David left a strong, prosperous empire for his son Solomon. The good times would last for awhile, but difficult days lay ahead. These events are described in 1 Kings.
1 Kings is the eleventh book in most English Bibles, and it is the fifth book among the *former prophets* in Hebrew. As with 1 and 2 Samuel, so with 1 and 2 Kings: they were originally one book divided in antiquity, with no break in the action between 1 Kings 22:53 and 2 Kings 1:1. 1 and 2 Kings were written with 1 and 2 Samuel in mind, since 1 Kings begins with the final days of David. 1 and 2 Kings derive their name from their narration of the events which transpired in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah; the Greek names for the books, 3 and 4 Reigns, accurately describe their content and their relationship with 1 and 2 Samuel (1 and 2 Reigns in the Greek). 1 Kings describes the events surrounding the reign of Solomon, and the early history of the divided kingdom, ca. 960-850 BCE. 1 and 2 Kings are likely based on contemporary court and prophetic records and composed in their current form during the final days of the Kingdom of Judah and exile, around 625-550 BCE.
1 Kings begins with the story of the reign of Solomon son of David (ca. 960-920 BCE; 1 Kings 1:1-11:43). Solomon’s accession is described: David’s final days, Adonijah’s failed attempt to become king, David’s final decree and instruction for Solomon, and how Solomon eliminated his father’s rivals and any threat to his throne (1 Kings 1:1-2:46). Solomon asks God for wisdom and is given wealth, power, and fame as well, and his wisdom is celebrated (1 Kings 3:1-4:34). Solomon’s commission for the building of the Temple, his palace, and his dedication of the Temple feature most prominently in the narrative (1 Kings 5:1-9:9). Solomon’s deeds, power, and wealth are praised, as well as the visit from the Queen of Sheba and her astonishment at Solomon’s wisdom and wealth (1 Kings 9:10-10:29).
Yet all is not well: Solomon has taken foreign wives and has honored their gods, and as a consequence, God promises that Jeroboam son of Nebat will rule over the northern ten tribes (1 Kings 11:1-43). After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam becomes king, and the ten tribes revolt against him and install Jeroboam as their king (1 Kings 12:1-24). Until the times of exile there will be the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah.
The author of 1 Kings makes note of some of the events in Judah immediately after the division: Rehoboam’s defeat at the hands of Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak and the subsequent loss of the prosperity gained by David and Solomon, his son Abijam’s accession and his wickedness, the accession of Asa, his faithfulness, and his conflict with Baasha king of Israel, and then Jehoshaphat son of Asa in turn (1 Kings 14:27-15:24, 22:41-50).
But it is the growing wickedness of the kings of Israel which features prominently in the rest of 1 Kings. Jeroboam’s establishment of temples and golden calves as representation of YHWH in Dan and Bethel is chronicled and established as the basis of continual sin throughout Israel’s days (1 Kings 12:25-13:34). Jeroboam’s house is condemned for this: Nadab his son is executed by Baasha, Baasha is likewise condemned, for his son Elah is executed by Zimri who in turn is executed by Omri (1 Kings 13:35-16:22). Omri establishes Samaria as his capital and his son Ahab reigns in his place after his death (1 Kings 16:23-34).
Ahab proves to be a most wicked king, having married Jezebel the Sidonian and advancing the service of Baal over YHWH. The rest of 1 Kings describes the contests between Ahab and YHWH’s prophet Elijah: a three and a half year drought, the contest proving YHWH, not Baal, is God, Elijah’s sojourn at Sinai, Elisha established as Elijah’s successor, Ahab’s victory over Ben-hadad of Aram, his sin against Naboth the Jezreelite, and his ultimate demise in the battle of Ramoth-gilead (1 Kings 17:1-22:40). Ahaziah son of Ahab then rules over Israel, serving Baal, and provoking YHWH to anger (1 Kings 22:51-53). The stage is set for 2 Kings: YHWH will execute His judgments against the house of Ahab as He said through Elijah his prophet!
Ethan R. Longhenry