Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 12, “Kings” pp. 211-230.
Lessing notes that what we know as 1 Kings and 2 Kings are referred to in Jewish tradition as one text, dating from the time and possibly the pen of Jeremiah (Lessing 2014, 211). The division appears to be a matter of fitting material onto appropriate size scrolls. Lessing sees the text as strongly influenced by Deuteronomy (Lessing 2014, 211). Lessing explores several theories of the composition. The book was completed after 560 BC, when the last events happen. There is no mention of a return from captivity, so it is unlikely to be after 538 BC (Lessing 2014, 212).
The text of Kings contains many chronological markers (Lessing 2014, 213). There are also unifying features in the way events are described, with similarities in the introductions of similar events (Lessing 2014, 213). The author refers to a variety of source documents (Lessing 2014, 214).
Lessing observes that dating of events may be very challenging. There are multiple ways in which the years of a king’s reign could be calculated. Kings seems to use several (Lessing 2014, 215). There are also several events which are not presented in chronological order (Lessing 2014, 215). Extrabiblical sources for some events are helpful in establishing dates.
Lessing discusses several theories surrounding the relative lack of evidence about Solomon’s realm. He concludes that the presencce of modern Jerusalem on the site of Solomon’s Jerusalem makes it very difficult to obtain archaeological records. This is a hindrance to scholarship (Lessing 2014, 217). It does not indicate that Solomon did not exist.
In 931 or shortly after, when Solomon was dead, the kingdom divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south (Lessing 2014, 218). To solidify his power in the north, Jeroboam established places of worship (Lessing 2014, 219). Lessing notes that Israel largely left its religious moorings (Lessing 2014, 219). Assyria rose to dominance and proved a threat to Israel (Lessing 2014, 221). Assyria removed populations from subject territories and mixed them together so as to dilute nationalism.
Lessing observes that the southern kingdom ofJudah was more stable (Lessing 2014, 222). The line of Davidic kings may well have aided in creating consistency. The Babylonian empire, after overthrowing Assyria in 612 BC, threatened Judah (Lessing 2014, 223). Babylon was more likely to deport subjects or simply sack their territory and remove their wealth. This was very different from the Assyrian practice (Lessing 2014, 223).
Prophets are very important in Kings (Lessing 2014, 224). The prophets and other men of God engage in a large array of activities. They are trained, identifiable, and engaged in political and social life (Lessing 2014, 225).
Lessing notes a number of archaeological investigations which tend to confirm the picture we have from Kings (Lessing 2014, 226).
The leaders in Kings regularly fall short of perfection (Lessing 2014, 226). This leads Lessing to contrast these earthly rulers with Christ. The kingdom of Solomon was broken due to Solomon’s lack of belief in God. He and others fail to believe and find themselves with negative consequences (Lessing 2014, 227). Yet throughout, God makes promises of eventual restoration, especially through the house of David (Lessing 2014, 227).