This was a difficult period in the history of God’s people, a time of great change and upheaval. There was struggle from within and pressure from without. The result was a dark moment in which the stable kingdom under a strong leader split in two. writes with a prophetic message, showing that this punishment by captivity to foreign pagan nations was the inevitable consequence of the persistent violation of God’s covenant with them. Kings was written to move the exiles to reflect on their history and return to the Lord.
The books of 1 and 2 Kings take up recording the historical events of God’s people where the books of 1 and 2 Samuel leave off. However, Kings is more than just a compilation of the politically important or socially significant happenings in Israel and Judah. 1 and 2 Kings is a selective history, one with a theological purpose. Therefore, the author selects and emphasizes the people and events that are morally and religiously significant. First and 2 Kings present God as the Lord of history. From history, these books establish God’s providential working in and through the lives of His people for His redemptive purpose. They demonstrate the necessity of obedience to God’s covenant and the painful consequence of disobedience.
The first half of 1 Kings records the glory of Solomon’s reign, his wealth, wisdom, and the monumental accomplishment of the building of the temple. However, his disobedience in marrying foreign wives led him into idolatry; and the stage was set for the division of the kingdom. The king with a divided heart would leave behind a divided kingdom. On his death, those in the northern part of the empire rebelled and established their own nation, known as Israel. In the south, those who remained faithful to the house of David and Solomon formed the nation known as Judah.
In the second half of 1 Kings, which describes the divided kingdom, the narrative is difficult to follow. The author switches back and forth between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, tracing their histories simultaneously. There were nineteen regents in Israel, all of them bad. In Judah, there were twenty rulers, only eight of them good.
First Kings records the first nine rulers in Israel and the first four kings in Judah. Some of these thirteen regents are only mentioned in a few verses, while whole chapters are devoted to others. Major attention is directed to those who either serve as a model of uprightness, or to those who illustrate why these nations eventually collapsed. When 1 Kings closes, Jehoshaphat is the king in Judah, and Ahaziah is on the throne in Israel.
The nation, leader, or person who responds to and obeys the Lord will enjoy the benefits of a relationship with Him. Those who refuse and rebel will experience God’s discipline. Though people are sinful, God is the author of redemption, and He graciously forgives those who will repent and return to Him.
The main events of 1 Kings are David’s death, Solomon’s reign, the division of the kingdom, and Elijah’s ministry. As Solomon ascended the throne, David charged him to obey God’s laws and to “follow all his ways” (2:3). This Solomon did; and when given the choice of gifts from God, he humbly asked for wisdom (3:9). As a result, Solomon’s reign began with great success, including the construction of the Temple, his greatest achievement. Unfortunately, Solomon took many pagan wives and concubines who eventually turned his heart away from the Lord to their false gods (11:1-4).
Rehoboam succeeded Solomon and had the opportunity to be a wise, compassionate, and just king. Instead, he accepted the poor advice of his young friends and attempted to rule with an iron hand. But the people rebelled, and the kingdom split with 10 tribes in the north (Israel) ruled by Jeroboam, and only Judah and Benjamin remaining with Rehoboam. Both kingdoms wove a path through the reigns of corrupt and idolatrous kings with only the clear voice of the prophets continuing to warn and call the nation back to God.
Elijah is surely one of the greatest prophets, and chapters 17 through 22 feature his conflict with wicked Ahab and Jezebel in Israel. In one of the most dramatic confrontations in history, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. In spite of incredible opposition, Elijah stood for God and proves that one, plus God, is a majority. If God is on our side, no one can stand against us (Romans 8:31).