1 Kings

These are all of the chapters of the book of 1 Kings. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of 1 Kings in the Bible (New International Version).

The book of 1 Kings

Who Wrote 1 Kings

This book, along with 2 Kings was originally a single volume in the Hebrew canon. But who wrote Kings and when they wrote it are not known with any certainty. According to Adam Clark, some people have proposed that either Isaiah or Jeremiah authored Kings, based on the similarity of some of their known writings. Kenneth Barker and John Kohlenberger, for example, favor Jeremiah as the author of Kings, but Clark seems to favor Ezra as the author of this history.

Some scholars advocate for two or more authors for Kings with a final editor, but Paul House believes that a single author is most likely. This single author also likely wrote Joshua, Judges first and second Samuel. However, there is no way to know for certain who wrote the books of Kings. Kings closes with a reference to Jehoiachin being released from prison in the 37th year of his exile (2 Kings. 25:27-29). This would indicate that Kings did not reach its final form until at least 25 years after the fall of Jerusalem.

The author of Kings had available to him multiple sources for writing this 400-year history of Israel. The Book of the Acts of Solomon, the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, and the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah are all used as references in Kings. The author of Kings makes it clear that these sources had additional material that was not used. Unfortunately, none of these sources are available to us today.

Context and Background

In our English Bibles we group Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, along with a few others, into a section we call historical. And they do contain history. But in the Hebrew Bible these four books are identified as the Former Prophets.

The Book of Deuteronomy, especially chapters 27 and 28, is important to the author of Kings. Deuteronomy defines the law of God and chapters 27 and 28 include the blessings that come from following the law and the curses that come from disobedience. Each of the kings in the book are judged, not by their military or economic prowess, but by how well they were obedient to God’s law.

1 Kings opens with the last days of David’s rule, covers the reign of Solomon through the breakup of the kingdom, and the first few kings of the divided nations of Israel and Judah. In some ways it reverses the process of the earlier books of Judges and Samuel. Those books show a people who are slowly coming together as a nation and attaining their greatest height under David. Kings then records the fracturing and disintegration of that nation, ending with exile.

Main Theme and Purpose of 1 Kings

According to Barker and Kohlenberger, Kings is more than just a chronicle of events. They say the following:

“The author writes to demonstrate conclusively to his readers the necessity of keeping their covenantal obligations before God and the history of those most responsible for leading God’s people in their stewardship of the divine economy: Israel’s kings and prophets. Hence Kings everywhere bears the twin marks of redemptive history and personal accountability.”

House also identifies a number of theological ideas that are incorporated into Kings by its author. His identification of each of these is presented as a contrast between the ideal and its opposite. These include 1) monotheism verses idolatry; 2) central worship verses the high places; 3) covenant loyalty verses spiritual rebellion; 4) true prophecy verses “lying spirits”; 5) God’s covenant with David verses dynastic disintegration; and 6) God’s sovereignty verses human pride.

What Can We Learn from 1 Kings for Today?

Solomon is identified as the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings. 3:12; 10:23). Yet all his wisdom did not protect him from acting foolishly in the matter of personal relationships. 1 Kings 11:1-3 tells us that Solomon loved many foreign women, 1000 to be precise. These were women that God had forbidden the Israelites from marrying. Yet Solomon did, and when he grew older, they turned his heart after other gods (1 Kings. 4-6). This example adds weight to Paul’s admonition to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). It is hard to be in that close of a partnership with another, and not be impacted by them.

When we take the advice of those who agree with us, and disregard advice because it is not what you want to hear, you set yourself up for failure. This is what Rehoboam did in 1 Kings 12, and it cost him most of the kingdom. Be willing to listen openly to your critics. They may well have something valid to say to us that we need to hear.

No matter how many people oppose us, if God is for us, it does not matter. Elijah illustrates this truth in his battle with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 12. It was Elijah standing against the 400 prophets of Baal plus the government of the nation. Yet he was where God wanted him to be, and God used him to defeat opposition to the worship of the Lord in Israel.

Favorite Verses from 1 Kings

1 Kings 3:12: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” Solomon prayed for wisdom to govern his people. And because he asks the ability to effectively serve his people, and not for himself, God granted his prayer. Additionally, he gave him wealth and long life. His unselfish prayer was answered, and beyond.

1 Kings 8:27: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

1 Kings 18:38: “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” After the prophets of Baal had their turn, Elijah built an altar to God and offered his sacrifice. And fire fell from heaven to consume that sacrifice. God was clearly revealed as Lord, and the people there acknowledged him – at least for the moment.

1 Kings 19:21: “So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” When Elijah called Elisha to follow him, Elisha returned home long enough to burn his bridges. He was committed with no possibility of turning back.

1 Kings 21:20: “Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me, my enemy!’ ‘I have found you,’ he answered, ‘because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.’” Even the most successful people will be called to account by God to answer for their sin.

Sources

The New American Commentary: Paul R. House, Holman Reference, 1995. Print.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible: Adam Clark, Baker Book House, 1967. Print.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Abridge Edition: Old Testament: Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan Academic, 2004. Print.

Photo credit: ©Sparrowstock


Ed Jarrett is a long-time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of three. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.