Sources of the History of Israel and Judah

While the Old Testament contains much recorded history, it was not written primarily as a history book. Its aim was to present a religious message, and the history found in its pages is really incidental to its main purpose.

As a result, some historical events are omitted, while other historical periods are covered in more detail because of their religious significance.

The eleven year reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, for example, is covered in just three verses (see 2 Kings 24:18-20). "Zedekiah did what the LORD said was wrong" (2 Kings 24:19) sums up his reign. In contrast, the reign of King Josiah of Judah – who rediscovered the Book of the Jewish Law and renewed the covenant with Yahweh – is expanded to fifty verses (see 2 Kings 22:1 – 23:30). The lives of King David and his son, King Solomon – who moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and built the Temple – are covered in much more detail, in forty-one chapters and ten chapters respectively (1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 1 & 1 Kings 2 to 1 Kings 11).

 

Jerusalem - The Temple Mount (Avram Graicer)

Jerusalem - The Temple Mount  (Avram Graicer)

 

The authors of the Old Testament books used a wide variety of contemporary resources when writing about the history of the kings of Israel and Judah. Many of these contemporary books (or ‘chronicles’) have since been lost, but their titles are often acknowledged as sources of information by the Old Testament authors.

In the First Book of Kings, for example, the author refers to The Book of the Annals of Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:41), The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (see 1 Kings 14:19) and The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (see 1 Kings 14:29).

At the end of the Biblical First Book of Chronicles, the author lists three of his written sources: The Chronicles of Samuel the Seer, The Chronicles of Nathan the Prophet, and The Chronicles of Gad the Seer (see 1 Chronicles 29:29).

In the Second Book of Chronicles, the author refers to The History of Nathan the Prophet, The Prophesy of Ahijah the Shilonite and The Visions of Iddo the Seer (see 2 Chronicles 9:29). He also refers to The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (see 2 Chronicles 16:11), The Book of the Kings of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 20:34), The Commentary on the Book of the Kings (see 2 Chronicles 24:27), The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (see 2 Chronicles 27:7) and The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 33:18).

It's possible, of course, that a number of these references refer to the same book or collection of chronicles. Some may refer to portions of the Biblical books of 1 & 2 Samuel or 1 & 2 Kings.

Other books are mentioned as source material for the books referred to in the Second Book of Chronicles. The Chronicles of Jehu the Son of Hanani, for example, is named as a source of information found in The Book of the Kings of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 20:34), while The Vision of Isaiah the Prophet, the Son of Amoz is cited as a source of information in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (see 2 Chronicles 32:32). This may be a reference to the Biblical book of Isaiah. In addition, both the book of Joshua and the Second Book of Samuel refer to The Book of Jashar as a source (see Joshua 10:13 & 2 Samuel 1:18).

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