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Book of 1 Kings

Book of 1 Kings
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The two Books of Kings were originally, like 1 Sam and 2 Sam - a single historical work. In conjunction with the Books of Samuel, they extend the consecutive history of Israel from the birth of Samuel to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. The books operate as a religious history, which is the reason why the Temple, which is the chosen site for the worship of Yahweh, occupies the center of attention.

After the death of Solomon, the united kingdom is divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Each king, both in the north and the south, is judged by the author according to whether or not he abided by the covenant of the Lord with Israel, especially as this relates to the centralization of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The two books are divided into three parts. The first eleven chapters report the death of David and Solomon's succession to the throne. The second part narrates the story of the two kingdoms from the death of Solomon in about 930 B.C. to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 B. C. In this account we find two cycles of miracle stories surrounding the early great prophets, Elijah and Elisha.

The third part recounts what happened in Judah from 722 to 587 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Only two kings are praised for their promotion of the worship of the true God, Hezekiah and Josiah.

Therefore, a chapter outline would look like the following:

  1. The Reign of Solomon - 1 Kings 1-11
  2. Judah and Israel to the Time of Ahab - 1 Kings 12-16
  3. Stories of the Prophets - 1 Kings 17-22

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A narrative summary of the the Book of 1 Kings follows suit.

I. The Reign of Solomon - 1 Kings 1-11.

Chapters 1-11 - tells of the united kingdom under King Solomon. Near the end of David's life, Solomon becomes king through the intrigue of Bathsheba and other supporters. After David's death, Solomon arrests or kills his opponents. Solomon prays for wisdom to rule the people and builds a palace and Temple in Jerusalem. To secure political alliances, however, Solomon takes foreign wives, who bring the worship of foreign deities to Jerusalem.

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II. Judah and Israel to the Time of Ahab - 1 Kings 12-16.

Chapters 12-16 - recount the division of the kingdom into north and south. Solomon's son Rehoboam vows to rule harshly, and the northern tribes secede, forming the kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam, the king of the north, placed golden calves in the sanctuaries of the northern kingdom. David's descendants continue to rule only the southern kingdom, which is known as Judah.

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III. Stories of the Prophets - 1 Kings 17-22.

Chapters 17-22 - center on Elijah the prophet. Elijah works miracles and opposes the idolatrous worship promoted by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He flees to Mount Sinai after calling down fire from heaven and slaying the priests of the god Baal. There God tells him to anoint three people to foment rebellion in Israel. In response, Elijah anoints Elisha to be a prophet. He also denounces Ahab and Jezebel for arranging the death of a man named Naboth in order to seize his vineyard.

We continue the story in the Book of 2 Kings.

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