Handbook of 1 Kings
The Reign of Solomon
Splendor of Solomon's Court
Golden Age of Hebrew History
Division and Decay of the Kingdom
Apostasy of the Ten Tribes
The two books, I and II Kings, in the Hebrew Old Testament, were one book. It was divided by the Septuagint translators. Roughly, they narrate: 1. The Reign of Solomon. 2. Division of the Kingdom, and Parallel History of the Two Kingdom. 3. Subsequent
History of Judah to the Captivity.
I Kings opens with the Hebrew nation in its glory. II Kings closes with the nation in ruin. Together they cover a period of about 400 years, approximately, 1000-600 B.c.
The author is not known. A Jewish tradition says it was Jeremiah. Whoever the author, he makes frequent reference to state annals and other historical records existent in his day: as, "The book of the acts of Solomon," "The book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," ''The book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (l Kings 11:41;
14:19, 29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:5, 14, 27, etc.). Thus, it seems, there was an abundance of Writer Records, to which the sacred writer had access, guided, of course, by the Spirit of God.
Born of Bathsheba, to whom David had no right, and, though not in line for the succession, yet he was chosen by David, and approved of God, to be David's successor (1:30; I Chronicles 22:9, 10).
Adonijah, David's 4th son, it seems, was heir expectant to the
throne (2:15, 22; ll Samuel 3:3, 4); for Amnon, Absalom and probably Chiliab, were dead. So, while David was on his deathbed, and before Solomon was formally anointed king, Adonijah plotted to seize the kingdom. But the plot thwarted by Nathan the prophet. Solomon was generous in his treatment of Adonijah. But Adonijah persisted in his effort to steal the throne, and it was not long till he suffered death.
This was at Gibeon (3:4), where the Tabernacle and Brazen Altar were at the time (1 Chronicles 21:29), about 10 miles northwest of Jerusalem; although the Ark was at Jerusalem (3:15). God told Solomon to ask what he would. Solomon asked for wisdom to govern his people. That please God, and God richly rewarded him (10-12). "No fairer promise of true greatness, or more beautiful picture of youthful piety is known in history.
He had inherited the throne of the most powerful kingdom then existent. It was an era of peace and prosperity. Solomon had vast business enterprises, and was famous for his literary attainments. He wrote 3000 proverbs, 1005 songs, and scientific works on botany and zoology (32, 33). He wrote three of the Bible books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Chapters 5, 6, 7, 8. Solomon Builds Temple. (See on II Chronicles 2 to 7.)
These two chapters are an expansion of chapter 4. Solomon devoted himself to commerce and gigantic public works. He made a deal with the king of Tyre, to use his navy on the Mediterranean. He had a navy at Ezion-geber, and controlled the trade route South through Edom to the coasts of Arabia, India and Africa. He built his empire by peaceful commerce.
This era of David and Solomon was the Golden Age of Hebrew history. David was a warrior. Solomon was a builder. David made the Kingdom. Solomon built the Temple. In the outside world, this was the age of Homer, the beginning of Greek history. Egypt, and Assyria and Babylon, at the time, were weak. Israel was the most powerful kingdom in all the world; Jerusalem the most magnificent city, and the Temple the most splendid building, on earth. They came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon's wisdom and see his glory. The famous Queen of Sheba exclaimed, "The half was not told me."
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Solomon's Stables
The writer here speaks of Solomon's horses (10:26, 28). Megiddo is named as one of the cities where he kept his horses (9:15, 19).
The Oriental Institute has uncovered, in Megiddo, ruins of stables. In the photograph, just below, may be seen the stone hitching poles, to which Solomon's horses were tied, and mangers out of which they ate.
Ruins of Solomon's Stables, Megiddo.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Solomon's Gold
Solomon's annual income, and supply, in gold, is spoken of as enormous: shields of gold, bucklers of gold, all the vessels of his palace of gold, his throne of ivory overlaid with gold, gold. gold as common in Jerusalem as stones (10: 10-22; II Chronicles 1:15). Within years after Solomon's death, Shishak, king of Egypt, came and took away all this gold (14:25, 26; II Chronicles 12:2, 9-11).
Amazing to be told, just recently (1939), the mummy of Shishak was found in Tanis, in Egypt, in a gold-covered sarcophagus, perhaps some of this very same gold which he had taken from Solomon.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Solomon,s Navy at Ezion-geber
Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber (9:26). This was, for his trade with Arabia, India and the east coast of Africa. Ezion-geber was situated at north end of the Gulf of Akaba, on Red Sea. Its ruins have been identified, and were excavated 1938-39), by Dr. Nelson Glueck, of the American Schools of Oriental Research. He found ruins of Solomon's smelters, furnaces, crucibles and refineries; , also, copper and iron ore deposits, in the vicinity ; of which, dishes, nails, spearheads and fishhooks, were manufactured, and exported in exchange for ivory and gold.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Stones of Solomon,s Wall
"Costly stones, great stones, stones of ten cubits," were used in Solomon's buildings, and the walls of Jerusalem (7:9-12; 9:15) .
At the southeast corner of the Temple area the wall rises 77 feet. In 1868 a shaft was sunk 79 feet to native rock. The wall is thus 156 feet. Its corner stone is 14 feet long, 4 feet high. Solomon's repairs (11:27), are plainly indicated.
Barkley (1852) discovered the quarry from which Jerusalem's great stones were taken. It is now an immense cavern extending under a large part of the city. The entrance is a small hole near the Damascus gate. Partly cut stones are there, from which their methods of quarrying were learned. With long-handled picks they made incisions above, below and at the sides. Small holes were drilled, in rows, into which wooden wedges were driven, on which water was poured. The wedges swelled and split the stone. Little holes were cut in the rocks to hold candles by which the men worked in pitch darkness.
Solomon's glorious reign was clouded by a grand Mistake: his Marriage to Idolatrous women. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (11:3), which, in itself, was an enormous crime, both against himself and his women. This wise man of the ages, in this respect at least, we think, was just a plain common fool. Many of these women were Idolaters, daughters of heathen princes, wedded for the sake of political alliance. For them, he, who had built God's Temple, built alongside of it Heathen Altars. Thus, Idolatry, which David had been so zealous to suppress, was re-established in the palace. This brought to a close the glorious era ushered in by David, and started the nation on its road to ruin: the Sunset of Israel's Golden Age. The besotted apostasy of Solomon's old age is one of the most pitiful spectacles in the Bible. Perhaps the account of it was intended of God to be an example of what luxury and ceaseless rounds of
pleasure will do to even the best of men.
The Kingdom had lasted 120 years: Saul, 40 years (Acts 13:21); David,40 years (2 Samuel 5:4); Solomon, 40 years (1 Kings 11:42). After the death of Solomon the Kingdom was Divided: Ten Tribes forming the Northern Kingdom, called "Israel"; Judah and Benjamin forming the Southern Kingdom, called "Judah." The Northern Kingdom lasted a little over 200 years, and was destroyed by Assyria, 721 B.C. The Southern Kingdom lasted a little over 300 years, and was destroyed by Babylon, about 600 B.C.
The Secession of the Ten Tribes "was of God" (11:11, 31; 12:15); as punishment for apostasy of Solomon, and a lesson to Judah.
Religion of the Northern Kingdom
Jeroboam, founder of the Northern Kingdom, to keep the two kingdoms separate, adopted Calf Worship, the religion of Egypt, as State Religion of his newly formed kingdom. God Worship had become identified with Judah and the Family of David. The Calf came to stand as a symbol of Israel's Independence of Judah. Jeroboam rooted Calf Worship in the Northern Kingdom so deeply that it was not swept away till the fall of the kingdom.
Baal Worship, introduced by Jezebel, prevailed about 30 years, and was exterminated by Elijah, Elisha and Jehu, and never returned, though it did persist intermittently in Judah.
Every one of the 19 kings of the Northern Kingdom followed the worship of the Golden Calf. Some of them also served Baal. But not one ever attempted to bring the people back to God.
Religion of the Southern Kingdom
God-Worship: though most of the kings served Idols, and walked in the evil ways of the kings of Israel; some of Judah's kings served God, and at times there were great reformations in Judah. On the whole, however, in spite of the repeated warnings, Judah sank lower and lower in the horrible practices of Baal worship and other Canaanite religions, till there was no remedy.
Some of the reigns were, in part, concurrent.
All the kings of Israel served the Calf; the worst served Baal.
Most of the kings of Judah served Idols; a few served Jehovah.
Some bad kings were partly good; some good kings, partly bad.
Chronology of the Divided Kingdom
The date of the Division of the Kingdom is variously placed between 983 B.C. and 931 B.C. There are difficulties in the chronology of the period; and apparent discrepancies, which may, in part, be accounted for by "overlapping reigns," "associated sovereignty," "intervals of anarchy," and "parts of years." These dates are only approximate.
Encouraged by the prophet Ahijah, and promised the throne of the Ten Tribes, and a sure house, if only he would walk in God's ways, he led a revolt against Solomon. Solomon sought to kill him. He fled to Egypt, to the court of Shishak king of Egypt; probably came to an understanding with Shishak, and made him lustful of Solomon's riches.
On Solomon's death he returned, and established the Ten Tribes as an independent kingdom. But disregarding Ahijah's warning, he instituted CALF worship. And God sent Ahijah to tell him that Israel should be rooted up out of the land, and scattered in the
country beyond the Euphrates ( 14:10. 15).
The amazing prophecy, calling Josiah by name 300 years before he was born (13:2), was fulfilled (2 Kings 23:15- 18).
There was long continued War between Israel and Judah, after the Division of the Kingdom.
The Northern Kingdom, "Israel," 933-721 B.C.
The Southern Kingdom, "Judah," 933-606 B.C
Relation to Each Other
In the Northern Kingdom there were 9 Dynasties (family lines of kings):
In the Southern Kingdom there was only 1 Dynasty, that of David: except usurper Athaliah from the Northern Kingdom, who by marriage, broke into David's line, and interrupted the succession for 6 years. 20 kings in all. An average of about 16 years to a reign.
Chapter 14:21-31. Rehoboam, king of Judah. (See on 2 Chronicles 10.)
Chapter 15:1-8. Abijah, king of Judah. (See on 2 Chronicles 13.)
Chapter 15:9-24. Asa, king of Judah. (See on 2 Chronicles 14.)
Son of Jeroboam. "Walked in the sins f his father." Reigned 2 years. Assassinated by Baasha, who slew all the house of Jeroboam.
Got the throne by violence. Reined 24 years. "Walked in sins of Jeroboam." Warred with Judah. Judah hired Assyria to attack him.
Son of Baasha. Reigned 2 years. A debauchee. Assassinated, while he was drunk, by Zimri, who slew all the house of Elah.
Reigned 7 days. A military officer, whose only accomplishment was the extermination of the Baasha dynasty. Was burnt to death.
Reigned 12 years. "Wicked above all who had been before him." Gained such prominence that for a long time after his day Israel was known as the "land of Omri." Made Samaria his capital. Tirzah had been the Northern capital till then (14:17; 15:33).
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTES: Omri
Reigned 22 years. Wickedest of all the kings of Israel. He married Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, an imperious, unscrupulous, vindictive, determined, devilish woman, a demon incarnate. A devotee of Baal worship, she built a temple for Baal in Sanraria, maintained 850 prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth, slew the prophets of Jehovah, and
abolished Jehovah worship (18:13, 19). She gave her name to later prophetesses who sought to fasten voluptuous practices of idol worship on the Church (Revelation 2:20).
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Rebuilding of Jericho (16:34).
An amazing fulfillment of Joshua's prediction, 500 years before (Joshua 6:26). The ruins of Jericho show that it was inhabited continuously, from pre-Abrahamic times to about 1400 B.C. with no signs of habitation from then to the 9th century B.C., time of Ahab, the ruins of which are very small. In this stratum a large house was uncovered, which may have been the house of Hiel (16:34). A jar with the remains of a child was found in the masonry of a gate, and two such jars in the walls of a house.
Elijah. 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2
Six chapters are given to Ahab's reign, while most of the kings have only a part of one chapter. The reason: it is largely the story of, Elijah was God's answer to Ahab and Jezebel, who had substituted Baal for God. God sent Elijah to eradicate Baalism, a vile
and cruel religion.
Elijah's "rare, sudden and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance on the Mt. of Transfiguration, make him one if the grandest characters Israel ever produced.
God gave Elijah power to shut the heavens for 3 1/2 years, during which time he
was fed by ravens at Brook Cherith, and by the widow of Sarepta, whole jar of meal
and cruse of oil failed not.
Elijah's venture of faith, on Mt. Carmel, was magnificent. God must have" revealed
to Elijah, some way or other, that he would send the fire and rain. But it all made no impression on Jezebel.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Baal Worship
The Oriental Institute, excavating at Megiddo, which is near Samaria, found, in the stratum of Ahab's time, the ruins of a temple of Ashtoreth, goddess wife of Baal. Just a few steps from this temple was a cemetery, where many jars were found, containine
remains of infants who had been sacrificed in this temple. Prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth were official murderers of litter children. This is a sidelight on Elijah's
execution of the prophets of Baal (18:40), and helps us to understand why Jehu was so ruthless in his extermination of Baalism.
Utterly discouraged, Elijah fled to Mt. Horeb, where he asked God to let him die (19:4). And God taught him a wonderful lesson: God was not in the "wind," or "earthquake," of "fire," but "in a still small voice" (11, 12). Elijah's ministry had been a ministry of Miracles, Fire and the Sword. He had shut the heavens, had been sustained
by ravens, and by a jar of meal and cruse of oil that failed not, had raised the dead,-had called down fire from heaven, had slain the prophets of Baal with the sword, and had brought rain to the land.
If seems like God was aiming to tell Elijah that, while force and spectacular demonstrations of power are sometimes necessary, by reason of a crisis in God's plans, yet, after all, God' real work in the world is not accomplished by such methods: that God sometimes does, and sometimes calls men to do, things that are utterly contrary
to God's nature to do.
Many centuries later Elijah again appeared to mortal view, in the Mount of Transfiguration, talking with Christ, of the work that now at last was being introduced into the earth, namely, the transforming of human lives into the image of God by the "still small voice" of Christ in the hearts of men.
He closed his reign with a brutal crime against Naboth, and was slain in war with Syria, the end of a contemptible character.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTES: Ahab
An inscription to Shalmaneser, 860-825 B.C. mentions Ahab: "I destroyed . . . 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men of Ahab king of Israel."
Ahab's Ivory House (22:39). A Harvard University Expedition found, in Samaria, the ruins of this house. Its walls had been-faced with Ivory. There were thousands of pieces of the most exquisitely carved and inlaid panels, plaques, cabinets and couches.
It was just above the ruins of Omri's palace.
Chapter 22:41-5O. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. (See II Chronicles 17.)
Chapter 22:51-53. Ahaziah, king of Israel (See 2 Kings 1)