Introduction
This book continues the history begun in The First Book of Kings. The first section of 2 Kings reports the final days of the influential prophet Elijah and his “translation” into the heavens in a chariot of fire and whirlwind (2.11). The narrative continues with the exploits of his successor, the prophet Elisha, and then moves on to a series of summary accounts of the kings of Judah and Israel up to the conquest of Samaria, the northern capital, by Assyria in 722 b.c. (17.5-41), and the exile of all its leaders into distant Assyria. With the demise of Israel, its territory became an Assyrian province and Judah in the south was left as the only independent Israelite nation. Judah could have suffered the same fate, but survived an Assyrian siege in 701 b.c. because the Assyrian king Sennacherib suddenly had to return to Nineveh to suppress a palace coup by his sons (as is known from the Assyrian Royal Annals). The book concludes with a summary account of the history of Judah and its kings from 722 to 586 b.c., when Jerusalem was sacked by the new world power, King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian armies, who only two decades earlier had completely overthrown the Assyrian Empire.
In the process of presenting this long history and all the summary accounts of the southern and northern kings, the most striking characteristic of 1 and 2 Kings is the way each king is evaluated by the criterion of how well he measured up to the standard set by King David. Given that David's sin (1 Sam 11) precipitated discord within his family and the decline of the monarchy in Israel, it is both ironic and telling that later generations continued to hold him in high regard. Although most of the kings in 2 Kings are negatively evaluated, two of Judah's kings do receive glowing reports—Hezekiah and Josiah. Throughout both 1 and 2 Kings there are references to written records and royal annals that interested readers were directed to consult for further details. Unfortunately, these records have not survived into the modern era. The final chapter of 2 Kings reports the details of Jerusalem's fall, including the shocking destruction of the temple and the deportation of Jerusalem's remaining leadership into Babylonia.
Outline
The Prophet Elisha (1.1—8.15)
The Kings of Judah and Israel (8.16—17.4)
The Conquest of Samaria, Israel's Capital (17.5-41)
The Kingdom of Judah from Hezekiah to Josiah (18.1—21.26)
The Reign of Josiah (22.1—23.30)
The Last Kings of Judah (23.31—24.20)
The Conquest of Jerusalem (25.1-30)
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