2 Kings 1
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Books of Kings


Contents- and Character- Origin and Sources- of the Books of the Kings.

The books of the Kings, which were but one book originally like the books of Samuel, and which like the latter, were divided into two books by the Alexandrian translators (see the Introduction to the books of Samuel), contain, in accordance with their name (מלכים), the history of the Israelitish theocracy under the kings, from the accession of Solomon to the extinction of the monarchy on the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Chaldaeans and the people were carried away into exile in Babylon. they embrace a period of 455 years, from 1015 to 560 b.c., that is to say, to the reign of the Babylonian king Evil-merodach. And as every kingdom culminates in its king, and the government of the kings determines the fate of the kingdom, the contents of the books before us, which are named after the kings of Israel, consist for the most part of a history of those kings; inasmuch as, whilst on the one hand the reigns of the several kings form the historical and chronological framework for the description of the historical development of the people and kingdom, on the other hand the leading phases which the monarchy assumed furnish the basis of the three periods, into which the history of this epoch and the contents of our books are divided.

The first period (1015-975 b.c.) embraces the forty years of Solomon's reign over the undivided kingdom of the twelve tribes of Israel, when the Israelitish kingdom of God stood at the summit of its earthly power and glory; though towards the end of this period it began to decline inasmuch as the rebellion of Solomon against the Lord in the closing years of his reign prepared the way for the rebellion of the ten tribes against the house of David. - The second period commences with the division of the one kingdom into the two kingdoms, Israel (or the ten tribes) and Judah, and stretches over the whole period during which these two kingdoms existed side by side, terminating with the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes by the Assyrians, i.e., from 975 to 722 b.c. - The third period embraces the still remaining years of the continuance of the kingdom of Judah, until its eventual dissolution by the Chaldaeans and the carrying away of the people into exile in Babylon, viz., from 722 to 560 b.c.

The first part of our books (1 Kings 1-11) therefore contains a description of the reign of Solomon, (a) in its commencement, viz., his ascent of the throne and the consolidation of his power (1 Kings 1 and 2); (b) in the gradual development of the strength and glory of his government, by his marriage, his sacrifice and prayer at Gibeon, his judicial wisdom, and his court (1 Kings 3:1-5:14)-also by the building of the temple and royal palace and the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 5:15-9:9), by the erection of his other edifices and the introduction of navigation and commerce (1 Kings 9:10-28), by the spreading abroad of the fame of his wisdom, and by the increase of his wealth (1 Kings 10); and (c) in its eventual decline in consequence of the sin into which the aged monarch fell through his polygamy and idolatry (1 Kings 11). The second part opens with an account of the falling away of the ten tribes from the royal family of David, and relates in a synchronistic narrative the history of the two kingdoms in the three stages of their development: viz., (a) the early enmity between the two, from Jeroboam to Omri of Israel (1 Kings 12:1-16:28); (b) the establishment of friendship and intermarriage between the two royal houses under Ahab and his sons, down to the destruction of the two kings Joram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah by Jehu (1 Kings 16:29-2 Kings 10); (c) the renewal of hostilities between the two kingdoms, from Jehu's ascent of the throne in Israel and Athaliah's usurpation of the throne in Judah to the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign in Judah (2 Kings 11-17). And, lastly, the third part contains the history of the kingdom of Judah from Hezekiah to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans, and carries it down to the thirty-seventh year of the imprisonment of king Jehoiachin in exile (2 Kings 18-25).

Now, although the history of the kings, or the account of both the duration and character of their reigns, and also of their various enterprises, so far as they promoted or hindered the progress of the kingdom of God, forms the principal substance of these books, they do not consist of a mere chronicle of the deeds and fortunes of the several kings, but describe at the same time the ministry of the prophets in the two kingdoms, and that to some extent in so elaborate a manner, that whilst some have discovered in this a peculiarly "prophetico-didactic purpose" (Hvernick, De Wette, etc.), others regard it as an endeavour "to set forth the history of the Israelitish and Jewish kings in its relation to the demands, the doings, the proclamations, and the predictions of the prophets, from Solomon to the Babylonian exile" (Kern). But however unmistakable the prophetico-didactic character may be, which the books of Kings have in common with the whole of the historical writings of the Old Testament, a closer investigation of their character will show that there is no ground for the assertion that there is any prophetico-didactic purpose in the mode in which the history is written. For the account of the ministry of the prophets is introduced into the history of the kings as the spiritual leaven which pervaded the Israelitish monarchy from the beginning to the end, and stamped upon its development the character of the theocracy or divine rule in Israel. Jehovah, as the invisible but yet real King of the covenant nation, had created the peculiar instruments of His Spirit in the prophets who maintained His law and right before the kings, standing by their side to advise and direct, or to warn and punish, and, wherever it was necessary, proving their utterances to be words of God by signs and wonders which they did before the people. Thus the Lord directed the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul and David princes over His people, and the prophet Nathan to communicate to David the promise of the everlasting endurance of his throne (2 Samuel 7). But when at a later period David sinned (2 Samuel 11 and 24), it was the prophets Nathan and Gad who threatened him with punishment from God, and on his confession of sin and repentance announced the forgiveness and favour of God (2 Samuel 12:1-15; 2 Samuel 24:11-19). Through the medium of the prophet Nathan, Solomon was also appointed the successor of David upon the throne (2 Samuel 12:25), and not only anointed king, but installed in defiance of the machinations of Adonijah (1 Kings 1). But since the monarchy was transmitted from Solomon in a direct line through his descendants by virtue of the divine promise in 2 Samuel 7, it is only in connection with important enterprises, or when the kingdom is involved in difficulties, that we find the prophets coming forward in after times to help or advise those kings who walked in the ways of the Lord; whereas under the idolatrous and godless rulers they offer, in the power of God, such energetic resistance to idolatry and to everything evil and ungodly, that princes and people are compelled to bow before them and succumb to their divine words. In this way the prophets accompanied the monarchy in all its course from Solomon to the Captivity as guardians of the rights of the God-King, and as interpreters of His counsel and will. Under Solomon, indeed, there was apparently a long period, during which prophecy fell into the background; since the Lord Himself not only appeared to this king in a dream at Gibeon shortly after he ascended the throne, but also appeared to him a second time after the dedication of the temple, and promised him the fulfilment of his prayers, and the glorification and eternal continuance of his kingdom, on condition of his faithful observance of the divine commands (1 Kings 3:5., 1 Kings 9:1.). But towards the end of his reign it rose up again in all the more threatening attitude, against the king who was then disposed to fall away from Jehovah. It was no doubt a prophet who announced to him the separation of ten parts of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:11.)-possibly the same Ahijah who promised Jeroboam the government over ten tribes (1 Kings 11:29.). But after the division of the kingdom, when Jeroboam proceeded, in order to fortify his throne, to make the political division into a religious one, and to this end exalted the image-worship into the state religion, the prophets continued to denounce this apostasy and proclaim to the sinful kings the destruction of their dynasties. And when at a still later period Ahab the son of Omri, and his wife Jezebel, endeavoured to make the Phoenician worship of Baal and Asherah into the national religion in Israel, Elijah the Tishbite, "the prophet as fire, whose words burned as a torch" (Ecclus. 48:1), came forward with the irresistible power of God and maintained a victorious conflict against the prophets and servants of Baal, warding off the utter apostasy of the nation by uniting the prophets into societies, in which the worship of God was maintained, and the godly in Israel were supplied with a substitute for that legal worship in the temple which was enjoyed by the godly in Judah. And in the kingdom of Judah also where were never wanting prophets to announce the judgments of the Lord to idolatrous kings, and to afford a vigorous support to the pious and God-fearing rulers in their endeavours to promote the religious life of the nation, and to exalt the public worship of God in the temple. But since the kingdom of Judah possessed the true sanctuary, with the legal worship and an influential body of priests and Levites; and since, moreover, the monarchy of the house of David was firmly established by divine promises resting upon that house, and among the kings who sat upon the throne, from Rehoboam onwards, there were many godly rulers who were distinguished for their lofty virtues as governors; the labours of the prophets did not assume the same prominent importance here as they did in the kingdom of the ten bribes, where they had to fight against idolatry from the beginning to the end.

This explains the fact that the ministry of the prophets assumes so prominent a position in the books of the Kings, whereas the history of the kings appears sometimes to fall into the background in comparison. Nevertheless the historical development of the monarchy, or, to express it more correctly, of the kingdom of God under the kings, forms the true subject-matter of our books. It was not a prophetico-didactic purpose, but the prophetico-historical point of view, which prevailed throughout the whole work, and determined the reception as well as the treatment of the historical materials. The progressive development of the kingdom was predicted and described by the Lord Himself in the promise communicated to David by the prophet Nathan: "And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name; and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my son, that if he go astray, I may chasten him with man's rod, and with stripes of the children of men; but my mercy will not depart from him, as I caused it to depart from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thy house and thy kingdom shall be for ever before thee, thy throne will be established for ever" (2 Samuel 7:12-16). This thoroughly glorious promise forms the red thread which runs through the history of the kings from Solomon to the Babylonian captivity, and constitutes the leading idea in the record of this history in our books. The author's intention is to show in the history of the kings how the Lord fulfilled this gracious word, how He first of all chastised the seed of David for its transgressions, and then cast it off, though not for ever. To this end he shows in the history of Solomon, how, notwithstanding the usurpation of the throne attempted by Adonijah, Solomon received the whole of his father's kingdom, as the seed of David promised by the Lord, and established his power; how the Lord at the very beginning of his reign renewed to him at Gibeon the promise made to his father on the condition of his faithful observance of His law, and in answer to his prayer gave him not only a wise and understanding heart, but also riches and honour, so that his equal was not to be found among all the kings of the earth (1 Kings 1:1-5:14); how Solomon then carried out the work of building the temple, entrusted to him by his father according to the will of the Lord; and how, after it was finished, the Lord again assured him of the fulfilment of that promise (1 Kings 5:15-9:9); and, lastly, how Solomon, having attained to the highest earthly glory, through the completion of the rest of his buildings, through the great renown of his wisdom, which had reached to nations afar off, and through his great riches, acquired partly by marine commerce and trade, and partly from tributes and presents, forgot his God, who had bestowed this glory upon him, and in his old age was led astray into unfaithfulness towards the Lord through his numerous foreign wives, and had at last to listen to this sentence from God: "Because thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and give it to thy servant: notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's said; but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all thy kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen" (1 Kings 9:10-11:13). Thus, because God had promised to the seed of David the eternal possession of the throne (2 Samuel 7:12.), one portion of the kingdom was to be left to the son of Solomon, with the chosen city of Jerusalem, and his servant (Jeroboam, 1 Kings 11:26-40) was only to obtain dominion over ten tribes. The historical realization of this prophecy is shown in the history of the two divided kingdoms.

In the synchronistic account of these kingdoms, according to the principle already adopted in the book of Genesis, of disposing of the subordinate lines of the patriarchs before proceeding with the main line, the reigns of the kings of Israel are described before those of the contemporaneous kings of Judah, and to some extent in a more elaborate manner. The reason of this, however, is, that the history of the kingdom of Israel, in which one dynasty overthrew another, whilst all the rulers walked in the sin of Jeroboam, and Ahab even added the worship of Baal to that sin, supplied the author with more materials for the execution of his plan than that of the kingdom of Judah, which had a much quieter development under the rule of the house of David, and of which, therefore, there was less to relate. Apart from this, all the events of the kingdom of Judah which are of any importance in relation to the progress of the kingdom of God, are just as elaborately described as those connected with the kingdom of Israel; and the author does equal justice to both kingdoms, showing how the Lord manifested Himself equally to both, and bore with them with divine long-suffering and grace. But the proof of this necessarily assumed different forms, according to the different attitudes which they assumed towards the Lord. Jeroboam, the founder of the kingdom of Israel, when told that he would be king over the ten tribes, had received the promise that Jehovah would be with him, and build him a lasting house as He built for David, and give Israel to him, on condition that he would walk in the ways of God (1 Kings 11:37-38). This implied that his descendants would rule over Israel (of the ten tribes) so long as this kingdom should stand; for it was not to last for ever, but the separation would come to an end, and therefore he is not promised the everlasting continuance of his kingdom (see at 1 Kings 11:38). But Jeroboam did not fulfil this condition, nor did any of the rulers of Israel who succeeded him. Nevertheless the Lord had patience with the kings and tribes who were unfaithful to His law, and not only warned them continually by His prophets, and chastised them by threats of punishment and by the fulfilment of those threats upon the kings and all the people, but repeatedly manifested His favour towards them for the sake of His covenant with Abraham (2 Kings 13:23), to lead them to repentance-until the time of grace had expired, when the sinful kingdom fell and the ten tribes were carried away to Media and Assyria. - In the kingdom of David, on the contrary, the succession to the throne was promised to the house of David for all time: therefore, although the Lord caused those who were rebellious to be chastised by hostile nations, yet, for His servant David's sake, He left a light shining to the royal house, since He did not punish the kings who were addicted to idolatry with the extermination of their family (1 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19); and even when the wicked Athaliah destroyed all the royal seed, He caused Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, to be saved and raised to the throne of his fathers (2 Kings 11). Consequently this kingdom was able to survive that of the ten tribes for an entire period, just because it possessed a firm political basis in the uninterrupted succession of the Davidic house, as it also possessed a spiritual basis of no less firmness in the temple which the Lord had sanctified as the place where His name was revealed. After it had been brought to the verge of destruction by the godless Ahaz, it received in Hezekiah a king who did what was right in the eyes of Jehovah, as his father David had done, and in the severe oppression which he suffered at the hands of the powerful army of the proud Sennacherib, took refuge in the Lord, who protected and saved Jerusalem, "for His own and His servant David's sake," at the prayer of the pious king of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:34; 2 Kings 20:6). But when at length, throughout the long reign of Manasseh the idolater, apostasy and moral corruption prevailed to such an extent in Judah also, that even the pious Josiah, with the reformation of religion which he carried out with the greatest zeal, could only put down the outward worship of idols, and was unable to effect any thorough conversion of the people to the Lord their God, and the Lord as the Holy One of Israel was obliged to declare His purpose of rejecting Judah from before His face on account of the sins of Manasseh, and to cause that purpose to be executed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 23:26-27; 2 Kings 24:3-4); Jehoiachin was led away captive to Babylon, and under Zedekiah the kingdom was destroyed with the burning of Jerusalem and the temple. Yet the Lord did not suffer the light to be altogether extinguished to His servant David; but when Jehoiachin had pined in captivity at Babylon for thirty-seven years, expiating his own and his fathers' sins, he was liberated from his captivity by Nebuchadnezzar's son, and raised to honour once more (2 Kings 25:27-30). - The account of this joyful change in the condition of Jehoiachin, with which the books of the Kings close, forms so essential a part of their author's plan, that without this information the true conclusion to his work would be altogether wanting. For this event shed upon the dark night of the captivity the first ray of a better future, which was to dawn upon the seed of David, and with it upon the whole nation in its eventual redemption from Babylon, and was also a pledge of the certain fulfilment of the promise that the Lord would not for ever withdraw His favour from the seed of David.

(Note: Sthelin makes the following remark in his Einleitung (p.122): "The books of the Kings form an antithesis to the history of David. As the latter shows how obedience to God and to the utterances of His prophets is rewarded, and how, even when Jehovah is obliged to punish, He makes known His grace again in answer to repentance; so do the books of the Kings, which relate the overthrow of both the Hebrew states, teach, through the history of these two kingdoms, how glorious promises are thrown back and dynasties fall in consequence of the conduct of individual men (compare 1 Kings 11:38 with 1 Kings 14:10, and still more with 2 Kings 21:10. and 2 Kings 23:27). The sins of one man like Manasseh are sufficient to neutralize all the promises that have been given to the house of David." There is no need to refute this erroneous statement, since it only rests upon a misinterpretation of 2 Kings 21:10., and completely misses the idea which runs through both books of the Kings; and, moreover, there is no contradiction between the manifestation of divine mercy towards penitent sinners and the punishment of men according to their deeds.)

Thus the books of the Kings bring down the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God, according to the divine plan of the kingdom indicated in 2 Samuel 7, from the close of David's reign to the captivity; and the fact that in 1 Kings 1:1 they are formally attached to the books of Samuel is an indication that they are a continuation of those books. Nevertheless there is no doubt that they formed from the very first a separate work, the independence and internal unity of which are apparent from the uniformity of the treatment of the history as well as from the unity of the language. From beginning to end the author quotes from his original sources, for the most part with certain standing formulas; in all important events he gives the chronology carefully (1 Kings 6:1, 1 Kings 6:37-38; 1 Kings 7:1; 1 Kings 9:10; 1 Kings 11:42; 1 Kings 14:20-21, 1 Kings 14:25; 1 Kings 15:1-2, 1 Kings 15:9-10, etc.); he judges the conduct of the kings throughout according to the standard of the law of Moses (1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 17:37; 2 Kings 18:6; 2 Kings 21:8; 2 Kings 22:8., 2 Kings 23:3, 2 Kings 23:21, etc.); and he nearly always employs the same expressions when describing the commencement, the character, and the close of each reign, as well as the death and burial of the kings (compare 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 14:20, 1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:8, 1 Kings 15:24; 1 Kings 22:51; 2 Kings 8:24; 2 Kings 13:9; 2 Kings 14:29; and for the characteristics of the several kings of Judah, 1 Kings 15:3, 1 Kings 15:11; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 15:3, etc.; and for those of the kings of Israel, 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 15:26, 1 Kings 15:34; 1 Kings 16:19, 1 Kings 16:26, 1 Kings 16:30; 1 Kings 22:53; 2 Kings 3:2-3; 2 Kings 10:29, 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 13:2, 2 Kings 13:11, etc.). And so, again, the language of the books remains uniform in every part of the work, if we except certain variations occasioned by the differences in the sources employed; since we find throughout isolated expressions and forms of a later date, and words traceable to the Assyrian and Chaldaean epoch, such as כּר for חמר in 1 Kings 5:11; צדנין in 1 Kings 11:33; רצין in 2 Kings 11:13; מדינות in 1 Kings 20:14-15, 1 Kings 20:17, 1 Kings 20:19; קבל in 2 Kings 15:10; החילים שׂרי in 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 25:23, 2 Kings 25:26; טבּחים רב in 2 Kings 25:8; פּחה in 1 Kings 10:15; 1 Kings 20:24; 2 Kings 18:24; and many others, which do not occur in the earlier historical books. - The books of the Kings are essentially distinguished from the books of Samuel through these characteristic peculiarities; but not so much through the quotations which are so prominent in the historical narrative, for these are common to all the historical books of the Old Testament, and are only more conspicuous in these books, especially in the history of the kings of the two kingdoms, because in the case of all the kings, even of those in relation to whom there was nothing to record of any importance to the kingdom of God except the length and general characteristics of their reign, there are notices of the writings which contain further information concerning their reigns. - The unity of authorship is therefore generally admitted, since, as De Wette himself acknowledges, "you cannot anywhere clearly detect the interpolation or combination of different accounts." The direct and indirect contradictions, however, which Thenius imagines that he has discovered, prove to be utterly fallacious on a closer inspection of the passages cited as proofs, and could only have been obtained through misinterpretations occasioned by erroneous assumptions. (See, on the other hand, my Lehrbuch der Einleitung in das A. T. p. 184ff.)

All that can be determined with certainty in relation to the origin of the books of Kings is, that they were composed in the second half of the Babylonian captivity, and before its close, since they bring the history down to that time, and yet contain no allusion to the deliverance of the people out of Babylon. The author was a prophet living in the Babylonian exile, though not the prophet Jeremiah, as the earlier theologians down to Hvernick have assumed from the notice in the Talmud (Baba bathra, f. 15, 1): Jeremias scripsit librum suum et librum Regum et Threnos. For even apart from the fact that Jeremiah ended his days in Egypt, he could hardly have survived the last event recorded in our books, namely, the liberation of Jehoiachin from prison, and his exaltation to royal honours by Evil-merodach. For inasmuch as this event occurred sixty-six years after his call to be a prophet, in the thirteenth year of Josiah, he would have been eighty-six years old in the thirty-seventh year after Jehoiachin had been carried away into exile, even if he had commenced his prophetic career when only a young man of twenty years of age. Now, even if he had reached this great age, he would surely not have composed our books at a later period still. Moreover, all that has been adduced in support of this is seen to be inconclusive on closer inspection. The similarity in the linguistic character of our books and that of the writings of Jeremiah, the sombre view of history which is common to the two, the preference apparent in both for phrases taken from the Pentateuch, and the allusions to earlier prophecies-all these peculiarities may be explained, so far as they really exist, partly from the fact that they were written in the same age, since all the writers of the time of the captivity and afterwards cling very closely to the Pentateuch and frequently refer to the law of Moses, and partly also from the circumstance that, whilst Jeremiah was well acquainted with the original sources of our books, viz., the annals of the kingdom of Judah, the author of our books was also well acquainted with the prophecies of Jeremiah. But the relation between 2 Kings 24:18. and Jer is not of such a nature, that these two accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the remnant of the people could have emanated from the hand of Jeremiah; on the contrary, a closer inspection clearly shows that they are extracts from a more elaborate description of this catastrophe (see at 2 Kings 24:18.).

As sources from which the author has obtained his accounts, there are mentioned, for the history of Solomon, a שּׁלמה דּברי ספר, or book of the acts (affairs) of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); for the history of the kings of Judah, יהוּדה למלכי הימים דּברי ספר, book of the daily occurrences of the kings of Judah (1 Kings 14:29; 1 Kings 15:7, 1 Kings 15:23; 1 Kings 22:46; 2 Kings 8:23; 2 Kings 12:20, etc.); and for that of the kings of Israel, ישׂראל למלכי הימים דּברי ספר, book of the daily occurrences of the kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19; 1 Kings 15:31; 1 Kings 16:5, 1 Kings 16:14, 1 Kings 16:20, 1 Kings 16:27; 1 Kings 22:39; 2 Kings 1:18). These are quoted as writings in which more is written concerning the life, the deeds, and the particular undertakings, buildings and so forth, of the several kings. The two last-named works were evidently general annals of the kingdoms: not, indeed, the national archives of the two kingdoms, or official records made by the מזכּירים of the reigns and acts of the kings, as Jahn, Movers, Sthelin, and others suppose; but annals composed by prophets, and compiled partly from the public year-books of the kingdom or the national archives, and partly from prophetic monographs and collections of prophecies, which reached in the kingdom of Israel down to the time of Pekah (2 Kings 15:31), and in that of Judah to the time of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:5). Moreover, they were not written successively by different prophets, who followed one another, and so carried on the work in uninterrupted succession from the rise of the two kingdoms to the death of the two kings mentioned; but they had been worked out into a "Book of the history of the times of the Kings" for each of the two kingdoms, a short time before the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, by collecting together the most important things that had been written both concerning the reigns of the several kings by annalists and other historians who were contemporaneous with the events, and also concerning the labours of the prophets, which were deeply interwoven with the course of public affairs, whether composed by themselves or by their contemporaries. And in this finished form they lay before the author of our work. This view of the annals of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel follows unquestionably from the agreement which exists between our books of the Kings and the second book of the Chronicles, in the accounts common to both, and which can only be explained from the fact that they were drawn from one and the same source. But in the Chronicles there are different writings of individual prophets quoted, beside the day-books of the kings of Judah and Israel; and it is expressly stated in relation to some of them that they were received into the annals of the kings (compare 2 Chronicles 20:34 and 2 Chronicles 32:32, and the Introduction to the books of the Chronicles). Moreover, there are no historical traces of public annalists to be found in the kingdom of the ten tribes, and their existence is by no means probable, on account of the constant change of dynasties. The fact, however, that the frequently recurring formula "to this day" (1 Kings 9:13; 1 Kings 10:12; 2 Kings 2:22; 2 Kings 10:27; 2 Kings 14:7; 2 Kings 16:6; 2 Kings 17:23, 2 Kings 17:34, 2 Kings 17:41; 2 Kings 20:17; 2 Kings 21:15) never refers to the time of the captivity, except in the passages enclosed in brackets, but always to the time of the existing kingdom of Judah, and that it cannot therefore have emanated from the author of our books of the Kings, but can only have been taken from the sources employed, is a proof that these annals of the kingdom were composed towards the close of the kingdom of Judah; and this is placed beyond all doubt, by the fact that this formula is also found in many passages of the books of the Chronicles (compare 1 Kings 8:8 with 2 Chronicles 5:9; 1 Kings 9:21 with 2 Chronicles 8:8; 1 Kings 12:19 with 2 Chronicles 10:19; and 2 Kings 8:22 with 2 Chronicles 21:10). - In a similar manner to this must we explain the origin of the שּׁלמה דּברי ספר, since three prophetic writings are quoted in 1 Chronicles 29:29 in connection with Solomon's reign, and their account agrees in all essential points with the account in the books of the Kings. Nevertheless this "history of Solomon" never formed a component part of the annals of the two kingdoms, and was certainly written much earlier. - The assumption that there were other sources still, is not only sustained by no historical evidence, but has no certain support in the character or contents of the writings before us. If the annals quoted were works composed by prophets, the elaborate accounts of the working of the prophets Elijah and Elisha might also have been included in them. - Again, in the constant allusion to these annals we have a sure pledge of the historical fidelity of the accounts that have been taken from them. If in his work the author followed writings which were composed by prophets, and also referred his readers to these writings, which were known and accessible to his contemporaries, for further information, he must have been conscious of the faithful and conscientious employment of them. And this natural conclusion is in harmony with the contents of our books. The life and actions of the kings are judged with unfettered candour and impartiality, according to the standard of the law of God; and there is no more concealment of the idolatry to which the highly renowned Solomon was led astray by his foreign wives, than of that which was right in the eyes of God, when performed by the kings of the ten tribes, which had fallen away from the house of David. Even in the case of the greatest prophet of all, namely Elijah, the weakness of his faith in being afraid of the vain threats of the wicked Jezebel is related just as openly as his courageous resistance, in the strength of the Lord, to Ahab and the prophets of Baal. - Compare my Einleitung in das Alte Test. 56-60, where adverse views are examined and the commentaries are also noticed.

The Book of 1Kings

I. History Of Solomon's Reign - 1 Kings 1-11.

David had not only established the monarchy upon a firm basis, but had also exalted the Old Testament kingdom of God to such a height of power, that all the kingdoms round about wee obliged to bow before it. This kingdom was transmitted by divine appointment to his son Solomon, in whose reign Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea-shore, and dwelt in security, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 5:5). The history of this reign commences with the account of the manner in which Solomon had received the kingdom from his father, and had established his own rule by the fulfilment of his last will and by strict righteousness (1 Kings 1 and 2). Then follows in 1 Kings 3-10 the description of the glory of his kingdom, how the Lord, in answer to his prayer at Gibeon, not only gave him an understanding heart to judge his people, but also wisdom, riches, and honour, so that his equal was not to be found among the kings of the earth; and through his wise rule, more especially through the erection of the house of Jehovah and of a splendid royal palace, he developed the glory of the kingdom of God to such an extent that his fame penetrated to remote nations. The conclusion, in 1 Kings 11, consists of the account of Solomon's sin in his old age, viz., his falling into idolatry, whereby he brought about the decay of the kingdom, which manifested itself during the closing years of his reign in the rising up of opponents, and at his death in the falling away of ten tribes from his son Rehoboam. But notwithstanding this speedy decay, the glory of Solomon's kingdom is elaborately depicted on account of the typical significance which it possessed in relation to the kingdom of God. Just as, for example, the successful wars of David with all the enemies of Israel were a prelude to the eventual victory of the kingdom of God over all the kingdoms of this world; so was the peaceful rule of Solomon to shadow forth the glory and blessedness which awaited the people of God, after a period of strife and conflict, under the rule of Shiloh the Prince of peace, whom Jacob saw in spirit, and who would increase government and peace without end upon the throne of David and in his kingdom (Isaiah 9:5-6; Psalm 72:1).

Ahaziah's Illness. His Death Announced by Elijah - 2 Kings 1

After the Moabites had rebelled against Israel, Ahaziah became sick in consequence of a fall through a grating in his upper room, and sent messengers to Ekron to consult the idol Baalzebub concerning the result of his illness. By the command of God, however, Elijah met the messengers on the road, and told them that the king would die (2 Kings 1:1-8). When Ahaziah sent soldiers to fetch Elijah, the messengers were miraculously slain on two successive occasions, and it was only his humiliation before the prophet which saved the third captain and his host from sharing a similar fate; whereupon Elijah went with him to the king, and repeated the threat already announced on account of his idolatry, which was very soon fulfilled (2 Kings 1:9-18).

Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel (2 Kings 1:1). The Moabites, who had been subjugated by David (2 Samuel 8:2), had remained tributary to the kingdom of the ten tribes after the division of the kingdom. but when Israel was defeated by the Syrians at Ramoth in the time of Ahab, they took advantage of this defeat and the weakening of the Israelitish power in the country to the east of the Jordan to shake off the yoke of the Israelites, and very soon afterwards attempted an invasion of the kingdom of Judah, in alliance with the Edomite and other tribes of the desert, which terminated, however, in a great defeat, though it contributed to the maintenance of their independence. For further remarks, see at 2 Kings 3:4.

And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.
Ahaziah could not do anything to subjugate the Moabites any further, since he was very soon afterwards taken grievously ill. He fell through the grating in his upper room at Samaria. השּׂבכה, the grating, is either a window furnished with a shutter of lattice-work, or a door of lattice-work in the upper room of the palace, but hardly a grating in the floor of the Aliyah for the purpose of letting light into the lower rooms, as the Rabbins supposed. On account of this misfortune, Ahaziah resorted to the Ekronitish Baalzebub to obtain an oracle concerning the result of his illness. בּעל־זבוּב, i.e., Fly-Baal, was not merely the "averter of swarms of insects," like the Ζεὺς ἀπομυῖος, μυίαγρος of Elis (Ges., Winer, Movers, Phniz. i. p. 175), since "the Fly-God cannot have received his name as the enemy of flies, like lucus a non lucendo," but was Μυῖα θεός (lxx, Joseph.), i.e., God represented as a fly, as a fly-idol, to which the name Myiodes, gnat-like, in Plin. h. n. xxix. 6, clearly points, and as a god of the sun and of summer must have stood in a similar relation to the flies to that of the oracle-god Apollo, who both sent diseases and took them away (vid., J. G. Mller, Art. Beelzebub in Herzog's Cycl. i. p. 768, and Stark, Gaza, pp. 260,261). The latter observes that "these (the flies), which are governed in their coming and going by all the conditions of the weather, are apparently endowed with prophetic power themselves." This explains the fact that a special power of prophecy was attributed to this god.

(Note: The later Jews altered the name Beelzebub into Βεελζεβούλ, i.e., probably lord of the (heavenly) dwelling, as a name given to the ἄρχων τῶν δαιμονίων (Matthew 10:25, etc.); and the later Rabbins finally, by changing זבוּל בּעל into זבל בּעל, made a fly-god into a dung-god, to express in the most intense form their abomination of idolatry (see Lightfoot, Horae hebr. et talm. in Matthew 12:24, and my Bibl. Archol. i. pp. 440,441).)

Ekron, now Akir, the most northerly of the five Philistine capitals (see at Joshua 13:3).

But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?
But the angel of the Lord, the mediator of the revelations made by the invisible God to the covenant nation (see Comm. on the Pentateuch, vol. i. pp. 185-191, transl.), had spoken to Elijah to go and meet the king's messengers, who were going to inquire of Baalzebub, and to ask them whether it was from the want of a God in Israel (אין מבּלי as in Exodus 14:11; see Ewald, 323, a.) that they turned to Baalzebub, and to announce to them the word of Jehovah, that Ahaziah would not rise up from his bed again, but would die. "And Elijah went," sc. to carry out the divine commission.

Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.
And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back?
The messengers did not recognise Elijah, but yet they turned back and reported the occurrence to the king, who knew at once, from the description they gave of the habitus of the man in reply to his question, that it was Elijah the Tishbite. האישׁ משׁפּט מה: "what was the manner of the man?" משׁפּט is used here to denote the peculiarity of a person, that which in a certain sense constitutes the vital law and right of the individual personality; figura et habitus (Vulg.). The servants described the prophet according to his outward appearance, which in a man of character is a reflection of his inner man, as שׂער בּעל אישׁ, vir pilosus, hirsutus. This does not mean a man with a luxuriant growth of hair, but refers to the hairy dress, i.e., the garment made of sheep-skin or goat-skin or coarse camel-hair, which was wrapped round his body; the אדּרת (2 Kings 2:8; 1 Kings 19:13), or שׂער אדּרת (Zechariah 13:4, cf. Matthew 3:4; Hebrews 11:37), which was worn by the prophets, not as mere ascetics, but as preachers of repentance, the rough garment denoting the severity of the divine judgments upon the effeminate nation, which revelled in luxuriance and worldly lust. And this was also in keeping with "the leather girdle," עור אזור, ζώνη δερματίνη (Matthew 3:4), whereas the ordinary girdle was of cotton or linen, and often very costly.

And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?
And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.
Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.
After having executed the divine command, Elijah returned to the summit of the mountain, on which he dwelt. Most of the commentators suppose it to have been one of the peaks of Carmel, from 2 Kings 2:25 and 1 Kings 18:42, which is no doubt very probable, though it cannot be raised into certainty. Elijah's place of abode was known to the king; he therefore sent a captain with fifty men to fetch the prophet. To the demand of the captain, "Man of God, the king has said, Come down," Elijah replied, "And if I am a man of God, let fire fall from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty." (The expression ואם, and if, shows that Elijah's words followed immediately upon those of the captain.) This judicial miracle was immediately fulfilled.

And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.
The same fate befell a second captain, whom the king sent after the death of the first. He was more insolent than the first, "both because he was not brought to his senses by hearing of his punishment, and because he increased his impudence by adding make haste (מהרה)." - C. a Lap. For וידבּר ויּען the lxx (Cod. Alex.) have καὶ ἀνέβη καὶ ἐλάλησε, so that they read ויּעל. The correctness of this reading, according to which ויּען would be an error of the pen, is favoured not only by ויּעל in 2 Kings 1:9 and 2 Kings 1:13, but also by וידבּר which follows; for, as a general rule, ויּען would be followed by ויּאמר. The repetition of this judicial miracle was meant to show in the most striking manner not only the authority which rightfully belonged to the prophet, but also the help and protection which the Lord gave to His servants. At the same time, the question as to the "morality of the miracle," about which some have had grave doubts, is not set at rest by the remark of Thenius, that "the soldiers who were sent come into consideration here purely as instruments of a will acting in opposition to Jehovah." The third captain also carried out he ungodly command of the king, and he was not slain (2 Kings 1:13.). The first two must therefore have been guilty of some crime, which they and their people had to expiate with their death. This crime did not consist merely in their addressing him as "man of God," for the third addressed Elijah in the same way (2 Kings 1:13), but in their saying "Man of God, come down." This summons to the prophet, to allow himself to be led as a prisoner before the king, involved a contempt not only of the prophetic office in the person of Elijah, but also of the Lord, who had accredited him by miracles as His servant. The two captains who were first sent not only did what they were bound to do as servants of the king, but participated in the ungodly disposition of their lord (συμβαίνοντες τῷ σκοπῷ τοῦ πεπομφότος - Theodoret); they attacked the Lord with reckless daring in the person of the prophet, and the second captain, with his "Come down quickly," did it even more strongly than the first. This sin was punished, and that not by the prophet, but by the Lord Himself, who fulfilled the word of His servant.

(Note: Οἱ τοῦ προφήτου κατηγοροῦντες κατὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ προφήτου κινοῦσι τὰς γλώττας, as Theodoret very aptly observes.)

What Elijah here did was an act of holy zeal for the honour of the Lord, in the spirit of the old covenant, under which God destroyed the insolent despisers of His name with fire and sword, to manifest the energy of His holy majesty by the side of the dead idols of the heathen. But this act cannot be transferred to the times of the new covenant, as is clearly shown in Luke 9:54-55, where Christ does not blame Elijah for what he did, but admonishes His disciples, who overlooked the difference between the economy of the law and that of the gospel, and in their carnal zeal wanted to imitate what Elijah had done in divine zeal for the honour of the Lord, which had been injured in his own person.

And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.
The king, disregarding the punishing hand of the Lord, which, even if it might possibly have been overlooked in the calamity that befell the captain who was first sent and his company, could not be misunderstood when a similar fate befell the second captain with his fifty men, sent a third company, in his defiant obduracy, to fetch the prophet. (שׁלשׁים after חמשּׁים is apparently an error of the pen for שׁלישׁי, as the following word השּׁלישׁי shows). But the third captain was better than his king, and wiser than his two predecessors. He obeyed the command of the king so far as to go to the prophet; but instead of haughtily summoning him to follow him, he bent his knee before the man of God, and prayed that his own life and the lives of his soldiers might be spared.

Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.
And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.
Then Elijah followed him to the king (מפּניו, before him, i.e., before the king, not before the captain; and אתו for ??????, see Ewald, ֗264, b.), having been directed to do so by the angel of the Lord, and repeated to him the word of the Lord, which he had also conveyed to him through his messengers (see 2 Kings 1:4 and 2 Kings 1:6).

And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son.
When Ahaziah died, according to the word of the Lord through Elijah, as he had no son, he was followed upon the throne by his brother Joram, "in the second year of Joram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah." This statement is at variance both with that in 2 Kings 3:1, to the effect that Joram began to reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat, and with that in 1 Kings 22:52, viz., that Ahaziah ascended the throne in the seventeenth year of the reign of Jehoshaphat, which lasted twenty-five years, and also with the statement in 2 Kings 8:16, that Joram of Judah became king over Judah in the fifth year of Joram of Israel. If, for example, Ahaziah of Israel died after a reign of not quite two years, at the most a year and a half, in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat; as Jehoshaphat himself reigned twenty-five years, he cannot have died till the seventh year of Joram of Israel, and his son Joram followed him upon the throne. The last of these discrepancies may be solved very simply, from the fact that, according to 2 Kings 8:16, Jehoshaphat was still king when his son Joram began to reign so that Jehoshaphat abdicated in favour of his son about two years before his death. And the first discrepancy (that between 2 Kings 1:17 and 1 Kings 3:1) is removed by Usher (Annales M. ad a.m. 3106 and 3112), Lightfoot, and others, after the example of the Seder Olam, by the assumption of the co-regency. According to this, when Jehoshaphat went with Ahab to Ramoth in Gilead to war against the Syrians, in the eighteenth year of his reign, which runs parallel to the twenty-second year of the reign of Ahab, he appointed his son Joram to the co-regency, and transferred to him the administration of the kingdom. It is from this co-regency that the statement in 2 Kings 1:17 is dated, to the effect that Joram of Israel became king in the second year of Joram of Judah. This second year of the co-regency of Joram corresponds to the eighteenth year of the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 3:1). And in the fifth year of his co-regency Jehoshaphat gave up the reins of government entirely to him. It is from this point in time, i.e., from the twenty-third year of Jehoshaphat, that we are to reckon the eight years of the reign of Joram (of Judah), so that he only reigned six years more after his father's death.

(Note: Wolff indeed boldly declares that "the co-regency of Joram is a pure fiction, and the biblical historians do not furnish the slightest warrant for any such supposition" (see p. 628 of the treatise mentioned at p. 187); but he cannot think of any other way of reconciling the differences than by making several alterations in the text, and inventing a co-regency in the case of the Israelitish king Ahaziah. The synchronism of the reigns of the Israelitish kings necessarily requires the solution adopted in the text. For if Joram of Israel, who began to reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat and reigned twelve years (2 Kings 3:1), was slain at the same time as Ahaziah of Judah (2 Kings 9:24-27), and Ahaziah of Judah reigned about one year and his predecessor Joram about eight years, so that the two together certainly reigned fully eight years; Joram of Judah must have ascended the throne four years after Joram of Israel, i.e., in the twenty-third year of Jehoshaphat, which runs parallel to the fifty year of Joram of Israel. Consequently the twenty-five years of Jehoshaphat are to be reduced to twenty-three in reckoning the sum-total of the years embraced by the period of the kings. It is true that there is no analogy for this combination of the years of the reigns of two kings, since the other reductions of which different chronologists are fond are perfectly arbitrary, and the case before us stands quite alone; but this exception to the rule is indicated clearly enough in the statement in 2 Kings 8:16, that Joram began to reign while Jehoshaphat was (still) king. When, however, Thenius objects to this mode of reconciling the differences, which even Winer adopts in the third edition of his bibl. Real-Wצrterbuch, i. p. 539, on the ground that the reign of Joram is dated most precisely in 1 Kings 22:51 and 2 Chronicles 21:1, 2 Chronicles 21:5,2 Chronicles 21:20, from the death of Jehoshaphat, and that an actual co-regency, viz., that of Jotham, is expressly mentioned in 2 Kings 15:5, which does not render it at all necessary to carry the years of his reign into those of his father's, this appeal to the case of Jotham cannot prove anything, for the simple reason that the biblical text knows nothing of any co-regency of Jotham and Uzziah, but simply states that when Uzziah was smitten with leprosy, his son Jotham judged the people of the land, but that he did not become king till after his father's death (2 Kings 15:5, 2 Kings 15:7; 2 Chronicles 26:21, 2 Chronicles 26:23). It is indeed stated in 1 Kings 22:51 and 2 Chronicles 26:1, 2 Chronicles 26:5,2 Chronicles 26:20, that Jehoshaphat died and his son Joram became king, which may be understood as meaning that he did not become king till after the death of Jehoshaphat; but there is no necessity to understand it so, and therefore it can be very easily reconciled with the more precise statement in 2 Kings 8:16, that Joram ascended the throne during the reign of Jehoshaphat, whereas the assertion of Thenius, that the circumstantial clause יהוּדה מלך ויהושׁפט in 2 Kings 8:16 is a gloss, is not critically established by the absence of these words from the lxx, Syr., and Arabic, and to expunge them from the text is nothing but an act of critical violence.)

We have no information as to the reason which induced Jehoshaphat to abdicate in favour of his son two years before his death; for there is very little probability in the conjecture of Lightfoot (Opp. i. p. 85), that Jehoshaphat did this when he commenced the war with the Moabites in alliance with Joram of Israel, for the simple reason that the Moabites revolted after the death of Ahab, and Joram made preparations for attacking them immediately after their rebellion (2 Kings 3:5-7), so that he must have commenced this expedition before the fifth year of his reign.

Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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