1 & 2 Kings Part Two Deep Dive
LESSONS FROM HISTORY | NATHAN ROSS
As you read through the Book of 1 and 2 Kings, you’ll recognize its genre as historical narrative. That is, these books tell the story of the people of Israel as events occurred in this time. You will notice an extensive amount of dates, names, places etc. But while you are traversing through these historical accounts, we need to remind ourselves that the author was writing to record the history of his people, yes, but more importantly, he wrote to record the lessons of history. This week’s deep dive aims to firstly assist you as a reader to navigate these books that are often considered complex. Secondly, we hope to help you to recognize how and why such accounts are important to us today – even though we are set 2,500+ years later.
One Volume, Two Narratives
A common fact which is often overlooked is that 1 and 2 Kings were originally the one book, written by the same author. Just as with 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Kings were written as one historical account, but was separated into two books in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). This artificial separation is thought to have occurred for convenience, due to the amount of papyrus (writing paper) that could fit on an ancient scroll. Now, this does make the historical account quite lengthy, so we don’t expect you to read it in one sitting! Just keep this fact in mind as you cross over between the two books.
In navigating 1 and 2 Kings, it’s important to recognize the two narratives that are occurring side by side. In 1 Kings 12, we see a major turning point in the history of Israel. Due to conflict within the people, the kingdom was divided into two: the Southern Kingdom (known as Judah) and the North Kingdom (known as Israel). The author of 1 and 2 Kings attempts to provide a unified history of all the Israelites by jumping between each kingdom. Theological editor Dr. Joseph R. Nally Jr. from Third Millenium Ministries provides us with the following table that effectively explores how 1 and 2 Kings jumps between the people of Israel and Judah. We believe it’s a very helpful tool to have on hand during your own trashing session.
How do we relate?
Now, let’s explore how these historical accounts are applicable to us. An integral fact that we should never forget is that this is the history of the Israelites – the People of God. Just as 1 Kings 8:53 explains, ‘For you [God] singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance’. This idea of the people of God is no longer a foreign idea, but as those who have accepted Christ, we have been integrated into His family, and thereby into the People of God. So, this historical recount is no longer just some narrative but rather it is our history, it is our people that we can look back on and gain insight into.
Now that we associate with those spoken of in 1 and 2 Kings, there is much for us to learn. The famous quote from 20th century philosopher George Santayana goes, ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ – just as Rehoboam acted foolishly, which lead to a whole nation splitting, or just as Solomon, in his older years, lost sight of the Lord. Or as the People of God forgot who had set them free long ago, and instead tried to lead themselves, resulting in both the Northern and Southern kingdoms being overcome, giving us the final picture in 2 Kings 25 of the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. We are not to read 1 and 2 Kings merely as a historical account, but as a recollection of our people and as a teaching manual from which we can learn. We hope you can take these tips and reminders and use them to trash your way through these amazing books.
Figure 1: Nally Jnr., J. D.D, M. Div. (2018). Overview of the Book of 2 Kings. Retrieved from http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/41777