Exploring the Bible // 1 & 2 Kings
First and Second Kings is a continuation of the books of Samuel. These two historical books begin with the end of David’s life and carry through the records of a divided kingdom. We begin reading these passages with Israel unified under a godly king, but it’s a decline in immorality and favor.
The author of these two books is unknown, but many believe Jeremiah the prophet may have written these texts. Both cover roughly 150 years in Israel’s history. Let’s breakdown 1 and 2 Kings.
I’ve organized the book of 1 Kings into four categories: 1) Solomon appointed king, 2) the temple and palace built, 3) Solomon’s other acts, and 4) the Kingdom divided.
Solomon Appointed King (Ch. 1-4)
The book opens at the end of David’s life. He is old and his health has significantly declined. Confined to his bed, David’s oldest living son Adonijah took the opportunity to set himself up as king. When Bathsheba, Solomon’s mom, and Nathan the prophet heard of this, they went to David. They went because they knew that Solomon was destined to be the next king.
In response, David instructs to have Solomon anointed and it is done as he ordered. Solomon is placed as king over a united Israel. Then, he is brought to David and encouraged to lead well. David then passes on.
Following the death of David, Solomon walked with God. In a dream, God asked Solomon what he wanted and the king asked for wisdom. This pleased God, so He granted Solomon not only wisdom but wealth and honor. Israel was in a season of peace and prosperity under such godly leadership.
“Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt.”
The Temple and Palace is Built (Ch. 5-19)
As instructed by God, Solomon built the temple that David had prepared for. He then built himself a palace and had the ark brought to the temple.
Solomon’s Other Acts (Ch. 9-11)
In chapter 9, after the completion of the temple and palace, the Lord appears to Solomon to say He is pleased with the king. He then proceeds to tell Solomon that as long as he serves God, his throne will be established. However, should he turn away from God and follow idols, then Israel would be cut off from the land. Unfortunately, Solomon does turn away to follow idols and adversaries arise against Israel.
“And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen” (v. 9-13).
The chapter concludes with the death of Solomon and his son Rehoboam placed in leadership.
A Kingdom Divided (Ch. 12-22)
Rehoboam does not walk in wisdom and taking poor counsel, oppresses the people. The people rise up and the kingdom is divided: Rehoboam led Judah in the south and Jeroboam led Israel in the north.
Jeroboam had golden calves, idols, created for the people to worship and this started a significant decline in morality. In fact, Israel never did have a righteous king again before its captivity. Judah went on to have some good and some bad in this time.
One significant character of this time was a prophet named Elijah. God used him significantly during his life to direct Israel to the Lord and he has many incredible stories throughout both books. Perhaps his most noted experience is in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah went toe to toe with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. It’s the tale of Elijah calling fire down from heaven to consume an offering that was drenched in water. It was a powerful image that mocked the false idols and prophets of the nation.
Right after his victory against the prophets and King Ahab, Elijah enters into a dark time in his life. In chapter 19 he is in such a state that he’d rather die alone in the wilderness than keep going. But God sends provision to him and calls Elijah to meet Him on Horeb, the mountain of God. And it’s here that I find one of my favorite passages in Scripture.
God was not in this grand acts many might presume He would be in. No…God was in the gentle whisper and it’s a beautiful picture of intimacy. One that you and I can have today.
First Kings ends with Israel in further decline and Judah under the godly leadership of Jehoshaphat.
A Kingdom in Decline (Ch. 1-16)
Both kingdoms continue to lean into idols and away from the one true God. Again, while Judah had some godly kings, a majority were evil and both nations struggled in their decline. Because they turned away from God they slipped further into sin and the natural consequences of those choices harmed their nation as a whole. It eventually led to both nations being taken captive by their enemies.
Taken Captive (Ch. 17-25)
In chapter 17 Israel is taken captive by Assyria. In verse 7 we read why: “This disaster happened because the people of Israel sinned against the Lord their God…and because they worshiped other gods.” Israel was captured and many were taken to Assyria as captives.
Judah wasn’t captured at the time but went on to have several more kings. However, after many kings who did evil the nation was eventually captured by Nebuchadnezzar and many Israelites were taken to Babylon.
God’s people were now scattered and captives of their enemies.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN
Israel was led into decline and captivity as a result of turning from God and pursuing idols. It shows us that compromise can easily lead to separation from God. Be faithful to pursue God and keep Him first in your life. The saying is true, that if you are not drawing near to God you will drift away.
“May all the peoples of the earth know that the Lord is God. There is no other! Be wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord our God to walk in his statutes and to keep his commands as it is today.” 1 Kings 8:60