Here is a prayer from the Orthodox Church to use before reading:
Master who loves us, shine Your eternal light in our hearts that we may better know you. Help us to fully understand Your gospel message. Instill in us respect for Your holy commandments, that by overcoming our worldly desires we might live a spiritual life of thoughts and deeds which pleases You. We ask this of You, O Christ our god, for You are the light of our souls and bodies and You we glorify with Your eternal Father and Your all-holy good and life-giving Spirit now and forever. Amen.
An Outline of 2 Kings from Nelson and Seow:
I. 2 Kings 1:1-2:18 The Conclusion of Elijah’s Ministry
II. 2 Kings 2:19-8:29 The Career of Elisha
III. 2 Kings 9:1-10:36 The Reign of Jehu
IV. 2 Kings 11:1-17:41 Hope for Judah, Destruction for Israel
A. 11:1-12:21 Restoration and Reform in Judah: Now we are changing our focus from the north to the south.
11:1-3 Athaliah takes the throne of David. As Seow says, “Athaliah is to Judah what Jezebel was to Israel.” (Seow,228). After her son Ahaziah dies she attempts to do away with any remaining members of the royal family,threatening the Davidic dynasty promised by God. But Baby Joash is hidden away.
111:4-21 The Davidic Monarchy Is Restored: Jehoiada the priest arranges the return of the legitimate heir, Joash, to the throne at the age of seven. The Carites are mercenaries, but we do not know where they come from. In verse 12 the Hebrew word for emblem is used and in other usages in Scripture refers to covenant documents.
12:1-16 The Reign of Joash: Joash has a mixed review from the author. Recall that faithfulness to Torah and God are the author’s benchmarks. Joash does, with some difficulty, repair the Temple.
12:17-21 Hazael Threatens and Joash Dies: Hazael of Aram threatens Jerusalem and Joash buys him off with the Temple treasury as Asa did years before (1 Kings 15:18). Joash is killed by his own servants and his son Amaziah succeeded him.
B. 13:1- 16:20 More Lessons from History
13:1-13 Jehoahaz and Jehoash Reign in Israel: Now the story returns to Israel. Jehoahaz and his son Jehoash are both counted at bad kings. Even though Israel is is under control of Hazael of Aram and his son. But, once again, God hears and responds to the people’s cry for help, although we do not know who delivers Israel (besides God).
13:14-21 Elisha Dies, but His Ministry Lives On: Elisha is dying and the king knows this is a bad thing for Israel. Note the Jehoash cries out over Elisha the same words Elisha cried out over Elijah when he ascended into heaven. In two prophetic acts, at Elisha’s instruction, Jehoash shoots and arrow out of the window and hits the ground with arrows. The Hebrew word for “strike” is also the word used about the defeat of enemies and the word for “earth”is the same one used for “country”. This story gives us an explanation for why the success over Aram lasted for four generations and then ends. Notice how God uses/works with Jehoash even though he is considered a bad king. Verses 20-21 tell an odd story that emphasizes Elisha’s power.
13:22-25 Victory over Aram. An explanation for why Israel survives even though their kings are sinful.
14:1-22 The Reign of Amaziah of Judah: Now our story returns to the south and the reign of Amaziah. As with most Judean kings, Amaziah has a generally positive assessment. Amaziah sends emissaries to Israel (northern kingdom) in what seems to be an attempt to end Judah’s status as vassal state by asking for a face to face meeting. Jehoash responds negatively with a parable. Amaziah and Jehoash meet in combat and Judah is defeated, Amaziah is captured, part of the wall around Jerusalem is destroyed, and the treasuries of the Temple and palace are plundered.The summary of Jehoash’s reign is repeated from 13:12-13 and seems out of place. But perhaps is reinforces the idea of Israel’s success even over the generally good king Amaziah of Judah.
14:23-29 The Reign of Jeroboam II of Israel: Jeroboam II, not a good king, never the less returns Israel’s borders to what they were in the time of King Solomon. God responds to the suffering people through Jeroboam. Verse 25 refers to a prophet Jonah. We know nothing else about Jonah or his oracle.
15:1-16:20 Kings of Israel and Judah:
15: 1-7 Azariah/Uzziah of Judah: Azariah and Uzziah are the same person. Azariah may have been his personal name and Uzziah his throne name. Uzziah is mentioned in Isa 1:1,6:1, 7:1 and also in Amos, Hos, and Zech. Azariah, like many of the Judean kings “did right” but also did not remove the high places. 2 Kings does not tell us why the Lord strikes Azariah with leprosy but it is discussed in 2 Chronicles.
15:8-31 A Succession of Kings of Israel: Now we have a series of short accounts of several kings. Most of them (except Shallum) are said to have done “evil in the eyes of the Lord” and “did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat”. Of the six kings listed here, five were assassinated.
15:32-38 Jotham of Judah: Now we return to Judah and a good king as Judean kings are normally described.
C. 17:1-41 The Destruction of Israel
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of 2 Kings
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Nelson, Richard D. “1 and 2 Kings” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Romer, Thomas, “2 Kings” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Seow, Choon-Leong “The First and Second Books of Kings” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1999.
Stinespring, William F. and Burke O. Long “ 2 Kings” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.