First Kings is a history of the kings of Israel and Judah beginning with the transition for David to his son Solomon. The book also recounts some of the notable prophets of the time, particularly Elijah and Elisha.
Solomon was David’s contested successor. David had many sons older than Solomon, though some were dead, notably Absalom who had tried to usurp the throne. David’s son Adonijah was preparing to succeed his father, and even organized an elaborate celebration to court the favor of important aristocrats. The prophet Nathan discovered the plot. He, Solomon, David, and Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, arranged to elevate Solomon to the throne while his father still lived.
Solomon was notable for his wisdom. God offered to the young king what he wanted. He asked for wisdom to govern the people rightly. God was pleased with the answer and gave Solomon wealth and power in addition to wisdom.
Wisdom didn’t keep Solomon out of trouble. He had many wives (no doubt trouble by itself), and he permitted his foreign wives to continue practicing their religions, so the worship of false gods was allowed in the kingdom. Idol-worship would be common amongst Solomon’s successors.
After Solomon, the kingdom was divided. The ten northern tribes formed a kingdom generally referred to as Israel. Two southern tribes made Judah. Throughout this period, idol-worship prevailed in Israel. Some kings of Judah served God, but many did not, and the godly kings did not succeed in eradicating idolatry.
Following Solomon, most of the kings of both the north and the south are summed up briefly. Some just get a paragraph. We see the kingdom rise and fall based on the faithfulness of the people. When they sought God, even imperfectly, He blessed them and they thrived. When they sought to gratify themselves and follow false gods, they quickly ran into trouble. This is a pattern in the history of ancient Israel that started before the kings and continued after them.
First Kings ends with the reign of Ahab, famously married to Jezebel. These monarchs promoted the worship of Baal and suppressed the worship of God. They were opposed by the prophet Elijah. Elijah is associated with some spectacular miracles. God withheld rain from the land until Elijah called an end to the drought. Elijah called out the prophets of Baal in a contest to call down fire from heaven Baal did not answer his worshippers, but God sent fire for Elijah, who that day executed hundreds of Baal’s priests. This put him in serious conflict with Ahab and Jezebel.
Elijah is also well known in that he did not die, at least not in a conventional sense. He was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. He appeared to Christ and a few disciples on during the Transfiguration.
It is clear that First Kings is intended to be a summary. It frequently refers to records of the actions of the kings as if these might be available to a reader who wanted to confirm the recounting of find more information.
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