2 Kings: The Divided Kingdom

24390b0d4b3906667b0c6bf69a075a88The book of Kings represents a selective history of Israel from the closing days of King David’s reign until the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. After the forty-year reign of Solomon, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the Northern and the Southern. The book of Kings examines 19 rulers in the North, determining all of them to be evil because of the golden calf cult. Only eight of the rulers of Judah in the south were considered “good”. These rulers followed the example of David and obeyed Yahweh.

The major theological highpoint of 2 Kings is the fact that both roads taken by both nations ultimately led to exile. After the death of Solomon, the monarchy split into the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Both of these nations failed to meet the stipulations of the Davidic covenant. The narrative focuses on the figures primarily responsible for covenant keeping in Israel – the kings and the prophets. Each kingdom adhered to a different definition of kingship. In the south, Judah practiced “dynastic succession”. Whenever a monarch passed away, the throne was inherited by the eldest son, which ultimately established a sequence of kings from the same ruling family. In the North, however, Israel combined the dynastic succession model of kingship with the charismatic leadership model typical of the era of the Hebrew judges. Ultimately, the Israelites rejected Yahweh as their leader and put their faith in human rulers.

502976356_640Second Kings 17 gives a theological recount of the situation in the Northern Kingdom. Verses 35-39 reiterate the fact that the Israelites should not worship any other gods, keep the commands of Yahweh, and do not forget the covenants that Yahweh has made. However, “they would not listen, but perished in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols” (2 King 17:40-41).  In 2 Kings 18, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Hezekiah was able to bring about reform in the Kingdom.

Hezekiah, the king of Judah, sent a message to Lachish, the king of Assyria. This event reminds the reader of the account of David and Goliath. Hezekiah petitioned the Lord, and his response lined up with the divine agenda. Isaiah, in 2 Kings 19:6 said, “This is what the Lord says; Do not be afraid of what you have heard… Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.” Yahweh ensures that this prophecy is fulfilled. By relying on the Lord, and leaning not on his own understanding, Hezekiah was able to bring about reform in the kingdom despite political trouble. After the reign of king Josiah, Babylon began a siege of Jerusalem, deporting the Israelites from their homeland. In 605, the Babylonians took the brightest minds among the Israelites. In 597, Ezekiel left the kingdom. According to 2 Kings 25, Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Babylonians in 587 BC..

c3df558a01d61b918a47a442694a037eA modern reader of 2 Kings should realize that when one tries to control their own life, their path will lead to destruction. Both the Kingdom’s of Israel and Judah rejected the supremacy of Yahweh, choosing for them a human king, and practicing theological syncretism. In the Age of Grace, Jesus Christ has provided Christians with the one true way to eternal life. The book of 2 Kings focuses on the leaders of the nation, because they were responsible for keeping the covenant. Likewise, we are responsible for hearing and repenting from our old ways. Christians choose to die to themselves daily so that they may follow the Lord. Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Thus, one must follow the ways of the Lord in all that they do, relying on Yahweh to lead them on the path that leads to the narrow gate.

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