Book of 2 Kings
History of the kings of Israel and Judah, from Ahaziah through Jehoiachin
Compiled by Jewish scribes in exile
Picking up right where Book of 1 Kings summary left off, in the middle of Ahaziah’s reign, the book of 2 kings continues the story of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms’ on-again, off-again relationship with God.
David and Solomon’s United Monarchy has been divided into two nations: Judah and Benjamin in the south and the other ten tribes in the north. Both nations have a history of responding to God followed by a period of rebellion and then returning to Him.
This book describes the end of that cycle, when God allows foreign powers to conquer both countries and scatter His people. The ten tribes are lost to the Assyrian Empire and disappear from record; Judah and Benjamin are taken captive by the Babylonian Empire but ultimately return to the land of Israel.
GOD’s Continuous Reminder To Israel
Compiled around the time of the exile that began in the sixth century before the coming of the Anointed One, this book is intended to remind future generations of the consequences of abandoning the instruction God provides in the law.
The Israelites are a unique community in the ancient Near East because they believe in one God. Surrounding nations have many gods, the most famous of which are the Canaanite god Baal and his consort Asherah.
As Israel becomes interconnected with its neighbors politically, they trade more than resources; pagan rituals begin to creep into Israelite life, violating God’s law and angering Him. Some worship God in addition to other gods, some worship God improperly (with temple prostitution and child sacrifice), and some just abandon Him altogether.
Through His prophets, and sometimes directly, God reminds Israel again and again to follow His laws, as their ancestors promised they would in exchange for His guidance and protection.
From Prophetic Ministry Transfer To The Loss Of Two Kingdoms
There are two great transitions in 2 Kings. First the prophetic ministry of Elijah in 1 Kings transfers to Elisha in this second volume of the book of Kings.
Elisha receives a greater portion of his predecessor’s influence and power. Second, both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah fall to foreign armies. The Northern Kingdom finally falls to the Assyrian armies in 722 B.C. Then the Southern Kingdom falls to the Babylonian armies in 586 B.C.
The obedient kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah, and the faithful prophets such as Elijah and Elisha, cannot steer the two kingdoms back to God’s laws. This means the complete loss of the ten northern tribes and the exile of the two southern tribes as book 2 kings summary ends.
2 Kings 1:18
In this record, the compiler constantly switches back and forth between Judah and Israel, telling the history of both simultaneously. Nowhere is that more confusing than here, when both nations’ kings have the same name.
But the format serves two purposes: the reader gets a picture of what is happening in both regions at the same time, and the response of each nation to one event may be compared and contrasted. Who will prove to be the more faithful kingdom — the North or the South?
2 Kings 2:12
Elijah and Enoch ( Genesis 5:24) are the only two men in the Bible to leave earth while they are still alive.
Although they are separated by centuries of time, both men are inseparable from God, and both leave quite a legacy: Elijah’s successor, Elisha, continues his mentor’s work, even calling out Elijah’s name for help.
Enoch’s son, Methuselah, lives longer than anyone else ever has, which is proof that he, too, lives properly.
2 Kings 3:9
Since David defeated the nation of Moab ( 2 Samuel 8:2 ), it has been a vassal state to Israel; but under their new king Mesha, the Moabites are ready to revolt.
Mesha has fortified the entire country, building a temple, palace, walls, and reservoirs. Most importantly, he fortifies the northern entrance to Moab, so Israel is forced to find another way to attack.
Unfortunately, the only other option is for Israel to enter from the south, and that requires marching through Judah and Edom, something that would be perceived as an act of war.
By securing Judah’s and Edom’s cooperation in the attack, Israel does not have to worry about being attacked while traveling through their nations, and she gains allies against the impressively strong Moab.
2 Kings 3:27
Unlike the Lord, who does not allow child sacrifice ( Genesis 22 ), the Moabites believe their god, Chemosh, responds favorably to the sacrifice of children.
Seeing that he is about to lose the war, Mesha makes the greatest sacrifice he can imagine: he offers his oldest son and heir.
Not only does Mesha sacrifice the future of his nation and his son’s life, he believes he also sacrifices the boy’s afterlife, since burnt offerings are totally consumed and no body would remain for burial.
Mesha’s action gives his army courage to fight, but it is the military engagement that saves his nation. Moab defeats Israel and her allies.
2 Kings 5:27
Skin diseases of all kinds — psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, and even baldness — are of great concern in God’s purity laws ( Leviticus 13–15 ).
The appearance of some of these diseases makes a person ineligible to enter the temple, especially diseases with open sores and flaking skin.
Israelites with such a skin disease are quarantined outside of the cities until it disappears and they become pure again. In the case of chronic diseases such as psoriasis, the sufferer is doomed to permanent exile and separation from God. What greater punishment can there be for a prophet of God?
2 Kings 6:23
Similar to the Elijah story but expanded, the Elisha story relates the prophet’s life and ministry mostly outside the land. While Elisha is given Elijah’s mantle in Palestine, most of his traveling circuit occurs “outside the land” in Phoenicia or Syria.
He even makes a prophecy over Hazael the next Syrian king and enemy of Israel. The introduction of the figure Ben-hadad (meaning “son of Hadad,” who is the central Syrian god) is pivotal for the rest of the stories of Elisha and Israel.
The Eternal uses Syria (also called Aram) as an instrument of divine punishment for Israel’s sins. Ultimately in 732 B.C., Damascus and Syria fall under the hand of Tiglath-Pileser III. The city of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom are conquered just 10 years later.
2 Kings 9:12
Jehu’s hesitation before telling his commanders what has happened is understandable. These men are all servants of King Joram.
By allowing himself to be anointed as king, Jehu commits treason against his king, who has been God’s chosen ruler.
This story parallels the ascension of David to Israel’s throne: both men serve in the king’s army, are anointed in private, and are reluctant to kill the king. Just as David was the fresh start for all of Israel, Jehu is God’s fresh start in the Northern Kingdom.
2 Kings 10:12
Whenever a king dies, there is always some struggle over who should follow him. Even when King David died, his successor was unclear ( 1 Kings 1 ).
Since Jehu is not related to Ahab, he does not have a blood right to the throne; and since Jehu takes it by force, he must keep it by force. The best way to make sure none of Ahab’s family and acquaintances conspire against him is to kill them all.
2 Kings 10:19
Several cultures in the ancient Near East worshiped gods named Baal, which literally means, “lord.” Baal began as a local Canaanite god of thunder and rain long before the Hebrews entered Canaan, but his cult spread to other nations and changed in each of them.
One thousand years later, under Jezebel’s influence, these Israelites are worshiping the Phoenician Baal, whom they consider the highest god and creator of the universe.
2 Kings 11:2
Athaliah acts as many of the other monarchs and kills potential rivals so no one can challenge her ascension to the throne. But one of the royal offspring survives, and this is how it happens:
2 Kings 12:4
The “high places” where the Israelites worship the Lord start out as pagan shrines.
When Solomon builds the temple in Jerusalem, he converts those high places to shrines — honoring both the Eternal of Israel and the foreign deities that are worshiped by his many wives and concubines — so the northern tribes don’t have to travel so far to worship and so the locals can retain some of their heritage.
Unfortunately Solomon’s attempt to grow the worship of God in the north produces odd cults that blend worship of the Lord with worship of other gods at these high places.
No matter how good a king is, if he leaves the high places standing, then he isn’t fully committing his nation to God and there must be repercussions.
2 Kings 12:17
With the exception of a burnt offering, which is totally consumed and dedicated to God, all offerings are shared among the priests.
They keep money that is donated, and they eat parts of the meat and bread offerings as their meals. In spite of the new restrictions, they are allowed to keep the portion given to them in the law.
2 Kings 13:22
This miracle, which is unlike anything else in the Bible, must have happened years after Elisha’s death if nothing is left but his bones. Obviously this demonstrates the amazing power Elisha must have had in life, if simple contact with his remains revives a dead man.
The demonstration of Elisha’s power, however, is not the author’s primary intention as he records this story. This story is an illustration of what’s about to happen in Israel; a renaissance is coming through their king, Joash.
2 Kings 14:26
Several of the prophets whose writings are included in the Old Testament are active at this time. While the writings of Jonah do not relate to these events, many of the other prophets’ works do.
Amos and Hosea are both prophesying to the Northern Kingdom, warning them to return to God or else their nation will be destroyed. Joel, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah are doing the same thing in the Southern Kingdom, while Isaiah and Micah really get around, prophesying to both kingdoms.
2 Kings 15:21
Tiglath-pileser III is one of Assyria’s strongest kings. After seizing the throne during a civil war in 745 B.C., he sets out on a wildly successful campaign, enlarging Assyria’s sphere of influence from the northern part of the Northern Kingdom all the way to Babylon.
As Assyria grows, its army grows because Tiglath-pileser incorporates the conquered people into his army.
He cannot be stopped. He lays the groundwork for his son, Shalmaneser V, who will continue campaigning and actually conquer the Northern Kingdom, deporting Israelites to other parts of the Assyrian Empire.
2 Kings 16:11
Ahaz is enamored with the Syrian altar and its design. He wants to build something just like it for the temple, possibly because the bronze altar at the Jerusalem temple is too small ( 1 Kings 8:64 ).
2 Kings 17:5
The easiest way to make Assyria angry is to attempt an alliance with Egypt. During this time, Assyria and Egypt are the two “world powers,” struggling to expand their borders and continually fighting over Israel and Judah, who are stuck in the middle.
Hoshea’s appeal to Egypt for help is a perfectly logical move. Unfortunately, Egypt does not help, and without military power to back up Hoshea’s bold refusal to pay tribute, the Northern Kingdom is doomed.
2 Kings 18:1
In the New Testament, tension remains between the former “Northern Kingdom” and “Southern Kingdom,” although the names have changed. The Judeans in the south argue that only they maintain God’s law, and that the Samaritans in the north are no longer God’s people.
Of course, the Samaritans believe the opposite. This argument started because of Assyria’s deportation practices. Although the religion of the Lord remained active in the Northern Kingdom after the Assyrian conquest, the importing of people from all over the East caused the religion to be combined with alien, pagan practices.
2 Kings 18:13
The Assyrian King Sennacherib invades Judah at the end of the 8th century. In 701 B.C., he reaches Jerusalem and sets himself against King Hezekiah.
In one of his royal documents are words describing Hezekiah’s situation: “like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem, his royal city, I penned him.” Hezekiah is desperate and consults Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah tells Hezekiah to trust God entirely. The story is phenomenal!
God sends an angelic warrior to the Assyrian camp and 185,000 Assyrians from the royal army are killed. The Greek historian Herodotus also mentions this story and says that multitudes of rats brought a divine omen and disease to the Assyrian camp. The writer of the book of Kings clearly encourages his reader to see this event as God’s hand favoring Judah over Assyria.
2 Kings 20:8
Long before the discovery of penicillin and invention of pharmaceuticals, people understand how to use natural remedies readily available.
A poultice of figs — and a healthy dose of prayer — successfully heal Hezekiah’s sore. Many other plants have similar healing qualities: wild, poisonous gourds are used in small amounts as purgatives; terebinth resin, frankincense, and myrrh are common antiseptics (even though they are more popular as cosmetics); and mandrake fruit is thought to cure female infertility.
While future generations might question the healing properties of plants, they are considered powerful medicines to the people in the ancient Near East.
2 Kings 21:17
According to tradition, one of those innocent people is the prophet Isaiah. Manasseh and Isaiah have a tumultuous relation ship from the start, when Hezekiah invited Isaiah to the court to meet his sons. Isaiah prophesied then that Manasseh would be evil.
After Manasseh becomes king, Isaiah tells him the temple will be destroyed. Infuriated, the king orders Isaiah’s arrest. Isaiah flees into the hills where he hides inside a cedar tree. But Manasseh’s men find him — when they are cutting the tree in half. This legend is attested to by the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews ( 11:37–38 ).
2 Kings 22:9
The discovery of the book of the law which has been forgotten for a long time serves two purposes: it rewards Josiah for the work he’s already done, and it pushes him toward more reforms.
Besides its positive effect on Judah, not much is known about the book of the law, except that it isn’t a book at all. It is probably a scroll with two columns of writing, much like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The exact content is unknown, but it is probable that the book of the law was the foundational text for the compiler of Deuteronomy. Assuming this, the laws from Deuteronomy explain why Josiah destroys any object that could be used in pagan worship.
2 Kings 23:29
The situation has changed for Assyria in the 100 years since the Northern Kingdom was conquered. About 7 years after the Babylonians conquer the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, Neco is actually rushing to the aid of Assyria instead of fighting to destroy her.
The Egyptian and Assyrian plan is to defeat Babylonia; and unfortunately, Josiah is in the way. The death of the good king Josiah and the victory of Babylonia over both Assyria and Egypt doom Judah to becoming part of the Babylonian Empire.
2 Kings 24:15
Like Assyria, Babylonia exiles the people when they conquer any new territory. There is an important difference, however.
When the Assyrians conquered a city, they sent all the people into different parts of their empire and filled that city with foreigners of several other nationalities.
This “shook up” the nations, kept them from retaining their prior identities, and lowered the chance of civil war. The Babylonians, on the other hand, leave some people in Judah and allow those who are exiled to continue practicing their religion.
Because they are able to retain their religious and national identities, the Judeans (now known as “Jews”) will be able to move back into the land and rebuild one day.
2 Kings 25:30
Sitting in a foreign country and getting comfortable with pagan ways isn’t the end of the story for Judah. A remnant will return to re-found Jerusalem and Israel, a story that is told in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
God will lift out of captivity those people who remain faithful to Him in spite of difficult circumstances. For the Northern Kingdom of Israel, their fate is not so clear. When Assyria exiles the northern Israelites all over the empire, those ten tribes are lost.
For centuries people have developed theories as to what happened to them, some more far-fetched than others, but one thing is certain: whatever is left of the proper worship of God when they are captured dies among those people. Without that connection to Him, there is no one to save them.