Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
The world today is in desperate need of wisdom—the right application of knowledge. However, it is one thing to know wisdom, and another thing to live wisely. King Solomon is famous for his wisdom, as he is the author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. But in the end, he did not heed his God’s wisdom and law, and ruined his house and his kingdom. God’s desire for believers is to obey Him, and to help give us a portrait of this struggle, God has given us 1 Kings: the story of a nation that heeded the wisdom of God through King Solomon, but then turned toward the error of disobedience and was ruined. For those seeking to learn godly obedience, 1 Kings just may be the best book in the Bible.
Main Themes: The Blessings of Obedience & The Curses of Apostasy
“And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kings 2:3-4)
“For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kings 11:4)
“Then [Elijah] said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, and the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And the Lord said to him… ‘Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.’” (1 Kings 19:14-15a, 18)
Originally, 1 and 2 Kings were one book, chronicling the history of Israel from Solomon to the Babylonian captivity. The first book in this pair brings us through the life of Solomon—his triumphs and his downfall, followed by the rocky leadership of the kings of a divided empire.
(1:1—11:43) The United Kingdom under Solomon This book begins with the ascension of David’s son, Solomon, to the throne of Israel. Because Solomon is not David’s first son, the throne was contested, yet Solomon would eventually be crowned. In chapter 3, the Lord comes to Solomon and offers to grant him anything he would ask for (3:5); Solomon asks for wisdom. God is so pleased with him that, not only does He grant to him wisdom, but also great wealth. In fact, we learn that Solomon was to be the wisest man in history. At his first judgment between two mothers (3:16-27), his wisdom is displayed, and the people “feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice” (3:28). From then on, his fame spread throughout the whole world.
Starting in chapter 5, Solomon fulfills David’s initial plans to build a temple for the Lord (chs. 6-9). After the completion of the temple, the Lord came to Solomon and promised him that if he obeyed the Lord, He would “dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake [them]” (6:13). As long as the people obeyed, God would be with them.
Solomon’s fame was ever-increasing, which brought visitors from every corner of the world. In chapter 10, the queen of Sheba travels to meet the king, and she is so impressed by his accomplishments, she pays homage. By chapter 11, however, things are beginning to go very bad. All throughout his reign, Solomon had accumulated 700 wives and 300 concubines—no doubt primarily for the purpose of political alliances, as well as to feed his physical passions. We learn that these pagan wives begin to turn his heart away from God (11:4) and toward false gods. God warns Solomon that because he had not stayed faithful to Him, his kingdom would be torn from him (11:11). By the end of his life, an enemy arises in rebellion; a man named Jeroboam. This man would lead a revolt and would eventually rule over a large portion of a divided kingdom.
(12:1—22:53) The Divided Kingdom: Israel and Judah After the death of Solomon (11:41-43), his son Rehoboam assumes the throne, but rules wickedly, imposing tyrannical burdens on the already-taxed people of Israel. Of all twelve tribes of Israel, the ten tribes in the north revolt against Rehoboam and follow the family’s sworn enemy, Jeroboam. In this one move, the once-great kingdom of Israel would be torn in two, and divided for hundreds of years. Even after their reunification at the end of the Babylonian captivity, the wounds would never be fully healed.
For the remainder of Kings, the historical record bounces back and forth, chronicling the reigns of the kings of Israel (in the north) and Judah (in the south). For the most part, the kings of Israel were very bad, as they rebelled against the Lord and served pagan gods. Every so often, a decent king would reign in Israel, but his heirs would drive the nation back into apostasy. Judah fared a bit better, producing some godly kings.
King Asa would bring spiritual reforms to Judah (15:9-24), followed by his righteous son, Jehoshaphat (22:41-50). However, the bulk of the remainder of 1 Kings focuses on the wicked kings of the northern kingdom of Israel; men who progressed from bad to worse. By the time of King Omri (16:21-28) and his wretched son, Ahab, the kingdom was in free fall. Influenced heavily by his wife, Jezebel, Ahab would lead Israel into the worship of Baal. However, God would send the prophet Elijah to preach against Israel’s spiritual rebellion (17:1-19:21). In one of the most dynamic showdowns in the whole Bible, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel—“the battle of the gods”. In the end, Baal proves impotent and the Lord God displays His awesome power (18:1-46). When Elijah is chased away, the Lord makes him a promise that, even though most of the nation has apostatized, He has kept a small remnant who are faithful to Him.
What Makes This Book So Great:
1 and 2 Kings are a crash course in Israelite history (970-586 BC). Not only do we get to learn about one of the most fascinating kings in history, Solomon, we also see the progression thereafter. While the picture is ultimately grim, as we watch both kingdoms eventually fall into decline, we know that we are marching ahead toward a day when the real King of Israel, Jesus Christ, will come and deliver Israel (and the world) from their sin. Personally, I get chills when I read the story of Elijah in chapter 17 through 19, as God’s power is displayed mightily!
As with all longer books, I recommend breaking the reading up into sections. Seeing the natural division between Solomon (1—11) and the kings (12—22) is helpful. It is also helpful to mark in your Bible which kings are “good kings” and which are “bad kings”, even “wicked kings”. This helps to plot the downward trajectory of the nation, as well as offer glimmers of hope along the way when you see God working through faithful leaders.
- John J. Davis & John C. Whitcomb, Israel from Conquest to Exile: A Commentary on Joshua – 2 Kings. (B&H, 1994).
- Tony Merida, Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. (B&H, 2015).
- Dale Ralph David, 1 Kings: The Wisdom and the Folly. (Christian Focus, 2007).
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries