1-2 Kings Commentary – Karen Winslow Interview

kings new beaconKaren Strand Winslow (Ph.D., Biblical and Jewish Studies, Near and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Washington), is Professor of Biblical Studies and Chair of the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Azusa Pacific University. She is also the Director of the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program.

Dr. Winslow is also the author of the 1-2 Kings volume in the New Beacon Bible Commentary series.

Dr. Winslow teaches courses in the Old Testament, early Judaism, Scripture formation and interpretation, and women in the Bible and the Church. She is an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church, and her other fields of expertise include Jewish studies, sociology of religion, and women in religion.

She is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion, and the Wesleyan Theological Society.

7 Questions on 1-2 Kings in the New Beacon Bible Commentary Series

Dr. Winslow kindly agreed to answer my questions about her 1-2 Kings commentary. Readers will learn about how this commentary came to be, why it’s unique among other 1-2 Kings commentaries, and what personally affected Dr. Winslow as she wrote.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on 1 and 2 Kings? [1]

I have taught the entire Old Testament at the university and seminary level since 1987, many, many times and have a PhD in Biblical and Jewish Studies, as well as a Masters of Arts in Old Testament. My focus of previous books have been Exodus, Numbers and Ezra-Nehemiah and I have written chapters and articles on Genesis. When asked to write the 1-2 Kgs commentary, I assented for the opportunity to go deeply into the background and exegesis of this material that belongs to the Former Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible. Even though it is named “Kings”, the primary heroes are the prophets.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? Lay Christians in the local church?

This is written for pastors, students, and professors. By way of introduction to the book. I supply a focus on the archaeological evidence for the period that a reader cannot know from the text itself. I also demonstrate the significance of the Hebrew words and terms and highlight their significance, as well as the intertextuality in 1-2 Kings. In other words, I show the purposeful resonances and parallels to other portions of the Bible, such as Aaron’s golden calf and Jeroboam 1’s golden calves at Bethel and Dan.

The “From the Text” section that completes the study of each scriptural section is designed to make relevant the principles and themes—the message—of that pericope for the present. I will give some examples below, but this section affirms 1-2 Kings as Christian Scripture for living people of God. 1-2 Kings is not often preached as is true, sadly, for the Old Testament in general. The “From the Text” section show how all readers can hear God’s word through Scripture today.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of 1 and 2 Kings?

My commentary on Kings focuses on the original language and literary and historical contexts. It recognizes the human agendas of the redactors, supplies insightful application to the present, and identifies what cannot be relevant for later times. These are tasks of any commentator. As a Wesleyan commentary, it underscores the relationality—divine/human interdependence—and concern for the oppressed depicted in 1-2 Kings. These are at the center of John Wesley’s preaching and Scripture exposition.

As another example of its Wesleyan concerns, but based entirely on the text itself, I show the events of Kings were dependent on the people in the story. I do not use terms such as God knew, God orchestrated, or God determined that this or that should happen, because concept is rarely in the text. God sent prophets to attempt to correct the kings, but they could not, and neither could God force them to change their ways. Although occasionally the writer of Kings interprets events as fulfilling a previous word of the LORD, this had to be orchestrated by humans (1 Kgs 8:15, 8:24, and 12:15). The discussions of prophecy throughout the commentary illustrate a Wesleyan emphasis on human agency, but again, this understanding of the nature of prophecy is not exclusively the province of Wesleyans; it belongs to any interpreter.

Prophecy in Kings and elsewhere describes what could happen if the listeners do not take heed and repent. Near the end of the heartless story of Ahab, Jezebel, and Naboth, Elijah promised Ahab a terrifying death. Nevertheless, Ahab’s show of contrition caused God to relent, to retract well-deserved judgment against him (1 Kgs 21:27).

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

One of my favorite parts of Kings is the first two chapters, wherein Bathsheba conspires with Nathan to preserve their lives and the life of her son, Solomon. I refer back to Hannah’s song of 1 Sam 1, which speaks of the feeble girding on strength. Once the taken woman, forced to accommodate King David’s lust, knowing her husband was murdered by him, in 1 Kgs 1-2 Bathsheba is able to place her son on the throne, instead of becoming the endangered younger brother of King Adonijah.

Another example is in the “From the Text” section on Solomon, I ask, “do we extend our boundaries and expand our wealth as much as we are able without concern for the rights of others?” In the “From the Text” section on Jereboam I (who set up the golden calves at shrines in Dan and Bethel), I write, “leaders fail when they try to retain, through their own efforts, what is given by God. . .” They may enforce rules and restrictions on God’s people that are not based on biblical examples and principles . . . quenching the Holy Spirit and leading God’s people astray. For example, some churches still forbid women to preach, teach, and baptize and thus restrict the spread of the Gospel and reject the Spirit’s call and anointing on individuals.”

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

The commentary on each section of Scripture has three sections: Behind the Text, In the Text and From the Text. The first treats historical and literary contexts, the second treats each verse, significant terms therein relying on the Hebrew, the last, From the Text, interprets and applies the passage to the present. The latter section was the most challenging and most personally edifying, for, not only careful study was required, but prayerful, slow reflection: what is God saying through this Scripture? Sometimes the enduring message is not the most obvious one, but rather it subverts traditional theology. Writing each aspect of the commentary grew my love for 1-2 Kings, but preparing to write the final section of each passage and then writing it most increased my love for God.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on 1 and 2 Kings?

Sweeney, Marvin A. 2007. 1 and 2 Kings: A Commentary. London: Westminster John Knox.

Long, Burke O. 1984. 1 Kings; with an Introduction to Historical Literature. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
———. 1991. 2 Kings. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Leithart, Peter. 2006. 1-2 Kings. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible Series. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am writing a book on sexism in culture and religion and how Christian Feminism serves to mitigate that. The chapters are based on essays and lectures I have prepared for a course I have taught on women in the Christian tradition/women in ministry for many years. I am also writing a book on Daughters and Fathers in the Bible. This year a chapter on Gen 22, another on Deut 27:4-6 (a Dead Sea Scroll fragment that APU owns) are coming out in separate books, as well as a commentary on Esther and a Global Wesleyan Dictionary of Biblical Theology, in which I have several entries. [2]

Own Karen Winslow’s 1-2 Kings commentary

The link provided will direct you to this volume via it’s exact ISBN number:


[1] Karen Strand Winslow, 1-2 Kings Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. New Beacon Bible Commentary Series. Edited by Robert Branson and Alex Varghese. Kansas City: Beacon Publishing House, 2017.

[2] 2019: Akedah as Apologia: The Function of Genesis 22 for Second Temple Jews.” Festschrift for Paul Livermore. Edited by Richard Middleton and Doug Cullum, Roberts Wesleyan University. In Press. 2019: “Qumran fragment Deut 27:4b-6.” With Craig Anderson and Bill Yarchin. Edited by Bill Yarchin and James Charlesworth. Mohr-Siebeck, Princeton series. In Press. 2019: Esther Commentary. Editors Joel Green and Ken Collins. The Wesley One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press. (This is a Wesleyan-Methodist Commentary written for preachers and pastors). In Press. 2019: Cosmology. Global Wesleyan Dictionary of Biblical Theology. General Editor: Robert Branson and Al Truesdale. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Publishing House. Forthcoming.