Though the book of Melachim (Kings) is divided into two parts, Jewish tradition considers it a single book of 46 chapters. As we read these chapters, we experience both the highest points of Jewish history and its lowest points. Despite the tragic ending, the high points of the book allow us to maintain hope for future.
The book begins with King Solomon ascending the throne of his father, King David, serving as the first heir to the eternal Davidic dynasty. Unlike his father, King Solomon rules a kingdom that is united, strong and at peace. He is well known for his wisdom and ability to be a righteous judge. He is also blessed with the opportunity to build God’s Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple becomes the focal point of Jewish service of God, and of the prayers of all those who believe in the One God. It is an awe-inspiring structure that serves to honor and glorify God, and to bring His children closer to Him. This is one of the highest points in Jewish history. The Jewish People are living as a secure, prosperous free nation in the Land of Israel, are able to serve God in the most meaningful of ways, and are truly a light to the nations.
Unfortunately, the People of Israel are unable to remain at the heights of spiritual and political achievement attained during the times of King Solomon. After his death, the kingdom is divided in two: the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Stories of the sins of the nation and its leaders dominate the second half of the book of Kings. Idol worship becomes rampant and even reaches the Holy Temple. To be sure, there are important kings and leaders who offer hope. For example, we learn of King Hezekiah, who serves God and benefits from a miraculous rescue of the city of Jerusalem. We learn of King Josiah, who, after discovering a Torah scroll hidden away by his predecessors, leads the people in nationwide repentance. However, such heartening events become overshadowed by the eventual destruction and exile of both kingdoms. The book of Kings ends with the exile of the Kingdom of Judah to Babylon and the burning of the Temple in Jerusalem.
It would be tempting to close the book with feelings of despair. But, Jewish tradition teaches that just as the Temple was destroyed on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the Messiah- a future king from the House of David- shall be born on that very date. Thus, at the very depths of our despair, we find hope for the future. We know that the People of Israel will yet reach incredible heights, just as they did in the days of King Solomon. This is hinted to in the story of Elijah the Prophet, who does not die but rather ascends to the next world in a fiery chariot. Elijah, who is said to be the prophet who will announce the arrival of the Messiah, is thus our link to the past and the future.
We live in redemptive times. The Children of Israel have come home from the four corners of the earth to the Land of Israel, and have achieved sovereignty for the first time in millennia. As in the days of King Solomon, the righteous among the nations admire the Jewish State for its wisdom, justice and concern for all mankind. Jerusalem is again the a center of prayer to God. All of this, coming so soon after the Holocaust and generations of persecution, is clearly a miracle from God. There is still a long way to go until the complete redemption. However, the book of Kings reminds us of the heights that the People of Israel can reach, and the profound impact that this can have on the entire world. We pray that the State and People reach these heights, and that we will be blessed with complete redemption.