My hope as we go through this is to make it a little less complicated. People will say the Bible is a big, complicated book. It isn’t, but it is a little intimidating.
My hope is that you’ll be encouraged as you read. One thing that helps me is to look at the approximate timespans as we go through each book.
- Judges takes place over 350 –410 years.
- 1 Samuel covers about 94 years.
- 2 Samuel covers about 40 years.
- 1 Kings will cover 130 years.
- 2 Kings will cover about 286 years.
The reason this helps me understand is it reminds me to consider, what did God want His authors to include in these records for you and me to understand?
A lot is going on in this timespan and we have short, varied texts that tell us about it.
Reading the 1 & 2 Books
As we’re reading these “1 &2” books, we’re looking for differences in the way each book is written by looking at writing styles, structure, content, and details included in these accounts.
We’re looking for repetitions, restatements, things that open or close statements. These elements are so helpful in observing the text.
To put brackets around 1 & 2 books:
- 1 & 2 Samuel are biographical
- 1 & 2 Kings are narrative, story
- 1 & 2 Chronicles are more theological in viewpoint.
We have 4 gospel accounts. The first three are the synoptic gospels. John is the outlier – very easy language, but deep theologically. Each of the synoptics are essentially the same story. John doesn’t even have a genealogical record, but it has insight that the other gospels don’t have.
So as we read through the gospels, it’s not redundant – it’s a different way to tell the same story. As we look at the 1 & 2 books, let’s read the Old Testament in a similar way.
There are 40 Kings in Israel’s lifespan. 20 in Israel and 20 from Judah.
1 Kings begins with David’s last days, the good king dies, and ends with Ahab’s son’s name when a bad king dies.
The first 11 chapters cover 40 years, the last 10 chapters covers 90 years.
The first 40 are peaceful. The last 90 years are horrible. When Solomon dies, everything falls apart.
“In the final analysis, First Kings is the story of one people headed down two different paths. It is a story of good kings and bad kings, true prophets and false prophets, and of disobedience and loyalty to God. Most importantly, it is a story of Israel’s spiritual odyssey and God’s faithfulness to His people.” – The Nelson Study Bible
Boa & Wilkinson comment that the theme of 1 Kings is that the “welfare of Israel and Judah depended upon the covenant faithfulness of the people and their king.”
Let’s Dive In
1 Kings 2:2 David is on his deathbed. Bathsheba is concerned and she and Nathan cleverly tag-team to go in to the king to plead with him to charge Solomon to be the kind of king he needs to be. Tied to this is the fulfillment God’s promise from 2 Samuel 7:13-14.
David’s “deathbed instructions” to Solomon are interesting. Right off, he tells Solomon about some unfinished business to bring justice.
In order to dispense mercy, you have to cut – that’s why justice is described as a two-edged sword.
You’re going to have to hurt somebody to bring about justice – punish the wicked to reward and protect victims.
To those who are evil, who sin and injure others, justice will come. That’s what David is telling Solomon to do.
Another important character: Benaiah. Benaiah is basically a hitman sanctioned by God and by Solomon to deal with this unfinished justice. 1 Kings 2:25, 29, 34. Afterward, Solomon appoints him over the army.
Solomon’s prayer recorded in 1 Kings 3:6-9 is remarkable.
Adonai Elohim’s response is even more remarkable: 1 Kings 3:10-14
Solomon’s first action as judicial-king is a story well known to most westerners and, arguably, a story known around the world.
Two harlots come before the king. Both had sones; one had died. The women disputed whose son was whose. The king hears their argument-petition and with essentially two words in Hebrew: Bring Sword.
We’re not told of the gasps and tension as they brought Solomon’s sword before him, but his order, “divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other,” evoked a poignant response. The real mother would do anything, even give her son away, to save his life. The fraud, so evil, would deny the other woman her son. She’d watch the boy killed.
1 Kings 3:28
What does this underscore for us?
This is the kind of king we want. We all want this kind of justice.
Most of us have endured wounds, injustices, and betrayals that have wrecked us emotionally, financially, socially…
Oh, that we had a king who sat righteous on a throne! A judge who judges righteously, who had the wisdom of God to administer justice!
Now Solomon Was King Over All Israel
1 Kings 4:1, 1 Kings 4:29 – Solomon’s reign is marked with unbridled blessing and success.
Solomon cleans house, comes into his own, renders justice, and Israel is amazed at his wisdom.
Then Solomon begins to build the house of the Lord – the temple complex construction. 1 Kings 6:1 – The craftsmanship is unmatched. At the same time, Solomon builds his palace.
Once the projects are complete the ark is brought up from the City of David with celebration: 1 Kings 8:10-11
Solomon dedicates the temple and some of the cadence that stands out:
- Please listen to the cry and prayer which your servant prays
- Listen to the prayer/ Listen to the supplication
- Hear in heaven
- Hear and forgive
- Hear in heaven (several times)
- Several if … then petitions
- As You spoke
- All that He promised
Followed by the most extravagant sacrifices in Scripture: 144,000 animals. Solomon extends the Feast of Tabernacles by two weeks. The celebration, like the craftsmanship of the complex, is unmatched.
God is a God of His word.
1 Kings 10 is pivotal. 1 Kings 10:7
This chapter confirms Solomon’s power and wealth but also shows the seeds that bring his destruction: the multiplication of horses, amassing of chariots, marrying many foreign wives – God had been clear about these issues.
Solomon’s commitment to God is etched away and compromised by his pagan wives, just as God said it would be.
1 Kings 11:1-6
40 years in 10 chapters of progress, hope, prosperity, and blessing come crashing down.
The Divided Kingdom follows for 90 years in the next 10 chapters.
Two principles emerge:
- Rehoboam is designated as a king who forsook counsel and advice of elders, and did not listen to the people.
- Jeroboam is made king of Israel and retreats to Shechem, building false altars in Bethel and Dan.
“He made Israel sin,” is repeated 20 times in 1 and 2 Kings, usually attached to Jeroboam.
“The sins of Jeroboam” is repeated 14 times.
“Did evil in the sight of the Lord” is stated 30 times in 1 and 2 Kings.
As we continue the book, the story gets worse. We’re introduced to Ahab, and his wife Jezebel.
Ahab is the antithesis of the opening King David. He’s despicable and his wife is evil beyond description.
We’re introduced to Elijah as well, who will deal with Ahab and Jezebel.
And the book ends: 1 Kings 22:52-53
- People cannot lead with power unless submitted to a greater power. Power corrupts. Only power that submits to God’s way is good power. Man always misuses whatever power he has at his disposal.
- Individually, we all want to be the king. King over our lives, our marriage, our parenting, our money, our choices – and sometimes – king over others’ lives. Somewhere we twisted passions into doctrine, emotions into truth, preferences into identity. We became kings in our hearts and minds.
- In God’s kindness, the perfect King is patient, long-suffering, kind, and gentle. His word is eternal. His Spirit is powerful. He has not changed, moved, nor tolerated sin. To know we approach the great God of our Fathers and our Lord Jesus Christ should align our ill-conceived notions of self-importance and grandeur, and bring us to our knees.
- Every historical throne lies in ruin. Only one throne, the one in heaven, will always rule well.