Introduction to II Kings
The division between I Kings and II Kings is seemingly quite arbitrary; originally the two were one book. The second book continues the history of Judah and Israel until their eventual captivities. Like I Kings, the book of II Kings was probably compiled from records of the earlier prophets by Jeremiah or one of the later prophets of Judah.
The ministries of Elijah and Elisha constitute the dominant subject of the first third of the book. The portion of the history devoted to Israel is sad in the extreme, with one ungodly king after another leading the people away from God, until finally the Assyrians destroyed their land and carried the people off into captivity. The last king of Israel was Hoshea (II Kings 17).
There were, of course, believers and faithful servants of God in the northern kingdom during all those years of spiritual decline and apostasy. The most notable were the prophets Elijah and Elisha, but two of the prophets of the Biblical canon also had ministries primarily in Israel. Hosea’s initial ministry to Israel was during the long reign of Jeroboam II, but it evidently continued even beyond Israel’s exile into Assyria (Hosea 1:1). The prophet Amos was a contemporary of Hosea who also ministered especially in the northern kingdom of Israel (sometimes called Ephraim).
In Judah, several of the kings were God-fearing men, and Hezekiah and Josiah in particular led in great national revivals. Of the writing prophets, those whose ministry was mainly centered in Judah were—in more or less chronological order—Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Jeremiah. Isaiah, in the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah, and Jeremiah, during the last days of the kingdom under Josiah and the kings who briefly followed him, had especially significant influence on the kings and the nation as a whole.
No doubt because of the influence of these prophets, and the several God-fearing kings of Judah, God allowed Judah to remain in the land for about 130 years after Israel had been carried away to Assyria. Eventually, however, even Judah became so wicked and apostate, especially under her final kings (Jehoiakim, Jeconiah and Zedekiah) that God sent Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem with its temple and to carry the king and all the leaders of the people into exile and captivity in Babylon.
There were other godly prophets and priests in both Israel and Judah, of course, besides those whose prophecies have been preserved in the Bible. Some among these, no doubt, were the original writers of the records now incorporated in the books of Kings. The last of them, Jeremiah, quite possibly was the man who compiled and edited all of these earlier documents into their present, divinely inspired form.