I. The United Kingdom (1 Kings 1:1–11:43)

1:1-4 By the time the events of 1 Kings began to unfold, David was advanced in age and in poor health. He was unable to keep warm, no matter how well he was covered (1:1). So the king’s servants suggested that they find a young virgin who could provide him with warmth and also be his caregiver (1:2). The woman they found was Abishag (1:3), from the village of Shunem in the tribal territory of Issachar. She fulfilled all of their requirements, including being of unsurpassed beauty (1:4). This fact would become important later when Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah became attracted to her and used her to make a thinly disguised attempt to usurp the throne (see 2:13-25).

7:13-14 Solomon brought a man named Hiram to Jerusalem to do the extensive bronze work needed for the temple (7:13). This man was not the king of Tyre (see 5:1-12) but a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali. His father was a man of Tyre and a bronze craftsman. That he was brought in suggests his skill was beyond anything Solomon could find locally. Hiram set right to work.

7:15-22 Hiram cast two bronze pillars, which were incredibly elaborate pieces, each free-standing, with ornate capitals of cast bronze on top of each (7:15-17). When these pillars were ready and in place on the portico of the temple, Solomon actually named them: he set up the right pillar and named it Jachin; then he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz (7:21). These names, meaning, “He Will Establish” and “In Him Is Strength,” respectively, were a testimony to the security and strength that the Lord offered to his people.

7:23-39 Hiram also made a huge metal water basin with elaborate decorations. It rested on the backs of twelve oxen he had sculpted (7:23-25). The basin was so large that it held eleven thousand gallons of water (7:26); it would be used by the priests to wash themselves (see 2 Chr 4:6).

Even though they had wheels and were movable, the ten bronze water carts were also awesome in size and very elaborate (7:27, 32). Ten bronze basins were made and placed on the ten water carts (7:38). These could be taken wherever they were needed to supply water for rinsing the burnt offerings (see 2 Chr 4:6).

7:40-47 Hiram’s work was catalogued without attempt to summarize the amount of bronze used (7:40-46). Instead, all the utensils were left unweighed because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined (7:47).

7:48-51 The gold work completed on the temple and its furnishings was summarized briefly (7:48-50). And, once everything was in its place, the temple was ready for its dedication and use in worship (7:51).

8:1-5 The temple dedication began with the transport and installation of the ark of the Lord’s covenant from its place on Mount Zion (8:1; see 2 Sam 6:17). This was to be a great ceremony to which Solomon called all the men of Israel, from leaders to representatives of every family (8:1-2). The procession of the ark to the new temple was elaborate and tremendous in scale. They sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that they could not be counted or numbered (8:5), suggesting that, once again, Solomon spared no expense.

8:6-8 In contrast with David’s first attempt to move the ark as recorded in 2 Samuel 6:1-10, the ark was carried the proper way this time, by the priests using poles attached through rings on the sides of the ark so that no one would touch it (see Exod 25:12-15; Deut 10:8). The ark’s journey was complete when the priests set it down in the most holy place beneath the wings of the cherubim, which covered the ark (8:6-7). They spread their wings over the ark from above (8:7). The author even mentions the way the ark’s carrying poles extended beyond the holy place, as if no detail about the ark was unimportant (8:8).

8:9 The ark was the centerpiece of the temple. God had promised Moses that he would meet with his people above the mercy seat on top of the ark (see Exod 25:22). The contents of the ark were the two stone tablets that Moses had put there at Horeb (Mount Sinai). These pointed to the fact that the primary concern for Israel was to obey the law of their divine King. (Previously, the covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai had often been neglected and disobeyed by the people.) The purpose of the dedication ceremony described was to reiterate that Solomon and Israel still saw themselves as bound to the Lord’s covenant, as indeed they were.

8:10-11 Once the ark was in place in the inner sanctuary, the cloud filled the Lord’s temple; this was a visible symbol of the Lord’s presence (8:10). What an awe-inspiring sight that must have been! Interestingly, the same thing had happened when the tabernacle was dedicated in Moses’s day (see Exod 40:34). And, just as Moses was unable to enter the tent because the cloud of God’s glory filled it, so, too, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple (8:11). When God manifests his glory, all activity must cease. Israel’s great King had come to dwell with his people.

8:12-19 Solomon broke the silence by blessing the Lord and the people of Israel. He explained that God’s presence was a confirmation that he had fulfilled his promises to David by his power (8:15). During David’s reign, God had not chosen a city to build a temple in (8:16). David’s desire to build a temple for God was good (8:17-18), but God intended that David’s son would do the work (8:19).

8:20 Everything God had spoken had come to pass. Notice how Solomon articulated it: The Lord has fulfilled what he promised. . . . I have built the temple for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. Importantly, Solomon didn’t take all of the credit for himself; the construction of the temple had been planned and promised by God. Nevertheless, God didn’t miraculously cause the temple to appear out of thin air; its existence required careful obedience from Solomon. This is divine sovereignty and human responsibility in action.

8:21 The purpose of the temple was to serve as a home for the ark. The Lord had intended this end hundreds of years earlier when he brought Israel out of the land of Egypt. The great moment had finally arrived. Thus, Solomon reminded the people that God had been true to his word of so long ago.

We often expect or even demand God to act immediately. But, God brings about his promises and plans in his perfect timing. He knows what we need; he also knows when we need it.

8:22 After reviewing God’s faithfulness, Solomon offered a long prayer of intercession for himself and the people (8:22-53). He dramatically stood before the altar . . . in front of the entire congregation . . . and spread out his hands toward heaven. What he said next became one of the greatest affirmations of the person and work of God in Scripture.

8:23 Solomon began by acknowledging the Lord’s uniqueness among the false gods that surrounded Israel. He said, There is no God like you. The nations beyond Israel’s borders boasted of their powerful gods, but those pretenders were all talk and no action. The Lord, by contrast, demonstrated that he alone is God because he kept the gracious covenant that he had made with the children of Israel. So, not only did he make promises, he also acted to keep them.

8:24-26 One of the promises God had made to David was that he would never fail to have a man . . . on the throne of Israel. Solomon was living proof that God had begun to fulfill that promise. But, in order for that promise to continue, it would require that David’s sons take care to walk before the Lord in faithfulness (8:25). Unfortunately, as the books of 1–2 Kings and 1–2 Chronicles bear witness, the sons of David who reigned on his throne after him frequently failed.

Ultimately, God himself would fulfill the requirements in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. As a descendent of David, he would qualify to sit on the throne (see Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; Rev 22:16). And, as the sinless and eternal Son of God, he alone can fulfill God’s promise to “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:13).

8:27 Next, Solomon extolled the transcendence of God—the truth that God is beyond creation and cannot be contained by it. He asked, Will God indeed live on earth? In spite of the fact that Solomon had built a temple for God to “dwell” in, the king was not so naïve as to think that the Lord of heaven and earth actually needed a home and could be confined to it. Not even heaven itself can contain him! Solomon knew that when the transcendent Creator manifested his presence to his people in the cloud of glory (8:10-11), it was a demonstration of his grace to them.

8:28-30 Understanding that God could not be contained by the temple, Solomon prayed that God would nevertheless fulfill his promise to make his name (8:29)—a synonym for his presence and character—dwell there. He asked that the Lord would hear the prayers of his people, which they would pray in the direction of the structure, and that he would forgive them (8:30). Solomon’s prayer thus established the custom that subsequent Jews would follow of turning toward Jerusalem when they prayed (see 8:48; Dan 6:10).

8:31-32 As was fitting in launching this new era in Israel’s history, Solomon presented a number of specific requests to the Lord as part of his prayer. Each request was tied directly to the people’s response to the Lord and his temple (8:31-51). Because taking an oath before God at his altar there was a serious matter (8:31), Solomon asked that God would condemn the wicked and reward the righteous. He also prayed that justice between individual Israelites would be done when they brought their disputes to the Lord there (8:32).

8:33-34 The temple was also to be the place where Israel would seek God’s forgiveness for sins that caused them to be defeated in battle (8:33). Such defeats could cause Israel to lose a part of the land that God gave their ancestors. Solomon thus asked that God would restore such land when the people repented (8:34). (The readers of 1–2 Kings would have felt a special pain in reading these verses, because they knew God had taken away all the land and sent his people into exile for their disobedience.)

8:35-40 Another form of punishment on sin was drought (8:35). For an agricultural society, adequate rain was not simply refreshing, but was also an absolute necessity for survival (8:36). The land, crops, and people were also subject to other disasters that God might send to awaken Israel to sin, such as pestilence, blight, locust, and plague (8:37).

Solomon knew the Lord would hear and restore those who were truly repentant because God alone knows every human heart (8:39). By disciplining them for their sin and forgiving them when they repent, God leads his people to take him seriously—to fear (that is, to honor and respect) him (8:40).

8:41-43 Solomon’s prayer list even included the foreigner (8:41), the non-Israelite who attached himself to Israel because of his faith in the Lord. If God would hear such devout followers from other nations and answer their prayers toward the temple, then all peoples of earth would know and fear God (8:42-43).

8:44-45 Though Solomon’s empire had become vast and powerful, he knew that victory over enemies depended on the blessing and presence of the Lord (8:44). So, he asked that prayers offered by Israelite soldiers in the direction of Jerusalem would be answered with success (8:44-45). The idea of facing Jerusalem in prayer was not a mere magic formula. Instead, it represented Israel’s acknowledgement that the God who alone could deliver them dwelled in his temple just as promised.

8:46-51 Solomon’s final petition was prophetic. To be driven from the land and deported to an enemy’s country was the worst fate they could imagine (8:46). At the time, the prospect of this sort of disaster must have seemed completely alien. Yet, this was a real danger that loomed large over Israel’s future. Thus, Solomon left Israel with a word of hope that, even in the most disastrous circumstance possible, the God whose temple was in Jerusalem would hear and answer his people’s genuine prayers of repentance (8:47-50)—because he had done it before when he brought them out of captivity in Egypt (8:51). This same God stands ready to hear your prayers of repentance, as well.

8:52-66 Solomon’s benediction restated the heart of his prayer—that the God who set them apart as his inheritance would hear his people’s prayers. After this, the king blessed the people and the Lord (8:53-56). He asked that God would remember his prayer and be glorified among all the people of the earth (8:57-61). Then, the people offered sacrifices in the thousands and thus dedicated the Lord’s temple (8:62-63). The festival that followed ran for two weeks (8:65). When the celebration was complete, the people blessed the king, and Solomon sent everyone home with happy hearts for all the goodness that the Lord had done (8:66).

The worship and joy that Israel experienced in the Lord’s presence that day is a picture of what the church should experience on a regular basis. It is also a foretaste of the tremendous joy that we will experience in the ages to come with Jesus Christ as our King.

9:1-5 Once again, God spoke to Solomon in a dream (9:1-2; see 3:1-15). He responded to the king’s prayers with a promise and a solemn warning. In the first dream, God had promised Solomon wisdom and wealth. This time, he promised to establish Solomon’s royal throne and the kingly line of David forever—provided that the king would walk before God with a heart of integrity (9:4-5).

9:6-9 If Solomon and those who came after him failed to keep God’s commands, if they served and worshiped false gods instead of the one true God, the Lord would reject the temple and cut off Israel from the land (9:6-7). The newly finished structure that stood in all its glory would be decimated (9:8). But, if so, God would make sure that all of the surrounding nations knew why it happened. Ruin would come on Israel because they had abandoned their God (9:8-9).

Was it really possible that Israel could fall into idolatry after God had manifested his glorious presence? Tragically, it had happened before. The generation that Moses led out of the wilderness, in fact, witnessed the Lord’s spectacular signs and wonders over and over again. Yet, they rejected him—over and over again. Sure enough, then, not only would Israel bow down to other gods in the future, but King Solomon himself would do so.

9:10 The remainder of this chapter and the next emphasize the vastness of Solomon’s kingdom, his fame, and his tremendous wealth. Solomon ruled forty years. So, when he completed the temple and his palace at the end of twenty years, he had reached the midpoint of his reign.

9:11-14 King Hiram of Tyre, who had been a friend of David, supplied Solomon with abundant cedar and cypress logs and gold for his building projects. But, Solomon was not as generous toward Hiram. He gave Hiram twenty towns in the land of Galilee in northwest Israel, not far from Tyre (9:11). But, Hiram wasn’t happy with his gift, calling the towns the Land of Cabul, a Hebrew word meaning “Like Nothing” (9:13). In other words, though Hiram had given Solomon nine thousand pounds of gold (9:14), Solomon gave him “nothing” in response. In providing this insight, it seems the author was indicating that Solomon’s character was beginning to crack.

9:15-23 The record of Solomon’s forced labor (9:15) shows how he acquired the workers needed to complete the temple and his palace complex. Some of the workers came from his father-in-law, Pharaoh king of Egypt, who captured Gezer (located about twenty miles west of Jerusalem) and gave it as a dowry to his daughter (9:16). Solomon then rebuilt Gezer, as well as a number of other cities throughout the land (9:17-19). The slaves he used for all of his construction projects came from the peoples who remained of Israel’s enemies, that is, their descendants (9:20-21). And, while the Israelites weren’t consigned to slavery, that doesn’t mean Solomon didn’t put them to work. They served as his soldiers and his servants (9:22-23). This heavy burden of labor would prove to be a problem for Solomon’s successor (see 12:2-4).

9:24-25 Even though the first seeds of Solomon’s downfall were being planted, he was faithful in his early years to offer the required sacrifices three times a year (9:25) in obedience to the Lord’s command that all males come to Jerusalem annually for the festivals (see Exod 23:14-16).

9:26-28 Interestingly, Solomon was also famous for his navy, for which he needed the expertise of Hiram’s sailors, who helped the Israelite seamen on their voyages to acquire gold (9:28).

10:1-5 Earlier, we read that Solomon’s fame had spread widely (4:34). The story in 10:1-13 serves to illustrate that point. It also shows that God was blessing the peoples of the world through his people, just as he had promised Abraham (Gen 12:3). This was only a small foretaste, though. Ultimately, Israel would fail at this task. True spiritual blessings for all peoples of the earth would eventually come through the true seed (descendent) of Abraham, Jesus Christ (see Gal 3:14, 16, 29).

The queen of Sheba visited Solomon’s court. She was from an Arabian kingdom that was located in what is modern-day Yemen; her country lay about 1,200 miles from Jerusalem. The queen visited Solomon because of his fame connected with the name of the Lord, which is probably a reference to the wisdom that the Lord had given him. She came to test him with riddles to see for herself if his abilities lived up to his reputation (10:1). She wasn’t exactly a pauper herself, bringing with her a very large entourage of expensive and exotic gifts (10:2). But, Solomon’s wisdom and wealth were far beyond what she could fathom. By the time she had heard his explanations and seen his glorious kingdom, it took her breath away (10:3-5).

10:6-13 The visiting queen admitted that she hadn’t believed the reports she had heard about Solomon. But, she’d seen that he was the real deal (10:6-7). She then blessed the Lord for putting Solomon on his throne for Israel’s sake (10:9). She also gave Solomon a mind-boggling treasure of gifts (10:10), and he apparently returned the favor (10:13).

Later, Jesus mentioned the queen of Sheba (also called “the queen of the south”) in his condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 12:42). She was willing to travel hundreds of miles to hear Solomon’s wisdom. But, while the Son of God far exceeded Solomon in wisdom and glory, the Jewish religious leaders only scoffed at him. According to Jesus, at the final judgment, the queen of Sheba will point her finger at them in condemnation. They will have no excuse for having rejected the Messiah.

10:14-22 The wealth that Solomon acquired annually was astounding. Aside from what he obtained through merchants and traders, he received twenty-five tons of gold every year (10:14-15). With this, he made two hundred large shields . . . [and] three hundred small shields of hammered gold (10:16-17), which were kept in storage and evidently used for ceremonial purposes only. No expense was spared in making Solomon’s impressive throne (10:18-20), and even his drinking cups were gold (1:21). The king’s wealth in gold was so vast that nothing was made of silver, since it was considered as nothing in Solomon’s time (10:21, see 10:27). Such splendor is hard to imagine.

10:23-29 God kept his promise to make Solomon the wisest and richest man who ever lived (see 3:11-13). He surpassed all the kings of the world in riches and in wisdom, and people from all over the world wanted to come to Solomon’s court to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart (10:23-24).

Solomon also made Israel a military power by importing chariots (10:26), the most advanced weapon of the day. He also imported horses from Egypt (10:28). With these mentions, the careful Bible reader will note a hint of the creeping pride and inattention to the Lord’s commands that would soon bring Solomon down. The Lord had told Moses that when God appointed a king for his people, the king was not to “acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses” (Deut 17:16). Moreover, he was also not to “acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself” (Deut 17:17). Descriptions like these make us wonder at what point Solomon began putting his trust in his wealth, his chariots, and his horses instead of in the Lord.

11:1-3 The opening verses in this chapter are some of the saddest in Scripture. No one else in the Bible rose as high as Solomon, and few fell as hard and as low. Solomon began to accumulate many foreign women as wives and concubines (11:1, 3). First, this was a problem because it was contrary to God’s original design of one man and one woman being united together (see Gen 1:22-25). Second, marrying women from the surrounding nations was clearly forbidden, for God had warned that such women would turn the Israelites’ heart away to follow their gods (11:2; see Deut 7:3-4). And third, as God had told Moses, the king in particular was “not [to] acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart [wouldn’t] go astray” (Deut 17:17). Tragically, Solomon hadn’t overlooked these truths merely once or twice but hundreds of times. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred . . . concubines. And, indeed, they turned his heart away (11:3).

11:4 The very next verse repeats the indictment: Solomon’s wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. Interestingly, this happened when he was old, suggesting that decades of marrying foreign wives and providing for their false worship had drained Solomon’s life of spiritual vitality. Yet, that was no excuse for his sin. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord, as his father David had been.

The comparison to David was inevitable because Solomon was the heir of God’s promise to give David an everlasting throne. While David had sinned greatly, too, he had repented. Solomon, however, only continued in his downward slide.

11:5-8 The list of false gods and goddesses that Solomon followed and for which he built high places is shocking: Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh (11:5, 7) were the gods of the surrounding nations. And, Scripture pulls no punches. What the king did was evil in the Lord’s sight (11:6) because such idols were abhorrent (11:7). But, because all his foreign wives burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods (11:8), Solomon built them places of worship. How ironic that the king who had built the magnificent temple for the one true God was now constructing sites of devotion and veneration for idols! Saying that he did not remain loyal to the Lord (11:6) is a major understatement.

11:9-10 The Lord had appeared to Solomon in dreams twice and made tremendous promises to him (see 3:5-17; 9:1-9). Despite this, the king repaid God’s kindness by turning his heart away from him. Needless to say, the Lord was angry (11:9). Though God had specifically warned him, Solomon disregarded him (11:10).

11:11-13 The Lord revealed himself to Solomon one more time—bringing a message of judgment. For his rejection of the Lord, Solomon would have his kingdom torn away and given to another. Though his kingdom no doubt seemed invincible, it would crumble. Solomon’s son would retain a portion of the kingdom—one tribe (11:13). But, Solomon’s servant would claim the rest (11:11). While God wouldn’t let the kingdom split occur until Solomon’s son was in power and would still grant him a throne, he did this not because Solomon deserved a reprieve but for the sake of . . . David and for the sake of Jerusalem (11:12-13).

How did Solomon receive this message of judgment? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but God’s judgment was final.

11:14-22 Solomon didn’t have to wonder how God was going to execute his judgment. In his own day, God raised up two foreign enemies and one domestic foe against the kingdom. Hadad the Edomite was a survivor of the slaughter of the Edomites that occurred in David’s day, led by Joab, David’s brutal army commander who did not relent until he had killed every male in Edom (11:14-16). Hadad had been a boy at the time and a member of the royal house in Edom, Israel’s ancient enemy to the southeast that was descended from Esau, Abraham’s grandson. Hadad found asylum and a whole lot more in Egypt. He gained the favor of the Pharaoh, who gave him a house, land, and a wife (11:18-19). But, despite his obvious ease there, Hadad couldn’t wait to return to his homeland once he heard that both David and Joab were gone. He was no doubt seething with hatred toward Israel and looking for revenge (11:21-22).

11:23-25 Solomon’s second foreign enemy was a man named Rezon. Notice, again, that divine sovereignty was at work: Rezon was raised up by God (11:23). He became the leader of a raiding party in David’s day that became a pain in Israel’s side throughout Solomon’s reign (1:24-25). Rezon eventually became king of Aram and loathed Israel (11:25).

11:26-28 By far, the most significant of Solomon’s enemies was the man described as his “servant” (11:11). Capable Jeroboam was from the tribe of Ephraim, the leading tribe in the north (11:26). Solomon had appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph (11:28). But, eventually, Jer-oboam rebelled against Solomon (11:27). The reader must wait until chapter 12 to understand why Jeroboam rebelled—from a human perspective. But, from the divine perspective, we learn in 11:29-40 that Jer-oboam’s rebellion was part of God’s plan to tear the kingdom apart because of Solomon’s sin.

11:29-36 Jeroboam’s rise to power was confirmed by a prophetic announcement from Ahijah, who visually demonstrated his message by tearing his cloak into twelve pieces and giving ten pieces to Jeroboam (11:29-31). God told Jeroboam through Ahijah that he would tear the kingdom from Solomon—though not during Solomon’s lifetime (11:31, 34). Jeroboam would be given ten of Israel’s tribes to rule (11:31, 35). And, for the sake of . . . David and Jerusalem, the Lord would grant one tribe to Solomon’s son (11:32, 36). (The missing tribe, that is the tribe that would bring the total to twelve, is Benjamin, who would side with Judah; see 12:21). Ahijah provided God’s justification for his judgment: they (led by King Solomon) have abandoned me and bowed down to the false gods of the nations (11:33).

11:37-39 God made a remarkable promise to Jeroboam. Solomon had appointed him over the “labor force of the house of Joseph” (11:28). But, God would appoint him as king over Israel (11:37). God even promised to build Jeroboam a lasting dynasty—if he would obey him (11:38). Unfortunately, in spite of this prospect and high hopes, Jer-oboam would fail royally.

11:40-43 Solomon apparently learned about the prophecy because he tried to kill Jer-oboam, who fled to the safety of Egypt until Solomon died (11:40). This, in fact, is the last recorded act of Solomon. He reigned forty years like his father, David (11:42), but sadly he did not remain loyal to the Lord like David had (11:6). Then, his son Rehoboam came to power (11:43).

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