I Kings

Author: Unknown

Date Written: 930-517 BC

Date of Narrative: 970-848 BC


1 Kings continues the story of the books of Samuel.  1 and 2 Kings were originally one book, so they should be read together.  It is a spiritual history of Israel, which is primarily concerned with the kings' fidelity or infidelity to the covenant, not with military or political accomplishments.  1 and 2 Kings developed over a long period of time, but most scholars think they were completed by the end of the Exile in 517 BC.


The book opens with the last months of David's life.  His eldest living son, Adonijah, seeks the kingship for himself, but David has promised to bestow the crown on Solomon.  After a brief disturbance and period of unrest, Solomon becomes king.  He rules over the united kingdom of all 12 tribes.  Solomon's reign begins in obedience to God.  He asks the Lord for wisdom and begins building a magnificent Temple to replace the tabernacle tent.  The Lord even appears to Solomon twice (3,9).  His reign represents the pinnacle of Israel's political power and covenant fulfillment.  As the great Son of David, he foreshadow the greatest Son of David: Jesus.  Yet Solomon conscripts thousands of workers from the people of Israel to aid in his construction projects and he amasses great wealth.  Solomon marries many women for political purposes and they lead him to commit idolatry.  He ends up committing all the sins of the kings predicted in Deut 17: idolatry, greed, polygamy and military build-up.  He also fulfills Samuel's prophecy of warning against kings (1 Sam 8).  In response to his sins, the Lord promises to strip his descendents of the kingdom.  What had begun as Israel's golden age ends in disaster.


The Temple is the crowning achievement of Solomon's reign.  It embodies the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel and it becomes an iconic symbol of the nation and its covenant with the Lord.  1 Kings describes the lavish furnishings in the Temple which appear several more times in later biblical history (7).


Fulfilling the prophecies against Solomon, his son Rehoboam divides the kingdom when he tries to take the throne in about 930 BC (12).  At this point Judah and Benjamin, led by Rehoboam, form the Southern Kingdom named simply Judah, while the other tribes unite under Jeroboam as the Northern Kingdom, Israel.  Jerusalem is the capital of Judah.  Israel, which is sometimes referred to as Ephraim, has its capital in Samaria.  Jeroboam, whom God had called to be the king of Israel, leads the people to practice idolatry and brings God's judgment upon himself.  The rest of 1 Kings tells the spiritual history of the two kingdoms: Judah and Israel.  The narrative focuses special attention on Ahab, the king of Israel and the prophet Elijah.


During the reign of Ahab, Elijah comes on the scene as a sign of God's faithfulness to his unfaithful people (17-19).  He does several miracles, including the multiplication of food and the raising of a boy from the dead.  He challenges the pagan prophets of Baal to a contest on Mt. Carmel where the Lord sends fire from heaven.  The Lord grants a military victory to Ahab, but Ahab's sins invoke the Lord's judgment so that he dies dishonorably in battle (22).  Jezebel, his wife, earns God's affliction by trying to kill Elijah and plotting the murder of Naboth.


1 Kings tells a story of covenant unfaithfulness, the slow unraveling of Israel's obedience to the Lord.  Solomon's successors multiply his sins so that the kingdom is torn in two.  The kings of Israel and Judah seem to forget their spiritual heritage as they pursue political goals.  Yet God calls his people back through the prophets.  Elijah, Elisha and the other prophets in 1 Kings embody the Lord's desire for his people to return to him. 


By Mark Giszczak


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