Introduction to 1 Kings

INTRODUCTION TO

1 KINGS

The titles of these books are certainly descriptive of their contents: the history of the kings and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. First and Second Kings are part of the twelve Historical Books (Joshua-Esther) of the Old Testament. Originally, these two books were just one, but were divided by the translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament; aka LXX).

View from the Carmel Mountain Range to the Mediterranean Sea

View from the Carmel Mountain Range to the Mediterranean Sea

CIRCUMSTANCES OF WRITING

AUTHOR: Scholars cannot identify the authors of any portions of these books. Traditional guesses such as Samuel and Jeremiah lack evidence, although a prominent worshiper of the Lord like Jeremiah would have been influential in the circles that produced these books. Since the books clearly incorporated many earlier documents, the complete authorship would include all writers who contributed to the source documents of this work. At some point, the Holy Spirit worked in the human authors to authenticate the inspired, inerrant books of 1 and 2 Kings. The final stage of composition or compilation had to come after the release of Jehoiachin from Babylonian imprisonment (ca 562 BC). That edition may have added only a postscript to a work completed years earlier, or it may have involved significant additions.

BACKGROUND: The history recorded in 1 and 2 Kings covers approximately 410 years. First Kings begins around 970 BC with the death of King David, and 2 Kings ends around 560 BC with the release of King Jehoiachin from prison. During this time, the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms (930 BC), and both kingdoms went into exile (Israel in 722 BC and Judah in 587 BC).

MESSAGE AND PURPOSE

The theological perspective of 1 and 2 Kings is expressed in a number of themes: (1) the sinfulness of the kings and the nation; (2) the conflict between the demands of practical politics and the demands of faith; (3) the glory that God gave to the obedient covenant kings; (4) God’s harshness in judgment on some occasions and leniency on others; and (5) the conflict between the worship of the Lord and the worship of other gods.

THE ROLE OF THE KING: The Davidic covenant established the king as the moral representative of the people for covenant purposes. Therefore, up through kings Azariah (also known as Uzziah) and Jotham, the moral state of the king was treated as equaling the moral state of the people. Covenant blessings were given or withheld on the basis of the king’s behavior. Thus the behavior of the king was the important covenant and moral fact for any given reign.

THE ROLE OF THE PROPHET: This was the period of development of the office of the prophet. The nature of the prophetic office passed through several nonsequential stages from the ecstatic, miracle-working prophets represented by Saul (1Sm 19:24) and Elisha (2Kg 3:14-16); then through court prophets such as Gad and Micaiah; and finally to the great writing prophets attested in Scripture.

REVIVAL: The last two revival kings of Judah (Hezekiah and Josiah) experienced individual revivals that had few effects on either the rest of the royal house or on the nation as a whole. The nation returned to apostasy on the death of each of these good kings. Therefore these two revivals did not bring a full restoration of international political power and wealth. Rather they simply delayed the inevitable judgment.

CONTRIBUTION TO THE BIBLE

For the Bible writers, history could not have existed without God’s purposes. This makes all history theological. The books of 1 and 2 Kings interpreted Hebrew history in light of OT covenant theology. The Babylonian exile created the need for this work of historical apologetics. The exiles needed to explain the failure of the religious program established by the sovereign God. In the Deuteronomic history—Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings—this failure was consistently explained as the failures of the people to live up to their part of the covenant.

STRUCTURE

The organizing principle of 1 and 2 Kings is not story or narrative. Kings is unique because its basic structural units were the formulaic royal records. Formal openers (1Kg 15:9-10) and closers (1Kg 15:23-24) usually identify the boundaries of these records. Then the writer could insert other types of literature before, between, and after the openers and closers: narratives, prayers, descriptions, etc. But the most important element was the evaluation of the ruler’s faithfulness to the covenant (1Kg 15:11-15). All of these materials made up a history of covenant obedience or disobedience.

OUTLINE

I.Final Days of King David (1:1-2:12)

A.Adonijah tries to seize the throne (1:1-40)

B.Solomon anointed as David’s successor (1:41-53)

C.David’s charge to Solomon (2:1-12)

II.Solomon’s Reign over the United Kingdom (2:13-11:43)

A.Solomon deals with his opponents (2:13-46)

B.Solomon’s wisdom (3:1-28)

C.Solomon’s officials (4:1-19)

D.Solomon’s splendor (4:20-34)

E.Solomon builds the Lord’s temple (5:1-8:66)

F.Solomon’s fame and reputation (9:1-10:29)

G.Solomon’s sin and death (11:1-43)

III.The Divided Kingdoms of Judah and Israel (12:1-22:53)

A.Judah’s King Rehoboam (12:1-24)

B.Israel’s King Jeroboam (12:25-14:20)

C.Judah’s King Rehoboam (continued) (14:21-31)

D.Judah’s Abijam and Asa (15:1-24)

E.Israel’s Nadab and Baasha (15:25-16:7)

F.Israel’s Elah, Zimri, Tibni, and Omri (16:8-28)

G.Israel’s King Ahab and the prophet Elijah (16:29-22:40)

H.Judah’s King Jehoshaphat (22:41-50)

I.Israel’s King Ahaziah (22:51-53)

1010-900 BC

David 1010-970 Solomon 990-931

David becomes king of Judah. 1010

David becomes king over all Israel. 1003

David conquers Jerusalem. 1000?

Solomon becomes king. 970

Temple construction begins. 966

Temple of Solomon is dedicated. 959

Kingdom divides: Rehoboam, king of Southern Kingdom; Jeroboam I, king of Northern Kingdom. 931

900-800 BC

Rehoboam 941-913 Jeroboam 917-909

Pharaoh Shoshenq I (Shishak), founder of Egypt’s 22nd Dynasty, invades Jerusalem and takes treasures from the temple and royal palaces. 926-917

First temple reform under Asa. 897

Omri makes Samaria his capital. 880

Elijah’s ministry 862-852

Ben-hadad attacks Samaria. 857

Elisha’s ministry 850?-798?

Joel’s ministry 836-796?

Second temple reform under Joash 812

800-725 BC

Ahab 874-853 Joash 835-796

Events in Amos 783-746

First Olympiad is celebrated in Greece. 776

The first eclipse of the sun is documented in Assyrian annals. 763

Events in Hosea 750-722?

Events in Micah 750-686

Tiglath-pileser’s invasions of Israel 745-732

Isaiah’s ministry 742-700

Syro-Ephraimite War; Aram and Israel invade Judah. 735?

725-575 BC

Hezekiah 715-686 Josiah 640-609

Samaria falls; Northern Kingdom is taken into exile by Assyrians. 722

Third temple reform under Hezekiah 715

Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah 701

Jeremiah’s ministry 627-586?

Fourth temple reform under Josiah 622

Josiah is killed in battle by Pharaoh Neco. 609

Nebuchadnezzar’s three invasions of Judah 605, 597, 586

Temple of Solomon is destroyed. 586

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