When speaking of this Book, its correct name is "the Second Book of Kings" (not the book of the second kings).
Note on some of the names of the kings : Hebrew was originally written without any vowels. Only the consonants were written, and the reader filled in the vowels because he knew what the names were. However, with the passage of the centuries some of the names became ambiguous, and so we sometimes find two similar names for one person eg. Joash & Jehoash, Joram & Jehoram etc. Similar things happened with some Egyptian and Mesopotamian names, eg. Pharaoh Merenptah or Merneptah, Nebuchadnezzar or Nebuchadrezzar. Also, several kings of Damascus were named Ben-Hadad - "son of Hadad" (Hadad was a storm god)
Note on "the sins of Jeroboam" : Jeroboam set up places of worship at Dan and at Bethel, to supplant the Temple at Jerusalem, and told the people that they were not to go to Jerusalem. Jeroboam's places each had a statue of a bull as the center of worship, so breaking the commandment against worshipping graven images. All the subsequent kings of northern Israel continued this tradition, and so are described as "walking in the sins of Jeroboam"
Note on "the High Places" : a high place was a raised circular platform of stones round which worshippers could gather while some worship leader(s) could direct them from the platform. It appears that the "worship" often invloved sacrifice of animals and sexual congress of people. A high place has been excavated in the ruins of Megiddo.
See the History Page for the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel
Quotations from "ANET" refer to "Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament" edited by James. B. Pritchard
2 Kings 1:3 - "Elijah the Tishbite" - the appelation probably refers to his home town, which may have been Tishbe or Tosabe
2 Kings 2:3 - "sons of the prophets" - either a group of disciples of the prophets, or themselves charismatics or seers
2 Kings 2:22 - "The Spring of Elisha" still comes out of the side of the tel at the site of old Jericho, and supplies water for irrigation and for the new town.
2 Kings 3:4-5 - according to Moabite propaganda, Mesha claimed that he only served Israel for half of Ahab's reign, and then broke free. This probably represents a period of terrorist attacks and guerilla warfare until Israel had to admit that there was a problem. Mesha's claim is carved on the "Moabite Stone", now in the Louvre (Museum in Paris).
2 Kings 3:11 - "poured water on the hands of" means that he acted as a servant to someone
2 Kings 4:19 - "My head, my head." - if the boy had been running about in the heat of the day, he might well have had sun-stroke.
2 Kings 6:5 - good metal implements were expensive and hard to acquire
2 Kings 9:10 & 35-37 - the prophecy of the death of Jezebel, and its fulfilment
2 Kings 10:30 - for the fulfilment of this prophecy, see II Kings 15:8-12
2 Kings 12:20 - a "millo" is thought to be a retaining wall with a dirt fill; the "house of Millo" would be whatever structure had been built upon such a mound
2 Kings 13:5 - this may refer to the invasion of Syria by Adad-nirari III of Assyria, ca. 803 BC, which weakened Syria's hold on Israel
2 Kings 14:8 - "let us look one another in the face" was a challenge to battle
2 Kings 14:22 - Elath was Eilat, on the gulf of Aqaba
2 Kings 14:25 - "Jonah the son of Amittai" was the prophet whose mission to Nineveh is recorded in the Book of Jonah. The "Sea of the Plain" or the "Sea of Arabah" refers to the Dead Sea (in the Arabah rift valley)
2 Kings 15:5 - for the background to this verse see II Chronicles 26:16-21. Uzziah was another name for Azariah. "a several house" meant a separate house (for fear that others would catch the disease from him).
2 Kings 15:8-12 - the fulfilment of the prophecy in II Kings 10:30
2 Kings 15:19 - "Pul the king of Assyria" was Tiglath-Pileser III. There is in existence an Assyrian text by Tiglath-pileser which claims "I received tribute from . . Rezon of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, Hiram of Tyre . . gold, silver, tin, iron, elephant hides, ivory, linen garments with multicolored trimmings, blue-dyed wool, purple-dyed wool, ebony wood, boxwood wood, whatever was precious enough for a royal treasure, also . . . horses, mules, large and small cattle, camels . . . As for Menahem, I overwhelmed him and he . . . bowed to my feet. I returned him to his place and imposed tribute upon him : gold, silver, linen garments with multicolored trimmings." (Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) 283-84)
2 Kings 15:29 - at this time the people of the northern part of Israel were carried off to Assyria, and replaced by other peoples conquered by the Assyrians. The kingdom of Israel was reduced to the mountainous region near Samaria, the northern part became an Assyrian provinve, and Galilee became known as "Galilee of the Gentiles" eg. Isaiah 9:1 & Matthew 4:15
2 Kings 16:3 - "made his son to pass through the fire" means that he burned him to death as a sacrifice to one of the heathen gods (probably Molech)
2 Kings 16:7 - "I am thy servant and thy son" - Ahaz was submitting to Tiglath-pileser III as his overlord. In such a relationship the subservient king paid tribute to the superior king (as in v. 8), and expected his protection should an enemy attack. Part of the submission process involved accepting the gods of the superior king, hence Ahaz had to build an altar to the Assyrian gods, and move the original altar at the Temple to a less significant place, v. 10-16
2 Kings 17:1-3 - Hoshea probably became king with the help of Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria, whose records claim about Israel : "They overthrew their king Pekah, and I placed Hoshea as king over them. I received from them ten talents of gold, one thousand talents of silver as their tribute, and brought them to Assyria" (ANET 284)
2 Kings 17:3-6 - Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria died ca. 727 BC. At the time of his death many of the kingdoms which had been forced to be vassals of Assyria revolted, thinking that Tiglath-pileser's son was too weak to reassert control. They made a bad miscalculation. The new king, Shalmaneser V, not only held the empire together, but enlarged it. "So, king of Egypt" may have been Pharaoh Osorkon IV. The Egyptians were enemies of the Assyrians, and were continually trying to recruit other smaller nations to their side.
2 Kings 17:5-6 & 17:23-24 - the "king of Assyria" is identified in II Kings 18:9 as Shalmaneser. However, at around this time Shalmaneser V died, and Sargon II became king of Assyria. Sargon claimed "I besieged and conquered Samaria, led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants of it. I formed from among them a contingent of 20 chariots and made the remaining inhabitants assume their social positions. I installed over them an officer of mine and imposed upon them the tribute of the former king." (ANET 284-85) Sargon may have been the general in charge of the army before becoming king of Assyria, or he may just have claimed Shalmaneser's victories as his own.
2 Kings 17:24-34 - the new mixed inhabitants of the northern kingdom were the ancestors of the Samaritans, who recognize only the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) as being authoritative Scripture, and who still practise the sacrifice of lambs on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans were hated and despised by the Jews throughout the remaining period of the Old and the New Testaments.
2 Kings 18:4 - "the brazen serpent that Moses had made" - see Numbers 21:8-9
2 Kings 18:7-8 - King Hezekiah also took part in the general rebellion at the time of Tiglath-pileser III's death, and gained control of the Gaza coast of the mediterranenan
2 Kings 18:13-17 - after conquering the northern kingdom of Israel, Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah to reassert his control over the area, and demanded tribute from Hezekiah. Hezekiah gave gold and silver to Sennacherib, but evidently the Assyrians wanted more than Hezekiah could supply, and threatened to conquer Jerusalem and carry the people away into captivity (v. 27)
Sennacherib gave his version of the campaign : "As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts, and the countless small villages in their vicinity and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth ramps and battering rams brought near the walls, combined with the attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches, as well as sapper work. I drove out of them 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules,donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them my booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were leaving his city's gate. His towns that I had plundered I took away from his country and gave them to . . . (various kings) . Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and . . . the presents due to me as his overlord, which I imposed later upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen it, together with 30 talents of gold, 300 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large blocks of red stone, ivory couches, ivory arm-chairs, elephant hide, elephant tusks, ebony wood, box wood, all kinds of valuable treasures, as well as his daughters, concubines, male and female musicians he sent me later to Nineveh, my lordly city. He sent a personal messenger to deliver the tribute and make a slavish obeisance." (ANET 288) (Do you get the impression that Sennacherib was not a nice person ?)
2 Kings 18:21-22 - the Assyrians thought that Hezekiah was either trusting to a military alliance with Egypt to protect them from Assyria, or that he was trusting in God. They were confused as to which god was worshipped in Jerusalem, and thought that Hezekiah had displeased the gods by clearing out the heathern altars and restoring the worship of the One God.
2 Kings 18:23-24 - the Assyrians offered to equip a jewish army and cavalry to join them in a battle against Egypt.
2 Kings 18:25 - the Assyrians went so far as to claim that God was really on their side and had told them to take Jerusalem
2 Kings 18:26-27 - several long sections of the wall of Jerusalem dating to the time of Hezekiah have been uncovered (below the level of the present town). They are several feet thick, and would have had plenty of room for groups of people to stand on them to watch the proceedings
2 Kings 18:26-36 - the Assyrian messengers were speaking in Hebrew, and were trying to terrorize the people of Jerusalem by their claims. The Jewish envoy tried to get them to talk in their own language, so that the common people would not understand what was being said. The Assyrians then shouted out their propaganda in Hebrew so that everyone could hear, but the people of Jerusalem obeyed Hezekiah and did not make any reply.
2 Kings 18:33-35 - the Assyrians regarded the God of Israel as being like all the gods of the conquered nations, and didn't believe that He had the power to withstand their army.
2 Kings 19:8 - Sennacherib had sent his nessengers to demand the capitulation of Jerusalem, while he himself had stayed to conquer the city of Lachish. Archaeologists have excavated Lachish and uncovered the ramp which the Assyrians built against the city, part of an Assyrian helmet, and a mass grave containing the skeletons of more than 1,500 people who were killed at that time. Sennacherib was so proud of his capture of Lachish that he had a relief sculpture of the scene at least 70 feet long carved on the walls of his palace - it shows his army surrounding the city, and captives being lead away or being impaled on poles or otherwise mutilated and killed.
2 Kings 19:9 - "Tirhakah king of Ethiopia" was Pharaoh Taharqa of Egypt, who also controlled Ethiopia. Taharqa was defeated in battle by the Assyrians shortley after this
2 Kings 19:35 - we do not know the nature of the plague that struck the Assyrian army. Sennacherib's own accounts and claims in his palace at Nineveh suddenly break off at this point, and merely recount that he headed back home.
2 Kings 20:1 - the Prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz - the Prophet associated with the Old Testament Book of Isaiah
2 Kings 20:12 - "Berodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon" was Merodach-baladan, a Chaldean ruler of Babylon who fought against Sargon and was chased into Elam. When Sargon died, Merodach-baladan again claimed to be king of Babylon until Sennacherib drove him back to Elam. A few years later, Merodach-baladan tried to interest Hezekiah in joining him in a fight against the Assyrians - this was probably the underlying reason for his present to Hezekiah. Shortly after this the Assyrians drove him back again into Elam.
2 Kings 20:13-18 - Hezekiah had unwisely shown the Babylonian envoy the riches of his palace. Isaiah realized that the Babylonians would want to possess those riches themselves.
2 Kings 20:18 - this prophecy is fulfilled in II Kings 24:12 & 25:7
2 Kings 20:20 - Hezekiah built a water-tunnel to bring water inside Jerusalem from the Gihon spring, so that the city could withstand the siege by the Assyrians. One can still walk along the stream-bed through the tunnel under Jerusalem to the pool of Siloam (or Silwan as it is now called)
2 Kings 21:6 - Manasseh sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to one of the heathen gods, dabbled in astrology, tried to cast spells, and called upon evil spirits and enchanters.
2 Kings 21:18 7 26 - Manasseh and Amon were not granted burial with the other kings of Jerusalem.
2 Kings 22:8 - the "Book of the Law" was probably a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy
2 Kings 22:11 - "he rent his clothes" - to tear one's garments was a sign of deep distress
2 Kings 23:10 - "Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom" the place used for child sacrifice just to the south of the walls of Jerusalem. "Hinnom" gave rise to the term "Gehenna" as a synonym for hell. It was used again for sacrifices by later kings. In New Testament times it was the rubbish dump for the city. It is now a park with trees and grass.
2 Kings 23:15-18 - the fulfilment of the prophecy recorded in I Kings 13:1-32
2 Kings 23:29-34 - ca. 609 BC Pharaoh Neco marched north to engage Babylon at the battle of Carchemish. Josiah and Judah were in the way. Neco killed Josiah, sent for Josiah's son Jehoahaz, and took him captive to Egypt, where he died. Neco chose another of Josiah's sons, Eliakim, renamed him Jehoiakim, and made him puppet-king of Jerusalem. Renaming was done to assert the power which the superior king had over the subservient king.
2 Kings 24:1 - Pharaoh Neco lost the battle of Carchemish, so Jehoiakim changed sides and made a treaty with Nebuchadnezzar. After a few years Jehoiakim thought it was safe to change sides again.
2 Kings 24:7-16 - in retaliation for Jehoiakim's breach of allegiance, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah. Jehoiakim had died, and his son Jehoiachin had become king, so Nebuchadnezzar took him and most of the royal family as captives to Babylon.
2 Kings 24:17 - Mattaniah was the third son of Josiah. Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah's name to Zedekiah and made him the next puppet-king of Jerusalem.
2 Kings 24:20 - Zedekiah broke his oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar
2 Kings 25:4 - the "Chaldees" - another name for the Babylonians
2 Kings 25:5 - the Babylonians caught Zedekiah "in the plains of Jericho" - he was trying to escape across the River Jordan into the desert to the East.
2 Kings 25:9 - the Babylonian captain "burnt the house of the Lord" - the Temple was burned to the ground after its treasures had been taken by the Babylonians.
2 Kings 25:22-23 - Gedaliah's father and grandfather had been court officials and servants of Josiah (II Kings 22:3,14) Gedaliah had established a center at Mizpah and was attempting to restore peace and order to the land, accepting that it was now a province of Babylon.
2 Kings 25:25-26 - Elishama killed Gedaliah and the group of Babylonians and Jews at Mizpah. The remaining people were afraid that the Babylonians would return to take revenge for the murders, so they fled to Egypt.
2 Kings 25:27-30 - after being imprisoned for 37 years, Jehoiachin was let out of prison, but was still kept in Babylon and not allowed to return to Jerusalem. Evil-merodach was the son of Nebuchadnezzar II; he became king of Babylon in 561 BC. Fragments of cuneiform tablets have been found at Babylon which mention a ration of grain for "Jehoiachin king of the land of Judah, for the five sons of the king of the land of Judah, and for eight Judeans"
Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved
Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130
Last Updated: May 23, 2008