The books contain accounts of the kings of the ancient Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. They contain the annals of the Jewish commonwealth from the accession of Solomon until the subjugation of the kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (apparently a period of about four hundred and fifty-three years). The Books of Kings synchronize with 1 Chronicles 28 – 2 Chronicles 36:21. While in the Chronicles greater prominence is given to the priestly or Levitical office, in the Kings greater prominence is given to the royal and prophetic offices. Kings appears to have been written considerably earlier than Chronicles and as such is generally considered a more reliable historical source.
After having cemented an alliance with Egypt by marrying the daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon goes to Gibeon, to make sacrifices, since it was the most prominent of the high places at the time. Once Solomon has made the sacrifices, in a dream God appears to Solomon and grants him a wish, so Solomon asks for wisdom. Since Solomon asks wisely rather than asking for riches, his wish for wisdom is granted, and Solomon surpassed the Egyptians and Cedemites in wisdom, his fame spreading among the neighbouring nations. Solomon also uttered thousands of songs and proverbs.
Two prostitutes come to Solomon and ask him to settle an argument between them as to who is the mother of a particular baby. Solomon asks for a sword to cut the baby in half to be split between the two women. When the first prostitute tells him to give the baby to the other rather than kill it she proves herself to be the mother with her love for the child. Solomon gives her the baby.
The elders of Israel and the Israelite princes come to Solomon for the moving of Ark of the Covenant from Zion. While the priests move the ark, a sacrifice is made which is so substantial that it cannot be counted. Finally, when the ark arrives in the Temple and the priests that had been carrying it return outside, a dark cloud fills the temple, which Solomon says is where Yahweh intends to dwell forever. Solomon then extracts a promise from Yahweh to uphold the Davidic covenant and to return to the aid of the people if they sin but later repent.
After twenty years of giving Solomon the supplies that he wished for, Hiram is given twenty cities in Galilee by Solomon, which became known as Cabul.
Solomon uses slave labour to build several cities for storing supplies. Amongst these is Gezer, which had previously existed but was burnt to the ground by Pharaoh, who returned it to Solomon's ownership as a dowry. For this building program, Solomon enslaves every Canaanite still living in the land. Solomon also builds Millo as soon as Pharaoh's daughter moves from Zion to her newly built palace.
1 Kings 6:1 specifies that the temple of Solomon began in the four hundred and eightieth year from the departure of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. The specification of four hundred and eightieth year has been shown to be in error by 170 to 450 years.
Solomon's empire stretched all the way from the Euphrates River to Egypt (though how it got this large is not explained), and the many vassal states paid him tribute. He also has extravagant banquets every day, and he owned thousands of horses. Solomon builds a fleet in Ezion-geber, near Elath, and Hiram staffs him with seamen, who collect a large amount of gold from Ophir and bring it to Solomon. Solomon uses the gold to make goblets and utensils and so forth, even creating a throne made from ivory and inlaid with gold. Hiram's fleet brings further expensive materials from Ophir besides the gold, such as ivory, silver (which, according to the text, at the time was worthless), and monkeys. In addition to the gold from Hiram's fleet, from merchants, and from the Arab kings, all the visitors to Solomon's court bring with them expensive tributes, hence Solomon grew richer than anyone else on earth.
Apart from his Egyptian wife, Solomon also had over 700 wives and 300 concubines from nations that the Mizvot forbid intermarriage with. The wives make Solomon polytheistic, worshipping the gods of his wives, such as Astarte, Milcom, and Chemosh, even building high places to them opposite Jerusalem. So Yahweh promises Solomon that a part of the kingdom will be removed and given to another during the reign of Solomon's descendants.
When Solomon dies, his son Rehoboam goes to Shechem to be acclaimed king by the leaders of the northern tribes. They appeal to Rehoboam to have their servitude lightened, and so he seeks the advice first of the elders and then of the youths. The elders suggest agreeing with the people's wishes, but Rehoboam decides to go with the advice of the youths, namely to enforce even heavier servitude. This results in rebellion, and when Rehoboam sends out Adoram, the man in charge of forced labour, the people stone Adoram to death. Rehoboam is forced to flee to Jerusalem because only Judah remains loyal to him, and there he plans an attack using the army of Benjamin and Judah against the forces of Israel. However, a man of God, named Shemaiah, is told by God to tell Rehoboam not to fight, and when Rehoboam is told this, he complies. Later in his reign, Shishak, the Pharaoh, attacks, looting the temple and palace, leaving Rehoboam compelled to use bronze to replace the golden shields of Solomon that Shishak had taken.
After Rehoboam dies, Abijah (named as Abijam in Kings but Abijah in Chronicles), his son, succeeds him as king of Judah. Abijam appears to be the grandson (or otherwise a descendant) of Absalom by his mother's side. Abijam continues the war against Jeroboam to conquer Israel. A fuller account of the war is given in Chronicles.
Abijah's son, Asa, succeeds him as king of Judah, and he quickly deposes Maacah, his grandmother, from having any authority, because she supports the Canaanite religious practices. Asa also burns his grandmother's asherah. During Asa's reign there is a perpetual war between him and King Baasha of Israel, who had support from Ben-hadad, king of Aram. Asa buys Ben-hadad's loyalty by sending him what remained of the treasures of the temple and his palace, so Ben-hadad changes sides and attacks several cities in the regions of the tribes of Dan and Naphtali. Baasha retreats to his capital rather than continue fortifying Raamah, so Asa dismantles the fortifications and uses them to build Geba.
Jehosaphat succeeds his father, Asa, as king of Judah. Although Jehoshaphat worships Yahweh, he permits the high places to continue existing. Like Solomon, Jehoshaphat sends ships to Ophir for gold, but this time they are wrecked at Ezion-gezer.
When Jeroboam died, his son, Nadab, took over as king of Israel. However, Baasha, the son of Ahijah, plots against Nadab. Becoming king in Nadab's stead, Baasha then slaughters all the remaining relatives of Jeroboam.
After the death of Baasa, he is succeeded by his son, Elah. However, one of his leading commanders, Zimri, plots against him, and while Elah is getting drunk, Zimri strikes him dead. Zimri then slaughters all the remaining relatives of Baasa and takes over the throne of Israel. The army, however, proclaim Omri, their general, as the king and lay siege to Tirzah, where Zimri is located. Zimri decides to burn his palace to the ground, killing himself. Subsequently, only half of Israel support Omri, the other half support a man named Tibni. The civil war ends with Omri and his supporters as victor. Omri later constructs a new capital at Samaria and moves there. Despite the many monumental achievements and constructions that are archaeologically attributed to the period normally identified for his reign, the Book of Kings neglects to mention any of these, preferring to portray Omri as an insignificant heretic that happened to become king.
After the death of Omri, his son, Ahab, becomes the king. Ahab marries Jezebel and worships Hadad (often referred to by the epithet Ba'al — meaning lord), building a totem and temple to his worship. Jezebel slaughters the prophets of Yahweh, though some are rescued by Obadiah, Ahab's vizier. Meanwhile, the famine grows bitter, and Elijah is sent by God to Ahab, with Obadiah joining him on his way. When Elijah and Ahab meet, they trade insults, with Elijah calling Ahab a sinner because of his religious practices, and Ahab calling Elijah the disturber of Israel. Elijah then challenges Hadad worship, demanding all of Israel to attend at Mount Carmel. At Carmel, Elijah announces he will sacrifice a bull to Yahweh, and he expects that the worshippers of Hadad will sacrifice a bull to Hadad, stating that the real god will respond. When there is no response from the sacrifice to Baal, which Elijah mercilessly mocks, he rebuilds the older altar to Yahweh, makes the sacrifice, and a fire appears from heaven and consumes it. The people convert from worship of Hadad to that of Yahweh en-masse, and Elijah has the throats of the prophets of Hadad slit at a river. A storm subsequently gathers, and Elijah and Ahab race to Jezreel, Elijah on foot and Ahab in a chariot.
After Ahab tells Jezebel what has happened, she seeks revenge against Elijah, who flees Beer-sheba and goes into the desert. Elijah prays for death but is ordered by an angel to eat and drink, so he walks for 40 days and nights to Horeb. On the mountain, there are a series of phenomena (that could be a dramatic description of a volcano), and then a faint whisper asking Elijah why he is present. After Elijah explains, he is ordered to go to anoint Hazael as the next king of Aram (Elisha does this as well), Jehu as king of Israel (Elisha does this as well), and Elisha as his own successor, and to demand that they slaughter everyone except those who devoutly worship Yahweh. Elisha, a plowman, readily follows Elijah, even killing his oxen and burning them as a sacrifice, having broken up his plowing equipment to use as fuel.
A vineyard by the palace of Ahab is owned by a man named Naboth, but Ahab tries to buy it for a reasonable price and exchange of land, so that he can turn it into a vegetable garden. Naboth, however, refuses to give up his ancestral land, which angers Ahab and causes Jezebel to arranges for Naboth to be falsely accused of blasphemy and treason. Naboth is stoned to death. Once Naboth has been killed, Jezebel tells Ahab, and he sets off for Naboth's vineyard but meets Elijah there. Elijah prophecies that Ahab's dynasty will be eaten by dogs and by the birds. Ahab then tears his clothes, so Elijah is told by Yahweh that Ahab's penitance has bought him time.
After a period of peace between Aram and Israel, Jehoshaphat of Judah approaches Ahab and enters a pact to help take back Ramoth-gilead from Aram. Jehoshaphat asks for consultation with a prophet that is not one of the yes-men, the only one meeting this requirement being Micaiah (son of Imlah), who Ahab hates. Zedekiah (son of Chenaanah) makes horns of iron to kill the king of Aram with. Despite the other prophets predicting success, Micaiah predicts total failure, so Zedekiah slaps him. The king of Israel orders Micaiah to be seized and put in prison until the king returns from the war and then disguises himself to enter the battle. Conversely, the king of Aram orders his men to only attack the king of Israel, and though some mistake Jehoshaphat for the king, his battle cry makes them realise he is not. A randomly fired arrow hits the disguised king of Israel, and he eventually dies from blood loss as the battle rages around him. The king's body is washed at the pool of Samaria, and the blood on his chariot is licked up by the dogs, fulfilling Elijah's prophecy about Ahab.
Ahaziah, Ahab's son, succeeds him as King of Israel. Ahaziah falls through the lattice of his roof terrace, and so sends messengers to ask the god Hadad if he would recover from the injury. Elijah is sent by an angel to intercept the messengers and to tell them that Ahaziah is doomed. After hearing the message from Elijah, Ahaziah sends men to ask Elijah to visit him. Elijah then prophecies that the men will be killed by divine fire, and this duly occurs. Ahaziah again sends men to Elijah, and again Elijah prophecies, and the men are immediately killed by divine fire. The third time men are sent, their leader begs Elijah to listen, and an angel tells Elijah to go with them. He tells Ahaziah that he will die, which comes true.
As Elisha and Elijah are on their way to Gilgal, Elijah tells Elisha to remain, but Elisha insists on going with him. On reaching Bethel, the prophets there tell Elisha that God is to take Elijah on that day, but Elisha insists he already knows. Elijah tells Elisha to remain, but Elisha again insists on going with him. They go to Jericho, where the same events occur. At the Jordan River, Elijah rolls up his mantle and touches the waters, which duly part, and the two cross on dry land. A flaming chariot and horses then come to distract(test*) Elisha from witnessing the whirlwind collect Elijah and take him to heaven. Elisha undeterred, then picks up Elijah's mantle, which had fallen, strikes the waters of the Jordan, which part, and then crosses back over. (*test his focus and prove his worthiness of his request to have a double portion of Elijah's spirit, thus revealing to others that he was continuing Elijah's work as a prophet)
Because Ahaziah (king of Israel) is childless, upon his death, his brother Jehoram succeeds him as king of Israel. Moab stops sending tribute to Israel once Jehoram takes over and raises its army against Israel. Jehoram responds by making a pact with Judah, and the combined forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom (a vassal of Judah), set out to attack Moab. However, the water supply dries up, and they consult Elisha for help. Elisha reluctantly agrees to assist them and prophecies water and victory. Vast quantities of water then come from the direction of Edom, filling the wells and covering the ground. From a distance, the Moabites, mistaking the water for blood, think that Israel, Judah, and Edom have attacked each other, so the Moabites seek out the spoils. When the Moabites reach the camp of Israel, the Israelites launch a surprise attack, vanquish the Moabites, and cast stones on their fields and block their springs. The Moabites are entrapped in a city, so the king, having failed to escape to get reinforcements, sacrifices his son to Chemosh. The sacrifice results in Israel being defeated. Jehoram later joins Ahaziah in battle against Aram, but while recovering from the wounds inflicted in the battle he is killed in a conspiracy, in which Ahaziah is also killed.
When Elisha visits Shunem, an influential woman asks him to dine with her, and consequently he dined with her each time he was in Shunem. The woman decides to prepare a room for him so that he can stay overnight, and so Elisha asks his servant how he can repay the woman. The servant tells Elisha that the woman is childless and her husband is old, so Elisha tells the woman that she will become pregnant, which comes true. Years later, while reaping the fields, the child, a boy, complains that his head hurts, and then abruptly dies. The mother sets off to find Elisha to tell him, and when Elisha is informed, he sends his servant to put the staff of Elisha on top of the boy. The boy remains dead, so Elisha goes to the boy and twice lies on top of him, placing his hands in the boy's hands and his lips on the boy's lips, and the boy's body becomes warm. The third time he lies on the boy, the boy sneezes and awakens. Elisha later warns the woman, who has become a widow, of an approaching seven-year famine, so she leaves the land. After the famine is over, the woman returns and happens to pass the king at exactly the same moment that Elisha's servant is telling the king about the resurrection of the woman's son. The king consequently assigns an official to her and orders that the woman's land be restored to her.
Naaman, commander of Aram's forces, captures a girl from Israel during one of his campaigns. The girl tells Naaman, who suffers from leprosy, that Elisha can heal him. Elisha orders Naaman to wash in the Jordan sevenfold, which angers Naaman, since there were closer rivers, but he is persuaded to wash in the Jordan anyway and is cured. Naaman asks Elisha how he can be repaid, but all Elisha will accept is dedication to Yahweh alone, which Naaman agrees to.
Ben-hadad, king of Aram, lays siege to Samaria, (with an army, not raiding parties). The siege causes hyperinflation and a famine that is so severe that some people have started eating other people's children. The (unnamed) king of Israel blames Yahweh for the tragedy and refuses to trust Yahweh anymore, but Elisha prophecies that the famine will end and the inflation reverse. Four lepers realise that staying neutral or entering the famished Israelite city is a no-win situation for them, so they decide to go to the king of Aram, since there is at least a chance of survival. The lepers discover that the Aramaeans had fled, (having mistaken some sounds for a large army and fearing that Israel had hired Hittite and borderland mercenaries). After helping themselves to the food and treasure, the lepers decide to tell the people of Samaria that the Aramaeans have gone. Although the king of Israel does not believe them, his servants check for themselves, and when it becomes known to the rest of the population, the Aramaean camp is plundered, ending the famine.
Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, succeeds him as king of Judah. Jehoram makes a pact with Israel, marrying into their royal family, though this results in him following their religious practices rather than the more Yahwistic ones of his own father. Edom, previously on Judah's side, revolts, and so Jehoram battles them but is surrounded. Jehoram manages to escape, but his army flees and Edom gains its independence. The town of Libnah also revolts against Jehoram.
When Jehoram (king of Judah) dies, his son, named as "Ahaziah" in Kings and as Jehoahaz in Chronicles (both names are equivalent; they are the same theophory as suffix and prefix respectively), rules over Judah in his place. Because of their family connection, Ahaziah supports Jehoram (king of Israel) at the battle of Ramoth-Gilead against Hazael and later visits Jehoram while he is convalescing from his battle wounds. While visiting the convalescent, the forces of Jehu attack him, and he flees but is fatally wounded and dies at Megiddo.
During Jehu's reign, Hazael conquers Gilead. After Jehu dies, his son Jehoahaz becomes the new king of the much reduced Israel. Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, on discovering the death of her son, sets out to kill the entire remaining royal family and take the throne. However, her sister manages to hide Jehoash (sometimes abbreviated as Joash) the son of Ahaziah in the temple of Yahweh. Six years later, the priest summons the captain of the guards and Carian mercenaries and shows them Jehoash. The priest has the guards and mercenaries surround the temple and defend it, while he publicly anoints Jehoash as king. Although Athaliah discovers this and shouts that this is treason, the priest has Athaliah taken away and killed. The people then go and obliterate the temple of Hadad and slaughter its priest.
Jehoash of Israel succeeds Jehoahaz, his father, as king of Israel. Jehoash goes to Elisha, who is dying, for help against Hazael. Elisha forces Jehoash to shoot an arrow through the window and then prophecies that his doing so has ensured victory against Hazael. Elisha also makes Jehoash strike the ground with some arrows, and so Jehoash does so three times. Elisha states that this will ensure three victories, but by not striking the ground five or six times, has denied himself total outright victory. Elisha then dies and is buried. While another funeral is taking place, Moabite raiders attack, so the mourners drop the body into Elisha's grave and flee, but when the body touches Elisha's, the man comes back to life. Hazael dies and is succeeded by the weaker Ben-hadad, who is defeated thrice by Jehoash, fulfilling Elisha's promise. Jehoash is later forced to fight the aggressive king of Judah, but he succeeds and captures him.
Amaziah, the son of Jehoash, succeeds his father as king of Judah. Amaziah slaughters those who killed his father though is merciful enough to spare their descendants. Amaziah then goes on military campaigns, conquering the Edomites. Amaziah challenges Jehoash (the king of Israel), but Jehoash responds with a parable about the Thistle of Lebanon. Amaziah attacks anyway, and the two sides meet in battle, but Judah is defeated and Amaziah captured. Later, Amaziah is freed (without explanation), hears of a conspiracy against him, and flees to Lachish but is pursued there and killed.
Jeroboam II becomes king of Israel. Despite following Canaanite religion (for which the books of Kings, Chronicles, Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Jonah, condemn him), Jeroboam is otherwise a hero because he manages to expand the boundaries of Israel as far as the Arabah.
Uzziah (Kings mistakenly names him Azariah, which in Chronicles is instead the name of his high priest), succeeds Jeroboam as king of Judah and rebuilds Elath. However, Uzziah suffers from leprosy, so his son Jotham reigns as regent (Chronicles states that Uzziah was deposed by a rebellion of the priesthood and was cursed with leprosy as a result and was sent to live with the lepers). The construction of a gate of the temple is attributed to Jotham's mother. Jotham formally becomes king when Uzziah dies.
When Menahem dies, his son, Pekahiah, succeeds him as king. However, Pekah, the adjutant to Pekahiah, conspires with the people from the eastern half of Israel, Gilead, and kills Pekahiah, becoming king in his place. Pekah enters into an alliance with Rezin, the king of Aram, to attack Judah. Supporting Judah, which has become a vassal of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser invades Israel, capturing several cities and deporting their populations. Hoshea conspires against Pekah, killing him and becoming king in his place (though an inscription by Tiglath-pileser states that he killed Pekah and placed Hoshea on the throne).
Ahaz becomes king of Judah when Jotham, his father, dies. The alliance between Aram and Israel besiege Ahaz, and Edom is able to recover Elath, so Ahaz responds by becoming a vassal of Tiglath-pileser, who is subjugating Israel. Tiglath-pileser then attacks Damascus (capital of Aram), killing Rezin and deporting the inhabitants to another part of Assyria. Ahaz follows Canaanite religious practices, sacrificing at the high places and Asherah groves and even immolating his son through the fire to Moloch. As a consequence, when Ahaz goes to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser, he is so impressed by the altar that he has a new altar made to the same design and replaces the altar at the Jerusalem temple with it. Ahaz makes further alterations to the temple layout, even removing the throne emplacement, in deference to the Assyrian king.
After taking control of what remained of Israel, Hoshea is forced to become a vassal of the Assyrians, because of aggressive behaviour by Shalmaneser. However, Hoshea resents this and not only fails to send the annual tribute to Assyria, but also sends envoys to Sais, the Egyptian king, for help. Shalmaneser occupies Israel and besieges Samaria for three years. Samaria falls to Sargon II (the new king of Assyria after Shalmaneser dies during the siege, though the Bible does not indicate this, and refers to him simply as the king of Assyria without acknowledging that this is not Shalmaneser), and the nine tribes of Israel are completely deported to other regions of the Assyrian empire, becoming the Lost Ten Tribes (tradition considers there to be ten lost tribes, though Israel contained only nine).
Hezekiah rebels against Assyria and partially subjugates the land of the Philistines (2 Kings 18:8). However, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, captures several cities in Judah, and so Hezekiah uses the temple funds, even breaking up the gold plated doors, to pay tribute to Sennacherib. Sennacherib sends messengers to Jerusalem to say that Hezekiah's ally Egypt is weak, that Hezekiah has offended Israel's God, and that Jerusalem could not even muster two thousand men to fight against the oncoming Assyrians. Sennacherib offers the people a life of ease if they will submit, but the people of Judah respond with silence, as Hezekiah has ordered them. Sennacherib is briefly distracted by battling the Ethiopians that have launched an attack upon him and so sends Hezekiah a letter reminding him that other nations' gods have not saved them from him. Apparently by way of preparation for any siege, Hezekiah constructs a conduit and pool providing water to Jerusalem. (This pool is not mentioned in the account of the siege in 2 Kings, but may be referenced in 2 Kings 20:20b and 2 Chronicles 32:3–5.) Hezekiah sends messengers to Isaiah who prophecies that Yahweh will protect Jerusalem for the sake of the promise made to David, and the Assyrians will not be able to besiege Jerusalem. That night an angel kills one hundred eighty-five thousand men of the Assyrian army, and the survivors return to Assyria. Sennacherib is killed by two of his own sons, and a third becomes king in his place.
Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, becomes the next king and completely reverts Hezekiah's religious changes, which the writer blames for the later destruction of Judah by Babylon. The story of Manasseh is abridged at this point, though the Book of Chronicles records that Manasseh was taken prisoner by the Babylonians and treated so badly that, when released, he was a reformed man. Many copies of the vulgate translation additionally record a Prayer of Manasseh which records Manasseh's repentance. After his death, his penitance is shown to be in vain when his son, Amon, perpetuates the rejection of Hezekiah's reform and refuses to repent. However, Amon becomes the victim of a conspiracy when he is killed by his own servants.
A counter-conspiracy results in Josiah, son of Amon, being placed on the throne of Judah. During his godly reign, Josiah institutes repairs of the temple, during which the chief priest, Hilkiah, discovers a book of the law. This book is verified as genuine by the prophetess Huldah, and the penitent Josiah vows to enact all the mitzvah within it (most scholars, both critical and apologetic, view the book as an early version of Deuteronomy, for which reason Josiah's reform is often referred to as the deuteronomic reform). According to the narrative, no king before Josiah was ever as devout or fulfilled all of the torah, and Josiah is particularly zealous about his iconoclasm. Necho II leads an Egyptian army to join that of Assyria in attacking Babylon, and Josiah rides out and meets Necho at the Battle of Megiddo but is killed.
Nebuchadnezzar appoints Jeconiah as the new king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem and besieges it, so Jehoniah and his court surrender and Jehoiachim is taken captive. Many decades later, Evil-merodach, a later king of Babylon, releases Jehoaichin from prison, gives him an allowance, and generally treats him favourably for the rest of his days.
Nebuchadnezzar appoints the uncle of Jehoiachim as the new king of Judah, who duly changes his name to Zedekiah. However, Zedekiah rebels, and so Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem and breaches the city walls. After Zedekiah and his children flee through a tunnel, he is captured and taken to Nebuchadnezzar, who has the sons of Zedekiah killed in front of him and then has Zedekiah's eyes put out so that it is the last thing he has seen. Zedekiah is then bound in chains and taken to Babylon.
After Jehoiachim's surrender, Nebuchadnezzar deports everyone of any worth to Babylon, including the army, the people of Jerusalem, nobles, and craftsmen, as well as the treasures of Jerusalem. Once Zedekiah's later rebellion is suppressed, Nebudchadnezzar sends Nebuzaradan to Jerusalem, where he burns down the temple, palace, houses, and walls. He then deports the treasures of the temple and the population (excepting some of the poor) to Babylon. The two highest priests of the temple, a scribe, a courtiers, five personal servants to Zedekiah, and 60 people remaining in Jerusalem are taken to Nebudchadnezzar and killed.
The few people remaining in Judah are put under the command of Gedaliah, who promises the commanders of the army of Judah that they will not be harmed as long as they remain loyal to Babylon. However, one of the commanders, of royal descent, conspires against Gedaliah and has him killed, but the people are so afraid of what Nebuchadnezzar's reaction might be that almost the entire population of Judah flee to Egypt.
There are some portions that are almost identical to the Book of Jeremiah, for example, 2 Kings 24:18-25 and Jeremiah 52; 39:1-10; 40:7-41:10. There are also many undesigned coincidences between Jeremiah and Kings (2 Kings 21-23 and Jer. 7:15; 15:4; 19:3, etc.), and events recorded in Kings of which Jeremiah had personal knowledge. Because of this, traditionally Jeremiah was credited the author of the books of Kings.
However, the book(s) plainly acknowledge several source texts in several places, and it is hence self evidently a compilation from earlier sources rather than an original work. A superficial examination of the Books of Kings makes clear the fact that they are a compilation and not an original composition. In the case of Solomon it is the book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); for the Northern Kingdom it is the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel, which is cited seventeen times; and for the kings of Judah it is the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah, which is cited fifteen times. As well as the text's own admission, the idea of the text being composed from multiple earlier sources is also supported by textual criticism. Whether the editor had access to these chronicles, as they were deposited in the state archives, or simply to a history based upon them, can not with certainty be determined, though it is generally assumed that the latter was the case.
An early supposition was that Ezra, after the Babylonian captivity, compiled them from official court chronicles of David, Solomon, Nathan, Gad, and Iddo, and that he arranged them in the order in which they now exist. However, it is more usually said that Ezra was the compiler of the Books of Chronicles, an alternate history of the period of the kings, which was earlier in history treated as a single book together with the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah.
The majority of textual criticism is of the belief that, with the majority of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, these works were originally compiled into a single text, the Deuteronomic history, by a single redactor, the Deuteronomist. The similarities between the text of Deuteronomy and that of the Book of Jeremiah are so strong that many critical scholars view Jeremiah as the Deuteronomist, hence agreeing with the traditional view concerning the authorship of Kings.
The standpoint of the judgments passed upon the various kings as well as the vocabulary of the compiler indicates that he lived after the reforms of Josiah (621 BC) had brought the Deuteronomic law into prominence. How much later than this the book in its present form was composed may be inferred from the fact that it concludes with a notice of Jehoiachin's release from prison by Evil-merodach (Amil-Marduk) after the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562. The book must have taken its present form, therefore, during the Exile, and probably in Babylonia. As no mention is made of the hopes of return which are set forth in Isaiah 40-55, the work was probably concluded before 550. Besides the concluding chapters there are allusions in the body of the work which imply an exilic date (e.g. 1 Kings 8:34, 9:39; 2 Kings 17:19-20, 23:26-27).
There are also external difficulties for the dating. The king that the Book of Kings names as Ahaz is claimed within it to reign for only 16 years. However, some of the events during his reign are recorded elsewhere and have an almost absolute consensus as to their dates, requiring Ahaz to have at least ruled between 735BC and 715BC, a period of 20 years.
One resolution of this issue is provided based on the knowledge that the Jewish calendrical system counted as one year the period of time from the date of the king's ascension until the beginning of the following month of Nisan; conversely, the final year of a king's reign was counted from the beginning of the month of Nissan until the date of his death. Thus, the calculation of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah often differ from one another.
In addition, while Ba'al is usually used to refer to Hadad, the term Baalzebub also appears as the name of a deity. Ba'alzebub, meaning lord of the flies, is most likely to be a deliberate pun, by the anti-Hadad writer, on the term Ba'alzebul, meaning prince Ba'al, i.e. Hadad. Even more confusing is the fact that some passages refer to a single king of Assyria by two different names, whereas others refer simply to the king of Assyria in several places but are actually talking about 2 separate historically attested kings, not the same individual.
This problem is compounded in the names of Israelite and Judahite kings, where theophoric suffixes and prefixes exist in El and Yah/Yahweh, namely Ja...., Jeho..., ....iah, ...el, and El..... It was common to drop the theophory in ordinary day to day life, so that, for example, Daniel becomes simply Dan. In some cases double theophory occurred, as for example in the name of the king of Judah that contemporary cuneiform inscriptions record as Jeconiah (Je+Con+Iah), which the Book of Jeremiah drops one of the theophories to make the name simply Choniah (Chon+Iah), while the Book of Kings moves both theophories next to each other making his name Jehoiachin (Jeho+Iah+chon). Similarly theophory was often flexible as to which end of names it occurred at for a single individual, so that the king of Judah which the Book of Kings of names as Ahaziah (Ahaz + iah) is named by the Book of Chronicles as Jehoahaz (Jeho + ahaz) - ultimately this is the same name as had by the later king referred to as Ahaz.
In the region of the Omrides (that is the descendants of Omri), there are remarkable co-incidences between the names of the kings of Judah and those of Israel, in that they are often identical; Jehoram was king of Israel while another Jehoram was king of Judah; Jehoash son of Jehoahaz was king of Israel while another Jehoash son of another Jehoahaz was king of Judah. As a consequence a number of scholars have proposed that this was a period in which Judah and Israel were united under one king, and by combining two different accounts of the same individual from the point of view of Israel and of Judah, the redactor of Kings has split one historic set of individuals into two copies.
This feature is compounded by the fact that unlike the masoretic text, on which most English bible translations are based, the Septuagint version refers to Athaliah as daughter of Omri, rather than as daughter of the house of Omri. A number of scholars have suggested that the Septuagint represents the more original version, and hence that Athaliah was in reality either the sister, half-sister, or wife, of Ahab. Since her character and the manner of her death are described by the bible to be similar to Jezebel, the possibility that Jezebel is merely a descriptive slur or nickname for Athaliah has been raised. By equating the two, the genealogy can be simplified and a number of name duplications no longer occur. It is also possible that Athaliah was daughter of Jehoshaphat, and it was her marriage to Ahab that formed the Israel-Judah alliance, with the biblical form of the genealogy being later censorship to make Judah appear to have remained fairly religiously pure; this would explain how it was that she became queen over Judah, in contrast to how the bible portrays her as a biological daughter of the king of Israel.
The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser also refers to Jehu as son of Omri, rather than son of Jehoshaphat as the bible would prefer it, especially since the bible portrays Jehu as destroying the house of Omri rather than helping perpetuate it. By treating the Black Obelisk as historically accurate, and thus making Jehu a brother or half-brother to Ahab, it becomes much clearer why Jehu, who the bible portrays as a son of the king of Judah, would become the head of a dynasty of kings over Israel. Jehu would in this situation be the wicked uncle who killed the rightful kings of Israel and Judah, attempting to usurp power, but only managing to hold onto Israel, to which he had an ancestral claim.
The two books of Kings comprise the fourth book in the second canonical division of Hebrew Scriptures: in the threefold division of the Tanach, these books are ranked among the Prophets. The present division into two books was first made by the Septuagint, which numbers them as the third and fourth books of "Kingdoms", the two books of Samuel being considered the first and second books of Kingdoms; this numbering was also followed in the Vulgate with 1-4 Kings, but most modern Christian Bibles have two books of Samuel and two of Kings.