If you compare this page with the page for 1 Kings, you will notice two problems.
First, they don’t match. The chart for 1 Kings ended with Israel at the bottom of the page, wallowing in the blood of Ahab, while Judah was soaring at the top of the page. On the chart for 2 Kings you will notice that Judah is at the bottom of the page and Israel is at the top. Here’s why. The 1 Kings chart was designed to show peaks and valleys that represented walking or not walking in a right relationship with God. When Jeroboam erected his two golden bulls in Dan and Bethel, he sent the kingdom of Israel on an irreparable downward trajectory. There was no way that Israel could have been on the top of that chart. In the 2 Kings chart things are laid out in more of a geographical configuration. Israel was the kingdom in the north and Judah was in the south. The enemies — Aram, Assyria, and Babylon — were northeast of Israel while Egypt was to the Southwest of Judah. Please read this chart from left to right, as a time line, with the ups and downs of the kings still representing right relationship with God. You will notice that red indicates an “evil” king while green represents a “good” king. (Jehu is orange because he wasn’t evil, but he didn’t quite make it to “good” either)
The second problem is that…well…the chart is messy. If, when you first looked at this chart, you thought, “what a confusing mess of jumbled spaghetti,” then rest assured…you’re right. 2 Kings is a jumbled mess. It is the story of two nations who slowly ran themselves into the ground and ultimately were destroyed by their enemies because of their lack of obedience to God.
That being said, notice that there are some key players and key events in 2 Kings.
Elisha was the spiritual successor to Elijah. After the mighty prophet of 1 Kings was whisked away by the chariot of fire, Elisha took command of the spiritual leadership of Israel. The first seven chapters of the book are dedicated to the amazing ministry of this miracle-working man of God. It is an interesting study to compare the life of Elisha with the life of Jesus. They did similar miracles, went to similar places, and taught similar things. When Elisha died the kingdom of Israel quickly unraveled and was destroyed.
Jehu was an “almost, but not quite” kind of king. On the good side, he single-handedly served as the vehicle through which God eradicated the line of Ahab from the face of the planet. He purged Israel of the paganism introduced by Jezebel and watched as the dogs fulfilled prophecy while munching on her body. On the down side, Jehu did not rectify the sin of Jeroboam and left the golden bulls standing in Israel. He took the nation to the one-yard line, and then fumbled the ball. He got rid of most of the cancer, but left enough of a seed behind to metastasize and kill the whole nation.
Destruction of Israel
Finally, in 721 B.C., God used the nation of Assyria to utterly destroy the kingdom of Israel. All ten tribes that comprised that kingdom were annihilated by the intermarriage that was forced upon them by their Assyrian oppressors.
The story of Hezekiah is a brief breath of fresh air in the middle of a putrid history. Hezekiah did what no other king had done since David; he destroyed the high places and brought the focus of worship in Judah back to the temple where it belonged. The syncretism of the high places was the constant virus that kept the nation from experiencing true health in the presence of God. Because of Hezekiah’s reformation the imminent invasion from Assyria was miraculously abated as Sennacherib, their pompous king, was sent running back to Nineveh with his tail between his legs.
One of the most radical, whiplash-inducing reversals of all time was the succession of Manasseh to his father’s throne. If Hezekiah was the most righteous king of post-David Judah, then Manasseh was the most wicked. In a matter of a few short years Manasseh not only reintroduced the paganism that Hezekiah had destroyed, he also plunged the nation even deeper into evil that was beyond comprehension. The witchcraft and demonism that Manasseh allowed, even within the temple walls, left an irrevocable bitterness in God’s mouth that He was not able to forget. Manasseh sealed Judah’s doom.
Two generations after Manasseh’s reign of sin, a second king like Hezekiah ascended to the throne. Through a reconnection to the Law of Moses, Josiah spearheaded a radical reformation of Judah’s religious landscape. While Josiah’s reformations were true, thorough, and authentic, they were too late. God spared Josiah in response to his devotion, but the nation itself could not escape from the damage that Manasseh had done. As soon as Josiah was gone, the threads of the nation began to unravel.
Destruction of Judah
In 586 B.C., after several years of oppression and messing around with a puppet king on the throne of Jerusalem, Babylon finally burned Jerusalem to the ground, Temple and all. King Nebuchadnezzar was the instrument that God used to bring judgment to His wayward children. It was a dark day when the smoke of the burning Temple reminded the world of God’s promise to Solomon when he had built that beautiful building. God warned Solomon that if the people ever lost their focus and turned their hearts toward other gods that He would remove His protective presence from the Temple and in burning ruins would become the laughing stock of the world. And so it was.
Although it occupies very little space in the context of the whole book, the fact that Jehoiachin surrendered and was taken as a prisoner to Babylon is incredibly significant to the big picture of God’s master plan of redemption. God had promised David that the king of Israel would always come from his line. Had Jehoiachin been killed (as most kings would have been at the hands of the conquering empire) then the line of David would have destroyed. When we read in Matthew 1, in the genealogy of Jesus, we see that Jehoiachin (he is called Jeconiah in Matthew’s gospel) is listed. Jehoiachin stands as a glimmer of hope and a reminder to the fact that God is the God of covenant. No matter how bad things get, He will never break His promises. God always keeps a remnant of hope among His people. God loves us and does not desire to see us suffer the way we do. Our suffering is the result of our own poor choices. Yet, God will not give up on us. Through God’s faithfulness, He preserved the line of David and made the way for the ultimate King, the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, to come into the world and settle the score once and for all.