Book review – The Book of Kings, by Alex Israel

Magid Books

Tanach is many things, but it certainly is not a history book. However, if it were a historical narrative, Sefer Melachim would be that book, as it provides a narrative to the bygone times of the Jewish people. In his remarkable two-volume set from Maggid Publishing, I Kings: Torn in Two and II Kings: In a Whirlwind, Rabbi Alex Israel provides the reader with a dazzling opus that makes the many stories come alive.

The 47 chapters of Sefer Melachim provides a retrospective of the 400 hundred years of history from Shlomo to the Babylonian exile. Not a line by line commentary in the classic sense, the books focus on the main themes and ideas found in Sefer Melachim.

While the stories here occurred about 3,000 years ago, many of the issues and struggles are still quite relevant. In the narrative of King David and his General Yoav, Israel quotes that Talmud notes that if not for King David’s Torah study, Yoav would not have been successful in war. However, if not for Yoav’s efforts in battle, King David would not have been able to learn Torah. Quite relevant to the current environment in Israel.

Israel deals with all of the key themes in the entire narrative. He quotes both from traditional sources and also makes significant use of current sources, science, archeology, and more.

Eliyahu and his student Elisha play prominent roles in Sefer Melachim. Israel does a superb job of explaining their personalities and perspectives and how they accomplished their tasks, in especially turbulent times.

The Land of Israel is central to the very core of Judaism. Furthermore, the author does an excellent job of showing the connection of the land to the history of Israel.

Sefer Melachim is one of the key books in Tanach. The stories detailed there play an essential role in the national collective of the Jewish people. Alex Israel has done a remarkable job, and these two volumes provide an invaluable reference to anyone who wants to understand Sefer Melachim better.

About the Author
I’m a senior information security and risk management professional, based in New York City. I speak at industry conferences, and write on information security, social media, privacy and technology. My book reviews are on information security, privacy, technology, and risk management. My reviews for the Times of Israel focus on Judaism, Talmud, religion and philosophy.
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