Those Confusing Kings

In my church Bible reading program we are currently in 2 Kings.  While reading this part of the Bible you may have noticed that it is pretty difficult to sort out the historical flow of kings. That is partly because the narrative keeps jumping between the kings of Judah and those of Israel. Once the kingdom divided after Solomon, there are two interrelated histories, that of Israel (10 of the original tribes) in the north, and Judah (and Benjamin) in the south.

What makes it more confusing is the fact that some of the kings have very similar names, and some kings are referred to by more than one name. Some examples:

  • Joash king of Judah is also called Jehoash (these are two forms of the same name). But there was also a different Jehoash who was king of Israel around that time. It is important to pay careful attention to whether is says “of Judah” or “of Israel.”
  • Each kingdom had a king named Ahaziah.
  • King Azariah of Judah is also called Uzziah. Since he is mentioned in Isaiah 6, we know where to place Isaiah in biblical history.
  • There are two kings of Israel named Jeroboam. The first one, whom we may call Jeroboam I is called Jeroboam the son of Nebat in the Bible. He was the first king of Israel after the division between the northern and southern kingdoms, and he started Israel down the path of idolatry. Many of the later kings of Israel are condemned for not departing from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
  • Several of the kings have very similar sounding names, such as: Azariah, Ahaziah, Amahziah, Athaliah (queen mother).  It is helpful to consult a chart to keep things straight.

Genealogy of the kings of Israel and JudahAt the right is a helpful diagram I found on Wikipedia that shows the flow of kings of Judah and Israel along with their genealogical relationships (click on the chart for a larger image). The solid lines indicate genealogical relationships, and the arrows indicate succession. The horizontal arrows indicate a change in dynasty, that is, a king succeeded by someone who is not his son.

One of the interesting things that jumps out at me in this chart is that all of the kings of Judah are David’s descendants while in Israel there is only one king who had passed the throne on to his grandson and beyond. God promised David that he would always have a son on the throne (2 Sam. 7:16). Since Jesus is descended from David, one day in God’s kingdom David will still have a son on the throne.

For those of you doing the Bible reading program, what have you been learning from 2 Kings?

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"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." -- C. S. Lewis