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KINGS OF ISRAEL: Why Study the Book of I Kings.



A young man, no more than 20 years old, finds himself thrust into a position of supreme leadership as king of Israel. Where does he even begin with such an awesome responsibility? Then God comes in a dream and invites him to ask for whatever he wants. He does not ask for riches, honour and/or acclaim for himself. Instead, the young monarch asks for one key thing for the sake of his nation: a wise and understanding heart so that he could capably rule the people. God was well pleased with the answer and said it was granted. In addition, there were bonuses of riches and reputation.

The king? Solomon, son of David, who became the wisest man who ever lived. It was he who wrote the timeless, priceless, and practical Book of Proverbs, plus Ecclesiastes. His story, and that of his successors, is told in the Bible book of I Kings. Like the other historical books of the Bible, we can learn from the successes and failures of the people of God and their leaders.

HEBREW NAME

I Kings begins with the words ‘Now king David …’ (1:1). The Hebrew is vehamelech David, from where we get the word melechim, or ‘kings.’

AUTHOR

Anonymous. Talmudic sources suggest that Jeremiah may have been the author.

PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here — (Mt 12:42)

Christ is the greater than Solomon.

THEME OF I KINGS

Double-minded monarch leads to a divided kingdom.

KEY VERSES

And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: 5Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.  I Kings 9:4-5 (KJV)

Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. 12Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. 13Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen — I Kings 11:11-13 (KJV)

And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin - I Kings 15:34 (KJV)

SUMMARY

I Kings starts off very well with the rise of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel. It was an apex of Israel’s history. His youthful request for wisdom paid phenomenal benefits for all.

Yet Solomon’s prosperity and success were his undoing. He loved many strange (foreign) women and his heart was not perfect before the Lord like his father David. So God chose to take 10 out of 12 tribes away from David’s dynasty and give it to Jeroboam, son of Nebat. Thus the united monarchy was now divided between the Southern Kingdom of Judah, under the House of David, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, under Jeroboam. This latter kingdom was very unstable, with around 19 kings, 5 dynasties and three capital cities.

The spiritual decline became a free fall with Jeroboam, the very first king of the North. He established rival man-made religion by building shrines in Bethel and Dan and putting a golden calf to be worshipped in each. This is called ‘the sin of Jeroboam, son of Nebat,’ who caused Israel to sin. None of his regal successors had the moral and spiritual courage to break free from this sin, which estranged them from the Lord God and spawned the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha.

Jeroboam’s sin became the undoing of the Northern Kingdom. It was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC and its population taken into exile. Judah lasted an additional 136 years, in part because of its relative stability. It had 1 dynasty, David’s, and 1 capital, Jerusalem, and housed the true temple of God. Yet Judah succumbed to the Babylonians in 586 BC, then miraculously returned from exile under the Persians.

DISTINCTIVES

Here are some of the lessons we learn:

    Leadership is not evaluated by economic, political, or military success. The only criteria is whether the king did what was ‘right’ or ‘evil’ in the sight of the Lord God. Failure to follow God renders that leader’s legacy as ‘evil.’

    When the king stays in ‘covenant-faithfulness,’ then God’s blessing and protection is on the king and kingdom.

    If the king is unfaithful to God, he and the nation will be punished.

    Had Israel and Judah stayed faithful, there would have been no conquest and no exile by hostile empires. The cause of both was not the strength of the Assyrians or Babylonians, but the strength of their sin.

    A divided heart is what led to a divided kingdom. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, is mentioned 22 times in both I & II Kings.

OUTLINE OF I KINGS

I.         UNITED MONARCHY (1:1-11:43)

A.     Solomon Ascends (1:1-2:46) Adonijah’s plot fails, death of David, execution of Adonijah, Joab, Shimei, while Abiathar the priest exiled.

B.      Rule of Solomon (King 3:1-8:66): Asks for wisdom, judges the harlots, administers with 12 governors and 11 princes, builds and dedicates the temple.

C.      Solomon Descends (9:1-11:43): Goes into overdraft & sells Israel’s cities, Queen of Sheba’s visit, intermarriage, chases idols, rebuked of God, and death.

II.      DIVIDED MONARCHY (12:1-22:53)

D.     Kingdom Divided (12:1-14:31): Rehoboam’s foolish response divides the kingdom; Jeroboam starts Northern Kingdom; his false shrines; prophetic warning, judgment on the king.

E.      Reigns of Abijam & Asa in Judah(15:1-24)

F.       Reigns of Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri in Israel (15:25-16:28)

G.     Reign of Ahab in Israel (16:29-22:40): Ahab’s sin, Elijah the prophet introduced, sojourns in Zarephthah, contest with prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, flight from Jezebel, war with Syria, death of Naboth and Ahab.

H.     Reign of Jehoshaphat in Judah(22:41-50)


I.         Reign of Ahaziah in Israel (22:51-53)

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