“What are the Old Testament Books of Kings all about?”

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Kings is the ninth book of the Hebrew Bible, the fourth book in the Prophets (Nevi’im), the second section of the Hebrew Bible. In most English Bibles, it is divided into First Kings and Second Kings, but this division is late. The division appears first in the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) and only entered Jewish (bibles) with the printing of the Venice rabbinic Bible in 1517. In Jewish tradition, Kings is treated as one book.

Kings tells the story of the Kingdoms of Israel and of Judah from the beginning of King Solomon’s reign (roughly 960 B.C.E.) until the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The first eleven chapters of Kings deal with Solomon. After Solomon’s death, the united monarchy of Israel split in two: ten of the tribes of Israel left the rule of Solomon, and established a rival kingdom in the North (the southern kingdom’s capital remained in Jerusalem).

The capital of the Northern kingdom, usually known as Israel, moved from Shechem (known in Arabic by the Roman name Nablus) to Tirzah to Samaria. Kings from different dynasties ruled over the Kingdom of Israel, with the longest lasting being the House of Omri (882 BCE-842BCE) and the House of Jehu (842-747 BCE). In the south, the tribe of Judah remained loyal to Solomon’s descendants, who continued to rule over what becomes the Kingdom of Judah until 586. The capital of Judah remained in Jerusalem.

The period that the book of Kings covers is rich in historical data from non-biblical sources. Much of this data correlates with the data in the book of Kings and helps us to construct a cogent and well-sourced history of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. From 858 BCE on, the neo-Assyrian empire had contact with the kings of Israel and later, with those of Judah as well. Several of the kings of Israel (Ahab, Jehu, Joash, Menahem, Pekah, Hosea) and of Judah (Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh) are mentioned in the royal inscriptions of the neo-Assyrian kings.

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