God’s lessons from history

About the Books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings

Author

God’s lessons from history: We do not know who wrote the books. Some people say that Jeremiah did. He lived just before Jerusalem’s enemies overcame the city. 2 Kings 24:18-25:30 is the same as Jeremiah chapter 52. There is nothing about Jeremiah in the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings. However, Jeremiah went to Egypt. 2 Kings ends with the events in Babylon. An unknown *prophet in Babylon probably wrote both 1 Kings and 2 Kings.

The writer or writers used a lot of information from other books. These books probably included Isaiah, Jeremiah and Chronicles. The book refers to an unknown book called the ‘Book of the acts of Solomon.’ It also mentions the ‘Books of the chronicles of the kings of *Israel and *Judah’. (A chronicle is a record of events in the order in which they happened.) It also uses collections of stories about the *prophets Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah and Isaiah.

Purpose

The author gave a message. He did not just write history. He follows what the Book of Deuteronomy taught. Deuteronomy contains God’s law for his people. It directs how they should live. But most of the kings in *Judah and *Israel did not obey these instructions. (In fact, none of the kings in the northern *kingdom (called *Israel) were good kings.) And when the kings were evil, most of the people in their *kingdoms became evil too.

For example, the Book of Deuteronomy explains how the people should *worship God. But most kings and most people did not want to *worship the real God. They preferred to *worship images of false gods. Much of this evil *worship had a relationship with sex. People believed that such gods would give them large families and successful farms. And agriculture was very important in *Judah and *Israel.

So the kings and the people neglected the *worship of the real God. But there were important exceptions. *Judah had some good kings. And these kings had a good effect on their entire nation. In fact, Hilkiah the chief priest rediscovered the Book of Deuteronomy in the *Temple when Josiah was king (2 Kings chapter 22). Then Josiah stopped the *worship of false gods. He taught the people to obey God. And Josiah himself obeyed God completely. But Josiah’s son would be an evil king.

Deuteronomy taught the people about God’s laws. God intended his people to obey his laws and his *covenant. He intended that they would make his *worship pure. If they did, they would receive *blessing. If not, they would suffer a terrible punishment (Deuteronomy chapter 28).

The Books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings tell us about a period of nearly 400 years. This was from the time when David died to the *exile in Babylon. In 930 *B.C. (years before Christ) the *kingdom divided into two parts. This happened after the death of Solomon. This is the most important event in the book.

There is more about the northern kings (*Israel) than about the southern kings (*Judah.) The author writes a great deal about the kings who affected the religion of the country. He does not say much about the other kings. For example, he says a lot about Ahab who made people *worship *Baal. He says very little about Ahab’s father Omri, who was a much better king.

The author also says a lot about the *prophets, in particular Elijah and Elisha. He explains why God allowed his people to go into *exile. The book speaks badly about the people in the northern *kingdom. They did not give honour to God at Jerusalem. The kings of the southern *kingdom either obeyed or did not obey the laws in Deuteronomy. The book’s opinion of them depends on what they did.

The dates in 1 Kings and 2 Kings

The books describe the history of the kings and queens of *Israel and *Judah. They begin with the last days of David. They include Jeroboam’s revolution, when the *kingdom became divided. And they end with the *exile in Babylon.

After the *kingdom divided, the author writes about each part of the *kingdom in turn.

For example, he describes the rule of a king of *Judah. Then he describes the rule of the king of *Israel. He tells us in which year of one king’s rule the other king’s rule begins. Sometimes these numbers do not match. There are various reasons:

·    Sometimes they count the year that a king began to rule as a complete year. In fact, he may have begun his rule part of the way through the year.

·    Sometimes two kings ruled at the same time. For example, Uzziah became ill. Then his son ruled while he was still alive.

·    Also, the northern and southern *kingdoms began their years in different months. The northern *kingdom began its year in the month called Nisan (March/April.) The southern *kingdom began its year in the month called Tishri (September/October.)

For kings of *Israel, the author adds the name of the capital city where he ruled. He then says how long that king ruled. He also says what that king was like.

For the kings of *Judah, the author mentions the age at which each king started to rule. He also mentions the name of the queen mother (that is, the mother of the king). He tells us if the king obeyed God’s law. And he compares that king with David.

Plan of the Books

1 Kings 1:1-2:46 – The last days of David and how Solomon became king

1:1-53 The struggle for power

2:1-12 David gives advice to Solomon. The death of David

2:13-46 Solomon becomes king and he makes himself strong.

1 Kings 3:1-11:43 – The rule of Solomon

3:1-28 Solomon’s wisdom

4:1-34 Solomon’s government and his riches

5:1-7:51 Solomon builds his *temple and his palace.

8:1-66 Solomon gives the *temple to God.

9:1-28 God answers Solomon’s prayer. Solomon’s buildings and trade

10:1-29 The visit of the Queen of Sheba

11:1-43 Solomon loses much of his power and then he dies.

1 Kings 12:1-14:31 – The *kingdom divides

12:1-24 Rehoboam becomes king after Solomon.

12:25-33 Jeroboam *rebels and he persuades the northern *tribes to support him.

13:1-32 Jeroboam appoints priests. A *prophet warns him about *disaster.

13:33-14:20 Ahijah warns Jeroboam’s wife about *disaster. Jeroboam dies.

14:21-31 Egypt attacks Rehoboam. Rehoboam dies.

1 Kings 15:1-16:28 – The wars between *Israel and *Judah

15:1-8 Abijam, king of *Judah

15:9-24 Asa, king of *Judah

15:25-32 Nadab, king of *Israel

15:33-16:7 Baasha, king of *Israel

16:8-14 Elah, king of *Israel

16:15-20 Zimri, king of *Israel

16:21-28 Omri, king of *Israel

1 Kings 16:29 – 2 Kings 1:18 – Ahab and Elijah

16:29-34 Ahab, king of *Israel

17:1-19:21 God provides for Elijah when there is no rain. Elijah opposes Ahab on *Mount Carmel. Elijah runs away. Elijah appoints Elisha.

20:1-43 Ahab defeats the king of Syria and then makes *peace with him.

21:1-29 Ahab and Naboth’s *vineyard

22:1-40 Ahab’s final war with Syria

22:41 – 2 Kings 1:18 Elijah *challenges Ahaziah.

2 Kings 2:1-10:36 – Stories about Elisha

2:1-25 God takes Elijah to heaven. Elisha becomes a *prophet in his place.

3:1-27 The war with Moab

4:1- 8:15 Elisha’s *miracles

8:16-24 Jehoram, king of *Judah

8:25-29 Ahaziah, king of *Judah

9:1-10:36 Jehu’s revolution. Elisha makes him king. Jehu kills Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel and the family of Ahab. He removes the *worship of *Baal.

2 Kings 11:1-17:41 – From Jehu’s revolution to the end of the northern *kingdom

11:1-20 Athaliah, queen of *Judah

11:21-12:21 Joash, king of *Judah; Joash repairs the *temple.

13:1-9 Jehoahaz, king of *Israel

13:10-13 Jehoash, king of *Israel

13:14-25 The death of Elisha

14:1-22 Amaziah, king of *Judah

14:23-29 Jeroboam II, king of *Israel

15:1-7 Azariah (Uzziah), king of *Judah

15:8-31 Revolutions in *Israel

15:32-38 Jotham, king of *Judah

16:1-20 Ahaz, king of *Judah

17:1-41 Assyria *captures the Northern *Kingdom. The author explains why it happened.

2 Kings 18:1-21:26 – *Judah and Assyria

18:1-12 Hezekiah, king of *Judah

18:13-19:37 Sennacherib attacks Jerusalem.

20:1-21 God cures Hezekiah. Hezekiah makes a foolish friendship with Babylon. He dies.

21:1-18 Manasseh, king of *Judah

21:19-26 Amon, king of *Judah

2 Kings 22:1-23:30 – The good changes that Josiah made

22:1-20 Josiah repairs the *temple. Someone discovers the book of the law.

23:1-30 Josiah’s improvements and his death

2 Kings 23:31-25:30 – The last years of *Judah

23:31-35 Jehoahaz, king of *Judah goes into *exile in Egypt

23:36-24:7 Jehoiakim, king of *Judah. The rulers of Babylon take control of *Judah for the first time.

24:8-17 Jehoiachin, king of *Judah. The rulers of Babylon take control of *Judah for the second time.

24:18-25:7 Zedekiah, king of *Judah. Soldiers from Babylon take the people from *Judah into *exile.

25:8-30 Soldiers from Babylon destroy Jerusalem. The *exile.

Chapter 1

How Solomon became king

Solomon would become king after his father, David. But this did not happen easily. Two of Solomon’s older brothers also tried to become king. First, Absalom tried to become king by force (2 Samuel chapter 15). His plan failed and he died. So Adonijah made his plans carefully. He waited until David was very old and weak. Then Adonijah found important people who would support him. He intended to appoint himself as king, even before David was dead.

But David was still alive. And he was still the king. The staff in the palace were still loyal to him. And only David could act to prevent the success of Adonijah’s plans.

v1 King David was now a very old man. He could not keep warm, although his servants covered him with blankets. v2 His servants said to him, ‘Let us find a young woman to stay with you and to take care of you. She will lie close to you so that you can keep warm.’

v3 They looked all over *Israel for a beautiful girl. They found Abishag from Shunem and they brought her to the king. v4 She was very beautiful. And she nursed the king and she waited on him. But he did not have sex with her.

David was now about 70 years old. His servants still respected him as the king. So they did not just choose any woman to carry out this task. They selected a woman who was fit to be a queen. They searched across the whole country to find her. In the end, they chose Abishag to be David’s nurse. She looked after the king. But he was too old and weak to have sex with her. People believed that to keep someone warm in that way was a good medical way to look after that person.

v5 Now Adonijah, the son of David and Haggith, wanted to be king. He got *chariots and horses and 50 men to protect him. v6 His father had never interrupted his plans. He never told him that his behaviour was not acceptable. Adonijah was very handsome. He was born after Absalom.

v7 Adonijah talked with Joab, the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest. They agreed to support him. v8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the *prophet did not join him. Neither did Shimei and Rei and the men who protected David.

v9 Adonijah then *sacrificed sheep, cows, and young fat *bulls at Snake Rock. This was near En Rogel. He invited all the other sons of David and the king’s officials who were from *Judah. v10 But he did not invite Solomon, Nathan the *prophet, Benaiah or the men who protected the king.

Adonijah, the fourth son of David decided to become king. He was very handsome. Absalom, one of Adonijah’s brothers had killed his older brother Amnon. And Joab had killed Absalom. We do not know what happened to his other brother. Adonijah was the oldest son who was still alive. Therefore, he thought that he should become king. He made plans. His intentions were clear. Our translation mentions the 50 men who would protect him. But these men were not merely guards. In the original language, the book says that they would run ahead of him. In other words, they would declare him to be king.

It seems that David heard about these plans. But David did nothing to prevent them. Probably David felt too weak to stop the plot. And Adonijah had already become very powerful.

Adonijah knew that his father would die soon. So Adonijah made plans for a ceremony where he would declare himself to be the new king. Joab and Abiathar joined him. In past times, they had helped David. They did not ask God what they should do. Perhaps they did not care what God wanted them to do. Perhaps Abiathar was angry because Zadok was chief priest. Perhaps Joab was angry because Benaiah was important in the army.

Joab had been the loyal captain of David’s army. But Joab was always a selfish and cruel man. David allowed Joab to be powerful because he (David) could not control Joab (2 Samuel 3:39). Like Adonijah, Joab’s ambitions were very strong. Neither man cared about God’s plans. They always chose to follow their own plans.

Many of David’s men did not support Adonijah. Adonijah arranged a *religious meal. He probably burnt the fat of the animals and shared the meat with his guests. He did this to encourage other people to support him. He offered *sacrifices to God. People would then think that he wanted to serve God. He did not invite Solomon, Nathan or Benaiah. Some people think that he intended to kill them later.

v11 Then Nathan spoke to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. ‘Perhaps you have not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has made himself king. King David does not know anything about it. v12 Let me advise you how you can save your life and the life of Solomon. v13 Go to King David and say, “Your *Majesty, you promised me that my son Solomon would be king after you. Why then has Adonijah become king?” v14 While you are still talking to the king, I will come in. And I will give evidence that you are telling the truth.’

Nathan warned Bathsheba about the danger. He realised that Adonijah might kill both her and Solomon. Therefore, he advised Bathsheba to tell the king what Adonijah was doing. He would then come in. He would tell David that her story was true. Nathan knew that God wanted Solomon to be king.

Nathan was an important *prophet. When Solomon was born, God sent a special message to David by means of Nathan. God had chosen Solomon for a special purpose (2 Samuel 12:24-25).

Somehow, Nathan realised that Adonijah’s plans were wrong. Perhaps God had spoken to Nathan. Perhaps Nathan remembered the message that God gave him at Solomon’s birth. Or perhaps Nathan realised that Adonijah’s attitudes were wrong. Adonijah did not respect his father. And Adonijah did not respect God’s special plans for Solomon’s life.

So Nathan sent Bathsheba to David. David was weak. He would find an official meeting difficult. But Bathsheba, whom David still loved, could persuade David to act. Even in his weak state, he still had complete authority as king. His commands would be enough to stop Adonijah’s plot.

v15 Bathsheba went to see the old king in his room. Abishag from Shunem was looking after him. v16 Bathsheba got on her knees in front of the king.

‘What do you want?’ the king asked.

v17 She said, ‘Your *Majesty, you promised me this in the name of the *Lord your God. “Solomon your son shall become king after me.” v18 But Adonijah has become king and you do not know about it.v19 He has made a *sacrifice of many cows, sheep and fat young *bulls. He invited your sons and Abiathar the priest and Joab the leader of the army. However, he did not invite Solomon, who is loyal to you. v20 Your *Majesty, all the people in *Israel are waiting for you. They want you to tell them who will be the next king. v21 If you do not, then this will happen. As soon as you are dead, Adonijah will deal with Solomon and me as criminals.’

Bathsheba immediately went to the king. She showed him great honour. Then she reminded him about his promise to make Solomon king after him. She told him what Adonijah had done. Adonijah did not want Solomon to become king. The fact that he had not invited Solomon to the ceremony showed that.

In fact, she explained, Adonijah was already acting as king. And Adonijah had plans to kill both Solomon and Bathsheba. Then nobody would have any reason to oppose him.

But now, the people in *Israel were waiting. They were waiting to see what would happen. They still respected David’s authority. They wanted to know whether David would allow Adonijah to become king.

So Bathsheba asked David to act immediately. He could declare Solomon to be the next king. And David’s officials could appoint Solomon immediately. They did not need to wait for David’s death. Solomon could begin his rule at once.

v22 She was still speaking to the king when Nathan the *prophet arrived. v23 The king’s servants told him that Nathan was there. Nathan went in and *bowed down in front of the king.

v24 Nathan said, ‘Your *Majesty, have you announced that Adonijah will be the next king after you? v25 Today he has gone and *sacrificed many cows, sheep and fat young *bulls. He invited all your sons, the leaders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Just now, they are having a large meal and they are saying, “We pray that King Adonijah will live for a long time!” v26 But he did not invite Zadok the priest or Benaiah son of Jehoiada. He did not invite Solomon or me, but we are still loyal to you. v27 Is this something that your *Majesty has done? You have not told your loyal servants who will be king after you.’

v28 So King David said, ‘Ask Bathsheba to come back in.’ So she came and she stood in front of him. v29 Then he said to her, ‘I promise you this by the living God who has rescued me from all my troubles. v30 Today I will *keep the promise that I made to you. I made it in the name of the *Lord, the God of *Israel. Solomon your son will be king after me.’

v31 Bathsheba *bowed low on her knees in front of the king and she said, ‘I pray that King David will live for a long time.’

Nathan told David what had happened. The crowds had shouted. ‘We pray that King Adonijah will live for a long time.’ They did this as if David was already dead. Nathan asked David a question. Had he announced that Adonijah would be king? He knew that this would make David angry. Therefore, David would act quickly. David immediately called for Bathsheba. He promised her that Solomon would be king. David would not delay. He would act at once to perform his promise.

v32 King David said, ‘Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the *prophet and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.’ When they came in, v33 he said to them, ‘Take my servants with you and put Solomon on my own *mule. Take him down to the fountain at Gihon. v34 There Zadok the priest and Nathan the *prophet will pour oil upon his head and they will make him king. Blow the *trumpet and shout this. “We pray that King Solomon will live for a long time.” v35 Then you must follow him here. He must sit on my royal seat and be king instead of me. I have chosen him to rule over *Israel and *Judah.’

v36 Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada answered the king. ‘I pray that it will be so. I pray that the *Lord your God will say so too! v37 The *Lord has been with your *Majesty. And we pray that he will be with Solomon in the same way. We pray that God will make his rule even greater than your rule.’

v38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the *prophet and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada left. They went down with the men called Kerethites and the men called Pelethites (the king’s special guards). They put Solomon on David’s *mule. And they went with him to Gihon. v39 Zadok the priest took the oil which he brought from the tent of the *Lord’s *presence. He poured the oil on Solomon’s head. Then they blew the *trumpet. All the people shouted, ‘We pray that King Solomon will live for a long time.’ v40 All the people went up after him. They shouted for joy and they played instruments. They made enough noise to shake the ground.

David ordered Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah to make Solomon king immediately. Benaiah agreed with this. He believed that God wanted Solomon to be king. He wanted God to say so! He prayed that God would *bless Solomon’s rule. He prayed that Solomon’s rule would be even greater than David’s rule. By human standards, Solomon’s rule was greater. By *spiritual standards, it was not. Jesus was the son of David who had the best *spiritual rule.

Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah went down together with the men called Kerethites and Pelethites to Gihon. The Kerethites and Pelethites were special guards who came from Crete and from Philistia. They were soldiers whom people paid to protect the king. Zadok took the *holy oil from the tent that David had erected in Jerusalem. (The *Covenant Box was in this tent.) He poured this oil on Solomon’s head and all the people shouted with joy.

This special ceremony with the oil is called an ‘anointing’. It showed how God’s Spirit was acting to appoint Solomon as the king (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:12-13). Adonijah was trying to appoint himself as the king. But God, by his Spirit, appointed Solomon. Jesus has the name ‘Christ’, which means: ‘He who has received the anointing’. See Acts 10:38.

Solomon received this anointing at the same time as Adonijah’s guests were finishing their party.

v41 Adonijah and his guests heard the noise as they were finishing their party. When Joab heard the sound of the *trumpet, Joab asked, ‘What is the meaning of all the noise in the city?’

v42 Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest arrived while Joab was speaking. Adonijah said, ‘Come in. A good man like you will be bringing good news.’

v43 ‘No’, said Jonathan. ‘His *Majesty King David has made Solomon king. v44 He sent Zadok the priest, Nathan the *prophet, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada. He also sent the men called Kerethites and Pelethites with him. They have put Solomon on the king’s *mule. v45 Zadok the priest and Nathan the *prophet made him king at Gihon. Then they went into the city and they shouted for joy. Now the whole city is full of noise. That is what you can hear. v46 Also, Solomon has sat down on the royal seat. v47 Also, the royal officials have gone to give honour to King David. They have said, “We pray that your God will make Solomon’s name more famous than yours. We pray that his rule will be greater than your rule!” Then the king *bowed in *worship on his bed. v48 He said, “I give honour to the *Lord, the God of *Israel. He has allowed me to see one of my *descendants as king today.” ’

Zadok made Solomon king before Adonijah and his guests had finished their large meal. Joab was very afraid when he heard the sound of the *trumpet. Adonijah thought that Jonathan had come with good news. Instead Jonathan told him that Zadok and Nathan had made Solomon king. Solomon had ridden on the king’s *mule. This was a clear *sign that he was now king. He also sat on the king’s royal seat. King David was glad that Solomon was king. Now Adonijah knew that he would not become king.

v49 Then Adonijah’s guests were all afraid. They got up and they left. v50 But Adonijah was afraid of Solomon. Adonijah went and he held on to the corner of the *altar. v51 People told King Solomon that Adonijah was afraid of him. He had held on to the corners of the *altar. He had asked King Solomon to promise that he would not kill him. v52 Solomon replied, ‘If he is loyal, I will not touch a hair of his head. (In other words, I will not hurt him even slightly.) But if he is not, he will die.’ v53 Then King Solomon sent men to fetch Adonijah from the *altar. Adonijah *bowed to King Solomon. Solomon said to him, ‘Go to your home.’

Adonijah’s guests left quickly. They were afraid that people would punish them. This was because they had helped Adonijah. Adonijah went to hold the corners of the *altar. Exodus 21:14 says that a person would be safe there. However, that was only true if they had not intended to kill someone.

Although Adonijah intended to kill Solomon, Adonijah was not yet guilty of murder. But Adonijah was guilty of other crimes. He had not respected his father, David. Instead, Adonijah had even plotted a revolution against him. David and Solomon were kings whom God had appointed. So when Adonijah tried to appoint himself to be king, he was acting against God. So Adonijah was plotting to destroy God’s purposes.

Adonijah’s actions were terrible, but Solomon decided not to make a judgement about Adonijah’s crimes. Instead, Solomon was wise. He made a sensible political decision. He knew that many people liked Adonijah. So Solomon simply told Adonijah that he must be loyal. If Adonijah obeyed, he would not die.

It is interesting to compare this situation with our *forgiveness in Christ. Solomon did not really forgive Adonijah. But Solomon gave Adonijah the opportunity to avoid punishment. However, Jesus promises us complete *forgiveness and *mercy if we put our trust in him. We must also be loyal to him. 2 Timothy 2:12-13 says, ‘But we must not say that we do not know Christ. Because then he will also say that he does not know us. If we turn away from him, he will never turn away from us. He cannot do anything that is against his own nature.’ Hebrews 3:14 says, ‘We are partners with Christ, if we trust him to the end. We must trust him to the end, as we did at first.’