Friday, July 15, 2016

What are the “Annals of the Kings of Israel”? (Questions and Answers #3)

Back in May, a reader of my blog, who is a faithful church member and good friend, submitted this question to my blog after I began a “Question and Answer” category:

Mark, these words are mentioned several times in the OT., "are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel”
My question is : Is there a record of this book in existence or is this another symbol of something else. Just curious to know.

Sorry it has taken me so long to answer! On the surface this may seem like a relatively trivial detail, but as soon as I read the question back in May I realized there was a deep, important spiritual truth closely related to the answer. So I will begin by offering a direct answer to the question, and then I’ll share some thoughts about the deeper spiritual truth which turns out to be immensely practical and important in your life and mine.

What are the “Annals of the Kings of Israel”?

The phrase “Annals of the Kings of Israel” appears 18 times in the books of 1 & 2 Kings, and once in 2 Chronicles.  The related phrase “Annals of the Kings of Judah” appears 15 times in 1 & 2 Kings. There are also ten references in 1 & 2 Chronicles to similar books (possibly the same books) by the name “Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel” or something very similar. Here is one example (other examples are very similar):

NIV  1 Kings 14:19 The other events of Jeroboam's reign, his wars and how he ruled, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel.

The “Annals of the Kings of Israel” and the “Annals of the Kings of Judah” were apparently records kept of the activities of these kings. Like most ancient writings, these records have been lost.  They are NOT lost books of the Bible because they were never part of the Bible and were not inspired.  If we were to find a copy (which is unlikely), they would provide valuable historical information, but they would not be new books of the Bible.

What can We Learn from these Lost Records?

You might think, “How can we learn anything at all from records we don’t have?”  Actually, there is one very important lesson we can learn.

The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles to be very selective in what information they included about each king.  For some kings their entire rule in summed up in a few sentences.  Few kings get more than a couple of chapters.  Imagine if you read a history of the Presidents of the United States with a similar amount of information about each president. Obviously, a lot is left out. The type of information which made it into these short summaries tells us what was most important to God.

God consistently included the following:

1.  An inspired judgment describing to what degree each king obeyed and followed God.
2.  A description of what each king did with regard to idolatry.  Most of the kings worshipped some idols or at least tolerated the worship of the idols by their people.  The worst kings added new idols and spread idol worship.  The very best kings smashed and burned idols throughout the land.

These two items are what God focused on in the Bible.  Wars?  Politics?  Building cities?  Trade deals?  These get mentioned some, and they are not completely unimportant, but they are not emphasized nearly as much as getting rid of idols.  In other words, much of the stuff our news media focuses on today is the kind of stuff that was of secondary importance to God and was recorded in books that are lost.  The stuff that God really cared about and included in the Bible is very rarely even mentioned in the news these days.  If you spend a lot more time watching Fox or CNN than you do reading your Bible, you may be unintentionally training your brain to have priorities that are vastly different from God’s!

At this point you may feel like I’m being unfair, since we don’t have Asherah poles or Baal idols around today.  That’s true.  But tragically, idolatry is thriving  like never before, and the New Testament is quite clear that God cares about getting rid of the idols in your hearts and lives just as much as He cared about it in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah.

Modern Days Idols

The New Testament is uncomfortably clear in identifying modern day idols:

Ephesians 5:5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry

Ouch!  That hits home right here in the 21st century.  We may not have Asherah poles and Baal temples, but we have lots of immorality and greed.  And God expects us to ruthlessly smash and burn these idols just like the best kings of Judah smashed and burned their idols. 

It was hard for the kings of Israel and Judah to get rid of their idols because these idols were popular and widespread.  If you lived in Israel during the times of the kings, many members of your own extended family, and many of your neighbors, and a lot of your political leaders, and tragically even many religious leaders, would have been tolerating, and often even celebrating and promoting, all kinds of idols.  The same is true today with idols of materialism and sexual immorality.

Don’t expect getting rid of your idols to be easy. This is why Jesus said:

NMatthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

The point is not to literally gouge out your eye.  We are quick to say that.  But what is the point?  Knowing what Jesus did not mean is great, but we need to also know what He did mean.  What He meant is this:  be intentional, and even ruthless, in getting rid of sin in your life and anything that causes you to sin.

An idol is anything which we treat as more important than God.  Another way of saying this is that an idol is anything which causes us to disobey God or live in a way contrary to God’s will.  Therefore, things which are not bad in and of themselves (money, food, comfort, TV, sports, hobbies, etc.) turn into idols if they lead us away from God.

The last verse of 1 John reminds us of the danger of idols:

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1John 5:21 NIV)

If you would like to read more on the topic of modern day idolatry, I recommend the book: Gods at War:  Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart by Kyle Idleman.

If you have a question you would like for me to address in my blog, feel free to submit it as a comment or else send me an email at:

I can’t promise I’ll answer every question, but I’ll do my best.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .


  1. wow! God bless you brother. i was definitely led here by the spirit. Thank you so much for this, may God continue to use you powerfully. may the grace and peace of our lord Jesus Christ be with you.

  2. Truly remarkable how God lead me to this site. Insightful respond providing exactly what I was seeking. And then to address idols in today's era, although brief, really honed in on another area I have been questioning recently. God is truly great. I will be looking into Kyle Idleman's boom. I can't help but to echo the previous post. God bless, and thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for this! I'm currently in 2 Kings in my daily devotional and I've read about the "Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah/Israel" several times in both 1&2 Kings, and I wanted to know more about it. I googled it and I've reached here! Thank you for your inputs. :)

    It's really amazing how the Spirit led the authors of the bible. <3