Literature / Books of Kings

“And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me in being king over them… Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them they ways of the king who shall rule over them.’”

The 11th and 12th books of The Bible.

1 Kings tells of Israel's Golden Age under Solomon but he also sows the seeds of rebellion which leads the nation to divide into Northern Israel and Southern Judah.

2 Kings continues the history of the divided nations. Both go into a downward spiral until they are destroyed by foreign nations and their peoples sent into exile.

In Christian Bibles it is followed by 1 & 2 Chronicles, a Lighter and Softer rehashing of Kings focusing exclusively on the southern Kingdom of Judah to inspire the Jews exiled to Babylon. Most of the Prophets preached during this period so they will be discussed here also. In the Jewish Tanakh it is followed by the Book of Isaiah. (Chronicles is relegated to the Ketuvimnote ).

These books contain the following tropes

  • 0% Approval Rating: King Jehoram of Judah was recorded as having died "without being desired" in 2nd Chronicles 21:20, meaning that he was so unlikable as king that nobody was sad to see him go.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • In 1 Kings 17:8-24, After Elijah was directed to a house in Zarephath and he supplied food to a widow and her son, the boy felt ill and became breathless. Elijah prays to God three times, hoping that God would let the boy's life return to life. God heard Elijah's cry and returned the boy's life to him, resurrecting the child.
    • Elisha did two, in 2 Kings 4:32-37, he prayed to God to resurrect the son of a Shunammite woman while staying with the child, and the other one is done posthumously in 2 Kings 13:21, by having a corpse landed onto the bones of Elisha.
  • Bargain with Heaven: God promises Solomon that “if you walk in My ways, keeping my statutes and commandments as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days” (1 Kings 3:14, ESV). For much of Solomon’s life, he stayed true to his word, and Israel reached the height of its power. Once Solomon broke his word, Israel’s slow decline began.
  • Bears are Bad News: Elisha summons two bears to maul 42 young bandits for mocking his bald head (and possibly implying that they would send him to heaven, i.e., kill him, although the phrase could also mean "why didn't you go up to heaven [like Elijah did]"?).
  • Chronic Villainy: Judah often backslides after a "good" king dies. Of course, its final backslide leads to their people being taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
  • Civil War: Between Omri and Tibni son of Ginath after King Zimri's death, which led to Omri being king of Israel.
  • Crapsack World: Foreign invasions from without and political upheaval from within.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: References are made about another book (presumably lost) detailing the rest of the deeds of Israel's kings
  • Curse: Joshua cursed whoever rebuilds Jericho, saying whoever lays its foundations will lose his firstborn and whoever sets up its gates will lose his youngest child. This came true in the reign of Ahab.
  • Death by Falling Over: King Ahaziah of Israel. Of course, it wasn't the fall through the lattice that ultimately caused his death, but his choosing to seek out out a false god instead of the Lord about whether he would survive or not that sealed his fate.
  • Defiled Forever: Israel is compared to a spoiled, pampered, virginal princess, who is then raped and taken into captivity.
    • In the book of Ezekiel, Israel and Judah are compared to young girls who prostituted themselves in Egypt and were graciously taken as wives by God (despite their history... or maybe because of it), and given everything they could possibly want and more... only to lust after Assyrian soldiers (that is, desire political alliances with neighboring superpowers instead of relying on God to protect and provide for them) and go back to their old whoring ways. Both end up being killed "and their names became bywords among women."
  • Downer Ending: The books of Kings, that is. The books of Chronicles, however, ends with King Cyrus of Persia calling for the return of the Jews to their own homeland, setting up for the events in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • Driven to Suicide: King Zimri of Israel lasted only a week as king when he found himself surrounded by Omri's forces that he decided to burn his house down with himself still inside it.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Jehu, the charioteer. So much so that lookouts who see his chariot approaching can tell him apart from anyone else before he's even close enough to identify by sight.
    ...and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously. —2 Kings 9:20
  • Dying Curse: In 2nd Chronicles chapter 24, after King Joash's Face–Heel Turn, Zechariah the son of Jehoidada tells the king, "Thus says God: 'Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.' " When the king commanded Zechariah to be stoned, his last words were, "The LORD look on it, and repay!" Sometime after, the LORD brought judgment upon Joash by bringing the armies of Syria against Judah and Jerusalem, and he was killed.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Solomon loved monkeys so much he had them imported (1 Kings 10:22)
  • Evil Matriarch: Jezebel and Athaliah (the latter was not above killing her own grandchildren to secure her own power.)
  • Eye Scream: King Zedekiah had his eyes put out by King Nebuchadnezzar in Riblah after being captured and seeing his sons being killed.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When the soldiers came to kill Jezebel, she faced them while wearing her full royal attire. The affect was sort of diminished after centuries of this being interpreted as her being a prostitute.
  • Face–Heel Turn/Faith–Heel Turn: King Joash of Judah after Jehoiada the priest died. He was a faithful follower of the Lord from childhood and even helped to restore the Temple with the money the people brought in, but after the priest's death he turned against the Lord and eventually suffered because of his rebellion. Some Bible students blame this on Jehoiada failing to pass on his faith in the Lord to the king that he acted as a co-regent of.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: "And [Elisha the prophet] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth young men out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two young men of them." Turns out God doesn't take kindly to youngsters making death threats ("Go on up" basically meaning "Go join your predecessor Elijah in Heaven" in this context) against His prophets.
  • Fatal Flaw
    • Solomon's dissatisfaction with his life.
    • Elah's drunkenness.
    • Ahab's inability to stand up to his wife.
    • Joab's violence.
    • Josiah rushing off to battle when the Pharaoh Neco warned him not to.
    • A good king of Judah failing to remove the high places of worship. This flaw lasted up until the time of King Hezekiah.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Jezebel (tried to destroy Judaism) and her daughter Athaliah (had all her grandkids killed, save one, almost destroying David's royal line)
  • God Test: Elijah challenges the worshipers of Baal to a contest where the god who answers by lighting a sacrifice on fire is determined to be God. Needless to say, the contest didn't end well for the Baal worshipers, even after Elijah makes it "nearly impossible" for God to light his sacrifice on fire.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Chronicles describes King Manasseh who "filled the land with innocent blood from one end to the other" returning to God late in life after his enemies took him captive. They returned him to his kingdom (though his son Amon was on the throne by then) to finish out his life. Considering that he was Josiah's grandfather (and Josiah's reign started when he was just eight years old), it seems likely that Manasseh passed some of the lessons he'd learned on to his grandson, warning him not to go ticking off God the way he (and his son Amon) had with all the evil they'd done.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: In 2nd Chronicles, despite warnings from the priests, King Uzziah attempted to burn incense in the temple as a sacrifice to God. God got extremely angry at him for performing a task exclusively reserved for priests and so the king was struck with leprosy.
  • Hope Spot: Chronicles ends with the proclamation of Cyrus the Great allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. Also, for all of his Knight Templar qualities and the shrinkage of northern Israel's borders in his time, Jehu's reign actually proved to be a significant moral improvement over his predecessors'.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Jehosaphat's alliance with Israel had terrible consequences. Pagan practices spread to Judah, he was almost killed in battle because of Ahab, his venture into maritime commerce ended in disaster and his daughter-in-law Athaliah almost destroyed David's royal line.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: There was a famine during the time of Elijah & Elisha, so there are instances of cannibalism, and people Driven to Madness by hunger enough to see their own children as potential food.
  • Intimate Healing: Done twice by the prophets Elijah and Elisha with their resurrection miracles as mentioned in Back from the Dead requiring lying down on top of the children they were praying for.
  • Jerkass: Rehoboam, Solomon's son. He was given the advice of taking it easy with the workload and taxes on the people of Israel, but instead he chose to make things harder on them, thus causing ten of the twelve tribes of Israel to revolt and form a new kingdom.
  • Judgment of Solomon: Trope Namer. The story recounts that two mothers living in the same house, each the mother of an infant son, came to King Solomon. One of the babies had died, and each claimed the remaining boy as her own. Calling for a sword, Solomon declared his judgment: the baby would be cut in two, each woman to receive half. One mother thought the ruling fair, but the other begged Solomon, "Give the baby to her, just don't kill him!" The king declared the second woman the true mother, as a mother would even give up her baby if that was necessary to save its life. This judgment became known throughout all of Israel and was considered an example of profound wisdom.
  • Last Of Their Kind: Elijah and Elisha were the last miracle workers in the Old Testament.
  • Lethal Chef: Somebody in 2nd Kings 4:38-41 finds a strange batch of gourds that he nearly poisons others with by making them into a stew. Fortunately Elisha the prophet with the help of God makes the stew harmless to eat.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Solomon allows his wives to worship their own gods, rather than forcing them to convert. They eventually persuaded him that their gods were better, leading him to idol worship (as well as many of his subjects.) This leads to religiously-motivated civil war.
  • Makeup Is Evil: Queen Jezebel notoriously put on makeup before confronting God's prophet. Unfortunately, it didn't stop her from becoming dog food.
  • Name's the Same: In-universe, Jeroboam II is a descendant of Jehu, not Jeroboam I.
  • Nasty Party: Jehu son of Jehoshaphat ordered a group of Baal's priests to assemble together in the central temple of Baal for a huge sacrifice, pretending that he was planning to worship Baal far more than his predecessor ever had, but his real purpose was to have his men exterminate them all, thus ridding the northern kingdom of Israel of Jezebel's institution of Baal worship for good.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: King Abijah of Judah gave one about Jeroboam in 2nd Chronicles 13:4-12.
    “Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel! Do you all not know that the Lord God of Israel has perpetually given the kingdom of Israel to David, even to him and to his sons with a covenant of salt? And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon son of David, stood up and rebelled against his lord Rehoboam. Then vain, worthless men gathered together around him and defied Rehoboam son of Solomon. And Rehoboam was young and timid in heart and was not strong before them. And now you think that you can withstand before the kingdom of the Lord by the hand of the sons of David. And you all are a great multitude, and with you are the golden calves that Jeroboam has made for you to be gods. Have you all not driven out the priests of the Lord, even the Levites and sons of Aaron, and made for yourselves priests from the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to be dedicated and has in his hand a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest to what is not a god. But for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned Him. And our priests serve the Lord and are sons of Aaron, Levites with their service. They sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord every morning and evening and put out an incense of spices. They also set the showbread in place on the ritual table and set the golden lampstand with its lamps to burn every evening. For we keep the duty of the Lord our God, but you all have abandoned Him. God is with us as a leader, and His priests with their battle trumpets to call for battle against you all. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord the God of your fathers because you will not find success.”
  • Serial Escalation: In 1 Kings 14, Jeroboam did more evil when whomever preceded him. Later, in 1 Kings 16, Zimri was described as evil, and the two following kings (Omri and Ahab) did more evil than any before.
  • She's Not My Girlfriend: David had a ward in his old age, who he explicitly is said to have not have had sex with, but who nearly everyone thought was a concubine. One of his sons even asked to marry her, perhaps to lay a claim to the throne.
  • Smash the Symbol
    • After slaying the worshipers of Baal in the northern kingdom of Israel, Jehu proceeds to destroy its temple and turn it into an outhouse.
    • After the reign of King Zedekiah, the Babylonians proceed to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Don't insult and threaten God's prophets, or God might just summon bears to maul you. (God apparently preferred something a little more original than a classic Bolt of Divine Retribution this time around. It also has a bit more flair than the Muslims' prescribed punishment: "If you do, we'll cut your head off.")
  • Sucksessor: Terrible kings often followed good ones, but every once in a while good kings followed terrible ones. (At least in Judah, anyway. The book of Kings grades all of Israel's rulers as evil.)
  • Taking Up the Mantle: Elisha, both figuratively and literally, when he succeeds Elijah as the prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel when Elisha sees Elijah being taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. The mantle which Elijah used to part the waters of the Jordan when he and Elisha crossed over did the same thing when Elisha used it to cross back over the Jordan.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The King of Israel sends some soldiers to bring Elijah to him. Their leader isn't very respectful, so Elijah makes a snarky comment and burns them with divine fire. The King sends a second group of soldiers, and their leader, apparently not noticing the charred corpses and burned rocks and whatnot, makes the exact same disrespectful demand as the first. The results are predictable. Thankfully, the third batch learned from their mistakes and humbles himself before the prophet.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Jeroboam had a young son, Ahijah, who died of illness. He was the only one in the family to be buried and mourned because he was the only one in whom God found any good.
  • Tragic Mistake
    • Hezekiah showed off Judah's treasures to Babylonian envoys and ended up putting his country on Babylon's hit list.
    • Josiah goes off to fight against Egypt and gets killed.
  • Trash the Set: The Babylonians destroy the Temple and leave it in ruins until the time of the Persian-Medo empire when the Jewish exiles returned home.
  • Traumatic C-Section: In 2nd Kings 15:16, Menahem, the Klingon Promotion successor to King Shallum of Israel, attacked Tiphsah and all the territory of Tirzah, because they did not open to him, ripping open pregnant women as he struck down the people.
  • Troll: Elijah does this to Baal's prophets, even remarking that maybe Baal is doing his "business" or (as another translation puts it) "stopped by the wayside."
  • War Is Hell: Pretty much the entirety of 2 Kings, and many of the prophetic books were written in the context of these events.
  • Where Is Your X Now?
    • When Elijah competes with the priests of Baal over whose god can light their sacrifice, he makes fun of the other priests using lines similar to this trope.
    • King Sennacherib of Assyria does this to King Hezekiah when he threatens to destroy Judah, saying "where are the gods" of the nations that he had conquered and suggesting that Hezekiah's God will not save him. It doesn't work well for the Assyrian king when, after King Hezekiah prays to God, he finds that 185,000 of his troops are all dead.
  • Written by the Winners: More like Written by the survivors, but it holds true all the same. Around 720 BC Israel was overrun by the Assyrians while Judah was saved by a timely civil war that shortly thereafter broke out in the Assyrian Empire and continued to exist for a good 200 additional years. Thus, all somewhat contemporary surviving records of that time come from the priesthood in Jerusalem, which explains why the inhabitants and kings especially of the northern kingdom are described in such a negative light.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: King Ahab is warned by Micaiah the prophet that he will die in the battle of Ramoth Gilead. Ahab tries to avert the disaster by dressing up in different clothes before going into battle while King Jehoshaphat wears his royal clothes, hoping that the Syrian army will go after Jehoshaphat instead of him. However, an arrow shot at random pierces King Ahab.

Alternative Title(s): Kings