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
V. 2 Kings 18:1- 25:30 Judah stands Alone
A. 18:1-20:21 Hezekiah, the Trusting King
B. 21:1-26 Irreparable Damage to Judah: From the good king Hezekiah to his son the bad king Manasseh. In fact no other Judean king receives such a bad evaluation. While Manasseh was a very bad king, it is the sin of all of Judah which causes their downfall (v15). After Manasseh is his son Amon who follows in his father’s ways.
C. 22:1-23:30 The Reforms of Josiah: Since Solomon, things have been going downhill as far as the kings being obedient to Torah and to God. But now there is the reign of Josiah.
22:1-2: Introduction to Josiah’s reign. Josiah receives a positive evaluation. Only Hezekiah and Josiah receive unconditional praise. Josiah walks in “all” the ways of David. (v2).
22:3-11 Rediscovery of the Book of the Law: Josiah repairs the Temple after the reign of Manasseh and Amon. During the repairs the “book of the law” is found. Some scholars thing it had been hidden during the reign of Manasseh.
22:12-20 A Prophetic Oracle: Josiah, concerned about what was in the book sends emissaries to the prophetess Huldah. She pronounces judgment on Judah but says that Josiah will die peacefully before this happens.
23:1-25 Josiah’s Reforms: We are given a detailed description of Josiah’s actions. He reads the book to the people, renews the covenant and removes idols and inappropriate structures and practices. In fact his reforms extend outside of Judah into Samaria. He also resumes the observance of the Passover.
23:26-30 The Failure of Josiah to Stem the Tide of Destruction: In spite of Josiah’s efforts, God still plans for the destruction of Judah. This is not the outcome we might expect or want. Josiah’s faithfulness doesn’t change the course of history. What do you think about this? Josiah is spared but not the nation. However there is no mention of prayers or cries for deliverance. Josiah appears to have been faithful without reward.
23:31-25:30 The End: Now we have the story of the end of Judah. Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 BCE.
23:31-35 The Reign of Jehoahaz: The Pharaoh who killed Josiah, also deposes Josiah’s son Jehoahaz. The Pharaoh names a new king, Eliakim/Jehoiakim.
23:36-24:7 The Reign of Jehoiakim: Now Nebuchadnezzar invader and Jehoiakim becomes his vassal. When Jehoiakim tries to switch his allegiance when Babylon is temporarily defeated in c. 602/601. Babylon takes Judah back with a coalition army.
24:8-17 The Reign of Jehoiachin: Jehoiachin reigns for three months. The Babylonians besiege Jerusalem and Jehoiachin surrenders. Jehoiachin is taken prisoner along with the elites of Jerusalem and the army. Only the poor people are left on the land.
24:18-25:21 The Reign of Zedekiah: Another bad king. This king also rebels against Babylon. Jerusalem is under siege again and this time there is famine.Zedekiah and his army flee when the walls are breached, but are captured by the Babylonians. Zedekiah’s sons are killed, Zedekiah is blinded and taken to Babylon in chains. Nebuchadnezzar has Jerusalem, including the Temple burned to the ground and more people are deported. “So Judah went into captivity, away from her land” (v21).
25:22-26 Gedaliah Becomes Governor: Gedaliah is made king by Nebuchadnezzar. But Gedaliah is killed by one of his own people. But “all the people” are afraid and flee to Egypt.
25:27-30 Jehoiachin is Released from Prison: A new Babylonian king releases Jehoiachin from prison and lets his eat at the king’s table. Here Judah’s story ends with Judah’s king sitting at the table of the Babylonian king and receiving an allowance from him.
What did you think of 1 and 2 Kings?
D. 23:31-25:30 The Decline and Fall of Judah
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.