1, 2 Kings. Vol. 8 in The New American Commentary

By Paul R. House
Nashville, TN : Broadman & Holman (1995). 432 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Keith Essex
11.1 (Spring 2000) : 128-130

Paul R. House wrote this volume while a professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He has also written Old Testament Survey, which highlights the literary features of the OT text and, a major work, Old Testament Theology (see review in TMSJ 10 [1999] 2:304-6). For an introduction to The New American Commentary, see the review of 1, 2 Samuel by Robert D. Bergen above in this issue.

In his “Author’s Preface,” House introduces the reader to the format he follows in this commentary, both in the introduction and analysis of 1, 2 Kings. The author stresses in this order historical, literary, canonical, theological, and applicational details. This procedure is employed so that a thorough “theological exegesis” may result and serve as the foundation for an expositor’s logical and valid application of the text. The greatest value that emerges from this commentary is the help it gives for the preaching and teaching of 1, 2 Kings.

An introduction of 58 pages begins the discussion of Kings (27-84). In his introduction to historical issues, House concludes that a single author composed Kings, along with Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, using many ancient sources, writing some time after the loss of the land by Israel/Judah (38-39). His commentary follows the chronological scheme for the kings of Israel and Judah worked out by E. R. Thiele in The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 3rd ed. (1983), except for the dating of Jerusalem’s destruction in 587 B.C. rather than Thiele’s 586 B.C. (39-44). He provides a helpful introduction to the histories of Egypt, Aram (Syria), Assyria, and Babylon during the period narrated in Kings (ca. 970-586 B.C.) (44- 47). On the textual issue, House comments on the MT (reflected in the NIV), using the LXX as a corrective when necessary (50). The historical section of the introduction concludes with an extended discussion of miracles in 1, 2 Kings. “The author of 1, 2 Kings believed these miracles occurred in real space-and-time history,” a conclusion fully supported by philosophical and theological consideration (50-54).

Knowing House’s background in literary studies, the reader is not surprised that he devotes 14 pages of the introduction to the literary issues of 1, 2 Kings (54- 68). The author concludes that the literary genre of Kings is “prophetic narrative” (57-58), that the structure of the book(s) “focuses on the rise of prophecy and the prophet’s war with idolatry” (60), and that the plot of Kings “is [that] Israel went into exile because of its unfaithfulness to God” (61). In his discussion of canonical issues, House reviews 1, 2 Kings as canonically providing the tragic end of Israel’s national story and providing an introduction for the prophetic interpretation of the nation’s history in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets (71).

He sees six major theological ideas emerging from 1, 2 Kings that reflect its status as a prophetic narrative. These theological issues are monotheism versus idolatry, central worship versus the high places, covenant loyalty versus spiritual rebellion, true prophecy versus “lying spirits,” God’s covenant with David versus dynastic disintegration, and God’s sovereignty versus human pride (73-82). The introductory section ends with a discussion of applicational issues. House states five principles that should guide teachers and preachers in presenting 1, 2 Kings (82-84). The principles are valuable for the expositors of any OT narrative material. Overall, 1, 2 Kings provides a good, foundational introduction to the book of Kings.

An exposition of the text of 1, 2 Kings constitutes the bulk of this volume (85-410). House works through the biblical text on a section-by-section basis. He discusses each section (and some sub-sections) using the historical, literary, canonical, theological, and applicational formula. Though this format frames and applies the text adequately, what is lacking is a detailed verse-by-verse analysis of the biblical text. The in-depth textual analysis of other OT NAC works (such as R. D. Bergen’s 1, 2 Samuel) is absent from this work. The student will need to supplement his use of this volume in textual analysis with works such as R. D. Patterson and H . J. Austel, “1, 2 Kings,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (Zondervan, 1988) and D. J. Wiseman, “1 & 2 Kings,” in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, vol. 9 (InterVarsity, 1993).

House’s work on 1, 2 Kings is a good commentary for the reader who is beginning his study of the book(s). It certainly deserves a place in the expositor’s library.