Those who are reading through the Bible in a year will soon find themselves in the books of Kings. These are a continuation of the historical narrative of Israel which began in the books of Samuel. The four-hundred-year period covered in these two books deals with the history of Israel’s monarchy, from the end of King David’s life to its final destruction.
A rough, broad-brush outline of the two books is as follows: 1 Kings 1-12 deals mainly with the story of Solomon. 1 Kings 12 to 2 Kings 25 deals with the divided kingdom (both Judah, the southern kingdom, and Israel, the northern kingdom).
-Samuel the prophet lived roughly from 1100-1015.
-Saul reigned roughly from 1050-1010.
-David reigned roughly from 1010-970.
-Solomon his son reigned roughly from 970-930.
-Rehoboam his son reigned briefly and then the division into north and south occurred around 930.
-The fall of Samaria, capital of Israel (the northern kingdom) to the Assyrians (2 Kings 17) occurred in 722.
-The first siege of Jerusalem, capital of Judah (the southern kingdom) by the Babylonians occurred in 597.
-The final destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews to Babylon occurred in 587/6.
Plenty of kings (as well as prophets, priests, foreign kings, etc) appear here. Trying to keep track of all of them can be a taxing job. Earlier I penned a piece trying to make things a bit more clear. I encourage you to take a look at that article to get the bigger picture on what can be a rather confusing historical period: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/25/getting-grasp-old-testament-kings-prophets/
The period of the divided kingdom is very much an up and down sort of history, with good kings, bad kings and indifferent kings. The books of Kings cover all of these rulers. All the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom, are evil. The books of Chronicles cover only the rulers of Judah, the southern kingdom.
A more detailed breakdown of this is as follows:
-There were 19 kings (18 kings and 1 queen) in the north (Israel), all of whom were bad.
-There were 20 kings in the south (Judah) of which only around 8 were good kings.
One of several difficult passages is found in 1 Kings 22, and it has to do with the issue of deceiving spirits. I discuss that in some detail here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/23/difficult-bible-passages-1-kings-2221-24/
As for Christian application, David Pawson offers this summary statement:
The book of Kings has a vital message for the world. God is Lord over all, and his people must learn the message of this book if they are not to mirror the decline recorded there, the disintegration of the people of Israel who ceased to listen to God and follow his laws. We can, however, be encouraged by God’s power and ability to deal with his people in ways that are both just and merciful. No one can thwart his plans. His Kingdom will outlast the years, and the book of Kings (or kingdoms) gives Christians a longing for the day when Jesus will be seen by all as the final King.
There are memorable characters found in these books, including good ones like Solomon and Elijah. Not so good characters include Adonijah and Ahab. Memorable stories, episodes and individuals are also found here, including some well-known passages such as the following:
1 Kings 22:14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”
2 Kings 6:15-17 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
2 Kings 21:9-11 But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. The Lord said through his servants the prophets: “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols.
2 Kings 22:19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.
2 Kings 23:25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did–with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.
Commentaries on 1-2 Kings
As usual, these are for the most part academic and critical commentaries, mainly from an evangelical and/or conservative point of view:
DeVries, Simon, 1 Kings (WBC, 1985)
Dilday, Russell, 1,2 Kings (MTOT, 1987)
Hobbs, T. R., 2 Kings (WBC, 1985)
House, Paul, 1,2 Kings (NAC, 1995)
Konkel, August, 1,2 Kings (NIVAC, 2006)
Leithart, Peter, 1&2 Kings (BTCB, 2006)
Olley, John, The Message of Kings (BST, 2011)
Patterson, Richard and Hermann Austel, 1,2 Kings (EBC, 2009)
Provan, Iain, 1,2 Kings (NIBC, 1995)
Wiseman, D. J., 1,2 Kings (TOTC, 1993)
Wray Beal, Lissa, 1&2 Kings (AOTC, 2014)
Useful devotional and expository commentaries would include these:
Davis, Dale Ralph, 1 Kings (Christian Focus, 2002)
Davis, Dale Ralph, 2 Kings Christian Focus, 2005)
Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Kings (P&R, 2011)
Wiersbe, Warren, Be Responsible (1 Kings). (Cook, 2002)
Wiersbe, Warren, Be Distinct (2 Kings & 2 Chronicles). (Cook, 2002)