First Kings Bible Study Notes
Overview of First Kings
As stated elsewhere: First and Second Samuel together with First and Second Kings form a continuous historical record. In the Hebrew version of the scriptures, First and Second Samuel are considered one book just as First and Second Kings are considered to be one book. The Greek Septuagint divides these books into First, Second, Third and Fourth Kingdoms. The Latin Vulgate used the same division, but changes the name from Kingdoms to Kings. Perhaps because this record is the work of multiple authors, the King James Version divides the record into First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings.
The prophet Jeremiah is usually thought to be the author of First and Second Kings. His purpose in writing was not to provide a detailed historical account. Rather, it was to remind the people how when the kingdoms were righteous the prospered and how problems that occurred during periods of apostasy. It also shows the interaction of King, Church, and State.
First Kings (1st Kings, 1 Kings, or I Kings) begins with the end of King David’s rule. It then gives the history of the united kingdom under Solomon and the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah through the reign of Ahaziah of Israel, and Jehoshaphat of Judah.
David prepared the way for Solomon’s rule by uniting the kingdom, defeating its enemies, and expanding its borders. Thus when Solomon obtains the throne there are no foreign enemies to fear or wars to fight. Under Solomon, the kingdom entered into its golden age; it was a time of peace, prosperity, and prominence in the Middle East.
Solomon fell into apostasy (and idolatry) during his final year. His son and successor, Rehoboam, received and failed to follow wise counsel. The result was the division of the kingdom. (See notes on The Divided Kingdom for a detailed explanation for the breakup of the kingdom.)
The history of Israel is that of successive dynasties and increasing idolatry until the Assyrians take the Ten Tribes captives. The lesson, of course, is that when a people ripen in iniquity they are eventually destroyed.
Judah, in contrast to Israel, alternates between periods of religious revivals (under righteous kings) and periods of apostasy (under wicked kings). When righteous the kingdom prospers, but suffers when wicked.
No written records (if there were any) survived from the earlier prophets, such as Ahijah, Elijah, and Elisha. They works of the Minor Prophets who followed them survived and are part of the Bible. Detailed information about the chronology of the kings and prophets, together with a summary of the lives of the kings is given elsewhere in these notes.