Introduction to 2 Kings
and Study of 2 Kings 1-3
April 15th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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2 Kings (Overview)

The second book of Kings continues the accounts of the kings of Israel and Judah – fifteen successive kings in the north and twelve in the south. The book begins with the two nations still divided and allied - with a faint hope that maybe they will reunite one day. But instead, the situation declines. The northern kingdom was eventually defeated by another nation, and then the southern kingdom was conquered. Most of the people from both kingdoms were taken into exile. In the last chapters the author depicts the Babylonians destroying the beautiful temple that Solomon had built.

The underlying cause of these problems was disobedience to God. In 2 Kings we will read about a few prominent individuals who tried to steer the people in the right direction. Elisha the prophet and the kings named Hezekiah and Josiah are among the faithful who sought to eliminate idol worship and turn Judah towards the LORD. But their initiatives were not continued by all of their successors and the LORD allowed the nations to be taken away.

We will divide up our study over eight days as noted below:

    2 Kings 1-3 (Elijah Goes Home) - April 15th
    2 Kings 4-5 (Those Who Listen are Healed) - April 16th
    2 Kings 6-7 (He Intervenes) - April 17th
    2 Kings 9-10 (Jehu's Reign) - April 18th
    2 Kings 11-13 (Elisha's Final Acts) - April 19th
    2 Kings 14-17 (Eliminate those Idols, or Else...) - April 20th
    2 Kings 18-20 (Hezekiah Clears Out the Idols) - April 21st
    2 Kings 21-23 (Josiah Leads the People Back to God) - April 22nd
    2 Kings 24-25 (Exile to Babylon) - April 23rd

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Abegg, Martin Jr., Flint Peter, and Ulrich, Eugene; The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY, 1999
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984
  • Fee, Gordon D., Stuart Douglas, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Israel, Alex, I Kings, Torn in Two, Maggid Books, Jerusalem, Israel and Milford, CT; 2013
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • Nelson, Richard, First and Second Kings, Interpretation, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1973
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

2 Kings 1-3 (Elijah Goes Home)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

- 2 Kings 2:11-12 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

The first chapter gives an account of the death of Ahaziah, king of Israel, who succeeded his father, the evil King Ahab. Elijah rebuked him for calling on the fake prophets after he had an accident and prophesized that Ahaziah would die before he ever left that sick bed. The prophecy was fulfilled and Ahaziah was replaced by Joram.

The second chapter describes the holy succession of the role of prophet. Before he was taken away, Elijah granted a transfer of power. Some translations state that Elisha asked for and received twice the power of Elijah, while others translate the original text to say he asked for a share (GNB) or an equivalent: "I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 - MSG)." In either case, Elijah explained that the transfer of power would only take place if Elisha witnessed the taking away of Elijah to heaven. Suddenly, and without further warning, Elijah was transported to heaven in a chariot of fire:

    And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it all and shouted, “My father, my father! You—the chariot and cavalry of Israel!” When he could no longer see anything, he grabbed his robe and ripped it to pieces. Then he picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him, returned to the shore of the Jordan, and stood there. He took Elijah’s cloak—all that was left of Elijah!—and hit the river with it, saying, “Now where is the God of Elijah? Where is he?”

    When he struck the water, the river divided and Elisha walked through.

    - 2 Kings 2:11-14 (MSG)

Other prophets spent three days looking for Elijah, but Elisha knew he was gone. He put his prophetic power to work immediately by calling on the LORD to divide the Jordan and purifying the water at Jericho.

In chapter three, the Kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom became allies to attack Moab. They begin to panic because they had run out of water during their march to Moab. But Elisha prophesized that water would fill the desert and that the kings would defeat Moab. This prophecy was fulfilled.

Reflection and Application

Many people who have run away from the LORD return back to him when they are in trouble – like the Prodigal Son who returned to his father. But Ahaziah was so far from God that he didn’t even call on him when he was in trouble. So the LORD responded through Elijah, with a hint of sarcasm:

    “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

    - 2 Kings1:6 (NIV)

Apparently, Ahaziah never had any trusted advisors who could steer him in the right direction. As a consequence, Ahaziah never had his “Aha” moment when he realized his dependency on God.

Other than the ascension of Jesus, is there any record of a more dramatic entry to heaven then the one taken by Elijah? He had faithfully served the LORD and stood up to his contemporaries, even in the face of death. He also formed a deep bond with his successor, Elisha, who called him father as he was spirited away.

Notice how different the succession of prophets was compared to the succession of the faithless kings of Israel. When Azahiah died there was no designated heir and probably no training program. By contrast, God had selected Elisha as the successor which allowed the two prophets to spend time together.

It was a bold request for Elisha to ask for twice the power of Elijah, but if our hearts are pure, as Elisha’s was, then God will give us what we ask to accomplish anything. The pureness of his heart was recognized by Jehosophat, who respected his opinion. Jehosophat was not the perfect leader, but he provides a good role model by listening and respecting true religious leaders.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is one of the most successful transitions that you have experienced in taking over someone else’s role (job)?
    2. What has been one of your most dramatic “aha” moments when you realized how important God is in your life?
    3. Who is an important religious leader that you would recommend to your friends?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge you as the most important person in our lives. Help us to seek you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Religious Leaders

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Kings 4-5 (Those Who Listen are Healed)

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