Reflections on 1 Kings 1-11

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on  Ezekiel, Daniel, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy.

1 & 2 Kings cover the history of Israel from the rise of Solomon to the fall of Jerusalem. After the rays of hope seen in David in 1 & 2 Samuel, we descend into rather dreary times. The narrative of 1 Kings is dominated by Solomon, Jeroboam, Ahab and Elijah. This post covers chapters 1-11, all about Solomon.

1:1-2:46: Solomon’s accession

The story opens up with Adonijah (“my Lord is Yahweh”), David’s eldest surviving son, pulling an Absalom. Like Absalom, he dies. His co-conspirators, Joab and Abiathar the priest don’t fare too well. Joab is killed, and Abiathar dishonourably discharged from his priestly duties. I was dismayed that Abiathar took sides against David, with whom he’d been since the days of running from Saul.

Before his death, David gives Solomon some advice. Part of it was political and part of it was religious. Solomon speedily carried out the political, and as time would tell, he failed in the exhortation to walk in the ways of the Lord.

3:1-4:33: Solomon’s reign

1 Kings 3:1 makes you raise an eyebrow—Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. [I found it interesting that though she’s mentioned more than once, the narrator never gives her name.] The end of 1 Kings 3:3 makes you raise the other eyebrow—he offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places. Nevertheless, the Lord appeared to him (at one of said high places, no less).  Further, He grants Solomon’s request: for wisdom to administer justice. This elucidation may explain why Solomon ended up they way he did.

Chapter 4 has a list of names: people who faithfully carried out their tasks, and God included in His word. The chapter concludes with a description of Solomon’s wealth and wisdom. During his reign, each man lived “under his own vine and fig tree”, an image picked up by the prophets in describing Messiah’s reign. The very next verse, however, brings to mind Moses’ instructions for the king.

5:1-7:51: Building the temple (and palace)

Another red flag pops up in 5:13—Solomon conscripted labourers from Israel. Samuel had warned the people about the king who would take, take and take. The king spends seven years building the temple, and thirteen in building his own palace. Why does the narrator point this out?

8:1-66: The dedication of the temple

Just as with the dedication of the tabernacle centuries earlier, the glory of the Lord descends and the priests are unable to perform their duties, echoing Moses’ experience.

In his prayer, Solomon intercedes asking God to hear from heaven and forgive sin.  He mentions the possibility of exile in 8:46-51, and urges his countrymen to fidelity to the Lord in 8:56-61. These, his last recorded words in scripture, he failed to heed himself.

9:1-9: The Lord appears to Solomon

One thing that’s hard to miss is God’s repeated reminder to Solomon: “Keep my commands.” The Lord knew what His servant needed, and mercifully provided gentle reminders. Do we ignore similar warnings?

9:10-10:29: Solomon’s reign

These were Israel’s golden days, and they were about to come to an inglorious end. [Side note: apes and baboons. Really?]

11:1-43: Solomon’s decline and death

I think that Solomon’s decline was a long process characterised by minor slips and slides here and there. The narrator, in painting a picture of the king’s reign, dropped enough hints (deliberately or not, I don’t know) of the coming state of affairs. Solomon started off loving the Lord, but in the end he loved his wives more, and clung to them.

We’re never told whether Solomon repented. Despite Solomon’s divided heart, the Lord showed undivided grace. He is the same God in whom we can trust!

Proceed to chapters 12-22.

Sources: D. A. Carson, Dale Ralph Davis, Dan Doriani, Bob Fyall.