The period of the Kings is the third stage in Israel’s history. It follows the period of the Patriarchs (Abraham in 1750 B.C.) and that of the Exodus and the Conquest (Moses in 1250 B.C.).
David captured Jerusalem around 1000 B.C. After Solomon’s death in 932 B.C., the Kingdom of David and his son Solomon would be divided. The northern part, called the Kingdom of Israel, would cease to exist as a nation two centuries later. The southern part, called the Kingdom of Judah, would last until the year 587 B.C., the year of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and of the Exile to Babylon.
This period covers a total of four centuries. These four centuries of the Kings are the most important in sacred history because these are the period during which God raised up proph ets from among his people.
The greater part of the Bible was written during those four centuries. It was not only the major prophets who produced writings, e.g., Isaiah and Jeremiah. There were also groups of prophets of lesser importance who wrote much of Israel’s history, such as the greater part of the pages of Genesis and Exodus, the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings.
We can say that the period of the Kings is the most important period in sacred history. It is also the time which we know with the greatest precision.
These four centuries would appear to be the time of the Kingdom of Israel’s decadence if we paid attention only to its wealth and power. But during these four centuries, through trials, persecutions and difficulties of all kinds, Israel’s faith matured to the point of reaching, in the great prophets, a sublimity and clarity which only Christ would enhance.
The Book of Kings
In the beginning, the actual books of Kings formed one book. This work is the fruit of the prophets’ reflection and was edited during the Exile in Babylon.
It is a religious history. And the events which other historians would consider important are deliberately omitted. For instance, it hardly discusses the important reigns of Omri and of Jeroboam II in Samaria. Its judgment on the Kings of Israel (Kingdom of Samaria) is always negative, blaming them for the division of the ancient Kingdom of David. Only a few kings of Judah are praised for their loyalty to Yahweh.
We can easily note three parts:
– the grandeur of Solomon’s reign and of the Temple;
– the history of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah after their division;
– after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, the history of Judah until Jerusalem’s destruction in 587.
The chapters referring to Elijah and Elisha form a unit apart: 1 K 17–19 and 2 K 2–8.