1-2 Kings continues the story from 1-2 Samuel, having originally been four parts of a single book (Of The Kingdoms). As usual, there is considerable debate about the authorship of the two books. Tradition gives it to the prophet Jeremiah, with the rationale that it would explain his absence from the narrative. It’s possible, since he lived during the reigns of Josiah and the remaining kings of Judah (according to my New Bible Commentary), though the narrative here follows on into exile in Babylon while, by the account in the Book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah went into Egypt instead.

According to Kenneth C. Davis, there were at least two authors – one writing just before the death of King Josiah (in 609 BCE), and the second writing somewhere between 561 BCE (the date of the last recorded historical event) and 539 BCE (the date of the conquest of Babylon by the Persians, which is not mentioned in the text). (Don’t Know Much About the Bible, p.187)

Whoever the author(s) were, they name several of their sources: The Book of the Acts of SolomonThe Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, and The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. These were likely part of the official court archives, and all have been lost.

The Formula

We’ve seen examples of Deutoronomic formula before, such as its use in Judges. According to my study Bible, where 1-2 Samuel relied on two main sources and saw only patches of Deuteronomist editing, 1-2 Kings will be more like the Book of Judges, where “various sources are collected and inserted into a Deuteronomic “framework”” (p.413).

For the kings of Israel, Collins describes the formula as: “In the x year of PN [proper name], king of Judah, PN the son of PN began to reign over all Israel in Samaria, and reigned for x years. He did what was evil in the eyes of YHWH.” For the kings of Judah, the formula is the same, but with the addition of the king’s age at accession and the name of the queen mother. For the end of reigns, the formula is: “Now the rest of the deeds of PN, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? And PN slept with his fathers, and his son reigned in his stead” (A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, p.131-132).

Contents

My New Bible Commentary gives us the following outline:

  • The last days of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-2:46)
  • The reign of Solomon (1 Kings 3:1-11:43)
  • The division of the kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-14:31)
  • The wars between Israel and Judah (1 Kings 15:1-16:28)
  • Ahab and Elijah (1 Kings 16:29 – 2 Kings 1:18)
  • The Elisha Cycle (2 Kings 2:1-10:36)
  • From Jehu’s revolt to the fall of the northern kingdom (2 Kings 11:1-17:41)
  • Judah and the Assyrian Empire (2 Kings 18:1-21:26)
  • The reforms of Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-23:20)
  • The last days of Judah (2 Kings 23:31-25:30)