What is the Story of Kings and Chronicles?

Going by the narrative, the story of Kings and Chronicles covers the time period from Adam to the release from exile of the nation of Judah. More specifically, it narrates the time from King David to the Babylonian captivity of Judah, including the years from 930-586 BC, and twenty kings of Israel, nineteen kings of Judah, and one queen of Judah.

The books of 1 & 2 Kings start with the accession of Solomon upon David's death and end with the Babylonian captivity. Jewish tradition identifies the author as Jeremiah the prophet and author of the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations. It would have been written sometime in the 500s BC and apparently was compiled from the "Book of the Acts of Solomon," the "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah," and the "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel." The "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah" was not the same as 1 & 2 Chronicles. It is unclear exactly what these annals were and how the author had access to them, but their use as references infer they were available to Jeremiah's audience.

The books of 1 & 2 Chronicles begin with a summary of history from Adam to King Saul. The rest of the book (chapters 13—29) then covers much of the same material found in 2 Samuel; namely, David's reign. Second Chronicles begins with Solomon's reign and the split of the nation into two, but then concentrates on only the kings of Judah, adding information about Israel as it applies to Judah. Tradition says that the author was Ezra, a scribe and priest, the post-exilic leader and author of the book of Ezra, and was written in the 400s BC. It also lists as a source the "Book of the Kings of Israel" and (combined) the "Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah," but also the "Chronicles of King David" and several others. Although much of the information is the same as that found in 2 Samuel—2 Kings (often verbatim), the Books of Chronicles more specifically identify the set-backs of good kings in relation to their specific failures to obey God. They also share more history about the people of Judah and their relationship to their God, instead of concentrating solely on the kings.

A Summary

{Please note that (I) indicates a king of Israel and (J) indicates a king of Judah}

Upon the death of King Solomon, his son Rehoboam (J) takes the throne. Instead of listening to the wise elders who advised his father, he turns to his friends who advise him to be mean and harsh. Back when Solomon was king and started worshiping the gods of his foreign wives, God had singled out Jeroboam (I) to punish Solomon's line by taking ten tribes from him. Three years into Rehoboam's (J) harsh rule, he does, separating the northern tribes from the southern, and dividing the nation into northern Israel and southern Judah (so named because the tribe of Judah was by far the largest). Politically and emotionally, Jeroboam's (I) authority is secure. In order to maintain complete control, he builds two golden calves for the new nation to worship so the people won't go to the Temple in Jerusalem and get nostalgic about a united kingdom. God sends Egypt to punish Judah for their disobedience. At some point during this time, an unnamed prophet predicts that a king named Josiah (J) will burn the false priests; this came true three hundred years later.

Abijah (J) takes the throne of Judah from Rehoboam (J) and leads Judah to battle against Israel, killing 500,000. Asa (J) then takes the throne of Judah from Abijah (J). Asa (J) trusts God and removes the high places, the Asherim, and the idols, and restores the altar. Nadab (I) takes the throne of Israel from his father Jeroboam (I) and is promptly assassinated by Baasha (I) who succeeds him. Baasha (I) goes further and destroys Jeroboam's entire family. Baasah (I) fortifies Ramah, and Asa of Judah promptly forgets his head. Instead of trusting God, he pays the king of Aram to break their treaty with Israel and attack. A seer scolds Asa (J), so Asa imprisons him.

Meanwhile, in Israel, Elah (I) succeeds his father, Baasha (I) and is quickly killed by Zimri (I) who takes the throne, kills Elah's (I) family, and burns the castle around himself all within a year's time. Tibni (I) and Omri (I) have a power struggle for five years until Omri (I) finally gains the support of the people. He buys a hill from a man named Shemer, names it Samaria, and moves the capital from Tirza to Samaria.

Upon Omri's (I) death, his evil son Ahab (I) and Ahab's even worse wife Jezebel take the throne of Israel. The prophet Elijah helps the widow of Zarephath during a drought and raises her son from the dead. Elijah destroys the priests of Baal, finds God's voice in a gentle breeze, and appoints Elisha as his heir apparent. God helps Ahab (I) push back the threatening Assyrians, but Ahab lets the Assyrian leader go free; God sends a prophet to tell Ahab (I) that one day Assyria will take Samaria into exile, a prophecy which comes true about 120 years later.

In Judah, Asa's (J) son Jehoshaphat (J) co-reigns with his father, perhaps because of the foot infection that takes Asa's life two years later when he refuses to ask God for healing. Although Jehoshaphat (J) doesn't remove all the high places, he not only sends officials throughout all Judah to teach the law, he also manages to make peace with Ahab of Israel. Ahab (I) even convinces Jehoshaphat (J) to go into battle with him against Aram, despite the prophet Micaiah's warning. Perhaps in an attempt to escape Micaiah's dire warnings, Ahab (I) disguises himself as a charioteer, whereupon he is hit by a random arrow and dies.

Ahab's son Ahaziah (I) takes the throne of Israel and is succeeded by his brother Joram (I) (AKA: Jehoram) a year later after Elijah predicts his death. Elijah is taken in a whirlwind. Moab revolts against Israel, and Joram (I) invites Jehoshaphat (J) and the king of Edom to help regain control. Jehoshaphat (J) takes the time to consult God through Elisha, and God honors his faithfulness by routing Moab. Then begin the stories of Elisha and the widow's oil, the Shunammite woman, the poisoned stew, Naaman's leprosy, and others.

Jehoram (J) (AKA: Joram) co-reigns with his father Jehoshaphat (J). Jehoshaphat (J), being a fairly reasonable and God-fearing king, gives gifts to all his sons and then dies. Jehoram (J) takes the throne of Judah and promptly kills all his brothers and marries Ahab's (I) daughter. A letter from Elijah, written at least two years before, arrives, prophesying that Jehoram's (J) family will be taken and he'll die from a problem with his bowels. Within seven years, Philistines and Arabs take all Jehoram's (J) possessions and his family save his youngest son, Ahaziah (J) (AKA: Jehoahaz), who takes the throne. For about a minute.

Up in Israel, God is about done with Ahab's line. God has Elisha arrange the anointing of Jehu and commissions him to rid the nation of Ahab's line and take the throne. Joram (I) leaves the Assyrian frontlines to recover from war injuries, and Ahaziah of Judah rides up to visit. Jehu kills both Joram (I) and Ahaziah (J) while they flee and then goes to Jezreel and has Jezebel assassinated. Jehu (I) then demands a response from the foster-fathers of Ahab's (I) seventy sons; the foster-fathers respond by sending along those sons' heads. Jehu also destroys the Baal worshipers, although not the idols, and obeys God enough that God promises four of his generations will sit on the throne of Israel.

With Ahaziah (J) dead by Jehu's (I) men and his brothers taken by the Philistines and Arabs and his uncles killed by his father Jehoram (J), the throne of Judah goes to Athaliah, Jehoram's (J) wife, who promptly kills all her grandchildren. All but one; a servant hides the youngest, Joash, in a bedding storage room. The servant later manages to sneak him out to the Temple, where he is raised by the priests, particularly Jehoiada. When he is seven years old, the priests install Joash (J) (AKA: Jehoash) as king and have Athaliah (J) killed. Under the priest Jehoiada's council, Joash (J) turns out to be one of Judah's best kings. Jehoiada tears down the Baal temples, but it is Joash (J) who raises money to repair the Temple from Athaliah's damage and theft — and then holds the priests accountable for the use of the funds. Like too many biblical leaders, as Joash (J) grows older and more confident, he turns away from God, particularly after the death of Jehoiada. The princes of Judah turn him to foreign gods, and when Jehoiada's son Zechariah confronts him with this sin, Joash (J) has him stoned.

Back in Israel, Jehu dies and his son Jehoahaz takes the throne. Although Jehoahaz (I) doesn't follow God, he does pray for help when the oppression from the Arameans grows particularly harsh. God has mercy and pushes the Arameans back, but the on-going battles are so draining, the people of Israel are back to living in tents. Upon Jehoahaz's (I) death, his son Jehoash (I) (AKA: Joash) takes the throne, further complicating the name-issue by having two men with the same name on the thrones of Israel and Judah at the same time. Although he is as evil as any other, he does seek the counsel of Elisha when things get particularly hairy with the Assyrians. Elisha is ill, but gives Jehoash (I) an object lesson with arrows whereby it is prophesied that Israel will strike down Assyria three times only. Elisha dies, but when a dead man is thrown into the grave with him, the man leaps up, alive. Despite Israel's continued rebellion, God fulfills His promises to Jehu (I) and Elisha, and allows Jehoash (I) to actually reclaim some cities from Assyria.

Because of Joash's (J) continued disobedience after such a promising start, God allows a small force of Assyrians to take out the army of Judah. While Joash (J) lays sick, his servants kill him. His son Amaziah (J) takes the throne, promptly executing the servants who had assassinated his father. But in a stunning understanding of the Law, he does not kill the murderers' families. Amaziah (J) is a pretty good king, but he is a little too ambitious. He challenges Jehoash of Israel to battle. Jehoash (I) tries to warn him off, but Amaziah (J) won't listen. Israel not only routs Judah, they take captives, capture Amaziah (J), break down part of the wall around Jerusalem, and steal the gold and silver vessels in the Temple.

Jehoash's (I) son Jeroboam II (I) co-reigns in Israel. About six years later, Amaziah (J) is run out of town and killed, and his son Uzziah (J) (AKA: Azariah) takes the throne in Judah. Jehoash (I) dies. Jeroboam II (I) is evil, but God often uses evil people for His purposes. Israel's rebellion against God leads Him to use foreign nations, particularly Aram and Assyria but sometimes Egypt and others, to harass the people. They and their leaders won't listen, so they often lose the battles. But sometimes the Israelites are so worn down and in such despair that God allows an evil king a measure of military victory just to give relief. This is the case with Jeroboam II (I), whose conquests prevent the premature annihilation of Israel during his forty-year reign.

The years after Jeroboam II (I) are not so stable for Israel. Zechariah (I) takes his place for six months. Shallum (I) has the throne for one month. Menahem (I) assassinates Shallum (I) and rules Israel with great evil and cruelty for ten years.

In Judah, Uzziah (J) is a fair king. God grants him many victories. But when Uzziah (J) enters the Temple to burn incense, God punishes him with leprosy. He has to live apart from the king's house, and his son Jotham (J) co-reigns with him. Meanwhile, Israel continues on their downward spiral. Azariah (I) is succeeded by his son Pekahiah (I), who is evil. Pekah, the son of his captain, kills him in the king's home and takes the throne. During Pekah's (I) reign, Assyria takes a great number of Israelites into captivity. Hoshea (I) (not to be confused with Hosea the prophet) conspires against Pekah (I), kills him, and takes his throne.

As if trying to match them, Ahaz (J) takes the throne of Judah from his father Jotham (J) and undoes all the good his father had accomplished. He not only makes places to worship Baal, he joins in by sacrificing his own sons. At one point, he takes pieces off the great bronze sea in the Temple in an attempt to raise funds. Despite Israel's problems with Assyria, they still manage to join with Aram and beat back Judah. The prophet Oded has to rescue the captives they take. When Ahaz (J) asks for help from Assyria, Assyria turns on Judah and wins. Ahaz (J) dies, and Hezekiah (J) takes the throne of Judah.

Hoshea of Israel was evil, but not as bad as many of Israel's kings. Before long, he agrees to be a vassal of the king of Assyria. After attempting to betray Assyria, he is imprisoned, and Israel is besieged for three years. In Hoshea's (I) ninth year as king, Israel is taken into exile to Assyria, leaving Judah as the sole remainder of God's chosen people.

As if in response, Hezekiah (J) becomes one of the best, most godly kings Judah ever had. He not only takes down the high places and Asherah poles and reinstates the feasts, he breaks Moses' bronze serpent when people start worshiping it. He follows God as Moses intended, and — with Isaiah's help — isn't intimidated by the Assyrians. It is Hezekiah who trusts God when Sennacherib, the legendary king of Assyria, besieges Jerusalem. Instead of giving in to fear, he gives in to the prophet Isaiah and trusts God. God responds by super-naturally destroying Sennacherib's army, and sending the Assyrian king home where his children kill him in his own temple.

But, like all kings, Hezekiah (J) isn't perfect. A bout with pride leads him to show Babylonian envoys the riches of Jerusalem. Isaiah responds by prophesying that one day Babylon will take away both the riches and the people. Still, Hezekiah (J) leads Judah in a rare time of prosperity, technological innovation, and faithfulness to God.

And so, to keep things interesting, when his son Manasseh (J) takes the throne, he pulls a 180. He is the longest-reigning king in Judah and uses his time building altars to Baal and Asherim — even in the Temple. He brings in divination, sorcery, and witchcraft, and leads the people of Judah into worse sins than Israel had committed including sacrificing his own sons. God responds by allowing the king of Assyria to capture him with hooks (representing the bonds of a slave) and take him to Babylon. While there, Manasseh (J) has the wherewithal to cry out to God for deliverance. God returns him to Jerusalem, and Manasseh responds by cleaning out the temple and Jerusalem of the idols, and offering peace and thank offerings. His son Amon (J) takes his place, but is so evil his servants assassinate him. The people execute the murderers and give Josiah, Amon's son, the throne of Judah.

As far as kings go, Josiah (J) is on par with Hezekiah (J). He starts by tearing down the places of pagan worship and completely destroying them. He then repairs the Temple. Only after these reforms does he find the Law of Moses. A prophetess, Huldah, reaffirms that over the years Judah had rebelled against God and was due for the wrath God had promised in the Law. But Josiah (J) is humble and faithful enough that God promises it will come after his time. He leads the nation in reaffirming their covenant with God and reinstating the Passover Feast.

For whatever reason, the work of leading his people in following God isn't quite enough. When Egypt passes through on their way to war with Carchemish on the Euphrates, Josiah (J) challenges Neco, the Pharaoh. Neco warns Josiah (J) off, saying he had no quarrel with Judah — even saying that God had commissioned him to fight at Carchemish. Josiah (J) foolishly pushes the matter. He disguises himself as a soldier and, like King Ahab if Israel, is shot by a random arrow. The Prophet Jeremiah and all of Judah mourn Josiah's death, and Josiah's son Joahaz (J) (AKA: Jehoahaz) takes the throne.

Unfortunately, Pharaoh Neco doesn't take to Joahaz (J) like he had to Josiah. Within three months, Neco imprisons Joahaz (J) in Egypt and installs his brother Jehoiakim (AKA: Eliakim) as king of Judah. Eleven evil years later, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captures Jehoiakim (J) and imprisons him in Babylon, taking some of the articles of the Temple for good measure. Jehoiachin (J), his son, takes the throne and continues the traditions of both evil rule and complicated names for just over three months. Nebuchadnezzar returns for Jehoiachin (J) (and more Temple articles) and installs Jehoiachin's kinsman Zedekiah (J) as king.

Zedekiah (J) is in a tough spot. He's been put into place by the foreign power that is taking away his country piece by piece. He doesn't trust God. Instead, he leads the people into idol worship and mocks the prophets. In response, God sends the Chaldeans to do more damage, up to and including tearing down the wall of Jerusalem. The Chaldeans capture Zedekiah (J) and bring him to Nebuchadnezzar. For his rebellion, Zedekiah's (J) sons are killed in front of him, and then he is blinded and taken in chains to Babylon. The chief and second priests, along with officers of the city, are killed. The Temple is completely ransacked and burned.

Nebuchadnezzar installs Gedaliah as governor over Judah. Against Jeremiah's judgment, the remaining royal family and military kill Gedaliah and his officers. In fear, the few stragglers of Judah, including Jeremiah, flee to Egypt.

There is one final note on the kings of Judah. Thirty-seven years after Jehoiachin was taken to Babylon, the king Evil-merodach has him released. He sets Jehoiachin in a place of honor, gives him a place at his table, and grants him a regular allowance.

Related Truth:

Why should we read the Old Testament?

What is the basic timeline of the Old Testament?

Why is knowing about the various characters in the Bible important?

What is the importance of genealogies in the Bible?

The Prayer of Manasseh – What is it?

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