Second Kings continues the history of the divided kingdom, picking up the story around 853 BC. In 722 BC, the powerful nation of Assyria invaded the northern kingdom, scattering and taking captive the people of Israel. Only Judah remained intact. But then Assyria suffered a stunning fall to the Babylonians, who took the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612 BC. By 605 BC Babylon dominated Judah, had taken some captives away, and in 586 BC Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and took additional prisoners into captivity.
The time period covered by this book saw the emergence of the first writing prophets in Israel. Amos and Hosea went to the people of Israel, while Isaiah, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah prophesied in Judah, both groups calling the people to repentance and warning them of God’s coming judgments. The author devoted extensive space to Elisha’s ministry after Elijah was taken to heaven, giving special attention to the numerous miracles Elisha performed.
None of the kings of Israel are described as having done right in God’s eyes; each led the people deeper into idolatry. Several of Judah’s kings were righteous, notably Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Hezekiah held off the Assyrians by trusting in the Lord for deliverance. Josiah later instituted an even greater spiritual reformation. Neither effort, however, was enough to stem God’s eventual judgment on the nation in fulfillment of the curses of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 28).