In my experience when you ask folks about the Kings of Israel and Judah, you are likely to get an “Oh, yeah… like King David and King Solomon.” Some might know more of the names of kings, such as Saul or Hezekiah, but no one will be able to name them all (nor can I). But stop a moment and think about the whole ideas of Kings. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua -all great names in the history of the people of Israel – but none of them were kings. There were prophets and judges, heroes and heroines, but from where came the kings?
In what I think is one of the pivotal moments in salvation history, the people came to the last of the judges, Samuel and basically said, “You know, Joshua, the Judges and whole thing…. it’s not working. You’re OK, but your sons are… are… well, no way we’re following them. So… go ask God to give us a king to rule over us.” Clearly I took liberties with the narrative, but you can read it for yourself here starting in 1 Samuel 8. Pay special note to verses 11-18. They are a case study in “be careful what you ask for.” Even when warned that this request for a king would not work out well, the people insist, and a king is placed over them.
The history of the Kings of Israel and Judah starts out well – OK, the first king, Saul, wasn’t so great, but David was a man of God – humanly flawed, but ever turning towards God. His successor and son, Solomon, was noted for wisdom, but after a fast start, it was all down hill. After Solomon, the nation broke apart into two separate kingdoms: Judah in the south with Jerusalem as its capitol, and Israel in the north. The 1st and 2nd Book of Kings (and Chronicles) describe the history of the age of kings from its beginning around 1000 BCE until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. It is filled with kings, prophets (Elijah and Elisha), royal intrigue, assassinations, reform and failure, and the fulfillment of what God told the people would happen back in 1 Samuel 8. Kings: can’t live with ’em, but the People of God were certainly going to have to live without them.
The Kings were supposed to be faithful to the covenant and their only real job was to lead the people in that very covenant. They failed and the book ends with the people and the royal line of David in exile in Babylon, but not without hope.
The Book of Kings is one of the most detailed and fascinating narratives in the Old Testament and none tell it better than the good people at The Bible Project. Take a few minutes of your day and watch their video on the Book of Kings.
As always, I encourage you to support the not-for-profit work of The Bible Project.