I am really enjoying reading through I and II Kings right now. Reading through an Old Testament historical book like Kings for devotions feels very different from reading through an Epistle or Gospel or even Wisdom Literature. I often cannot point to specific things that I learn from a particular text, but I nevertheless find it refreshing and nourishing to just get lost in the story each day. There are a lot of passages whose purpose I do not understand – for example, the story of the two prophets in I Kings 13:11-32. Why is this story here? What purpose does it serve in the larger thrust of the surrounding narrative? Why did the author include it? How would I preach from it? I don’t know!
I am learning, however, to focus on what is major – to interpret obscure passages in light of clearer ones, to let the overall direction of the story set the tone, to see the trees in light of the forest. In this regard, I find II Kings 17:7-23 a particularly important pericope. Here the narrator pauses for a moment and steps back from events he has been describing and interprets them. The burden of this passage is basically that the exile – the event toward the entire book is leading – happened because God’s people turned to idolatry. I wonder if it may be helpful, especially for preaching through the book of Kings, to see individual events and stories in Kings against this larger backdrop of idolatry –> exile.
I also find it significant that despite the overall sadness of the direction of Kings, the book ends with a ray of hope with the liberation of Jehoiachin, the last king of Judah (II Kings 25:17-20). Why is this text here? Why include this seemingly random event? And why end the entire book with it? A good answer is that Jehoiachin is a ruler in the line of David, and one of the major themes of Samuel-Kings is God’s promise to sustain the line of David (e.g., II Samuel 7:16; cf. Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Ezekiel 37:24-28). By ending the book in this way, the author Kings is showing that the hope for a Davidic ruler has not been snuffed out with the exile, that despite the unthinkableness of the exile, God still has a plan and the story is still moving forward and hope for God’s people remains.