Alex Israel’s new book on II Kings follows his book on the first half of the book of Kings, called I Kings. Both are excellent, easy to read, very thorough, very informative. The Book of Kings was broken into two parts because the Greek translation of the book around 200 BCE divided the book in two because it was too long for a single book, a convention that was accepted by Jews in 1517. II Kings is comprised of twenty-five chapters which follow the twenty-two chapters in I Kings.
I Kings covered the history of ancient Judah and Israel from the coronation of King Solomon in 967 BCE through the split of ancient Israel into two nations, Judah and Israel, because King Solomon’s son overtaxed the people as his father did, though the reign of King Jehoshaphat who died in 846 BCE. II Kings resumes the story and tells readers about the twelve kings of the northern kingdom of Israel from 846 BCE, ending in 721/722 BCE when the kingdom was destroyed, and the sixteen kings of the southern kingdom of Judah from 846 BCE until it was destroyed in 587/6 BCE. It describes the kings of the two nations, Judah and Israel, the politics, wars, and a significant problem of the era in both kingdoms, idolatry.
Alex Israel offers readers an explanation of each of the twenty-five chapters in II Kings, discussing each in turn, in an easy to read, comprehensive, and insightful manner. For example, while all the kings of Judah were descendants of David, the kings of the northern kingdom came from various tribes and repeatedly suffered untimely ends through bloody assassinations. Jeroboam’s son succeeded him but was assassinated by Baasha after ruling only two years. Baasha’s son followed him as king but was assassinated by Zimri after two years, and Zimri lasted only seven days.
Quite a few chapters in I Kings as well as II Kings deal with the famed prophet Elijah, the only prophet who resigned his prophetic position, an overly-zealous man, who begged God to kill him, who is described with great insight by Alex Israel. The biblical Elijah is radically different than the kind and helpful Elijah known through post-biblical legends. II Kings describes the death of Elijah, when he was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, generally understood as a metaphor for his death. He was followed as a lead prophet by Elisha.
Chapters 1-2 completes the stories about Elijah. Chapters 2-8 relate the tales of Elisha. Chapters 8-17 has the history of the kings of the two nations, with 17 telling about the fall of the northern kingdom and 18-25 about the last kings of Judah, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the fall of the kingdom, and exile to Babylon.
The history of these kings of Israel as well as the kings of Judah is a fascinating tale, especially with Alex Israel’s explanations of the events. Readers will enjoy and learn much from this book.