There is little conclusive evidence as to the identity of the author of 1,2 Kings. Although Jewish tradition credits Jeremiah, few today accept this as likely. Whoever the author was, it is clear that he was familiar with the book of Deuteronomy—as were many of Israel’s prophets.
It is also clear that he used a variety of sources in compiling his history of the monarchy. Three such sources are named: “the book of the annals of Solomon” (11:41), “the book of the annals of the kings of Israel” (14:19), “the book of the annals of the kings of Judah” (14:29). It is likely that other written sources were also employed (such as those mentioned in Chronicles; see below).
Although some scholars have concluded that the three sources specifically cited in 1,2 Kings are to be viewed as official court annals from the royal archives in Jerusalem and Samaria, this is by no means certain. It seems at least questionable whether official court annals would have included details of conspiracies such as those referred to in 16:20; 2Ki 15:15. It is also questionable whether official court annals would have been readily accessible for public scrutiny, as the author clearly implies in his references to them. Such considerations have led some scholars to conclude that these sources were probably records of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah compiled by the succession of Israel’s prophets spanning the kingdom period. 1,2 Chronicles makes reference to a number of such writings: “the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer” (1Ch 29:29), “the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite” and “the visions of Iddo the seer” (2Ch 9:29), “the records of Shemaiah the prophet” (2Ch 12:15), “the annals of Jehu son of Hanani” (2Ch 20:34), “the annotations on the book of the kings” (2Ch 24:27), the “events of Uzziah’s reign . . . recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz” (2Ch 26:22; see also 2Ch 32:32)—and there may have been others. It is most likely, for example, that for the ministries of Elijah and Elisha the author depended on a prophetic source (perhaps from the eighth century) that had drawn up an account of those two prophets in which they were already compared with Moses and Joshua.
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Some scholars place the date of composition of 1,2 Kings in the time subsequent to Jehoiachin’s release from prison (562 b.c.; 2Ki 25:27–30) and prior to the end of the Babylonian exile in 538. This position is challenged by others on the basis of statements in 1,2 Kings that speak of certain things in the preexilic period that are said to have continued in existence “to this day” (see, e.g., 8:8, the poles used to carry the ark; 9:20–21, conscripted labor; 12:19, Israel in rebellion against the house of David; 2Ki 8:22, Edom in rebellion against the kingdom of Judah). From such statements it is argued that the writer must have been a person living in Judah in the preexilic period rather than in Babylon in postexilic times. If this argument is accepted, one must conclude that the original book was composed about the time of the death of Josiah and that the material pertaining to the time subsequent to his reign was added during the exile c. 550. While this “two-edition” viewpoint is possible, it rests largely on the “to this day” statements.
An alternative is to understand these statements as those of the original source used by the author rather than statements of the author himself. A comparison of 2Ch 5:9 with 1Ki 8:8 suggests that this is a legitimate conclusion. Chronicles is clearly a postexilic writing, yet the wording of the statement concerning the poles used to carry the ark (“they are still there today”) is the same in Chronicles as it is in Kings. Probably the Chronicler was simply quoting his source, namely, 1Ki 8:8. There is no reason that the author of 1,2 Kings could not have done the same thing in quoting from his earlier sources. This explanation allows for positing a single author living in exile and using the source materials at his disposal.