Ahab’s family was ascendant, as was the service of Baal; Israel and Judah were in dire straits. Matters would improve for a time, but the end for each would soon come. The end of the monarchy in Israel and Judah is told in 2 Kings.
2 Kings is the twelfth book in most English Bibles, the sixth and last book among the *former prophets* in Hebrew, and known as 4 Reigns in the Greek Septuagint. 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book divided in antiquity, continuing the narrative begun in 1 and 2 Samuel. 2 Kings maintains a focus on the northern Kingdom of Israel, continuing the story of the kings of Israel and Judah along with some featured prophets, until the exile of Judah, ca. 850-560 BCE. 1 and 2 Kings are likely based on contemporary court and prophetic records and composed in their current form during the final days of the Kingdom of Judah and exile, around 625-550 BCE.
2 Kings begins with the fulfillment of all which God promised Elijah the prophet in 1 Kings 19:15-18. Ahaziah king of Israel is condemned, Elijah is taken up into heaven, and Elisha succeeds him (2 Kings 1:1-2:25). Stories surrounding Elisha the prophet are then set forth: Israel and Judah against Moab, the widow’s oil, the Shunnamite woman, the birth, death, and resurrection of her son, Naaman’s healing, protection against Aram, and abundance after a siege (2 Kings 3:1-8:6). Elisha then declares how Hazael will become king of Aram, and makes arrangements for Jehu to be anointed king of Israel (2 Kings 8:7-9:13). Jehu then accomplishes God’s judgment on the house of Ahab, killing Jehoram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah, the rest of Ahab’s sons, Jezebel, and all those who served Baal (2 Kings 9:14-10:36). In Judah, Athaliah usurps the throne but would be executed as Joash was made king (2 Kings 11:1-21). Thus the house of Ahab was purged from Israel and Judah.
As the Kingdom of Israel continues down the path toward exile, the 2 Kings narrative begins to focus more on the Kingdom of Judah. The repairs of the Temple in the days of Joash (or Jehoash) are described (2 Kings 12:1-21). The next hundred years are discussed with comparatively less detail: Jehoahaz and Jehoash, kings of Israel, the death of Elisha, Amaziah king of Judah, Jeroboam II king of Israel, Azariah (Uzziah) king of Judah, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekaiah, and Pekah, kings of Israel, Jotham and Ahaz kings of Judah, and Hoshea king of Israel (2 Kings 13:1-17:5).
The author of 2 Kings then explains the end of the Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE and the exile of the Israelites: its reasons, the fate of the exiles, and Assyrian resettlement in the land (2 Kings 17:6-41).
The rest of 2 Kings describes the major events of the Kingdom of Judah from the days of Hezekiah until their exile in 586 BCE. The reign of Hezekiah is considered in some depth: Hezekiah’s reforms, Assyria’s invasion, God’s deliverance of Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s illness and recovery, and his alliance with Babylon (2 Kings 18:1-20:21). His son Manasseh is chastised for his great idolatry, which also leads to the condemnation of Judah (2 Kings 21:1-18). After Amon’s short reign, Josiah his son features prominently: his repairs of the Temple, hearing the Law, his reforms, restoration of the Passover, and death at the hands of Pharaoh Neko II (2 Kings 21:19-23:30). The end comes quickly: Jehoahaz is made king and removed by Neko, Jehoiakim is made king, his son Jehoiachin is exiled to Babylon, and Zedekiah his uncle would oversee the final rebellion and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (2 Kings 23:31-25:21). The short term of Gedaliah as governor is described, and 2 Kings concludeswith Jehoiachin receiving favor in the sight of Evil-Merodach king of Babylon (ca. 561 BCE; 2 Kings 25:22-30).
God proved patient with His people, but not eternally so; days of judgment came against Israel and Judah. We can find great examples of faith in 1 and 2 Kings, but on the whole their story is designed to warn us about the consequences of turning aside from the way of God and following after the customs and behaviors of the nations around us. Let us put our trust in Jesus, the ultimate hope of Israel from the line of David, and thus glorify and honor God!
Ethan R. Longhenry