The book of 2 Kings (2 Kings 1)

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Thought to have been composed by an unknown Judahite in exile, 1 and 2 Kings were originally one literary work. Translators of the Septuagint divided the original work into two books around A.D. 400. See The book of 1 Kings for additional data.

The combined Book of Kings was originally written for the Jews living in exile in Babylon to preserve a detailed history of Israel and Judah from the last days of king David (ca. 970 B.C.) to the exile to Babylon (ca. 586 B.C.). 2 Kings includes the history of the divided kingdom (2 Kings 1:1-17:41), as well as that of the surviving kingdom of Judah (18:1-25:30).

In addition to learning more about Israel’s history, readers came to understand more about Judah and such godly kings as Hezekiah and Josiah. Stories about the prophets Elijah and Elisha reinforced the people’s need to obey God and repent of their sins. Throughout these pages God demonstrated His covenant faithfulness and miraculous power, as well as His stern justice when His people refused to repent.

The book of 2 Kings first focuses on the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Building upon his earlier writing, now preserved in 1 Kings, the author continued to record the history of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah throughout the lives of their various kings. Unfortunately, God’s people still refused to repent of their sinfulness, so God permitted Assyria to conquer Israel in 722 B.C. and Babylon to overthrow Judah in 586 B.C.

As you read: Not surprisingly, the themes of 1 Kings are also present in 2 Kings, where the author continued to record the history of Israel and Judah. Notice that God repeatedly exhibited His power and urged repentance, while remaining faithful to His people, most of whom continued in their failure to uphold their covenant promises. Place yourself in the position of Elijah (who soon left the narrative) and then Elisha as they demonstrated God’s truth and dramatic power to the people. Experience the evil arrogance of kings who defiantly challenged God by word and deed. Reflect on such kings as Hezekiah and Josiah, whose bright passion for God illuminated, albeit briefly, previously dark spiritual paths. Imagine the despair of God’s chosen people when God finally allowed them to be captured by their enemies and to face exile. Finally, be alert to the hint of hope at the book’s end, when Jehoiachin was released.

Did you know that ancient pagans thought that the magical power of curses could be nullified either by forcing the pronouncer of a curse to retract the statement or by killing him or her so that the curse would accompany that individual to the netherworld (1:6-15)? Did you know that baldness, uncommon among the ancient Jews, was considered an object for mockery, while luxuriant hair seems to have been viewed as a sign of strength and vigour (2:23)? Did you know it is still common for wadis (dry river beds) in the Arabah to become streams after a cloudburst, leaving behind pools of water? The storm may occur far enough away that no sound of wind or rain can be heard, but the water gathers and rushes down the valleys, often taking travellers by surprise (3:20). Did you know that it was commonly assumed throughout the ancient Near East that a deity could be worshiped only on the soil of the nation to which he or she was bound (5:17)? Did you know that women’s makeup was sophisticated: black kohl to outline the eyes, blue eye shadow from lapis lazuli, crushed cochineal to serve as lipstick and scarlet henna to paint fingernails and toenails? There were also powders and an array of perfumes and ointments (9:30). Did you know that it was common in the ancient Near East to seek omens by examining the entrails of sacrificed animals (16:15)?


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