Introduction to 1 Kings
and Study of 1 Kings 1-2
April 7th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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1 Kings (Overview)

The two books of Kings provide an account of the successive kings that followed David. The author is assumed to be the prophet Jeremiah who lived during the end of this era, and was therefore able to explain events through a historical lens. However, these are not typical history books or royal archives that glorify the achievements of a line of rulers. By contrast, the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings represent a critical evaluation of the spirituality of the nation during the era when kings ruled Israel. Each king either led his subjects closer to God or moved them further away. The ultimate assessment by the author of the books is a binary rating of each king, akin to a thumbs up or thumbs down: Each king either "did right in the eyes of the LORD (as David did)," or "did evil in the eyes of the LORD (and followed in the path of some other evil-doer)" (1).

In terms of style, note that there is a template for describing key attributes of each ruler's reign. The author includes the starting year of the reign, the length of his reign, noteworthy events, the name of his successor, and in the case of the southern kingdom of Judah, the age of the king when he began his reign, and the name of his mother. Biblical experts warn us not to consider the length of the reign as a mathematically precise number of years of solitary service and thus mistakenly attempt to add up all of the ages and years for comparisons. Some of the quoted numbers of years don't add up as presented because they are actually partial years or overlapping reigns (2).

But what we should reflect upon is the significance of idolatry as a key indicator of the king and his country taking the evil path, and consider how these lessons apply to our own lives. For example, the first book is primarily focused on the life and reign of Solomon. Solomon is remembered for building the temple and for his expansive wisdom. His emphasis on forming alliances with neighboring countries helped to ensure peace and prosperity for the empire, but also increased the risk of influence of pagan worship.

Solomon is recognized as the author of the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs, a book that we will read later this year, but a comparison of those truths with the events of his life reveal that he did not follow all of his own advice. Rather, he is sharing this wisdom to help us avoid the types of troubles that he encountered.

Perhaps Solomon is most well-known for the incident in which he had to determine which one of two women was the true mother of a particular child (1 Kings 3). In his wisdom, he offered to cut the child in two in order to settle the matter, which prompted the real mother to object. Therefore, in Solomonic style we will split this book into two parts:

    United Israel Chapters 1-11
    1 Kings 1-2 (Solomon's Brothers) - April 7th
    1 Kings 3-5 (Solomon's Wise Request) - April 8th
    1 Kings 6-8 (Temple Done!) - April 9th
    1 Kings 9-11 (Solomon in all his Splendor) - April 10th

    Divided Israel Chapters 12-22
    1 Kings 12-14 (Beginning of Division) - April 11th
    1 Kings 15-18 (Further Decline and the Rise of a Prophet) - April 12th
    1 Kings 19-20 (God Speaks in a Whisper) - April 13th
    1 Kings 21-22 (Thou Shall Not Covet) - April 14th

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Abegg, Martin Jr., Flint Peter, and Ulrich, Eugene; The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY, 1999
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984
  • Fee, Gordon D., Stuart Douglas, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Israel, Alex, I Kings, Torn in Two, Maggid Books, Jerusalem, Israel and Milford, CT; 2013
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • Nelson, Richard, First and Second Kings, Interpretation, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1973
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

1 Kings 1-2 (Solomon's Brothers)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Nathan went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Did you know that Adonijah, Haggith’s son, has taken over as king, and our master David doesn’t know a thing about it? Quickly now, let me tell you how you can save both your own life and Solomon’s. Go immediately to King David. Speak up: ‘Didn’t you, my master the king, promise me, “Your son Solomon will be king after me and sit on my throne”? So why is Adonijah now king?’ While you’re there talking with the king, I’ll come in and corroborate your story.”

- 1 Kings 1:11-14 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

The book opens with David portrayed as old and near death. His opportunistic son, Adonijah claimed the throne without seeking permission or blessings from David, who was still the king.

David’s loyal advisors and his wife Bathsheba told him what Adonijah had done. This was not God’s plan and it was not David’s plan either, so he appointed Solomon, who paraded into the cheering crowds of Jerusalem while sitting on the back of a mule as recorded in chapter 1. Adonijah’s short-term reign ended, and he was subsequently forgiven by Solomon.

Chapter 2 records a final conversation between David and his approved heir:

    “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ “

    1 Kings 2:2-4 (NIV)

After David’s death, Adonijah unwisely tested Solomon’s merciful nature by asking for David’s concubines. This request revealed Adonijah’s unrestrained covetous nature, so Solomon ordered him to be put to death. He also ordered the execution of Joab for his role in Adonijah’s coup and for his past sins.

Reflection and Application

By what logic did Adonijah make his claim to the throne? Traditionally, the oldest son was considered the heir to the throne. Adonijah was the fourth son, but the oldest living one. As a reference, the list below summarizes the pecking order and the status of Solomon and his brothers at the time of Adonijah’s attempted coup (3):

    1. The eldest, Ammon had been murdered by son number three, Absalom, because he had raped his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13), therefore he was not available.

    2. The number two son was Daniel. He was not mentioned in 2 Samuel, but is noted in a genealogy in 1 Chronicles and apparently had died while David was alive.

    3. Absalom was number three. He had eliminated number one and had prematurely claimed the throne in a rebellion (2 Samuel 15-18). Therefore he had been killed by David’s commander of the army, Joab. David had wept more bitterly for Absalom than for any other person: “If only it were me instead of you!”

    4. Adonijah was number four and determined for himself that it was time for him to claim the throne, even though David was still alive.

    5. Solomon was number five (see 1 Chronicles 3:1-9), the son of an adulterous relationship between David and Bathsheba, who had been married to a brave soldier named Uriah.

This hierarchal order represents how humans view the succession of kings. But in the land of Israel the selection process was fully in the hands of God. It didn’t matter if one was the fifth illegitimate son of a king or the youngest child in a shepherd family. If God chose someone the decision would be final.

Solomon inherited many of his father’s traits. Just like David, he showed great strength and confidence in initially forgiving his adversaries – we should remember this example of strength and seek to follow it. He also inherited some of David’s weaknesses, as we shall learn later.

Notice the ceremony of Solomon's arrival in Jerusalem as he rode a mule and was surrounded by cheering crowds. There was a similar scene when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem during David's reign, and another similar scene 1,000 years later, when a humble carpenter from Nazareth rode a mule into Jerusalem as the crowd waved palm leaves and shouted Hosanna.

Those who were loyal to Solomon and God were rewarded. For our part, we have already received our reward even before we showed loyalty to God, thanks to the carpenter man who rode into Jerusalem on a mule and later gave his life for us. All we have to do is believe in him with all of our heart and soul.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What types of animals have you ridden on, if any?
    2. By what logic do we make our claims to certain assumed rights and privileges?
    3. How do we learn to discern what God wants from us?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge you as the one who determines who shall lead and who shall follow. Help us to use wisdom to discern what truly are our rights and privileges and then follow the path you have set for us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Israel, Alex, I Kings, Torn in Two, Maggid Books, Jerusalem, Israel and Milford, CT; 2013; p2, 6
    (2) Ibid,p4, 7
    (3) Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Kings 3-5 (Solomon’s Wise Request)

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