Literature / Books of Kings
aka: Kings

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

  • The Alcoholic: King Elah of Israel.
  • 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]"?).
  • Cain and Abel / Red Oni, Blue Oni: Israel and Judah.
  • Chronic Villainy: Judah often backslides after a "good" king dies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Egopolis: Israel during the reign of Omri.
  • Evil Matriarch: Jezebel and Athaliah (the latter was not above killing her own grandchildren to secure her own power.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Jezebel and Athaliah.
  • 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: Manasseh.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Intimate Healing: Done twice by the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
  • Jerkass: Rehoboam, Solomon's son.
  • Klingon Promotion: Common in the northern kingdom of Israel as far as royal successions go.
  • 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 purposely had a group of Baal worshipers assemble together in the house of Baal for a solemn ceremony, claiming that he wants to worship Baal, but his real purpose was to have all the Baal worshipers slain, thus getting rid of Baal worship in the northern kingdom of Israel.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Josiah, king of Judah. His destruction of idols and sanctuaries of other gods in Judah is epic, he even destroys altars and statues that previous reformers had left in place, and which had been standing since the time of Solomon. He also recovers the Mosaic law and celebrates the first Passover in centuries. The chapters discussing his reign are like the muster of Patroclus in The Iliad, where he succeeds so well that he verges on changing fate; but God has already made up his mind. God informs him that he's very impressed with what he accomplished, but Israel will still be destroyed; but God will wait until after Josiah is dead for it to happen.
  • Pet the Dog: Chronicles does this for the bad kings of Judah and even the Northern Israelites in the few times they are mentioned.
  • Polyamory: Turned Up to Eleven: Solomon has 700 wives and 300 concubines.
  • Puppet King: Israel & Judah had their share.
  • The Purge: Oh, so much.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: King Abijah of Judah gave one about Jeroboam in Chronicles.
  • Ron the Death Eater: A canon example. Many of the kings in the book were reportedly not nearly as bad in Real Life as they are described, the most egregious cases being King Ahab of Israel and King Manasseh of Juda. Both are described as evil heretics hated by every single one of their subjects. The fact alone that Ahab could rule for 22 years and Manasseh for 55 years indicates that they must've had at least some support among the population. In fact, both of them are indicated by several non-biblical sources to have been very successful rulers whose only "fault" was not to piss off their much stronger neighbors who could effortlessly overrun them. Though this would mean tolerating the worship of other gods and routinely melting gold from the temple in Jerusalem to be able to pay tribute, it at least saved their land from complete obliteration. The priesthood in Jerusalem naturally would condemn them for not daring to start a hopeless war against the hegemonial empires that surrounded them on all sides, because with God's help one was invincible, no matter how improbable the odds were. They eventually learned the hard way what happens when you insist on getting belligerent with a neighboring superpower. Though some of the descriptions of said kings could be justified by way of the Old Testament not being a historical, but a theological piece of work, some of the things written are just simply out of malice (such as attributing the construction of the Arc of Samaria to King Solomon instead of Ahab, who built it).
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The Kings books lean towards cynicism, while the Chronicles are more idealistic.
  • 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 make fun of someone's baldness lest they will call upon God to summon two bears to maul you and your friends.
  • The Starscream: Majority of Northern Israel's kings.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Troll: Elijah does this to Baal's prophets, even remarks on Baal sitting on his "throne"
  • Vice City: North Israel. Especially pronounced in Amos.
  • 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