Yahweh’s Promise to David in the Books of Kings

In: Vetus Testamentum
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The books of Kings lack the internal consistency found in the books of Chronicles regarding rewards and punishments for the good and evil actions of Israel’s kings (i.e. the doctrine of retribution). This paper argues that the books of Kings portray all the different kings in light of their respective evaluations to emphasize the strength of Yahweh’s promise to the Davidides for a lasting dynasty. First, the text uses the reigns of bad southern kings to stress Yahweh’s abundant faithfulness when the Davidides behaved at their worst. Second, it inserts accounts of the many failed northern dynasties to demonstrate the uniqueness of Yahweh’s abundant mercy specifically for the Davidides. Third, it illustrates the fragility of the good southern kings to suggest that the continuation of their line depended not on them, but on their merciful God who remained faithful to his covenant with them.


The books of Kings lack the internal consistency found in the books of Chronicles regarding rewards and punishments for the good and evil actions of Israel’s kings (i.e. the doctrine of retribution). This paper argues that the books of Kings portray all the different kings in light of their respective evaluations to emphasize the strength of Yahweh’s promise to the Davidides for a lasting dynasty. First, the text uses the reigns of bad southern kings to stress Yahweh’s abundant faithfulness when the Davidides behaved at their worst. Second, it inserts accounts of the many failed northern dynasties to demonstrate the uniqueness of Yahweh’s abundant mercy specifically for the Davidides. Third, it illustrates the fragility of the good southern kings to suggest that the continuation of their line depended not on them, but on their merciful God who remained faithful to his covenant with them.

The portrayal of both northern and southern kings throughout the books of Kings leaves much to be desired. Good kings often suffer from disease (e.g. Asa, 1 Kgs 15:23), face attack (e.g. Jotham, 2 Kgs 15:37), or simply fail in their objectives (e.g. Jehoshaphat, 1 Kgs 22:48), with no explanation.1 Bad southern kings, on the other hand, rarely suffer the full punishment that they deserve, such as Ahaz who even appears to prosper as a result of his idolatrous behavior (cf. 2 Kgs 16). This aspect of the narrative lacks the obvious coherence found in the books of Chronicles, which consistently show how faithful and unfaithful kings receive rewards and punishments according to the Chronicler’s doctrine of retribution.2 Even though the books of Kings do demonstrate this coherence with the bad northern kings who receive divine punishment all the way through to their exile (cf. 2 Kgs 17), this feature makes one wonder why the biblical author would emphasize judgment for them but lack consistency for the southern kings.

This paper argues that the books of Kings aimed to provide hope for a future Davidic kingship through its nuanced presentation of the various kings for Israel and Judah. It builds on the vast amount of critical scholarship that has taken place within the much larger corpus, the Deuteronomistic History (dh).

1 The Books of Kings and the Deuteronomistic History

The different theories regarding the formation of dh have had a profound impact on scholarship in the books of Kings. These theories all take as their point of departure the seminal work of Martin Noth, who argued that a single exilic historian composed Israel’s history in Deuteronomy through 2 Kings in order to explain the end of the kingdom of Judah as well as their exile at the hands of the Babylonians.3 This Deuteronomistic Historian (DtrH), so Noth thought, attempted to catalogue Israel’s apostasy from Yahweh’s law and refusal to heed the warning of his prophets. Noth asserted that DtrH focuses so heavily on the reasons for Israel’s judgment that he presented no reason for them to hope in the future. In consideration of dh’s purpose, Gerhard von Rad essentially agreed with Noth about its strong emphasis on the exile as a divine punishment, but argued that Yahweh’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:13b-16 also gave hope for the Davidic house. Von Rad placed great weight on the account of Jehoiachin’s release from prison at the end (2 Kgs 25:27-30) for this more optimistic theme.4

Frank Moore Cross argued that this very brief episode for Jehoiachin could only represent a “thin thread” upon which to hang expectation for any fulfillment of the promises to David.5 He attempted to define the major themes expressed in the books of Kings more clearly and identified three in particular. Cross proposed that the first two themes, judgment for idolatry and the faithfulness of David, climaxed in the reforms of Josiah and, hence, revealed a pre-exilic source from that time period. The third theme, he averred, came from an exilic editor who retouched or overwrote the Deuteronomistic work only to bring it up to date. Although Cross and his followers (i.e. those who hold to a first edition of dh under Josiah) claim that this model basically follows Noth’s hypothesis,6 Römer and de Pury point out that this view actually changes Noth’s main vision for dh from an explanation for the exile to a document of royal propaganda.7 Even so, Cross’s model helpfully gives more clarity to dh’s optimistic focus on the house of David.

Another school of thought (“the Göttingen school”) has kept to Noth’s exilic dating and accounts for the work’s contrasting themes by supposing different exilic editors.8 For example, Veijola separates one source that favors the Davidic monarchy (DtrH), another that has a distinctively negative portrait of the monarchy that emphasizes the grip of sin on David (DtrP), and lastly a source that also criticizes the Davidic monarchy but does not exclude a possible future for it, conditional on obedience to the Mosaic law (DtrN).9 Although many have followed this model, its adherents have tended to multiply the various redactional layers.10 This proliferation of competing voices within the same document still prompts the question of why a final redactor would weave all these layers together.

The Göttingen and Cross schools have proposed a number of different redactions (or sources), whether before the exile or after it, on the basis that the material cannot serve the same purpose. This paper, on the other hand, aims to uncover one major, consistent theme throughout the books of Kings, to portray all the different kings in light of their respective evaluations to emphasize the strength of Yahweh’s promise to the Davidides for a lasting dynasty.11 This does not mean that the text does not contain literary tension (i.e. evidence of sources or redactional layers), but only that it speaks coherently on the future of the Davidic kingship. First, the text uses the reigns of bad southern kings to stress Yahweh’s abundant faithfulness when the Davidides behaved at their worst. Second, it inserts accounts of the many failed northern dynasties to demonstrate the uniqueness of Yahweh’s abundant mercy specifically for the Davidides. Third, it illustrates the fragility of the good southern kings to suggest that the continuation of their line depended not on them, but on their merciful God who remained faithful to his covenant with them. The confluence of these themes reveals the hand of a hopeful exilic editor.12

2 The Early Bad Southern Kings

Cross has helpfully pointed out the importance of two common phrases for understanding the promise to David in the books of Kings: “for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (cf. 1 Kgs 11:12, 13, 32, 34, 36; 15:4; 2 Kgs 8:19; 19:34; 20:6) and the alloform “so that David my servant will have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen for myself to put my name there” (cf. 1 Kgs 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kgs 8:19).13 He then asserts that they highlight the fidelity of David (in contrast to the infidelity of Jeroboam), a theme that he suggests to climax in the reign of Josiah.14 However, these phrases never actually occur in Josiah’s remarkably pious reign, but tend to feature in the accounts of Judah’s worst kings (though not all). They serve primarily to highlight the vitality of Yahweh’s promise to David despite the unfaithfulness of the Davidic kings. For those bad kings that do not receive these explicit statements, the text achieves the same purpose through other nuances in the narrative. The following survey of the different kings who receive a negative evaluation demonstrates this.15

2.1 Solomon

The books of Kings give the first negative evaluation to Solomon, “And Solomon did what was evil in the eyes of Yahweh and did not wholly follow Yahweh as David his father” (1 Kgs 11:6). Of course, Solomon had greater accomplishments than any other king, such as his immense wisdom (4:29-30) and also his successful completion of the temple project (cf. 6:1-8:66). These accolades show how he brought the kingdom to new heights according to what Yahweh promised the house of David (cf. 2 Sam 7).16

However, the critical remarks at the end of his account in 1 Kings 11 offer the most pertinent details for our purposes. After a brief description of Solomon’s many foreign wives in v. 1, the account quotes the divine words that confirm his culpability, “You shall not enter into marriage with them neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after other gods” (11:2). In the following verses, the criticism emphasizes multiple times that the foreign wives did indeed “turn away his heart” (vv. 3, 4, 9). Solomon had received warnings about his “heart” at two earlier points in the narrative. First, David in his old age reiterated the divine requirement for the continuation of his dynasty to Solomon, “If your (David’s) sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me (Yahweh) in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kgs 2:4). Second, Yahweh told Solomon after the temple dedication, “If you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness . . . then I will establish your royal throne forever . . .” (9:4-5). Although Solomon accomplished much throughout his reign, the final verdict in the books of Kings focuses on how the much-celebrated king strayed from these earlier warnings, from both his father David and his God Yahweh.

At the same time, the books of Kings heavily emphasize that the Davidic dynasty will continue to rule over part of the kingdom of Israel. At the end of the critical remarks in 1 Kgs 11:1-11, the text alludes to the Davidic promises twice, “Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen” (11:12-13). This same phraseology with regard to Solomon also occurs several times in the narrative of Jeroboam’s rise (11:26-40).17 The prophet Ahijah told Jeroboam that he would soon receive ten of the tribes, but that Solomon would keep one “for the sake of my servant David” (vv. 32, 34) and “that David my servant may always have a lamp18 before me in Jerusalem” (v. 36). Ahijah’s prophecy ends on a note that encapsulates well the future for the house of David, “I will afflict the offspring of David for this, but not forever” (v. 39). Although Solomon’s sins set the downward trajectory for the kings that would follow him, the books of Kings highlight, especially for the bad kings, that Yahweh’s mercy would outweigh their evil.

2.2 Rehoboam and Abijam

The first two kings to reign over only the southern kingdom, Solomon’s son Rehoboam and grandson Abijam, both receive negative evaluations. The text gives a somewhat vague assessment of Rehoboam at first insofar as it describes the sins of the people in general (and does not mention the king himself), “And Judah did what was evil in the eyes of Yahweh, and they provoked him” (1 Kgs 14:22, cf. vv. 23-24).19 However, it later condemns Abijam with the statement, “And he (i.e. Abijam) walked in all the sins that his father (i.e. Rehoboam) did before him” (15:3). From this statement, it is clear that the books of Kings view both kings negatively.

For Rehoboam, the text illustrates Yahweh’s faithfulness and mercy to the Davidides in the events leading up to the division of the kingdom. Yahweh himself had told Solomon that he would take all but one of the tribes from him in the reign of his son (1 Kgs 11:11-13). Ahijah then informed Solomon’s servant Jeroboam that he would assume leadership of these tribes at that time (vv. 30-39). This prophecy came to fulfillment when Rehoboam went to Shechem with the expectation that the people would make him king (12:1). Unfortunately, Rehoboam thought that he could maintain, and even intensify, the heavy workload that his father had placed on the people (vv. 13-14). In doing this, he ignored their plea and also the wise counsel of his father’s advisors to lighten the labor. Although Solomon’s sins served as the primary reason for the severance of the kingdom, Rehoboam’s foolish decision at Shechem brought the division to fruition.

The account in 1 Kings 12 calls to mind Yahweh’s desire to keep his promise to the Davidic line in two instances. The first occurs in an editorial comment at v. 15, “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by Yahweh that he might fulfill his word which Yahweh spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” This reference to Ahijah’s prophecy in 1 Kings 11 evokes not only the punishment for Solomon’s sins, but also the mercy Yahweh would grant to the Davidides by not simply destroying them. The second surfaces when Shemaiah warns Rehoboam not even to try stopping the northerners from seceding in vv. 22-24. The final words of this prophecy in v. 24, “for this thing is from me,” stress both the inevitability of the judgment to Rehoboam and also assure the new king that Yahweh will sustain his royal office as a Davidide.

In the shorter account of Abijam’s reign, the text only briefly touches on his sinful behavior, but affirms in 15:4 that “Yahweh his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem for David’s sake . . .” Thus, the books of Kings are careful to stress that though the first three kings after David acted wickedly, Yahweh would continue to preserve David’s line.

2.3 Jehoram and Ahaziah

The next two bad southern kings, Jehoram and Ahaziah, both receive negative evaluations because they walked in the wicked way of their royal counterparts in the northern kingdom (cf. 2 Kgs 8:18, 27). The brief accounts of their reigns in 8:16-29 appear near the end of a much longer stretch of narrative from 1 Kgs 16:21 to 2 Kgs 10:28 that details how idolatrous the house of Ahab in the north had become (for the northern kings, see below). Unfortunately for the southern kingdom, the text states that both Jehoram and Ahaziah married into Ahab’s house and consequently committed the same evil as the northerners.

For Jehoram, the books of Kings use the same phraseology that appeared in the reign of Abijam to affirm Yahweh’s promise to David, “Yet Yahweh was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (8:19). As we will see next, this text contrasts the southern kingdom with the northern kingdom, which Yahweh was willing to destroy and in fact did so over and over again (see 3A-E below). It marks the third and final reference to the “lamp of David” (see 1 Kgs 11:36; 15:4 above), all passages that affirm Yahweh’s enduring promise to the Davidides despite their unfaithfulness.20

The account of Ahaziah’s reign does not emphasize Yahweh’s faithfulness with his promise to David in a concise statement, but through the description of Ahaziah’s death in the context of the fall of the Ahabites. Beginning in 2 Kings 9, the narrator turns to the rise of the commander Jehu as the new king of Israel, who rallied an army to strike down the house of Ahab according to Elisha’s prophetic command (vv. 7-10). Since Ahaziah had visited the northern king Joram at this time (v. 16b), Jehu struck him down also (cf. vv. 22-28). Although the house of Ahab came to a complete end at this point, the account tells how the house of David could survive by the closest of margins. Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah, who had links to both the northern and southern royal houses, sought to destroy all of Judah’s royal family and took the throne herself once she saw that her son had died (11:1). However, the account says that Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba took one of his sons, Joash, away from the rest and hid him away with his nurse so that he would not be put to death (v. 2); he remained tucked away until there was an opportune time for him to take the kingship (cf. vv. 3-21). This extraordinary story illustrates the tenacity of the Davidic line because of their God’s faithfulness to it.

After Ahaziah, the books of Kings do not discuss another bad southern king until Ahaz. The account of his reign cannot make complete sense unless we examine the northern kings first.

3 Wicked Northern Kings—A Series of Dynasty Failures

The books of Kings give the northern kings more attention than their southern counterparts after the division of the kingdom at the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign, a focus that lasts until Israel’s exile in 2 Kings 17. Cross persuasively argues that the “sin(s) of Jeroboam” represented the crucial event in the history of the northern kingdom.21 This phrase and its variations occur in each of the negative evaluations for the northern kings, all of whom followed in the wicked ways of Jeroboam.22 In addition to individual northern kings, the narrative also illustrates a powerful point about the several northern dynasties. Unlike the Davidic dynasty, the books of Kings consistently show that Yahweh will not continually forgive the northern kings for their sins.

3.1 The House of Jeroboam

Ahijah’s two prophecies to Jeroboam clearly show this disparity between Yahweh’s promises made to the northern and southern kingdoms. His first prophecy before Jeroboam became king mostly explains why Yahweh would take ten tribes away from the house of David (see above), but it also contains a promise to Jeroboam, “And if you . . . do what is right in my eyes . . . as David my servant did, I will be with you and build you a sure house as I built for David . . .” (1 Kgs 11:37-38). Yahweh had also promised David a “sure house” in 2 Sam 7:16, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me . . .” Both texts refer to a house (בית) that Yahweh will make sure (אמן, niphal) in the future. Hence, Jeroboam had the same chance as David to have an enduring dynasty if he would remain faithful.23

Ahijah’s second prophecy came after Jeroboam had squandered this opportunity, “And you have not been like my servant David . . . but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images . . .” (14:8-9). This text does not suggest that the new northern king’s punishment will not last (i.e. as with the Davidic line for their sins), but records a categorical judgment on Jeroboam and his house, “Therefore, behold, I will bring harm on the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male . . . Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat, for Yahweh has spoken it” (14:10-11). The text later states that his son Nadab walked in the way of his father (1 Kgs 15:26) and died according to Ahijah’s prophetic word (v. 29). Through this sequence of prophecy and fulfillment, the books of Kings emphasize that Jeroboam would not receive a “sure house” like David; instead, his house lasted only two generations.24

3.2 The House of Baasha

The books of Kings do not give the house of Baasha as much attention as Jeroboam, but still make the same point. Baasha did evil in the eyes of Yahweh, walked in the way of Jeroboam, and made Israel to sin (15:34). Yahweh consequently sent another prophet, Jehu, to inform Baasha of the coming punishment with phraseology similar to Ahijah’s pronouncement against Jeroboam, “Behold, I am about to sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat” (16:3-4; cf. 14:10-11). The reference to Baasha’s “house” and the gruesome description of his posterity’s fate make clear that Baasha will fare no better than Jeroboam.

The death of Baasha’s son Elah also bears a striking resemblance to Jeroboam’s son Nadab. In the second year of his reign, he too falls to a conspirator, this time the commander of chariots Zimri (16:8-9). Additionally, when Zimri began to reign, “he struck down all the house of Baasha. He did not leave to him any male, of his relatives or friends . . . according to the word of Yahweh that he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet” (16:11-12). All the phraseology here conveys a complete destruction of the northern kingdom’s second dynasty, much as it did with the first.

3.3 The House of Ahab

The third northern dynasty in the books of Kings, the house of Ahab,25 at first appears to illustrate the same inevitable wickedness and destruction for northern kings. The text criticizes both Ahab and his father Omri for each committing more evil than all who reigned before them (1 Kgs 16:25, 30). Ahab not only walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, but he also established an altar and a house for Baal in his capital Samaria (vv. 31-32).

A critical point in Ahab’s reign comes when he tried to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21. Yahweh sent the prophet Elijah to pronounce judgment on him, “Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah . . . Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat” (vv. 22-23). Given the fates of the last two northern royal “houses”, this wording communicates clearly that Yahweh intends to terminate Ahab’s dynasty soon also.

In a remarkable turn of events, Ahab repented immediately after he heard the prophet’s words of judgment. Upon seeing this contrition, Yahweh sent another divine word to Elijah that he would no longer bring the destruction of Ahab’s house in the king’s own days but in the reign of his son (21:29). However, the next episode, his campaign to Ramoth-gilead in 1 Kings 22, shows Ahab again committing sin by mistreating the true prophet of Yahweh Micaiah while heeding his many false prophets. Ahab died in the battle as an act of divine judgment for his actions according to the concluding editorial comment, “. . . and the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of Yahweh that he had spoken” (22:38). Additionally, both of his sons acted wickedly during their reigns and suffered equally brutal judgment (cf. 2 Kings 1, 9-10).26 Ahab’s final royal descendant Joram even died on Naboth’s plot of ground in fulfillment of the divine word against Ahab (cf. 2 Kgs 9:25-26).

In light of this disastrous end to Ahab’s house, we must consider why the books of Kings would even include a story about his repentance in 1 Kings 21. Whereas the accounts of Jeroboam’s and Baasha’s dynasties demonstrated that northern royal houses could not last because of their idolatry, the story of Ahab’s repentance underscores how not even an act of heartfelt contrition could overcome the wickedness ingrained in his dynasty.

3.4 Jehu’s Dynasty

The books of Kings make this point more emphatically with Jehu and his descendants. David Lamb helpfully points out the relative bias toward Jehu in the books of Kings insofar as he receives the most positive portrayal of all the northern kings and even shares more similarities to David than either Hezekiah or Josiah.27 Nevertheless, the account of his reign (and the reigns of his descendants) serves as yet another example of the inability for even the best of the northern kings to form a lasting dynasty.28

To begin with, Jehu started his reign with a complete purge of the Baal cult from Israel (2 Kgs 10:18-28). For his faithfulness, Yahweh promised that his sons would sit on the throne of Israel until the fourth generation (v. 30). The next northern king, his son Jehoahaz “sought the favor of Yahweh” after Israel had faced multiple attacks from Ben-hadad of Aram (13:3-4). Following Jehoahaz, the subsequent king Jehoash wept at the thought of the great prophet Elisha’s death and obeyed his final words (vv. 14-19). Both Jehoahaz and Jehoash prospered in their battles against Aram for their faithful behavior (vv. 22-25). Editorial comments in 2 Kings 13 also show Yahweh’s affection for the northern kingdom at this time: “For he (Yahweh) saw the oppression of Israel . . . therefore Yahweh gave Israel a savior . . .” (vv. 4-5); “But Yahweh was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now” (v. 23). Jehu’s third descendant to reign, Jeroboam ii, also had some success because of Yahweh’s mercy toward the northern kingdom, restoring territory for Israel according to Jonah’s prophetic word (cf. 14:25-27). The books of Kings use these details to stress that Jehu’s line had a more favorable relationship with Yahweh than the previous northern royal houses.

Despite all these positive statements, Jehu’s dynasty still came to an end after the four generations that Yahweh promised to him. The text quotes this promise in the account of his fourth and final royal descendant, Zechariah, as if to say that his royal line made it this far only because of Yahweh’s oath to Jehu (cf. 15:12). Zechariah reigned a brief six months that ended with his assassination at the hands of a conspirator. Unlike the “houses” of Jeroboam, Baasha, or Ahab, the text does not use the graphic language of birds and dogs consuming the dead bodies of his descendants to assert that the royal line has ceased (see above). Jehu’s dynasty simply ends.

3.5 All Other Northern Kings

The books of Kings report the reigns of several other northern kings, but none of them shows as much potential to start a lasting dynasty as those already described. For example, before Omri secured power over the entire northern kingdom, Zimri and Tibni could maintain their rule for only very brief periods (cf. 1 Kgs 16:15-22). Much later, of the final five northern kings, three die by assassination (2 Kgs 15:14 [Shallum], 25 [Pekahiah], 30 [Pekah]) and the last (Hoshea) was thrown into prison by the invading Assyrian king, who also conquered Samaria and exiled the northern people (17:1-6). Only one (Menahem) succeeded to put his son on the throne (Pekahiah), but neither one of them reigns very long (vv. 17-26 [12 years total]). The text seems to report these last kings in a tight, succinct fashion to minimize their accomplishments and emphasize further that northern kingship does not have the same divine promises as those given to the Davidides.

3.6 Summary on Northern Kings

The inclusion of the rapid rise and fall of the northern kingdom’s four dynasties (perhaps five with Menahem) shows that Yahweh’s promise to David differed dramatically from the offer made to Jeroboam or the opportunity for subsequent northern kings. Scholars mostly focus on how the sin of Jeroboam affected the later northern kings until the northern kingdom finally went into exile (2 Kgs 17:21-23). In addition to this, the mention of the different northern “houses” with the repeated description of their destruction demonstrates that they could not last.

4 Bad Southern Kings around the Time of the Northern Exile

The books of Kings no longer make explicit statements about Yahweh’s loyalty to his covenant with David in the reigns of the remaining bad kings. Instead, the expansive description of the northern kingdom’s exile allows the other episodes in the near context to illustrate Yahweh’s abundant, merciful provision for the line of David. In contrast to Yahweh’s swift and immediate judgment on the northern kingdom, the absence of judgment for Judah’s worst kings appears more conspicuous.

4.1 Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon

While the most recently bad southern kings Jehoram and Ahaziah adopted the northern kingdom’s idolatrous practices because their families had merged with Ahab’s family, Ahaz and Manasseh commit even greater sins by engaging in “the abominable practices of the nations that Yahweh drove out before Israel” (2 Kgs 16:3; 21:2). This editorial comment implies that they deserved the punishment of exile as much as any other king, northern or southern, if not more.29

Nevertheless, the account in 2 Kings 16 suggests that Ahaz’s unfaithfulness did not provoke divine punishment or threaten the Davidic dynasty.30 The introduction to his reign notes that he made his son pass through the fire (v. 3) and that he offered sacrifices and burnt offerings on the high places and throughout his kingdom (“under every green tree”, v. 4). Even so, the armies of Aram and the northern kingdom could not conquer him (v. 5). The text states that Judah’s southern neighbors the Edomites also waged war, but it emphasizes how they could capture only the peripheral city of Elath that had belonged to Judah (v. 6). The account next claims that Ahaz enlisted the help of the Assyrian king for the attacks from the north, all at great cost to the temple (vv. 7-9, cf. vv. 10-18).31 Thus, Ahaz appears to prosper in the land not only despite these impious actions, but more significantly because of them. Whereas the books of Kings will show next how the northern capital Samaria fell and its people went into exile for their sins (cf. 17:6), it also illustrates how Jerusalem remained secure at roughly the same time and the kingship passed from Ahaz to his son Hezekiah with no problems.

The text demonstrates the same for Manasseh, for whom the account specifies even more sins (2 Kgs 21:1-9). It twice compares his wickedness to that of the nations that Yahweh drove out before Israel (vv. 2, 9). Furthermore, the account twice mentions how Manasseh installed illicit cult objects in the house where Yahweh had promised to put his name (cf. vv. 4, 7), a charge that accentuates how Manasseh strained the limits of divine grace by worshiping other gods at the same place that was meant for Yahweh. After this lengthy description of his wickedness, the text records a prophecy of destruction that matches his evil. His sin will ultimately cause Judah’s eventual exile (24:3-4). In spite of this, the text records no attacks or any punishment directly on him during his very long fifty-five year reign.32

His son Amon reigns after him for only two years and acted as wickedly as his father (21:21-22). Although his reign ended sadly when his servants assassinated him, the people of the land struck down the conspirators and put another Davidide back on the throne. This assassination differs from those in the north where the head conspirator immediately became king, thus highlighting the end of the previous dynasty (e.g. 1 Kgs 15:27-29). The other assassinations in the southern kingdom also appear different in the text, as we will see next (see 5B). The books of Kings do not record Amon’s assassination to show a punishment for his sins, but more likely as a reason for his brief reign, especially in light of his father’s long reign, and the need to put Josiah on the throne at such a young age (eight years old, 2 Kgs 22:1). Through it all, the text seems to emphasize the people’s loyalty to the Davidides in difficult circumstances.33

5 Good Southern Kings

The absence of any tangible punishment in the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh becomes even more compelling if we look at the fate of good kings in the books of Kings.34 Their apparent vulnerability offers a strong contrast to the invincibility of Judah’s worst kings. The text stresses this fragility of good southern kings primarily through episodes of enemy attack and harsh death, but also other types of misfortune.35

5.1 Under Attack

The books of Kings present Asa as the first good southern king who “did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh” (1 Kgs 15:11). The text lists several reforms that he conducted, presumably needed after the idolatry introduced in the three reigns before his (i.e. Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijam). Even so, his northern counterpart Baasha could penetrate all the way to Ramah and build there so that the Judeans were trapped in (1 Kgs 15:17).36 Although Asa could find relief when he made a covenant with the king of Aram, he needed to give the remaining gold and silver from the temple treasuries as payment to secure this help (vv. 18-20). His decision to use temple funds in this way differs from Ahaz’s similar act (2 Kgs 16:7-9) because the latter could make the nation stronger (albeit with idolatry). Asa, on the other hand, needed to pay out some of his own donations to the temple treasury to save his kingdom (see v. 15).37

A few reigns later, Joash became king and did right in the eyes of Yahweh all his days (2 Kgs 12:3),38 due in part to the coup led by the priest Jehoiada to remove the wicked Athaliah (2 Kgs 11). The narrative highlights Joash’s efforts to direct the money that came into the temple toward the priests so that they could repair it (2 Kgs 12:5-17). Immediately after this report, it also states that the Aramaean king Hazael fought against and captured Philistine Gath and also set his face against Jerusalem (v. 18). The temporal marker אָז (“at that time”) at the beginning of the verse draws the connection between Joash’s piety and the attack. Joash needed to give Hazael sacred treasures from the temple in order to save his capital city (v. 19).

Joash’s son Amaziah receives a positive evaluation for behaving like his father (2 Kgs 14:3). The text praises him for his strict obedience to the law, because he executed those who assassinated his father but did not put to death the assassins’ children (vv. 5-6). It then records what appears to be the first battle victory for any good southern king in the books of Kings when he defeated the Edomites in the Valley of Salt (v. 7). However, this momentary triumph makes Amaziah overconfident to the point that he challenges the northern king Jehoash, who then defeated Amaziah at Beth-shemesh and caused the people of Judah to flee (vv. 11-12). To make matters worse, Jehoash also came to Jerusalem, destroying its wall and seizing many treasures from the temple and the king’s house (vv. 13-14). The text highlights this second loss much more than the earlier, trivial victory.

The next two good southern kings, Jotham and Hezekiah, deserve special attention because they precede Ahaz and Manasseh, respectively. The account for Ahaz’s predecessor Jotham attributes a positive evaluation to him for doing what was right in the eyes of Yahweh (2 Kgs 15:34), then mentions his renovation work on the upper gate of the temple as evidence of his good behavior (v. 35b). In his concluding summary, however, the account also notes, “In those days, Yahweh began to send Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah” (v. 37). As mentioned earlier, Ahaz overcame these two northern neighbors early in his reign, but with no mention of victory over these assailants for Jotham, this report suggests that he struggled against them.

The books of Kings give Manasseh’s predecessor Hezekiah a superlative evaluation (18:5, though see also 23:25 for Josiah) since he conducted several reforms and became the first to remove the high places (v. 4). Nevertheless, the text states, “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them” (v. 13). Although both Ahaz before him and Manasseh after him each committed more sin worthy of such a wide-scale attack, neither king faced this threat according to the text (though cf. 2 Chr 28:20; 33:11).

Additionally, even though the books of Kings end the episode of the Assyrian attack against Hezekiah at Jerusalem on a positive note (cf. 2 Kgs 19:35), the text still weaves in shades of his fragility within this report. First, the text reveals Hezekiah’s more vulnerable side insofar as he submitted to the Assyrian king at first and gave him temple and royal treasuries (18:13-16). Second, the Assyrian messenger’s taunt may also disclose an earlier effort by Hezekiah to enlist the help of Egypt, perhaps an admission of an earlier lack of faith in Yahweh (cf. v. 21). Third, the text at two different points states that Yahweh saved Jerusalem not on account of pious actions by Hezekiah, but “for my own (i.e. Yahweh’s) sake and for the sake of David my servant” (19:34; 20:6); until this point, such statements have surfaced only in the reigns of bad southern kings (see above).39 Fourth and last, even after the Assyrian attack failed, Hezekiah foolishly showed all his riches to the Babylonians (vv. 12-19). These features of the latter part of Hezekiah’s reign portray him as a wayward king whose kingdom Yahweh salvages because of his promises to David.

5.2 Sickness and Assassination

In addition to the foreign attacks, the books of Kings portray the vulnerability of many good southern kings through a harsh or sudden death. This contrasts with how the text gives very little detail to how the bad southern kings die, except for Ahaziah and Amon. As was mentioned above, however, the reports of their deaths have a greater focus on Yahweh’s faithfulness to put another Davidide on the throne. With the good southern kings, on the other hand, the text stresses their fragility.

For example, the books of Kings report that Asa and Azariah each died with a horrible disease in notes disconnected from any other event. For both kings, the illness adds very little to the substance of their account other than to suggest that they died in a weakened state. Asa’s foot disease appears to come simply with old age since the record appears tucked away in the regnal summary (1 Kgs 15:23b). Azariah’s leprosy may have come as divine punishment (“And Yahweh touched the king so that he was a leper to the day of his death . . .” 2 Kgs 15:5a), but the text never explains why.40 Hezekiah’s sickness would seem to fit in this category, though he eventually received divine healing (cf. 2 Kgs 20:1-11).

Additionally, the books of Kings report that both Joash and Amaziah die by assassination (cf. 2 Kgs 12:20; 14:19). Again, neither of these accounts explains why they would suffer from such unfortunate deaths, but they both include the detail isolated in their regnal summaries.41 This contrasts with the assassination report for Amon, which appears to put the nation in a bind, causing the people to execute the conspirators immediately and put the very young Josiah on the throne. While Amon’s tragic death plays a critical role in the narrative (see 4A), the deaths of Joash and Amaziah each appear as somewhat of an addendum.42

5.3 The Remaining Good Southern Kings

The books of Kings illustrate the vulnerability of the remaining good southern kings in ways other than those already examined (i.e. attacks, sickness, assassination). First, Asa’s son and successor Jehoshaphat receives a positive evaluation since he did reforms, just like his father (1 Kgs 22:43). Although he does not get attacked in his own land, he does find himself surrounded by Aramean warriors in his joint campaign with the northern king Ahab to Ramoth-gilead (1 Kgs 22). Jehoshaphat escaped this danger with a cowardly cry that identified him as someone other than the king of Israel (v. 32). Another joint campaign, this time with Ahab’s son Jehoram, ends in a disastrous fashion causing their coalition to withdraw and return homeward (cf. 2 Kgs 3, see especially v. 27).43 Lastly, as with almost every other good southern king, the text includes a disconnected note of catastrophe in the regnal summary.44 It reports that Jehoshaphat made ships to travel to Ophir for gold, but for whatever reason the ships were wrecked.

Second, the many disasters and frequent unfortunate deaths for each of the good southern kings bring clarity to Josiah’s sudden death at the hand of Pharaoh Neco in 2 Kgs 23:29. Many of those who hold to a double redaction for dh argue that Josiah’s tragic death would have come as a shock to the reader,45 but the evidence surveyed above shows that he comes to a fate no different than the other good southern kings. The books of Kings consistently emphasize that the continuance of the Davidic Kingship did not depend on the greatness of the king, but on the faithfulness (and perhaps mercy) of Yahweh in his promise to David. In this vein, while Josiah’s reforms represent the highest achievement for Judah’s kings with regard to cultic purity (cf. 2 Kgs 23:4-20),46 his fall demonstrates that the Davidic kingship will endure because of Yahweh’s faithfulness, not the great leaders who have held the office.

The final days of David’s life recorded in the books of Kings may offer another example of a good yet vulnerable king, though he does not receive a formal evaluation like the others (cf. 1 Kgs 1:1-2:11). The opening scene of him as a very old man who cannot, inter alia, warm himself with the help of a beautiful young woman makes him appear particularly weak. Additionally, the fact that Adonijah could proclaim himself king without his father’s blessing, permission, or even knowing shows that David had very little power at the end of his life. If it were not for the cleverness of Bathsheba and Nathan, David would have had no say in who would reign after him.

5.4 Summary on Good Southern Kings

The books of Kings constantly emphasize the weaknesses of the good southern kings to accomplish two purposes. First, this theme makes the grace given to the bad southern kings more noticeable. If even the best of kings consistently have misfortune and horrible ends to their reigns, then the reader must consider how Ahaz could find so much success and Manasseh could conduct a long 55 year reign with presumably no harm. Whereas the text specifies with early bad kings that Yahweh would preserve the Davidic line in Jerusalem, it forcefully illustrates this with stark contrasts between good and bad kings in later reigns. Secondly, the focus on the weaknesses of the best kings shows that the Davidic line did not continue because of a particular king’s greatness. Thus, this theme gives further stress to Yahweh’s robust faithfulness to sustain David’s house.

6 The Final Four Bad Kings

The books of Kings present the last four southern kings very briefly. Each one of them did evil in the eyes of Yahweh until the kingdom of Judah finally went into exile. Nelson and others in the Cross school have argued that this concluding section represents a different voice than what has preceded it since many important themes have disappeared (e.g. an end-of-era reflection like 2 Kgs 17).47 However, the final episode of Jehoiachin’s release from prison likely continues the emphasis so prominent in the reigns of other bad kings, one that highlights the promise to David.

The mere fact that Jehoiachin has received favor from the Babylonian king in the thirty-seventh year of the exile has not convinced all scholars that the episode offers hope for a future Davidic kingship, but two comparisons with other figures in the books of Kings support this interpretation. First, Jehoiachin’s elevated position in Babylon differs from the fate of the last northern king Hoshea, who also went to a prison (כלא) as he saw members of his kingdom exiled (2 Kgs 17, especially v. 4).48 This latter text, which concludes the narrative of northern kingship, does not give any sort of optimistic report for a monarchy to rise again after Hoshea’s imprisonment. In fact, it stresses that this kingdom came to an end. In contrast, the books of Kings do not put an end-of-era reflection in 2 Kings 24-25 to suggest that the southern kingship still continues.

Second, Jehoiachin’s release stands out from the fate of everyone else in 2 Kings 25. Donald Murray shows how each episode in this final chapter focuses initially on a particular actant, but then shifts its attention to a separate patient/recipient.49 Time references help move the narrative along. The first episode describes how the actant Nebuchadnezzar and his army surrounded the recipient Zedekiah at Jerusalem in the ninth year of the latter’s reign; the former eventually captured the latter and slaughtered his sons before his eyes (vv. 1-7). The second episode shows the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s bodyguard Nebuzaradan burn down the temple and the king’s house in the fifth month. Although he left the poorest of the land, he either killed or exiled the others, including important priests and other personnel (vv. 8-21). In the third episode, Ishmael of the remaining judean royal family struck down the Babylonian-appointed governor Gedaliah, who oversaw the people still in the land (vv. 22-26) in the seventh month (v. 25). As Murray points out, each of these episodes depicts a lead figure take some hostile action on a segment of the judean people. The fourth episode describing Jehoiachin’s release, on the other hand, describes a much more favorable action for the former king. This series of events, not simply the last four verses in the final episode, highlights the resilience of the Davidic kingship in spite of the many other leaders that died when the Babylonians took over.

7 Conclusion

The evidence as analyzed above presents a coherent, positive portrayal of Yahweh’s promise to the Davidic house in the books of Kings. The text consistently uses the accounts of bad southern kings to emphasize that Yahweh would remain faithful to keep a Davidide on the throne—no matter how unfaithful the king may become—through both the placement of pro-Davidic statements (i.e. “for the sake of David . . .”) and also illustrations of divine mercy (e.g. Jehoiachin in 2 Kgs 25:27-30). The reigns of good southern kings, on the other hand, contain all manner of calamities not only to make this grace more conspicuous, but also to demonstrate that the kingdom does not prosper simply because of the king’s greatness. In this same vein, the continual failure of the northern dynastic houses to last long, despite Yahweh’s similar offer to become an enduring kingdom, reveal the uniqueness of Yahweh’s promise to the house of David. The confluence of these themes would have provided hope that Yahweh still had a plan for the Davidic kingship after the exile.

1 This paper was presented at the Oxford Old Testament Seminar in November 2014. I would like to thank those who attended and also Hugh Williamson, who read a later draft, for their helpful comments and critiques.

2 B. E. Kelly provides a helpful survey of the theory and offers his own nuanced proposal in Retribution and Eschatology in Chronicles (JSOTSup 211; Sheffield, 1996), pp. 29-134. See also his later essay, “‘Retribution’ Revisited: Covenant, Grace and Restoration,” in The Chronicler as Theologian: Essays in Honor of Ralph W. Klein (eds. M. P. Graham, et al.; JSOTSup 371; London, 2003), pp. 206-227. Note however the problems with the doctrine of retribution observed by E. Ben Zvi, “The Book of Chronicles: Another Look,” sr 31 (2002), pp. 261-281 (264).

3 M. Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (JSOTSup 15; Sheffield, 1991). Originally published as Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien (Halle, 1943).

4 Cf. G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy (sbt 9; London, 1953), pp. 74-79. Originally published as Deuteronomium-Studien (Göttingen, 1948). See also G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Volume 1 (Edinburgh, 1962), pp. 334-347. Originally published as Theologie des alten Testaments (2 vols.; München, 1957).

5 F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 274-289.

6 See also G. N. Knoppers, Two Nations under God: The Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies (hsm 52, 53; 2 vols.; Atlanta, 1993-1994); R. D. Nelson, The Double Redaction of the Deuteronomistic History (JSOTSup 18; Sheffield, 1981).

7 A. de Pury and T. Römer, “Deuteronomistic Historiography (dh): History of Research and Debated Issues,” in Israel Constructs its History: Deuteronomistic Historiography in Recent Research (eds. A. de Pury, et al.; JSOTSup 306; Sheffield, 2000), pp. 24-141 (73). Originally published as A. de Pury and T. Römer, “L’Historiographie Deutéronomiste (hd): Histoire de la recherche et enjeux du débat,” in Israël construit son histoire: L’historiographie deutéronomiste à la lumière des recherches récentes (eds. A. de Pury, et al.; MdB 34; Genève, 1996), pp. 9-120.

8 Cf. R. Smend, “Das Gesetz und die Völker: ein Beitrag zur deuteronomistischen Redaktionsgeschichte,” in Probleme biblischer Theologie: Gerhard von Rad zum 70 Geburtstag (ed. H. W. Wolff; Munich, 1971), pp. 494-509. See also W. Dietrich, Prophetie und Geschichte: Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zum deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerk (frlant 108; Göttingen, 1972). More recently, F. B. Wissmann, “Er tat das Rechte . . .”: Beurteilungskriterien und Deuteronomismus in 1 Kön 12-2 Kön 25 (AThANT 93; Zürich, 2008).

9 T. Veijola, Die ewige Dynastie: David und die Entstehung seiner Dynastie nach der deuteronomistischen Darstellung (stat.aasf 193; Helsinki, 1975). See also Das Königtum in der Beurteilung der Deuteronomistischen Historiographie (stat.aasf 198; Helsinki, 1977).

10 Cf. de Pury and Römer, “Deuteronomistic Historiography,” p. 72. See also J. Van Seters, “The Deuteronomistic History: Can It Avoid Death by Redaction?,” in The Future of the Deuteronomistic History (ed. T. Römer; betl 147; Leuven, 2000), pp. 213-222.

11 For broader examinations on the topic of kingship in dh, see G. E. Gerbrandt, Kingship according to the Deuteronomistic History (sblds 87; Atlanta, 1986); J. G. McConville, “King and Messiah in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar (ed. J. Day; JSOTSup 270; Sheffield, 1998), pp. 271-295.

12 Although one could conceivably argue for a post-exilic editor using the evidence of this paper, hope for a renewed Davidic monarchy seems less likely later in history.

13 Cross, Canaanite Myth, pp. 278-285.

14 Cross argues that Josiah restored the kingdom of David when the former centralized the law of the sanctuary and celebrated the Passover as no one else since the time of the Judges, but it is not clear how these feats can link Josiah to David. dh does not attribute David much of a role in establishing a sanctuary (in contrast to the 1 Chr 22-29), nor does it record him celebrating the Passover. Moreover, though the books of Kings compare Josiah’s devotion to David’s (2 Kgs 22:2), it also praised Asa (1 Kgs 15:11) and Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:3) with similar comparisons earlier in the narrative.

15 The text marks bad kings with either of the statements “And he did what was evil in the eyes of Yahweh . . .” or “And he walked in the way of (another bad king). . .”

16 See Knoppers, Two Nations under God, vol. 1, pp. 87-90.

17 Commentators have made many source critical judgments on this text, but have not come to any firm conclusions. See the discussion in S. L. McKenzie, The Trouble with Kings: The Composition of the Book of Kings in the Deuteronomistic History (VTSup 42; Leiden, 1991), pp. 41-47. M. Cogan avers that it is best to speak of the kernel of the Ahijah prophecy (vv. 29-31) and the rest that DtrH has reworked; cf. M. Cogan, i Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (ab 10; New Haven, 2008), pp. 343-344.

18 For the translation of ניר as “dominion”, see E. Ben Zvi, “Once the Lamp Has Been Kindled . . . A Reconsideration of the Meaning of the mt Nîr in 1 Kgs 11:36, 15:4; 2 Kgs 8:19, and 2 Chr 21:7,” abr 39 (1991), pp. 19-30; P. D. Hanson, “Song of Heshbon and David’s Nîr,” htr 61 (1968), pp. 297-320. On the other hand, Cogan and Tadmor argue persuasively that ניר simply represents a bi-form of נר meaning “lamp” (Cogan and Tadmor, ii Kings, p. 95). In the end, accepting either translation would not affect my argument.

19 The text in 1 Kgdms 12:24a (lxx) states, “He (Rehoboam) did what was evil before the Lord and did not go in the way of David his father.” This lengthy, well-known supplement does not focus so much on Rehoboam, however, but on Jeroboam’s rise. For more on this subject, see below.

20 Provan may argue correctly that the ניר passages reveal a pre-exilic author, though he also concedes an editor could have plausibly reinterpreted them as a reference to future hope in the exilic period; I. W. Provan, Hezekiah and the Books of Kings: A Contribution to the Debate about the Composition of the Deuteronomistic History (bzaw 172; Berlin and New York, 1988), p. 97.

21 Cross, Canaanite Myth, pp. 279-281.

22 The variations include the plural “sins”, “way”, or “house of Jeroboam”. Certain exceptions apply for those kings who do not receive a formal evaluation or much attention at all, such as Elah (1 Kgs 16:8-10), Ahaziah (2 Kgs 1), and Shallum (2 Kgs 15:13-16).

23 See Knoppers, Two Nations under God, vol. 1, 201.

24 Scholars have given much attention to the greater detail that lxx has given to Jeroboam’s career, but none of this would seem to change my main point. For research on the narrative in lxx, see the seminal work of J. C. Trebolle Barrera, Salomón y Jeroboán: Historia de la recensión y redacción de 1 Reyes 2-12, 14 (Institución San Jeronimo 10; Valencia, 1980). More recently, A. Schenker, Septante et texte massorétique dans l’histoire la plus ancienne du texte de 1 Rois 2-14 (crb 48; Paris, 2000).

25 Although Ahab’s father Omri reigned before him, the account never refers to “the house of Omri” but only “the house of Ahab” (2 Kgs 8:18, 27; 9:7, 8, 9; 10:10, 11, 30; 21:13).

26 In 2 Kings 1, Elijah explains to Ahaziah that his sickness will lead to death because he sought help from Baalzebub instead of Yahweh (cf. vv. 6, 17). In 2 Kgs 9:22-24, Jehu strikes down Joram for continuing Jezebel’s idolatrous practices.

27 D. T. Lamb, Righteous Jehu and His Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession (Oxford, 2007), pp. 15-154. On the basis of 2 Kgs 10:30, Lamb avers that the text gives Jehu a positive evaluation, but the strong, formulaic statements in vv. 29 and 31 would seem to rule this out.

28 Although the books of Kings never use the word “house” to describe Jehu’s dynasty, it expresses this idea by cataloging four generations of Jehu’s descendants, the most for any northern royal line.

29 The books of Kings condemn Ahab with similarly superlative language in 1 Kgs 21:25-26.

30 This contrasts greatly with the Chronicler’s account of his reign in 2 Chronicles 28, where Ahaz suffers from five different attacks (Aram [v. 5a], Israel [v. 5b], Edom [v. 17], Philistia [v. 18], Assyria [v. 20]).

31 It should be noted that several kings loot the Jerusalem temple without punishment, some of them are even temple reformers and deemed good (Asa [1 Kgs 15:12-13, 18], Joash [2 Kgs 12:4-16, 18], Hezekiah [18:4, 15-16]). Evans uses this as evidence that dh acknowledges the king’s right to draw temple treasuries for specific purposes; P. S. Evans, “The Function of the Chronicler’s Temple Despoliation Notices in Light of Imperial Realities in Yehud,” jbl 129 (2010), pp. 31-47 (36). In this light, Evans argues that dh does not explicitly condemn Ahaz for doing it, and so this particular action does not add to his negative assessment (35). However, Ahaz does go much further than the other good kings who despoil the temple. His submission to the Assyrian king leads to his adoption of idolatrous practices.

32 The Chronicler avers that the Assyrian army came against Judah and captured Manasseh (2 Chr 33:11).

33 Cf. Cogan and Tadmor, ii Kings, p. 276. The books of Kings made this same point with the young Joash’s accession to the throne at seven years old (cf. 2 Kgs 11:2-3).

34 These kings are all designated by the comment “He did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh” (1 Kgs 15:11; 22:43; 2 Kgs 12:2; 14:3; 15:3; 15:34; 18:3; 22:2).

35 To my knowledge, scholarship has not yet observed this trend in the books of Kings.

36 This attack does not appear as divine punishment against Asa for not removing the high places (v. 14a) as Mullen argues since the account praises Asa immediately after this criticism in vv 14b-15; cf. E. T. Mullen, “Crime and Punishment: The Sins of the King and the Despoliation of the Treasuries,” cbq 54 (1992), pp. 231-248 (238).

37 Hence, the books of Kings do not condemn Asa for his actions in the war, but simply show the weakened state of his kingdom. In contrast, the Chronicler does seem to view Asa’s actions negatively along with all other alliances, see G. N. Knoppers, “‘Yhwh Is Not with Israel’: Alliances as a Topos in Chronicles,” cbq 58 (1996), pp. 601-626.

38 All verse references follow bhs.

39 Provan notes that 19:34 shows how even Judah’s most pious king needs divine grace to survive, but that the latter occurrence of the phrase in 20:6 reveals a digression for Hezekiah since his prayer in 20:2-3 seems more self-centered than in 19:15-19. See I. W. Provan, 1 and 2 Kings (nibcot; Peabody, 1995), pp. 259-260, 263-264.

40 V. Fritz claims that Uzziah has received the leprosy as punishment from Yahweh, though Fritz does not specify any wrongdoing by the king; V. Fritz, 1 & 2 Kings: A Continental Commentary (trans. A. C. Hagedorn; Minneapolis, 2003), p. 328. It is unlikely that the books of Kings fault him for his failure to remove the high places since neither of the previous two good southern kings received punishment even though they had the same shortcoming (Joash [12:3], Amaziah [14:4]). The Chronicler relates the leprosy to his pride (cf. 2 Chr 26:16-21).

41 Whereas the Chronicler explicitly links the demise of both Joash and Amaziah to sin (2 Chr 24:25; 25:27), commentators typically surmise that the books of Kings connect their precipitous falls to political missteps; see M. A. Sweeney, i & ii Kings: A Commentary (Louisville, 2007), pp. 353-354, 366-367.

42 It may be added, Amaziah did execute his father Joash’s assassins (2 Kgs 14:5-6; cf. 12:20-21), but the books of Kings separate the accounts with two northern reigns (cf. 2 Kgs 13:1-25) so that Amaziah’s succession lacks the immediacy portrayed in Josiah’s replacement of Amon.

43 Cf. Cogan and Tadmor, ii Kings, pp. 51-52.

44 Azariah appears to be the only exception of the eight good kings.

45 See R. D. Nelson, “The Double Redaction of the Deuteronomistic History: The Case Is Still Compelling,” jsot 29 (2005), pp. 319-337 (327). Huldah’s prophecy that Josiah would be “gathered to his fathers in peace” (22:20) perhaps accentuates this shock. In this light, many scholars simply suppose 22:19-20a to be the original kernel of the prophecy and that the rest (i.e. vv 15-18, 20b) constitute a later redaction; e.g. Cogan and Tadmor, ii Kings, p. 295. In contrast, Provan argues that Huldah’s prophecy concerned only the timing of Josiah’s death, not the manner. In other words, Josiah would die before the terrible events prophesied in 21:12-14 and 22:15-17; cf. Provan, 1 and 2 Kings, p. 275. Either way, my point stands that the books of Kings assert that the paragon of faithfulness Josiah suffered an unexpected death.

46 I do not necessarily disagree with the Cross school that Josiah represents a climax with regard to the high places. Knoppers persuasively argues that Josiah removed the very reason for the schism; Knoppers, Two Nations under God, vol. 1, p. 159. However, it is difficult to see further ranging effects for Josiah’s work since it does not extend into the northern kingdom much beyond Bethel.

47 Nelson also notes the absence of cultic reform, the book of the law, and the prophecy-fulfillment schema; Nelson, “Case Is Still Compelling,” pp. 330-331. However, one should not expect mention of cultic reform or the book of the law since no more good kings reigned. With regard to prophecy fulfillment, the explanation in 24:2 serves this function adequately.

48 The noun כלא appears in dh only four times, twice with Jehoiachin, once with Hoshea, and the other time with Michaiah (1 Kgs 22:27).

49 D. F. Murray, “Of All the Years the Hopes—Or Fears? Jehoiachin in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30),” jbl 120 (2001), pp. 245-265. He demonstrates how certain literary features (e.g. dating formula, syntactical structures) link together all the episodes. The episode of Jehoiachin’s release has received much attention in the scholarly literature: M. Chan, “Joseph and Jehoiachin: On the Edge of Exodus,” zaw 125 (2013), pp. 566-577; D. Janzen, “An Ambiguous Ending: Dynastic Punishment in Kings and the Fate of the Davidides in 2 Kings 25.27-30,” jsot 33 (2008), pp. 39-58; C. T. Begg, “The Significance of Jehoiachin’s Release: A New Proposal,” jsot 36 (1986), pp. 49-56; J. D. Levenson, “The Last Four Verses in Kings,” jbl 103 (1984), pp. 353-361.

  • 8

    Cf. R. Smend, “Das Gesetz und die Völker: ein Beitrag zur deuteronomistischen Redaktionsgeschichte,” in Probleme biblischer Theologie: Gerhard von Rad zum 70 Geburtstag (ed. H. W. Wolff; Munich, 1971), pp. 494-509. See also W. Dietrich, Prophetie und Geschichte: Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zum deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerk (frlant 108; Göttingen, 1972). More recently, F. B. Wissmann, “Er tat das Rechte . . .”: Beurteilungskriterien und Deuteronomismus in 1 Kön 12-2 Kön 25 (AThANT 93; Zürich, 2008).

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  • 10

    Cf. de Pury and Römer, “Deuteronomistic Historiography,” p. 72. See also J. Van Seters, “The Deuteronomistic History: Can It Avoid Death by Redaction?,” in The Future of the Deuteronomistic History (ed. T. Römer; betl 147; Leuven, 2000), pp. 213-222.

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  • 13

    Cross, Canaanite Myth, pp. 278-285.

  • 16

    See Knoppers, Two Nations under God, vol. 1, pp. 87-90.

  • 21

    Cross, Canaanite Myth, pp. 279-281.

  • 23

    See Knoppers, Two Nations under God, vol. 1, 201.

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