The Kingdom Divided/Exile and Return
12th June 1999
In these two sessions, we plan to cover twenty-three of the sixty-six
books of the bible - more than a third of the whole. This is made up
- Seven books of history:
1 Kings (all but the first eleven chapters),
The four major prophets:
The twelve minor prophets:
One book of poetry: Lamentations.
Since these books cover about half a millennium of history - from 931
BC to 433 BC - our biggest difficulty is to grasp the shape of the
whole. The goal of these sessions is to give some character to these
books, particularly the prophets, so that the seventeen books of the
prophets don't melt into one big lump of prophecy in our minds.
We're going to deal with all this history in two chunks.
In the first week, we'll cover The Kingdom Divided: the 344
years from the end of Solomon's reign to the fall of Jerusalem.
The relevant books are
1 and 2 Kings,
Zephaniah (thirteen books)
In the second week, we'll cover the Exile and Return: the
hundred and fifty years from the fall of Jerusalem up to the end of
the Old Testament period. The relevant books are
Malachi (ten books)
(You could argue that Jeremiah and Lamentations belong to The
Kingdom Divided, but that would make the imbalance between the
chunk sizes too great. Or you could argue that Obadiah belongs to
Exile and Return, but he fits better as a post-script to the
fall of Jerusalem.)
There are several things to bear in mind as we consider all this
History moves fast. Part of what makes OT history confusing is that
one moment, Egypt is the enemy, then it's Assyria, then it's Babylon.
But the books frequently skip over fifty-year reigns in a sentence or
two. Consider how different Europe looks now from fifty years ago.
Morality moves fast. When you consider how things have changed in
England since the 50s, the seemingly sudden swings in Kings and
Chronicles are less shocking.
Dates for lengths of reign etc. don't always add up. There are at
least two reasons for this. Firstly, the Jewish system of counting
years includes both the start and end points (so 1970-1973 is four
years); and secondly, some reigns overlap due to co-regencies (eg. at
the end of Uzziah's reign.)
Prophecy in the Old Testament sense is a very different ministry from
what's exercised on Sunday mornings. It has a strong component of
prediction (though it's by no means limited to that), carries greater
authority, and was correspondingly rarer.
Timeline: Prophets in the Reigns of Kings of Judah and Israel
Major Events in the Reigns of the Kings
The Messages of the Prophets
These notes are available on the internet at