1st Kings: United and Divided Kingdoms

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1st Kings
United and Divided Kingdoms

Reign of Solomon and the Early Divided Kingdom

Background: Probably put in final form during the Exile using historical records
Theme: God's faithfulness in dealing with Judah and Israel
Outline: Solomon's Reign and the Early Divided Kingdom
Key Verse: "So the LORD said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.'" (1st Kings 11:11-13, NIV)


The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.

I. Reign of Solomon (1-11)

1:49 This was carefully plotted, with the cooperation of Joab, commander of the army. But upon the declaration of Solomon as king, the usurpers fled.

2:5 David neglects to mention that Joab also killed Absalom. David did not execute justice over these many years, yet will burden Solomon with it.

2:17 Adonijah deceitfully asks Bathsheba for Abishag. This is a prerogative of the King alone, and taking one of David's concubines would be a direct threat to Solomon's position.

2:46 Solomon demonstrates that he will carry through on his decisions. The passage of three years did not nullify the earlier agreement.

3:1 The NIV follows the Hebrew text in emphasizing the alliance with Pharaoh.  The marriage of Pharaoh's daughter is secondary, and is a seal on the agreement.

3:6 David, in spite of his flaws, was a godly example to Solomon. The word for 'kindness' in this verse is the Hebrew 'hesed', which some scholars (and myself) prefer to translate 'covenantal mercies'.  This kindness or hesed is God's mercy expressed to those who have a relationship with him.   The covenant relationship is clear in this verse because the hesed is shown to David, although Solomon is the one who directly benefits.  Solomon does not express that Solomon has earned this kindness, but he received it for the sake of his father, David.

3:9 If we were given one request that God would answer, would this be it? Spiritual discernment? Solomon valued it more than gold. We are promised this gift, if we seek it.   James 1:5,  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

3:24-27 This story indicates that Solomon extended justice to all levels of society. Prostitutes, being on the edge of the law, could easily be denied a hearing.

4:3 We do not know what historical records were used, under the inspiration of the LORD, in preparing the books of Kings, but we do see in this verse that such records were kept.

4:20 When we read expressions in the Bible, they are to be interpreted with common sense. When translated properly they normally have the same meaning we would use today. We interpret the Bible literally, it means what it says, but an expression such as "as numerous as the sand on the seashore" is taken as "a vast number, uncountable." Literal interpretation does not mean that we calculate the grains in a cubic foot of sand and multiply by the length, width, and depth of the seashore to see how many people there were.

4:26 The kings of Israel were not to keep many horses, gold, or wives. Deut 17:16-17 "The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, 'You are not to go back that way again.'  He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold."  I consider twelve thousand horses to be a violation of God's word for the king.  We must keep a balanced view, for Solomon's wisdom and knowledge are praised in this chapter. Unfortunately, he was not perfect (neither are we) and these tendencies will lead to a split of the kingdom after his death.

4:30-31 There are two ways of reconciling Chronicles and Kings on the issue of 'sons of Mahol' or 'sons of Zerah.' One way is to take 'sons of Zerah' as 'descendants of Zerah,' as the Hebrew word 'ben' means son or descendant. The other solution is to translate 'Mahol' as a word (dance) rather than as a name. "Sons of Dance" would indicate their ability, the earlier names being musicians. Use of the word 'ben' or 'son of' is used in Hebrew and English to denote membership in a calling, profession, or group (i.e. Sons of the Prophets, Sons of the Fraternal Order of Longshoreman, or Sons of the Covenant). Beginning Hebrew students have to learn to carefully distinguish between names and words, as the names have meaning much like native American names, such as Running Deer. Here, Mahon may be a name or the word 'dance'. As a name we do not translate, but put the Hebrew sounds into English. As a word we put the English word Dance for Mahon.

5:2 Hiram of Tyre is a gentile, and Solomon is giving a testimony to him concerning what the LORD has done. Israel was intended to be a 'light to the gentiles', and at some times in her history she did this.

6:1 The number of years and the year of Solomon's reign given in this verse are important for setting the year of the Exodus as 1446 BC.

6:6 It is to be remembered that only priests entered the temple building proper and only for specific service. It was not a meeting place as our churches are today. Sometimes the courtyard of the temple is referred to as the temple, in the sense that Jesus taught in the temple. He would not go in the building, not being a Levite, but would teach in the courtyard.

6:7 An additional benefit of finishing the stone blocks at the quarry was reducing the mass. No more stone was moved than was necessary for the construction, the edges were trimmed and the faces cut before transport.

6:21 An important detail of construction is that the entire interior was covered with gold. Gold may be hammered very thin, like modern foil.

7  I assume that the palace was named for where the cedar came from, it might seem as though a whole forest in Lebanon was used to produce the lumber for this palace. The English dimensions are about 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.  The four rows of cedar columns, 45 feet high, would resemble trees.  If evenly spaced, they were about 15 feet apart.

8:6 The poles of the Ark were still there at the time this was written. This part of Kings was written before the exile and the destruction of the temple.

8:11 The glory of the LORD filled the temple in the form of a cloud. Although Solomon went to great expense to line the interior of the temple walls and floor with gold, and in the building and furnishing of the temple over seven years, this was as nothing compared to the importance of the glory of the LORD appearing in the temple.

8:23 Literally "who guards to keep the covenant and the covenant mercies".  The words 'covenant' (berith) and 'love' (hesed, or covenant mercies) are used together here, and I see a close relationship between the 'hesed' love or mercy and the covenant people.  The LORD does not simply keep these things, he guards them.  The implication is a constant watchfulness on the part of God.

8:27 Solomon realized that the heavens could not contain or hem in the LORD. We have a much greater knowledge of the distances in the heavens, the universe, yet the heavens we are able to measure in billions of light years do not contain or limit the expanse of the LORD.

8:38 Here it is specified that any individual Israelite could pray directly to the LORD, spreading out his hands towards the temple. It was not only priests, or Israel as a corporate body, but individuals who could bring their afflictions to the LORD directly.

8:43 Solomon asked that the prayers of foreigners would be answered, "so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel ...".  Witness to the world is part of the purpose of Israel, it is not a new concept in the New Testament.

8:46 These words, "When they sin against you-- for there is no one who does not sin--", are spoke about God's own people. They are as true today, of Christians, as they were in Solomon's day of Israelites. David demonstrated he was a man after God's own heart not because he was sinless, but because he repented when he sinned and truly loved the LORD.

9:3 The wailing wall is all that remains of the second temple (not this temple, but a rebuilt one) and is sacred to the Jews today. It is a special place of prayer based upon this verse, "My eyes and my heart will always be there."

9:6 Solomon is told that he cannot rest on his achievements. If he pursues other gods, there will be a price to pay. It is a temptation to say I have done enough, but our service and devotion to the LORD should never end.

10 This is another instance of a gentile learning of the LORD because of His blessing to Israel.  Sheba was probably around modern Yemen, which is directly south of Israel (Egypt was south-west).

11:5 It is a constant temptation to do as Solomon did, to accommodate the beliefs of others by allowing the worship of other gods along with the LORD. Pagan charms, palm reading, horoscopes, etc., are sometimes practiced by Christians today and reflect only a partial obedience to the Lord. Also, one may shy away from explaining to others that "there is no God but the LORD" in our pluralistic society. Our society places a higher value on respect for others' beliefs than on truth. This was the great failing of the wisest man on earth, Solomon.

11:41-43 Wisdom alone is not enough, it must be applied to our lives. As a reminder, the purpose of studying the Bible, even in this survey, is to gain wisdom and to apply it to our lives. For that reason, each session of study should begin with a short prayer for the Lord to teach us, speak to our hearts, and help us to live for Him.

II. Early Divided Kingdom (12-22)

A. The Division (12:1-24)

12:7 Not only was Solomon wise, but he had gathered wise advisors around him. In this way, Rehoboam had some benefit of Solomon's wisdom, but chose to reject it as he rejected the advice of his father's counselors.

12:24 Rehoboam did obey the LORD, turning aside from this battle. We learn later that these rulers were at war continually.

B. Jeroboam (12:25-14:20)

12:27 Three times a year the LORD required all Israelite men to go to the temple in Jerusalem for annual feasts. Jeroboam will stop the pilgrimages and initiate feasts at the altars of the golden calves. The political use of religion, keeping the northern kingdom unified and away from the influence of the South, was more important to him than obedience to the LORD. Unfortunately, throughout history the church has been pressured to serve the political desires of kings.

13:1 The LORD did not wait long to rebuke Jeroboam.

13:18 Even a man of God is capable of lying. Whether we receive a good sounding idea from someone else, or have one ourselves, we must check it against Scripture. The LORD had specifically told the prophet not to eat in Israel, so he should have been able to discern the deception.

13:32 The disobedience of the prophet concerning his life did not go unpunished, and the warning was fulfilled. This was an additional sign to Jeroboam that God's word concerning the altar at Bethel would be fulfilled in the future.

14:2 Even a worshiper of idols may seek the Lord selfishly when a great need is upon him. Here, the illness of his son causes him to secretly seek the LORD's counsel.

14:9 "You have done more evil than all who have gone before you."  This is the LORD's opinion of the reign of Jeroboam, who had been promised a lasting dynasty if he would follow the LORD.

14:11,12 Abijah son of Jeroboam (not to be confused with Abijah son of Rehoboam) will die, yet the LORD says he is the only one in the family of Jeroboam in whom He has found any good. Because of the good, he will be buried (the other males will not be buried).

C. Rehoboam (14:21-31)

14:21 It is noteworthy that Solomon was led astray by his foreign wives into idolatry, and Rehoboam was his son by a foreign wife.

14:22 Under Rehoboam, "Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD". The following list of sins are not attributed directly to Rehoboam, but as King he was ultimately responsible and did not act to constrain the sins of the people.

D. Abijah (15:1-8)

15:3 "He committed all the sins his father had done before him." Abijah is contrasted with David, although David's sin is admitted.

E. Asa (15:9-24)

15:13 Asa followed the LORD. This brought him into conflict with his grandmother, Maacah, and he removed her from office. This is an example of what Jesus may have meant when He said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.  (Luke 14:26)"  Asa was forced to choose between the LORD and his own family.

15:14 "Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life."  Asa was a good king, but not perfect. We must conclude from this verse that it is possible to be 'fully committed to the LORD',  yet short of total conformance to the will of God. Perhaps we can also achieve this, in spite of the sin that so easily besets us.

F. Nadab (15:25-32)

15:26 "He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of his father and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit."  Nadab followed Jeroboam, particularly in the continuing idolatry with the golden calf.

G. Baasha (15:33-16:7)

15:34 Although Baasha killed all of the family of Jeroboam, he continued the policy of sin (golden calves) and war against Israel that Jeroboam had begun. He "did evil in the eyes of the LORD".

H. Elah (16:8-14)

16:13 Elah was drunk when killed. Aside from that comment on his character, this verse indicates that he was actively promoting sin with his father Baasha, and they "provoked the LORD to anger with their worthless idols."

I. Zimri (16:15-20)

16:19 A seven day reign is ended by suicide, yet he died because he followed the sins of Jeroboam.

J. Omri (16:21-28)

16:25,26 Omri managed to sin even more than all those before him. There is clearly a progression of sin in the Northern Kingdom, with rulers and the people going from bad to worse. One common theme is the continuing idolatry, particularly with the golden calf.

K. Ahab (16:29-22:40)

16:30,31 Ahab surpassed Omri in sin. He went beyond the golden calf to introducing worship of Baal. His evil wife influenced him and made him even bolder in sin.

17:14 Israel (descendants of Abraham) was to be a blessing to all nations, but Zerephath and Sidon, on the Mediterranean coast, also apparently suffered the famine due to the sins of Ahab. On the other hand, this gentile woman was faithful, blessed by the LORD, and chosen to take care of Elijah.

18:43-46 Long runs (about 25 miles) are not unheard of. The most famous run in history was from Marathon to Athens in ancient Greece to warn the country of an invasion from Persia (around the time of Esther). The modern running event was named the marathon after that event. On the other hand, chariots did not run well on muddy roads, and dry weather and ground were critical for the effective use of chariots in battle. They did not have 'all-weather tires.'

19:10 Elijah was not totally correct, for Obadiah had hidden 100 prophets of the LORD from Jezebel, as he had earlier told Elijah. When we stand for the Lord we are not alone, but sometimes it certainly feels like it!

19:18 Just 7,000 are mentioned as faithful out of the whole nation of Israel? We should not be discouraged when it seems we are the only Christian at work. Rather, we gain encouragement from one another on the Lord's day and other times, which helps us during the rest of the week.

19:21 By slaughtering his yoke of oxen, he indicated that he was leaving his farming profession and will no longer need them or the plow.

20:36 This seems like a harsh punishment in our eyes. Yet, the prophet apparently knew it was the command of the LORD, and put his own judgement of right and wrong above that of God. The whole purpose of that prophet's life may have been culminated at that point, that he was meant to strike the other prophet as a sign to Ahab.

21:27 Although there was never a man like Ahab in the extent of his sin as king, the LORD showed a measure of mercy to him when he humbled himself.

22:2 Israel is north of Judah, but the king of Judah 'went down'.  Going down refers to leaving the high elevation of Jerusalem, even when going North.

22:19-23 In a democratic council the 400 prophets surely would have won. God, however, is revealed in truth and not in popularity. Today, we constantly have the choice of doing what we want or what is right (what the Lord wants). We choose to decide what is right by what we read in the Bible (considering what others have said about it) rather than simply what most people think about an issue.

L. Jehoshaphat (22:41-50)

22:43 Jehoshaphat did right, following the ways of Asa. Like Asa, he also failed to remove the high places.  But he did (verse 46) rid the land of the male shrine prostitutes.

M. Beginning of Ahaziah (22:51-53)

22:52,53 Ahaziah followed the examples of Ahab AND Jezebel. The sinful lifestyle including worship of Baal was not seen by the LORD as an 'alternative religion', simply a choice of religious freedom by man. No, the verse states that Ahaziah provoked the LORD to anger. The scroll of Kings was divided here, at the climatic point of continually increasing evil in the Northern Kingdom, but with kings in the Southern Kingdom being mixed, some bad ones followed by some good ones.

Chronology of First Kings (Barton Payne)

Northern KingdomSouthern Kingdom
Jeroboam I931-910Rehoboam931-914

* indicates co-reign.
In Northern Kingdom, new dynasties started with Baasha and Omri.
All kings of the Southern Kingdom were of the line of David.

Please send comments or suggestions to ron@iStudyBible.com
Updated March 2012

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