I apologize for the lateness of this week’s post. We had some difficulties with the blog.
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
B. 13:1- 16:20 More Lessons from History:
16:1-20 Ahaz of Judah: After several fairly good kings, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah/Uzziah, and Jotham, comes Ahaz who receives a negative assessment. He is accuses of child sacrifice which is one of the reasons for Israel’s destruction (17:17-18). Manasseh was the only other Judean king who did such a thing (21:6). The war described here, the Syro-Ephraimitic War, was Aramean (Syrian) and Israel kingdoms against Judah. They wanted Judah to join their rebellion against Assyria. But Ahaz pledges loyalty (becomes the vassal) to Assyria. Ahaz, as other kings before him, uses the Temple treasury to pay tribute to Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria. The Assyrians take Damascus and kill the Aramean king. Ahaz, in Damascus to meet with Tilglath-Plileser, was impressed with an alter he saw there and has an alter like it built in Jerusalem. The text doesn’t make an explicit theological assessment about this new altar. What do you think about it?
C. 17:1-41 The Destruction of Israel: Samaria falls in 722/721 BCE. This chapter is most likely the result of a much editorial work. Notice the deuteronomistic theology present in this telling of history. After Samaria falls, only Judah remains.
17:1-6 How Samaria Fell: Hoshea is the last king of Israel. The story of Israel has been moving to this point since the time of Jeroboam. Interestingly, while Hoshea is a bad king, he is not as bad as those who came before him. Also recall that Ahaz, king of Judea, is said to have been as bad as the kings of Israel. Perhaps the author is making the point that the fall of Samaria is not just Hoshea’a fault, but is the result of a long history of problems. Shalmaneser V, the Assyrian king is the son of Tiglath-pileser III. Hoshea paid him tribute but made overtures to Egypt. This resulted in prompt retaliation by Assyria, resulting in a three year siege. The citizens of Israel are exiled to various places in Assyria.
17:7-23 Why Samaria Fell: Samaria falls because of persistent violation of the covenant. Verse 15 says “they went after false idols and became false” (NRSV) or “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless” (NIV). The Hebrew translated as false of worthless idol literally means “wind” or “puff”, meaning things that are insubstantial or ephemeral or unreliable. “…the people had gone after things ephemeral and, hence, themselves became ephemeral.” (Seow,255). Notice the subtle warning in the text for Judah. (v13,18,19)
17:24-41 The Resettlement of Samaria and Its Consequences: Assyria has deported the Israelites and resettled the land with other peoples. Those people, in spite of having an Israelite priest to tell them how to worship, continue to worship their old gods.
V. 2 Kings 18:1- 25:30 Judah stands Alone:
A. 18:1-20:21 Hezekiah, the Trusting King:
18:1-8 Introduction to Hezekiah the Reformer: Hezekiah has a very positive review from the author, in fact the only one like it in Kings, so far.
18:9-12 Perspective on the Fall of Samaria: Again the story of the fall of Samaria, this time placed in context with Hezekiah’s reign.
18:13-19:7 Sennacherib’s First Challenge: In spite of Hezekiah’s earlier good report, Judah’s cities fall to Assyria and Assyria (with king Sennacherib- 705-681 BCE) is at Jerusalem. Hezekiah tries to appease Sennacherib but Sennacherib does not leave them alone. The Assyrian king sends three men to Jerusalem the “Tartan”or highest official after the king, the “Rabsaris” or chief courtier and the Rabshakeh the chief cup bearer. They are met by three Judeans, Eliakim the chief of staff of the palace, Shebna the secretary and Joah the recorder. The Assyrian’s accuse Hezekiah of making an alliance with Egypt. And they accuse him of removing high places and alters to God and making people worship in Jerusalem. Evidently the decision to centralize worship in Jerusalem was unpopular. Hezekiah’s people was the Assyrians to speak in Aramaic which was the language of diplomacy and not well known by regular people. But the Assyrians was everyone to hear what they are saying. The Assyrians tell the people to choose between God or Assyria. Hezekiah and the people do not answer but go into mourning and consult the prophet Isaiah.
19:8-37 Sennacherib’s Second Challenge: The Assyrian king, learning that Ethiopia is fighting against him, threatens Judea again. He again says that the Lord will not be able to save them. The Hezekiah goes to the Temple and prays, asking God to save them. Isaiah delivers an oracle. God points out that Sennacherib’s victories are not of his own doing but are part of God’s plan. Sennacherib is given a sign. By the third year agricultural practices will return to normal. Also Sennacherib will not be successful in the attack on Jerusalem. The angel of the Lord attacks the Assyrian army and Sennacherib is assassinated by his own sons.
20:1-11 Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery: Hezekiah is ill and Isaiah tells him that he will not recover. But Hezekiah pleads with God and God changes God’s mind. The steps or intervals of verses 9 and 10 probably refer to a sundial.
20:12-21: From Assyria to Babylon: Within a century Babylon will defeat the Assyrians and Judah. In this story Babylonians visit Hezekiah, and he shows them all his resources. Isaiah predicts the fall of Judah to the Babylonians. In an interesting response,(V 19) the king seems to accept what Isaiah tells him and then privately has a somewhat different response. What do you think about this? The text seems to just report this, as it moves on to a standard summary of Hezekiah’s reign.
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.