Second Kings: Turn From Your Evil Ways

second kings

In the book of Second Kings, we read of evil rulers, rampant idolatry, and a complacent populace – certainly pulling downward. Despite the pressure to conform, to turn from the Lord and to serve only self, a minority of chosen people moved the opposite direction, toward God. The Bethel prophets and others, as well as two righteous kings, spoke God’s word and stood for him. As you read Second Kings, watch these courageous individuals. Catch the strength and force of Elijah and Elisha and then the commitment of Hezekiah and Josiah, and determine to be one who swims against the current. 

Second Kings continues the history of Israel, halfway between the death of David and the death of the nation. Israel had been divided, and the two kingdoms had begun to slide into idolatry and corruption toward collapse and captivity. Second Kings relates the sordid stories of the 12 kings of the northern kingdom (called Israel) and the 16 kings of the southern kingdom (called Judah). For 130 years, Israel endures the succession of evil rulers until they were conquered by Shalmaneser of Assyria and led into captivity in 722 B. C. Of all the kings in both the north and south, only two – Hezekiah and Josiah – were called good. Because of their obedience to God and the spiritual revivals during their reigns, Judah stood for an additional 136 years until falling to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B. C.

Although Israel had the witness and power of Elijah, the nation turned from God and was exiled to Assyria. Assyria filled the northern kingdom with people from other lands. There has been no return from this captivity – it was permanent. Such is the end of all who shut God out of their lives. 

The northern kingdom was destroyed, and prophets were predicting the same fate for Judah. What more could cause the nation to repent? Hezekiah and Josiah were able to stem the tide of evil. They both repaired the temple and gathered the people for the Passover. Josiah eradicated idolatry from the land, but as soon as these goods kings were gone, the people returned again to living their own way instead of God’s way. Each individual must believe and live for God in his or her family, church, and nation.


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Writer of Second Kings

The most probable position is that the prophet Jeremiah was the author of First Kings and Second Kings. Early Jewish tradition of the Talmud states that Jeremiah wrote Kings. This famous prophet preached in Jerusalem before and after its fall, and chapters 24 and 25 appear in Jeremiah 39-42; 53. The contents of all but the last appendix 25:27-30 could have been written by Jeremiah, and the final verses added by one of Jeremiah’s disciples.

Purpose

Contemplating the horror of the exile of God’s people, the author compiles 1 and 2 Kings to answer the looming question of why both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah had been taken captive. He writes with a prophetic message, showing that this punishment by captivity to foreign pagan nations was the inevitable consequence of the persistent violation of God’s covenant with them. Kings was written to cause the exiles to reflect on their history and return to the Lord. Perhaps this prophetic perspective is one reason why it was included in the “earlier prophets” in the Hebrew Bible.

Historical Setting for Second Kings

The four centuries covered by First Kings and Second Kings were times of change and political upheaval in the ancient work as the balance of power shifted. The Assyrian threat was particularly strong during the last 50 years of the northern kingdom. Under Tiglath-Pileser III, this conquering nation launched three devastating campaigns against Israel in 734, 733, and 732 B.C. The nation fell to Assyrian forces 10 years later in 722 B.C.

While Syria and Assyria were threats to Judah at various times, their worst enemy turned out to be the nation of Babylon. The Babylonians took captives and goods from Jerusalem in three campaigns – in 605 and 597 B.C. and in a two-year siege beginning in 588 B.C. in which Jerusalem finally fell in 587 B.C. The Temple was destroyed and thousands of Judah’s leading citizens were carried into captivity in Babylon.

Theological Contributions

The books of First and Second Kings present an interesting contrast between King David of Judah and King Jeroboam I, the first kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam established a legacy of idol worship by mixing false religion with worship of the one true God, and each succeeding king if Israel was measured against the standard of Jeroboams idolatry. But King David was used as a standard of righteousness and justice.

Special Consideration for Second Kings

The books of First and Second Kings describe several miracles wrought by God through the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In addition to proving God’s power, these miracles are also direct attacks on the pagan worship practices of the followers of Baal. Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, for example, was a test of the power of Baal. Baal was silent, but God responded as Elijah had predicted.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the key message of 2nd Kings? The key message of 2nd Kings is the importance of faithfulness to God’s covenant, the consequences of idolatry and disobedience, and the faithfulness of God in both judgment and deliverance.

Who are the main characters in 2nd Kings? Some of the prominent characters in 2nd Kings include the prophet Elisha, the kings of Israel and Judah, and individuals like Naaman, Gehazi, and the Shunammite woman, whose stories illustrate various aspects of faith and obedience.

What are some notable miracles in 2nd Kings? 2nd Kings records several remarkable miracles, including the healing of Naaman’s leprosy, the multiplication of oil for the widow, and the raising of a dead man through Elisha’s intercession.

How does 2nd Kings relate to 1st Kings and other historical books? 2nd Kings is a continuation of the historical narrative from 1st Kings, chronicling the history of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. It’s closely connected to other historical books like 1st and 2nd Chronicles.

What lessons can we draw from 2nd Kings for our faith and life today? 2nd Kings teaches us the enduring importance of faithfulness to God’s commands, the consequences of straying from His path, and the hope found in God’s faithfulness, even in the face of human failure. It encourages us to trust in God’s promises and live obediently.

Recommended Reading

First and Second Kings” by Iain W. Provan – This commentary offers a detailed and insightful analysis of the books of 1st and 2nd Kings, providing historical context and theological insights.

The MacArthur Bible Commentary” by Dillard and John F. MacArthur – Offers pastors, Bible teachers, serious Bible readers, and anyone seeking to read and understand the Scriptures a way to focus their studies while still seeing the entire Bible’s application to the Christian life.

The Tony Evans Bible Commentary: Advancing God’s Kingdom Agenda” by Tony Evans – features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB). The CSB stays as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity, making it easier to engage with Scripture’s life-changing message and to share it with others.

King James Version Bible Commentary – The King James Version Bible Commentary is a complete verse-by-verse commentary–comprehensive in scope, reliable in scholarship, and easy to use.

First and Second Kings (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)” by Richard D. Nelson – This commentary series is well-regarded for its focus on teaching and preaching, making it a useful resource for Bible teachers.


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