Subscribe now

The Message of Kings

By John W. Olley
July 2012 | Review by Richard Atherton


At the beginning of 1 & 2 Kings, Solomon's reign brought peace, prosperity, dynamic international trade and a magnificent centre of worship. By contrast, at the end, the people faced complete reversal: they and their king were in exile; Jerusalem and the temple lay in ruins. How can this story of reversal, told by the very people who suffered that defeat, be of value today, and equip us 'for every good work'? John Olley shows how the books of Kings retell the past as 'preached history', addressing the exilic situation of the original readers. This in turn helps as we ask how they speak to us today. Within the account of paths leading to short-term 'success' but ultimate failure, there are pointers of hope, of God's continuing purposes and promises, and of the people's response in the present. In rich and often surprising ways, the narrative in Kings is part of the history that has shaped, and is to continue to shape, the faith and life of Christian believers. Everyday life, along with the turmoil of national and global events, is the arena in which God's people are called to worship, trust and obey him, and it is on aspects of this life that 1 & 2 Kings can throw light.

  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-84474-550-0
  • Pages: 384
  • Price: 11.99
Buy this book »

Book Review

The Message of Kings

John W. Olley


378 pages, £12.99

ISBN: 978-1844745500

Star rating: 3 stars


The stated aim of The Bible Speaks Today series is to expound books of the Old and New Testaments so that Christians may: ‘hear what the Spirit is saying to them through his ancient, yet ever modern Word.’

      John Olley, in his preface, makes a plea for believers to read Old Testament books like Kings in large chunks, noting that readings in church services, and sermon texts, are comparatively short. To this end he divides the forty seven chapters of 1 and 2 Kings into twenty two blocks; at the rate of one per day, Kings and Olley’s exposition can be read in three weeks, given a reasonable expenditure of time and effort.

      It is a challenge, initially, to get to grips with the ancient world of Kings, but one is rewarded as the author digs below the surface of the historical account and analyses the political manoeuvring, power plays, and bloody coup d’etats, and explores the underlying themes of injustice, violence and oppression.

      The world of Kings, says Olley, is ‘perhaps closer to the world we know today than any other book of Scripture,’ and he frequently demonstrates this in the book.

      Although the book is said to be an exposition rather than a commentary, the text is often carefully and helpfully elucidated, to help the reader grasp exactly what the author of Kings is wishing to convey.

      Throughout is the theme of God calling His people to follow and trust Him fully, rather than trusting in worldly alliances; and the theme of God’s compassion and grace towards imperfect people struggling to cope with powerful enemies who are bent on their destruction.

      This book is thoroughly to be recommended; buy it and take up the three week challenge. You will soon find it a pleasure to march through the world of Kings, and feel a real sense of achievement at the end.


Richard Atherton,



Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Christian and Technology
John V. Fesko

Even the most hardened Luddite will find himself using a satnav, mobile phone, or email on occasion. But John Fesko urges us not to reach for the latest gadget without thinking carefully about how it might shape our minds, relationships,…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Christ Victorious: Selected Writings of Hugh Martin
Hugh Martin

Hugh Martin (1822–1885) was one of those 19th century Scottish theologians whose published works have stood the test of time. With good reason, for his works are consistently sound, reverent, edifying, and challenging to mind and heart. This is a…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
God’s design for women in an age of gender confusion
Sharon James

Is our belief in male headship culturally outdated, and should we see alternative ideas of marriage as ‘progress’? Is it possible to be born into the wrong body, and is sexual freedom good for women? Does Scripture show us a…

Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…