First Kings continues the story of the second king of Israel, King David, who reigned around 1000 B.C., about 3000 years ago.
The book begins with David as an old man, in the twilight of his rule, and covers about 150 years of the history of Israel and Judah, until around 850 B.C.
Here are 7 interesting things about First Kings–
1. Remember the Tom Petty song “It’s Good to Be King”? It applies here—well, not completely …
The book opens: “When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”
“Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.”
2. That’s a big “if”!
David’s son Solomon succeeded him as king.
God made Solomon a promise:
“… if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father: And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”
Did Solomon keep all God’s commandments? Did he walk in God’s statutes?
If Solomon did not do these things, did God depart from dwelling among the children of Israel and forsake the people of Israel?
3. A really big “if”— cut off from the Promised Land?
God said to Solomon after he finished the Temple:
“… if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. …”
The Bible explains Solomon turned away from God and did not observe God’s commands. Indeed, he served and worshiped other Gods. The Bible explains:
“King Solomon … loved many foreign women … from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. … As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God …. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.”
Why do some argue Israel is entitled to the Promised Land today?
4. Where is the Ark of the Covenant today? (remember Indiana Jones?)
Solomon had the Ark of the Covenant (containing the 10 Commandments tablets) placed in the Temple.
The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon in Israel. Some say Sheba was in what is today Ethiopia. And some traditions say Solomon had Sheba take the Ark to Sheba for safe-keeping or that it was taken there when Solomon’s Temple was later destroyed.
Smithsonian magazine: “[T]hrough the centuries, Ethiopian Christians have claimed that the ark rests in a chapel in the small town of Aksum, in their country’s northern highlands. It arrived nearly 3,000 years ago, they say, and has been guarded by a succession of virgin monks who, once anointed, are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die.”
5. A split after a bonehead response …
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king. The northern tribes said they would serve him if he would make their workload lighter than Solomon made it, and Solomon’s elder counselors advised Rehoboam to say a kind word to those tribes.
But Rehoboam responded to those tribes: “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.”
This is viewed by many as a reference to Solomon’s private parts and Rehoboam indicating how much more of a man he is than his father.
Rehoboam went on to say “And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”
The 10 tribes of northern Israel then rejected Rehoboam as king, and Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south. This was around 930 B.C.
6. Historical evidence outside the Bible.
1 Kings 14:25-28: “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.”
There is historical evidence outside the Bible that Shishak ruled Egypt 935 – 914 B.C, approximately corresponding to the time of Rehoboam, according to the Bible. From this point, there is generally evidence outside the Bible that correlates and supports many of the historical facts recited in 1 and 2 Kings and other Old Testament books.
7. The Prophet Elijah, the Prophet Elisha, and … the Disagreeable, Sarcastic Prophet Micaiah
Several chapters of 1 Kings describes the words and actions of the Prophet Elijah and the Prophet Elisha, both well-known Old Testament prophets. They lived around 870 – 830 B.C.
Chapter 22 tells the tale of the less-discussed Prophet Micaiah:
The King of Judah visited the King of Israel to ask about joining forces to capture a nearby city, Ramoth Gilead. The King of Israel asked 400 prophets if Israel should attack, and they all said “Go, … for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
The King of Judah asked if there was another prophet to ask. “The king of Israel answered … ‘There is still one …, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah ….’”
They summoned Micaiah. “The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.’ …”
“When he arrived, the king asked him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?’”
“’Attack and be victorious,’ he answered, ‘for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.’” [Sarcasm!]
“The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’”
“Then Micaiah answered, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’”
“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?’ …
“Michaiah said, ’So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.’”…
“The king of Israel then ordered, … ‘Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.’”
Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”
Guess what happened? —
“So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed),and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared. ….”
There are lots more interesting stories in 1 Kings. It is a great read, one that reminds me of the Game of Thrones. One more story, one that is somewhat disturbing:
Micaiah continued, “… I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him …. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’
“‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.
“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’
“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. …”
God sent a deceiving spirit?!?
Read it for yourself! — 1 Kings.
“It’s good to be king ….”
Sources and Notes
Introduction: See generally The Jewish Study Bible 2d ed. 2014. Oxford: University Press (Tanakh Translation); The HarperCollins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Harold W. Attridge, ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2006); John Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 2nd ed. (Fortress, 2014). See also Steve Gardner, “7 Interesting Things About the Book of 2 Samuel,” AuthenticTheology.com (February 24, 2018).
1: 1 Kings 1:1-4 (NIV).
2: 1 Kings 1:28-53; 1 Kings 6:12-13 (KJV).
3: 1 Kings 9:6-7a; 1 Kings 11:1-6 (NIV).
4: 1 Kings 8, 10; Hebrews 9:4 (NIV); Paul Raffaele, “Keepers of the Lost Ark?” Smithsonian (December 2007).
5: 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 12:10-11; 1 Kings 12:16-20; 1 Kings 12 (NIV); see, e.g., “Ancient Jewish History: The Two Kingdoms (c.920 BCE – 597 BCE),” JewishVirtualLibrary.com, last visited August 16, 2018; “Translating assertive language in 1 Kings 12:10-11,” AncientHebrewPoetry.typepad.com (2009).
6: 1 Kings 14:25-28 (NIV); see, e.g., “53 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically,” Bible History Daily (April 12, 2017). There is some historical evidence prior to this time, but it is highly disputed.
7: 1 Kings 17-22; 1 Kings 22:37-38 (NIV); see, e.g., George E. Mendenhall, Ancient Israel’s Faith and History: An Introduction to the Bible in Context, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press (2001), page 134.
Conclusion: 1 Kings 22:19-23 (NIV).
(The picture is one I took of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in January 2017.)