Kings and Prophets

Many professing Christians boldly proclaim their beliefs about a book that they have not read in its entirety and rarely read with consistency. For example, nearly fifty percent of the Bible is ignored and neglected: the books of Samuel, the Kings, Chronicles, and the Prophets.

Here are two of the several reasons that make it imperative that we read and study these books in their intended context and chronology. Initially, we gain an understanding of God’s sovereignty as being contrary to all power-based kingdoms and governments: His purposes prevail, both then and now. Ultimately, as these books are assimilated by obedient reading, God-honoring worship is embraced.

It is important to respect and to read these books, but it is also vital that we know how to study them intentionally. The following historical framing is helpful:

  1. To be like other kingdoms, Israel asked for a king. God granted their desire, but, for the most part, the result was only a relentless pursuit of failure. God himself was Israel’s king. Israel was united as a nation under Saul, David, and Solomon. This is recorded through Samuel’s writings and into the books of the Kings.
  2. Pride and disobedience among Israel’s tribes and rulers led to dissension, and the tribes divided. Ten tribes, known as Israel, settled in the north with Samaria as its capital. Two tribes, known as Judah, settled in the south; their capital was Jerusalem. Civil war ensued; each group made unwise alliances with surrounding nations and adopted both their deities and their profane lifestyles. Both groups were also attacked from time to time by these same nations.
  3. The two books of Kings continue the political and military history of Israel and Judah. If I Kings is their decline, II Kings is the fall of these monarchies. Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC. They were assimilated among several nations, and we hear little about them until they appear in the New Testament as Samaritans. The majority of the remaining writings are about the southern kingdom of Judah, taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC. After the Persians conquered Babylon seventy years later, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and re-establish worship. This was when Ezra wrote the Chronicles as a sacred history, to affirm the confidence and the identity of the people in God’s covenant relationship. This takes us up to the 400-year time period between the testaments.
  4. Several writing and non-writing prophets are mingled chronologically throughout the period of the kings. While Israel and Judah became increasingly more indifferent and rebellious toward God, it was the prophets who warned of impending captivity and consequence. The prophets may be classified according to their audiences: Israel, Judah, Nineveh and Assyria, Babylon, and Edom. They may also be classified according to chronological periods: pre-exile, exilic, and post-exile; according to the Gentile world powers: Assyrian, Babylon, Persia; or simply by the century in which we find them proclaiming their messages.