The narrative of II Kings spans three troubled centuries from Ahab’s death (c. 853 B.C.) to Jehoiachin’s release from his Babylonian prison (c. 560 B.C.). The importance of this book can scarcely be exaggerated. First, it records the last days of Elijah and the ministry of Elisha (chaps. 1–13); secondly, it describes the fall of Samaria (chap. 17) and Jerusalem (chaps. 24–25); thirdly, it provides a clear picture of the historical and religious context in which the great pre-exilic prophets labored; and fourthly, it furnishes part of the background for the New Testament antipathy between Jews and Samaritans by showing the hybrid nature of the Samaritan people and their worship (chap. 17:24–40).
The problem of harmonizing the various chronological data in II Kings is a major one, especially for the period from 740–716 B.C. For instance, a comparison of 2 Kings 15:27, 30; 16:1–2; 18:1 will result in the discovery that Ahaz was 26 when his 25-year-old son, Hezekiah, began to reign! The difficulties are compounded when an attempt is made to synchronize the history of the divided monarchy with the fixed dates in Assyrian inscriptions, for example, Ahaz’ dealings with Tiglath-pileser III in 734–732 B.C. (2 Kings 16:7 ff.), the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:6), and Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 18:13 ff.). E. R. Thiele in The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (University of Chicago Press, 1951) has grappled with these and many more problems and has proposed a helpful solution. The culprit was apparently Pekah who in 740/39 usurped the throne of Israel from Menahem’s son Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:25). Perhaps to enhance his prestige, Pekah claimed the regnal years of his two predecessors ...1
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