As King David approaches death, he anoints his son, Solomon, to reign as king (1 Kings 1:30). Solomon starts off well, asking the Lord for wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-8), but soon disobeys God by marrying foreign women (1 Kings 11:3), worshipping foreign gods (1 Kings 11:7-8), accumulating massive amounts of possessions (1 Kings 10:14-29), and conscripting his fellow Israelites into slavery (1 Kings 9:15), all in direct defiance of the written word of God. Because of this, after his death the Lord tore the kingdom out of his son’s hand (1 Kings 11:11-13) and the people of Israel divide into two nations, the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) (1 Kings 12).
Both kingdoms degenerate into idolatry (1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 14:22-24), however Judah occasionally is led by a (somewhat) good king, like Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43), Joash (2 Kings 12:2), Amaziah (2 Kings 14:3), and others who attempt to bring about reform, like Josiah (2 Kings 23:4-19) and even experience miraculous deliverance, like Hezekiah (2 Kings 19). On the other hand, Israel never has a godly ruler and looks more and more like the nations that were in the land before they possessed it (2 Kings 17:8).
Principal in the books of Kings is the role of the prophet. Notable among these, are Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17-19; 2 Kings 1-8). Zealous for the Lord, they perform many miracles, proving the power of God over false deities (1 Kings 18:19-39), and even raising the dead to life (1 Kings 17:22). For the most part, the prophetic word of the Lord falls on deaf ears as God raises up two enemy nations, Assyria and Babylon, to invade Israel and Judah respectively.
EVEN THE MOST GLORIOUS KINGDOM RAPIDLY DECLINES DUE TO IDOLATRY AND SPIRITUAL COMPROMISE
1 Kings 11:11 “So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you,
I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.’”
I. (1-11) THE FORTY YEAR REIGN OF KING SOLOMON – RISE, GLORY AND DECLINE
A. (1:1 – 2:46) SOLOMON’S RISE
B. (3:1 – 4:34) SOLOMON’S WISDOM AND REIGN
C. (5:1 – 9:9) SOLOMON’S BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE AND PALACE
D. (:9:10 – 10:29) SOLOMON’S GLORY BUT SIGNS OF SLIPPAGE
E. (11:1-43) SOLOMON’S FALL – DISOBEDIENCE AND IDOLATRY CAUSE THE DOWNFALL OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM REQUIRING DIVINE DISCIPLINE
II. (12-22) THE FIRST EIGHTY YEARS OF THE DIVIDED TWO KINGDOMS – CONFRONTATION OVER IDOLATRY
A. (12:1-33) DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM — RASH ARROGANCE AND RELIGIOUS EXPEDIENCY SPLINTER GOD’S PEOPLE AND PROVIDE A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY
B. (13:1-34) THE SUPREMACY OF THE WORD OF GOD — NOTHING TRUMPS THE WORD OF GOD
C. (14:1-31) THE END OF JEROBOAM AND OF REHOBOAM
D. (15:1 – 16:34) KINGS LEADING UP TO AHAB
E. (17:1 – 19:18) ELIJAH’S CONFRONTATION WITH AHAB OVER IDOLATRY
F. (20:1 – 22:40) AHAB’S REPEATED AND FATAL OPPOSITION TO GOD’S WORD
G. (22:41-53) NEW RULERS — JEHOSHAPHAT AND AHAZIAH — THE GOOD AND THE BAD – GOD’S PEOPLE STRUGGLE TO CONSISTENTLY FOLLOW HIS WAYS
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
To fill in the gaps of our knowledge regarding the history of Israel and Judah throughout the succession of the various kings as told through the lens of the prophets of God. This background informs our biblical theological perspective.
To enjoy some of the epic stories surrounding Elijah and King Ahab. Jason Seville: “Through these men [Elijah and Elisha], God is verifying his message and showing his power in ways paralleled by very few parts of Scripture. It’s only right to introduce your church to these men and their ministries who point us back to Moses and forward to the greater Prophet who accomplishes the greater resurrection.”
To understand the importance of obedience to the covenantal obligations and how disobedience, idolatry and spiritual compromise lead to kingdom decline.
To see how seriously God treats sin.
To elevate the Word of God so that we are willing to stand alone on biblical convictions.
To highlight the impact of the parents (both positively and negatively) on the spiritual development of their children.
To gain discernment regarding the insidious nature of false teaching and false counsel.
Warren Wiersbe: The two books of Kings record about four hundred years of the history of Israel and Judah, while the two books of Chronicles see the history of the United Kingdom and then the kingdom of Judah from the priestly point of view. Besides recording history, these books teach theology, especially the faithfulness of God in keeping His covenant, the sovereignty of God in directing the destinies of all nations, and the holiness of God in opposing idolatry. Especially important is the way all four books magnify the Davidic dynasty and thus prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
John Davis: The fundamental purpose of the books of Kings is to continue the history of the theocracy until its conclusion in the Babylonian exile. Even though the author’s chief concern was with the Davidic line, he included considerable material which deal with the fortunes and failures of the Northern Kingdom. The writer’s approach to the subject matter was from the standpoint of the plans and purposes of God as it related to His chosen people. The writings are intensely theological and yet extremely practical. The books of Kings are very important to the Bible student because they give him the cultural and historical background of the ministry of Israel’s great prophets.
J. Sidlow Baxter: The two books of the kings were originally one. They were first divided into two by the Septuagint translators in the third century B.C.; and this division has been followed in all subsequent versions. They open with the accession of Solomon, and close with the destruction of Jerusalem. At the beginning we see the temple built. At the end we see the temple burnt. The two books together cover a period of about four hundred years. . . . First Kings records the division of the one united kingdom, over which Saul and David and Solomon reigned, into two kingdoms – the two kingdoms henceforth being known respectively as Israel and Judah. The kingdom of Israel, comprising ten of the tribes, becomes the northern kingdom, while the kingdom of Judah, comprising Judah and Benjamin, becomes the southern kingdom. . .
The first eleven chapters are devoted to Solomon and his wonderful reign of forty years. The remaining eleven chapters cover approximately the first eighty years of the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah. . . The central spiritual message of 1 kings is unmistakable, namely, DISCONTINUANCE THROUGH DISOBEDIENCE.
Gleason Archer: The theme of these two books was to demonstrate on the basis of Israel’s history that the welfare of the nation ultimately depended upon the sincerity of its faithfulness to the covenant with Jehovah, and that the success of any ruler was to be measured by the degree of his adherence to the Mosaic constitution and his maintenance of a pure and God-honoring testimony before the heathen. The purpose of this record was to se forth those events which were important from the standpoint of God and His program of redemption. The author had no intention of glorifying Israel’s heroes out of nationalistic motives; hence he omitted even those passing achievements which would have assumed great importance in the eyes of a secular historian. His prime concern was to show how each successive ruler dealt with God in his covenant responsibilities.
John Gates: Historical Background
In David’s day Egypt’s power had waned and Assyria was weak; hence there were impotent nations on both of Israel’s frontiers. However, Assyria soon awakened under Tiglath-pileser III (also called Pul, II Kgs 15:19; 745-727 B.C.). In 721 B.C. Samaria fell under the attack of Shalmaneser and Sargon. Later, under Sennacherib, Assyria invaded Judah and took many cities but failed to take Jerusalem because of the rear-guar threat of Egypt. Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal extended Assyrian hegemony to Egypt.
In Josiah’s time Pharaoh-necho went up to help Assyria against Babylon at Carchemiah, but the two allies were defeated. Shortly the victorious Nebuchadnezzar invaded Palestine, and on his third attack against Jerusalem, plundered and destroyed the city, carrying the people off to final captivity (586 B.C.).
Chuck Swindoll: Theme
In the books of 1 and 2 Kings, each king is evaluated by “his reaction toward his covenantal responsibility to the Law of the LORD. That was the acid test of whether he ‘did evil’ or ‘that which was right in the eyes of the LORD.’” Readers will notice scathing rebukes of some kings—reports not typically recorded by purely historical writers. In addition to the kings, the prophets figure heavily in this book. They are God’s spokesmen, proclaiming His word to mostly hard-hearted rulers. It is through the prophets’ eyes—always connecting the nation’s fortune with its kings’ faithfulness (or lack thereof)—that we learn the history of Israel and Judah.