These books continue the story of the monarchy, begun in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles 1-20. The Hebrew nation has been broken into a northern kingdom called Israel, and a southern kingdom called Judah. The basic history is contained in Kings, while Chronicles provides a much later commentary on the rulers of Judah.
The books of 2 kings and Chronicles can be outlined by the reigns of the kings they record. However, there are 2 major divisions to 2 Kings:
I. To Israel’s Captivity 2 Kings 1-17
II. The Surviving Kingdom 2 Kings 18-25
The prophets. 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles are dominated by stories of rulers and the prophets God sent to them. These were the “speaking prophets,” so called because they delivered their messages verbally and did not write them down. Now we come to the times of the prophets who wrote our OT books.
Foreign enemies: This is also an era increasingly dominated by foreign powers who shape the history of Israel and Judah. Increasingly now, the old enemies, like Moab and Philistine, which lay next to Palestine, are stalled up by great world empires. Assyria and Babylon, with Egypt, are dominant. It is the pressure of the great powers and their rise to empire that leads first to the fall of Israel and then of Judah. The Bible presents these powers as instruments God uses to purge his people of idolatry.
Israel’s Major Enemies
Aramaea. These originally nomadic peoples formed a number of small states east of Israel. During the times of Ben-Hadad I and Ben-Hadad II (c. 900-841 B.C.), a large kingdom-state that encompassed most of Syria was formed. Israel and Judah alternately fought Aramea and, when under a common threat from Assyria, formed common alliance with her. This OT state is identified at times by its capital, Damascus.
In 802 B.C. Damascus was taken by the Assyrians under Adad-Nirari III and Aramaean power was broken. When Assyrian influence ebbed, Jeroboam II of Israel took Damascus. Another leader of whom we read in the Bible, Rezon (c. 740-732 B.C.), won independence, but never restored Aramaean power.
Assyria. This ancient Mesopotamian people had a long imperial history. In the time of the conquest and judges, Assyria was one of the great world powers, with Egypt and the Hitties and the Mitten. When its power expanded west under Tiglath-pileser (1116-1076 B.C.), Assyria came into direct contact with he states of Palestine.
Shalmaneser fought a coalition of Aramaean and Hebrew kings at Qarqar in 805 B.C., and placed the Palestinians under tribute. Adad-nirari III (810-782 B.C.) attacked Damascus, enabling Joash to take back land occupied earlier by Hazael of Damascus. Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.) successfully expanded Assyrian power to dominate both Aramaea and Israel. His son, Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.), took Samaria after a 3-year siege, and transported the people of Israel to the area of the upper Euphrates river. The final victory is also claimed in secular records by Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), who co-commanded the Assyrian armies there.
Babylon. Babylon is the city of Chaldea which gave its name to the Babylonian empire of the Bible. The city has an ancient history, going back even before the famous Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.). It struggled to become a competing power to the dominant Assyria from 722 B.C. onward. Various bids for independence and power failed until 627 B.C. when Nabopolassar succeeded. By 605 B.C. Babylonian armies were in the west, and Nebuchadnezzar defeated Assyria’s Egyptian allies at Carchemish. At this time, Babylon established authority over Judah and all Palestine. 3 years later Judah rebelled. So in 598 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar marched to Palestine. He captured Jerusalem on 15/16 March, 597 B.C. In a series of deportations, the people of the Southern Kingdom were carried back to Babylon as captives — God’s final punishment of his unfaithful people.
Source: Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook by Lawrence O. Richards, Word Books