Lesson 1 of 5
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Summary of 1 Kings

SUMMARY

First Kings continues the story where 2 Samuel left off. Chapters 1-2 complete the presentation of the reign of David and the succession of Solomon. Chapters 3-11 depict Solomon’s glorious reign, highlighted by the construction of the temple, but including his ultimate apostasy. Chapters 12-14 relate Jeroboam’s rebellion, his censure by the prophets, and the resulting division of the nation into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah in 722 B.C.E. The rest of 1 Kings details the reigns of the divided monarchy, alternating between the north and the south, but with the bulk of the material considering the period of Israelite supremacy, especially under Omri and Ahab. In this period the prophet Elijah is a dominant force.

SO WHAT?

First Kings uses the history of the kings of Judah and Israel to explain the destruction of Jerusalem to those experiencing exile in Babylon in the hope that they might gain a new self-understanding. It is a story of the monarchy’s failure and deserved judgment. But it is also a story of God’s unrelenting commitment to God’s people through divine words of hope, judgment, summons, and warning, as God seeks to maintain the covenantal relationship with God’s people. We, too, need to hear that a patient and merciful God awaits our response and listens to our prayers.

WHERE DO I FIND IT?

First Kings is the eleventh book in the Old Testament, immediately after 2 Samuel and before 2 Kings.

WHO WROTE IT?

Ancient tradition identifies Jeremiah as the author of 1 and 2 Kings. Today, many scholars believe that 1 and 2 Kings are the concluding part of the Deuteronomistic History and that various older traditions have been gathered together and edited by a nameless exilic editor or editors.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

The final event recorded in the books of Kings occurred in 561 B.C.E. Since the return from Babylon (538 B.C.E.) is not recorded, one assumes that–as part of the Deuteronomistic History–1 Kings reached its final form sometime between these dates during the Babylonian exile.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

First Kings begins by recounting the end of David’s reign and the grisly events that led to the succession of Solomon (1 Kings 1-2). This is followed by the reign of Solomon, in which the temple was constructed (1 Kings 3-11); the division of the nation into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (1 Kings 12); and the early history of these two kingdoms (1 Kings 13-22).

HOW DO I READ IT?

First Kings looks like a history of Judah, the southern kingdom, and Israel, the northern kingdom. While important historical information is presented, some of it is at odds with the presentation found in 1 and 2 Chronicles. Both Chronicles and Kings should be read as theological, rather than historical, presentations of the years of the monarchy. Kings is designed to demonstrate the reasons for the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722/721 B.C.E. and Judah’s exile to Babylon in 587/586 B.C.E.

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