Survey of 1 Kings

Book Type: Book of History; the eleventh book of the Old Testament; the eleventh book of the Bible.

Author: The book itself does not name its author and remains anonymous. Jewish tradition states it was written by the prophet Jeremiah. However, at least some portion of the book was likely written by someone else. Jeremiah did not travel to Babylon, and the final section (2 Kings 25:27–30) is set in Babylon in 561 BC.

Audience: First and Second Kings were originally completed as one book, for the Jewish people who were most likely living in exile at the time. The text emphasizes the history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Those living under the judgment of exile could learn much from the judgments upon evil kings, as compared to God's blessing upon the kings who served in the tradition of David, called a man after God's own heart.

Date: Unknown. The final additions to the text would have been added after the final events of 2 Kings. This was probably written in Babylon during the exile, between approximately 561 and 538 BC.

Overview: This book consists of 22 chapters and includes two main sections. The first section records the history of the kings of the unified kingdom, specifically the end of David's reign and the history of Solomon's reign in chapters 1—12. Solomon comes to power under tense circumstances (1 Kings 1—2). However, his wisdom is seen from an early stage, showing that God was with him. After preparing for the building of the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5), chapters 6—9 describe the construction of the temple and Solomon's house, as well as other building projects.

In chapter 10, Solomon's wealth is described in detail, including a visit from the queen of Sheba. However, chapter 11 indicates Solomon did not fully follow the Lord, but that his many foreign wives led his heart astray in following other gods in addition to the Lord.

The second section then describes the division of the single, unified nation into the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah in chapters 12—22. The division of the kingdom leads to Jeroboam becoming king of Israel and widespread idol worship. Various kings are then chronicled, with widespread Baal worship noted in chapter 16.

In chapter 17, the prophet Elijah is introduced. He predicts a three-year drought, performs miracles, and at the end of three years challenges the prophets of Baal to discover whose deity is the true God. When God answers through fire upon Elijah's offering, 450 prophets of Baal are put to death. Though a major victory for the Lord, wicked queen Jezebel determines to put Elijah to death. He flees, yet God speaks to Elijah, promising that godly people still remain. God then sends Elijah to anoint new kings in Syria and Israel and to bring Elisha to serve alongside him. The book ends with the death of Ahab and the reign of Ahaziah in Israel and Jehoshaphat in Judah.

The story is continued in the book of 2 Kings; these were originally a single combined text.

Key Verses (ESV):

1 Kings 1:30: "As I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, 'Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,' even so will I do this day."

1 Kings 9:3: "And the Lord said to him, 'I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.'"

1 Kings 12:16: "And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, 'What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.' So Israel went to their tents."

1 Kings 12:28: "So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, 'You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.'"

1 Kings 17:1: "Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.'"