Survey of 2 Kings
Book Type: Book of History; the twelfth book of the Old Testament; the twelfth book of the Bible.
Author: The book itself does not name its author and remains anonymous. Jewish tradition states that it was written by the prophet Jeremiah. However, at least some of the book was likely written by someone else. Jeremiah did not travel to Babylon, and the events of the final section (2 Kings 25:27–30) occurred in Babylon in 561 BC.
Audience: First and Second Kings were originally completed as one text, written for the Jewish people who were most likely living in exile when it was first completed. This Scripture emphasizes the history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Second Kings specifically continues the accounts of the kings of the divided kingdom and concludes with the deportations of Israel and Judah. Those living under the judgment of exile could learn much from the judgments upon evil kings and God's blessing upon the kings who served in the tradition of David, called a man after God's own heart.
Date: Unknown. It was clearly written after the final events of 2 Kings and was probably written in Babylon during the exile between approximately 561 and 538 BC.
Overview: This book consists of 25 chapters and includes two main sections. The first section records the ongoing ministries of Elijah and Elisha, leading up to the defeat and exile of the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyria (2 Kings 1—17). It begins with Elijah denouncing King Ahaziah and predicting his death (2 Kings 1). Elijah is taken to heaven in chapter 2, with Elisha receiving a "double portion" of his spirit.
The text then transitions to Elisha's efforts, through 2 Kings 9:13. Starting in 2 Kings 9:14, the overthrow of Baal worship is developed. This change begins in Israel (2 Kings 9:14—10:36) and then extends to Judah (2 Kings 11—12). Elisha's death takes place in chapter 13. This is followed by ongoing lists of kings from Israel and Judah. Chapters 16—17 chronicle the defeat and exile of Israel by Assyria.
The second main section (2 Kings 18—25) focuses on the kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah's godly reign leads to positive reforms in the kingdom (2 Kings 18—20). His reign is followed by two ungodly kings named Manasseh and Amon (2 Kings 21). Young King Josiah provides a righteous reign that includes rediscovery of the law of the Lord (2 Kings 22—23). However, his reign is soon followed by the defeat and exile of Judah by Babylon (2 Kings 24—25).
Though 2 Kings is marked by evil and its consequences, it ends on a positive note. Second Kings 25:22–30 concludes the text with mercy upon the king of Judah and hope of a future for the people of Israel.
Key Verses (ESV):
2 Kings 8:19: "Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever."
2 Kings 17:7–8: "And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced."
2 Kings 22:1–2: "Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left."
2 Kings 24:2: "And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets."