order to be healed of his leprosy, caused an axe head to float, and prophesied of a famine that lasted seven years.
In addition, the book of 2 Kings describes the setting of Isaiah’s ministry in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The book records that Isaiah advised the righteous King Hezekiah of Judah and prophesied that Babylon would conquer and pillage Judah.
2 Kings 1–13. In the Northern Kingdom, Elijah is translated and taken into heaven and Elisha begins his ministry. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel unite in a war against Moab and are victorious. The Lord heals Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army, of his leprosy. The people of Israel experience famines. The wicked Jezebel is killed, and the house of Ahab is destroyed. Elisha dies.
2 Kings 14–20. Many of the kings of Israel reign in wickedness. King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria takes many of the Israelites captive. King Ahaz of Judah reigns in wickedness. The idolatrous ten tribes of Israel are carried into captivity by King Sargon of Assyria. King Hezekiah reigns over Judah in righteousness, obeying the Lord and eliminating the places devoted to the worship of false gods. Because of King Hezekiah’s faith and trust in God, an angel destroys the Assyrian army, fulfilling a prophecy of Isaiah.
2 Kings 21–25. In the Southern Kingdom, King Manasseh temporarily restores idol worship. Righteous King Josiah repairs the temple, and the book of the law is found. Josiah reads the book of the law to the people, eliminates the places devoted to the worship of false gods, and reinstitutes the Passover. Josiah is killed in battle. Babylon invades Judah and carries many of the people into captivity, including King Zedekiah. After many years, King Jehoiachin of Judah is released from prison and is allowed to live out his final days in relative peace and comfort in Babylon.