Recently, I finished reading my way through Peter Leithart’s A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel. Over the summer, I thoroughly enjoyed his Deep Exegesis: The Mystery and Art of Reading Scripture, so much so that I plan to read it again sooner rather than later. That, and I hope to re-read his Solomon Among The Postmoderns to prep for teaching the wisdom literature.
All of this is to say, pretty much anything Leithart writes is gold. Not just in terms of thought provoking, but in terms of sheer readability. I guess that’s what happens when you have a strong background in literature as well as theology and biblical studies.
In any case, I made sure I picked up Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings to continue the story from his commentary on 1-2 Samuel. I’m only a little ways in, but I noticed right off the bat that he titled his introduction “1-2 Kings as Gospel.”
After making the point that the “book of Kings can thus be fruitfully read as wisdom literature, albeit in a rather counterintiutive way” (19) he explains how it is a gospel texts in several respects.
First off, “it reveals the God and Father of Jesus Christ, the God who is long-suffering and patient, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (21). This God presented in 1-2 Kings is offensive, but not in the typical way people think of an offensive Old Testament God. Rather, “the offense of theology proper of 1-2 Kings is not that God is angry with the innocent. The offense is the offense of Jonah – the offense of God’s mercy, the offense of Yahweh’s unearthly patience with the irascible and unresponsive” (22).
Further, there is a picture of the gospel typologically in David’s kingdom. As Leithart points out, “David’s sons sin, and they and their kingdom must die, but Yahweh does not allow death to have the final word. Though the Davidic kingdom is executed, Yahweh’s promise to David remains. The book of Kings tells the story of the death and resurrection of David’s dynasty, the death and resurrection of David’s son.” (23)
He then explains how “1-2 Kings offers a justification of God that is brought to completion in the gospel:
On the one hand, God’s justice is shown in that he does not wink at sin forever. He will wait until the sins of the Amorites develop to maturity (Gen. 15:16), but he will not leave the guilty unpunished. On the other hand, 1-2 Kings shows that the reason for the apparent delay of justice lies in Yahweh’s faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David: his compassion is always just (2 Kgs. 13:22-25; 14:26-27). The book of Kings reveals the glory of Yahweh revealed to Moses on Sinai: “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth, who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exod. 34:6-7). The book of Kings reveals the glory of Yahweh, which is incarnate in Jesus (23).
As you can see, Leithart reads with a very typological eye and so sees foretastes of the gospel all over the books of Kings. Pretty standard for Leithart’s reading, and something I hope becomes standard of mine as well.