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Getting to Know the Bible: 1 Kings Overview

Updated: Sep 17, 2022



Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on 1 Kings. But before we get to 1 Kings 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of 1 Kings. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.


And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of 1 Kings, as we prepare to behold and discern 1 Kings, beginning with 1 Kings 1 in our next installment of this series.


Book Type:


Authors: Unknown; possibly Jeremiah.


Date of Writing: Unknown. The final additions to the text would have been added after the final events of 2 Kings. This was probably written in Babylon during the exile, between approximately 561 and 538 BC.


Audience:

First and Second Kings were originally completed as one book, for the Jewish people who were most likely living in exile at the time. The text emphasizes the history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Those living under the judgment of exile could learn much from the judgments upon evil kings, as compared to God's blessing upon the kings who served in the tradition of David, called a man after God's own heart.


Original Language: Hebrew


Genre: Narrative


Title: 1 and 2 Kings (like 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Chronicles) are actually one literary work, called in Hebrew tradition simply Kings. The division of this work into two books was introduced by the translators of the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT) and subsequently followed in the Latin Vulgate (c. a.d. 400) and most modern versions. In 1448 the division into two sections also appeared in a Hebrew manuscript and was perpetuated in later printed editions of the Hebrew text. Both the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate further designated Samuel and Kings in a way that emphasized the relationship of these two works (Septuagint: First, Second, Third and Fourth Book of Kingdoms; Latin Vulgate: First, Second, Third and Fourth Kings). Together Samuel and Kings relate the whole history of the monarchy, from its rise under the ministry of Samuel to its fall at the hands of the Babylonians.


The division between 1 and 2 Kings has been made at a somewhat arbitrary and yet appropriate place, shortly after the deaths of Ahab of the northern kingdom (22:37) and Jehoshaphat of the southern kingdom (22:50). Placing the division at this point causes the account of the reign of Ahaziah of Israel to overlap the end of 1 Kings (22:51-53) and the beginning of 2 Kings (chapter 1). The same is true of the narration of the ministry of Elijah, which for the most part appears in 1 Kings (chapters 17 - 19). However, his final act of judgment and the passing of his cloak to Elisha at the moment of his ascension to heaven in a whirlwind are contained in 2 Kings 1:1-2:17.


Theme:

1,2 Kings contains no explicit statement of purpose or theme. Reflection on its content, however, reveals that the author has selected and arranged his material in a manner that provides a sequel to the history found in 1,2 Samuel -- a history of kingship regulated by covenant. In general, 1,2 Kings describes the history of the kings of Israel and Judah in the light of God's covenants. The guiding thesis of the book is that the welfare of Israel and her kings depended on their submission to and reliance on Israel's covenant God -- their obedience to the Sinaitic covenant regulations and their faithful response to God's prophets.


It is clearly not the author's intention to present a social, political and economic history of Israel's monarchy in accordance with the principles of modern historiography. The author repeatedly refers the reader to other sources for more detailed information about the reigns of the various kings (see, e.g., 11:41; 14:19,29; 15:7,31; 16:5,14,20,27), and he gives a covenantal rather than a social or political or economic assessment of their reigns. From the standpoint of a political historian, Omri would be considered one of the more important rulers in the northern kingdom. He established a powerful dynasty and made Samaria the capital city. According to the Moabite Stone, Omri was the ruler who subjugated the Moabites to the northern kingdom. Long after Omri's death, Assyrian rulers referred to Jehu as the son of Omri (either mistakenly or merely in accordance with their literary conventions when speaking of a later king of a realm). Yet in spite of Omri's political importance, his reign is dismissed in six verses (16:23-28) with the statement that he "did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him" (16:25). Similarly, the reign of Jeroboam II, who presided over the northern kingdom during the time of its greatest political and economic power, is treated only briefly (2Kings 14:23-29).


Another example of the writer's covenantal rather than merely political or economic interest can be seen in the description of the reign of Josiah of Judah. Nothing is said about the early years of his reign, but a detailed description is given of the reformation and renewal of the covenant that he promoted in his 18th year as king (2Kings 22:3 -- 23:28). Nor is anything said of the motives leading Josiah to oppose Pharaoh Neco of Egypt at Megiddo, or of the major shift in geopolitical power from Assyria to Babylon that was connected with this incident (see notes on 2Kings 23:29-30).


It becomes apparent, then, that the kings who receive the most attention in 1, 2 Kings are those during whose reigns there was either notable deviation from or affirmation of the covenant (or significant interaction between a king and God's prophet; see below). Ahab son of Omri is an example of the former (16:29-22:39). His reign is given extensive treatment, not so much because of its extraordinary political importance, but because of the serious threat to covenant fidelity and continuity that arose in the northern kingdom during his reign. Ultimately the pagan influence of Ahab's wife Jezebel through Ahab's daughter Athaliah (whether she was Jezebel's daughter is unknown) nearly led to the extermination of the house of David in Judah (see 2Kings 11:1-3).


Manasseh (2Kings 21:1-18) is an example of a similar sort. Here again it is deviation from the covenant that is emphasized in the account of his reign rather than political features, such as involvement in the Assyrian-Egyptian conflict (mentioned in Assyrian records but not in 2 Kings). The extreme apostasy characterizing Manasseh's reign made exile for Judah inevitable (2 Kings 21:10-15; 23:26-27).


On the positive side, Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1 -- 20:21) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-23:29) are given extensive treatment because of their involvement in covenant renewal. These are the only two kings given unqualified approval by the writer for their loyalty to the Lord (2 Kings 18:3; 22:2). It is noteworthy that all the kings of the northern kingdom are said to have done evil in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of Jeroboam, who caused Israel to sin (see, e.g., 16:26,31; 22:52; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29). It was Jeroboam who established the golden calf worship at Bethel and Dan shortly after the division of the kingdom (see 12:26-33; 13:1-6).


While the writer depicts Israel's obedience or disobedience to the Sinai covenant as decisive for her historical destiny, he also recognizes the far-reaching historical significance of the Davidic covenant, which promised that David's dynasty would endure forever. This is particularly noticeable in references to the lamp that the Lord had promised David (see 11:36 and note; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; see also note on 2 Samuel 21:17). It also appears in more general references to the promise to David (8:20,25) and its consequences for specific historical developments in Judah's later history (11:12-13,32; 2 Kings 19:34; 20:6). In addition, the writer uses the life and reign of David as a standard by which the lives of later kings are measured (see, e.g., 9:4; 11:4,6, 33,38; 14:8; 15:3,5,11; 2 Kings 16:2; 18:3; 22:2).


Another prominent feature of the narratives of 1, 2 Kings is the emphasis on the relationship between prophecy and fulfillment in the historical developments of the monarchy. On at least 11 occasions a prophecy is recorded that is later said to have been fulfilled (see, e.g., 2 Samuel 7:13 and 1 Kings 8:20; 1 Kings 11:29-39 and 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Kings 13 and 2 Kings 23:16-18). The result of this emphasis is that the history of the kingdom is not presented as a chain of chance occurrences or the mere interplay of human actions but as the unfolding of Israel's historical destiny under the guidance of an omniscient and omnipotent God -- Israel's covenant Lord, who rules all history in accordance with his sovereign purposes (see 8:56; 2 Kings 10:10).


The author also stresses the importance of the prophets themselves in their role as official emissaries from the court of Israel's covenant Lord, the Great King to whom Israel and her king were bound in service through the covenant. The Lord sent a long succession of such prophets to call king and people back to covenant loyalty (2 Kings 17:13). For the most part their warnings and exhortations fell on deaf ears. Many of these prophets are mentioned in the narratives of 1, 2 Kings (see, e.g., Ahijah, 11:29-40; 14:5-18; Shemaiah, 12:22-24; Micaiah, 22:8-28; Jonah, 2 Kings 14:25; Isaiah, 2 Kings 19:1-7,20-34; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14-20), but particular attention is given to the ministries of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17-19; 2 Kings 1-13).


Reflection on these features of 1, 2 Kings suggests that it was written to explain to a people in exile that the reason for their condition of humiliation was their stubborn persistence in breaking the covenant. In bringing the exile upon his people, God, after much patience, imposed the curses of the covenant, which had stood as a warning to them from the beginning (see Leviticus 26:27-45; Deuteronomy 28:64-68). This is made explicit with respect to the captivity of the northern kingdom in 2 Kings 17:7-23; 18:9-12, and with respect to the southern kingdom in 2 Kings 21:12-15. The reformation under Josiah in the southern kingdom is viewed as too little, too late (see 2 Kings 23:26-27; 24:3).


The book, then, provides a retrospective analysis of Israel's history. It explains the reasons both for the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem and their respective kingdoms and for the bitter experience of being forced into exile. This does not mean, however, that there is no hope for the future. The writer consistently keeps the promise to David in view as a basis on which Israel in exile may look to the future with hope rather than with despair. In this connection the final four verses of the book, reporting Jehoiachin's release from prison in Babylon and his elevation to a place of honor in the court there (2 Kings 25:27-30), take on added significance. The future remains open for a new work of the Lord in faithfulness to his promise to the house of David.


It is important to note that, although the author was undoubtedly a Judahite exile, and although the northern kingdom had been dispersed for well over a century and a half at the time of his writing, the scope of his concern was all Israel -- the whole covenant people. Neither he nor the prophets (see Isaiah 10:20-21; 11:11-13; Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 48:1-29; Hosea 11:8-11; Am 9:11-15; Zechariah 9:10-13) viewed the division of the Israelite kingdom as a divine rejection of the ten tribes, nor did they see the earlier exile of the northern kingdom as a final exclusion of the northern tribes from Israel's future. As a matter of fact, many from the north had fled south during the Assyrian invasions so that a significant remnant of the northern tribes lived on in the kingdom of Judah and shared in its continuing history.


Timeline:

First and Second Kings trace the histories of two sets of kings and two nations of disobedient people, Israel and Judah, both of whom were growing indifferent to God's law and his prophets and were headed for captivity. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings combined are a chronicle of the entire history of Judah's and Israel's kingship from Saul to Zedekiah.


Purpose of Writing:

This book is the sequel to 1 and 2 Samuel and begins by tracing Solomon's rise to kingship after the death of David. The story begins with a united kingdom, but ends in a nation divided into 2 kingdoms, known as Judah and Israel. 1 and 2 Kings are combined into one book in the Hebrew Bible.


Summary:

The book of 1 Kings starts with Solomon and ends with Elijah. The difference between the two gives you an idea as to what lies between. Solomon was born after a palace scandal between David and Bathsheba. Like his father, he had a weakness for women that would bring him down. Solomon did well at first, praying for wisdom and building a temple to God that took seven years to construct. But then he spent thirteen years building a palace for himself. His accumulation of many wives led him to worship their idols and away from God. After Solomon’s death, Israel was ruled by a series of kings, most of whom were evil and idolatrous. The nation fell further away from God, and even the preaching of Elijah could not bring them back. Among the most evil kings were Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, who brought the worship of Baal to new heights in Israel. Elijah tried to turn the Israelites back to the worship of Yahweh, challenging the idolatrous priests of Baal to a showdown with God on Mount Carmel. Of course, God won. This made Queen Jezebel angry. She ordered Elijah’s death, so he ran away and hid in the wilderness. Depressed and exhausted, he said, Let me die. But God sent food and encouragement to the prophet and whispered to him in a quiet gentle sound and in the process saved his life for further work.


Overview:

This book consists of 22 chapters and includes two main sections. The first section records the history of the kings of the unified kingdom, specifically the end of David's reign and the history of Solomon's reign in chapters 1-12. Solomon comes to power under tense circumstances (1 Kings 1-2). However, his wisdom is seen from an early stage, showing that God was with him. After preparing for the building of the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5), chapters 6-9 describe the construction of the temple and Solomon's house, as well as other building projects.


In chapter 10, Solomon's wealth is described in detail, including a visit from the queen of Sheba. However, chapter 11 indicates Solomon did not fully follow the Lord, but that his many foreign wives led his heart astray in following other gods in addition to the Lord.


The second section then describes the division of the single, unified nation into the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah in chapters 12-22. The division of the kingdom leads to Jeroboam becoming king of Israel and widespread idol worship. Various kings are then chronicled, with widespread Baal worship noted in chapter 16.


In chapter 17, the prophet Elijah is introduced. He predicts a three-year drought, performs miracles, and at the end of three years challenges the prophets of Baal to discover whose deity is the true God. When God answers through fire upon Elijah's offering, 450 prophets of Baal are put to death. Though a major victory for the Lord, wicked queen Jezebel determines to put Elijah to death. He flees, yet God speaks to Elijah, promising that godly people still remain. God then sends Elijah to anoint new kings in Syria and Israel and to bring Elisha to serve alongside him. The book ends with the death of Ahab and the reign of Ahaziah in Israel and Jehoshaphat in Judah.


The story is continued in the book of 2 Kings; these were originally a single combined text.


Foreshadowing:

The Temple in Jerusalem, where God's Spirit would dwell in the Holy of Holies, foreshadows believers in Christ in whom the Holy Spirit resides from the moment of our salvation. Just as the Israelites were to forsake idolatry, so are we to put away anything that separates us from God. We are His people, the very temple of the living God. Second Corinthians 6:16 tells us, "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."


Elijah the prophet was the forerunner of Christ and the Apostles of the New Testament. God enabled Elijah to do miraculous things in order to prove that he was truly a man of God. He raised from the dead the son of the widow of Zarephath, causing her to exclaim, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth." In the same way, men of God who spoke His words through His power are evident in the New Testament. Not only did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but He also raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14-15) and Jairus" daughter (Luke 8:52-56). The Apostle Peter raised Dorcas (Acts 9:40) and Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12).


Application:

Solomon was known as the wisest man of his day. He was arguably the wealthiest man of his time. He enjoyed God’s favor in many ways, yet his legacy is tarnished by the faithlessness he displayed in his later years. In direct contradiction to God’s command for a king not to multiply wives (Deuteronomy 17:17), Solomon married many foreign women. First Kings laments, “When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods” (11:4). Solomon began to rely on his fortune, his military might, and his political alliances instead of the God who gave all of those blessings to him. He focused on the gifts, forgetting the Giver.


As believers in Christ, we must be very careful about whom we choose as friends, business associates, and spouses. "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Elijah's experience in the wilderness also teaches a valuable lesson. After his incredible victory over the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, his joy turned to sorrow when he was pursued by Jezebel and fled for his life. Such mountaintop experiences are often followed by a letdown and the depression and discouragement that can follow. We have to be on guard for this type of experience in the Christian life. But our God is faithful and will never leave or forsake us. The quiet, gentle sound that encouraged Elijah will encourage us.


Key Verses (ESV):

1 Kings 1:30: "As I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, 'Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,' even so will I do this day." 1 Kings 9:3: "And the Lord said to him, 'I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.'" 1 Kings 12:16: "And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, 'What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.' So Israel went to their tents." 1 Kings 12:28: "So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, 'You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.'" 1 Kings 17:1: "Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."


*Note:

1, 2 Kings narrates the history of Israel during the period of the monarchy from the closing days of David's rule until the time of the Babylonian exile. After an extensive account of Solomon's reign, the narrative relates the division of the kingdom and then presents an interrelated account of developments within the two kingdoms. In this account, special attention is given to the ministries of Elijah and Elisha in the northern kingdom, with almost a third of the book (nearly equal to the amount of narrative given to Solomon's reign) devoted to God's efforts through his prophets to turn that kingdom away from its apostasies back to covenant faithfulness.


Kingship in the northern kingdom was plagued with instability and violence. Twenty rulers represented nine different dynasties during the approximately 210 years from the division of the kingdom in 930 B.C. to the fall of Samaria in 722-721. In the southern kingdom there were also 20 rulers, but these were all descendants of David (except Athaliah, whose usurping of the throne interrupted the sequence for a few years) and spanned a period of about 345 years from the division of the kingdom until the fall of Jerusalem in 586.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.


May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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