Week Twelve: 1 Kings 1-22

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: 1 Kings 1-22

At Least Know This

1 Kings describes the death of King David, the fight for the throne, and then King Solomon’s

brutal reign—and the civil war that broke out when King Solomon died. However, the real

interest of the author is not the kings. The real interest of the book is the Jerusalem temple.

The book should be titled, “The Jerusalem Temple During the Time of the Kings.”

Author and Date

There is no named author of the book of 1 and 2 Kings. It was most likely a number of authors

(or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that

it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC) (see the last verse of 2

Kings—the people are still in the Babylonian Exile. The book is not a literal history. It is a

reflective history, to describe the role of the Jerusalem temple.

The book of 1 kings describes the time during the years 970-580 BC.

Historical Situation

As 1 Kings opens, King David is on his deathbed. After a brief scam by Queen Bathsheba,

Solomon becomes King in about 970 BC. Solomon was a brutal king who enslaved his own

people. He became insanely wealthy, married foreign women and entered alliances with other

countries (prohibited in Deuteronomy), and fell into idolatry. The country split into two after

Solomon’s death—the southern kingdom, called Judah, and the northern kingdom, called Israel.

Since the authors of this part of scripture want to follow what happens to the temple, they lose

interest in Israel, because the temple was in Judah.

The book of 1-2 Kings was written during the Babylonian Exile, when the people were taken

from the land by the hostile Babylonians. They were forced to live in Babylon. The people asked

what we all ask during time of trials, “Why did God let this happen?” The answer the priests

gave was that “We didn’t worship only in the temple. We worshipped at other shrines and

places, and thus we weren’t faithful to the temple.” (The prophets, of course, told a different

story: “You are exiled because you were unfaithful—you didn’t take care of the widows,

orphans, and the homeless.”).

So, the narrative that you’re reading will make a lot more sense if you keep this in mind: The

priests wanted the people to believe that God punished them by sending them to Babylon. And

their terrible sin was that they didn’t worship only in the temple!

Important Passages

Chapter 1:1-5. In ancient middle eastern law, someone who was sexually impotent was not able

to be king. They provide a woman to sleep with David, as a test. When he has no intimate

relations with her, David’s son Adonijah announces that he will be king. In the next two

chapters, the characters fight (and take advantage of David’s dementia) to see who will be the

next king. By chapter 3, we see that Solomon will be the next King.

Chapter 3:2-3. This is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament, if you want to

understand what’s going on: The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because

no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD. Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the

statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places… The

priests who are writing 1 Kings believe that all non-temple worship is invalid. The people were

worshipping God at the “high places” (shrines on the hilltops), but because it wasn’t at the

temple, the worship was sinful!.

Check 4:6. It identifies the official in charge of slavery (see also 5:13).

Read 4:7-19. Solomon got rid of the old tribal league, and made up 12 districts, each that had to

supply Solomon, his thousand wives, and his government with a month’s worth of kingly

expenses. Ten of those districts are in the north. In other words, the north is getting ripped off

to support Solomon’s extravagant living.

Chapter 5 begins the process of building the temple. You may recall that in 2 Samuel 7, God

says he doesn’t want a temple. But here we go, Solomon is going to build it anyway. In 6:38, it

says it took 7 years to build the temple—a pretty extravagant building. In 7:1, though, it tells us

that it took 13 years to build Solomon’s palace. In chapter 8, the Ark of the Covenant is brought

to the temple.

In chapter 12, Solomon has died, and Solomon’s son Rehoboam takes over the throne. The

north begs King Rehoboam to lessen the taxes. But King Rehoboam says he’s going to make it

worse, so the north rebels. This is the origin of the two countries: Israel in the north, and Judah

in the south.

In chapter 12, beginning at verse 25, the new northern kingdom installs King Jeroboam to the

throne, and he knows he has to set up new temples in the northern kingdom. Look at 12:28: So

the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, "You have gone up to

Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of

Egypt. I don’t think these are idols. Remember what is sitting on top of the Ark of the Covenant

in the Jerusalem temple? Two golden calves! They are called cherubim. It seems that King

Jeroboam (the northern king), is attempting to replicate the temple in Jerusalem. Read v. 30-31.

What really angers the priests who wrote the book of 1 Kings is:

  1. King Jeroboam sets up a worship center in the cities of Bethel and Dan.

  2. He build shrines at the hilltops (“high places”).

  3. Anyone who wanted to become a priest could become one, even though they weren’t Levites.

  4. He set up his own worship calendar.

As I’ve mentioned, the prophets had a different idea. The prophet Amos, who spoke about this

time, didn’t mention idolatry. He said the sin was that they didn’t help the homeless, widows,

and orphans. The rich treated the poor like dirt, even while they maintained the façade of

worshipping God.

In the next chapters of 1 Kings, we see other kings of Israel and Judah. But, as you’ll notice, the

only thing were told about is what they thought of the temple. If the kings worshipped in the

temple, they were considered good. If they worshipped God elsewhere, they were considered

bad. For example, look at 14:25-28. It describes an attack on the temple by the Egyptian King

Shishak. We can read about this event in Egyptian archeological records. Shishak defeated the

armies of Israel and Judah, then leveled and plundered 150 cities. But in 1 Kings, the only thing

we’re told is what happens to the temple.

Another example is 16:21-28, describing the reign of King Omri of Israel. We know from the

archeology of other nations that Omri was an extremely influential and powerful king. The

Assyrians referred to Israel as “The land of Omri” for the next 200 years. But, the author of 1

Kings doesn’t care about him, because he didn’t worship in the temple.

Starting in chapter 17, we have an interlude, that lasts until 2 Kings 8. We leave a discussion of

the kings and the temple, and we read about two prophets, Elijah and Elisha. This is the first in-

depth discussion of the prophets in Scripture. In two weeks, we’ll start reading the prophets,

beginning with Amos.

Faith Insights

The discussion of the temple is important to understand the culture of the Old Testament—the

culture that Jesus walked into. In the Old Testament, they believed God lived in the temple. It’s

like God was locked up in there. The temple became a big lucky charm for the people. They

thought, “We don’t have to take care of the poor, or widows, or orphans, because we have God

in the temple.” Things got so bad that the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 7), shouts a blistering

attack on the temple, referring to it as “the temple that you trust in.” In other words, they

weren’t trusting God; they were trusting the temple.

And this attitude was even more fervent when Jesus began his ministry. The Jews believed that

the temple was the holiest place on earth. And then Jesus comes along and throws the priests

out of the temple and declares that he will tear the temple down and rebuild it in 3 days. That

was about the worst blasphemy a person could utter, as far as the priests and pharisees were

concerned.

Jesus declared that God was not in a building. He lives in hearts. He lives in your heart, and in

my heart. As the prophet Isaiah says (chapter 43), God has redeemed us. He has called us by

name. We are his.

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