Second Kings is part two of the story of the kings of Israel who followed David.
First Kings introduced the prophet Elijah, who challenged foreign idols and called out Israel’s leadership for its corruption and injustice.
In the beginning of Second Kings, Elijah passes on his prophetic leadership to Elisha, who God called in 1 Kings 19. Elisha asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s authority, and as a result, performs twice as many miraculous acts in God’s name than Elijah.
After passing on his leadership to Elisha, Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, and Elisha continues his predecessor’s work as a watchdog over the leadership in Southern Judah and Northern Israel. Elisha confronts the idol worship, injustice and unfaithfulness of God’s people, but unfortunately, the people do not turn from their sinful ways.
In chapter 9, God raises up King Jehu to bring down the house of King Ahab as He said He would in 1 Kings 19. However, Jehu’s violence grows out of control, and creates a downward spiral of political assassinations and rebellions in Northern Israel from which it cannot recover.
It all leads to 2 Kings 17, when Assyria invades the Northern Kingdom of Israel and sends the people into exile—a direct result of generations of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God’s covenant, which He had warned would happen from the day He first made a covenant with them in Exodus.
After Israel’s exile, Judah, the Southern Kingdom, is not far behind. Chapters 18-25 tell of Judah’s demise and eventual capture by Babylon. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed, and the people are exiled to Babylon.
Though it seems like God has given up on His people, the book ends with a glimmer of hope. In the last paragraph of chapter 25, 37 years after Judah is exiled to Babylon, Jehoiachin, who would have been king of Judah, is released from prison and invited to sit at the table of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life.
God’s justice: Second Kings displays God’s divine justice. God warned the people of Israel for hundreds of years that if they continued to reject Him for other gods, they would be exiled from the Promised Land. After generations of unfaithfulness, God allows His people (first Northern Israel, then Southern Judah) to face the consequences of their sin through exile.
Hope: Throughout Second Kings, it seems like things only go from bad to worse. However, there are several stories nestled in the book in which God reminds His people that there is hope, like Elisha’s ministry in chapters 4-8 and the stories of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20), King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23) and King Jehoiachin (2 Kings 25:27-30). God continually reminds people that despite their failures and the failures of their kings, He has not forgotten them and still desires to have a relationship with them.
2 Kings 13:23: “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.”
2 Kings 17:6-8: “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.”
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Though Second Kings is, as a whole, the tragic story of the fall of Israel, it is vital to God’s story of redemption. Second Kings shows the people’s need for a Messianic King and the hope that God still has a plan for Israel.
Both First and Second Kings show just how far Israel is from God, but God is not done just yet. By the end of Second Kings, God is still in the beginning stages of His great redemptive plan. Israel is inching closer to the coming of Messiah, who will not only fulfill all of God’s covenant promises, but will invite everyone to take a seat at His banquet table.