Second Kings continues the drama begun in 1 Kingsā€”the tragic history of two nations on a collision course with captivity. The author systematically traces the reigning monarchs of Israel and Judah, first by carrying one nation's history forward, then retracing the same period for the other.

Nineteen consecutive evil kings rule in Israel, leading to the captivity by Assyria. The picture is somewhat brighter in Judah, where godly kings occasionally emerge to reform the evils of their predecessors. In the end, however, sin outweighs righteousness and Judah is marched off to Babylon.

Like the books of Samuel and Chronicles, 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. English translations have followed the division of the books first made in the Greek and Latin versions.


See "Author" in 1 Kings.


The composition of the books of Kings was completed during the Babylonian captivity.

Chapters 1-17 cover the 131 years from 853 B.C. (King Ahaziah of Israel) to 722 B.C. (the fall of Samaria and the Assyrian captivity of Israel). Chapters 18-25 record the 155 years from the beginning of Hezekiah's reign in 715 B.C. to the release of Jehoiachin in Babylon in 560 B.C. The united kingdom lasts for 112 years (1043-931 B.C.), the northern kingdom of Israel exists for another 209 years (931-722 B.C.), and the southern kingdom of Judah continues for an additional 136 years (722-586 B.C.). During this 457-year kingdom period, there are great shifts of world power. Egyptian and Assyrian power over Palestine fluctuates; Assyria rises to preeminence, declines, and is finally conquered by Babylon.

Themes and Literary Structure

Second Kings traces the history of the divided kingdom in chapters 1-17 and the history of the surviving kingdom of Judah in chapters 18-25. As with 1 Kings, the narrative is somewhat difficult to follow, as the author switches back and forth between the northern and the southern kingdom.

The book is more than just a compilation of the politically important or socially significant events in Israel and Judah. Rather, 2 Kings is a selective history written with a theological purpose. The author selects and emphasizes the people and events that are morally and religiously significant and teaches that the decline and collapse of the two kingdoms occurred because of failure on the part of the rulers and people to heed the warnings of God's messengers. The spiritual climate of the nation determined its political and economic conditions. First and foremost, the books of Kings are covenant history written to explain to the Jewish exiles the reasons for the fall of the northern and southern kingdoms.

Second Kings presents God as the controller of history who reveals His plan and purpose for His people. God controls human affairs and those who obey the Lord enjoy His blessing while the disobedient experience God's discipline. Yet even the disobedience of His people cannot thwart God's redemptive purposes. Against all odds, the Davidic line of covenant promise is preserved (2Ki_11:1-16), and the book concludes on a hopeful, forward-looking note with the release of David's royal descendant Jehoiachin from captivity in Babylon (2Ki_25:27-30).

The prophets of Yahweh play a prominent role in 1 and 2 Kings as God uses them to remind the kings of their covenant responsibilities. The ministries of Elijah and Elisha in the northern kingdom are the most prominent, but many of the later writing prophets are mentioned as well. The certainty of God's prophetic word is highlighted as numerous fulfillments of prophecy and miracles performed by prophets are mentioned.