Our Bibles list 6 books (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles), but originally each pair was a single book. These books record just over 500-years of Israel’s history beginning with the birth of Samuel (the final judge in Israel) and culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.
In a recent article we looked at the book of Judges. Not all the judges of Israel are listed there. The final two (Eli and Samuel) are in 1 Samuel. The nation became discontent with these last two judges (in large part due to the wickedness of their sons). The people asked Samuel to give them a king so they might be like the nations around them. Samuel anointed a Benjaminite by the name of Saul to be the first king of Israel. At first things went well for Saul, but soon he began to make foolish, rash and rebellious decision (chapters 13-15) which resulted in the kingdom eventually being taken from his lineage and given to another.
Midway through the book of 1 Samuel, David is anointed as the next king. However, his reign did not begin until 2 Samuel, after the death of Saul. After defeating the Philistine giant, Goliath, David served in Saul’s army. Showing himself to be humble, wise, and obedient, David was blessed by God and adored by the people. Enraged with the attention David received, Saul pursued him, seeking to kill him. David escaped every attempt made against his life, and despite having opportunities to kill Saul (and being urged to do so by his men), David would not.
1 Samuel ends with Saul and his son Jonathan falling in battle to the Philistines. 2 Samuel begins with David lamenting the death of his good friend (Jonathan) and his father-in-law (Saul).
After a brief conflict with a remaining son of Saul, David reigned over all Israel. David’s enemies were all subdued before him—life was going great. However, a series of bad choices resulted in a sin spiral which brought great hardship and heartache to David and his family.
1 Kings records the reign of David’s son, Solomon. He was blessed with wisdom from God (ch. 3) and charged with the duty of building the first temple (ch. 5-8). There is a lot of focus on the glory and splendor of Solomon and his reign, but we also find this: “…when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God…” (11:4). His sin resulted in the division of the nation, with 10 of 12 tribes being given to Jeroboam (a former servant of Solomon), while 2 tribes remained with the line of David (Judah and Benjamin).
The remainder of 1 Kings and 2 Kings record subsequent kings who reigned in Judah and in Israel. There were 8 good kings in Judah (Asa, Jehoash, Jehoshaphet, Amaziah, Azariah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah) out of 21 rulers. There were no good kings in Israel. We also follow the work of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in 1 & 2 Kings.
The Chronicles were written in the days of Ezra. 1 Chronicles 1-9 give genealogies stretching from Adam to the people living in Judah after the return from Babylon. The remainder of 1 Chronicles focuses on David’s reign, paralleling much of what we read in 2 Samuel. 2 Chronicles picks up with the reign of Solomon from chapter 1-9. The remainder of 2 Chronicles parallels 1 Kings 12 – 2 Kings 25, recording the lives of the kings of Judah.
The final verses in 2 Chronicles speak about the destruction which took place in Jerusalem at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (36:17-19). The writer acknowledged the fulfillment of the seventy years spoken of by Jeremiah (36:20-21; cf. Jeremiah 29:10) and the release of the Jews in the days of Cyrus the king of Persia (36:22-23; cf. Ezra 1:1-3), as foretold by Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 44:28).
Next week we continue with Ezra & Nehemiah…